After long but rather flat run last Saturday it was time to some hill work again. I picked my favourite hill training route from Shing Mun over Needle Hill, Grassy Hill, Tai Mo Shan and back. The weather forecast seemed fine – hot with some showers – so nothing stood in my way.
I slept a bit longer than I planned so I started a bit later than I would normally do – around 10:30am. It was quite stuffy at first and with quite a few cars on the road between the minibus stop and Shing Mun dam I decided to take it easy and just fast walk this first bit. I only started to push a bit more on the Needle Hill climb. It was quite stuffy at first but before I made it to the top strong wind brought quite heavy shower. The rest of the Needle Hill crossing was like running up and down a stream. Water was flowing all over and around the steps. The rain stopped when I reached the paved road towards Grassy Hill. In that heat all that rainwater began evaporating, it felt like running through steam bath – stuffy and humid. Luckily the winds kept coming and going and soon the conditions turned into rather pleasant.
I enjoyed the climb up to Grassy Hill – I had no issued, legs felt good and it did not feel too hot. I kept sipping my VFUEL drink. I used this run also as a test for different nutrition strategy and ran with both front bottles filled up with VFUEL rather than having one with VFUEL and other with plain water. Plain water was flowing from the water bladder in the backpack. This worked wonders – first time in long time I was never low on energy. Clearly having energy drink handy instead of having to prepare new mix is definitely more runner friendly…
For the better part of the Grassy Hill climb I was in the clouds and that also made the conditions bearable. The downhill slope to Leadmine Pass was a bit slippery but nothing too dramatic. Rain was beginning to fall again and when I reached the Leadmine Pass it was raining quite heavily. I decided to take a short break and check the weather situation before heading up to Tai Mo Shan. The break was bit longer than planned. First the signal was quite weak there and it took ages to get the HK Observatory app and the weather update loaded. Then Nic, John and Jeff arrived from the opposite direction. And finally a couple of cows hiding there from the rain decided to entertain us.
There was a thunderstorm warning but when the app finally loaded up I could see that all the stormy weather is safely away in Sai Kung area and Tai Mo Shan was safe to go. So I set off and pushed up. I felt good and decided to enjoy one of my favourite climbs in Hong Kong. And I duly did. At the early stages it was quite wet with water running down the hill but for most of the climb the surface was just a bit damp providing quite good grip. Cloud cover and changing winds made the conditions very nice – the best one can hope for in the middle of Hong Kong summer. As I found out later this was my second fastest ascent of Tai Mo Shan – I just felt great.
The road section was easy both uphill and downhill. I remembered the same few weeks ago when I was exhausted from the heat I could not even run the entire downhill. This time it was piece of cake. Real fun run.
Down the Rotary Park and made a quick mid way pit stop for some noodles, Coke and water refill and without wasting too much time I turned around. Back up to Tai Mo Shan. It took me about 3h15mins to get there (including that Leadmine Pass stop). I was hoping to get back in total time under 6 hours. Climb up Tai Mo Shan went well and so did the run down to the hut. After crossing the small hill I ran all the way down to Leadmine Pass with the exceptions of some of technical bits. I am nursing a busted big toe on right foot and just do not need another knock on that poor bugger.
I did not stop at Leadmine Pass at all – I had 4h40mins on my watch and I wanted to get the job under 6 hours. Grassy Hill went very well, more less non stop quite effortless push up the hill and the very pleasant run down the road towards the foot of Needle Hill. I haven’t felt this good in very long time.
Just before I started to climb Needle Hill heavy rain came again. It was a welcome refreshment. But then while I was already on my way up Needle Hill a loud sound of thunder came. And then another and another. This was way too close for comfort. The top of the Needle Hill is quite exposed – not the best place to be while thunderstorm is passing. I decided to turn around and go down to wait out the storm. Luckily the storm went away as quickly as it had arrived and 10-15 minutes later I was again on the way the Needle Hill.
This break interrupted my momentum and also killed my hopes of doing this return trip over Mac 7 and 8 under six hours in the summer but at this point I did not care too much. I was very happy with how my day went. After few weeks of suffering in the heat having a long run and feeling fresh and strong was a real boost for my UTMB morale.
Link to Strava here