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