Tuesday, November 14, 2017

National Take a Hike Day

It's National Take a Hike Day and to celebrate I hiked our little neighborhood trail.


mrC is on a trip and I was expecting a delivery (that had a mandatory signature required), so I set out early to be back in plenty of time for the delivery window. This round-trip hike to Lookout Point is about 3K and takes about an hour (depending on how much time I take at the top or taking pictures along the way).

I like this trail because it is a loop that I feel comfortable doing on my own and it's challenging enough to be a good workout. The challenge is all in the beginning on the way up. I forget how many steps there are, but it is about a 200 meter climb.

Like many trails in Hong Kong, it is maintained. The steep path to the top has been reinforced with concrete to help fight the erosion process.

While I was hiking I thought about the things I love about hiking (that also sound a lot like the things I love about running).

1) The journey - Every hike that I do is a journey. It's almost always a fitness journey, but usually something else too. Maybe it's a journey to meet new people and break out of my introvert shell. Sometimes it's a journey to challenge myself to do something I didn't think I could do. Often times, I don't know what the journey is until it's over and I can feel that I've been changed in some way.

2) The solitude - When I hike alone I enjoy listening to only my footsteps, hearing only my breathing, letting my thoughts wander. It's not lonely (especially for someone like me who needs time to recover from social activities), rather it's peaceful. I like not having to worry about holding a conversation. It's an easy way to work through things that are weighing on my mind. Hiking alone can be very therapeutic.

3) Nature - I love being outside. When I'm hiking, I get a chance to see (I mean really SEE) all the things that can often become a blur when we speed by in cars or buses or when we're running: the new colors, the new blooms, the sounds, the smells. There's something strangely calming about the wildness of nature. Coming upon a waterfall, birds bursting from a tree or even a lone buffalo sitting on the trail, you just never know what you're going to see.

4) Relationships - opposite of hiking solo, it's fun to hike with a group, meet new people and get to know them. For me it is easier to bond with others while I'm doing something with them ---> maybe this comes from always being on a sports team? Working toward the same goal means we are instantly in it together and there for each other. I've made good friends this way through running, and now hiking.

5) Rewards - Of course I love what I get out of a good hike. The best rewards are the views from the top, but the views along the way can be equally breathtaking. My favorite views are of water, but there's something about looking back at how far you climbed that is just as beautiful. Then there's also the feeling of accomplishment at the end of a really hard hike. The kind of hike that leaves me feeling like I should have earned a medal for completing it. It's hard to top that feeling.

One nice thing about hiking close to home is that you don't need much. Even though it's November, it was still 74 degrees at 7am, so water and a sweat towel are a must. I like carrying lighter hiking gear in my Athleta drawstring bag (affiliate).

Will you be hitting a trail today? If so, where?

I'm linking up with Lacey and Meranda and Rachel for the Friday Five 2.0!

Saturday, November 11, 2017

What's in the race SWAG Bag?

I don’t know about you, but I think race SWAG bags are kind of a big deal, especially after receiving  one with really good stuff in it. I love getting a nice tee, but my favorite SWAG bag had feetures socks, a water bottle and a yoga mat!

What's in that bag can kick race day off with a bang!

Most of the race swag bags I’ve received have been for bigger races and are usually handed out at an expo - where you can pick up even more goodies, right? The race I ran in Dubai did not give out a bag, but I got a nice finisher’s medal. My Shenzhen, China race gave out a drawstring bag with Chinese snacks inside and then another goodie bag after the race.

I’m about to run my second race in Hong Kong (Women's Five 5K) and had to pick up my race bib and SWAG bag a week prior. (I don’t remember having to do this in the US, but maybe I did). The first race I did gave out goodie bags after the race. Anyway, I thought it would be fun to share what was in my Hong Kong SWAG bag.

There was the usual hodge-podge of assorted sponsor goodies. Some very useful dry shampoo. Some tea packets. A de-stress ball. A magazine.

I always find some things that I like more than the others.

Like, a headband that can be worn multiple ways.

A tea light candle (this was on my shopping list) plus 100HKD to spend in the shop on more.

A free yoga class pass (that I really hope I use because the studio is in Central and would probably take as long to get there as the length of the class).

The drawstring bag itself is for bag drop on race day and can be re-used. I like that.

Notably, my race bib was NOT in my bag. Turns out that certain numbers were not ready for pick-up. Fortunately, it wasn’t a wasted trip and I was still given the SWAG and I can get my bib on race day.

What’s the best thing you ever found in your race SWAG bag?

Friday, November 10, 2017

Hiking: Lantau Trail Stages 3 and 4 (Lantau Peak)

It was time to cross more Lantau Trail sections off my to-do list and this time it was going to be some hard hiking.

My most recent hike on the Lantau Trail (stages 9 & 10) was long but easy. No real climbing involved. My very first hike (stages 1 & 2) was a mix ---> one stage involved climbing Sunset Peak, the second highest peak in Hong Kong, but the other was an easy walk.

I wasn't sure if I was ready for stages 3 & 4, but I also knew I would suffer from FOMO if I didn't go for it. I hadn't done a hard hike in a few months, so I didn't know how my body would react. It's a lot like returning to the long run: you have a solid base, but it's been awhile since you upped the mileage.

Anyway, I went for it and here's what happened:

1) There were three solid climbs. THREE. Every time I looked up, I thought we only have a little more to go, it's straight UP, but we're almost there. Then another climb would appear. Actually, having the 600 meter climb from Pak Kung Au broken into parts like that gave us built in walking breaks along the way.

2) I stood on the second highest peak (934 meters or 3064 feet) in Hong Kong, Lantau Peak. The views from the top are just breathtaking. Even the overcast, slightly hazy day didn't take away the magnificence of what my eyes could see.

And behind us, was Sunset Peak (the third highest peak in Hong Kong) on stage 2 of Lantau Trail. Been there, done that, I thought to myself. I could also see the airport from the top, so I texted mrC since he was there doing some database work in the airplane.

3) Making our way down toward Ngong Ping and the end of stage 3 was easier on the quads, but harder on the knees. The challenge is that the man-made rock steps are not the same distance apart. As we got further down the mountain, we started passing large groups of hikers making their way up from the other side (the harder side if you ask me).

The archway marks the end of stage 3.

4) At the start of stage 4 is the Wisdom Path (right past the large archway). 38 wooden columns line a path forming the symbol for infinity. Each column is inscribed with a verse from the Heart Sutra prayer. We took a short rest/snack break here.

The trail continues to Ngong Ping cultural village where the Tian Tan Buddha Statue sits. The village was crowded with visitors, which is probably why we found a lone buffalo hiding out in a quiet spot. I don't know why these big creatures fascinate me, but they do.

The rest of stage 4 has been diverted a couple of times by landslides, so the end of the hike is simply following Ngong Ping Road to Sham Wan Road. Nothing picture worthy from there, so here's one of the group that stood on Lantau Peak that day.

This post is part of the Friday Five 2.0 link up with Lacey and Meranda and Rachel. Head over to check out some more awesome posts.

If you're a hiker, what is the highest peak you've climbed? I think my highest peak is Mt. Batur in Bali.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

My Dragon Boat Paddling Lesson

Dragon boat racing is a big deal in Hong Kong.

When we first moved to China, we learned (and celebrated) about the traditional Chinese holiday - Dragon Boat Festival ---> commemorates the drowning of Chinese poet Qu Yuan, who, according to popular legend, drowned himself in Hunan province 2,000 years ago in protest to what he saw as corrupt rule. As local residents rushed to rescue him, they loudly beat drums and threw dumplings in the river to drive away hungry fish. Eventually, dragon boat racing, with its pounding of drums and flurry of paddles, became a traditional activity on this day.

Then after moving to Hong Kong, we saw dragon boat racing for the first time in Discovery Bay.

Last weekend mrC and I tried dragon boat paddling for ourselves. We attended a Dragon Boat Fun Day (Spousal Edition) hosted by the American Women's Association's Dragon Boat Team.

First I have to say, that I love the passion that these ladies have for dragon boating. Their energy was definitely contagious and set the tone for a great event.

The event was held at Stanley Beach (on the south side on Hong Kong Island) where the team holds practices. After a brief explanation, we were handed paddles, divided up into three boats and pushed out onto the water.

The first part of our lesson, was learning the proper paddling technique. It didn't take long for the amateurs to get wet during this part!

After some paddling practice, we had some fun races against the other boats. The race went like this: everyone would paddle a set number of strokes (say 50) and the winner was the boat who went the farthest.

We had a ton of fun learning how to paddle dragon boats. It's too bad that Stanley Beach is such a long haul from Discovery Bay. I think it would take me longer to get there, than the length of the practice sessions!

After the paddling session, about half of the people in the top photo walked to Stanley Market for a little Mexican food and post-paddling drinks. It was a great night!

Have you ever gone dragon boat paddling or watched a dragon boat race?

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Hiking: South Lantau Country Trail (Pak Kung Au to Mui Wo)

I love seeing waterfalls on the hiking trail. I read somewhere that the South Lantau Country Trail is known for its waterfalls. I didn't think much about the weather going into the hike, but we hadn't had a lot of rain lately. That made finding good waterfalls a little harder, but I did find some. Small ones.

I didn't have to search for the sea views. They were plentiful and gorgeous as always. I don't think I'll ever get tired of views like this.

The hiking part was relatively easy. The trail was a combo of dirt and rocks ---> meaning you have to pay attention. There weren't any big climbs but there were some spots where it felt like we were doing a bit of light bouldering.

We took a little snack break at Nam Shan (there are also toilets). Then we picked up the Lantau Trail (stage 1) and followed it (backwards) to Mui Wo. It was only about 2.5 more kilometers into the village. We had a large group, but the The Kitchen was able to accommodate us for a shared lunch.

Getting there: I took the DB01R bus from Discovery Bay to Tung Chung where I met the AWA group at Starbucks. We caught a bus (3M, 23 or 11) to Pak Kung Au where we jumped on the trail.

Want more Lantau Island hikes?

What do you like to see when you're out the trail?