Saturday, June 21, 2014


I signed up for the HK168 (Hong Kong) weeks before I actually signed up for CM50 (Philippines).  I thought I would target this as my 3rd key race of the year after Rouge-Orleans 126.2 Miles and Craze Ultra 100 Miles.  (Yes, another 100 Miles race to hopefully add on to my race credentials).  But when the idea of running the Clark-Miyamit Falls presented itself, I couldn't help but go back to the Philippines where I had many beautiful memories.  And so, I arrived in Hong Kong barely recovered - both mentally and physically.  It didn't helped when I could only took an evening flight and arrived in Hong Kong at around 7pm.  It was another 2 hours plus before I arrived at the motel.  Luckily, Babumouse had helped me collected my race pack and he was kind enough to accompany me for a late night dinner.  It was almost 11pm when I was ready to rest.

HK168 Race (Top); Carbo-loading Dinner (Bottom Left); Race Pack (Bottom Right)

I woke up at 5am and had my banana and milo for breakfast.  I changed, brought my drop bags and left the motel at about 5:45am to get to the pick up point by cab.  (Babumouse was running the Half 168 so he was still sleeping when I left).  I reached the pick up point at around 6:10am but there was no one around.  I waited. By 6:20am, there were groups of different people gathering and buses soon came and went.  I reckoned this should be the pick up point.  Then runners started to arrive.  I met 3 other runners from Singapore.  We chatted and waited for the bus, which came at around 7:00am.  It was approximately 45mins drive to the start.  We arrived and hiked a short distance from the drop-off point to the starting point.  There, the area was clearly marked out where you could drop your drop bags.  I deposited my stuff to lessen my load.  I met Karin, whom I got to know when we did the shortened Taroko Gorge Marathon (half instead of full) a month earlier.  Seeing someone familiar calmed me down a bit.  :)  At 9:00am, the organiser flagged us (those doing the full HK168) off.  (Note: Flag-off for Half HK168 was on the same day, 12:00pm).

 Runners' Pick-Up Point (Top Left); Starting Point (The Rest)

Start to CP1 (新娘潭) - 11.5km (Total: 11.5km); 2:59hrs (Total 2:59hrs)
I started the race wearing a long-sleeve over a short-sleeve.  But once I started running, my core temperature warmed up nicely.  The first few kms was on road / pavement.  But I knew that was only the beginning as the course details given by the website had indicated that this section has a difficulty of 3 stars (3 being the most difficult while 1 being the easiest.)  Just before we entered the trailhead, I removed my long sleeve and stowed inside my hydration bag.  We started to climb up the mountain.  It was tough as the steps were big.  But I liked it as I was strong going up and I started passing people.  Since it was a long race, there was no need to exert myself too hard in the beginning.  I just let my momentum brought me one step at a time.  Whenever I find a nice gap, I would pass the runner in front, and all the while, using my quads power as I didn't like using poles.  About half an hour into the race, I felt it!  My legs were shaky and though I didn't feel out-of-breadth, I felt faintish.  This was bad.  I still had a long way to go!

 Singapore Runner (Top Left); The 2 Runners Whom I Leap-Frog (Top Right); The Mountain Trails in Hong Kong (Bottom)

I slowed down and whipped out my camera.  I started taking photos of runners ascending the mountain.  Some were happy to see me, while others were panting and possibly cursing and swearing inside their heart why I was snapping their unglam photos.  I let everyone passed before I continued.  From then, I told myself to enjoy the scenery, have fun, try my best and cover as many check-points as possible.  Up and down the mountain, I leap-frog with 2 other runners till they passed me for good.  I met many other hikers coming from the other directions.  All of them were encouraging and amazed that I was in a competition (though I was hiking like them).  By then, I was "running" by myself and couldn't even see anyone in front or behind.  The mountain had lots of steps.  Running was only possible when you descent from the peak before another hike up where the terrain was flatter.  In some areas the trails were quite smooth although some parts nearer the exit to CP1 had big stones across dried streams.  As my watch ticked closer to the 12:00pm cut-off time of 3 hours, I finally emerged from the mountain, crossed the road and arrived CP1 at 11:59am!  Just 1 minute before cut-off!

Smooth Trail (Left); Stony Path (Top Right); CP1 (Bottom Right)

CP1 to CP2 (荔枝窝) - 10km (Total: 21.5km); 1:41hr (Total: 4:40hrs)
I asked the volunteers if I could stop.  They urged me to carry on.  I pushed on knowing that the difficulty to CP2 was easy (given a 1 star by the race organiser).  Just as I was about to continue running, I kicked something and flew forward!  "Thud!"  Luckily, no one was around to witness my attempted flying act.  The rest of the section was fairly easy - no huge steps, no big climbs.  Just some rolling hills.  All I did was to follow the trail markers.  Some parts of the trails were under canopy while others were under the open sky where you could see the nearby mountain ranges.  Unfortunately, there was a missing marker at a critical junction.  I turned left and continued up some easy steps.  After 20mins, I couldn't see any marker and decided to u-turn back to the junction where I last saw the marker.  Back at the junction while searching for the marker, a group of hikers noticed me and pointed out the direction that I should be heading towards.  They probably saw other runners further up.  I thanked them and followed their advice and soon enough I reached the CP2 aid station!

 The Trail From CP1 to CP2 Was Fairly Easy

 Views From The Mountain and Beach

CP2 to CP3 (鹿颈) - 10.5km (Total: 32km); 1:54hr (Total: 6:34hrs)
There was only water at CP2.  :(  I left as soon as I topped up my water supply.  The difficulty of this section was harder than the previous section (given a 2 starts).  However, I felt it was just slightly more difficult.  In fact, the segment after leaving CP 2 was on pavement at sea level before a slight ascent and descent.  The segment just before CP 3 was also on pavement at sea level.  I met some hikers in the middle segment of the trail.  And while I was able to stay much ahead during the ascent, I was no match to their speed of descent!  They literally flew down the mountain!  The views on this segment was not as spectacular but nevertheless, I still got to see the city's skyscrapers from across the island, and cows feeding on grasses next to the pavement!  This segment took me slightly longer (1hr 54mins covering 10.5km as compared to 1hr 41mins covering 10km in the previous segment).  I was pleased with my consistently in running as slow as I did.  :p

 Inside The Trails

 The Views @ Sea Level (Left); CP3 Aid Station & Volunteers (Right)

CP3 to CP4 (鹤藪营地) - 12.5km (Total: 44.5km); 2:49hrs (9:23hrs)
There were many food to eat at CP3!  Instant noodles, biscuits, bread with peanut butter or nutella, Coke, water and bananas!  I should have stopped to eat a proper meal as the next segment was given a 3 stars in difficulty level.  But as I wanted to keep my momentum going, I ate only some biscuits and a banana.  The other reason was because nightfall was coming and I only had with me a smaller headlamp.  I needed to get back to CP4 as fast as possible to retrieve my bigger headlamp from the dropbag for the night segment.  It was not a smart decision and I paid the price for not refueling properly.  This could be seen from the buffer time that I gained from CP1 to CP2 (50mins to cut-off), to from CP2 to CP3 (55mins to cut-off), and to CP3 to CP4 (35mins to cut-off).  Basically, I ran low on energy to push myself.  :(  Overall, although there were ascents and descents, the climbs were not as bad as from the start to CP1 where we encountered huge steps, there were still more ascent and descent.  By the time I came down from the mountain, it was dark.  There were some stray dogs barking but I wasn't afraid of them.  I nearly got lost at a junction as I couldn't see any illuminated marker.  I wondered around for a while before I saw the marker on the lamp post at a distant.  I continued and came to the road - the same road that we took after we alight from the bus to the starting point.  Just before I turned into the park, I saw a few headlamps leaving the park.  I decided to stop for good after reaching CP4, despite having 35mins to spare before cut-off.

 The Trails and The Trail Condition from CP3 to CP4!

 Views From The Top Of The Mountains - The Other Mountain Ranges and The City Skyscrapers!

The Clearly Marked Trail (Left); Arrival @ CP4!

After Thoughts
I learnt something after every race, especially races that I DNF.  I was not proud to DNF any race.  No one likes DNF.  Neither do I.  I also knew I should not schedule back-to-back tough races.  But I guess sometimes, everything happened for a reason.  CM50 was a quick fix to get away from everything after my dad passed away.  I was grieving and I knew I would be very miserable if I were to stay home.  Nothing beats when you could be out there running, especially in the trails.  Yes, I could have gone to MR to run.  But the motivation wasn't there if I was in Singapore.  It was very hard to get myself out of the home to run in MR.  It wasn't very hard to get myself to travel overseas, knowing that I had paid for my race, flight, accommodation and meeting old friends.  But because of running in CM50, I was not fully recovered to attempt another tough race like HK168.  Would I do it again?  Yes, I would do HK168 again but of course I wouldn't do any tough races 2-3 weeks prior.  Otherwise, the lesson I learnt in this DNF would have been wasted.

I am at peace with this DNF and I would come prepared for this year's race, especially I knew exactly what to expect for the first 4 check-points if the route stays the same.  :)

Additional Note
Race info was extremely detailed, with difficulty of every segment indicated with 1, 2 or 3 stars difficulty.  Even info like ascent / descent, accumulated ascent / accumulated descent were given on the info sheet.  The type of food available at the various aid stations were listed together with the time the aid stations open and close.  Overall, this was an extremely well organised race (at least from Start to CP4 where I DNF).  It would be perfect if the marker could be more prominently displayed at critical junctions and big junctions.  Definitely a race that is worth running.  For the 2014 edition, the cut-off time is extended from 36 hours to 38 hours.  A plus point for slower runner like myself.  :)

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