Chiang Rai: Some interesting temples

Chiang Rai: Some interesting temples

I got to the bus station in Chiang Mai before 9AM to get a bus to Chiang Rai.  I hadn’t purchased a ticket in advance, and wasn’t able to get onto a bus until 11AM.  The bus got into Chiang Rai around 1PM.  I wandered around the bus station to find a hostel, which I was able to do relatively quickly.  In Chiang Rai all I wanted to do was see the White Temple, Black House, and get my travel to Luang Prabang, Laos sorted out.  If I could do all of this in the afternoon I’d only spend 1 day in Chiang Mai.

Overall I didn’t love Chiang Rai.  There didn’t seem to be much to do, and it was more expensive than Chiang Mai.  I really don’t see any reason why I’d need to go back, unless I was just passing through and needed somewhere to sleep for the night.

The Black House

I knew the Black House closed first, so I got on a tuk tuk there right after I found some food.  I’d heard mixed reviews about the Black House prior to my arrival in Chiang Mai.  Most people who had seen it recommend I go, but that it was a really weird, twisted place.  I was told the Black House was created by an artist to symbolize the darkness and tragedy in the world.  I don’t have a lot to say about it, I’ll let the pictures below speak for themselves.  What I will say is it’s beautifully put together, if you can appreciate that sort of thing.  I couldn’t decide if I thought the whole thing was disrespectful or not, but I’m not an artist and in general truly appreciating these kinds of exhibits goes right over my head.

 

Arriving at the Black House

Arriving at the Black House

A chair decorated with skulls and horns

A chair decorated with skulls and horns

Crocodile table runner

Crocodile table runner

Some sort of skin

Some sort of skin

Python table runner

Python table runner

Skulls decorating an exterior building

Skulls decorating an exterior building

A skeleton laid out under a building

A skeleton laid out under a building

 

This building looks like a cartoon animal

This building looks like a cartoon animal

Some of the grounds

Some of the grounds

The White Temple

After checking out the Black House I got dropped off at the bus station to take a bus to the White Temple.  The buses were really small, and leg room was non-existent.  They drove with the doors open and seemed to stop any time we drove past someone to see if they wanted a ride.

Local bus to the White Temple

Local bus to the White Temple

When we made it to the White Temple it was too late to walk through, but that meant you had a better view (no tourists in the way) of the whole thing.  The temple had suffered some damage from an earthquake earlier this year, but was quite pretty.  I did find some of the statues questionable, there was a Predator coming out of the ground and a Batman carving.  Also, all the buildings are white except for the bathroom, which is gold.

The White Temple

The White Temple

Gold bathroom at the White Temple

Gold bathroom at the White Temple

Some interesting statues

Some interesting statues

Classic pose

Classic pose

Night Market

After struggling to find any decent (cheap) food around lunchtime I was happy to see the night market had all sorts of options.  There were a number of stalls selling different goods, but the food area is where most people were.  Since I was leaving Thailand I decided to have khao soi one last time.  It didn’t disappoint.  I also got a banana-nutella pancake on my way out, and those never let me down.

Lots of food stands

Lots of food stands

Popular place to eat

Popular place to eat

Running

Chiang Rai was a small city, so I knew finding a place to run would be a struggle.  My plan, which ended up working out was to run from my hostel to the main road, and just do an out and back.  It wasn’t a scenic, or particularly interesting run, but it got my legs moving which was great given the journey I had ahead of me to Luang Prabang.

Chiang Rai running route

Chiang Rai running route

HERE is my Garmin file for that run.

 

I saw what I wanted to in Chiang Rai, and got my way to Luang Prabang the next day sorted, so I’d call it a successful stop.

 

Chiang Mai: Into Southeast Asia

Chiang Mai: Into Southeast Asia

Chiang Mai was one of the places I was most looking forward to.  When I was in Asia last year I heard from loads of travellers how great it was.  Hong Kong was nice, but I prefer the atmosphere in Southeast Asia, and Chiang Mai would mark the beginning.

Prior to arriving I had done more research on Chiang Mai than most places.  I was looking for a couple races I could do while I’m here and Chiang Mai has a full, half, and quarter marathon the weekend before I head back to Toronto in December.  If I was able to keep up some level of running while in Asia this was a race I really wanted to do.

I didn’t have a firm plan of what I wanted to do while in Chiang Mai.  A little running, maybe visit an elephant camp (but not just any one, more on that below), and have some khao soi.

Old City

I stayed at the Green Tulip while I was in Chiang Mai, which was in the southwest area of the old city.  As it turns out this wasn’t the best location to be, but I didn’t mind walking a bit.  My first day in Chiang Mai I rented a bicycle and road all around the old city.  The old city is a rectangle, and is surrounded by a moat.  The east side seemed to be where most of the places were that catered to tourists.

Green Tulip Guesthouse

Green Tulip Guesthouse

Doi Suthep-Pui National Park

On my second day in Chiang Mai I signed up for a mountain bike tour down one of the mountains in the Doi Suthep-Pui National Park.  I’m not very experienced on a mountain bike, but the tour operator assured me I would be fine on the intermediate route.  We were driven to the top of the mountain and then took trails back down.  The park was beautiful; coffee plantations, rice fields, beautiful views, and lots of greenery.  Unfortunately when I was riding I had to constantly focus on the trail because it was very technical.  Our guide was a rider for the Thai national team, and he didn’t see why we would have any problems, but there was one section in particular where both myself, and a friend from Switzerland went down.  We did take a number of stops along the way to take pictures and take it all in.  We finished our ride at a gorgeous lake and had lunch.

Ready to ride

Ready to ride

Lunch at the lake

Lunch at the lake

HERE is the Garmin file for the ride.  I forgot to stop it when we got to the lake.

Ran-Tong Elephant Save & Rescue Centre

I wasn’t sure if I was going to go to an elephant camp or not while in Chiang Mai.  I’ve heard a lot of the camps treat the elephants very poorly.  I don’t consider myself an animal activist, but I also didn’t want to contribute to their torture.  I heard about the Ran-Tong Elephant Save & Rescue Centre from a couple of guys in my hostel.  They said that they had done some research and heard great things about this camp, and 1 other.  At the Ran-Tong Camp this buy elephants from circuses, hard labour, and other unethical camps.  At the Ran-Tong camp they don’t use hooks, nor beat the elephants.  They are controlled through voice commands from their mahout (elephant trainer).

I was picked up from my hostel and driven to the Ran-Tong camp about an hour away.  2 other couples shared the van.  We would all be participating in the half-day camp together.  Because I was the odd man out I got my own elephant to work with.

Arriving at the elephant camp I felt like I was in a completely different world (I suppose I was).  We arrived on a hill above the camp and could see down over the grounds.  Below we could see many elephants walking freely, followed closely by their mahouts.  We walked down the stairs into the camp, pausing briefly as an elephant walked by.  Once we arrived we were given traditional mahout clothing to change into (interestingly none of the mahouts were in this attire), it was expected to get messy.

Arriving at Ran-Tong

Arriving at Ran-Tong

The day began with us feeding elephants.  8 elephants lined up with their trunks stretched out asking for bananas.  Their trunk was obviously very muscular, and it was a very weird sensation when they grabbed the banana from you.

Breakfast time

Breakfast time

After the feeding we were each matched with an elephant.  Come Moon (Sshhh-moon) and I would be a team. Come Moon was a female who had scars on her body.  They weren’t totally sure about her history, but expect the scars are from years of hard labour.  I was introduced to Come Moon, as well as basic elephant commands.  (It wasn’t until later that I learned how useless these commands were coming from me.  The guide for the group told us that the elephants know their mahouts voice and small, and will only listen to them.  The guide said the elephants wouldn’t listen to him either.)  Armed with basic elephant commands we had the opportunity to ride the elephants.  Ran-Tong doesn’t use chairs because they are very bad for the elephants.  I was right on Come Moon’s shoulders, just behind his ears.  There is no harness or saddle.  The elephants do wear a necklace-like rope around their neck that I could use to balance if I felt like I was falling off.

Come Moon and I going for a stroll

Come Moon and I going for a stroll

Once I was on Come Moon she was free to roam the park.  The mahout would ensure she didn’t leave the property, but otherwise it was up to her where we went.  She decided to walk up a very narrow path up a hill that had me a little nervous.  It seemed like it would be hardly wide enough for me to walk up, but she had no problem.

Come Moon eats more than I do

Come Moon eats more than I do

Our walk ended in a pond where I gave Come Moon a good scrubbing.

Bath time

Bath time

The whole experience was great, and I’m very happy I did it.  I suppose there really is no way of knowing just how good (ethical) the camp is, I was only on site for about 4 hours.  But it did seem like a good place for the elephants.

Saying goodbye

Saying goodbye

HERE’S the official website for the Ran-Tong Elephant Save & Rescue Centre.

Temples

 

Wat Phra Singh

Wat Phra Singh

Inside Wat Phra Singh

Inside Wat Phra Singh

Monks in the temple

Monks in the temple

Buddha in Wat Chedi Luang

Buddha in Wat Chedi Luang

Food

I had some great food in Chiang Mai, and some really interesting food experiences.  I ate at a few of the restaurants, but also tried a lot of the street food on offer.

Really good chicken and potato curry

Really good chicken and potato curry

Soft bun with chocolate and almond from a street vendor was very tasty

Soft bun with chocolate and almond from a street vendor was very tasty

Khao Soi

Khao Soi is called the food of Chiang Mai.  It’s chicken and rice noodles in curry with fried rice noodles on top.  I really enjoyed it when I had it in Toronto, so I was keen to try it.  I arrived in Chiang Mai around lunch, so finding some Khao Soi was priority number 1.  I found a place just down the street from my hostel that had it for 90baht ($3).  A little pricy by Chiang Mai standards, but I was craving it so I decided to splurge.  It was really good.  Over the rest of my time in Chiang Mai I must have had khao soi at least once a day.  At some of the cheaper places (40baht, $1.35) the chicken wasn’t as good, but the curry and noodles were always great.

Khao Soi right when I arrived in Chiang Mai

Khao Soi right when I arrived in Chiang Mai

Green Curry

Green curry was another dish I was keen to try.  It’s less of a traditional curry taste, and more of a refreshing taste.  It was good, but I didn’t need to have it more than once.

Green curry

Green curry

Jane’s Kitchen

Just down from my hostel was an all natural, organic restaurant called Jane’s Kitchen.  The food was more typical of what you would find at a healthy restaurant back home than Thai food.  I stopped in twice.  The first time I ordered the carrot salad with Dijon dressing.  It was really nice.  A little pricy by Chiang Mai standards, but it was nice to get some vegetables in and the home made dressing was really good.  The second time I got the chunky monkey shake made with coconut milk, bananas, and home made chocolate peanut butter.  The shake was really nice, and it was great to talk to Jane, the cook and owner.  She makes homemade pasta that I plan on trying when I’m back in Chiang Mai before the half marathon.

Carrot salad at Jane's Kitchen

Carrot salad at Jane’s Kitchen

Street Food

The most interesting food is always street food.  My first Sunday I went to the Sunday Market in the evening for dinner.  I ended up settling on some disappointing pad thai.  I also had a banana goldfish cake that looked really neat, but wasn’t so great.

My second night I decided to try soup from a stand across from the hostel.  I didn’t ask the price before I ordered (I had heard it was 20baht) so I think I got charged the suckers price of 40baht.  It was a noodle soup that was good, but I was keen to find something a little more flavourful.

I had noticed that every day stand opens in the late afternoon that has a dozen woks, all filled with different soup type mixtures.  This seemed the most popular spot in all of Chiang Mai for Thai people to get food, but I never saw a foreigner there.  I decided I’d give it a shot.  I went to the stand to grab dinner.  The lady running it seemed happy to see me, I don’t think too many foreigners give it a try, but spoke no English.  The first soup I pointed to she nodded no, I assume it was because it was extremely hot.  So I pointed to another and she nodded yes.  It looked like chicken or pork in it (likely pork) with some sort of yellow-red liquid and something that looked like grapefruit, but had a consistency and taste similar to potato.  It came in a bag with a spoon for 15baht ($0.50).  I tentatively tried it and it was really good!  It definitely had some spice and was just filled with flavour.  I liked it so much I went back for another, this time splurging the extra 5baht for some sticky rice as well.  I tried something that I think had pork.  It was a thicker consistency, almost like tomato sauce.  It too was very good, but as I ate my mouth got hotter and hotter.  Right after I finished I decided on a bit of ice cream to cool my mouth down.  I was really happy with my decision to give this place a try.

The popular locals stand

The popular locals stand

My first soup

My first soup

My second soup and stick rice

My second soup and stick rice

Thai Pancake

One of the foods I missed from my last trip was Thai pancakes.  They seem to be everywhere in south Thailand, but aren’t as popular up north.  I managed to find them in the night market.  I got banana-Nutella, and it was just as good as I remembered!

Making the pancake

Making the pancake

Applying Nutella with love

Applying Nutella with love

Running

Running is Chiang Mai was a lot of fun.  There’s a moat that surrounds the city.  Inside the moat traffic goes counter-clockwise, outside the moat it goes clockwise.  It was a natural choice of where to run because it was easy to follow, and traffic wasn’t a problem to navigate.  Inside the moat a lap is about 6.4km. I ran one laps inside the moat the first 3 mornings there, and then on my final morning I ran one lap inside the moat and one lap outside the moat for a longer 13k run.  I began feeling better running in the heat and picked up the tempo in some of my runs.

Inside and outside the moat run

Inside and outside the moat run

Just before my run in Chiang Mai.

Just before my run in Chiang Mai.

HERE is the Garmin file from one of my runs.

 

Chiang Mai was great, and I plan to return for the half marathon on Dec 21.  Until then, it’s due north to Chiang Rai.

Hong Kong: Where it all begins

Hong Kong: Where it all begins

It was weird getting off a plane in a foreign country half way around the world and feeling like I knew exactly what I was doing. Last year when I landed in Hong Kong I was a deer in headlights. This year I had an idea of what to expect from the airport, and I knew where to get the bus that would take me to my hostel. I’m staying at the same hostel, Yesinn, in Causeway Bay. It worked out well last time and I liked the vibe from the other people staying there so I decided to go back.

I didn’t have a lot planned for my time in Hong Kong, last year when I started my trip there toured most of the sites, so there were only a few things I wanted to see. The main thing I wanted to do in HK was get adjusted to the time change.

Yesinn is inside the NCB building

Yesinn is inside the NCB building

Macau

Last time I didn’t have a chance to make it over to Macau, so it was something I really wanted to do.  I landed in Hong Kong Thursday evening, and when I woke up Friday morning I decided Macau would be my first stop.  Just as I was leaving my hostel I grabbed my passport, I wasn’t sure at the time if I’d need it, but as it turns out you do, so I’m glad I did.  I took the ferry over to Macau.  It’s about an hour and a pretty comfortable ride.

First glimpse of Macau from the ferry

First glimpse of Macau from the ferry

Macau is known for it’s casinos.  I’m not much of a gambler, but I wanted to walk around the casinos as well as make my way to the Historic Centre of Macau, where you can still see the Portuguese influence and architecture.

Upon docking in Macau and clearing customs there are dozen of casino shuttles ready to pick you up and take you to their casino.  I saw a few names I recognized (MGM, Wynn) but a shuttle for the Casino Lisboa was there and ready to go so I hoped into it.  Little did I know the Casino Lisboa is one of the oldest, and most beautiful in all of Macau.  The building resembled a lotus flower.  Inside the casino looked and felt like any other casino I’ve been in (albeit I haven’t been in too many) but the architecture from the outside really was amazing.  I had planned on gambling about $50HKD, more as a formality, but that would wait.  I was first off to find old Macau and make my way to the Ruins of St. Paul.

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Casino Lisboa

A concierge at one of the hotels was nice enough to give me a map, but I still managed to get lost.  I ended up wandering around in circles for about an hour before I found old Macau.  On the way I came across a bakery selling egg tarts.  I’ve had them before, but never warm.  These were fresh out of the over and really good.

Egg tart in Macau

Egg tart in Macau

Historic Centre of Macau

You’ll know you’re there, not only by the pastel colours and European styling, but also the number of tourists taking photos.  I wandered through old Macau to the Ruins of St. Paul.  I wouldn’t call them awe inspiring, but they were nice to see.  I walked around the ruins and then moved onto Fortaleza do Monte (Mount Fortress).  It’s the former military centre of Portuguese Macau.  It was on the top of the hill and offered a panoramic view of Macau.

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Historic Centre of Macau

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Ruins of St. Paul

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View from Fortaleza do Monte

Gambling

After walking through the Historic Centre of Macau I began working my way back to the casinos to catch a shuttle back to the dock.  I wanted to see the Wynn and MGM up close so I headed in that direction.  The MGM appears to be 3 different coloured rectangular blocks stacked on each other, and also features some impressive statues.  I decided they would be my target.  With $50HKD in hand I headed to the video roulette.  I thought the minimum bet was $5HKD, but as it turns out it was $30HKD, and I lost it betting on black.  I wasn’t off to a good start.  I decided to move onto a slot machine (in part because I didn’t have enough gambling funds left for the minimum bet).  I mindlessly clicked away at a slot machine until bells rang and I was back to my $50HKD starting point.  I figured I’d go back to roulette and keep going until I was either up $50HKD, or had lost it all.   In the end I got lucky with a 17 and I finished up about $77HKD.  I really showed them whose boss.

After my gambling high I hoped back on the shuttle and was headed back to Hong Kong.

Thanks for the donation to my travel fun MGM!

Thanks for the donation to my travel fund MGM!

Night Market

Hong Kong is full of all sorts of markets.  Last time I made it to a number of them but missed the night market.  I don’t have a lot to say about it, it’s full of a lot of counterfeit goods, like many of the markets.  I did have a very disappointing chicken and vegetable dinner.  It was swimming in salt.

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Night Market

Stanley Market

On my second day in Hong Kong I really wanted to make it to the other side of the island.  There was a bus that started literally right outside the door of my hostel and went there.  The Stanley area has more of a resort feel.  They really show off the water and have lots of greenery.  At the market there were a number of artists selling cantonese calligraphy on different products.  It had a much more upscale feel than the other markets.  I wandered through the markets and then along the pier.  There were a dozen restaurant that overlooked the water.  I’m glad I made it out to see this park of Hong Kong.

Stanley Market

Stanley Market

View of the water from Stanley

View of the water from Stanley

 

Repulse Bay

On my way to Stanley I went right past Repulse Bay, it’s allegedly the most popular beach in Hong Kong, though it wasn’t very busy when I was there.  One thing that surprised me was the lack of food and drink available in the area.  Some sort of building in being constructed between the road and the beach, but I figured there would be all sorts of food options.  I spent an hour or so lounging around on the beach and taking in the view, it was a good way to spend the afternoon.

Repulse Bay

Repulse Bay

Protesters

Prior to my departure for Hong Kong I had heard about the protests.  It was my understanding that they were civilized and not a problem.  One of the protests was taking place just down the road from my hostel.  My first night I was walking around the area and I saw a number of tents.  There were some people milling about so I assumed it was a market.  When I got closer I realized it was the protest.  I couldn’t read most of the signs, but everything was pretty calm.  There were police close by, but there didn’t seem to be any concern.

Protest in Causeway Bay

Protest in Causeway Bay

Running

I didn’t plan to start running right away when I got to Hong Kong, but I woke up early that first morning and couldn’t fall back to sleep, so I decided to go for a short jog.  Last time I was in Hong Kong I jogged in Victoria Park, so I decided to head that way again.  The route from my hostel was pretty straight forward and I managed to remember it.  Early in the morning the park is filled with people doing Tai Chi, dance classes, meditating, and other activities.  There’s a red path in the middle of the park for joggers only that stretches 650m.  I did a very lazy laps in the park that morning, taking in the sights and the fact that I was in Hong Kong.

The next two mornings I also ran in Victoria Park.  These mornings I did a lap of the park and then did a few sprints across the soccer fields they had there.

I didn’t head to the peak at all during this trip, but I remember last time there being a few runners up there.  Also, when I was in Stanley I saw a number of runners and cyclists.  The roads are very hilly, so there aren’t too many easy runs to be had in this area.

HERE is one of my Garmin files from Hong Kong.

Dance Class in Victoria Park

Dance Class in Victoria Park

An idea of where I ran

An idea of where I ran

Food

I wasn’t taken by any of the food in Hong Kong.  On a budget I didn’t have plans to eat at any of Hong Kong’s finer restaurants so I ate quite a bit at the market.  With that said, there was a small pastry shop near my hostel that had very good coconut tarts and pineapple buns.

Pineapple Bun

Pineapple Bun

 

Hong Kong was a great chance for me to get back into a travellers mindset without being too different from home.  From here I fly into Chiang Mai, that’s where the real adventure will begin!

Chicago Marathon Race Report

Chicago Marathon Race Report

There are those days when you run when everything clicks; legs feel light, km’s tick off, and your body feels great.  That wasn’t the day I had at the Chicago Marathon.  I set an ambitious goal (maybe over ambitious) of 2:48 and fell well short at 2:55.  With that said, I am happy with the effort I gave, I just didn’t have it today.

Pre Race

We arrived in Chicago Friday morning.  This was my first time in the city, so I was looking forward to checking it out.  We got settled into the place we were staying just outside the downtown core and then headed to the expo.  The expo was very well organized.  In no time we had our race kits and then browsed the vendors.

At the expo

At the expo

The Saturday our plan was to do very little.  I ran about 2.5k with strides to make sure everything felt good, and then Lisa and I did the architectural boat tour that it seems everyone who has ever been to Chicago has recommended.  It did live up to the hype, it was pretty good.  After that we went back to the condo and worked on staying off our feet.  Lunch and dinner were both spaghetti and a bit of Gatorade.

Race Morning

I got a solid 6 hours sleep the night before the race and was up around 4:00AM.  I had a bagel with almond butter and honey for breakfast and we were out the door on the way to the race just after 5:00AM.  We arrived at the race site by 6:00AM, got our bags checked, and got in line for the port-a-loo.  It was a little chilly so I had on a long sleeve and sweat pants that I planned to discard just before the race started.  I made my way to my corral, did a couple sprints to warmup, and then made my way into the corral by 7:10AM (it was a 7:30 start).  I lined up on the left side because I heard the first two 90* turns were both lefts and it can be a long way around on the right.

The Race

In my head I broke the race up into two 15k’s and a 12.2k final.  If all went to plan I’d run about 60:00 for each of my first 15’s and 48:48 or better over the final 12.2k.

First 15k – 58:40, 3:55/km

At the gun I felt good.  I was about 4 people from the front of the corral, so it wasn’t too congested.  You run under a really long bridge in the first km, which throws off your Garmin, so I wasn’t completely sure of my pace, but I felt like it was a little fast (as expected).  There were so many spectators, the atmosphere was great.  I ran through 5k in 18:53.  This was definitely  fast, I knew the opening km’s would be a little quick, but even with that I wanted to be around 19:15.  This was likely one of the first mistakes that derailed my day.  Running downtown my Garmin was jumping all over the place so I never really knew how quick I was running.  I’d try to run at someones pace who was near me, but I think I ended up surging and slowing down quite a bit.  I began taking little sips of Gatorade right from the first aid station.

The next 5k I had cooled my jets and bit and ran 19:40 (38:33 through 10k).  Around 8k I felt a little twang of pain in my right calf, but it didn’t last more than half a kilometer.  I was alert, but not overly concerned at this point.  I still felt like I was running well through 10k, and the crowd support was incredible.

From 10-15k I ran 20:07.  I took my first gel at 11k.  I had planned to take it a bit sooner, but wanted to take it right before an aid station so I could wash it down with water.  At about 13k my left calf (which I had experienced problems with leading into the race) began to act up.  I began to wonder if I was beginning to cramp up after the problems I had with my other calf 5km earlier.  I wasn’t going to change anything just yet, but I would keep a closer eye on how my body felt moving forward in the race.

My first 15k took me 58:40.  I was happy with this time, and how I felt.  I did notice that the running began to feel like work earlier here than I remember it feeling like when I ran the Hamilton Marathon last year, but I chalked that up to the faster pace I was needing to run.  I was 1:20 below the pace I needed to meet my 2:48 goal.

Second 15k – 60:26, 4:02/km pace (Overall 1:59:06, 3:59/km pace)

The second 15k section of the race is when things started to unravel.  From 15-20k it began to feel like a struggle.  I ran it in 20:08 and even through I felt like my effort was increasing my pace was slowing down.

20-25k I ran in 20:06.  My last 15k were pretty steady at 4:01/km pace, and if I kept that up it would get me to the finish line inside my goal time, but that was a big ‘if’.  I took my second of 3 gels I planned to take at halfway (21.1k).  I began to make an effort to try to take in more Gatorade at the aid stations to try and combat some of the cramping I was feeling.  I knew this was a risk because the extra fluid in my stomach could cause some problems, but the cramping was getting worse and I needed to do something to stop it from going past the point of no return and stopping me in my tracks.

25-30k took me 20:12.  Again, losing time vs. 4:00/km pace, but still under my goal time.  The problem was that it wasn’t just my calves that were bothering me, my hip flexors and hamstrings were heating up and a light, easy stride was a thing of the past.

Through 30k I was still on pace but I was holding on by a thread.  I still had 0:54 in the bank for the final 12.2k but I was losing time every split.  My legs weren’t in good shape.  Even though I’d been experiencing the calf pain longer, it was my hip flexors and hamstrings that really worried me.

Final 12.2k – 57:26, 4:43/km pace (Overall 2:55:32, 4:10/km pace)

The stretch from 30-35k was when reality set in and the wheels fell off.  I ran it in 21:23 and I went from 0:28 under my goal time to 0:29 over.  My calves were cramping, my hip flexors were burning, my hamstrings hurt, and my stomach was in a knot.  I planned to take my 3rd of 3 gels around 31k, but there was no way I’d be able to get it down (and I never ended up taking that 3rd gel).  I think I had too much fluid in my stomach from the extra Gatorade I took in to combat the cramping.  I knew I should back off my pace and go into survival mode to get to the finish, but the 2:48:48 time is one that means something to me, and I trained hard to achieve.  I was going to force my body to keep moving as fast as possible until I broke and would need to walk.  Just before 35k I reached that breaking point.  My legs effectively said no more as I felt pain shoot up each of my legs and it was all I could do to stay standing.  I was on the very left side of the road and steadied myself on a fence as I walked.  I knew I needed to keep moving forward to salvage any sort of respectable (in my own mind) time.  I only walked about 150-200m, but that was enough to have me lose all of my time cushion and put my 2:48 goal out of reach.

35-40k took me 24:58.  It began with me moving back into a jog, even though I knew my goal had slipped out of reach I still wanted to get to the finish as quickly as possible.  Low 4:00 km’s were no longer in the cards for me, but I was able to shuffle along at about 4:40s until I got to 39k and I was forced to walk again.

40-42.2k was 2.2km’s that felt like they would never end.  It took me 10:05 (4:35/km pace) but I felt like I was moving a lot slower.  I would usually soak in the crowd, the race, and the training that I went through to get here and really savour this part of the race, but not today.  The burn going through my legs felt like the burn I felt when I did my first marathon in 2012.  I had no finish kick and don’t think I managed to muster a smile at the finish.

Finish 2:55:32, 4:10/km

Post Race

Right after the race I was in a massive amount of pain, and the way the finish chute is set up you have another 400m of walking before you can sit down.  I knew after I sat down that getting up would be a challenge but I wasn’t sure how much longer my legs would support me.  I got a little Gatorade and food into my body, and just sat there in pain for about 20 minutes.  Maybe not the best thing to do, but I was in a world of hurt and not really thinking straight.

Mistakes

I think I made a few mistakes in this race.

First, I’ve run a number of 4:00/km’s, but I can’t run them blind.  Throughout the race (but especially in the first 5k) buildings and bridges caused my Garmin to jump all over the place.  I had no idea what pace I was running for a given split until I ran past a mile marker with a clock.  If I was more in tune with my paces I could have done a better job at running by feel during these sections.

Second, not only was I running fast over the first 5k but I was surging a lot.  Even though I knew the buildings were throwing off my Garmin when I saw a slow pace I would speed up, and then end up slowing down when I saw a much too fast pace.  This wasn’t smart running, and something that came back to haunt me in the closing km’s.

Finally, I should have been better prepared nutritionally.  When I race I rely heavily on the natural systems of my body and try to avoid taking in too many things during.  Only in my preparation for Chicago did I make a plan for taking gels during long runs, I would take in minimal fluids and no salt pills.  After the race my skin was covered in salt like I’ve never seen on anyone before.  I’ve never bothered to train or race with salt pills, and this was a mistake.  I should have been taking them during some of my runs to test if they were beneficial for me.  If they were I could have carried salt pills and taken them if need be during the race to ward off cramping, without all of the extra liquid from the Gatorade I was drinking.

Final Thoughts

I’m disappointed in my result but I’m happy with my effort.  I didn’t feel like I’d felt on other great race days, and I’m not sure why, it just wasn’t my day.  I’m glad I kept pushing at 4:00 pace until I broke as opposed to scaling back the speed early, it leaves no doubt in my mind I didn’t have 2:48 in my legs on that day, and that’s what I went to Chicago for.  Maybe I could have had a better paced race, but I can live with going for it and having the wheels fall off.  I feel like I’ve progressed leaps and bounds as a runner over the past 14 weeks, and despite this result it gives me confidence in the run I hope to produce at IM Whistler next summer.

Chicago Marathon Training Week 13

This week is when I get a little bit more serious about tapering.  My normal easy runs will be cut from 15k to 12k or even 10k (depending on how I feel).

Workouts

I fit in a longer run earlier in the week than normal (24k on Tuesday), to give my body one last longer effort with a 5k section at marathon pace, while also allowing for enough time that recovery wouldn’t be an issue.  My intervals on Thursday are shorter than what I had been doing in training, I just want them to ensure I stay sharp.  My Saturday ‘long run’ will be down to 20k this week seeing as at that point in the week it’ll be only about a week out from Chicago.

M: Easy 12k.  Not much of note, didn’t feel tight after the Ajax 5k the day before.

Tu: 24k w/ 5k at marathon pace.  This was to be my last real effort before race day.  The first couple km’s I wasn’t really into it but I got focused right when the marathon pace section started 4k into the run.  My first km was just over pace, but the other 4 were all just under.  I took a gel at 9k, right after I finished the marathon pace work.  I was a little low on fuel over the final couple of km’s and could have used another around the 18k mark.  Overall I was really happy with the run, and getting it done.

W: 12k easy.  The run didn’t start well.  Almost from the beginning I began thinking about cutting my route, but as I got into it I felt better and ended up doing the whole run as planned.

Th: 8x400m.  I planned on running on the track at the local high school, but one of the teams was using it so I did my workout on the road.  My legs felt alright once I got into it, I was able to get my speed up for the 400m repeats and really let my legs loose.

F: Easy 10k.  Nothing special, easy 10k to keep my legs moving.

Sa: Easy 12km w/ strides.  I had planned to run 20k but my legs were extremely tired when I woke up.  Part of that was likely due to the massage I got Friday.  I held a 4:39 pace, which I was surprised with considering how tired my legs felt when I woke up, but I was happy with my decision to cut my run short from the beginning.

Su: 0km.  I planned a day off to help my legs with recovery.

Total milage: 85.75km for the week, 1301km total.