After several nights in Cambodia, we flew home to spend one quick night in KL and then flew out to Krabi, Thailand. Both of us have been to Thailand before, (Chiang Mai & Phuket) but we heard that we just couldn’t miss Krabi, so we hit the road again.
We stayed at the Sofitel Krabi, which was quite beautiful, ridiculously gorgeous and very comfortable, even if a bit outrageous on food expenses. It had a beautiful open air lobby that reminded us of the Grande Floridian, which holds a special place in our hearts because, (way back in 2004) we got engaged there. Awww….
While the hotel was beautiful, it was also quite out of the way. Luckily, we found a nice man down the beach that was willing to rent us a motorbike out of the back of his house, and we were off to explore the island. Who says capitalism is dead?!
While the motorbike didn’t exactly match the ambiance of the hotel, (everyone else was rolling up with a private driver) it was a lifesaver because of the freedom it provided. The Sofitel is located on the outskirts of the less developed side of Krabi and while the view of the ocean is beautiful, it’s pretty secluded. Our wheels allowed us to explore much more of the area, gain access to more food choices and to make our way over to the more commercialized area of Ao Nang. There we found a bustling little area of shops, bars, restaurants and longboats galore.
It was interesting enough that we came back a second day to indulge in one of the longboat excursions, that whisk visitors away to a number of different secluded destinations; beautiful islands and coves draped in limestone and only reachable by boat. DiCaprio’s The Beach was filmed at one such exclusive locale called Pi Phi Island. We decided to opt for another choice because rumor has it that Pi Phi’s secret is out and it’s kind of overrun now with tourists. A friend recommended his favorite place in Asia, so with such high praise as that, we selected Rai Lai Beach as our one-day excursion. About a 10min longboat ride from Ao Nang, Rai Lai is a private little cove that is a haven for rock climbers and beach combers. Although it’s just a short beach strip encased by limestone cliffs, there are a couple small hotels there and a little sand strip of shops for food and fun. Pretty impressive considering the only way in or out for guests is that longboat. The water was clear and gorgeous and the cliffs were break taking. Quite a scene, and frankly I wish we could have stayed a night and added some rock climbing or snorkeling to our day of being beach bums.
The rest of the trip to Krabi was very similar. A lot of lounging by the pool or shore with a good book by day, and checking out some new delicious Thai food place for dinner by night. Seriously, the food was amazing. We loved the Coke bottles too. They were the old glass ones and it was cool to see the Coke logo in Thai.
Perhaps some of the best fun was simply touring the area on our own by way of the rented motorbike. Getting lost, finding our way back and stopping here and there for random photos in the countryside proved to be just as much fun as anything else we might have scheduled. Top it off with a little shopping and people watching, and Krabi was a good four nights. Highly recommend you check it out, and if you’re keen to have more of the night life scene, definitely explore Ao Nang. Regardless of your evening plans, you could easily spend a week or two there just checking out different longboat excursions everyday.
It was good thing we rested up because the next stop on our Asia tour was going to test all of our senses for the next week……….
Hanoi, Vietnam here we come!
We can thank Ms. Brittany Spears for that gem of a song to which so many Halloween costumes and skanky dance team numbers pay homage to. You can also title a blog after it. It’s really a jack of all trades kinda phrase.
I digress. I was trying to distract you from the fact that this is the first post I have written since Thanksgiving. Gasp. After all the hand wringing and teeth gnashing of not writing on the blog for several months, I have fallen off the wagon again. I guess the good thing about a wagon is that it is going so slow that you can just climb back on again. So, this is me, virtually and metaphorically hopping back on the wagon today.
It’s not like nothing has been happening in the last 2 months, in fact, there has been a lot going on. I’ll run through the highlights to get everyone up to speed.
1) I would say that the biggest news is that Dan has left to go back to the US to start working. I’m beyond sad that he has gone without me, but we had been talking about it for a period of time and while we didn’t want to be apart for so long, we both agreed this was an opportunity for him to do something he really enjoyed and set us up to be in a better spot when I come home in July. I’m not going to lie, it’s lonely without your best friend around, especially in a foreign country. But we do have some really good friends that make me break out of my hermit shell every now and then. Dan is loving the move back home (minus the lack of Jenny time, of course), is loving his work and is loving being able to go to Chick-fil-A pretty much everyday.
2) We went on an awesome “Farewell Asia” trip at Christmas that took us to Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam. It was a really nice trip and I promise I will put pictures up and talk about each of the trips separately. And, I am also going to go back and highlight each of our trips here on the blog. I didn’t do a really good job of that in real time, so I’m going to start at the beginning and my goal is to have all of our trips somehow documented on the blog by the time I leave in July. There it is. I said it. Now I have to actually do it. 🙂
3) I have started doing some writing again and have really loved it. In addition to teaching and tutoring, I am working with a company that outsources the writing articles for people’s blogs. I am one of the people that researches and writes on random topics that they give me. Seriously random topics, but somebody has to do it. It has been nice to start thinking, creating and editing again, something that I’m not even sure I knew I missed doing.
4) Happy Birthday Henry! How could we let a post go by and not talk about Henry? His 7th birthday is today (Feb. 2nd) and I am sure he is living it up with chasing anything that moves, napping, and passing gas when no one is looking. Who doesn’t like a birthday that includes all three of those things?
So, that is about it with what has been going on with us lately. What about you? Any advice for loving your honeykins from another continent? Random blogs you have read and thought to yourself…”Who in the world writes this stuff?” (Me. The answer is Me.)
I admire little kids. I admire their fearlessness, and you should, too. Just imagine what could be accomplished with the skills and knowledge of adulthood coupled with the belief systems of a 3-year old. Take Mack, for example, one of my nephews who recently brought his tricycle to the edge of the ravine in front of his house and looking down the steep drop he asked his dad, “How are we going to get down there?” Notice that he didn’t ask “can we go down there?” or “what if we try to go down there and it doesn’t work?”. The thing I admire is the implied assumption in his question – of course it’s possible…I just gotta figure out how.
I wish I could tell you I held that same belief this time last year when I came across the website for a triathlon in Phuket, Thailand. Proclaimed as “The Race of Legends” (and it IS legendary), the Laguna Phuket Triathlon tests competitors’ mental and physical grit over a 1.8km swim course, followed by a 55km bike route complete with several steep climbs, and capped off by a 12km run beneath the unforgiving equatorial sun so common in SE Asia. Rather than starting with Mack’s question of how I would accomplish this feat, I began doubting whether I could right from the outset.
At this point I was not a triathlete. I completed a very short sprint event a couple years prior to finding this Phuket race, but I was by no stretch of the imagination a triathlete in anyone’s definition of the word. Furthermore, I didn’t own a bike, had become a soft and slow runner and was still petrified of open water swimming. Eventually I talked myself out of the fear, committed to the race and dedicated myself to training. I found a starter bike, practiced running and set out how to learn proper swimming.
My 10-month journey included a mix of setbacks and increasingly substantial wins. One bump in the road showed up in my first sprint distance race early in the year. At around 500m into the 750m swim, fatigue and relentless coughing altered my free-style stroke to a slow breaststroke, quickly followed by a desperate “doggie-paddle”. With my legs sinking behind me, I remember thinking, I’m either going to drown, flag the safety kayak to quit, or find the buoy rope and pull myself along until I catch my breath. Reminding myself I hadn’t trained and traveled all this time to quit after 10min, I chose option “C” and continued on to finish, but coughing blood all the way through the bike and running legs. Later I came across the TI swimming technique while reading “The 4-Hour Body” and it literally transformed me. My swimming improved dramatically, I became faster while being more relaxed (giving me more energy afterwards) and most importantly it was more fun. During the 1.8km swim at Phuket I remember zoning out and just enjoying the moment (despite the jellyfish stings!). After the first buoy turn I was parallel to the shore and found myself glancing back at the beach when taking breaths. I happened to be completely in sync with another competitor next to me and realized the sunrise behind him and the beach, had given the whole picture an incredible background. It was quite spectacular for a guy who only months ago was literally close to drowning. Here I am coming out of the water into the bike transition in Phuket, feeling much better post-swim than any of my other races:
It’s common to ask triathletes what their best and worst legs are in the race. I’m not breaking any records for any of the three disciplines, but I love the bike. I love the speed and feeling of freedom. It reminds me of being a kid when you feel like you can go anywhere and do anything on those two wheels. Ah, the freedom! Punishing myself up the steep climbs in Phuket, my mind drifted back to how I would attack a similarly brutal hill as a kid, atop of which we happened to live for two years of my youth. Some racers have to hop off and walk parts of those climbs. I wasn’t the first one up, but like my childhood hill, I wasn’t about to walk either. I stood up out of the saddle and just kept pushing, remembering my training partner’s mantra – “Kill the hill!” The bike views in Phuket were incredible – from the coastlines, through the city and into the quiet, green countrysides. Two hours of beauty and bliss.
During the months of training, I came across great nutrition tips, competed in shorter practice races and even connected with a group of training buddies who happened to be preparing to face similar giants in their lives as well. My daily training buddy was Geoff dont-hate-me-cuz-Im-Canadian Stecyk, who turned out to be the reason I made it through lots of tough training sessions, as well as the final run in the race itself. During my second lap of the run I realized I was on pace to break my sub 4-hour goal but that it was getting harder and harder to maintain the running pace to do so. Short of fluids and gels, with about 4km to go I came up behind Geoff and Curtis (Geoff’s friend from Calgary who met us in Phuket for the race). They were walking due to a cramp (or two) and I almost jogged by them, content to throw a drive-by shout out and continue running my race. Instead, I double-checked to see how they were doing and realized they were cramping and short of gels and fluids as well. At the risk of slowing my pace and blowing my goal time, I stopped to walk with the boys and decided I’d rather finish the journey with my buddies. I shared some fluids and gels and then we all decided to go for another big push. It turns out that “slowing down” to run with my buddies was actually a catalyst. Those last 4km were just brutal for me mentally. Ironically, if I had pushed through on my own to try to keep my pace up while leaving the guys behind, I think I would have bonked. Instead, despite the initial rest I was actually faster with them. Sticking with Geoff and Curtis kept me going through the toughest parts, thanks to the camaraderie, group pacing and buddy coaching.
So how did I get from there to here? From being out of breath swimming 200-300 meters to comfortably swimming 1800 in open water…from no experience on a road bike, to cycling a hilly 55km in under two hours…and from a slow 5k runner to still slow but able to go 12km on foot after nearly three hours of racing? It started with changing my belief to an empowering one. Like my nephew Mack, I asked myself, HOW am I going to do that (and stopped asking doubtfully, can I?). Simple, but not easy. I made a decision to do it and committed to it.
Support from my wife and training buddies made the journey a heck of a lot easier (and more fun), but the momentum started when I chose to ask a different question. The whole experience leading up to the race was fantastic including practice races in Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam. The Phuket location was amazing, the race exceptionally well-organized and hitting my goal to break four hours was immensely gratifying (finished 3:58:58). But the real reward is that I learned something more about myself, and about what’s possible which breeds even greater confidence to take on bigger goals in all areas of my life. It’s amazing to think what might be achievable now that I know what Mack already knew – of course it’s possible…I just gotta figure out how. Try it and see how it works for you. I dare you!
UPDATE – one of my training buddies was featured in a magazine, highlighting the charity for which he raised money while training for this event. Good on ya, Nev! (Nev’s Article Here)