|Far end of the lake|
The place is near the airport here in Pae's hometown. I had seen it on a map several times when looking at the area and trying to familiarize myself. I thought, "This looks like a great place to run!"
There is drought now in Thailand, so I was worried that it would be all dried up, but when I went, there was plenty of water. I have no photos (might put some from online though) as I was concentrating on running and not pooping my pants as I was going around the roughly 7km loop.
There are a lot of things that go through your mind on a three hour run. Running in an unfamiliar place helps keep those thoughts under control ;) Running can be a lonely sport even when you are with other people either running together or against each other. There is a point where, even if there are thirty people around you, you are still alone with your thoughts and pain.
|This is what the near end of the lake looks like, built up for people to come and picnic, even swim in the water. Nearer to the other end of the lake it is undeveloped and natural.|
The first story is nothing new really, especially if you're a runner. Anytime you go run or tell somebody that you are going to run (or ran) and they ask for details, they are often taken aback when you tell them just how far or how long you ran. They look at you like you are mental or something. When I told Pae and family where I planned to run, they asked if I was driving there. I almost never drive anywhere for a training run, only races...so I told them that I planned on running the 6km to the lake and running the return 6km after I finished my loops.
As I was running around the lake, I only passed three other runners and some cyclists. What I passed a lot of were cows! Cattle farmers were walking their handful of cows to the water early in the morning. I saw the farmer, super dark skin, ragged clothes, wide brimmed sombrero-like hat with a stick in his hand pushing the larger, adult cows towards the road.
I looked ahead of me and saw three calves, walking towards me that had gone ahead of the adult cows by about 100 meters. The first two ignored me as I ran right in between them. The third one had such a soft looking nose that I slowed to a walk and tried to reach out and touch it. It was shocked and took off in a slow "gallop" to catch up with the first two calves. It must have seen the starved look in my eyes! At about 20km, my stomach had started to growl and I was feeling the need for some protein!! Well played calf, well played!
More cows. This lake is a little bipolar, if you will. The beginning of the loop around has small public parks, a gymnasium and what look like bars or late night watering holes. As you make your way counter clockwise around you start passing temples and other buildings, perhaps hotels. I started passing signage for a new neighborhood that was built and homes were for sale. As I got close, I could see some very modern homes, gated community, all shiny and new and ready to be occupied.
The funny thing that stuck out to me was that there was a plot of land literally connected to the neighborhood that was just mud and grass and had a farmer and his 6 or 7 cows. I imagined that the developer of the neighborhood had tried to purchase his plot of land but he refused as it was part of his livelihood. Such a contrast. The contrast was even more evident because of the super tall wall that separated the two plots of land. Night and day!
The lake was always on my left as I ran counter clockwise around it. There was no sidewalk and normally that would make it dangerous to run, but there was a well-traveled and worn foot path in the high grass on the shoulder of the road. This is where I spent most of the two loops around the lake.
Running along this path didn't come without its dangers or surprises though. This is where all of the trash and old beer bottles and rocks were which made for some obstacles. The bank of the lake was very steep and the water was low which made for around a 6-10 foot drop to the water. Every now and then I would run past a bush on my left and suddenly there would be sound which would startle me. Turns out that there are dozens of little paths or makeshift ladders leading down to the edge of the water and fishermen were there early in the morning catching the day's meals. Stowed in the bushes or tied to a bush was the occasional canoe or rickety old skiff that looked like they had absolutely no business floating on water.
Most of the fishermen looked the part; their dress, their physique, skin tone, wrinkled faces from squinting constantly squinting their eyes to fight the reflected sunlight from the water. I even saw a younger couple knee deep in the water, gathering some plants, perhaps morning glory plant (we eat that a lot here) to sell or to cook.
The one fisherman that I remember the most was a 50+ aged woman with short, jet-black dyed hair. She was waist deep in the lake near some reeds, untangling her net. She was dressed in clothes that you would expect to see a Thai auntie wearing to a wedding or a graduation. She wasn't dressed all fancy, but at the same time she wasn't dressed for being where she was, doing what she was doing!
Lastly there was my moment(s) of bad luck, good luck, bad luck. For what I expected to be a four hour run/walk in a place I wasn't familiar with, I needed to bring my Camelbak hydration pack with me. As long as I had my 1.5 liters of water from the beginning, I should be safe for that length of a run. No problem there. But getting near 15 kilometers, nearly finished with my first lap of the lake, I pulled my drinking tube towards my mouth from where it was fastened between my body and a strap of the pack. I sucked and sucked and sucked, getting only air. I was like, what? I tried to suck harder, but was getting the same result every time (wasn't thinking too much at that point).
It was like I was trying to drink a fountain drink (Big Gulp) with a broken straw. Well, the little yellow valve had popped off of the end of my drinking tube so I was basically just sucking air. I had no idea where it had broken off, so I didn't stop to look for it. I just continued and every time I wanted some water, I just covered the hole where the valve used to be with my sweaty thumb and it worked perfectly.
I had only really planned one loop around the lake. I was going to hit a smaller lake closer to home for some laps but decided that I would do one more lap around Huay Wang Nong and try to find my dang valve!
As I started another 7km lap I just took it easy because I knew i had at least half way to go before I needed to start looking because I drinking from the pack had been fine on the outbound portion of the first lap. Long story longer, I was looking for a little yellow piece of plastic both on the asphalt as well as in the little dirt footpath that I had been running on. What I hadn't noticed the first lap was that there were yellow flowers fallen from the trees on the path and road! This made it very difficult as every three steps there was something small and yellow in front of me to look at and identify.
I got about 1.5km from the end of the loop and I saw my little yellow valve right in front of me on the dirt. I was pretty happy to have found it and carried it in my hand for the rest of the loop. I stopped for water and ended up putting the valve in my back pocket of my running shorts with my tissue, identification and money. Yeah, I was pretty proud of myself at that point!
Earlier I said bad luck, good luck, bad luck...you remembered. Correct. I got home and started taking all of the junk out of my pocket and...you guessed it, the valve had fallen out of my pocket through a small hole in the mesh (running shorts have mesh pockets) somewhere along the way home from the lake!! Funny. I have a spare Camelbak at home, but still, I went from "That sucks" to "Yeah boyyyyyyy!" to "Gosh freaking dangit!!!" in a matter of 10 kilometers.
This was my run. I hope to hit up Huay Wang Nong again one day, perhaps for a long run or even better, maybe I'll see how fast I can do the loop during a shorter run. I'm glad I found a new place to run when I am here. I'm also glad my mind can still cope with the distance ;)