Sunday, December 30, 2012

Adventures in Banlung


So we caved and hired a driver for the day to show us around Banlung. We could not risk 12 people in a car made for 6.... D is his name, nice young local guy with a Mitsubishi Montero.

We started at the Treetop, a very cool spot among the treetops is you can imagine that. Bungalows on the hillside and in the trees - Swiss Family Robinson style. Very romantic and sounds fun but we opted for comfort and AC where Mosquitos nets not necessary. But it was great for breakfast. Cambodia has a lot of eggs so they are always in the breakfast menu. Traditional cambodian breakfast tastes like l the other meals here- combo of noodles or rice and veggies + meat. Sauce is hot and sour or Thai like. So for breakfast I do eggs. JD had pancakes of a sort and R baguette and Nutella (again something different). John eggs and rice. Coffee is strong, really strong and comes with condensed milk - no regular milk, that we have seen. So breakfast for 4, lots of coffee and tea $11.

Next stop KaChanh waterfall- racket, 2000 Real p/person (.50 cents) and all we did was walk around and look - no swimming. 4-5 yo kid collecting $, no one else there. Good support of local economy.

Next Katieng waterfall. $4 entry for the car. Massive waterfall and we could swim. Few other locals ( who pay .25 cents) but we were the only ones swimming. And the local taking pictures of us swimming.

Onto Yaklom Crater Lake $6 for the car and beautiful clear lake. Really deep and warm. 800 meters across.. So wishing I had goggles. We were again the only swimmers, other than a young German working for at NGO who made fringes with Riley in the middle of the lake. Few locals bathing and others taking photos of the white people swimming. Few Thai energy drinks and we are off!

Last stop 7 falls... Locals only and it was sad, there was trash all over and beer bottles and cans. The water falls were beautiful but the water was muddy and many locals bathing so we opted to hike around and watch 2 guys and girls of teenage age walking down the wet slippery falls fully clothed. Amazing no one fell. Cambodians do not swim much, from what we have seen, but if they so they swim fully clothed.

We had considered renting mtn bikes to see all thee places... But declined after reading that that was newly impossible. And true indeed- no paved roads but lots of motos and a few cars so lots of dust, few signs and if there is one it is mostly likely covered in red dirt. We see so much of the rainforest that has been clear cut and replaced with rubber trees- mostly owned by the Chinese. It is really sad to see so many hill sides slaughtered.

Finally lunch on the mountain top and it was tradional Cambodian fare with a twist... John has befriended our young driver and they are discussing everything from smart development to how to build efficient bicycle. D's English is remarkably good. Now time to rest... We are on vacation right. Meanwhile John is negotiating the use of a moto to talk with a "guy" about private transport tomorrow to Sen Monorom where we over overnight at the Nature Lodge and leave Jan 1 for 2 nights at the Elephant Valley Project. The owner is a Brit on a mission to improve the life of working elephants in the province. He pays locals to bring their working elephants to the project so they can retire and live as an elephant should. The elephants spend their days blasting through the forest and living as they do naturally. We will go for 2 days and stay in bungalows and live with the herd.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

The trip with the locals

The road to Banlung

An air conditioned minivan sounded like such a desirable way to travel the 240k from Kratie to Banlung. But wait we are in Cambodia. Departure 8:00... On time indeed and van was 1/2 full - looking good. We learned out $7 pp ticket was for 4 people in a seat made for 3. Seriously? Charge $14 and give me a whole seat. Too late.

On we go. We drop off a small child at at school, picks up a guy and drop him off at work, detour and pick up 2 girls around 10 wearing pjs (which is quite common) and go back to town.

Devine 15 min and just when we are discussing taking and extra seat behind us where there are 2 small Cambodians vs 4 large Americans we stop.

I see 5 guys, moto, chainsaw, bag with what looks like 100 coconuts and a bag of rice so heavy it takes 2. Hmmm we only have seats for 3 and no more room for luggage, but this is Cambodia. Soon we have a van for 12 with 20 people, 100 coconuts, rice, chainsaw and a moto strapped to the back of the van. Seriously do I laugh or cry. 4 hours is looking like at least 6.

So off we go 1/2 on a seat. So the good news is there is AC, no one has a chicken, music is decent although cannot understand a word, no one smells bad (yet) and no one is smoking.

Random stop for lunch at undisclosed place. JD and Riley, adventurous eaters sampled the local fare of pork and rice. John feeling better has a Korean energy drink and me a stout and Korean energy drink. Back in the bus and we added 2 more. 22 people in a bus made for 12.

10 miles later we dropped of a family of 7 and their coconuts, fruits and veggies at a random turn off. 1 mile later the camp guy gets out and 2 miles later the guy with liters of gas, straw mat and a bag of coconuts. We still have the moto, machetes and the chainsaw and now 10 people in a car made for 12!

The last hour was delightful as we dropped a few more someplace, I am losing track now, but we had 5 people in a van made for 12.

Arrival in Banlung, NE Cambodia - very near the Laos border. Now that we are in a lakeside bungalow overlooking the lake it was not that bad. It was a true local adventure. Four of the guys were young and headed to a logging camp, hence the chainsaw. The family - not sure about them. Few other random dudes and the final few were 2 ladies we dropped at a guesthouse and the 2 girls ( the ones in pj's) were taken to what appears to their moms house for a nice reunion. All this deducted with zero English.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Kratie adventures

We started out with the idea of renting bikes and exploring the Mekong Trail. Out hotel is not in town and after nearly an hour of getting lost we found the Bungalow for a delightful breakfast. The idea of riding bikes lost its lure due to the heat and dust. We are in a remote part of a 3rd world country... Paved roads are at a minimum and it is chaos. We saw a sign for the Cambodia Rural Development Tours advertising kayak tours and freshwater dolphin sightings. We were in! Office moved and there was a map, sort of, and off we went. 1 hour later and waking up and down dusty roads we were discouraged. No one speaks English .. We came upon a German couple and had great optimism but soon learned they were looking for the same office.
We gave up and decided to rent bikes to get back to the hotel and regroup.

Feeling discouraged we trudged along and came upon Red Sun Falling, a restaurant I recognized from lonely planet, and I spied what looked like an American behind the bar. Thank you Joe from Chicago! English speaking and soon we had bus tickets for tomorrow and a plan for today.

Off on the Tuk Tuk we headed to Sambok Meditation Retreat for an amazing view atop a hill. Buddha statues aligning the stairs and lush greenery about. Other than the Monks it was only us. Truly amazing.

Onto the Mekong River to see endangered fresh water dolphins. The road was paved, sort of, and lined with houses of all sizes on stilts. All wood, no running water and no electricity. A few had generators but not many. Little stands along the road selling food, drinks etc.

We climbed in a on old boat and floated about and soon saw the peaceful dolphins. Rounded noses and round tails. They look like a baby beluga whale. We cut the 60 min boat ride to 30 due to sheer boredom. While there is little English it is amazing how good we are at charades.

Next stop the Rapids. Again we are the only people there other than 50+ workers building thatched roofed huts among the rapids. This will be a tourist spot in the future but for now... It was great - we swam and enjoyed and paid the $1 for the fun.

The Cambodians are hard working. They want to build the tourism in the northeast, where we are. It is exciting to be here before it is developed. Yes it is dusty and chaotic but fun to be he only Americans. We have seen a few Europeans but not many.

We missed John today... Poor guy got food poisoning last night. He seems better this evening. Hope he can join us for dinner. The kids are adventurous eaters, buying hot bread on the street cooled over coals by a woman without teeth. 3 for $1 and they were to die for... Sweet and eggy. They order Cambodian breakfast which is noodles, meat of some kind, bok Choy and veggies all fried up. I stick with eggs and coffee but for lunch has the hot fish soil- hot in temperature and spicy. Delicious! Enjoying dark Angor beer for .75 cents a bottle and whole coconuts opened up for the water. Good stuff.

Still no formal exercise but lots of walking and tons of fun... As we planned!!!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The road to Kratie

We headed out of PP to the Northeastern part of the country. Destination Kratie....and we went with the locals. $14 buys you a 7 hour bus trip with the locals. Bus is air conditioned sort of and the seats are moderately clean. No toilet so I used the one at the bus station....if you ever think a gas station toilet in the US is not acceptable try the bus staton in Phnom Phen - enough said. Thank goodness for hand sanitizer and wipes. Most of the time we are on the right side of the road but sometimes we swerve to miss the oxen or the Tuk Tuk with mattresses on he roof. For about an hour the "highway" was not paved so we merrily bounced along. We played a few games of Indian Poker- so picture 4 white people on a Cambodian bus with playing cards on our foreheads. Good entertainment for the others. Entertainment- yes Cambodian soap opera on the tv precariously hanging in the front of the bus. The co-pilot sits in a kids blue plastic chair I the front sliding about. He is well dressed with coiffed hair. Quite impressive.

On a side note.. I'm fairly sure the malaria pills make me crazy every morning for a few hours.

At the first rest stop we used more delightful WC's, enjoyed a Korean energy drink and an ice cold beer. Food stalls all around offering tiny birds on a skewer, what looked like huge roasted cockroaches, many fried banana like chips, hard boiled eggs odor some kind and roasted giant spiders, which the german on the bus "recommended" . We asked the kids I'd the wanted one, ha ha, and .30 cents later we had one in a bag. Yes they ate it..... Crunched it down - OMG you could not pay me to eat one. I hope in the next 4 hours on the bus they don't start puking. So far do good......Turns out the town is nicknamed "spiderville" good thing the kids tried there as they are a regional delicacy.

When the bus driver honks the horn it often means a game of chicken of sorts.... Usually the bus trying to pass a big slow(er) truck, while avoiding a Tuk Tuk with another large vehicle coming at us- and since we are on the wrong side of the road it is a tad scary ..... But so far so good.

So far so good until we pulled over in the middle of nowhere with a smoking engine. Gallons of water on the engine, lots of steam and 20 min later we are off. 7 hours is now 8+ and I am still on the bus. Another game of Indian poker, watched The Killing Fields on my iPad, got goofy, grumpy currently really, really hungry. Shoulda had a spider.

Made it.... 8.5 hours

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Thoughts on Cambodia

I have not swam, biked or run since leaving the US, but walked a lot, a lot yesterday around phnom phen

Cambodians are hard working people

Paved roads are a bonus

$15 for 1 hour massage is awesome.... JD and Riley has 1st massage

My family are great travelers

Christmas dinner the airplane was ok.... Asiana serves good food and I was with my family. Our gifts to each other this wonderful trip

It's hot in PP

Buddha was very powerful and provides inspiration to many

Local food is delicious

Palace closed in mourning of Kings death

Killing Fields was humbling and quieted our minds and souls for a bit

Tuk Tuk travel is tiring...(moto with cart) very hot and dusty and noisy but fun

Tuk Tuk driver has Khmer and Aussie accent

Ready to leave the city

$21/night gets clean hotel and great breakfast

Cambodian red bull .60

Good coffee

Friday, December 21, 2012

20 hours and counting...

21+ hours in the saddle so far this week....and here are my comments

Sunday...legs and rear so sore from boot camp in Dallas that the ride was a struggle, clipping and unclipping was painful.  2.5 hours into the 4.5 hour ride I bought 2 pop tarts and guzzled a Monster.  Seemed to do the trick as I managed to finish the ride without crying.

Monday...this is one of my least favourite rides to begin with - riding up the Coast through Pendleton to Dana Point and back. True it is a good 100 miler but the stopping at all the lights kills me, We started in the drizzle, than it rained, finally cleared, lost my glove, riding my road bike sucked but was not willing to subject my new bike to the mud and grime from the rain, and just when I was starting to come out of my funk we ride into a squall and I melt down.  Darn near threw a fit, told KP to keep riding and I took my pity party and turned around.  Rode back into the sun and started feeling better.  Sort of a long break at 3.5 hours as I had to review 2 contracts and make some calls- at this point the sun was out and I was sitting outside with my pop tarts..I finally gave in and bought some as they seem to be the key to long rides these days.  At least these are organic and the list of ingredients is not any worse than any of the bars we eat.  Bottom line is carbs and sugar.  Work done and I am on my way with the goal of no stops so I ran every red light just kidding, I made a right turn at every light and did a lot of touring of neighborhoods or u turns but I did not unclip or stop riding. Score!  I did not log 100 miles...but did ride 5:30 at 95 miles and just did not have the mojo to do another 5.

Tuesday was a swim day and I nearly bailed....took all I had to get out of the car, into the rain and get in the pool.  I did and was glad to knock off a good swim.

Wednesday I felt 100% better....boot camp soreness gone!  thanks to oodles of  Betwixt Chamois cream my "parts" are faring well on the bike. That makes hours in the saddle manageable.   Today was sunny!  But cannot say it was warm.  This graph is hard to read (I know) but you this is the temperatures of the day....started at 51 at my house and by 30 minutes it was 37 degrees!  Not a cold front but headed inland and into the valley.  It was cold, cold... I was wearing base layer, wool arm warmers, wind vest, legwarmers, wool socks + toe covers and long sleeve gloves. NOT enough- needed warmer gloves, jacket and more on my feet.  But lucky for us by 10am it was in the high 50's and eventually in the low 60's.  But brrr.... Ride was great until 4 hours and then the legs started to complain.

Thursday....forecast is good! I am better prepared - added the jacket, toe warmers under my toe covers - these are the disposable ones used for skiing and they (coupled with wool socks) were the money!   And my Wombat Gloves  which are bulky but warm.  There is a wind/waterproof cover over the fingers which slips off.  The low temp today was 42 but there was a howling wind as we rode through Santa Isabel and climbed to Julian.   82 miles and 7800 ft of elevation. Solid ride in really, really tough conditions BUT I was warm.  My feet were warm the whole time and my hand sweaty with the big gloves.   Today the issue was properly fueling due to high winds...hard to take your hands off and drink, let alone dig in my jersey, under my jacket and vest for a cliff bar.  But no worries when we hit Julian I ordered up a large mocha and 2 peanut butter cookies from the Julian Pie Company.  These cookies are big, soft and loaded with calories....perfect!  So instead of 250 calories an hour I rode 3 hours with 100 calories, consumed close to 1000 in one sitting and no more the last 2 hours.  Not ideal.....but came out okay.    5:13 ride time, 83 miles and 7800 ft of elevation and wicked, wicked winds!!

I have had a few people make really snarky comments ask me genuinely how can I ride so much you must not have a real job or be on vacation  and still manage 2 jobs and your family?  Well kids...this week I have been up at 3 or 4am every day and working for 3-4 hours solidly before I ride.  I get all my HPN work done, catch up with athletes and monitor training and then head out and ride.  2 days I had a mid- ride conference call and reviewed a contract and then am back working by 1 o 2:00 for the remainder of the day (night)  There is way to get it all done.... yes I have the flexibility of not sitting in an office but this is a really busy week and I am finding a way to get it all done.  Even having family dinners and attended An American Christmas with my Mom and daughter. at the Hotel Del Coronado.  Friday is about swimming and wrapping up a lot of work related issues and then  one more day in the saddle on Saturday, swim and try to pull off  a run  Sunday and then we are off on Monday for 16 days in Cambodia!!  No training- a serious 2 week break to let all the work soak in.  


Saturday, December 15, 2012

Travel and Training

While December is the off season for many, it is not for me.  With an Ironman March 17 and a 2 week trip to Cambodia that will not allow for much training, I found myself heading to Dallas for 5 days needing to train and stay healthy.  This is my company's annual meeting and to say these people like to have fun is putting it mildly.  Many are up every night until 2,3, 4 am.. When dinner starts at 7 it is hard to stick to my 8:00 bed time.  So I have to manage the week to ensure I am visible and participating in the events yet staying true to my goals.

I left Tuesday after doing a long run in the AM and coming off 9 days of solid training.  The goal was to run every day and stay well while in Dallas.   The hospitality business is all about good food and even better drinks.  While I was pleasantly surprised to find egg whites + spinach one morning, most of the fare is laden with heavy sauce, decadent flavors and thousands of calories. We are overfed with decadent food and wonderful treats in our rooms each nigh (which I promptly put in the hall to avoid all temptation)

The people are great and while it is all work from 8a-10pm ( at the minimum) it could be alot worse.  For me my priorities are stay hydrated ( bring my on water bottle with a container of NUUN), commit to running every morning (thus planning accordingly at night) and being choosy with my food and beverage.  So many asked if I was on a diet (by looking at my food choices) No...just making good decisions.  Being in Texas there was alot of beef which was okay (most was choice and very lean) so I indulged on the protein and skipped the delectable side dishes of carbs and creams and who knows what else... I am not a monk and certainly enjoy a good glass of wine, but balanced that with 1-2 glasses of water,  When the reception is from 5-7 and then dinner...I just have to be careful.  I drink a lot of water (add a splash of pineapple juice and peer pressure to have a cocktail subsides - yes peer pressure to drink at 46)  Enjoy wine with dinner and when the party gets going and it is after 10, I head to the restroom and never come back. 

I had a ton of fun, enjoyed myself and managed to dance for hours last night..... it was great - I am tired from standing much of the day, wearing real shoes, staying up to 10 or even 11, but all in all I feel good!  I get made fun for my careful eating and rigid schedule  but am respected  ( I think anywat)  for the job I do.  Many admire my accomplishments in triathlon and I like setting an example of how that can happen.  Yes I miss karaoke at 11pm and sure there is relationship building done after hours...but I don't think my career has suffered and my body certainly does not. 

We leave for Cambodia in 9 days,  I have not swam nor been on my bike since Monday.  I don't have the holiday stresses of decorating and shopping (since we are leaving) so my commitment will be  a solid block of training before the trip. Bike Camp!!  My training this week was easy running but 2x a day to get some volume in.  I was tired going to Dallas and know I have a big block so the really, really slow pace allowed my to keep running but still recover.  The only issue was Boot Camp on Friday.  I am thrilled we had an exercise initiative (never happened before)  So 24 hours later  I am sore, Ironman sore, we did more lunges, squats and push-ups than I thought possible.   My arse was sore within an hour so you can only imagine that pain today - I was looking in the mirror for bruises..  This is a very loud and clear gentle reminder that I need more of this....but in the peak of Ironman training with high volume I cannot afford to be so sore.  Ok so maybe I did not have to do the entire workout you say..... maybe not, but it was fun at the time. 


Thursday, December 6, 2012

Ride- Camp - Ride

We have been talking about riding and camping for a while and just have not done it....until now!!!

BEFORE we made the wrong turn
Now this will only work if you have a good Sherpa...and we had 2. Gunnar (Liz's husband) did the bulk of the hauling...we dropped off all our camping gear on Friday night. Riley and her friend brought the cooler and dogs on Saturday afternoon.  John elected to drive out with Gunnar after a restless night sleep.

We rolled at 8 and headed to Dudley's with Amy and Kevin and hit it a little hard.... they turned around and we headed to Lake Henshaw- nice rollers and a bit of elevation. Turned right on S2 and more climbing and we had a wicked tailwind the last 10 miles to Banner Grade was fast and downhill.  FUN!!!!

the boys found us....thank goodness
Here is where the ride got really ugly got interesting...Instead of turning right toward Banner Grade and then a quick left on the S2 we continued on the 78.   I heard a text come in but we were flying downhill with a massive tailwind and stopping seemed too hard (really dumb NOT to stop at mile 2).  About 10 miles into this ( after Liz says "I recognize this- we are on the right road)  my phone rings and it is John.  I decided to check and see whathe has to share... first I see the text "you are headed to the Salton Sea!"  Gulp....I call John and he says we missed the S2 and are headed the wrong way.  OH F!!!  Pull up the map on my phone...Liz does not believe it until I zoom out and we see the sea.... so we turn around and ride uphill 10 miles (about 1000 ft) into a brutal head wind.( i know this sounds like walking to school in the snow barefoot- but this really was the case)  It was slow going...thankfully John and Gunnar came to find us as we were out of water and out of calories.  We filled up, snagged pop tarts from the truck and hit the road.  So 97 miles was going to be 117... and on we went.  We found the S2 (now this is NOT my favorite road- 3 summers ago I went down on some sand and was basically okay but banged up and bruised and 2 summers ago Beth, KP and I nearly died as it was 110 degrees and the store was closed) I digress....anyway we are cruising along with a reasonable tailwind.  I have my head down and I am ticking off the miles,  I ride by a sign that says Agua Calliente Hot Springs and apparently it also said Campground but nothing else.  I hear Liz yell and I turn around and she is fine so I keep rolling...about 5 miles later it dawns on me that maybe Liz was yelling because we were suppose to turn,  I see my mileage and know for sure I was suppose to turn.  So back into the head wind and I am going 5mph and I am very sad....... it is now 3:30 and seems to be getting dark and did I mention I am very sad.   I am also remembering there is no cell service at the campground-  hmmmm. And I see a tarantula walking along that seems to be keeping pace with me.   I hold onto the fact that Liz turned and must be close to the campsite and will let someone know I need rescuing.  Yes I am done!! At 125 miles, with 3 miles to go - into the wind, I see a knight in shining armor or Gunnar, same difference to me.  I am off the bike and in his car...before he can really say much.  Thank Goodness!!!  THANK YOU GUNNAR

saw a few of these on the road
Long day...but the campground has showers - YES!  and we are clean and eating real food by 4:30...we are eating and eating and eating.  It is soon dark and we ( okay John)  make a fire- enjoy a glass of wine and I am sure it is time for bed.  Liz reminds me it is 5:45.  Oh.... a tad early for bed.  So I walk the dogs into the desert into the night and hope when I let them off leash they don't get stung by a scorpion, bit by a snake, eaten by a coyote...and lucky for me Mako tears all over but zig zags back to me frequently.  Its now 6:30...can we go to bed yet?  Riley and Erica are back from looking for pie and wondering what we are going to do.  When I suggest sleep they roll their eyes.... so they move their tent and decide to pack it in and sing and talk. 

yeah John is with us today
7:30 Liz and Gunnar go to the hot tub and we go to bed.  I am ready to sleep...2 awesome air mattresses that were not quite filled up with air so when you move your elbow hits the ground  and we have 2 dogs who have zero interest in the nice camping matts we brought for them.  So I spent most of the night spooning with Mako and sharing my pillow.   After being dehydrated on the ride I drank 4 bottles of water and thus had to pay the piper with late night potty breaks. So much for sneaking out to pee in the bushes- Zen and Mako had to come and have you tried peeing at night in a bush holding 2 dogs who want to explore. We herd back in and "sleep" for  few hours and repeat the trip outside. Mako sees something and starts to bolt.... I nearly fall over. 

Oh and did I mention there was a full moon.  A full moon camping is like sleeping under a street light- it was awful.  The moon was beautiful and I love nature.  6am could not come early enough..John was kind enough to take the dogs on a long walk and I started packing up camp. 
before the banner grade climb

We were on our bikes by 8 and rolling home....only 80 miles today and no chance of getting lost!  My sit bones were sore, legs stiff but all in all okay.  The 22 miles to banner grade with a headwind sucked big time  was great mental toughness training and race prep for a windy Ironman.  Left turn and up Banner Grade to Julian.  Climbing was fine but the temp was dropping for sure....we hit Julian and everyone has on winter coats, hats and gloves. Riding along in spandex and arm warmers was a tad chilly.  Julian Pie Company here we come. Large Mocha and a cookie and we are rolling.. the lower we got the warmer it was by the time we hit 67 we were pretty darn happy.  Last stop near Highland Valley Road and the guy behind us is buying a quart of Malt Liquor saying he used to put that in his bottles when he Mountain Biked...he creeped me out and Liz felt sorry for him.   John was on his own ride...but managed to meet the same guy shortly after us.

And we were home by 2:00 and manged to pull out what seemed like every morsel of food from the fridge and eat and eat..... What FUN!!! Next riding-camping-riding will be to Lake Cuyamaca, 

Thanks Gunnar and Riley for driving and being our Sherpa's