Holiday in Cambodia…

Once the sense of achievement and aching pain of climbing and ascending 24000ft, 800 mile road trip, 24 miles of hiking/scrambling/sprawling/running and 40 hours of being awake had worn off, I felt that there was a huge void in my life which had to be immediately plugged. Coming off the buzz of the UK 3 Peaks Challenge (blog entry coming soon…) can only be described as cold turkey. OK maybe it was because the coming down part (‘turkeying’) actually started in Scotland (which coincidentally instantly gave me cravings for offal, deep fried Mars Bars and heroin) but it quickly became apparent that after the euphoria was over, something had to be penned on the calendar, else ‘fat bastardom’ awaited.

The idea of entering a Spartan Race came soon after I got back from a 3 year sabbatical in Malaysia, where it was that my love affair for running started. The demise of the Expat Lions (my beloved football team in KL) left me again piling on the pounds due to the incredible culinary delights the East had to offer. So I recall (vaguely) a party when a fellow guest suggested to a drunken me at the time to sign up for a half marathon. In Cambodia. Like you do. So I recall after the said party (and there may well be a bit of poetic licence here – I’ll let you be the judge) that I blearily logged on to the Ankor Wat Marathon website and duly signed the virtual dotted line and climbed the wooden hilltop to Bedfordshire. Sitting there unopened in my Gmail box when I awoke the next day was the confirmation email with messages of warm welcomes and good fortunes for the coming 13.2 miles.

So there I was sat on the sofa after signing up for the race (without permission from the ‘significant other’ which is a rare occurrence) thinking should I or shouldn’t I, and if I should (which I obviously did) then I needed to get some training in pretty damn quick. So after having gone to the local sports depot to buy some running shoes, vests, shorts, socks, fanny bag, rehydration powders and mixer, blister plasters, vaseline and fem fresh (it works on nads too gents) I was ready to rock. As Malaysia is not the coldest place in the world, I decided it was in my best interests to start in the gym downstairs attached to the condo. Starting off on the treads, Arctic Monkeys and QOTSA were my playlists of choice, the formers’ album being of 30 minutes in length and of great tempo (although Brainstorm being the first song was a bit on the fast side). Over the coming weeks, I slowly started to push myself and began to get in shape finishing the 5km sessions the with songs to spare on the playlist.

There obviously came a time when I knew I had to brave the tropical heat / storms and venture outside. When I did it was tough. Very tough. Luckily we had moved to a house further out from the town centre which rather nicely had a 9 hole golf course as a back garden, ideally fitted with a path I used as a running track. To keep us motivated for the big one, Tom (aforementioned Scottish party dweller and enticer of runners) and I put ourselves in for a 10km race in KL (Mizuno wave) and when the time came, as best prepared as we could be, went for it (I recall we sang 500 miles by The Proclaimers at the top of our lungs as we approached the finishing line much to the annoyance of the local iPod bearers). I didn’t break the 1 hour barrier that time (1h00m30s to be precise), but the sense of achievement on reaching the finishing line in the 35c+ heat was something to remember, forever.

When it came to the Ankor Wat Race, I was in good shape. The day before the race saw us doing the tourist thing around Ton Le Sap Lake (with floating Vietnamese villages aplenty) and the Ankor complex which was a jaw-droppingly visual orgasm. After the now mandatory chicken pasta meal that night (in a restaurant which served ‘Magic Pizzas’ which we gracefully declined), we were good to go. The temperatures on the day were around 16c, so much like Bob Beaumon training at altitude before the Olympics, I felt like the extensive and exhausting session back in the KL tropics put us in good stead for the 13 miles that lay ahead. Tom quickly fell behind needing a crap (allegedly – there will be a thistle bush growing on the spot if he did) so off I went enjoying the clear blue skies, lifeless mirror-like lakes and marvelling at the ancient world in which I found myself. The best thing about the whole race for me were the kids. All the villagers young and old lined the route, with kids holding their hands up for high 5’s to which and dutifully obliged to every single one. It was a very humbling a rather emotional experience, knowing the plight of the Cambodians during the Pol Pot regime and the incredible warmth offered during my whole stay. It was the kids that kept me going. I recall after about 11 miles starting to tire, but in the distance I could see another group of kids standing with arms aloft, which spurred me on towards the finishing line. The last 2 miles were tough though. Looking in my fanny bag I still had some NutriGrain type bars, sweets, chewing gum and the likes, so as I got nearer the finishing line I started to hand them out to the kids, including my sweat bands (one soaked one which didn’t go down too well) and eventually the fanny bag itself. So I got my head down for the last mile. Looking at the watch it said around 1:53m. I thought that there was a slight chance that I could break the 2 hour barrier so summoning up the last energy reserves and went for it. As I rounded the last corner I could see the Timex clock over the finishing line which still said 1 hour something. I crossed the line in 1h59m36s shattered, but in awe of everything, the country, the people, my performance. ‘I’s feeling emotional’ as the bird from Gavin and Stacey would say. Tom and I also managed to blag our way into a secret gig behind Ankor Wat temple that evening (Tom having his big Nikon camera with him and me wearing my Smiths Meat is Murder t-shirt – pretending to journo’s) to see Placebo play an anti-Human Trafficking show, only to be turfed out by the officials just before they came on stage. Shame…

During the remainder of my stay in the East I also ran a 7k (37m30s), 12k (1h04m54s) and a 20k (1h52m08s) in KL, the best performance of all being the 20k as I was the third ‘gwi-lo’ in (translated as the white ghost). When I returned to Blighty, I completed the Asics 10k (50m12s), the Liverpool Half Marathon (in a disappointing 1h56m20s), but smashed the Liverpool 10k Tunnel Race in 47m15s arguably my best performance so far. So a rather long winded way of getting around to the origins of the Spartan Race entry I’m sure you will agree.

So then, the Spartan Race…

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