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The North Face 100K Thailand

Plan Better Next Time!

 

Was concerned about how to find the pick up point for the shuttle to race venue. Got there two hours early. Eventually saw some other folks that looked like runners, and sure enough they were also wondering where exactly to meet. “Airport Link Makkasan” was all I knew. I just didn’t want to miss the bus because I was waiting in the wrong spot. At the very least, I wouldn’t be the only one to miss the bus. But two girls from the race agency showed up and got everything sorted. Had two steamed buns while waiting. It was like a 3 hour ride to get to the race.

At the race site, picked up race kit. Heard from a few elite athletes as we waited for the mandatory race briefing. Race director said he wanted to keep the race briefing “brief” like 15-20 minutes, but went over an hour… Maybe he was joking?

Hadn’t eaten much that day. Bought a hamburger that definitely could have been cooked longer. Figured there would be more food options around the hotel. Get on the shuttle and get to the hotel. Check in and drop stuff. There are really only two restaurants within walking distance. Both are full. Go back to my room and figure I’ll go back out later. Try again later and those folks are all still there… they’ve been waiting for over an hour. At both restaurants. Talk to some other foreigners who are also looking for food. And then a group of four women. We join forces and try the other large hotel. There is a large family being served. One table of runners, that are still waiting. Owner doesn’t want to or can’t serve us. Go back to the hotel and get a cup of noodles. Pray that breakfast will be good. Otherwise, tomorrow is going to be rough.

Breakfast is at 3, alarm set for 2:30. I assume there will be a bunch of runners wanting food. Nope. There are only a few runners up. And breakfast is not bacon and eggs like I hoped, it’s rice porridge. Which is not bad, but it’s probably not nearly enough calories to make up for yesterday. Eat and get ready for the first shuttle out to the race. I am the only runner on the shuttle. It’s me and three race volunteers. We get to the race about an hour and a half before the start and I am literally the only runner there. Well, someone has to be the first runner!

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We were required to bring 2 litres of water, a cell phone, a whistle, and the laminated map that they gave us. Before entering the start chute, the director checked that we had a cell phone and headlamp and enough water. (Though I’ll see tons of people on the course that sure don’t look like they are carrying 2 liters of water.)  I think because so many of the Thai runners are new to trail running, the race director wanted to make sure no one got lost. The course turned out to be pretty well marked, maybe even over marked with tons of flags, giant turn signs, and lots of course marshalls along the way.

They count down in both Thai and English and we go. We start on a road. Lots of people are amped up and hustling to the front. Rookies!

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“Pretty sure this is the wrong way…”

In less than a mile, we are plowing through a farm field, off course. Not by much, but still. Whoever’s in front isn’t paying attention. I try to be vigilant and watch for flags and not just follow the person in front of me. It happens again 10 minutes later, but this time I’m paying attention. I run down the marked trail and call them over.

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Soon the sun comes up and I ditch my headlamp. I’m remembering to eat and drink take a salt pill every hour. After a few hours, I realize my biggest mistake of the race.

Race instruction said to pack everything you needed for the race. I packed enough calories, but  they were all sugar calories – gels and chews. I neglected any salty items. (I did have Endurolyte salt tabs for electrolyte balance, but it didn’t help with sugar fatigue.)  Leaving the hotel, I grabbed a half eaten bag of chips as an afterthought. Definitely glad I did. Had to ration those few precious crisps and use them as a reward of sorts. 13 hours of eating sugar just doesn’t fly. Luckily I was able to force myself to eat up until about the 11th hour. I started in on a chew, gagged and spit it out. From then on I just ate watermelon and sport drink at the aid stations.

 

The course was pretty tame for the first 20 miles. Running through farmland and dirt roads, not much in the way of scenery or views, and more road running than I cared for. But eventually we get some nice views. And then finally we got some hills. I think they saved all the climbing for the end. There were some truly challenging sections that were jammed with traffic from the shorter races.

I remember looking at the elevation profile and thinking “3000 feet. Oh that’s no big deal.” But I didn’t notice that I was looking at meters, not feet. So there was a lot more climbing than I expected. But it was just enough to still be fun, and not turn into a critical error.

Another mistake was not reading how drop bags worked. Didn’t plan on a drop bag, then waffled at the last minute to leave a bag at the start.  What I thought was the “Drop Bags” was actually “Bag Drop.” I thought it was just a translation issue, but it was in fact a place to leave your bags.

It turns out that we didn’t return to the actual race start. Instead, there was a turn around a quarter mile away. I was looking for my bag, it was nowhere to be found. They asked if I had labeled it for checkpoint 5, and that’s when I realized my mistake. I didn’t feel like making the trek at that point, so I asked if they could send someone to get my bag. Although I was grateful I didn’t have to get my bag myself, I’m pretty sure they sent the slowest person there. I tried to scarf down a plate of fried rice while I waited. As I waited anxiously, I debated just going ahead anyway. But it had all of calories for the second half, it would have been foolish trying to get by on watermelon slices and bananas. And I thought about taking some fried rice with me, but it wasn’t that good. The girl finally arrived and I took off on the second loop.

For the most part, I ran by myself. Chatted with one guy for a few miles, left him at an aid station. He would catch up and pass me. He “still had his hiking legs” and was moving well. Two or three other guys passed me and that was bothering me. I stopped and wanted to lay down, but all the water in my bladder forced me to lie on my side, which was uncomfortable.

Another runner runs up and asks if I’m okay. I half jokingly tell him I want to take a nap, and he says I need to get to the mountain before dark. I’m like dude, I’m almost finished… ? Don’t know what it was, but something clicked and got me motivated. Remember thinking to myself, “You can sit here whining about it, or you can get up and do something about it.”

The one non mistake of the race was that I finally found my working Ipod and was able to enjoy the magic of music. Nothing lets you forget how crummy you feel and how hungry you are than several good songs. So I put on my music and got going. I passed that ‘get to the mountain by nightfall’ guy. And then a few others. Was working in a better mental head space, even if I was still lacking calories. It made me think where does this energy come from, that can change things around just like that?

As much improved as I was feeling, the last 5K was longest 5K ever. Was so ready to be done. Got on the road, and thought, “This is it!” Nope. There was one last hill. Laid down on the ground in the last mile. Looked back, caught sight of the guy behind me. Got up, put in my headphones and found a Rage Against the Machine song and ran. Taking the final turn into the finish, ran really strong and finished in 13:40.

After the finish I was soooo hungry. I got my medal and beelined for the food. The girl put some noodles on my plate and I asked for more. I slathered on some Maggie soy sauce and oh man! Salt! I ate a few bites… and realized it was too soon to eat. Felt dumb that I had asked for more.

I ate what I could and decided to get on the shuttle back to the hotel. I learned my lesson and bought two hamburgers and three beers to go. The first cold beer was fantastic after drinking water and watered down sport drink.

Another mistake: I didn’t pack a post race bag. Luckily, we got a finishers shirt, so I was able to change into a dry shirt, so I didn’t get super cold afterwards.

There were two other 100k runners in the shuttle. One guy finished and the other DNFed. We chatted about the race and running in general. I shaved my head and bought a giant old man hat expecting it to be insanely hot. I learned that this is usually one of the hottest races in Thailand and that the weather this year was a fluke. It turned out to be perfect!  (Lucky me!) Also, some of the elite runners had complained that the race was too easy, so the crazy hill climb section was new for this year. (Lucky me!) And probably most surprising, was that the race was a Western States qualifier! (Lucky me!)

Overall, I’m happy with how things turned out. Would have been nice to run closer to 12 hours, but I’m okay with 13:40. That was good enough for 17th out of over 200.

Sold!

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Finally sold a painting! Have had about 10 paintings hanging in a swanky bar downtown for six months now. Got an email asking if the piece was for sale, conversed via email and settled on a price. And then comes the drama.

Told the bar owner’s assistant that I sold the piece. She was mildly upset because when we hung all the paintings six months ago, she had expressed interest and (may have stated outright) that she wanted to buy the piece for herself/ the bar. But I had totally forgotten about that. When I got the email asking if the work was for sale, I was more concerned about coming up with a price.

Today the owner of the bar called me and asked if I would reconsider the sale. He was (somehow) under the impression that his assistant had already paid me and the bar owned the piece. I told him I would feel pretty crummy backing out of the deal; the buyer had literally just sent the check in the mail. I gave him her number and suggested he plead his case to her. I haven’t heard back from anyone.

I feel terrible about how things have transpired.  My main takeaway here is be sure to communicate better with others. I could have avoided this whole mess if I had consulted the owner and/or his assistant first.

Next time I’ll have a plan on how to properly sell work.

 

Touting the Twofer

I love my library. I love that I can borrow books, music cd’s, movies, and magazines. So much information available for free and all I have to do is return it on time. What a deal! The best part is there’s a branch not far from where I run most often. So I will run to the library to pick up or drop off items – literally running an errand. That was one of my first “Twofers.”

A few months ago, I started doing hot yoga, aka Bikram. My right knee felt weak and I asked one of the instructors for advice on how to strengthen it. He suggested trying the Cr***fit workouts at the Hollywood Park location. Since it’s part of my yoga membership, I figured I’d give it a try.

I went a few times, and it was actually “fun.” It certainly wasn’t as aggro as I imagined it would be. (But that’s probably because it’s a beginner’s class.) It was like going to the gym, but instead of having to figure out what to work on, someone tells me what to do and I try to do it. I liked that aspect very much and kept going back.

It takes about a half hour to drive to the location, so I decided to put that drive time to use. I started listening to my Thai language audio tapes. I don’t know how well it works since I’m half paying attention (since I’m driving) but I’m going to keep at it.

So the yoga studio is next door, and I would always see everyone in there practicing. It eventually occurred to me that I ought to try a Twofer. I was concerned I would be too tired to do an hour thirty in the hot room, but decided to give it a try. It was tough at first (and still is) but I got through it. It’s not so bad and now I look at he Cr***fit workout as a warmup to the hot yoga. The best part is I don’t have to think about when to go to yoga, at minimum, I go Tuesday and Thursday.

Today, I’m going to do a new Twofer- running to Yoga. The Huebner studio is only about 4.5 miles from my house, so that should be a pretty easy run. The weather today is perfect: cool and sunny. Once I get some new tires on my bike, I think riding to yoga would be another great Twofer option.

I use Strava to log my miles, and recently started taking Instagrams during runs – another Twofer! – and I’ll include those when I get back.

 

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Another Painting “Well—”

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15″ x 21″. The girl is painted with an asphalt based roofing adhesive.

I had used a material like this before, and really liked how dark it seemed. It was a bit hard to work with, as it wasn’t thinning very well. It took awhile to figure out how to make it work. It was fun trying something new, I will def be using the material again.

Don’t think it is as successful as the previous painting. I put in the text before finishing the face appropriately, and don’t want to go back in to rework it. But it’s nice to bang out another little piece, especially a semi-experimental one.

The frame is scrap molding that I had just the right amount of. It’s all rough looking, I’m not sure if that roughness should be fixed or not. Likely it will not be. :)

 

No. Freaking. Way.

Absolutely ridiculous ginormous pizza. With all the toppings, of course.
Absolutely ridiculous ginormous pizza. With all the toppings, of course.

This might be what’s wrong with America; we live for the spectacle.

My older sister (on the left) is in town visiting for a week. So the other night, she and my other sister (on the right) and my dad (wearing sunglasses indoors at night – no, he isn’t blind) and I (white hat) went to Big Lou’s Pizza. We’d never been there before and since they were featured on Man Vs Food, we thought it would be fun to check it out.

The place was packed. While waiting in line, we debated on what size to get. For reasons mainly of a touristic nature, we settled on the impractically large 42″ pie. With all the toppings, of course. The cost for this monster pizza and four drinks? $95.53, which did not include the tip.

We were seated and eagerly awaited our order. I noticed that the guy that brings the pizza out has a spotter that clears the way to the table. Several other tables had ordered the 42″er as well. We got our hopes up every time we saw the guys hauling out a pie. Then our waiter brought us these long rectangular platters for our pizza, and then let us know ours was coming out shortly. When the pizza finally arrived, our table was just barely able to accommodate it.

We took a few photos of us and the pizza. And then we ate. And it was really good pizza. I was keen on the olives they used. They were really olive-y. Likely oil-brined olives, not those cheap flavorless water brined kind. I devoured my first slice in no time and began working on my second. Chewing away at this monsterpiece, I wondered what it would be like to be Adam Richman, the Man in Man Vs Food. He’s always talking about hitting the wall…

And that’s when I hit the wall. After only a slice and a half, I was stuffed. I couldn’t eat any more, the joy had left the food. I was slightly disappointed. I felt I like eating a third slice would have been an accomplishment. Wait, what?!! I know that doesn’t make any sense, but I was high on pizza. My sisters and my dad hit the wall shortly after me. Final tally: my older sister and I downed two slices each, my other sister and my dad a single slice each. Half of the pizza remained intact. We packed it up and took it home.

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So what to make of this? What lessons can be drawn from this experience? How does this relate to running? Does this relate to running?

Actually, yes. It does relate to running. It’s a writing exercise.

Specifically, I am trying to write in a clear and concise manner. Because what’s the point of keeping a blog if I can’t write clearly? How can my stories about running help you if I cannot articulate them? Just like running, or making art, I need to write regularly to get better at it. And sometimes, it’s good to do weird random things that you wouldn’t normally do, like write a little story about ordering a 42″ pizza.

(P.S. Don’t get the anchovies. My sister got them on the side = food poisoning.)

Postcards? Postcards!

Jennie in Chicago
This is probably going to Jennie in Chicago

You might be wondering what postcards have to do with running. It would seem not much. But some of the lessons I’ve learned from running are going to help me get my art back on track.

In my other life, I was a struggling artist. Ever since I graduated, I’d been attempting to make art on my own. I wasn’t part of any art community, and had no peers with whom to commiserate. I was creating in a vaccuum, and for me, that proved difficult. I was a decent painter, but I was always waiting to feel “inspired,” and thus my creative output was really low.

Similarly, it  can be hard to run on your own. Just finding the motivation to run is a constant challenge. But as part of a community of runners, it’s way easier to get motivated because of the support and energy you draw from your peers. Running with others also helps you push yourself harder than if you run alone.

Going to Nick in Hawaii
Going to Nick in Hawaii

I now realize waiting for “inspiration” to create art is, for the most part, utter nonsense. The “secret” to making art is to consistently make it, whether you feel like it or not. Not everything is going to be a masterpiece, but if you keep making stuff – and lots of it – you’re bound to turn out a few winners.

The same holds true for running. You can’t wait till you “feel like” running, you just have to go and run, whether you feel like it or not. And do it consistently. Many times that feeling of wanting to run only happens after you’ve started running. Once you warm up and get the kinks out, and then you realize, “Hey, this isn’t so bad.” And if you run often enough, there are bound to be some memorable runs.

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So… what about the postcards?

They aren’t paintings, but the process of making them is similar to how I make my paintings. They’re like a quick and dirty maintenance run. I’ve also thought maybe I should try to bring Running into my art, hence the running themed postcard. Making postcards will allow me to  ease back into painting. If you want to help motivate me, give me your mailing address and I’ll snail mail you your very own postcard!

And here’s another way I’m going to do it: set a realistic achievable 5k art goal. I started a small canvas the other day, and I am going to finish that puppy by the end of the month. That gives me exactly one week to put some paint on canvas. (Actually it’s on board, but whatever.) And since next week is a taper, I don’t have much of an excuse.

It’s crazy, after writing about art and thinking about art, I’m feeling inspired to make some art!

Recipe – Szechwan Slaw

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Adapted from the Whole Foods Market Cookbook, an easy to make Asian style slaw that will get you to your RDI of vegetables PDQ.

This is one of my favorite things to make when I feel like I haven’t been eating enough vegetables. I’m pretty sure I haven’t been, which is why I’ve been sick. So do your body good and jam some of this into your gob, post-haste!

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You may not have all the ingredients on hand, but they’re worth getting just for this recipe. This recipe makes quite a bit, so you can halve it your first go around.

The Szechwan Dressing

1/4 cup rice wine vinegar

1/8 cup canola oil

1/8 cup toasted sesame oil

1/8 cup mirin

1 teaspoon Braggs aminos (or tamari)

2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger

1/4 teaspoon crushed red chili flake (if you can get a whole pepper and crush it yourself, the heat is much more potent, if you’re into that sort of thing.)

1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro

The Slaw

3 cups thinly sliced red cabbage

3 cups thinly sliced green cabbage

1 large red bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced

4 scallions, sliced thinly and diagonally

1 large carrot, grated

1/4 pound snow peas, sliced thinly and diagonally

1/8 cup sesame seeds

Prepare the dressing.

Combine dressing ingredients in a bowl. Adjust to taste. Set aside.

Prepare the Slaw.

Combine slaw ingredients in a bowl. 15 minutes prior to serving, pour dressing into slaw and toss to mix. Serve.