Tag Archives: Hong Kong Trail

UTMB Training No 54 – The last insane summer run – reverse HK Trail

I picked the whole HK Trail, solo, in the opposite direction as my last long summer run of this training season. This was to be more about the distance, time on the feet and mental power than the overall elevation gain. Although in the opposite direction Hong Kong trail goes from the sea level up the peak. The main reason I picked the opposite direction again was the tree cover and streams at the second half of the route. I also used my poles. HK Trail is not exactly trail one needs poles for but this was the last opportunity to train with poles.

I started much later than I planned – around 8:45am from Shek O. I jogged all the way to Big Way Bay simulating the flat road race start. The climb up was fine and once on the concrete path I was jogging again. I expected hot day out and slow pace as a result. But my intention was to run as much as possible on the runable sections. So I tried.

The contour trail towards Dragon’s Back was fine and so was Dragon’s Back except for a bit too crowded trail even in the early morning. I paused few times to enjoy the views.

The catchwater was not as bad as I expected. I was mixing jogging with walking trying preserve some energy for later on. It was getting really hot by now. There was no way I could push on the entire catchwater and survive the whole planned distance. So I ran most of the sections in the shadow and walked those exposed to the sun.

The heat was slowly getting to me so I was imagining the cold splash in the stream somewhere in the middle of the jungle path between Tai Tam Road and the reservoirs. I made the best of it when I got there, also put my Life Straw to use.

The cold splash helped and I was feeling quite well on the climb up towards Quarry Gap. The water pipe half way up helped again. I took a short break before Mt Butler climb cooling down properly again at the Quarry Gap restrooms.

I knew from the very beginning that the section 5 of HK Trail will be the critical one in this weather. Mt Butler went fine but the Jardine’s Lookout was really rough, same as few weeks ago. The heat was insane, no cloud cover at all. The only thing that kept me going was the vision of cold CocaCola in the supermarket on the other side of the hill… I was struggling but I was still faster than any of the hikers around so it was not all bad I supposed.

After the cold drinks and some food at Parkview I was ready for the second half. The exposed bits of Black’s Link were a bit tough but nowhere near as bad as the Jardine’s Lookout. My pace was slow but I made it to Wanchai Gap without too much trouble. Sections of the trail were bit scary with large chunks of trees still dangling down after the typhoon. But other than that it was now all about keeping the head down and placing one foot in front of another. The sun was getting lower so I did my best to jog all the sections that were not uphill.

The water pipe with 10km to was a great refreshment post before embarking on the short catchwater section and the final climb up to the Peak. I was feeling quite OK – the end was near and most of the route was now under canopy of trees.

Seeing the 007 trail marker was great – from there is only around 3 easy km to the end. I still paused at the playground for some water refill and jogged the rest of the way against the flow of sightseeing tourists.

Although I suffered big way on the Jardine’s Lookout I never really doubted I would complete this run. The route itself is not too difficult but the insane heat turned this into proper mental challenge – nice final bit of UTMB preparations.

Link to Strava here.

UTMB Training No 30 – Reverse HK Trail (from Shek O) on insanely hot day

I haven’t done a proper long run this training season yet. It was about the time to rectify this. But in this scorching heat it is not easy to survive out there. So I needed to pick some route that is not too exposed and has plenty of streams and water pipes to cool down. The reverse HK Trail sounded like a reasonable idea. It is harder in reverse as it goes uphill. But the advantage is that the exposed Dragon’s Back and the never ending catchwater are done and dusted quickly. And on the stages 6 to 1 there is lots of train cover and water (well except the stage 5…).

I recruited Stuart and Martijn for this run although Martijn still in post flu recovery did not plan to do the whole trail. Martijn had this awesome idea to stash on the way to Shek O a bottle of water at the end Dragon’s Back section for us to pick up once we get there (about an our and something later).

We started around 8am from Shek O and headed towards Big Way Bay in rather mellow pace. Surprisingly out of nowhere came a quick rain shower accompanied by some distant sounds of thunder. Interesting… All good though – the rain cooled the air, the clouds protected us from the morning sun and the thunderstorm never came anywhere close…

The Section 8 was quite OK. We climbed up the first hill in easy pace, then jogged the road bit and the contour till the Dragon’s Back climb. The pace was comfortable at that time but I was sure that totally unsustainable on such a hot day if we were to survive the distance…

The Dragon’s Back ridge passed very quickly in this reverse direction and after the quick downhill were down at the end of Section 8 where our bottle of water refill was awaiting us. We made a quick stop there, refilled our water container and went on forward on Section 7.

Those 700 hundred steps are definitely easier going down than up. It did not take long a we were on that dreaded catchwater. Martijn was setting a pace. It probably was not the best idea as doing 50km and following pace of someone planning to do roughly 20km may not end well, especially on super hot day :-) . Anyway, as long as the pace was comfy we jogged, when I felt it is time to slow down and hike I made the call. My only goal for the day was to finish the trail and that required serious discipline when it came to pacing and energy preservation.

We survived the catchwater and then quickly proceeded on Section 6 to reach the nice cold stream for first “ice bath” of the day. At the stream Martijn left us – taking a different route to Parkview. Me and Stuart spent some time cooling down. I also proceeded with Life Straw field test having a nice refreshing filtered drink from the stream. The water tasted surprisingly nice, totally unlike the tap water I tried with the same straw.

At this time it was getting very hot, our pace dropped but we kept on going. Speed was not important today. Soon we were on the concrete road at Tai Tam reservoirs. The long climb up to to Quarry Gap was on. Good thing is that most of that road is covered by trees and there are few water pipes along the road. It was not difficult to keep our heads cool and my “head shower” water bottle always full.

At the Quarry gap we took a short break – I needed to clean the debris from my shoes and short break with proper head shower at the bathroom before Butler and Jardines Lookout could not hurt.

The Section 5 was always going to be critical. Except the first part of Mt Butler climb the whole section is exposed and there is no water around to cool down with. I took Butler easy letting Stuart to go ahead. We took it easy down and towards Jardines hoping that the big cloud casting nice shadow over Jardines Lookout would remain there while we are climbing. It did not. The climb was exposed and hot like hell… I realized I made a mistake not mixing another bottle of VFUEL before starting this section. I was hot and running low on energy. It was quite a struggle up the Jardines Lookout. Knowing that there is a supermarket with cold drinks on the other side of the hill helped a lot though. I made it up eventually and started easy jog down towards Parkview.

We took a bit longer break at Parkview, the half way point. We opted for shopping at cool airconditioned supermarket rather than the kiosk on the side of the road. I refilled both my bottles and also the water bladder – all almost empty. I finished a bottle of Coke and mixed a pack of VFUEL in of my water bottles. Topped it all with one almond croissant and I was ready to continue.

We had the mostly covered sections 4 to 1 ahead. I was confident we can make it all the way as long as we control the pace. We jogged down the road to Wong Nai Chung Gap and then walked up on Black’s Link. It was mostly fast walk on this uphill. We jogged a bit on the “jungle” section then all the way down the concrete road and the steps. Once on the catchwater and the trail it was jog – walk – jog – walk mix, mostly fast walk. We took every opportunity to dip our heads under cold water. Such a big difference compared with the wet run two weeks ago …

We crossed the Wanchai Gap Road without any pause on continued on the nice undulating trail on the section 3. It is lovely runable trail but going the other way in this head one realizes that it actually is not that flat… By now I was totally focused on getting the job done with no worries at all about our pace. In my head I was telling myself to imagine I am at the late stages of 100 miler when everything hurts, legs barely move so just focus on the next step…

The last part was actually quite OK. I had ahead of me the vision of the fresh water pipe 10km from the finish. When we could we jogged (mostly on downhills) otherwise just fresh fast walk walking pace. When we reached that pipe we made good use of it, cooled down and went on. I was wondering how the next bit will feel as we had to climb up to the Peak. It did hurt but it was not as bad as it could be thanks to being in the shadow of the mountain.

We had some nice views of High West from the other side before we reached that 007 marker. From there only short climb up the road to the playground at the junction of Harlech and Lugard Roads. We took our final break there filling up our bottles from the water fountain there and went on to complete the final 2km of the round the Peak loop. We only fast walked the uphill bit but switched to proper run on the last 1km or so. Finally after 8+ hours of relentless forwards motion, heat, sweat, brutal sunshine and many cool down breaks we made it.

This was first time I completed the Hk Trail in the opposite direction. And I must say that although it is the more difficult direction it is a great summer training route. Really happy we survived that.

Link to Strava here.

UTMB Training No 22 – HK Trail rain dance

It was almost a last minute decision to go run the whole HK Trail. Weather was always going to be questionable today so running the route with many “escape” options sounded like a good idea. So late on Friday we agreed with Stuart to meet on Saturday morning and head out to the Peak to start our 44km run.

We set off in a healthy but relaxed pace. It was pissing down from the moment we got out of the taxi (well long before we even got into the taxi). It has been a while since I did a long run in heavy rain. We were both enjoying the conditions.

We were maintaining pace that would bring us to the end of the trail in about 6 hours. That is about an hour slower than what is my ultimate winter pace on this route but still about an hour faster than what we did last summer on a really hot and sunny day.

To me the pace seemed quite effortless and that was a good sign. The trail was wet and totally submerged in water at places but still rather runable. From time to time the rain eased a bit but never really stopped. Instead there few squally showers here and there.

We reached half point at Parkview at just about 3 hours. We planned quick drink refuelling at the kiosk near Wong Nai Chung reservoir. But the wet running was beginning to cause some “issues” so we opted for the supermarket at Parkview where among other things they also sell vaseline …

After the short break we pretty quickly climbed up the Jardine’s Lookout section. Here the weather became a bit more complicated – the rain had some thundery soundtrack. The thunder still sounded quite distant so we pushed to get quickly over Mt. Butler. Plan was to make a short break after Butler and check the weather app to see for the location and direction of the clearly incoming thunderstorm.

So we did just that. The radar screen was totally covered with storm cells apparently moving in our direction. After short discussion we concluded that there are better place to be in the middle of thunderstorm than the Dragon’s Back ridge. So to our disappointment we abandoned the run and played the safety card. We ran back down the Mt Parker Rd to Quarry Bay and then North Point.

As it happened the big storm somehow “missed” so with the benefit of hindsight we could have continued. But when it comes to lightnings on the hills it is probably better to be safe…

Overall really enjoyable run in fun weather with a great company.

Link to Strava here.

UTMB Training No 19 – Sunday recovery run

Originally planned to do the second part of the last leg of LT70 recce with Martin today. But because of the unstable weather we did not feel like waking up early and travelling all the way to Lantau. We opted for an easy hilly bit in the backyard.

I felt a bit tired from yesterday and it took a while to get properly going. We jogged up the road towards Cecil’s Ride and then took the short route towards Siu Ma Shan climb. I was going up very easy while Martin pulled away. He was totally enjoying the steps… After a while all I could see was the back of his white tee far ahead of me. He waited for me before we joined the HK Trail. By the time we started to climb Butler I felt much better. Clearly my legs needed about an hour to shake off the Saturday hills on Mac.

From Butler we ran down to Mt Parker Road, took the opportunity to cool down at the bathrooms and resumed our run down the road. On the way met a family friend of ours (on her run with the Veggie runners group) and a bit later we ran into the insane 5xParker group on their 3rd ascent of the day (Vic, Jay, Luis, Lennon, Jeremy and few others). Not sure how many of them actually finished that. I went up 3 times a week ago and I was going mental …

Nice fun run – what the doctor ordered after the long run on Saturday.

Link to Strava here.

2015 TDS Training – Run no. 29 – Hong Kong Trail summertime insanity

I don’t handle the heat well but with a big race coming at the end of August I have no option – I have to at least attempt some long runs during the summer… So when Vince came up with the full HK Trail run I was all up to it. I have done that trail 5 or 6 times without any major issues. All those runs were in the winter time. I never completed this trail in the middle of Hong Kong summer. It was time to do it…

The books claim the trail is 50km long but in fact it is only about 44.5km. It is not particularly challenging one, most of it is runable. The only but major expected challenge for me was the heat.

Twelve of us started at The Peak. Not everybody planned to go all the way but few of us clearly had the intention.
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2014 Green Power 50

At the time when I signed up for this event I somehow failed to realize that it is scheduled only a week after HK100. I originally hoped to record a sub-5 hours finish to my name. But knowing I will still be in recovery after 100km race I simply decided to enjoy the day and see how far I would get in this 44.5km long race.

I think this was first time starting a race on The Peak when I did not get swallowed by the crowd. I could run straight away in my own and steady pace without fighting my way through. I felt great by the time I reached the 007 marker and moved from road to trail. Somewhere here I changed my race philosophy for the day. I decided to go quick and see how far will fast pace take me. I was at the 10km checkpoint in less than an hour and I was really surprised how well I felt. I had enough drinks with me so I passed this checkpoint without stopping.

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MSIG HK 2013 – 24km Race

The MSIG HK 50 was scheduled for 27 October, 2013 – the Sunday of the Moontrekker weekend. Once I switched my Moontrekker registration from 27km to 40km I knew I would not be ready to follow it up with 50km race only 27 hours or so later, especially being aware of tough nature of the second half of the 50km route. I still decided to sign up for the 24km race though. It followed my regular Sunday morning route (HK Trail stages 1 to 4 from The Peak to Wing Nai Chung Gap) with only difference being the extra 2km long Mt. Bennet loop – so very familiar and not exactly tough route. I though this could be a nice recovery run made easier by lighter backpack thanks to all the checkpoints with water.

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