Sunday, February 24, 2008

Pampered Day of Recovery

Over the last several days of trekking through ankle-deep mud, scaling up and down unforgiving inclines and descents, and fighting off packs of vicious dogs at night, my co-workers have assembled reputations as being real tough guys. Well now it's time to blow the cover off this persona and reveal that even tough guys need a day of pampering. We were all tired, sore, and had been suffering in some form or fashion over the last week. Having our shower and chance to change into clean clothes back in Sapa was nice, but the guys were looking forward to our day in Hanoi even more. We'd been talking about the idea of after completing the race, spending a half-day in Hanoi enjoying the simple pleasures of a visit to a spa.

I was anticipating a nice long body massage, but when we all stepped into the waiting lounge of the spa and were presented with a menu of options; it was only a matter of time before the friendly counter ladies were up-selling their way into our wallets. We had no strength or will to refute them and in all honesty, their packages of treatments sounded so good that we were helpless to refuse. Real tough guys, eh? Cornered by five feet tall little ladies, these brutes were powerless.

Each of our packages consisted of a full 90 minute body massage, facial treatment, foot massage, and then our choice of either a manicure/pedicure combo or a headwash and styling. Leighton, Kim, and I went for the headwash option but we were amazed that Bernd and Tilden were so quick to jump up for the manicure/pedicure option. Something tells me that these two guys were no strangers to this service.

My body massage was good, but I was unsure about what would transpire during my facial treatment, as I had never had one before. There was lots of hot towels involved as well as a special machine that the therapist used to lightly mist hot steam into the pores on my face. There was a series of creames added to my face and then removed, and honestly during one of the hot towel placements over my face, I drifted off to sleep and don't remember anything else. Leighton said he heard me snoring at one point.

After completing the body massage and facial, it was time for the hour-long foot massage. This was heavenly because the staff also served us lunch during this portion of our treatment. The foot massage attempted to work out the 250KMs that the guys had logged with each and every step. There were no discussions of mud, food reserves, or race strategy at this point. We were all enjoying the moment and the sound of silence in the room told me that each person had been mentally transported to a more relaxing and forgiving place. Leighton, Kim, and I then moved to the final stage in our spa visit, which was a headwash and styling. I am not sure what sort of creatures may have dropped out of our scalps after six days on the muddy trail and camping outdoors for close to a week, but needless to say we were all much cleaner, happier, and more presentable after this trip to the spa.

Tilden and Bernd decided to opt out of the headwash and instead dive head long into a manicure and pedicure. It was truly a sight to behold having their large hands attended to by ladies whose own hands were virtually half the size. Tilden and Bernd appeared way too comfortable with the proceedings and we were pretty sure that they must partake in this activity on a fairly regular basis, which gained a lot of ribbing from the rest of us. We settled our bill at the spa and walked over to a nearby cafe for a coffee and snack. Apparently all that spa treatment is hard work and tends to make a fellow hungry.

We reflected briefly on what the last week had been like and what we had seen and accomplished. It had truly been a Life Experience and one none of us will forget. Each of us, rather competing or contributing in other ways, had faced their own form of adversity during the week but each had overcome and had made it to the finish. I am reminded of the words from one of the volunteers for this race who had physically competed in six other endurance races of this nature. He told me that completing these kind of races is only 20% physical and 80% mental. You can train and train you body, but if you don't have mental toughness you won't succeed. He continued by saying something that transcends these kind of races and also applies to achieving success in life in general. "Be cognisant of your goal and keep putting one foot in front of the other"


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