May 26, 2012

The full circle... Cycling Tea/Bamboo Mountain

After traveling for several weekends in a row and poor weather all week, Andrew convinced me that we should stick around Yongchuan and enjoy the surrounding areas by bike... Friday night Andrew, Tyler, Fimo and myself had a group treadmill and weights session in the gym... On fridays we finish work a little earlier so the gym is much quieter at 4 which is much easier to move around and actually have a good work out! It was great... funny enough since the Great Wall Marathon has completed I was hoping I would take a little break from running but have been out three days in a row;) Its been raining so not too great for biking and there is not much else to do here so running it is! I want to try and get strong for paddling now... I can't paddle as we dont have any friendly waters in these parts so I need to do my best with weights, running, and biking... I diverge... after the gym we enjoyed some local food, and then headed over to the apartments for some wine and cheesecake while watching the movie Hangover 2!

Saturday, Andrew and I slept in (well deserved and needed... I had been feeling pretty tired all week), made our usual breakfast feast of scramble egg, veggies and coffee(thank you parents for the stash). We decided to go on an exploratory bike ride. We have been up tea/bamboo mountain many many times on our bikes but always seemed to get distracted by hikes or slacklining before riding the whole ridge and seeing what was on the other side...

It has been wet all week so the dirt road was pretty slick riding up to the ridge. Also there has been some new developments.. A gate has appeared... Normally you have to pay to go onto the ridge and to the park via the road but in the fall after paying once to get onto the ridge we had found this dirt road that was more exciting and pretty and FREE and got you to the same paved ridge road. I fear that someone will ruin this at some point very soon... I just know for us... if this road hadn't existed the way it has our time in Yongchuan would have been more difficult as we have spent many hours in the woods exploring and playing!

Anyways, we eventually got to the top of the dirt road despite my heavy bike and slippery mud (I felt like slacklining so had brought along the big lock and the slackline providing me with a rather heavy bike... good training for something I suppose:))... The weather was on and off with sun and clouds, hot, humid, and cool temperatures... we road on.

After enjoying the bamboo, the twists and turns, the ups and downs of the road, we finally got to an intersection where a dirt road and the continuation of the paved road meet.. We took the paved road. It was called Jade Corridor, a fairly unused, not well maintained section of the park. We don't have a map for the area just the GPS so weren't sure at this point where this road might take us. In the end it took us nowhere. After decending for a while with tight turns the road just stoped at a farmers home... we were forced to turn around and ride back up to the intersection. On the way back up we passed a load of chinese people just walking up the hill (happy)... didn't really understand where they came from but they seemed content enough yelling and singing... We got back to the intersection with the dirt road, rode a little along it until we managed to get a little view and stopped for a snack and decision time. The day was still young and we were feeling adventurous and curious so we decided to continue along the dirt road and see where it would take us. The road had a couple of switchbacks up and the flattened out with small climbs, descents and turns.

We passed through what we believe was an old factory that got burned down... It was pretty big with lots of buildings, most had collapsed roofs.. It was really cool but also a little spooky... after taking some pictures we rode on, we passed some abandoned farm house villages, some that seemed abandoned but had a couple folks working in the fields. We rode, and hoped we were making the correct decisions to et ourselves down and to a paved road and a town. Eventually after only one real mistake that we eventually corrected we made it down and through some pretty farm lands with rolling hills. Another 30km or so, through some more villages and small roads we made it back to Yongchuan. We headed straight to one of our favorite noodle shops and filled our tummies with delicious spicy noodles. We rode for about 6 hours, about 1500m elevation, about 80km and saw some new areas surrounding Yongchuan. Awesome, I felt spent and happy about it.

Today its raining and we are feeling lazy.... but it is only 11am... anything can happen!

I took some pictures our local market....

live, love, laugh,...DREAM!

May 24, 2012

Taking the positive and moving forward...

a little note:

In the last couple of days after releasing my emotions and getting on with life, I have come to realize that I am growing as a person. I am not grown up yet:) but I am learning and developing into a better human being...into someone I would like to be.

I have already moved on (quicker than I would have in the past). In the last few days I have been inspired through other people either in person or reading on the internet.

I am already trying to sort out the next several adventures and races.

I am trying to enjoy my last weeks here in China before we head back to North America. We have some vague plans, but most importantly I want to take it all in at a slower pace than I usually do... I want to "stop and smell the roses" so to speak.

that being said, the rain has ceased and I want to ride my bicycle...

live, love, laugh,..DREAM!

May 21, 2012

Great Wall Marathon Race Report: An interesting situation

Andrew's consolation for my unique situation at the Great Wall Marathon 2012 was that at least it would make a good story... Let me see if I can try and sum up my little adventure running the Great Wall Marathon into an interesting story about racing, being competitive, fairness, awards, rewards, pride, and support. 
Andrew at the finish

Andrew and I before the start

Here is my story and thoughts:
In the fall of 2011 another teacher at Chongqing Maple leaf International School approached me to see if I was interested in running the Great Wall Marathon. Luckily Andrew and I had mentioned it between ourselves beforehand as a possibility for the year. I naturally was excited that someone else would also be interested so we got our entries in for the early bird discount which solidified our May 19th 2012 weekend. Closer to the time of the marathon we booked flights and secured a what turned out to be a great farm house bed and breakfast close to the race start, and a hostel (365 Inn) in the city centre of Beijing for the Saturday evening. While booking all of these necessities we also realized that we would miss the race package pick up time and got our packages sent to us before the race as we were not to arrive until very very late in the evening on Friday night, the day before the race. 

When i received my package I did notice I was in coral 2, I was bummed but as I read through the Great Wall Booklet, nowhere does it tell you how you actually get put in a coral. Because the entry form never asked for my best previous marathon times or racing history or even predicted times I think it is a fair assumption to assume we were placed in the corals at random  and therefore results had to be based on timing chip time as otherwise it would make no sense and be completely unfair. We were also forced to get a timing chip which further confirmed to me that times would be measured on timing chip. I assume due to congestion and a random assignment of coral the winners would be deduced by chip time. It is the only way it makes sense to me (still now). 

We left school at 3pm on Friday and made it to the airport at 7pm by means of taxi, bus, and metro... We checked in for our 8:30pm flight and arrived into Beijing airport at about 11:30pm. We got picked up by the lovely people who ran this awesome B&B. It took 2 hours to get to the B&B being 2am by the time all things were said and done. The house was situated in a small valley among steep hills about 3km from the race start. We got a light nap of just under 4 hours before the alarms went off to get up and get dressed for the start. I wasn't too hungry in the morning but managed to eat 3/4 of my PB sandwhich and a chocolate granola bar... some sips of cold coffee and some water finished my pre race food intake. The nice people dropped us off at the race start. This race is quite tight with security and they checked us and our tickets on every step of the way. The place was packed already at 6:30am (race start at 7:30am). I found the bathroom and stored my bag and started to stretch... The place was funny as it was definitely a race for foreigners, there were people from all over europe, australia, US, NZ, and CAN as majorities and only some chinese folks.. No prize money kept the speedy kenyans away:)

The staff was doing a good job with security and wouldn't let those without the correct coral number on their bib through and so I was forced to wait for the second wave start. This secured my thoughts that time and placement would definitely be identified through the timing chip scores, I had no doubt in my mind that winners could possibly be decided from gun time. I was at the race at 630am and never heard an announcement of any rule change of gun time change or the possibility of changing corals, believing it all to be pretty final. 

So I got myself in the front of coral 2 and we began the race 5 minutes after coral 1. I was out in front and to my surprise and excitement quite quickly started catching people from coral 1. The race had a long road climb to start things off. This is good for me and despite the crowds of walkers in front of me I managed to squeeze my way through at a strong running pace. I was passing people throughout the entire climb and still feeling good so kept my pace up. Then we hit the beginning of the wall. Here I had a little trouble with slower folks but luckily I passed most slower folks on the wider road, I had a few frustrating moments where I wanted to pass but people either couldn't hear me because they were wearing earphones or were obviously not wanting me to pass them or sometimes it was just clogged up... but I was yelling my way through and managed to squeeze in between people whenever I could. I don't think I pissed too many people off but I knew this was my forte and would need all the speed I could get from it before we hit the flatter road section. I was pretty impressed with my energy and speed coming out of the wall. I then kind of found a pace for the flat sections, I really am terrible on the flats, my head just doesn't tell my legs to move quickly and I find I mentally drift away... luckily there were a couple of dirt road patches and hill climbs to liven me up and get me out of my road rut speed.

 From about km 26 to about km 32 I had some wacky out of body experiences that made me nervous as I thought I would either faint or hallucinate very soon... As soon as I could I grabbed some bananas and ate a Nuun straight up. I felt a little better but still had to walk for a minute or two to get myself together both physically and mentally. I forced myself to concentrate and get back on track as I felt like I was still running quite well and didn't want to mess it up now.. At about km 34 or so we were back at the base of the wall running it backwards to the way we did at the start, The uphill stair cilmbs were a real mental battle for me at this point. I luckily explored different methods of trying to climb consistently without getting my breathing to become too heavy and finally found a a funny strategy that worked for me. I used my hands and feet, looked down, and really focused on slow deep breathing (think yoga) which allowed me to maintain a very consistent speed. I knew this was one of my strengths and wanted to remind myself to use it in a positive way. I managed to sort of run the downs and flatter sections.

 At about km 36 I was really really craving a sprite or a coke. I remembered I had stashed a coke NUUN in my shorts and so pulled it out and popped it into a waterbottle I was using. The coke flavored NUUN gave me a little lift that was well needed. Unfortunately for me, the last 5km was my other weakness in road running (strangely enough in most sports, steep downs)  steep road descents. It was here that I sort of lost it. I am sooo annoyed at my inability to be fast on descents (its backwards because most people are better at the descents and weaker on the climbs) It is here where I finally got passed by the girl who later winds up with the 3rd place award despite my time actually being 4 minutes faster than hers. But without a doubt she was much quicker than me on the descent. On a little climb in the middle of the descent I managed to almost catch her again but she was off again once it got steep and down. We had less than a km to finish on the final flats and unfortunately for me it just wasn't long enough for me to catch her. There was nothing I could do but sprint hard. I was hoping that she had started in coral 1 and I would possibly still beat her by time. To be honest I didn't know we were fighting for 3rd place across the line. In the end it was a very pleasant surprise for me. So as it turns out I was 1 minute behind her across the line.  As it turns out she did in fact start in coral 1 which means she started the race 5 minutes ahead of me. So infact I did beat her by 4 minutes. My final time was 4 hours 26min and 22sec and hers was 4 hours 30 min and 44sec. What followed has made me forget all of my awesome struggles, proud moments of getting through mental and physical slumps, and enjoying some of the ease in which I could just run uphill without thinking about it twice,  enjoying my strengths and getting frustrated with my weaknesses, ... all I can remember is what ensued after I crossed the line. 

Thank you amazing Canadian man from Ontario who ran the half marathon. You were my stone and support when I felt so alone and upset. Andrew had not finished yet and the other girl that came with us had decided to leave and so there I was alone... At first quite happy. I was 4th across the line (which is great in itself) and quite quickly it got announced that I was third female overall.. I was so proud of myself for this success as I was beginning to doubt my running abilities after the last two marathons I raced in China this year. They were significantly slower than my times in 2003-2005. Once the awards were set to take place we, all 4 of us went to the stage, I was confused that the girl who crossed the line in third thought she won third but the announcer clearly called my name with my time. ONce on stage I went up to the race director to confirm the results and what happened after that is a blur as it was pretty disappointing for me. I was told that at the race meeting on Thursday evening the race director had announced that the award winners would be deduced according to gun time shots and people could change corals on this night if they felt they needed too (something like this, I was in a daze, upset, not thinking too straight at the bad news). Well, I am a teacher in Chongqing for the year and we cannot take holidays other than the preset ones and therefore although I would have liked to be at race meeting (I always go if I can) it was impossible to be in beijing on Thursday evening. I left Friday evening after work. I didn't know about this change or the new news. I felt it very unfair; as far as I could tell there was no way to change your coral. On stage I was asked if I was at the meeting I explained that I was not and it was impossible for me to have been there due to work. They then told me I should have known to change to coral 1. But I was wondering how they expected me to know this? It was not mentioned race morning, there was no email sent, there was no way I could have known this detail. Because there was no written rule about it being gun shot winners I feel it very unfair for those of us that because of work or other commitments didn't get the correct spoken rule change information. It was decided on stage that the girl who crossed the line 3rd should get 3rd as that is what he said on thursday and although I had a time 4 minutes faster than her I would not get an award and receive 4th. 

I followed the rules I was given and feel betrayed with the awards, I am unhappy, and am feeling very negative about racing because of it. It is important to me to have the proper recognition for a strong performance and it feels good and right to get rewarded with the correct award that one deserves. 

I was cleary upset,and my new canadian friend provided very nice support for me. He had told the race director to at least recognize my achievements on the microphone (which he did) but unfortunately the bad news was just too fresh and raw in my mind.  I felt betrayed. I felt angry, I felt disappointed, I cried and shook and just felt soooo awfully sad.. 

Eventually Andrew crossed the line, and he did great and looked relieved and happy at the same time. I shared with him the "excitement" of the events that just occurred, he tried to comfort me but I was just too upset. I managed to sort of go in and out of disappointment. After Andrew recovered enough, we eventually got our lunch, got on a bus and made it back to Beijing for about 6pm. We showered and joined the other two at the hostel bar for a tube of Beijing beer and pizza. 

We had a pretty early night as we were all pretty zonked from the lack of sleep, long run, and bus rides etc. I couldn't sleep very well as my mind was racing with the post race events that occurred. I was up at 630am and went for  a walk through the streets and couldn't believe how alive the city was at 630am: tourists yelling in microphones, music blasting from stores, street vendors out and about... I also enjoyed some coffee, read my book, and just enjoyed watching the bustling of the street from the deck of the hostel. I was trying to erase the bad from my brain and remember the good... It worked sometimes but then would remember the moment I was told I was faster but would get 4th and feel my disappointment all over again. I know it is a little ridiculous but I am emotional and I take these things to heart, probably too much,.. but that is ME.

We eventually had some breakfast and made our long journey home to Yongchuan... and so the Great Wall Marathon has come and gone with feelings of pride, joy, sadness, unfairness, soreness, fulfillment, and many other emotions. Another adventure for the books.

Now its time to focus on stand up paddleboarding..... yes, more races, yes I am a little nervous to put myself through the emotions and possible unfairness involved in the whole scene but at the same I am excited to get back on the board and see how hard I can push against myself and others. I love the sweat, I love the pressure, I love the community,... I can't let this one experience put me down.... I WON'T let this one experience put me down...

live, love, laugh,..DREAM!

May 17, 2012

not so much about sports... just some random thoughts...

There have been many moments these last 8 months here in Yongchuan, China where I have wondered to myself what I was doing in China; why i chose to be here; what I gave up to be here; why I gave up those things; the good and the bad of my choices; am I facing my fears or running away from them or is it much simpler than all of this?

Although, I make lists, have dreams, write in journals, talk to others, think and analyse... I still don't really know the correct answers to the above questions... are there any wrong or right answers?

I feel that sometimes I don't understand my own choices (I am a go with the heart kind of gal) and feel like by putting myself in a situation where I have the luxury to make choices: life takes me on adventures and I go with it. It all seems wonderful and exciting on the outside and in the end it usually IS but it is not always an easy ride....Sometimes, I feel like someone else made the choice and I just said OK sounds like fun, I like adventure: I'm in and then I'm in:) and then I think about it.....

I think taking risks in life is a good thing and many good things come out of it, either before, throughout or afterwards... if nothing else it keeps me on my toes.. I feel I am happy and comfortable and then go make a choice and take a risk.
 For example: giving up my TOC job in Vancouver (which is a difficult and a positive step to achieving full time teacher work) to work in China, where life is very very different and the career not as assuring....
BUT I got a year of teaching under my belt. I am further aware of my abilities, my strengths and weaknesses as a teacher, and my interests and dislikes and feel infact I am moving closer to a career/job that fits ME.
I gave up an exciting beginning to an athletic career in a sport I love (SUP):  I have been trying to find this since I left gymnastics at age 17. I moved to a town with zero natural lakes and zero clean water.... I gave up trails, and mountain bikes, coffee shops, and a variety of amazing foods and some pretty awesome friends.... BUT I got to slackline amongst bamboos, run marathons in different parts of China, do a crossing in Thailand and meet fellow SUPers there, I got to teach SUP fit classes.I got to surf in China and Hong Kong,... and hike the chinese way, and sleep in monasteries. I learned about chinese food, chinese people, and chinese culture. I learned many things I didn't know before.
I may have sacrificed some things but gained other things and only I can choose and know what and wasn't worthwhile for me. I will be back to Vancouver and am excited to either explore new avenues or re connect with old ones. Nothing lost but much gained!

I am off to Beijing in a couple of hours: I have to wrap up. Running the Great Wall Marathon tomorrow...yikes! I have a good mix of anxiety and excitement:I think its healthy: nothing to prove but to go out there and enjoy it! Not everyone gets to run a marathon on the Great Wall of China....

Chapter China is coming to a close soon and I will probably remember all the good stuff but I do hope I don't forget the struggles and moments of despair as they are just as important and just as part of the experience as the fun stuff... China is an exciting place: I will miss it with all its randomness... but I can't lie I am excited for what is to come....
 At 31, I am not exactly sure what is next but I am okay with that.... because I have a loving husband, caring family, and fabulous friends,.... whatever the next chapter proves to be  I know it can only be another thrilling adventure...

I have jitters... Life is exciting

live, love, laugh,..DREAM!

May 10, 2012

Family in China: Thoughts and events throughout the May Holiday

We met the parents in Beijing (Trish, Peter, Joseph) where we were to spend the next 2 weeks traveling as a group of 5. A fairly new family bridging CAN and UK into one! We saw most of the main sites and attractions that Beijing and Xian had to offer.
Day 1: arrive into Beijing and walked the Wangfujingdiajie street, dinner at hotel (seafood buffet)
Day 2: Temple of Heaven, Tiantanmen Square, Forbidden city, acrobat show, street food for dinner (cold noodles and street hot pot)
Day 3: Great Wall and Ming Tomb, Dinner on the street at Dong Hua Men night market (noodles, wrap thing, beers on Wangfujingdiajie)
Day4: Hutongs area and Hou Hai Lake, Dinner at Peking Duck at Private Kitchen
Day 5: Summer Palace, Dumplings and street food (boiled spicy veggies) at Hutong area Hou Hai Lake
Day 6: Olympic Park and pearl market and flight out to Xian
Day 7: the Bell and Drum tower, Muslim Quarter and Great Mosque, run around the city wall, dinner in town muslim noodles
Day 8: Terracota Warriors and Big Goose Pagoda, Papa John's Pizza (oh yeah)
Day 9: Home to Yongchuan

As we were with parents and a group of 5 we hired a guide for day 2 and 3 to help us get around more smoothly and rented a van and driver for the day at the wall and Ming Tombs. The first 4 days were a little crazy! Lucky us, the holiday was in full effect on our day at the wall. Having a guide helped us on those busy days to get tickets quicker and find more flowing routes around town. I would recommend a private guide with a larger group that is a little more nervous to travel around on their own.

Beijing is a big city with lots of people, buildings and traffic...not my first choice in places to go but when living in China for a year I think its a must... there is a lot of classic China history around the place and I do feel like I have learned a lot more about the dynasties and the ways of the people in the past.

We stayed at a much more upper class hotels than we are used to (total special treat for us), for example: the Novotel Hotel in Beijing. We were able to walk or take the metro to most attractions, avoiding the double taxis as we were 5... Andrew and I are running the Great Wall Marathon in 1 week so I was trying to get in some small runs in between all the tours, walks, eating, etc. I managed about 30 minutes everyday (usually in the mornings... it was tough, too early for me!)

On the day of the wall Andrew and I ran a little to get a feel of the stairs that we would encounter throughout the race, it will be exciting I am sure of it. Although I did not get much official "training" in this week we did walk a ton and spent a load of time on our feet which in itself is another useful type of "training" for a long race.  I thought the wall would be my favorite part of Beijing but in the end it was my largest disappointment. The people, the shops, the reconstruction,... I just didn't feel the hype and awe I was hoping for. My favorite tourist site in Beijing was the Summer Palace. We rented a peddle boat for an hour and Andrew and I peddled our parents around Kunming Lake. It was fabulous and made me realize even more how much I miss being on the water. I am very much looking forward to this summer and fall: racing, touring, coordinating events on the SUP....

I really wanted to hike up Hua Shan mountain just outside of X'ian but due to logistics, cost, and time it just wasn't realistic this time. We were in X'ian for only 2 days but it was enough... the city itself is pretty ugly and huge but I enjoyed the peacefulness of the Great Mosque and the craziness of the Muslim Quarter. I was surprisingly interested in and intrigued by the Terracotta Warriors even though it has been 'chinese-afied' with high prices, concrete and mass reconstruction. The poor ol' lucky farmer didn't look too happy or lucky either:)
In X'ian we did stay at another plush hotel and this one had a swimming pool:) I really miss swimming once in a while. It's funny swimming definitely stretches me out and uses my muscles in different ways than other sports. I never swam that much but would try and hit the pool about once a week and I have to tell you I miss it here... So, I hit up that pool as much as I could and swam some laps and enjoyed the jacuzzi..I did run on the city wall but found it although much quieter than the street fairly boring (flat, and straight with just the corners to turn...). After being in China for 9 months I realize that no matter how much I enjoy running I do loose my enthusiasm without the excitements of the trails and mountains... the flat roads just don't tickle my fancy much anymore.

7 weeks left in China until we are back in north america. There are some aspects of our life here I will miss but I am ready to get home and paddle the oceans, lakes and rivers, climb mountains, mtn bike on trails, trail run in the forest and enjoy the fresh cleanliness of our beautiful country called CANADA! I want to return to Asia (maybe not China for the next while....) and I feel like I will as there is much more to explore on this amazing continent. I have to say: being able to read signs, play in the outdoors wherever I want, communicate with locals, and be totally independent is NOT overrated!

Only 7 weeks left but lots of stuff planned until we leave...


live, love, laugh,...DREAM!