A Just Walk (run, hike, etc…)

"…to the Rock that is higher…"


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A Home Away From Home: the Relentless Chiang Mai 24-hour Endurance Run

Dear friends,

Here is the write up about the 24-Hour run I put on for FUN, as well as a fund-raiser for Relentless. However, no photos are found on THIS page because I’d have to go back through and re-load all the photos again here, which I won’t do in the interest of time and saving consternation. I encourage you to click on over  to the page on Relentless where I’ve posted the full deal. The event was truly special for everyone and we all did have fun! It was a lot of work but so worth it in the end! I’m so grateful for all your thoughts and prayers and for all the help by volunteers here! I’m also very grateful for all the donations that came in for Relentless!

Again, I’d like to encourage all of you who follow this blog to also follow the blog on Relentless, as well as the Facebook page to keep  up with what I’m doing.

Blessed to be a blessing!

On 25 May at 2pm, the first wave of runners started off the line for the Second Annual Relentless Chiang Mai 24 Hour Endurance Run. It was quite an international group, with twelve different nationalities represented among the 42 participants. Even so, ultramarathon culture transcends all others as the main aid station along the looped course became a home away from home – even as the many expatriates already call Thailand a home away from home.

Located near Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand, Huay Tung Tao Lake is encircled by a 3.7 km, nicely paved asphalt loop. The gently rolling road provides just enough diversity to keep the muscles interested, and there is enough shade to keep runners cool for much of the way.

After the swimmers, picnickers and fishermen packed up for the night, the full moon came out so that nobody needed to wear a headlamp. Crickets and frogs joined the chorus. Magical.

Runners had the option of running 6 or 12 hours, and four teens participated in the 3-hour kids’ division! A relay option for teams of up to eight people was offered for the 24-hour time, but nobody took advantage of that – everyone wanted to go hard-core solo!

Another unique feature was that the 3-, 6-, and 12-hour runners had the option of starting at either 2pm, 6pm, or 10pm. Some of the participants wanted to start earlier and get their run in, while others cherished running through the night. This timing also helped to spread out the runners and give the 24-hour people more company through the night.

This event pulled the absolute best from everyone. It was never about “winning” to beat another person – as there were no prizes for 1st, 2nd, or 3rd. It was all about challenging oneself – an opportunity to push further than previously attempted. The top 12-hour finisher had never run further than 55 km before his remarkable 85 km distance! Nearly all of the runners set a personal record, either in the most distance ever covered or the fastest time it took to cover a certain distance. Most set personal records of over 20-30 km.

A timed event, unlike a distance-oriented event, gives participants the opportunity, when they are tired, to take a break. They eat something, drink some coffee, stretch, and re-evaluate. Then they are ready to head back out for more. It was a safe environment in which to push themselves further than they thought possible. It was exciting to be a part of an event in which so many people came away having bettered themselves and achieved something great.

The aid station crew was no less exceptional. Many friends and relatives of runners volunteered their services and helped crew everyone – not just “their guy.” The kids who ran the 3 hours also stayed up most of the night and were the most cheerful and helpful crew ever! Several volunteers (including the kids) took laps with runners they had met only a few hours prior to keep them company and encourage them along the way. This was most helpful during the hot, middle part of the second day when we were all flagging a bit.

Finally, another remarkable note about this event is that it was a fundraiser for Relentless, a project that fights human trafficking through health care. Although this was a small event, approximately $8000 was raised, over $3000 of that by a single participant!

I look forward to hosting this event again next year and I hope that those of you who may be traveling through Southeast Asia looking for an ultramarathon will consider joining us next year!


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Super-conference and a birthday marathon

Not just another conference…

It’s hard to believe that we’re well into March already! February was a very full but fabulous month as it was the every-two-year Continuing Medical Education (CME) meeting for health professionals working in cross-cultural health settings across Asia.

The conference is designed for North American (because we tend to have stricter requirements) health professionals who need valuable CME to maintain their practice license. It is of course a full schedule of medical lectures (all optional), but it is much more than straight medical lectures. Workshops in reading ECGs, “ultrasound for dummies”, and use of other techniques and modalities to help those of us working in areas where there is no other specialty consult service (such as when I was working at Kwai River Christian Hospital). The faculty who come take their own time and spend their own money to come and teach us. THANK YOU!

However, it is even MORE than a medical conference! Every two years I get to spend a couple of weeks with friends from all over the world learning, worshiping, crying, laughing, and enjoying each other. These people are truly my peers and it is so refreshing to come together again. Many of us will drag ourselves in haggard and weary – barely hanging on until we can get to Chiang Mai (location of the meeting since 2001). The week is tiring enough, but it is a break from our normal schedules and routines. Although I left quite exhausted – having maxed out my capacity for people interaction several times over – I was also thoroughly refreshed.

Therefore, I want to encourage all of you who support cross-cultural medical workers to support them financially to attend meetings such as this one. It is important professionally, of course. But I know it is also a lifeline for many of us and it is a component of “member care” that enables us to go back and keep going in our work abroad. It is a break for health care professionals AND their families (many are 2-profession families). Another thing to consider in support of your worker is to come and serve as a child care worker at similar conferences. Not a “glamorous” short term mission, but an absolutely essential one! If you are a member of CMDA (Christian Medical Dental Association), consider contributing towards this very valuable medical missions endeavor – your sponsorship helps keep the costs down for us.

BIRTHDAY!

birthday marathon start 7 March 2013My birthday was last week and of course I had to celebrate with a special run! The marathon distance is basically 42km (26.2 miles) and so I had a birthday marathon to celebrate 42 years! Three running buddies showed up for coffee before heading out at the 6am start time. Two ran the first 10km loop, but then had to get off to work. The third gutted it out to the last. He is fit, but I had the special birthday adrenaline and just could not slow down… until he asked if we could walk. <WALK!?!> To his credit, we actually went 44.6km because I found a new trail and didn’t want to turn back so soon. The only thing pulling me back was that I had another (non-running) friend coming to my house to make pancakes for my post-run treat! Besides, I had to be back, cleaned up and fed before my scheduled massage! That evening I spent with another couple of friends at my favorite live music hangout place.

LENT

It is just a few weeks until Easter. I don’t know what traditions you follow for the Lenten season – I actually never really heard of Lent, or thought it was something for me until I was older – but I like to read one of two books to be mindful of the season. This year it is Henri Nouwen’s “Show Me The Way” that takes one through every day of Lent. Nouwen has always been a sort of pastor to me. I know that you will also be enriched from his writing as well. What kinds of practices do you follow for the season, if any?


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The North Face Thailand 100km 2013

POWER UP!

POWER UP!

I didn’t go into this race with the goal to win, although defending my title would be cool. I simply had a goal to finish in 10 hours, and if that was good enough for a podium finish, then even better! The field of female 100k participants increased four-fold this year, with quite a few more foreigners signed up, so I had no idea how good my competition may be.

This year the race was held outside of Khao Yai national park and the course was much more interesting. with more variety of trails, fire road, and paved roads. With some several hundred meters of elevation gain, it was not rigorous by ultra standards, but still difficult by Thai standards. Even so, the conditions proved difficult enough. The day was mostly overcast with temperatures only in the mid-80’s (F), but the humidity was still around 80%. Although balmy for Thailand, this still plays a factor in performance and strategy.

final aid station - about 10k to go!

final aid station – about 10k to go!

The male champion finished in 9:47. My time was a very respectable 11:07, beating the 2nd place woman by 1:02 and good enough for 5th overall. The win and the time are also quite good considering I got lost twice and actually ran 103km (64mi)! The first time was early on when the lead pack got turned around in the dark – the course was not marked well! The second time occurred when I was running by myself on the second loop. My head was down, concentrating on the trail and I didn’t see the sign to turn right. I only saw the race ribbons marking the trail going left, but these were for the 10km race. Since all the ribbons were the same color, I didn’t realize my mistake until I found myself on my way back to the finish line!

This, however, became a source of consternation as the marshals, who do not take bib numbers but guide racers at certain points (of course not the point of my wrong turn), thought I cut the course. Of course I did not and had proof I did not, but at the time they didn’t know that and was followed by guys on motorbikes for several miles before the race director got them off my back. A-ya.

At this point, I started sliding into the dark side. I was not only NOT going to make my time goal, but I could lose my first place standing. Combined with some nutrition issues due to drop bag malfunction; I thought I might just walk the final 25 miles. The “dark place” is something that ultra runners recognize and takes experience to be able to climb out of. It wasn’t until I took some more food, and was encouraged by a couple of guys I’d been running with through the day that I came through it and even burned brighter until the finish.

The finish line had a paparazzi feel as I was surrounded with photographers! It felt great to finish, even better to win, but had not expected to be found in the celebrity limelight! I had flashbacks to Unbreakable, and thought, this must be what it feels like to be Geoff Roes winning Western States (not that I’m even close to his ability). After I had had enough, I walked over the grass where I pressed sponge after sponge on my head and neck as I sat talking with my friends – I really wanted to hear about their own race experiences that day (they ran 50k). It is truly wonderful to finish a race and have friends greet you at the end!

winning TNF 100k

Thanks to all my friends for their support in my training and racing! Whether we run together in body or in spirit, I’m often thinking of you when I’m running!

This is the first race that I have ever done twice. Will I repeat a 3rd time? Not sure… It’s a good race, but not THAT great. So many races and places and so little time! My confidence and ability is growing and there are other projects around Asia that I’d like to explore.

Lessons learned:

  • Avoid drop bag malfunction – put plenty of food in each bag. The map of the course was confusing in that checkpoints weren’t labeled. I took the lady organizing the drop bags word thatyes, I’d be passing through check point #3 four times during the race, so I packed extra food in that one.  Nope, it was actually #1. Oops.
  • Aid stations at this race had only water, a Gatorade-like beverage, bananas, and watermelon (typical for Thailand). Therefore, to properly fuel for a competitive 100k race, having what you need in a drop bag is essential.
  • When the race is held in rural Thailand, don’t assume the resort at which the race is to be held will have any decent food to eat the night before. Needless to say, I didn’t start off with the pre-race fueling that I prefer!  
  • Don’t skimp on “time on feet”, strength exercises, or core training if you really want optimal performance.

YES!

ice cold sponges!

ice cold sponges!

the foot...

post-race massage: hurt so good!

post-race massage: hurt so good!

 

For those of you interested, my prizes for winnings included: 50,000 Thai Baht in vouchers to spend at The North Face Thailand store; Petzl aluminum compact trekking poles; Sigg bottle with special Thai design; a finisher’s medal and a ridiculously large trophy.


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Fall Tour 2012

I will soon be returning to the States for over two months but the schedule is packed! Below is a brief overview of where I’ll be and what I’ll be doing. The dates listed are fairly firm. However, opportunities for speaking at particular venues in those places are still being worked out. I hope that there will be an opportunity for me to meet as many of you as possible. If I’m going to be in your area and you would like to meet with me or host a gathering, please let me know.

SEPTEMBER

2 -6         Arrive Fort Wayne, IN

7-8          Hallucination 100 mile ultramarathon in Pickney, MI

9-11       Novi, MI. Speaking at Christ Covenant Church

12-15     Ft. Wayne

16-29     Sacramento, CA attending a Sexual Assault Forensic Exam training for healthcare professionals presented by the California Clinical Forensic Medical Training Center, UC Davis.

30 – 3     Orange County, CA

OCTOBER

4-10       Los Angeles area, meeting with community groups of Pacific Crossroads Church as well as meeting a number of other people involved in counter-trafficking efforts.

11-13     Lincoln, NE Interdisciplinary Conference on Human Trafficking at University of Nebraska-Lincoln I’m giving a talk on health and human trafficking

14-16     Denison, IA meeting with supporters and speaking at a local church

17-18     Ft. Wayne

20-21     Tussey Mountainback 50 mile ultramarathon

19-23     Upper Darby, PA (suburb of Philadelphia) to meet with Interserve HQ

24-27     Nashville, TN meeting with Abolition International

28-29     Fort Wayne

30-3       Grand Rapids, MI

NOVEMBER

4              Fort Wayne (LWCC)

5-7          Indianapolis, IN

8-10       Louisville, KY Global Missions Health Conference (I’m a Dean and Speaker)

11-12     Ft. Wayne (GCC)

13           Depart for Thailand

I’m very much looking forward to seeing so many of you!


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Huay Tung Tao Trek 6/12/24 Hour Endurance Run

Where to start when writing about this event? I’ll start with gratitude. Thank you Jesus for seeing me through the organization of this event, for all the help you provided, for the beautiful weather (one can expect a least a little rain in July), for keeping us healthy and safe, and for the wonderful place to run. I also must thank MANY other people, but that would take up too much space on this blog. The whole thing would have flopped without everyone pitching in to help and support one another. Entire families were involved and I feel like we became more like family through the event. Beautiful.

Runners at the start!

Although this was not my first crack at being a race director, a 24 hour endurance run is quite a bit different from a pot-luck “Cha-bu-duo”* 10km run! The idea came as sort of a whim as I was thinking of ways to prepare for my first 100 mile race in September. “I need to start practicing running at night, but what if I could practice running all night…” I mentioned this to a couple of my ChUG** friends and they thought that it was a good idea … or did they really say “good”? Anyway, I thought it was brilliant and went for it! Richard told me as we were setting up before the start, “I may not want to thank you later, so I’m thanking you now for having this brain-fart.”

A timed event, where runners run around a fixed loop and count how many loops they can do within the given time frame, is easier to do than a distance race. For example, I only had one major aid station and an unattended water/electrolyte stop halfway around. Furthermore, more people could participate as I made different time divisions: 6, 12, and 24 hour plus a 3-hour kids division!

A total of twenty-two people participated in the  – some were brave enough to travel from other parts of Thailand to participate in this inaugural event. Most people started on Friday evening, but a group of women opted to start on Saturday morning. I was delightfully surprised to see that they were Mennonite! One does not normally associate ultra-endurance events with such groups of people, but they love sport and there are plenty of athletes among them! I love it when people break the mold, break stereotypes and go for it!

The Mennonite women!

The most common question people asked me was, “Do you sleep at all during the 24 hours?” I actually did not know the answer to that. I had never run at night before, let alone all night, and then continue through the next day. Normally, I am NOT a night person – sun goes to bed, I follow close behind – so I was surprised at how NOT sleepy I was through the night. I don’t know whether it was the constant physical activity or just being hyped up about the event, but I never had the urge to lie down and close my eyes. I did take some caffeine, but not nearly enough to account for the alertness.

Amazingly, it didn’t rain as much as it could have as it is the middle of rainy season here. It rained early (about hours 2-3) and so I had to change from my regular shoes into my “miracle shoes” (the ones with 1400 miles on them – one of the kids named them) early on and ended up running most of the race in them.

Faith ran in the 3-hour kids division, then stayed all night, and all the next day to crew the runners! She also ran extra laps as a pacer with runners to support them. A budding ultramarathoner right here! She and her friend Adrianne were a jou I’m so proud of them!

Except for changing my shoes and socks after the rain stopped I never sat down. I didn’t even stop except for the brief hiatus to grab a drink or a bite to eat through the aid station marking each lap. I also took some brief time outs to award medals to participants as they finished – the race director’s privilege!

I suppose I could keep better track of what exactly I ate but generally it was a lot of watermelon, bananas, super-charged peanut butter balls, protein shake + coffee mix, Clif bars, and, the ultramarathoner’s surprise fuel: Coca-cola.

I started my 37th loop at hour 18. Seemingly suddenly, the level of pain that one normally endures at that point in a race jumped a few notches and I was no longer able to run – at least with a decent gait. I decided it was finally time to take a break, perhaps 20 minutes? I could do that and still make 100 miles. However, as I sat down my friend immediately noticed my angry red and very swollen ankle. I took one look and knew I was done – no amount of will to finish could override what I knew as a doctor: I needed to stop immediately or perhaps risk greater damage. I was not disappointed (another surprise)! I had done well and I needed to live to run another day. Besides, 137km (85.1 miles) in 18+ hours is not too shabby, and this was just a practice run for my first 100 miler in September!

Three of the 24 hour runners made it the full 24 hours and Brian cranked out 101 miles in just under the time!

Ajarn Dee, a statistics professor, is in my Bible Study and she came out to cheer me!

Although the event itself was not a fundraiser, I asked people to give towards my personal run and pledge a monetary amount per kilometer/mile run. Amazingly, I raised a total of $880 for my project Relentless!

Lessons learned:

  • I did not have the strength training in my legs that is needed to sustain my legs for such a long distance. Partly because I had been rehabbing some tendinitis in my knee in the weeks prior. Strangely, the knee didn’t bother me at all (argh).
  • I have a much better understanding of what it really takes to excel at such events, especially long distance road races, such as Badwater.
  • I can “DNF^” with dignity and for good reason.
  • I learned a lot about race-directing in Thailand and look forward to next year’s event!

I think everyone who participated or volunteered agrees that the event as a whole was a HUGE success and we are already planning one next year!

THANK YOU:

Sunday brunch celebrating with good friends – runners and volunteers!

Ryan, Richard, Ray, Heidi, Caleb, Henry, Ben, Faith, Adrianne, Karl, Ron, Connie, Sai, Jume, Rhea,  Jung, Atsuyuki-san, Ajarn Dee, and all the other people who came out to cheer and help! You guys have NO IDEA how grateful I am for all your support and help in the prep and putting this on. Atsuyuki-san says it was the attitude of the people involved that made this one of the best races he has ever attended!

For a slideshow of photos from the event, please visit this link. You can also visit the Facebook album. IF these links don’t work, please let me know!

*cha-bu-duo: Mandarin for “close enough” and also the name of an annual 10k in Shenyang, China that I organized in past years. The 4th Annual run happens 1 September!

**ChUG: Chiang Mai Ultrarunners Group

^DNF: did not finish


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Run for 24 Hours of Justice

Dear friends – just a reminder that the Huay Tung Tao Trek 6/12/24 hour Endurance Run is just 10 days away! I’m making this an opportunity to raise funds for RELENTLESS by asking people to pledge a monetary amount per mile (or kilometer) that I run. More details can be found on this earlier post. Whether or not you donate, please do think of me and my friends as we push ourselves to the limit for a good cause!

HTT Trek flyer


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2011 “Cha Bu Duo” Fun Run!

Last Saturday, 17 September, was the successfully fun second annual “Cha Bu Duo” 5km, 10km Fun Run! It is Shenyang’s premier running event –  it is the only running event in the city! For Mandarin-challenged readers, cha bu duo is Chinese for “more or less”, or “close enough”.

Thirty participants ran a 5km (new this year) or 10km course and the FUN is emphasized as there are no prizes for 1st, 2nd, or 3rd – every finisher gets a medal – and of course everyone finishes! Dunkin’ Donuts (the real thing!) were waiting for us at the end, along with water, bananas, and other potluck goodies.

The Run For Your Life Club! Way to go!

Personally, to have a bunch of people gathered to do one of my favorite activities is like a bit party celebration and a super way to end my time in Shenyang. I ran my “cha bu duo” marathon with a 20 mile warm up before the 10k. My Garmin said that I ran 26.29 miles in 3:39 – another BQ and not bad for stopping to take photos during the 10k part! It was a pleasure to serve as race director, do a bit of coaching, and get everyone pumped for the event! This was a big day for some as they participated in their first ever 5 or 10 km run and the first time they ever got a medal placed around their neck. I am so proud of them!

proud finishers!

This year I decided to make it a charity event to raise money for Chinese families who foster abandoned children. Families can get some support from the government but it is often not enough to cover some essentials necessary for proper development. We want these children to receive the best and these families who care for special needs children need our support. Last Saturday, we raised 2800 rmb ($439)! Thank you everyone! Way to go!

After the run, people were asking what is going to happen to the “Cha Bu Duo” next year as I left Shenyang this week. I can’t make any promises, but it would be grand to return to put this on again. As much as I can be in charge of my schedule, I’ll try to do it. I do have ongoing projects in the country, why not make the visits around September? Who knows what can happen?

Eva and I enjoying our reward! YUM!