Mandalay Day 1 – Mandalay Palace, Mandalay Hills

One of my favorite parts of Myanmar were my two days in Mandalay, the second largest city and the last royal capital in Myanmar. Although compared to Yangon (the largest city), Mandalay appears almost sleepy in way.

There are buses that go between Mandalay and Yangon, but we were short on time and opted for a flight on Air Bagan. As much as I wanted to avoid giving the government more money, due to our time crunch, flying was our best option.

We learned the hard way that Yangon airport has two terminals, an international and domestic. How do you get from one to the other? You have an awkward 7 minute walk in the blistering sun. While the international terminals looks relatively modern, the domestic is quite a different story. The airline stands remind me of impromptu bake sale signs. There’s 2 gates, and since they don’t have or don’t use a PA system, you are kinda on the lookout for when your flight is being called. They give each passenger a sticker that lets the staff know which flight you’re on. Of course none of the flights leave on time, so all you have is a ton of confused looking white folks in a hot large room with a few giant fans.

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Eventually we made it to the prop plane that took us the 1-2 hours to Mandalay. The flight itself wasn’t too bad, they had some snacks, coffee, Sprite, things that you can’t even get on an American flight anymore. One was around $90 or so, so 99% of the passengers were tourists. IMG_9694 (2)

The ride from the airport to our hotel was about an hour $12. We drove by pagoda after pagoda, after golden towers and more, giving us only a small introduction of what was to come.

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Our hotel was next to Mandalay Palace, which is actually a lot bigger than it looks. We killed a few hours just trying to walk around it. We skipped going inside though since the original one was pretty much destroyed during WWII and what you see above was a replica that was made in 1990s (potentially with slave labor) and I think a large portion of the palace is off-limits to tourists and is being used by the military.

Behind it, you can see the grand Mandalay Hill.

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After realizing that our walk from our hotel to the hill was going to be a bit longer than it appeared we took a taxi to Shwenandaw Monastery known for its beautiful teak carvings.

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Shwenandaw Monastery is the single remaining major original structure of the original Royal Palace today

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After the teak monastery, we walked by Atumashi Monastery (no photo) another forced labor reconstruction project by the Burma’s Archaeological Department. The photo above is Kuthodaw Pagoda, which holds the world’s largest book. Since the sun was already setting, we had to run past it without time for much exploration.

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We wanted to watch the sunset from the top of Mandalay Hill, however, since we ran out of time, we ended up running up Mandalay Hill during sunset instead. The hill is 240 meters (790 ft) tall and is absolutely covered in beautiful Pagodas, and Monasteries. I tried to take some photos but most came out blurry as I snapped while running up the hill. On the bright side, since we were a little late for the sunset, we had the whole hill walk almost entirely to ourselves.

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Since the stairs are all part of religious temples, the whole walk was barefoot, so there’s my intro to barefoot running.

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As we scaled more and more stairs, each temple got more and more grand.

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They say it takes about 45 minutes to walk to the top. Tony and I did it in 20 minutes and barely had time so see the few remaining minutes of the setting sun.  IMG_9782

I loved being at top. Mandalay is the largest monk city in the world. I loved seeing the mix of traveling monks, local tourists and western tourist all enjoying the same beautiful sunset. IMG_9815 (2)

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At first, I felt a little shy photographing people leading their ordinary lives, but as we were walking around, we noticed many locals and monks taking photos of us. Once a family even asked to pose with us which was a little weird but okay. Western tourists for much of Myanmar is still a new and recent new thing. It was a delight chatting with locals about life and the temples and Buddhism.

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After exhausting began to hit us, we decided to head back to the hotel area and get dinner. I had the stupid brilliant idea of trying to walk down the hill, instead of taking a motor taxi. There’s two ways to get down, a long walk in pitch darkness, or on the back of a scooter. I was a little weary of being on a motorbike without a helmet. So I convinced Tony we should walk down the hill. Huge mistake, it was pitch darkness, with constant cars and motorbikes on the narrow road. Unlike the stairs, the road winds around and around the mountain, making it a longer journey that one would think when they took the stairs. So as we’re walking, Tony is ready to kill me, I’m ready to kill myself and a nice kind stranger offered to take us down the rest of the way on the back of his bike. At this point, I was over my fear of riding without a helmet because I wanted to be off the road. We tried to pay the guy, but he just left after dropping of us off and thanking him.

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Dinner was at a Thai place called Rainforest, where for about 3 dollars we got to enjoy some green curry and a refreshing beer around the corner from our hotel.

Ever have a stranger do something nice for you?

20 Under $20 Gift Ideas For Your Favorite Runner

I’ve been participating in a ton of Yankee swaps and secret Santas, where the usual budget is $15-$20 or so. So while I would love to get everyone a Garmin 910XT, if I’m too cheap to buy one for myself, it’s probably unlikely that everyone else will get the the $400 toy I covet.

For my ease, I’m using amazon because that’s where I shop and I have free 2 day shipping, but your local store would have it in stock as well and supporting local shops is always best. The only benefit of shopping on amazon besides convenience and usually lower prices, is if you need size small or XS in accessories, local running stores, or even the big box stores, never carry them even in a fit city like Boston. So local running stores, I love you, but sometimes a gal needs XS socks, mmkay!

Anyways the list

20 under 20 gifts

20 Under $20 Gift Ideas for your Running Friends (All prices rounded to the dollar)

Lock Laces $8 – Not gonna lie, there’s a slight learning curve with these (at least for me) but you’ll never have to worry about stopping to tie your laces again!

The Complete Runner’s Day By day Log/2014 Calender $10

Runner’s Ornament $18

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Runner’s World Cookbook $11 Kindle, $16 Hardcover

Asics Intensity Low Cut Running Socks $9 for 3 pairs

Foot Rubz Surefoot Foot Rubz Massage Ball $6-$10

Running Gloves or these $15-$20 – I found these on Amazon, but the pair I have is from Costco for $15 bucks or so. I like them because I can use them with my cell phone; however, if the weather dips into the negatives and windy, I tend to double them up with ski gloves and give up running and tweeting at the same time.

 Arm Warmers $17 – I love these, although it might be months, because I can run in these again. If you sprint up the budget to $30, these are ultra cute and come with my favorite thing in the world, thumb-holes!

Running Hat $16

Balaclava $7

And for those moments when a hat just isn’t enough because yes my friends it’s just that cold, but I got miles to run. FYI, if you’re a dude you might want to look for a bigger one, this one fits me so it probably runs small

FuelBelt Handheld Waterbottle $15

Hammer Gels $17 12 pack, $1.50 individual

Kind Bars $17 12 pack, $1.50 individual

Honey Stingers 12 Pack $21, $2 individual

Salts Tabs $20

Nuun Hydrating Tabs $18 for a box of 4 tubes, or $5-6 per tube individual

LifeStraw Personal Water Filter $20 – More for the hiker/crazy trail runner

Book – Triathlon for the Every Woman: You Can Be a Triathlete. Yes. You $15

Book – Marathon Woman $12

Book Swim Speed Secrets: Master the Freestyle Technique Used by the World’s Fastest Swimmers $14

What are you hoping to find in your stocking or tree? I’m hoping for the books, I have all the other stuff, but I could use some triathlon reading 😉

Winter Classic 5K Race Recap

For the second time this year, I toed the line of a 5K. This time in Cambridge at the Winter Classic. The race took place December 8th at 10:30 AM. The cost was $30 plus fees and included your choice of pint glass or hat, a long sleeve tech shirt and beer!

You can sign up as an individual or as a team. Teams of 15 people or more got some perks, like their own beer supply, a table and a tent to chat around. Although, if you stopped by the team VIP area before the race, almost no one was there due to the cold.

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I’m rocking the I slept 4 hours and ran a bit look. O well, at least the shirt looks good. I’ve been wanting a black long sleeve to run in!

They had pre-race number pick-up for two days before the race, but I ended up grabbing my number before the start. It was easy and organized. It looked like all the volunteers knew what they were doing. They also arranged places for us to stay in doors and be warm before the race started. Basically the lobby of some of the business there and they had real bathrooms so I was content. Real bathrooms over portapottys always makes a race a winner.

The day was cloudy with high of 30 degrees and the wind chill making it feel like 25 degrees. So yes, most of us accepted the offer to wait in warmth before the race started.

At 10:30 the race started on time. They didn’t have corrals, but did have markings of where to stand based on your expected pace. I in my usual fashion, wobbled myself over to the front. I didn’t really expected myself to be fast, but I like starting in the front.

I was also running with some co-workers so I had two goals in mind. Maintain a 7 minute pace, and beat my co-workers.

The first mile fast, easy and hard at the same time. I forgot, how difficult and drying the cold air could be. I held back a cough and tried to old on. I saw one of my co-workers run ahead me and I decided to let him go. Around the mile and a half point I dosed off a bit as I noticed my pace slowing down into the 7s, so I told myself to snap out of it. Luckily, around that point, we hit the downhill part of the course and I whipped it into gear. I passed my main target and kept going for fear of falling behind again.

There was no mile markings that I saw, but I had a garmn that told me everything I would want to know. I was glad that I remembered to bring it last minute because it helped me manage my effort.

As I hit the 3 mile mark, with only .1 miles and a finish line in sight, I realized there was time for a PR. I kicked and kicked and kicked until I thought I would throw up the crab dip I ate for breakfast. Word of advice, don’t eat crab dip for breakfast, no matter how yummy it is before a 5K.

The good part about 5Ks is that everyone finishes together within a few minutes or so. And then there;s beer to be drunk!

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Tell me something about your weekend?

Do you run 5ks? What’s your favorite?

Weekly Recap – Running after a 3 week break

You know, I have to confess, I really thought running after a 3 week break would be easy. I thought me and running could take a 3 week no speaking, no “running into each other”, do our own thing break and reunite like nothing ever happened when I returned.

Unfortunately, running is a spiteful little number. While she welcomed me with open shoes, there will be some bruises. I know we’ll get back to the place we were with even better times ahead, but it’ll be rough for a few weeks.

I don’t regret not “working out” on vacation because sometimes it’s nice being lazy, and sometimes it’s just too damn hot with no roads, or safe place to run. However, the road to getting back where we left before has been a tad bumpy, but that’s what keeps it fun.

Monday – Rest

Tuesday – 5 Miles
I plunged straight to where I left off, before I went away, only to almost fall flat on my face, literally. Yup, after 3 weeks of no running or any cardio “workout,” I thought I could jump on the treadmill at a 7:45 pace and be perfectly. And I felt perfect, and happy in pure bliss… for 2 miles until the ability to breath escaped me. Up at about 1/4th of my planned run, I felt tapped out. I stopped, took a break and restarted. I decided to settle myself on a 10K, but the walk breaks would not end. Finally, I decided 5 miles was good enough.

Wednesday – 8 Miles
To say, I felt sore, would be an understatement, but there’s no rest for the wicked, running PRs don’t grow on trees. Since, clearly I couldn’t find a pace I could stick with on the treadmill, I figured going outside might be a better deal. And luckily for my ego, I was right. At a steady pace, I went through 4, 6, & 8 miles. Average pace was 8:!5, a bit slower than the 7:30 10 milers I was flying through 3 weeks before I left, but I made it.

Thursday – Rest
If I thought I knew soreness Wednesday, Thursday brought me a whole new definition. I think the only time I felt more sore from running was when I ran my first half marathon. I barely wanted to move, and sitting hurt from my core to calves to arms. Why my arms hurt? Make it a mystery to my running form?

Friday – 3.1 Miles
Still felt tired and took it easy. In the evening, I decided to test out if I could run a 5K without a break. My course was my homemill and my company was the Eye of the Tiger. 23:30 and my pain was over.

Saturday – 9.16 Miles
I wasn’t sore! That was enough for a happy dance. I thought about doing 13 miles, but I wanted to partially race the 5K Sunday so I cut my run short. 75 minutes of running and I have reached my exhaustion comfort for the time. 8:07 pace, which was a hillier route and faster than my Wednesday run.

Sunday – 3.1 Miles

A PR!!!!

The course was much flatter than Somerville, which is my only 5K experience, and the weather was bone-chilling cold, but I know I’m almost back to where me and running left off.

 

Have you ever taken a complete, non injury related break from running, biking, etc? How long?

Friday Five – Home Sweet Home

I don’t usually do this, but why not, I have loads of internet time to catch up on after being disconnected for 3 weeks!

Five Things Friday

1. I’m back in the cold city of Boston that I missed. It was 90 and up when I was in South East Asia, so a little cold is refreshing. The sunset at 4pm however, is a total bummer.

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2. I’m back to running, kinda. After 3 weeks of absolutely not even a 100 meters of running or working out, I’m seeing how much my fitness diminished. I know I’ll get back to where I left before, but feeling sore about an “easy” 5 miler is a little frustrating. Esp since I’m racing friends and coworkers on Sunday (5K) and a marathon in less than 2 months away (NOLA). Post to follow about how long it takes to get back where I left before my vacation.

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3. I’m not gonna lie, the one thing I missed most on my vacation was my fur baby. Jack Meower and I have reunited. If only he would love me like I love him. Fickle cats.

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4. American Breakfast! As much as I loved eating Asian noodles and sweet and sour chicken at 8AM every morning, I really missed American food. Corned beef hash, poached eggs, bacon with a side of veggies and salsa. OMG!

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5. It’s holidays in the city again! I missed Thanksgiving, but my roommate is making 2 turkeys for us this weekend to make up for it! And I’m just in time for lights, trees and all the eating and baking December has in store.

Holidays

Runner’s/Wannabe Triathlete’s Wish List

It’s that time of year, when regardless of religious beliefs, or needs, you can’t help but wonder about all the things you want, like those things that are nice to have.

So here you go, my personal what to get your favorite runner list. They are in no order whatsoever. I used amazon for most links because it’s easier to search on one site and I find amazon is cheaper than most options. However, all of these things can be found at your local running or sporting goods store. Some of these things I already have and want every runner to have, some are things I am drooling over and hoping Jewish Santa will leave me under my menorah even though Hanukkah has passed.

Runner's Gift Guide for All Budgets

Garmin 910XT About $400

It’s beautiful! Truly beautiful piece of machinery that can be used to run/bike/swim! Although if you’re shopping for a starting running addict and want the most bang for your buck, I recommend Garmin Forerunner 110. A tad bit cheaper (about $130), but has everything you need for running and a potential ability to upgrade to heart rate training if you desire.

Running Socks! $9

Asics Intensity Low Cut Running Socks are my personal favorites. I’ve tried all the fancy kinds, but at the end of the day, these Asics ones work for me in the summer and winter and don’t give me the blisters that I received from some of the fancier and pricier styles you see at the expos. However, if you want to sprint for a pricey sock, any of the ultra cute ProCompression socks or sleeves will do. They are about $30 with a coupon code you can almost always find. I love me a good pair of cute socks to show off, but for everyday use, I prefer the low cut ones. I ain’t got time to battle putting them on and off!

The Grid Revolutionary Foam Roller $39

I know, you don’t need to spend a lot on a foam roller, in fact you could use one of those baking rolling pins that the dollar store has, but at the end of the day a nice roller, is quite frankly nice to have. Seeing my orange friend in the corner of the room reminds me to stretch, foam rolls and possibly crack my back (although not recommended for those who are less cracky). There’s even a pink one now available! Can I trade you?

Mizuno WaveRider17 $115

Everyone runner has their personal shoe preference and for me when it comes to marathons, I only want Mizuno waveriders. My WR 15s are slowly dying and the WaveRider 17 just came out December 5th!

Foot Rubz Surefoot Foot Rubz Massage Ball $6-$10

A friend got one of these babies for me when I was training for my first marathon and I am kinda in love with me. I carry it in my purse when I travel or have a ton of walking and sight-seeing as well. At the end of the day, I get back to my hotel and rub my feet with my buddy. I’m a loser, but if you have one, you would know.

As for other things? Well there’s plenty a little 5 foot former blonde runner could use, such as Nuun, Hammer Gels (Montana berry is the best), and salt sticks!

There’s also a small matter of the trisuit, the wetsuit, biking gloves and various other things I’ll need for my half ironman but I have no clue which type to get!

Ahh wish lists, they’re really made to just keep growing!

What’s on your wish list (or giving list) this season?