Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Chiang Mai Challenge 2009

My good friend Andy says "Hey Brett do you want to be my team mate for the Chiang Mai Challenge this year". Shelly and the girls were off to the States for a month so this would be the perfect time to train for it. So, I said yes with some reservations because we only had 5 weeks to train. I really had no idea what I was getting myself into. I hope Andy knows CPR? I'm not in the best shape anymore and this sounded like a serious race. Andy assured me it would be FUN!!!!! Really a laugh riot! So, we started our training regimen by doing multiple disciplines a day. For example, we might do a bike and swim one day and the next would be a run,bike and swim. Every once in a while we would throw in a kayak after a bike ride. It turned out to be a lot of fun training and it was great to be outside getting some much needed exercise too. The big day was coming up and we were trying to squeeze in training sessions here and there as much as we could. The girls arrived back in Thailand on May 7th and the big race was on the 9th.

Unfortunately, these are the only pictures of us during the race. I wasn't about to lug a camera around the course. Shelly took these pictures as we were about to begin the race. Look at how oblivious and happy I look. The night before the race the sponsors put on a dinner and explained the rules of the race. I asked during the Q/A session what the distances of the different legs of the race were and received the response " If I tell you it wouldn't be an adventure". I still don't know what the distances are today. The race was a combination of mountain biking, trail running, kayaking and swimming. We started the race off with a run around the stadium and made our way to the mountains and began a very steep ascent. Our running turned into mountain climbing. Andy and I decided before the race to start off very slowly so that we would not burn out in the middle of the race. It turned out to be a good strategy because we were passing people left and right along the steep ascent. A lot of the racers were jetting off fast in the beginning. We just kept going slow and steady. The end of the first run we had to climb a rope wall and then start the mountain biking stage. Our time for the first run was 1hr 33min 58sec. Everybody was racing in teams of two. Andy and I were in the Masters category which meant our combined age was over 80yrs. They also seperated participants in categories of Extreme and Adventure. We were in the Adventure category. We decided to fuel up on power bars and rehydrate ourselves. We seemed to be the only people in the water station area eating and drinking. Everybody else was racing to get on their bikes to start their next leg of the race. We also started passing people on the trail that left immediately after the run without drinking or eating. They started to burn out too quickly.

At the end of the first bike leg we ended at the edge of a resevoir. Our 1st bike time was 1hr 11min 28sec. Fortunately, Andy and I trained on the same mountain trails that were in the race so it was very familiar to us. After each leg of the race Andy had to scan the wrist band with a chip in it at a computer for our times.
The swim section was actually kind of a joke. We had to put on a life vest and wade across the resevoir to the other side. Half of the swim was walking through the thigh deep water. 1st swim time was 11min 41sec. Next stage was the kayaking. Each team was given a map to reach 3 points around the resevoir and collect 3 tokens to take back to the race staff to prove you went to all these spots. My shoulders were killing me at this point. My right hip and right knee were throbbing too. The time for the kayaking portion was 34min 11sec. In between all these legs of the race was spent at the water stations guzzling water and gatorade and sponging off with ice water. The temperature was in the high 90's low 100's with very high humidity. The temperature was the killer because it would sap all your strength. After the kayaking we started the 2nd run leg which was by far the hardest. There was no running involved, it was all mountain climbing up the steepest trails known to man. We had sections that had ropes set up to climb up parts of the mountain and bamboo ladders set up because it was too steep to climb without this help. The descent was steep and dangerous too. The trails were very narrow in parts with sharp drop offs on the sides and leaves covering the trails. Very precarious! The end of the 2nd run seemed to last forever which followed a long canal and had no shade whatsoever. This was a point in the race that I thought what in the H&!! am I doing here.

We finally made it to the water station and I squeezed ice water from the sponges in the ice water buckets all over me with great relief. The 2nd run time was 1hr 42min 40sec. The scenery was beautiful and the second run followed along a spectacular waterfall. Too bad I couldn't enjoy it!

We had a second swim/walk across the resevoir to pick up our bikes for the final leg of the race. Our 2nd swim time was 15min 37sec. The final bike leg was great because we were so familiar with the route it was liking being at home. We ended up passing two teams during this portion and were actually racing to the finish. Before the race I was joking with Shelly that she could visit me in the hospital after the race. I thought for sure I would be in room 215 at Chiang Mai Ram Hospital. Our 2nd bike time was 37min 59sec and our overall time was 6hrs 7min and 11sec. Andy and I placed 15th out of 29 teams. Not too bad for our first time and only 5 weeks of training.

This is a typical day in the life of a Mission worker here in Chiang Mai. Hey, Andy we better start getting ready for next years Challenge! I say that now after the soreness has worn off. I hurt in places I never knew I had.
It was great fun and I'm glad I did it.