Saturday, June 05, 2010

Running in Taipei

A curiously inappropriate inflatable, methinks
I was at a loose end when I got to Taipei, so after getting in a strange man's car and being charged about 500 NTD over the odds to be driven from the airport to my hotel, I spent the afternoon not sure what to do, and conscious that I had the ActionAsia race the next day and didn't want to wear myself out running to and from between different tourist attractions.

On the other hand, I couldn't get the internet connection in the hotel room to work, so I couldn't lie on the bed wasting my life looking at the combined pointlessness of the world. I compromised by taking the train to Taipei 101, buying some depressing books, and eating lunch in Caf'e Grazie (their apostrophes, not mine) before going back to the hotel and buying a footlong from Subway.

Not that I was going to be greedy and eat the footlong. Not after a vaguely unsatisfying Italian meal on a table next to a high-volume bunch of Taiwanese kids, yelling and hooting at the top of their voices. No, I was preparing for the race. Preparing by storing a sandwich in the fridge in my room.

This isn't the best sort of race preparation; I'm sure there's better breakfasts you could plan if you put your mind to it. But it was wet out and I had scant spare brain capacity to devote to this task.

I woke up bright and early on Saturday. At five a.m. Shame I had to get up at seven, really. I went back to sleep, woke up at seven fifteen (my alarm having failed to make any noise when it went off) and I dressed, scarfed down half the footlong and then caught a taxi down to the race.

The rain was coming down; not hard, but that kind of hanging-in-the-air, misty precipitation where everything seems to be soaked through after a couple of minutes. Race HQ was chaotic as ever; one queue to find your number, one queue to hand in a form indemnifying the organisers from any liability, another queue to get your number, one more to pick up your free vest and hat. I walked around the outside of the temple and wondered if it wasn't a bit sacrilegious to have an enormous bright pink inflatable arch outside for the race start. There weren't any angry looking Buddhists about so I guess not.

The race started with a steep uphill. Then a bit of flat, then uphill. Then more uphill. And a bit more uphill. If that sounds like it lacked variety, then not at all; some of it was wet slippery tarmac. Some of it was thick mud. Some of it was slippery wet rocks, or rocks covered in mud, or thick mud full of rocks, and once you were feeling ragged from running up some of it, the trail would head straight down and you'd be slipping and sliding and trying not to fall over.

At about a mile in, I felt like I was going to die. Perhaps wearing my rain jacket had been a bad idea after all; I was soaking from the inside out, rather than the outside in, so I stopped to remove it, lost a few places and then felt a lot better to be able to shed some of the excess heat. And it was hot. Temperatures of 32 had been predicted; it was only about 25 because of the rain, but with the humidity in the woods you were sweating throughout. For a long time I was running right behind somebody else, and the heat coming off his body was palpable; I'd slip back a bit, find cooler air, speed up, get on his heels and feel myself overheating again. Oh, and I could taste that Subway footlong rather too well, as though it was readying itself for a return to my mouth. Like I said, not the best preparatory meal.

It was chastening to find how slow I was downhill, compared to some fearless people. Then again, it was chastening to find how slow I was uphill too. Or on the flat. Or being incapable of crossing a log bridge because I found myself scared of heights. Still, I only fell over once – a jarring slip downhill where my left knee got very angry at me for what I was putting it through. Still we continued on.

It was an interesting course – up and down and through various temples and back gardens. One of the front runners was bitten by a dog – I wasn't, so there are some perks to running more slowly. Losing the ability to run in a straight line, I ventured off path once onto what I thought was a grassy lawn, and which turned out to be an algae-covered pond that tried to suck my foot in. I began to wish I had waterproof socks.

The last part was painful and not enjoyable. We came down to a tarmac climb at the 8km mark, which went on for half a k, then up a flight of steps back to the temple, and culminated with a mad dash to the finish on shiny wet stone. How I didn't just skid off and fall flat on my ass I don't know. But then like that, in a not-too-awful-for-the-longest-run-you've-done-in-most-of-a-year performance, I was finished, in an hour and twenty six minutes, and then spent ages faffing around waiting for the prizegiving, hoping for the random prizes (which won't be given out until tonight in a bar that I don't know how to get to), before going home to eat the rest of the footlong and pass out for a while, disturbed only by reception ringing up again and again to ask if they could clean my room.

No, they could not. I needed to rest my aching body between clean sheets and lapse in and out of consciousness, thank you very much.

After the race

1 comments:

statusviatoris said...

There you are upsetting air traffic with another testosterone fug, whereas I just went out and stuffed my face with pizza and gelato... I am ashamed, very ashamed. Hats off to you Mr Zero, sir. Can I suggest that you reward yourself with something rather more nutritionally-sound than a foot-long? Your body is a temple, after all ;-)

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