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Bike Tubes Shouldn’t Last More Than 10 Years: (I Rode My Bike Around Some Temples Part II)

Bikes tubes and tires probably shouldn’t last 10 years. And if they do, it is not wise to brag about having never gotten a flat tire on a ride.  I’m just saying.  But I’m getting ahead of myself here.

Ronit and I decided, in our last year here in Cambodia, to again participate in the Angkor Wat Bike Ride and Half Marathon.  Unlike in years past, when I would ride and Ronit would do the run, this year we decided we’d do both events: a 100km bike ride on Saturday and a 13.1 mile run on Sunday.  This madness I squarely blame on Ronit’s USAID colleague Robin Martz and her husband Dave.  They are both triathletes, marathoners, and participate in other such craziness.  They are training for the Quebec Iron Man for pete’s sake!  So we saw them sign up for both events and thought, “Well if Robin and Dave can do it…”

We set a pretty aggressive training schedule of long runs on Saturdays, bike rides and Ultimate Frisbee on Sunday, with some weekday spinning classes (taught by Robin) and treadmill work thrown in for good measure. 

We also raised some money for an excellent cause.  The bike ride organizer, Village Focus, is a Siem Reap based NGO that works with vulnerable Cambodian children to help them become happy and productive members of Cambodian society.  Ronit and I hosted a bourbon tasting in Phnom Penh (Brought to you by DC Spirits), which raised $335 for the cause and we had six pretty nice bourbons to share.  We also asked y’all via email, and many of you very generously opened your wallets.  All told, we raised $906 dollars for Village Focus (this isn’t a plug for more money… they reached their event goal of $50,000 and there are plenty of great causes to put money into this holiday season).

The actual bike race was very similar to the 2008 and 2009 events, which I participated in, except that those were 80km, and this was a full 100km. The route consists of four 25km loops around the gorgeous Angkor Wat complex.  Ronit and I set out at a good pace, hoping to finish the race in under four hours.  Our first lap, the average speed was 27.7km/hour, and we only stopped once for a potty break.  The second lap was similar; our average crept down to 27.3km/hour, but still on pace to finish under four hours.  About 3km into the third lap, we stopped to grab some Stinger waffles (thanks Matt & Robin!) and we heard BAM! Pshhhhhhhh…  My 10-year old tubes finally gave out on me.  I quickly changed the tube, but due to my afore-mentioned cockiness, did not have a bike pump. Neither did any of the many riders who were passing by.  Two riders did stop, but both had a pump for the wrong kind of valve.  In the end, we decided that Ronit would finish the 3rd lap and I would walk back to the start and wait for her there so we could finish the fourth lap together.  I walked back to the start, got the tire pumped up, was able to use the restroom again, saw Robin come in first place for the women’s bike race and stretched a little, while Ronit plugged away an extra 22km at a very quick pace (estimated 28km/hour). I then jumped in with her and we rode the last loop together, slowing slightly, to finish with an average speed of 26.6km/hour.  We rode in at about 4 hours and 10 minutes on the official clock, but we’re clocking ourselves at 3:55, since we wasted about 15 minutes looking for a bike pump.

After a nice afternoon massage and nap, we headed to our normal Italian carb-load pre-race dinner, and met up with 40 of our closest friends from other U.S. embassies around the region who came to Siem Reap for the race.
The next morning, we were again in front of Angkor Wat pre-sunrise, but this time without our bikes.  It was estimated that between the half marathon, the 10km race, and the 3km fun run, there were over 5,200 runners participating this year, by far the largest running event Cambodia has ever hosted.  Ronit and I set a very even pace from the beginning.  Having never run more than 4 consecutive miles before we started training, my goal was really just to finish.  We had a pipe-dream of finishing in under 2 hours, but realistically knew we’d come in somewhere around 2:10.  We walked twice, once for a minute about half way through and once for 30 seconds at km 17. Otherwise, we stayed steady and strong.  We were able to pick up the pace the last ½ kilometer, especially when we heard the cheering crowds at the finish line.  We ended up coming in a 2:06:30. (I’ll include a link to the race site, which has times up, but at time or writing the race site is suspended).

All in all, we had a very successful weekend.  We had a fabulous time and had a good group of friends to cheer us on.
In other news, we got our next assignment.  Every night as part of the bedtime ritual, we sing Shai a couple of songs. One is Hashkiveinu, a Jewish prayer you say before bedtime. The other is a Pulaar song called Do Kaffe Lo. Even in a sleep induced haze, if you try to slip out before singing that, Shai will insist, “What about Do Kaffe Lo?”  As well, Ronit always felt she had some unfinished projects with her Peace Corps village and clearly wanted to introduce all of us to her family in the village. So yes, we are going to Senegal.  This is a little unexpected, since we had not been in touch with the mission prior to receiving the assignment, they were pretty low on our bid-list and we had a positive indication from a Latin America post.  But the folks in Washington get to decide, and they decided the Gerards are headed to Senegal for our next post. 

This means a few of things for you, my dear readers: First, if you’d like to visit Cambodia, you have until May 2012. Second, we’ll most likely be in the DC area for 6 months to do French language training (dates TBD).  Third, get ready for the infectious grooves of West African music and an amazing opportunity to visit Ronit’s Peace Corps village.  Direct flights to Dakar can be found through JFK, Atlanta, and Dulles. Visitors to Africa’s western most point can be booked starting January 2013.


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