Kickin’ ass on Hong Kong Trail (while getting cooked..)

Kickin’ ass on Hong Kong Trail (while getting cooked..)

Today’s Hong Kong Trail Runners (HKTR) Bastille day celebration attracted 32 partygoers. And the definition of this “party” is slightly different to the one we are accustomed to. This party didn’t quite feature drinks or food; instead, it featured a 25km/50km run under boiling hot weather! And, btw, don’t ask me what Bastille day is. All I know is that it’s some French holiday which invariably means another opportunity to run in the trails of Hong Kong.

A formidable bunch! – photo by Romain Riche

I gave myself a target of 5 hours and 30 minutes to do the 50km run. I started off strong and took full advantage of the rain in the beginning by increasing my pace wherever I could. I reached the halfway point (Park View) in 2 hours and 21 minutes.

But after that, the line from Axl Rose’s November Rain came true again – “Nothing lasts forever even cold November rain”. Well, the line for us would have been – “Nothing lasts forever even welcome summer rain”. Although I enjoyed climbing up Violet Hill (I think that’s what’s it’s called) and Mount Butler in the heat, the tables turned when I was on that long, boring stretch of Stage 7 (Tai Tam Reservoir). 8 full Mp3 songs is what it took to get past that boredom! And, at the end of that boring stretch, I couldn’t buy water from the beach side shop either as the shopkeeper told me that she had none! I then sat down by the side of the trail contemplating the unthinkable. QUITTING! But, I have quit so many training runs already that for a change, I actually wanted to complete this one! Then a guy called KK came along (not super runner KK Chan but super hiker KK Wong). He recognized me and gave me half a bottle of water, taking away my excuse to abort the run. As I was taking a sip of that water, I thought to myself that water is indeed the most precious commodity in the world!

I continued hiking up Dragon’s back with KK but I was so slow that I asked KK to go ahead. Then, somehow, my body made a strong recovery! Towards the end of Dragon’s Back, I overtook not only KK but also a couple of other runners who had gone past me on the climb upto Dragon’s Back. I then kept my pace steady (9-10 kmh) and counted every Hong Kong Trail marker from Marker 89 onwards! Eventually, the body got better and better and I completed the run in 5 hours 29 minutes (including all breaks).

I learnt that my friends were running out of water so I went back up in reverse armed with several bottles of water. My teammates Romain and Vic came running down that last stretch looking in great shape!

Somewhere near Marker 92, I met Jinhwa, Olya and Nora (watch out for this team – they are probably going to be the fastest women’s team during Oxfam Trailwalker 2012!) And, somewhere near Marker 88, I met Shannon who also looked very strong despite the heat. We had a brief chat after which I proceeded all the way to Shek O Road to offer water to another runner who was also supposed to be with us. But I never saw him! At Shek O Road, I ended up taking a minibus to Shau Kei Wan MTR as I couldn’t find a bus back to Tai Long Wan and I sure as hell wasn’t going to run back to the finish!

Two geographical lessons learnt for the day:
1) Big Wave Beach (Tai Long Wan) is in Shek O! The minibuses on Shek O Road will read “Shek O” which is the same as Tai Long Wan!
2) Hong Kong Trail is not 50km long! It is 46km long! Just the same way Vibram HK100 is not 100kms long but 95kms long and Oxfam Trailwalker is not 100km long but 101km long. Oh, and Lantau 50 is 51kms long not 50! Clearly, these races aren’t named by Swiss or Germans. You’d probably find distances calculated to the nearest 100th decimal had it been named by Swiss or Germans!

Distance: 45.83 km
Time: 5:29:39

Time taken from The Peak to Park View (start of trail): 2 hours 21 minutes
Refueling at Park View: 8 minutes 38 seconds
Park View to end of long, boring Tai Tam Reservoir run: 1 hour 37 minutes
Attempting to refuel at the beach shop by the end of the reservoir: 5 minutes 14 seconds
End of Reservoir to Marker 100 of HK Trail: 1 hour 17 minutes

And, btw, Happy Bastille Day!