Saturday, February 27, 2016

Sick of Half Ironman Training

So, writing about my trip to Dubai has been a good release for me this week because I have got to tell you something.  It has to do with my normal routine of posting about training for Chattanooga 70.3.

I’m sort of fed up with Half Ironman training. I feel done. I am tired and I want to not worry about whether or not I am biking enough, running enough, and figuring out a nutrition plan. I don’t want to keep reminding myself to visit the website that has wetsuit rentals and figure that out. I don’t feel like searching YouTube to learn how to inflate the stupid trainer tire that I bought. I definitely don’t want to spend even more money to buy the mat thing that is supposed to make my trainer vibrations not so bad for my dumb downstairs neighbor. I am sick of all this junk.

I just don’t want to do it anymore.

Right now I feel overwhelmed. I feel full of doubt and confusion all the time. I have no idea what I am doing training for this Half Ironman. I am working out a lot yet I am always feeling paranoid and anxious that I should be doing more. Or that I should be doing it at a higher intensity. Or that I should be doing different things. I feel like I'm not doing exercise that I would like to do because I am doing stuff I "have" to do yet I don't even know if I'm doing it right.

Right now I'm in New Orleans for the Rock N Roll NOLA half marathon. I signed up for this last year not really knowing what my training plan was going to be like and as I started to put the year together decided to use this as a goal race.  Miami was supposed to be a training run to help get me ready for this - a flat course in a fun city, ideal for PRs.  I was training hoping for 1:55 as a goal.

Well I ended up running Miami hard and I did get a PR by 4 seconds. Then my trip to Dubai came up, that was an amazing opportunity but meant missing my last two weeks of long run opportunities over the weekends. It also left me jet lagged this week. And now I've come down with a cold and feel like crap and can't breathe out my nose.

But, all those are excuses a little bit. I could have made it work.

I did my best time in the Publix Half Marathon in the rain the weekend after getting back from Nigeria and feeling like such crap that I went to Urgent Care. The truth is I think I just gave up on this race. As I mentioned above, I am frustrated with training. I'm worn down mentally, which is worse than being worn down physically sometimes.

I'm hoping to run tomorrow for fun. I've never done that before and it will be a different experience for me. My plan is to enjoy it, take pictures, and hopefully remember why I love doing all this stuff.

I have been through enough training cycles to know that this happens every now and then mentally and I will get through it. But man... I'm just out of the right frame of mind right now :(

Here goes nothing.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Last day in Dubai

My last day in Dubai started off by actually getting out of Dubai and heading to one of the other emirates that makes up the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi.

It is about an hour drive from Dubai and my friend was kind enough to take me and we even brought one of his friends along who had never gone and actually toured the Grand Mosque.  The Grand Mosque was my reason for wanting to visit Abu Dhabi and also just to see a little of something outside of Dubai.  From what I had heard, Abu Dhabi is a bit more traditional and "authentic" if that makes any sense.  Whereas Dubai is as if Las Vegas and Miami had a Muslim love child (note: that reference is stole from someone else, but I actually think it is a pretty good description!)

We had a mini road trip, complete with lots of snacks, just as I like them and drove out to Abu Dhabi.  The most interesting part of the drive was the big difference when you crossed the "border" from Dubai into Abu Dhabi.  I know in the U.S. you can often see the difference/changes when you cross state borders, but for some reason it seemed more apparent to me.  The pavement was completely different, the street lights in Abu Dhabi were these massive 6-bulb giant things, and all the roads were lined with pretty green trees.  Whereas Dubai had nothing on either side and single bulb street lights. I am told that it is because Abu Dhabi is the capital (and really where all the money is in the UAE, despite the reputation that it is in Dubai.)

The Grand Mosque I thought was stunningly beautiful.  It is all white marble with flowers, massive, open, and extremely regal.  The sun shines on it and it just was stunning.

We were able to go inside of the Grand Mosque as well, which was filled with incredible chandeliers.  Apparently the chandelier inside the Grand Mosque used to be the biggest in the world, but then Oman got the biggest in the world or something like that.  I actually preferred the smaller of the two chandeliers within the Mosque, I thought the primary colors on the bigger one was an odd choice.

As you can see, I had to wear an hijab while I was inside the Grand Mosque and keep my hair covered.  I believe I have this correctly... but a hijab is anything that covers your hair, and it is not necessarily tied to Islam, but is often seen by Muslim women, however anyone can wear a hijab.  An abaya is the long black gown that is often seen.  I wore pants and long sleeves to the Grand Mosque and covered my hair with a scarf, whereas you would also see other women walking around in an abaya given to them because they had too much skin showing.

I really didn't mind covering my hair, it is a little fun to do it for a one time thing.  I couldn't imagine doing it always and also don't really agree with the reasoning behind it at all.  It is an interesting practice to me, but as I always do, I like to respect the cultures of where I travel.  Also, I wanted to see the Grand Mosque and I couldn't go in if I didn't have a scarf on. SO that settled that.

Otherwise, dress in Dubai was very normal.  I brought mainly more conservative clothing (not that I am very flashy of a dresser anyways.)  But even my exercise clothing I brought only short sleeved shirts, not wanting to bring tank tops or things with any cleavage or chest that could show.  I planned only to wear long dresses and pants and was sure to have a sweater on me always.  However, people there that I hung out with and saw were dressed far more normal and everyday and not as conservative as I was imagining whatsoever!  It was very, very normal.  And I continually thought it was interesting to see the mixture of modern and traditional when you would see men in traditional dress walking with girls dressed in revealing clothing.  Or seeing women in abayas walking around the mall with shopping bags.  This juxtaposition reminded me of a saying I had heard about the city of Munich when I first visited there in 2009.  It is called the city of "laptops and lederhosen" as it boasts a mix of high technology and also traditional Bavarian culture.  I felt the same way about Dubai.

After visiting the Grand Mosque we returned to Dubai for lunch where we went to a Lebanese restaurant.  Eating lunch at a Lebanese restaurant with three Lebanese guys, I told them to do the ordering and that I would eat whatever they felt was appropriate for me to try.  I must admit, I was then a little intrigued by what came out - which was in a cooked yogurt sauce - but it was delicious!

We ate salad with toasted pita chips, hummus, puffed bread, lentil soup, kebbeh bil laban, and sheesh barak. They were all incredible.  Kebbeh bil laban is like little meatballs made with bulgur in a cooked yogurt sauce.  It sounds a little intimidating but was delicious, and eaten with rice of course.  Sheesh barak came in the yogurt sauce as well, which are little meat dumplings.

With dessert of course, that was mohalabiyah, or a milk pudding with crushed pistachios on top.

The restaurant location we chose was in another mall - the third of the malls that I visited while in Dubai - the Mall of the Emirates. This mall is the home to the infamous indoor skiing facility in Dubai.  I was able to get a peak through the window of where you can go and rent cold weather clothes and experience the magic of the mountains... at an indoor, closed ski facility.  Only in Dubai!

The late afternoon into evening I spent meeting back up with my American friend who was living there, who brought me to a location she had been brought to by one of our mutual friends when she first arrived there.  We'd driven past it on our way out into the desert the day before and it was the Global Village of Dubai, that is up and open from October to April and features different shops/stands/foods from around the world.

When you first walk in you are greeted by various monuments from around the world such as Big Ben, the Statue of Liberty, and even a little mini version of the Burj Khalifa.

The Americas shops featured lots of NY and Canada gear and all the stereotypical American things that you could imagine.

In addition to being a complete visual feast for the eyes, what I thought was so interesting about the Global Village was to attend something like this in the Middle East.  The biggest sections of the event were for India and Pakistan and there were sections for Iran, Lebanon, Bahrain, Palestine, Yemen, Syria, Oman, Kuwait, Qatar, the Emirates, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, etc.

I feel like the world so often (and I include myself in this) lumps these countries together. I will be the first to admit that I am not very knowledgeable about the Middle East and the different nations that make it up. Heck, it took me getting to Dubai to understand what the United Arab Emirates even meant!  However, I also think it is a little bit natural as well.  When people think of the United States, they may not think of how different Rhode Island is from Georgia or from Wisconsin or from Arizona. Or maybe they would because the U.S. is big... so okay, the difference between Rhode Island and Massachusetts and New Hampshire and Vermont!  Because they are different!  So, to have every nation within the Middle East represented (which makes sense given I was in the region) and having specific pavilions devoted just to them, was very cool and neat to see.

There were also European sections with Turkey, Russia, Italy, Germany and Spain highlighted. A massive Africa region.  China, Japan, Thailand, Indonesia and a few other areas in southeast Asian countries.  They were all very cool to explore.

Once we made it out of the Global Village (which I kept messing up and calling World Market) we met back up with my friend for a final drink and some snacks on my last night in Dubai.  We met at Pier 7, which is a 7 story building in the Dubai Marina area with different restaurants on each floor. The very top floor is a massive club and each of the restaurants have very different styles and feels.

Picture Source: Pier 7 Website
We were worried we were a bit under dressed, but went about things the true American way and just walked in confidently and didn't let anyone ask any questions about what we wearing.  The beautiful evening, good conversation, drinks, and of course the view made for an amazing final night in Dubai.

As I am sure that you can tell from these lengthy travel posts that I have been putting up (this is now my 5th post about a single trip) that it was a great experience.  One of the things that truly made it wonderful was the people that I was able to spend it with.  I was super disappointed when learning that the timing of the trip was going to be off by a few weeks of one of my good friends moving away from Dubai. However, was also thrilled that I had a few other friends to be able to enjoy the experiences with.  Both the more "native" people, my friend from Lebanon and all of his wonderful friends I was able to meet throughout the week.  And my friend who is now a local, originally from Louisiana, but exploring all that Dubai has to over for a year.  To everyone else I met along the way.

I am so, so thankful to what they taught me, showed me, the questions they let me ask, and how they went out of their way to make sure that my experience in Dubai was a great one.  I think it goes to show the incredible quality and caliber of the people who live in the city at how much they accommodated me when I was in town.

Dubai is a location I have specifically wanted to travel to since at the least, 2013.  A lot of times when I travel places it is more on a whim. Such as when Kristen e-mailed and said, "Do you want to go to Iceland?" and I said "Okay!" or when Daniella asked me if I wanted to run the Paris Marathon and (after some convincing) I said, "Sure!"  Which is nice, and suits my spontaneous lifestyle.   However, it was also truly amazing to be in a place I have wanted to explore for so long.

It was bittersweet getting on the plane to return home, but it was a wonderful week that I feel so lucky that I was able to have thanks to my job.  There is really not much better than a career that gives you such fulfilling opportunities and experiences.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Desert safari and gym life in Dubai

My day on Friday in Dubai, which is technically their Saturday, started with the most awesome trip to the gym!  I know it seems silly to be excited about, but I have grown to absolutely love going to the gym in Atlanta and especially love all my gym buddies and friends I have made there.  It really helps to build a community at the place that you work out, and makes the process so much more enjoyable.

The evening before we had been hanging out with some of my friend's friends - whom he had met at his gym.  He mentioned going in the morning and I jumped on the chance, and we head over early for a 9:00 a.m. spin class which they call "RPM" there.

The gym was super hip, with loud fun music blasting, graffiti style art all over the walls, and tons of posters and fliers advertising events and activities and motivation for members of the "tribe" at the gym location.  I immediately fell in love and the RPM class was super sweaty and amazing as it looked out over the Dubai Marina.  I found the trainer who led the class on Instagram and she had posted these images from before the class started.  I would love loved to take a picture to show you the view I was looking at while spinning, but I didn't want to be "that girl" and was already getting teased by my friends about my tendency to Instagram and Snapchat and take too many pictures in general!

I was so impressed at the class, the gym, and the fact that everyone there at 9:00 a.m. on a weekend day was young, fit, attractive, and working hard.  My gym in Atlanta at 9:00 a.m. on the weekend isn't filled with young people, I'll tell you that much!  I was in awe and loved that I got to experience the gym life in Dubai.

Especiallllyyyy when breakfast is included afterwards!

We showered and changed and head over to Le Pain Quotidien (a favorite location of my friend who I was staying with) for breakfast which overlooked the Dubai Marina, which was gorgeous and filled with fancy looking yachts that I wanted to ride around on!

I resisted the urge to commandeer a boat and instead settled on some coffee, scrambled eggs, toast and avocado.  You can't go wrong with that combination.

The afternoon on Friday was completely highlighted by the Desert Safari that I went out with an American friend of mine who is living in Dubai and a colleague of mine who had also traveled over for these meetings and decided to stay extra and explore.  I had been looking forward to it all week, and even before I even arrived to Dubai.  I'd heard wonderful things about it and had these visions of being out in the dunes in the middle of the desert that I was anxious to fulfill my daydreams of.

Before heading out there though, we went to Madinat Jumeirah again actually, to sit down and have a meal outside overlooking the Burj Al Arab.  I was excited to go back since I hadn't had the chance to eat at any of the restaurants and because I did love the view!  We had a delicious meal of some Lebanese dishes as well as some Arabic dishes and all shared the various plates, which is my favorite way to eat!

But on to the desert safari...

It. Was. So. Fun.

I was looking forward to this all week and it really lived up to my expectations! The camel ride wasn't exactly what I was thinking, but I had so much fun being out in the desert.

We were picked up at my friend's apartment at 3:45 and went into a white 4-wheel jeep that already had three others inside.  Our little group head out into the middle of the desert and the first stop was a place where you could ride 4-wheelers around, which my friends and I opted not to do, but we did buy a nice head scarf.

Also, I should mention, that I was a little concerned that buying these head scarf things was cultural appropriation or insensitive to the people who wear these patterned scarves as part of their religion.  However, our driver was wearing one just to protect from the sand blowing in his face and hair so I figure that it was okay. We also avoided the traditional colors.  Anyways... back to the blog...

Our driver then let some of the air out of the tires and took us out "dune bashing" which consisted of driving all over the desert dunes in a fashion that made me scream out loud multiple times.  It was so crazy and I was so scared the car was going to tip over.  He would drive up these steep peaks that you couldn't see over, on the side of the dunes where we would skid down sideways, down some of the steepest sand dunes imaginable, and just make all over crazy turns and dips.  He would drive so close to other people and cars, and with no lanes or roads it made me nervous every time!

However, it was a good and fun scared. You just sort of had to trust he knew what he was doing and embrace it.  It was amazing!  At one point we got stuck in the sand and he needed to put more air in the tires to get us out, which we took as an opportunity to take pictures of the dunes at sunset.  It was such a fun experience.

Following the dune bashing, we went to a camp where we had a dinner, some drinks, went on a camel ride, and got to view a belly dancing and fire dancing and weird skirt dancing show.  All made up such a perfect day.

(This is one of my favorite pictures ever... the expressions on our face are amazing.)

This is a very photo heavy post but I wanted to be able to capture it all!  The evening was so fun and just a total adventure.  We laughed so much and screamed and enjoyed an amazingly beautiful sunset over flowing sand dunes that were unlike anything that I have seen before.

During my uncles wedding weekend in Provincetown, we went on a dune tour of the dunes on the cape but this was completely different.  Just the orangey color of the sand was totally gorgeous and very different from anything I see at home.

When we got back out into civilization and I was dropped back at my friends who I was staying with (as a local, he chose to pass on the safari tour experience.)  Him and his friends were about to head out to the DIFC area that we had been at the night before, so I did a quick turnaround from my safari outfit into a dress and jumped in the car to head to a new place that had just opened in Dubai called Indie.

My friend who I was staying with is from Lebanon, as are all of his friends who I met and were hanging out with over the weekend.  The new bar/restaurant we went to was in its first week of being open and was originally a Beirut based establishment that opened up in Dubai, so they were anxious to check it out and support the hometown owners.  It was an incredibly hip, chic place, that just like the gym in the morning, was FILLED with young, attractive, cool looking people.  When I asked my friends about all of this, they mentioned that Dubai is a young city in general.  Young people come there for work and there aren't a lot of young kids or older people there, which makes sense. And then for this particular bar, or even the bars or restaurants we had been at the day before, the explanation I received for why they were so cool was because they serve cocktails and not beer.

At first I was protested, but then it seemed to make sense.  My friend asked me, "Could you imagine everyone here drinking beer?" and I said no, I couldn't.  Beer apparently makes for a more casual atmosphere and cocktails are fancier.  I guess there are probably cool hip places like this in cities throughout the U.S. (Atlanta included) but I probably just don't ever go to them since I go to more casual bars.  Anyways, I was impressed.

Final point about the DIFC area in Dubai and then I will move on...

The restaurants are all a floor above ground level and build within the tall buildings around it.  I am honestly struggling to figure out a way to describe it but anyways, here are a few poor pictures below.  What I want to point out that I thought was cool is that these columns with wood paneling, actually are air conditioners.  This area has outdoor air conditioning, just to keep the temperatures bearable to walk around in the summer months when it gets super hot in Dubai.  Crazy!

We didn't stay out too late as everyone in our crowd was pretty tired. And hey, you guys know that i love a night that ends around midnight.  I have no need to be out later than that most days!!

To continue to make this the longest blogged about trip every, I am going to cut it off here.  I will write about my last day tomorrow.  Hope you're enjoying the pictures and stories so far!