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20160624_124615853_iOS

#HKTRP #60 – Talking to Richard Scotford from HKTRL (1/2)

Today, I have with me on the podcast the founder of The Hong Kong Trail Racing League, Richard Scotford. If you don’t know what the HKTRL is, then don’t worry – we are going to cover what that is and how it has evolved. Richard Scotford is quite a runner himself and we’ll touch upon that on this podcast too. So, let me welcome Richard to the Hong Kong Trail Rockers Podcast.

Show Notes: (The get to know Richard better section)
  • Introduce himself in his own words
  • Where’s he from?
  • Was there anything in his past that lead him to trail running?
  • What is his day job?
  • What is your favorite trail in Hong Kong and why?
  • What’s his favorite race and why? (can be local or overseas)
  • What in his view is his best accomplishment in the field of running
  • In your running career, do you have any mentors? Who has had the most influence on you?
  • Do you  have role models in the field of running? Who are they and why?
The Hong Kong Trail Racing League: (The Humble Beginnings)
  • What is HKTRL?
    • i)  To give runners the opportunity to be part of a racing team no matter what level they run at
    • ii)  To create exciting competition for runners right across the results spectrum
    • iii) To help create brand-families, where racing teams can make opportunities to work with brands, regardless of whether they’re elite or not
    • iv) To encourage greater participation in trail running events in Hong Kong
    •  v) To contribute to the development of running talent in Hong Kong
  • When did it start? (2014)
  • What gave you the idea?
  • People tend to have ideas all the time. For example, I want to start a rock band but there are certain ideas that receive action whereas most don’t. Why was this cause so important to you to put so much energy behind it?
  • What did you have to give up to fuel this idea? Time / money / energy
  • How much support did you get from the community and family to turn this idea into a reality?
  • What were you expecting the HKTRL to look like 5 years from when you first started it?
The Hong Kong Trail Racing League: (The 2014 format)
  • What was the format in 2014?
  • Was the concept of prize money crucial to the idea you had for HKTRL in 2014?
  • Talk to us about the mechanics of HKTRL
    • Scoring
    • Calendar
    • Promotion
    • Who managed all the tallying and the FB page and all the “being the work” scenes?
  • 15 times entered the first year but the sponsors and sponsor prize money didn’t quite come about. Why?
  • You used your own money to fund the prizes in 2014. Why did you do so?
  • What lessons did you take away from the 2014 edition? What worked and what didn’t?
  • Was this effort worth it for you? What did you personally want to get out of all this?
The Hong Kong Trail Racing League: (The 2015 format)
  • How did the HKTRL evolve in 2015?
  • Talk about the two leagues – Trail League and Ultra League. Why the change?
The Hong Kong Trail Racing League: (The 2016 format)
  • What changed?
    • This year we will again have two racing leagues. An Ultra League, with race distances going up to 170km and a Trail League, with race distances ranging from approximately 10k – 30k. Both leagues have international standard athletes as well as ordinary trail racers competing.
  • Number of people in a team
    • 6
  •  Trail League and Ultra League
    • For the Ultra League these 6 races need to include three races of at least 42km distance. The remaining races are the runners’ choice.
    • For the Trail League, all 6 races are the runners’ choice
  • Points for volunteering
  • League Division
  • Talk about some of the races in the Ultra League and some of the races in the Trail League (http://www.hktrl.org/#!races/t0wue)

To subscribe to this podcast, please go to iTunes and search for The Hong Kong Trail Rockers Podcast (https://itunes.apple.com/hk/podcast/hong-kong-trail-rockers-podcast!/id994423166)

20160615_140048010_iOS

#HKTRP #59 – Conversation with popular photographer and runner Lloyd Belcher (2/2)

Today on the podcast, I have with me one of the most famous photographers of Hong Kong. You may find one of his carefully crafted photos on several publications like Asia Trail Magazine, Summit and Facebook. It has the watermark “Lloyd Belcher Visuals”. Lloyd has traveled the world, covered trail running races in Taiwan, New Zealand and many other places. He is also known for his short films and one that was recently screened in Hong Kong – a film about Nepali runner Mira Rai. His website is a must visit – it showcases some of these amazing photographs – lloydbelchervisuals.com

Lloyd is also quite a runner himself. He has completed tough races such as Dragon’s Back (not the HK one!) and UTMF (100 miles)

But, what is ultimately cool about Lloyd is his awesome free flowing beard. I don’t know if you have heard of a music band called Collective Soul. Lloyd looks like the lead singer from Collective Souls.

In Part One, we focused on Lloyd the photographer and in this Part Two, we will look at Lloyd the runner.

So, let me welcome Lloyd Belcher to the podcast.


Lloyd the runner:
  • Intro – when did he start hiking/running? (what year) Humble beginnings: where it all started
  • Did he start off as a road runner? Does he enjoy both road running and trail running?
  • Why does he run? What is more fun – running for fun or racing?
  • In his journey so far (both running and racing) – does he have any unforgettable experiences? If so what are the top two experiences he can never forget?
  • Talk about Dragon’s Back and UTMF
    • What was it like?
    • Walk us through the journey. What was it like? You slept during the race. What happened? Did you want to stop?
    • Did he put a lot of pressure on himself to complete? What was the “outside” pressure like on him?
    • What were the up and down moments of this race? Describe the race to us and what more impressed you about the race
Training: (physical)
  • How often does he train and how? Does he have a routine?
  • What’s his weekly training plan / mileage?
  • Has his training resulted in injuries and if so how does he deal with them?
  • How competitive is he? How important is it to him to best himself? Would he risk injuries in order to achieve certain goals?
  • What’s his philosophy on team runs like the OTW? Would he push his team to do better or would they do it “just for fun” ?
  • Does he take any painkillers during runs? What’s his philosophy on that? What’s been his most painful run?
  • How does he balance his family time vs running / training? How supporting is his family?
  • Talk to us about injuries, what he learnt from it. Does he believe in the needle guy?
Training (mental)
  • How does he do so many races / such long distances during painful moments? What’s been his most painful mental moment?
  • What is his philosophy on pain? When does he know when to persist and when not to?
  • What does he tell himself mentally when he has to persist through pain and continue to the finish line?
  • During long distance runs, does he listen to music? How do you maintain your focus?
  • Is he scared he will someday lose his passion for running? What keeps him passionate about running?
  • What are his downtimes in running? When he didn’t want to run and felt miserable?
  • Which is more fulfilling? Photography or running?
Personality:
  • If he could not run, what else would he do?
  • Does he have any strategies for mental training?
Goals:
  • As far as running is concerned what are his goals for 2016?
  • For beginners getting into 100km+ running, what kind of advice does he have?
  • What advice does he have for budding photographers?
Parting words of wisdom:
  • Advice for 20-year-old self

To subscribe to this podcast, please go to iTunes and search for The Hong Kong Trail Rockers Podcast (https://itunes.apple.com/hk/podcast/hong-kong-trail-rockers-podcast!/id994423166)

20160615_140048010_iOS

#HKTRP #58 – Conversation with popular photographer and runner Lloyd Belcher (1/2)

Today on the podcast, I have with me one of the most famous photographers of Hong Kong. You may find one of his carefully crafted photos on several publications like Asia Trail Magazine, Summit and Facebook. It has the watermark “Lloyd Belcher Visuals”. Lloyd has traveled the world, covered trail running races in Taiwan, New Zealand and many other places. He is also known for his short films and one that was recently screened in Hong Kong – a film about Nepali runner Mira Rai. His website is a must visit – it showcases some of these amazing photographs – lloydbelchervisuals.com
Lloyd is also quite a runner himself. He has completed tough races such as Dragon’s Back (not the HK one!) and UTMF (100 miles)
But, what is ultimately cool about Lloyd is his awesome free flowing beard. I don’t know if you have heard of a music band called Collective Soul. Lloyd looks like the lead singer from Collective Souls.
We’re going to divide the podcast into two parts. In Part One, we will focus on Lloyd the photographer and in Part Two, we will look at Lloyd the runner.
So, let me welcome Lloyd Belcher to the podcast.

Show Notes: (The get to know Lloyd better section)
  • Introduce himself in his own words
  • Where’s he from?
  • Was there anything in his past that lead him to trail running?
  • What is his day job?
Trivia for Lloyd:
  • Answer these questions from a running / photography angle:
    • What is his favorite trail in Hong Kong and why?
    • What’s his favorite race and why? (can be local or overseas) (To run / Cover)
  • What in his view is his best accomplishment in the field of running
  • What in his view is his best accomplishment in the field of creative photography
  • In his running career, has he had any mentors? Who has had the most influence on him?
  • Does he have role models in the field of running / photography? Who are they and why?
  • Something or someone that has shaped him and his thoughts?
  • Does he have a coach? Who is it? When did he get the coach?
Lloyd as the photographer
    • I’ll start with a quote from Lloyd’s website: “Photography and film making are multi-faceted and I hesitate at attempting to neatly frame these constructed artistic mediums. However, there are key ingredients that exist in images that cause us to take a second, third or continuous gaze. An image [whether static or motion film] is a vehicle for emotions, provokes memories and can visually transport us to places and scenarios that we have never personally encountered. With this in mind, one of my aims is to enable those viewing an image, to connect with the subject, emotion and environment. Whether it be a commissioned assignment for a brand or a spontaneous episode on a mountain side with an athlete, my aim is to blend narratives from both sides of the camera lens while striving for technical excellence.” Talk to us about this. What are those key ingredients? What makes a good photo?
  • How did he get into becoming a photographer and why a trail photographer?
  • Where did this passion for photography begin?
  • What’s been the most interesting and the most memorable experience Lloyd has had as a photographer?
  • What is the experience like on the trails as a photographer? Does he make observations on runners that ordinary people miss?
  • How fit does a person need to be in order to be a trail photographer?
  • Talk to us about the camera gear he uses. What camera makes / why and what lenses?
  • How long does it take to touch up photos before publishing them?
  • What makes a good photographer in his opinion?
  • Would he rather take photos or run?
  • When he’s on the trail waiting to take photos, how does he kill time?
  • Does he ever get bored of photo taking during a trail race?
  • In his view, what are the quality one needs to be a good photographer?
  • “The most striking images and powerful visual journeys I have traveled on have never been captured on camera nor have I sought to. They are etched deep within my being where they belong.”  – reminds me of that Walter Mitty movie. Talk to us about these striking images. What is the hardest shot he has ever taken?
  • Let’s get into Lloyd’s involvement with motion pictures. ”     Since being released on March 30th 2016, ‘Mira’ has been awarded ‘Best Film on Mountain Culture’ at the New Zealand Mountain Film Festival. Other short film pieces include  ‘The Most Beautiful Thing’ and ‘More Than A Race’ [released in May 2014] that was screened on Cathay Pacific Airways flights
  • Talk to us about the movie. How did that come about? How was that different from his photography experience?
  • Is there anything else you’d like for the listeners to about Lloyd the photographer?

To subscribe to this podcast, please go to iTunes and search for The Hong Kong Trail Rockers Podcast (https://itunes.apple.com/hk/podcast/hong-kong-trail-rockers-podcast!/id994423166)

Beaten BUTT not broken

Bustin’ our butts in Taiwan – The Sequel (July 2016)

Photos are here. Previous butt breakin’ adventure report here.

Video summary: (courtesy Rom)

“Pain in the butt”. Many use that phrase figuratively. I’ve had the privilege of using that phrase literally. That’s right – five years ago, armed with a heavy backpack (which also included a laptop), my friend Rom and I rode 3300m up a mountain in Taiwan on a mountain bike. My butt screamed in agony (see http://hikeinhongkong.com/bustin-my-ass-in-taiwan-%E2%80%93-vacation-august-2011-hike-bike/). So much so that I told myself that I’d never repeat that experience. 5 years have since gone by and here we go again! Human beings – sometimes we never learn. My friend B has this quote: “Smart men learn from other people’s mistakes, stupid men learn from their own mistakes, imbeciles never learn”. Am I an imbecile? (Don’t answer that!)

Many were supposed to go on this killer boot camp in Taiwan. But, after I sent out this Mission Brief below, only two remained interested. The same two of us – Rom and I. Surprise, surprise! History was going to repeat itself. As we got closer to our butt kicking adventure, my butt was worried. Worried enough for me to order a pair of cycling shorts from Shane at Lantau Base Camp. “It will fit you snug”, he said. The shorts also featured the LBC logo which would me make me “look fly”, he added. I was sold.
 
Original Mission Brief which invoked a grand total of 1 interested person, i.e. Rom:

  • On July 1st 2016 at 0600 HKT, cycle from Taroko (sea-level) to Hehuan (3300m) in one day – around 80kms
  • Upon reaching Hehuan (3300m) at an estimated 1830 hrs, switch to “trail running” mode and reach Xilai North Peak campsite at around 2200 on July 2nd (Saturday)
  • Rise nice and early in the Xilai North Peak campsite and at around 0400, make way to the top of Xilai North Peak (app 3700m). Estimated arrival time 0600. Estimated difficulty level: VERY DIFFICULT. Think 10x Sharp Peak
  • Come back to Xilai North Peak campsite at around 1100 on July 2nd (Saturday) and cycle back down to Taroko (ETA July 2nd 1600)

Since Rom and I were the only ones interested in punishing our butts to the limit (literally), we decided to add more adventure to the itinerary by including two motorbike rides too. The plan morphed into this.

Morphed Mission Brief:

  • Reach Taiwan on June 30th around 4pm. Rent a motorbike from Jeremy and ride to Taroko. Reach Taroko around 2130
  • On July 1st 2016 at 0600 HKT, cycle from Taroko (sea-level) to Hehuan (3300m) in one day – around 80kms
  • Upon reaching Hehuan (3300m) at an estimated 1830 hrs, switch to “trail running” mode and reach Xilai North Peak campsite around 2200 on July 2nd (Saturday)
  • Rise nice and early in the Xilai North Peak campsite and at around 0400, make way to the top of Xilai North Peak (app 3700m). Estimated arrival time 0600. Estimated difficulty level: VERY DIFFICULT. Think 10x Sharp Peak
  • Come back to Xilai North Peak campsite at around 1100 on July 2nd (Saturday) and cycle back down to Taroko (ETA July 2nd 1600)
  • Go for an extended motorbike trip to Wu Ling farm after returning to Taroko
  • Ride motorbike back to Taipei on July 2nd 2016

Basically, trail running, mountain biking and motorbiking. What more could one want from life??

And, this is how things unfolded.

2016-06-30, Hong Kong -> Taipei -> Taroko

  • We took China Airlines to Taipei. Our time sensitive plan was immediately stressed as China Airlines got delayed by an hour. This also put us in peak traffic hour at Taipei which contributed further to the delay. We had to go get our motorbikes from bike man Jeremy by 5pm in order to make it to Taroko by 9pm. That time looked unlikely now.
Rom and I preparing for the butt breaking adventure

Rom and I preparing for the butt breaking adventure

  • Very correctly, Rom filled out “kick ass cycling” as the purpose of visit on the Taiwan immigration form.
Kick Ass adventure is for sure the PURPOSE OF VISIT

Kick Ass adventure is for sure the PURPOSE OF VISIT

  • We got off the plane at Taipei airport around 5pm and hustled to make it to meet motorbike man Jeremy at 6.30pm. Rom made a excellent decision at the airport and suggested that we get a local SIM card. It was cheap and had unlimited data for 3 days. We also had a bet about our Jeremy. My bet, which I claimed was from years of experience of studying people, was that Jeremy was a Taiwanese guy. Given Jeremy’s aggressive responses and strict demeanour in all our interactions with him, Rom bet that he was too aggressive to be a Taiwanese guy. He bet that Jeremy was a gweilo.
  • Bike man Jeremy showed up on time at 6.30pm with one scrawny looking motorbike. I think it was called “The Wolf” or something like that. What a misnomer! He then disappeared for about 10 minutes and reappeared with another famished looking motorbike which looked Wolf’s even poorer cousin. Jeremy then gave us a highly stern speech on traffic rules and how we were supposed to care for Wolf and its cousin. The motorbikes had a cyclical gear system which was weird. After gear 5, it would switch back to neutral. Oh, and Jeremy was indeed a gweilo! I lost my first of many bets to come with Rom!
  • We were on our way at 7pm riding two motorbikes that wouldn’t cross 60kmh. We really wondered what speeding fines Jeremy was cautioning us against for two bikes that could barely cross 60kmh.
  • It got dark very soon after we started and we found ourselves riding in darkness on hilly roads within one hour of riding. At one point, in what looked like the middle of nowhere, we stopped for a pee and much to my annoyance, my bike, “The Wolf”, wouldn’t start! I struggled with a few kicks to the starter and was pondering next moves when a lady at a nearby home / eatery (probably the only construction in that area) saw me in trouble. I’ve always held the belief that there are many guardian angels looking after me and on this occasion also that proved to be true. The restaurant lady knew some bike mechanic guy and called him over. We would be late to Taroko but at least we now had hopes of getting the bike working again.
Rom's bike which would cause him many problems in time to come!

Rom’s bike which would cause him many problems in time to come!

Getting ready for a 190km bike ride from Taipei to Taroko

Getting ready for a 190km bike ride from Taipei to Taroko

A bit of a view in the darkness

A bit of a view in the darkness

Rom taking a photo of the city in the night

Rom taking a photo of the city in the night

Photo of me at the same spot

Photo of me at the same spot

The bike mechanic guy helping me fix my bike

The bike mechanic guy helping me fix my bike

  • Mechanic guy came while we had dinner at the lady’s place and the bike problem seemed to be fixed. (Some battery problem I think). Then came yet another challenge. My bike was running out of fuel and the petrol bunk shut at 9pm! To solve this problem, we used an innovative solution that hospitals use – transfusion! Rom might not donate one of his kidneys to me but he could certainly donate some of his bike’s fuel. Our mechanic guy “transfused” some of Rom’s fuel into my bike so we could make it to the next gas station which was quite some distance away!
Rom might not donate his kidney to me but he'll certainly donate some of his fuel!!

Rom might not donate his kidney to me but he’ll certainly donate some of his fuel!!

  • These teething troubles cost us quite some time. After many more hilly and steep roads, we managed to reach Taroko at 1.05am! Our plan for waking up at 5am the next day was in jeopardy!

2016-07-01, Taroko (sea level) -> Dai Yu Lin (2800m) on a bicycle

  • The original plan called for waking up at 5am and leaving by 6am to ride up 90km to the top of He Huan Shan on mountain bikes. After the intense and eventful motorbike ride the previous day, our bodies just wouldn’t wake up until 6.30am. We left Rihang’s (our guesthouse host) place at 8am.
Rom and I are featured on Rihang's fall from our butt breakin' adventure 5 years back!

Rom and I are featured on Rihang’s fall from our butt breakin’ adventure 5 years back!

  • Armed with a pair of LBC’s cycling shorts and some good podcasts, off we went to repeat our butt breaking adventure from 4 years back. Getting into Taroko National Park on a bike was for sure exhilarating. Memories of tunnels, gorges, windy roads and greenery from 4 years back returned. Within 2.5 hours, we were at Tian Xiang (400m) where I had my bowl of noodles.
Getting ready to begin our butt breakin' ride

Getting ready to begin our butt breakin’ ride

Cycling through gorges

Cycling through gorges

Taroko is a beautiful place

Taroko is a beautiful place

More greenery

More greenery

This is Tian Xiang (400m) above sea level

This is Tian Xiang (400m) above sea level

Rom came up with this idea to tie our stuff to the cycle instead of carrying them in a bag!

Rom came up with this idea to tie our stuff to the cycle instead of carrying them in a bag!

  • Familiar memories of butt pain became a reality again with the increase in altitude. Compared to 4 years back, we were more fit, carried less and had a better mountain bike. The cycling shorts we were wearing also alleviated the pain to some degree but not enough! At some point, I had to switch from listening to podcasts to playing music to keep motivation going. A couple of gels here and there gave me some boost but the energy didn’t last long enough for butt pain to return. I had a wild idea pass through my mind. When Michael Jackson sang “Bad”, he probably went for a bike ride because the first line of that song goes something like “your butt is mine…”
A picture as we were waiting for some roadworks

A picture as we were waiting for some roadworks

Clever selfie shot on the concave mirror

Clever selfie shot on the concave mirror

Another clever Rom shot

Another clever Rom shot

Cycling, cycling and more cycling

Cycling, cycling and more cycling

Butt pain returns

Butt pain returns

The smiles eventually wore off and they lead to...

The smiles eventually wore off and they lead to…

This is what you call a pain in the ass

This! This is what you call a pain in the ass

  • Amidst the pain in the rear and the strenuous climbs, there were many “I am so glad to be here” moments. On one of my frequent philosophical thoughts, I thought to myself that surrounded by nature and physically engaging oneself in a challenging self-chosen adventure somehow liberates the mind. It’s just you, mother nature and your butt. Nothing else matters. Thoughts like that kept floating in the mind as I kept cycling in a steady rhythm. Eventually, butt pain superseded all those thoughts.
  • Our very late lunch was at a place called the Pi Lu Sacred Tree. It was at an altitude of around 2200m and there was a cafe there playing covers of old English pop music. Getting off the bike presented an immediate relief to the rear, although only short lived as we soon had to get back on the saddle to ride up as high as possible in daylight.
  • Our friends from HK, Gulami and Chris, were riding up in scooters to He Huan Shan as we were cycling up. We saw them and for a moment I wished I was one of them instead!
Our friends from HK were going up to He Huan on a motorbike! I wished I was one of them!

Our friends from HK were going up to He Huan on a motorbike! I wished I was one of them!

Food near Pi Lu Sacred Tree. Getting tired

Food near Pi Lu Sacred Tree. Getting tired

Rom enjoying his lunch at the Sacred Tree

Rom enjoying his lunch at the Sacred Tree

These signs kept coming and coming. The ride seemed to last sooo long!

These signs kept coming and coming. The ride seemed to last sooo long!

Rom getting tired!

Rom getting tired!

Beaten BUTT not broken

Beaten BUTT not broken

  • After some more mammoth uphill climbs, it was 6.30pm and we reached a place called Dai Yu Ling which was only 8km away from He Huan Shan. That last 8km ride was supposed to be the steepest of them all and we knew it would take about 2 hours to ride up that part, which meant riding in the night and in the cold. It also looked like it could rain. We knew we had two hours of energy left in us but going up in the dark didn’t seem to be a wise decision. Also, spending the night in the uncomfortable Xi Lai North Peak hut seemed less than appealing. And so, we asked a lady in Dai Yu Ling if she had any accommodation for us. It wasn’t an emphatic ‘YES” but a slight nod. After asking her the same question one more time, she showed us into some sort of a secret lodge she had which became our humble abode for the night. And, what a fine decision it was for us to stay there as it started to rain cats and dogs soon after! Otherwise it would have been a case of cold He Huan rain!

20160701_100242418_iOS

Rom showing off his ill fitting slippers

Rom showing off his ill fitting slippers

The smiles return as we are warm again in our Dai Yu Lin abode

The smiles return as we are warm again in our Dai Yu Lin abode

A celebratory CHEERS in Dai Yu Lin for having done 2800m on a bicycle

A celebratory CHEERS in Dai Yu Lin for having done 2800m on a bicycle

2016-07-02, Dai Yu Lin -> He Huan -> Xi Lai North Peak -> Taroko

  • After sleeping like a baby in Dai Yu Ling, we got up at 6am and were out the door by 6.15am. Rom deftly hung his stinky clothes on the bike hoping that the strong ultraviolet rays of the sun would kill the smell. I didn’t even attempt that. I sealed my dirty clothes from the bike ride in a ziplock back and wore my clean shorts and tee shirt which I had thoughtfully brought along. The catch was the my shorts didn’t have any butt cushioning so the pain on the butt came back soon after the contact was made between my rear and the seat.
Smiles return as the sun illuminates He Huan North Peak!

Smiles return as the sun illuminates He Huan North Peak!

Nature is stunning!

Nature is stunning!

The mountains of Taiwan beckon!

The mountains of Taiwan beckon!

The road to He Huan Shan

The road to He Huan Shan

  • The 8km ride up to He Huan was tough! It was so steep on occasion that my body started to play games with me. WALK AND PUSH THE BIKE, the body pleaded. The mind overruled that request and I switched on to low gear and steadily kept working the pedals.
I didn't push the bike at all! Proud to say that I rode it all the way!

I didn’t push the bike at all! Proud to say that I rode it all the way!

Our loyal steed

Our loyal steed

The He Huan Shan Road

The He Huan Shan Road

  • The scenery was spectacular. The smiles on our faces returned making us enjoy the success of our biking challenge. The mountains were majestic and the color of the landscape was a treat to the senses. There was a 1km downhill stretch near the top which lead us straight to the parking lot at He Huan Shan.
Our victory pic! 3300m of cycling!

Our victory pic! 3300m of cycling!

  • We didn’t have locks for the bikes but that didn’t stop Rom from improvising. He hung his dirty underwear on the bike which we were sure would serve better than the best lock money could buy.
Drying underwear on the bike is the best lock!

Drying underwear on the bike is the best lock!

Want to steal Rom's bike? It comes with his dirty undies

Want to steal Rom’s bike? It comes with his dirty undies

  • After having breakfast at a lodge on the top of He Huan Shan, we switched to Trail Running mode and started on our 20km run up to Xi Lai North Peak – 3640m above sea level. The first part of the trail is a steady downhill stretch flanked by grass and tall trees on either side.
Switching to trail running mode

Switching to trail running mode

The grassy part in the beginning which leads to Chek Kong Cabin

The grassy part in the beginning which leads to Chek Kong Cabin

Rom enjoying nature

Rom enjoying nature

  • 6km from the start of the trail leads to a small cabin called Chek Kong Cabin which is where we originally intended to spend the previous night. Good we didn’t. It looked cramped and dirty and could certainly not beat the shower we had the lodge in Dai Yu Lin!
Fresh forest mushrooms!

Fresh forest mushrooms!

Chek Kong Cabin

Chek Kong Cabin

  • After crossing the cabin, we climbed up the forest all the way to the exposed rock surface. There were many ropes in place and the climb required 4 limbs on many occasions.
We had to climb many of those steep slopes

We had to climb many of those steep slopes

The forest zone eventually breaks into this rocky surface

The forest zone eventually breaks into this rocky surface

We had to drink every now and then as we felt the altitude

We had to drink every now and then as we felt the altitude

  • The rock surface eventually lead to a meadow which was used a campsite for many hikers. The beauty of the area resonated with me.
Sign near the top!

Sign near the top!

The high altitude meadow

The high altitude meadow

Mountains everywhere!

Mountains everywhere!

Very close to the summit

Very close to the summit

The dance of the clouds

The dance of the clouds

  • The final stretch involved climbing up a very steep rocky slope of the mountain. It was a little bit like climbing up Sharp Peak – except it was about 20 times as long and 2 times more difficult. But, very doable at a gentle pace. If the weather is bad, it will prove to be quite a challenge. On this day though, we got lucky with the weather. It looked ominous but never rained on us!
The final approach

The final approach

  • It took us around 3 hours to reach the summit!
After 3 hours!

After 3 hours!

Panoramic photo of the summit

Panoramic photo of the summit

Rom on the summit

Rom on the summit

  • After spending about 10 minutes on the summit, we made it back to He Huan in about 2 hours. Our total trail running adventure lasted 6 hours 10 minutes and 20kms. After around 180km of motorbiking, 90kms of cycling (accumulated elevation of 3300m) and 20km of trail running, we were beginning to get tired – but we still had another 90km of downhill riding to go before concluding the trail running and biking part of the adventure. We embarked on the downhill cycle ride at 3.40pm.
Back at He Huan at around 3.30pm after a 20km trail run

Back at He Huan at around 3.30pm after a 20km trail run

  • There are very few thrills in life that can compare to a 3300m downhill ride at an average speed of 40kmh! The downhill ride was exhilarating to say the least but it also made me feel bad for the guy who cycled up all the way the day before! Not all of it was easy though! In sharp contrast to the previous day, what was easy the day before became very hard today! The uphills from the previous day became downhill sections today and vice versa. Luckily, there was only one hard stretch that lasted about 20 minutes but it felt like an absolute killer, especially when I thought that the hard stuff was behind us (literally). My ass still hurt from the previous day’s adventure.
Rom feeling like a kind on the downhill

Rom feeling like a kind on the downhill

  • We stopped at the same Sacred Tree for late lunch (it was about 4.45pom when we stopped for a quick lunch). As though perfectly timed, it rained quite hard for the twenty minutes during which we had lunch and just as we were about to leave, the rain stopped! Someone was looking after us!
  • I must have been riding at about 50kmh on occasions! The ride from 2000m down to 400m was an absolute thrill! It was 6.30pm by the time we got to Tian Xiang (400m). We then carried on riding at a very fast pace that Rom set in an attempt to reach our lodge in Taroko before we lost daylight. It was borderline but at about 7.30pm we entered Rihang’s house without having used any artificial light! A couple of more minutes and it would have been pitch dark! We made it back in about 4 hours from the top of He Huan Shan to Taroko in contrast to the 12 hours it took us to get up there! Gravity is really your friend!
  • Our bicycling adventure came to an end soon after that and Rihang took us out to a much needed dinner. We checked our flight timings to Hong Kong only to discover that we had to be at Taipei in the motorbike shop at about 11am the following day which meant leaving Rihang’s home at 4.30am in the morning to make the 6-hour motorbike ride back.

2016-07-03, Taroko -> Taipei -> Hong Kong

  • Getting up at 4.15am was TOUGH! The body wanted more sleep but we couldn’t afford to miss our flights. Also, the quality of the bikes we rented was questionable. After having experienced mechanical problems on the way to Taroko, we wanted to allow enough time to get to the airport on time should we face mechanical problems again.
  • We left at 4.30am as quietly as we could. Rom’s bike had starting trouble but we somehow kick started it into submission. A serene view of Pacific Ocean was enough to wake us up. It was truly a spectacular sight.
The Pacific Ocean

The Pacific Ocean

Rom taking a selfie shot

Rom taking a selfie shot

Pacific Ocean in the backdrop

Pacific Ocean in the backdrop

What a view!

What a view!

  • Then came Rom’s bike problems. The bike’s back wheel was wobbly which loosened the chain which in turn meant trouble shifting gears. To add more woes to that, the bike would suddenly stop when he used the clutch. And once it stopped, it required many kick starts to bring it back to action. We stopped at a mechanic en route to fix the chain but soon after the problems with the bike suddenly stopping got worse.
Rom's bike proves troublesome!

Rom’s bike proves troublesome!

More mechanical trouble

More mechanical trouble

  • Around 2.7km ahead of the meeting point, Rom’s bike completely stopped. No amount of kick starting could coerce it back into action. We had to call the bike guy and have him pick up his bikes right there. We were fortunate in that the bike didn’t breakdown completely in the middle of nowhere but an important lesson we learnt was that it is important to rent good bikes if one is to do a long trip! Given the quality of bikes we had rented, we were lucky to have made it back to the airport on time!
Something tells me Rom isn't going to miss his bike!

Something tells me Rom isn’t going to miss his bike!

  • After we returned the bikes, we headed straight to the airport and gorged on some lounge food. We must have helped ourselves to several courses of meals! We then boarded China Airlines back to Hong Kong to conclude our butt breaking trip to Taiwan!

Summary:

  • 400kms of motorbiking, 180kms of cycling and 20kms of trail running. All of it in 4 days. If this isn’t a butt breaking challenge, what is? Loved every minute of it. Fantastic adventure! Exactly what the doctor ordered!