After last years edition of Lost Sole, I thought I would increase the interest and make it more of a personal challenge than a race. Although seasoned trail runners are welcome, there is no prize for coming first place apart from kudos.
We set the date several months before and then closer to the time we set up several training hikes and guides. Although this is supposed to follow the Lantau trail for as much as possible to make it 50 kilometers, some changes had to be made due to the maintenance work on the cable car cables at Ngong Ping and the Lantau trail was closed for just a few 100 meters. So we just let the route go past the big Buddha in Ngong Ping and an opportunity for people to resupply at the 7/11 convenience store there. Also we decided to set up 2 checkpoints at marker L087 at Shek Pik (CP1) which had toilet conveniences (mainly for the volunteers) and close to a bus stop. The 2nd checkpoint (CP2), would be located by the school at Pui O, again for toilet and transport conveniences.
Additionally this year we decided to have a new 25km “Half Sole” for those who wanted to take part in the day but not do the whole 50 km.
As always, the starting point is at the green mailbox at Mui Wo ferry pier. This is also the finish too and every finisher must touch the mailbox at the end to finish their challenge.
2017 Lost Sole – Event Report compiled with thanks to Mark Turner, photos by Burak Atalayer
Friday 17th February and Mui Wo ferry pier is a hive of activity as participants prepare for the annual Hong Kong Hikers “Lost Sole” event. Only in it’s second year, the first year participants could be counted on one hand and their course times measured in millennia. This year is different, however, as 19 eager and serious looking participants are to be found quietly milling around the green pillar box at the pier. Standard pre-race jitters are evident as the early morning sun lights up the first challenge of the day, the ascent to the ridge between Sunset peak and Lin Fa Shan. All indicators are we’re in for a hot sunny day.
“Mr Anderson” looks particularly bored. Already disqualified for jumping the gun on the Race Day Whatsapp group, he knows he’s in for a long day and decides to draw sad faces on each of his knees.
Finally, someone says something…it’s the obligatory demand for a group photo! With polished proficiency Venus slides instantly into position, but it takes a couple of minutes for everyone else to get into place and the official shot to be taken.
With the formalities out of the way, everyone starts looking nervously around wondering what to do next. Will there be a gunshot to signal the start? Steve P, always eager to say something, announces “I will not be running the catchwater”. In the nearby Hong Kong Observatory the needle on the BS-meter swings wildly into action and, although everyone follows race etiquette and ignores Pheby’s outrageous assertion, it’s enough to jolt the group into action. Someone, we’re not sure who, starts walking in the direction of Lin Fa Shan, and that’s enough to get the herd under-way. 8:15AM…The Race is on!
Details of the next two hours are scant. Steve P reports Wolfgang was first to reach Pak Kung Au, closely followed by Venus and Bruce. However, Steve P overtook all 3 on the steep ascent of Lantau Peak, making the summit at approximately 11am. He wasn’t half-naked yet (more on that later!), but was going strong. Venus was next to summit, followed by Wolfgang. Mr Anderson arrived at around 11:50 and, since he was already disqualified, took a rest in the shelter. He was over-heard giving his two sad knees a pep-talk.
Meanwhile, down at Shek Pik, Matt and Mark (M&M), fresh from a sumptuous 5-course breakfast and massage compliments of the racers’ entry fees (only joking), were unloading the supplies for Check Point 1. Matt then left Mark at Shek Pik to set-up camp, and headed up to Ngong Ping. This was to have disastrous consequences, as we shall see in the moment.
As the 50km punters slowly checked into 7-11 at Ngong Ping, the 17 participants in the 25km Half Sole event were getting ready to start. Unlike their cut-throat 50km counterparts, the 25-kayers actually have well-developed social skills, and there was apparently no sandbagging at the starting line. In fact everything was going smoothly and Matt was getting ready to send them on their way when his phone rang. This is never a good sign during a race, and indeed on the other end of the line a frantic Mark was uttering profanities about being under attack by cows. Matt had to hand starting duties over to Lee O. Nevertheless, the 25km event kicked-off smoothly and the well-mannered group started making their way down Shek Pik Country trail.
As Matt rushed off to help in the war-on-cows, the 4 Musketeers: Dave, Mr Anderson, Aneesh and Megan stealthy slipped through Ngong Ping at around 1pm. Pierre, Dante, and Kayla however became causalities of the war against refreshing cold beer. They decided to call it a day at Ngong Ping. Or at least Dante and Kayla, in the typically straight-forward style of North Americans decided to call it a day. Pierre, ever the Frenchman, decided to blend his own race by combining some leg-work with a well-aged taxi. His race recipe is a secret: all we know is he was later found at the finish line, tipsily leaning against the pillar box, claiming victory, with beer in hand.
Down at CP1, M&M were busy fighting cows. Lots of cows. After taking early losses in the form of two bags of crisps and a banana skin, Matt realised a latent talent as a cow-whisperer. Or rather a cow-shouter; his hooting and box-drum banging slowly turned the tide of the war, just in the nick of time because rumour had it Steve P had been sighted on the first catch-water and was therefore only around 5km/30 minutes from CP1. Volunteer Rachel arrived at CP1 dressed for war, but as the cows had gone she re-dressed for yoga and started stretching. Then, all 3 waited with eager anticipation for the arrival of Steve P.
Nothing in life of a modern office-worker prepares you for the sight of a near-naked middle-aged man who has just run 30km. And so it was for our poor volunteers, for the rumours were true: Steve P had gone commando. Nevertheless, the cow-war veterans sprang into action and attended to their first customer of the day in the form of a sweating Steve P. After a brief rest, Steve P left CP1 at around 2pm, heading across the reservoir for the second catch-water. He was, of course, not running.
Next to arrive was Wolfgang; or rather not arrive, for he ran straight by CP1. A veteran of many big races, Wolfgang probably didn’t even register our tiny blip as a checkpoint, and he headed off in hot pursuit of Steve P at around 2:15pm. Wolfgang was running, but by some strange twist of physics didn’t seem to be making any ground on Steve P, even though the latter was “only walking” the catch-water. Perhaps more importantly Wolfgang had overtaken Venus in Ngong Ping, most likely when she was taking a break at the 7-11. The details are unknown…the point is Wolfgang was now in 2nd place!
Matt sat in the corner of CP1, head in hands, quietly muttering “the horror, the horror…” – he was clearly in need of a tonic. Moments later, the tonic arrived in the form of Venus. Looking more like she had just launched a ship than run 30km, she posed for the cameras, and skipped merrily on her way across the reservoir. Merrily, but with dangerous intent…for Venus also defies ordinary physics and seems to get faster as she gets more tired. After her break in Ngong Ping she was refreshed and now catching Steve P and Wolfgang.
As the remainder of the field made their way through CP1, among them Bruce just after 3pm and Marj and Paul G a little after that, it was time to open CP2. This was dutifully done by our excellent race photographer Cenk, and shortly thereafter at around 3:20pm 25-kayer Paul C thundered into town. Accepting only a little water and a banana, he was quickly on his way, shouting back “I’m very slow up hills”. Had he been talking tactics with Steve P while “walking” the catch-water? We’ll never know, but as the BS meters at the observatory settled back down, 25-kayer Steve F arrived at CP2.
At 3.45pm, leading the 50k race, Commando Steve P ambled slowly into CP2, took a slow drink and strolled off in the direction of the finish line. Going so slowly, he even stopped to let a cow cross the road in front of him. He was clearly not in any hurry.
A few minutes later a much bigger group of 25-kayers arrived. This was really the social highlight of the race as many drinks, bananas, crisps and chocolates were handed around and real human conversation was to be heard, as opposed to the simple grunts and nods of the 50km group.
At around 4pm Nathan passed through CP1, followed closely by the 4 musketeers and then, with more than enough social graces and humanity to qualify them as 25-kayers rather than 50km brutes, Angie and Amber brought CP1 to an elegant close. Ian and Donna made it to CP1 at 3:45pm but decided to retire due to the hot conditions.
Back at CP2, Wolfgang arrives and having powered past CP1, decides to sample the delights at CP2. Still recovering from the flu, he’s having a tough time in the heat but has no intention of quitting, he heads off around 20 minutes behind Steve P.
Around 10 minutes later Venus, currently in 3rd place, arrives and orders a banana from the other side of the road. We gingerly feed her through the bars of the fence. After 35km Venus becomes super-human and should not be approached unless you shout “on the left”, preferably while wearing full body armour. Or if you are half-naked like Steve P you need to be at least 20 minutes ahead. Jokes aside, CP2 is getting crowded now that both 50km and 25km teams are coming through and though another Venus-tonic to cleanse our eyes from hairy-chested Steve P would have been nice, there just isn’t room.
4:30pm it’s time to open the finish line. Pierre is first to arrive, but moments after his victory is announced an official protest is lodged. Seems somebody found out about the taxi 🙂
A little after 5pm, first of the 25-kayers Paul C arrives in remarkably fast time given his self-confessed glacial pace over Radio Hill. After the obligatory slap of the green pillar box, he wastes no time in heading to Isara for a well-earned drink. Well done Paul!
In this age of social media, waiting at the finish line is always a fascinating experience. The rumours, the innuendo, but you can never really believe a word of it. You simply have to rely on the good old-fashioned technique of standing on your tip-toes to see who appears on the horizon. We do know some facts: Steve P is slowing a little, Wolfgang is struggling in the heat, and Venus is picking up her pace. But will it be enough?
Finally, at 5:35pm, after 9 hours and 20 minutes of unbelievably hard work in blisteringly hot conditions, “Commando” Steve Pheby rounds the corner. Still in high spirits and taking time for a pose before the finish line, he makes it official by an almost X-rated kiss of the green pillar box. First of 50km group, winner of the 2017 Lost Sole, congratulations Steve! When asked about his winning tactics he had three simple words of advice: “Walk the Catch-water”.
But it’s not over yet. By 5:45 a bevy of 25-kayers have arrived …Vinee, Renee, Tansy, Becky, Gira, Lee O, May, Steven F, looking fresh and in high spirits, one-by-one they touch the pillar box and head for beer.
But what of Wolfgang and Venus? There is word from the horses mouth, Wolfgang himself, that Venus has overtaken him. But Wolfgang has a sense of humour, and maybe he was watching the planet Venus, not the runner, passing him high in the sky above Radio Hill? So, back on tip-toes we wait and we wait…
Finally, a bright blue dot on the horizon…a short blue dot….with her signature pony tail..it can only be Venus. 2nd place overall in the 2017 Lost Sole and first female finisher. Well done Venus!
Literally moments behind comes Wolfgang, smiling, happy, despite struggling with the flu, and, in perhaps the most touching moment of the race the two share a hug, and walk off arm in arm to Isara for beer. To finish a 10 hour gruelling ultra marathon within seconds of each other with no planning is amazing, and their show of sportsmanship at the finish line is exactly what makes these events worthwhile.
Next to arrive, hot on the heels of her husband Wolfgang, 25kayer Hanmei, followed by Amandine who also ran a very fast 50km. Then Lee P, Yuki, Steve K, arrive as a happy group.
As darkness settles in, we now start to see the finishers arrive by headlamp. Almost on the dot at 7pm Marj arrives, escorted to the pillar box by first finisher Steve P. Keith and Sarah ran and arrive as a team, followed likewise by Bruce and Paul G.
At around 8:05pm Bong arrives and closes the 25km event. On only his second hike with the group, and doing a tough long route and finishing by headlamp, this was an amazing achievement. Well done Bong!
Nathan arrives shortly after, having run a mostly solo race, and then at 8:40 the 4 musketeers: Mr Anderson, Dave, Megan and Aneesh stroll casually to the pillar box, Megan with quite an entourage, and join the finish party.
20 minutes later, 9pm, still going strong and with perhaps the fastest finishing pace past Isara (maybe they were worried they beer would run out?), Amber and Angie close out the 50km event.
They needn’t have worried…the folks at Isara put on a great finish party for us, and the beer flowed late into the night.
Congratulations to Steve P as the First Lost Sole Finisher for 2017, and Venus for first female. Well done to everyone who finished either event, and thank you to everyone that took part. Please join us again in 2018!
This was not an officially timed event and the following finish times are just a rough guide.
50km – Start Time: 08:15
Steve P 9hr 20
Venus 9hr 40
Wolfgang 9hr 42
Amandine 10hr 5
Marj 10hr 45
Paul G, Bruce 11 hr
Nathan 12 hr 5
Steve A, Mega, Aneesh, Dave 12 hr 25
Angie, Amber 12 hr 45
Ian, Donna, Pierre, Dante & Kayla DNF
25km – Start Time: 12:40
Paul C 4 hr 25
Vinee 4 hr 55
Renee, Tansy 5 hr
Becky H, Gira 5 hr 5
Lee O, May, Steven F 5 hr 8
Hanmei 5 hr 39
Lee P, Yuki, Steve K 5 hr 47
Keith, Sarah 6 hr 33
Bong 7 hr 25
The Volunteers: Rachel, Matt, Mark and Cenk.
We would also like to mention as this was more a challenge then a race, the following people completed the Lost Sole route with 30 days of the event and also will go down as Lost Soles 2017. Vince T, Tim R, Pierre S, Cameron D, Matt E, Mark T.