After running the half marathon, I decided to just take it easy with my “Dora the Explorer” lifestyle. I thought gallivanting and recovery are mutually exclusive, but apparently, the two can go hand in hand when touring the Province of Siem Reap. Perhaps because there were only very few places and activities that interest me that I was already homesick on the third day. Word of advice: See the temples, eat the food, then leave.
My day started with a leisure walk to the post office. Surprisingly, the postcards (as well as the postage) are quite expensive here. The 30-minute walk going to and from the post office was a perfect recovery activity for my sore legs. I even found some interesting spots along the way.
The rest of the day was spent with my hired driver cum tour guide, Lucky. I would say that I was lucky to have Lucky as my airport transfer driver when I arrived at Siem Reap. He immediately offered his services when he learned that I have no itinerary whatsoever for this trip except to run the race. I was not disappointed. He patiently waited for me as I searched every nook and cranny of the Angkor temples. He brought me to places where he has friends, so that I can get special treatment (read: fast service). The only time I got pissed with him was when he brought me to a jewelry shop, where I left with something that I normally would not buy and which totally blew my budget. To be fair, that was totally my making, but the proximate cause was still him taking me to that place. Hehe
Because I dare to do everything for the first time this year…
My first race outside of the Philippines. My first trip to Cambodia.
The first race…
where I ran solo, as in I don’t know anyone.
where my fingers bloated (I thought they were going to explode!).
where I got chased by wild monkeys (at 18K!!!… which made me run like a crazy tired person hahaha).
where I doused myself with electrolyte drink for fear of heatstroke.
where I chatted with a fellow runner while running. At 19K, he said that he was in so much pain. I told him to just think “mind over matter.” By the way, he finished the race.
where I had to eat while running. Gels are amazing!
where I got so sunburned (even if I smothered myself with sunblock before the race!). Cambodia morning sun is scorching hot!
where I just enjoyed the locals. High-fiving Khmer kids really pepped me through the race.
where I got a medal! I have not received a medal in all my 5Ks and 10Ks before.
where I genuinely felt proud of myself. I trained for three and a half months, albeit intermittently. I watched what I ate and forced myself to wake up every 3:30 a.m. for my practice runs. I practiced even if it rained or if I had a deadline or if I was out of the country or if my legs were still hurting from the previous run. Every sacrifice was worth it.
This race is just the beginning. I will aim for podium and longer distances. I will aim for more prestigious races. I will aim for abs and thigh gap. I will aim to be the best runner that I can be. I will not stop until I have achieved them all.
This is the fourth time that I am retiring a pair of running shoes. The process does not get easy with every pair though. In fact, I still have my first two pairs with me. I stopped using them, but I still keep them in their boxes. Once in a while, if my bib wall is not enough to motivate me to run, I would open the boxes and think of all the miles I have conquered with those shoes. Yes, I am sentimental like that.
So I knew that when I finished the Angkor race, I had to leave my Lunarswift in Siem Reap. Otherwise, I would still be using them until the whole thing fall off my feet. After all, this is my favorite pair. It was given to me as a Christmas gift by Ate Lala (yes, they were shipped all the way from the States). It had all the specs I wanted at the time – sensor slots, reflectors, fitsole, adequate toe box, and in hot pink color. I did not even mind that they had tears on the sides when I ran in them during the race. I figured it is better to run adapted than unaccustomed with my gear. Anyway, a healthy pair of legs and a decent pair of running shoes are all that I need when running.
If Nike still makes this shoe model, I will really buy another pair… or two for posterity. Right now, my two other functional running shoes pale in comparison to the Lunarswift in terms of design and performance. They are good enough for practice runs, but I probably will not be as confident to run in them as I did with the Lunarswift during a race. I know it will take time for me to move on and love another pair in the same (or greater) feeling, but I have been through this and as all runners know, the love for running transcends anything, including the pair of shoes that inspired me to love the sport.
Nordin, my Mt. Kinabalu guide, was the most patient of all the guides during my climb. And I declare him so, because I consider myself the slowest and the most difficult climber to deal with. LOL He has been doing this job for 18 years. Guiding every single day, he has developed not only impeccable English, but also the best motivational strategies for climbers like me. Here are some of the things that he shared along our journey:
Don’t feed the squirrels. You are not their mom. LOL
Resting entertains the thought that you might not make it to the top.
Just because steps were laid out on the trail, it doesn’t mean you have to step on them in that order. Look for an intermediary surface and use it to make your ascent easier.
Do not step on stones too long. They might not be able to take your weight that long; they might start to roll or crumble.
Climb with foresight. Don’t just plan the next step; plan the next five steps.
Don’t look at your feet, because that posture blocks your air passage and makes you slouch.
Look at the mountains. They are a great source of inspiration.
When I told him I suddenly have my period again (yes, that’s how comfy I was with Nordy), he said that I was just peeing blood and it happens when we do strenuous activities. (Whaaatttt???!!)
If you use your trekking pole, that’s already 50% effort taken off your legs.
Love your health more than your ego.
Nordin never once complained. He was like a coach or a psychotherapist. Other climbers envied me, because unlike their guides who let them move ahead, Nordin was always just two steps behind me, giving me a pep talk when needed.
I told him that when I return for my second climb, I will specifically ask for him to be my guide, but I will then make sure that I will be fitter and less of a diva. LOL
After swearing off climbing a mountain in 2012, I finally got the courage to climb another one. This time, I was alone and I traveled to a different country just to rekindle this passion. I used to climb mountains in college, back when I was fit and young and crazy. I guess when a person grows older she tends to complicate things and thus, forgets her basic pleasures. After reading hundreds (yes, hundreds! because I was paranoid!) of blogs about climbing Mt. Kinabalu, I was convinced that I want to do this. I have to do this.
I made the necessary reservations with Sutera Lodges around April. In fact, I was initially told that there are no more slots available. But I made them put my name on a waitlist and luckily when some cancellations were made, I got in. I don’t think I have the right to tell you how I prepared for the climb, because truth be told, whatever preparation I did was very inadequate and practically useless. What propelled me to the top of the mountain was not my physical fitness, but my mental toughness. My guide Nordin said so.
I experienced a lot of firsts during this trip. Just to share a few…
First time to do backpacking. I have not tried room-sharing or backpacking before, because I snore and I am not very trusting with strangers (which this trip totally changed). But since the activity called for it, I tried to go out of my comfort zone. It was not that bad, so yeah, I might try it again.
First time to share a room with three men… three hot, GQ-looking, Swedish men! At Laban Rata, I was already too tired and feverish to go to Gunting Ladagan hut, so I requested to be transferred to the main Laban Rata Resthouse. When I opened the door to my room, I was shocked to know that I will be sharing the room with them, but I did not complain. 😉 But nothing happened. They are kids and again, I was too tired to even think of possibilities.
First time to share a cab with a stranger. And I was pleasantly surprised that the guy I shared the cab with was a Dental Medicine sophomore from Harvard. I did not believe him at first. I mean, why would a guy who goes to Harvard stay in a guesthouse and share a cab with me? If stereotypes will be believed, he should stay in a posh hotel and rent a car to go around Kota Kinabalu. But I guess that is what traveling does to people; it throws them curve balls and opens their minds.
First time to run out of money. Actually, I still had money, but it was in my ATM and there were no machines in sight. When I reached the Kinabalu Park I actually had enough money to take a taxi back to downtown, but I figured that if the mini bus costs only RM20, then I can give a hefty tip to Nordin, who patiently guided me in my 7-hour ascent and 5-hour descent. So I gave him the tip and suffered the consequence of waiting for 2 hours for a mini bus, which eventually did not arrive (thus, I had to share a cab with a stranger).
First time to consciously teleport (I guess). I am not kidding. One kilometer before Laban Rata, I was already having out-of-the-body experience. There were times when I just stopped and I felt like my soul left my body for a few seconds, saw my own body standing from a distance, and finally returned to it. Perhaps I was just very very very physically drained that my mind started playing tricks. But it was a cool experience. I have not felt that before. I must admit, I was so charmed with that feeling that I wanted to try skyrunning just to feel that again.
First time to make genuine friends on a trip. Aya and Satomi, if you find this blog, please get in touch with me. I regret that I did not wait for you on the way down. I hope we’ll see each other again in our future travels. You guys are the most awesome Japanese 40-something women I know. I am not afraid to grow old single if I can be half as awesome as you guys are.
My trip to Kota Kinabalu is definitely one for the books. It is the most expensive (so far), but it was worth it. I kept replaying in my mind the moments I shared with the people I met and the experience I went through. When Satomi told me that that was already her fourth time to climb Mt. Kinabalu, I was puzzled. But when I got home, I finally understood her, because all I could think about was going back to that place and climbing the mountain again.
PS – I googled the Harvard guy’s family name and found out that his family owns a group of companies in Chicago. Knowing that, I find his humble nature and way of traveling truly admirable.