Tokyo Marathon – Less than 1 month to go (#SoNotReady)

Sometimes life throw you a curve ball that takes you totally by surprise and forces you to re-evaluate all plans…. 1 week ago, with only 1 month to go before Tokyo Marathon, my biggest concern was whether I will be able to complete at all and get my big, fat six-star-finisher medal. Then my mother was diagnosed with cancer, and suddenly Tokyo seemed inconsequential. After 10 days back and forth to the hospital for MRI, CT, colonoscopy and you name it, we finally got the good news yesterday that the tumor seems operable and that the cancer seems not to have spread to any other organs. Safe to say we cried of relief of that message.

So, given the good news, my trip to Tokyo is back on. But, of course, having used all my energy on worrying, my immune system was quite beat, so no I am out cold with fever, sore throat and an aching body… In other words, I think it will take a few more days before I am wearing my jogging shoes again.

Even being quite unprepared (but then again, what else is new?), I am starting to look forward to my trip to Tokyo. My knowledge of the city is quite below par, and what springs first to mind is sumo wrestling, sake, supporters who actually pick up their own litter after world cup football games (even when loosing big), and of course the a bit too close proximity to a sometimes trigger-happy Kim Jong Un. After reading “The Runner Handbook” that arrived last week, I must also found some of the warnings to be quite interesting and new: First was a list of what was prohibited to bring to the starting area. I mean bottles and cans, unless for commercial unopened container for less than 500ml are prohibited. A bit strange, but OK. Then to the a bit more bizarre: it is not allowed to bring advertising, boom boxes, animals (!) and plants…. But, what really got me freaked was the necessity of actually having to specify the prohibition of bringing pepper spray, knives, poison, fire works and explosives!

A couple of other warnings in the handbook are also new to me in marathon settings.

» If the Japanese Government’s nationwide warning system J-Alert sends an alarm related to ballistic missile launches, follow the instructions.»

and

»If an upper 5 or greater earthquake strikes Tokyo, the race will be discontinued immediately»

Not very comforting, I must admit, but hopefully it will be OK. At least I feel my lack of preparation is not my biggest concern at the moment…

Happy New Year

A new year has come to an end, with trips to Gran Canary, Ras Al-Khaimah, Dubai, Chicago and Barcelona as travel highlights and definetely the marathon medal in Chicago as a running highlight.

Wish you all a happy new year and let us hope 2019 will bring even more travel and running histories to remember. ❤️🍾

Amsterdam Marathon 2011 – Cheese, sausages and a toilet in the middle of the room

The Amsterdam Marathon was the first marathon with my then pretty new boyfriend of 3-4 months. To put it like this, we were still in the starting phase of a relationship where you would like to present yourself in the best light possible. My best light is definitely not being on the toilet, so I did not exactly cheer with excitement when we walked into our tiny room at CitizenM Hotel in Amsterdam and noticed that the toilet (and the shower) were placed in the middle of the room with only transparent glass walls. To be honest, we did not feel we knew each other well enough to use the toilet in front of each other (for that matter, we still don’t 8 years later…). We made it work, though… My boyfriend took one for the team and used the toilet down in the reception area and when he went there, I used the one in the room in private. I must admit that even when being alone in the room I felt like a dufus.

Not much privacy in this room

Then to the marathon… Amsterdam Marathon has a flat course with start and finish at the same place (Olympic Stadum). Parts of the course followed the olympic route along the river Amstel and along the course we passed both fashionable villas and wind mills. We also ran through Amsterdam city center, passed by the Rijksmuseum and crossed the Vondelpark. Along the course the spectators were amazing and a lot of them brought us treats like small cheese and sausage bites, chocolate and candy along the way. To put it like this, you are not exactly picky about what you grab of eatable items after 30 km.

This was my third marathon and still the one where I did my personal best (which is so slow it is not worth mentioning..)

Indonesia – Life in Bogor, death in Pelabuan Ratu and closure in Bali (#CircleOfLife)

A local fast food vendor

Prelude

About half a life time ago, more specific in 1993, my father was given the opportunity to join a Norwegian land surveying company in a 2 year project on the island of Java, Indonesia. Since my father had been prone to prefer in-country trips with our old combi-camp to remote places in Norway with fishing opportunities, I was quite shocked about his acceptance to the offer. I was even more happy about my own sudden opportunity to expand my travel repertoire, which up until then was limited to trips to Mallorca, Bulgaria and London. 

My first encounter

It was the year of the Olympics at Lillehammer in 1994; the most freezing and terrible winters of them all, and come April it was FINALLY time to pack our suitcases and head off to Indonesia for the first time. The flight, however, was a bit below par, since my father (as well as my mother and brother) was a heavy smoker and had also booked me in the smoking section because he didn’t think I would like to sit alone in the smoke free section (little did he know …) The whole night (while coughing and desperately  trying to catch my breath) I cursed the bastards from the non-smoking section coming into our section to smoke!! But we made it to Bogor, and even though I had to burn my clothes (figure of speech) and take a two hour shower using two full bottles of soap (not a figure of speech), I was soon ready to explore the area. 

Vila Duta
Vila Duta
Outside our house in Vila Duta

My first impression of Indonesia was that it was a country of many contrasts. Our neighborhood was very luxurious with great villas, pool, gardeners, private drivers (some which were later convicted for cocaine abuse, but that is another story…), armed guards and the only scary elements were some stray dogs barking and trying to intimidate us. Our house was of medium size, with a kitchen, 3 bedrooms, bathroom and a separate part for the maid (which we of course  needed… or maybe not). In the middle of the roof, there was a big opening for a natural watering system for the plants below (and a even more natural entry way for a horny snake trying to make out with my father’s PC cable and for the giant spider I at one time spotted in my bedroom; but again…. a different story). We also had a cosy lawn with gardening furniture. But one thing that struck me as odd was the giant brick wall in the end of our yard, with shattered glass and barbed wire at the top, obviously meant for keeping something or someone out…

Life behind the wall

My curiosity of what might be behind the wall drove me more and more crazy and after a few days I had to go outside and check. Let’ s say that what met me was a neighborhood completely different from ours. Just a few meters away from our privileged life with maid, gardener and private driver, people lived in shady houses resembling cardboard boxes and without any of the amenities a spoilt teen takes for granted. The shock was a big one, and I do believe at that moment, I shed myself off most of the materialistic whims I had become so accustomed to over the years. I also made two other observations: 1. Even though the owned nothing, and lived in a shack, they did have large TV-antennas on their roof to ensure them information. 2. Despite their living standard, everyone looked happy and they were eager to communicate with us in bad English and sign language.  

Bogor

My father’s house and work were in Bogor, a “small” town 1 hour’s drive from the capital Jakarta and with approx 750.000 citizens. A couple of years later, while studying Natural Geography, i learned that Bogor in fact had the world record in number of days with thunder and lightning (about 300 days a year!!). Every day typically started with a delightful sun, but at about 13-14, clouds starting to appear and a short while later all hell broke loose. I’m remembering not exactly feeling safe having a 3m in diameter satellite dish on our roof. Some days the lightning was so bad my father had to take us out in his car, since it was the only place we felt secure, and while driving we could see the lightning striking all high elements around us like cranes, tree tops etc. And, in the middle of all this, children were playing outdoors in the rain with giant umbrellas with big metal tips. Luckily they pulled through without any injuries… at least for the duration of our trip.

The two months I spent on my first trip to Indonesia were fantastic and I left fully loaded with impressions. We got to celebrate our independence day there with other expats, which by the way included a tequila race with some of my father’s younger colleagues and ended with me (for the first and last time when drinking) barfing in a bathroom with golden faucets (at least I did it in style…). We also got to participate in hash house harriers runs through the jungle (where I once were chased by a flock of stray dogs and another time encountered a poisonous snake in the middle of the path…), ending up in an on-on in the end (meaning drinking beer and fraternizing with the other runners). 

Cecilie has to down a beer for being a first timer…

We also had time for a trip to the “Paris of Java”, Bogor, several trips to Jakarta and a weekend trip to the holiday destination Pelabuhan Ratu. 

Local taxi in Bogor
My first culinary encounter with fried snake and crispy frog legs
Sunset in elabuhan Ratu

My last trip with Dad

One year later, in 1995, I went alone to visit my father for a couple of months during winter (the bless of being a self-studying student…). I soon got used to life in Bogor and spent my days by the pool, at the mall or binge-watching TV while my father was at work (hey, I was 20 and this was before cell phones and internet, so of course I watched a lot of TV!). My BFF from back home sent me updates of all the national and local gossip from back home in the mail, which took about 10 days and I simply lived for these updates (since I wouldn’t want to miss out on anything..). I also had completely control of what was shown on the two English speaking TV channels and the TV magazine became a good friend. What was particularly special with the TV channels in Indonesia was that it was not allowed to show any kissing scenes. So, e.g if I was watching Beverly Hills 90201 (which I often did) and someone went in for a kiss (like they often did), the TV channels either paused the whole program and jumped to after the scene was over, or they simply replaced the scene with e.g. a still picture of a lizard. It was also commercial breaks every 3 minutes, which was very unusual (and annoying) for me, since I was not used to that from back home at that time. The TV shows were also overruled by the several daily prayers and they did not always remember to pause the program in the mean time, which was also annoying. 

Hey, look what I found. The TV-program from my trip!

Pelabuhan Ratu

Towards the end of my vacation with Dad, we went back to Pelabuhan Ratu and spent some marvelous days at Samudra Beach Hotel with tennis, tanning, bathing and we also had time for a trip to a dormant sulfur smelling volcano with hot springs. Dad also helped out the locals in some of their daily chores like getting their boat on the water. Other than at the hotel, the area only had one other restaurant where they spoke English and we ended up having dinner there every day. And every day, the minute we walked in the door and they saw me with my long, blonde hair, they run to the back room and started to play Abba’s “Dancing Queen”. A major embarrassment for me, but my father found it to be hilarious. One day when we were having dinner, a fight broke out between a couple of lizards in the ceiling right above us, and it ended in one of the lizards fell down on my place, dropped his tail (a defense mechanism to confuse enemies) and ran away. It is safe to say I ended up with room service that day (which was actually my first meeting with the concept… and Cecilie like!) 

Pelabuhan Ratu beach
Fantastic sunsets
Dad helping out the locals
Caught right outside our hotel (= I settled for the pool)
The beach in Pelabuhan Ratu
The pool at Samudra Beach Hotel
Hot Springs
Hot springs

After a few great days by the coast we returned back to Bogor and I left for Norway a couple of days later. Little did I know that I had seen my Dad for the last time. A few month later he went back to Pelabuhan Ratu with some colleagues, got caught in the treacherous currents right outside “our” hotel and never returned to shore alive. I still miss him all the time; long gone, but never forgotten… ❤

The years after

It took me a long time to accept that my dad was never to return and as the years passed, the need to return to Indonesia for closure grew bigger. In 1997 I went back to Indonesia, not to Bogor but to Bali and just being in the same country made me feel close to him again. 

Bali

The first days in Bali I felt sad but good at the same time and I felt that I had finally gotten closure. I was then able to enjoy myself and me and my travel buddy had a marvelous holiday in Sanur and Kuta, with trips to Ubud and Tanah Lot, feeding of viscous monkeys, holding a giant bat, eating grilled corned and drinking beer at the beach and simply enjoyed the sun and heat (which have later become my numero uno things in life…). 

Now, 20 years later, I am starting to plan a trip back to Bogor and Pelabuhan Ratu for a final goodbye to the best Daddy in the world…

Dubai 2018 – The Gepi Story

For 8-9 a little fury toy-cheetah was purchased in the gift shop of Kristansand Zoo and he soon became my son’s favorite toy animal which he both slept with every night and brought with him on all our trips around the world. But, alas, there comes a time when all little boys outgrow their fury little friends, so in the past years, poor Gepi’s only view has been from the inside of a Box. To cheer him up a bit, I therefore brought him along for our Christmas trip to Dubai for the trip of his lifetime, and sent back photos to my son to try to guilt trip him for neglecting his little friend. At first he did not find that amusing at all, but after a while he thougt it was pretty funny..,.

Hilton Dubai Jumeirah Beach/Hilton Dubai The Walk – 7 reasons why we always return

This is the seventh time we celebrate Christmas in Dubai, and I have also been here for Easter, spring, autum. and even summer several times. I have stayed at multiple hotels at Juneirah Beach Residence (JBR), but there is one hotel i special (or really two sister hotels sharing the same facilities) I keep coming back to and which I consider my favorite(s): Hilton Dubai Jumeirah Beach / Hilton Dubai The Walk.

Hilton Dubai Jumeirah Beach (5 star rating) is located right by the sea, and is surrounded by skyscrapers. It only has 10 floors, which makes it one of the lowest buildings in the area. Right across the street is Hilton Dubai The Walk (four star rating), a much taller building with about 45 floors and the two sister hotels are connected through walking bridge. Guests at either hotel are free to use all the facilities of the two hotels. The rooms at Jumeirah Beach are a bit small and the elevator at The Walk is icredible slow. But other than that, and the fact that the two swimming pools are engulfed in shade parts of the day, I simply love the place, and here are some of the reasons why:

THE BEACH

The hotels have a private beach with lots of sunbeds/umbrellas and a staff that is most service minded and help you drag the sunbed to your requested position. The towles are huge and soft and the sunbeds are very comfortable.


THE POOL AREA2

The area have two pools, one outside The Walk and one down by the beach. As mentioned earlier these are in the shade parts of the day, but are wonderful for morning swim or if it gets too hot in the sun and have a comfortable temperature of about 27-28 degrees C.mrådet har to bassenger, et utenfor The Walk og et nede ved stranden.

3

THE GARDEN

The «garden» is really levels of artificial grass with sunbeds and unbrellas and are conveniently located between the pool and the beach. Here it is very quiet and you gave the option of staying both in the sun or or in the shades. It is also a short way to the rest rooms and showers that quite exceeds the regular charter destination standards.

BEACH BUTLER

OK, it sounds laxy, but you get use to the table service really fast. A new feature this year, was the option of ordering through an app and just enter which sunbed you would like the order to be delivered to. LOVED IT!


PRICE LEVEL

The price level for the hotels varies from year to year, dependent on availbility and time of booking, This year we managed to get a price of around USD 130 / night, breakfast included, which is a fairly decent price compared with some of their neighbours. The price level for food and drinks are steep all over Dubai, especially in hotels with an alcohol license, but if you take advantage of the promotions and the happy hour offerings, it is not so bad, at least compared to Norway.

CHILD FRIENDLINESS

I have travelled alone with my son to Dubai since he was a toddler and this is by far the country I have felt the most safe in. I even feel more safe here than back in Norway. Dubai is also incredible family friendly with tons pf activities for families with children, cozy parks and lots of play grounds. On Hilton DUbai Jumeirah Beach / The Walk, they have safety wests for non-swimmers, lifeguards in both the pools and at the beach ans a really professional security team. One year, when my son was about, he ran ahead of me, but ran into the wrong elevator, which I did not notice. Suddenly I couldn’t find him and I soon started to panic. I stopped one of the staff members and asked if she had seen him and she immediately engaged Security, which started to go through surveillance tapes and just 5 minutes later they had located and less than 10 minutes a crying little boy was returned to his also crying mother. Later that night, the head of security stopped by our room to give my son balloons and candy to make him feel better (and it worked..)

THE WALK, JUMEIRAH BEACH RESIDENCE (JBR)

The hotels are located in the 2 km long beach promenade called The Walk at JBR. Here you can find plenty of small stores, restaurants, beach facilities, entertainment and lots of other activities. It also has a 550m long jogging track with a soft surface, which has been my friend several mornings during this holiday.

As you might have gathered, we have had a blast here in Dubai yet again and I cannot wait to return in 8 weeks. This time with my son and nephew.


Chicago Marathon – Blood blisters, sweat and lots of tears, but…..totally worth it!

A bit late, being my 12th Marathon and all, but last summer I decided that before Chicago Marathon in 2018 I was going to try out something new; actually exercising before the race. And for about 2 months, that plan worked fine and I was starting to dream of a decent time (or at least beat the ones on crutches this time..). Then in November, just I was completing a fairly good 10K, my good old vertigo (caused by Meniere’s disease, but which had been more or less dormant for a year) and I just fell over and never really got on my feet before July this year. With up to 10 vertigo attacks per week, I had more than enough with trying to function at work, and just the thought of Chicago made me ill. I had more or less given up on the Whole thing when I, in July, the attacks stopped and suddenly I was able to step on the treadmill again for other than a slow walk. Then, with just a couple of months to prepare + the fact that I suck as a runner from before, my new goal was just to complete within the time limit, so that I could collect the big, fat Abbott Six Star Finisher’s medal in Tokyo in March. 

With no really long runs in the bag, I went over the Atlantic Ocean with a hope of my usual strategy would work yet again (namely yelling at my feet to keep them moving…). In the days before the race, the weather forecast showed everything from 5 degrees (C) and heavy rain to 28 degrees (C) and sun. We ended up with light rain in the beginning, lots of rain in the middle and cloudy and windy in the end (and there we might have the reason for the friction burns all over my body). Even if you don’t have any other goal than completing, you still get this excited feeling at the starting line, waiting a long with 40.000 others; from record holders like Mo Farah to crappy woggers like myself.. The moment was a bit ruined, though, by the runner next to me blowing lots of sigarette smoke my way. 

With a GPS all crazy due to the sky-scrapers I had to keep track of time every 5 km, since I am not that fluent in units of measure other than meters. I passed 21,1 km according to plan, but soon after my whole body started to shut down, limb by limb. Soon I had the posture and walk of a zombie (from the golden oldies that is, not like one of the really fast ones from movies like World War Z). My whole body was aching and I was starting to loose sensation in my feet, so in a desperate attempt of keeping my brain from ordering my body to call it a day and crawl to the nearest taxi, I started to take pictures, look at the scenery and even chat with some anti-Trump protesters with signs along the route. When I was starting to close in on the finishing line, runners en masse were lying around in the street or on gurneys surrounded by medical personnel. A bit demotivating of course, but at least it was not me. I had to stretch every 500m for a while, but at least I was still able to keep moving, although in the pase of a slug. 2 km from the finishing line, I suddently got a second win (I always get very motivated at the end) and managed to jog the rest of the way. 

In the beginning of the race there were all sorts of religious signs (like VERY religious) I have never seen in any other country before. Too bad I could not found some at the end of the race, when I was taking pictures. I did, however, notice a billboard of a bonafide ambulance Chaser (NB! never trust a guy with playmo hair and a slick smile).

Finally I reach the finishing line, and soon after I got tears in my eyes. Not because of the medal (though it certainly deserved some tears), but due to the fact I had to walk all the way back to the hotel and I didn’t quite know how to do that… Well, I made it back and went for a hot shower. NOT a delightful experience… Did I mentioned that I had gotten some friction burns?

After the painful shower, I got 15 minutes of rest before me and the rest of the gang were meeting up at a bar for celebration. Great evening, but as always, it ended early…

Summa sumarum: mission accomplished, Boston, Chicago, New York, London and Berlin in the bag and only Tokyo to go 🙂