Only 3 Saturdays left for the long summer runs before I leave for Europe. I decided to do my most likely final visit to the Tai Mo Shan before the UTMB. TR joined me this one – the first time I was to have a company on my favourite hilly training route. And I was really glad because it was going to be a really hot one with zero chances of any rain or storm (unlike my previous two runs here this summer).
I knew in favourable (meaning cool) conditions I can manage this route in about 5 1/2 hours but today the only goal was to get it done no matter what the pace. The sky was blue with only few fluffy clouds here and there, sun was shining, there was almost no breeze and the temperatures were hovering in the 33-35C range. The only positive was the rather low relative humidity for this season (around 70%, that is low for summer in Hong Kong). But training in the heat has great benefits apparently so we should be grateful for the conditions the summer here offers us.
We started from Shing Mun minibus terminus towards the dam and Needle Hill. We took it easy, no point pushing, the day was going to be long. We saw one unidentified dead snake and soon after a very tiny baby of redneck keelback (TR moved it away from the road). Other than that just the usual Shing Mun monkeys.
We pushed reasonably hard up the Needle Hill but we did not really bother to run on the flat or downhill bots of this hill. Today was all about heat management and energy preservation for later on. Still we made it up to the top reasonably quickly without exhausting ourselves too much on the very first climb of the day. Then we jogged down the steps and started the Grassy Hill slog.
We maintained decent fast hiking pace on the uphill sections and did our best to jog all the flats and downhills. The tree cover helped a lot. Before running down to Leadmine Pass we decided to make the small detour off the MacLehose Trail and go to the top of the Grassy Hill that is just a bit to the right. Then just quick run down to Leadmine Pass and proper cooling down with the water from the taps before heading up Tai Mo Shan.
It was not my fastest climb up Tai Mo Shan but it was a good workout in that heat. There was one cloud above us. It covered the sun for a minute here and there but for most the time we were fully exposed to the blazing sun. I could feel the heat but our slower pace combined with our carry on tap water for head showers worked well. Not far before we reached the hut Marie, Baptiste and few others out there on a race recce passed us. On final road bit John caught up with us too. We chatted together until the top of Tai Mo Shan. This final few hundred meters of the Tai Mo Shan climb we enjoyed the only cool conditions of the day. Large grey cloud was above and around us for maybe 10 mins. At the top John ahead running down the hill – for him it was the last bit. For us it was the last bit of the first half of our outing. TR was beginning to feel the heat so we jogged easy hoping we would reach the nice cold water pipe half way don the hill soon. Just before that pipe we met also Vic on his way up. It looked like everybody was on Tai Mo Shan today …
We spent few minutes at the pipe pouring liters of cold spring water over our heads. Once sufficiently cooled down we continued our run down to the kiosk at the end of Mac 8.
Water refill, some Coke, cup of noodles, frozen pineapple (as recommended by Marie) and after about 15 mins we were on our way back where we came from.
The road climb back up Tai Mo Shan went well. No real issues, the only short break was again at the water pipe. We tried to run most of the runable parts of the downhill. I pulled a bit away from TR towards the end. Not that had any desire to run too fast in that heat. I just listened to my legs and picked the pace that was just about the most comfortable for my quads and calves. We regrouped again at Leadmine Pass. The climb up to Grassy Hill was not exactly walk in the park but it was OK. The first two thirds were under the trees. The last third is exposed but we managed it fine.
We ran most of the section towards Needle Hill together. I pulled away a bit on the downhills and then enjoyed slower climb up. We were much faster on this return leg but the Needle Hill was still ahead. And the only water we could cool down with was whatever we had left from Leadmine Pass.
I planned to climb non stop up to get it done quickly and then jog the ridge and downhill as quickly as possible to escape that blazing sun. This plan did not really work.
On the rather short but steep climb I had to pause twice to pour the precious water over my head. Once over the top and on the ridge I tried to jog but I just could not. The heat finally caught up with me. I saw TR not that far behind. I hiked down expecting him to catch up with me soon. At the end I struggled my way down Shing Mun on my own. Clearly we were both struggling on this last hill. Eventually I made it down to the dam. I crossed the dam and waited in the shadow for a while to see TR. But I really needed a cold drink and cold head shower so I went ahead towards the BBQ area with vending machines and tap water. Few mins later TR joined me there too. This was our final cool down and drink break. Once ready we set off for the final 1 1/2 km towards the minibus stop to complete our 36km long slog in the heat.
Link to Strava here.
UPDATE: Becasue of the relatively slow pace it did not feel like hard work out for the legs. But the way the legs felt on Sunday morning confirmed that this was a good one.