Epic cycle ride undertaken by unfit, overweight, not middled aged lady

I visited Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos in 2002. One of the things that really struck me about the countries was the indefatigable people, the welcome extended to visitors and the simple joy taken in small pleasures. But, having visited the Museum of the American War in Ho Chi Minh City, seen the 'Danger UXB' signs in Laos and read the good news headline in a paper in Cambodia: ' Deaths from UXBs down to 3 this month. Only 40 maimed.' I was acutely aware of the toll still being taken on the population.

Over the years I have pondered the munitions still there and this year I have finally decided to get off my bottom and do something. So I have, somewhat impetuously and with little regard for my physical fitness, cycling ability or dodgy left knee decided to join the MAG cycle ride from Ho Chi Minh City to Ankor Wat. I will be doing this the first week or so in Feb 2011 and it does involve a couple of days of over 100km in 30 degree heat. Having signed up I have been told that neither a rickshaw nor an electric bikes are options and that doing the distance on my own pedals is expected.

Donation link is further down on the right - I have paid for my own flights and contributed enough to cover living expenses so all money raised from sponsorship will go to MAG.

This is my blog of my progress to get on the road and when I am there - assuming I will be capable of rational thought after a day of unaccustomed exercise.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Day Three - and there is a swimming pool!

Out in the field
Day 3 started about 2am; one of the problems of taking on about 1.5 litres of water per hour for about 8 hours during the day then loading up on more water during the evening is that you need to get up to use the loo on a frequent basis during the night. This, coupled with the agony that used to be my wrist and hands meant that after about 5 hours of tossing and turning I finally achieved full consciousness at around 2am. As anyone who has woken up at this time unable to sleep will know, this is not normally a joyful experience. Started worrying about the 100+kms that I needed to pedal today and by about 330 am was having a full blown teenage type attack of the miseries. As the cock crowed at 4am I made Morrisey look full of Prozac and I had just about decided to sneak out with my stuff and get a cab to the nearest bit of civilisation when I slipped into a doze that lasted until about 530am. The sun was up and things looked brighter; after a shower, chicken noodle soup brekkie and with a new, higher handle barred bike under my bot I decided it was do or die time - 111km or bust....

A few of the children cheering us on
Cycling through Cambodia is hot, sticky, sweaty and hard but the thing that makes it a joy are the people. Every child in the vicinity comes to wave at you along the road and shout hello, mothers bring their babies to view the large, lycra clad Europeans cycling past and this really does spur you on. We were passing through small villages and towns with lots of agriculture along the way; while the hotel in Kompong Cham had not been particularly lovely it had been the only hotel in town!

Just a word too about how the rides felt; the morning ride until about 0900 - 1000 was generally a bit hot but not too unbearable, but by 10ish the heat had built up in the blacktop and the air takes on a soupy quality. On every day I found the leg after lunch the worst as while I had had a rest it was like pedaling in a sauna with the only relief being to pedal faster to get more wind of passing in a vain attempt to cool down.
Anyhow, back to the day. We set out from Neak Lung after a short bus ride. Had a bit of a brain wave about my hands and downed prescription strength Naproxen which I have for other pain but is an anti inflammatory and pain killer.  The first leg was what is now known as 15 'Cambodian kms. In Cambodia the km ceases to be an absolute measurement and 15 Cambodian kms can be anything from 15 to 20 European style kms. I found the first leg a bit difficult and knew I needed to eat at the first stop even though I wasn't feeling particularly hungry. Spurred myself through the last 4 kms of the leg with the fantasy of eating a few salty, greasy crisps and I almost managed to make myself want them. Then disaster struck; the crisps were 'pringle' type ones and I checked the ingredients which included wheat. Most people will know that under normal circumstances I can cope with the minor inconvenience of symptoms from small quantities of wheat but given the slightly basic facilities and distance between same plus the stresses being put on my body I had determined that it would be best to be strictly wheat free during the ride. 

So, at the stop, I found that the only thing that I could eat would be fruit. Fruit involves peeling, my thumbs, while not getting worse were not really functional at this point and fruit denuding was strictly beyond my capabilities. Made my plight known to the marvelous Rith who had one of the drivers scanning every bit of food to see if I could eat it... I wish I had got a picture of Vanda reading the ingredients on the chocolate chip cookie box to see if they had wheat in them.....  
Hertford Co of Archers buff goes on holiday to Cambodia

But I had the majic SIS 'hydration energy sachet' things to add to my water which had proved brilliant so far so I dumped one of these in my camelbak and cycled off. By the second break I really needed to eat as I could feel that I was sugar crashing between sips of drink, although was still not feeling particularly hungry. Arrived and Vanda proudly presented me with several packets of pistachios. This was lovely and I managed to crack open about 10 but was close to tears with the pain from my left thumb. I think this is where things started to go really wrong as I know that I need complex carbs since sugar sends me on a high/low rapid up/ down but I was so focused on my hands that I ignored the needs of my body. The naproxen was taking the edge off the pain but I was saving the further two doses for the afternoon and evening. 

Wow - that's me!
By lunch I had lost all will and inclination to eat. As a founder member of the National Organisation for the Super Hungry (N.O.S.H.) this was a new experience for me. I tried to force some rice down but only managed a few spoonfuls. Raided the bus for reinforcements of the SIS sachets and thought that if I took them every break (I had been having one sachet every other break with just water the other time) I should be able to make it. Now the SIS sachets are specially formulated to keep you going in the heat and aid recovery time. I didn't look to closely at the ingredient list since after it started: glucose, fructose, sucrose.... I thought I didn't need to know any more! You can feel your teeth rotting in your head as you are drinking it though.

Looking at the photos is more interesting than having them taken
But the SIS sachets worked. I stayed on the bike and managed to cycle for the
whole day except for the last 1km.... which had a hill and by that point I decided I was just getting on the bus for the final leg. While I was exhausted I gave a happy  'woo hoo' since I had managed to complete the day I was most fearing! Then a real joyful moment:  I glimpsed heaven in the hotel grounds... a pool. Got up to the room and just stripped into my cossie then headed for the water - absolute total and utter bliss.
Back upstairs I realised just how empty I felt and ate a pre dinner cereal bar as an appetiser then changed clothes ready for dinner and went down. Then the coup de grace: just as we were getting on the coach to go to dinner a wave of nausea hit. I quickly made my apologies to Ian (Adventure Challenge leader) and ran upstairs to be sick. Spent the next hour or so 'talking to god on the great white telephone', drank some water then crashed out until the next morning.  

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