HKTR Plover Cove Championships – 2014 Edition
Rewind to a decade back
(Picture an actor absorbed in deep thought. This is where the camera slowly pans into his eyes as he begins to narrate his flashback)
Plover Cove…. I fell in love with it the very first time I ran it. It was only 18kms long but every ridge I ran felt like magic. Especially the last ridge, which was surrounded by bluish-green waters and green trees. I felt so lucky to be alive that nothing else seemed to matter! I was living only in the present. Endorphins were rushing through my brain making me feel naturally euphoric. I soon found myself so addicted to that feeling that I started to run Plover Cove many times. And, many more times. Soon, so many that I lost count. And, that’s when it hit me — I had to own Plover Cove and make it totally mine. I did that and told the world that I owned Plover Cove!
BUT, on one dark day, my pleasure of owning Plover Cove was suddenly interrupted by someone else who also dared to make a very bold and unfounded ownership claim…
Fast forward to 2011
(This is where the camera pans away from the hero’s eyes and focuses on a grouchy looking figure aka “the bad guy”)
There are a couple of things about him that make him a role model. For instance, his unique ability to perform effortless wheelies on his BMW motorbike. Or, for that matter, the way he rides his motorbike without holding the handlebars, pretending as though they are just there for show. And, not to forget his total disregard for cops and traffic signals. I should touch upon his Swiss punctuality too. He respects his Swiss time as much as he cares for his Swiss fondue. As you can imagine, he is an inspiration and a role model in many ways but alas! There was one not-so-great trait too. He was my competition for Plover Cove. He laid claim to MY property. Thus began one of histories’ greatest battle of the trails. Mr. Natteri vs Mr. Niggli.
Enter Mr. Peacekeeper
The name is M. M Doekes. On one fine morning, I visited the Hong Kong Trail Runners website to find a post titled “BYOG – HKTR Plover Cove Championships” posted by M. I didn’t even know what “BYOG” meant. Could it have been Bring Your Own Gun? I quickly realized that we were not in the USA, so “G” could not have been “Gun”. I then messaged M who told me that “G” stood for “Garmin”. He was organizing an unofficial race which was intended to help resolve the ownership dispute at my Plover Cove.
On that eventful day in 2012, chronicled “The Great Battle for Plover Cove“, I lost 60% of my ownership shares to Hannes. We also unintentionally ended up forming a “Sub 2-hour Plover Cove Club”. Memberships had to be earned, not bought. One had to earn it through courage, bravery and, most importantly, speed! Only those who successfully ran Plover Cove in less than 2 hours were allowed to be members of this highly exclusive club.
This wasn’t necessarily a good thing though. I’ll tell you why. All of a sudden, many new “villains” wanted a shot at ownership. Many wanted to become members of this coveted club. Take another bad guy, Dom, for instance. He has always set his evil eyes on my property. Unfortunately for me, he has pretty strong legs to match his evil eyes. He went out at warp speed and ran the course in 1 hour and 45 minutes and started to indirectly lay claim on my property by forcing himself on the Ownership Committee for Plover Cove! Then came Jan who beat everyone else’s record with some ridiculous time that I can’t even remember! Even Mr. “Don’t get lost” Dawson decided to participate in 2013. But, luckily for me, true to his title, he probably got lost and didn’t get membership to the club in 2013.
Anyway, Plover Cove was getting away from me. It made me realize that what is hard to achieve is often more coveted. And, what is coveted is often fought fiercely.
Rewind to 3 days back – HKTR Plover Cove Championships 2014
The stakes were high. Plover Cove’s popularity skyrocketed. So many new players were interested in MY Plover Cove. I wasn’t sure whether to feel happy or sad! And, so many of them wanted access to the super exclusive Sub 2 Hour Plover Cove Club.
The players at the start
All Garmins were started at 9am under the supervision of Mr. Riche who was organizing the official timing for this race. Recovering from an injury, Hannes opted out of the race and organized logistics instead. Although that may sound like a good thing (one competitor less), there were many more strong contenders vying for access to the Sub 2-hr Club. Nic, Andrew “don’t get lost” Dawson (this time with stronger navigation skills), James, Dom, and our superstar, celebrity runner Jacky. Jacky’s entry into the Sub 2 hour Club was pretty much guaranteed. His reputation preceded him.
My experience in the first half of the race
I started at a relatively slow pace and saw Dom, Nic and James disappear into the distance in front of my eyes. I wasn’t going to let my ownership shares disappear into the distance, so I followed them as fast as I could and first had Adrian in my crosshairs. I wanted to get him to stop and let me pass him. And, I knew I could achieve this simply by annoying him enough! I breathed down his neck so hard and sounded like an old, rusty water pump. He couldn’t take that noise, so he stopped, turned around and said, “are you alright, Vince?” I gave him a cunning smile as I passed him, feeling a sense of accomplishment, as though, I had found some practical use for Sun Tzu’s teachings in his book, “Art of War”.
A little while later, I saw our very own M climbing one of Plover Cove’s famous slopes. He was wearing his usual UCAN tee shirt. In front of him, ran a tall man of athletic build, who I later learned, was James. I set off to overtake M and wanted to yell out “with UCAN in your stomach and Teva’s on the foot, HE CAN!” but I unfortunately ran out of breath near the top of that climb! It took me another one of those climbs to overtake M. (I still couldn’t manage the slogan though).
Then I felt a lanky figure trailing me closely. I thought it was M playing mind games on me but it turned out to be James who seemed to be keeping up with me without any problem whatsoever. Then, all of a sudden, Dom emerged from the opposite direction. He was limping. I asked if he wanted any help. He declined and asked me to continue with my run. The grimace on his face told a story of a badly twisted ankle.
At the halfway point, I saw Retha standing there with one of Rom’s phones getting ready for the timing. I quickly presented my arm to her. She gently swiped the phone over my Racematix wristband and I was on my way down some steep steps into the 2nd part of Plover Cove.
The race to the finish!
James was still trailing me quite effortlessly and I couldn’t shake him off my tail. So, I did what any runner would have done in my shoes. I took a pee and let him overtake me! (Hey, that’s the way to go to preserve a big ego and keep the bladder empty).
At one of the final climbs, Colleen, Brendan and her dad waited patiently with plenty of coke and cake! I gulped as much coke as I could, grabbed a slice of cake and thanked them for their kindness! It provided much needed relief.
Near the dam, I saw our Racematix star, Mr. Riche himself who did a quick timing scan. I looked past him, and around 200m in front, I saw Nic running at a steady speed. The competitive nature in me lightened up for a second. He was in my crosshairs and I judged that he was at most around 30-40 seconds ahead. I sipped some water and tried to maintain a pace of around 12kmh while charging my batteries for the final “let’s-get-Nic” sprint.
On the long bridge to Tai Mei Tuk, I switched my music to the heavy beats of Linkin Park on my Mp3 Player which immediately gave my legs more juice. It wasn’t enough though! Nic was increasingly becoming more and more of “the figure in the distance” despite my high-octane Linkin Park powered music. That’s when I decided that I was going to have to give up on trying to get him.
At the finish by the helipad, I saw Nic who generously shared with me his secret of success. He tuned into Metallica during the final stretch. Hmm. Metallica vs Linkin Park? Hard one but, on this day, Metallica won and “Nothing Else Mattered”. I finished in 1 hour 59 minutes and came 5th. Ahead of me were “trail running celebrity” Jacky, “don’t get lost” Dawson, James and Nic.
Nature decided to celebrate another fantastic year of the HKTR Plover Cove Championships with some thunder and lightning fireworks. Cynthia, our timing representative at the finish, didn’t leave her post despite the heavy thunderstorm! Hannes was also there supporting the runners and ensuring that everyone was alright… which is when we heard that we had our first casualty of war!
HKTR Quick Reaction Team mobilized
One message on Facebook from Joyce about her twisted ankle quickly united all competing forces of Plover Cove, much the same way a crisis in the US can “temporarily” unite both the Republicans and the Democrats.
Our QRF (Quick Reactionary Force) was quickly mobilized. Rom left his post at the timing junction while Brendan left his coke-and-cake spot to accompany Joyce while M deployed our state-of-the-art Hong Kong Trail Runners’ Ambulance service to meet her at the end of the dam.
Hannes and I put our ownership differences apart and ran as a team at over 20kmh to meet Joyce and the QRF team at the other end of the dam.
In a superbly timed and coordinated response which clearly exemplified HKTR’s “kick ass” style, we saved Joyce and emerged as one big heroic team.
Oh, except for one little incident at the very end. M adopted the take-it-easy strategy and refused to pedal our HKTR ambulance on the way back. But, in true heroic fashion, Hannes and I pushed our ambulance to the other end of the dam with every sinew and muscle in our body.
Our HKTR Quick Reactionary Force. Hannes and I propel the cart while M (seated inside) is day dreaming. Brendan was helping though. Joyce (in the front) is being rescued HKTR style. Photo courtesy: Claus
Thus ended the 2014 edition of HKTR Plover Cove Championships. Race results are here.
And, before I sign off, I’ll have to reiterate for the record that my ownership shares in Plover Cove are indeed intact and will always remain that way.
Plover Cove Owner