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  trailrunning > trailrunning blog > 02.12.2012

02.12.2012 – 23.21km / 3:11:14 HK Top 10 race on Lantau Island.

Race result: 1st place.

     Pouring rain. Dark clouds. An ominous start to the day. A smile crept on my face as I anticipated an ugly, tough time on the trails. On a technical course. The first race of the two part HKTop10 series would take part on Lantau Island and this course includes many overgrown, slippery, steep, technical mud trails.
     Vince, Shane, Phil and Pig from the Hong Kong Trailrunners formed a cheerful band of brothers at the start. Anticipating the run with sky high moral. Tough, seasoned competitors such as Law Chor Kin were warming up. Time to run…..
     I started at a reasonably sedate pace. About 10th. The first climb arrived, a muddy but clear trail up to Por Kai Shan. This is when I slowly got my legs moving. Heart pumping. Increasing the tempo to a reasonable pace but still walking. I started to methodically work my way through the field on this climb until I was in 2nd place. The guy in 1st place was running jauntily up the hill like a flighty, startled deer. Veering left and right according to the dictate of the trail. He was about 100m ahead of me but I just let him go. It seems slightly unwise to RUN up the first hill of a 24km race that includes some of the steepest, toughest hills in Hong Kong - Lin Fa Shan, Yi Tung Shan, Sunset Peak and Lantau Peak. Mist was swallowing us all up. The occasional grunt of effort all I could discern of my fellow competitors.
     Soon we hit a flattish, undulating mud trail. Interspersed with occasional rocky sections. With my legs feeling light I fluidly ran the trail. Hypnotically. And found myself drawing closer to the guy in first place. At one of the undualtions, a 50m incline, I could hear his ragged, sharp intakes of breath as he forced himself up the hill. Sensing my opportunity I jogged up the incline and passed him. A quick discussion about the beauty of the trail notwithstanding, I floated past. Into the mist.
     A left turn took us off the clear mud trail onto the climb of Lin Fa Shan. Wet clouds. Thick mist. Long grass. My only guide the occasional pink ribbon leading the way. Like a confusing fairytale. This felt wonderful. To breathe in this atmosphere. My saturated senses creating a quietly philosophical frame of mind. As I reached the top a break in the clouds allowed light to flood into this dream. Highlighting the large cluster of rocks on the summit. A welcoming group of shadowy druids. And then came the descent….. Slippery, muddy, out of control, fast feet, hitting that ambiguous area when you’re not sure if you can still control your direction or speed. A flash of excitement. Onwards to the checkpoint and the next climb. Yi Tung Shan.
     Yi Tung Shan. More overgrown than Lin Fa Shan. Steeper. More slippery. Muddier. More misty. More windy. MORE FUN!!! I love trails like this. Wild, technical, rough. Your entire being focussed and consumed by the run. Once more the pink ribbons guiding me like a trail of breadcrumbs in a fairytale. I was alone, but sensed the permeating consciousness of my fellow competitors. Light and free I followed the trail to the clear Lantau Trail and the climb of Sunset Peak. Breaking the crest of the hill I was confronted by a view I will never forget. Lantau Peak, pinnacle visible, bathed in soft, gentle white clouds. Too beautiful to be real. A surge of neural impulses burnt this image into my brain permanently. And I stopped running... Took some deep breaths. In disbelief that this is my reality. My life. And honestly, at this point I did not feel tired at all. I ran down Sunset Peak with small, light steps. The large, slippery rocks on the path providing a fun challenge with occasional, irresistible (probably unwise) glances up to continue absorbing THAT view. Down to Pak Kung Au, the next checkpoint, and the imminent climb of Lantau Peak.
     At Pak Kung Au I grabbed a new bottle of water and swallowed a PowerGel. And started climbing Lantau Peak. Feeling great. Very cloudy with occasional breaks in the clouds affording amazing views and a glimpse of the climb ahead. Staying determined and thinking in a positive, forward direction as I climbed. If you start to slow down on a climb like this, or lose focus, that is the end. A sustained climb such as Lantau Peak requires a solid, defined wave of energy. A madness. A euphoria. Deep breaths. Jogging up the inclines. Attacking the rocky stairs. In the raucous wind. And it became so windy that I turned my running top inside out because I was scared my number would rip off. Half way through this process, whilst semi-nude, I passed a group of hikers, who probably thought I was some kind of strange nudist / exhibitionist with a penchant for cold, windy hills. And the air was so fresh and invigorating. It was all just so much FUN!!!!! And at the top I took a deep breath, a sip of water and then ran down from Lantau Peak with small, light strides. Smiling at fellow hikers, saying cheerful hellos and lapping up any encouragement. Down to the next checkpoint. The next bottle of water and the Lantau Trail. A flattish, wide mud contour trail that I just ran calmly. No need to kill the legs. Just find a nice rhythm and hold it. And this is what I did, until the fire escape trail. Or the Donkey Trail (as Vince calls it). And this is because you’d have to be a stupid ass to want to run this trail. Especially run DOWN it.
     The Donkey Trail, from the cable car station down to close to Tung Chung is just ridiculous. It is a combination of slippery rock trail with downward pointing steps and wooden stairs and boardwalks which are so slippery they are categorically dangerous. I was reduced to walking this trail and even walking it there were moments when I would slide uncontrollably towards unknown geographical destinations. And this is particularly worrying when you consider that there are quite frequently large 5m drops either side of this trail, which has no barriers. This is not a technical, satisfying trail. It is the worst trail in Hong Kong and in my opinion should not feature in ANY races. There is an overgrown, technical mud trail on the ridge which runs parallel to this path. Even though it is technical this trail is far superior to the Donkey Trail. Race course designers please take note…..
     The trauma of this trail ruined my hopes of a sub 3h run. And I arrived at the bottom feeling fresh as I had come nowhere near my aerobic capacity on the descent so it was almost like a rest. I ran the last few flat, concrete kilometres trying to hit around 4min/km pace. And this felt quite easy. And I cruised into the finish feeling good. With powerful memories of an amazing course. Waiting at the finish to reunite with the Hong Kong Trailrunners and share pizza, banana wrap and exciting, fun memories of the trailrun. Yes. What a course. What a day. What a memory. Yes.

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