Chiang Mai Half Marathon Race Report

Chiang Mai Half Marathon Race Report

After making my Asian debut at the Thailand International Half Marathon in Bangkok last Sunday I made my white shorts debut at the Chiang Mai Half Marathon this Sunday (Dec 21).  My race was alright, not quite as quick as I hoped, but another useful run to have under my belt as I prepare to head back home and get into serious training.

White shorts making their debut

White shorts making their debut

Pre Race

I was better prepared leading into this race than I was for the race in Bangkok.  I arrived in Chiang Mai from Pai on Thursday and then didn’t have a lot planned for my time in Chiang Mai.  One thing I was trying to do was battle a bit of a cold I picked up in Pai.  Most of my travels have been in hot, tropical places, but Pai wasn’t like that.  It never got hot, and got really cool at night.  I think my body was a little shocked by this.  I was popping Fishermans Friends like it was my job and drinking lots of water to try to avoid, or at least delay, the cold.

The day before the race was kit pickup at the Three Kings Monument.  Where I was staying was only a couple hundred meters from the monument, which was also the start/finish.  I got to kit pickup right when it opened at 10AM.  I’m glad I did, it was very disorganized and slow.  I was 3rd in line and it took me 15 minutes to get my bib.

Long line to get your bib

Long line to get your bib

After that I just relaxed for the day.  I planned to have basically all my eating done by 6PM.  Food for the day included a couple of banana-Nutella crepes, some chicken and rice, a chicken and avocado salad, and some pesto pasta.  There was a dinner and performances that the race was putting on at the start/finish.  I wandered over there to have a look and I munched on my second crepe of the day.  I’m glad I chose not to eat at their dinner.  I didn’t see what food was being served but the line was long, and they hadn’t started serving by 6:15.  I watched a bit of the dancing on stage before heading back to my room.

Pre race pasta

Pre race pasta

I turned off all of the lights in my room around 8:00PM to try to trick my body into falling asleep early.  I think I pushed the time a little too early because at 10:30PM I was still trying to fall asleep.

Race Morning

My alarm rang at 3:10AM.  I had picked up some banana bread and a blueberry muffin for breakfast (similar to what I ate last weekend).  I ate these right away, and washed them down with a small bottle of Thai sports drink.  At about 3:40AM I headed to the start to see the marathon start at 4:00AM.  4:00AM was also the time I decided I’d stop drinking fluids before the start of my race.  I watched the marathoners go off and then headed back to my room.

Marathon pace bunnies with balloons.

Marathon pace bunnies with balloons.

I didn’t leave my room until 4:40AM.  It was a little chilly outside, and I’d been there so I knew that there was nothing I needed to do before the start except actually get there.  When I got to the start I made my way into the start corral.  Seeding wasn’t AS BAD as in Bangkok, but it still wasn’t great.  I ended up 4 rows back.  There was a couple right at the front that were still taking photos when they announced 30 seconds to the start.

The Race

Off the gun I had to side step around a couple people in front of me over the first 50m or so before the roads cleared up.  There were a couple others that took off fast; one was up the road and would continue to accelerate away from me over the entire race, the others I was able to move ahead of at my pace as we reached the first turn about 300m up the road.  I’d run the first 4k and the last 2.5k of the course in the days before the race, and from my running here in October I felt I knew the moat portion of the race relatively well.  It was a bazar feeling being in a race half way around the world and feeling like I knew a chunk of the coarse better than I’d known the majority of the courses I’ve run back home.  About 2k into the race I was passed by another runner moving much quicker than I was.  Given my current fitness I knew I couldn’t hold his pace, and I let him run by.  He was in a bright yellow shirt so I was able to see him as he ran into the distance.  When I took a glance back I couldn’t see anyone (partly because it was so dark).  This is about the way it stayed throughout the race.  Besides the turnaround at the 13k point where you can see other runners on the way back, I didn’t see any other racers.  I did have someone who was banditing the race run next to me from about 8k to near the finish.  My head still wasn’t really in the race so we chatted a bit.  Maybe I would have gotten into the zone if I would have kept to myself, but chatting did help pass the km’s.

Marathon/half route

Marathon/half route

Besides the opening km and the closing km, all my splits were over 4:00/km (my slowest was 4:16).  There were a couple aid stations with water spread out around the course, I didn’t take any sort of gel or calories during the run.  There were also some distance markers around the course, but they seemed inconsistent in their spacing, and I’d heard that this race is historically long.  Around 17-18k I wasn’t feeling great; my legs were heavy and my stomach was hurting, but I did my best to keep my foot turnover high.  When I ran past the hospital I knew I had 2.5km to go (from my run a couple days earlier), despite the fact my watch already read 19.2km.  At this point the sun was coming up and I trying to enjoy the moment and what I was doing (this was going to be one of my last days in Asia), as opposed to thinking about the discomfort.  I made my way inside the moat and my banditing running partner pulled off while I gave it all I had left to get to the finish line.  I crossed in 1:28:35, good enough for 1st in my AG and 3rd overall.

Post Race

After the race a 1 lanyard was hung around my neck.  I later learned it was to identify AG winners for awards.  Also, a bottle of water and a McDonalds burger was pushed into my hands.  The post race food here was not on the same level as Bangkok, but it did the trick.  My hotel was just a minute from the finish so I went back to take a shower and change before returning for the awards and continue to watch the finishers come in.  The half marathon when off an hour after the full, so we were the first finishers in.

Post race

Post race

I didn’t have much in the way of thought for my race.  I enjoyed the experience, but I didn’t think I had a very good or very bad day.  I’m not fit like I was before I left, but I’m not as unfit as I was towards the end of my trip last year.  I just don’t have a ton to say about this event either way.

While waiting for the awards to start I got a massage.  Unlike races here where you lay on a bed or table, I was in a chair and the masseuse rubbed my feet and calves. Later in the day I’d spend the $7 to get a proper Thai massage from one of the countless number of places that offer them in Chiang Mai.

Post race massage

Post race massage

After the massage and awards I went back to my room and had a bit of a nostalgic moment with my running shoes.  The award was rather large, so if I wanted to fit it in my bag something needed to stay behind.  Both pairs of running shoes I had with me in Asia were no longer needed, and just as well because they were both pretty well worn out.  That meant that they would draw the short straw and stay behind.  After over 500km, 5 countries, and 2 races, their day had come.

Awards

Awards

Thailand International Half Marathon Race Report

Thailand International Half Marathon Race Report

The Thailand International Half Marathon on Dec. 14 was my debut race in Asia!  It didn’t go as well as I hoped it would, but it also didn’t go as bad as I feared it might.

 

Pre Race

Pre-race was a little different than most races I’ve done.  I flew from Phnom Penh to Bangkok around dinner time on Friday.  Bangkok traffic is ridiculous, and after almost 2 hours I had finally made it from the airport to the hostel where I was staying at about 9:30PM.

The day before the race I couldn’t pick up my race kit until 2PM so I decided to check out some of the malls in Bangkok, I recalled from last year some of them had great Christmas displays.  Long story short when I was headed back to my guesthouse I got really lost, my phone died, and I had almost no money.  Before my phone died I saw that if I continued walking on the road I was on it would lead me to the river near my guesthouse.  About an hour and a half and 7km later I was back at my hostel, a little tired and frustrated.  By this time it was almost 5PM so I needed to head out to pick up my race kit.  Figuring out how to cross the bridge was a bit of an adventure in itself, but I got across, and as I got to the ‘race expo’ all my frustration from the day disappeared and I was really excited to race.

After getting my kit I set out to find dinner and organize breakfast for the morning.  I decided to not even try to get foods that would be similar to what I’d usually eat before a race.  For dinner I had chicken and steamed rice with chilli sauce, and some chicken broth, as opposed to my usual spaghetti.  For breakfast I picked up a blueberry muffin, chocolate chip cake, banana bread, peanuts, and a bottle of sports drink, I’d decide what I would have in the morning.  It was lights out around 9:30PM because I had a 5:15AM start in the morning.

Chicken and rice for dinner

Chicken and rice for dinner

Race Morning

I was up at 3:15AM.  I immediately ate the blueberry muffin, chocolate chip mini cake, and a small bottle of sports drink.  I also began working on a bottle of water.  I laid everything out the night before so I didn’t have a lot I had to do.  I left my guesthouse around 4:15AM.  I decided I’d jog the 700m or so to the bridge as my warm-up.  My legs only felt okay, but my mind was ready to run, I was excited.

I was at the race site by 4:30AM, without a lot to do.  There were lots of people milling about or taking photos.  I made a final pit stop at the bathroom and then found a patch of grass to sit on.  The start/finish chute was decorated with flags from the different countries represented in the race, which I thought was a nice touch.

5:05AM they opened the start chute for runners to line up.  This wasn’t like other races I’ve done.  There was no seeding.  The front row of the start was filled with older Thai people.  I was 8 rows back from the front, I made sure to line up behind the Kenyans to give them a head start!  I expected to hear the Thai national anthem, but it never came.  Some sort of dignitaries spoke and then a horn sounded and we were off.

 

The Race

First 7k (29:53, 4:16/km)

It’s been a while since I’ve run 21.1k so I decided to break the race up into three 7k segments, I hoped each would take 30min or less.  Off the gun this race didn’t have the usual fast start most have.  The start/finish chute was narrow, and made narrower by both a gate 150m up the road and a car parked on the other side of the gate.  Additionally, there were a number of slower runners at the front that caused more congestion.  About 400m into the race there’s a 180* turnaround to go up an on ramp to a raised highway.  This was the only real ‘hill’ on the course.  My opening km was 4:27.  Over the next few km’s I just tried to settle into a good pace that I thought I could hold over 21k.   The race quickly thinned out and I realized just how dark it was.  Fortunately the road surface was pretty good because it was difficult to see much more than a dozen feet ahead (it was really dark until I made it to the turnaround).  At this point my head wasn’t entirely in the race.  I was running without an iPod and I found my mind wandering.  I tried to bring my head back to running tall with my feet under me.  My splits were up and down in the first 7k, from 4:05-4:27, but I tried to focus on continuing to move forward.

 

Second 7k (28:38, 4:06/km)

The second 7k I began to get into a groove.  Almost every time I looked down at my watch I was running 4:06 pace.  It was at this point I began casting out the line and reeling in runners in front of me.  I felt like I was holding a steady effort and that pace was too quick for the runners I was passing to keep up with.  As I approached a runner or a group I’d already be looking ahead to my next target so I didn’t get complacent and sit on anyone’s hip.  If someone wanted to try to run with me I didn’t accelerate to drop them, I felt really steady, and mentally I was in a good place.  All my splits were between 4:02-4:08.

They gave us elastics at the turnaround at the far end of the course

They gave us elastics at the turnaround at the far end of the course

 

Final 6.5k {the course was short} (26:28, 4:04/km)

The final 6.5k I started to feel that familiar hurt.  I was beginning to count down km’s and think; 20mins or running, I can handle that, okay now just 16mins.  It was taking me longer to catch runners now that I had moved up through the field.  At about 18k the course turned into chaos.  The 5k had started and the bulk of the walkers were in and around the turnaround.  Some were taking photos, others sitting, some pushing strollers, and they took up almost the entire highway.  Over the next km congesting was really high and I had to weave in and out of a number of people.  By about 19k the people were spread out enough that I was able to take paths around walkers that didn’t require 90* turns.

On the way back the course crosses the Rama VIII bridge, a neat bridge that we started underneath.  I saw a runner moving well about 200m in front of me and I made it my goal to catch him in the final mile.  I turned on the jets and gave it everything I had as we made the turn at the turnaround back across the bridge and gave it everything I had left in the tank.  I managed to catch him on the off ramp from the bridge to the finish stretch.  I crossed the finish line in an unofficial time of 1:24:58 on a short course of only 20.6k, good for a 4:07 pace. (They didn’t post results and I haven’t been able to find them online, so I don’t know what my official time was)

Rama VIII turn around

Rama VIII turn around

Overall – 1:24:58 (20.6k), 4:07/km

 

Post Race

Just after the finish line my legs were a little wobbly, likely because I hadn’t run this sort of effort in about 9 weeks.  The course was short so I figured I’d be looking at about 1:27 on a proper course.  I wasn’t as fast as I hoped I would be, but I also wasn’t as slow as I worried I might be.  I didn’t know what to expect.  I would have loved to have run 4:00/km’s for 1:24:24, but I also wasn’t sure if I’d be able to manage 4:30’s for a 1:35:00.  So I felt good with my efforts.

Post race on the Rama VIII bridge

Post race on the Rama VIII bridge

The post race food was great!  There was the normal water and sports drink stands.  But that also had a tent where they were making chicken and rice, another that had rice and chicken soup, and there was some kind of soup and dumplings.   All the food was being prepared fresh in front of you.  They also had some fruit and sandwiches.  Fortunately I beat the rush so I was able to enjoy some chicken and rice with sweet chilli sauce, and then go back up for some chicken and rice soup.  I did notice when I was leaving that the lines were rather long, so maybe that’s why they don’t do this at races back home.  Either way, I loved it!

Chicken and rice after the race

Chicken and rice after the race

Up next I have the Chiang Mai Half Marathon next weekend (Dec 21).  Historically this race hasn’t been as competitive as this one, so I may be running near the front.  My plan is to tighten the screws a little further in Chiang Mai.  The 4:06’s I seemed to be running for the second half of the race will be the pace I plan to set off at.  If I feel good I’ll push a little closer to the edge than I did here in Bangkok.

Kampot Running Mini Camp

Kampot Running Mini Camp

During my 4 weeks motorbiking through Vietnam I didn’t get in a lot of quality running.  I decided that after 5 days on a beautiful beach on Koh Rong, where running was also non-existent, I would spend 5 or 6 nights in Kampot to do some serious running.  Kampot isn’t very big, and there isn’t too much to do.  This was perfect, because there would be lots of roads with light traffic to run, and during the day I could just relax without feeling like I needed to rush off to go on all sorts of different tours.  The hostel I’m staying (The Mad Monkey) at is perfect for this.  It has a pool, day beds, decent food, good wifi; all the ingredients to encourage lounging around.

My plan for running included 2 runs per day.  I’d do a quality run in the morning and an easy, optional run at sunset.  My goal was to get some quick fitness into my legs to help me through the Thailand International Half Marathon in Bangkok on Dec. 14, and the Chiang Mai Half Marathon Dec 21.  I don’t expect to come close to a PR on either course, but I figured a little running now would not only help me get through those races, but help me as I get into proper training when I get back home at Christmas.

These two guys were always there to greet me at 6AM, tails wagging

These two guys were always there to greet me at 6AM, tails wagging

 

Day 1 (Dec 3)

Today I arrived in Kampot from Sihanoukville.

AM Run: 8k easy in Sihanoukville.  I didn’t really have a run planned for the morning because I wasn’t in Kampot yet.  But when I woke up I decided I wanted to see a bit of Snooky and I’d give a short run a go.  My legs felt lousy to begin with, but they improved over the first couple of km’s.  (My Garmin file doesn’t seem to have uploaded)

PM Run: 5k easy in Kampot.  My plan was just to get a feel for running in Kampot.  Running in SE Asia there are things you have to consider that aren’t really a worry back home.  One of those things is road conditions.  Some roads are really just muddy stretches.  Also, aggressive dogs are something you need to aware of, and finding routes where there aren’t too many of them.  It can also be tricky to know what is a dirt road, and what is someone’s property and part of their farm.  I began running south from the  Mad Monkey (my hostel) and my plan was to run parallel to the river.  The road quickly turned to clay and then really sloppy mud.  I turned around and ran towards town.  I ended up running to the old bridge before turning back.  The sun sets over the river and the sky was all sorts of shades of orange and red, which made for a picturesque run.  HERE is my run file.

Other activities: Didn’t do much else in Kampot, most of the day was spent waiting for the bus and taking the 2 hour journey to get here.  I did have a really good BBQ chicken salad from a place called Rusty Keyhole in town.  I will definitely go back there.

The sun was setting during my evening run

The sun was setting during my evening run

 

Day 2 (Dec 4)

Today the work began, but I also hit a bit of a road block.

AM Run: My run was 12k with 5x1k pickups.  I did a 2k warmup and then alternated hard and easy km’s.  All of my hard km’s were sub4:00, not great by my pre SE Asia form, but I was happy I could still at least accomplish that.  I did briefly get chased by 1 dog during part of an easy km  but a local in the street promptly stopped the dog in its tracks.  I began my run at about 6:30AM.  I’m going to plan to start my other morning runs at 6:00AM.  It gets hot really fast as the sun rises (sun rise is about 6:00AM), I want to run in the light so if I start a little earlier it wont be quite as hot.  I was really happy to get my first tough run in the books.  HERE is my Garmin file.

PM Run: I planned on an easy 5-6k but I was exhausted after my activities today, so I gave it as pass.

Other activities: Danny was with me, he’s leaving tomorrow, so we rented motorbikes and headed for the Bokor National Park.  There’s a hill station, old church, temple, and incredible views from the top of the mountain.  We ended up riding around the park for about 5 hours.  As we were riding around I noticed km markers on the ground at the top of the mountain, and saw a touraround marker.  There must be a race in the park.  I didn’t realize how tired I was until we made it back to town and had lunch.  I was thinking about heading to the Temple in a Cave, which was only about 15k away because we had the bikes for the day, but I was way too tired.  Lunch was the BBQ chicken salad (again) and some chicken fajitas.

Bokor National Park

Bokor National Park

They claim there are still some tigers in the park

They claim there are still some tigers in the park

That was the good, there was also some bad.  It was raining really hard in the evening.  I was reading in the lobby of the hostel waiting for a break in the rain so I could run into town to get a big bottle of water (can’t drink the tap water) and a small snack to have something in my stomach before I ran.  Just before 10PM the rain broke so I hopped on the scooter I still had from earlier today to make the 1k trek to town.  I got to town, got what I needed to and headed back.  There’s no street lights where I need to make the turn to the street my hostel is on, just my scooter light.  I slowed right down so I could watch for it, just as it was coming up my front wheel got caught in a crack and I went down.  I was barely moving so the spill wouldn’t have been a problem if it was on pavement, but I fell on gravel.  I ended up scraping my left knee, left elbow, both hands, and some other really minor spots all over.  I didn’t hit my head, and notice was seriously hurt.  It was really dark so I couldn’t really see the condition of anything so I pickup up my bike and travelled the remaining 200m to the hostel.  Once inside I immediately hoped in the shower to rinse everything off.  I then used the first aid kit at the hostel to clean everything up best as I could.  I decided to be safe rather than sorry so I went to a local clinic.  They cleaned up my scrapes properly and bandaged up my knee and elbow.  I felt like an idiot for what happened, but realized it also could have been much worse.  I’m not sure how this will effect my running.

The 'operating room' where they cleaned me up

The ‘operating room’ where they cleaned me up

 

Day 3 (Dec 5)

Day 3 became an easy day after last nights accident.

AM Run: I chose to skip a run this morning just incase something flares up overnight.

PM Run: Easy 8k.  It was a great run.  I left the hostel running a little angry, I was upset with myself that I let yesterdays accident happen.  But before long I settled into a comfortable pace and my legs felt good.  I ran to an old train station.  Its abandoned now.  There use to be an old train parked there, but it must have been removed because I didn’t see it.  HERE is my Garmin file.

Old train station

Old train station

Other Activities: I didn’t stray too far away today.  I decided to wander around Kampot.  I got a late breakfast at the Rusty Keyhole.  They’re known for BBQ ribs, not really breakfast, but I decided to give them a go.  They were really good, I don’t eat ribs too often so it was a nice treat.  After that I walked around to see a few of the monuments (they seem to have them at the centre of all the roundabouts), and the prison.  After my run I went back to the clinic to get my bandages changed (their recommendation yesterday).  From there I stopped by a popular dessert place, Kampot Pie and Ice Cream, as a treat for being a good boy at the doctors.

Not quite local food but definitely tasty

Not quite local food but definitely tasty

 

Day 4 (Dec 6)

Day 4 was a really good run day.

AM Run: 8x800m.  I woke up today feeling tired.  I was up at 6:00AM to be running before it got too hot.  I felt okay during my 2k warmup, but after my first 800m  interval my legs felt dead.  At that point I decided my rests would be 500m walking to get lots of recovery, and I questioned how many repeats I would do (4 seemed like a good number).  After my 3rd interval I decided 6 would be my target number.  When I finished 5 I decided I’d just push through and finish the whole workout.  I’m really glad I did.  My times weren’t great, 2:53-3:00, but I survived it.  HERE is my Garmin file.

PM Run: Easy 5k.  My legs felt surprisingly good.  I didn’t push the pace at all, but I wasn’t dragging my legs around like I’d felt on other workouts.  HERE is the file for the run.

Not such a bad place to be running

Not such a bad place to be running

Other Activities: Today I took a bus to Kep.  It’s primarily a fishing village about 25k from here.  Most people take motorbikes, but after my little incident I decided the bus was for me.  The bus dropped me off at Kep Beach.  I first walked west along the water to see the White Lady Statue and the Big Crab.  The Big Crab is a huge crab statue in the water welcoming visitors to Kep.  From there I walked to the Crab and Seafood Market.  It was about 2k, and my legs weren’t loving me for not taking a tuk tuk in the heat.  At the market there’s all sorts of restaurants, but the main attraction is all the live seafood.  The pier is full of ladies offering to sell crab, shrimp, squid, and other fish.  I wanted some crab.  One of the ladies pulled in a crab trap that was in the water.  I got a half kilo, 4 crabs, which worked out to $2.  From there you take you live crabs to another group of ladies who cook them for you ($0.50 for their services).  I ended up with 4 steaming hot, fresh crabs in a bag.  I walked to the end of the dock to eat them, but I wasn’t totally sure how to go about doing that.  The crabs were small enough that with a little work the shell could be cracked with my hands.  It was really tasty.  I had my fill after 3 crabs and gave my last to some kids playing in the water.  It was a nice day trip and got me back to Kampot in time to relax before my evening run.

The giant crab in Kep

The giant crab in Kep

 

Day 5 (Dec 7)

Day 5 was another good run (and food) day.

AM Run:  I tightened the screws over 7k.  My plan for the run was to run at 4:30, 4:25, 4:20, 4:15, 4:10, 4:05, 4:00 (actually my original plan was to run 3k at 4:20, 3k at 4:10, and 3k at 4:00, but I decided I wasn’t fit enough for that).  I managed to beat all of those paces with km’s of 4:22, 4:16, 4:18, 4:14, 4:07, 4:03, 3:56.  Despite making the workout easier I was still really happy to get through it.  I felt like I was running strong in the middle km’s.  HERE is the file for the run.

PM Run: Easy 5.7k.  Weird number to run, but brings me to 69k over 5 days.  It’s a silly thing, but I’d rather be at 69k than 68.3k.  The run was alright, ran easy and tried to keep my legs loose.  It was a little hot when I went out but I managed.  HERE is the Garmin file.

Another sunset

Another sunset

Other Activities: I took a cooking class at Khmer Root Cafe.  I went there Thursday night and really enjoyed the Massaman Red Curry, so I went back to learn how it’s made.  I took some notes, so I’m hoping I can replicate it when I get home.  I also went back to the Khmer Root Cafe for dinner to try the Yellow Curry, a traditional Cambodian dish.  It was good, but the Massaman is much better.

Learning to make Massaman Curry (no high tech kitchen tools required)

Learning to make Massaman Curry (no high tech kitchen tools required)

 

Day 6 (Dec 8)

I forgot just how congested Phnom Penh is.

AM Run: 12k run w/ 10×1:00 pickups.  Today was an easier ‘hard’ run.  The last two mornings I’ve had tough runs that I really had to work for, so I decided today I’d still get in some quality but make the run a little easier.  My run was about 12.5k, and my legs felt good.  My pickups were in the neighbourhood of 3:4X pace, and I was under 5:00 when I was just cruising along.  This is a lot better than the 5:XX cruising pace I’ve had some of the other days.  I was happy with the run.  HERE is the Garmin file.

PM Run: Easy 5.5k.  From my one night in Phnom Penh on the way to Koh Rong I had forgotten how bad traffic can be.  Luckily there are two parks just over a km from here.  I ran to the parks, did a lap and a bit of each, and ran back.  I stopped to take a couple pictures along the way, I ended up running by all sorts of monuments.  Legs were a little tight at the start, likely from sitting on the bus for a good chunk of the day, but they loosened up as I went.

Other Activities: Okay so my mini camp was supposed to be in Kampot, but I decided to head to Phnom Penh today.  I enjoyed Kampot; nice place, good people, good food, dogs aren’t too much of a problem, but I had done all there is to do there.  Phnom Penh is a bigger city and there are a few different things I’m looking to do there.  So instead of just sitting around in Kampot for the day I hopped on a bus to PP.  I’ll do the final day of my run mini camp here in Phnom Penh tomorrow, and will likely continue running every day while in Phnom Penh, just not the quality and doubles.

As for what I did today I had a very interested conversation with a local tuk tuk driver that really made me think.  There’s too much to get into the details here, but maybe it’ll get it’s own post.

My run took me around the Independence Monument

My run took me around the Independence Monument

There were lots of statues in the park where I was running

There were lots of statues in the park where I was running

 

Day 7 (Dec 9)

The gas tank is on empty.

AM Run: 13k easy run.  My plan for today was to do a 2-3k warmp followed by a 20min 5k.  Very early on I realized that wasn’t happening.  It was a struggle to run low 5:00 km’s, my legs had no pop but were full of fatigue.  It was just after 6:00AM, and I was up and outside, so I figured I might as well keep running and see a bit of the city.  It crossed my mind to try to do some pickups, but my legs really were tired and I didn’t want to risk injury. I ended up running by the Independence Monument, the Royal Palace, along the water, by a driving range, and a small amusement park.  I kept looking for landmarks in the distance and running to them, it helped the time pass.  My 5:11 average pace is far from impressive, but I did like getting a few more km’s into my legs.  HERE is my Garmin file.

PM Run: No run.  I’ve thrashed my legs over the last couple days, so this afternoon I’ll let them rest.

Other Activities:   Today I visited the Killing Fields and the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum.  Between 1975 and 1979 the Khmer Rouge slaughtered approximately 25% of the Cambodian population, primarily business people, doctors, lawyers, and other people of affluent stature.  The Killing Fields were essentially mass graves, and Tuol Sleng was a prison.  This isn’t the appropriate forum to go into detail, but suffice to say they’re sobering places.  If you don’t know about the Cambodian Genocide it’s worth learning about.

 

Week in Review

Total km: 100.61km

Total Runs: 11

My 1 week mini camp is over.  I managed to run just over 100k (100k became a goal mid week).  Overall I’m happy with how it went.  I ended up missing one quality run, a sub20:00 5k I planned on doing the final day, because I had nothing left in my legs.  I also missed a quality run my third morning but I had planned on an easy run one morning so I just rearranged my schedule.  I’ve begun to adjust to getting up earlier; both the Bangkok and Chiang Mai Halfs start at 5:00AM.  For my morning runs I’ve needed to get up with the sun to try to avoid the heat, so I’ve been running around 6AM.  I did 11 total runs, out of a possible 14, a number I’m content with.  I’m very thankful that my little motorbike accident wasn’t more serious, all my wounds are healing well as I write this.  I plan to continue to do short runs daily (thought I might take tomorrow off) for the rest of the week.  I’m looking forward to see what kind of an effort I have in my legs on Sunday morning in Bangkok.  I know I wont be PB’ing, but it will be a useful measuring stick to gauge where my fitness currently is vs. where it was before I left.

Motorbiking Vietnam: Thoughts on the Trip

Motorbiking Vietnam: Thoughts on the Trip

My daily journals didn’t really sum up my experience on the bike riding through Vietnam. In the moment it’s a lot easier to write and elaborate on the bad experiences than the good. Having finished the ride these are my thoughts on the whole. 

I’m very glad I did it. I heard about riding a bike across Vietnam when I was travelling last year and I knew it was something I wanted to do. There were ups and down to the trip, but there would have been regret if I didn’t do it. Looking back on the trip there are a ton a great memories that I expect will be some of the longest lasting from this trip.
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I got very lucky to find an awesome group to do it with. James, Beegan and Storey were on the same bus as me to Luang Prabang. We ended up sharing a tuk tuk to the hostel where we all happened to be staying. Danny ended up in the same room as them, and we were all thinking about motorbiking through Vietnam. I wouldn’t have done the trip on my own, so I got lucky to find them.
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Off the beaten track can be overrated. Motorbiking through Vietnam you’re forced to stay in some places that very few foreigners will ever visit. This can be a great way to see authentic culture, but isn’t always all it’s cracked up to be. Our second night we stopped in Yen Cat after a long day of wet/cold riding. We were met with a lot of hostility and cold stares. Sure, we were in their village and couldn’t speak the language, but it was a struggle to even find somewhere willing to serve us food.
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Bikes aren’t nearly as comfortable as I imagined. I spend quite a lot of time in a bike saddle, so I figured sitting on a motorbike seat would be no problem. I was wrong. It’s fine for an hour or two, but after that they can be extremely uncomfortable.
A good poncho is essential equipment. My bike came with a quality, full body poncho. It got a lot of use because we were forced to ride through some really heavy rain. I couldn’t imagine doing it without one.
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The A1 isn’t nearly as bad as some people claim. A lot of people told us to avoid the A1 at all costs; ‘it’s full of crazy bus and truck drivers that will run you down if you’re in their way.’  Coming into Hue we were forced on to the A1 because of our route. We stopped for lunch just before this stretch to discuss how we were going to tackle the 10k A1 stretch in front of us. Once we got on the road it was nothing like we expected. Sure, there’s buses and truck, which you have to be aware of, but there’s also a motorbike lane on the side of the road. Certain sections even have barriers separating north and south bound so you don’t have cars on your side of the road to overtake. So long as you keep your wits about you I don’t think the A1 is any less safe than any of the other roads.
It’s not worth it paying a premium to buy a bike from a shop. We decided to but bikes from Hanoi Motorbikes. It was recommended by our hostel. We liked the idea of buying bikes from a shop where they spoke English and elected to buy from a shop as opposed to another traveller because we figured they would have checked over the bikes (none of us really knew anything about bikes or what we were looking for). The customer service at Hanoi Motorbikes was horrible. It took us an entire day to buy bikes from them because they would drag their feet with everything. One of the western sales people was more interested in talking about himself than selling us bikes, and then when we were ready to pay he decided he’d rather go for lunch. We put a lot of trust in them regarding the quality of the bikes. My rear brake felt squishy when I tested it. They promised they had installed new rear brakes and that they would be good. 100k into the trip the rear brakes began to squeak because they needed to be changed. Even worse, James was having problems with a rattling. He took his bike into a shop and discovered a section of his frame that the rear wheel had been mounted to had rusted completely through and was cracked. James is extremely lucky that his rear wheel didn’t break off when he was riding. From the rust it’s clear this wasn’t a new problem for the bike, it’s something that was preexisting. The fact they would sell a bike in that condition would make me never buy a bike from them again.
If I was to do it again I’d buy a bike from a traveller. It’s much cheaper to do this than buy from a shop. With the money I saved I’d take it to a mechanic and have new brakes installed and have the entire bike looked over. A mechanic and replacement parts aren’t expensive, and this way you know everything is in good working condition, as opposed to trusting the shop selling you the bike.
When it was raining and cold I just had to remind myself what it was I was doing. There were times I was wet and miserable on the trip. All I wanted to do was pull over and get on a warm, dry bus. But then I’d just remind myself how lucky I was to be able to ride a motorbike across Vietnam and soak it all in, and my mood would perk up.
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You’ll see things on other motorbikes that you’ve never seen before. 4 people on 1 small motorbike? Sure. Dozens of ducks hanging from your bike? Why not. A 90lb woman balancing a bike with what looks to be 400lb of cargo? What’s wrong with that. Motorbikes are used as family vans, ATVs, and flat beds over here, and some of the things you’ll see will never cease to amaze you.
(I wish I had a photograph for this but I was always driving when a motorbike with something strapped to it that shouldn’t be strapped to it went by)
Driving in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City is insane. Intersections are a free-for-all.  Vehicles from every direction will pull into the intersection with no regard for right of way or traffic signals.  This causes major gridlock and a lot of honking, and makes intersections a dangerous place to be.  There are some people on moto’s that will fly by you on congested streets, often driving on the wrong side of the road.  It’s like playing a video game, except you only have 1 life.  There really wasn’t anything about driving in Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh that I enjoyed.
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Like I said at the start, I’m really glad I did it.  There were a few things that in the moment really sucked, but that was all part of the experience.  As I get older I think it’s an experience I’ll only appreciate more.