King of the Hills – Lantau (2013)
To go or not to go
The usual KOTH runners assembled at about 9.15am in Nam Shaan. Michael showed up a little late and told us that he had forgotten to take a dump in the morning. That began an interesting conversation. I offered my “expert” advice and told him that trail running would automatically get rid of the “dump” in his body as he could easily fart it away. Jogger Joel, who stood there looking all engrossed in the conversation, just said one thing: “Can I be please in front?”
The full marathon was supposed to start at 10.10am and at 10.07 Michael wondered again if he had time for the loo. To go or not to go was the million dollar question. I told him that he was out of time and with that we decided to change the topic of conversation.
Nam Shaan to Tung Chung
At 10.10am, we got climbing to the top of Sunset Peak. I decided to take it a little easy at the start and wasn’t bothered by the runners who were overtaking me. Soon, I saw Martijn and Hannes taking photos in the corner. They were sweeping the trail. “Hurry up, Michael and Jonathan are in front of you!” Martijn yelled out as I was slowly climbing up Sunset Peak. In about 45 minutes, I reached the turning to Lin Fa Shan and turned on my gentle running mode. I began overtaking a few people on the technical bits, starting with Jogger Joel. Eventually, I overtook AJ and Alger. Then we climbed up Pok Toi Shaan and some other Shaan (I can never remember this Shaan’s name) and then came one heck of a bushwhack back down to Tung Chung.
That was one hardcore, steep and long downhill bushwhacking section. I was going at my optimal “no injury” speed while turning back every now and then to see who was behind me. Not because I didn’t want to be overtaken, but more because I didn’t want to be run over by someone on such a narrow trail! I badly missed by Anti Knee Protection (TM) invention. Should have worn them. My knees could have done without the scratches from those overgrown shrubs. Well, shoulda woulda coulda. Anyway, I was thinking up another clever invention while running down that narrow trail. Picture this: a headband with two rear-view mirrors attached to either side of it so you can actually see who is behind you without turning back. Perfect for observing “traffic” on such narrow trails. Don’t be surprised to see me wearing this marvelous invention on the next KOTH.
On the last downhill stretch, Aya ran past me like a rocket looking all fresh and energetic. “Well done Aya”, I shouted out as she passed me and, within a blink of an eye, she was gone.
Eventually, I reached the flat concrete bit, relieved to be out of that steep downhill stretch, and started running at a consistent pace. I saw Michael there who said he was having trouble on the downhill bits and contemplated quitting. I advised him against it and told him the worst was already over. Then we overtook the fast Pig Chan who was wearing a tee shirt that read “I am very, very slow”. Hmm.. Imagine a Ferrari with a number plate that reads “slow”. Just not possible. I overtook Pig but knew that he’d overtake me again at some point. Then I saw the superfast Denvy who seemed to be pacing herself quite well. She said “Go Vince” as I overtook her.
Tung Chung to Pak Kung Au
The climb to Ngong Ping from Tung Chung was very steep! The bushwhacking was getting to me. Each time I tried to whack the shrubs back by increasing pace and stomping on them, the shrubs would get back at me by coiling around my leg, attempting to trip me and delivering more scratches. I was right behind Michael who shoelaces were undone. As he stopped to tie them, I overtook him. I also overtook Aya during the climb — she was beginning to look tired. Denvy somehow gathered an immense amount of energy and stormed her way up and overtook me with ease. I didn’t even bother trying to keep up with her.
I finally reached Ngong Ping where Dabera was the checkpoint volunteer giving out water. I asked her to refill my water bottle as I was gulping down some Pokari.
Then came the touristy jog to Wisdom Sticks — it’s amazing how these tourists take pictures of anything and everything. Many of them took photos of me running — not exactly what you would want in your family vacation album! I saw this one Chinese guy running ahead of me and overtook him on this stretch.
I started climbing up to Lantau Peak, one steep stair at a time. As expected, the “slow” Pig Chan overtook me on the climb. I tried to keep focus and didn’t even bother to look up to see how many stairs were remaining! I overtook someone on the climb who asked me if we were at the top. “Not yet”, I told him as we were at the first “false” top. About 10 minutes and several stairs later, we were at the real summit of Lantau Peak.
I ran pretty fast from the peak down to Pak Kung Au but was overtaken by two even faster runners on the downhill bit.
Eventually, I reached Pak Kung Au where Hannes and Martijn were waiting and providing me with some intelligence. “You got chicked”, Hannes said and encouraged me to go catch Denvy. “No can do”, was my response. She was just way too fast for me. After refilling my water, I set off for the last bit back to Nam Shan.
Pak Kung Au to Nam Shan
A long and mostly boring 8km run is what we had to go through to get back to the finish. I found my rhythm and was running this trail at about 8-10kmh. There were many small creeks to cross and one such creek almost had me falling into a mini gully. The trail turned left all of a sudden while I was still running straight. I saw the death trap and applied my emergency brakes just in time as curious half marathoners were watching. Then I picked up my rhythm again and saw one full marathoner in front of me. He was getting his second wind and accelerating really fast. I wanted to try to keep up with him but decided against attempting that. Finally, my Garmin read close to 30km and I could smell the finish but not before hitting the last round of stairs which I tried running up but eventually ended up walking up.
And finally, there it was — the finish! I finished in 4 hours and 14 minutes. 13th overall and 8th in my category. Last year, I finished in 4 hours 29 minutes and came 19th overall.
Michael came in about 5 minutes after me and Denvy finished 6 minutes ahead of me — in 4 hours 8 minutes. Very impressive. The winner (some new Chinese guy) beat trail running legend Jeremy Ritcey by just 11 seconds. The competition in these races is reaching new levels!
Oh, I forgot to ask Michael about his “not going” experience. I suppose one can after all run and fart his way out of a full bowel!