The HK 100 – the first 65k of it!

 

The  Hong Kong 100k

The running of the inaugural HK 100 2011 was   a  birthday present to myself  . I just fell in love with the idea of  crossing the finish line of a 100k run on my birthday !  Well  the  HK 100k was a wonderful race, a beautiful route, and  blessed with excellent volunteers and support – but the snag was that  I never did cross that finish line. Instead I arrived about 25 minutes after the cut off  at the 65k checkpoint ( CP6)  — and  got offered a chair and a taxi back to the hotel.

 

CP6

Check point 6 was at the 65k mark( Gillwell Camp)   with a cut off  at 3.30am. At 3.30am I was still somewhere on the hillside trying to maneuver my way down a  steep rocky descent. The descent was a little tricky because of a minor  issue with a recalcitrant left ankle. I mean, I have treated it quite well over these years and I don’t really think that asking it to perform for a 100k distance over the hills of Hong Kong is such a big favour.  I  admit that just 3 weeks prior to the race , I had twisted it somewhat severely, but  I did do the decent thing and rested the darn thing, gave it ice baths, pain killers, support bandages for three weeks. Treated it like royalty I did. Talk about gratitude. On race day, it  gave way every time I landed on it and in the last few kilometers, I was stumbling and falling down all over the place. Today, three days after the race, it is all puffed up with self-importance and looking to be about twice the size of its companion!

The Start

The race started at Pak Tam Chung  on the Sai Kung peninsula.  We had stayed the night  the Po Leung Kuk  holiday camp  which is less than 5 min away from the start line .  A short briefing at 7.45am told us to look for the reflective arrows and pink reflective  ribbons which mark the trail;  and so at about 8am  we duly trotted off and I rapidly became the last runner.

 This was my third  trail run. My first  was the Marathon des Sables  which I attempted without any exposure to trails  ( err obviously not a  very smart  or logical thing to do) . However the event intrugued me  and I then went on to try the TNF Singapore. 

CP 1 – CP4

This was a pretty part of the run.  We scrambled  up and down and up and down, taking in the  heights,  sights and atmosphere. After the initial road bits and the dam, it was rolling hills and trails. I loved the stunning combination of mountains, blue sea and sky and stopped frequently to take pictures – much to the dismay of two  suspicious characters behind me  who had the race  after alighting from a taxi somewhere before CP1. This shady pair just wouldn’t pass me – even though I gave them ample opportunity but felt obliged to  sniff at plants or  develop sudden interest in   birds  other fauna  every time I stopped. 

The ground changed frequently from gravel to rocks to sandy beaches.  The  fine white sand did cause some problems – creeping in stealthily between every toe, I loved the sound of the wind and water. The weather was cool and it was a real change from Singapore’s heat.

I relished the contradictory  feel of the cold wind blowing around, yet still having my core wrapped warm and  snug in windproof jackets.

There were picturesque bits when we traipsed along the shaded banks of  gurgling streams and other bits when we clambered over  fat lumpy coastal rocks.

The route continued  through small  villages – some populated with  simple restaurants whilst  others had been  left empty, save for a few stray dogs.  There was a  strange quiet eeriness  when we walked through the crumbling remains of some windswept fishing villages.  The buildings looked derelict, but nearby there were also some fairly well-tended graves.

 Somewhere along the way, the two shady fellows identified themselves as a sweeper group ( Blush! major embarassment)  They couldn’t stand my pace any longer and tried to tell me in Cantonese, that when walking the trails, I should lighten the load in my backpack else  I would never make the cut off point. Blithely  I ignored the good advice  and continued my merry way enjoying the sights and sounds and munching on the snacks that I had with me. I met some of the organisers and volunteers along the road and along the checkpoints, chatted with them and moved on. Admittedly as I was alone most of the time, there were occasional anxious moments when village dogs would bark and follow me for a short distance. The most heart stopping moment though was when I met a big black buffalo coming up a narrow trail.  The trail could only take one. It was  either him or me. No prizes for guessing  who ungraciously stepped off the trail…

Somewhere towards the evening, as dusk fell and the temperatures started to drop, I took out my torch and heavier sweater and was happy and secure with the warmth and intense light.

CP4 and an Oopsie

At CP4,  the 45k mark, I was still ahead of the cut off by about 1.5hours so I had a drink, topped up some fluids, and asked which way to go. Someone waved and off I went  along the road in the direction that I thought I was supposed to go, hoping to make up for lost time on this stretch of road.  Unfortunately   some time  later (about 2.5k)  later a car came up from behind and said – ” Wrong Way!” Oops.  Luckily the volunteers came to look for me. Otherwise I might still be on the road today wondering where the trails began!  Apparently the trail started behind the check point.

The walk from CP4 to CP5 was challenging., but the views from the top of Kai Kung San at about 399m were reward enough. You could see the bright twinkling lights of Hong Kong in the clear night sky.  The  sweeper groups changed regularly, but all were good.  Sometimes they would be with me,  sometimes they would keep pace with other runners. They would talk to me  in Cantonese, telling me how to walk the trails, ” Relax, be light-footed,” they said – ” breathe deeply and  find a rhythm “.

 I found I liked walking in the dark cold of the night and enjoyed the silent communication with the  woods and trees. Limited light and moonlight were enough  in some parts, but when the rocks and uneven steps appeared I began to get into difficulty.   As the night wore on, my lights dimmed further and the rocks and the deep steps took on a life of its own. Shadows danced around the flickering beam of the headlights and  I found it difficult to judge the height of the steps. Earlier in the day, the dry rivulets that were filled with brown leaves were delightful to play in. At night their meandering   paths became traps for the unwary.

CP5

At CP5, My margin was trimmed to half an hour. This was also the drop bag area, so I retrieved my drop bag,  planning to put the old torch into the bag and continue with the new torch. Unfortunately in the rush to get going, I couldn’t put  any food into my own furnace and  I threw my new torch  and probably my spare batteries ( or maybe I dropped them somewhere when I was fiddling with beanies and jackets) –  into the drop bag and hared off with my old torch.

For the first kilometer I was happy,  alone and making good headway.  Then I realised – oops no pink ribbon and all that reflective material I saw in the woods was the white of the bamboo .  So I hared back, to check if  I was on the right path – I found one pink ribbon –  and went back again. Then I reached a three-way junction and couldn’t decide where to go as I couldn’t find an arrow – only some reflective tape round a post.  So I ventured a few meters down each one , then gave up and decided to wait for the sweeper group.

The route from Cp5 to Cp6 contained several climbs including one long walk across a ridge where I almost got blown off by some strong winds.  Later, as my light dimmed,  the lone sweeper  tried to light the way from behind but that caused my own shadow  to fall in front of me – creating a black void where I was supposed to tread.  So while I loved walking in the monochromatic  colours of the night,  I guess if you aren’t used to the trail, its much safer to get some light.  My poor long suffering sweeper loaned me his spare torch and we slowed to a crawl and chatted about life and the Hong Kong trails all the way to CP6.  He told me that by himself, he would have finished the 100k trail in less than 12 hours.

Birthday present

So did I enjoy my birthday present-  an emphatic yes! I really liked the blue sea and sky  of the day  scenery and the deep indigo of the night.  But I think the most valuable present was the tutorial in trail walking. I also append a few  tips that one feels compelled to pass on

1. Try not to sprain your ankle  before  or during the race. Reserve that for post race activity. The handicap will save you some shopping money.

2. Remember to tank up – I couldn’t hold any food down after getting lost  at CP4 and the hypogylcemia did not help the already suspect thought processes

3. Train – on trails or some similar terrain. Maybe a little bit of stair climbing up the tallest building would be good – but bring a handphone in case  you get trapped by  firedoors.

4. Remember not to drop things in your drop bag – or just don’t use a drop bag – but then you have to remember not to drop your batteries along the trail!

5. Torches are temperamental. When you have two, one will fail and one will malfunction or will go off and tour the country  trails without you.  Get at least 3 of similar quality – and if you are unfamiliar with the trail or have fading eyesight – get the type that will turn your night run into a  run at high noon.

Postscript

So what did I do when I left the race – I went to Nong Ping Village to climb the 400+ steps to see the Tian Tan Statue and wondered why my quads were a little stiff.  O and another post race activity in Hong Kong involves use of credit cards…… bring lots of money for food and shopping

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Published in: on January 19, 2011 at 10:57 am  Comments (4)  
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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. ha ha, glad to know I’m not the only one with the same story. I stopped at the 65km mark as well. At my speed it would have taken another 17/18 hrs to finish and I just wasn’t mentally prepared for it.

  2. Angela you are amazing! I am so jealous of your achievements! You inspire me to start running marathons now!!! Love the website by the way :-)

  3. Hey Angela!
    I love your post race writeup..a very entertaining read :D
    I’m going for this race next year Feb 2012. Are you heading back to complete that race?

  4. Very interesting and very well done.


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