Making history on New Year’s Day with a Lantau Bypass Operation

Author: ltcommander  //  Category: Hiking in Hong Kong, Other insane runs!, THE EXTREME

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Making history on New Year’s Day with a Lantau Bypass Operation

Photos here.

Some wise guy (definitely not me) once said: “Tell me who your friends are, and I will tell you who you are”. This quote should work the other way around as well, i.e. “Tell me who YOU are and I will tell you who your friends are”. Well, I am CRAAAAAAAAAZY. So, you know what my friends are like. There’s this one guy who is especially crazy; in the interest of respecting his privacy, I can’t tell you his name but I’ll give you only one clue: his name starts with “M”, ends with “N” and there’s a “artij” in between. And, what is so crazy about him? I’ll tell you.

It all started with an easy run I wanted to do to celebrate New Year’s Day. I asked my crazy friends if they were interested in running as well. “Mate, join the Quintuple run“, came the response from Martijn, who was referring to a run he was organizing. I signed up.

I met my crazy #2 friend, Vic, in McDonalds at Tung Chung today morning. We had an interesting conversation.

Me: So, what exactly are we doing today? Going up to Lantau Peak?
Vic: Yes, going up to Lantau Peak.

and then he dropped the bombshell.

Vic: 5 times

Continue to read about the madness…

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My half-marathon debut plus Sunset Peak, Lantau Peak, Ngong Ping and Tung Chung

Author: ltcommander  //  Category: Hiking in Hong Kong, Lantau Trail, THE BOILERPLATE TRAILS, THE RACES, UNICEF - Half Marathon

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My half-marathon debut plus Sunset Peak, Lantau Peak, Ngong Ping and Tung Chung

Sold on a road run
No denying that I am an addict. A trail running addict that is. So, when my friend Martijn sent me a message that read “want to do a race for free?”, I pounced at the opportunity! It’s like asking a marijuana addict if he wants free marijuana!

But, two details came slightly later. First was that he was referring to a “road run” and not a trail run. And the second “minor” detail came just 2 days before the event. The race was to begin at 6.15am on a Sunday in Disneyland Resort!! 6.15am on a Sunday? Hello?

As a trail running evangelist, I look upon road running disdainfully. How can a boring tar surface even compare to the beauty of a soft, muddy trail? Since when does traffic become a substitute for the gorgeous greenery you find on a trail?

Nonetheless, you can’t diss something without having tried it. And so, I went on the Unicef half-marathon, proudly wearing Martijn’s race bib. (Great to wear someone else’s bib! It gives you the opportunity to screw up big time!)

Rise and shine! It’s 4.30am on a Sunday morning
After a mere couple of hours of sleep, my alarm rang nice and early at 4.30am. I woke up and told myself that I’d have my revenge on Martijn by walking the race at a snail’s pace! I got on my motorbike at 4.45am and rode straight to Tung Chung. I then took the MTR to Disneyland and I was surprised at what I saw. Instead of Mickey, Minnie and Goofy, there were scores of runners wearing the ubiquitous “UNICEF” tee shirt. I was asking myself how SO MANY Hong Kongers were interested in waking up at 4.30am on a Sunday morning for a road race!

Sharon’s half-marathon 101 lesson
As I was looking all around at the growing crowd of runners in utter disbelief, a fresh-looking Sharon nudged me and said “I thought you wouldn’t come!” I told her that I wouldn’t have dared to miss out on this unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of getting up at 4.30am on a Sunday morning for anything in the world! She then gave me a Road Run 101 lesson. Basically this:

(1) There’s no need to carry a hydration pack for a road race. (Heeding her advice, I left mine at the luggage drop off point)
(2) You’ve got to wear some kind of timing chip by tying it to the shoelace. Pretty cool stuff. I initially thought it was some cheap useless souvenir
(3) You have to run like there’s no tomorrow!

Sounded simple enough. So, at precisely 6.15am, the race started but we were stuck way behind; we were boxed in somewhere in the middle of a LARGE pack of runners. It took us about 2 minutes just to get to the starting point!

On your mark, get-set and RUN!
I have to say — there were certain wild aspects of road running that I did enjoy today. Overtaking, for one! On my motorbike, being the punk that I am, I flash my headlight at a slow moving vehicle in front of me, then I hit the right indicator and go full throttle to overtake the vehicle in a gung-ho “I-am-a-pro” manner. Soon as I am in front of the vehicle, I hit the left indicator and get in the path of the vehicle! Big adrenalin rush I tell ya!

Today, I donned the same motorbiking attitude but instead of flashing the headlight, I used my trademark steam engine noise right from the beginning to overtake the slow moving runners. It was great fun! So much so, that I *want* to start at the back of races in the future!

The kilometers kept ticking as I kept overtaking and overtaking. The first 12km passed by in no time! I didn’t stop anywhere. I didn’t even drink water or Pokari. I just kept running. Oh yes, I certainly didn’t want to be “chicked” (being overtaken by a girl). So, each time I saw a girl ahead of me, the steam engine found more coal to burn.

Towards the end it started to rain. At around the 16th kilometer, the runners doing the 10km version of the race merged with the half-marathoners. Because of the influx of new runners, I suddenly lost track of whom I had to overtake so I kept my pace pretty consistent.

At the 20th kilometer, I saw a girl who I thought I had overtaken a while back. She clearly wanted to give me a run for my money (or rather, for Martijn’s money), so she turned on her turbo mode! My answer to that was some heavy metal music and a full blast of reserve energy (I call this my nitro boost). It lasted about 15 seconds and I was ahead again! But, unfortunately, I had mistimed my nitro boost as there was still 200-300m to go! This girl then came back at me in full force during the last 100m! Then Rule 1 of my Rules of Engagement kicked in. Rule 1 clearly states that “You shall NEVER go faster than the pre-set limits of the leg”. I didn’t want to redline my engines, so I backed off. Besides, being the chivalrous gentleman that I am, I can’t overtake a girl during the last 50m. (Read: I lost to a girl).

And, the result..
1 hour 27 minutes. I was pleasantly surprised and thought Martijn would be too! (He wanted me to go sub 90 minutes). I then saw the girl who overtook me. She was stretching her legs while still huffing and puffing. I said “well done” but she still hadn’t caught her breath to give me a response! (I felt glad that I gave her a run for her money).

And so.. the verdict
What’s cool about road runs?

1) Overtaking
2) Sounding like a steam engine and overtaking
3) Listening to heavy metal music and overtaking

What’s not cool about road runs?

1) Waking up at 4.30am on a Sunday morning
2) No greenery! Cars and buses are not a substitute for greenery
3) No real challenge! Where are the technical turns? The downhill stretches? The undulating terrain?
4) Missing the love of nature! Where’s the wind on the summit that caresses your face as you run by? Where’s the fragrance of fresh grass that stimulates the senses? Where’s the mist at the top of a hill that kisses you as you pass by?


The stats

Next on the menu … is a trail run!
And so, after my half-marathon I aptly concluded that I was in dire need of a trail run! I needed my identity back!

Wong Lung Hang Trail, Sunset Peak, Lantau Peak, Ngong Ping and Tung Chung
I warmed myself up at McDonalds in Tung Chung after the pouring rain. Then I went back to my first love — trail running! Near the top of Sunset Peak, I felt the mist of the mountain kissing me and the heavy wind made me feel truly alive! I then “flew” down to Pak Kung Au smelling the fragrance of the trail every step of the way. Then I went back upto 950m in elevation by climbing Lantau Peak before descending to Ngong Ping village. The stunning views of a mist-shrouded Shek Pik Reservoir and the statue of the Big Buddha kept appearing intermittently as the trail meandered towards Ngong Ping village.

From Ngong Ping I ran straight down to Tung Chung via a Buddhist farmhouse where they were planting vegetables in their organic garden. The freshness of the soil and purity of the air cleansed me as I gently ran past.

I concluded the 20km trail run in 3 hours 29 minutes. I acknowledged to myself that running has many beautiful forms — the most beautiful one being Trail Running!


The stats

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Mui Wo -> Sunset Peak -> Lantau Peak -> Ngong Ping -> Tung Chung

Author: ltcommander  //  Category: Everyday life, Lantau Trail, THE BOILERPLATE TRAILS

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Having seen enough of Sai Kung and Tai Po in the recent past, I decided to take the fun to good old Lantau. So, pulled out the oldest run in the book.

Mui Wo -> Sunset Peak -> Lantau Peak -> Ngong Ping -> Tung Chung (via the road)

Quiet morning and plenty of schoolkids were out on the trails carrying heavy backpacks and probably going out camping for the first time. Several of them wore big frowns on their faces. They didn’t quite seem the I-have-fallen-in-love-with-nature kind!

I saw Keith (winner of Sydney Trailwalker) near Sunset peak and ran with him all the way to Tung Chung.

Mui Wo to Nam Shan: 13 mins 42 secs
Nam Shan to Sunset Peak to Saddle: 1 hour 8 mins
(Mui Wo to Sunset to Saddle: 1 hour 21 mins)
Saddle to Lantau Peak: 44 mins 52 secs
Lantau Peak to Ngong Ping: 13 mins 50 secs
Ngong Ping to Tung Chung MTR: 38 mins 28 secs

(some breaks here and there waiting for Keith)

Total: 3 hours 10 mins; 20.29km


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Mui Wo -> Sunset -> Lantau -> Ngong Ping -> Tung Chung

Author: ltcommander  //  Category: Hiking in Hong Kong

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I had a 1.5 hour window to run yesterday and without hesitation, I chose to go to my 2nd home – Plover Cove. It was very, very, very hot but as a loyal and caring owner of Plover Cove reservoir, I was there. And, as expected, I was the only true owner there in adverse weather conditions.

Some fake owners are only fair-weather friends with the reservoir but I have a track record of being there irrespective of adverse weather conditions. In fact, I could hear the reservoir singing a verse of that Eminem and Dr. Dre song to me – I need a doctor.

When Dr. Dre is hurt, all his fair-weather friends ignore him and don’t even show up. Similarly, under 34 degrees weather when Plover Cove is desperately calling on its owners, all the fair-weather owners are nowhere to be seen.

Dr Dre in the song sings this:
went through friends, some of them I put on
but they just left, they said they was riding to the death
but where the F are they now
now that I need them, I don’t see none of them
all I see is Slim
F all you fair-weather friends
all I need is him

Plover Cove reservoir to me:
went through owners, some of them I put on
but they just left, they said they were trying to beat their personal best
but where the F are they now
now that I need them, I don’t see none of them
all I see is Vince
F all you fair-weather owners
all I need is him

My 1.5 hour window only allowed a run from Wu Kau Tang to some parts of Plover Cove and back to Wu Kau Tang. Unfortunately, Gamin’s new “firmware update” ate away all my fitness data. So, I no proof of this except for the song above from the reservoir directly.

Today, I again had another small window -3hrs this time- and I had to be back home by 11am. So, woke up nice and early at 5am on a Sunday morning and decided to pay my respects to the Big Buddha in Lantau.

Plan: (a) Ride motorbike to Tung Chung and park there (b) Take bus to Mui Wo (c) Run from Mui Wo-> Sunset Peak -> Lantau Peak -> Ngong Ping -> Ting Chung (d) Ride back home!

(a) Motorbike ride to Tung Chung: 40 mins (took wrong way to Expressway)

Start time 0736

(b) Mui Wo to Nam Shan – 14 mins 36 secs
(c) Nam Shan to the right turn to Lin Fa Shan: 37 mins 34 secs
(d) Right turn to Pak Kung Au: 32 mins 17 secs

Mui Wo to Sunset peak: 1 hour 24 mins

(e) Pak Kung Au to Lantau Peak: 46 mins 3 secs

(good to bump into ace runners Chang and Nora on Lantau Peak)

(f) Lantau Peak to Ngong Ping (Wisdom Sticks): 14 mins 48 secs
(g) Wisdom Sticks to Tung Chung MTR: 46 mins 4 secs

(h) Ride back home: 30 mins

Distance: 20.50 km
Time: 3:11:24
Avg Pace: 9:20 min/km
Elevation Gain: 1,436 m


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Mui Wo to Ngong Ping and back!

Author: ltcommander  //  Category: Hiking in Hong Kong

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KK Chan, the legendary Hong Kong hiker, apparently suggested a Mui Wo to Ngong Ping and back run for some intense training. So, the plan was to take the 7.30am ferry to Mui Wo from Central and start the first leg of the run at around 8.15am. First surprise of the day was the sudden increase in ferry prices. It went up to 28 bucks for a single trip to Mui Wo from Central. Fortunately though, we were getting a good return on money as we were climbing 4 peaks instead of the usual 2!

The team consisted of Chris, Vic, Romain and I. The starting point was by the postbox next to the ferry pier. Chris almost hugged the green postbox because “it reminded him of England” (?!) Of all the things to remember a country by!

Heat was intense. Humidity was close to 100%. Sunshine was intermittent and it did rain quite heavily for a brief moment. We started running together but after the first 20 minutes or so, Romain and Vic lost power because of the heat. Chris was right behind me and determined to overtake me. I played a few mind games to get him off my six but the guy wouldn’t budge. He was more or less with me until Ngong Ping.

First part of the run:
Starting time: 0816
Mui Wo to Nam Shan: 14 mins 10 secs
Nam Shan to the turn on Sunset to Lin Fa Shan: 36 mins 32 secs
That turn to Pak Kung Au: 29 mins 59 secs
[Mui Wo to Pak Kung Au: 1 hour 20 mins]
Pak Kung Au to Lantau Peak: 44 mins 39 secs
Chilling on Lantau Peak waiting for Chris to catch up and taking photos: 16 mins 14 secs
Lantau Peak to Wisdom Sticks: 13 minutes
Wisdom Sticks to Ngong Ping 7-11 via Stage 4: 22 mins 41 secs
[Pak Kung Au to Ngong Ping 7-11: 1 hour 19 mins - excluding chilling time]

1st leg: Mui Wo to Ngong Ping: 2 hours 39 mins

[Break in 7-11: 30 minutes]

Romain arrived soon but was exhausted from the heat. Vic arrived when we were about to depart and claimed that he was too tired and might take the bus back to Mui Wo. Romain, Chris and I started the 2nd leg of the run and I was pretty much doing a solo run all the way back to Mui Wo.

7-11 to Wisdom Sticks: 9 mins 25 secs
Wisdom Sticks to Lantau Peak: 35 mins 33 secs
Lantau Peak to Pak Kung Au: 21 mins 06 secs
[7-11 to Pak Kung Au: 1 hour 5 mins]
Pak Kung Au to the Wong Lung Hang turn: 42 mins 04 secs
Wong Lung Hang turn to Nam Shan: 28 mins 05 secs
Nam Shan to Mui Wo: 13 mins 4 secs

2nd leg: 7-11 Ngong Ping to Mu Wo: 2 hours 30 mins

Total: 5 hours 10 minutes, finished at 1415

Vic (amazingly) made a full recovery and finished at 1510.


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Mui Wo to Tung Chung via Sunset/Lantau/Ngong Ping

Author: ltcommander  //  Category: Hiking in Hong Kong, Lantau Trail, Running, THE BOILERPLATE TRAILS

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Another super hot 33 degrees day. Had to control speed and reduce power to ease breathing. Heavy breathing causes dry and hot air to enter the system which has a detrimental effect on the body.

Was choosing between Plover Cove, Sai Kung and Pat Sin Leng in the morning but ended up going to Lantau! Target was to do Mui Wo->Sunset->Lantau->Ngong Ping->Tung Chung (road) in 3 hrs 30 minutes.

0955 at Mui Wo Ferry Pier
Mui Wo Ferry Pier to Nam Shan: 15 mins 4 secs
Nam Shan to the turnoff on the way to Sunset Peak to Lin Fa Shan: 38 mins 47 secs
(Mui Wo to turnoff: 53 mins [kind of slow])
Turnoff to Pak Kung Au (saddle): 31 mins 13 secs
(Mui Wo->Nam Shan->Sunset->Pak kung Au: 1 hour 24 mins)
Pak Kung Au to Lantau Peak: 52 mins 47 secs
Lantau Peak to Ngong Ping (Wisdom sticks): 15 mins 1 sec
Wisdom Sticks to Tea Garden Cafe + refueling: 10 mins 8 secs
Tea Garden Cafe to Tung Chung MTR station: 44 min 31 secs

Time: 03:27:35
Distance: 20.54 km
Elevation Gain: 1,439 m

Ferry cost 21 bucks (ordinary ferry) – talk about inflation!
Got ripped off as usual in Ngong Ping: 9 bucks for water and 9 bucks for coke
Saw a bunch of cyclists carrying their mountain bikes to Sunset Peak from Pak Kung Au! Not easy! Saw them again when I finished in Tung Chung!


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Mui Wo -> Sunset Peak -> Lantau Peak -> Lunch -> Tung Chung

Author: ltcommander  //  Category: Hiking in Hong Kong, Lantau Trail, THE BOILERPLATE TRAILS

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First hot Saturday for the year! Temperature was about 23-25 degrees.

The Star Ferry pier has so much “in-your-face” Citibank advertisements! You can’t get away from it. They seem to have one heck of a humongous marketing budget.

Anyway, started running from Mui Wo at 0927. Sunset Peak was more like sunny peak and the hot weather took its toll on me. Speed went down quite a bit compared to the usual times.

Start time: 0927
Mui Wo -> Nam Shaan (road): 13 minutes 44 seconds
Nam Shaan -> Sunset Peak -> Pak Kung Au: 1 hour 18 minutes [had to stop for a minute on the trail for power]
Pak Kung Au -> Lantau Peak: 47 minutes 43 secs
Lantau Peak -> Ngong Ping: 17 minutes 42 secs
(making calls to rendezvous with fellow lunch goers/hikers): 6 minutes 27 secs
Ngong Ping -> Stage 3 -> Ngong Ping: 25 minutes 54 secs

Ngong Ping -> Tung Chung: 44 minutes


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Attempted 70km Lantau Trail aka Vic’s 800 dollar hike

Author: ltcommander  //  Category: Hiking in Hong Kong, Lantau Trail, THE BOILERPLATE TRAILS

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Idea was to do the entire 70km of the Lantau Trail. Mui Wo -> Sunset Peak -> Lantau Peak -> Ngong Ping -> Lantau Trail to Ngong Ping City -> Man Cheung Po -> Tai O -> Fan Lau -> Shui Hao -> Pui O -> Mui Wo.

Ferry to Mui Wo was to depart from Central at 0710. Like a VIP, I made it to Central Ferry Pier exactly at 0708 (actually, VIPs are supposed to be late. But, being a VIP today meant missing the ferry, so was almost a VIP today). Met Vic and Romain there. Ferry reached Mui Wo at 0740.

First on the agenda for the day was to reduce liquid content in the bladder. Some people call this peeing. So, followed Vic to the public toilet. He headed straight into the female toilet. I paused for a second. Realized that THAT wasn’t on the agenda for the day, so rightly headed next door to the male toilet. Vic soon followed claiming to have made a mistake although Romain and I had our suspicions.

Next on the agenda for the day was to protect myself from any radiation fallout from Japan. Hong Kongers and mainland China guys cleverly consume and hoard salt for this purpose. Actually, Hong Kongers are hoarding and selling the salt to mainlanders for a good profit. (Profits always come before safety here in Hong Kong). However, being the smart guy that I am, I realized that salt was useless for this purpose. Instead, I wore this anti-radiation suit today.

7-11 “anti-radiation” poncho

As an added bonus, it also serves as a raincoat/windbreaker, especially useful for rainy days like today when no one else seemed to venture out for a hike.

The run started at 0750. Very good pace. Ngong Ping was especially fascinating. There were several moments where we were running into the oncoming cool mist. It’s the sort of feeling you get when you know that you have had an excellent return from nature for daring to get up at 0600 in the morning and venturing out in the rain. The beauty of nature!

After a meal at Ngong Ping, we were on our way to Man Cheung Po. Trails there were especially beautiful. Rain adds more embellishment to nature. Brings out a natural fragrance from the soil and when the mist clears up at times, it provides a crisp, pollution-free view from the top. After absorbing more of this natural beauty, we eventually reached Tai O where Vic was to buy water.

When it came time to pay for the water, Vic appeared anxious. He realized much to his frustration that he had lost his wallet! After a few frantic and futile searches, we had a change in the agenda for the day. It changed from completing the 70km Lantau trail to finding Vic’s wallet! We headed back to Ngong Ping (by bus, of course!) and searched in 7-11. When that proved unsuccessful, we jogged to the Man Cheung Po trail and went about 25 minutes into the trail again. Falling short of luck, Vic had to write off 800 bucks and cancel all his credit cards! So, this attempted run has been dubbed “Vic’s 800 bucker hike”.

Penultimate on the agenda for the day, we took a bus back to Mui Wo and took our group picture!

Jubilation over finishing (by bus)

And ultimately on the agenda for the day was some much needed good. Excellent Chow Main with Tou Fu.

Food for an empty stomach brings a smile on the face!

Time: 04:45:18
Distance: 28.28 km
Elevation Gain: 1,793 m


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Mui Wo -> Sunset Peak -> Lantau Peak -> Tung Chung

Author: ltcommander  //  Category: Hiking in Hong Kong, Lantau Trail, THE BOILERPLATE TRAILS

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Plan was to do Mui Wo -> Sunset -> Lantau Peak -> Tung Chung in 3 hours 30 minutes. Took the slow ferry from Central at 0900 (20 minutes slower than the fast ferry but almost half the price!) Besides, you get fresh sea breeze as an added bonus instead of being stuck in some smelly air conditioned cabin.

Start time: 0958 HKT

From Mui Wo (public toilet neat the ferry terminal) to Nam Shan: 13 minutes 26 seconds
From Nam Shan to the part where you take a right to Tung Chung on the Sunset trail: 41 mins 56 secs
From that right turn to Pak Kung Au: 23 mins 25 secs

(From Mui Wo -> Sunset -> Pak Kung Au): About 1 hour 16 minutes

From Pak Kung Au to Lantau Peak Summit: 44 mins 21 seconds
From Lantau Peak to Wisdom Sticks (Ngong Ping): 16 mins 14 secs

(From Pak Kung Au -> Lantau Peak -> Ngong Ping) : 1 hour

From Ngong Ping to Tung Chung MTR station (just took the road trail near Wisdom Sticks): 46 mins 13 secs
(including a break for Coke/Water)

Total: Mui Wo -> Sunset Peak -> Lantau Peak -> Tung Chung: 20.35km (3 hours 5 minutes)
Elevation gain: 1,417 m

25 mins earlier than scheduled. Pretty good.


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Racing, 2011-01-09, King of the Hills (KOTH) – Lantau

Author: ltcommander  //  Category: Hiking in Hong Kong, King of the Hills - Lantau, THE RACES

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King of the Hills – Lantau is supposed to be the toughest full marathon in the series. The half is supposed to be the easiest. The full starts off in Nam Shan and then goes near the top of Sunset peak before deviating to the right to Lin Fa Shaan. After a couple of hills more, there’s a pretty steep (I mean STEEP! Like the graph of a stock market crash) trail to Tung Chung. As if that’s not hard enough, the course then calls for going back up to 650m (Ngong Ping) from Tung Chung and then to Lantau Peak from there (950m). Then all the way down to Pak Kung Au and then a flat 7.5km trail back to Nam Shan. The site says 29.8km but it’s more like 30.5km according to a consensus of Garmins post race today.

We started the race at 10am in the morning. I can’t believe how many fit people there are in Hong Kong. I am amazed! Well, my coordination seemed to be off from the beginning! Fell a record 5 times! Usually, my falls are few and they are elegant falls meaning I get up quickly, without inflicting any self damage and it seems more like a ballet step. Today, they were ugly falls and 2 of them left bruises on the knees!

Problems today:
- coordination was off – synchronization wasn’t right. Fell 5 times at least and all falls were inelegant
- Sprain near the left toe – constant nagging feeling but didn’t impair running
- Bottom of right foot sent pain signals every time it hit the ground (but tolerable pain)
- Should have worn tracks. The overgrowth left several scratches on my sexy legs

Good moves for the day:
- Didn’t get lost anywhere! Course was well marked
- Nutrition was properly managed – no stomach pain or pangs of hunger
- Made sure motors will running all the time. Didn’t walk any part of the flats. Kept jogging at 8-9km at the very least

Last year stats were as below:

Finished in 5 hrs 30 minutes 07 seconds (app 30 Km)
Came 18 in category (not sure how many people)
Came 53 overall (well over 130+ people)

This year:
Finished in 4 hrs 39 minutes 08 seconds (30.5Km)
Came 7th in category (not sure how many people)
Came 16th overall

(big improvement over last year)


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