With six weeks until the big race in Canada I found myself confronted with a new challenge – I was about to embark on a five day trip to Penang for a friends wedding, followed by a week of sight seeing in the ever so isolated Myanmar. I wondered how I would keep my training up and if I would even be able to train in some of the locations I had planned to visit. Had I not had such a large goal this year I dare say I would have taken a well deserved break from training but this year the show had to go on! But despite being surrounded by the constant allure of functions such as the Hens Day, cocktail party and wedding, I managed to complete the program my coach had prescribed whilst in Penang and even managed to get out for a few lap swim sessions in the resort pool.
Our resort in Penang had a very small gym with two treadmills, two stationary bikes and a small set of weights. Each morning I set my alarm quite early and headed down to the gym before the other members of the wedding party had awoken for the day. I spent two hours each morning completing a treadmill session, a strength bike session, and a simple weights routine my trainer from SmithFit had put together for me. Having such limited time, my coach had decided to work on intensity rather than distance and I definitely felt the burn of these short sharp sessions! I was running 12km on the treadmill each day which included a lot of speed work and I soon found out that a treadmill cannot go any faster than 16km/hr (3.45min/km). Safe to say I got a lot of strange looks as I ran my little heart out on that rickety old treadmill! By breakfast each day I had burnt over 1000 calories and was ready to enjoy all the buffet had to offer!
So I had survived Penang but Myanmar presented its own set of challenges! Myanmar is a largely rural country whose economy is one of the least developed in the world. Our journey began in Yangon where we spent a night in transit before moving to Inle lake – an area comprised of a series of small villages set on a large 116km² lake. Most of the transport through this region was by boat and being the wet season, the rain just kept coming! Day one we decided to hire bikes and ride into the nearest town and local winery. Our heavy bikes had no gears, the roads were wet and muddy and there were some hills that felt like I was climbing in the Dandenongs! After a short ride we were caught out in the torrential rain so we called it a day, and I headed out for a short recovery run along the streets Inle instead. What an experience – despite standing out for being blonde, I assume the majority of stares were based on the fact that a female was out running the streets! I didn’t feel in danger at anytime but I certainly felt out of place!
The next morning we flew to Bagan – the highlight of most tourist’s itinerary. Bagan is home to the largest and densest concentration of Buddhist temples, pagodas, stupas and ruins in the world. It was much drier in Bagan – in fact it was significantly hotter with temperatures reaching 34°C by mid morning. Each morning in Bagan I woke by 6am and ran 10-12km along the dirt tracks between the ruins, completing a variety of fartlek sessions and speed specific tempo runs. The heat proved a challenging factor and the locals again found the concept of a blonde female running quite intriguing! Again we decided to tackle the region by bike and, again, our bikes were gearless and had a mind of their own! By the end of our 72hrs in Bagan I had completed 32km of running and 7 hours of cycling – this was perhaps the most enjoyable few sessions of the trip!
Our last stop was Yangon and luckily our hotel was outside the main city centre! The city itself was absolute chaos with right hand drive cars driving on the right hand side of the road, and an apparent lack of road rules The roads were far to busy to cycle so for the last three days of our trip I managed to track down a gym a mere $2 cab ride from our hotel! In the early morning I embarked on my journey to the gym – the concierge of the hotel cycled down the road to find a taxi for me and I was on my way! The building was under construction and after battling my way up 5 levels in a rickety lift I came across a small gym consisting of 2 bikes, 4 treadmills and a small section for weight training! I had the place to myself – no real surprise for 6am in the morning – and the view out the gym window was quite character building to say the least. Each day in Yangon I frequented this gym and completed my two hour set of treadmill and bike efforts with relatively little interruption (except for the stares from the men as I completed my weights program in the tiny male dominated weights area!).
So despite being nervous to embark on a trip at such a crucial time of training, I have to admit I thoroughly enjoyed my time away and I was grateful for the time to complete some recreational sessions in the very good company of my partner. But now its time to get serious and the count down is on – three weeks until departure.
Back in wintery Melbourne the alarm continues to sound at 5am most days, and the time dedicated to training is on the rise; my uniform has arrived and my Lonely Planet guide to Canada is a permanent in my handbag! I look forward to the next phase of training yet I will always be grateful for the opportunity to train in such a remarkable part of the world.