This was something I originally wanted to do last Saturday and definitely something I hope to do again before the TDS. It was also time to get re-acquainted with my poles and carry some ballast on the back as that is what I will have to do around Mt. Blanc.
I started from the 82 minibus terminus at Shing Mun. I decided to take that first bit of the road as a warm up (like if any was needed in that heat) and I just fast hiked towards the reservoir. I made quick pit stop at the BBQ area to get an extra bottle of cold water just in case (there is never enough ballast) and to cool my head and neck. I also decided to test how a cold wet bandana on the back of the neck would work over a long hot run. So there it was on the back of my neck.
I navigated my way around few stray monkeys, crossed the reservoir dam and started the Needle Hill climb. I decided to push a bit – enough to leave all the hikers in my dust but at the same time to be reasonable as I had about 6 more hours of hills and sun ahead of me.
The climb up was surprisingly easy and relatively fast given the heat. The view from the top was a view of what was to come but at this stage all good. First climb done.
I quickly ran down to the road. I decided to do minimum running on the first half of the route in order to keep as much energy as possible for the return trip in that heat. So I ran parts of the road but hiked all the uphills. Once the uphills towards Grassy Hill got steeper I pushed more – that was made a bit easier by the tree cover above. I kept passing the hikers while feeling very comfortable. Close to the top of the climb I had to watch my step and navigate through a road full of cow crap but otherwise it was all good. From Grassy Hill it was quick run down the hill and the bit of road to Leadmine Pass. First 8km and 2 hills done, still feeling fresh.
I took a short break here. The water was running from the taps (unlike week ago) so I made sure I cool myself down properly before the climb up to Tai Mo Shan. I also filled the now empty bottle from the BBQ area with this tap water – portable shower. Unfortunately as always is the case here – the water was really stinky. This was the stink that would stay with me (and later I guess also with my fellow passengers on public transport back home). Basically it smelled like shit.
The climb up to Tai Mo Shan was not too bad. Legs were doing well, the bandana at the back of the neck worked, all was good. I kept climbing and enjoying the views. Last few times I came up here was always in the middle of the night so the daytimes views were nice for a change:
Somewhere up here I heard probably for the first time in Hong Kong (as far as I am aware) some warning hiss from the grass on the side of the trail. I did not stop to explore the source, on the contrary, I speeded up a bit. I had no idea what was it but it surely was not a goose …
At the end of the trail section of the climb, just before the short downhill to the service road there was “a road block”. Cows were chilling out and blocking the path. While I was taking photo and thinking what action to take one hiker or runner that I passed earlier appeared and walked straight through that herd. I duly followed him.
I was expecting some breeze up here but there was none. I pushed up the road on the last one km of uphill. Luckily I still felt OK and could handle it even without the expected cooling breeze. The downhill run to the kiosk was fun. I only paused for a minute at the pipe approximately half way down but otherwise smooth sailing all the way.
Kiosk was the planned mid way break place. I cooled down with stinky water from the taps again and sat down to munch on some cup noodles. I washed it down with bottle of Coke. I bought 2 bottles of water – one I used to refill my Nuun bottle (with new tab of Nuun), the other went to the back pocket of my jersey, just in case – there was no drinking water until the end. The bladder in my backpack was still almost full so I was all set for the return trip.
There was no way I could run up on full stomach but there was no reason not to push up that road. I was worried how would I handle this rather long and all exposed road hike back to the top but to my surprise I had no issues at all. At the half way pipe I cooled down again but otherwise it was non stop push to the top. The poles were useful.
At the top I could see some fine cloud cover for the route ahead. I also noticed some breeze now. I quickly ran down the road, only on the realizing how steep at some places the climb was … Once back on the trail I climbed back up to the cows – yes, they were still there – this time just passing through them.
I ran all the way down to Leadmine Pass although I took the technical bit easy. TDS is not that far away – fall and injury now would not be the best option.
Back at Leadmine Pass it was just a quick cool down and refill of “shower bottles” with the stinky tap water. Just before the steps up to Grassy Hill I had to kick in a gel (I think a second one of the day) but otherwise it was not a bad climb. I definitely felt much better than during the Run For Nepal on this same section. After cresting the top of Grassy Hill I ran all the flat and downhill bits. Sometime perhaps a bit too fast judging from the messages the body was sending to the brain. Nevertheless I was feeling good and keen to quickly climb over the Needle Hill. It is steeper but shorter and mentally easier climb from this side – at least for me. Similar like Mount Butler from Tai Fung Au.
I poured some water over my head, ate one more gel and started that second Needle Hill climb of a day. I told myself not to look up, just go until I am up there. All was fine. But then all of a sudden, half a way up the hill I was gone. Totally gone. One more gel had to go in, one more Nuun tab into a bottle of water. And I poured lots of that stinky “shower-to-go” stuff over my head every ten steps or so. After all day of things going well and easy for me all the crap came together on the last climb.
Eventually I climbed to the top and struggled my way down to Shing Mun. One monkey tried to freak me out but my brain was bit numb by now and could not care less about a monkey… How glad I was seeing this though, almost there:
I survived the last few hundred meters downhill and without stopping aimed straight towards the BBQ area for cold drinks and shower. Even here the tap water stank but what could I do. After cooling down, drinking a can of Coke and some water I set off for the minibus. Surprisingly that short break did wonders. I was sure if this was a CP on a long race I would be fine to continue. On this day however this was all I had time for. Tough ending but otherwise great hilly training!
Link to Strava here.