I have been eyeing this event since after fellow runner's experience on last year event. I went recce up Lantau Trail section 1-3 last year and got a feel of the environment and the climb and I am love it!
Finally I signed up not long after the registration open and there the tough preparation starts.
Another challenge was I have also signed up Standard Chartered Hong Kong marathon which was a month before this event.
It took me about 2.5 months to push up my training load with 1x Stairclimbing during weekend, a long road run on Sat morning and a long Bukit Timah Hill up and down on Sunday.
I flew in the day before and when for half day of shopping at Mongkok and Tsim Sha Tsui. I knew I have no time and energy to do so after the run. I came back to Mui Wo by 8pm, collected my race pack from the start point and went back my room to pack for tomorrow 9am start.
The Race Pack:
At about 10pm I went over to the startline to support my fellow friends who took part in the 100km race and also to soak up the atmosphere with the rest of the 50km friends.
The race tradition starts with the traditional Chinese Lion Dance:
Went back to my room to rest for the night and woke up at 6.30am to warm up the body and get my stuff ready before I drag myself to the start line early.
The startline at the beach:
I was waiting for friends and it was quite a crowd....took some time to locate them and took a few photos. Met other Singaporean which I do not know as well. Soon we heard the Lion dance began and the race got flagged off!!
The race started at the beach and we ran for about 200-300m before we went up the pavement and turned back towards the startline and turned into the village. We ran along the canal, deep into the village before we hit the trail head at a cemetery. It was up and up climb the usual stone steps. It was narrow but there are some opportunities to overtake. I squeezed myself to as front as possible right after the start so that I will not be caught in the bottle neck later on.
The climb up Lo Fu Tau at 465m was quite a good warm up for the sunset peak(854m) climb. But this started to strain on runners who are not conditioned enough and as we climbed half way, we can see runners dropping back. The first descend down to Discovery Bay is brutal. Very steep and sandy ground. There is no plants or branch to hold on...either you run down with quick feet, slide down your butt or roll down. This is the toughest descend for the whole race route. It came down to the road and we ran along the road to Checkpoint 1. After tagging my time, I skipped the water refill.
How to train: Stairs....lots of stairs at 40 levels HDB....Just Bukit Timah Hill is not enough because it does not give you the length and distance...climb up and take lift down and climb up again and again...This shoud be sufficient for the initial upstairs to Lo Fu Tau. Tough to find a place to train for the brutal descent from Lo Fu Tau. I can only think off the steep slope at the initial road up to Bukit Timah Hill summit..try descending with quick and smaller steps. The technical descend at Dairy Farm Loop up to summit may helps.
Just after the start:
Discovery Bay to Pak Mong 15km:
Bushwhacking is what I will describe for this section. After Checkpoint 1, It was a challenging ascent up a slope without steps....those kind of rocks and sand slopes with quite steep gradient. This is a good stretch to overtake slower runners. Can be quite strain on those who are not prepared. I pushed my way up as front as possible. Then not long we came to the start of bush whacking....the bushes and scrubs are so close together covering the path, we cannot see what we stepping on and it was a tight and narrow path...no way to overtake so we are stuck in our position...the route went up and down and crossed a few rivers under the vegetation. One of them even need to do rope descent down a steep rock face to the river bed...we are lucky is dry season else the river will be difficult to cross.
After bush whacking came into a single track path into the vegetation forest where is low hanging branch along the trail.I got to lower my upper body to avoid being hit by the low branch and this caused strain to my lower back. Out of vegetation is the checkpoint 2, took a few pieces of nice oranges and refilled my water, I started the long climb up Sunset Peak
How to train: The start of this section can be trained at the Dairy Farm Loop up to summit for trail ascent and the steep slope up Bukit Timah Hill. Take small steps and switch to bigger steps and switch back. Cannot think of a place to train the bushwhacking, that will depends on your basic fitness and mental to conquer it.
Me eating orange at Checkpoint 2:
The climb that leaves the deep impression to all runners because is do or die. Whether can meet cutoff will depends on this climb..After this climb is Checkpoint 3 where the first cutoff is set at 7hrs. The climb is up and up but there are occasional breaks where the trail is flat and running is possible.
Took this on the way up.....and is only the start:
We are going up to the further peak in this photo but that is not the end:
One of the few part that can be run:
As the climb got closer to Sunset Peak, the wind got stronger and it got more and more chilling. I cannot stand it and got to stop to put on my jacket and gloves before continue. After about 2 hrs climb, I finally reached the highest point and start my fast decent. Once the descent starts, I started sweating. I was drenched with sweat upon reaching the next Checkpoint
Just before the highest point of the race are the mountain holiday chalets:
I took 20min to descent about 400m of elevation from Sunset Peak to Pak Kung Au..it was mainly rock steps so i just went hopping down fast. There are a few runners who were flying down overtook me. This descent need training and practise and most important need conditioning else it can easily bust the knees and the legs probably cannot go on after this. I managed to reach Checkpoint 3 in 5hrs, 2hrs before the cutoff. Helped myself with a instant cup noodle and oranges before I start off after a short rest.
At checkpoint 3, most runners took a longer rest after a long climb:
How to train: The only place I can think of is tall HDB flats like pinnacle duxton or those 40 floors at toa payoh or in the west. Got to keep climbing and take lift down and climb again and repeat for at least 2 hours. Take single steps and switch to double half way up or at the final quarter floors. The steps during this stretch is actually not very tall...just that the climb is long. Bukit Timah steps are tall and big but they are just too short for this. The descent will be good to train at Jungle Fall steps and dairy farm loop....running downstairs at tall HDB flats does help but wil be very boring....got to go down and take lift up and repeat for at least an hour
Pak Kung Au to Chi Ma Wan 35km:
Most part of this section are running along the contour of Sunset Peak to Nam Shan. The route is considered flat compared to previous section. But it was quite rocky. I did not move fast along this section as I kept kicking my toes against the rocks. I was overtook by many runners. The most I can is fast walking. I can feel my pinky toes for both left and right started to swollen. Is frustrating that I have energy to run but cannot go faster. However the slow pace helped to conserve energy for the next 2 sections. After reaching Nam Shan, went for a toilet break and proceed over to Chi Ma Wan. It was a short climb (compared to previous climbs) before descending to Checking 4.
How to train: You must have legs after climbing and descent from Sunset Peak. remember to do run after all the stairsclimbing training as part of the training for this.Duration is very important. My last longest training is 5.5hrs of climbing up and down Bukit Timah and did 1.5hrs run back to MacRitchie Reservoir. Maintain your pace because you just started the second half of the race.
Chi Ma Wan to Shap Long 45km:
The distance from Checkpoint 3 to 4 is the same between Checkpoint 4 to 5 but the cutoff is different. CP 3-4 is 3hrs but CP 4-5 is 2hrs. This gave a false impression that CP 4-5 is easier than CP 3-4. In some way is true but the distance seems longer. After eating the nice oranges, it was a climb up Lo Yan Shan (303m). It was not as high and long as previous climb but after all the big climbs, this can be quick tough. Lucky this is just rock steps so I just climb and climb. Supposed to start with 3 other Singaporeans but I lost them half way behind so I continue alone, managed to overtake quite a few runners.
After reaching the watchpoint at Lo Yan Shan, the descent was a pleasant one. We ran through a section of Bamboo forest and the trail is just sandy and no rocks. The run along this was smooth before we reached the long and winding trail. Some rocks but not so much compared to previous section but the long and winding trail does take a bit of mental patience. We are like running thru a repeated scene again and again but is a good stretch for those who still can run. I just run and walk.
This section does not ends with this and there are short climbs and winding descents before we reach the last CheckPoint. And I took 2hrs to complete which is the time allowance of 2hrs. Took delicious oranges and refilled my bottle before I continue the final last 5 km.
How to train: The ideal is to climb Bukit Timah, do an hour run and still about to climb Bukit Timah again for at least a loop. This is where I overtook quite a few runners on the climb. After the climb up Lo Yan Shan, It was down and flat all the way. Mental fitness comes in as the winding endless trail will drain your body and your brain.
Shap Long to Silvermine Bay Beach 50km:
The last stretch of 5km is not difficult but is not simple as well. It was mainly on cemented pavement but It was not flat at all..Just up and down slopes....plenty of them and I lost count...and a few big cow dung in the middle of the path. Some up and down slopes can be very steep....the route is mainly along the coastline before turning inland with a short section of trail. At the trail end, we descend down to Mui Wo, ran past China Bear, MacD, Ferry Terminal, Food centre and back to Silvermine Bay Beach.
How to train: Is all mental from now on. Keep walking Running/Walking up and down Upper Pierce Reservoir Road will helps a lot for this section. Learn how to power walk upslopes and run downslopes.
Final timing at 9hrs 46min 59sec.
The finishing overexposed Shot!
The simple finishing medal:
Final Results (click to enlarge for details):
Upon looking at the section timing and positioning, it is interesting to see that I actually caught up and overtook runners along the way and the final stretch is my best position.
I got overtaken between CP 1 and 3 especially climbing up sunset peak from CP2 to CP3.
I guess I rested less than many others at CP 3 that is why I gained 30 positions at CP4 even though I was really slow between CP3 and 4 and overtook by quite a few runners.
Between CP4 and CP5, I overtook quite a number of runners especially on the climb up Lo Yan Shan.
The last section I only overtook 4 runners at the start of the section and 2 of them near the end.
It was a great event and I achieved my target of coming in before the sky turns dark and not having the need to take out my headlights. All my nutrition plan went well and I was lucky not to get major problems especially injuries. The only issue I got are my swollen pinky toes which kept hitting against the rocks that really slowed down my progress between CP3 and CP4.
1) There is a good review and video taken by one of the runners at his blog at A Runners Remix.
2) A good set of 50km photos taken by photographer Michael Ma at flickr.
3) All weather facebook album
4) Photos at SportSoho
Thanks to all Photographers for the photos.