Thursday, 13 February 2014

Running in Vietnam

I’ve just come back from two weeks in Vietnam and I’ve had a fantastic holiday, but why Vietnam? My knowledge of the country is pretty scant, based mainly on what I’ve read and watched with respect to the wars with France and America, but I was aware that it has started to become a popular destination and it does have some pretty good beaches. One of my ex-bosses went a few years ago and she was pretty enthusiastic about the place, so it was one of those places I fancied trying, it was just a case of whether it was the right place for Carole and I to visit, and when. So when Carole said she wanted to take me away for my birthday present, Vietnam sprang to mind. We considered it, alongside other places; Thailand, the Caribbean and Florida, but eventually, thanks to the glowing review from one of Carole’s colleagues, we plumped for Vietnam, and I’m so glad we did.

Before we went I did a bit of research, the place we stayed at when we went to India, last year, was not a suitable venue for outdoor running, so it was a good place to be with an achilles injury, that restricted walking, let alone running. This year, despite ongoing niggles, I was hoping to run. My research told me that Ho Chi Minh City, where we were going to spend the first two nights, was not a great place to run, though it was possible. No problem, I’d already decided I was going to take a three day break from running, to try to help my niggles to go away. The second resort, Hoi An, appeared to be flat and, on google maps, it looked like there was a long straight road by the hotel, perfect for doing reps along, I thought. So setting off I was confident I’d be able to get in some good training during my holiday, not forgetting that it was actually a holiday.

25 January was the date of departure, I was looking forward to arriving, though the fact our flight was overnight meant I wasn’t looking forward to the journey itself. I had options for the morning, I could do the inaugural Warrington parkrun, I was tempted, but, frankly, I couldn’t be bothered, the niggles told me it would just be another disappointing run, and getting up that bit earlier would have made a long day, with the overnight flight. So I did my own fartlek course in Kingsmead instead and managed a pretty decent session, to set me up for a nice break.

It was a long flight from Manchester to Ho Chi Minh City, via Dubai, we left on Saturday evening and arrived on Sunday evening (day 1 of my rest period taken care of). I was so stiff, all over, the first flight had been ok but the second one felt so much more cramped. Day 1 in HCMC and we did a walk around the city, quite an interesting city, especially with all the decorations being set up for Tet, but very scary crossing the wide roads, with mopeds coming at you from all angles, it seems in this part of the world it doesn’t matter which side of the road you drive on, you aren’t required to stop for pedestrian crossings or traffic lights, perhaps a little exaggeration but a large percentage drive that way. Surprisingly, over 14 days we only saw one road traffic accident. Long walk over it was back to the hotel for dinner and packing ready for our trip to Hoi An, the next day.
Get away from the traffic and enjoy some nice architecture in HCMC

Day 3 of the holiday and the last day of my self-induced rest, a long trip to Hoi An, due to flight delays, and when we got there it was a bit overcast and a little chilly. Mind you it was now evening so we got changed and took a bus into the town proper, about 5k away. What a buzz, the town was full of life and colour for the Tet celebrations, Tet wasn’t until the weekend but it’s celebrated for up to two weeks, the two weeks we were there. We ventured into the town briefly on a number of days and every evening for dinner, it was a great place with some interesting buildings, but over the four days around the New Year it was a bit unbearable due to the sheer volume of people. Still it was worth venturing in for the quality of the restaurants.
Tranquility: view of the pool and sea from our room.

And the beach isn't bad either

Day 4 and it was time to resume running, three days rest and I was still a little stiff, as I set off my left glute was pulling (it had been my right one in the USA). It eased out before 6 minutes and I set off on my standard holiday 1,2,3 run. Not having travelled down the pavements before (roads were just a bit too full of mopeds) I took it a little steadier than I normally would, watching out for uneven slabs, people, holes in the ground, dogs, cattle and mopeds (yes they had a habit of coming onto the pavement just in front of you and I had to take rapid avoidance measures on more than one occasion). The previous night I’d met an American couple, he had been running and got bitten by a dog, that had ruined a part of their holiday as he sought treatment to prevent rabies, so I was intent on keeping well clear of all the dogs, there were a lot but they were of the yappy sort, still a nip would have still meant being treated for possible rabies, an unpleasant prospect compared to lounging by the hotel pool.

The next day my achilles was sore and with the heat starting to get to you after 20 minutes of running I decided to keep it short, 16 x 1 min with 30 secs recovery. I found it pretty hard work and my achilles was really sore at the end. With this in mind I decided to skip the run the next day and instead did one of my 45 minute PT sessions. Meanwhile, on the beach, Carole had reignited her passion for running and was running for longer than I was, I’ve entered her for a 10k so it’s time she pulled her running socks up. She had found the beach more to her liking than the busy roadside, you still had to avoid dogs and cattle but there were no mopeds.

Back to the 1,2,3 and the 16 x 1 minute for me over the next two days, but I’d taken a leaf out of Carole’s book and did it on the beach. On the second day we hired bikes, they weren’t very comfortable and there was something wrong with the setup on mine, I should have given it a once over but I was keen to get into the countryside. By that evening I could hardly walk, my left knee, the cause of many breaks in training over the years, was aching. I’m not sure if it was the bike, the beach or a combination of the two, but I was worried that was the end of any holiday running. The next day I treated myself to a 30 minute PT session.
Having the day off running seemed to help and the following day I was back into it, though I’d decided to just run out and back at a nice easy pace. I avoided the beach and when we did go out cycling I made sure the bike was set up better.

I started to take age and body issues into consideration now, knowing I’m no longer the youthful 47 year old who could do back to back sessions I decided I’d alternate between steady runs and reps. It was getting hotter every day and the 3 minute reps were feeling quite tough, so I decided to stick to the 1 minute reps. After all I was on holiday, the hard work can wait.
Finally, something older and more of a ruin than me - My Son

On the penultimate day I did my longest run, still only 40 minutes, less than Carole’s longest run, she’s a machine when she gets on a beach, and then, on the last day, I felt I was beginning to motor on my 1 minute reps, just in time to go home and start to ratchet the training up.
Long flight home, we were on the cramped plane to Dubai, by the time I got off in Dubai I was limping again, I was thinking I’d probably need to take more time off when I got home, however, arriving in Manchester, in a roomier plane, I didn’t feel so bad and could walk with barely a limp.
Over the next few days I was stiff, I decided to just run long runs, 8.5-10 miles and run reps with clients. However a couple of days of that and I realised I was just constantly stiff, so I booked in with Mike for some bioresonance. Luckily Mike was available at short notice, the next day I felt much freer when I was running, I was flowing again and I ran the 8.5 mile run two minutes quicker than two days previously, despite the stiff wind. I still have a few aches but I feel so much better, I’m off to see Mike again next week for a further booster.
So what did I think of Vietnam, lovely country, very affordable, fantastic food, friendly people (on the whole), extreme road crossing capability required and not the best place to run fast, though if you want to you can. We didn’t pick up any illnesses, despite eating salads and having ice in our drinks, no dog bites, though one almost got me, and no random attacks by cattle feeding off the plants growing on the roadsides. All in all a great trip, I’d go back.

Written by Roger Alsop

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