Saturday was time for yet another insanity – 32km or so following the route of KOTH Tai Po race in northern part of New Territories. It was less than 44km of HK Trail last Saturday but on much tougher and more exposed route. Never before I even dared to attempt the Pat Sin Leng range on a hot day like this. This time though I was determined to finish. My plan was to take the initial climbs easy and to make sure I always have something to splash over my head to keep cool. I knew there are some streams along the way. But I needed to make sure I have water when I need it not when it appears. So on top of 3 liters of drinking fluids I also carried with me 2 liters of stream water for head showers. Proper 5kg ballast. But that will be roughly the weight of the gear I have to carry with me on the TDS race anyway.
Eleven of us set off from Tai Wo station towards Cloudy Hill. I saw no point pushing up fast on the first climb only to stay up there on the sun waiting for the others. I decided to be one of the others and climbed up at the very back of queue. I missed most of the photo opps at the top as a result but at the same time I was still feeling totally fresh after the first climb of the day.
We ran down the hill and made a brief stop in what looked like one house village for some cold drinks and my first Coke of the day. Few people decided here that it is way too hot for them and called it quits. The rest of us continued towards Pat Sin Leng.
I climbed steady but pushing perhaps only 60%. I was mostly at the very back, later I moved one place ahead and stayed with Vic within my sight ahead of me. It was a beautiful day so I did my best to enjoy the views, I paused few times for photos. I even heard quite loud barks of a barking deer somewhere down in the valley.
After few of the hills on the PSL ridge we reached the turn downhill to the shiggy path. Vince and Vic were waiting there. Vince and me (followed by one more guy who later turned around back up to the ridge) went downhill to catch up with others who were ahead, Vic continued on Pat Sin Leng towards Tai Mei Tuk.
The overgrown shiggy was my least favourite bit of the day. The only thing that was good about it was the shadow under the canopy of trees and bamboos. The rocks, roots, thorns and especially all the stuff I was hitting with head – that I could do without. Luckily it only took about 10 minutes to get down to normal trail. There I saw Stephen and Vince. Stephen went ahead Vince and me waited for the other guy who we thought is behind us. He was not but that we did not know at that time. Vince decided to go back up a bit to check out on him, I went ahead following Stephen. I found him about 50m ahead contemplating splash in not so nice looking pond 🙂 . I knew there is a decent stream only few hundred meters ahead so we pushed on. Vince soon caught up with us and in few minutes we were at a lovely rocky stream. Rupert and Noah were already there properly cooled down. I took of my backpack and the pouch with my phone and dipped into that rock pool for good five minutes in the company of small fishes.
After this cool down break with quickly ran down to Bride’s Pool Road expecting some vending machines for water refill. Vending machines were there but only the one dispensing Coke seemed to be working. I drank a bottle (I think 0.5L) of half frozen Coke right there and took one more with me. I did not really care what I drinking at that point as long as it was cold. I still had enough of pretty warm water in my back pack. Right there we made the decision that we will need to make a small detour to the Wu Kau Tang village and get some water from there. We had about 17km still to do and we could not do it on Coke only.
Noah decided to leave at this point. Stephen messaged us that he is in the waterfall and asked for bottle of Coke.
What followed was about 15-20 mins “locate Stephen and navigate him out of the waterfall” adventure. Frankly I did not mind. The time spend in the shade under the trees around the Bride’s Pool waterfalls could do me no harm.
By the time we regrouped I finished also the other bottle of Coke and I could feel that insane quantity of sugar and caffeine buzzing through my body. It was a proper high and I was wondering how long it would take for the proper crash to arrive 🙂 .
Four of us survivors went on jogging towards Wu Kau Tang. We paused there briefly to replenish the water supplies and went on. I had no idea where exactly are we going so I only followed the navigators Rupert and Vince. As I understood after a while we took some wrong turn but it did not seem to matter. This route would still get us where we planned to go. Nobody was panicking and I was still high on sugar and caffeine. Life was good.
After the mostly hiking style first hilly half of this adventure we actually ran now. I was keeping up with Rupert and Vince and Stephen had us within his sight. I now have all the bit and pieces a bit mixed up. I know that we reached Lai Chi Wo, then we had few hills to climb over and then I was in no man land between Vince/Rupert group and Stephen.
After a while I arrived at a dai pai dong somewhere right across China. Vince and Rupert were sitting there drinking while Vince was awaiting arrival of noodles. Stephen arrived before the noodles though. I bought some cold water there, had a bowl of the noodles that eventually appeared and went ahead after Stephen (who went ahead already). I did not want to run right away with noodles down in my stomach so it was fast walk along the shore until Vince and Rupert caught up with us. Then I picked up my pace and ran with them. It was only 2-3km to Luk Keng from here.
I would have probably ran with them all the way. Unfortunately I managed to whack my head against some stupid branch and drop my sunglasses in the process. So while massaging the quickly emerging bump on top of my head I also had to retrace back to look for my sunglasses. Lucky Stephen who was behind me recognized them on the ground and picked them up for me so I did not have to go too far back.
It was mostly flat with only one last mild climb over a final bump of a hill and then the road to a pavilion at Luk Keng next to Vince’s Ninja.
At the end it was 34km on a hot and sunny day. Rupert’s smart Garmin watch was reporting minimum of 31C and maximum of 37C. Pretty hot it was.
Main lesson learned – I survived 2 long hot runs on last 2 Saturdays – runs that I was in no shape to handle a year ago. I don’t think that my body changed that much, I still suffer in the heat. But seems like I am slowly learning how to manage myself in these conditions.
Link to Strava here.