If you have stumbled upon this blog, I have started up a new one (all the content from this one is also there) and won’t be posting on this one anymore. You can find me at http://www.runningwriting.net 🙂
This week, for a change, I’m not talking specifically about running, but physical activity in general. In my job as a physiotherapist, a big part of my work is encouraging people to become more active, both through specific ‘exercise’ and ‘exercises’ (I don’t like using these words as many of my clients are put off by them!) and through increasing incidental activity.
It might sound funny coming from someone who runs 4-5 times and up to 80km a week, but on the days when I don’t run, I find it a challenge to get my 10000 steps!
A recent story from ABC suggested that 10000 is not, in fact, enough steps to gain health benefits. Apparently the number was pulled out of thin air and the real ‘magic number’ is closer to 15000. And apparently less than 20% of Australians get close to even 10000.
I wear a Garmin vivofit to keep track of steps, and as part of the setup for the device you have to set a daily goal. I set mine to 18000, because 10000 is just too easy on the days I do run (by the time I get to work I’ve usually reached 10000 or pretty close to it).
Part of the issue is that my job involves a lot of sitting. Although I try to move as much as possible, I spend the best part of my workday sitting either at my desk, in the car or at clients’ homes.
I have a few little strategies to try to up my steps at work, or after work if I have had a particularly sedentary workday!
- I try to drink plenty of water – this works best when I’m spending most of the day in the office. Refilling my bottle, plus the inevitable toilet breaks, make it easier to get the step count up. Plus, drinking water is good for you – double win! (It is not so good when I’m going from client to client and have to find acceptable public toilets en route!)
- Every time I print something, I go and get it straight away. This gets me moving more (compared with printing 10 items and then going to get the lot) but also, if I let it build up, my stuff gets mixed up with other peoples’ stuff. The frequent ‘sit to stand’ is also great exercise for the legs, and one of the ones I try to give to almost all my clients, although it’s not so good for me just after a marathon!
- I always go and talk to people in my building in person, rather than phone or email. I also hate talking on the phone so that cuts out a few unnecessary phone calls!
- When I’ve got a few files to write in, rather than take a bunch of files back to my desk and spend an hour or more writing, I take one file at a time, write in it, then put it back before getting the next one. That also ensures I complete one job before starting another!
- I always use the stairs wherever possible (not too much of an issue considering my office is on the first floor) – I only use the lift if I am carrying something heavy or bulky.
- Also because I object to paying for parking when there is perfectly adequate street parking nearby, I park about 5 minutes away from my building. Annoying when unexpected rain hits just before I’m due to leave, but another way to get some more incidental steps in.
- If my step count is woefully low by the time I get home, I’ll go for a walk (weather permitting) – there is a supermarket about 10 minutes walk away from me, so if I need any ingredients for dinner, or maybe just have a chocolate craving (let’s not kid ourselves, there is ALWAYS chocolate in my house!) I’ll walk to the supermarket.
- And I am not above walking around the house late at night if I’m oh-so-close to 10000 (or another round figure) – akin to doing laps of the carpark to get my run up to 10km (and many of my running buddies will relate to that!)
My workplace is currently trialling a ‘sit to stand’ desk and as soon as I heard about it, I put my hand up to be part of the trial. I know I sit too much, and also my hamstring tendon does not like sitting, particularly at my desk and in the car. The opportunity to spend a good part of my workday standing up was one I couldn’t miss!
So, this week (today in fact) I relocated to the sit-stand desk for a 4 week trial period. Already I can see myriad benefits, and it’s only Day 1 so I’m sure there’ll be more as the trial progresses!
- It could be my imagination but I feel like I am more productive.
- I need to start keeping a record of it, but I’m sure I’m getting more steps in. Partly just moving around my desk to get things, and partly I leave my desk more often (eg to get something from my old desk, fill my water bottle) because I’m already standing – it just seems easier somehow!
- I’m also doing leg exercises eg calf raises, marching on the spot, to stop my legs from getting stiff and the blood pooling around my ankles! I have not made a conscious effort to do this, my body just does it naturally because that’s what it needs to do! I can do this kind of thing while still working, whereas when I was at a sitting desk, I’d have to stop what I was doing to do some stretches/exercises.
- I find it a lot more comfortable, not having to sit down for most of the day! I do have the option of sitting if and when I need to – the desk height is adjustable, so literally I just have to press a button. But I’d prefer not to, if I can avoid it. I think I’ll just use sitting as a brief rest break, and spend most of my time at my desk standing. But it’s only early days, of course!
Do you use a standing desk, and if so, how do you find it? Have you had experience with both sitting and standing jobs, and which do you prefer? And, especially if you do spend a lot of your workday sitting, how do you try to incorporate more activity into your day?
This week, we go back to where it all (ie this blog) began!
2 years ago I ran the Barossa Marathon and wrote a little report about it, which I posted on my Facebook page. The positive feedback I received about this report (in some cases from people I hadn’t even met before) in the subsequent days, led me to create ‘Random Thoughts and Race Reports’ and I guess you could say the rest is history!
I am in the process of creating a new blog which I’ll share when I’ve finished playing around with some of the formatting (amid much swearing, at times!)
Anyway, back to Barossa. Some months ago, knowing that it was 6 weeks after Boston and 2 weeks after I got back to Australia, I volunteered to do the 2 hour pacing gig for the half marathon. I figured, I wasn’t really going to be in ‘race shape’ and I find pacing really enjoyable and rewarding, so it would be a great way to be involved!
Up until last weekend, I hadn’t run 21.1km since Boston, so I was actually a bit unsure if I could even run a sub 2 hour half, let alone pace one! So I went out and ran about 10 laps of the Uni Loop (2.2km) and came in about 4 minutes under the 2 hours. I wasn’t trying to push hard but by the same token I wasn’t trying to run ‘slow’. I was just running at the pace I was comfortable with. So that pretty much confirmed to me that I could do the pacer gig!
Ideally you want to be able to run about 15 minutes faster than the time you’re pacing. I don’t think I could run 1:45 at the moment but I was definitely confident I had this!
I bought a new costume to run in – ostensibly to make me easier to spot for those trying to run with me, but just quietly because I kind of enjoy dressing up in wacky outfits! This one was a psychedelic hippie dress, complete with belt and headband. I even found a pair of sunglasses which were left at my house a few years ago but never claimed, that fit the outfit perfectly – and my yellow Boston calf sleeves were a perfect match! Underneath was another brand new item, my new 2XU compression shorts.
The weather wasn’t looking too good! There was a lot of rain overnight (both at home in Adelaide and up in the Barossa) and more rain forecast for race day. I was not looking forward to the idea of running in the rain – mostly for the reason that it would slow me down, and I couldn’t really afford to lose too much speed!
I went up with Beck, who wasn’t running this year due to injury but was still happy to go up and cheer! She picked me up at 5:45am so we would get to Tanunda in time to see the start of the marathon at 7. (The half didn’t start until 7:45)
Fortunately, although it was cold (and colder when we got to Tanunda), the rain appeared to be holding off.
We made it with minutes to spare – just enough time to wish the marathoners all the best and see them set off! (One thing I like about Barossa and Adelaide as opposed to some of the larger marathons, is that, as spectators, we could actually get into the starting area literally minutes before the start!)
The next 45 minutes went very quickly – just enough time to collect my bib and pacer balloons, stand in a lengthy toilet queue, then attempt a contortionist routine in trying to change out of my warm multiple layers and into my race ‘kit’ within the confines of a small toilet cubicle. Once that was done it was pretty much time to go to the start line! Luckily I had Beck there to take my bags as I probably would not have had time to getto the baggage tent!
I was one of 3 pacers in the half. We had Bryn doing 1:30 (his first pacer gig) and Jim 1:45 (Jim’s a veteran pacer and pretty much has the 1:45 slot sewn up!) with me doing my favourite, 2:00. I wasn’t sure exactly where to stand, as I couldn’t see Jim. In the end I just chose a spot well behind Bryn, and behind a few people I knew were planning to run sub-2. It didn’t really matter that much – 21.1km gives plenty of time to sort out pace and position!
(As it turned out, Jim wasn’t there – he actually missed the start due to bib issues, and went flying past me a little while after the start! He did eventually catch up to the 1:45 group and expertly paced them to the finish!)
I started my watch on the gun, rather than as I crossed the line. That way, if I crossed the line in 2:00 exactly on the clock, everyone who was with me would get under 2 hours, regardless of whether they started in front of me or behind me. (That was a lesson I learned during my very first pacing gig!)
For those who aren’t familiar, the role of a pacer is to run as close as possible to a specified time, and people who want to run that time (or thereabouts) just need to stick with the pacer and don’t need to worry about their own pace. It is particularly useful for runners who don’t use a GPS watch. As a pacer, there is definitely a bit of pressure but it’s also really enjoyable and rewarding to see your pace group achieve their goals.
I know I’m going to forget some people so apologies if I do! There were a lot of runners either with me or just ahead of me. Michelle was trying to stick with me as long as possible but her main goal was a sub 2:15 to qualify for Wonderland trail run. Eventually she dropped off my ‘bus’ but she got in well under her goal time! Regular running buddy Nat was with me for a while and ended up finishing just a few minutes behind me, saying that she really enjoyed the run.
Sally thought she would be running just ahead of me but ended up smashing out a huge PB and on top of that won 2 bottles of wine in the random prize draw!
Others running ahead of me included Gary (different Gary from the one we’d seen off in the marathon!), Victoria, Ali and Peter. There were definitely a few PBs among that lot – they didn’t need any pacing help from me!
With me pretty much from the start were Brianna, fresh off a PB at the Paris Marathon, and first time half marathoner Kathryn from Brisbane (who was unaccustomed to the cold weather that we turned on for her!) Brianna was hoping to go sub 2 but hadn’t run that far since Paris, and Kathryn was just hoping to stick with me as long as possible – she’d done a half distance in training, in about 2:10.
Due to the staggering of the start times for the marathon, half, 10k and 5k, there were never any issues with congestion. We didn’t see the 5k or 10k runners at all (in fact, I never even saw race ambassador Jess Trengove, who won the 10k race) but we did get to see the marathoners on multiple occasions, and due to the ‘out and back’ sections we also got to see all the half marathoners (over 500 finishers!) – from the leaders all the way to the back of the pack!
Pace-wise it took me about 3km to hit my goal pace of 5:37 – 5:38 mins per km. I found Barossa the easiest out of all the halves I’ve paced – due to the flat nature of the course and the favourable weather conditions. Once I hit my pace I managed to hold onto it. Towards the end I did a few calculations so I would come in JUST under the 2 hours, so I did need to slow down just a touch!
I think with about 5km to go, Brianna took off but Kathryn was still with me! She was determined to stick with me until 16km, then it would be ‘just a parkrun to go!’ Personally I don’t find that comparison super helpful but it certainly works for a lot of people!
Eventually we reached the ‘parkrun turnaround mark’ (2.5km to go) and it became apparent that Kathryn was going to get under 2 hours! It was kind of like a proud mother bird moment for me when she took off with around 1km to go – I had to hold onto my pace so couldn’t go with her but I was thinking ‘Fly, my pretties!’ as each runner left my ‘nest’!
There were a few other runners around me who were looking good for sub 2 – some just in front and some just behind. One guy, Gerard, had not long given up smoking and was on track for a PB (and finished just seconds behind me) and regular running buddy Deb was ahead of me for a good portion of the race, but stuck with me after I passed her, and also came in under 2 hours. Another girl, whose name I didn’t get but who was wearing a Step Into Life top and not wearing a watch, was also hoping for a sub 2 and I’m not sure if she finished ahead of me or behind me but she came up to me afterwards and told me she got the sub-2! And then there was another regular running buddy Fiona, who was determined not to let me pass her (jokingly telling me I was going too fast) and ended up finishing about half a minute ahead of me.
I crossed the line with 1:59:42 on the clock. My official time was 1:59:18 which I was pleased with!
And the timing was perfect because not 5 minutes after I finished, the heavens opened! Unfortunately that meant missing the presentations for the 5, 10 and 21.1k as I hightailed it back to Beck’s car to get changed into some warm, dry clothes and then head back to see our friends finish the marathon!
There was a large group of runners around the 3:30 pacer (I think the only pacer in the marathon) including Coralie, Rebecca and Jenny. Not long after that were Carrie, Amanda and Leon (doing his 347th marathon for the year, by my calculation!) with a small gap to my 2015 Barossa running buddy Kay and fellow 2017 Boston Marathon finisher Graham! Then came a few more familiar faces, Peter and Dave, but for me the best moment of the day was seeing Gary finish.
Gary’s daughter Tahlia had run the 10k, and as I approached the end of my half, I saw Tahlia running back to meet her dad. We waited what seemed like ages at the finish (but it wasn’t actually that long – we were just cold and in need of wine!) until we saw Mark, who had been running with Gary when I’d last seen them, so we knew Gary couldn’t be far behind! And sure enough, around 30 seconds later, there was that distinctive purple T-shirt! We gave Gary a huge cheer and I think he might have been a bit fired up (after pretty much crawling across the finish line in his first marathon at Adelaide last year, he had, as he put it, ‘some running demons to vanquish’) and was yelling and cheering and high fiving! It was definitely a highlight for me and I’m sure it was a very special moment for Gary and Tahlia!
As we were getting cold and Beck had post-wine family commitments, we left pretty much straight after Gary finished, for a well earned wine tasting at Hentley Farm (I tasted 9 wines and liked them all – unfortunately the budget would only stretch to one bottle – I went with a Grenache Shiraz Zinfandel, mainly because I’ve never tried or even seen that blend before!
So once again, SARRC have put on another excellent event – the weather wasn’t kind to everyone (the marathoners and some of the half marathoners behind me certainly copped it a lot worse than I did) but it was ideal running weather for me, the volunteers were fabulous as always, the spectators were great, and my fellow runners were always friendly and supportive!
Thanks to everyone involved in making this such a great day! And especially to Beck for chauffeuring me – I owe you one!
I describe my recent USA holiday as ‘epic’ but as we know, that word is thrown around waaaay too much. It was amazingly fun, and action-packed, but epic? Probably not. I don’t think the tale of my month in the States will be handed down from generation to generation, somehow!
I do want to do something proper epic though, one day. The idea of running from one city to another has definitely entered my mind (Melbourne to Adelaide maybe? Mount Gambier to Adelaide?) and with the right support, could happen! (Actually with a good group of people it could be a lot of fun!)
One race that I would LOVE to be able to do, but which is WAY beyond me at the moment (never say never, but I can’t see it happening anytime soon!) is Coast2Kosci – about 240km from the coast at Eden to the summit of Mt Kosciuszko, the highest point in Australia. I’m not particularly interested in mega long races (although I do want to tick off a 100 miler one day) but this one appeals to me greatly.
Maybe not so much ‘epic’ but something that would take a lot of work, would be the ‘Not The Adelaide Cup’ human races (as opposed to horse races) – pretty much all the fun of a day at the races but with humans racing instead of horses. That WILL happen one day!
I don’t have to look far to see actual epic adventures. I just have to go down my Facebook news feed and I thought this week I might highlight a few friends who have done (or are in the process of doing) freaking amazing stuff!
First cab off the rank, being freshest in the mind, was David Turnbull’s record-breaking run which ended last Wednesday night – the entire Heysen Trail, just under 1200km of it, from north to south in 13 days 16 hours and 16 minutes – breaking the previous record by a massive 16 hours!
I first met DT after The North Face 100 (now Ultra-Trail Australia 100) 2 years ago. He did brilliantly that day and made a good first impression on me by buying a bottle of wine for fellow ultra running legend Andrew, Andrew’s wife and crew Lara, and myself!
We’ve shared the track a few times since then – I got to watch him smash out 130+ km in the Adelaide 12 hour event in 2015 while I was running around in circles for 6 hours, and we were both winners in the 100km state track championships earlier this year (although he was long gone by the time I eventually finished!).
I was fortunate enough, along with fellow trail runners Tina and Ryley, to be able to join DT for a very short section of the trail (around 4km!) last Monday, and was amazed at how well he was travelling, despite the fact that he was approaching 900km at that stage! On a few occasions he would start running up a hill, and I’d be thinking, “Are you kidding? I’m not going to be able to keep up with a guy who’s run almost 1000km?” but then after a few steps he’d be walking again and Tina and I would be able to catch up!
DT was posting his location on his Facebook page every hour or so, which allowed people to find him and run with him for a bit – if they could keep up! It was a privilege to be able to share a small part of what turned out to be a FKT (Fastest Known Time) and a real eye-opener to see what goes into these audacious (and in this case ultimately successful) attempts! I believe there will be some kind of book about this and I really look forward to reading it!
Still in progress is another massive undertaking, The Million Dollar Run. This is a 3000km run from Adelaide to Brisbane to raise $1m for DEBRA Australia. I first met Andrew in December 2015 at a birthday run for fellow runner Barry, 6 hours around the 2.2km Uni Loop, sounds like fun, right? Well I only did 5 laps that day (my excuses being that it was a stinking hot day and plus I had to go to work!) but Andrew completed his first marathon and as I recall in not too shabby a time! The Million Dollar Run was already on the cards then, but it’s taken a while for it to actually happen! At the time of writing he’s pretty close to Melbourne! Amazing stuff!
Finally for this week we have School of the Road – last year, fellow runner Travis, Fiona and their son Patch, who has autism, embarked on a truly epic adventure, cycling from Washington State to Washington DC, around 5000km, an absolutely amazing and inspiring journey, showing, as they said, that ‘anything is possible’!
So there you have it, 3 inspirational people doing amazing things for very worthy causes! Hopefully I will be able to come even remotely close to such epicness one day!
Since getting back home at arse o’clock on Friday, I’ve had 4 days to settle back into ‘normal life’, and 4 days to reminisce about some of the things I will and will not miss about the USA.
THINGS I WILL MISS
- The freedom. Being able to get up every day (except the days I had planes or buses to catch) and do whatever the hell I wanted. Or nothing (although that never seemed to tickle my fancy…)
- The experiences. Playing in the snow, seeing awesome shows, exploring new cities… and that’s just the beginning!
- Cheap Clif bars. And so many more flavours! Like, $1 each – I really should have stocked up!
- (Mostly) not having to set an alarm to go running!
- Boston. I don’t think any other marathon will compare to Boston – but I’m willing to be proven wrong! I have an ever-growing bucket list of USA marathons – and I don’t even particularly enjoy marathons!
- Probably most of all, the people I met along the way. Everywhere I went, whether it was fellow hostel guests or people I happened to be sitting next to in the theatre, the people were so friendly. I love meeting new people and although in my job I do get to meet a lot of people, it’s not quite the same. I think maybe it was my Australian accent that encouraged many people to be so friendly – or maybe it was just my amazing personality 😂😂😂 I find that solo travel leads to meeting a lot more people – when travelling as a group or a couple you don’t really need to make that effort and can end up getting stuck in your comfort zone. I met a lot of solo travellers on my trip. And you don’t necessarily need to be single to do it! I think everyone should do it at least once. You won’t regret it!
THINGS I WILL NOT MISS
- Living out of a suitcase. And having to repack it every few days for the next flight!
- Having to make attempts to keep things tidy when staying in hostel dorms. As much as I like the idea of being tidy in theory, when I’m in my own place I tend to fill up all the available space!
- Tipping. I do get why it exists, and I did get the hang of it, but I was quite relieved to get back to a place where it’s not a thing.
- Sales tax. Why oh why can’t they just factor it into the shelf price, rather than add it on at the checkout? I don’t want to do math on holidays!
- Airport security. Again, I did get it down to a fine art but the amount of time wasted in airports when I could have been doing more interesting things…
- Large swarms of tourists. I tended to try to stay away from them wherever possible! Not staying in Midtown in NYC certainly helped!
- Sleeping in bunks! Top bunk is a pain in the arse getting in and out! Bottom bunk I kept hitting my head! I like my bed!
- Having to Google to find good coffee in most places. I must say that other than in Vegas it was surprisingly easy to find good coffee, despite what many Aussies will tell you. You just need to know where to look! (And I’m proud to say I never stepped foot into a Starbucks!)
- The exchange rate! The first time I went to the States I think we were on parity!
All of that being said, it’s just a matter of time (and a small matter of money) before I start planning the next trip…
Last year, I volunteered at this event with Karen, it being 1 week after we’d done the Ultra-Trail Australia 100km. We’d both decided to wear Snow White costumes. Why, I hear you ask? To which I reply, have you met us?
This year, given that I’m not doing UTA, I entered the race. So what if it was only 2 days after I arrived back in Australia? And so what if, aside from running in a forest in Portland a week and a half ago, I had not run a trail in well over 2 months?
There was a 6k, 12k and 20k. I entered the 12k, so I at least had some sense in me! After the trail run in Portland last week I realised I was going to be very underdone and would have dropped down to the 6k if there wasn’t a fee attached to the change!
I went into this race with zero expectations. Which meant I couldn’t really be disappointed, whatever happened!
Kit-wise I went with a new black lulu skirt (one of my overseas purchases) and my new pink argyle calf sleeves bought at the Boston expo, which I absolutely did not need but which were pretty and only $10!
Given that I was running the 12k, I figured my small race vest would be enough – 500ml of Gatorade should see me through, and there were a few drink stations along the way where I could refill them with water if needed.
I arrived at the start, at Blackwood Football Club, early enough to see the start of the 20k, which started at 8.
It was chilly at the start but it was sunny and it was likely to be warmish out there. So I needed to factor in both arm warmers and sunscreen.
I had originally chosen black and white arm warmers, then remembered I had pink and grey, so I threw both pairs in.
I asked Chantal which ones I should wear. Pink and grey was the winner. What was I thinking? Of course I should wear the pink!
I hadn’t studied the course. I rarely do. And as a ‘non-competitor’ in this race, I could comfortably rely on following the people in front.
Pretty soon we were away – starting with a nice comfortable downhill.
“IT’S A TRAP!” I thought to myself. As all trail runners know, “What goes down must come up!” (I certainly learned that at Boston!)
It wasn’t long before we hit the first hill. And then I quickly remembered how not good at hills I am. (I remember, late in the race, someone behind me telling someone else “I’m great on downhills but I suck at uphills”. I was almost going to turn around and say “Me too! Except the bit about being great at downhills!”)
The course was quite technical. Which was actually good. There were multiple water crossings, and a bit of rock climbing in amongst the uphill slogs and the downhills! I found it easier than just running up hill – the variety was a good distraction, and it was kind of fun! (I didn’t see anyone fall into the water – I very much hoped I wouldn’t!)
Climbing over boulders is relatively easy for me, being blessed with long legs! Getting under low branches (along with finding a height-appropriate man!) is not so easy – thankfully I can only recall one ‘limbo’ that I had to do!
There was a guy behind me who had run the practice run last weekend and mentioned a few times that he’d got very lost! I had told him to let me know if he wanted to pass me, but after hearing that, jokingly told him I didn’t want him taking the lead! (In his defence, there were no course markings last week, and the trail at times was difficult to pick out!)
On the course marking, I have to say, this course was IMPECCABLY marked. As one who is, shall we say, ‘navigationally challenged’, I never felt like I was in danger of getting lost – thanks so much to the awesome volunteers who marked the course!
After around 6k I said “OK that’s enough for me!” – again cursing myself for not entering the 6k in the first place!
But of course we all know that’s not how it works. I entered the 12k, and I would run 12k (or thereabouts – the other thing we all know is that trail distances are approximate at best!)
From about 10k to 11k it was a hard slog – and the elevation profile backs that up! There was a lot of walking in that kilometre but I knew it was ‘nearly’ over. (Fellow parkrunner Alex had passed me at around the 7k mark, telling me there was ‘only a parkrun to go’ – which is a lot more encouraging with 5k to go in a marathon than it is with 5k to go in a 12k!)
There was a nice little bit of downhill towards the end. Even though there was a bit of up as well, I managed to keep running, albeit a slow plod, because I knew the end was (metaphorically) in sight.
My normal rule when it comes to hills, is “Never run up a hill if you can’t see the end of it!” Meaning, I will run up a short steep hill (in fact, it’s usually easier to run it than walk it) but a long steady climb I will usually walk (and probably faster than I could run!)
Eventually I was at the finish line and ran under the arch – stopping the clock (figuratively) in a touch over 1 hr 25.
Although I had no expectations leading into the race, there were a lot of pleasing signs:
- Under 90 minutes ✔ (not that I had a time goal, but I really did)
- Didn’t fall over ✔
- Didn’t die! ✔
One thing I will hopefully remember for next time is to wear my cycling gloves – that would have been handy (no pun intended) for climbing over boulders. Plus if I did fall over, I could save myself with my hands!
I then proceeded to chat with a lot of the fellow runners, who all wanted to know about Boston and my holiday (which I don’t think I will ever get sick of talking about) in between eating my body weight in vegan brownies (thanks again Maurice!)
For once I didn’t win any prizes in the random prize draw but I guess it’s only fair to give some other people a go!
This was yet another fantastic event from the wonderful people at Trail Running SA. Great course, perfectly marked, brilliant weather – what more could you ask! Congrats to all the runners, and of course once again the amazing volunteers need to be thanked for making it all possible!
I could not think of a better way to ease back into ‘normal life’ – out on the beautiful Adelaide trails with great friends!
Next event for me is the Barossa half marathon (2 hour pacer). And I have my outfit organised – getting pretty excited! (Now I have 2 weeks to make sure I can actually run 21.1 in 2 hours!)
And that is a song lyric blatantly stolen from Peter Allen, ‘I Still Call Australia Home’. Appropriate, because as I write this I am sitting in an airport lounge in Hong Kong waiting for my flight home!
The last week or so of my holiday has been quite eventful!
I arrived into Vegas around 6:30pm on a Friday which was also Cinco De Mayo. Probably not the best plan, in hindsight. Any Friday night, as the lady who checked me in to the Luxor, is always busy what with the Americans getting away for the weekend. Cinco is probably even worse!
So I didn’t actually get into my room until after 8:30 and went for a wander around 9ish. Given my arrival time I hadn’t planned anything for Friday – just a walk down the Strip to stretch my legs. I’d forgotten how long the Strip is! And how hard it is to get around, with all the overpasses etc!
I was going to go into the Irish pub at NYNY which is kind of a Vegas tradition, but there was a $10 cover so I decided against it! Last time I went there I bought the CD of the house band, so I can hear them for free any time I want!
The other thing making Vegas particularly busy was the fact that there was a big fight on Saturday night which I found out at check-in – I made a mental note to stay away from wherever the fight was!
So Friday night was pretty quiet – just a wander, reacquainting myself with the area, and also checking out a few of the shops!
Saturday was all about shopping – I had put aside the day to go to the Premium Outlet Mall – I only had time to do one, and chose the northern one as that one had lululemon. I must say the whole outlet experience was not as good as previous times – I didn’t get much stuff (lulu was a bit of a disappointment!) and there were definitely not as many bargains. Maybe the advent of sales tax had something to do with it!
I did find this awesome gelato place, Amorino, which had heaps of vegan sorbets! I had chocolate, pistachio, and the most amazing blood orange and ginger! It was a pretty hot day too, so it was a welcome relief!
Saturday night I had a show to go to, but before that I grabbed an early dinner at Slice of Vegas Pizza in the Mandalay Bay Shoppes, right next to the Luxor. I went there specifically because they have a vegan menu – I had a feeling vegan food was not going to be quite so easy to come by in Vegas than in Portland!
After picking up my ticket for Human Nature I went for a look around the Venetian shops – such an amazing setup they have there! The Venetian was where I stayed on my very first trip to Vegas and nowhere else has come close!
Human Nature were fabulous. I’d only seen them once before – at Carols by Candlelight in Adelaide in 1996, back when they were a boy band! And I was delighted to see them do an homage to boy bands as part of their show, including some of their own stuff! These guys are the total package – all-singing, all-dancing, funny, a brilliant show!
After the show, I thought about going back to the Irish pub but thought better of it – the fight wasn’t far from there, so I decided not to even bother going! Besides, I was going to have to be up early in the morning for my flight to San Francisco, so I decided instead to go to the piano bar at the House of Blues – not too crowded, really fun, and I managed to get a seat at the bar!
I managed to squeeze all my stuff into my one suitcase, meaning that I wasn’t going to have to pay for a second bag on the flight! Anticipating a big haul at the outlets, I had fully expected to have to get the second bag out for the flight to San Fran. Once I got to San Fran there was no issue because on the flight home I could check 2 bags free of charge.
I was up and away early the next morning – my shuttle pickup was at 8.
Well, I was up, but I wasn’t away!
Because when I got to the airport and went to check in for my flight, I found out that it was cancelled!
I went to the check in desk and was told that I couldn’t get a flight to San Fran until the following day. They weren’t going to pay for a night’s accommodation, because the cancellation was known more than 24 hours ago, but they weren’t able to contact me to rebook me. She gave me a voucher for a discount on one of the airport hotels.
I contacted the travel agent’s 24 hour emergency number – the girl I spoke to looked into alternative flights but she wasn’t able to find anything with any airline. So I went back to the lady at the check in desk and she booked me on the first flight out the next day. (I didn’t think that one through – it was a 7am flight which ended up meaning a 4am shuttle pickup! Still, I wanted to get the most time possible in San Fran!)
Airport hotel? I’m in Vegas for another day, as if I’m going to stay at an airport hotel! No thanks, I’ll be staying on the Strip! I went on Hotels.com and found a room at the Excalibur (not the most fancy hotel but good enough and in a good location) for $29, (plus the resort fee of $30 something) – I thought that would be fine, and in case the travel insurance company weren’t prepared to pay for it, I didn’t want to risk spending hundreds on a fancy hotel room, especially considering I would hardly be spending any time there!)
I contacted my hostel in San Fran and explained what had happened – in the end they didn’t charge me for the missed night, which they were quite within their rights to do, because I gave them less than 24 hours notice.
I also went on Vegas.com to see about a cheap show for that night – might as well make the most of the ‘bonus’ night! I had a discount code from when I bought the Human Nature ticket, and ended up booking to see Blue Man Group – I’d heard good things, they were performing close to where I was staying, and it was an early show, given that I’d be getting up at 3 I was going to need an earlyish night!
Fortunately I was able to check into Excalibur early, dropped my bags off and headed straight out to get some more cash and then headed downtown on the bus. There was a vegan restaurant near Fremont St, VegeNation, that I wanted to try out.
Stupid Google Maps had me getting off the bus at the wrong stop but it did result in me walking down the street where all the wedding chapels were, which was kind of cool – including the one where Jon Bon Jovi got married!
I ended up getting a burger from VegeNation and it was really good, I got it ‘to go’ as they were really busy and I didn’t want to waste time waiting for a table! I ended up having to sit at a bus stop to eat it though – there are literally NO places to sit on Fremont St!
I’d been to Fremont St before (aka ‘Downtown’ or ‘The Old Strip’) – I’d forgotten how tacky it was, almost as tacky as The Strip! Heaps of cheap and nasty souvenir shops but less people walking around with yard glasses of margaritas!
I headed back to the Strip, I had read on the Interwebz about Cirque de Soleil having free open rehearsals for their Beatles show on Sundays, so I’d hoped to go to that, but found out when I got there that they don’t do it on Sundays anymore… so instead, I went shopping at the Fashion Show Mall!
I made my way back to the hotel to get ready for the show. Blue Man Group was not like anything I’d seen before – hard to describe! Their own website describes the show as ‘comedy, theater, rock concert and dance party all rolled into one’ which is probably a good description! I was glad to be seated near the back, away from the ‘poncho section’! I really enjoyed the show and would recommend it to anyone who wants to try something different! It was a perfect ‘last show’ for the trip – I’ve seen a huge variety of shows during the past 4 weeks!
Then it was back to the hotel to pack and set my alarm for arse o’clock!
Take 2! This time I actually did make it to San Francisco! And I had a window seat on the plane so I got to see Vegas from above!
I took the BART to the hostel – I stayed at USA Hostels where I’d stayed on my 2 previous trips to San Fran. My travel agent had warned me to stay away from the Tenderloin area. On the walk (all UPHILL!) from the train station to the hostel I noticed the flags advertising the neighbourhood as, you guessed it, Tenderloin! Luckily it was daytime, I certainly wouldn’t be wandering through here at night – lots of homeless people and, it appeared, drug addicts!
I wasn’t able to check in right away, but I left my bags, quickly got changed and went to do my one ‘must-do’ for San Fran – a run across the Golden Gate Bridge! Given that I had lost a whole day, arriving on Monday instead of Sunday, and that I was leaving on Tuesday night, I had no time to waste!
As I was dropping my bags off, someone behind me said “Hi Jane!” I looked around and it was Sean, an Aussie guy I’d met at the hostel in Portland, I knew he’d been coming to San Fran but we hadn’t discussed what hostel we were staying at – turned out we were at the same one! He was checking out as I was arriving! Small world! (San Fran has a lot of hostels so it is actually quite a big coincidence when you think about it!)
It was a beautiful day, and as per a lot of the runs I’ve done while I’ve been in the States, I had to stop frequently to take photos! Stupid sexy San Fran!
The run across the bridge itself was very ‘stop-start’ because there is just a narrow footpath which has to accommodate 2 directions of travel for both cyclists and pedestrians. Probably not a good choice of run if you wanted to run fast!
From the other side of the bridge at Vista Point, I ran down to Sausalito from where I got a ferry back to Fisherman’s Wharf. The last part of the run I was able to get a bit of pace up, especially at the start where it was downhill!
Then I walked back to the hostel via Union Square where I wanted to check out a few shops. lululemon was first – no good bargains to be had there! I also went to have a look at Macy’s, and a discount shop called Ross where I bought this amazingly comfy shoes (which have since given me blisters, but I have walked a LOT in them) – I had no qualms about buying shoes now, since I had the second bag! Plus they were only $20 AND machine washable!
I eventually got back to the hostel to check in around 5ish, had a shower and grabbed a quick bite to eat. One of the really good things about this particular hostel is that they have heaps of activities, at least one every day. It’s a great way to meet people! Unfortunately I would miss out on the pub crawl on Tuesday night, as that started at around the same time as my shuttle was due to take me to the airport!
I did however make it to wine and cheese night – naturally I didn’t partake in the cheese but I was pretty keen to sample some of the local Napa Valley wine! (I had considered booking a Napa or Sonoma tour for Tuesday, but given that I’d lost a day, and had been up since 3am, I thought maybe a full day tour might not be the best option! I did get my wine though, as it turned out!)
I got chatting to a guy called Leonard from Toronto and and an Aussie guy called Glenn (originally from Melbourne, had lived in Adelaide for a time but now travelling the globe) – pretty soon the free wine had all gone but Glenn and I got a bottle of Argentinean wine from across the road and ended up playing pool until the early hours of the morning with another Aussie called Jai (I’m hopeless with names – the only reason I remember his name is because he was from Mackay so I kept referring to him as ‘Jai from Mackay’!) and a girl whose name eludes me – after having been up since 3am I eventually hit the wall and went to bed in the early hours of the morning!
Tuesday, my final day, I didn’t set an alarm, but ended up being up in time to go on a free walking tour. It was really interesting, I went to places I didn’t remember having been to on previous trips, and learned a lot from our guide Mina!
After the walking tour I walked down to the Ferry Building to get a good coffee (my friend Emma had recommended Blue Bottle Coffee which was excellent!) and also check out another recommendation from Emma, Humphry Slocombe, an ice cream place with unusual flavours (they only had one vegan flavour, Pink Lemonade, which didn’t really appeal to me so I didn’t end up getting anything) and then walked down to The Plant for lunch – a curry ‘bowl’ (actually a box – I got it ‘to go’ because I wanted to go and sit down by the water to eat it!). I was joined for lunch by one of America’s giant seagulls!
Next on the agenda was to go check out the Palace of Fine Arts – how I’d never been there before I don’t know, but Glenn had recommended going there, and I’d already been to all the big ‘touristy’ places, plus this was free, and it was another beautiful day, so I thought why not? I was going to take a bus there but after sitting waiting for buses that never came, I ended up walking there!
I would definitely rate this as a ‘must-do’ – you don’t really need heaps of time there although if you wanted to you could spend a good few hours wandering around! And you could sit on the grass and eat lunch with the ducks and watching the turtles!
Time was getting away from me so I didn’t make it to the other place I’d hoped to go to – the Botanical Gardens, which happened to be free admission that day! (Free is always a good thing when you’re getting towards the end of a trip!) Leonard had told me about that, but I quickly realised that I wasn’t going to be able to do everything! My next priority was getting a bottle of vegan Baileys to take home! I couldn’t be sure if it was available in the duty free store (as it turned out, it wasn’t!) but it didn’t need to be duty free, I just wanted to bring a bottle home, since it’s not (yet) available in Australia! So I went to BevMo (I guess similar to our Dan Murphy’s or First Choice) and got a bottle which I carefully wrapped and packed in my checked baggage.
Then I went to a free yoga class at a nearby community centre (another activity recommended by the hostel) – probably the best thing I could have done before getting on the plane for 14 hours!
And then, just like that, it was all over – my shuttle driver arrived to take me to the airport!
The flight itself was OK – once again I was lucky enough to be on an aisle with no-one sitting next to me, so I was able to doze off without anyone needing to disturb me. I don’t think I slept a great deal but at the time of writing (4:30pm Thursday) I haven’t had to take a nap so it must have been enough! Saw a pretty good movie too – ‘The Founder’ about McDonald’s – and 5 episodes of ‘Portlandia’ which I hadn’t seen before but was interested to watch after having been to Portland, where it is set!
I landed in Hong Kong around 6am on Thursday and wasn’t due to fly out until 7pm, so I left the airport and took the train into the city. I’d never been to Hong Kong before and didn’t fancy spending 13 hours in the airport!
It was warm and humid – probably high 20s or early 30s. I went for a walk up to Hong Kong Park and the Botanic Gardens which was lovely – an oasis amid the hustle and bustle of the city! Plus it was only about 7:30 when I got to town and the shops didn’t open until 10!
I also went for a walk down to the harbour and to some public viewing areas – one of the cool things I found about Hong Kong is that there are public spaces, often outdoor patios within restaurants or cafes, where people can just wander in and out! And many of them happen to have pretty good views of the harbour!
Eventually 10am came so I went to the nearby shopping centre where, you guessed it, there was a lulu store. It didn’t take me long to realise that it was WAY expensive. Like, even more expensive than Australia! (I had to use my calculator because I couldn’t do the currency conversion in my head, but I quickly realised that I was not going to buy ANYTHING here!) The shops were all pretty high-end, and I was starting to get blisters on my feet by now, so I didn’t really fancy wandering aimlessly around the shops!
There was one other shopping centre I wanted to check out, and I discovered another cool thing about Hong Kong, that a lot of the buildings are interlinked, so I was able to get almost to the other shopping centre without going outside!
I got there and it was another high-end centre so I didn’t bother looking in any of the shops, instead deciding to head back to the airport, making my way back to the train station via a very pleasant walk down to and along the harbour.
And then I decided to be a proper tourist and go on the observation wheel, because there was no queue, and it was only about $HK100 (equivalent to about $A16-17) – and was fortunate enough to get a whole car to myself!
Then I headed back to the airport, through security and immigration and to the lounge which was nowhere near as good as the one I went to at Heathrow on my last overseas adventure! The only free alcohol was canned beer, and NOTHING in the drinks fridge was cold – I so wanted a Coke but there’s nothing worse than a warm Coke, so I ended up just going with water, which was probably for the best! Plus 3 cups of coffee to keep me awake until it was time to get on the plane!
I had been looking forward to a shower but the lounge charged the equivalent of about $40 for a shower so I decided I didn’t want a shower THAT badly, and just got changed in the restroom (which was probably the smallest restroom EVER!) but still it was nice to have a fresh set of clothes for the last leg of the journey!
Plus, I did get a free lunch – see, there is such a thing!
So I think that is probably about it for my travel blog – hope you’ve been enjoying reading it! Back to normal programming next week – I have stupidly entered a trail race on Sunday so that could make for an entertaining race report!
See you back in RAdelaide in about 12 hours!