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Great Wall Marathon
Thursday, 24 May 2012 07:11

Great Wall Marathon 

The big details blog - scroll down for Saturday 19th for the actual run, this one details the whole trip and adventure.


Monday 14th May - On the road!!

A long flight to Hong Kong but fairly uneventful. I watched 4 movies on the plane - Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Young Adult, Bridesmaids and .  Goodness, I sobbed and sobbed and sobbed during the 9/11 movie (loud and close).  Very good - for one of those nights on the couch when you want to cry.

Very smooth through customs in HK and we found the shuttle bus to the Novotel quickly. 31 degrees on arrival, and very muggy.  The hotel was as I remembered, a drink in the hotel bar before bed (mandarin and raspberry vodka w raspberries and mint - very refreshing).  A shower and bed.  Although I realised I forgot to pack my face cream.  Sounds like a duty free purchase is necessary.

Tuesday 15th - Honk Kong to Beijing

Up early (5.45) like usual, and got organized for a run. The first km we felt soo stiff. And then we started sweating.  A lot.  I guess I'm quite used to it from yoga, but it was really sweaty.  The hr was quite elevated, especially Beck's, so we kept it very slow.  We ran out along the bay, seeing so many Chinese people walking and doing their funny exercises - one bloke went for a swim, and one lady offered to take our picture.  There was a national park over the road, but the hills were very steep and we weren't sure where to access the paths, so the short, 7.5 km flat course suited us fine.  Back at the hotel, we stretched in the gym, then had a quick outdoor swim before the big buffet breakfast.

My first migraine hit me part way through breakfast with ferocity.  I had a couple of Panadol straight away, and my eyes settled within about 20 minutes, leaving my head feeling very bruised.  We checked out (bar and breakfast cost less than $60 for both of us - not bad for an international hotel), and went to check out the outlet mall next to the hotel.  Nothing open, but we had a short wander (Columbia had 6 columns of trail shoes!!) and then found the supermarket. Australian yogurt (gippsland, tamar valley, yoplait) as well as numerous foreign brands, Aussie muesli bars, crazy fruit that looked amazing, a fresh meat market that we avoided, and almost everything available.  It gave us heart that in beijing, we will likely see plenty of very familiar foods.  Actually, those of you that know me and the eating adventures that I've done, know that this was for Beck's benefit rather than mine :)  Given that most places were shut and that we didn't need anything from the supermarket, we collected our bags, checked out and got onto the shuttle for the airport. The second migraine hit me there.  Advil this time.  At HK airport, I moved my panadeine from my suitcase into my handbag for just-in-case.

Once again, check in was easy, customs was easy and we were through to the other side.  I found my face cream duty free (slightly cheaper than melbourne), then we caught the train to our terminal, and had an uneventful flight to Beijing.  There was not a lot to be seen from the plane flying over except for the sheer size off it - high density housing and high rises scattered over a very large area.  A nuclear power plant (I think), just over the road.  There was a smoggy haze, but it was not awful, and we certainly didn't notice it to breathe.  Having said that, I'm glad I don't need to run in it here.

The airport was big and officious. Customs lines were horrendous and the officers stern and unsmiling. The bags were off quickly (before most others on our flight got through customs) and through we went.  We found the GWM signs and a hurried lady on the phone constantly. What is it with Chinese and shouting on the phone?? There was three or four other groups of people, and she was trying to arrange transport.  Despite having a list of all our names and the flights we were on, she did not attempt to group us, although we tried. We waited over an hour until she had a car for us while 2 other groups of Aussies were transported to the same hotel.  We walked 20 minutes (I walked and Beck trotted) to the car in a cavernous car park and then we hit the road.  I am still not sure of the road rules here, but the main arterials are wide and busy and you change lanes when ever you like and with no regard for other vhicles.  I didn't see any cyclists or scooters get knocked off, but I don't know how.  We did see a bingle between two taxis, leaving one bumper on the road, and we did feel sorry for the ambulance with its lights on but no possibility of getting anywhere in a hurry.  Especially sorry for them when we cut in front.  Another hour or so in the car, and we got to our hotel in a former newspaper building on a wide and major road - 6 lanes in each direction with the 6th used for bikes and scooters and a barrier in the middle to really keep things flowing.  There is a big mall only 500m away or so, so we figured we'd find water there.  The road is the main central east / west road, with Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden city down the road.

We were checked into a smoking room, so the first job was to change that, and coincidently meet Felicity from Travelling Fit who was keen to hear of our experiences.  She was sorting out other issues.  So we went for our walk.  The mall is, in fact, massive, with every brand name you've heard of and many you haven't. The supermarket was eventually found, buried about a km in!!!  As in HK, there were a lot of very familiar brands - Devondale milk, Evian water, Oreos.  We each bought about 6 liters of water and some bananas. The other fruit looked amazing, but with no knife, cutting board and doubts about water, none of the rest was an option.  But I did pay about $3 for 9 bananas. Happy days.  We then had to walk to 20 mins back through the mall and over the 2 highways to get home with our liters of water.

Dinner in the hotel of mainly veggies, with some mushroom and noodle soup ($20 for both of us, incl. soft drink), then a shower (doesn't drain so floods the bathroom), tv (no volume on it, dunno why), and an early night on the softest mattress I've encountered in china, but harder than anything at home.

Wednesday 16th May 

Awake early after a good sleep, and waited for the pool to open at 7 so we can have a swim before breakfast.  The pool is hilarious. You walk in and are given a locker key which contains your towel and plastic flip flops. You must wear a bathing cap, so we got our complimentary shower caps from the room.  You must shower before swimming, complete with Vidal Sassoon shampoo, then you walk through a shallow pool before descending a (marble) stairs case with wet feet to the Turkish bath / blue grotto themed pool complete with Juliet style staircase, Egyptian pyramid reliefs on the walls, Turkish blue mosaics and painted blue glass panels in the ceiling.  But it is quite large and chest depth, and nice.  And hilarious.

A short swim, a shower, buffet breakfast and collected our marathon packs. These have our t shirt (enormous orange men's shirt), timing chip, bibs, tickets and the handbook.  Record for this course is 3 hrs 50 for women. Hmmmm, that was my time for a flat course in New York.  We then started our long tourist day.  Tour groups move slowly, with soo much waiting.   According to the map, Tiananmen Square is only a few big blocks from the hotel, but the bus had to go a long way around, and enter from the other side, so it took us 30 mins or so to get there.  Funny, scary driving again, but I didn't think to get it on film.  Later in the day, there was much less impressive traffic behavior when I was holding the camera.

Tiananmen Square is 'the square of heavenly peace'. It was crowded, but the biggest crowds were lined up to see Chairman Mao's tomb the line was hundreds of meters long. The national museum and parliament building are on the east and west sides of the square, chairmans tomb is in the south and the forbidden palace is to the north.  In the middle of the square OSA column, flanks by two long and imposing stone tv screens.  Yup.  The Chinese have done it again.  Big stone memorial looking things, which, once we progressed past them, were in fact huge tv screens, showing tourism ads and then with some words on them. tiananmen square is 44 hectares and can hold 1 000 000 troops or civilians. China has the biggest army in the world with 2 300 000 soldiers.

The forbidden palace was built in only 15 years from 1406 - 1420 by the emporer in the Ming dynasty.  In the 1600's, the Ming dynasty ended and the Qing dynasty ruled until the end of the dynastic period in 1911.  The royal family were permitted to remain there until 1925, however, when it became a museum.  It is the largest palace museum complex in the world.  Not surprising - it is over 70 hectares. The Chairmans smiling face is on the wall facing the square, flanked by two signs. The one on the left reads 'Immortality to the people of the Chinese republic'. The other reads 'Immortality to the Peoples consolidation of the globe'. Chinese domination.  Not likely, not yet.  They're too disorganized.  But just look out for when they do.

The palace was huge (9000 rooms, although we didn't go in any) with multiple buildings, halls, gates and courtyards. Lots of not-bamboo roofs, red walls and fancy friezes.  Lots of marble and stone flagstones, very worn.  Courtyard areas called gardens with not even a weed to disturb the stone flooring.  Honestly, it was so noisy with hundreds of tour groups going through, many with microphones and horrid distorted amplification, a tour guide whose English was often difficult to understand, and who told long winded stories, it all got a bit monotonous.  And it was hot, with clear blue sky (and a stiff breeze in the morning), and so much standing around. I got a little sun burnt.

We were starving by the time we got to lunch at another hotel. There were many, many marathoners from all over there, but we were all seated at different tables, so there wasn't any mingling.  They brought out red wine and light beer in tall bottles - I laughed to see 3 long necks plonked on the table as soon as we sat down - it brought back memories of last time I was here with Charlie.  2 little bottles of water for 10 of us.  Which they were very tardy about replacing.  The food was great - no idea what most of it was, although there was a fish dish and there was a sweet and sour pork which I enjoyed.  There were sticky black beef balls, chicken with smoked chili, veggies, green tea, and the piece de resistance, Peking duck carved with much ceremony and put on the table in funny little duck shaped plates.  We were shown how to construct our Peking duck pancakes, dipping the duck meat in some sauce, placing it on the pancake and adding either cucumber or shallot, wrapping and eating it.  They were wheat pancakes - wheat is grown in northern china, rice in the south.  They then showed us what to do with the sugar they had placed on the table - take some duck skin (with plenty of fat) and plonk it on the sugar. Then eat it.  Turns out - it is very tasty.  Who'd have thought it - sugar and salted crispy fat is good.  Most of my favorite craving type foods have sugar and fat in it together!!  

From our Peking duck lunch, it was off to the silk factory. The tour was fairly quick, but still showing us all the steps like last time.  I bought a quilt, which was good value, and a silk cover, which was perhaps  less good value.  But it feels lovely.  Then we went up to look at the clothes. Remarkably familiar. I found my pajamas, milla's nightie, Charlie's nightie and a dressing gown similar to mine. I didn't buy anything (I had bought milla a size 12 nightie last time - 3 years ago- and the largest kids size was a 14 and the ladies gear was a bit nanna) there but Beck bought nighties, Jammie's, dressing gown and cheongsam dress.  Very pretty.

On the way back to the hotel, our guide, Vik, did what the Chinese do best - he hustled. We were all invited to come to his room between 7 and 9 to see some knock off north face gear (it was all a little short in the body), or to book a massage with people who can come to the room.  We did go for that option.  So a quick trip to the supermarket for more water and some yogurt (and some Chinese lollie's) and then a full body massage for 90 minutes for $30. Awesome.  The ladies started on our faces with a lovely 'Greens Olive balm', into the scalp, and then the limbs with Clarins orchidee bleu. Then they put some Chinese medicine tea into a plastic bag to soak our feet for a few minutes before doing the foot massage.  The bandy part of my left foot apparently corresponded with a heart condition, but she didn't say anything about the same sore spot on the right.  It was lovely.

Dinner in the hotel restaurant again.  I was completely not hungry, but Beck was, so I still ate. Greens, sesame pancake, soup and veggie dumplings.  The dumplings came with a cider vinegar dipping sauce rather than soy.  They were good. Another good sleep on the completely non soft bed.

Thursday 17th May - Inspection day

A rude, rude phone call at 5 am to wake us for our 6 am breakfast and alleged 6.30 departure (it was after 7 before we left) for the three and a half hour trip to the Wall.  Less than an hour in was the first loo break - all the buses are doing the trip today, so there were hundreds of runners all trying to manage the Chinese loos and not necessarily prepared with tissues or soap.  Funny.  The city fairly quickly turns to countryside and dilapidated buildings, slow road works and the usual crazy drivers. Our first glimpse of wall was very exciting. Way  up high on the ridge, winding across the range.

We got to Huanghyong town, off the bus and walked through the fortress area to Yin Yang square which will be the start and finish point of the run.  In fact, at the briefing, we were shown that we will pass through the square 4 times during the marathon.  There are 2300 people running on Saturday of which 900 are doing the marathon, 350 are women. So we are in a pretty select group. We were seated on very old fibreglass seats in small grandstands, that left us all with fibreglass splinters in our butts.  I saw a group from 'his and her time', an Adelaide based personal training company.  I met the boss, Anna, on a couple of runs last year - she did her first marathon in Melbourne last year, running a 3.35 and therefore a Boston qualifier, so she will do that next year.

After our briefing we were driven 4.5 km to the section of wall we will run on.  All uphill.  This was a great idea.  A chance to see the wall, marvel at it, take a bazillion photos, explore and get an appreciation of how steep sections are, how deep the stairs are, how slippery or rough other parts are.  It took us 35 minutes to walk the first km, with all the stopping and admiring going on.  The towers were very cool, and there was a great breeze whipping through in many places.  It was another hot sunny, blue skied day for us, so the pictures look great.  It was lovely as well to be able to chat to other people from around the world(100 countries are represented).  One American guy is doing the 7 continents and did Durban in South Africa and Rosario in Argentina as his other southern hemisphere runs.  He hasn't got to Australia yet, but is considering the Solar Eclipse and the Outback marathons.  A British guy ran the Himalayan 100 recently - 106 miles over 5 days in the Himalayas, with upto 24 miles and 5000m of elevation covered at a time.  He said it was an amazing experience. No kidding.

Lunch was yucky - meant to be subway, but with thousand island dressing and sweetened soggy bread, but the bananas were good.  Too much waiting around again to leave, and we were piled onto different buses to get back.  The leg room was terrible, so I had one knee over in Becks space and my other leg in the aisle for the 3 hour drive back.  We hit peak hour traffic, but got back to the hotel in time for another massage.  This one was terrible.  They used rose smelling Lancôme product (obviously, whatever falls off the truck), and my girl was tough but not very well trained.  Becks girl was tinkerbell, completely untrained, and very very tired by the process.  My temple is bruised and I suspect T4 is also bruised, along with my tibia being released.  Tinkerbell was hilarious in. The stuff she was trying to do to beck.  At one point I thought, that sounds very slappy, so I looked across, and she was indeed being slapped on the back.  Not much massage.

We went out to an acrobatic show that looked like it was performed by a high school group, although the 5 motorcycles in the circle of death was impressive.  Dinner was cancelled (not enough interest), so we went around to the railway station and got some Chinese fast food. Beck couldn't eat it even though it was beef and chicken - too fatty.  I managed.  I survive.

Friday 18th May

Another day, another trip.  Wake up, swim, breakfast, bus, wait.  Get off bus, wait.  Traveling with a group is very hard work.  Our 3.5 hour trip turned into a 6 hour trip.  We started at the temple of heaven which was built at the same time as the forbidden city (600 years ago). The emporer would pray at the winter solstice for good harvests the following year.  He would fast and meditate for 4 days, no concubines, whilst the eunuchs swept the streets and covered them with golden sand.  He would then walk the 4 km, trying not to kill even an ant, which would bring bad luck.

The park surrounding it was pretty and well used by the retirees.  Compulsory retirement happens at 50 for women and 55 for men, to keep youth unemployment low.  No pension, so they have to live cheaply, especially as the life expectancy in Beijing is over 80 years.  So, lots and lots of bikes parked in very neat rows out the front, and the park was full of groups of oldies exercising. Tai chi, sword dancing, aerobics, ballroom dancing, hacky sack (with feathers), badminton, choir, pop singing.  Often amplified to an awful crackle. But a great way to keep fit, socialize, and help give some structure to the day.  One of our guides pointed out that he and his wife have 8 old people to support, plus their child.

After a couple of hours, we went to lunch - another banquet where they held the water back from us - and then to the pearl market. This was a five sort building with little stalls in it, where the idea was to haggle the price down on the fake goods they were selling.  There were pearls and jewelry, silk clothes, north face and jack wolfskin, handbags and wallets, and electronics, but I didn't actually see them. It was noisy, and if you even glanced at an item, you were hounded to buy.  We were hot, tired and sick of being in a group and sick of the noise and harassment, so we decided to walk back to the hotel as we were assured that it was only a 10 minute walk that way, then turn right.  Hmmmm.  I wasn't convinced but we headed off.  After 30 minutes we could see the train station to our right so headed towards that, knowing we can at least get home from there.  It took us 45 minutes to get home, stopping to buy a slab of water (1 yuan per 530ml bottle - about 15 cents each).

Back at home, a chance to potter and get ready for tomorrow, and even have a snooze, before the pasta dinner, and an early night.

Saturday 19th May - marathon day

The alarm was set for 2.30 am, but the neighbors came home very raucous at 1 which woke both of us - I had to make sure we hadn't over slept. I then didn't sleep properly again until we did get up at 2.20.  A shower, many protein shakes, a banana and the last minute checking of stuff.  Sunscreen applied (at 3 am, it feels really unnecessary), lube applied to armpits and down for the bus for a 3.30 departure.  Of course, that meant it was a 3.55 departure.  E long buried through quiet streets, the sun coming up over the mountains, seeing many other buses headed the same way. We got to the start village by 6.30 as planned, and joined the queue for the toilet that was snaking its way around for 50 meters or so.

There was music pumping and a sense of nervous anticipation in the air.  The official warmup started with a couple of Chinese aerobics instructors yelling at people to join in - I figured I don't normally warm up, so why start now?  It went for over 20 minutes and included squats and star jumps.  Most unnecessary. I wanted to go to the loo again, but this time the line was even worse, so I went to the '3rd class' facility around the back of the tents. It was another toilet block, but they had dispensed with stalls and tiles.  There were 5 small concrete troughs over which to 'do your business' and a Danish girl was just pulling up her tights when I came in.  I stopped for a moment, then shrugged and chose my trough.  I was going to take a picture when I was done but other girls kept coming in, so I couldn't - it just didn't seem right.

I had been placed in corral 1 and Beck in corral 2, so we both waited around for the second start at 7.36am. The gun went off, and we shuffled a bit before being able to run.  Out of the square and on to the road, heading for the road up to the wall.  The first km or so was flat, and it wasn't until my watched beeped almost a km in that I realised it wanted to put itself to sleep and hadn't started when I went over the line like I thought it had.  So I started it there.  We ran most of the way up the hill, although Becks heart started to do its thing before the three km mark and we walked for a bit, but we're able to run again, keeping things slow and steady.  A toilet stop up here, and then onto the wall (nervous runners do lots of loo stops).

It was slow going - very crowded, so you couldn't even go at a pace that had some exertion attached. The whole section of the wall was like that.  Horrid bottle necks, a chance to stand around and admire the view, and to talk to the people around.  I spoke to a girl from Seattle who is studying mandarin in Beijing and has been here for 18 months.  She told me a lot. We hung out with Jordie and Joe for some of it, and Mari- Mar. Once we finally, finally got off the wall (2 x 30 minute km's, anyone?) we were able to stretch out and actually run.  Our first 10k was done in an hour and a half, I think, and we got to the 13 km mark after 2 hours.

We knew we had about 26 km of 'flat' running through 4 different villages. Once we left the main road, we were on a very rocky road for a while, through the first village and then we split from the half marathon group.  We went up a long slow incline, looking forward to getting to the end of it.  Along a tree lined street, chatting to a Frenchman living in Shanghai (his kids are at an international school there, a very competitive system, with a class of 16 kids and a full time English teacher and a full time French teacher. The kids are becoming fluent in all 3 languages, and it costs $15 000 per year - same as our private schools with bigger class sizesand only 1 teacher). I also sang 'Allouette' a few times.  Beck just held on behind, listening to the conversation.

Up the hill, that went on and on and on. We caught up to Jordie and walked with her a while, even sharing a stop in the toilet tent - just a tent, no floor, and no apparent hole or trough to aim for.  It did the job.  As we got to the 27km mark together, I stated that there was only 15 km to go - this looks entirely manageable.  Jordie almost weed herself.  Over the whole run, I had a couple of bananas and Gatorade was available at a couple of stops, but I think there were 28 water stops in total.  Lots of water, handed out in bottles, so you were able to take it and save it for later, tip it over your head, carry some for your friend.  I carried a spare 4 gels for Beck as well as the bottle of water, but she never really needed it.

After the hill, the long slow downhill, and then a very rough road, where I ran ahead after my trail training.  Into another little village where I stopped to take some pictures and video waiting for Beck, and then we ran together back to the main town and the yin yang square.  This road seemed to take a long time, and Beck struggled, but we agreed to keep jogging it rather than walking.  We went through yin yang square in about 4 hours, so thought we were on track.  But Beck was already running on empty.  She said that this was harder than labour, and half an hour later, she said it was probably like doing a twin breech labour at home.

After leaping through the square, it was back up the stairs and on the wall to the goat track again.  Going up here, so many people sitting, resting, eating, stretching.  We headed up the track and the stairs, I took more video and Beck kept putting one foot ahead of the other. Jordie left us behind and kept going ahead.  One km here took 34 minutes.  The next one took 30 minutes. Beck was crawling up stairs and I have the pictures to show she was not alone. Many strapping young men struggling at least as badly. One South African bloke said it was hard. I said that "most good things are hard, at least for a while".  I waited a beat, then said, you could've made a joke there.  He said he was too tired and slow for the joke. Maybe tomorrow.

We ran with a couple of South African guys for a while (a lady from southern California had to ask where they were from - the accents and the flag weren't enough for her) who were doing it as tough as Beck. We went back and forth for a while, and before we knew it, after almost an hour and a half, we finally came down off the wall.  For reference, there is almost no flat section of the wall, it is all either up or down. We then had 5 km to go, mostly downhill.  Beck was struggling with terrible leg cramps.  Sarah came running past, feeling pretty good, a lad from Adelaide was hit with cramps so had to walk, and the South African boys had to walk - they finished almost 30 mins after us. The last couple of km were long and slow. Beck kept battling all sorts of pains and suffering, and burst into tears as we approached the square. We crossed the line, got our medals, and stopped.  Beck was completely spent.  I have the Garmin link here, so check out the elvation and so on, and ignore the aberrant HR bits - my max is 180, not 238.

I would have loved a shower, but we wanted to get home, and the line was long.  Mind you, the bus trip was very long. One girl was sick, vomiting several times, so we stopped.  The driver was very sweet, giving her water, tissues and plastic bags as needed.  Another girl needed to wee at one of the vomit stops, even though we were on the side of the road, so the bus driver gave her friend an umbrella to help give her some privacy.  The traffic once we left the actual designated convenience stop was appalling - the heaviest we have seen. So slow, so crowded.  Our bus driver was a legend in terms of organization - unexpected in China. We had 4 different hotel stops, but they were all on the same main road.  So when we got to the first one, he didn't even especially pull over and got the people at the first 2 hotels to get out and walk the block or so to their hotel.  Another km or so down the road, we stopped to let people off for the third hotel, then another km or two, we stopped opposite our hotel to let us off.  It meant we had to walk down to the underpass and up the other side, which Beck (and many others) found difficult, but we got home.  Ahhh.  Straight down to the pool, using the shower there first before a 15 minute dip, another shower, a quick dinner and bed by 7.30.

Sunday 20th May

City of people tour - the Summer Palace, very pretty, a 'dragon' boat ride across the lake, a hotpot lunch (two attempts to get the right restaurant), a rickshaw tour through a 'genuine' hutong complete with artificial lake (that actually connects via canals to the moat of the forbidden palace) with many minor crashes and much hilarity, a visit to a tea showroom and purchase of tea (added bonus of free 'pee pee boy' novelty which is a clay boy statuette that when doused with hot water, will pee cold water out) and then home.  Another 7 hour tour, but much more pleasant as we were a group of only 10 for most of it, allowing us more mixing and interacting and less waiting.

A brief rest at the hotel then off to the gala dinner.  It was held in the Beijing hotel only a few blocks from our hotel, in a huge ball room built for Chairman Mao to dance with someone.  We had some very funny cultural entertainment - drumming girls in gold sparkly dresses and water on the drum who came out a little later with fake string instruments to mime playing along to classical pop stuff.  Then some actual musicians playing traditional Chinese instruments.  The race director guy (actually, I think he was from an international Marathon group) spoke a few times, showed a video of the race yesterday, showed a promo clip for the other adventure marathon races (polar circle, big five and solar eclipse), and had a few people who won events come up to the stage. The 21 km was won by an Aussie woman - she looks like a real runner, and did it in 1.53.  I'm not sure how old she is, but she definitely looked to be in her 50's.

A big buffet that was not very nice, but a wonderful moment happened. A girl asked me if I was Victoria?  Toogood?  She then told me we were at the same high school - she was 2 years below me. And she recognized me from 22 years ago.  :-) she lives in Vancouver now, working for an Australian engineering firm.

I met Gary from the UK who I had spoken to on Thursday - he did the Himalayan 100 mile event and stated that none of those days were as bad as the marathon yesterday, which he did in 7 hours 41. And on the bus to the after party I met Gavin - my 'hard man' from yesterday!!  Much excitement on finding him.  Sadly I was seated next to a girl who works for the US air force (she told me that was military, helped me out) in South Korea. Reminded me that military intelligence is an oxymoron.  A bit like Chinese organization.

The bus dropped us off at a corner and left, but someone seemed to know we needed to cross the road.  We walked along another high end shopping mall and then onto a narrower street lined with street food stalls and noisy little clubs.  Eventually, we got to a guy holding a sign labeling a place as the after party and up we went. 6 flights of stairs. The club had three small crowded areas with chairs and tables that were all occupied, a long line for the loos and a long line for the bar.  Bar prices were steep at $22 for 3 beers. 6 vodkas would cost $70. This was way more than any other bar that anyone had bought drinks at (I had to take their word for it, as I didn't buy any at these prices, nor drink anyone else's). After half an hour or so, a lot of people seemed to leave as it wasn't good for mingling and it was expensive.  We left after an hour or so, as most people seemed to have their established groups.  Once downstairs, we bumped into Jordie and Joe and Jordie caught a cab home with us.  The cab cost $15, which was still double what it should have, but the guy wasn't interested in haggling.  We didn't push it - it was after midnight, after all.  Time for Princesses to get to bed.

Monday 21st May - last day

Our last morning in China, some farewells over breakfast and then we caught the subway (at peak hour!) to one of the traditional Beijing 'Hutong' areas and were able to walk and enjoy on our own.  It was quiet this early in the day, with people doing their normal business, most tourist shops closed, and no hasselling from people selling their wares.  Beck took heaps of pictures, while I kept collecting car marque pictures for Luca. (When I got home, I told him I saw a Rolls Royce.  'Did y..' he started, so excited.  'Yes', I smiled.  He was so pleased Smile)

We enjoyed walking in some quieter areas and we really liked not hearing amplified tour groups and dealing with crowds.  We wandered back in the general direction of the hotel, via some shopping districts.  Turns out, we weren't really in the mood for shopping.  We stopped at the Nike store to admire the massive range of running shoes, but the biggest womens size is an 8.5 - no good for my size 10 hoofs.  The salesman offered me some mens ones instead, but they were too wide once they had the length.  Beck did pick up some pretty pink frees.  I'll actually need to shop here!

Another trip to the airport, a quiet burger and beer at one of the eateries there (I actually felt the (light) beer in my ankles - just like Charlie promises), and onto the plane.  Our flight was delayed by 20 minutes, which turned into 60 minutes before we took off.  We only had a 90 minute window between this and the connecting flight, so it was getting nerve wracking.  I so didn't want to have to stay in HK longer - I was very ready to get home and see my husband and my babies.  We were slow getting off the plane - their was no aerobridge and we were not near a gate, so there were buses to take us to the terminal, but when a bus was full, they held up the line on the stairs so no one was on the tarmac.  After the bus ride to the terminsl, we were met by a man with a sign with our names on it and proceeded to run through the terminal to the train shuttle, onto the train and another run to the furthest possible gate.  Whilst running along (so much practice during Saturday's run), I managed to accept the airport wifi and connect to Facebook, but not for long enough to actually type in an update - the wifi didn't work inside the plane.

We got to the plane, and looked around.  Not full.  Hmmmm.  A couple of rows behind me, there seemed to be a free row of 4 seats.  Hmmmmm.  I moved myself there and qaited for the last couple of people to board.  Happy days!!  4 seats to myself for the first time ever.  Just like winning the lottery - a long haul overnight flight with room to lie down, with just the lumpy seat belts and seat in the way.  Hurrah!!  I did sleep a little, didn't watch any movies, read a bit and enjoyed my space.  

But gee, it was nice to get home and see my babies, and get a cuddle.  You miss that most when you're away.

Next run - Adelaide marathon, August 19th.  Continent and marathon #3.



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My quiet year!

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Health News

This weeks links

The Cancer Council came out this week and announced that there is no safe level of alcohol consumption, and that alcohol should be considered to be as carcinogenic as smoking and asbestos are.  As well as being highly associated with throat and mouth cancers, it is now found to correlate highly with breast and bowel cancers.  Perhaps it should not be so surprising that a substance that can so alter mood and ability, even at very mild levels should turn out to be in fact, not good for us.

This story, an editorial from the British Journal of Sports Medicine earlier this year has some amazing targets - it ties in with our look at sitting and health, and is about developing healthcare systems that support exercise - recognise it as being as vital a measure of our health as is blood sugar levels or blood pressure.  It recommends 150 minutes of physical activity per week for adults as a minimum.  30 mins on 5 days.  For children, it is 420 mins / week - 60 minutes every day.  How close are you?

This is another article on inactivity / obesity and health from Sports Medicine Australia, highlighting the link between an inactive childhood and a lifetime of battling depression.  It is food for thought (!) these days where there seems to be much paranoia about safety of children away from their parents watchful eyes, and therefore a tendency to want to keep them closely under watch instead of encouraging more activity and indeed risk taking behaviours.  The ability to judge situations for risk and to be able to take appropriate risks builds self esteem and resilience.  Not much to do with bowel cancer awareness, but close to my heart as well.

Another article on sitting

This one is in really simple terms - if you walk 30 mins (as recommended) and sleep 8 hours, most of us still have 15.5 hours per day not moving.  You cannot sit all day behind a screen, then drive your car and sit and watch tv with out it being bad for you.  A good read.