Most of the stories I have posted in this blog for this year were blog or journal on the daily adventure of Thomas Combisen during the 2020 Hongkong Four Trails Ultra Challenge which was held during the Chinese New Year last January.
The conversation between Thomas and Andre Blumberg in this video validates and proves that Thomas will be going back for the iconic 10th Anniversary Edition next year of this event. Hopefully, we will be back to normal to travel to other countries in the next months. As of now, Thomas is back in his training for this event and be able to finish it in sub-60 hours.
At this moment, I am compiling all the posts and stories of Thomas Combisen from the time he joined my Running Events and his exposure to International Events under the International Association of Ultrarunners (IAU) and Trail Ultra Races sanctioned by ITRA. I hope I can come up and publish an Ebook about his adventures in Running.
Journal Of “Team Thomas” @ 2020 HK4TUC (Third & Last Day)
There is a big difference between Thomas performance last year and this year’s HK4TUC. Last year, Thomas started the Hongkong Trail at about 9:30 AM on the third day of the event. This year, Thomas started Hongkong Trail at 9:05 PM on the second day, a big 12-hour difference earlier than last year.
After Thomas left Shek O Road, we went back to the place we are staying to monitor his movement through the Racemap App. After one hour, Thomas called us to confirm if he was following the correct track along the Hongkong Trail and we confirmed that he is in the right track. As compared from last year, Thomas did not have any problems in locating or seeing the Trail Markers because it was daylight. Compounded with the colder temperature and darkness along the trail, Thomas took time to confirm the location of the said Markers. After midnight, we went to bed as we were confident that Thomas will finish the Hongkong Trail and be able to catch up the 7:00 AM Ferry ride to Lantau Island the following day.
We expected Thomas to be approaching the end of Hongkong Trail at 5:00 AM and set our alarm clock at 4:00 AM. Before leaving our place at 5:00 AM, we called Thomas to confirm his position and we found out that he had “acid reflux” and he had to rest and take some sleep for his stomach to settle. He slowed down due his stomach condition and the cold temperature during the night and early morning. We estimated that he could not make it on the 5:00 AM Ferry trip and adjusted our schedule to leave our place. We expected that an early arrival at Victoria Peak/Finish Line of the Hongkong Trail will expose us to the cold wind in the early morning. We estimated that Thomas could not make it in the 5:00 AM Ferry trip and delayed our ride towards the Finish Line of the Hongkong Trail.
We finally left our place at 8:00 AM to the Victoria Peak. The wind was cold when we arrived at the said place and they were few people around as the business establishments were still closed. We entered a small enclosed space at an entrance in one of the buildings in the area to prevents us from the cold winds. I decided to jog and walk along the Hongkong Trail to meet Thomas along the way. After running for 1.6 kilometers, I saw Thomas walking. I called him, took a picture and turned around, jogged ahead of Thomas of about 20-meter distance towards the Finish Line. I immediately called my companion to warn them that Thomas has only 1.5 kilometers to the Finish Line. In a few minutes, Thomas crossed the Finish Line at the end of the Hongkong Trail at 8:42 AM, almost 48 hours after the Start of the Event. We immediately boarded Thomas to our waiting Taxi for our short trip to the Central Pier to catch our 9:00 AM Ferry trip to Lantau Island. During our 13-minute ride in the Taxi, Thomas was able to eat the Rice Porridge with Chicken we prepared and drink some Hot Ginger Tea.
After a lot of Red Light Stops along the way, we were able to board the Ferry at 8:55 AM, barely 5 minutes before the departure time. Once we settled and locate some seats for a space to let Thomas sleep and lie on his back, the Ferry Boat left the Pier. Thomas went immediately to sleep even with the loud noise of the boat’s engine and the loud conversation of a group of Filipino Ladies seated near us.
After 50 minutes of Ferry Boat ride, we arrived at the Lantau Island’s Silvermine Beach Ferry Pier in Moi Wu. We established our “pit stop” under a tree near the McDonalds and immediately prepared to resupply him and change his attire. He again ate a Hamburger from McDonalds and drink a hot coffee before leaving the place.
Thomas was able to recover immediately from his brief sleep during the Ferry Boat ride and the food/drink he ingested during his “pit stop”. Some of the local runners and volunteers approached Thomas offering him a Hot Bath and some Massage at the Lantau Base CampStore but he declined such offers as he was decided to leave the place immediately. Photo Guava of Hongkong, one of the Official Photographers of the Event, took a lot of pictures of Thomas en route to the Start of the Lantau Trail. He even asked me to take a picture of Thomas and him during the short hike to the Trail. At 10:25 AM Monday, January 27, 2020, Thomas started his run at the Lantau Trail Marker #139.
Thomas finished the Hongkong Trail in 11:36 hours which is too slow as compared to his Finish Time last year of 8:30 hours which was considered as the 2nd fastest time to finish the said leg. If not for the “acid reflux”, darkness along the route, and the extreme cold temperature during the night, Thomas could have finished a faster time or equaled his time last year.
During the day, more runners were declared as “Retired” or in simple runner’s term as “DNF” (Did Not Finish). After a total of 15 runners who were “retired” on the 1st and 2nd day, another 5 runners “retired” on the third day. At present, a total of 20 runners were declared as “Retired” in the afternoon of the Third Day and only 13 runners remain along the Lantau Trail with the hope that some of them will be declared as “Finishers” and the others as “Survivors”.
As we left our place to ride the Ferry Boat to Lantau, 7 runners have already finished as “Finishers”, with a time of sub-60 hours. It is just a waiting game on what time will Thomas reach and kiss the Mui Wo Mail Post and be declared as “Survivor”.
We met Jurg, our original member of Team Thomas and husband of Irene from the Philippines whose family resides in Hongkong, at the Central Pier and joined us for the final push, support and cheer to Thomas. We arrived at Mui Wo’s Silvermine Beach Ferry Pier in Lantau at 11:00 PM with the expectation that Thomas would arrive at 1:00 AM on the fourth day, Tuesday, January 28, 2020. We initially stayed at the Pier and within the vicinity of the Mui Wo Green Mail Post due to the cold winds. We finally settled at China Bear Resto/Pub near the Pier where we comfortably waited as the place was heated. After the establishment closed at 1:00 AM, we transferred to the 7-11 Store where we were accommodated by the Cashier who is a Senior Citizen. We bought food and drinks while waiting for Thomas. Wealso stayed at the Base Camp Sports Store to monitor the progress through the Racemap Application of Thomas’ movement towards the Finish Line.
Our waiting time was too fast that in a few hours, Thomas was already on his last 2.5 kilometers to the Finish Line. Finally at 5:50 AM on the 4th day, January 28, 2020, Tuesday, Thomas kissed the Mui Wo Mail Post at 68:50 hours and he was declared as the “3rd Survivor” for this year’s edition of the HK4TUC. Andre Blumberg, the RD/RO of the event, congratulated Thomas and he was impressed on the transformation on the performance of Thomas as compared last year. After the traditional Champagne shower on Thomas, and as a parting statement, Andre Blumberg announced his personal invitation for Thomas to join the 10th Edition of the HK4TUC next year which Thomas immediately accepted.
Training for Thomas for the 2021 HK4TUC will start next week!
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.
Trip To Hongkong (2nd Trip For 2019) August 12-15, 2019
This is my second trip to Hongkong for this year (2019). I was in Hongkong during this year’s Chinese New Year to support the participation of Thomas Combisen in the Hongkong 4 Trails Ultra Challenge on the second week of February. Unfortunately, Thomas was not able to make the cut-off time for him to reach the last leg of the Lantau Trail during the race. I promised to Thomas to bring him back to Hongkong purposely to run the Lantau Trail which has a distance of 70 kilometers.
Weeks prior to our trip this month, news had been around about the Protests and Demonstrations that had been occuring in the different parts of Hongkong. Sine we have purchased and made our reservations for our accommodation weeks ahead, we decided to take the risk and continue with our scheduled plan for this trip.
It was supposed to be a trip for four trail runners, including myself, but two of our companions were not able to make it due to personal circumstances. The overall plan for the trip was to recon the Lantau Trail starting from Original Trailhead and from the End of the Trail going on a reverse route. We planned to do this in one day and the rest of the days will be devoted to food trip, shopping, and side trip to Macau.
We left Manila at 5:50 AM of Monday, August 12 and arrived in Hongkong at 8:00 AM. After loading some money into our Octopus Cards, we took the regular bus to Mongkok, where our regular hostel is located. We had been a regular client/customer in the said hostel since I have started joining trail running events in Hongkong. Although I have stayed in more expensive hotels in Tsim Tsai Tsui, Kennedy Town, and Jordan, I always prefer to stay in Mongkok for the authentic Chinese cuisine which are very cheap and lots of shopping in the nearby streets and Nathan Road.
Another interesting reason for this trip to Hongkong is for my new hobby of Seiko Watch Limited Edition Collection! Before this trip, I have been asking some of my FB friends who are residing in Hongkong as to where to buy these Seiko Watches and they gave me some tips. Earlier this year, I was fond of the Onitsuka Tiger sneakers and I had to look and buy a particular model in Causeway Bay. I am done already with the OT sneakers and now I am crazy with Seiko Limited Edition Watches!
On Tuesday morning, Thomas and I took the MRT from Mongkok to Central and then walked to the Ferry Terminal Port #6 for our trip to Lantau. After one hour and half, we were at Mui Wo and walked along the Tun Chung Road going to the Trailhead of the Lantau Trail and it was already 9:30 AM. The distance from the Mui Wo Bus Terminal to the Trailhead is about 2 kilometers which is an uphill road. As we reached the trailhead, we were already sweating because of the hot/warm weather in the area. Thomas and I made an agreement for him to proceed and run the trail as fast as he can while I would hike and jog to the next trail camp and try to follow him. If in case he would determine if his target mileage for the day is done, he can just backtrack along the trail and try to find me. From there we could take the bus in going either to Tun Chung or back to Moi Wo Bus Terminal.
So, that was what we had done. From the trailhead, it was an uphill climb to Sunset Peak and then descend to the next trail camp/rest area and then cross the National Road in going to Lantau Peak. It was a very hard hike for me because of the heat and lack of training. I had to rest for three times before reaching the Sunset Peak and stopped every flowing stream to douse some cold water to my head and body. There is also a water reservoir where there was a faucet on its side that gave me lots of water to fill up my bottles and rehydrate myself. A white guy in trail shorts and shirt passed me on the first 2 kilometers of my ascent; I met two white guys and a lady going down from Sunset Peak; three white guys with big backpacks on my descent from Sunset Peak which I found later that they are from California, USA for some Para-Sailing activity in the area; and two local young guys who were taking selfies on my way down near the trail camp/rest area.
I attempted to start hiking the first kilometers towards Lantau Peak but I could no longer endure the heat of the sun and I was already exhausted due to lack of training. I went back to the waiting shed at the trail camp and wait for Thomas to arrive.
I really don’t know how many minutes I was able to doze off when Thomas arrived. Thomas was also complaining of the heat and humidity but he was happy to recon the place. He was longing for an ice cold Coke that we decided to walk towards the next village along the National Road. But to our surprise, the village was still too far that we decided to stop our hike in a Bus Stop and waited for our Bus Ride to Mui Wo.
In a few minutes, we took our Bus ride and immediately changed to dry clothes at the last row of seats inside the said bus. We went directly to the McDonalds at Mui Wofor our first meal of the day with a Large Ice Cold Coke and Double Cheeseburger!
After our McDo meal, we waited for our ferry ride back to Central. This time, the Ferry was an Air- Conditioned with higher fare BUT with NO Wi-Fi as compared with the slower one, cheap with Wi-Fi which we rode on our way to Lantau.
It was good to be back to Lantau Island to run and hike after finishing the Translantau 100K for two times in the past. Well, I was then a younger and a stronger trail runner then!
Here is a Repost of an article from Ultra 168 of Australia about the 2019 Hongkong Four Trails Ultra Challenge.
RACE PREVIEW: 2019 HONGKONG FOUR TRAILS ULTRA CHALLENGE (HK4TUC)
The 298km trail ultramarathon with 14,500m elevation gain consists of running all of the four long distance trails in Hong Kong. Namely the Maclehose trail (100km), the Wilson trail (78km), the Hong Kong trail (50km) and the Lantau trail (70km) in a single, non-stop effort.
HK4TUC has become widely recognised internationally through the documentary Breaking 60, which features four participants from the 2017 challenge.
This year 29 athletes from 13 nationalities aged 20 to 52 will race. “The field is diverse with only 7 participants from Hong Kong running. The others joining from countries as far away as the United Kingdom, New Zealand and the United States. We are particular proud to welcome 11 female participants to take on the tough Challenge this year,” said Andre Blumberg, Founder of HK4TUC.
Runners must be self-sufficient along each of the four trails. They are run in reverse of the normal direction with no course markings. There are no aid stations and no outside support such as pacers, crew or stashing of supplies permitted on the trails. Participants will only have support between the four trails, but the clock continues non-stop towards the 60 hours finisher cut-off. Furthermore, trekking poles are banned this year in an effort to bring the event back to basics.
Participants who complete the course within 60 hours are declared finishers. Those who complete within 75 hours (the final cut-off time) are declared survivors. Additional cut-off times are 18 hours to complete the first Maclehose 100km trail and 56 hours to commence the final Lantau 70km trail. There have only been six finishers in the history of the Challenge, with three women completing the distance too.
Eleven former participants are returning this year including two 2018 survivors, Meredith Quinlan from Australia and Abimanyu Shunmugam from Singapore. Both are gunning for a sub-60 hours finish this year.
Other notable entrants include:
Habiba Benahmed (France, based in Hong Kong): Habiba dropped early in the 2018 edition. She has revamped her training for the better and finished Top 5 in all four of her races last year.
Sarah Pemberton (HK, based in Indonesia): Another early drop in 2018, Sarah grew up in Hong Kong. She has ramped training significantly, with a lot of time spent on the course. She won the TTF Hong Kong 115km in early 2019.
Nikki Han (UK, based in Hong Kong): Nikki had a confirmed slot back in 2015. She had to pull out however before the start due to injury. Nikki has spent ample time on the course, and had a couple strong local race performances, plus a sub-36 hours 2018 UTMB.
Xiao Jing 肖静 (China): More recently Jing focused on road and timed ultras. However, she Tor des Geants, plus multiple Hong Kong trail ultras under her belt. She mostly finishes in the Top 10.
Yang Fei Fei 杨非非 (China): Fei Fei mostly races in China and Hong Kong and finished Top 6 in all of her 2018 races ranging from 50km to 100km. She’s got the speed, but it will be interesting to see how she holds up over the extended, sleep-depriving distance.
Kristian Joergensen (Denmark, based in Philippines): Kristian ran in 2018 and lead for pretty much all of the first day. He then dropped out overnight on Wilson trail. Since then, he significantly stepped up his training. He recently spent several days rehearsing the course for tackling the 2019 edition. Kristian won the Pulag 100km, Clark Miyamit 50mile and came 2nd place in Rizal Mountain 50km and TMBT 100km last year.
Ian Seabury (Unites States): Ian is based in Los Angeles, California. He has raced and placed well at many of the iconic US 100 miles trail ultras over the years. This includes the Chimera 100, Zion 100, Angeles Crest 100, Pinhoti 100 and Born to Run 100. In 2017 he completed the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning in very respectable times including a sub-24 hours Western States 100 and sub-27 hours Wasatch 100. Interestingly, he raced the inaugural Hong Kong 100 back in 2011.
Thomas Combisen (Philippines): Thomas is one of the strongest ultra runners in the Philippines and regularly clocks around 1,500km in races alone each year. In recent years his focus is more on road and timed ultras. He has raced non-stop distances of 250km or above at least three times.
Steven Ong (Malaysia): Steven is one of the strongest ultra runners in Malaysia currently. He has has a solid background on both trail and road. Since October 2016 he placed on the podium in each of the 15 races he finished. Winning 11 of the 15. Notable wins include the 2017 Panoramic Ultra Trail 100 miles in Thailand, as well as the 2018 TITI 250km road ultra in Malaysia.
Tomokazu Ihara (Japan): Tomo-San has run ultras for at least ten years. His speciality is the 100+ miles distance of which he completed 47 and frequently finished within the Top 10. These include 6 x HURT 100 with a 4th place at the recent 2019 event and 3 x Angeles Crest 100.
From an Aussie perspective, watch out for Christian Warren. UK national, but living over in Australia with some excellent pedigree, which includes 6 x TNF100 / UTA, 3 x Buffalo Stampede 75km. He has also raced internationally, including the 2017 Lavaredo and 2018 Tarawera 100mile. Along with UTMB, as well as Hong Kong 100 and TNF100 Hong Kong.
Last year, I joined this race for the reason to visit Hongkong and at the same time, find out if my training on trail running was making some progress and improvement on my capability to run in ultra mountain trail races. For this year, I joined this race for the purpose of earning “points” for the UTMB with the hope of joining this race in 2017 or year after (if my knees are still intact and strong!). This is my Race Report last year.
I was satisfied with the result of my last year’s finish with a time of 28:50+ hours and I’ve earned 3 points for the UTMB registration. I’ve earned another 2 UTMB points in last year’s Clark-Miyamit 50-Mile Trail Run. So, I still need 4 points to complete 9 points within this year for me to be qualified to join the 2017 UTMB. On second thought, I am now qualified for the UTMF in Japan this year with the 3 points for UTMB I’ve earned in last year’s TransLantau 100 or maybe, join in next year’s CCC 100K which needs only 3 points to register.
The main goal for me in this year’s TransLantau 100 was to finish the race within the cut-off time of 32 hours, without any injury, and be able to earn another 3 UTMB points. Improving my finish time was considered as a “bonus”, knowing what to expect on the terrain, the stairs, location of Checkpoints/Aid Stations, and the weather (where I assumed that the weather last year was the same for this year’s edition). I did not have any jitters or nervousness on the last few days and hours before the event. I was totally relaxed and ready for the challenge.
But along the course before I finished the race, the prevailing weather for the day turned to be very dangerous to the runners (as per the Race Organizer’s view) and the following is my story about it.
The usual ritual that I’ve done last year before the race was done again for this year—the trip from Tsim Shai Tsui to Central’s Pier 6 to Mui Wo via the Boat/Ferry (faster one this time); eating McDonald’s Quarter Pounder Hamburger at the Mui Wo Ferry Port; meeting with other SouthEast Asian runners (from Malaysia); and finally waiting for the race to start with my Pinoy Ultrarunner-Friends—Tess Leono, Myk Dauz, and Mic-mic Flores.
We had more than two hours to spare waiting for the Race to start at the Public Park (with Comfort/Bath Rooms and Concrete Benches with Barbecue Grill Areas) and we just sat in one of the benches covered with a roof. All our bottles and hydration packs were ready and we adhered to the instructions that we had to bring the race’s mandatory gears.
On Mandatory Gears & Nutrition
I brought two jackets with me, a Water Repellant Down Jacket by Uniqlo and Water Repellant Columbia Jacket with a thin Heat Blanket on the inside portion. I was thinking of what to wear for the race as I’ve observed that the prevailing temperature for the race was colder than last year’s. Finally, I decided to wear the Down Jacket by Uniqlo which is very light and easy to stow in my hydration pack. But I decided to bring the Columbia Jacket with me just in case I need to change my jacket. Just in case of extreme weather condition, I still have my Salomon’s Heat Blanket stowed in one of the pockets of my Salomon Hydration Pack.
I brought also an extra handheld flashlight aside from the Petzl (Tikka XP) Headlight that I was already wearing before the start of the race. I have also extra batteries in my pack just in case my new batteries will be drained during the two nights thatI will be on the course. Last year, my headlight became very weak on my last 10K and I’ve learned a lesson from that experience.
One glaring and significant change in my running gear as compared to my last year’s participation is the use of trekking poles. I have trained for almost 3 weeks using the trekking poles and I was glad I made the right decision as I will explain later in my story.
On my nutrition, this is the first time that I have not used a single GU Energy Gel but just the same , I brought 4 pieces just in case of emergency or “bonking” as compared to last year’s 24 pieces of GU stashed in my shorts’ pockets and hydration pack. However, I brought, at least, 12 servings of CarboPro with me which kept me moving forward without a feeling of being hungry and weak.
There is NO Public Address System, an Emcee or the RD talking to the runners and giving last instructions prior to the start of the race and it had been like that last year. Once the Lion Dance and Beating of Drums are seen and heard, it is a signal that the Race is about to start. At this point, the four of us Pinoys entered the chute and comfortably waited at the back portion for the race to start. There were NO Gun Start and Cowbells and we just followed the runners in front of us to clear the Start/Finish Arc. The first 100 meters was running on the sand and finally went up from the beach to the paved area of the park until we reached the streets of Mui Wo.
Except for the brief stop due to traffic of runners entering the trailhead, running was done on a paved trail and almost in a flat terrain. I was at the back of my Pinoy friends (Myk, Tess, and Mic-Mic) at this point and I was running on a steady pace trying to observe when my body would start perspiring. I was thinking of removing my Down Jacket once I started to perspire but I was hard-headed not to stop and remove it. I decided not to remove it until I reached the halfway part of the course (Km 44).
I reached the 1st Checkpoint at Chi Ma Wan (Km 7) in 1:09:21 hours with a ranking of #608 out of about 1,000+ starters. I stopped to refill my Simple Hydration Bottle with a CarboPro in it and I was on the go again. Knowing that it was the start of the ascending portions of the route, I immediately removed the trekking poles that were tied on the back of my Salomon Hydration Park and it was time to apply what I’ve trained for using these trekking poles.
After 10 kilometers of relentless and non-stop ascents on rock-stairs using my trekking poles, I reached the 2nd Checkpoint at Pak Hung Au (Km 17) in 3:21:57 hours with an overall ranking of #577. The Aid Station is located beside a Highway and the building structure is a big circular shade/hut with all the foods and drinks in front of it. I refilled my Simple Hydration Bottle and grabbed some bite foods and I was eating and drinking while leaving the Aid Station. I took the opportunity to pass most of the runners who were still eating in the Aid Stations and it was the start to tackle the highest elevation of the course, the Mt Lantau Peak.
The Lantau Peak is the highest elevation in the island and the second highest peak in Hongkong with an elevation of 934 meters above sea level (masl) or (3,083+ feet). In last year’s race, Lantau Peak was Km #70 and this year was made as Km #20. The Race Organizer placed the hardest part of the course in last year’s event on the first half of the race and I felt good with it because my legs and knees were not yet spent and exhausted after reaching the Lantau Peak. The approach to the peak on this side of the route was more forgiving as there are less steeper stairs to step on.
I reached the Lantau Peak in 4:32+ hours and it was starting to be foggy and windy. I was not tempted to take a picture using my iPhone at the peak because I’ve promised myself to refrain from taking any “selfies” along the course and be able to improve my finish time. It was time to go down from the peak but if you think it was an easy one, you are wrong! This is where you can see the steepest rock stairs made in the whole of Hongkong that you have to be slow and deliberate in taking the next lower step. For the 2 kilometers of descending stairs, it took me 35 minutes! Finally, I reached the 3rd Checkpoint at Ngong Ping (Km 22) in 5:08:47 hours with an overall ranking of #522. As a result, I was able to gain a buffer time of 1 hour & 52 minutes (almost 2 hours) and I’ve passed 55 runners within the said section of the course! From Checkpoint #1 up to Checkpoint #3, I gained and improved in 86 positions/rankings! Not bad!!!
I did not stay long in Ngong Ping #1 Aid Station after I refilled my Simple Hydration Bottle and grabbed some bite foods and walked away while eating and drinking. From the Aid Station, it was a Road Running event for about 2 kilometres as we went down along the Highway before going back to the trails. This is where I passed the younger runners and somebody challenged me to a faster pace but I left him behind me as he stopped to walk.
At the Checkpoint #4 in Kau Ling Chung which is located along the Drainage Facility/Canal (a big one!), I did not notice the Marshal to have taken my time as I joined a group of runners reaching the said Aid Station. Anyway, I remember this place where I stayed longer in last year’s event as I was already exhausted and tired that I had to eat a lot here with the help of Filipina volunteers manning the Aid Station. As compared this year, I was still strong and fresh! I just grabbed some Nutella Sandwich and a fistful of raisins and walked away from the Aid Station eating my foods!
After one kilometre away from the Aid Station, it was time to go back to the trails and this part made some runners to pass and miss the said entry. The entry to trail from the Canal/Drainage Facility is a quick and sharp left turn where the ribbons on each side of the trail are tied and located. It was time again to go to the ascending trails towards the next peak which was the Keung Shan that has an elevation of 459 meters (1,515+ feet). This time there are less stairs to tackle before reaching the peak. However, from the peak, it was a mix of trail and rock stairs. At a vantage point, one can see the beautiful mountains and town of Tai O. I knew that I will be running along a pedestrian bridge (where a photographer was located last year) before reaching the town and the next Aid Station.
I reached the 5th Checkpoint at the Tai O School in 10:53:55 hours gaining 3 hours as buffer from the cut-off time of 14 hours at this point. I improved my ranking with only one spot (#521). At this Aid Station, I ate Hot Noodles mixed with Salami slices; drank Coke; refilled my bottles with Water and CarboPro; and then changed my wet Down Jacket with the Columbia Jacket with Heat Shield on the inside portion. I think I spent at least 15 minutes in this station. I knew I was faster in my “pit stop” than last year’s time because I left the place leaving those runners who was ahead of me in reaching this place.
As I left the School/Aid Station, I saw Myk, Mic-Mic and Tess approaching the Checkpoint and I assumed that I was 20-25 minutes ahead of them. I was eating some Crackers and Cliff Bloks when I entered the fishing community in Tai O. It was starting to drizzle and I immediately put on the hood of the Columbia Jacket on my head. In anticipation of the draining of my Suunto Watch battery/power, I asked one of the Chinese runners behind me to please get the black wire on the back pocket of my Salomon Hydration Pack and he gladly did it. After “kicking their asses” on the first 50K, I finally asked them to help me. And they did! From here, it was an alternate of jogging and hiking while watching the bridge construction in the middle of the sea which was going on since last year on the left side of the route.
I was surprised that there was the 6th Checkpoint/Aid Station (with water only!) along this part of the course which is a favorite Hiking Area for the locals at Sham Watt (Km 50) where I was timed at 12:13:11 hours and improved my standing to #502. I was thinking that in a short distance from here, it will be the entry to the single-track trail towards Ngong Ping where all the runners “bushwacked” towards the peak and Cable Car Station in last year’s edition. I was wrong as we were made to continue following the paved path all the way to the direction of Tun Chung!!!
After jogging and hiking for about 5 kilometres from the Sham Watt Checkpoint (6th Checkpoint), I noticed that the entry to the Ngo Ping Trail is still far basing it from the Elevation Profile Copy which I brought with me. At this point, I was feeling weak and need to ingest some solid foods before going up to Ngong Ping! I finally decided to drop in one of the stores and asked to buy a can of Coke and later found out that the store serves some sandwiches and hot noodles. The owner and at the same time cook promised me that he can prepare an Egg Sandwich in ONE Minute! And he did! I paid HK$ 14 for the sandwich and HK$ 8 for the Coke In Can. While eating, I noticed lots of taller and younger Chinese runners and European runners would pass in front of the store while I was eating. I was laughing inside my mind how in the hell I was able to run faster than these guys! By the way, I had some HK$ with me because it is part of the event’s mandatory “gear”.
Feeling stronger this time, I continued my run until I reached the intersection of the new race route towards Ngong Ping! Later, I found out that the trail going to the top of Ngong Ping is called “Ngong Ping 360 Emergency Rescue Trail” which is 5.6 kilometres long consisting of footpath, cemented stairs, and wooden stairs and boardwalks! It was not so hard in the beginning as I progressed my way along the stairs as the elevation was going higher and higher. And then I reached the “wooden stairs” going down to a flat portion until it ended quickly! The rock stairs had started again thinking that the wooden stairs/trail that I’ve passed was the only one along the route! I was wrong! There will be more wooden stairs and flat wooden planks along the way, piece by piece, segment by segment, to the point that I was already cursing since the wooden planks were wet due to the drizzle as you go up to the mountain. Aside from the fact that most of these wooden planks do not have hand rails on both sides where one could hold on, the planks are slippery!
One by one, even if it was very foggy, I could see that every peak that I reached was the location of each steel post/Tower of the Cable Car that crosses the island of Lantau. I think I slowed my pace in this section for the fear of sliding on the wooden planks plus the steepness of the route! Finally, I reached the 7th Checkpoint/Ngong Ping #2 with a time of 16:17:36 hours with a ranking of #521. I was passed by 19 runners along this segment of the course, 4 runners at the “wooden stairs/planks” and 15 runners while I was eating my Egg Sandwich! I knew it was a temporary set back on my ranking but I knew very well that I really needed solid foods to arrest my body from “bonking” and I could bounce back in the next segment of the course.
I did not stay long in Ngong Ping after quick hot noodle soup & Ice Cold Coke (I really needed more hot & solid foods & sugar rush after my silent curses before reaching this Aid Station). I knew that it was all downhill up to the Canal/Drainage Facility before going back again to Pak Hung Au and jogged most of the way. I followed a very fast runner and hiker and tried to keep in step with him until we reached the flat Canal Area Road. At the flat Canal/Drainage Road, I simply “power hiked” with a tall European runner in front of me using the grasses and unpaved area beside the road to step on in order to relax the feet from the pounding of the hard paved road. At the entry to Pak Hung Au from the Canal/Drainage Road (small paved bridge across the Canal/Drainage Facility), most of the runners in front and behind me took some rest by sitting on cemented barriers along the road. I went alone on the ascending stairs and on midway, I was already being trailed by the runners I left behind by a few steps.
It was already very dark when I reached the 8th Checkpoint Pak Hung Au with most of the runners behind me with a time of 20:02:54 with a ranking of #482, improving my standing by 39 slots! I did not stay long as I only refilled my Simple Hydration Bottle with my CarboPro mix. I left the rest of the runners and I was alone on my way to the Sunset Peak with an elevation of 854 meters (2,820+ feet). It was a very slow and steady climb as I knew this will be the last most challenging part of the before the Finish Line. At the midway of the climb, I became uneasy as I saw nobody coming behind me as I tried to look for light flashes from a distance coming from their headlights! As I got worried that I was the only one going to the peak, the gusty winds started to be stronger as I stepped from one rock stair to a higher one! Just to break my loneliness in the dark, foggy surroundings, and strong gusty winds, I would shout loudly by challenging from the One Above to make the winds stronger!!! And I think He heard my wishes, the winds became stronger! In a short time, I was passed by a couple (lady and a guy, I think they are Locals). I made them as my guide/target for my pace but I ceased from shouting anymore!
I observed that the couple would also be slowed by the strong winds that both of them would sit down in every turn of the rocky stairs and sometime crawl from one rock step stairs to another higher one. For me, instead of my trekking poles landing directly in front of me, both my arms and poles would be landing on the left side of the trail and it was a big effort on my part to maintain my line in front of me instead of going sideways from the trail due to the gusty winds. The trekking poles gave me a BIG help in preventing me from falling down and being swept away by the strong winds! To distract myself from this situation, I would glimpse at my Suunto Watch from time to time and monitor the progress of the elevation data reading on it. I started at 1,500 feet elevation and from there I would know how I progress in my climb as the number of feet gets higher and higher. When I was doing this drill, I could no longer see the couple and their lights even if they are just above me due to the thick fogs as we got higher in the mountain.
I was thinking that my Columbia Jacket’s Hood had been ripped and torn out from my head due to the gusty winds (which has the same intensity with that of Typhoon Lando which I’ve observed in Fort Magsaysay before I cancelled the 5th Fort Magsaysay To Dingalan 65K Run last October of last year). But I was wrong, the Jacket gave me protection from the winds, drizzle, and cold temperature as I trekked towards the peak of the mountain. As I glanced the 2,800 feet reading on my watch, I felt relieved that I would be on the other side of the mountain and being able to escape successfully from the gusty winds. But the winds were relentless even if I was going down the mountain coupled by the zero visibility due to fogs and intermittent drizzle.
On my way down to the 9th and last Checkpoint before the Finish Line at Pak Mong, I peed almost 3 times that some runners would overtake me but in the end I would pass them later because of the slippery trail due to muddy condition and slippery rocks. I was in the company of two other fast downhill runners (one Local and one European) on the last 3 kilometres before the Checkpoint that they finally vanished along the trail after keeping up with them for the 1st kilometer.
Finally, I reached the last Checkpoint in Pak Mong in 23:37:57 hours and I was ranked #482 and I still have 11.5 Kilometers to the Finish Line which I would confidently finish in 3.5 to 4 hours. However, Richard, Marshal of the Event (which I learned the following day that he is the Manager of the Event) was there to inform me that the Race had been stopped two hours earlier because of the prevailing weather conditions in the mountains. He said that all the remaining runners that had been stopped will be declared “Finishers” and we have to get our Finisher’s Medal at the Finish Area in Mui Wo the following day. I found out that I was one of the 35 runners who had passed the last Checkpoint at Pak Hung Au on the time that the Race was declared to be stopped. I can just imagine how many more runners had to be stopped upon their arrival at Pak Hung Au Checkpoint (Km 75). No amount of appealing and arguing to him that I have to reach the Finish Line on foot with my personal knowledge of the route could allow me to continue the race. So, I asked him for directions for the Bus Terminal in Tun Chung and he gave a detailed instruction which I followed. Once I left the Checkpoint, I came into a parked Van that was instructed to bring me to the Bus Terminal.
More runners would join me in the Van to be transported to the MTR & Bus Terminals in Tun Chung. While we were in the Van en route to our destination, a 50-ish age British guy sitting beside me asked if the windy and foggy situations in the mountains scared the hell out of me and I said, “How I wished the winds were stronger and the drizzle turned into rains like in my country’s typhoons. Actually, I was praying hard to make the winds and rains stronger while I was in the mountain!!!” And he said, “You are Hardcore, Man!” and we both laughed! The guy did not know whom he was talking to. But before we parted ways, we called each other, “Buddy”!
Going back to Lantau Island the following day to get our Finisher’s Medal which became a Day Tour, Eating & Shopping Events was another story.
After running, jogging and walking for sixty (60) kilometers and after covering a distance of 4-5 kilometers from Tai O Village, the trail route leads to a single-track trail which is surrounded by grasses, shrubs, rocks, and small trees. One has to veer right from the cemented path/road and start an uphill climb on this trail. This is about 2-kilometer uphill and very steep climb towards the Cable Tram that goes to the Big Buddha.
In order to appreciate the beauty of the landscape and the scenery that one can see as you go higher on the trail, I was able to discover these photos/pictures which were taken by Lai Lam Po of Hongkong and posted in the event’s website. These pictures will also serve as a reference for this who are planning to join in the next edition/s of the TransLantau 100 Trail Run.
These pictures were arranged in this post from the start of the Shek Pik Trail up to the trail leading to Ngong Ping.