Monday, September 01, 2008

NETT's Taiwan Training Trip a FULL Success

Frank KJ and Tina just returned from a visit to Taiwan and Frank was kind enough to provide us with a detailed account of a couple runs he did while he was there. Here's his report:

I just returned from our vacation in Taiwan to visit Tina’s family I wanted to share my experience of running in Taiwan. Since the tropic of Cancer cuts right through Taiwan it is hot and humid 24/7. And since two-thirds of the island is mountains steep climbing is hard to avoid.

Tina’s parents lives in northern Taipei at the foothills of the Yangmingshan mountain range. The mountains were created 2 million years by volcanic activity and it is still possible to see and smell the sulfur. My long run up to Yangmingshan started 6AM and right from the start it goes uphill. The first 2.2 miles covers 750 ft of climbing on a small road where the density of Taipei is quickly replaced by small farms, restaurants and hot springs overlooking Taipei. There are also plenty of stray dogs; they are so common all over Taiwan that I quickly accept their presence. Or maybe it is simply just too hot for them to chase me. The fact is that by 6AM the temperature is already 86F and the humidity is around 70% so my NETT singlet is already drenched in sweat.

Once I turn into the main road the grade lets up a bit and becomes more gradual so I can find a rhythm. The next 1.5 miles takes me up to Yangmingshan village. I am pleased to see that the Taiwanese have started to embrace cycling because I see a lot of cyclists taking on the climb on road bikes, mountain bikes and believe or not folding bikes. It is quite a sight to see someone ride up a 6% road on a folding bike with its small wheels. Since most people live in apartments in Taipei folding bikes are more practical and typically in higher demand than other bike types. They all politely say ‘Good morning’ or ‘Zao’ as they pass me and curiously look at my NETT singlet and fuel belt. So far I haven’t met other runners. (Frank's altitude data pretty much tells the story of his climb up to 2400 feet or 800 meters)

In the village I see another common morning ritual – senior citizens practicing Tai Chi or other forms of exercise. I plod on upwards and the grade kicks up a notch again as I exit the village. The next 3 miles are brutal but the view down into the valley is my reward. In the last mile there is no shade but I am lucky clouds cover the sun and there is a breeze. I can see some of the sulfur pits from the road and the hot water is sending up steam. Once I reach the pass I can actually feel that the temperature is a bit lower at 2600 ft above sea level.

I don’t have the exact distance but I estimate it to 12.5K making the average grade just shy of 6%. Well, 2400 ft up means 2400 ft down. Downhill, I earn some blisters since I am lousy at running downhill and ‘brake’ too hard on the steep sections. It is now past 8AM and the temperature is 92F.

My ‘short’ run is a repeat of a run I did on my first visit to Taiwan in 2003. It is a 4.5K run up a steep road to the Chinese Cultural University from where there is a great view over Taipei and the mountains south of Taipei. Via a series of hairpin turns it climbs 1200 ft resulting in an average grade near 8%. On this run I actually pass another runner on the way up and see him again on the way down. I have no idea how he survives without bringing any drinks. I am so happy I have my fuel belt. With the hairpin turns the scary thing about this run is the scooters which come fast around the corners; no sidewalks and barely any shoulders on this hill that makes Bentley and Brandeis look speed bumps.

I have added a photo sporting the NETT singlet from Kaohsiung with the fish dragon statue and a couple of photos of crickets and diverse intestines on sticks. Bon App├ętit.

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