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#HKTRP #66 – A candid conversation with Mo Devlin

Today, on the podcast I’ve got an inspirational person with an inspirational story. Running accomplishments aside (that list runs long too), he was diagnosed with prostrate cancer. That would slow most people down but Mo got faster and he is on his way to beating the cancer in true running fashion – 10 great podium place races despite undergoing radiation.

We will cover various topics in this conversation. We will talk to Mo about his background and how he got into running. We will then talk to him about his experience dealing with the cancer diagnosis. We will also have questions about the way he trains – both physically and mentally. We will finish with his goals for 2017 and beyond.

I want to also thank Mo for taking the time out to speak with us and for sharing his experience so others an learn and benefit from it. It takes a kind and generous person to be able to do this despite what he has gone through


Show Notes:

  • Who is Mo?
  • Where’s he from?
  • How did he get the nickname Mo?
  • Is there anything in his past that lead him to running / trail running?
  • What is his day job?

The ten rapid fire icebreaker questions to delve into the way you think:

  1. What is your favorite trail in Hong Kong and why?
  2. What is your most favorite race and why? (can be local or overseas)
  3. What accomplishment are you most proud of in running?
  4. What accomplishment are you most proud of in life?
  5. Who has played the most influential role in your life as a person?
  6. Who has played the most influential role in your life as a runner?
  7. Why do you run?
  8. What would you do if you could not run?
  9. Which book or resource has had the most impact on your life?
  10. If there’s only one piece of advice you could give your 20-year-old self what would it be?

Humble beginnings:

  • when did he start hiking/running? (what year) Humble beginnings: where it all started
  • Did he start off as a road runner? Does he enjoy both road running and trail running?

The cancer:

  • Walk us through to the beginning
    • Discovering the cancer itself was an act of “luck”. How?
      • collapsing 500m short of the finish line on Hard as Nayls race and being taken to the hospital
      • When was this? [Apr 2015]
    • Collapsing because of a heatstroke isn’t fun. Do you believe that this was an “act of God” or a higher power that enabled you to discover your cancer?
    • What was your initial reaction when you heard the diagnosis?
    • What was your family’s reaction?
    • The transition from those negative emotions of realizing what you had and converting them into something positive – talk about that. How did you manage that?
    • How do you deal with those down moments? How often do they occur?
    • People always say “stay positive”. How hard is that? Saying is different from doing
    • “Just because I am a cancer patient, I don’t have to become a cancer victim” – what fostered that attitude? What books did you read (if any) to cultivate that attitude?
    • You spoke about your brother who is more emotional and has lung cancer whereas you’ve learnt to compartmentalize and maintain a more or less normal life. How did you learn to compartmentalize? When should one compartmentalize? Does it come to you easily?
    • Those PBs and podium wins despite the radiation – you make it look easy but how hard is it really?
    • How supporting is your family about your running despite undergoing radiation?
  • Talk about the progress
    • What does radiation feel like?
    • How do you overcome the weakening effect of the radiation and channelise your energy into running?
    • When will you be 100% cured?
  • What is the biggest lesson that this has taught you?
  • Has this experience changed you in any way?
  • What advice would you give to someone else who has the misfortune of discovering something like this in their life?

 
Top 3 races or accomplishments:
 
Mo to choose 3 races

  1. 10kms in 36 minutes
  2. 2.5 hour marathon at the age of 17
  • Walk us through the top 3 races, the preparation, the training, the nutrition
  • What was it like?
  • Walk us through the journey. What was it like?
  • Did he put a lot of pressure on himself to complete? What was the “outside” pressure like on him?

Training: (physical)

  • How often does he train and how? Does he have a routine?
  • What’s his weekly training plan / mileage?
  • Has his training resulted in injuries and if so how does he deal with them?
  • How competitive is he? How important is it to him to best himself? Would he risk injuries in order to achieve certain goals?
  • What about long distance runs? Any interest in those?
  • What’s his philosophy on team runs like the OTW? Would he push his team to do better or would they do it “just for fun” ?
  • How do you deal with pain? Do you take any painkillers during runs? What’s his philosophy on that? What’s been his most painful run?
  • Talk to us about injuries, what he learnt from it. Does he believe in the needle guy?

Training (mental)

  • How does he do so many races / such long distances during painful moments? What’s been his most painful mental moment?
  • What is his philosophy on pain? When does he know when to persist and when not to?
  • What does he tell himself mentally when he has to persist through pain and continue to the finish line?
  • During long distance runs, does he listen to music? How do you maintain your focus? <– not sure about Mo’s long distance running record
  • What are his downtimes in running? When he didn’t want to run and felt miserable?
  • Which is more fulfilling? Work or running?

Nutrition / Gear strategy:

  • How does he do his long runs?
  • Does he swear by certain gear?

Philosophies:

  • Does he believe in taking medicines? If so, when and how? Has he taken medicines before during a race in order to finish the race?
  • What does he think about DNF-ing?

Goals:

  • As far as running is concerned what are his goals for 2017?
  • Talk about Movember and Janine

Advice:

  • For beginners getting into serious running, what advice do you have?

Parting words of wisdom:

  • #1 key to success. Winning formula in life?

#HKTRP #65 – An Oxfam Trailwalker 2016 conversation with Milos, John, Martin and the Nepali Team

Welcome to a brand new season of The Hong Kong Trail Rockers Podcast! First of all, a big “thank you” to our listeners for the great feedback and suggestions!

Going forward, we are going to have a couple of changes to the format of the show:

  1. We will publish full interviews in the same week  instead of having them them span over multiple weeks. This is to keep the continuity going
  2. We will have some great episodes that will be worth your time but not all weeks will see us releasing a new episode! But, when it’s out, we want it to be good!
  3. New episodes will be released on Thursday evenings

And, here’s the first episode of Season 2! I had the chance to speak to Milos Pintrava who is the main sponsor of Awoo Team Nepal (the winning team of Oxfam Trailwalker 2016 – 11 hours 01 minute is what it took them to run 100kms!)

The Nepali team, Martin, Milos and yours truly 

After that segment with Milos in which I asked him many questions about the Nepal team, I brought on my co-host who is none other than Milos’ son Martin Pintrava (he is too young even for a facebook account!) Listen to him as he takes control of the microphone and fires away questions at top runner John Ellis! None of the questions was scripted and you can hear 10-year-old Martin interviewing John like a pro and recalling facts from many years back effortlessly! This kid is not only going to become a top trail runner in the future but is also going to have a job in show biz waiting for him!

John gets floored by Martin’s insightful questions 

Finally, we interview the winning Nepali team with Dinna acting as our translator. My apologies in advance for the poor recording quality during this part of the show. We recorded the interview in a restaurant and there was some unavoidable extraneous noise and some interruptions!

My job got outsourced to Martin Pintrava


Questions we covered:
 
Milos:

  1. compare last year to this year
  2. Tell us about how you stopped them from getting lost this year
  3. How did you find these guys?
  4. What are their profiles
  5. How did they train? Who trained them?
  6. Why did he choose to sponsor them?
  7. Tell us about the pressure on them
  8. Tell us about the support from the beginning to the end
  9. Tell us about the leadership aspects of the team
  10. Why did they eat?
  11. Tell us about the finish line experience
  12. What has this experience taught you?
  13. Will you sponsor again next year?

Nepali team:

  1. introduce themselves: background in racing (Tirtha, Purna -captain-, Bed, Bhim)
    1. Best internationals results
  2. Talk to us about the pressure back home
  3. Tell us about your coaches
  4. Does the army training help?
  5. How confident where they going in
  6. How different is it in HK compared to Nepal
  7. Walk through the race:
    1. Preparation
    2. Strategy
    3. How they handled the conditions
    4. Food
    5. Did you run as a team together before?
    6. Team dynamics
    7. How they would have handled injuries
    8. Any interesting stories or snippets?
    9. Talk to us about each stage
  8. How does it feel to have won?
  9. What did you learn from this experience?
  10. Any tips to share with future trail runners
  11. Talk to us about messages from back home

Big ‘thank you’ to Milos, John, Dinna, the Nepali team and Martin (?!) for their time! And, thanks to Andre for the photos!
Until the next episode, go out for a run and crank up the mileage!


To subscribe to this podcast, please go to iTunes and search for The Hong Kong Trail Rockers Podcast (https://itunes.apple.com/hk/podcast/hong-kong-trail-rockers-podcast!/id994423166)

 

Northeast India (Assam, Nagaland, Manipur, Meghalaya)

Man and his motorbike:
There’s something about exploring the countryside on a motorbike. It’s fast enough for exploration and covering some decent area and at the same time, it’s slow enough to really soak in the experience. Plus, the motorbike engine definitely beats a bicycle when you have to ride uphill!

The destination:
Guwahati is the gateway to exploring the northeastern states of India. It has an international airport although we had to fly via Kolkata to reach Guwahati. There are seven states in northeast India and we (Hannes, Prashant and I) had budgeted 7 days of riding to explore them. Meaning, we had to choose about 3 out of the 7 states so we wouldn’t fall into the trap of covering as much ground as possible without really soaking in the place. Otherwise, that would be like cramming for an exam without understanding what is being taught

Northeastern states of India:

  • Arunachal Pradesh: Capital city: Itanagar. Good old China claims that this state belongs to them. Their map doesn’t really delineate this state as “disputed” either. It simply assumes its theirs! With any visit to a disputed region comes the trouble of arranging many permits. We couldn’t be bothered to go through all the hassle – so we decided to skip Arunchal Pradesh this time around
  • Assam: Capital city: Dispur
  • Manipur: Capital city: Imphal
  • Meghalaya: Capital city: Shillong
  • Mizoram: Capital city: Aizawl
  • Nagaland & Tripura: Capital city: Kohima and Agartala
  • Sikkim: Capital city: Gangtok. Prashant and I did a motorbike ride to Sikkim and Bhutan some years back. I remember having visited a zoo in Gangtok. Although Sikkim is in India, it feels nothing like India. (I mean the place – not the zoo! Monkey, bear, tiger = mostly same, same everywhere!) Sikkim became a separate state of India in 1975. It has a very Tibetan feel to it. North Sikkim is definitely a place to re-visit but since new places usually take precedence on a exploratory motorbike ride, we were going to skip Sikkim

The Planning:

  • Travel light and shiver at night: In the past, when we rode to Leh / Nubra valley and other high altitude places, I had a back-breaking backpack with me which would rest uncomfortably on the backseat of the motorbike. In addition to the literal pain in the rear from riding for several days, another figurative pain in the rear was definitely monkeying around with the bungee cords that fastened the backpack to the rear of the bike. Under high altitude, this was even more hard and annoying. Luckily, my kind friend Prashant would always come to help me. (All I had to do was to exaggerate my high-altitude symptoms!) This time, after becoming more mature and reading ’30 days with a Navy SEAL’ by Jesse Itzler, I decided to live right on the border of being comfortable and being uncomfortable. Meaning, “travel light, shiver at night”. During the day, it’s great and during the night, well, not so great! Especially, if it’s very cold
  • The Excel: Where to go? What to do? And, for how long? This is the not-so-enjoyable part of travel. Luckily, Prashant came to the rescue (as always). His Excel was going to be our mini Bible for the trip. Here it is. We also downloaded the maps for NE India from maps.me so we could navigate easily without the need for data on the phone (love that app). After debating which plan to follow on the Excel, we settled on Plan B. Meaning, we’d skip Mizoram but we’d have enough time to do side trips in the afternoons in Assam / Manipur / Meghalaya and Nagaland. We wrote down some of the possible side trips over here

The Dates:

  • A ticket that cost us (Hannes and I) close to HKD 9,000 took us from Hong Kong to Guwahati via Kolkata so we would arrive in Guwahati at 7am on Friday morning, 30th September 2016. We would depart on October 7th evening which meant we had around 8 days of riding to explore some of the northeastern states

The execution:
 
Thursday, 29th September 2016:

  • We took a Dragon Air flight from Hong Kong to Kolkata. Just as the plane was taxiing to take off from Hong Kong, we saw an opportunity to grab the empty “emergency exit” seats behind us. Free premium cattle class seats
  • Kolkata airport looked much better than the previous time I was there. They had many signs in the airport that announced that they were awarded “the most improved airport” in 2013

Friday, 30th September 2016:

  • We boarded a Jet Airways flight from Kolkata to Guwahati
  • We met our third partner-in-crime for this motorbike trip at Hotel Dynasty. Prashant seemed to have put on quite some serious weight since the last time I saw him. I told him that without any sugar coating but Hannes was more kind in his remarks
  • We got our ‘inner line permits’ done (Indians need them to travel in the northeast) and took a cab to Awe Rides to get our three Royal Enfield Classic 350cc motorbikes, aka Bullets
  • At about 3pm, we were riding in style towards Nagaon (140km from Guwahati) on three new Enfields
  • Both leaving Guwahati and entering Nagaon was a rather stressful activity because of the heavy traffic. We got separated in the beginning (Prashant went a different way and Hannes and I were together but went another way) but thanks to maps.me and two local phones we had for communication, we were eventually reunited. Before phones and maps.me, I am not sure what we would have done!
  • It took us around three hours to reach Nagaon. The route was alright (mainly good roads and some greenery) but the traffic in the beginning and at the end was not so enjoyable. During our heavy dinner in a hotel in Nagaon, we decided to make time by riding all the way to Kohima the next day instead of stopping at Dimapur which was the original plan. That way we would get out of the cities and traffic much sooner and ride into the hills

Saturday, 1st October 2016

  • We were all ready by 6.30am and walked down to the lobby where we met Derek, a cool looking fellow tourist who introduced himself as an ‘angler’. I didn’t know that word. (I am still not sure I got it right – need to google it). Fishing was his passion (the guys who do it seriously are called ‘anglers’) and he was explaining to us how fishing, as a sport, was actually a lot tougher than it seems. “Different fish have different sink lines and baits”, he explained. I asked him how much of good fishing was luck vs skill and his response was “100% skill”. Apparently, vegetarians go fishing too and release the fish after catching them
  • Derek also told us about Dimapur, our intended destination for the first half of the day. “Rustic” is how he described it. He also called it “a small town”
  • We set off at 7am and exited a quieter Nagaon and entered the hilly roads towards Dimapur which was a big relief from the conjested traffic of the previous day
  • Nagaland didn’t quite feel like India. (Nagaon is in the state of Assam and Dimapur is in Nagaland).  I was told that the staple food there was beef and Christianity was the most practiced religion there, not Hinduism
  • These cows below were likely headed for the slaughter house
  • The Indian democracy meant that the roads equally belonged to goats and cows and we had to always watch out for them. Sometimes I wonder how these animals can sit smack bang in the middle of the road without fearing a collision. Are they really that stupid that they cannot anticipate death from a traffic accident? Wouldn’t fast moving traffic look like predators to them? And, do animals think? What do they do sitting on that road all day long with their eyes open? How do they avoid feeling restless and useless?
  • Upon reaching Dimapur, we went to the Foreign Registration Office to register Hannes in. The lady in the office couldn’t speak Hindi but she spoke great English. Like other Naga people, she spoke with a nice Naga accent which sounded like you were talking to someone who has combined the Singaporean / Japanese / Philippino accents. Which was another thing I found very different about Nagaland. Like Bhutan, English worked everywhere and girls seemed to do most of the work! Policewoman, army women carrying AKs and M16s (no kidding! We saw many great looking women carrying machine guns. Imagine how distracting it would be to fight them! ) The army presence in the region was certainly palpable. We saw many army trucks and army jeeps. A soldier invariably stuck out from the jeeps sporting a machine gun. Looked like some sort of a scene from CNN!
  • As you can see from the photo below, the Nagaland girls don’t look Indian at all
  • Soon we found out that Derek’s definition of “rustic” to describe Dimapur didn’t exactly match ours! Dimapur was not a “small town” but more like a “city” which turned out to be very congested, polluted and dirty! We wanted to get out of there as soon as possible so we left rather quickly on our 80km ride to Kohima. We had 4 hours to do the 80km ride. (In northeast India, during the time we went at least, the sun rose early around (5am) and set early around (5.30pm) so we had to make sure we’d reach Kohima well before 6pm otherwise it would be pitch dark)
  • The road to Kohima was built by the BRO (Border Roads Organization) and they had quite a number of clever slogans on the road to impart some wisdom to those like us who use these roads
    1. Driving risky after whisky
    2. If opportunity does not knock build a door
    3. Life is a highway without a test drive
  • Kohima appeared to be much nicer compared to Dimapur. It was at an altitude of around 1400m above sea level. Again, I was surprised at how different it was to India. The theme repeated itself – very different culture, Chinese / Burmese looks, flawless English and broken Hindi! Girls seemed to do most of the work there (like Bhutan)
  • Entering Kohima
  • I saw paid toilets for the first time in India in Kohima (best way to ensure that both your bowels and your wallet will become lighter)
  • A lot of the words in Nagalese sounded Tibetan and they even had the “umlaut” in their words (the German U with the two dots on top). Pronounced ‘ah’
  • After some googling, the first place we wanted to stay at in Kohima was a place called “Hotel Majestic” which turned out to be full so we settled for a neighboring hotel called “Hotel Ura”
  • As you can see from the menu below, the local cuisines invariably included pork and chicken in Nagaland
  • I was quite pleased with Kohima so we decided to spend another day there and do a nature hike in Dzukou Valley the next day

Sunday, 2nd October 2016

  • The plan was to get up at 6am, have breakfast by 6.30am and leave for Dzukou valley by 7am for a hike that would feel like “heaven has landed upon planet Earth” according to a blog we read
  • Here’s a morning pic of Kohima from our balcony in Hotel Ura
  • We had to ride 25km to Viswema Village or 20km to Zakhama village (both on the way to Manipur) to get to the trail head. We chose to ride to Viswema village
  • More BRO signs on the way to Viswema village:
    1. Life is how to make it, it’s 90% how to take it
    2. Know safety, no injury. No safety, know injury
    3. Don’t drive fast. Otherwise you’ll have an urgent meeting with God
    4. Life is an occasion. Rise to it
    5. Stop accidents before they stop you
    6. The problem with drinking and driving is the mourning after
    7. This is not a rally. Enjoy the valley
  • Viswema village was nothing more than a collection of a few small houses. We needed directions to get to the trailhead and one lone guy we asked told us to take this road all the way to the end and pointed to a rather ominous looking “road”
  • This “road” was not one for the motorbikes – or so I thought. Gravel, puddles of water, big rocks, slushes and a threateningly uneven surface. But before I could launch my protests, Hannes and Prashant took off on their Enfields like rockets! I had no choice but to put on a brave face and copy their act
  • I almost fell off my bike several times and had to take many brief stops to calm my nerves down! Hannes was like a fish in water and Prashant seemed to be coping just fine
  • At one point, even hero Hannes thought it best to ‘park and walk’. I was already afraid of riding the bike back down and could feel the cortisol build up in my body
  • This 6km bike ride up that dirt road felt like eternity but took only 30 minutes. The walk to the trail head took another 15 minutes or so. We then started climbing some steep steps to the viewpoint
  • Prashant, who doesn’t really exercise much, needed several butt-kicks to get him up to 2700m (we started at an elevation of 2300m). It took us 90 minutes to do just 1.5km. After that, Prashant refused to go any further but in all fairness to him, for a person who doesn’t exercise at all, it was great going
  • These sort of signs promoting tree plantation and animal awareness were eveywhere
  • An “easier” section on that dirt road
  • It was 12.20pm by the time we got to the viewpoint. Prashant felt like an old man already and didn’t want to go any further. The view we got from the viewpoint was only that of clouds as the visibility was quit bad! Hannes suggested that I run to the valley from the viewpoint (another 6km or so) while Prashant and him would head back down. I had until 2pm to meet them back at the bikes. I took him up on that offer and switched to running mode
  • It took me 40 minutes to run to Dzukou valley from the viewpoint. It was quite an awesome trail run. The views were spectacular and the air was pure! The descriptions of this place on the internet kind of exaggerated its beauty but I probably feel that way because I have had the good fortune of traveling to many places around the world. This valley was certainly lush and serene and stunning but other places I’ve been to have had a deeper impact on my soul. Here are some pics of the valley
  • This was the guesthouse on top
  • “Plucking of flowers dry or fresh will be fine!” He’s missing a “d”
  • This is Dzukou Valley – look at the rolling hills
  • I ran back in about 40 minutes and completed my 10km run! Then I saw Prashant and Hannes near the end of the steep steps section
  • We concluded the hike in around 5 hours or so
  • I was very nervous about the motorbike ride back down on the dirt road but after that nice 10km trail run, my nerves were much more cool and I followed Hannes’ riding tips and also psyched myself up: think “it’s losing control that’s scary not fear itself”. I just tried to make sure I’d have control over the bike and Hannes offered me some great tips for establishing and maintaining that control
  • We concluded the day with a great meal. Prashant ended up “meditating” soon after we got back. He called it meditation but the last time I checked, snoring isn’t supposed to be a by product of meditation!

Monday, 3rd October 2016

  • The plan was to have breakfast by 6.30am and start riding to Imphal (Manipur) by 7.30am
  • I felt a little sad to leave Nagaland. Nice state, such friendly and chilled out people, beautiful Naga girls, interesting Nagalese language and good weather. The starry night view from the balcony of the hotel was a sight to remember (this iPhone pic doesn’t do justice to the sight)
  • Here’s the same view in the morning
  • After having said goodbye to the pretty Naga lady at the reception of Hotel Ura, we departed for Loktak Lake in Manipur at around 7am
  • I saw more interesting BRO signs along the way:
    1. Drivers are safer when roads are dry. Roads are safer when the driver is dry
    2. It’s a long road but it’s worth it
    3. Be soft on curves
    4. Don’t mix drinking and driving
  • Prashant had his first fall. He went over some rock and fell down. Luckily, other than some slight petrol spill, there was no further damage to him or the bike but it was sure a scary sight
  • The small petrol spill after Prashant’s fall
  • There was a big battle here back in the day in 1944
  • The ride to Imphal took us close to 4 hours on a road that was kind of ok but full of potholes. It got very hot as we left the Kohima (1400m) and rode down to Imphal (800m). Hindi replaced Nagalese and people started to look more Indian rather than Chinese / Tibetan. (Amazing what a difference 150km can make!)
  • We reached Loktak lake in Manipur after 7 hours of riding (averaging 30kmh). The lake was nice and our accommodation by the lake was great but I would choose Kohima and Nagaland over Manipur any day!
  • On the way to Loktak Lake
  • The lake
  • Hannes was extra pleased after we got hold of “Diablo” beer in the evening. The guy we bought the beer from told us that he had to smuggle them into Manipur from Bangladesh and charged us INR 200 per can
  • On the agenda for the next day was a return to Assam – a 250km ride from Loktak Lake to Silchar in Assam

Tuesday, 4th October 2016

  • As usual, we got up at 6am and had our breakfast at 6.30am
  • I headed out to put my shoes on and as I was dusting my shoes, a big frog jumped out of it!! (Lesson: never leave your shoes outside the room!)
  • The original plan was to take the highway to Imphal and then another highway (NH37) to Silchar in Assam. However to avoid the boring traffic and smoke from the vehicles, we decided to take the scenic route from Loktak lake. This scenic route was supposed to bypass the first highway and then directly connect to NH37
  • Initially on this scene route, there were just a few puddles and many rubbles to negotiate. Given the challenge we successfully undertook during the Dzukou Valley day, we thought that this scenic route would be a breeze. BIG MISTAKE
  • The photos below show the good part of the scenic route – (this river is called river Barek and it flows into Bangladesh)
  • The scenic beauty sort of went unappreciated after a while because of the very challenging road conditions! It was like riding a motorbike on a mountain trail. The slushy roads meant frequent dancing around on the motorbike just to prevent a fall. It felt like riding on ice!
  • A lot of the road was like this!
  • This uphill stretch was beyond Prashant and I. Hannes rode all our bikes up this stretch
  • Then came a nasty river crossing. It reminded me of our time in Leh, India. By this time, I had had enough! I was ready to see good roads again and really wanted to get to NH37 (National Highway 37) as soon as possible. We had been riding on this crappy road for close to 6 hours when we met this lady who told us that we would hit the NH37 highway in 6 more kilometers. In reality, it took us more like 12km and there was plenty more slush and ultra narrow trails to negotiate before we got there! Hannes got stuck two times there in the slush
  • This is the river crossing before we hit NH37
  • At about 1.30pm, we hit NH37 and celebrated with some high fives. We had 150km more to go on proper roads to reach Silchar
  • And, boy were we wrong! NH37 had certain stretches that made our recent challenge look like a walk in the park! We didn’t know this but NH37 was actually closed because of landslides! And, calling it a “highway” makes me squirm! There were some good sections but they were interspersed with potholes and slush like we had never seen before!
  • We thought we were on target to reaching Silchar at 6pm (30 minutes after sunset) but at about 4pm we got stuck in the mother of all slushes! We couldn’t get our bikes out of the slush
  • Some trucks were waiting there for 10 days for the JCB (road fixing machine) to repair the road
  • We gave up on that section after trying to help each other by pushing the bikes up as hard as we could to extricate the wheels from the mud. Eventually, we decided to pay our way out of the situation and asked a truck driver to help us in exchange for money
  • It was 6pm and already dark. Vehicles were trapped in the slush which made it harder for our bikes to get though. We even thought of spending the night there. Sweating profusely and depleted of energy, we sat down at some place by the road and pondered our options. Paying our way out wasn’t working either as the slush and the traffic stuck in it meant that there was simply no way to ride the bikes out of it
  • Riding through this wasn’t easy!
  • This truck was stuck in the mud like many other vehicles
  • Getting the bike out of this slush was a nightmare
  • We tried again but eventually, we just sat down by the side of the road tired and exhausted. We debated our options and eventually decided to walk over to the truck drivers one more time to ask them for help. Hannes guarded our bags while Prashant and I went over to try our luck again
  • The truck driver and the owner of the truck told me that “people need to help each other in moments of trouble” and asked me to not talk about money. They told me that money sullies good deeds. With that, soon after some of the stuck vehicles were extricated, the truck driver and the owner helped us get all the three bikes out to the other side of the bridge. (A bridge at the end of this slushy section supposedly delineated the good side of the road from the bad). We thanked them profusely. They didn’t want any talk of money. I was happy to note that such good people still exist. People can be good natured if they so choose. In fact, I was thankful for having had this experience just so I could witness such acts of kindness and remember them. This driver had been stuck there for 10 days and was living of INR 50 (HKD 6) a day! He had no place to stay other than a little camp by the truck – still he didn’t want any talk of money!
  • We thought that we were over the bridge (literally and figuratively) but the nightmarish slush still continued, albeit on a smaller scale. We now had to negotiate them in the dark! We had been lucky with the weather (slush aside, at least it didn’t rain! I was scared to think what our situation would have been like had it rained)
  • Several more potholes and slushy surfaces later, we reached a village at about 8pm. We then continued to ride into Silchar on rather bumpy roads and reached at around 10pm! Our longest ever ride!
  • This is was my bike looked like
  • At 10pm, Silchar looked like a dump. Luckily, I found a shoe seller there and bought a new pair of shoes! The sole of my shoes got yanked off when I was pushing the bike up that horrible slush.
  • Look at my poor old shoes! They’ve been with me for close to 10 years and have traveled to many exotic places with me but they eventually met a rather cruel demise in Sichar of all places!
  • Upon reaching Silchar, tired and exhausted as we were from the day’s unanticipated adventure, more effort was needed as we struggled to find a hotel. After roaming around for 30 minutes, we finally found one. Later we came to know that these hotels were less willing to rent out rooms to single guys as they feared that these guys would wreck the place by smoking weed and hiring hookers!
  • Hannes had to fill up some special ‘Foreigners Form’ to identify himself at the hotel we finally found. He wasn’t happy. The hotel guy told us that since Silchar was close to the Bangladesh border more checking was necessary. Hannes told the hotel guy that he was from Switzerland, not Pakistan, Bangladesh or Baramulla! The hotel guy relented and waived the requirement for all foreigners to report to the police station before they could rent a room!
  • We were super tired and decided to break the 6am wake up protocol. Instead, we chose to sleep in for another hour and got up at 7am. We decided to give off road biking a rest!

Wednesday, October 5th 2016

  • National Highway 6 to Shillong was the plan! The two words “National Highway” were enough to send a shiver down my spine. Images of extricating bikes from deep slushes and negotiating very deep potholes immediately came to mind
  • The good part of all the highways is that the BRO signs are always worth reading. Here’s another:
    1. If everything comes your way, you’re in the wrong lane
    2. (I take that to mean stop having a victim attitude in life. Change your lane instead)
  • The first half of our 290km ride from Silchar to Shillong was like watching a supposedly great movie that’s punctuated by many long, boring and annoying ads. Meaning, the views on occasion were spectacular and even certain sections of this highway were smooth as butter but around 30% of it felt like we were riding donkeys, not bikes. Each puddle sent a jolt up my butt. At one point I had simply had enough. And, that’s when I received even more butt jolts
  • After crossing into Meghalaya, the road conditions dramatically improved. In fact, we are even averaging around 50kmh! Also, Meghalaya reminded me of Nagaland and Kohima. Great weather (a pleasant 22 degrees or so), hilly area, clean and absolutely green. Tall trees, lush meadows and many rice plantations. In fact, I think this place is probably the best state to visit in northeast India
  • Meghalaya means “abode of the clouds”. Here’s why:
  • Silchar was predominantly a Muslim city (I saw many guys with beards and many mosques around). Just 100km away, after entering Meghalaya, Christianity dominated the region. Amazing how India is so secular
  • The “smooth as butter” road! What a contrast to National Highway 37!
  • Upon reaching Shillong, we put ourselves in the outskirts of the city at a resort (we went splurging on the last two days of our adventure in northeast India). The plan for the next day was to explore Cherrapunji, the wettest place on Earth!

Thursday, 6th October 2016

  • We had a lay in but I got up early to explore the greenery. As I stepped out into  the balcony, I saw Hannes was up as well
  • Our “Executive Room” in a resort in Meghalaya – Hannes offering me a “ricola”
  • The plan for the day was to explore Cherrapunji. Being the wettest place on Earth, I anticipated rain but it so happened that we luckily eluded rain all the time!
  • Prashant had a “duty call” (no, I don’t mean he needed to piss or dump, I mean he ended up having to work) so it was Hannes and I who went on a Cherrapunji exploration trip
  • The 80km ride out of our resort via Shillong city was a truly awesome ride (other than the part where we had to enter a conjested Shillong city and get out of it) but the attractions in Sohra (just beyond Cherrapunji) seemed like the work of a clever marketing guy at best. There was no substance to it. For example, we went to an Eco Park where they charged us entry tickets plus some more for the camera. The park had some puddles of water, views that were inferior to Tai Mo Shan and that’s it! The cave was also a similar “oversold” attraction!
  • What was truly an attraction was the ride itself. Riding the Enfield through pristine villages and meadows felt like THE medicine for the soul
  • The sun rays coming through (throughout this holiday), we somehow evaded the rain! It either rained before or after we got to a particular place
  • Clouds impacting the visibility
  • The first waterfalls we saw
  • A Presbyterian Church
  • This is what the Enfield looked like before we found someone to wash it for us!
  • The after picture!
  • We returned from Cherrapunji to our resort in 1 hour and 45 minutes covering 80kms rather quickly. Poor prashant was still busy with his call of duty
  • Today being the penultimate day on our holiday, we decided to party a little. The next day would be our last ride on this holiday as we would be returning to Guwahati and catching a flight back to Hong Kong

Friday, 7th October 2016

  • The last ride of the holiday was the final 90km ride from Orchid Lake Resort in the outskirts of Shillong back to Guwahati to return the bikes
  • We managed to evade rain on pretty much all the 7 days of our adventure but we ran into rain on this very last day when the ride back to Guwahati was only 2 hours long! My rain gear was buried at the bottom of the bag which didn’t help! But, luckily, it did not rain long
  • We reached Guwahati around 1230pm and returned the bikes. 1474kms was the total mileage on this adventure! The bikes were very well behaved and I was sure I’d miss riding the Enfield. I’m really glad we had zero mechanical problems with the bikes
  • We did our farewell lunch at “Hotel Delicacy” which came highly recommended by the lady at the bike shop. I think she oversold the place a little or maybe I am not such a big fan of Assamese food
  • Then it was time to head back to the airport and make the longish journey back to the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong

Miscellaneous photos:

  • I didn’t know this but the Naga people like their music! Hotel Heritage in Kohima had a rock concert going on. The place was full so we missed the chance to stay there
  • View of Kohima city from Hotel Ura
  • Look at the promises politians make before they get elected. Saw this sign board in Guwahati
  • Northeast India is famous for its rhinos. Although we weren’t able to visit Kaziranga park this time around, you see from the statue below in Guwahati airport that rhinos are a big deal there. In fact, I was thinking you could use a rhino pic in the stock market too – bull = strong market, bear = weak market, rhino = ultra bullish market because a rhino can kick a bull’s ass anytime! Or can it?
  • Here’s what I saw in Kohima – about their dream
  • A local movie poster in Kohima!
  • What is “gruffing”? And why is playing cards prohibited?
  • Shillong City – the only hill station with motorable roads to other destinations? Really?
  • My master photo of the lake from near Orchid Lake Resort on the outskirts of Shillong
  • A “reflection” photo of the lake
  • No helmet, no petrol!

 

Summary:

  • We got a taste of Assam (Guwahati, Nagaon, Silchar), Nagaland (Dimapur, Kohima), Manipur (Imphal, Loktak Lake) and Meghalaya (Shillong, Cherrapunji, Sohra) on this trip. We skipped Mizoram, Tripura and Arunachal Pradesh. Prashant and I had toured Sikkim before (both Gangtok and North Sikkim). Judging by what I’ve seen so far, I’d rank Nagaland, Sikkim and Meghalaya highly. Assam and Manipur would take the backseat. I found them to be too crowded and polluted compared to the other states
  • The inner line permits for Prashant and I and registering Hannes at the Foreigners Registration Office seemed to be a mere formality. Had someone stopped us, those things might have been needed but otherwise it was just excess baggage
  • I saw firsthand that India is really quite secular! Hinduism in Assam, Christianity in Nagaland and Meghalaya, Muslim and Hinduism in Manipur and Buddhism in Sikkim!
  • I observed that tobacco chewing seemed overly popular in Assam. Even young and otherwise attractive girls had red teeth as though they were dressed for Halloween! It’s a serious problem that Assam needs to tackle!
  • Oh, last but certainly not least, I learnt to never take NH37 again! That’s one road that’s best left untaken!

 

 

 

Motorbiking in Northern Thailand (Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Phayao, Mae Sai, Mae Rim)

Photos are here.

2016-09-15, Thursday, Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai

  • Toilet Cleaner Hannes and I took a flight from Hong Kong to Chiang Mai at 10am
Occupation: Toilet Cleaner

Occupation: Toilet Cleaner

  • At the APEC immigration counter in Chiang Mai, the immigration lady gave Toilet Cleaner a hard time because he didn’t fill up his APEC card number on the arrival card! (Does anyone anywhere in the world actually read the “Occupation” field on this card?)
  • We went walking from the airport to Tony’s Big Bikes: 2.5km but given I was navigating, it ended up being more like 3.5km and poor Toilet Cleaner was sweating like a pig
On the way to Tony's Big Bikes. I was contemplating riding this big and flowery bike

On the way to Tony’s Big Bikes. I was contemplating riding this big and flowery bike

  • We met Alex, our “bike keeper” and a man of few words, at around 2.30pm. 30 minutes later, we got on the bikes for a ride to Chiang Rai
  • It took us about three hours to cover the 180kms it took to ride from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai. There was some rain and I envied Hannes when he put on his rain jacket. Given my “travel light and shiver at night” philosophy, I could only watch, ride and occasionally shiver!
My Ninja and Hannes' CRF on the way to Chiang Rai

My Ninja and Hannes’ CRF on the way to Chiang Rai

RICOLA! That's how all kick ass biking trips start!

RICOLA! That’s how all kick ass biking trips start!

Ricola - the Swiss candy

Ricola – the Swiss candy

  • Chiang Rai seemed like Tai Po district in Hong Kong. Not too busy conpared to Chiang Mai and had a distinct character
  • We checked in into what looked like a really expensive hotel but only cost HKD 350/room (welcome to Thailand)
Our HKD 350/night hotel

Our HKD 350/night hotel

Ready for a full on dinner

Ready for a full on dinner

  • Hannes decided to impress everyone with his piano playing skills. Next time, he should probably fill in “Piano Player” on his Arrival Card
Hannes "Piano Man" Niggli

Hannes “Piano Man” Niggli

  • The next best thing about Thailand is the food. I ordered anything and everything I fancied including several “bukos” (young coconut). Cost about HKD 350 for the two of us. This also included several Singal beers

2016-09-15, Friday, Chiang Rai to Mae Sai. Mae Sai to Phayao

  • The plan was to hit the border. Mae Sai is what it was called and it was about 60kms from Chiang Rai
Mae Sai was the destination for the day. Right on the border with Burma

Mae Sai was the destination for the day. Right on the border with Burma

  • After a heavy breakfast, off we rode further north in the direction of Mae Sai. After about 50km, we saw a sign that read “second friendship bridge” (reminded me of a proverb: “people are lonely because they build walls instead of bridges”)
Back on the Ninja in the morning

Back on the Ninja in the morning

The Second Friendship Bridge (between Thailand and Burma)

The Second Friendship Bridge (between Thailand and Burma)

  • The guy at the “Customs House” forbid us from going any further so we did a U-turn and headed towards the ‘first friendship bridge’. It was a weird looking sight. A small immigration counter and two arches – one for Thailand and one for Burma
Immigration checkpoint between Burma and Thailand

Immigration checkpoint between Burma and Thailand

The Customs House were we got turned around

The Customs House where we got turned around

  • Some lady was carrying some fish into Burma while another one was showing off the “Hello Katty” sticker on her scooter. Yes, Kitty, Katty same same. As Shakespeare famously asked “what’s in the name”
Taking some fish into Burma

Taking some fish into Burma

Hello Kitty, Hello Katty. Same, same

Hello Kitty, Hello Katty. Same, same

Good guys in, bad guys out - that's what we're sayin'

Good guys in, bad guys out – that’s what we’re sayin’

Some appliances are going into Burma

Some appliances are going into Burma

  • The border was pretty much running in business as usual mode. Nothing eventful was happening there and it seemed to us that crossing the border back and forth is a daily affair for many. We spent about 10 minutes at the border and rode back to Chiang Rai
  • Final destination for the day was a place called Phayao. I read somewhere about a beautiful lake and several stunning temples there. It was a 120km ride from Mae Sai and a 60km ride from Chiang Rai
Phayao Lake. Love the colors

Phayao Lake. Love the colors

Two monks were cheering on the local Dragon Boating team

Two monks were cheering on the local Dragon Boating team

Row, row row a boat gently down the stream...

Row, row row a boat gently down the stream…

There was a wedding by the lake

There was a wedding by the lake

  • We checked ourselves into a luxurious Phayao hotel (HKD 350/night) -talk about being spoilt- and went for a ride around town
  • The lake was quite a sight, very serene and scenic. But, I think the best part of the ride came when we rode up to Wat Analayo Thiphpayaram. This hard-to-pronounce place is a 15km ride from Phayao. This wooded area was a little up the hills and felt green very tranquil. The statues of Buddha and the decor of the temples built quite some spiritual energy in me
A big Buddha in Wat Analayo

A big Buddha in Wat Analayo

The temples were very tranquil

The temples were very tranquil

Very similar decor to Hinduism

Very similar decor to Hinduism

  • After returning to our hotel, we switched over to the free bicycles that our luxurious hotel provided to look for a food joint. We settled on a restaurant by the night market for another sumptuous meal which cost about HKD 250. Unfortunately, it seemed like Phayao didn’t sell any young coconuts!
Hannes loves his pink bikes

Hannes loves his pink bikes

Switching to cycling from the Ninja

Switching to cycling from the Ninja

This dog was desperately trying to rip out this piece of cloth

This dog was desperately trying to rip out this piece of cloth

2016-09-16, Saturday, Phayao to Mae Rim. Mae Rim to Chiang Mai

  • After another heavy breakfast we started to ride back to Chiang Mai on a hilly road. It was only 150km from Phayao and the roads were as smooth as butter. The Ninja hit 120kmh on occasion. Hannes claimed that his CRF did 138kmh but somehow I doubt the accuracy of the speedometer
  • En route, it started to rain again and history repeated itself. Hannes put on his rain jacket while I told myself the usual “travel light, shiver at night”. Luckily it didn’t rain beyond 5 minutes. There was a beautiful waterfall en route
Hannes putting on his rain jacket on the way to Mae Rim from Phayao

Hannes putting on his rain jacket on the way to Mae Rim from Phayao

Right opposite to the waterfalls

Right opposite to the waterfalls

Beautiful waterfalls en route to Mae Rim

Beautiful waterfalls en route to Mae Rim

  • We were making time and I thought we could detour to Mae Rim to see some elephants. There’s a place called “Thai Elephant Care” there
Maesa Elephant Camp in Mae Rim

Maesa Elephant Camp in Mae Rim

  • The elephant place was amazing and elephants are such amazing creatures. I fed baby elephant one banana while holding the remaining 10 or so bananas in my other hand. As I was feeding Miss Baby, mama elephant snatched the rest of the bananas away from me with quite some force! Rookie mistake: never hold food in front of animals if you aren’t prepared for a snatch!
  • Watching the elephants play with each other was quite a sight! The siblings were playfully stealing food from each other’s mouths! One of them was swaying her head left and right as though she was swing dancing
This badly behaved mama elephant snatched all the bananas I was holding in my left hand

This badly behaved mama elephant snatched all the bananas I was holding in my left hand

Feeding the elephants some bananas

Feeding the elephants some bananas

Hannes doing some banana feeding

Hannes doing some banana feeding

baby and mama elephant

baby and mama elephant

Elephants are such amazing creatures

Elephants are such amazing creatures

  • We left Mae Rim at about 1pm and arrived at Tony’s Big Bikes around 2pm to return the bikes
Close to 700kms in 48 hours

Close to 700kms in 48 hours

  • After checking into our luxurious 7-star hotel (Hotel Anodard) -THB 500- we took a red taxi thing (Song Thaew) for THB 500 to Doi Suthep. Another tranquil place of worship. Really had me lost in thought. Peaceful and serene
Our hotel. I think we were the only ones here

Our hotel. I think we were the only ones here

Very clever demonstration of what the Up and Down buttons do on the lift

Very clever demonstration of what the Up and Down buttons do on the lift

Powerful gong but "no pushing" read the message

Powerful gong but “no pushing” read the message

All that glitters is peaceful but not gold

All that glitters is peaceful but not gold

Very tranquil here in Doi Suthep

Very tranquil here in Doi Suthep

Buddha Statues

Buddha Statues

Many were praying here

Many were praying here

2016-09-17, Sunday

  • Wake up time was a cruel 4am. (well, not that cruel – only 45 minutes ahead of my usual wake up time)
  • After riding 700kms in two days and having covered some of the key places on Northern Thailand, it was time to return to Hong Kong
  • Thailand is a special places. Friendly people, easy to get around and no speed cameras on the road. The food is awesome and the “bukos” are the best
The goodbye Chiang Mai meal

The goodbye Chiang Mai meal

Total "buko" count in one day: 7. Total buko count through the trip: 9!

Total “buko” count in one day: 7. Total buko count through the trip: 9!

#HKTRP #64 – Talking to ultra runner Rory Mitchell (3/3)

Here’s Part 3/3 of my interview with Rory Mitchell.

This also marks the end of this season of The Hong Kong Trail Rockers Podcast. A big ‘thank you’ to all the guests for sharing their wisdom with our listeners. Also, a big ‘thank you’ to all the listeners of this podcast! And, for all the comments and emails supporting this podcast. We’ll be back with a fresh new season and many more interviews in time to come!


Part 3:
In this part of the podcast, we’ll talk to Rory about his mental training strategies and will also ask him some personality questions. We will conclude by asking him about his future goals

Training (mental)
  • How does he do so many races / such long distances during painful moments? What’s been his most painful mental moment?
  • What is his philosophy on pain? When does he know when to persist and when not to?
  • What does he tell himself mentally when he has to persist through pain and continue to the finish line?
  • During long distance runs, does he listen to music? How do you maintain your focus?
  • What are his downtimes in running? When he didn’t want to run and felt miserable?
Philosophies:
  • Does he believe in taking medicines? If so, when and how? Has he taken medicines before during a race in order to finish the race?
  • What does he think about DNF-ing?
Personality:
  • If he could not run, what else would he do?
  • Does he have any strategies for mental training?
Goals:
  • As far as running is concerned what are his goals for 2016?
  • Talk about Run Rabbit Run
Advice:
  • For beginners getting into 100km+ running, what kind of advice does he have
Parting words of wisdom:
  • #1 key to success. Winning formula in life?
  • Advice for 20-year old self

To subscribe to this podcast, please go to iTunes and search for The Hong Kong Trail Rockers Podcast (https://itunes.apple.com/hk/podcast/hong-kong-trail-rockers-podcast!/id994423166)

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#HKTRP #66 – A candid conversation with Mo Devlin

Today, on the podcast I’ve got an inspirational person with an inspirational story. Running accomplishments aside (that list runs long too), he was diagnosed with prostrate cancer. That would slow most people down but Mo got faster and he is on his way to beating the cancer in true running fashion – 10 great podium place races despite undergoing radiation.

We will cover various topics in this conversation. We will talk to Mo about his background and how he got into running. We will then talk to him about his experience dealing with the cancer diagnosis. We will also have questions about the way he trains – both physically and mentally. We will finish with his goals for 2017 and beyond.

I want to also thank Mo for taking the time out to speak with us and for sharing his experience so others an learn and benefit from it. It takes a kind and generous person to be able to do this despite what he has gone through


Show Notes:

  • Who is Mo?
  • Where’s he from?
  • How did he get the nickname Mo?
  • Is there anything in his past that lead him to running / trail running?
  • What is his day job?

The ten rapid fire icebreaker questions to delve into the way you think:

  1. What is your favorite trail in Hong Kong and why?
  2. What is your most favorite race and why? (can be local or overseas)
  3. What accomplishment are you most proud of in running?
  4. What accomplishment are you most proud of in life?
  5. Who has played the most influential role in your life as a person?
  6. Who has played the most influential role in your life as a runner?
  7. Why do you run?
  8. What would you do if you could not run?
  9. Which book or resource has had the most impact on your life?
  10. If there’s only one piece of advice you could give your 20-year-old self what would it be?

Humble beginnings:

  • when did he start hiking/running? (what year) Humble beginnings: where it all started
  • Did he start off as a road runner? Does he enjoy both road running and trail running?

The cancer:

  • Walk us through to the beginning
    • Discovering the cancer itself was an act of “luck”. How?
      • collapsing 500m short of the finish line on Hard as Nayls race and being taken to the hospital
      • When was this? [Apr 2015]
    • Collapsing because of a heatstroke isn’t fun. Do you believe that this was an “act of God” or a higher power that enabled you to discover your cancer?
    • What was your initial reaction when you heard the diagnosis?
    • What was your family’s reaction?
    • The transition from those negative emotions of realizing what you had and converting them into something positive – talk about that. How did you manage that?
    • How do you deal with those down moments? How often do they occur?
    • People always say “stay positive”. How hard is that? Saying is different from doing
    • “Just because I am a cancer patient, I don’t have to become a cancer victim” – what fostered that attitude? What books did you read (if any) to cultivate that attitude?
    • You spoke about your brother who is more emotional and has lung cancer whereas you’ve learnt to compartmentalize and maintain a more or less normal life. How did you learn to compartmentalize? When should one compartmentalize? Does it come to you easily?
    • Those PBs and podium wins despite the radiation – you make it look easy but how hard is it really?
    • How supporting is your family about your running despite undergoing radiation?
  • Talk about the progress
    • What does radiation feel like?
    • How do you overcome the weakening effect of the radiation and channelise your energy into running?
    • When will you be 100% cured?
  • What is the biggest lesson that this has taught you?
  • Has this experience changed you in any way?
  • What advice would you give to someone else who has the misfortune of discovering something like this in their life?

 
Top 3 races or accomplishments:
 
Mo to choose 3 races

  1. 10kms in 36 minutes
  2. 2.5 hour marathon at the age of 17
  • Walk us through the top 3 races, the preparation, the training, the nutrition
  • What was it like?
  • Walk us through the journey. What was it like?
  • Did he put a lot of pressure on himself to complete? What was the “outside” pressure like on him?

Training: (physical)

  • How often does he train and how? Does he have a routine?
  • What’s his weekly training plan / mileage?
  • Has his training resulted in injuries and if so how does he deal with them?
  • How competitive is he? How important is it to him to best himself? Would he risk injuries in order to achieve certain goals?
  • What about long distance runs? Any interest in those?
  • What’s his philosophy on team runs like the OTW? Would he push his team to do better or would they do it “just for fun” ?
  • How do you deal with pain? Do you take any painkillers during runs? What’s his philosophy on that? What’s been his most painful run?
  • Talk to us about injuries, what he learnt from it. Does he believe in the needle guy?

Training (mental)

  • How does he do so many races / such long distances during painful moments? What’s been his most painful mental moment?
  • What is his philosophy on pain? When does he know when to persist and when not to?
  • What does he tell himself mentally when he has to persist through pain and continue to the finish line?
  • During long distance runs, does he listen to music? How do you maintain your focus? <– not sure about Mo’s long distance running record
  • What are his downtimes in running? When he didn’t want to run and felt miserable?
  • Which is more fulfilling? Work or running?

Nutrition / Gear strategy:

  • How does he do his long runs?
  • Does he swear by certain gear?

Philosophies:

  • Does he believe in taking medicines? If so, when and how? Has he taken medicines before during a race in order to finish the race?
  • What does he think about DNF-ing?

Goals:

  • As far as running is concerned what are his goals for 2017?
  • Talk about Movember and Janine

Advice:

  • For beginners getting into serious running, what advice do you have?

Parting words of wisdom:

  • #1 key to success. Winning formula in life?

#HKTRP #65 – An Oxfam Trailwalker 2016 conversation with Milos, John, Martin and the Nepali Team

Welcome to a brand new season of The Hong Kong Trail Rockers Podcast! First of all, a big “thank you” to our listeners for the great feedback and suggestions!

Going forward, we are going to have a couple of changes to the format of the show:

  1. We will publish full interviews in the same week  instead of having them them span over multiple weeks. This is to keep the continuity going
  2. We will have some great episodes that will be worth your time but not all weeks will see us releasing a new episode! But, when it’s out, we want it to be good!
  3. New episodes will be released on Thursday evenings

And, here’s the first episode of Season 2! I had the chance to speak to Milos Pintrava who is the main sponsor of Awoo Team Nepal (the winning team of Oxfam Trailwalker 2016 – 11 hours 01 minute is what it took them to run 100kms!)

The Nepali team, Martin, Milos and yours truly 

After that segment with Milos in which I asked him many questions about the Nepal team, I brought on my co-host who is none other than Milos’ son Martin Pintrava (he is too young even for a facebook account!) Listen to him as he takes control of the microphone and fires away questions at top runner John Ellis! None of the questions was scripted and you can hear 10-year-old Martin interviewing John like a pro and recalling facts from many years back effortlessly! This kid is not only going to become a top trail runner in the future but is also going to have a job in show biz waiting for him!

John gets floored by Martin’s insightful questions 

Finally, we interview the winning Nepali team with Dinna acting as our translator. My apologies in advance for the poor recording quality during this part of the show. We recorded the interview in a restaurant and there was some unavoidable extraneous noise and some interruptions!

My job got outsourced to Martin Pintrava


Questions we covered:
 
Milos:

  1. compare last year to this year
  2. Tell us about how you stopped them from getting lost this year
  3. How did you find these guys?
  4. What are their profiles
  5. How did they train? Who trained them?
  6. Why did he choose to sponsor them?
  7. Tell us about the pressure on them
  8. Tell us about the support from the beginning to the end
  9. Tell us about the leadership aspects of the team
  10. Why did they eat?
  11. Tell us about the finish line experience
  12. What has this experience taught you?
  13. Will you sponsor again next year?

Nepali team:

  1. introduce themselves: background in racing (Tirtha, Purna -captain-, Bed, Bhim)
    1. Best internationals results
  2. Talk to us about the pressure back home
  3. Tell us about your coaches
  4. Does the army training help?
  5. How confident where they going in
  6. How different is it in HK compared to Nepal
  7. Walk through the race:
    1. Preparation
    2. Strategy
    3. How they handled the conditions
    4. Food
    5. Did you run as a team together before?
    6. Team dynamics
    7. How they would have handled injuries
    8. Any interesting stories or snippets?
    9. Talk to us about each stage
  8. How does it feel to have won?
  9. What did you learn from this experience?
  10. Any tips to share with future trail runners
  11. Talk to us about messages from back home

Big ‘thank you’ to Milos, John, Dinna, the Nepali team and Martin (?!) for their time! And, thanks to Andre for the photos!
Until the next episode, go out for a run and crank up the mileage!


To subscribe to this podcast, please go to iTunes and search for The Hong Kong Trail Rockers Podcast (https://itunes.apple.com/hk/podcast/hong-kong-trail-rockers-podcast!/id994423166)

 

Northeast India (Assam, Nagaland, Manipur, Meghalaya)

Man and his motorbike:
There’s something about exploring the countryside on a motorbike. It’s fast enough for exploration and covering some decent area and at the same time, it’s slow enough to really soak in the experience. Plus, the motorbike engine definitely beats a bicycle when you have to ride uphill!

The destination:
Guwahati is the gateway to exploring the northeastern states of India. It has an international airport although we had to fly via Kolkata to reach Guwahati. There are seven states in northeast India and we (Hannes, Prashant and I) had budgeted 7 days of riding to explore them. Meaning, we had to choose about 3 out of the 7 states so we wouldn’t fall into the trap of covering as much ground as possible without really soaking in the place. Otherwise, that would be like cramming for an exam without understanding what is being taught

Northeastern states of India:

  • Arunachal Pradesh: Capital city: Itanagar. Good old China claims that this state belongs to them. Their map doesn’t really delineate this state as “disputed” either. It simply assumes its theirs! With any visit to a disputed region comes the trouble of arranging many permits. We couldn’t be bothered to go through all the hassle – so we decided to skip Arunchal Pradesh this time around
  • Assam: Capital city: Dispur
  • Manipur: Capital city: Imphal
  • Meghalaya: Capital city: Shillong
  • Mizoram: Capital city: Aizawl
  • Nagaland & Tripura: Capital city: Kohima and Agartala
  • Sikkim: Capital city: Gangtok. Prashant and I did a motorbike ride to Sikkim and Bhutan some years back. I remember having visited a zoo in Gangtok. Although Sikkim is in India, it feels nothing like India. (I mean the place – not the zoo! Monkey, bear, tiger = mostly same, same everywhere!) Sikkim became a separate state of India in 1975. It has a very Tibetan feel to it. North Sikkim is definitely a place to re-visit but since new places usually take precedence on a exploratory motorbike ride, we were going to skip Sikkim

The Planning:

  • Travel light and shiver at night: In the past, when we rode to Leh / Nubra valley and other high altitude places, I had a back-breaking backpack with me which would rest uncomfortably on the backseat of the motorbike. In addition to the literal pain in the rear from riding for several days, another figurative pain in the rear was definitely monkeying around with the bungee cords that fastened the backpack to the rear of the bike. Under high altitude, this was even more hard and annoying. Luckily, my kind friend Prashant would always come to help me. (All I had to do was to exaggerate my high-altitude symptoms!) This time, after becoming more mature and reading ’30 days with a Navy SEAL’ by Jesse Itzler, I decided to live right on the border of being comfortable and being uncomfortable. Meaning, “travel light, shiver at night”. During the day, it’s great and during the night, well, not so great! Especially, if it’s very cold
  • The Excel: Where to go? What to do? And, for how long? This is the not-so-enjoyable part of travel. Luckily, Prashant came to the rescue (as always). His Excel was going to be our mini Bible for the trip. Here it is. We also downloaded the maps for NE India from maps.me so we could navigate easily without the need for data on the phone (love that app). After debating which plan to follow on the Excel, we settled on Plan B. Meaning, we’d skip Mizoram but we’d have enough time to do side trips in the afternoons in Assam / Manipur / Meghalaya and Nagaland. We wrote down some of the possible side trips over here

The Dates:

  • A ticket that cost us (Hannes and I) close to HKD 9,000 took us from Hong Kong to Guwahati via Kolkata so we would arrive in Guwahati at 7am on Friday morning, 30th September 2016. We would depart on October 7th evening which meant we had around 8 days of riding to explore some of the northeastern states

The execution:
 
Thursday, 29th September 2016:

  • We took a Dragon Air flight from Hong Kong to Kolkata. Just as the plane was taxiing to take off from Hong Kong, we saw an opportunity to grab the empty “emergency exit” seats behind us. Free premium cattle class seats
  • Kolkata airport looked much better than the previous time I was there. They had many signs in the airport that announced that they were awarded “the most improved airport” in 2013

Friday, 30th September 2016:

  • We boarded a Jet Airways flight from Kolkata to Guwahati
  • We met our third partner-in-crime for this motorbike trip at Hotel Dynasty. Prashant seemed to have put on quite some serious weight since the last time I saw him. I told him that without any sugar coating but Hannes was more kind in his remarks
  • We got our ‘inner line permits’ done (Indians need them to travel in the northeast) and took a cab to Awe Rides to get our three Royal Enfield Classic 350cc motorbikes, aka Bullets
  • At about 3pm, we were riding in style towards Nagaon (140km from Guwahati) on three new Enfields
  • Both leaving Guwahati and entering Nagaon was a rather stressful activity because of the heavy traffic. We got separated in the beginning (Prashant went a different way and Hannes and I were together but went another way) but thanks to maps.me and two local phones we had for communication, we were eventually reunited. Before phones and maps.me, I am not sure what we would have done!
  • It took us around three hours to reach Nagaon. The route was alright (mainly good roads and some greenery) but the traffic in the beginning and at the end was not so enjoyable. During our heavy dinner in a hotel in Nagaon, we decided to make time by riding all the way to Kohima the next day instead of stopping at Dimapur which was the original plan. That way we would get out of the cities and traffic much sooner and ride into the hills

Saturday, 1st October 2016

  • We were all ready by 6.30am and walked down to the lobby where we met Derek, a cool looking fellow tourist who introduced himself as an ‘angler’. I didn’t know that word. (I am still not sure I got it right – need to google it). Fishing was his passion (the guys who do it seriously are called ‘anglers’) and he was explaining to us how fishing, as a sport, was actually a lot tougher than it seems. “Different fish have different sink lines and baits”, he explained. I asked him how much of good fishing was luck vs skill and his response was “100% skill”. Apparently, vegetarians go fishing too and release the fish after catching them
  • Derek also told us about Dimapur, our intended destination for the first half of the day. “Rustic” is how he described it. He also called it “a small town”
  • We set off at 7am and exited a quieter Nagaon and entered the hilly roads towards Dimapur which was a big relief from the conjested traffic of the previous day
  • Nagaland didn’t quite feel like India. (Nagaon is in the state of Assam and Dimapur is in Nagaland).  I was told that the staple food there was beef and Christianity was the most practiced religion there, not Hinduism
  • These cows below were likely headed for the slaughter house
  • The Indian democracy meant that the roads equally belonged to goats and cows and we had to always watch out for them. Sometimes I wonder how these animals can sit smack bang in the middle of the road without fearing a collision. Are they really that stupid that they cannot anticipate death from a traffic accident? Wouldn’t fast moving traffic look like predators to them? And, do animals think? What do they do sitting on that road all day long with their eyes open? How do they avoid feeling restless and useless?
  • Upon reaching Dimapur, we went to the Foreign Registration Office to register Hannes in. The lady in the office couldn’t speak Hindi but she spoke great English. Like other Naga people, she spoke with a nice Naga accent which sounded like you were talking to someone who has combined the Singaporean / Japanese / Philippino accents. Which was another thing I found very different about Nagaland. Like Bhutan, English worked everywhere and girls seemed to do most of the work! Policewoman, army women carrying AKs and M16s (no kidding! We saw many great looking women carrying machine guns. Imagine how distracting it would be to fight them! ) The army presence in the region was certainly palpable. We saw many army trucks and army jeeps. A soldier invariably stuck out from the jeeps sporting a machine gun. Looked like some sort of a scene from CNN!
  • As you can see from the photo below, the Nagaland girls don’t look Indian at all
  • Soon we found out that Derek’s definition of “rustic” to describe Dimapur didn’t exactly match ours! Dimapur was not a “small town” but more like a “city” which turned out to be very congested, polluted and dirty! We wanted to get out of there as soon as possible so we left rather quickly on our 80km ride to Kohima. We had 4 hours to do the 80km ride. (In northeast India, during the time we went at least, the sun rose early around (5am) and set early around (5.30pm) so we had to make sure we’d reach Kohima well before 6pm otherwise it would be pitch dark)
  • The road to Kohima was built by the BRO (Border Roads Organization) and they had quite a number of clever slogans on the road to impart some wisdom to those like us who use these roads
    1. Driving risky after whisky
    2. If opportunity does not knock build a door
    3. Life is a highway without a test drive
  • Kohima appeared to be much nicer compared to Dimapur. It was at an altitude of around 1400m above sea level. Again, I was surprised at how different it was to India. The theme repeated itself – very different culture, Chinese / Burmese looks, flawless English and broken Hindi! Girls seemed to do most of the work there (like Bhutan)
  • Entering Kohima
  • I saw paid toilets for the first time in India in Kohima (best way to ensure that both your bowels and your wallet will become lighter)
  • A lot of the words in Nagalese sounded Tibetan and they even had the “umlaut” in their words (the German U with the two dots on top). Pronounced ‘ah’
  • After some googling, the first place we wanted to stay at in Kohima was a place called “Hotel Majestic” which turned out to be full so we settled for a neighboring hotel called “Hotel Ura”
  • As you can see from the menu below, the local cuisines invariably included pork and chicken in Nagaland
  • I was quite pleased with Kohima so we decided to spend another day there and do a nature hike in Dzukou Valley the next day

Sunday, 2nd October 2016

  • The plan was to get up at 6am, have breakfast by 6.30am and leave for Dzukou valley by 7am for a hike that would feel like “heaven has landed upon planet Earth” according to a blog we read
  • Here’s a morning pic of Kohima from our balcony in Hotel Ura
  • We had to ride 25km to Viswema Village or 20km to Zakhama village (both on the way to Manipur) to get to the trail head. We chose to ride to Viswema village
  • More BRO signs on the way to Viswema village:
    1. Life is how to make it, it’s 90% how to take it
    2. Know safety, no injury. No safety, know injury
    3. Don’t drive fast. Otherwise you’ll have an urgent meeting with God
    4. Life is an occasion. Rise to it
    5. Stop accidents before they stop you
    6. The problem with drinking and driving is the mourning after
    7. This is not a rally. Enjoy the valley
  • Viswema village was nothing more than a collection of a few small houses. We needed directions to get to the trailhead and one lone guy we asked told us to take this road all the way to the end and pointed to a rather ominous looking “road”
  • This “road” was not one for the motorbikes – or so I thought. Gravel, puddles of water, big rocks, slushes and a threateningly uneven surface. But before I could launch my protests, Hannes and Prashant took off on their Enfields like rockets! I had no choice but to put on a brave face and copy their act
  • I almost fell off my bike several times and had to take many brief stops to calm my nerves down! Hannes was like a fish in water and Prashant seemed to be coping just fine
  • At one point, even hero Hannes thought it best to ‘park and walk’. I was already afraid of riding the bike back down and could feel the cortisol build up in my body
  • This 6km bike ride up that dirt road felt like eternity but took only 30 minutes. The walk to the trail head took another 15 minutes or so. We then started climbing some steep steps to the viewpoint
  • Prashant, who doesn’t really exercise much, needed several butt-kicks to get him up to 2700m (we started at an elevation of 2300m). It took us 90 minutes to do just 1.5km. After that, Prashant refused to go any further but in all fairness to him, for a person who doesn’t exercise at all, it was great going
  • These sort of signs promoting tree plantation and animal awareness were eveywhere
  • An “easier” section on that dirt road
  • It was 12.20pm by the time we got to the viewpoint. Prashant felt like an old man already and didn’t want to go any further. The view we got from the viewpoint was only that of clouds as the visibility was quit bad! Hannes suggested that I run to the valley from the viewpoint (another 6km or so) while Prashant and him would head back down. I had until 2pm to meet them back at the bikes. I took him up on that offer and switched to running mode
  • It took me 40 minutes to run to Dzukou valley from the viewpoint. It was quite an awesome trail run. The views were spectacular and the air was pure! The descriptions of this place on the internet kind of exaggerated its beauty but I probably feel that way because I have had the good fortune of traveling to many places around the world. This valley was certainly lush and serene and stunning but other places I’ve been to have had a deeper impact on my soul. Here are some pics of the valley
  • This was the guesthouse on top
  • “Plucking of flowers dry or fresh will be fine!” He’s missing a “d”
  • This is Dzukou Valley – look at the rolling hills
  • I ran back in about 40 minutes and completed my 10km run! Then I saw Prashant and Hannes near the end of the steep steps section
  • We concluded the hike in around 5 hours or so
  • I was very nervous about the motorbike ride back down on the dirt road but after that nice 10km trail run, my nerves were much more cool and I followed Hannes’ riding tips and also psyched myself up: think “it’s losing control that’s scary not fear itself”. I just tried to make sure I’d have control over the bike and Hannes offered me some great tips for establishing and maintaining that control
  • We concluded the day with a great meal. Prashant ended up “meditating” soon after we got back. He called it meditation but the last time I checked, snoring isn’t supposed to be a by product of meditation!

Monday, 3rd October 2016

  • The plan was to have breakfast by 6.30am and start riding to Imphal (Manipur) by 7.30am
  • I felt a little sad to leave Nagaland. Nice state, such friendly and chilled out people, beautiful Naga girls, interesting Nagalese language and good weather. The starry night view from the balcony of the hotel was a sight to remember (this iPhone pic doesn’t do justice to the sight)
  • Here’s the same view in the morning
  • After having said goodbye to the pretty Naga lady at the reception of Hotel Ura, we departed for Loktak Lake in Manipur at around 7am
  • I saw more interesting BRO signs along the way:
    1. Drivers are safer when roads are dry. Roads are safer when the driver is dry
    2. It’s a long road but it’s worth it
    3. Be soft on curves
    4. Don’t mix drinking and driving
  • Prashant had his first fall. He went over some rock and fell down. Luckily, other than some slight petrol spill, there was no further damage to him or the bike but it was sure a scary sight
  • The small petrol spill after Prashant’s fall
  • There was a big battle here back in the day in 1944
  • The ride to Imphal took us close to 4 hours on a road that was kind of ok but full of potholes. It got very hot as we left the Kohima (1400m) and rode down to Imphal (800m). Hindi replaced Nagalese and people started to look more Indian rather than Chinese / Tibetan. (Amazing what a difference 150km can make!)
  • We reached Loktak lake in Manipur after 7 hours of riding (averaging 30kmh). The lake was nice and our accommodation by the lake was great but I would choose Kohima and Nagaland over Manipur any day!
  • On the way to Loktak Lake
  • The lake
  • Hannes was extra pleased after we got hold of “Diablo” beer in the evening. The guy we bought the beer from told us that he had to smuggle them into Manipur from Bangladesh and charged us INR 200 per can
  • On the agenda for the next day was a return to Assam – a 250km ride from Loktak Lake to Silchar in Assam

Tuesday, 4th October 2016

  • As usual, we got up at 6am and had our breakfast at 6.30am
  • I headed out to put my shoes on and as I was dusting my shoes, a big frog jumped out of it!! (Lesson: never leave your shoes outside the room!)
  • The original plan was to take the highway to Imphal and then another highway (NH37) to Silchar in Assam. However to avoid the boring traffic and smoke from the vehicles, we decided to take the scenic route from Loktak lake. This scenic route was supposed to bypass the first highway and then directly connect to NH37
  • Initially on this scene route, there were just a few puddles and many rubbles to negotiate. Given the challenge we successfully undertook during the Dzukou Valley day, we thought that this scenic route would be a breeze. BIG MISTAKE
  • The photos below show the good part of the scenic route – (this river is called river Barek and it flows into Bangladesh)
  • The scenic beauty sort of went unappreciated after a while because of the very challenging road conditions! It was like riding a motorbike on a mountain trail. The slushy roads meant frequent dancing around on the motorbike just to prevent a fall. It felt like riding on ice!
  • A lot of the road was like this!
  • This uphill stretch was beyond Prashant and I. Hannes rode all our bikes up this stretch
  • Then came a nasty river crossing. It reminded me of our time in Leh, India. By this time, I had had enough! I was ready to see good roads again and really wanted to get to NH37 (National Highway 37) as soon as possible. We had been riding on this crappy road for close to 6 hours when we met this lady who told us that we would hit the NH37 highway in 6 more kilometers. In reality, it took us more like 12km and there was plenty more slush and ultra narrow trails to negotiate before we got there! Hannes got stuck two times there in the slush
  • This is the river crossing before we hit NH37
  • At about 1.30pm, we hit NH37 and celebrated with some high fives. We had 150km more to go on proper roads to reach Silchar
  • And, boy were we wrong! NH37 had certain stretches that made our recent challenge look like a walk in the park! We didn’t know this but NH37 was actually closed because of landslides! And, calling it a “highway” makes me squirm! There were some good sections but they were interspersed with potholes and slush like we had never seen before!
  • We thought we were on target to reaching Silchar at 6pm (30 minutes after sunset) but at about 4pm we got stuck in the mother of all slushes! We couldn’t get our bikes out of the slush
  • Some trucks were waiting there for 10 days for the JCB (road fixing machine) to repair the road
  • We gave up on that section after trying to help each other by pushing the bikes up as hard as we could to extricate the wheels from the mud. Eventually, we decided to pay our way out of the situation and asked a truck driver to help us in exchange for money
  • It was 6pm and already dark. Vehicles were trapped in the slush which made it harder for our bikes to get though. We even thought of spending the night there. Sweating profusely and depleted of energy, we sat down at some place by the road and pondered our options. Paying our way out wasn’t working either as the slush and the traffic stuck in it meant that there was simply no way to ride the bikes out of it
  • Riding through this wasn’t easy!
  • This truck was stuck in the mud like many other vehicles
  • Getting the bike out of this slush was a nightmare
  • We tried again but eventually, we just sat down by the side of the road tired and exhausted. We debated our options and eventually decided to walk over to the truck drivers one more time to ask them for help. Hannes guarded our bags while Prashant and I went over to try our luck again
  • The truck driver and the owner of the truck told me that “people need to help each other in moments of trouble” and asked me to not talk about money. They told me that money sullies good deeds. With that, soon after some of the stuck vehicles were extricated, the truck driver and the owner helped us get all the three bikes out to the other side of the bridge. (A bridge at the end of this slushy section supposedly delineated the good side of the road from the bad). We thanked them profusely. They didn’t want any talk of money. I was happy to note that such good people still exist. People can be good natured if they so choose. In fact, I was thankful for having had this experience just so I could witness such acts of kindness and remember them. This driver had been stuck there for 10 days and was living of INR 50 (HKD 6) a day! He had no place to stay other than a little camp by the truck – still he didn’t want any talk of money!
  • We thought that we were over the bridge (literally and figuratively) but the nightmarish slush still continued, albeit on a smaller scale. We now had to negotiate them in the dark! We had been lucky with the weather (slush aside, at least it didn’t rain! I was scared to think what our situation would have been like had it rained)
  • Several more potholes and slushy surfaces later, we reached a village at about 8pm. We then continued to ride into Silchar on rather bumpy roads and reached at around 10pm! Our longest ever ride!
  • This is was my bike looked like
  • At 10pm, Silchar looked like a dump. Luckily, I found a shoe seller there and bought a new pair of shoes! The sole of my shoes got yanked off when I was pushing the bike up that horrible slush.
  • Look at my poor old shoes! They’ve been with me for close to 10 years and have traveled to many exotic places with me but they eventually met a rather cruel demise in Sichar of all places!
  • Upon reaching Silchar, tired and exhausted as we were from the day’s unanticipated adventure, more effort was needed as we struggled to find a hotel. After roaming around for 30 minutes, we finally found one. Later we came to know that these hotels were less willing to rent out rooms to single guys as they feared that these guys would wreck the place by smoking weed and hiring hookers!
  • Hannes had to fill up some special ‘Foreigners Form’ to identify himself at the hotel we finally found. He wasn’t happy. The hotel guy told us that since Silchar was close to the Bangladesh border more checking was necessary. Hannes told the hotel guy that he was from Switzerland, not Pakistan, Bangladesh or Baramulla! The hotel guy relented and waived the requirement for all foreigners to report to the police station before they could rent a room!
  • We were super tired and decided to break the 6am wake up protocol. Instead, we chose to sleep in for another hour and got up at 7am. We decided to give off road biking a rest!

Wednesday, October 5th 2016

  • National Highway 6 to Shillong was the plan! The two words “National Highway” were enough to send a shiver down my spine. Images of extricating bikes from deep slushes and negotiating very deep potholes immediately came to mind
  • The good part of all the highways is that the BRO signs are always worth reading. Here’s another:
    1. If everything comes your way, you’re in the wrong lane
    2. (I take that to mean stop having a victim attitude in life. Change your lane instead)
  • The first half of our 290km ride from Silchar to Shillong was like watching a supposedly great movie that’s punctuated by many long, boring and annoying ads. Meaning, the views on occasion were spectacular and even certain sections of this highway were smooth as butter but around 30% of it felt like we were riding donkeys, not bikes. Each puddle sent a jolt up my butt. At one point I had simply had enough. And, that’s when I received even more butt jolts
  • After crossing into Meghalaya, the road conditions dramatically improved. In fact, we are even averaging around 50kmh! Also, Meghalaya reminded me of Nagaland and Kohima. Great weather (a pleasant 22 degrees or so), hilly area, clean and absolutely green. Tall trees, lush meadows and many rice plantations. In fact, I think this place is probably the best state to visit in northeast India
  • Meghalaya means “abode of the clouds”. Here’s why:
  • Silchar was predominantly a Muslim city (I saw many guys with beards and many mosques around). Just 100km away, after entering Meghalaya, Christianity dominated the region. Amazing how India is so secular
  • The “smooth as butter” road! What a contrast to National Highway 37!
  • Upon reaching Shillong, we put ourselves in the outskirts of the city at a resort (we went splurging on the last two days of our adventure in northeast India). The plan for the next day was to explore Cherrapunji, the wettest place on Earth!

Thursday, 6th October 2016

  • We had a lay in but I got up early to explore the greenery. As I stepped out into  the balcony, I saw Hannes was up as well
  • Our “Executive Room” in a resort in Meghalaya – Hannes offering me a “ricola”
  • The plan for the day was to explore Cherrapunji. Being the wettest place on Earth, I anticipated rain but it so happened that we luckily eluded rain all the time!
  • Prashant had a “duty call” (no, I don’t mean he needed to piss or dump, I mean he ended up having to work) so it was Hannes and I who went on a Cherrapunji exploration trip
  • The 80km ride out of our resort via Shillong city was a truly awesome ride (other than the part where we had to enter a conjested Shillong city and get out of it) but the attractions in Sohra (just beyond Cherrapunji) seemed like the work of a clever marketing guy at best. There was no substance to it. For example, we went to an Eco Park where they charged us entry tickets plus some more for the camera. The park had some puddles of water, views that were inferior to Tai Mo Shan and that’s it! The cave was also a similar “oversold” attraction!
  • What was truly an attraction was the ride itself. Riding the Enfield through pristine villages and meadows felt like THE medicine for the soul
  • The sun rays coming through (throughout this holiday), we somehow evaded the rain! It either rained before or after we got to a particular place
  • Clouds impacting the visibility
  • The first waterfalls we saw
  • A Presbyterian Church
  • This is what the Enfield looked like before we found someone to wash it for us!
  • The after picture!
  • We returned from Cherrapunji to our resort in 1 hour and 45 minutes covering 80kms rather quickly. Poor prashant was still busy with his call of duty
  • Today being the penultimate day on our holiday, we decided to party a little. The next day would be our last ride on this holiday as we would be returning to Guwahati and catching a flight back to Hong Kong

Friday, 7th October 2016

  • The last ride of the holiday was the final 90km ride from Orchid Lake Resort in the outskirts of Shillong back to Guwahati to return the bikes
  • We managed to evade rain on pretty much all the 7 days of our adventure but we ran into rain on this very last day when the ride back to Guwahati was only 2 hours long! My rain gear was buried at the bottom of the bag which didn’t help! But, luckily, it did not rain long
  • We reached Guwahati around 1230pm and returned the bikes. 1474kms was the total mileage on this adventure! The bikes were very well behaved and I was sure I’d miss riding the Enfield. I’m really glad we had zero mechanical problems with the bikes
  • We did our farewell lunch at “Hotel Delicacy” which came highly recommended by the lady at the bike shop. I think she oversold the place a little or maybe I am not such a big fan of Assamese food
  • Then it was time to head back to the airport and make the longish journey back to the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong

Miscellaneous photos:

  • I didn’t know this but the Naga people like their music! Hotel Heritage in Kohima had a rock concert going on. The place was full so we missed the chance to stay there
  • View of Kohima city from Hotel Ura
  • Look at the promises politians make before they get elected. Saw this sign board in Guwahati
  • Northeast India is famous for its rhinos. Although we weren’t able to visit Kaziranga park this time around, you see from the statue below in Guwahati airport that rhinos are a big deal there. In fact, I was thinking you could use a rhino pic in the stock market too – bull = strong market, bear = weak market, rhino = ultra bullish market because a rhino can kick a bull’s ass anytime! Or can it?
  • Here’s what I saw in Kohima – about their dream
  • A local movie poster in Kohima!
  • What is “gruffing”? And why is playing cards prohibited?
  • Shillong City – the only hill station with motorable roads to other destinations? Really?
  • My master photo of the lake from near Orchid Lake Resort on the outskirts of Shillong
  • A “reflection” photo of the lake
  • No helmet, no petrol!

 

Summary:

  • We got a taste of Assam (Guwahati, Nagaon, Silchar), Nagaland (Dimapur, Kohima), Manipur (Imphal, Loktak Lake) and Meghalaya (Shillong, Cherrapunji, Sohra) on this trip. We skipped Mizoram, Tripura and Arunachal Pradesh. Prashant and I had toured Sikkim before (both Gangtok and North Sikkim). Judging by what I’ve seen so far, I’d rank Nagaland, Sikkim and Meghalaya highly. Assam and Manipur would take the backseat. I found them to be too crowded and polluted compared to the other states
  • The inner line permits for Prashant and I and registering Hannes at the Foreigners Registration Office seemed to be a mere formality. Had someone stopped us, those things might have been needed but otherwise it was just excess baggage
  • I saw firsthand that India is really quite secular! Hinduism in Assam, Christianity in Nagaland and Meghalaya, Muslim and Hinduism in Manipur and Buddhism in Sikkim!
  • I observed that tobacco chewing seemed overly popular in Assam. Even young and otherwise attractive girls had red teeth as though they were dressed for Halloween! It’s a serious problem that Assam needs to tackle!
  • Oh, last but certainly not least, I learnt to never take NH37 again! That’s one road that’s best left untaken!

 

 

 

Motorbiking in Northern Thailand (Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Phayao, Mae Sai, Mae Rim)

Photos are here.

2016-09-15, Thursday, Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai

  • Toilet Cleaner Hannes and I took a flight from Hong Kong to Chiang Mai at 10am
Occupation: Toilet Cleaner

Occupation: Toilet Cleaner

  • At the APEC immigration counter in Chiang Mai, the immigration lady gave Toilet Cleaner a hard time because he didn’t fill up his APEC card number on the arrival card! (Does anyone anywhere in the world actually read the “Occupation” field on this card?)
  • We went walking from the airport to Tony’s Big Bikes: 2.5km but given I was navigating, it ended up being more like 3.5km and poor Toilet Cleaner was sweating like a pig
On the way to Tony's Big Bikes. I was contemplating riding this big and flowery bike

On the way to Tony’s Big Bikes. I was contemplating riding this big and flowery bike

  • We met Alex, our “bike keeper” and a man of few words, at around 2.30pm. 30 minutes later, we got on the bikes for a ride to Chiang Rai
  • It took us about three hours to cover the 180kms it took to ride from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai. There was some rain and I envied Hannes when he put on his rain jacket. Given my “travel light and shiver at night” philosophy, I could only watch, ride and occasionally shiver!
My Ninja and Hannes' CRF on the way to Chiang Rai

My Ninja and Hannes’ CRF on the way to Chiang Rai

RICOLA! That's how all kick ass biking trips start!

RICOLA! That’s how all kick ass biking trips start!

Ricola - the Swiss candy

Ricola – the Swiss candy

  • Chiang Rai seemed like Tai Po district in Hong Kong. Not too busy conpared to Chiang Mai and had a distinct character
  • We checked in into what looked like a really expensive hotel but only cost HKD 350/room (welcome to Thailand)
Our HKD 350/night hotel

Our HKD 350/night hotel

Ready for a full on dinner

Ready for a full on dinner

  • Hannes decided to impress everyone with his piano playing skills. Next time, he should probably fill in “Piano Player” on his Arrival Card
Hannes "Piano Man" Niggli

Hannes “Piano Man” Niggli

  • The next best thing about Thailand is the food. I ordered anything and everything I fancied including several “bukos” (young coconut). Cost about HKD 350 for the two of us. This also included several Singal beers

2016-09-15, Friday, Chiang Rai to Mae Sai. Mae Sai to Phayao

  • The plan was to hit the border. Mae Sai is what it was called and it was about 60kms from Chiang Rai
Mae Sai was the destination for the day. Right on the border with Burma

Mae Sai was the destination for the day. Right on the border with Burma

  • After a heavy breakfast, off we rode further north in the direction of Mae Sai. After about 50km, we saw a sign that read “second friendship bridge” (reminded me of a proverb: “people are lonely because they build walls instead of bridges”)
Back on the Ninja in the morning

Back on the Ninja in the morning

The Second Friendship Bridge (between Thailand and Burma)

The Second Friendship Bridge (between Thailand and Burma)

  • The guy at the “Customs House” forbid us from going any further so we did a U-turn and headed towards the ‘first friendship bridge’. It was a weird looking sight. A small immigration counter and two arches – one for Thailand and one for Burma
Immigration checkpoint between Burma and Thailand

Immigration checkpoint between Burma and Thailand

The Customs House were we got turned around

The Customs House where we got turned around

  • Some lady was carrying some fish into Burma while another one was showing off the “Hello Katty” sticker on her scooter. Yes, Kitty, Katty same same. As Shakespeare famously asked “what’s in the name”
Taking some fish into Burma

Taking some fish into Burma

Hello Kitty, Hello Katty. Same, same

Hello Kitty, Hello Katty. Same, same

Good guys in, bad guys out - that's what we're sayin'

Good guys in, bad guys out – that’s what we’re sayin’

Some appliances are going into Burma

Some appliances are going into Burma

  • The border was pretty much running in business as usual mode. Nothing eventful was happening there and it seemed to us that crossing the border back and forth is a daily affair for many. We spent about 10 minutes at the border and rode back to Chiang Rai
  • Final destination for the day was a place called Phayao. I read somewhere about a beautiful lake and several stunning temples there. It was a 120km ride from Mae Sai and a 60km ride from Chiang Rai
Phayao Lake. Love the colors

Phayao Lake. Love the colors

Two monks were cheering on the local Dragon Boating team

Two monks were cheering on the local Dragon Boating team

Row, row row a boat gently down the stream...

Row, row row a boat gently down the stream…

There was a wedding by the lake

There was a wedding by the lake

  • We checked ourselves into a luxurious Phayao hotel (HKD 350/night) -talk about being spoilt- and went for a ride around town
  • The lake was quite a sight, very serene and scenic. But, I think the best part of the ride came when we rode up to Wat Analayo Thiphpayaram. This hard-to-pronounce place is a 15km ride from Phayao. This wooded area was a little up the hills and felt green very tranquil. The statues of Buddha and the decor of the temples built quite some spiritual energy in me
A big Buddha in Wat Analayo

A big Buddha in Wat Analayo

The temples were very tranquil

The temples were very tranquil

Very similar decor to Hinduism

Very similar decor to Hinduism

  • After returning to our hotel, we switched over to the free bicycles that our luxurious hotel provided to look for a food joint. We settled on a restaurant by the night market for another sumptuous meal which cost about HKD 250. Unfortunately, it seemed like Phayao didn’t sell any young coconuts!
Hannes loves his pink bikes

Hannes loves his pink bikes

Switching to cycling from the Ninja

Switching to cycling from the Ninja

This dog was desperately trying to rip out this piece of cloth

This dog was desperately trying to rip out this piece of cloth

2016-09-16, Saturday, Phayao to Mae Rim. Mae Rim to Chiang Mai

  • After another heavy breakfast we started to ride back to Chiang Mai on a hilly road. It was only 150km from Phayao and the roads were as smooth as butter. The Ninja hit 120kmh on occasion. Hannes claimed that his CRF did 138kmh but somehow I doubt the accuracy of the speedometer
  • En route, it started to rain again and history repeated itself. Hannes put on his rain jacket while I told myself the usual “travel light, shiver at night”. Luckily it didn’t rain beyond 5 minutes. There was a beautiful waterfall en route
Hannes putting on his rain jacket on the way to Mae Rim from Phayao

Hannes putting on his rain jacket on the way to Mae Rim from Phayao

Right opposite to the waterfalls

Right opposite to the waterfalls

Beautiful waterfalls en route to Mae Rim

Beautiful waterfalls en route to Mae Rim

  • We were making time and I thought we could detour to Mae Rim to see some elephants. There’s a place called “Thai Elephant Care” there
Maesa Elephant Camp in Mae Rim

Maesa Elephant Camp in Mae Rim

  • The elephant place was amazing and elephants are such amazing creatures. I fed baby elephant one banana while holding the remaining 10 or so bananas in my other hand. As I was feeding Miss Baby, mama elephant snatched the rest of the bananas away from me with quite some force! Rookie mistake: never hold food in front of animals if you aren’t prepared for a snatch!
  • Watching the elephants play with each other was quite a sight! The siblings were playfully stealing food from each other’s mouths! One of them was swaying her head left and right as though she was swing dancing
This badly behaved mama elephant snatched all the bananas I was holding in my left hand

This badly behaved mama elephant snatched all the bananas I was holding in my left hand

Feeding the elephants some bananas

Feeding the elephants some bananas

Hannes doing some banana feeding

Hannes doing some banana feeding

baby and mama elephant

baby and mama elephant

Elephants are such amazing creatures

Elephants are such amazing creatures

  • We left Mae Rim at about 1pm and arrived at Tony’s Big Bikes around 2pm to return the bikes
Close to 700kms in 48 hours

Close to 700kms in 48 hours

  • After checking into our luxurious 7-star hotel (Hotel Anodard) -THB 500- we took a red taxi thing (Song Thaew) for THB 500 to Doi Suthep. Another tranquil place of worship. Really had me lost in thought. Peaceful and serene
Our hotel. I think we were the only ones here

Our hotel. I think we were the only ones here

Very clever demonstration of what the Up and Down buttons do on the lift

Very clever demonstration of what the Up and Down buttons do on the lift

Powerful gong but "no pushing" read the message

Powerful gong but “no pushing” read the message

All that glitters is peaceful but not gold

All that glitters is peaceful but not gold

Very tranquil here in Doi Suthep

Very tranquil here in Doi Suthep

Buddha Statues

Buddha Statues

Many were praying here

Many were praying here

2016-09-17, Sunday

  • Wake up time was a cruel 4am. (well, not that cruel – only 45 minutes ahead of my usual wake up time)
  • After riding 700kms in two days and having covered some of the key places on Northern Thailand, it was time to return to Hong Kong
  • Thailand is a special places. Friendly people, easy to get around and no speed cameras on the road. The food is awesome and the “bukos” are the best
The goodbye Chiang Mai meal

The goodbye Chiang Mai meal

Total "buko" count in one day: 7. Total buko count through the trip: 9!

Total “buko” count in one day: 7. Total buko count through the trip: 9!

#HKTRP #64 – Talking to ultra runner Rory Mitchell (3/3)

Here’s Part 3/3 of my interview with Rory Mitchell.

This also marks the end of this season of The Hong Kong Trail Rockers Podcast. A big ‘thank you’ to all the guests for sharing their wisdom with our listeners. Also, a big ‘thank you’ to all the listeners of this podcast! And, for all the comments and emails supporting this podcast. We’ll be back with a fresh new season and many more interviews in time to come!


Part 3:
In this part of the podcast, we’ll talk to Rory about his mental training strategies and will also ask him some personality questions. We will conclude by asking him about his future goals

Training (mental)
  • How does he do so many races / such long distances during painful moments? What’s been his most painful mental moment?
  • What is his philosophy on pain? When does he know when to persist and when not to?
  • What does he tell himself mentally when he has to persist through pain and continue to the finish line?
  • During long distance runs, does he listen to music? How do you maintain your focus?
  • What are his downtimes in running? When he didn’t want to run and felt miserable?
Philosophies:
  • Does he believe in taking medicines? If so, when and how? Has he taken medicines before during a race in order to finish the race?
  • What does he think about DNF-ing?
Personality:
  • If he could not run, what else would he do?
  • Does he have any strategies for mental training?
Goals:
  • As far as running is concerned what are his goals for 2016?
  • Talk about Run Rabbit Run
Advice:
  • For beginners getting into 100km+ running, what kind of advice does he have
Parting words of wisdom:
  • #1 key to success. Winning formula in life?
  • Advice for 20-year old self

To subscribe to this podcast, please go to iTunes and search for The Hong Kong Trail Rockers Podcast (https://itunes.apple.com/hk/podcast/hong-kong-trail-rockers-podcast!/id994423166)