King of the Hills (Hong Kong) — 2013 Edition
To “pee” or not to “pee”
In the last King of the Hills, i.e. KOTH Lantau, Michael heroically demonstrated how the sport of trail running has the unique ability to eliminate the need for a dump. Yes, he showed us that having a heavy + full bowel at the start of the race can still be fun, if you run! However, today, he didn’t practice the same philosophy. As Giuseppe pointed out with a wide smile on his face, Michael arrived at the starting point in Repulse Bay 30 minutes earlier, specifically, to do his business! So, don’t get rid of the toilets just yet! However, I know what all of you are thinking. Does the same philosophy apply to peeing as well? Can one do a 30km race with a stomach full of liquid content from the start? The person (read: lab rat) who tested this theory at the start today was none other than the famous Jogger J. As Keith, the race organizer, did a T-10 minute race countdown akin to a NASA rocket blast countdown, there was only one question that kept echoing in Jogger J’s mind — to pee or not to pee. Shakespeare was obsessed with “to be or to be”, well, change “be” to “pee” and there you have it — a man’s greatest dilemma at the start of a race. I know I can relate to it because I have been there myself! I blame it all on those websites that advocate hydrating very well before the start of race. What they don’t tell you is that if you go overboard with the hydration, you end up facing the wrath of excess water in your stomach, much like the hardship that Jogger J faced today. In fact, he was still in two minds at T-1 minute but at “blast off”, he simply started running.
Will we discover something about our own bodies from Jogger J’s experience? Read on to find out.
Losing my edge while seeking the edge
I started accelerating a lot faster than usual, against my own better judgment, with an intention to put myself at a spot where I’d experience less of a chance of a traffic jam. I could feel my legs sending complaints to my brain — “yo brain, what do you think I am, a Ferrari? Cut the speed!” I ignored the complaints. After the initial uphill climb that lasted about 10 minutes, there was a long concrete section upto Park View. Aya was behind me and pacing off me. I asked her to overtake me. She said she just wanted to go at a comfortable pace and chose to stay behind me. AJ came like a rocket from behind, did a bit of a dancing move and overtook both of us. By this time, my legs started sending stress signals (read: expletives) to my brain. Soon, the legs started protesting and I began to lose power. Aya closed the gap between us in a microsecond and passed me very politely with a “sorry I have to pass”. Nora soon followed.
“Slacking off again?” Nora asked.
“Yes”, I replied, as I was still struggling to keep the legs moving.
“You started too fast and now you are losing energy”, she pointed out clearly, to which I again replied, “yes!”
There. My legs won and I slowed down quite a bit. In my effort to seek an edge, I lost mine. Then, as usual, demoralization took over and my mind started playing the usual games. “Should I quit?”, “should I just walk?”, etc, etc. I first had to dismiss those disempowering thoughts. So, I recollected a YouTube video I watched about the training of the Royal Marines Green Beret. A young recruit in the video was asked to report on the ethos of the Royal Marines. Ethos #1 was “cheerfulness in the face of adversity”. Meaning, when in trouble, smile! I tried that. I smiled widely and wham! That lapse in concentration caused me to run into a pointy shrub by the side of the trail. I had my first two souvenirs for the day. Two superficial cuts to my right arm.
So, smiling didn’t quite work. I thought to myself that I should have followed the ethos of the US Marines instead. America has the best military in the world anyway. Then I remembered that I had a secret weapon of my own. Linkin Park! I endeavored to bring the legs back into control while feeding off the energy I collected from listening to Chester Bennington on the vocals and Mike Shinoda on the guitar.
A Linkin Park fueled General’s Rock and The Twins
I knew I could count on Linkin Park. Within about 15 minutes, I had full control of my legs and started going at my usual pace to catch up on time. General’s Rock was quite a climb. I resorted to monkey moves wherever appropriate (read: everywhere). I mean, not just mentally (i.e. my usual self) but physically as well. In fact, I now know why animals are faster than human beings — they have four limbs to run on whereas we only have two dedicated ones for running.
At the water stop after General’s Rock, I saw Dominic and Hannes who were the volunteer water boys for the day. (Where did all the cute water ladies go?) I asked them how slow I was but I already knew the answer. Pretty slow as I had lost time. But then I had my legs back and was finally enjoying the run!
I was almost in a trance listening to my music when I saw Nora again who shouted “you’re back!” It felt good to be on the trails again!
From there on, I kept the pace relatively steady all the way to The Twins where I saw AJ. We were climbing The Twins together for a while but I somehow managed to overtake him as he was appeared to be waiting for someone else.
Running to the finish, concrete style
They say “the road to hell is paved with good intentions”, well, the road to today’s finish was paved with concrete intentions. 5 kms might not sound like very much but when it’s alongside a boring catch water which never seems to end, it can feel like eternity. I looked left every other second to check if we had magically arrived at the last turnoff for the day which would take us back to Repulse Bay. It didn’t arrive for a good 15 minutes! And, when I saw it, I breathed a huge sigh of relief.
After 3 hours and 46 minutes, I crossed the finish line, feeling fresh and fit but sustaining internal leg bruises which, thankfully, cleared up after an hour or two!
3 hours 46 minutes; 27th place overall and 13th in my category.
Last year, I finished in the exact same time but came 19th overall! Competition is getting stronger and stronger!
Speaking of which, I’ve got to say, I would have been happier had I been in the 27th place overall AND 27th place in my category. Ironically, in relation to the overall place, the higher the position in my category, the better. You know why? Take, for instance, today’s race. What the results mean is that there were 14 people on today’s race who were faster than me and these people were either girls or 40+ years old. Arrrgghh!
Snapshot of the results and my “clever” observations
Looks like Steve’s Ruby-driven state-of-the-art timing system finally started working! So, we had the privilege of witnessing real-time race results today.
Here they are (click to zoom). Noteworthy points:
1) Michael is better off running *after* having taken a dump. He finished in 3 hrs 20 minutes today (?!) as opposed to finishing behind a mere mortal like me on the previous KOTH Lantau race when he was running without having cleared his bowels. Perhaps, he was carrying too heavy a payload in his bowels on the previous race? You decide.
2) Olya or should I say “Queen” Olya, her majesty, finished 1st beating the likes of Kami, Nora and Aya. Unsurprising.
3) Rupert, with barely any training, finished 18th overall and 4th in his category with a remarkable 3 hours 40 minutes. Reason is indisputably a strong motivation and a clear purpose. No, it wasn’t merely to kick butt but to save on an extra hour’s worth of car parking! What better motivation than that to run faster! Incidentally, he said that he let a young looking bloke go ahead of him as a sign of being a gentleman but this gentlemanly behaviour cost him his 3rd price trophy — he later discovered that the “young looking bloke” also turned out to in the age 40+ category. Lesson: don’t judge the age of a book by its cover.
4) Aya is probably going to be experiencing a “if only I had pushed harder” thought for the next couple of days as the difference between her and Kami was only about a minute! Shoulda woulda coulda. Lesson: either lose with a huge margin or don’t lose at all.
Oh, about Jogger J’s running sans peeing experience, I forgot to ask him about it! But, Michael did take me into confidence with a similar secret. In true heroic fashion, he also ran on a high bladder content today (and I don’t mean the Hyrapack!) He finished in 3 hours 20 minutes, so, ladies and gentlemen, there you have it — the secret to a fast run unlocked by Michael. Liquid “fuel” is better than solid waste.