Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Looking Back on 2016 + a SPARTAN RACE GIVEAWAY for YOU!

I'm jumping on the Year in Review bandwagon and looking back at what I blogged about in 2016. It was a year of trying new things for me because ultimately my running would become nonexistent and I had to figure out a new fitness routine for myself. It was also a year filled with travel and making memories with family and friends.

Come along and check out the HOT TOPICS from my 2016 (or skip to the end to learn about the Spartan Race giveaway):

January - This was the month I really let yoga into my life to take the place of, well a lot of things: running, bootcamp, SurfSet. I took classes and signed up for challenges and did more yoga than I ever had.

February - It was a snorkelfest in the Maldives and I fell in love with swimming with the fish.

March - Pilates! It was this month that I started taking a new class in Shenzhen combined with an at-home BFF challenge. I loved the Pilates class, but it was only one day a week and often conflicted with SWIC activities.

April - The best part was our time back in the US and spending time with the girls.

May - climbing a volcano in the dark in order to watch the sunrise from the summit. Definitely one of the wildest things I've done, ever!

June - I tried a six week carb cycling program that changed the way I view nutrition and workouts and I loved my results!

July - Scratched another destination off my bucket list with trip to Australia. Made lots of memories, but I loved biking around Sydney with mrC.

August - By far my most traveled month ---> Cape Cod / Montreal / Florida / Ohio! Hard to pick just one highlight, but I loved SUPing with the family on the Cape.

September - I completed a 30 day SHRED program and fell in love with weights.

October - I loved that our three week summer vacation to the US turned into a three month vacation. One of my favorite moments was hiking with Dev in Maine and having lunch on the summit of Mount Agamenticus.

November - Moving to Hong Kong was pretty exciting, but I took my first Les Mills Bodypump class and loved it.

December - I became a Hong Kong Trail finisher after hiking all 50km with the help of many hiking friends.

Maybe 2017 will be the year that YOU try new things. Maybe you are ready to unleash your INNER BEAST or commit to pushing yourself more than ever before.

Reebok Spartan Race is ready to help you with the new Season Passes (that way you can race again, and again, and again), new medals, new obstacles, and an awesome stadium races schedule.

Spartan Race is giving away an entry into any US Spartan Race in a open heat to one lucky Running Escapades reader!

To enter:

Leave a comment telling me one commitment you want to make, one obstacle you want to overcome, and/or one way you want to test yourself in 2017.

If you share this giveaway on Twitter, Facebook, or other social media leave a comment with a link to your post. Each share is another entry!

Giveaway ends January 1, 2017. Winner will be selected randomly and notified no earlier than January 2, 2017. Good luck!!

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Holiday Fitness and other Randomness

I love this time of year! Everyone is so festive and there are lights and decorations all around. We even manage to put up a tree here in Hong Kong. It's that whole what you can way of decorating!

The week leading up to the big day is always filled with hustle and bustle, so I signed up for the 12 Days of "Fit-mas" presented by Fit Mom Strong Mom (which totally looked like a great program) and then promptly failed to participate. It was a combo of being busy with other activities, being tired, being've heard me say all this before.

I was ACTIVE though. Here's a quick look at last week's highlights:

Monday - Mountain Monday - Lookout Point Loop hike in my new North Face Litewave Explore hiking shoes. I've worn them a couple of times now and they do the trick, but on longer hikes I might need a gel insert.

Tuesday - Hong Kong Trail hike with my friends from SWIC (recap here). One of my favorite parts of hiking is looking back to see where we started. In the photo below, our starting point was back by the large apartment buildings and we weren't even halfway yet.

Wednesday - We took a Christmas lights walk around the neighborhood after dinner.

Thursday - IMI treatment for my pesky heel ---> but the osteopath is working wonders and thinks yoga is in my future. That led me to sign up for the 31 Day Yoga Revolution hosted by Yoga with Adriene. I love, love, love her challenges. It starts January 1. You can join here.

Friday - Bodypump. I really need to learn my body's weight limits. I was really sore from this class.

Saturday - Christmas Eve sprint workout at the fitness center. After Mass and dinner in Central we enjoyed as much of Winterfest as we could.

Sunday - Took my new bike on 2 mile Christmas Day ride to the grocery. It's a really nice bike! Then I made some more protein bars because I already ate the first batch!

Today - Another Mountain Monday hike on Lookout Point Loop. Tonight we are meeting mrC's friend, who is in Hong Kong for work, for dinner.

Have you ever signed up for something and then completely dropped the ball?
Do you go Christmas light peeping?
Any holiday workouts for you?

Hong Kong Trail - Sections 5-7

Having already completed Hong Kong Trail Section 8 (Dragon's Back) twice and recently completed Sections 1-4, it just made sense to join a couple of the SWIC ladies who were doing Sections 5-7 so I could say I finished all 50km of the Hong Kong Trail.

*warning ---> lots of pictures in this post!

I met the girls at the Jardine House Starbuck's in Central. I don't normally get coffee from here, but I was early and thought it would guarantee me a pass to use their toilets. It went really well with my gluten free raspberry protein bar, too (recipe). This is a great meeting spot since the bus terminus at Exchange Square is right across the street.

Section 5 trail head on Wong Nad Chung Gap Road is easy to find, but that's the only thing that is easy about this part. There are two peaks to conquer along the way which means a ton of climbing.

This section should just be named the STAIRMASTER! I'm pretty sure all 4km are steps going either up or down (maybe a slight exaggeration, but not much) which is why this part is tagged as hard.

The reward for all that climbing of course is the spectacular views. At 433m, Jardine's Lookout offers great views of the concrete jungle in Central and Kowloon left behind for the day.

After a short break taking in the views and taking pictures, we headed down, down, down.

After a lot of steep steps down and then up again, we reached the second peak at Mount Butler (436m). There's something about a You are here sign that helps you quickly forget the demanding climb you just did.

My new hiking shoes were awesome all day, but I still needed to rest my feet overlooking views of Tai Tam Reservoir. Had. To. This would be a great place for a quick snack or even lunch.

North Face Litewave Explorer 

After a brief easy ridge walk, we were on our way down again. I've read that there are 599 dizzying steps to close out this section of the trail near the quarry. I believe it.

Section 6 starts at Quarry Gap which feels like a rest stop with it's large open space, toilets, shelters, and barbecue area. After a very hilly start to our hike, we took our time and enjoyed a snack break here.

This 4.5km section of the Hong Kong Trail is popular and relatively easy since most of the walking is downhill toward the reservoir and paved. We saw the most people on this section. There are also several big picnic areas before reaching the reservoir which make a perfect spot for lunch if you prefer a quieter spot than Quarry Gap which we did.

The trail goes across the different reservoir sections (I think there are four) and although there are signs posted asking to not feed the fish, people were indeed feeding the fish. They look well fed!!

The last part of this section is dirt trail and nicely shaded. This worked perfectly for our hike as the sun peeped out from the clouds around this time.

Section 7 was the longest section of our hike this day at 7.5km and again mostly concrete. Like all the other sections, the start is marked by a large map (Hint: this information plays a crucial role in events later).

This section of the trail is not very exciting. Most of it runs beside the water catchment. It is level though, so the walking goes pretty quickly. Nearing the end we got some great views of Tai Tam Harbour and the surrounding villages.

We knew that this part would be mainly flat with the exception of a large section of steps (700 according to the Hong Kong hiking website). Although we didn't see a trail sign, we took a set of 700 steps up to what we thought would be Shek O Road. Turns out we were 2km EARLY. There was no section 8 trail sign waiting for us at the top.

Even though I missed 2km of section 7 (I was too tired to go back down to walk 2km and climb another set of 700 steps), I'm still calling myself a Hong Kong Trail 50km finisher! (sidenote: we took some bad advice from a couple of hikers near these steps ---> always refer to your own maps and trail descriptions!)

We were still able to catch the bus to the metro station and head back to Central. Although it was a weekday, the bus was so crowded we had to stand. After walking most of 16km on concrete, my feet were tired and all I could think about was sitting down.

Other hiking posts:

Tell me...
What is your favorite coffee spot?
Do you wear hiking shoes or regular shoes on hikes?
Would you have gone back to do the 2km (plus 1400 steps)?

Friday, December 23, 2016

Hong Kong Trail: Sections 1-4

Those SWIC hikers can get me to do anything...including hiking 25k in one day! I met up with my Shenzhen friends to hike sections 1-4 of the Hong Kong Trail. I did section 8, known as Dragon's Back, with them in January and again with the AWA hiking group last month. I guess it was time to branch out.

Section 1 begins at The Peak, which is a great starting point since there's a Starbuck's for the coffee lovers and toilets. Some hikers might even start late enough to enjoy the shops in the mall. We took a bus from Central, but there are many options to get up to The Peak. The Peak Tram is probably the most popular, but also more expensive.

The Peak is the highest point on Hong Kong Island so the hike starts with the best views of Central and Kowloon. I bet the first 3km offers varying views like this.

Although this section is categorized as easy, it is still 7km long. We were prepared with plenty of water for hiking all four sections, but we used a mini filtration system to refill our bottles when we could along the trail.

Section 2 is a fairly easy 4.5km walk through the woods. This section is popular for quick hikes because you get a lot of nature in a short time and it's easy to start/finish at either end.

The trail heads toward Aberdeen and along the way you get some great views. If you opt out after section 2, the hike can end by continuing down into Aberdeen and past the large cemetery ---> center of photo below.

This section is mostly concrete walking paths and steps, but it's all very manageable. Although most of this section is shaded by foliage, walking along the catch water is open to the sun.

The last part of the trail is a flight of steep steps, but off to the right is a shelter perfect for a quick rest or even lunch. There's also a great viewing area of some of the outlying islands like Lamma, Peng Chau and Lantau. I could even see Discovery Bay!

Section 3 takes about 2 hours to cover the 6.5km because like section 2 it's mostly an easy walk through the woods. We passed by lots of small waterfalls, but much fewer people.

Best hiking material = linen. My tank was so comfortable all day!

Dirt trails mean a lot of happy hiking, but there are also a lot of rocks and roots in the path. So while feeling closer to nature, my neck hurts from looking down so long and occasionally I trip  or stub a toe. Like I said, happy hiking!

We stopped for lunch along this section and one of the girls shared these amazing gluten-free pumpkin muffins (she modified this recipe). I can't wait to make some of my own.

Section 4 is another 7.5km of comfortable hiking trails with a brief climb near the end. This part of the trail was probably 50/50 paved/unpaved and took about 2 hours to complete.

There's nothing better on a hike than enjoying some unexpected scenery. We were thrilled to come across the occasional poinsettia, especially since it is nearly Christmas.

We knew the end was near when we started getting glimpses of Ocean Park, a marine-life theme park with animals and rides divided into zones. The main attraction is the pandas.

The end! We made it! From here we hopped on a bus back to Central. My friends went back to Shenzhen and I caught the ferry to Discovery Bay.

I'll mention here that I did this hike right after returning from Phuket and catching a cold (probably on the plane). I was feeling, meh at the beginning, but by the time the final photo was taken I was feeling pretty miserable. Somehow I still finished my longest hike so far!

Coming up: Hong Kong Trail: Sections 5-7!!