Crazy Chinese Adventure Race – 160km over two days

May 6, 2018 at 4:14 pm (China) (, , , , , , , , )

I’m not kidding. Jess and I ran/walked/cycled/kayaked 160km using our own bodies during the GZBN Global Business School Multi-Sports Challenge. The race took place along the beautiful Chishui River Valley. It was a truly amazing and unforgettable experience!

About a month ago I saw a post on the Chinese mobile platform wechat asking if any foreigners were interested in competing in the event. It looked grueling and crazy, exactly up my alley! I just needed to find someone stupid enough to do it with me.

Tada… the crazy Kiwi Jess! She was keen as mustard so we sent off our registration and were accepted. We really didn’t know what we had gotten ourselves into and doubt started settling in the days before the race. It didn’t help that Jess is only recently off crutches after straining her ankle during the Suzhou half we ran together last month.

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We nearly didn’t even make the race! We couldn’t land in Zunyi due to bad weather so the plane landed in Kunming instead. We were stranded! The Chinese passengers were far from impressed and put on quite a spectacle. The yelling got louder and louder, they threatened to riot and at one stage even tried to march back onto the plane!

We speak barely a word of Chinese between us so we were very lucky that there were two other foreign teams on the flight. One team decided to take their luck catching a train (which they missed) and the other stuck it out with us at the airport. Luckily we did because they talked their way into getting us on the next flight to Zunyi, quite a feat for Spring Airlines. This involved us racing through the airport to make the flight, even though we’d been suggesting this as a possible solution from the go set. Interestingly, my ticket had been issued to British Citizens! No wonder they looked at me funny when checking my ticket against my passport.

After spending most of the day in transit, we finally arrived at our hotel in Maotai. We missed most of orientation but got to select our bikes which we fondly named Greg and Gary. We also received a brillant race pack:

  • waterproof sack
  • running t-shirt
  • racing t-shirt with name and flag (mine has the British flag 🇬🇧😂)
  • light wind proof jacket (in pink, mum has already claimed it)
  • running sleeves
  • visor
  • headband
  • buff
  • foldable shopping bag
  • luggage tag
  • tea
  • waterproof case for our mobile
  • Chinese liquor Maotai Baiju with a special race label (this was our personal favorite)

Crazy, huh? By the time we had eaten, sorted out all our new goodies and organised our clothes for the next day it was already midnight. Certainly not the best way to prepare for a race but better than the train boys, who didn’t even arrive at the hotel until after 1am!

59E6F97A-84A3-4F63-84E2-BC5704C0CE4F-733-000001138E78FEF7_tmpAt the starting point we were beginning to shit ourselves. Would we finish Day 1 in the eleven hours allocated? Would Jess’ ankle hold up? We knew we hadn’t done enough training and that only sheer determination and a lot of stupid chatter would get us through the event.

The first 6km we ran through Maotai town before picking up our bikes. We quickly got into a good biking rhythm and settled in for the next 55km. The bike path was spectacular! It hugs the side of the valley right next to the river. Even though we were freezing (it rained all morning) we couldn’t help but marvel at the landscape and luscious greenery around us. We just kept staring at each other and asking ourselves if this was really happening.

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The bike leg was hard work due to the rain and coldness. Going down was a relief to the legs but so very cold with the wind and rain whipping into our faces. Everything we were wearing and carrying was wet. We felt like, and looked like, wet rats.

Of course it didn’t help that the Chinese are not exactly the best riders in the world. They would constantly pass us without saying they were there, or stop in the middle of the path for no apparent reason. Many of them struggled up the hills in a zig zag fashion or had no idea of how bike gears work. Many would come to the bottom of a hill and just start pushing without even trying!

When we finally finished the bike leg, I think we were in a state of shock! We were doing well for time, soaked but on a high. We fuelled and moved on quickly for the 20km run.

Ok… Let’s be honest run/ walk. We were very conscious of Jess’ ankle so we took it fairly easy, at first running intervals of our own choosing. After a motivating chat with my mum and then another with Olli we decided to get map my run going and ran/walked the remaining kilometers in tandem. This worked really well for us and kept the pressure off Jess’ ankle. It helped that the scenery continued to be breathtaking!

IMG_7323When we arrived at the kayaks we just wanted to get in and get the job done! The 11kms were the hardest part of the day for me with my scrawny arms. I never do any arm work so it was tough. Jess has a vision impairment that cannot be correct with glasses so she steered the boat and I was the eyes. She was amazing though and we powered through, overtaking at least ten canoes.

The trip was beautiful but also highly amusing. We watched kayaks go in circles, people barely dipping their paddles in the water and the absolute looks of shock amazement as these two tiny white girls powered past them. Heaps of teams actually came and told us how well we did on this leg which was nice.

To finish the day one of us needed to do a short zipline off the bridge. Jess was all business, scrambling up the stonework pushing past other teams and getting the job done. Determined to run strong through the finish line, I dangled a cereal bar in Jess’ face and ran in front entincing her with it and before we knew it we were running through the Day 1 finish line.

We were relieved, not as cold as we thought we would be and hungry as hell. Most importantly, we were so impressed with ourselves and our bodies. We had travelled 92km and we could still walk!

After a massage, we walked barefoot through the ancient town of Tucheng to our hotel for the night. Apparently walking barefoot is not normal for China. We had so many people staring at us that it was quite unnerving.

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Day 2 began right in front of our hotel but we missed the start because we were too busy chatting and playing on our phones. Typical! Our legs felt better than expected and we took the first 6km easy. It was a nicer start than the day before, we ran through cute alleyways and passed shopkeepers setting up their wares for the day before heading back to the riverside.

IMG_7340We were thankful that there was no rain for the 39km bike ride and sunshine instead. It was definitely tougher! I’m proud to say I didn’t push my bike once up any of the slopes. Greg and Gary served us well but we were also quite happy to say goodbye. 😉

After a quick lunch which consisted of the best tofu I’ve ever had in China, we were on our way walking through Binan Ancient Town. This was a beautiful leg so we couldn’t really complain when we realised that only one of us was supposed to do it. At the lunch check point we were supposed to split… One do the ancient town run and the other abseil down the face of a bridge. Oops!

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It was my turn for the rope activity so I got to do the abseiling and Jess took the role of photographer. It was fun but not as fast and exciting as I would have liked. I just wanted to get down and keep moving. We only had 22km to go!

We ran/walked using map my run again which turned into map my kayak when we got to the kayak leg. We were kicking ourselves for not having it running all day as it would have been interesting to find out all our splits. For those interested, we ran about 7 minutes per km and kayaked about 8 minutes per km.

The kayak was excruciating. Neck, arms, back… Mainly from the bike, everything was hurting but we pushed on singing our favorite hash song (Thank you Jesus) to keep us motivated. The finish line was insight.

Everything hurt, but you couldn’t keep the smiles off our faces. We had done the impossible. We had moved our bodies 160km and we were still walking, still smiling and ready for that second massage.

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This race was an out of body experience, one that I will never forget and will be telling my students about for years to come. The scenery was breathtaking, the company amazing and every step, every pedal and every paddle was absolutely worthwhile.

I would like to thank Raid International China and all the sponsors of the GZBN Global Business School Multi-Sports Challenge for this amazing experience. The race was extremely well organised and everyone was so lovely.

Most of all I would like to thank Jess. Thank you for your stories, your laughter and your encouragement. Thank you for always staying 50m from me, for sharing everything and for simply being the best Crazy Chinese Adventure Race partner I could ever have asked for.

xoxo

P.s More photos?

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Finally Spring in Suzhou

April 8, 2018 at 4:09 pm (China) (, , , )

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It’s taken a while but it is finally starting to warm up in Suzhou.  The cherry blossoms are out and the sun is starting to shine again.  Everyone has more a spring to their step after the long winter.

I feel like every weekend has been filled up with some kind of event… mainly hashes to be honest.  Olli managed to pull his ‘last’ hash streak for another three hashes which in total meant that I went to his last hash FIVE times.  A little over the top if you ask me.  He is now well and truly gone and I am adjusting to life without my Suzhou best friend.  I’m a bit lost without him but holding strong so far.

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I’ve been babysitting Banyu a lot which I love.  He makes me smile with his joy for life.  We’ve got into a good homework habit which has taken a lot of pressure off his parents and is good for him to be seeing it as a fun thing we do together.  Some Banyu highlights have been taking him on the hash and managing to return him without shoes (they disappeared but were found again at the restaurant) and having a movie night with him that included two viewings of the Lego Batman movie.  Never a dull moment with that cutie.

I was excited to finally play in a competitive Gaelic football match.  I’ve been training with the squad for over a year now but every time they had a match I couldn’t make it.  I was starting to think I would never get a real game!  We travelled to Shanghai and played some friendly games with them.  Afterwards we headed to Little Creatures for dinner and drinks.  Little Creatures is a joint venture with the Perth brewery and made me feel like I was back at home when actually I was in the middle of Shanghai.  It was great that we managed to get a Ladies team together and I had a great day out with them.

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Another birthday has come and gone.  My friends here organised ice-cream and a dinner which was quiet with no fuss.  I was spoiled with presents, flowers and wishes from all over the world.  Alyssa even came in extra early to leave me a present from her and Jess as well as a cake on my desk.  I am excited to see where my 34th year takes me.

xoxo

P.s  More photos?

 

 

 

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Suzhou Half Take Two

April 4, 2018 at 4:11 pm (China) (, )

IMG_7112Although I had signed up before Christmas, the Suzhou Half was suddenly upon me.  I had been training but did not feel anywhere near ready for the 21.2km race.  I knew I could do the distance, but that it would be slow going.

This year I was lucky enough to be able to share it with both Jess and Olli.  Jess only committed to racing the day before after a number became available and Olli decided to run the race at ‘Kate pace’ so as to not push himself too much.  For me this was a new experience as I had never run a half marathon with people before.  It was a lovely change from doing it solo.

IMG_7121Racing in China is more like taking part in a spectacle.  It’s an experience in itself and we had a lot of fun marveling at the crazy things we saw.  Firstly, over 30,000 competitors competed in the race.  That means there were people EVERYWHERE.  The beginning of the race is a push and shove to get anywhere because EVERYBODY, including the mini and short marathon runners, all start at the same time!

This year, we spotted a lot of people running for the KFC running club.  They all had matching T-shirts on, much to our amusement.  We wondered how many people would go to KFC afterwards to celebrate their success and more importantly, how many people needed to exercise more because of KFC in the first place.  Somehow for us, the connection between running and KFC seemed to be ridiculous.

Along the route we spotted more entertainment than I remember last year.  Perhaps this was due to the better weather?  I loved passing the different old women’s dancing groups in their traditional costumes.  We saw women dancing with ribbons, balls, fans and my personal favourite… badminton racquets.  At one point, as we were crossing a bridge the ladies dancing flicked their beautiful red fans simultaneously and we all burst into cheers and applause.  It was so bizarre but at same time so amazingly special.

IMG_7124Those of you who have run races before, know that there are generally food and drink stations along route.  I don’t think I have ever so many in any of other previous half marathons.  Of course being China, the food offered was quite different.  Olli had quite some trouble finding a banana but if he wasn’t so picky he could have had what looked like a plain sponge cake, weird looking biscuits or our personal favourite… two minute noodles.  I kid you not, we saw runners stopping for a a quick bite of boxed noodles!

The Chinese love photos and most of them were keen to make sure they got their picture taken on route.  They would be walking when suddenly they spot a photographer.  This would boost their energy and get them running, jumping and smiling for the camera.  I don’t know how many times I got cut off by someone determined to have their photo taken.

Cramp spray was also very popular.  It was sprayed everywhere and you could find somebody with a can about every 50m along the track.  There were even people getting sprayed in the final 100m of the race.  I’m not really sure why that would be necessary… but we are in China right?

IMG_7129I was slower than last year with 2:28:22 but it’s not really about the time.  I had a wonderful day with friends and shared my experience with them.   We celebrated with an amazing buffet lunch in the sunshine with a view of the lake and the pants building.  (Although we did jokingly contemplate going to KFC) I received a medal with bells on it and wore it proudly at school the next day.  I jingled like Christmas all day much to my students’ amusement, but tradition is tradition and my 2018 half marathon is complete.

P.s  More photos?

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Snow, running and surviving till Chinese New Year

February 11, 2018 at 4:32 pm (China) (, , , )

IMG_6471Basically the five weeks between the Christmas and Chinese New Year Holidays has been filled with running.  Running in pollution, running at night, running on the treadmill and even running in the snow.  Olli and I spent a Sunday re-exploring the beautiful area we did the Wine hash in.  If we had more time before he leaves China for good, we would have reused the area!  As always, it is so good to get out of the city and into the country side around Suzhou.  Especially, because we have had some awful pollution.  We had a WHOLE week with no outside play at school!

I ventured out to Shanghai twice to participate in two hashes I hadn’t been to before.  The Posh Hash is an all ladies kennel that runs once a month and the Drunken Dragons hash monthly as well (I think).  I seem to have a bit of a reputation in our little hash circles… hardly surprising considering how much I like talking and how loud I am!  It’s always good fun but often eventful evenings.

A surprising bonus was my first ever snow day!  Two to be exact.  It doesn’t snow that often in Suzhou so when it does it gets a bit chaotic, especially as the roads and facilities do not have the means to cope with snow.  The local government decided to shut down all local schools for two days and after careful debate we were also closed.

We woke up to a a snow splattered Suzhou.  There wasn’t really enough snow to warrant closing the school but it did get worse, and it is true that people are not used to driving in it.  The snow continued over the next couple of days and resulted in some breath taking landscape in and around Suzhou old town.  While I didn’t venture out there myself, I did ‘borrow’ some other people’s photos.

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Instead I spent a day with Banyu watching movies and eating pancakes.  I didn’t really want to venture out of the house, but when you wake up to absolutely gorgeous voice messages you can’t help but turn up!  We watched both Annie and Mary Poppings and thoroughly enjoyed having a lazy day.  That’s what snow days should be for, right?

 

With Chinese New Year Around the corner we had our annual Chinese New Year staff meeting celebration.  I made dumplings, danced like a lion and practiced my Chinese New Year calligraphy.  It’s tradition for new signs to be made and changed to frame your door each Chinese New Year.  I was stoked when a Chinese teacher was able to read my characters without knowing what I was trying to write!  I plan on having them framed, that way I can be lucky forever.

So after snow in Suzhou, cold temperatures and a weekend in Harbin, I am more than ready for a new adventure filled with sunshine and warmth… Cambodia, here I come!

P.s  More photos?

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Freezing in Harbin

February 7, 2018 at 4:18 pm (China) (, , , )

IMG_6618One of my aims for my second year in China was to visit the world’s largest ice festival in Harbin.  The Ice and Snow World is over 600,000 square meters, has ice sculptures that reach up to 46 meters high and is simply mind boggling in its size and depth.   Not only are the sculptures amazing to experience, but they are also, in total Chinese style, lit up creating an almost Frozen like Disney Princess World.  I travelled there for the weekend with four ladies from work to share the experience.

I was a bit apprehensive going to Harbin because I had been told horror stories of how cold it would be.  I borrowed a puffy jacket as well as some boots, fished out my bright pink ski pants and bought disposable heat packs to keep in my gloves and my boots.  Even when the temperatures dropped to -26°C, I was toasty warm apart from my big toe when we visited the Ice and Snow World.  I have no idea how people survive in those temperatures though!  The snot in my nose literally froze which was such a bizarre feeling, as was having my eyelashes freeze over.  Fun to visit, but to live?  No thank you.

Over the weekend we visited the Sun Island Scenic Park and the Ice and Snow World.  The first park had amazing sculptures made out of snow and the second out of ice.  They were both spectacular in their own right… the craftsmanship in the snow sculptures was phenomenal.   The sheer size at the Ice World as well as the detail in some of the smaller pieces were equally mind blowing.  In fact, it takes over 10,000 workers to cut and haul the blocks of ice to make the ice sculptures.

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IMG_6466At about midnight on Saturday night, Jenf and I decided to change our plans for the next day from visiting the river bank (seemed like a party fair like atmosphere) to going to visit the Unit 731 Museum.  Harbin was the Japanese site for the largest human experimentation, biological and chemical research facility during World War II.  We had read reviews about how well the museum dealt with the content matter and that the information was easy to read in English.  It was by the far the best museum either of us had been too in China.

The atrocities that took place there I will not mention here but I can assure you that both Jenf and I were clearly shaken after our visit.  What really upset us, was that the majority of the people involved with the administration of the ‘tests’ was ever trialled for their crimes.  At the end of the war, the USA secretly gave the researchers immunity in exchange for all the data they had found out.  The whole undertaking was kept secret for many years.

Thank you to my roomie Jenf for the laughs and fun times and particularly to Renee for the organisation.  Harbin was definitely a worthwhile experience even in the freezing cold!

P.s  More photos?

 

 

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