Wat’s the Big Deal?

“The Most Unmissable” tourist attraction in Bangkok, according to the Thailand Rough Guide, is the King’s Palace and the Wat (temple) that is there. With the book’s encouragement we took a taxi boat and then walked a few kilometres to get there. As soon as we got there we were sent to borrow clothes as we were not dressed appropriately (we actually did try to follow some guidelines in the guidebook but apparently failed along with half the other tourists). Once we got suited up we headed into the Wat, only to be stopped so that we could EACH pay 500 Baht…500!!! Now I’ll admit, that’s only about $17, but that is by far the most we spent on any single touristy thing. Our accomodation is usually between B300-B500, our overnight bus tickets are about B600 each, so B1000 for one activity seemed like a ton.

The entrance I think.

The entrance I think.

Once we paid we headed in and I’ll admit, the temple was beautiful. It is so intricately decorated with red, gold and green. It sparkles in the sunshine and was quite large with different sections. There was a model of Ankor Wat (the real thing is in Cambodia) so we checked that out since we are skipping Cambodia altogether. But after about fifteen minutes we were pretty much done. Maybe it’s because it was hot, maybe because there were so many people, but it just wasn’t that fun walking around looking at the stuff. And it certainly wasn’t B1000 fun.

Model of Ankor Wat. Now we can say we've been there done that right?

Model of Ankor Wat. Now we can say we’ve been there done that right?

To boot, after about 25 minutes (I was thinking of just camping out for the rest of the afternoon in order to get my money’s worth!) it started POURING rain. Absolutely coming down in sheets. Everyone was hiding under doorways and other buildings, but (much to Keith’s chagrin) I was going to get the most out of my money and carried on in the rain, getting soaked through my clothes in about 45 seconds. Once wet I trooped around, which was actually a little more enjoyable since I was a little cooler and while everyone else was hiding. I was finally convinced to leave by Keith and as we were walking out I SO badly wanted to start a flash dance mob in the rain. Unfortunately Keith was being a party pooper (and we all know that the first follower is really the most important for starting a movement) so we headed back to the taxi boat.

This took about half an hour and was not without a few big events.

First, a taxi driver got out of his car holding an umbrella in one hand and whipping out his penis to take a pee with the other hand (no joke, RIGHT beside us not even trying to hide it!). We have seen many little boys doing the same throughout the trip, but never a grown man!!!

Next, we stopped for a snack and just about got hypothermia in the air conditioning. Definitely the first time that I have gone back outside to get out of the aircon!

Finally, we just enjoyed seeing all the cars “float” through the streets. Seeing so many people hiding, waiting for the rain to pass (it didn’t until midnight).  Seeing people taking off their flip flops to walk bare foot because a) they kept losing their shoes and b) all the side walks are made out of tile. TILE! Which by the way, gets soooo slippery when wet. Which is quite often, and sooo dangerous. Keith took a big fall later in the night and we are now firmly anti-tile.

After about an hour of trudging (Keith being grumpy, while I was determinedly optimistic), we made it back to the hotel to dry out.

But we learned a lesson, that I hope I can instill on others. The King’s Palace and Wat will likely leaving you watting, so you may as well just skip it and visit other smaller wats throughout the country and other countries for free. That way, you won’t burn out from the one (like we did) and could actually enjoy comparing the various differences throughout the countries. There is no question that they are very beautiful, and you don’t want to be left asking “wat’s the big deal” like us!

Wish I could have that much junk in my trunk!

Wish I could have that much junk in my trunk!

Keith pretending to be one of the statues (after I forced him to).

Keith pretending to be one of the statues (after I forced him to).

Keith soaked on the way home, not so impressed with the day.

Keith soaked on the way home, not so impressed with the day.

 

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Islands of Thailand

Our next stop was two islands in the south of Thailand. We flew from Manila to Bangkok and took a night train that evening to the Ranong Province. From there we took a mini van, sonthaew, and boat and finally arrived at the beautiful Koh Phayam on the Andaman Coast.

Sunset on Koh Phayam.

Sunset on Koh Phayam.

Keith originally found the island on his relentless search for surfing, and after my cousins endorsed it, we were sold. Since it was monsoon season, we were two of about 30 tourists on the island. Many were staying for long periods, attempting to outlast the monsoon. Unfortunately that meant that many of the shops, restaurants and massage places were closed, but it also meant our beach and resort that were practically private. We stayed at Bamboo Bungalows on Ao Yai in a bungalow that is normally 1,800 baht ($60) in high season but was 500 baht ($17). It was spacious with a private attached outdoor shower and toilet, a nice porch with two comfy chairs and a hammock. It was lovely!

Relaxing on our porch with a book.

Relaxing on our porch with a book.

This week was meant as recovery for me after my race, so we took it quite easy. Leisurely breakfasts, followed by some surfing (mostly Keith), maybe a walk on the beach, some exploring on a motor bike, lunch in the village and beers on the beach watching the sunset. Of course we were loving the food after such a bland month in the Philippines and enjoyed trying all sorts of different dishes. There was only electricity from about 6pm onwards which added to the rustic/resting vibe of it all.

Walking on the beach searching for shells on Koh Phayam.

Walking on the beach searching for shells on Koh Phayam.

I got a little obsessed with shells and spent one afternoon collecting them. I’m currently carrying about 3-5lbs of them around with me. Can’t wait to have them in awesome bowls at our new house in Victoria. And I’m hoping that Victoria has a beach where I can collect more! They are so pretty!!!

Keith riding the waves in the sunset.

Keith riding the waves in the sunset.

It rained a few days forcing even more rest and reading, but leaving us lots of time to research where we would go next. Instead of going straight to Bangkok to get our Vietnamese visas, we decided to take a detour to the Gulf Coast to visit the island of Koh Tao. Koh Tao is a diving centre, but there is also good snorkeling.

It was crazy hot while we were there, and we weren’t staying in a place with aircon. The first day we explored the island on bikes, stopping here and there to take pictures. We were especially intrigued by the giant rocks that were sporadically throughout the island with nowhere to have fallen from.

Super cool rocks that we were fascinated by on Koh Tao.

Super cool rocks that we were fascinated by on Koh Tao.

We signed up for a day long snorkeling tour and were not disappointed. Within 10 seconds of jumping in the water at our first stop we saw a four foot long reef shark. Of course that got our hopes up for more sharks, which we didn’t see, but the underwater wildlife was fascinating. It was my first time doing anything like that and the diversity along with the plethora of colours blew my mind. Unfortunately my sunscreen couldn’t keep up with the ocean and I ended up with a sun burn on the backs of my legs (I had a life jacket on for most of it covering my back), which annoyed me because of how hard I try not to get burned.  I’m a big whiny baby with sun burn. Luckily that didn’t set in until we were back at the hotel, so I was able to enjoy the day. I’ve decided that life above water is MUCH more bland than below! (Cue Under the Sea from the Little Mermaid).

A private island just off Koh Tao that is basically two small islands attached by a long beach that has water on both sides. I've never seen a beach like that before. We got to spend a few hours on the island at the end of our snorkeling and I walked up to the top of one of the hills.

A private island just off Koh Tao that is basically two small islands attached by a long beach that has water on both sides. I’ve never seen a beach like that before. We got to spend a few hours on the island at the end of our snorkeling and I walked up to the top of the left the hill.

The next couple days we just relaxed trying to keep cool. We got thai massages, ate delicious food and ‘used the internet’ aka paid to sit in aircon for a few hours. I went for a run one day that ended up being more of a walk. There are super steep hills on the island and the heat pretty much slowed me to a crawl. I kept having to stop and sit down in the shade. Although eventually I did make it up to the top and it was a great view from the top (unfortunately my pictures from that are on a different memory card so I can’t post them).

On Sunday we caught an afternoon boat off the island to headed back to Bangkok on a night train. Before the train we hit our first night market, gorging on the delicious street food that the people of Champhun had to offer to put us into a food coma in order to get a great sleep on the train!

Walking on the beach in Koh Phayam. Our last beach for a while as we head north inland.

Walking on the beach in Koh Phayam. Our last beach for a while as we head north inland.

South East Asia

Six weeks ago Keith and I embarked on a huge adventure. After months of planning, our trip to South East Asia had finally begun. Originally I’d planned on blogging throughout the trip, but internet stops were few and far between and I just never got started. Right now we are staying in an awesome little hostel that “is running this place like family” (their words) complete with tea and coffee all the time, hippy bikes for free and a computer to use whenever. No better time to start I guess!

For the first month we went to the Philippines. It was a great place to start because most people speak english. The people were incredibly friendly, welcoming us into their country and homes, the scenery was beautiful, and we found lots to do! It wasn’t without it’s struggles though, our first bus didn’t have a bathroom (cue panic attack from me – 9 hours is a long time for ANYONE without peeing…), then later it broke down in the middle of the night (yup, I jumped right off the bus relieved to pee in a ditch). The struggles were great to start with though, because we had to learn quickly on how to remedy them. Patience was the name of the game and we got through most challenges unscathed.

We started off on a beach on South Luzon called Bagasbas Beach for some surfing. It was the perfect place for me to learn and Keith to re-learn and by the end of the week we were in the ‘line up’ on the waves with the locals. We were sad to leave a place that we had been so welcomed, but onward we went to Naga City after a week.

Rice field on the side of the road on the way to Bagasbas.

Rice field on the side of the road on the way to Bagasbas.

A shot of the beach/ocean while on a beach run.

A shot of the beach/ocean while on a beach run.

Selfie on a beach run. I had to keep dodging little crabs running all over the place while they tried to dodge me.

Selfie on a beach run. I had to keep dodging little crabs running all over the place while they tried to dodge me.

Not a great shot but Keith surfing at dusk.

Not a great shot but Keith surfing at dusk.

A beach bonfire and singalong with the locals and a few other travelers.

A beach bonfire and singalong with the locals and a few other travelers.

In Naga we had a few mishaps that were all our own fault (always, always make sure you have money with you!) that tripped us up a bit, but on our last day we enjoyed a wonderful hike to three waterfalls with local guide company Kadlagan’s and it turned our visit around. If only we had stopped by their shop earlier!

One shot from our less-than-24-hours trip to Caramoan Peninsula that we totally botched. The islands that we missed out on exploring!

One shot from our less-than-24-hours trip to Caramoan Peninsula that we totally botched. The islands that we missed out on exploring!

After Naga we were off to Northern Luzon for my race, of which I’ve already written a ton. This was an amazing week that we won’t soon forget. I can’t wait to go back to visit the Philippines Cordillera again.

The race brought our month in the Philippines to an end. We were very sorry to be leaving, especially because we wanted to spend more time in the Cordillera, but our taste buds were getting called by Thailand, so off we went.

To keep this from being another epic post, I will cut off here to go enjoy a traditional thai massage and write more about Thailand later on…

Mount Mayon in the distance. It erupted while we were in the Philippines, sadly killing nine climbers. It is said to be a perfect volcano - completely symmetrical.

Mount Mayon in the distance. It erupted while we were in the Philippines, sadly killing nine climbers. It is said to be a perfect volcano – completely symmetrical.

This gal is ready for anything! Looking like a complete dork waiting for a boat to Calaguas, a virgin island, for an overnight on the beach.

This gal is ready for anything! Looking like a complete dork waiting for a boat to Calaguas, a virgin island, for an overnight on the beach.

Still looking dorky in my hat on a walk on the beach while the sun is setting with my fave travel partner:)

Still looking dorky in my hat on a walk on the beach while the sun is setting with my fave travel partner:)

Four Lakes 100km Race Day

Written on May 27th. Unfortunately I had some technical difficulties (the ipod touch that I wrote this on decided to die for a week before coming back to life) so this is way late. I’m so glad I recovered it though, and apologize for the length! What an experience!

Keith and I headed to bed right after supper in order to get as much sleep as possible. With a 2:30am wake up time, I had a little trouble getting to sleep, but luckily the house was relatively quiet (which was incredible considering we counted between 40-50 people staying at our home stay – bodies everywhere!). In the morning I bopped around eating my breakfast, drinking coffee and getting ready. Keith kept telling me to save my energy, but I was just so excited!

At 4am exactly the race began! Everyone had their headlamps and headed out up the first 8km climb as a group. Of course it spread out pretty quickly but it was cool to look back and see the long string of headlamps lighting up the trail below me. I chatted here and there, ran/hiked some by myself and generally just tried to keep it easy. Even though on a training run I might have run this whole section, I didn’t want to blow out the tank early.

And we're off! First time racing with a head lamp.

And we’re off! First time racing with a head lamp.

The sunrise was beautiful, and worth the early start. There was also a sea of clouds that we were above which was neat.

Keith was riding with RD Jonel for the day and we had decided that I wouldn’t depend on him for anything. I had three drop bags stocked and also carried food, my headlamp, a long sleeve shirt and water purification droplets.

The highest point on the course was Mount Ugo’s summit which was at 22km. After the initial 8ish km climb there was some ridge running, a short descent and then a long climb. It was apparent on the steep part of the climb (which was similar grade to the hiking I do at home) that the time I’ve spent in the mountains was going to pay off. I passed a few people who were suffering from the altitude (2000+m) and steepness.

I paused only for a second at the summit to take in the view (although don’t worry, there were great views the whole race that I took in while moving) before embarking on an 11km down hill. I actually didn’t realize at the time that it was 13km which which was a good thing…that is a freaking long time to descend! Just down from the summit I was chasing (by accident!) a few cows when someone yelled from behind “look out for the cow!”. I guess one got behind me and was racing to catch up to his buddies. I jumped off the trail and took it as an indication of more livestock encounters to come.

I will be honest, this descent hurt. There were some easyish sections but much of it was steep, rocky and technical. I spent quite a while being down on myself before realizing that that was a waste of thoughts. So I repeated “just glide down the hill” over and over again.

When I finally reached the checkpoint at 35km (and our first drop bag) my left IT band was in serious trouble. I had a bunch of food and Gatorade and did some stretching in hopes of loosening it up. I was worried that it would challenge me for the rest of the race (and I was right). I also applied a bunch if body glide on my feet as I had blisters popping up galore. I guess that’s the joy of running in the heat: my feet expand.

I set out for what past participants said was the toughest climb, aptly named Amelong Lebang (Amelooooooooong). It was steep and I was moving slowly. Even though my legs were grateful for a climb, I’d eaten too much and my tummy was struggling to digest everything and put it to use. I was thankful when Jim, a Malasian participant caught up to me, and then we caught up to Malcolm, a UK participant and we spent most of the rest of the climb keeping each other company.

Just before the top, Malcolm and Jim went ahead leaving me to start descending on my own. It rained just a tiny bit, but the thunder started up. I knew it wouldn’t be long until we were in the rain. Another participant, Jojo caught up and after chatting a bit he mentioned he was out of water. I was only to happy to hand him a bottle of gatorade that I’d been carrying since 35km that I didn’t have the stomach for. I still had at least a litre in my hydration pack so I knew I’d be fine. He was very grateful making it more than worthwhile!

At km 49 with Jojo- a new friend. I look exhausted! Too bad I have 51 km in the rain left!

At km 49 with Jojo- a new friend. I look exhausted! Too bad I have 51 km in the rain left!

Just before I hit 49km I was descending and felt a sharp pain in my heel causing me to cry out and immediately sit down to check what happened. Turns out a blister on the side of my heel about the size of a toonie that I’d seen and tried to pop at 35km with no luck had burst. While I’ve had my share of blisters, this was a new spot, and I’d never had them pop while running before. I limped the last km before the aid station and lucky for me (but unlucky for him since I was grumpy) Keith was there! He fixed me up with the first aid kit and some mole skin and I was off again. He decided he wanted some exercise and would hike the 7km to the next aid station as well. Since the portion started with a climb he got ahead of me right away and I would only pass him later on some of the downhill (we had decided not to go together since pacers are not allowed).

Almost immediately on this leg it started raining. The rain would end up lasting almost 6 hours and would wreak havoc with the trail. On this portion alone there was one descent that was almost impossible. The trail was a mudslide but stepping off the trail you ran the risk of rolling your ankle in holes hidden by thick grass. I went down on my hands and bum for part of it but it was slow going. When I got to the bottom a water buffalo decided I wasn’t going to pass him and gave me a short chase until I conceded to taking a detour around him to the delight of some nearby farming children (they couldnt stop laughing as I made my way around).

The rain begins! This is about km 50. Little did I know what I was in for in the second half.

The rain begins! This is about km 50. Little did I know what I was in for in the second half.

When I reached the next check point at 56km I was more than soaked through but was still warm (thank you Canadian blood! I think I may have been the only participant still warm). The next part was a 26km out and back and I knew that it would get dark before I was back. I decided to change into my capris and throw a long sleeve shirt on before heading out with full food and water from my drop bags.

This is where I managed to make a little math error. For some reason I thought there was only 34km left, not 44km so in my head I kept thinking “when I get to the next check point after 13km, I’ll only have a half marathon left!”. I was in third for women so decided to make up some time with the attitude that I would run where I knew others would be walking. I felt great! And I think I was moving pretty quickly because when I ran into the front guys on their way back they all commented that I must he feeling good.

This portion seemed to never end though, and I hit a low point when I ran into friends that said I still had about 40 minutes to go. I couldn’t believe it and was visibly upset. One of the guys said “You can do it, this is what you signed up for” and it was the biggest wake up call. My attitude started to change immediately. This was at a point that the trail turned from undulating but mostly runable hills to steep dangerous climbs on the side of cliffs. Although I was racing against the dusk, I was glad that I got to go one way in the light so that I could survey this tough portion.

The trails were thin and rocky and had basically turned into rivers. There were mudslides all but covering the trail at some points and at others mudslides starting from the trail had eaten away part of it. I have so much respect for the runners who did this all in the dark.

I finally rolled into the aid station and my hard work was rewarded. In 13 km I had cut down the top two girls leads from about 40 minutes to 10-15 at max. I took the time to have a bite and some coffee before heading out again. By this time I knew that my math had been wrong but was motivated to catch the front ladies!

I love the quality of this photo...shoes how rainy/mucky it is!

I love the quality of this photo…shoes how rainy/mucky it is!

By this time it was dark so I got out my headlamp. I was extra careful to stay focused onto trail because of how technical it was. I think it was still raining on and off but I was still nice and warm. About halfway through this section I caught the girl in second. It was nice to chat for a while and to run together. She was smart and had a second flashlight which lit up the trail way better. After a while I pushed on as I was back in the runable terrain and feeling strong.

WARNING: Rookie mistake alert.

About 2-3km from the check point I came across a guy who’s headlamp was very dim. He was pretty worried and asked if I had extra batteries. I had four (my lamp takes 3). I was unsure of what to do. I didn’t want to leave him, but I knew I might need some batteries later on. A quick decision lead to me giving him 2/4 of my spares. He was very grateful so I felt good and pushed on. When I arrived at the aid station I was feeling awesome, determined to catch the girl in first in the last 18km (which at this point felt down right short!). Keith had surprised me by saving some sour cream and onion chips, which I devoured before refilling water and snacks, taking off my long sleeve and hitting the trail.

The first 3km were a pretty easy dirt road (easy is relative, it was still a mudslide mess). Unfortunately I made a wrong turn and did about an extra 1km trying to find the trail which dampened my spirits a little.

My headlamp was beginning to fade so I swapped in my two remaining spare batteries before entering a 7km climb through a portion called the mossy forest. It helped a little but not a lot as it was misty which frustratingly obscured my sight like crazy.

You can see the rain drops! I changed to dry clothes at this aid station...a lot of good that did.

You can see the rain drops! I changed to dry clothes at this aid station…a lot of good that did.

The mossy forest was downright creepy. It was totally dark with the moon obscured by clouds. The lush undergrowth was almost up to my waist and there were tons of trees hanging down with their wet leaves hitting me in the face. The ribbons flagging the trail were few (or at least I couldn’t see them) and although I couldn’t see it because of the growth, I could tell there was a cliff not far to my left. As my headlamp got less and less strong I started singing “My Favorite Things” in my head. I was feeling scared but knew there was not much point in stopping to wait for someone or freaking out. I just needed to keep going, the faster I went, the sooner it would be over. It occurred to me that I was thankful that there were no bears or cougars like at home that could eat me, just blood sucking leeches.

I hadn’t run more than 10m after leaving the mossy forest when my headlamp died. I fiddled with the batteries for a few minutes before resigning myself to th fact that it was gone. The one good thing was that the final 8km descent was that it was the same as the first 8km of the race and the same trail that Keith and I had hiked. On top of that the sky was beginning to clear so there was a little moonlight shining through.

Since about 56km I’d been planning on flying down this descent. I figured since it was the end that I may a well drain the tank completely. But because of my light situation, I had to change my plan. Because of the rain, the trail was slippery and there were many sections that were covered in water. I decided that going slow was a better alternative to cracking my head open or falling off a cliff, so I power hiked down. I was more than a little disappointed not to be running but once again knew that it was a waste of energy to dwell on the negative emotion. I just moved as fast as I could, reliving the high points of the race and hoping that Keith had been able to get a ride to the finish. When I got to the pavement with about a km left I ran in and was glad to be done.

Jonel and his wife, along with Keith and a few of the top men met me with cheers. I was a tangle of emotion and was pretty quiet at first trying to process. Jonel handed me my (totally awesome!) king of the mountain trophy and finishers medal. We took a photo at the finish line and I gushed about what an amazing course it was. What woke me up the most though was Jonel’s exclamation of “Look at your Leg!”. My right compression sock was drenched in blood!

Jonel and I...I am an official finisher!

Jonel and I…I am an official finisher!

While I’d been checking for leeches the whole race, and purposely covered my whole legs for the dark part using compression socks and capris, the leeches in the mossy forest had sucked me right through my sock! There was even a massive blood filled one still attached, to everyone’s glee. Leeches release a coagulating factor when they let go, but it doesn’t stop the bleeding, it just makes the blood running down your leg super thick and goopy. We peeled the socks off to find four leech bites. My blood joined the multicultural pool that was already at the line, there was Japanese, Philippino and now Canadian blood foot prints.

I waited to congratulate the next couple runners before heading up to wash up, a process made difficult by the leeches. In our room while waiting for them to stop bleeding (and having to wipe blood every 30 seconds – you aren’t supposed to cover them) I got cold, then nauseous, then hungry, at which point Keith took over blood patrol so I could lie down. Finally after about an hour (it was almost 3am) we decided just to cover them with gauze and a tensor bandage and go to sleep. This worked although by morning they were still bleeding and had bled through everything (finally 48 hours later they clotted – yuck).

In the morning I traded stories with other racers and went down to the finish to cheer on the last few runners before the cut off. It was finally setting in that I’d completed my first 100km!!! It was fun sharing stories, chatting about other’s experiences and thanking everyone for the encouragement along the way. I was tired and sore, but elated. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience.

The course was extremely tough, but generally well marked. There was a variety of types of trail, barely any overlap and the aid stations were well equipped and had friendly volunteers. The prizes were so neat (bonus) but the pride of finishing was even better. As we packed up to head back to Baguio, we were feeling sad. I’m so glad that we decided to come to the race. Kayapa is an experience we would never have had without it, and running 100kms is a great way to see lots of the local trails! While I’m not sure I can go next year, like the 15 other internationals who were there, I know I’ll be back some day!

FUN FACTS:
– The playlist in my head (I didn’t wear an ipod) consisted of Michael Franti’s “I’m Alive” for about 12 hours, Train’s “Hey Soul Sister” for about 3 hours, The Sound of Music’s “My Favourite Things” for about 1 hour, and a mish mash of mantra’s for the rest.
– I will always put extra batteries in drop bags from now on…and I suggest everyone reading this learns from my mistake!
– I peed 74,000 times throughout the race – the equivalent of all the rain that fell (haha, just kidding – sort of).

I have SO many people to thank, but I will keep it brief. Jonel was the most helpful, welcoming and friendly race director ever. I can’t wait to do another race put on by him (hopefully someday!). The Baltazars were incredibly helpful, and supportive and we felt like part of the family by the time we left. ALL the participants who greeted me by name, cheered me on and shared their country with me…THANK YOU. The Philippino people are undoubtedly the friendliest people in the world in my books. Everyone at home who sent encouragement – I could feel you out there with me on race day. And finally, without Keith’s support and encouragement I would never have made it to the start line. Not only does he put up with all my training, but he willingly re-routed our trip to fit in the race, put up with my nerves all week, got as little sleep as I did AND volunteered on the course! (The participants have him to thank for their drop bags making it to #1 and #2!). And he listened to me recount every moment from the race at least three times. He is just the greatest, and I am so dang lucky.

With my biggest supporter! He was with me in spirit every step of the way:)

With my biggest supporter! He was with me in spirit every step of the way:)

One “Sleep” Until 4am Start Time


Written on May 24th, 2013

The eve of the race has arrived!

On Wednesday, our host generously took us to her friend’s farm where there is a swimming pool for cooling off. While a bit rustic it was nice to sit in the cool water taking in the lovely view.

On Thursday morning Race Director Jonel Mendoza arrived early to head out and mark the final 35km of the race. I wasn’t up when he arrived but impatiently waited to meet him. After all if his wonderful help over email I wanted to meet the person who so generously answered all my questions. I also had a bit of nerves that were stuck in my chest that I felt could be relieved if I could just ask him some questions about the race.

In the afternoon it started raining and didn’t want to let up. It rained and rained, lightning and some of the loudest thunder I’ve ever heard included. We started to worry about Jonel and his team as it started to get dark and they hadn’t shown up, the rain still pouring. Finally around 6:30, drenched and freezing he showed up. They had had to stop in a waiting shed trying to stay dry and a local had offered him a poncho. He was soaked and confessed that he had been scared of getting hypothermia in the mountains. An indication of times to come during the race?

After a warm bath he was feeling much better and joined us for a delicious meal prepared by our hosts. Finally I had a chance to get to know him and ask him questions. Only one other participant had arrived to I listened to both of their stories, advice and tales of the route.

At 9:30 we headed to bed, later than I’d been up all week but feeling much better. I was right, my nerves were calmed after asking my questions and hearing about Jonel’s experience as an RD and also as a runner. He exuded such passion for the sport and giving his participants a great experience that I could finally relax. I slept well for my last long sleep before the race.

This morning I woke up excited for the final rest day. After our usual breakfast the participants started rolling in! Van after van was arriving and it was a bit dizzying getting introduced to everyone. Most if the runners know each other a bit from other races or are training partners and I was entertained by the fun and joking as they told stories about each other and running in the Philippines. I’ve never felt so welcomed to a race. It is great to talk about Canada as well and many of the athletes have dreams of racing in North America. I hope one day to be able to welcome people to a race at home after their kindness here.

A walk in the nearby rice terraces to relax.

A walk in the nearby rice terraces to relax.

Waiting around is nerve wracking but I’m keeping busy by visiting, reading, eating and making last minute changes to my drop bags. The briefing is at 3:00pm at the school although Jonel gave me my map early so that I can study it. It has just started raining again and I am hoping it doesn’t last as long today.

P1100410

The Baltazars are preparing a feast for tonight for all of the particiants that are staying here to fuel up. They will be up earlier than us in the morning to prepare breakfast. It’s amazing how dedicated they are to making sure thy we are ready for the race!

The 'backyard' of where we are staying.

The ‘backyard’ of where we are staying.

Later on Friday

The rain is pelting. It’s so windy that the clouds are falling sideways. Everyone is huddled inside in groups chatting but no one is hearing each other because of the thunder and the sound of the rain on the tin roof. I’m hoping with all my might that it rains itself out tonight and tomorrow afternoon is clear, or at least not a flood. I’m sure the trails are a mess and I don’t want to be climbing a mountain with the wind and rain blowing me backwards – I’ve done that except with blizzarding snow on EEOR during the Four-turned-Three Peaks Challenge. At least we aren’t camping! How miserable that would be right now.

All there is left to do is get as good a sleep as possible and wait for my 2:30am alarm! Here goes nothing!