Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Training in Bangkok

Today marks the last day of February and it's time to review what I've done in terms of keeping up with my running, biking, swimming.  I've decided this year will be focused on running, so neglecting bike and swim was easy.  I decided sneaking my bike on the international flight as a carry-on might be frowned upon, so any biking would be rental or stationary.  Running shoes are easy to pack...

I knew that our hotel was "close" to a park that was known for running and exercising, Lumphini Park.  It has a 1.6 mile outer loop for running or biking plus a couple ponds with paddle boats.  They do have a lap pool at the park but membership requires a doctors note to ensure you don't have any contagious disease.  Maybe they haven't discovered chlorine?

I already discussed my route to get to the park, but it is actually different than what I originally plotted out.

The little cut-over section from Soi Tonson to Thanon Sarasin is like walking through a small alleyway and makes me think I'm trespassing.  Here is a little close-up:

It may be tiny but there are a couple vendors down that section, so if you need a dinner after a hard workout you can grab something on the go!

This little trek is about a kilometer (.62 miles) and takes about 12 minutes to walk.  I have thought about running down the long stretch but there are random speed bumps and, of course, pot holes.  I don't really want to trip on something when it's dark.

As with any gadget-loving athlete, I have to keep track of my workouts by something other than paper and pen, so I brought my Garmin Forerunner 310xt to Thailand.  I discovered during my Las Vegas Marathon in December that Garmins don't like to travel.  I'm sure this is true most consumer GPS devices.  So my Garmin got to spend a little extra time outside while I get prepped for my first run:

Catching some GPS "rays".

It took about 10 - 15 minutes to acquire satellites.

My first run was the first Sunday after I arrived.  I was immediately introduced to the heat and humidity of Bangkok.  I was drenched in sweat before I even got to the park!  I brought my water bottle from the North Face marathon relay but it didn't last long.  

It was a 4.5 mile run at a blistering 9:18 pace.  I definitely walked some of the last lap.  It was about 8:30 in the morning, but I couldn't escape the heat.  I'm going to have to get used to the heat and quickly.

Someone get that fool a towel... and some Rogaine, oye!

My next workout and subsequent lesson in international travel occurred on Tuesday for my first workout in the hotel gym.  Here's a photo of the treadmill during my cool down. It was after a 30 minute workout:

Distance of 6.22 in 30 minutes!  I should be able to qualify for Boston with that pace easily!  No no... that's kilometers!  I'm not sure why that shocked when I set the speed for the first step on the conveyor belt.  It dumbfounded me to have to convert miles to kilometer but luckily I have a footpod for my shoe so I can monitor my speed in pacing that I'm used to.

The next day I stuck to strength/core exercises and then I did 30 minutes on the stationary bike.

Thursday I hopped back on the treadmill and did intervals.  This time I did my research and pre-planned the KPH so I hit my normal pace for the interval and rest period.  

After my first week I managed a respectable 13.1 miles.

My second Saturday was pretty wide opened so I set out to Lumphini Park at 7:30am and started my run around 7:50am.  After 10 minutes I started to hear music being played over the Public Address speakers in the park and then noticed everyone had stopped.  The entire park was standing still.  So I stopped.  It seemed like most people were standing in a particular direction.  So I turned.

After a minute the music stopped and everyone went about their business.  It was so weird.  I just assumed (and later confirmed with a Thai associate) that it was the national anthem.  They do this at 8am and 6pm every day.  I do recall leaving the BTS/SkyTrain just before 8am and hearing music being played and no footsteps.  This happens at many of the public facilities.  I have yet to experience the evening National Anthem but that's because they don't play it in bars during happy hour. 

So the respectful thing to do is stand and listen.  Don't go about your business.  Don't take this as an opportunity to hurry past the hustle and bustle that is Thailand because at 8am and 6pm there is no hustle and bustle for about 50 seconds.  It was a nice breather during the start of my run.

I managed 6 miles that morning as the heat and humidity wasn't as bad.  I actually did another mile because I decided I should properly configure my footpod.  This requires running while it uses the GPS system to determine how many steps you take over that distance.  That way when I use the treadmill or run in a cave it will correctly calculate my speed.

Something I also noticed during this was that there was a race earlier that morning!  They were taking down banners for the "Iron Man Mini-Marathon".  Can you guess what it was from that description?  Just a 5k / 10k race.  I saw people walking around with race shirts on and a few with medals.  I was totally jealous and mad at myself for not looking into it.

My second week turned into a bit of a lost week training-wise.  I worked late pretty much every night due to conference calls and other after work events (happy hour... maybe).  I actually didn't get the running shoes laced up until 8 days later on a Monday night but the biggest issue was I wasn't sleeping very well.  My attempt to fix this actually caused me to miss more runs.  I'll explain below.

So on Monday I made it a priority to get back to the hotel so I could trot down to Lumphini for another run.  The weather was much cooler and I picked up the pace too.  I did 5 miles at an 8:30 pace.  I stopped early because my knee was bugging me again.  

Since arriving and getting passed jet lag, I usually seem to fall asleep ok but I wake up around 1am then every hour after that.  I realized the temperature in my room has been inconsistent so I started closing the door to my bedroom and turning the AC down (colder).  It seemed to help me sleep better.  After a few days I started getting a sore throat and then sneezing.  My best guess was the AC was blowing air over me in my sleep and making me sick.  So with the cold I didn't spend much time in the gym, plus the weather was getting warm again to go outside.

With all of that going on, I skipped out on running for another week until this past Sunday when I logged over 6 miles on the treadmill.  I hit the gym Monday and Tuesday morning as well and logged some more miles.  So far so good!  I am hoping to get a lot more miles in as I plan to start an actual Boston Qualifying Marathon training plan the week of March 10!

Other notes about training
I wouldn't dare run on the streets around here.  If you spend more than 5 minutes trying to figure out how people drive here you will want to shoot yourself.  I barely trust drivers in the US and I'm not about to step on the road here.  The sidewalks are too small and cramped with street vendors and people to use the them.  Plus they are uneven and sometimes nonexistent.  All of this is what really makes up the charm that is Bangkok, so I'm not trying to be negative.

I have been on the look out for a race while in Bangkok.  My options/chances are dwindling but the Thai associates are looking out for me.  Pom has a runner friend who suggested a half-marathon/10k/5k this past weekend, which would have been the perfect opportunity but our plans (which didn't happen) kept me from pulling the trigger.

My best opportunity may have been the first weekend for the big Bangkok Marathon.  This typically happens in November but due to flooding it got delayed.  So if I would have kept up my base for two months, I might have been able to participate.  I don't know if it was sold out or not though.

I'm trying to keep my eyes open for races but I'm having trouble finding a good database of races.  The closer to the SkyTrain the better too!

That is it for now.  I really need to keep up the running, but that's mostly because this weekend we are headed to Hua-Hin beach!  Woo hoo!

Follow-up On Air Conditioning
My solution for the AC issue was to turn the AC low in the living room and turn the AC off in the bedroom (I have two AC units).  I then leave my door open and it does a sufficient job keeping my bedroom cold and no air blowing over me at night.

I will say that I rarely do sleep straight through the night; however, I realized today that I hardly sleep through the night at home too.  I just never thought about it that much.

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