Friday, August 21, 2009

Rice Run

Back in Canada and completely wasted. I feel like I just ran a two month ultra after China. It's hard work, traveling. We didn't spend more than two nights in any one place and therefore never really settled into a place enough to know it and run in it well. I've come to realize how much I appreciate my home trails of the North Shore. I know them so well and I take that for granted. Anyone who has traveled in a foreign place surely understands what I mean. When you're in a new place it's difficult to know where to run, where the trails are, what areas are safe, how far a trail goes, and so on. Never mind all that, how long your lungs will last in a place like Beijing. The pollution was so bad I felt hypoxic climbing up the stairs out of the subway station, so to convince myself to run was out of the question.
This is not to say I didn't run at all, but my regular routine was interrupted enough to make me nervous about tomorrow's 5 Peaks race in Whistler. Certainly it won't take me long to get back once I've recovered from the sinus infection I've been toting around for the last two weeks.

In my previous post I went on about the brilliance of Mongolia as it relates to trail running and I still stand by that. Unlike China, the terrain was wide open and predictable enough to run. I mean you could look across an open plain, below the bluest of skies, pick a route, and run for several hours without ever looking back. In China there are very few spaces that are open and uninterrupted enough to safely know where you're going. When I did find a place that was suitable however, off I went and wow, what an adventure. One such place was the beautiful rice paddies of Pin Yang, Guangxi province, in Southern China. For hundreds of years the local people of Pin Yang have lived in the mountains growing rice and corn reaching 800 meters up the hillsides.
We rose at 5:00 am to an obnoxious alarm and tip toed through a pitch black village of sleeping locals , glow bugs, and screeching roosters, under the light of a headlamp. Followed by a couple local dogs, probably somebodies dinner, we climbed the stone staircases for sun rise. As we crested the hill top it was obvious the sun would be crowded out by pollution and cloud cover. Nothing lost however, at least 15 kilometers of single track lay ahead before the next village. The trail was unmarked so we ran quite mindfully, leaving trail markers with pieces of garbage lying at the trails edge. An empty can of beer in the middle of a trail easily lit our way back. The trail was wet, and so were our shoes as we ran through rice paddies, up steep winding hills, and by old tomb sites, likely rice farmers of the past. After an hour or so of running we crested another valley top and looked down on an old and sleepy village. This was the real thing. No tourists, no Chinese sales people, no guest houses, nothing. It was the only genuine piece of old China we really saw. On that 3 hour adventure we saw only three people, farmers. We really felt alone up there and it was quite nice. Not many people can say they spent time alone in China, even for five minutes. In a country of 1.6 billion you're never alone.
From Pin Yang we spent some time biking around the Yulong River, near Yangshuo. It was again very busy, but nonetheless relaxing in comparison to Beijing and Shanghai. The Yulong area was picture perfect China and the ideal way to finish our trip to Asia.
I'm back at home now and I'm very grateful for the place I live. As I exited the airport two days ago I could smell the ocean. I could smell fresh air. I have never smelled the air like that. We're very lucky to live in Vancouver, on the ocean, near the mountains, under fresh air, among great people. I'm home and off to Whistler tomorrow morning. At least I'll suffer in a beautiful place before I kick the Beijing Lung.


  1. Pretty sweet ride you had there!! Would love to get together for a brewski and hear all about your trip sometime. Sounds like you had some great adventures....thought provoking perhaps? Hope the Beijing lungs recover fast.


  2. Thanks Carrot. It was no ToM machine, but it did the trick in the paddies and along the river.