Training Diaries 2014: TNF 1,2,3 in the heat

Training Diaries 2014: TNF 1,2,3 in the heat

The mad crowd
33 degrees sunshine. Scorching heat. Over 10 people originally signed up for today’s 29km run but the weather seemed to have dissuaded many from venturing outside for a run. That left only 6 super brave (read: highly insane) runners to stick to plan.

We assembled at Tai Mei Tuk at 9.15am and looked at each other in disbelief. Were we really going to run 29km in the heat? That too, the hilly TNF Sections 1,2 and 3? The reluctance was evident in the beginning as we all looked at each other and waited for that first runner to ignore the heat and start moving his legs. That runner happened to be Dom, not because he was really fond of the heat, but because he was the organizer and it was his duty to break the inertia!

We took Pat Sin Leng country trail from Tai Mei Tuk to Wu Kau Tang. That was barely 7km long but we were already feeling the pinch of the scorching sunshine. It felt like we were in some oven. After arriving at Wu Kau Tang, Dom announced that he was going to walk a flat stretch with Milos instead of going over the Plover Cove ridge (TNF Section 2). The reasoning was simple: it was too hot and they wanted to preserve themselves for the finale (TNF Section 3) which is 15kms long.

Would the real men please stand up?
I intervened. I told the group that real men should go up Plover Cove. Then I looked Dom and Milos in the eye and asked “are you real men?” Surprisingly, that worked. Dom started to walk up the Plover Cove trail. And, Milos, well, I am sure he wanted to dispel any doubts regarding his manlihood, so he joined us as well. Kiwis don’t fly but our Kiwi friend Brendan certainly does. He was as strong as ever and leading the pack, Brendan style. It all seemed well scripted as we started climbing up the Plover Cove section as one group.

Then it happened. Hmm… how do I best describe this? Plover Cove is no doubt a thing of great beauty. The greenery is stunning, the turquoise waters are soothing and the undulating trails are a joy to run on. But, if you mix it with hot sunshine, it’s like mixing sodium with water. It produces a sizzling hot and violent reaction. The bushes on either side of the trail trap the heat, creating a makeshift oven which cooks you with each step that you take. The sun beats down on the trail like a hammer on a nail, making a sip of water and a waft of breeze the two most luxurious things in the world.

Going up this ridge during summer is like walking on hot coal!

Dom and Milos probably knew this. So, they turned back when no one was looking! They headed back to Wu Kau Tang leaving Brendan, Vic, Paul and I to plod on. Then it hit me — perhaps, I’d been tricked. How could my “are you real men” really persuade someone to go up a brutal ridge under the scorching summer heat? Perhaps, Dom used his brain instead of his brawn. Perhaps, his idea was to go up the ridge (proving he was a real man) and then back down (proving that he is not just a ‘real man’, but a smart ‘real man!’)

Every bit of shade matters

Anyway, it was too late for the rest of us to turn back. I started feeling the heat with each climb and immediately applied my two commandments for summertime running. (Formulated after several years of failed runs).

1. Thou shall breathe through thou’s nose, not mouth.Why? I read somewhere that you somehow add moisture to the air you breathe in when you inhale through your nose. Otherwise, it is like using the hairdryer instead of a fan when you want to cool yourself down. The hot air that hits the body ends up having the opposite effect.

2. Thou shall chill thou’s brain and not think about anything. Why? Think of the brain as if it were a Windows Operating System. Each random thought you think is like a background application that hogs up processing power, generating heat. The more thoughts you think, the more “applications” that get opened up and the more the heat that is produced. When you want to cool down, don’t think! It’s also liberating to think about absolutely nothing. This is actually quite hard to do, especially when you are walking alone!

Going back to our Plover Cove experience, well, Paul got zapped by the heat and almost ran out of water. Brendan and I spared some water and although Paul still looked like a faltering man, he was a *brave* faltering man! He made a recovery of sorts and somehow managed to cope with the heat. Vic, despite not doing much in the past two months (that’s Vic’s “not doing much” which is probably 30-40km a week), he still seemed to be in his element. He never let the heat really get to him and looked strong.

Paul and Vic climbing up one of Plover Cove’s hot ridges

The way Paul really felt

And this is what you call “forcing a smile”

Upon reaching Wu Ku Tang, the 4 of us saw a stream which meant only one thing. This:

Cooling off!

Real men take Pat Sin Leng country trail back to Tai Mei Tuk
Dom was waiting for us at Wu Kau Tang. He told us that he went searching for us but could not find us. I immediately knew why. I took the group down the first exit to Wu Kau Tang instead of the second (which is the actual TNF course). Given the heat, surviving became more important than following the exact course! Dom told us that Milos had taken an early exit.

As we were replenishing plenty of lost liquid in a shop in Wu Kau Tang, I asked if anyone in the group would be a “real man” by taking the Pat Sin Leng country trail back to Tai Mei Tuk. (By then, we had all decided to call it quits!) Paul’s answer was a definite no. Dom was done for the day. Vic knew the bus was coming in 15 minutes. Brendan and I were the only ones willing to continue. Until, suddenly (and unexpectedly), Paul announced that he would do it. “But, if it is any more than 7km or more than 500m in elevation, you are paying for lunch”, he warned me. Brendan and I were dreaming of Thai food already. Paul was now in. That left Dom who was easily persuaded by the mention of “green Thai vegetable curry”. All of a sudden, 4 of us were willing to run back to Tai Mei Tuk. The peer pressure on Vic was enormous. He folded and consented and off we went running on Pat Sin Leng country trail back to Tai Mei Tuk.

All ends with Thai food
At the Thai restaurant in Tai Mei Tuk, Milos made an unusual appearance. He explained to us that he had gone the wrong way to Luk Keng and had to half run/ half walk his way back to Tai Mei Tuk. Or, maybe, he did all that for the Thai food, which was fantastic by the way.

He also told us about an unusual insect he saw en route. Here it is:

What kind of insect is this?

Thus ended our 22km run for the day. Another insane summer run for an insane crowd. The Thai food alone made it all worthwhile.