Monday, March 12, 2012

Half Marathon - Nha Trang (4th March, 2012)

5:30am my alarm sounded in my lonely, small but comfortable hotel room.  I got changed, pinned my number on to my T-shirt, drank as much water as I could take on, put on my ankle supports (yes plural!) and staggered in a half daze as I usually do that early in the morning.  I made my way the kilometre to the start of the beach run and prepared myself for my second half marathon, 9 years after the first.

My training had gone pretty well.  I was running about 30km a week, but my longest run but the day of the race was only 8.5km, which to fair, I was able to complete very comfortably.  I felt in condition, but had been suffering a little from a cold in the days preceding the run.  However, I felt confident I'd be able to run the 21km in a reasonable time without too much damage to my body.  Such high hopes, such high expectations....

Well, after a lot of waffle from the race organisers in Vietnamese, which absolutely no-one was listening to, the race started and from looking around, it seemed that most people had run many more half marathons than I had, weighed considerably less and could keep up a much faster pace than I.  My previous spirits waned a little, but were completely shot to pieces after 5km when I realised that the run was going to be much more difficult than I expected.  At the 5km marker, I felt short of energy, was breathing much heavier than I would usually do at the same stage of a run and a horrible feeling of foreboding 'Am I going to be able to complete the run?'

With the organisers being particularly worried about the well-being due to the humidity in Vietnam, there were motorbikes constantly patrolling the route.  At no stage of the run did they ask me if I was OK or seem particularly concerned about me, which I can only take as a good sign.  However, I was a little disappointed and ashamed that I appeared to be the only one walking so early in the run.  Indeed, I felt so fatigued that for the next 7 kilometers I devised a strategy of running for one song and power walking for the next.  However, this was proving detrimental to my legs as it was getting harder and harder to start running after each 'rest' period.

At the turn (12km) I was failing to see the funny-side of my folly of thinking I'd done nearly enough training.  The venue of the running was beautiful.  For anyone who doubts my love for Nha Trang, you only have to read my previous post to see my feeling for the place.  However, the sun was starting to beat down which was negating any sea breeze that mother nature was kind enough to provide.  The middle part of the run had several gentle gradients, which felt far from that after having run 12km over the best part of 80 minutes.  The attendants at the drinks station were also unreasonably happy.  I was dead on my feet, but they were smiling.  To make matters worse, they didn't take my request for a taxi seriously as apparently they thought I was joking!

At 15km my legs gave up and I finally experienced 'the wall' that so many marathon runners talk about.  After another one of my 'rest' periods, I tried to get my leg to move at slightly more than a snails pace only to find that both my calves and quad had lost the battle to lactic acid and had completely cramped up and I staggered, nearly falling.  Fortunately me for, non of the race attendants notice as I'm pretty sure they would have not allowed me to continue.  I was able to keep up as brisk a walk as I could manage, but jogging was completely out of the question and only 1st gear was available.

The final 6 km were, without exaggerating, were the singe most painful experience of my life.  I was lucky that my iPod still had juice and I could call upon some upbeat music to keep my spirits up.  I swear, if I had coldplay or radiohead on my dukebox, enough said.... In the distance, as there weren't many runners behind me, I saw a young Japanese man struggling as much as I was.  If only I could catch him.  I gritted my teeth and over a stretch of 2 km I reeled him in and we completed the final 3 km together, both of us fantasizing about the tiger beer we were going to enjoy after the race.  Honesty, I think chatting with my new comrade in arms was the only thing that helped me cross the finish line in somewhere between 2:30 - 3 hours (probably nearer the later but I'll yet to receive the official time).

Upon finishing, I was disappointed not to receive a medal, as I think the organisers only provided a certificate which I think was pretty lame.  Maybe I didn't make the cut-off time, but there was nothing on the website which stipulated a maximum time, though to be fair they didn't say finishers would receive a medal either.  However, my pain didn't end after the 21,097 metres of the run as I still had to walk the 1km back to the hotel.  Me being me, thought that the walk would be a good warm down, well at least before the run I thought it would be.  At approximately 9:30, I crabbed along the coast, barely able to put one leg in front of the other.  I got sympathetic looks for the locals and tourists alike, but they must have been flabbergasted that an overweight foreign had not only been stupid enough to run a half marathon, but was even more stupid enough to walk back to the hotel after!

Luckily, I recovered very quickly from the ordeal.  In fact, I recovered much quicker than I did after the first run I did, which is hopefully a result of being fitter that I was all those years ago.  And for your information, I enjoyed several beers after the run, after copious amounts of water!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Update - 2012

A belated Happy new year, or Chuc Mung Nam Moi to all of you, wherever you are in the world.  Since it's been ages since I've posted anything, I'll make a general entry this time and make some more specific entries in the coming weeks.  Obviously, with the little one, the festive seasons, and various other shenanigans, I completely forgot to maintain my online presence!

Hanh & Isabella

I'm happy to say that both my wife and daughter are doing very well.  Hanh has recently gone back to work after taking several months off for maternity leave.  While, of course, it is difficult for her to leave our wee one at home, we felt it was important for her to continue working and to maintain the relationships and friendships that can so easily be broken if one stays at home.  I am fortunate enough to have an amazing sister in-law and nanny who take care of Bella fantastically while we're at work, and I think that although Hanh is pretty shattered after a long week's work, she's happy with the decision she's made. 

Isabella is full of life and is growing up incredibly quickly.   Anyone who has seen the pictures on facebook will be able to tell you just how much she's grown.  She's now 6 months old, she's rolling over, attempting (with little success thus far) to crawl, her first teeth have just come through and she just doesn't stop smiling!  Right now she's making cute little sleeping noises as I'm writing this.  She's having a little bit of a restless night as she had some shots this morning, though I couldn't tell you what for.  We're also in the process of getting her British citizenship, something I should've done long ago.  I don't think it's going to be too much of a problem, so fingers cross in the next couple of months she'll hold dual nationalities.


Fortunately, all of my injuries have cleared up for the time being.  I played my first football match for about 6 months a couple of weeks ago and came through training last Wednesday without suffering any pain in my ankle which I'm really happy about.  I've also started running again.  I was fully intending on taking part in the Great Wall of China half marathon in May, but you have to book a package tour which costs over a thousand dollars, which I'm really not prepared to do so I've had to abandon that plan.  However, I'm going to run a half in Nha Trang in 4 weeks time instead which might be an error as I probably won't be in great shape to do it.  I'm also trying to play a bit of tennis and softball (of all things) to try to lose some of the excess weight I gained over the festive periods.  On Tuesday nights, I've been throwing some good darts, and even hit my first 180 a couple of nights a go.  Phil 'the power' Taylor, watch this space!

Christmas & Tet Holiday

For the first time since I've been in Asia, I had a wonderful Christmas Day.  Some good family friends, The Hoffs, invited us round for Xmas dinner.  They ordered a turkey, prepared carrots, potatoes and other trimmings, brought champagne and orange juice for bucks fizz and even managed to procure a Christmas log.  It was honestly the first time I've felt remotely festive in my 4 years away from Blighty.  It was also amusing as Jon's daughter Lou was trying to feed Isabella chocolate.  I had to feel sorry for her as she was trying to be nice, but we had to tell her off as she just couldn't grasp that babies don't have the facility to chew and swallow.  Still, it was wonderful to see her so excited and a massive thanks to Jon & Chi for hosting a fantastic day!

For Tet holiday we went to the in-laws.  I read the 2 books I've bought in the first 2 days and found myself with very little to do after that as I have no friends in Ben Tre and no one, barring Hanh, can speak English.  Also, their internet connect is pretty slow and I couldn't hack into anyone's wireless network.  Therefore, I managed to sleep a lot.  Being of working age, I also had to give lots of people lucky money, which doesn't feel so lucky as I end up being out of pocket!  Such is life I guess!  That being said, it was nice to spend some time at the in-laws and catch up with some of the extended family.  As there was nothing to do, I probably drank a little too much and I've definitely learned that if I've not made plans to travel during Tet holiday next year, I will need more than 2 books!

Upcoming plans

On Saturday, Hanh and I will be sending Isabella off to the in-laws so that we can go to Kuala Lumpur for an extended weekend.  Hanh gets very little time off work so we need to make the most of it while we can.  I also have a one week course break, so I can take time off without disrupting the teaching schedule.  We'll be staying in a nice 4-star hotel in the Bukit Bintang area of town which I'm told is pretty cool so I'm really looking forward to it!  Of course, you'll be getting a city review in due course.  Other than that, we'll be going to Da Nanang for my friend's wedding in March as well as Nha Trang for the half marathon I previously mentioned.

Well, that's the wrap for now.  As you can see, a few things have been going on.  Most of my time is taken up with work, taking care of Bella, and sport.  As tired as I generally feel, I'm pretty happy and content with life which is more than most people can say, can I reckon I'm pretty fortunate!