news / twitter feed
next hike
difficulty levels
equipment list
hiking books
book features
happy hikes
adventurous hikes
trailrunning blog
gear reviews
strava fun
gallery tips
useful links
contact us
  trailrunning > trailrunning blog > 29.03.2015

29.03.2015 – 15.54km / 2:00:21 MacLehose Trail stage 4 & a bit more

Strava Link.

Pleased to get a new Strava CR on MacLehose Trail stage 4. That was a tough run though.

Stages 3 and 4 are the most technically difficult and rugged stages of the entire 100km MacLehose Trail. Today I ran stage 4. It begins with a sustained 4.4km, 470m climb from Sai Sha Road to near the top of Ma On Shan. Initially this is a road that climbs gradually. This soon becomes a steep, relentless climb on a mixture of mud trails and stairs, with the last 1.9km of the climb having an average gradient of 16%. The temperature was about 26 degrees when I started, so for this initial climb I didn’t attack the hill in the same way I normally would. It was more a case of complementing a sustained effort with an occasional lull. Running the road part was easy but on the steeper sections of the second half of the climb I combined brisk strides with occasional running strides. I arrived at the top of the climb breathing heavily but feeling good. And took a sip of water.

After this initial climb there are a series of undulations on quite rough, sharp, technical trails followed by a medium length descent of about 150m on eclectic rock stairs. I took the descent quite fast as in hot weather this just makes sense. There now follows a longish, reasonably flat section of about 3km of what is initially mud trail interspersed with rocky sections and then a flat mud trail on a plateau. It makes sense to run this as fast as possible. But this is easier said than done. The initial 470m climb, followed by a 150m descent shreds the legs somewhat. It’s a bit like dumping your legs in the spin cycle of a washing machine and then telling them to run fast on the flat. They can – but it requires control and effort. There are also the technical demands of the trail – twists and turns, rocky sections that need to be climbed over. This is not the kind of scenario where you can hit a zone and just hold it. So I maintained a good effort, pushing slightly the whole way.

Now comes a brisk descent of about 100m on a mud / stair path. I took this as fast as technically possible and then arrived at Mau Ping, a roundish grassy open area. This signals the beginning of the climb from Mau Ping to Buffalo Pass. This is a 1.5km climb with an elevation difference of 160m which works out at an average gradient of about 11%. Honestly – if you want to get anywhere near the CR for MacLehose Trail stage 4 you have to run up the whole thing at a reasonable pace. So that is what I did. My legs were not feeling supremely strong, but I still managed to stay out of the ultra pain cave on the way up and arrived smiling and happy at Buffalo Pass. I love arriving at Buffalo Pass, it always feels good to be there!

Initially the path from Buffalo Pass to Shek Nga Pui is what I would describe as a muddy, rock strewn contour trail that is technically quite awkward. There is a lot of skipping and hopping around on the trail to maintain forward momentum. This is followed by a descent of about 90m on an old village rock path with stones tilted in various directions and jagged parts here and there. I cranked things up a notch on this descent – running it at an indiscreet speed. Always wary of the fact that if you fall on these raggedy, hapharardly placed rocks – it bloody hurts. A lot. And that knowledge was enough to encourage razor sharp concentration in me as I flew downhill.

There now come a few undulations on mud / rock paths and also a couple of short, but quite steep stair climbs. I was experiencing the onset of fatigue at this point but kept at it in conscientious fashion. This is when the run starts to acquire an esoteric, thick, gloopy uniqueness. Your natural surroundings and the air you breathe envelop you as you enter the pain cave. Now is when you just keep going. As fast as you can. I always find it really helps to push from your core in circumstances like this. Your core can forge valiantly on dragging flailing legs and heaving lungs in tow. I also find it really helps to pump your arms vigorously on the climbs. It is amazing how effective the arms can be at relieving tired legs up the hills.

After some gorgeous, shadowy paths there is a right turn followed by a short 20m climb. I always run up this as fast as I can. Hey – you get this far, you don’t stop. Simple. And then a short burst of a descent to finish. That’s it. MacLehose Trail stage 4 done. 1:23:55. And a great, satisfied, slightly elated feeling.

Following this I pottered around the trails a bit admiring the sunset and enjoying being outside. A calming breeze caressed that finite stillness that often accompanies sunset. Trail running is not about heads down mad CR chasing anyway. It’s about nature. Camaraderie. Profound simplicity.