Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Ford Ironman Arizona Full to General Entry

November 25, 2008
Tempe, AZ - The 2009 edition of Ford Ironman Arizona to be held on Sunday, November 22, 2009 is full to general entry. Information regarding Community Fund spots will be made available in the near future, please check back at the www.ironmanarizona.com for further details.

That message greeted me this morning when I went to check on my registration status. Yes, I AM IN! For proof, see image below.

I've been told that registering for a slot is harder than the actual event. Not sure how true that is, but registration really had me freaking out. It took almost an hour. Every time I got to the actual registration page on Active, it would time out and tell me the "server is busy" -- believe me, I was ready to cry. Then, I finally got to the page where I needed to input my credit card number and it kept denying it! I put my debit card number in and that, too, was denied! Thankfully, my savior, Julie was on her computer at the same time and knew how crazy I was getting -- she registered me with her credit card and I was in! Later, I went to my bank where they informed me that there was nothing wrong with my cards and they couldn't understand why they didn't go through. I guess it must've been the busy servers.

Anyway, keep reading -- for the next year, not only will I continue with my running and biking, but I will also be getting over my body image so that I can learn to swim!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Macca Mania

Last Friday, our tri team had its annual carb-loading dinner in preparation for the Nautica Malibu Triathlon. This event also serves as a rally for the team and we typically have guest speakers, awards, and recognition.

This year we were lucky to have Chris "Macca" McCormack, the 2007 Ironman World Champion, as our speaker. Not only is he inspirational and fit, he is HOT (and very married - sigh).  After talking to us about his journey to Ironman success and answering questions, he spent a lot of time signing autographs and posing for pictures.  When it was my turn, I asked him to provide me with some inspiration for my upcoming training in hopes of completing the Florida Ironman next year.  Check it out (special thanks to Wedgie for taking the photos)!

Asking Macca for some inspiration

This will be hung where I can see it every day

Me and Macca

We saw Macca again on Sunday -- cheering him on in the transition area as he killed the competition in the triathlon.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Who's Crying Now?

Unbeknownst to Jon Cryer*, he and my Disney Tri Team buddy, favorite Ironman and all around inspiration, Wedgie, have been immersed in rivalry for years. Well, today that may have ended -- we are still awaiting the final race results from the annual Nautica Malibu Triathlon**. However, even if Jon bested Wedgie this year, Wedgie still wins. Wedgie's an Ironman and has more fans than Jon Cryer! 

I like Jon Cryer, but...

...my heart belongs to Wedgie

*Jon Cryer is a really nice guy
**Race report coming soon!

Monday, September 1, 2008

Weekend of Labor - Literally (but it was so much fun!)

Before I begin, here's the tally from the weekend:

Runs = 3
Medals = 3
Blisters = 1.5
Lost Toenails = almost 2

Well, I woke up on Saturday morning and met some new friends for a trail run in Tarzana. It was awesome and reminded me how much I miss my old Hong Kong hikes.  We ran/hiked about three or four miles and then I drove home to shower and pack for Disneyland.  The exciting thing about this half marathon is that I would get TWO medals upon completion -- the Disneyland Half Marathon medal and the Disney Coast to Coast Challenge medal, which I would get because I also completed the Walt Disney World Marathon in Orlando earlier this year.

After sitting in traffic for two and a half hours, I finally arrived at Disneyland, where I proceeded to the expo to pick up my race number and other goodies.  Met some Florida friends at California Adventure and hung out for a while before checking into the hotel with a friend from the tri team. Once checked in, I started to unpack and realized that I left my iPod at home -- darn!  No music for the entire race.  I figured this would make for some good Ironman training.

Woke up at 4 am and we made our way to the bus that would bring us to the half marathon starting festivities.  As soon as we walked outside, the humidity hit us head on.  I was worried because this time last year, it was actually cold outside!  Once we got to the meeting point, we ran into some other folks from the tri team and got into our starting "corals". 

The first few miles were fine -- I believe I averaged about 9 1/2 minute miles.  Then I started sweating.  Typically in a race, I skip the first couple of water stops and use that to pick up some speed.  Not today -- I had to stop at every water stop to grab two cups.  By mile 6, I grabbed water and Powerade (and I hate Powerade!).  Also around mile 6, I felt the formation of a blister on the big toe of my left foot (and I never get blisters!).

As the miles went on, so did I -- only walking through the water stops; however, I probably could've walked faster than I was running by mile 10.  At this point, I knew I would finish, but I also knew that it would not be anywhere near my time from last year (2:12:58). 

Crossing the finish line approximately 2 1/2 hours after I started was a relief, especially after I had two medals hanging on my neck (those Disney medals are freakin' heavy!).  Most of my friends who also ran the race mentioned that their time was also 15 or more minutes off of where it should have been.  Auugggghhhhh!

After showering and enjoying a Starbucks, I drove home, ate something, popped the blister, and took a nap.  At 6:30, I took a couple of Advil and drove downtown for the Nike Human Race 10K.  The 10K started at exactly 8:31:08 p.m. (get it, on August 31, 2008).  I felt great at the start of that race. I also believe that I could've PRd in that 10K had there not been 11,999 people also running with me.  I was caught up in so many bottlenecks that I couldn't break away -- but I felt great!  I finished and got my third medal of the day.

So, my two races were like day and night -- ironic since one took place in the morning and the other in the evening.

Here's the final results:

Disneyland Half Marathon - 6:00 a.m.:  2:30:18
Nike Human Race 10K - 8:30 p.m.:  1:06:03

Thursday, August 28, 2008

A Fun Day Away from the Office

Once a year I get to channel my inner geek and participate in a conference as an "honorary" member of the conference team. My peeps are some very cool folks that manage the training and communications for our company's SAP application. Not only do I get to help them out with some things, but I also assist with working a booth to communicate and market the great work that my team is doing - so it is win-win all the way around.

This year's conference was the best yet, with an increase of approximately 200 participants over last year! It was so much fun and such a success that I had to mention it here.

Early in the day, still looking fresh

Totally beat at the end of the day

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

No More Excuses!

The stress of travel (lots of it), increased job responsibilities, a breakup, my first century ride, and three marathons -- all since January -- have taken their toll on my body, which just gave up on me this summer. Other than riding my bike to work and forcing at least one weekly run, I've done NOTHING related to training since June.

Well, no more -- according to my calendar, I have less than two weeks until the Disneyland 1/2 Marathon, which means that I need to get off my ass. I also did a really stupid thing and registered for the Nike Human Race 10K on the same day as the 1/2 marathon. So, I run 13.1 miles at 6:00 a.m. and then another 6.2 miles at 8:30 p.m. I barely made two miles on the treadmill tonight -- but my excuse is that my legs were heavy from all the bike riding this week ;)

I'll be going to the beach this weekend to train with the Disney Tri Team -- they are deep into Nautica Triathlon training. I am also committing to doing an Ironman next year -- I've been inspired to do so by some awesome people and I can't wait!

So, no more excuses -- it's back to strict diet and training for me.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

I'm just sayin'...

There's lazy and then there's LAZY. There's nothing wrong with taking, say, one to two days a month, to do nothing -- I'm guilty of this every once in a while. But what I don't get is people that are not only lazy, but make up excuses for their laziness. This is probably my biggest pet peeve!

I was APPALLED while watching Clean House this week. They did their "messiest home in America 2" and part of me thought that these people had to be kidding for the sake of show business. The house was disgusting - I could not believe that those people actually lived there . . . and, they wanted to have a baby!!!!!! Now, I try not to be judgmental, but with this couple, I could not help it. There was even a mountain of petrified cat shit in one of their closets! And they want kids????!!!! Thank God for Niecy Nash -- she saw through the "foolishness" right away and told these people that they were so not ready to have children -- I mean these people were sleeping on a bedspread that had dog urine and drool all over it!

So, I ask . . . is this for real, or was this just exaggerated for entertainment? Every time they tried to get the husband to do something, he had to take a break after like 10 minutes because of his back. Apparently, he had an injury and that was his excuse for everything. They even showed the idiot lying on his bed whenever the going got tough. The Clean House team did wonders for these people, but I am not sure they will be able to keep it up. Am I the only one who thinks that it is really unfair that the lazy people in this country are rewarded, while the hard-working, responsible people are not? Case in point -- the mortgage crisis (I will spare you my rant on that)!

I'm just sayin'...

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Where Are Ruby Slippers When You Need Them?

It’s official. I am an idiot. Perhaps, the world’s biggest idiot. I’m such an idiot that I have to pay to be an idiot.

It all started way back in March when I booked my trip to Orlando to see my family for the first time in many months. I was in Hong Kong, got online to the Delta website, and booked the flight – with oil prices the way they are, of course, the flight ran me about $500.

Since I got back to Burbank, I’ve been dreaming of going home to see the parents, the sister and her husband, my brother and his girlfriend, the kids, and my Florida friends. As a matter of fact, I have been talking about it at work so much, I’m sure they were happy to see me leave the office last night.

On Thursday morning, I got a reminder email from Delta that it was time to check in. I went ahead and checked in, hopeful that I would get bumped to first class. I did think it was strange that they were sending the email on Thursday morning when my flight was on Friday, but I didn’t dwell on it. After work, I packed.

On Friday, I was so excited and ready to go. I got to the Marriott and parked my car – I had reserved the spot for a week and pre-paid for some of it. Took the shuttle to the Delta terminal, got on line for the kiosk check-in…put my Delta card in the kiosk and was politely informed by the computer that my reservation could not be found. Found a Delta employee and gave her my ID and frequent flyer card. She could not find my reservation. Now, you must know that this is the FIRST time I have ever gone to the airport without a printed confirmation of my flight. I’ve traveled so much and have never been referred to the confirmation – usually, my boarding pass is printed very quickly and off I go. So, of course, she asked my for the confirmation number. There I was with about 50 people behind me, looking up my gmail account on my Blackberry and trying to find the email confirmation from March. Thank God I save all of my emails, but it took me a while to scroll through several months of them. Found the confirmation and she puts the number into the computer. Only reservation they have for me is on July 7 from Orlando. So I say to her, how can I get to LA from Orlando when I am already in LA?! Upon further research, we found that my flight was for Thursday, NOT Friday. So, I was a day late. Damn! At that point, it was about 30 minutes before the flight was scheduled to depart and I was getting desperate. The Delta lady points me to another line that I have to get on to see about getting on a flight out that night. So I get on that line – I must’ve looked broken or something because the people up in the front of the line told me I could go ahead of them. After some back and forth with another Delta rep, she tells me all flights to Orlando are booked solid and I can’t get on any of them. So I ask her, bottom line, what can I do to get to Orlando on the next available flight? She says she doesn’t know, but I can walk all the way down to the end of the counter and speak to a supervisor.

I walk (with my luggage) all the way down to the end of the counter and see the supervisor surrounded by at least another 50 people (and these folks were annoyed and angry). At this point, I knew I wasn’t going anywhere that night, so I just pushed my way to the line and waited. Then, I spotted a Help phone and thought that may get me something quicker. I picked up the phone and was immediately connected to yet another Delta rep. After explaining the entire story to her, she tells me she can get me on a 6:05 am flight in the morning to Orlando via Atlanta – arriving in Orlando around 4:30 pm on Saturday. At this point, I was just so upset over missing the kids’ “pirate and princess” birthday party, which was postponed so that I could be there. I figured by that time, the party would be over ☹ So, she asks me if I want to get on that flight and I’m like if that is the soonest I will get to Orlando. Then she tells me it will be $648 to make the change. I nearly fell over! I started asking her how it could be so much, I was a loyal Delta customer, can I use my miles, blah blah blah. She wasn’t having any of it – just told me I could either book the flight or not. She couldn’t do anything about the cost and no, I could not use my miles. At that point, the supervisor was in front of me and I guess she saw how upset I was getting and told me to hang up the phone. I asked if she could help me and she said she would as soon as she was finished taking care of someone else. So I hung up the phone and waited.

Ironically, there was a Chinese guy in front of me who did not speak English and had a note written in English to hand to the supervisor about his flight. It brought me back to when I was in China and had notes written in Chinese to help me get to where I needed to go.

So supervisor looks at me and I explain my story yet again. Told her it was my fault – I guess the time zones in Hong Kong screwed me up or I just wasn’t thinking when I booked the trip. Asked what she could do. She found three flights for me: the 6:05 am going through Atlanta, a 9:45 am non-stop, and a red-eye non-stop the next night. The cheapest was the red-eye, with a $325 charge. Ouch! Then she said she could waive a couple of penalty fees and get me the other two for a bargain price of $625. Being that I wanted to be in Orlando on Saturday, and not wanting to go through Atlanta, I just told her to book me on the 9:45 am flight and handed her my credit card. So at this point, my flight cost approximately $1100 – I think it is cheaper to fly to Hong Kong!

Got my ticket, but no seat assignment, and was told to come back in the morning to check in. So, now what? Take the shuttle back to the Marriott and go home? I didn’t want to do that because of the parking situation. I called the mother and woke her up to give her my tale of woe. I told her I was contemplating just getting a room at the Marriott cause what’s another $100? She agreed – LOL. So I shuttle back to the Marriott and wait on another line to see if there’s a room available. The front desk guy tells me they are totally booked. I remembered seeing a Courtyard down the road and asked him if he could find out if they had rooms available. He comes back and tells me that they do have rooms for $109. I figured, what the hell – it was after 11 by that time. So he tells me they will have a shuttle come pick me up in about 10-15 mins. By 11:30, I’m wondering where the heck the shuttle is. So they call again and 10 mins later, a van pulls up. Get to the Courtyard at 11:45 and go to the front desk where the employee informs me that there aren’t any rooms available! So I tell her that the Marriott called over and was informed that there were rooms available. She starts asking me for names and stuff. I didn’t remember the guy’s name – I told her he was a tall African-American guy and he called for a shuttle for me, blah blah blah. I must’ve looked really frazzled at that point because miraculously a room became available at the bargain price of $109 (yeah, I’m being sarcastic). Get to the room around midnight and set the alarm clock. Didn’t sleep at all and finally got out of bed at 6:00 to shower and change. By 6:45, I went downstairs to get the shuttle to the airport. The guy outside tells me I just missed the shuttle two mins ago! Damn! So we start talking about the night I had and I told him I just wanted to get my seat assignment for the flight this morning – that was all I was worried about. I spotted a cab in the distance and contemplated taking a cab rather than waiting another 15-20 mins for the next shuttle. The guy tells me that there’s a $20 minimum to take the cab. Do you believe it??? $20 to go three miles. I figured I would be okay paying $10, but $20 was ridiculous. So I started texting the sister. The cab driver walks over and starts talking to the Courtyard guy. They are talking about minimum cab fares and all. The taxi driver says he’ll take me to the airport for $7. Sold! I get in the cab and he tells me the minimum is only for fares from the airport to hotels, not the other way around. I pay the $7 (plus $2 tip) and get on the kiosk line to get my boarding pass. Here we go again. This time, they found the reservation! Of course, there are maybe 4 seats left on the entire plane and neither are an aisle up front (my preferred seat). So I get an emergency exit window seat and pray for an upgrade. Drop the luggage off and make my way through security.

One of my bags going through the x-ray conveyor causes some concern for the TSA agents, so two of them swarm over to me and tell me they are going to check my bag. Jeez. I follow one of them to a table where he proceeds to tell me that I am not to touch my bag while he is looking through it. He freaking takes everything out and can’t seem to find what he is looking for. So I ask if I can help. He tells me he is looking for a strange metal object. I almost had to laugh – WTF?! So I tell him that my jewelry is in a zippered compartment in the bag and maybe the strange metal object is in that box. He takes everything, and I mean everything out of my bag. Then takes the bag back to the x-ray machine. He finally comes back and tells me I am free to go, but if I want him to re-pack my bag, he would. I told him I would re-pack it myself. Apparently a couple of pieces of my jewelry were sitting on top of each other and they cause some alarm. I’m so happy that TSA is worried about a 110-pound girl carrying jewelry on a flight that she just paid $1100 for! I would get political at this point, but I figure I should drop it!

So, here I am at the gate waiting to board my flight. Of course, I got here two hours early and I have time to kill. Hopefully I will make it to the sister’s before everyone gets too drunk to pity me and my miserable state! And damn it all to hell if I miss the Johnny Depp look-a-like that the sister hired for the birthday party!

Yep, I’m an idiot.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

California Weekend

This weekend was a typical Southern California summer treat. Deb flew over from Connecticut and Cindy drove down from Santa Barbara. We headed out to Hollywood on Friday for the annual Daytime Emmy Awards (better known as Cindy's night of stalking). Cindy and Debbie went early to experience the red carpet festivities, and I met them inside the Kodak Theatre (at the bar) just before the show started. Also at the bar were two of the hunks from The Young and The Restless ("Cane" and "Daniel"). We went over to them and told them how much we enjoy watching them on the show. They thanked us and shook our hands. Very nice guys---cute too!

Inside the theatre, we quickly discovered that we had awesome seats (thanks to Cindy). Even though we weren't allowed to bring cameras into the theatre, we found a way to have this pic taken of the three of us in our seats.

The show, as usual, was kind of boring (but it was definitely more entertaining than the one we attended two years ago).  We did leave about 30 minutes before it ended so that we could find the best spot outside to stalk our faves as they left the theatre.

With Tracey Bregman of The Young & The Restless

Our best "red carpet" pose
With Daytime Emmy's host Cameron Mathison

With Chuck (who showed up later) and two new friends

Cindy was as cute as could be, chasing after everyone she knew and ensuring she was in as many pictures with her "pals" as she could get. Her crowning moment was when she was able to get a picture with her "boyfriend" of many years, Michael Easton. I'm sure she will post that photo on her blog (I don't want to ruin it for her by posting it here first).

I'm still waiting to get a pic with my fave, Christian LeBlanc of The Young and The Restless -- Cindy did see him on the red carpet and she snapped a photo for me, but I really, really want to be IN a picture with him.  Ahhhhh -- maybe next year!  I did get in a photo with Doug Davidson, Thaao Penghlis and Kristoff St. John, so I guess that will have to do for now. 

Spotted (from what I can remember):  
Greg Rikaart (Kevin Fisher-Y&TR)
Barbara Walters (The View)
Sherri Shepherd (The View; Host of DTE)
Cameron Mathison (past-AMC; Host of DTE)
Michael Graziadei (Daniel-Y&TR)
Daniel Goddard (Cane Ashby-Y&TR)
Christel Khalil (Lily Winters-Y&TR)
Bryton (Devon Hamilton-Y&TR)
Doug Davidson (Paul Williams-Y&TR)
Amelia Heinle (Victoria Newman-Y&TR)
Thad Luckinbill (JT Hellstrom-Y&TR)
Kate Linder (Esther Valentine-Y&TR)
Elizabeth Hendrickson (Chloe Mitchell-Y&TR)
Don Diamont (Brad Carlton-Y&TR)
Adrienne Frantz (Amber Moore-Y&TR)
Kristoff St. John (Neil Winters-Y&TR; Best Supporting Actor)
Jeanne Cooper (Katherine Chancellor-Y&TR; Best Actress)
Susan Lucci (Erica Kane-AMC)
Thorsten Kaye (Zach Slater-AMC)
Michael Easton (John McBain-OLTL)
Robert S. Woods (Bo Buchanan-OLTL)
Darin Brooks (Max Brady-DOOL)
Judi Evans (Bonnie-DOOL)
Rachel Melvin (Chelsea Benson-DOOL)
Thaao Penghlis (Tony Dimera-DOOL)
Bryan Dattilo (Lucas Roberts-DOOL)
Jason Cook (ex-Shawn Brady-DOOL)
Rick Hearst (Rick Lansing--GH)
Anthony Geary (Luke Spencer-GH)
Kirsten Storms (Maxie Jones-GH)
Greg Vaughan (Lucky Spencer-GH)
Tyra Banks (The Tyra Banks Show)

On Saturday, we got into the car and drove up to Santa Barbara for the annual Summer Solstice festival. It was very HOT, but the parade was great (three hours long!) and we had some good guacamole and beer. 

Sweltering in the summer heat during the parade

Unique parade float #1

Unique parade float #2

All in all, this weekend was good times with good friends.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

There is a light that never goes out....

This week, I have been struggling with how to best put into words what one friend has meant to me. I know that no matter what I write, it won't be worthy.

I met Eric in early March on my second night on the town while I was in Hong Kong. We were introduced to each other by another mutual friend, and proceeded to have a fun time during the Hong Kong Sevens rugby matches -- at least we tried to find a place where we could watch on TV. We hit it off, especially since we had both relocated to Hong Kong during the same week and we were both from New York.  He had met a friend of my friend's and we all easily formed a group to explore and enjoy Hong Kong together during the months that followed.

The next day, we went to Macau for the first time. It was during the ferry ride back that I had my first insightful conversation with Eric. We shared stories about our pasts, our families, our loves and our hopes for the future. 

He helped me with my nephew's Flat Stanley project -- cheerfully posing for pictures and identifying cool Hong Kong spots to showcase.

I never saw Eric without a smile on his face. He was the most upbeat, confident and happy individual I have ever met - I know that this may sound cliched, but it is so very true. His love for his dog, Guinness, clearly extended to his love for life, his friends, and his family.

I'm probably not even making any sense here, but nothing this week has made any sense to me. I was informed by my friend earlier this week that a tragic accident happened in Hong Kong last Sunday. I will not get into the details here, but if you want to read about it, you can check out this site (to get a sense of how loved and special he was, read the comments after the article). All I will say is that the world has truly lost one of its greatest individuals.  My heart goes out to his family and friends back in New York, as well as to all of the friends that he made during his short time in Hong Kong.

Eric -- I was so fortunate to have met you. I love you and hope that our paths cross again someday.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Stupid Conversations with Jill and Cindy

Time: 21:25
Location: The Shama, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong

Jill (getting ready to blog): What was our last stupid conversation?

Cindy: Ummmm...ummmmm....something about something...

Jill (getting ready to blog): We just had one 10 minutes ago and we can't even remember it.

Cindy and Jill both crack up.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Wouldn't it be cool...

...to be a busman/woman at a seafood restaurant owned by your family on a remote island somewhere in the middle of the sea for a day?

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Stupid Conversations with Jill & Cindy

Time: Approximately 5 hours after the Great Wall Marathon
Location: Tiantan Hotel, downtown Beijing

Jill: So, are you all ready for your massage?

Cindy: Yes, I can't wait. You should get one, too.

Jill: No, you know how I hate when strangers touch me...

Cindy rolls her eyes

Jill: My feet hurt. I wonder if they can give me a foot massage with my socks on?

Cindy and Jill both crack up.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Wall Hits Back*

The wake-up call rang in at 2:10 a.m. and Cindy quickly turned on the lights. We didn't even need the call because neither of us could sleep -- me, because I was worried about the lack of food available for dinner (no one in China understands what "vegetarian . . . no pork . . . no meat" means), and Cindy because, well, because she is Cindy and doesn't sleep.

Got dressed, grabbed the "provisions" bags we had packed (and checked 100 times), and went to meet our group downstairs for the 3-hour bus ride to Tianjin where the race would begin at 7:30.

Cindy was appointed the "official" photographer of the day and snapped this lovely picture when we got on the bus.

We had one stop along the way for a "pee break" and to meet up with the other buses that were transporting the approximately 1700 runners to the Wall. (Note: "pee breaks" in Beijing are the subject of a whole 'nother blog, which I am almost certain will be written by Cindy). Here I am trying desperately to carb load on coconut bread on the bus while everyone else was looking for a hole in the ground or a bush to "let it all out".

We arrived in Tianjin at around 6 a.m. and made our way from the parking lot to the Yin-Yang Square where the race would begin and end. On our journey to this starting point, we were greeted by these lovely ladies who put on a show just for us!

Seeing a stage, Cindy and I demanded a photographer and an audience. This is our official "before" picture (ain't we cute?).

I don't remember much about the pre-start activities other than an aerobic warm-up routine. Most marathoners were just worried about making it back to the Wall a second time before the cut-off time of 1:30 p.m. The 1/2 marathon, 10K and 5K racers did the Wall once and then ran the rest of their distances through the village(s). The marathon racers did the Wall twice -- the first time after a 5K run uphill, which at this point, the Wall was mostly downhill with a couple of steep inclines. After getting off the Wall the first time, marathoners ran through Yin-Yang Square and made their way towards the villages for the next 15 or so miles. The gate to the Wall entrance was going to close at 1:30, so if you didn't make it back by then, you would not be allowed to finish the race.

The first 5K was fairly easy, even though it was all uphill on a winding country road. We were all eager to get to the Wall. One runner was a little too eager and he fell on the steps leading up to the Wall and broke two of his fingers. The medics bandaged his fingers and shot him up with something so that he was able to continue on (he finished and even beat my time!).

On the Wall the first time, I did run since my legs were fresh and I was trying to finish the first 10K in under 1.5 hours. There were a few bottlenecks going down areas such as this, where we had to go in a single file or fall off the Wall.

I finished the first 10K in about an hour and 20 minutes, and proceeded to the villages. Running through these villages was the most amazing thing. The people were lining the streets and cheering us on. They rarely see foreigners, so marathon day is like a holiday to them. Lack of English did not make a difference -- cheering and wishing runners "good luck" is recognizable in any language. The children were high-fiving all of us as we passed by. Some little girls handed me flowers that they picked, and others ran along with me for a while. They were just so amazing and happy to see us. The older children and adults were getting a kick out of taking our pictures. I posed for a quite a few of them.

Leaving the villages, I was on my way back to Yin-Yang Square and doing okay on time (in spite of my walking a bit and stopping to pose for pictures). I made it through the gate just after Noon. 

Hitting the Wall a second time (around mile 21) was Heaven and Hell all at once. Heaven because I knew the run would be almost over for me (and I would get my medal). Hell because all the downhill I ran at the start would need to be conquered in reverse this time. Steep, steep inclines -- lots of uneven steps, and even areas where there weren't any steps but uneven rocks. Every time I made it to the top, I was elated, until I saw the next incline. Needless to say, no one was running at this point! My Hong Kong hikes had prepared me well for this and I am happy to admit that I made it through without much cramping, stopping, or barfing (but I was hungry!)

After leaving the Wall for good, it was a quick downhill 5K run back to Yin-Yang Square.  I made it! Cindy had hung around for more than three hours after she finished her 10K to cheer me on at the finish line and I was soooo happy to see her. There was a bit of confusion on my part because I was looking for the timer to see my time -- I had stopped to look for it (which I am sure added seconds to my time). There wasn't a visible timer, but my official Chip time was: 6:35:37.  Worst marathon time, ever -- but I was happy with it and happy with my time on the Wall (I was expecting to be on the Wall much longer). My training had really paid off on those steps.

Romualdo Sanchez Garita, a 37-year-old runner from Mexico, was the winner. He set a new marathon record of 3:18:48. Here's Cindy with him.

And now for our official "after" picture.

*Thanks to Cindy for the witty/clever title suggestion

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Wouldn't it be cool...

...to be a "guard" at one of the palaces on display at the Forbidden City for a day?

Though, she does look kinda bored, doesn't she?

Monday, May 19, 2008

I Did It!

It took a little more than six and a half hours, but I finally made it through the finish line of the toughest run I have ever done in my life -- and, I got that darned medal! Thanks to Cindy, here's some proof of me crossing the finish line.

See that huge mountain behind me? I climbed up that thing after running 22 miles!

More stories to come. Thanks again for all of your well wishes and positive energy -- it really carried me through!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Great Wall, Here We Come!

Yikes!  In less than 16 hours, I will be on my way to Beijing to run the Great Wall Marathon. Thanks to all of your votes, emails and instant messages of encouragement, I have decided to just go for it and have fun -- no stressing over time goals!

Got a text message from Cindy earlier to inform me that she was on the plane -- she's flying high over the Pacific Ocean right now.

I'll meet Cindy in Beijing early tomorrow night. On Thursday morning, we have to board a bus at 5 AM for the three-hour drive to the wall. This is known as "inspection day," and we will actually walk the length of the wall that is included in the marathon. We will be back at our hotel by 5 pm. Friday is a "free day" and we need to be on the bus at 3 AM(!) on Saturday morning for the event. Marathon gun goes off at 7:30 AM and hopefully we will be on the return bus before 3:00!

Based on my experience in Shanghai last week, I'm not sure I'll be able to blog while in Beijing; however, watch this space because there's bound to be LOTS of stories next week, including a full race report.

Monday, May 12, 2008

It's a Small World!

My good friend and total inspiration, Ironwoman Carolyn, is in Hong Kong this week. She was also in Shanghai during the time I was there (small world!), but we didn't have a chance to get together then. I finally caught up with her on Saturday. I just had to hear all about her Ironman -- she completed Ironman Arizona just a few weeks back and I am so proud and in awe of her. She actually almost has me convinced that I can finish one (yeah, I just need to stop procrastinating and get myself into a pool)!

We met up, had some Starbucks and headed out to the Park. Both of us wanted to check out the "It's a Small World" attraction that just opened.

The attraction was awesome!  Best "Small World" that I have seen. It is a bigger and brighter ride than at WDW or Disneyland and the incorporation of famous Disney characters into the storyline makes it totally unique. We had fun identifying and pointing out the characters. Below are some of the pics that I took (these were actually the ones that did not come out too blurry).


Woody and Jessie!

Lilo and Stitch!

Jill and Carolyn!

We rode Space Mountain and then competed against each other on Buzz Lightyear a few times (Carolyn kept winning -- darn! -- but I am getting better!), and then had some lunch at one of the resorts.  It was fun to catch up with her and share stories.  Makes me look forward to going back home and beginning my triathlon training with the team!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

An American in Shanghai

I was afforded the opportunity to travel to Shanghai on business and decided to go on the weekend so that I had one day to check out the sights.  I arrived late Saturday night and had a tour booked the following morning.

Woke up, looked out the window and . . . RAIN!  :(  Oh well, I had an umbrella with me and decided to make the most of it. Met my tour guide, Katherine, got in a car, and we were off!

The Americanization of Shanghai (yeah, that's a Starbucks in the background)

My first stop was Starbucks -- I was sooooo happy to see a Starbucks and practically ran to order my Caramel Macchiato (non-fat, one pump of vanilla). After a few rounds of "lost in translation" I think I got through to the barista. I was ready to sip the goodness of Starbucks, took a gulp, and . . . BLECCH! I don't know what it was, but that was the worst Caramel Macchiato I have ever had -- it must've been the espresso. I couldn't even finish it. The ironic thing was that they got the order right, but the coffee was just bad. So, I learned the hard way, early on, that Starbucks in mainland China is unlike any Starbucks anywhere else on the planet (well, I haven't tried them in Africa yet, but maybe Julie can pipe in when she returns from her vacation there).

From there, went to explore the Yuyuan (Yu) Garden, which dates back to the 1500s! Legend has it that a government officer built the garden for his parents so that they had a place to enjoy their old age (yes, mom, I'm working on doing something similar for you and the father). The gardens are beautiful and pretty cool -- the history is preserved and there's also a lot of restoration taking place.

This is one of my favorite pictures from the Garden

From the Garden, we explored some art galleries and then found a vegetarian restaurant for lunch (it is supposedly the best vegetarian restaurant in all of Shanghai). The menu had some stuff on there that I wasn't too sure about, but the food was good, even if I had no clue as to what I was eating.

They said these were mushrooms, but they looked more like fried worms to us

After lunch, we went to check out the Jade Buddha temple. It was pretty cool and there were a couple of Buddhas made from pure Jade -- very interesting. Also, lots of pictures of the Dalai Lama on the walls (the one of him and Bill Clinton was very prominent). We wound up going to the Buddha Tea Room and sampled lots of teas. They have tea for everything that you can think of, and I got some tea to energize me and also clean the toxins from my body (we'll see how that goes - ha ha!)

A lesson in tea

We visited a few other places, including the Bund (walkway along the river) and silk factory. Then it was time to get in a workout at the hotel gym and get some sleep. 

I got to work the next morning and met up with my new friend and colleague, Grace. Grace was an awesome hostess. Not only did she make time to take me to lunch, but we also squeezed in some sightseeing and shopping near our office.

Me and Grace -- you may be able to tell how tired we were (it was a very BUSY week at work)!

We also had some Chinese sushi, which is unlike any sushi I have ever had anywhere! I really couldn't find any food that was to my liking in Shanghai, so I didn't eat much -- which was good because I needed to lose a few pounds from what I have gained in Hong Kong. I'm just a little nervous about what I am going to eat in Beijing in the days leading up to the marathon!

Me in front of a cool Shanghai building

Learnings from Shanghai:
  • The cars and traffic lanes are just as they are in the States -- not like Hong Kong and the UK. Left side is the right side!
  • There are absolutely NO rules of the road. No one stays in their lane -- they just drive where they want, when they want.
  • Lots of bicycles and motorcycles and hybrids of both -- all sharing the road with cars, buses and taxis.
  • Pedestrians do NOT have the right of way at all. I almost got knocked over by a motorcycle on my first day (Lawrence from work told me to never make eye contact with the drivers -- cause once you do, they know you've seen  them and you have then lost any right of way that you may have had)!
  • Men like to spit in public.
  • A smile goes a long way, especially during those "lost in translation" moments.

Me in front of another cool Shanghai building

In all, I enjoyed my trip to Shanghai and have learned a lot more about Chinese culture. In addition, I was very happy to spend some time with Grace and get to know her better.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Shanghai Surprise (with apologies to Jackie Chan)

Yeah, I am still here. Found out the hard way in Shanghai that certain web sites are blocked. And certain blogs cannot be written because of those blocked sites. So, I am finally back in Hong Kong, but it is almost 1:00 am, so you will just have to wait a little longer to discover the odd city of Shanghai through my American eyes (I even have pics!)

Friday, May 2, 2008

10 of My Favorite Things Right Now

In no particular order...
  1. Slingbox = to keep up with my TV

  2. Instant Messaging = to keep in touch with my peeps

  3. "Iron Man" and Robert Downey Jr. = to keep me excited about superhero movies

  4. Violet Hill/Twins Hike = to keep me training for the Great Wall Marathon

  5. Nike + and my iPod = to keep me running

  6. "How I Met Your Mother" = to keep me laughing (best comedy on TV!)

  7. Genki Sushi = to keep me fortified

  8. Disney Tri Team = to keep me focused

  9. Wan Chai at night = to keep me partying

  10. Anticipation of good things to come = to keep me sane and happy 

Monday, April 21, 2008

Some Creatures Great and Small

With the typhoon out of the way and the sun drying things up, a group of us went out to the New Territories to hike about 11 kilometers on Stage 2 of the MacLehose Trail on Sunday.

This hike was nowhere near the level of difficulty of Violet Hill and the Twins, but it was longer and the scenery was magnificent.

This little guy picked us up near the start of the trail and led the way for quite a few miles before we lost him

Here's one of the many inclines along the trail 

Each time we reach the top of an incline, we were treated to a spectacular view

And then it was back down

Here I am making a new friend

And then, I saw dead people! Ancient burial ground complete with urns!

Here you can get an idea of one of our descents (of course there was an ascent preceding it). And yes, those people were part of my hiking group - I was that far ahead!

Here is an abandoned village that reminded me of Imber Village in England

When we finished our hike, we were to take a ferry boat back to the village where we started; however, we had just missed the last ferry for the day.  We were faced with hiking an additional 2-3 kilometers to God knows where, when one of the guys in our group called out to a small fishing boat. The woman on the boat said she could bring us back. It was a speed boat, but it was small and I was scared!  The eight of us piled in and we were off.

View from the boat

We crashed hard into the dock, but I did survive. From there, we took a bus to Sai Kung, which is famous for seafood and had a huge meal in one of the restaurants on the water. Unfortunately, we had to pick our meal -- I just couldn't do it (and neither could some other girls in the group), so we let the guys pick our meal. It was very good, but I felt guilty and am now contemplating giving up seafood for good!

Hmmm, how many of these wound up on my plate?