Friday, March 30, 2007

What makes a race an adventure? By Simon Thomas.

The North Face River Kwai Challenge - March 2007

This was the question on many people’s minds as they gathered from around the region for the pre-race briefing of the 2nd North Face River Kwai Trophy in Sai Yok area of Kanchanaburi, 140km North West of Bangkok.

To me one of the big aspects of any adventure race is really having no idea about what may be around the next corner, so this pre-race briefing gives a good chance to try and glean any information that may serve as a physiological crutch while on the course – Having completed a couple of these races before knowing when the finish line might appear is a very important factor to getting to the end!

I left the briefing none the wiser to the actual course – apparently it was going to be hot and some parts of the course were hazardous so we should be careful….not exactly illuminating!

The rest of the evening was spent with my team mate, Khun Chai, sorting out kit, convincing ourselves that it would all be OK, second guessing the course and hydrating like camels that have chanced upon an oasis. My own proprietary adventure racing tip, if you want to sleep, don’t drink 2 litres of water before bed.

Race Day - As we walked to breakfast, the best news was the sun was no where to be seen, the longer it could stay behind the clouds the more chance of survival out on the course. The shared apprehension before any event like this always leads to easier conversation with strangers and breakfast was great as racers freely mingled and looked forward to the day ahead and whatever challenges it would bring. Much to most peoples surprise this event is not iron legs and steely gazes all around, all competitors are strictly ‘weekend warriors’ of greatly varying shapes, sizes and abilities. There is no need to be a super fit athlete to attempt this type of event – a can do attitude and a love of a personal challenge is all that is required. Serge, the race director had catered for this motley crew with the provision of 2 distances, a shorter ‘adventure’ category for those confident in themselves and a longer ‘extreme’ distance for those with more testosterone than sense. We had signed up for the extreme….

After we all gathered at the start line the first bit of information was revealed, we would start the race with a run, good for us as a team as we can run but have a surprising lack of ability at anything else! The flag dropped and we were off, distance, duration and activities unknown..

The first run leg was great, a winding cross country route, taking in roads, tracks, a rickety old bridge and even the odd temple, the course was marked every 100m or so with orange tape but somehow we still managed to get lost, when we finally emerged from the bushes, a stream of panting, jangling, sweating men and women was hustling past, we had gone from 1st to 6th place. Not the best start! We slowly worked our way back up the field much to the delight of all those teams that had seen us disappear over the horizon like frightened gazelles earlier in the race.

After around 11Km the run course stopped abruptly at the river bank where a pile of Kayaks were waiting – the race marshal pointed first at the kayaks and then down the river and mumbled something in Thai. We got the idea and dragged the massive plastic boat down into the water. It soon became clear that Feel Free Kyaks are built for comfort not speed, the plus side of this is that they are impossible to capsize but the down side is that they don’t seem to go very fast. The first 5 teams hit the water almost together but with no one making any significant ground on each other after 10 minutes of hard paddling, there seemed to be a universal relaxing of effort and we leapfrogged each other for the duration of the section depending on who could find the fastest bit of river at that moment and taking the time to add a fair amount of good natured ‘encouragement’ with every overtaking manoeuvre.

For me and my spindly arms and tired back, the kayak section could not have been over soon enough, after around 5Km of paddling we finally saw the finish point ahead and the paddling became frantic as we all tried to manoeuvre into a better position for the check point. We ditched the kayaks at the side of the river only to be told to jump back into the river and continue the journey downstream minus the kayak!!

Have you ever tried to swim in a fast flowing river with a lifejacket on? Well the simple answer is you can’t! I tried front crawl, back stoke and a breast stroke version that is not shown in any text books, all to no avail as I adopted a lying position and drifted down the river with 5 other rival teams. Around 2 km later one of the safety kayakers pointed to a large muddy bank as the exit point and we all tried to fight against the current and get over to it. That must have made a good spectator sport as many drifted helplessly past the bank!

After emerging from the water, we were directed up a hill and to my surprise, the hotel that we had left that morning, emerged into view, running past my hotel room, wet, tired and covered in mud, it was a tempting sight!

We ended up back at the race start point where our mountain bikes were waiting like stabled ponies. We were less than 2 hours into the race and judging from past experience we could have at least 5 hours left to go!

The mountain bike route was a hugely varied, predominantly cross country route; it traversed tracks, forests, fields and the occasional stream. No real navigation necessary, just follow the orange tape and ride as fast as you can! For the occasional mountain bike rider like me, this section was a great novelty and in between scaring myself silly charging down hills with very little control, it was a great way to see the countryside and remind yourself of the great scenery Thailand has to offer.

50 minutes later we pulled into the checkpoint and dumped our faithful steeds at the side of the road, a quick set of instructions confirmed the next adventure was inappropriately termed the ‘Jungle run’, after the we had clambered up and down the 6th ridiculously steep slope of the day, I had conjured up a few more apt names for this section.

The ‘Jungle run’ started quite innocuously with a short road section before a sharp right hand turn off any discernable tracks and into the jungle. 20 minutes after the start of the first hands and knees scramble through the trees and up a steep hill I came to realise why it was called a jungle as I came face to face with a large snake, I couldn’t tell you what type it was as we both decided to go our separate ways pretty fast, I am not sure who was more surprised. Me or the snake! The novelty of running through the jungle quickly wore off; it is not a welcoming environment for humans with spiky plants and too many animals that nibble! The jungle run soon turned into a jungle trek, the hills being too steep to run ether up or down effectively. On a way down a particular steep section we were in for a surprise, the slope dropped off down a cliff and the only way down was via a 10 m improvised ladder, if the body wasn’t shaking from exertion, this was certainly something to get the heart rate up. Finally we emerged into the open and on to the edge of a rather unpleasant looking lake – I have never been so glad to chuck myself in semi stagnant water – what a relief! We worked ourselves across this large puddle reluctantly placing our feet on the bottom when the water became too shallow, on emerging from the pool I was asked how long we had been in the jungle, I looked at my watch, noticed water pouring out of the cracked casing and made my best guess – 3 hours, I answered. The check point official quickly corrected me to the actual time - 1 hour 45 minutes! Time flies when you are having fun!

The lake swim brought us back to our bikes and we fired plenty of questions at the spectators to try and work out if there was light at the end of this tunnel! Somewhere in the middle of the jungle it had become less of a race and more a survival exercise and although we emerged pretty much neck and neck with the leading team, we were in no state to race! In a vane show of bravado we tried to bluff our level of fatigue and both teams took turns in the lead before the masters team of Khun Jongsak and Khun Kriattisak pulled away and disappeared down the jungle tracks that we were riding.

Not knowing how far we still had to race, we could still hold out some hope that they would tire and we would pass them somewhere along the way. This bike section was different to the first, with plenty of swooping down hill sections to challenge tired limbs and a great road sections that gave those same limbs a bit of a break – An hour later the finish line was in sight! We put in a final burst to please the mingling crowds only to be redirected some 15 metres short of the finish line to a bike drop off zone and another cross country run – so this was why it was called an adventure ! We ran around the hotel grounds for a km or so, before coming to a lake that could only be crossed by means of a couple of improvised bridges- One for each team member, I elected to take the wire bridge as it looked quite straight forward, clinging on for dear life half way across as it flopped from side to side, I was contemplating just falling into the water and swimming the rest. Thankfully we both made it across and headed back cautiously towards the finish line, wondering if we would be allowed to finish or cruelly sent back into the wilderness. It turned out that this was the final challenge and we crossed the line in 5:48 minutes, 4 minutes off the leaders but thankful to have finished!

The finish line is a great place to be, competitors are strewn around like broken pinatas after a kid’s birthday party, all swapping tales of hardship, adversity and personal goals achieved. With the first and last teams separated by some 4 hours you can be sure that every team had an adventure and are all look forward to the next one!




Wednesday, February 28, 2007

What doesn't kill you makes you stronger, right?

Ironman Malaysia – Langkawi Island – February 2007 – Simon Thomas –
sith@patana.ac.th

Even after experiencing 4 hours in the medical tent after my first attempt at this event in 2006, the transition from “ I will never do this again “ to signing up for another long day in the sun had come even before the pain in my legs had subsided. For those unfamiliar with the actual distances involved in the Ironman Triathlon, it consists of a 2.4 mile (3.86 kilometre) swim, followed by a 112 mile (180.2 kilometre) bike ride and a 26 7/32 mile (42.195 kilometre) run – All in the same day!
With so few real challenges in day to day life, for me an Ironman presents an event that is both achievable within the boundaries of a normal 9-5 life and is significant once achieved.

Getting to the startline of any Ironman competition in a decent state to complete the event is a journey in itself. Unfortunately with the all the advancements in modern technology no one has invented a magic pill to prepare the body and mind for long distance events such as these – if you want to complete the swim, bike, run combination without any permanent damage, then you better be prepared to do a lot of all three to prepare. It takes a lot of determination but also long hours, 1000’s of kilometres of swimming, running and biking get you this far, coupled with plenty of 5am starts to avoid the exercise unfriendly heat here in Bangkok. It is not a very social undertaking!

Ironman Malaysia is situated on the tropical island of Langkawi which lies some 30 km off the mainland coast of northwestern Malaysia. Of the 21 Ironman events in the world – this one is billed as ‘the toughest show on earth’ thanks mainly to the tourist friendly but horribly consistent sunny weather which means the temperature hovers around the 100 degree Fahrenheit mark. When this heat is coupled with the high humidity it makes one feel that they are competing in a sauna!

The preliminaries for an event like this are long – Briefings and inspections all day – you have to have your bike inspected by the race mechanic and your body checked by the race doctor, it’s as if they know that these are the 2 most likely things to fail causing permanent injury! After signing a coverall indemnity waiver that left no stone unturned, I was pronounced ready to race (at my own risk) and given a number, timing chip and some goodies. No turning back now.

Like a condemned man I allowed myself my first real fast food meal for 6 months at McDs (strictly for the calories!), and got an early night, knowing that the combination of nerves and cautious over hydration would mean more time in the bathroom than the bed!
RACE DAY - The drama started early in the day for me as I arrived in the dark at 6:30am to check over the bike that I had left in the transition area the night before and found a flat tire!! This was a potential disaster as my spares were earmarked for the race itself, after 20mins of struggling to patch the precious inner tube and with the start time fast approaching I thrust a spare tube into the hands of one of volunteer mechanics and managed to extract his promise that the bike would be ready to go by the time I got out of the swim – I could of kissed him but a hug had to suffice!

Around 550 competitors from 33 countries made it to the start line in Langkawi, unfortunately I did not have time to see them all as I rushed into the Porta loo next to the swim start - My body always knows when it’s going to race and was preparing itself for a long day…
THE SWIM: The swim was a 3.8 km one loop swim in the tranquil waters of the Kuah town harbour. Ironman swim starts are not for the faint hearted – everyone hits the water at the same time and in this mass of bodies, every few strokes an arm or legs invades your space and seemingly tries to drown you but after a minute or so the field stretched out and I found myself in relatively empty water.
One of my major conclusions from last years suffering was that although technically it is a race, the event should not be treated as such – last years racing tactic got me a great swim and bike time but had me walking, almost crawling the final 35 Km of the run. In this event, the tortoise can really overtake the hare... with this very much in mind I had to keep resisting the urge to do battle with those going past me but after around 45 mins I started to feel increasing nausea and had to stop and try regain some composure – 5 mins of retching later, I pulled off my race swim cap and continued, instantly I felt better, I must have been overheating in the bath tub temperature waters. After 1hour and 13 mins of thrashing about I pulled myself from the water and into the ‘swim to bike’ transition. I was almost 10 mins slower than last year, but feeling so good it was like I had done the whole thing in a boat - it was all going to plan.

THE BIKE: On shorter distance events the transition between events is a speedy affair; with some athletes hopping on their bike in still dripping Speedos. For me the Ironman gives a chance to do things in a more civilised fashion. A full change of clothes, a drink and some food later and kitted out in my well padded shorts with Vaseline and sun cream plastered all over most parts of the body I jumped on my thankfully fixed bike and headed out on the bike course.
The bike route is a new 3 loop course that could best be described as hilly and undulating with some significant gradients to wear down participants. The problem with this sort of course layout is that you know that every long downhill becomes a long uphill a few hours later!

The Ironman bike ride requires as much mental discipline as physical stamina. Apart from the occasional word or two exchanged whilst passing or being passed, it's a quiet conversation-less 6 hour part of the day. With the draft marshals buzzing back and forth on their motorbikes ensuring everyone rides their own race my usual shorter race tactics of hiding away from the wind behind a real cyclist was just a day dream.

Keeping hydrated and well fed was my number one priority all day, another lesson painfully learnt from past experience. Lack of energy and dehydration creeps slowly up until it’s too late, so with aid stations every 10K I made sure that I took food and water onboard at everyone. How do you go to the toilet and continue riding at 35k/mh, I had a few not very successful answers by the end of the bike section. It was around 2:30 in the afternoon when I finally placed the faithful stead back onto the rack where I had taken it from over 6 hours earlier. Steady bike ride for me as I averaged just over 30Km/h for the entire 180 KM course.

THE RUN: Take all the things that make a marathon difficult; hills, heat, humidity, and combine them with an already drained body, mind and spirit and you might be able to begin to imagine what it's like to start the final Ironman marathon late in the hot afternoon sun. It’s the run that makes the race in Langkawi so tough.

Actually my spirit was not broken yet and as I jumped off the bike my legs seemed to want to cooperate but even so the work ahead was certainly cut out for me. 42 K is a long way. After a flat start the 4 loop run course turns into a gradual 5km climb along a road that just kills any idea of running a really fast time. At the top the course retraces its steps only to turn around and climb the shadeless torture test back up again. Aliens landing on the Ironman run course would quickly come to the conclusion that humans were perhaps a masochistic lot; the course looks more like Napoleons retreat from Moscow than a voluntary race. Cups, sponges and even conked out runners littering the road, by this time of the day most runners had adopted a sort of forward shuffle more than a run and concentrated on getting from aid station to aid station which are placed at 1km intervals along the course. Thankfully nothing lasts for ever and the race finishes alongside a giant eagle statue which dominates the Jetty Point port area from which everyone is taken directly to the medical tent to be weighted and assessed – I lost almost 5 KG – (its all back now with interest) – Dieting the Ironman way…


THE CONCLUSION: Amid the suffering, I had some very peaceful, enjoyable moments with myself during the race; perhaps it is true and what doesn’t kill you can indeed make you stronger - mentally if not physically! Hanging around at the finish until late into the night you can see the personal battles that people have to finish this race – including athletes with significant disabilities – Ironman Ironkawi had a blind athlete and an above knee amputee amongst the finishers this year. It is very moving.

Ironman is a lifetime experience that I will cherish and remember for a good while to come. I am happy to have finished (alive!) and now am dreaming of my ultimate Ironman goal – The World Championships situated in the spiritual home of Ironman – Kona, Hawaii, but with my finishing time some 2 hours from qualifying I have a long way to go!

The race statistics: 551 athletes started Ironman Malaysia and 460 finished the race within the 17 hours cut off time – Luckily I was one of them in 12 hours and 9 mins – the winner professional Triathlete Frenchman Xavier Le Floch from France managed 8:43.

More information http://www.ironmanlangkawi.com.my/



SEE YOU NEXT YEAR!

Monday, November 27, 2006

Sundays Stingy Tri - as reported by Patricia Weismantel (Trinerds)

It was an early 7 a.m. start to the Laem Mae Pim Olympic Triathlon on Sunday. Conditions looked perfect - the water was calm, the sun shining and it wasn't windy. After an informal briefing the swim was off with 60 some competitors taking the plunge into the Gulf of Thailand. It was two laps of a rectangle swim, and it didn't take long for the racers to realize the calm surface of the sea was deceptive as the danger lurked just below the surface in the form of jellyfish. There were diferent kinds, some spongy, some with long tentacles, but they all stung and burnt. Poor Pablo had one wrapped around his throat and had great difficulty breathing. He had to pull out of the race and today says he looks like "Freddie Krueger munching on a tennis ball." The rest carried on, whinging about their stings (at least I did) , to the 2 loops of the relatively flat bike ride alongside the sea.
Highlights included a sprinter riding a small wheeled bike, another on a rental complete with a ba sket and one rider having his own support truck following him. The run, also two in-and-out loops, was luckily primarily in the shade but had the challenge of inhaling smoke from the numerous food stalls grilling squid and meat. The water stop, when it appeared, was self-service at one stop and handed out by the winner of the sprint competition at the other (thanks!). A very casual race overall, a doctor on site would have been reassuring to Pablo, but it was a good warm up to Phuket.

Results from the Thai Triathlong Chamionships published http://www.thaitriathlon.org/event/detail/trr.htm Photos available at http://www.thaitriathlon.org/webboard/on/post1075.htm

Never Stop Exploring…..The Bangkok Challenge Adventure Race...

For those that are familiar with Bangkok, the thought that there might be something more than concrete, traffic noise and pollution within an hours drive of the city centre might come as quite a shock. It certainly surprised me when I arrived at a large and tranquil lake situated at the Minsiri Resort, Nong Chok, just to the North East of the ‘City of Angels’ which marked the start of the 2006 North Face Bangkok Challenge.

Things seem to on the up within the adventure racing scene in Thailand, with attendance slowly growing with every event. This event lured some 110 racers of all shapes, sizes and possible levels of experience to the start line. There was an air of apprehensive eagerness as various lotions were applied, equipment was adjusted and competitors took the last chance to guzzle some Gatorade and stock up with whatever fuel they could find before the big event.

The first moment of truth for many came with the pre race briefing, as Serge the race director quickly dropped into conversation that he expected the average team to be in around 7 hours.

7 hours!!! Perhaps we had all misheard through the confusion of conducting a briefing in 2 languages…but no there it was again - 7 hours or so for an ‘average’ team. I looked up at the sun now fully established in the sky and quickly downed an extra litre of water….Before we had a chance to feign a plausible injury and extract ourselves to the safety of the medical tent, we were penned in on our bikes for the start, 55 teams of 2, with the naive innocence of young children before Christmas…

In a scene reminiscent of the film ‘Max Max’ we were off in a cloud of dust with the spectators grabbing a fleeting glimpse of strange machines and bare limbs. True to form the race started at the pace of a much shorter event, did these people know something we didn’t?

Time quickly confirmed that they were in fact as clueless as we were; the course was a fascinating combination of shoe-eating muddy tracks, banks of rivers, rice paddies, planks of wood and a few traffic free roads passing through villages that looked trapped in time. These were scenes of a real rural Thailand, where subsistence faming is still the main way of life, despite being a mere stones throw from Bangkok.

Even with the inevitable couple of slow motion spills on the bike, the scenery and a degree of competitive camaraderie meant the 30K ride was a fairly pleasant experience.

Next onto a run section, after a very short road section, the trail disappeared into the rice paddies and remained firmly on small tracks and paths throughout its 8 km duration. The scenery was lovely, the locals friendly and the air was fresh, however the legs were now distinctly unimpressed and the mild autumn temperature that Thailand enjoys was reaching 33 degrees in the shade.. We were 2 hours into the race and still exploring..

The run exited out of the fields next to a small river or ‘Klong’ in Thai, where 2 man Kayaks were waiting for us. I thought what a lovely day for messing around on the river... My partner Chai thought lets catch up some time… we set off downstream agreeing to disagree on team tactics. The Kayak course keep the rural theme of the event, we scraped under numerous rickety wooden bridges and were cheered on by locals fishing from the banks and young children dive bombing from the side as we battled our way down the 2.5 Km course. Being much happier on dry land than water, I was glad to get out and get on with the course. Looking at my watch I registered a sinking feeling, we had been going for 2 ½ hours, perhaps not even half way yet!

Onto another run – having lived in Bangkok for a number of years I am used to the hamster wheel that is circuits around a city park. The cross country, multi terrain muddy trial running that I was experiencing on this race was, dare I say it, really enjoyable. One of the key elements of this sort of adventure race is that you never really know how far it is to the next stage; this lack of facts seems to even the field up as no one wants to risk racing off to find themselves with many hours still to go and the tanks on empty. Slow and steady are the watch words for every stage.

It was some time well into the 3rd hour of racing when we first mentioned the soon to become immortal words “are we nearly there yet?.” Time quickly provided the answer to this question and it was a firm NO.

32 minutes on this run section felt a lot longer but and we found our way back to our long abandoned bikes and just to be sure that we didn’t slow down to admire the scenery we were told we were now in first place.. a mere few minutes in front of the much experienced Team Kalae. Our only hope was that we should now be closer to the finish than the start... We pushed on with the next mountain biking section and after asking every marshal we passed for some clue on the location of the finish, the wide range of, some times amusing, answers that we received lead me to the conclusion that perhaps no one knew where the finish and we were perhaps the victims of some large scale practical joke or scientific experiment!

We passed through the 4th hour of racing with the heat, dehydration and length of the exertion starting to take its toll, Chai my team mate started to suffer legs cramps and my bike (or was it my knee?) started to make some worrying grinding noises. “ Are we nearly there yet?” an oft repeated phrase as we scanned the horizon for signs of the resort we had left many hours again.. nothing to be seen but rice paddies, fields and trees. We were ready to stop exploring now. Just as things couldn’t get much worse, we were passed by the chasing Team Kalae. Luckily for us they looking like they were re-enacting the retreat from Moscow rather than participating in an adventure race. After 4 ½ hours we rode over a hill to find the huge lake that we had left that morning stretching out in front of us, what a sight for sore legs..

With the mind partly recovered we rode hard around the lakeside track and back to the start/finish area, but Race Director, Serge had another surprise up his sleeve. Dumping the bike amongst the spectators and support crews we were directed down to the lakeside to don life jackets for 250 m swim across the lake to a waiting check point. The lead that had been so hard fought for on the mountain bikes quickly disappeared as we all splashed and clawed our way across the lake using a variety of styles unfamiliar to those with any experience of swimming. Team Kalae lead sunk somewhere in the middle of the lake and we exited back in the lead. All that remained was a 2.5 Km run back to the finish, those enjoying a quiet stroll by the river were surprised to find 2 muddy, bedraggled, sunburnt and fatigued individuals weaving down the road towards them on a final lunge towards the finish. Our final time 4hrs 50mins, although we often felt like it…we never stopped exploring!! What a great day.



The next race is the North Face River Kwai Trophy- March 20 2007 - http://www.riverkwaitrophy.com/
















Monday, August 07, 2006


For Sale - The best touring bike in Thailand - My Cannondale Road Warrior

CAAD3 Aluminium Cyclocross Frame

Complete Pannier Set Arkel XM-40 Rear panniers, 2450 cu. in. (pair) Arkel Handlebar bag

The toughest, most reliable components..


Rims - Mavic T519, 36 hole
Hubs - Shimano 105 Ultergra
Spokes DT Champion Stainless Steel
Tires - Continental Top Touring 700 x 32c (with Mr. Tuffy's)
Rear Cogs - Shimano XTR 8 speed12-32 cassette
Shimano XT Rear Derailleur
Profile Design Bar Ends
Blackburn Expedition Rear pannier rack

Already to go and already knows its way around Northern Thailand!!! New baby forces sale of all my toys in spare room to make room for his....I'm not bitter.. honest

25,000 THB

Friday, March 10, 2006

Trophy hunting down the River Kwai

Kanachanaburi a small town around 3 hours from Bangkok is a part of the world worth visiting for its natural beauty and historical world war II sites..

This is what the travel brochures will tell you and most people wanting to explore this neck of woods usually do so from the comfort of an aircon bus. However this option was not me or the 70 other brave souls that elected to have a go at the inaugural North Face River Kwai Trophy, held at the Pung Wan Resort, Sai Yok. This is the second adventure race to be held in Thailand in the last 6 months and just went to prove that Thailand has some of the best potential for this fast growing sport in Asia.

Teams of two were given the option of either the ‘Adventure’ or man-sized ‘Extreme’ category. I suspect many of the all male teams suffered the testosterone-impaired decision-making influenced by pretty girls on the registration desk and were at this stage, like us, committed to the Extreme category!
An air of naïve, friendly amateurism pervaded over the start line early on Saturday morning as the motley crew of weekend warriors and the odd semi professional assembled to see what Serge and Dave, the organisers had up their sleeves for us.

We did not have long to wait and with a beep of our Champion timing chips we were off on mountain bikes following rural tracks, trails and roads and passing through country villages and farms with not a car in sight. After about 10 km we came to a Jungle clearing and on to the next stage, the Jungle run, its anyone’s guess how long this painful stage was. I know I thought it would never end and our team stumbled out of back to the bike a little worse for wear after almost 2 hours of ‘adventure’, other teams were not so lucky taking over 3 hrs to tackle the hilly, challenging jungle course.
The organisers then enforced a dunk in a paddling pool for all competitors to try and cool down before hopping back on the bikes for another pleasant tour around the countryside eventually ending up at the banks of the famous River Kwai and our next mode of transport – A kayak. Luckily for us, no experience is necessary for this section and we soon grasped the fundamentals of steering and forward propulsion. At last my high school Geography came in handy and we guided ourselves to the fastest part of the river, which thankfully was going along a quite a rate of knots. 5k later we hauled our kayak onto the shore and started a run back along the bank of the river. What would be next? The mystery is a fundamental part of what makes this an adventure race and we were not disappointed when after 7k of pleasant cross-country running, the marker arrows disappeared into the river! Just what the doctor ordered after over 3 hours in the sun, we dived straight in and proceeded to follow the arrows downstream, drifting on the current through the jungle and mountains for a couple of KMs. This experience in itself was worth doing this event for!

It was then a matter of reluctantly climbing out of river and back on the bikes for a 30min ride to the finish over a rather rickety bridge that looked and felt like it had been constructed by blind Cub Scout pack. Final time for team Champion chip Simon and Chai - 5 and a half hours and a third place spot..

What a day – running, biking and swimming through some of the best countryside Thailand has to offer, with the sort of comradeship borne out of tackling common adversity and drinking too much free beer at the end of race feast and awards ceremony. What a great way to spend a weekend..we all look forward to the next one!

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Results..

Phuket Marathon and Thai Temple Run results published at http://www.championchip-thailand.com/raceresults.html


Sun 20 August - (Siam City Bank) Mini Marathon- Ministry of Public Health - 10K - 43:28

Monday, December 12, 2005

Links to more info..

As you know theres stacks of stuff out there to point you in the right direction, heres some of my favourites:


http://www.gordoworld.com/
http://www.gordoworld.com/gblog/2005/12/choose-wisely.html

http://www.slowtwitch.com

http://www.xtri.com/isection.asp?id=ray

http://www.triathlontraining.net/


If you want details of events in and around Thailand, running, triathlon or multisports drop me a line - sith at patana.ac.th
What helps..

Now let me start by saying that I am not an expert, there is reams of material about training written - this is just the somewhat obvious things that I have found helpful..

Find a good training partner - this I think is critical, for me anyway, try and look for someone that shares the same ambitions and is COMMITTED, an added bonus is that they will want to complete the same events as you. It is not necessary for you both to be the same standard. For me just knowing there is someone waiting at the pool is enough to get me out of bed some mornings. If you have some one who is not reliable and cannot keep to the agreed schedule you will find that their actions start to give you excuses for missing sessions.

Set a schedule that is easily repeatable - consistency is what I have learnt as one of the golden rules, there is loads written out there about this by people that are much more credible than me. However from my brief experience this is true. No point making a schedule that you cannot keep to. For me getting fit is similar to building a house of of bricks, just slowly building the layers up until the house is complete. Consistency is the key - no point doing 5 hard days and then having 5 days off..

Set some goals - Very important, set goals on every level, for me my goal started as trying to reduce my weight as I had parked up during my office years and I had previous experience is keeping a reasonable level of fitness. This goal was quickly surpassed by virtue of just tackling training and now my goals are event based, the main one for 2006 is to complete an Ironman triathlon and 2007 to qualify for the Ironman championships in Hawaii. Anything else I can do along the way is a bonus.. I try and enter at least one competitive event a month, not only does this break up the repetitive nature of training but it gives you a good gauge of how you are improving - very helpful in Bangkok when the same people do all the events..

Have confidence in yourself - first place or last place, at least you are giving it a go, nothing better than looking around the office and knowing that you attempted events that others could not dream of. Its too easy these days not to be bothered to give anything a go. Anyone that tries something is going in the right direction in my book.

and finally go to bed early and grant yourself some off days..
On training..

This is the basic outline of my schedule at the moment, dont get me wrong I have worked up to this over a couple of months and this is really the maximum I can fit into my life without dropping something else, I seem to be able to keep this up without much problem and without feeling permanently tired, this year I might look to stretch the turbo sessions out a little.

Monday: AM Swim (5:00 - 6:45) PM Run Interval (5:00 - 6:10)
Tuesday: AM Swim (5:00 - 6:45) PM Cycle - Turbo trainer (5:00 - 6:10)
Wednesday:AM Swim (5:00 - 6:45) PM Cycle - Run Endurance(5:00 - 6:10)
Thursday:AM Swim (5:00 - 6:45) PM Cycle - Turbo trainer (5:00 - 6:10)
Friday:AM Swim (5:00 - 6:45) PM Run Interval (5:00 - 6:10)
Saturday:AM Cycle - Rama 9 (7:00 - 10:00)
Sunday: AM Race if there is one in Bangkok, usually 10K

The main problem here in Bangkok is there is nowhere to cycle - this programme would look very different if I could get out on the bike more. The best thing about Bangkok is that apart from being hot all the time you dont have to worry about the weather pretty consistant all year..

Exact swim sessions are available online - see link in another blog entry, I hope to put up exact sessions that I am completing in by late January - watch this space.
Swim Training Plans Available Online

I have started getting into the routine of swimming every morning - I cant say that I am getting any faster but I am getting fitter. Anyone that has done any swimming for a reasonable amount of time will appreciate that it can get very boring. Swimming as part of a defined session, with other people (preferably bettet than you) and continually mixing up the strokes will hel. I am lucky enough to have access to the school swim coach, Peter Howes, not only does he put together pretty good daily practices, he is prepared to get out of bed at 4:30am almost everyday and he makes a great training aid as he is like a dolphin (he could also probably balance a beach ball on his nose) in the water.

Have a look at the morning sets based around the schools Gold group of swimmers:


http://www.patana.ac.th/TigerSharks/sharkPage.asp?MainPageID=9&PageID=37
Review of the year..2005
Last year was a good year for me, I started training like I meant it in late September and I saw quite good gains in only a few months.

This year my highlighted events have been:

1) Mt Kinabalu Climbathon, Borneo Malaysia - do events get any harder than this one? - see report in this blog - painful or what. Manged to beat a very challenging cut off time - I will be back to tackle this one again in 2006. See the race report later in this blog.

2) Desaru half ironman, Malaysia - Another pain fest for me, but one that left no lasting damage, dsuffered a lot through not drinking enough and forgetting that simple rules that my mother taught me like wear a hat!! Lesson no 1 for Malaysian Ironman next year - drink like you mean it..
3) 24 hr race, Bangkok -
How far is it possble to run in 24hrs - we have all read the stories about people in dire sitautions covering large amount of distances on foot in limited times but how far could you make it? I managed 109 KM. Would have been better if i hadnt decided to have a quick nap in the middle of the night that turned into a full blown sleep - too much running earlier in the day. Overtaken by many whilst I was snoring away. Lesson no 2 - the tortise often catches the hare..





4) Adventure Race - Kanchanaburi, Thailand - An event that proves that exercise can be great fun - kayaking, running, mountain biking in one event along with some great views. Along with my team mate Chai managed a second place finish in one piece.


























5) Laguna Phuket Triathlon, Phuket, Thailand - As opposed to 2004 this was a completly pleasurable experience for me this year and I managed to shave 59 mins off my time from 2003 without the aid of the medical tent. Very well organised and great level of competition in a laid back atmosphere. I just wish I did not have to wait until December 2006 for the next one..





Thai Triathlon Championships - December 2005

Completed the Thai Triatholon championships in Rayong yesterday. Managed to finish 2nd in the 30 - 34 Age category in the Olympic triathlon (1.5 k swim, 40 K bike and 10 K run) in a time according to my watch of 2:22. Ross my current training partner picked up 1st in this category and also manged to put 12 minutes on me...

Although this is low key event with only 40 or so people taking part, the standard this year was good with visting althetes from Hong Kong uping the pace. A good event but still only a very small uptake for this sport here in Thailand, a similar event in Singapore, Hong Kong or Malaysia would be sold out..

photos available at http://www.thaitriathlon.org/webboard/on/post1006.htm


Mt Kinabalu - Climbathon Oct 2005

Nothing makes the hearts of runners sink than the sight of a looming hill up ahead. To a recreational athlete such as me, a hill means possible painful extra exertion on the lungs and legs.
Unfortunately, as most people know, Mount Kinabalu in Malaysia is no ordinary "hill". At 4095.2m (13435ft), it is stated as "the highest mountain between the Himalayas and the Mountains of New Guinea Island"
About 30,000 walkers a year make the journey to the summit of this world heritage site. Typically they will stay overnight at the Park HQ, then walk up to 11,000 ft and stay overnight in huts at the Laban Rata rest house for further altitude acclimatisation. Then very early on the second or third day they set out with torches to reach the summit for a beautiful sunrise.
I first heard about a race up this famous mountain when I arrived in Thailand, it sounded interesting! In fact this ‘climbathon’ forms part of the World Mountain Running Championships and involves both running up and down Mt. Kinabalu, a total distance of just over 21 KM. Runners were expected to reach the summit (Low's Peak) within the 2h30m cut off time and the finish line within 4h30m. The record for the 21 km Climbathon which most normal people do in 2 days (8.7 km up and down, with an additional 4.5 km on the road at the end) is an unbelievable 2 hrs 45 mins set by UK runner Ian Holmes.
Well it is said that curisosity killed the cat and it nearly finished me off too. I climbed Mt Kinabalu along with my wife during the last songkran holidays over the course of a few days and suffered such a bad bout of altitude-induced nausea and dizziness that I thought the title of “The World’s Toughest Mountain Race” was probably justified and knew the event would be pretty challenging.
There is little you can do to prepare for such an event in Bangkok, a city notable for its complete lack of gradients and my mountain running training was limited to abandoning the use of the lift at my apartment block for a couple of weeks!
Now I’m no super athlete, a middle of the pack runner who for reasons not yet fully understood likes to attempt any activity that presents a challenge. My main goal for this event was to meet the qualifying time of 2h30m at Low's Peak summit. After achieving that nothing else really mattered.
At the start line surrounded by professional mountain runners from all over the world; the nerves were building, would I finish? Is the 2hr 30min cut off even possible?
As you'd expect, I started full of the joys of spring, running the less steep sections passing a few bewildered tourists, but the track just goes up and up, without a respite, and the main way of getting up the mountain is…stairs ... big stairs up to knee height in fact between the start and the Laban Rata rest house at 11,000 feet (3353 m) there are literally thousands of them ... The steps are randomly made from tree roots, planks and in places cut into the rock and as the mountain is shrouded in mist much of the time, the surface is not one that would be called ideal.
By about 8,000 ft there was not much running, and by 10,000 ft with my pulse flat out pounding in my head some sort of shuffling jog was all that was possible.
The section after the rest house is very challenging. It rises about 1000 feet (300 m) in about 700 metres of travel, with much of it up fixed ladder-type steps which at times are at an angle of 60-70 degrees from the horizontal. Just under 12,000 feet (around 3600 m), you leave the trees behind and the mountain stretches out across a huge granite rock face. Park wardens have laid a rope from this point to the top,In some cases this is needed to pull yourself up on steeper sections, but it's main purpose is to show the way and to serve as a marker in thick cloud. It also provides a sense of security when you realise you are traversing a couple of kms of sloping rock face with nothing much between you and the trees a thousand or so feet below.
Low's Peak, the highest point, rises sharply for the last several hundred feet from the summit plateau, and this proved quite a challenge with my wobbly legs and thin air, - so near yet so far. Eventually 2 hrs and 24 mins after leaving the foot of the mountain I reached the summit. After just plugging away for hours running up the mountain looking at your feet, you get to the summit and have a brief opportunity to take in the blue skies and perfect panoramic views for miles. The top itself can hold about 10 people with not much elbow room to spare and looking down the other side you can see the sharp drop of some 1800 metres into Low's Gully where 10 British soldiers got stuck for 3 weeks in 1994 on a training exercise.

Whilst the descent is much quicker than the ascent, it is much harder because muscles are under serious abuse, as you constantly have to use all your strength to brake. Normally on rough ground down hill, my feet seem to find a good spot to land without me thinking about it. But I was having great difficulty making this happen on the steep slopes at 13,000 feet.

Halfway down I became aware that I was running faster than was advisable, and I attempted to slow the pace. However, my quads had had enough and did not respond to my command. I saw a big rock coming up, and decided to land on it, as that would normally slow my descent. However in this case, my legs gave up the ghost and before I knew it I was on the way down the mountain a little faster than I was happy with. After coming to an abrupt stop on a rock, a quick examination found a few rips in the clothing and a particularly heroic looking cut on the leg, which seemed to bleed disproportionately to its actual size had me descending the mountain looking like I had been attacked by wild animals!

I finished the 21km race in a little over 4 hours 40 mins. Arriving at the finish; I was cold, bruised and tired but strangely content. This is what it is all about to me.Physically this was one of the hardest events I've ever done ... harder than the couple of marathons I have attempted and harder than the few long triathlons I have struggled through. After reflection my verdict still stands, and at almost 5 hours to cover 21 kms and after losing my ability to walk or sit down properly for almost a week there's ample justification for this opinion. Will I have a go at it again next year? …....Probably!