Thursday, April 11, 2002

TR Bali

3/31 – 4/10/02

Now that have filled ourselves with some American food in Hong Kong we are off to Bali on Sunday morning. I forgot to mention that the weather was cool in HK – low 70s which was a nice change from the stifling heat of Thailand and Cambodia.

Using the itinerary of a travel agency in California as a guide I had booked the first 5 days in Nusa Dua and the next 4 days in Candi Dasa. Nusa Dua is on a small peninsula on the southwest part of Bali. It is an exclusive tourist area that reminds me of the Lahaina area on Maui. There are about a dozen 5-star luxury resorts spread along the beach and the whole region is immaculately landscaped and maintained. There were two small villages on the edge of the region. The prices in the hotels were what you would expect in a resort but you could walk into one of the villages and eat a great dinner for $4 (including a beer) vs $20 to $25 at a resort. Since we had cashed in Sheraton points for 5 free days at a Sheraton resort, meals were not included and you can rightfully assume that we walked into the villages for all our meals.

We both wanted to take some time off from the hectic ‘got-to-tour every day’ mentality so Nicole laid on the beach while I took a PADI Open Water Course to earn my dive certificate. I have always wanted to get my dive card but just never seemed to have enough time. The PADI office was located at the Sheraton so it made it real easy. We did our confined dive in the Sheraton pool and four open water dives in the Indian Ocean. There was some coral and lots of fish variety so the dives were fun and interesting.
But we did want to see some of the interesting sights in that region so we hired a car and driver one evening to take us to Mengwi to visit the magnificent royal family temple of Taman Ayun (17th century) and then on to Tonah Lot. This temple was built on a promontory offshore and is one of the most beautiful settings in Bali for watching sunsets.

On Friday we had to move to Candi Dasa located on the south east coast where the marathon was being staged. Instead of paying a taxi $20 just to take us there we hired a car and driver for the day for $30 and had him take us on a day tour and drop us off in Candi Dasa at the end of the day. Our first stop was a cultural center in Batubulan to watch a colorful and exciting Barong Dance. The next stop was the Goa Gajah (Elephant Cave) which dates back to the 11th century. Hewn out of the rocks, the cave entrance is fantastically carved and depicts entangled leaves, animals, ocean waves and demonic human shapes. Then it was on to the town of Kintamani which sits on the edge of a volcanic crater overlooking Mt. Batur and Lake Batur. Mt Batur is still an active volcano and last erupted in 1999. We had lunch in a restaurant overlooking the mountain and lake while enjoying the cool respite – the temperature at the top of thee rim was only in the low 70s. In the afternoon we descended the mountain past lots of scenic terraced rice fields back into the unbearable heat and humidity to the city of Klungkung to visit the Kerta Gosa (the Hall of Justice) which dates from the 18th century. The ceilings of the hall are painted with classical paintings depicting visions of heaven and hell.
Soon we were driving along the coast again and made a final stop at the Goa Lawah (Bat Cave). The walls of the cave are homes to millions of fruit bats (very smelly) and the cave is considered a holy shrine because it supposedly connects to the Besakih Temple, the Mother Temple of Bali, located on Mt Agung. Last stop was Candi Dasa a small, laid-back village located on a beautiful beach on the Indian Ocean.

Other runners from around the world were beginning to arrive also. I recognized a few runners from the ‘fifty states club’ and was looking forward to a reunion with a running buddy from London. On Saturday I got my race package and then we decided to hire a car to take us to Tenganan Village. It is an original or traditional village surviving from the pre-Hindu period that strictly adheres to the traditional life of ritual and ceremony. The people are famous for producing the sacred hand woven Geringsing or double ikat cloth. The rest of the day was spent resting on the beach or escaping the heat by staying in our air-conditioned room. That night the race committee held a pasta or carbo load party at the host hotel. The cost of the party was included in the entry fee but I had to pay $12 extra for my sports manager. It was not worth it! For $3 to $4 we could have eaten a much better meal in the hotel restaurant. But I did meet up with my friend from London and we had an opportunity to discuss possible future races.

Sunday was M –Day! The marathon started in front of our hotel at 5:30am. I knew that was too late because it would only give us 45 minutes of darkness before the killer sun started to rise. There were only 35 runners in the full marathon and about 60 in the Half. The first 3Km ran along the coast at sea level and there was enough light from the street lamps to see. At 3 Km the course turned and started to climb Mt Agung – the highest volcano/mountain on Bali (3142m). There was a BAH (Big Ass Hill) from 4 to 7Km and then downhill to about 10.5Km which was the turn-around point for the Half. I had run with the half marathon runners up to that point but once they made the turn I was completely alone. And I stayed alone until 38Km! At 10.5Km the course also started a relentless climb up the volcano. It wasn’t steep but it just kept climbing and climbing and climbing! I pushed as hard as I could and all I could manage was 9:30 min/mile pace. And all I could think about was that friggin Duracell bunny that keeps going and going?
There were some spectacular views of Mt Agung and terraced rice fields along the course. However there was no traffic control and no shoulders on the road so we had to very cautious with all the bikes, motorbikes and trucks passing us. And similar to my two previous runs there were too many damned dogs that wanted to have fun chasing us. I had to stop a few times to make them back off!
Finally I reached the turn at 21Km in a very slow 1:58. Surely I could make up some time on the return downhill leg – maybe even run negative splits? Yeh, right – and the Duracell bunny was going to pace me too!

I did manage to drop the pace to about 8:15s until 32Km (20 miles). But then the wheels started to fall off! I knew I was tiring – my legs were beat from the hills – and my body temp was well over 100F! I had forgotten to bring some sugar candy and was concerned that I would suffer from low blood sugar. But I forged on until I hit that BAH again and then it was all over. There was absolutely nobody near me as I had run alone since 10.5Km and without a challenge I could not muster up the willpower or motivation to push and hurt myself. I decided to walk and jog up the BAH. It quickly became mostly walking although I did chew myself out at the top and made myself run down the other side. But as soon as I reached the coast again about 3Km from the finish line I had nothing left and began walking again. At that point a female runner passed me and I couldn’t respond – and didn’t care. There was no shade on that part of the road and the sun and humidity had become unbearable. I started to feel numbness and tingling in my hands and knew what was happening so I switched to SURVIVAL mode and walked most of that final 3Km. With only 500 meters left I heard footsteps coming from behind me? Oh SHIT! – it’s two male runners trying to pass me before the finish line. NO FRIGGIN WAY! So I dug deep and found just enough energy to hold them off and I crossed the finish line in 4:08. But I was not in good shape.

Fortunately they had a bucket of ice water at the finish line and a kind volunteer began to sponge bath me with the ice-cold water. He thought it was funny when steam came off my head as he poured cold water over me? But he did get my body temp back down to around 100F. Now I needed another miraculous coke or other source of sugar. Thankfully my sports manager was waiting for me at the finish line. We walked back to the hotel and while I jumped into the pool to continue my cool down she got me a cold coke. As usual I felt much better within five minutes of drinking that coke?
Then I rewarded myself with an hour-long massage with one of the Masseuses at the poolside. I thought that some of my muscles would be sore but the only thing that hurt was my toes when he grabbed them. I had damaged/jammed three toes on the downhill legs and will lose those toenails within a few weeks.

Now it was time for a short nap as my head still felt woozy (heat exhaustion?) and then some lunch. That evening there was a ’gala awards banquet’. I don’t normally go to those events but I wanted to see the race results and spend some more time with my friend from London. Turns out that I placed first in the Senior Division (males 50+) and won a very nice hand-carved wooden sculpture.

The following day was to be our last full day in Bali so we again hired a car and driver for the day and had him take us on a tour of the east coast. We visited the ruins of an old floating palace and the palace of Puri Agung Karangasem (The Great Palace). Then we went snorkeling on a black sand beach at Amed. Finally our driver took us over some mountain roads along the coast that are not usually seen by tourists. And we figured out why quickly! You needed a 4X4 to travel them. Several miles of the roads had been washed out by landslides. Fortunately he had an SUV with lots of road clearance but even with that he bottomed many times. But we did get to see where and how the natives lived.

Now it was time to transfer back to Kuta near the airport for an early morning flight to LA via HK. It was a long, long trip, even in first class. To make matters worse I think that I had picked up a flu bug just before we left Bali and I got to enjoy/suffer all the flu symptoms during the long journey home.

But we had a great time and we would do it again. For you runners, Bali is a tough course. The heat is unbearable and the dogs and traffic are a nuisance. But the race organizers and volunteers were friendly and supportive. There are water stops and cold sponges every 3Km to help you get through the heat. Just don’t plan on setting a PR.

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