It’s a tough race! One of the most difficult race I had ever joined if not the most difficult I have joined to date.
Although I have been reading from sources in the Internet that it’s a tough course with plenty of stairs I didn’t really know what I was going into until I was there.
We arrived in Hong Kong 2 days before the race and got our race pack at RacingThePlanet Store in Sheung Wan.
We stayed in Tsim Sha Tsui overnight before traveling to Mui Wo, Lantau Island the day before race day via the MTR Tung Chung Line.
Me and my friend Bee Ping booked a budget hotel in Mui Wo called Silverview Resort Holiday. The accommodation is very basic however important thing is that it’s got hot shower and the place is just about 300m from the starting point.
We spent the rest of the day exploring Mui Wo. We went to visit Lantau Base Camp to check out some running and outdoor gear then afterwards did some grocery. Late in the afternoon we explored the trails as I wanted to see a bit of the race course and check out the dreaded stairs.
We hiked from Silvermine Beach to Wang Tong village which led us to a hill where the first set of stairs can be seen. We climbed the stairs and enjoyed the view but decided not to continue as I might tire myself out before the race even started. We went back to Silvermine Beach where we saw the organizers preparing the tents.
RACE DAY (March 16, 2013)
I had my alarm set at 5:30am however due to lack of sleep I didn’t get out of bed until almost 6am.
Took a hot shower then ate bread and banana for breakfast.
At about 8am me and Bee Ping walked outside to Silvermine Beach. It was a cold and gloomy morning and I was beginning to think if I should go back to the hotel and take the gloves with me.
After a few minutes of walking outside I decided to go back to the hotel to have a toilet break. As I felt some pain on my feet after walking a few minutes with the Salomon S-Lab 4, I decided to switch to my Salomon XR Crossmax Neutral shoes which I wore the day before for the short hike. I felt comfortable walking with it as it has a bigger toe box. I also decided to bring a pair of gloves in case it’s very cold up in the peaks.
As I walked towards the starting line it didn’t felt cold and windy anymore. It didn’t also seemed like it was going to rain. I decided to leave the gloves to my friend as I didn’t want to carry something more that I may not use later on.
Starting Line to CP1 (8Km)
The race started a few mins past 9am at Silvermine Beach in Mui Wo, Lantau Island with the 100Km flagging off a few mins before the 50km participants.
We ran in the sand before turning right to Chung Hau. I realized my Suunto Quest Watch didn’t detect my foot pod. I decided to stop and tried to pair the pod and the watch again but no success. I decided to continue and just use the watch as a stop watch. I told myself not to get bothered too much and just rely on the distance markers available in the race course.
We ran towards Wang Tong village passing by houses then we were greeted by the first sight of the stairs which I saw the previous day. From hereon it was mostly climbing up the stairs. Some parts of the trail were quite narrow allowing only a single file of runners.
The route was very scenic and it made me think about those adventure races that I only saw on TV when I was younger. Somehow I can’t believe that I’m finally doing what I had always dreamed about.
There was more climbing as the route led us closer to Lo Fu Tau (465m) and I was slowing down. Jorge Roman from the Philippine Skyrunning Team went past me and then Kian Vicera together with Mariel Flores whom I met at Lantau Base Camp the day before were also picking up their pace. He bade me good luck and that was the last I saw of them in the race.
I ran on my own pace occasionally stopping for a short breather when climbing the stairs. I amused myself looking at the beautiful scenery. I wanted to take photos however I was too lazy to get my iPhone inside my hydration pack.
From Lo Fu Tau it was a steep descent going to CP1. The downhill was a bit of a breather from all the climbing however I had to be extra careful as there were portions whereby the soil was loose making it not so easy going down.
CP1 (8KM) to CP2 (15Km)
Arrived in CP1 (8Km) just before 10:50am. I refilled my bladder with water, took a few photos and then proceeded to CP2
The trail was narrow and runners were running in a single file passing through bushes. I remember there was a part we had to go down using a rope as the trail was too steep. A long queue formed while each runner waited for his/her turn to go down using the rope.
After the steep descent, the route led us to a paved road with a beautiful scenery. There was a public toilet and I stopped for a short toilet break before continuing towards CP2.
CP2 (15Km) to CP3 (24Km)
After filling up my hydration bladder with water and drinking some Hammer electrolyte at the aid station I left CP2 for CP3.
This was the most difficult section of the race for me. It was a never-ending stair climbing under an open trail and hot weather. I was cursing the stairs at this point. Just when you thought you are at the top there’s another set of stairs to climb. It was just demoralizing!
I was breathing hard and the stair climbing was taking all the energy out of me. Every few minutes I had to stop and rest. Brokie, a runner I knew from Singapore caught up with me. She then went ahead climbing the stairs while I struggled to put my foot over the other. I was getting hungry and exhausted. I was imagining some hot noodles and a very cold Coke at CP3 but at that moment I had to be contented with my GU Chomps and water.
I was going very slow and more runners went past me. Another racer saw me looking so tired gave me encouraging words to continue. I looked at my watch and the prospect that I might not be able to make the cut-off time at 16:00 at CP3 was a big possibility. I tried to motivate myself to continue thinking that even if I don’t make the cut-off time I was still in the middle of nowhere and had go to the nearest CP.
After climbing countless stairs, the trail finally led us to some rolling hills which was quite a relief for me but then after a few hundred meters there were another set of stairs to climb which dampened my morale again.
As I was in the Sunset Peak area I saw Brokie from a distance. I felt somewhat relieved that even at the slow rate I was going I was making progress. I continued the climb until finally reached the point where the trail was now leading me downhill. I looked at my watch and I had less than an hour before the cut-off time.
I knew going downhill was my chance to catch up. I wasn’t sure how far I was from CP3 as my watch couldn’t measure the distance without the foot pod but I decided to take my chances and zoomed downhill. The road was becoming visible and I knew I was getting nearer to CP3. I pushed myself until my knees were shaking but my spirit was alive again thinking that I have a realistic chance of making it to CP3 before 16:00
I reached CP3 around 3:34pm. I was so relieved that I can continue with the race and my chances of finishing the Lantau50 was alive again.
I was a bit disappointed though that they have ran out of cold Coke at the aid station. I decided to just take the Hammer Electrolyte to replenish my lost fluids. I was hungry and wanted to eat hot noodles but there was a long queue for hot water. I ended up just eating a banana and one small piece of bread.
I knew I can’t stay long at the CP3 considering that I only have 3 hrs between CP3 and CP4 which was about 11Km apart before the cut-off time at 19:00. After refilling my bladder with water I then continued to CP4.
CP3(Km24) to CP9 (Km35)
After having some food at CP3 I was feeling better. I regained some energy to continue with the race.
The trail started out mostly rolling which was something I welcomed. I enjoyed this part of the trail. We passed through some boulders like those when you are doing river trekking minus the water.
The South Lantau Country Trail was quite picturesque overlooking the sea. It certainly helped to make me forget that I was already running and walking for more than 7 hours. The trail then led us downhill to South Lantau Road afterwhich we had to tackle uphill stairs again which made me feel tired and exhausted. The sight of going up the stairs was something I really hated at that point.
I tried to motivate myself that after the stair climbing it will be downhill again before reaching CP9(Km34)
I reached CP9 before 6pm. I was so happy to see that they had cold Coke. I’ve been avoiding softdrinks the past few years however that day I was just really craving to drink a very cold Coke. I filled up my flask with Coke and refilled it a few times. I then ate a slice of orange, some cashews and a bit of cup noodles that I was beginning to feel full.
I chit-chat a bit with a Singaporean runner who was very nice to talk to me as I was following him and his friend during some portions of CP3 to CP9 and he saw that I was running alone.
CP9 (Km 35) to CP10(Km 46)
The marshals reminded us to get ready with our headlamps as there was only an hour left of sunlight and we will be running in the dark after that.
From CP9 there were two trails – one used by Explorer 15 and the other trail which was used by Lantau 50/100. The trail going to Lo Yan Shan (303m) was another uphill climb in countless stairs. I had to slow down again as climbing the stairs were taking all the energy out of me. I was walking all the way at this stage.
I reached Lo Yan Shan before it was totally dark. The view was awesome at the top however I had no time to take pictures as it was getting dark and I still have a long way to go before reaching the finish line.
It was getting dark so I started using the headlamp. I followed a group of racers as we went up and down the stairs for a few kilometers. The pace we were going was a fast-paced walk which was quite okay until I realized it was almost 8pm and I had to be at CP10 before 9pm.
I started to panic and decided to run. I was worried I will not be able to make the cut-off time at 9pm in CP10(46km). I was running alone in the trail with only my headlamp lighting the path.
As the trail led to a paved path I was surprised that the aid station was not yet there. I was wondering if I taken the wrong path then I saw few runners ahead to my relief. The aid station was still further ahead which was quite nerve wracking knowing that at that point it was a race against time.
CP10 (Km46) to Finish Line (51Km)
I arrived in CP10 (46Km) around 8:45pm. The race marshal scanned my race bib and gave encouragement that there was only 5Km left to the finish line.
I didn’t stop for any drinks at CP5 as I still had enough water on my bladder. The cut-off time was nearing and I can’t lose precious time. I continued on to the dark trail with only me running in the dark. The only light was coming from my headlamp. There was a huge gap between me and the runner before and after me. It was quite eerie to be running alone in the dark. I can hear some animal noises but don’t know what exactly they were. I was hoping there were no snakes along the way.
The last 5km stretch was not a walk in the park. There were still uphill parts which was quite a torture. I was telling myself that this race is really very tough even till the end and I have to salute those doing the 100Km as it’s not easy running alone in the dark.
I kept looking at my watch and forced myself to run even in the uphill parts. I was exhausted but I was running in auto-pilot mode. I just wanted to be out of the trail and be back in the town again. I was worried missing the trail sign and ended up getting lost. Considering that I was already very exhausted getting lost would be a disaster for me. I was beaming my headlamp farther so I can see the trail sign ahead that I ended up stepping on cow dung.
As the trail slowly winded down near the pier area I was quite relieved that I am near to the finish line and I have a chance of finishing the 50km race within the 13-hour cut-off time.
As I run/walk towards the finish line, I saw my friend Bee Ping who had been waiting for me. I also saw Yee Hua beside her. They cheered me on. I continued towards Silvermine Beach and reached the finish line just before 10pm. I was happy that I was able to finish this tough race and at same time relieved that it’s finally over. I finished the Lantau50 with an official time of 12:42.