First shot: done

Friday morning I received my first shot of COVID-19 vaccine, just a few days after I discovered that I was going to get it here in Thailand at all. Let me start by saying how grateful I am that I’ve received the vaccine at all. And let me share a bit of the story:

This being Thailand, the vaccine implementation has been chaotic and unclear, with contradictory messages coming from different persons in the government on a near-daily basis. At one point, vaccines for foreigners wasn’t being considered at all. Then they would be able to get vaccines in a few months, as soon as the Thai registration app was adjusted to work for people who didn’t have a national identification number. Then the government said they would allow private company to buy vaccines. And then they said they wouldn’t. And so on, and so on…

Then, on Monday, I received an email from my company stating they had arranged for all Bangkok-based employees to receive a vaccine. Foreign workers were directed to register at a link on the MedPark Hospital website. On Tuesday, I was informed my vaccine would be available on Friday between mid-morning and early afternoon. We were informed the Sinovac (a Chinese-made vaccine with widely varying reported efficacy) was the only option, which while not ideal, is better than nothing.

When I arrived at the hospital and registered, they asked whether I wanted Astra Zeneca or Sinovac, as they had both available. I chose AZ as the data from AZ appear to more consistently show higher efficacy than Sinovac. And thirty minutes later, I had my first dose in my arm and was on my way.

Side effects: similar to Tawn, who received his first dose earlier that week, I experienced soreness in my upper arm at the injection site (no surprise). By dinner time, I was feeling a general achiness, like the onset of a flu. And by bedtime, I had the chills, which Tawn had also experienced.

Over the night, I experienced the worst headache I have ever had. I think I know perhaps what a migraine headache feels like. I kept waking up and massaging various pressure points, trying to relieve the tension. Finally, near dawn and exhausted from a restless night, I stopped trying to power my way through the symptoms and just took two tablets of paracetamol.

Within thirty minutes, the symptoms largely subsided and I slept for another three hours. The rest of the day was a bit fuzzy, but by dinner time about 32 hours after the shot, I was feeling pretty much back to my normal self.

Second shots here are scheduled for 16 weeks after the first shot, not until early October. Since I will be back in the US in a few weeks, I plan to go ahead and take the J&J single-shot vaccine so I can get full covered more immediately. A search online hasn’t turned up any concerns that should dissuade me from combining two vaccines, but if you know anything you would like to share, please let me know.

If you haven’t received a vaccine yet, I hope you will do so as soon as you possibly can. The best chance we have for getting this pandemic under control is widespread vaccination and good hygiene practices. Stay safe!

Reflections on my first race

A few years ago, I started running regularly. While I didn’t enjoy running when I was growing up (I think I was always sprinting – nobody ever told me you can pace yourself!), I quite enjoy it as an adult and get that “runner’s high” that I had often heard others speak about. After repeated suggestions by other runners, I finally joined my first official race: the Amazing Thailand Marathon 10k.

The race started at 5:45 am with a burst of fireworks near Democracy Monument in the old town part of Bangkok. I ran with a few friends including a colleague who has recently started running. To be there on time, I had to wake around 4:15 and leave home about 4:45.

Our winter has been warm with extraordinarily bad air quality, to the extent that I understand many registered runners decided not to show and the race was almost cancelled. That said, there was still what looked like several thousand people running the 10k and who knows how many who started earlier for the full and half marathons. There was also a 5k scheduled but that didn’t seem challenging enough.

I did okay, running about eight of the kilometers and walking two. I finished, but think I could have run the whole way if I had done a few things differently.

But what of the experience? Many people encouraged me to run a race because the energy and thrill of the crowd will help carry you along. Others seem to really value the medals they receive, tokens of accomplishment.

Me? I don’t think the race experience was for me. It involved getting up earlier than is necesary. It involved running with a much larger group than necessary (making it difficult to reach my pace). I ended up getting separated from my running partners. What I enjoy about running with friends is the social nature of it. And the medal? As I crossed the finish line and approached the table to collect my medal, I almost didn’t take one. It is just a hunk of metal I am going to have to dispose of eventually.

Following the race, many of my race running family and friends have dispensed advice: I should run somewhere with cooler weather, I should run a smaller race, I should eat more carbs when I first wake up so I have the fuel to finish the race…

Maybe so. But I’m not convinced any of those things would make much of a difference in my enjoyment of the experience.

This morning, though, I woke at 5:30, picked up a friend and headed to a nearby park. We ran 8 km. It wasn’t crowded so we made good time on our run. We were able to chat along the way and enjoy the fresher air of a park than of the city streets. At the end, no medal awaited us. There was no blaring rock music, cheering crows or unnecessary fireworks.

And that was fine. Because for me, it is the run that I value, not the race.