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Archive for January, 2010

I headed up north this weekend for the 7th Annual Khon Kaen Marathon. Only two weeks after my last half marathon I wondered how the feet and legs would cope, but it was all good, they seem to have learnt the routine by now.

I set off on Friday on an overnight bus from Bangkok, having consumed enough red wine (while eating dinner and watching Silent Witness – I love now knowing how to download tv!) to send me to sleep………or so I thought.

Although we were about an hour late pulling out of the bus station (for which I was asleep and only realized as the bus moved) it started promisingly enough. I’d slept, on and off, from about 10.30-3 at which point we pulled into a bus station and were sat for a while. The second we pulled off the drivers mate put some kind of Thai variety show DVD on at almost ear splitting volume, I mean, seriously, it was 3 o’clock in the morning….what was he thinking! Maybe the rocking of the bus and the wine worked their magic a little though as I did manage to doze for short periods, all of which were filled with very surreal dreams that had accompanying Thai music!

The bus pulled into Khon Kaen at around 6.30am, I’d been planning on spending the morning walking around the town before checking into my hotel at lunch time, but as I was feeling very sleep deprived I thought I’d wander over to it to ask if I could check in early. My homing device was all wrong and I walked in completely the wrong direction but fortunately a very nice lady put me in a Songtaw and told the driver where to let me off.

When I was looking for a hotel to book I decided I’d treat myself to a fancy 4* place for the night; I’m sick of the hole that is my house in Bangkok and was feeling in need of some pampering. I’m so glad I did! They let me check in at 7am and even in my super tired state I still managed to dance around the room when I opened the door! I felt like Kate Winslett when she gets to Camron Diaz house in “The Holiday”. I can’t even begin to describe my excitement at feeling thick pile carpet under my feet, having a bed that was not only big enough for three but also super comfy – no plastic covered straw like at home (I kid you not, that is my mattress in my apartment!). And then to have not just hot water, but a powerful shower and a bath to boot!

Plans of sight seeing on Saturday were abandoned in favour of curling up in bed and watching sky TV. Other than going up to the University to pick up my race shirt and number, I only ventured out to Pizza hut for take away, I figured that if I was going to have an extravagant weekend I may as well make really extravagant!

I’d done far too much of nothing all day as although I was feeling, relaxed and happy (and fat as a pig from too much pizza) I could not sleep. My alarm was set for 4am, and with no time to snooze, as I needed to be in the hotel lobby for pick up at 4.20am, I’d been hoping for an early night. I eventually went to sleep at nearly midnight!

Think there is something about getting up early when its for something you really want to do, its so much easier to spring out of bed. At 4.20am off I set with camera in hand and a Snickers down my cleavage (I’ll get to that later!). The only concern I had was that I hadn’t left enough time for a pre race poo, and since I’m no international athlete I didn’t think I’d get away with a Paula Radcliff!!

Arriving at the race start point I was very happy to see they had stations stocked with “MAUY”, its a wonder cream, a bit like deep heat that slathered onto the legs pre and post race seems to work miracles.

Before I knew it the horns were sounding and we were off!

The race was amazing. It was the most supported one that I’ve done and all of the way around there were groups people, some just randomly standing at the road side clapping, others, organized groups of University students singing and dancing on platforms, and then groups of younger kids too from a sports center all high fiving the runner as they went past – brilliant.

The course was by far the most undulating that I’ve done. Previously the biggest thing I’ve had to tackle is going over a bridge, where this one definitely had a hill in it. It felt like a real long slog going up it, so I broke the Snickers out earlier than planned. I’d figured in the last two races I’ve felt completely empty of energy around the 18km mark, and what I’d really wanted to get was one of the glucose pouches to have around that time to see if it helped give me a boost and improve my time. Couldn’t find any though so opted for fun sized snickers instead. It came out for the first bit at around the half way point, again at around 15km and the final piece when I had 2kms to go……I’ve never had a chocolate bar last so long!!

I guess it must have worked as I was still running at an ok speed from 18kms to the end, rather than the stumble run I did two weeks ago. I even managed to speed up significantly for the last km. As I rounded the corner for the last 100meters ish I saw the time was 2:11:30, I really wanted to get under 12mins so I pulled out a sprint……..just missed it, 2:12:01 (I think). Very pleased with myself – that’s 6mins off my best time.

Think I want to do a race at a University again. At the end point were lots of matresses surrounded by physiotherapy students all providing free physio - good practice for them, great for my muscles!

 Made it back to the hotel in time for the fancy 4* breakfast and still had time for a long soak in the bath before having to check out.

I headed back out to the University to join a tour the local tourist office had put on for runners. As I was waiting I got chatting to a group of guys, who I thought had been the front pack of the marathon race; as I was running in one direction with the half marathon they ran past in the other direction, the speed they moved at was amazing. It was them that I’d seen and it turned out to be professional athletes from Kenya, and between the group I think they won most of the top prizes. I should have picked their brains for running tips but never thought at the time.

The tour took us north of Khon Kaen to a part of Thailand famous for the discovery of dinosaur fossils. A dinosaur like T-rex but smaller and predating him by 40-60million years! The museum and park they took us to would have been great to take kids to but a little basic for adults. The area it was in though is lovely, made me wish I had more time to explore and go hiking – I miss just traveling rather than working…..must try harder to win the lottery!

The tour bus, very kindly, dropped me off at the airport rather that taking me back to town and me having to find a way out again. I wondered what I’d do for the three hours I had before my flight was due…………..got to love Thailand, massage place in the airport. Had a Thai massage concentrated only on the legs, it made me squeal (and the therapist laugh) on more than one occasion. That and the MUAY cream I’ve bought have worked wonders, very limited ooching and ouching this time, so limited in fact that I’m planning on joining another 10km run this coming weekend!

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One month on from the Anchor Wat half marathon and I decided I’d brave doing another one!

Having had a friend of a friend translate the flyer for me, it was all written in Thai, and write directions on paper for me to show the various taxi and van drivers I would need to use, I set off.

My taxi dropped me in an area of town called Pinklaow in the west of the city, where I need to pick up a van from.  Unfortunately it was the wrong place, fortunately the people at the vans were very helpful and told a moto taxi where to take me.  That was a real experience! Normally I love riding on motos but I didn’t have my usual rucksack as it wasn’t big enough to fit every thing, so I had a big holdall instead.  With it slung over one shoulder we set off at break neck speed around super small, super bendy roads filled with speed bumps eeek!

Arrived in one piece just as a van was pulling off, asked, or rather showed my piece of paper, and asked through gestures, to be told when to get out.  Within no time we were driving through semi-tamed jungle, a real surprise when it takes forever to reach anything resembling countryside heading north out of the city.  After only about half an hour we pulled up alongside a military academy and I was told it was where I needed to be.  The place seemed to be very empty and showed no sigs of the Childrens Day activities that I had been told were taking place on Saturday.  I eventually found a man, who was frantically running around and organizing people setting up a function room.  I tried explaining, through use of my running flyer and directions I’d been given what I was looking for, but we really weren’t understanding each other.  Fortunately the lady who’d given me the instructions also gave me her phone number and told me to call if I got stuck, so looking at the man I said “I call my friend, speak Thai”.  It turned out that I was about 10km away from where I needed to be, but the guy told my friend that his friend(it turned out to be his wife) was picking him up shortly and that they would give me a lift.  The friendliness and helpfulness of people in this country never ceases to amaze me, but then I guess I don’t know if people would do something similar at home and I’d just never find myself in similar situations there as I speak the language, or even if I did and someone offered if I’d actually get in the car with strangers – it seems so much less risky here! (I don’t think that’s naivety talking, I’ve got my head screwed on and don’t take silly risks, at least very not often!).

View from playground!

Finally, arrived at Kings College, the run start point, at 5pm.  What a fancy school it is!  It’s a private, all boys, residential school that looks much more like the type you would expect to see at home.  Set in a small village surrounded by banana, coconut and vine plantations in semi tamed jungle and over looking the river, it comes complete with proper sport fields and equipment and even a swimming pool…..very fancy!

I signed up for the race, and decided that I would push myself to do the half marathon rather than the 10km, and was shown to the sleeping area.  I had been told that I didn’t need to worry about booking accommodation as there was a hall at the school I could sleep in for free, I presumed it would be in the sports hall, and I wasn’t far wrong!  I’m starting to think that I really can sleep anywhere. 

Pulling up a blanket the night before the race!

While sat on the playing field, eating dinner from one of the stalls that was still open from the Childrens Day activities, I had a sneak preview of a performance that I think was going to be happening the following evening, boys dancing with their mums to the song that goes “when I was just a little boy, I asked my mother what will I be, will I be happy, will I be rich, heres what she said to me………” – quite sweet.

As I was sat there I noticed boys were starting to file out of their accommodation, all trooping in lines to a very square arrangement around the flag poles, ready for the evening national anthem.  I couldn’t help but briefly feel like I’d gone to a mental asylum; partly caused by the boys all doing strange swaying march before sitting down, partly because they were all wearing loose fitting white, pajama like clothes – their evening uniform I suppose, but very surreal!  That said, I was wearing a white t-shirt and my pale grey fishermans pants, I’m sure I fitted right in….other than the fact that I’m a girl……and more than twice their age!

I sat reading a book as the sun went down in the school grounds thinking how much I would have loved a beer watching the river but decided that it wouldn’t be the best idea with the early, active start I had coming.  Took myself into the sleeping hall where people were already asleep, and managed about half an hour of reading before the lights were turned off at 8pm!  I wondered what I was going to do with myself, and the next thing I knew I woke up, it was 3.30am and people were already starting to prepare for the race.  There was me thinking that by staying locally I’d get to sleep until at least 4.30.

Preparations were well underway when I went outside, it seemed that all of the school boys were up and about either helping register people or just generally milling around with their race shirts on.  I found a breakfast of a banana and thai coffee, its like rocket fuel – 1/3suger, 1/3condensed milk, 1/3coffee poured over ice!  Think the combination kept me going for the first 15kms!

At 6am the race horn blew and we set off in the pitch black.  It was nearly a very horrible start, up ahead of me as we were crossing the main road a car, going really fast, obviously hadn’t seen the police signs, or the lights, or  policeman in the middle of the road, slammed on it breaks and came to a screeching, skidding stop 20meters in front of me, but scarily close to the front runners. 

From a slightly iffy start the race turned into possibly my favourite one so far.  I would have thought that Anchor Wat, the scenery and location being what they were, would be the best I’d do but this topped it.  Maybe because it was somewhere I’d never been before, maybe because it was so unexpected.  As the sky started to lighten I found myself running along narrow streets that cut through semi tamed jungle; the coconut trees silhouetted against the rising pink of morning, the air scented by wood smoke and the occasional jasmine – beautiful.

About two kilometers in a guy fell into step besides me and we ran together for about 15kms, we didn’t actually speak much but it was great to have a running buddy.  I’m not sure who pushed who, maybe a bit of both at different points.  I know I found it harder when at about 18kms he disappeared, I think he stopped for the loo and I didn’t see him again.  I think that I need to take some type of glucose pick-me-up with me next time I run, as in both of the half marathons I’ve done its around the 19km mark that I feel like I’ve got nothing else to give.  Would love to see if a sugar kick would help me improve my time.

Didn’t quite manage the final sprint to the finish line this time, think it was more of a stumble over it!  At which point I had about half a dozen different things shoved into my hand, one of which being a very weighty medal. 

I staggered over to the watermelon and coconut stands and ate and drank my fill before eventually looking at what I’d been given.  I was still very confused when a lady started talking to me who was a member of the schools PTA and said that I needed to go and register my times.  Imagine my surprise when I was then led over to the winners area!  As one of the first five finishers in my category, I was to be presented with a trophy.

 I’ve never won anything for sporting achievement in my life……unless you count the ‘woman of the match’ I got for taking some girl out with a flying tackle in a rugby match at Uni, although my prize of downing a dirty kangaroo pint would haunt me to this day I’m sure, if I could remember it that is!!

Its now Tuesday and I’m still smiling about my achievement……..well until I have to walk down stairs at which point the smile becomes more of a grimace and an ouch, ouch, ouch!

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