Week 7 – Picnic brunch

Brunching is a hugely popular pastime here in the UAE – Friday’s are very often spent splashing out varying sums of money for an all-you-can-eat-and-drink package deal at any one of the hundreds of hotels around the UAE. Girls will get dressed up in heels and dresses, boys will don their sexy shirts and show off their fancy-pants shoes. You’ll also find the odd brunch that doesn’t require fancy clothes – a simple pair of shorts and t-shirt will have you fitting right in.

And now a new brunch has fallen upon us. The picnic brunch! In food trucks! On grass!

It’s your standard brunch expectation – noon ’til 4pm, unlimited food and drinks, atmosphere, music, friends.

But they’ve taken this one step further and your venue is a large grass patch at a local golf course, there are no tables, the seats are blankets scattered all over the grass, and you order your food from food trucks placed around the perimeter of the fenced off area. Arrive, take your shoes off, walk around barefoot, sip on cold beverages, stuff your face with food, play board games (that they have supplied, or bring your own!), read a  book, roll home satisfied. Sublime!

We all arrived just before 12 so that we could avoid the queues, and found ourselves a prime location near the DJ, near the drinks, and a far enough walk away from the food to make us not feel guilty about how much food we were guzzling down 😉

Our favourite food truck, by far, was Gobai – their signature dish(es) are the chips (fries) covered smothered in a choice of topping… Goan chicken, pulled lamb vindaloo, spicy beef cubes, etc. Absolutely delicious!

We tried to sample pretty much everything on offer – we’d each get a dish from different places and share everything… except for the ice creams 🙂

The music was fantastic for a lazy Saturday afternoon – chilled lounge vibes blaring from the speakers placed around the venue, and as the sun started fading beyond the horizon, the music got softer and more laid back with it, until eventually the sun disappeared and we were entertained by some live music from a 3-piece acoustic band.

But, make sure to dress warm if you plan on staying past sundown… while it was great fun walking about on the grass barefoot, in skimpy shorts and tops, once that sun starts going down the temperatures drop and drop and drop until you’re layering yourself up (personally I added on 5 layers – the socks got put on, the boots came back, a scarf was put around my neck, 2 jerseys, and eventually a blanket!) But it was all worth while as we huffed and puffed on a shisha to finish the night off, before heading home at a reasonable hour, and to climb into a warm bed and prepare for work the next day.

Loved this concept and I hope they manage to pull off many more of these!

But now for some constructive criticism for the first-time event…

The flyer clearly stated UNLIMITED food and house drinks, and upon confirmation we were sent an email that stated that you would be able to order drinks based on the arm band that you were wearing which would distinguish between the different packages on offer: alcoholic, non-alcoholic or kids.

When we arrived my friend who was doing non-alcoholic was asked to pay the full price. She didn’t argue, but unhappily handed over the full price and received her armband. We were then each handed a batch of vouchers – a collection of different drinks vouchers to be used on the day. Unlimited?

We went to the barmen and asked them about it and eventually got told that the drinks are unlimited and that we could then use the vouchers if we were staying past 4pm, when it was then open to the public and drinks and food would be charged on consumption.

My friend then queried her full-price payment and they agreed that it had been incorrect and they gave her back the balance.

4pm rolls around and a few of my friends were leaving so they gave me their vouchers to use so that those of us staying could still enjoy a few free drinks. At about 6pm we tried to use one of the vouchers and were told NO. One of my friends went up to the organiser to then query this and was told that they’d “changed their minds” and the vouchers were not valid. Fine, we’d pay.

While our issues were (semi) resolved, and we did have a great day overall (and the place was PACKED so people couldn’t have been too upset), the organisers really do need to sort out their package details BEFORE the day, and ensure that everyone knows what’s happening on the day – and not ‘change their minds’ halfway through the day.

Below are a few more photos that I took on the day – click on any of them for a larger view.

Emirates Golf Club Half Marathon 2015

This has got to be one of my most surprising races.

We all know how nervous and mentally (and physically) unprepared for this race I was, with roughly only 3 weeks of actual training under my belt, but I arrived there on Friday morning anyway, determined to prove to myself that I can do it. Just take it easy. Keep at a nice slow, steady pace and cross the finish line. That was my goal.

It was super dark out when I arrived there at 05:45, watching people mill about with stretching, drinking tea / coffee, munching away on gu’s, last-minute toilet stops, handing in bags for safe keeping, checking shoes are tied properly, checking watches, GPS trackers etc.

This was the 3rd race that I’d participated in at the Emirates Golf Club, and the second one organised by FBA Sports – and just like the previous times it was well organised and had a good atmosphere at the start.

Approximately 6am and people started lining up at the start line. I made my way over there at about 06:10, switched on my music and waited for the countdown – constantly reminding myself to TAKE IT SLOW AND STEADY.

06:15 and we’re off.

The map had shown that we do a large part of the golf course, and then a large part out on the road… I had hoped that the road bit would be first thinking that it would be a similar route to the 16 km race I ran last year at the golf course. That way I’d get those 16 km’s out the way, knowing how I felt on that run, and then only have 5 km’s to go.

egc_half_marathon_route

How wrong I was!

9 km’s of golf course. That’s 9 km’s of tiny little hills, twists and turns, small paths (which once past about 3 km’s wasn’t a problem) and 9 km’s of brick paving to run on… the kind of paving that my feet are not particularly happy about running on. But it was also 9 km’s of great scenery and I felt fantastic the whole way! There was a very long period where I was part of a nice pack of people where we kept pacing each other – every now and then they’d pass me and stay just in front, then I’d pass them and stay just in front. It kinda felt like team work, the way cyclists work in a pack 🙂

Once we reached the almost-10 km mark, we left the golf course and headed onto a bit of sand before we then exited completely and got out onto the road. I was super happy to see a gatorade stand at the 10 km mark… boy did it make a difference to be handed a little cup with gatorade in it (I normally only run with a bottle of water in my hand) 🙂

By 12 km’s I was still feeling really strong – I’d made no plans to pick up the pace, and was keeping my pace really well, with a difference of only about 20 seconds as the biggest margin. I even, at this point, started having wild ideas that maybe, just maybe, doing a marathon would be possible (this idea was very quickly banished once again by the end of the race!)

run a marathon

Up to this point I’d noticed that my GPS tracker was giving different kilometer marks to where the organisers had placed the marks. It was slightly annoying, but I just kept trying to focus only on my per km pace, and not really on the distance I’d run. I knew that I’d felt strong when running this bit in the 16 km race last year so I just focused on that… not that far to go!

I was disappointed at the ~ 15 km water station where they also had gatorade – except here they’d handed out bottles ofcool_blue gatorade and not just small cups with it… so there were practically FULL bottles lying around on the ground where a runner had taken a sip and thrown it away. I’m not condoning the runners for throwing the bottle away. I’m condoning the organisers for handing out full bottles. All I could think about as I ran past those bottles was “How I wish I could have a teeny weeny sip right now”, and even considered picking one of them up. The only thing stopping me from doing that was that I knew that if I broke my stride now I’d battle to get started again. I did enjoy seeing a pack of cyclists come past me around this point – runners on one side of the road, cyclists on the other… talk about a fit morning 🙂

That aside, I kept on going at my almost-perfect pace.., run, stay focused, stay strong. Once I hit the 16 km mark (on my tracker – not their marking), I knew that I had only (roughly) 5 km’s to go. I can do this! It was then a matter of just counting down the km’s. 17, 18, 19. Unfortunately by the time I reached the 19 km’s mark (again, on my tracker) I had to take a small breather. I walked until I reached their 19 km mark (approximately 50 m) and then knew that no matter what I had no more than 2 km’s left to go. Easy peasy.

I didn’t try pick up the pace too much here – I still kept at my steady pace, wanting to finish the race strong. I came across a few runners here at the end who were walking and I encouraged them to run – you can’t walk across the finish line 😉 Right at the end, as I saw the finish line, I picked it up slightly and crossed the finish line in a time of 2:17:47 (for 21.64 km’s as per my tracker). Official chip race time 2:17:43.

I had done it! And felt surprisingly strong about it too!

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I went and had a tiny stretch and then made my way to the massage tables and stood in line to get a little 5-minute massage (coincidentally by my actual sports massage therapist from Bespoke Wellness 🙂 ) After enjoying a few minutes of a good old massage and laying down, I went off and got some fruit and a bacon sandwich for breakfast, and enjoyed my gatorade while watching the prize giving and having a good rest.

IMG_2867     IMG_2868

Once I’d got home and had a nap I then went and checked all of my stats on my tracker… turns out, according to my tracker, that I’d run a PB in the half marathon (21.1 km’s, not 21.6) of 2:14:21! 🙂 But I then also went and checked this against the RAK Half marathon official times from last year and that timer said that my finish time was 2:14:06… so I’m going to say that yesterday’s race was not a PB because I’m inclined to think that a race of RAK’s stature will be the most accurate timing and therefore that time is (potentially) the most accurate. But to have finished (21.1 km’s) only 7 seconds slower than my PB time… man am I stoked with myself! I certainly did not expect that sort of outcome!

I have emailed the organisers regarding the distance, so we’ll see what they have to say about it all, however I have to say that once again this was a superbly organised race and a really enjoyable morning. The course, although mentally tough for so long on the golf course, was actually a fantastic challenge and very enjoyable. The after-race support for the runners – the massage and physio tables, the food, the gatorade, the water, the bag collections etc. – was all fantastic. Well done to FBA-Sports and Emirates Golf Club for a wonderful event!

I’m now enjoying 2 full days of rest and then guess what: run.every.day starts!!!! Excited and nervous about this… I’ll be heading off to a sports store soon to stock up on some new clothes as I don’t quite have enough now to get me through running every day without washing 2 – 3 times a week (and for a lazy person that’s just asking too much 😉 )

NBAD half marathon 2014

Three weeks after RAK I decided to run another half marathon, this time at the Emirates Golf Club, just 10 minutes away from my house.

I unfortunately didn’t get much training in between then and now (only did one 15km run last week, and an 8km) so I wasn’t putting any pressure on myself to finish in any really great time. I just wanted to get out there and see if I could do another half so soon after RAK.

Egg-mayonnaise roll for breakfast as usual, and off I went to the start line. There were possibly about 1000 runners there, split over the half marathon and the 32km run, all starting at the same time.

The course started just outside the clubhouse and headed out of the golf course, crossing over a small sand lot, and then into the roads of the neighbouring Emirates Hills where running took place on the road or the foot path. I was very impressed with the marshalls on this race stopping the traffic to let runners through, and the odd person waking up and standing in their garden cheering us on 🙂

     

I kept my pace really well with every kilometer being a little over 6 minutes (the fastest one being 6:04), and I was feeling fabulous! I shared most of the first half of the race with a girl who kept about the same pace as me which was great to help with my pace (and me with hers). My knee gave a little bit of hassle at about 12km’s – possibly due to the grass / sand etc. that we’d had to run on for short distances – but I was able to run through it and it went away a short while later. 14km’s down and I started feeling a bit tired so I gobbled down a gu chomp but it didn’t have the vooma I was hoping for (probably took it too late) and so I ended up walking for most of the 15th kilometer 😦

But, at 16km’s I started running again and I finished with a strong sprint at the end for a finish time of 2:17:28 🙂

I was very happy with my finish time – only 3 minutes short of my PB at RAK 3 weeks ago, and I felt pretty strong not long after crossing the finish line 🙂 At the end I bumped into the girl whom I’d shared a bunch of kilometers with and said hi – it was her first half and she did very well, although said “Never again!”

     Endomondo

(My endomondo clocked me at 21.56 km’s and 2:17:50 because I started it a short while before crossing the start line)

The weather is starting to heat up here and while we still have about 2 months of “decent” weather, running will get harder as the temperatures and the humidity rise… I’m planning on sticking to my running through it all 🙂

I am also starting a 40-day workout program today – I won’t be giving up anything for lent, rather adding something into my life. For the next 40 days (ok, 39 after my run this morning) I will be doing at least 30 minutes of exercise EVERY SINGLE DAY.

Now for another nap and then post-run celebrations this evening!