Lantau Two Peaks 2013 – Relivin’ the race
I wore my French running cap for the day to replace my injured French teammate, Rom. It was our first race in the 2013-2014 racing calendar and Michael was my teammate for the day. We showed up nice and early at around 7.30am in Tung Chung and were all dressed to kill in our brand new HKTR outfits to impress our new sponsor Raidlight. After having posed for several rounds of celebrity-style photographs, it was finally time to put aside our posing skills and get back to our running skills.
Sun don’t shine on Sunset peak
Soon after we started, it became clear to me that the “French” running cap I was wearing for the day was no match for my teammate Michael’s natural “Austrian” running cap. He was running like a mountain goat with such effortless ease, whereas I was breathing like a broken-down air-pump and still struggling to maintain a lead. In fact, while climbing Sunset Peak, I realized that my French running cap was as bad as … my French! I wished Rom were fit enough to run the race as per the original plan. I was losing power. All of a sudden, it felt like life was moving in slow motion. Everyone around me was overtaking us and I was the cause for this slowdown. The root cause was my stomach – I didn’t get the all important “clear to run” signal from my stomach. In simple English, that means that I failed to burp!
But, I had been in this situation far too many times before and knew exactly what to do. First, I knew that I needed Michael’s support, so I told him that I was sorry for slowing us down. I knew the response. “No worries, it is a team event, take your time”, he said, sounding a bit like Arnold Schwarzenegger and definitely moving like him. Great. That took a lot of pressure off me and that was 50% of the battle won. The next 50% was in the mind. I remembered a quote I read in Scott Jurek’s book Eat and Run. When asked why he ran, he said, “I ran because overcoming the difficulties of an ultra marathon reminded me that I could overcome the difficulties of life, that overcoming difficulties WAS life”. Well, that somehow justified why I was running this race and allowed me to refocus.
The sound of music
Near the top of Sunset Peak, I heard what I wanted to hear. It was that one sound which defines victory in the world of running. That one sound that separates prolonged pain from instant gratification – a simple, yet highly powerful four-letter word. BURP! That’s right. Burp. Yes, burp, burp and burp. B U U R R P P. My breakfast from the morning was biochemically being transformed from being a liability to the stomach to an asset to the muscles. As I was burping, I could smell my morning smoothie being transported from deep inside my stomach right to my arms and legs and muscles! (Yes, requires a bit of imagination to visualize that). And, boy did that feel good! The sun was shining again. And my favorite downhill stretch to Pak Tam Au was in sight! I burped some more and thought to myself “always better from the mouth than from the rear”, then I increased speed and turned on my noisy “steam engine” heavy breathing mode. Life was moving in fast forward motion again. I began to overtake (and annoy) several runners in front of me with all the noise I was generating. Then came the first water stop for the day in Pak Kung Au.
Posing our way to the top of Lantau Peak
Once again, Michael demonstrated his ability to defy gravity by effortlessly climbing Lantau Peak like a hero from an action movie. I, on the other hand, had far more serious matters to tend to. My looks that is. First, I recognized a familiar face that was almost covered in a bush of beard. A long telescopic lens next to this face revealed this person’s identity. It was my friend Lloyd taking photographs. I took off my middle eastern style cap to ensure that I looked good for the photo. Somehow this little act of narcissism took the focus off my running and now I had to wait for my next burp to feel good again. Then I saw Phoebe and Vivien at a distance. I was too scared to try and remove my cap again for the photo, so I instead shouted out “does my hair look ok?” Vivien said something like “ok, ok” which didn’t sound too convincing. So, I had to get my priorities right. Should I focus on the race or focus on putting out my best pose for the photo? It was a no brainer. I took my cap off again, mustered all the courage I could gather, and put on a nice and big artificial smile for the cameras – all this while waiting for my next burp! This is probably what they mean by “multi-tasking”.
Cruising along from Lantau Peak to the start of Donkey Trail
Reaching the top of Lantau Peak brought some Swiss style intelligence and some English style support to the equation. There was Dom who handed over a bottle of Aquarius to me for some extended burping effect, and Hannes, who told Michael and me that we were the Numero Uno team in the Team of Two category. Michael and I knew that Swiss timing and information could never be wrong. So, having heard that, Michael was already way up ahead and looked all set to keeping us as the first Team of Two. I kick started my engines again, burped some more, and ran down to Ngong Ping in 12 minutes producing a lot of noise in the process. We kept overtaking more and more individual runners.
Donkey Trail to the finish
Michael shouted words of encouragement at me during the flattish stretch from Ngong Ping to the beginning of Donkey Trail. I maintained a steady jogging pace and saw ace runners Emma and John at a distance. John let me pass him but looked fit enough to go much faster than me. I thought to myself that maybe he was giving me a well-deserved chance to go ahead of him. Very kind of him.
For the first time during the race, I was in a position to keep up with Michael and even overtake him on the steep downhill part back to Tung Chung. “Amazing!” he exclaimed as I went past him on the downhill steps. But, unfortunately, his appreciation ran out as soon as we reached the last flattish stretch back to Tung Chung. He was capable of going at well over 14kmh whereas I found myself losing steam and was maxed out at 10kmh.
I changed the track on my Mp3 player and tuned into some nice Rock N Roll music to take my focus off the boring flat concrete stretch back to Tung Chung. Luckily, just as the song was about to end, I saw the yellow finish line banner. We arrived at the finish in exactly 3 hours and 50 seconds. It was my fastest ever Lantau Two Peaks race. And, had Michael done it alone, he could have easily done 2 hours 45 minutes or less!
The ultimate mountain goat for the day
2 hours 26 minutes – a new course record. That’s how long it took Clement to run this course. And, when I saw him at the finish, he looked like he had just gone for a stroll in the park. I asked him what any clever reporter would ask an accomplished athlete, “so, how did you do it mister?” His answer was simple. “Plenty of Red Bulls and run fast!” Yes, the secret to fast running is really no secret I tell ya.
The magic of Red Bulls
Speaking of Red Bulls, my friend Vic was all of a sudden very interested in drinking Red Bulls and that too, not just for himself, but he was also encouraging everyone else to go get one. In fact, he readily volunteered to get me one too. And, when I looked around, it became clear why. There were two hot chicks giving away Red Bulls for free. It gave us all plenty of wings.
HKTR Team Performances for the day
HKTR won an impressive five medals for the day.
Michael and I came first in the Team of Two.
Running machine Tilly and Paul finished first in the Mixed Team of Two.
Jinhwa and Vic came second in the Mixed Team of Two.
It was a great start to the beginning of the racing season for The Hong Kong Trail Posers. I mean Runners.