Call it the d-day or the moment of reckoning or the ultimate test of time. It was THE BIG DAY and it finally arrived. It was going to be the day I would be settling the Plover Cove dispute once and for all. It was going to be the day I was hoping to tell the whole world that I and only I alone had complete and undisputed ownership of Plover Cove.
So, what is all the fuss about?
A quick recap: Martijn Doekes organized an event, aptly titled “HKTR Plover Cove Championship” to determine who the fastest Plover Cover runner would be for the day. Here’s how he described it:
Plover Cove, the most hotly disputed trail within Hong Kong borders. Many claim possession, many claim best times, but it was all under different circumstances and with different rules. As discussed on the recent HKTR Christmas drinks, to make once and for always, or at least for that day, clear who is the fastest on Plover Cove, we intend to organize the unofficial Plover Cover HKTR Championship.
Plover Cove – the disputed territory
A King and Queen of Plover Cove would be nothing without a crowd, so everyone is invited to join this Fun Trail run on one of the best trail running trails in Hong Kong. We will not use a strict time trial mode, but people can start when they wish to start and therefore make it either a very competitive run or a social run. There will be no official time taking, but we will instead rely on your own timing using any means available but preferably GPS based.
Of course, I wasted no time in reminding everyone that a fast time around my reservoir had nothing to do with ownership. Let me give you an example. Picture this: you own a Ferrari. A punk comes along and asks you if he can take your Ferrari out for a spin. You agree. It then turns out that this punk is able to drive like a Michael Schumacher. Does this mean that he now owns YOUR Ferrari? NO! Same with Plover Cove. Just because someone runs around the reservoir in a record time, doesn’t mean that he/she owns it. And, this is exactly why I said in my comments. Here’s an excerpt.
Me (on the event website): Btw, just to make things clear, even if someone else is faster than me on this day (I am sure a lot of people could be), that DOES NOT mean that I do not own this place. This belongs to me. Ownership is different from simply doing a fast time.
Hannes Niggli (fellow Plover Cove contestant): i am the majority owner while the turtle/fraudster is banned from the area…..but yes , he is right , this event is about podium positions for the course and this is separate from the fact that i am the majority owner due to my 22 years of taking care for my reservoir….btw…vince , if you park your bike in my territory it will be dumped in my reservoir….
And so, the arguments kept flying back and forth! It was even more bitter than an exchange between USA and Iran over Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons programme.
The events unfold…
I arrived at 8.15am on my motorbike at Tai Mei Tuk bus station. Fellow Plover Cove contestant Hannes Niggli was already there and he looked all set and pumped up to begin the turf war. I had a secret weapon of my own as well. Just the same way Clark Kent removes all his clothing and becomes Super Man, I removed my clothing to reveal my superhuman Plover Cove outfit as well. (Don’t worry, I removed only my motorbike jacket -besides, I’m not a big fan of wearing underwear on top of trouser-) My Super Plover Cove outfit featured my very own PLOVER COVE OWNER bib. Here, take a look.
Some pretty fast racers showed up. Jinhwa Kim (my teammate who kicked everyone’s ass in the Kinabalu marathon) was there. Scott Fitscher (a lean and mean triathlete from Australia) showed up. And there were many more. We took taxis to Wu Kau Tang and I was in the same cab as Hannes. We had Rachel Jacqueline with us, a property lawyer. (It is good to be in the company of a lawyer ONLY when you are sure whose side he/she is on in the event of disputes). Naturally, the topic of the Plover Cove dispute came up and Rachel suggested that the transfer of property from Hannes to me must have been in written format and that “it could be a revocable license”. Meaning, Hannes could revoke my ownership license at will! I countered that rather effectively with the message that the property was transferred unconditionally to me and that it was a complete transfer of ownership, not just a mere license to use it. Luckily, we reached Wu Kau Tang before she could come up with more legalese in his favor which I may not have been able to counter.
On your mark, get set and GO!
Upon reaching the car park in Wu Kau Tang, egos were stoked and Garmins were activated.
Hannes and I descended from the car park and climbed up a path to the left of the usual Plover Cove trail. Everyone then started crying foul (although there isn’t really any difference between the two paths). So, we had to come back down and go up the regular path. We lost about 10 minutes in the process. (Ok, I am exaggerating to make us sound cooler than we are). We lost more like one minute. Hannes was right behind me in the beginning but we exchanged places frequently over the next 15 minutes. He ran like he was running away from a dangerous, hungry lion. After the first small hill, I could no longer keep up with him. I told myself that one need not run faster than the lion, one needs to run faster than the slowest guy running away from the lion. By the time I could make sense of what I had just told myself, I lost Hannes (and realized that, in fact, what I had just told myself didn’t make any sense and was irrelevant to the situation!)
I then kept my pace fairly consistent and broke a few of my sacrosanct running rules to gain more speed. I thought I had gained at least 2 minutes on the other racers until I heard some footsteps right behind me. I turned back and saw Scott Fischer. He seemed to be chugging away like an express train. I signaled to him to overtake me but he chose to stay behind me. Then I saw one of my favorite downhill stretches and I hit the gas big time. That was the last I saw of Scott. But, up ahead in the distance, I saw a moving target. I knew that that must have been Hannes as I recognized glimpses of his blue HKTR tee shirt.
I reached the half way point in 57 minutes and was still confident I could catch up with Hannes. Unfortunately for me, hope began to fade away once I reached a concrete dam which is about 10 minutes away from the finish line. I could see him running about 2-3 minutes ahead of me. I knew I had to increase my flat running pace to about 15-16kmh to catch up with him but could not do so.
Soon enough, I saw him at the finish line, looking all victorious and wearing the winning grin on his face. His time was 2h01m while I finished in 2h02m. Scott finished soon after me (also 2h02m). Hannes was faster than me but the REAL KING, the real Michael Schumacher, the real lean, mean, running machine was Jan Littlewood. Being the nocturnal super human being that he is, he ran this course in the morning WITHOUT having slept the previous night. He finished in an incredible 1 hour 43 minutes. Yes, I did say 1 hour 43 minutes!! He waited for us at the finish line looking all fresh, as though he hadn’t done anything of significance. For this amazing feat, he was anointed as KING OF PLOVER COVE! Given his new and well deserved title, he was asked whether he wished to own the property someday to which he altruistically replied, “I don’t want to own anything. I will just give it to the people”. I am sure I speak for Hannes as well when I say that it was good to hear him say that! We won’t be transferring ownership anyway! Again, not everyone who drives like a Michael Schumacher OWNS a Ferrari or WANTS to own a Ferrari.
The Queen of Plover Cove was none other than my teammate Jinhwa Kim who never fails to dazzle. She finished in an incredible 2 hours 10 minutes, only one minute slower than my other teammate Steven Sparky who has a personal best of 2 hours 9 minutes. Organizer Martijn Doekes (yes, Martijn, I finally spelt your name right), finished in 2 hours 7 minutes, something I could only hope to achieve an year back!
So, here’s a summary of the riches.
The Plover Cove Hall of Fame for dudes
Jan Littlewood: 1 hour 43 minutes (is he human or what?)
Hannes Niggli: 2 hours 01 minutes (you may have won the battle Hannes, but not the war)
Vince Natteri (yours truly): 2 hours 02 minutes (pondering over the cost of one minute in life)
Scott Fischer: 2 hours 02 minutes (never mess with a triathlete)
Marcel: 2 hours 05 minutes (Jan’s fit looking training buddy who is also in awe of Jan’s achievement)
Martijn Doekes: 2 hours 07 minutes (our express organizer)
The Plover Cove Hall of Fame for chicks
Jinhwa Kim: 2 hours 10 minutes (men, not easy to chase after her)
Olivia Luk: (she doesn’t believe in recording times. She just wants to be in nature. For this inspiring philosophy, she also gets to be in the Plover Cove Hall of Fame)
Wheeling and Dealing
They say that the biggest deals in the business world are made not in the boardroom but on the golf course. Well, the biggest hiking property deals are made not on the trails but in a Thai restaurant. I am, of course, referring to the long standing Plover Cove dispute between Hannes and me. While savoring some spicy eggplant and sipping on Tsing Taos, we came to a mutual agreement.
I am to have 40% ownership of Plover Cove while Hannes will have the remaining 60% ownership until December 2012*
*Ownership will be revaluated fairly at the end of the year and shares will be reallocated depending on who takes proper care of Plover Cove during the year. Meaning, visiting Plover Cove and producing necessary Garmins, removing rubbish from Plover Cove and so on. A 3rd party (Hannes suggested Rachel but I want a lawyer who will be on my side) will be entrusted with the task of coming up with a fair formula for the revaluation of shares.
Dominic, if you are reading this, sorry, it looks like you aren’t getting any ownership shares! You should have joined forces with me when you had the opportunity! It was a strategic mistake, akin to the one America made during World War I. But, don’t worry, as co-owner of Plover Cove, I give you permission to visit my property as many times as you want during this year.
Excellent run. Excellent company. Excellent food. And a result I can live with. 40% ownership of Plover Cove is better than being embroiled in a long, legal battle. Besides, Hannes has been associated with Plover Cove for several decades. And, at the end of the day, I am a generous guy with a kind heart.
So, dispute resolved and everyone gets to go home a winner. Long live Plover Cove.