This is the most sensitive part of my story about Thomas participation in the 2020 Hong Kong Four Trails Ultra Challenge. Most of the Local Runners who are joining International Running Events never post or mention how much they have spent to join a particular event. To give justice to what Thomas had accomplished in this year’s HK4TUC event, it is proper for the Team to be transparent with our finances with the following reasons: (1) to provide future participants the information on the financial aspect of the said event for planning and preparation purposes; (2) to account for everything that the Team had spent before, during , and after the event; (3) to give the impression to my readers that the Team was NOT sponsored by any individual, corporate brand, or the government, and as such, the whole Team did its share to contribute on this matter with the money coming from our pockets. We did not ask for funds from the other runners or conducted any fund raising activities in relation to Thomas attendance or participation in this event.
Amount Of Pocket Money:
At the exchange rate of P 7.00 per HK$ 1.00, I bought the equivalent of P 50,000.00 as the Support Team’s “baon” for the duration of our stay in Hong Kong. However, I still have an amount of 1,000.00 US Dollars as a “reserve” cash to be converted to HK Dollars just in case we will be lacking with our financial resources. My LANBANK Debit Cards will be our “Last Line Of Defense” for any Contingency.
Coming from Thomas’ pocket, on the other hand, he bought HK Dollars at the Airport’s Exchange Facility amounting to P 50,000.00.
Cathay Pacific Fares:
Thomas paid his own RT Fare amounting to P 9,500.00 which included the usual Travel Tax. I paid my RT Fare with two others who composed the Team as members of Thomas Support Team. It costs me P 28,500.00 (Travel Tax included) for three passengers. Our Taxi Fares and Expenses for our Early Breakfast at the Terminal 3, NAIA can be estimated to about P 2,000, of which I paid for it. An additional cost of “Pasalubong” of about P 1,500 was paid in one of the Souvenir Shops at Terminal 3 as our gift to the RD’s wife, being a close friend since I started blogging. This brings to a total of P 41,500.00 for the Team Thomas expenses before leaving Manila.
Upon Arrival @ Hong Kong Airport
Thomas bought a Local Sim Card for almost HK$ 200 and loaded HK$ 300 into his Octopus Card. The money he used came from his personal fund. I bought a Local SIM Card on my own for the same price (HK$ 200) with that of Thomas, and loaded HK$200 into my Octopus Card and loaded HK$100 to each of the two members of the Support Team.
Total Expenses Upon Arrival:
Chari Sevilla, a Filipino working in Hong Kong, offered her Apartment for the Team Thomas as a place to stay during the duration of the Event. This was a big savings for the Team, instead, of paying for our accommodation in the hotel where we usually stay during our visits in Hongkong. (Note: A “savings” for us estimated to be the equivalent to P 20,000.00)
Estimated Expenses For Our Two-Day Recon Runs (Transportation Fares Were Deducted From Our Octopus Cards):
The following estimated expenses for our Food and Drinks along the Trails (MacLehose & Wilson) and in Sai Kung Town.
Initial Groceries/Food For The Team Expenses (To include Logistics for the Event): HK$2,000.00
Additional Expenses For Groceries/Food To Be Cooked During The Duration Of Our Stay In Hongkong: HK$2,000.00
Additional Expenses For Food Spent In Restaurants: HK$1,000.00
Additional Loads To Our Octopus Cards: HK$ 500.00
Total Transportation Expenses During The Event: TAXI Fares To Ferry Thomas From One Trail To Another & TAXI Fares In Going Home To Chari’s Apartment:
Team Thomas was treated to a Chinese New Year’s Eve Dinner & CarboLoading Party for Thomas the night before the event by the sister and nephew of Thomas who came all the way from Canada to cheer for Thomas.
Before we left to the Hong Kong Airport on our way back to Manila, Team Thomas was treated to a lunch by the Family of Jurg, Irene, and Ida Montemayor as a celebration for Thomas “finish” in the 2020 HK4TUC.
The amount of P 50,000.00 that I exchanged for HK$ currency was all gone except for the remaining HK currency in the picture. To include our RT Tickets and other miscellaneous expenses spent in Manila and Hong Kong, I spent a total of P 100,000.00
I am not privy to what happened to the P 50,000.00 that Thomas had exchanged to HK Dollars at the NAIA before leaving Manila but I would guess/estimate that he was able to spend 2/3 of the said amount for his expenses in connection with his participation in the said event.
With this detailed accounting of our expenses, we will be able to plan and prepare for the next year’s event. Thanks to Chari for her hospitality in allowing us to stay in her Apartment with the hope that she will offer again her place for the Team in next year’s edition and for those emergency financial needs in support to Thomas success in this event. Thanks also to Team PAU for cooking the food for Thomas; preparing and packing the logistics/needs for each Leg of the event and for washing the dirty clothes of Thomas.
My personal thanks go to Jurg, Irene and Ida Montemayor, the Original Team Thomas Support, for their unwavering support and concern to Thomas’ welfare throughout the event. Jurg’s presence in Lantau to cheer and wait for the finish of Thomas means a lot to the Team. Thank you also to the sister of Thomas, Marina and nephew John for being with Thomas during the event.
Let me also take this opportunity to thank Tha Na and Josephine Austria for their company and support (food & drinks) at the Stanley Gap Road as we waited for the arrival of Thomas at the end of the Wilson Trail. Thank you also to Christian Viloria, an OFW in Hong Kong and a fast/strong trail runner, who prepared a lot of Filipino Food at the Shek O Road Bus Stop and for his support to Team Thomas.
There are still untold stories about our experience in terms of finances and logistics in supporting Thomas’ finish in this year’s Hong Kong Four Trails Ultra Challenge. The other half of the story is with Thomas. In due time, if time permits, I will be able to have more time talking to Thomas and relate his personal story in this blog.
The running kit of Thomas in last year’s (2019) HK4TUC did not change in this year’s edition except for his Hydration Vest and Shoes. Even for his nutrition and hydration, they had been the same but there are some things that we need to add.
Thomas decided not to use the Salomon S-Lab Sense 5-Liter Hydration Vest that he used in last year’s HK4TUC because it was already loose for him and wanted to use the one he always used in his trail and road ultras in the past which is the Mountain Hardwear Fuel 3-Liter Hydration Vest/Pack. If I remember right, I bought the same Hydration Vest three years ago at the Columbia Store in SM Megamall and it is still with me except that the zippers in the pockets are stuck and non-operational already. As I googled this item while writing this post, this particular model is no longer in the market and the brand had already stopped making them.
As compared to the Hydration Vests and Packs that the other runners used in this event, Thomas hydration pack/vest was very small in capacity but I was surprised that it was able to accommodate the Salomon Waterproof Jacket, his food, cellphone, a Windbreaker Jacket, Hydration bottles, handy water filtration unit, Headlights, and other miscellaneous things that Thomas needed in every trail leg. It is surprising to see the big back pocket with zipper could expand to accommodate everything. Since the hydration pack/vest has two mid-rib belts which are not stretchable, Thomas can tighten them to be always snugged on his body. Thomas did not use those Race Belts with pockets which is very popular among trail runners nowadays.
Thomas shirts during the event are our PAU Shirts By Bluprint (Imported Brand) but the Logo is printed locally. He used 3 PAU shirts (white, dark gray, & black) during the event and a shirt from Kalenji/Decathlon. He did not change his NIKE Running Shorts with PAU Logo Patch and RP Flag Patch throughout the event but he always change his underwear with the Decathlon’s Kalenji’s Under Shorts every time he starts a new trail leg. Throughout the event, he was consistently using the Injinji Socks and changed them every time he starts a new trail leg.
The day before the event, Rowell Campos brought us to Cam2Sports Store in Mongkok to buy a new pair of running shoes for Thomas. He was looking for an ALTRA Lone Peak 3.0 which he intends to use for the event. Thomas was lucky to find the remaining one pair of ALTRA Lone Peak 3.0 shoesavailable in the store which was ON SALE at 50% discount. This is the shoes that Thomas used for the 2 Trail Legs of the event (MacLehose & Wilson Trails). It was only in the Hong Kong and Lantau Trails that he used his old ALTRA Lone Peak 3.0 shoes. It was at the Hong Kong and Lantau Trails that Thomas started using his Compressport Compression Calf Sleeves. He did not use any shoe gaiters along the course.
As for his headlamp, Thomas was using a LedLenser Headlamp and another extra one which I could guess to be a regular Black Diamond Headlamp. He used his headlamp at the MacLehose, Wilson, and Hong Kong Trails. In his Lantau Trail, I gave him my Lupine Headlamp which he wore from the start until he reached the lighted portion of Mui Wo Road, near the Finish Line. The rechargeable battery was drained when Thomas gave it back to me. He could have used its High Beam which is 700 Lumens throughout his run/hike along the Lantau Trail. Thomas did not have any negative feedback on the use of his headlamps during those nights that he was on the trails.
As for his hydration needs, Thomas did not have any problem where to replenish his hydration needs, in terms of water or sports/cola drinks. He used his portable filtration unit in places where he can get water in streams in the mountains and in Public Comfort Rooms/Toilets’ faucets. He uses also his Octopus Card to get or buy what he wanted in those Vending Machines available in the vicinity of the Comfort Rooms in each Country Park Facility that he passes. There are also Free Source of Drinking Water which he observed as new additional structure within the vicinity of each Comfort Rooms/Toilets along the trail. And there are commercial establishments in the villages along the trail that Thomas can stop and order some hot food. Thomas can also stop to buy or order some solid foods in commercial establishments in the MTR Stations. There is always a 7-11 Store or Convenience Store in these MTR Stations. It is necessary that a runner in this race has some some Cash and Octopus Card with him during the event.
His food in his pack consisted of “Tikoy” (Rice Cake) from Bicol which we personally ordered for him, “Rice Cakes” (Chinese) from the 7-11 Store, Sky Flakes, Snickers, Yakult, Springs Gels, and Apples. All of these were packed inside the Hydration Pack of Thomas!
Thomas had been alternately using a Visor Cap (during day time) and a Running Cap (during nighttime) to cover his head. However, I have never seen him use any Buff/Neck Gaiter in all his runs in the past and in this event, to include last year’s HK4TUC.
Before he started the Lantau Trail, I gave him my GIRO Cycling Gloves which I know will give him warmth for his palms/fingers during the night and as he approaches the freezing winds of the Lantau Peak and Sunset Peak.
After the event, Thomas and I discussed the things that we should improve on and the things we should learn from his experience this year. He told me that he slowed down significantly at the Hong Kong Trail due drowsiness that brought him “hallucination” moments and the cold/freezing winds during the night. The strong, cold and freezing winds at the Lantau Trail had also slowed him down that he had to stop and take a nap, only to be awaken that he was already lying on the floor in one of the Pagodas/Rest Huts along the trail.
After a thorough discussion, I recommended him some solutions for his problems and we will use them in next year’s Thomas participation in the 10th edition of the HK4TUC.
Journal Of “Team Thomas” @ 2020 HK4TUC (Second Day)
Thomas started the 2nd Leg of the event at Wilson Trail at 16:25 Hours, which was 1:25 AM of January 26, 2020, Sunday Morning. Ahead of him was a 78-kilometer distance during a cold and rainy night. Thomas was feeling cold at the start but having eaten a lot of food and keeping himself on the move, he will surely regain his pace and tempo during the run. After Thomas left, we immediately fixed our things, packed the used clothes/attire of Thomas and threw the trash at the Trash Bins at the Starting Area. We immediately took the Taxi which was waiting for us to bring us back to the place where we are staying. As we arrived in our place, we immediately checked the Racemap Application to find out if Thomas was on the right track. We were glad that Thomas was on the right track and we immediately rested for the day at 3:00 AM on the second day. Last year, after 1-2 kilometers from the Starting point, Thomas got lost and we had a sleepless on the first night at that time when more additional “lost moments” had to be corrected.
I woke up at 8:00 AM on the second day and immediately checked on the tracker of Thomas and he was doing fine without any “lost moments” as compared to his experience last year. Our monitoring team advised Thomas to call us once he reaches the MTR Station at Lam Tin and once he crosses the Quarry Bay and reaches the MTR Station at Tai Koo on the Hongkong Island side. From these calls, we would be able to estimate the time we would meet Thomas at the Finish Line of the Wilson Trail Leg. But with the lagging time as depicted by Thomas tracker, we decided to give an ample buffer time to wait at the said place before Thomas arrives.
We arrived at the end of the Wilson Trail Leg at the Tai Tam Country Park in Stanley Gap Road at 5:00 PM with the hope that Thomas would be arriving in 30-45 minutes. In a few seconds, we witnessed the arrival of the 4th Runner Abimanyu from Singapore and since Thomas was ranked as the 8th or 9th runner as seen on the tracker, we prepared ourselves to wait for some more time in the said place.
The cold wind from the sea was blowing on our faces as we waited for Thomas but our Team was entertained by two Pinay runners who are working in Hongkong with their stories about the race and what they have prepared in terms of food for Thomas and to the rest of the Pinoy Runners. They even mentioned to me that Christian Villoria from Pangasinan, also a worker in Hongkong, is waiting at the Bus Station at Shek O Road for more food and drinks for the Pinoy Runners. We had a lot conversations with Tha Na and Josephine and they entertained us while waiting for Thomas. I decided later to hike the 1,000+ steps or the last 600 meters of the trail and tried to wait for the arrival of Thomas. Instead, the #5 Runner Chiang from South Korea came out from the vegetated portion of the trail and he was running at an easy pace going downhill. I greeted and congratulated and told him that he is only 500 meters to the end of the trail.
After almost 3 hours of waiting, the #9 Runner Karen from Hongkong, the leading Lady Runner of the event, arrived at the Finish Line and we knew that in a few minutes, Thomas will be arriving next. Finally, Thomas arrived at the Finish Line of the Wilson Trail Leg at exactly 8:00 PM of Sunday, January 26, 2020 with a time of 18:30 Hours to finish the whole Wilson Trail.
At 8:10 PM, we left immediately the end of Wilson Trail to the Shek O Road for Thomas to start the Hongkong Trail Third Leg. It took us a 22-minute ride on a Taxi to the Bus Stop at Shek O Road which is officially the Starting Area of the Hongkong Trail. Upon arrival, Thomas checked-in with Andre Blumberg and we set-up for the “pit stop” for Thomas. Thomas ate his dinner with the food we cooked for him and the food brought by Christian Villoria. Christian was there to meet us once we alighted from our Taxi ride. The NHK Japanese TV Network guys were also there to meet us with their Video Camera and Lights. They even interviewed Thomas while he was eating his dinner and focused their video camera on the food prepared for him. They were interested to see Fried Tuyo (fried salted sardines), Pork Adobo, and Sinigang Salmon Head (Sour Soup with Salmon Head) as Thomas food for dinner.
After eating, refilling his hydration vest with water and food, and changing his socks and attire, Thomas was ready to start the Hongkong Trail which has a distance of 50 kilometers. Before he left the starting point, Tomokazu “Tomo” Ihara, a sub-60 Finisher in last year’s HK4TUC and also a classmate of Thomas in last year’s event, advised Thomas that he is in the halfway (in terms of time elapsed) of the event and he needs to complete the remaining 120 kilometers in less than 24 hours to be able to be declared as a Finisher of the Event. Tomo said that it will be an easy task for Thomas to take the 7:00 AM Ferry trip to Lantau Island and be able to finish the Lantau Trail before the 60-hour cut-off time. Tomo was surprised to see how Thomas improved on his performance this time as compared to last year. In a conversation with Tomo, I told him about Thomas “lost moments” on the beaches of MacLehose Trail, lots of intersections at the Wilson Trail & mistake of going to the MacLehose Trail, and delays for looking the right MRT Platforms at the Lam Tin and Tai Koo Stations.
Thomas left the Shek O Road at 9:05 PM of Sunday, January 26, 2020 and we expect him to finish the Hongkong Trail in 8 hours or at 5:00 AM of Monday January 27, 2020.
Journal Of “Team Thomas” @ 2020 HK4TUC (First Day)
This year’s event is the 9th edition which is usually held on the Chinese Lunar New Year with the runner completing the famous Four Trails in Hongkong starting at the finish of MacLehose Trail in Tuen Mun, then to Wilson Trail, Hongkong Trail and last is the Lantau Trail. Each trail route should be finished in the reverse direction with a cut-off time of 60 hours. There is a cut-off time of 18 hours to complete the MacLehose Trail and each runner would be able to start the Lantau Trail, 4th trail and last, before the 55th Hour as the Cut-Off Time. A runner is considered Finisher if he/she completes the Challenge within the 60 hours cut-off time by January 27, 2020 at 9:00 PM and complying with the rules. Each runner should cover the Challenge without any outside support while they along the trail. It is only after each trail or before starting another that a runner could be given an outside support. A runner who fails to finish within 60 hours may continue with the Challenge and will be recognized as Survivor if they complete the Challenge within the cut-off time of 72 hours, which is Tuesday, January 28, 2020 at 9:00 AM.
The Team Thomas was the first to arrive at the starting line at 6:30 AM of Saturday, January 25, 2020 which is the day of the Chinese New Year. The Team was the first to be interviewed by NHK, the National TV Network of Japan, which will be covering the whole event. The Reporter have interviewed Thomas and myself, asking, what would be our respective roles during the event. After almost one hour, the runners and their respective Logistic Team arrived in the area. It was the usual the “meet and greet” among the those who finished and survived the previous editions and the incoming participants. Each runner was issued a “Tracker” and an Official “Mugshot” was taken from each runner. The briefing started at 8:30 AM and the usual Group Picture of the Participants was taken.
There are 33 participants of this event for the 9th edition consisting of runners coming from different countries who applied and had been invited to join this event. At exactly 9:00 AM yesterday, the event started.
Thomas started at the back of the pack on the first few meters of the course. Aside from the Team Thomas usual members of the Logistics Team from the Philippines, he was cheered by his eldest sister, Marina & nephew John who came all the way from Toronto, Canada, purposely to watch the start the event with Thomas and niece Carol who works here in Hongkong. Thomas sister and nephew came to Hongkong for the first time! After 30 minutes that the runners had left the area, we went back to our respective Hotel to monitor the progress of Thomas tracker and position through the Racemap application.
With Thomas experience last year and our Recon Runs, I am confident that Thomas would be able to finish the MacLehose Trail without any problems or “lost” moments. I did not set a time for Thomas to finish the 100K distance but as long as he can improve his last year’s time of 17:40 hours, which was 20 minutes before the cut-off time of 18 hours, he will be fine and on target to finish or survive the Challenge. I did not ask Thomas if he can finish it within the 60-hour cut-off time but I encouraged him to finish as a Survivor.
Last year, there were 3 Finishers and 6 Survivors. So far, after 8 editions, there are only 9 Finishers of this Challenge, to include, the Race Director/Organizer, Andre Blumberg. The locals in Hongkong call those who finished and survived this Challenge as “Heroes of Hongkong”. Thomas failure to start the last trail, Lantau, was the “fire” that inspired him to prepare and train for this 9th edition. We came back to Hongkong last August 2019 to recon the Lantau Trail for two consecutive days.
After a slow start from behind the pack, Thomas finished the first 30 kilometers in 3:30 hours and he progressed to number 3 and then to #4. He was ranked at #4 as he reached 50K in 6:53 hours. We were informed by the Race Organizer that the trackers will be refreshed or reset every 10 minutes. As we observed from the movements of the Trackers on Racemap, we are having a delay of at least 15 minutes from the “real-time” location and time of each runner. Compared from our experience in monitoring Thomas last year, this year’s tracker’s performance was not good. Practically, the trackers were not giving us the “exact and real-time” location and time of the runners. There might be some problems with the Satellite transmission for the trackers in some stages of the course or the rain during the late afternoon and during the evening might have some effect to the transmission. Whatever was the problem with the trackers, our Team was able to adjust with the expected time of arrival of Thomas at the Sai Kung Country Park which is the finish area of the MacLehose Trail.
Our Team expected and calculated that Thomas would be able to finish the first trail in less than 15 hours and we were at the finish line at least 1.5 hours before the said time. The first runner from Japan, Takashi, reached the finish line at 13:50 hours and we tried to locate Thomas at this time. Thomas had still 8 kilometers to the finish line when the first runner arrived. Calculating the distance and pace of Thomas, we expected Thomas to arrive in one hour and ranked as the 4th Finisher. Surprisingly, another runner arrived as the 4th runner with few minutes ahead of Thomas.
Finally, Thomas arrived at the Sai Kung Country Park in 15:04 Hours and I immediately met him as soon as he reached the finish line. I escorted him to where our Logistics was located and did what was needed to be done to him. He changed his clothes/attire, charged his cellphone with a Power Bank, and then ate the food we had prepared for him. In 7-8 minutes, we were in a Taxi on our way to Nam Chung Public Toilet as the starting line of the Wilson Trail. It took us 45 minutes for the trip and it was raining. Thomas was able to sleep inside the Taxi during the duration of the trip. Thomas did not have any issues when he arrived at the Finish Line of the First Trail. He was still strong and happy that he improved his time from last year’s time.
We arrived at the Starting Line of Wilson Trail at 16:00 Hours. Immediately, set-up the remaining food that we brought and let Thomas eat again. After repacking his hydration vest with food and water, Thomas left the Start of the Wilson at 16:25 Hours. Thomas was feeling cold because of the rain and encouraged him to eat some more. We gave him some fruits and rice packs and he left the area strong and determined to finish the race.
Despite the protests and demonstrations in Hongkong during my trip last week, we enjoyed our two-day “back to back” runs in Lantau Island in Hongkong. We were not affected by the situation thereat as the Transportation Facilities (MRT/Subway and the Ferry Ride) were providing normal operations to the Public. Although the fare to and from the island is quite expensive which is about One Hundred Hongkong Dollars for each of us to include our food and water before and after our workout, the experience is priceless as we did not have to pay any Permits, Guide Fees, or any related fees in using the Lantau Trail. As compared to the trails in the Philippines, there are so many expenses or fees one has to incur in going to popular trail destinations near or outside Metro Manila.
Thomas was able to completely had an insight and orientation of the Lantau Trail knowing that he will be on this trail on the early evening of the second day of the event. Due to this recon run, he told me that he is confident to run the whole trail during nighttime. On the first day, he estimates that he was able to run and hike a distance of almost 25 kilometers. On the second day, he was able to run almost 30 kilometers. Those missing sections which he was not able to reach are the sections of Lantau Peak, Ngong Ping, and those flat areas in Tai Po.
As for me, on the first day, I was able to cover 11 kilometers with an elevation gain of almost 3,000 feet and on the second day, about 15 kilometers with an elevation gain of almost 1,800 feet. I am satisfied with my workout despite the heat and humidity; and the lack of training. Actually, I did more hiking in the ascents and descents, and tried to jog on the flat sections of the trail.
For two days, I have been using hiking attire except for the trail shoes. My shirt and shorts are from Columbia which are popular to hikers and mountaineers. My “Tilley” Hats that I used were bought at DecathlonHongkong and I find them to be comfortable and could easily dry when wet with my sweat or when I douse my head with cool water from the water spring/streams along the trail. My trail shoes is the Salomon Speedcross 5 which I found out to have a wider forefoot but I have problem with its insoles as they have the tendency to fold on my descents. It was suggested by Thomas that I have to glue the insoles inside the shoes to make them permanently immovable. I was using the Gipron Trekking Poles and they gave me the necessary aid and balance support in the ascents and descents. My hydration vest is the 8-liter Salomon SLAB Sense Pack where I stashed my money/Octopus Card, cellphone, space blanket, hydration bottles, dry clothes, light jacket, and power bars. It was my first time to use my Goodr Sunglasses (Green Lens) which I bought in A Runners Circle (ARC) Store in Los Angeles, California, USA two years ago. The socks that I used were newly-bought from the Decathlon Store in Mongkok, Hongkong.
This recon run will be helpful to me as I am registered for the 2020 Translantau 50K Trail Ultra which is scheduled on March 1, 2020. Hopefully, by that time, I will be well-prepared as in my past finishes in the Translantau 100K.
If I have a chance to return to Hongkong before the end of this year, I would gladly go back again to Lantau Trail and MacLehose Trail if time permits.
While Thomas and I were on our way back to Central after our first recon day in Lantau, I asked him if he wants to return on the following day to trace the reverse route of the trail from Lantau Trail Post 140, going to Lantau Trail Pos 000. Thomas answered affirmatively to my question. Immediately, I have to google the route of the Lantau Trail and I was able to locate the end of the trail. (Note: I could no longer remember the route when I ran the Translantau 100 in the past editions)
We adjusted our schedule the following day and we had to wake up earlier than the previous day in order to take advantage with a cooler temperature in the early morning. We left our hostel at 6:00 AM, took our Congee breakfast, and then proceeded to the MRT for our Ferry Trip at Central. The ferry trip that we took was the more expensive one with Air-Con and faster speed. In a 30-minute ride, we arrived at Mui Wo at 8:30 AM and immediately proceeded at the back of the business buildings near the Pier until we reached the entry/exit of the Lantau Trail where the Post Marker 139 is located.
The climb was easier than the first kilometers we had the previous day. The trail route was covered with vegetation and with the absence of rock stairs. Thomas went ahead of me with the same agreement/arrangement we had the previous day. I told him to maximize the number of mileage he can cover for the day and he can easily meet me in some of the camping areas or barbecue grill parks along the route.
After 3 kilometers, I saw a resting fixture and I was enticed to take some pictures around the place and some “selfies”. I took comfort of my easy pace while hiking as the air was cooler and the trail ground was damp with some mud. I could see the trail shoe marks/footprints of Thomas along the trail. My next stop was the next 3 kilometers but there is only one water stream that I passed along the way.
This last portion of the Lantau Trail was flatter as compared to the first section of the trail. Although the next trail camp from the start of the reverse route is longer in distance than the original route ( from the trailhead), most of the sections of the trail are covered with vegetation and trees and due to its flatter elevation profile, I could jog or run on these sections. There is also a portion where the road is paved due to the fact that the route runs alongside a concrete drainage canal where the water comes from a dam with gates that control the flow of water to the drainage canal. There are also Barbecue Grill Camps where there are concrete tables and benches, and comfort rooms. The cemented flat road beside the drainage canal has a distance of at least 9 kilometers.
I would rest, hydrate and take in some of my power bars and SkyFlakes biscuits in these Barbecue Camps. When I was out of water, I just refilled my bottles from the flowing water of streams coming from the side of the mountain.
I think I was able to hike and jog for a distance of 12 kilometers. It is worthy to note that the first village that I reached along this route was at Pui O. This village is along the coast line where I could see modern houses and apartments where I could see white people living in them and most of the private cars parked are made in Europe, At one time, I was able to meet a group of young students being led by their teacher with camping gears and food. I would also see men who are with their swimming trunks and goggles coming out of the seashore. I have the conclusion that this place is a swimming area and a camping area.
About 50 meters before reaching the National Road/Tun Chung Road, I saw a convenience store with a bench and a wide umbrella and I decided to stop and bought some water and bottles of Pocari Sweat. Because of the heat, I was able to drink half gallon of water and two bottles of Pocari Sweat. I think I took about 15-20 minutes sitting in front of this store.
As I reached the National Road, a yellow painted markings in wood points me to turn left along the National Road. After about 70 meters, I could see already another yellow directional sign at the other side of the road. I followed the sign and I was back again to the trail with softer footing because I transitioned again to wet ground. After a few Lantau Trail Posts, I reached a Cemented Biking Path which is near Barbecue Grill Camps. i tried to jog and power hike on this cemented portion of the trail which is beside a concrete drainage canal.
After drinking and eating my food, I decided to rest in one of the benches and I really don’t know how many minutes I have dozed off when finally Thomas arrived at the Barbecue Camp. He told me that the next Bus Station is located a few meters ahead and to our surprise, it was the same Bus Stop that we got our Bus ride back to Moi Wo the day before.
After few minutes of waiting at the Bus Stop, we finally had our ride and we decided to change our clothes at the Public Comfort Room and then proceed to the Pier to catch our Ferry ride back to Central. We found out later that we were not able to catch our trip and we decided to have our light snacks and Coke drinks at the MacDonald’s while waiting for our scheduled Ferry ride.
We were back in our hostel at 4:00 PM, earlier than we had yesterday, and we did not know that there was a protest which was about to start at 5:00 PM a few kilometers from our place. We took our shower and changed immediately to our casual wear as we have a scheduled meeting with a Pinoy resident in Hongkong who is also an endurance athlete and who promised me to bring me to where I could buy the cheapest Seiko Watches in Hongkong.
My meeting with this Pinoy resident in Hongkong deserves another story in this blog.
When everybody was still sleeping on the early morning of the First Day of the Year 2015, a “low-key” ultra marathon race event was about to start in Hongkong. The ultra event is called the “Hongkong Four (4) Trail Ultra Challenge” (HK4TUC) which had been founded and organized by Andre Blumberg, a German executive based in Hongkong who is a “par excellence” ultra trail runner who lately had finished the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning in the USA and the Lake Tahoe 200-Mile Endurance Run, the first 200-mile trail run done in the United States.
Andre Blumberg, five years ago, had to run the four famous Trail routes in Hongkong for four days, running each trail course each day. The following are the trails: MacLehose Trail with a distance of 100 Kilometers; Hongkong Trail with a distance of 50 Kilometers; Wilson Trail with a distance of 78 Kilometers; and the Lantau Trail with a distance of 70 Kilometers. The total course distance is 298 Kilometers. The total elevation gain is 14,500 meters!
Andre’s feat in running these trails gave him the idea for the other ultra runners to experience the challenge, thus, the birth of the HK4TUC. To make the event more challenging and exciting, he imposed a cut-off time of 60 hours and runners have to run through the trail courses on a reverse direction. If the books or publications about the Hongkong Trails are presented on chronological Stages, from 1-10 or from Start to Finish, as the case maybe, the race event starts from the FINISH area and ends at the START area or from Stage 10 to Stage 1. The clock does not stop when the runners had to be transported from one trail course to another, by land or by the sea ferry.
The event’s rules and regulations are very simple. There is NO Registration Fee, No Medals, No Finisher’s Shirt, No Aid Stations, No UTMB Points, No Competition or Rankings, and No Checkpoints. However, runners can take advantage of the convenience eateries/stores and vending machines along the route for their food and drinks. This is simply a “self-support” event. Bragging Rights is the only Prize for Finishing this Event.
After four years of its existence and with an average of 4-5 participants each year, there are only four (4) finishers in this event since January 2011.
Jag Lanante is the FIRST Filipino to make an attempt on this most dreaded ultra running event and he is one of the four ultra runners who were brave enough to toe the line at the Starting Area in MacLehose Trail. I happen to know him by his name only through Facebook and had never seen him in person. But I have so much respect in him as I found out about his running accomplishments which I gathered from his Facebook Wall from the time we became as FB “friends” since the middle part of last year.
I was sick with Flu (cough and colds) and I was bed-ridden for the duration of this event from Start to Finish but I would be able to glance and peep through my Laptop if my Internet connection is strong from time to time, most specially during midnight and early morning. It was through the HK4TUC Facebook Page that I was able to monitor the progress of the event. Four ultra runners——Two Lady runners from Singapore (Jeri Chua, the favorite one to finish due his previous finishes in the Tor Des Geants and UTMB and Janelle Seet who would take numerous trips from Singapore to Hongkong to train and recon the trails for the past two years; One local runner from Hongkong (Paul Wong); and One Pinoy who is based in Bangkok, Thailand who happens to be Jag Lanante.
Jag was considered as the “underdog” and the “weakest” among the four runners as he comes from a “flat and plain” Bangkok elevation whose training consisted of 500-meter loop course in a Parking Area in a Private Hospital in Bangkok where he works as a Nurse and he does his running in between his 9-hour work shifts, most of his running workouts are done in the early morning. He would also sneak in and secretly pass through their Security Guards if he needs to use the building’s emergency stairs for his “stair climbing and hill repeats” just to put in some elevation gains in his routine. On his “off days” and weekends, he would go to a nearby Public Park which has a 2.5K loop (flat again!) and do his runs in loops where he would only take note of the number of hours he would run, however, his longest running time would be at least 6 hours. Worst information about him is that this trip for the event is Jag’s FIRST trip to Hongkong! He is not accustomed to the cold weather environment of Hongkong and the hilly terrain of the course. He was equipped with his Salomon Hydration Backpack where he stored his food (all bread), water and extra clothing/jacket; a $7.50 worth of Casio Watch which he was using for the past 8 years; and a borrowed HOKA One One Tarmac Shoes! Initially, Jag did not have with him a trekking pole! He would later borrow the trekking pole from one of the runners who DNF’d midway at the MacLehose Trail (1st trail course of the event). Right from the start of the course, he was already a complete picture/description of a “failure” of an ultra runner who would attempt to finish this dreadful and brutal event, a simple example of a DNF runner!
And for this reason, my attention would be focused on the progress of Jag Lanante as to where he was during the event. I would make a bet to my “inner self” that Jag would “throw the towel” once he finished the Wilson Trail course (2nd Trail). So, I decided to close my laptop, took my meal, ingest my medications, and went back to bed. I said to myself, “there will be No Finisher” in this year’s event.
I guess, I have to eat my words and committed a mistake of an early misjudgment on the capabilities of Jag!
I found out that while I was sleeping on the first day of the year (due to the effect of my medications), the four runners started the event with a perfect Hongkong weather, blue skies and the sun shining hot providing a perfect running weather for the participants. Jeri Chua from Singapore took an early lead from the other three runners and she was ahead of the expected time of arrival in every stage of the MacLehose Trail (in reverse, of course!) but surprisingly had to deal with her recurring knee injury which became very painful on her part and could hardly maintain her targeted pace. She declared herself as DNF after running and hiking on the course for about 14 hours. She was not able to complete the 100K MacLehose Trail course. Jag Lanante and Paul Wong finished the MacLehose Trail together with a time of 21:30+ hours. The last runner, Janelle Seet finished the 1st trail leg in less than 27 hours but she was already complaining of blisters which made her to register a slow finish time to complete the first trail course.
Jag and Paul were together in their land transport (Taxi Ride) to the next staging area for the 2nd trail course which is the Wilson Trail, a distance of 78 kilometers. They were able to take a nap while being transported to the starting area of Wilson Trail and that was equivalent to a 45-minute power nap! After being served with Hot Soup and some foods at Nam Chung, Jag and Paul started together for the 2nd trail leg, Wilson Trail. However, being a local runner of Hongkong and thorough knowledge of the trails, Paul Wong started to run faster than Jag Lanante that resulted him to pull away for the lead starting at Pat Sin Leng and finally finishing the Wilson Trail in less than 50 hours. He was already on the third day and barely 10 hours more to go before the cut-off time.
What happened to Jag Lanante after Paul Wong left him on the early start along the Wilson Trail? Jag would tell me that he got at least, two “lost moments” at the Wilson Trail——the first lost moment was when he was left alone by Paul when it was so cold and was sleepy to be more focused on looking for the trail markers. He missed the trail marker in going to the 8 Immortals of Hongkong as he was “sleep walking” for 2 hours going down along the trail only to realize that he could no longer see any trail marker. He would go back up again to finally locate the trail marker; the second lost moment was when he reached Taipo (village) as he could not determine from the map provided by Andre as to where the Wilson Trail would re-start again after hitting the village. Jag’s problem was exacerbated when he impulsively asked a Chinese lady who can speak and understand a little English as to where the Wilson Trailhead is located. Jag was instructed by the Chinese lady to go to the end of a river but Jag was frustrated to find out that the lady gave him a false/wrong instructions. Jag started to panic as he went going around the village trying to find out where the Wilson Trail Marker is located. He tried to compose himself, prayed, and relaxed at the same point/location where he entered Taipo. He decided to wait for the arrival of the last runner, Janelle Seet, knowing that the lady has a lot of friends cheering her along the route who are familiar with the route. Finally, Jag joined Janelle for the final push to finish the Wilson Trail leg. Jag’s total “lost moments” time would add up to almost 7 hours! Jag and Janelle finished the Wilson Trail in 54 hours or 2:00 PM actual time on the third day!
The transition or travel time from the “finish line” of Wilson Trail to the “start of the Hongkong Trail (3rd leg) is very brief/short as both locations are very near to each other. Paul Wong was already ahead despite of the 10-hour remaining time before cut-off time and Jag and Janelle were barely on a 6-hour time before the cut-off time. All the remaining three runners decided to still push through with the event but it was already a “Survivor Challenge” as to who would last to finish the event and be able to kiss the green Mail Post in Mui Wo, Lantau Island.
Obviously, Paul Wong was the first runner to start the Hongkong Trail and he was leading for some hours. Jag Lanante and Janelle Seet started later for the 3rd leg of the event. From the very start of the Hongkong Trail, Janelle had to beg off and allowed Jag Lanante to get ahead of her. Jag regained some energy despite numerous and countless “low moments” after finishing 178 kilometers with a very small amount of time to rest and sleep. He was determined to finish the event but he has to reach Victoria Peak and be able to catch up the earliest ferry ride to Lantau Island for the last 70K of the event.
It was only when he was on the last 6 kilometers of the HK Trail course that he knew that he was already the leading runner among the three “survivors”. He was met by Vic So (2014 HK4TUC Finisher/“Survivor”) along the course to cheer him and informed him that he was able to pass Paul Wong at Km #25 when he went inside a market to eat. Jag finished the HK Trail at Victoria Peak before midnight on the third day and he was able to catch the ferry ride scheduled to leave HK for Lantau at 12:30 AM/Midnight on the 4th day. Paul Wong arrived at the Victoria Peak at 1:00 AM of January 4 while Janelle Seet finished the HK Trail later in the evening. Unknowingly from Jag, the two runners finally decided to “throw the towel” and cease from taking the ferry ride to Lantau. The reason? Extreme exhaustion and sleep-deprived conditions!
Jag Lanante was able to know that Paul Wong and Janelle Seet finally decided not to push through with the Lantau 70K leg from Andre Blumberg who escorted him to Lantua Island. The information was sent through Andre’s cellphone. Jag had already spent 65 hours since the start of the event and he was on the starting line for the Lantau 70K leg!
I was thinking that Jag was able to sleep during those transition/transfer trips from one leg to another but I was wrong! He told me that he was able to sleep for three times only——first was at the end of Km #33 along the Wilson Trail when he slept while waiting for his order in a Noodle Shop/Eatery; the second one was during the 30-minute ferry ride from HK to Lantau Island; and the third one was a 5-minute nap he requested from Andre while he was experiencing some leg cramps at the Lantau Trail.
Knowing that he was the ONLY runner left in the event and way, way beyond the cut-off time of 60 hours, he asked Andre if he is still be a part of the event and considered as a Finisher in the history of the event. Andre would reply him that this event is not a race and therefore, there are no DNFs, however, if he decides to survive and finish this event, he will get the much-needed support from him no matter how many hours would it take him to reach and “kiss” the green Mailing Post at Mui Wo. Paper, the wife of Andre who is a Thai, informed Jag that the his co-workers in Bangkok are rooting for him to finish the event as he unknowingly seen the cheers and words of encouragement posted by his friends in Thailand through the HK4TUC Facebook Page.
These words of encouragement from Andre and Paper drove and fully motivated Jag to finish the event. Lantau 70K Trail Course is a hard one with 3,300 meters of vertical gain, Jag has to be focused and be able to endure the pain, exhaustion, hallucinations, sleep deprivation, blisters, distractions and there is no room for him to get lost along the course. He has to finish this event.
But there is a more pressing situation and uncompromising reason for him to finish the event! He and his wife have to catch a flight back to Bangkok and he has only 19 hours before his plane leaves at 8:00 PM on the evening of January 4! He thought, at all cost he has to be in that plane with his wife no matter what happens!
With pure grit and determination despite some doubts for him to finish the last 70 kilometers of the event, Jag was able to finally kiss the green Mail Post in Mui Wo with Andre waiting for him with a Champagne Victory Spray of Moet Rose that served as an informal “body shower” to mask the smell of dirt and perspiration from Jag’s body before proceeding to the Airport. Jag finished the Lantau 70K Leg in 16:30 hours which was in actual time at 5:30 PM of January 4, 2015, 4th day of the event, finishing and surviving the whole event with an official time of 81:30 hours.
After a quick informal conversation/congratulatory greetings and picture-taking among the runners and the RD’s team friends and volunteers, a taxi was waiting for Jag and his wife to bring them to the Airport in order to catch their flight back to Bangkok scheduled to leave at 8:00 PM that evening. I am sure that the 3-4 hours flight time from HK to Bangkok was the best sleep that Jag experienced in his lifetime!
After making sure that Jag had fully recovered from his “brutal but inspirational” finish at the 2015 edition of the Hongkong Four Trail Ultra Challenge, I sent him a Personal Message on Facebook to congratulate him for being the “FIRST Pinoy Ultra Runner to Finish” the said event. This Facebook conversation led me to ask some questions about him and his experience during the event. Thus, this story is posted as an inspiration to all the readers of this blog, most specially to our Pinoy Ultra Runners.
To answer the mystery on the toughness, pure grit and determination of Jag to finish the event as I am not convinced that his one year training on a “flat, plain and boring” loops in his Hospital’s Parking Area and Bangkok’s Public Park prepared him for the event. There could be more information about this humble and ever-smiling runner as to why he has a “strong heart and a positive mental attitude” to finish this most feared ultra running event among the locals of Hongkong and other ultra runners in nearby Southeast Asia, despite the fact that the event is free; a chance to tour the nice scenery of Hongkong on foot; and a good reason to shed off those accumulated calories brought about by the Holiday Season.
My fellow ultra runners would be able to read “between the lines”, so to speak, as I mention the following facts about Jag and his “running career” and background:
1. Jag is 29 years old, a native of Davao City and had been an OFW as a Nurse in Bangkok, Thailand for so many years. He started to train and run for the past 4 years. He is married to Kathleen Faith who works also in the same hospital with Jag. They don’t have any kids.
2. He finished his primary and secondary schoolings in Davao City but decided to finish his BS in Nursing at Mountain View College in Bukidnon after his parents would not allow him to be admitted to the Philippine Military Academy (PMA).
His best finish time for a Marathon Race is 3:10+ hours which was held on his Birthday, four months after his Boss introduced him to running.
3. His first ultra was the 2013 TNF 100 but four months later, he finished as #10 in a 50K trail run event, both were held in Thailand. And since then, he tried his best to run everyday and prepare for the HK4TUC.
Lastly, I would ask him what would be his next ultra race. He replied to earn his FIRST 100-Mile Buckle in one of the ultra races in the Philippines if his work schedule’s leave would match the scheduled date of his choice of event. But he gave me a 100% assurance that he will be back for a repeat with a better performance at the 2016 edition of the HK4TUC.
I replied back to him immediately, “It will be a honor running with you on the First Day of 2016 HK4UTC on the early miles of Stage 10 of the MacLehose Trail!” His silent answer is depicted on the picture below!
Congratulations Jag, the FIFTH Finisher in the history of the Hongkong Four Trails Ultra Challenge!!! My snappy salute to you and from the rest of the Pinoy Ultra Runners here in the Philippines and abroad!