Monday, March 28, 2016

Tea by the Irish Sea

Ireland with all its ruggedness always calls to me. It’s cold, rainy, windy and the sea is always angry when I visit. But they do make the best scones and there is nothing like a hot pot of tea to take the chill off.

This March I had the chance to see Ireland through the eyes of my friend who grew up there.


I only had a weekend, but we covered a lot of ground, and visited all of his favorite old haunts from his college days.

Naturally, we hit all his favorite pubs. But also did a bit walking along the sea in between rain showers. 

 He took me to Trinity College where he did his PhD and then gave me his tour of the some tourist things I’ve been trying to see but hadn’t got around to such as the Long Hall and the Book of Kells. 

Sometimes all you need to rejuvenate your soul is a change of scenery...and catching up with a good friend.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Sailing in Dubai

My friends will tell you that I’m not very good at sitting still. I love hiking and the outdoors, but sitting in a campground or camping sounds horrible. My idea of a picnic is standing at the summit, eating a protein bar while enjoying the view for 5 minutes and then going on my way.

But for some reason, I’ve always loved the beauty of boats, so when my buddy in Dubai said he was planning on spending the day on the boat with friends, I had to say “yes.” 

Really, there is no other way of seeing the city than from the sea. It’s breathtaking and relaxing.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Running with my tribe doing the Dubai Marathon

Dubai is one of my favorite cities that I have been to so far. I love the mix of East and West, I love the whole bigger than life sleek skyscrapers and I like that it’s still slow-paced, unlike Shanghai and other modern cities.

I admit that it is expensive there for eating and drinking out, but that’s how it is in Vegas and other tourist-based cities. And compared to Switzerland and the high prices there, the dining out costs are a deal.

I’ve already been to Dubai of number of times, but this time I had a special reason for going. I was going to run the Dubai 2016 Marathon. I have run numerous half marathons in the last 3 years, but I’ve never run the full 26.2 miles.

I figured if I was going to be pain after, then I should do it in someplace beautiful that has luxurious spas and a great view. Another reason for doing it was that I knew the route would be flat and at sea level. This was a big deal because I would be training in Switzerland during the cold and rainy season – which meant that I was barely training. I needed to do an “easy” marathon if I was going to do one at all.

But even knowing this, I still debated and it took three things to finally say, “Let’s do this!” Number 1, was I was asked to give a three-day communications workshop at KAUST in Saudi Arabia. They agreed to fly me home from Dubai as part of my speaking arrangement. I still had to fly from Jeddah to Dubai, but $200 ticket is much cheaper than a $700 ticket.

Number 2 was that I had read a study that runners and cyclists who wanted to compete in mountain sports could use heat training as an equivalent to attitude training. I was training in altitude, but running someplace where it was going to be considerably hotter. I was hoping the reverse was also true.

And Number 3, was that I convinced another girlfriend to run it as well and I knew her training was going as badly as mine. Misery loves company! We decided to run our hearts out and then celebrate with sparkling wine –even if we couldn’t walk afterwards.

Having her join also helped me financially as I wanted a hotel room walking distance from the finish line as I knew getting a cab would be impossible with the roads closed. Of course, this being Dubai and me waiting until the last minute, the cheapest rooms were $600 a night. Might more tolerable knowing it would be split between the two of us.

The race was fantastic. We started running at 6:30 am as the sun was just rising and I was done in 4:29. The route was flat and smooth, and with the view of the Dubai skyline in one direction and the famous Burg when getting close to the finish line. I also loved the runners. Half marathons are always so crowded and I can’t seem to get my pace until mile 7 or 8 as I’m dodging people or slowing down until there is space to go around them.

The marathon was different. No one was racing out of the gate and by mile 4 or 5, people had found their long-distance pace and just kind of stayed in it. Plus, even though I was slowing down from mile 18 onwards, I was motivated to keep going because everyone around me was also hitting the wall – or had already hit it and were limping slowly forward. I was with my tribe of fellow non-Olympians who just like to run and it felt good.