Dec 18, 2011

Mud, bamboos, cliffs, bikes, crops....

I really felt like I needed and wanted to get out of Yongchuan this weekend. But as situation would have it, we stayed within running and biking distance of our home. At first I was terribly upset about not leaving the district but sitting here on Sunday evening,  I feel refreshed and pleased with a really great weekend.

Friday night I chose to take a day off of any real kind of working out. I had run short but hard throughout the week with some mini crossfit workouts thrown in and a lot of yoga. My legs were tired. We relaxed by cooking up dinner and chillin with friends  and listening to some Christmas tunes.

Saturday we slept in a little and got up just in time for morning yoga at the gym. The weather was pretty blah grey, wet, and cold (think vancouver winter after 6 days of rain and clouds....that was it). We got to yoga and noone else was there? Eventually two others showed up and we started class about 40 minutes late. We didn't mind, while we were waiting Andrew and I practiced some acro yoga, headstands, and some harder yoga holds. After yoga, we made some homemade breaky and fidled on the computer. Once we realized the weather wouldn't change,  we put on our running gear and got out on our dirt road trail up tea mountain. We got to the top and explored some random new dirt roads and trails on top and then headed back down in time for lunch.... we were out for about 3 hours! The dirt road tea mountain is one of my favorite long run routes we have found here. The dirt road was extremely muddy thanks to a week of non stop wet weather... The mud, the mist, the rain, the cool weather all made for a unique run up the mountain.

Sunday we enjoyed another lie in... We woke up to SUN! and so decided it would be a good day to get on the bikes. We went up the other ridge around town and headed for Cucumber mountain. Cucumber mountain is a part of the ridge where there are a lot of crops and vegetable farms. They are also building a hotel surrounding a typical man made smelly green looking small lake!?!? Oh CHINA... Once we explored the main area of the crops, we got off the bikes and went exploring around some of the trails. We found one trail that had a large amount of stone steps that took us down to a plateau, which then divided into several other trails. We picked one that took us deeper into this forested valley. Within the forest we took a less travelled path to try and find where the waterfall sounds were coming from. We managed to find a little creek with a cute little/mini waterfall... we enjoyed this little oasis among concrete everything, took some photos and eventually made our way back around and up to our bikes. Before heading home we stopped in the village and got some lunch and again we were the attraction of the hour for the locals... :)

After about 5 hours of adventures on bike and foot we found ourselves back home, showered and pleased about our finds and adventures

I now realize that we don't always have to leave Yongchuan to explore and find adventures. There is a ton to do just a run and bike ride away from home. We got to sleep in, cook our own food, sleep in our own bed, save money, and still have adventures that felt like we were miles away from the city. If we had gone somewhere on the bus or train this weekend we would have been there for a rainy Saturday and missed enjoying most of Sunday's beautiful weather due to travelling back to Yongchuan.... I have to learn to listen to Andrew more often:) To truly understand some life lessons, you have to learn for yourself through experience...

live, love, laugh,..DREAM!

Dec 3, 2011

Cycling to the Dazu Rock Carvings

After discovering the ease of camping anywhere in China last weekend. Andrew and I made a plan to cycle to one of the main tourist attractions in the province of Chongqing. The Dazu rock carvings are found in several sites around the province but the most famous sections of carvings are found 15km northeast of the town of Dazu on Boading Mountain.

Saturday morning we enjoyed a little lie in. As we were getting ourselves prepared for our bike tour, our first adventure of the weekend was an unexpected power outage at 8:30am. Lucky for us our stove tops still worked for our regular eggs, potatoes, veggie scrambles and the elevators were still functioning. We live on the 23 floor and it would have been a long walk down with packed paniers and heavy bikes...

We departed our apartment in Yongchuan at about 9:30am. It is about a 25km cycle to a town called Youting. Nothing too exciting to report about the town other than it was where we needed to catch the road north to head to Dazu. The road from Yongchuan to Youting was the old highway basically paralleling the new toll expressway. It had some scenic farmland, rolling crop terrain, enough twists, turns, and hills to keep it interesting, and wasn't too full of black fumed trucks.

From Youting to Dazu the road is fairly flat and straight with lots of small shops and farm homes. There is no shoulder but the cars are used to people walking and slow scooters on the street; big vehicles honk and just go around you. It took us about 3 hours to get to Dazu. We found the center of town and had some hot noodles for lunch, the man serving us was very friendly and of course curious about us and our bikes. It is about another 12km to Boading mountain. The cycle from Dazu to Boading was pretty along a two lane road. The last 3.5km was the toughest climb of the day but still nothing too harsh. About 400m before the gates we had spotted a potential camp spot by the highway across from some buddhas.

Boading is a little village in itself created for tourists as it is full of tourists shops and restaurants. December 1st is the beginning of low season and the ticket prices are cheaper. It was 90RMB for visiting the rock carvings and another 10 to look at a temple.
 A problem with bike touring is that the paniers are not designed to be carried when not attached to a bike. Our paniers were full and heavy and we did not want to leave them on our bikes nor did we want to carry them with us. Dilemma! Our first attempt at asking to store our paniers we received a very firm NO...then eventually after numerous attempts of asking people a very nice woman working with decent english allowed us to stash our paniers by the ticket booth! Hooray!

The rock carvings are very cool. There are large and small carvings, some in caves, some in color, some with broken off faces and some in a newer state. We thought it was something different and worth seeing for us! After checking out the carvings and temples, we perused the tourist shops and had some noodles and dumplings for an early dinner. There was no bubble tea to be found so we settled for a tea house and some green tea.

About 5:30pm we were tired and dusk was setting in so we were back on our bikes and back to the spot we saw earlier. On our way Andrew spotted some typical chinese steps on top of the buddha cliff. We parked our bikes and went to check it out. We found a sweet little spot free of vegetable growth on top of the buddha cliff. We tried to sneak our bike and sacks up but we think we were spotted by an old lady across the street.

We set up camp, and enjoyed the scenery and serenity of the place until dark fell upon us. We went to sleep nice and early and quietly. Unfortunately, for us it rained pretty solidly throughout the night. We stayed dry but it is a good thing we were only camping for one night as our tent and sleeping mats got soaked! As we packed up and headed down the cliff at about 7:30am in the dark mist an old man across the street up for his early morning smoke came over and seemed confused. We tried to smile and act nice but really could not communicate. We escaped on our bikes and rode away in the mist and down the mountain towards Dazu for breakfast. We made it back to Yongchuan, wet, dirty and smiling in time for lunch!

Having two days of about 4 hours of riding has been nice. We have been keeping fit but haven't been doing long days of activity lately and it is nice to know we haven't lost too much of our ultra endurance fitness as it is my favorite kind!

live, love, laugh,...DREAM!

Nov 29, 2011

Camping in Wulong

stop along the way picture by chinese student!

This weekend I left the hubby at home in Yongchuan while I went away with a chinese outdoor group to explore the Wulong County for some hiking and camping adventures. Myself and two other Canadian teachers joined a group of 9 on the long journey east. We had to take a 2 hour bus, then a 2.5 hour train ride. We had to stop/make camp in Wulong City as we arrived at midnight and the buses stopped running. Once we arrived into Wulong City we hiked along the road and down towards the river. We found a nice flat spot among farmer's land and set up camp down by the river. We woke up to farmers picking their vegetables and grooming their land. Some folks bathed in the river(not sure if that made them any cleaner?!?).
Wulong City Camping, picture by chinese student

We slowly packed up, had breakfast in town and then got a mini bus to take us about one hour into the mountains of Wulong County. We passed by some huge gorges where we stopped to take some photos and eventually found ourselves at a lake. After too many pictures we hiked for about 45min/1 hour over some hills and around the lake and found ourselves in a pretty valley. Here we had lunch and would be where we would camp for the night. It was a family owned guesthouse/camping site. Who knew?!? After lunch we headed off into the mountains. I wish I knew what the area was called but I don't. There were other camping groups staying the night there as well, some hiked in and some drove in!

the lake, picture by chinese student

   After lunch, we hiked into the mountains, there were some nicely groomed single track trails for us to walk along. Elaine and I were out front and we decided to head straight up and see if we could get to the top of this ridge. Unfortunately, the trails slowly disappeared on us and we found ourselves bushwacking through bamboo. The others caught up and hung out by the kiwi trees, shaking down and gathering kiwis to bring home while we continued to bushwack until the wacking just got too much. We arrived back into camp about 5pm. I decided that I needed a little more sweat in order to call it a day and went for an hour run around the lower trails. Dinner was mutton lamb cooked over an open oven... Looked nice but I stuck to the veggies!

Sunday I woke before the others and went for a fast 40min run and later joined Elaine for another 20 min run before breakfast. After a slow beakfast of egg/tomatoe noodles and left overs we hiked back out just too find out we had to wait an hour for the van to get us. I had  seen a lower trail around the lake as we hiked out so Elaine, another man and I decided to check it out while we waited, we found a mini waterfall and some more nice scenery plus got in some more exercise! It was perfect, we arrived back and the van came by not too long afterwards. We began our long journey back to Yongchuan. We arrived home about 7:30pm. A nice weekend away in nature!

Other exciting news:
 Our Yukon River SUP Expetidion Video will be shown at the Cumberland Mountain (Amateur) Film Festival, January 12, 2012 at the Riding Fool Hostel in Cumberland. Tickets are $15 and  they go towards raising funds for the Cumberland Community Forest Society. If you are around that area go check it out!

live, love, laugh,...DREAM!

Nov 23, 2011

A different kind of trail run

This past weekend we decided to explore a somewhat nearby town called Chengdu. It was going to be a weekend to explore the city and its somewhat close surroundings. We managed to arrive late friday night via bus. 4 hours bus ride form Yongchuan. We got ourselves set up at the Traffic In Hostel and then cruised along the river, past the night clubs, enjoyed some fine fried noodle street food, hung out at the local pub by our hostel and called it a night.

Saturday morning Andrew and I went for an hour run along the river. It was a beautiful fall morning and many chinese people were already out and about. We found out later that we were fittingly running on the fitness trail! We then walked ALL DAY to temples (Wenshu and Green Ram Palace), shops, parks, and coffee shops. We found a great little alleyway with tons of coffee/tea shops, little funky bars, restaurants and a couple of outdoor shops, we loved it! After a full day of walking and seeing the city we spent the evening on Jin Li street, a touristy food and shop street full of lights and people. Not really our thing but a fun experience to check out regardless.

Sunday morning, we went out to check out the Panda Breeding Centre. I really wanted to check it out as Chengdu is really known for this centre and the pandas. We had gone with the hostel bus to make it simple and ensure that we would make it back in time for the hash run. The breeding centre is large with lots of walking paths, and happy cute pandas. We walked around, took photos, and hung with the pandas all morning.

I've been craving some trail running ever since we landed in china. We have found some dirt roads and short trails among the bamboo in Yongchuan, but nothing that has satisfied my craving for some good trails. A couple weeks back, I found out that Chengdu had a hash harriers running group every second Sunday. After some emails, I found out we were able to get to Chengdu for one of their runs and made a trip of it. We made it to the meeting spot no problems. I had never been on a true hash run so was excited to see what it was all about. We enjoyed a cold beverage while we waited for more people, buses, and t shirts. About 60 people showed up for the run, a good mixture of expat and chinese. They drove us about 1.5 hours out of the city to a small farm village. After some explaining, beer drinking and bathroom needs were finished they let us free to follow the flour markers and yell ON ON. It was good fun running through farmer trails, animal trails, and there was even some "bushwacking". It was just over an hour run with lots of sprinting for us as we stayed out front. We got a good workout as we ran through various intersections trying to find the correct trail to continue while others strategies were to wait at the intersection until one of us keenrs yelled out the correct route... Unfortunately, our statistics of choosing the correct trail was about 1% so we had lots of extra sprinting to do in order to get back in the front group. After the run there are some charges to be dealt which involved chugging beers and getting flour thrown on you. The whole experience was fabulous and we loved meeting new people, running on trails, and getting out into the farm land but we needed to get back to Yongchuan for work the next morning and it was getting close to night time by the time we left the spot.


We luckily managed to catch the night train home (long story) and we will be back to this great city and back to participate in the hash run.

live, love, laugh,...DREAM!

Nov 13, 2011

Playing in the bamboo forest

Saturday we had a fun day playing in the great outdoors. We managed to get out before the rain came down. It was fun crispy fall day.

We rode our bikes up to the Bamboo forest on the dirt road along the ridge. This is actually quite a descent climb up on dirt road. It is about one hour to the top from our house with some fairly steep sections and washed out dirt.  If we get out and ride this every week it will hopefully keep us fit and ready to tackle the NorthShore Mountains when we return to Vancouver (hopefully) without too much extra pain!

We stopped at some trails we found a few weeks ago and rode some single track on our hard tails...

We then continued to the top where the dirt road meets the paved road. We locked our bikes and went for an exploration hike through the bamboo. We found some paths both concrete and dirt, an old house, some wells, ponds, ridges etc. Once we started to get hungry we jumped back on our bikes and started to head down. Back to the lower section of bamboos we set up the slackline and played around on the line for a bit... We tried walking the line with running shoes as there were many sharp bamboo ends around the ground.. It proved to be a little tougher than I imagined at first,... but after a while we got the hang of it! Once our tummies couldn't handle being empty any longer we packed everything up and heading back to town on our bikes!

Today we walked around old town and found some excellent random chinese things.... it was such a nice fall day that I really wanted to out of town on our bikes so we rode up cucumber hill found a new road that gave us a great 1.5 hour ride on bikes.

I am proud of our continued effort to explore our surroundings... it keeps us on our toes!

live, love, laugh,...DREAM!

Nov 8, 2011

Hangzhou International Marathon in a nutshell

While in China for only 3 months I have already been itching to find some races. To be truthful, in my spare time I perouse through international race sites dreaming up plans of racing here, there, and everywhere. Sometimes, back in reality world I inquire into races that might actually be possible to enter rather than just dream of every possible race I would like to do on earth...
About 3 weeks ago during one of my 'perousing the internet for races in my spare time' moments I stumbled upon the Hangzhou International Marathon. With a thrifty entrance fee of $15  and a possibility of prize money I just couldn't not sign up for it. I somehow managed to convince Andrew to run a marathon in three weeks  with no training or preparation?!? I quickly found some flights and figured out how to pay the entrance fee on time (Thank you Elaine, a friend with an online chinese bank account) and we were set. The only problem was... we had not been training for a marathon at all and were about to WING IT BIG TIME.

In the back of my mind I thought I was still a young 24 year old who could just pull off any type of sporting accomplished I wanted with grand success... well, last weekend I found out that I am no longer 24,  I am 31 and I guess some things become a little more difficult with age.

What happened out there on the race course was not exactly what I had dreamed up in my head a few weeks back when I signed up for the race. The first half of the race was nice. We ran around the famous West Lake and then up through some mountains, farmlands, small villages, temples and pagodas. After about 21km we hit the river. We had an awfully long there and back on straight road and then it was a horrid 19km or so of straight flat unscenic(because you couldn't even see the river) run along the river. It was awful. I was bored and really had to push hard in my head to just keep running. My legs started to get sore from the constant pounding of similar terrain and I was pondering the reasons I wanted to sign up for this race so badly. I worked hard through the mountain stage to pass three girls and then lost the positions on the flats. FRUSTRATIONS... They clearly were better road runners than I. I tried all of my mental techniques to get me through to the end. I tried to disassociation by thinking about past memories and future plans. I tried to focus on my breathing and stride and associate myself with the present by focusing on what my body was doing and what was happening. I tried a lot of self talk, telling myself I have run longer and that this was easy. I broke down the run into segments and visualized how easy 5km of running is. I tried all of these methods many times throughout the marathon race. I didn't walk, I didn't give up, I smiled (and grunted), and I pushed myself through pain and I also crossed the line with the slowest marathon time to date for me... BOO..While I didn't get my goal of 8th place female(prize money cut off) I did managed to get in as the 13th female. Not too shabby for my first marathon since 2006 and without any training for it either... maybe there is still hope for my running career?

Two days following the race.. I still can't walk properly and I cringe every time I need to get off my butt and move but mentally I am ready and pumped to get my train on...and as always I seem to only remember the exciting and nice parts of the race. Funny how the brain seems to block out the bad and embrace the good!

Bring on the Great Wall Marathon in May...

Hangzhou is a pretty city with tons of temples, pagodas, buddhist caves and of course a big lake on which you can explore. We spent Saturday hiking through the hills by the lake (not relaxing like maybe we should have done?!?). It was a maze of stone stairs, caves, and temples. Pretty cool little place in which it is very easy to get yourself turned around and lost. Lucky for us we brought our handy dandy GPS. Got to love technology (sometimes). We also ate some food, cruised around some local shops, and found a fun little coffee shop where we did manage to sit and relax with some mighty fine americanos!
All in all a fun little weekend away!


live, love, laugh,..DREAM!

Oct 30, 2011

Almost like flying through Bamboo...

We both got sick this past week... I blame some long work days and cold weather that moved into Yongchuan.... we are trying to get better in time for our marathon in Hangzhou next weekend... I think we will... with rest, yoga, tea, and good food we will be ready to hit the pavement hard and run our little hearts out!

Friday night we both felt a little achy, I felt a little fidgety, so we decided to do an evening ride up Tea Mountain to get some fresh air and a change of scenery... Andrew took some nice pics of the sunset and tea bushes!

Saturday we had to work.... luckily, it was a gorgeous day and it was our outdoor sports event day so we got to run around and take in the sun.

Today we finally got to sleep in, which we did quite well! after a loungy morning we got on our bikes and rode up the dirt road along this ridge that eventually leads to the Bamboo Park. Last weekend we found a bunch of Bamboo just below the top and thought it would be cool to set up a slackline in the bamboo forest. So today we came back on our bikes and did just that... It was about a 45 minute ride to the spot... we were out on the line playing for about 45 minutes and then it was a fun downhill ride all the way home..

live, love, laugh,..DREAM!