Tag Archives: UTMB

UTMB Training No 46 – Back to Mac 7-8-8-7, back to heat

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.

UTMB Training No 45 – Thursday Parker No 12

Same as last week I tried to run up from the bottom but the morning heat was just too much. I felt OK overall but had to slow down and switch to fast hike after about kilometer and half. It does not bother me too much though as this is how I will be scaling the mountains during UTMB. Conditions got a bit more bearable higher up the hill.

There was a boar somewhere in the vegetation next to the trail. I could not see it but I could hear and smell it there. Neither of us was keen on face to face meeting so I kept on going my way.

I made it all the way up without any issues in decently fast hiking pace. I was drinking quite a lot though. I was not sure if I would have enough water to do the radar to radar and Mt Butler extras that I planned to add. But I still went for the radar extra and managed to run it all (same as last week in the rain). That was a good sign.

When I got back down to the Mt Butler junction I decided to give it a go. I had enough water to survive the climb and in the worst case I could handle the final 3km downhill without drinking.

The Butler climb was a bit tough in that heat but not too bad. The bushes around the trail were full of sounds of life – birds, lizards and at least one snake. Lively morning this was.

After getting up to the top of Butler I turned around and jogged down the steps and then ran back down to the city. Decent Thursday morning hilly work out in the morning heat.

Link to Strava here

UTMB Training No. 44 – Tuesday road – the Frantic version

I did not have the best day in work and I decided to go for some Metallica treatment on the way home. Frantic album seemed to be the best for the mood I was in. It worked magically. Half the first song in I was all pumped up for my run. And I decided for the first time any many months to run with music. At the beginning of the run I set the player to beginning of the album again and off I was.

I started a bit later than usual. It was hot but somehow really runable – probably the humidity was not as high as it can be during summer. I had Frantic Messrs Hetfield and Ulrich pacing me with their music and when the watch beeped 1km at the end of the road climb I realized I am half minute faster than my usual summer pace.

I felt pretty good despite the heat so with sound of St. Anger in my ears I kept on pushing. I was expecting to blow up soon as it often happens when I go too fast too soon in hot conditions. But it did not happen. I enjoyed this run like I would do in the cool months. Not that long ago I struggled badly in the heat and barely finished this run in an hour and 10 minutes, this time I got very close to sub one hour time. Really happy with tonight’s run.

I also got a bit lucky because not long after I made it back home a proper thunderstorm hit the town – would not want to be caught up in that sort of fireworks during the run.

Link to Strava here

UTMB Training No. 43 – Sunday brunch

This was pretty straightforward late Sunday morning outing. Quick run up the road to Cecil’s Ride, then easy jog on the trail until Mt Parker Road. This was a recovery run. But I felt quite good so I decided to get all the way up to Mt Parker radar and then enjoy the long downhill back to the city.

Enjoyable almost 15km on sunny Sunday morning. Good stuff.

Link to Strava here.

UTMB Training No 42 – Some Mac Wilson or Wilson Mac

After the abandoned ultra hot and polluted attempt to train on MacLehose last week I planned more sensible route for this weekend. Start on Wilson Trail from Yau Tong, join MacLehose at Shatin Pass and then continue to Shing Mun. Reasonable water stop and exit options along the way, some stream to cool down and some decent tree cover.

Stuart and Helen joined me for this one – it was definitely good to have some company. We hiked up the road from Yau Tong station and then started running once we reached the flatter part of the trail. Helen only planned to keep us company up to Shatin Pass and her fast pace reflected this shorter distance. It was important to rectify the situation. Blowing up on first 5km of 30km+ hot summer run would not be smart. We eventually settled into reasonable pace.

It took us a bit longer than expected (or wrongly planned) to reach the Clear Water Bay Road. Helen had to quit here in order not to miss her later appointment. So after brief drinks shopping stop only me and Stuart continued. The trail in the forest section was quite wet and slippery on the rocks so we took it easy there. We jogged on the catchwater but not in any crazy pace – the No Name Hill was looming and energy preservation was necessary.

No Name Hill is always tough in the heat. I took it steady dropping a bit behind Stuart. It felt like the right pace for me. Last time I was here I struggled a lot. This time it sure was not walk in the park but it was OK, no suffer fest.

We made it up the Shatin Pass Road relatively quickly, hiked up the road climb and then jogged to the Shatin Pass noodle shop to refill our water bottles. Bye Wilson, nice to meet you Mac.

After short water break we went on. We decided to make a small detour from MacLehose and climb up to the top of Lion Rock too. I pass quite often under the Lion Rock but I rarely go up. The day was hot but nice today, perfect day to go up for the view. I had my poles and they made the way up much easier. The views up on the ridge were totally worth the extra effort. We spent a bit of time enjoying the the views of Kowloon and Hong Kong on one side and the cloudy Tai Mo Shan on the other. We followed the ridge all the way to the Lion’s head and then jogged down and rejoined Mac.

We jogged / fast hiked all the way until the Beacon Hill climb. The climb was fine, my legs were still feeling surprisingly good. Somewhere here Stuart realized that he may not have enough time to complete the whole route. His new target was Tai Po Road, my target still Shing Mun and maybe a bonus up and down Needle Hill.

We paused for a bit on the top of Beacon Hill reminiscing on our OTW experience and the fun we had with destroyed Sean at the checkpoint here :-) . Then we were on our way. I could feel that the last climb and especially the heat were starting to affect me. Once on the contour trail towards Tai Po Road I could still run but only the really flat or downhill bits. It was not situation critical but I was hurting.

Stuart stopped on Tai Po Road and was on my own to face the monkeys. Not too many of them though. Except the small group that was jumping in and out of the water at the beginning of the reservoir I only met perhaps 5 more on the entire Golden Hill road climb. That was a pleasant surprise. The climb was OK, I had good pace. After cresting the top of the hill I jogged down towards the trail to Shing Mun. I hoped to cool down under one of the pipes at the side of the road but group of hikers occupied it. I did not feel like waiting and so I kept my head hot.

The last trail bit to Shing Mun was tough. It was past 1pm, some parts totally exposed and the midday sun was mean. Eventually I made it to Shing Mun. I knew that I was no position to do that bonus Needle Hill climb. But I still went all the way there across the dam where the Needle Hill climb begins. Plan was to see if the large cloud would cover the sun by the time I get there (meaning GO!) or not (meaning no climbing up). Cloud missed the sun. I turned around and went for minibus :-) .

It was not blisteringly fast in that heat but all in all it went according to plan and beyond (Lion Rock). Good 30km summer workout.

Link to Strava here

UTMB Training No 41 – Thursday Parker No 11

Night heat last night was not a problem, the day heat this morning was quite different story. I started jogging up the road. Unfortunately I ended up in the hottest time of my run on the hottest section of the route. I could feel that I am using up way too much energy running up. So after about 1.5km I switched to fast hike instead. That helped. I cooled down at the pipes at the side of the road – that helped too. Then I realized that as I was getting higher up the road the heat was not that bad and then in the shadow it actually felt quite comfortable. Unfortunately it was really tough to switch back to running up the hill again. All I could do was to speed up the hike pace and push all the way to the top. Soon quite unexpectedly came some rain that very quickly turned into proper rainstorm. The road turned into river.  Within few minutes  I was ankle deep in water at places.

At the top I wasted no time and decided to run to the other radar. For the first time in weeks my legs were good for proper run all the way the other radar. I felt really good and rejuvenated – I was keen on adding Butler ascent to this by now very wet run. Unfortunately that sudden rainstorm turned into proper thunderstorm. When I heard few cracks of thunder I decided to play smart and run directly all the way down to the town.

Today it started tough but I was really happy to see again that a change of weather for better (cooler) results in very quick recovery for me. Good fun morning out.

Link to Strava here

UTMB Training No 40 – Tuesday road again

Quite hot evening so I started easier up the hill. But surprisingly the body felt quite well even in that evening heat. No issues whatsoever. I knew that sub 1 hour was still out of the question so I took easy also on the downhill steps towards the Sports Centre – no point taking any risks. But overall very happy to see that there is still some pace in the old legs as long as the conditions are fine for it to be unleashed :-) .

Link to Strava here

UTMB Training No 39 – Longer Sunday run

Saturday did not go according to plan. But the overnight storms cleared the air and even brought temporarily the temperatures down. As there was not much to recover from I went for a longer run instead of my usual recovery Sunday jog.

At the time when I strated (around 10am) the conditions were great for running. I jogged up to Cecil’s Ride and did not even need to stop at my usual cool down water pipe before Mt. Parker Road. Once on the road I continued up in fast hiking mode all the to the radar at Mt. Parker. I made the quick dash to the other radar before running back down to Quarry Gap. Here took the steps up to Mt. Butler, turned around and ran down to Tai Tam and towards Parkview. By the time I made it to the reservoirs I could feel the air is heating up a bit. It was also much more stuffy than an hour earlier.

At Parkview I made quick stop to refuel at the supermarket and then continued down to Wong Nai Chung and onto the contour trail towards Mt. Butler Road and Cecil’s Ride again. The conditions were a bit tougher now but still quite runable. I had quite a bit of ballast on my back (testing new pack for UTMB and getting used to running with weight again) so I did not really run on the uphill sections. But all the rest was quite fresh pace in these summer conditions.

All went without any problems until may be 100m from the road at the end of the trail. I was running down the steps when I heard loud “woof”. One large wild pig ran to the left side of the trail, three piglets to the right. Continuing and getting in between the mum and the little ones was not something I wanted to do. So I made few steps back up the steps to watch and wait for the big one to rejoin the little ones. Slowly the big boar made it out of the bushes, sniffing and looking up towards me while slowly crossing the trail. After few minutes I could see all four of them making their way up the slope under the tree cover away from me. It is amazing how often I have encountered wildlife right on the edge of the city. This happened maybe 200 meters from school…

Overall a decent run with some elevation – at least some compensation for the lost Saturday.

Link to Strava here.

UTMB Training No 38 – The long run abandoned

Today was supposed to be another insane summer run. Plan was to join Vince’s summertime Double Au challenge (Mac 3 – 8, about 54km). I intended to go one stage further than last summer – to Shing Mun – and then to see if I feel like continuing.

Doing this in summer time is always a challenge. But this time the conditions were extra special – the typhoon over Taiwan brought some extreme heat (around 37C, officially…) and insane pollution levels (API above 100). The smart option would be stay home…

I went for the less smart option to give it a try hoping that higher up and under the trees the air would be better. It was not…

I set off from Pak Tam Au around 7am. I kept the pace under control taking it very easy to preserve energy for later on. I felt quite OK at first. I jogged only very lightly on the runable sections and hiked most of the time. There was unbelievable number of dragonflies all around – I have never seen anything like that … I disturbed one mid size snake with my pole but I have no idea what was it as I could only see it moving away through the grass.

Near the M57 marker I encountered the first trouble of the day. There was some buzz ahead and this time these were not dragonflies but wasps. There was a very little chance to pass through them without getting in trouble. I backtracked looking for some way around. But all I managed was to take a shortcut back to marker M54. So I turned around and went back hoping that the wasp situation improved.

Luckily when I got back to the wasps spot the wasps were gone. After a short climb uphill I jogged, ran for a while. This jogging bit took a toll on me very quickly. I struggled quite bit even before the Rooster Hill climb. The climb itself was a suffer fest. Climbing in this heat I could not believe that last time I was here I was cramping in freezing weather during HK100… I knew that there is no way I can handle the next long exposed stage in these conditions. I made a decision to get down to Kei Ling Ha and jog down to Saikung.

It took me close to half an hour to struggle my way down from Rooster Hill, that included short “move small snake from the steps” break. At Kei Ling Ha I bought few cold drinks from the vending machine, chatted a bit with Vince who got there too. Then I turned to Saikung. Mission abandoned…

I jogged and walked those 4-5km and before hopping on minibus. Not the best Saturday but some times the weather wins…

Link to Strava here

UTMB Training No 37 – Thursday Parker No 10

I felt great on three consecutive runs and this streak had to come to an end some day. I actually felt great as I was starting this run too. But the moment I started o push up the Mt. Parker Road I knew that today will be a struggle.

After about 50 meters I saw a group of people staring at the hill side and taking some pics. So I looked up too to see two massive wild boars. It was not the first time I saw them here so I just nodded to the excited shouts “look, pigs!” from the bystanders and kept on running up.

I hoped to keep running at least to Quarry Gap before switching to uphill walk but this morning the heat got me after about a kilometer of uphill running. My legs felt weak all of a sudden. I switched to fast walk. I tried to push to make sure there is not that much pace difference between slow uphill jog and fast uphill walk. It was not walk in the park… I am pretty sure that all this weakness was caused by the heat that was probably stronger than it initially felt. I still made it all the way up. The run down was not my fastest ever but at least I gradually found some confidence in my legs. That allowed me to run down in reasonable pace.

Even though this was relatively slow session with lots of walking I can feel in my legs that it was a good workout in the morning heat.

Link to Strava here