Category Archives: Excercise

The Greatest Race I ever Ran @TMFoundation

It seems fitting to get back into the habit with a regular post I would create, albeit this one is almost a year late.

Lots has happened over the past year, it took the rejection of an article by a magazine to send me in a downward spiral of self-doubt, however, the rut is finally over!

So, allow me to take you back a year, September 2016.

The location: New York City!

I had just recently taken part in my first ever ROC race (Ridiculous Obstacle Course). And on my first voyage across the Atlantic, what better way to mark arriving on a continent for the first time than by adding to my (growing) gaggle of Medals? I sealed the deal with two back-to-back races, the ROC race, and a 5K race called The Heroes Run.

Now, this post is about the latter, not the former, but the full story cannot be understood without a small visit to the first race.

Obviously, it wasn’t a “race” per se, it A LOT OF WATER, and sightings of Power Rangers, superheroes and team participants from the Legends of the Hidden Temple gameshow way-back-when.

Moral of the story, I got really wet, including my ONLY PAIR of running sneakers, but it was super fun!

Fortunately, our hotel stocked ad rags at the front desk, being the well read runner I am, I quickly placed rolled up papers inside the shoes, to aid the drying process.

Race day was quite eventful, it was the day before Eid-Al-Adha, where Abraham envisioned slaughtering his son, so I was fasting. I had checked out how to get to the race location via subway, however damn the New York transit system, I found myself lost. And with no internet whatsoever. Fortunately, I found myself on a road that showed promise of an open wifi connection, I quickly used it to call an Uber (which worked with my current cashless status).

I’d selected this race after countless emails back and forth, the first race I had booked turned out to not give “finisher medals” which was a huge no-no for me, as everyone knows, runners are bling whores, we need our metal baby. So I googled “heroes run medals” and saw a few, so I assumed they were finisher medals.

Boy was I wrong.

I’d also been trying in vain to pay online for the race, using every means at my disposal, 3 different mastercards including a US issued one, all to no avail.

I made it to the race, on an empty stomach, and much to my chagrin, was informed that the run would not have finisher medals, rather placement medals, for 1, 2 and 3, in each category (runners in Kuwait know that the categories are male and female only).

I kept praying to God to be in the top 3…

At the sound of the whistle (or gun, I honestly can’t remember from the adrenaline), I was off, for 1/5KM I was in the lead, I thought YAY! my prayers were answered. Little did I realize I celebrated too soon. No sooner had I thought (this is in the bag) was I disturbed by a surpassing runner. I agreed to secede for second place. No sooner had I thought that, runner #2 took over, all in all, 4 men passed me, and 2 women.

On the run back to the finish line, I was almost caught by two others, at this point I decided to throw down the gauntlet and run like I never ran before. So I did.

The finishers were being congratulated with water and refreshments, I was further downtrodden as I couldn’t even enjoy those (because of the fasting). Atleast the t-shirt looked amazing I thought.

The race distance and timing system were measured and timed by a true pro, who had Olympic events under his belt. Runners walked up to his tent and got a printed receipt with their exact time. I figured, why not. Might as well. No sooner had I received my paper did my eyes bulge out in excitement, for right there next to my name was the number 2!

I was Second in my age category!

Which resulted in this awesome piece of bling-age:

It also helped a lot that the medal had a Super Cool Design!

Review of the @Bahrainrunners Cross Island Run December 2016

On paper, the race sounds extremely appealing – a chance to run an entire country from East to West.

The reality however, pales in comparison to the expectation.

unnamedLet’s start with the Cons:

Time not honored. I was sent an email confirmation that the race was due to begin at 9AM, gathering to be at 8AM to take the buses to the starting location. If not for my friend who valiantly offered to transport me, I would not have realized that the race time was made one hour earlier.

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Rules not comprehensive. The race boasted a few disclaimers I had not seen in all the races I have run previously, such as:

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Firstly; Music not being allowed was an overkill. I was under the impression the race would be run primarily on pavement due to this fact, little did I realize it only constituted almost 10% of the entire race. If I did not have my music to keep me centered whilst running across the sandy, arid plains, I would have gone mad!

Secondly, you would think if they’re asking us to treat everyone with respect, that we should also respect the country we are in and not aim to destroy the beauty of the desert, by discarding the spray paint cans alongside the running “path”.

No timing. This is not my first race, as you can probably surmise. It is also not the first race I take part in without a chip of some sort. Now most races provide you with chipped bibs, the good folks at BRR choose to sell you a tracker, valid for all races. What if I only want to run this race? Here is what your results will show if you do not have their tracker:capture

This seriously took away from the overall race enjoyment. Absence of a tracker should not excuse the organizers from manually recording my position and time, as per the bib placed on my front, as requested by their rules.

Few and far aid stations. In the desert, hydration is key.

Anticlimactic start. There was no designated start line, everyone just sort of converged into one location and kept edging forward till someone yelled “get set go!”

Short distance. The race fell short of the 16KM by 400Meters.

Disappointing GPS tracking. Despite claiming that the race is from one end of Bahrain to the other, the starting point was a fair distance inside as in not on the coast, making the map disappointing.

Long queue at the finish line for food. Despite a fair number of runners showing up, only one food cart was available at the finish line, making the waiting quite long.

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Pro’s:

Very friendly volunteers. truly a joy in any race.

Well chosen course. tough terrain but very enjoyable.

Massage at the end. A nice way to calm the muscles.

Bathroom facilities. Anyone in Kuwait knows, we don’t do very well with porta-potties for some reason, but Bahrain has it down!

Sustainable Youth Initiative Feb 2016 – The Montage

We hope everyone had as much fun attending as we did organizing, and we had A LOT of fun Organizing!

Sustainable Youth Kuwait Community 5KM Team Run Review

At first people were skeptical, how could this event be free? What was the catch? Are the medals for everyone or just the top 3? Last 3? What is going on here?!

Yesterday marked the first time I ever took part with a group to organize a race, under the banner of Sustainable Youth.

Sustainable Youth is meant to highlight the fact that our own youth is in our hands; by living a life of activity, we can remain forever young. And that is what was most prevalent yesterday; looking around the participants, seeing happy faces, young and old, veteran runners and newbies, all united in their quest to have a great time.

Our goal was simple; the race would not be won by the first person crossing the finish line, rather by the last. For each participant crossing the finish line earned their team points, if teams were unequally distributed in terms of numbers, the age-old mathematical trick of cross-multiplication helped to level the playing field.

#SYQ8 #4forfitness #raiseawareness #Kuwait #healthy #physical #active #sports #Fitness #exercise #foreverfitq8 #freefitness #Running #Mindovermatter #yourhealthmatters #healthyq8 #tiretodaybettertomorrow #buildothersup #4awareness #4teams4health

Team GreenIsMean! 

As an organizer, I was proud of the event we put together on such short notice, we had around 4 weeks from the time our project was approved by En.v to the time we had to implement the event, at that time I had managed to get 50 people to sign up and be interested in the event, of course it was no walk in the park from there.

Registrations, confirmations, cancellations, requested affiliations, suffice to say I lost a few friends along the way, but I ended up making MORE FRIENDS than i’d lost, so all-in-all, it was quite rewarding.

#SYQ8 #4forfitness #raiseawareness #Kuwait #healthy #physical #active #sports #Fitness #exercise #foreverfitq8 #freefitness #Running #Mindovermatter #yourhealthmatters #healthyq8 #tiretodaybettertomorrow #buildothersup #4awareness #4teams4health

The Yellow Sparows! (gentleman in the top right was a last second addition, who drove by after the race had started, got out of his car, asked to be signed up, got back in his car, drove to park it, then ran the race and to the finish line – which is as you recall, THE ORIGINAL STORY BEHIND OUR VIDEO!”

The email we had made for the event had a problem; Google refused to let us send out bulk BCC emails, so I had to rely on my personal email for that, with around 14 different threads and 100 conversations or so.

Participants: We had 112 participants show up, out of a total of 156 we had heard back from. 72% attendance.

Food: in excess.

Giveaways: plenty remained, everyone was accommodated.

On race-day some people showed up that were neither registered or waiting list, we took them in as well.

We recruited the registered runners to help us out behind the table, special mention goes to everyone that stepped up and helped make this event a success.

It has been referred to as the M&M’s run, and the Skittles run. And we love the names!

The first four to cross the finish line, surprisingly, were one from each of the 4 teams! Red finished first, however as we said from the beginning, it was never about who finishes first, but this just goes to prove how equally the teams were distributed!

Now, I must step outside my role as organizer and critique the run I organized, as I have made a reputation of doing:

Cons:

1- Demarcations were not clear

When I arrived at 7:30AM that day, I had one mission in addition to organizing, demarcating the path – I’d printed papers to stick up along the path, to make the race a series of 500M runs. The day was very windy and the papers were quite flimsy. After I got to Salwa Al-Sabah hall and turned around (2KM & 3KM markers) I was putting up the before last marker (4KM, at the Sultan Al Jazeera area) when security showed up. Now security along the path belong to Marina, and we’re hosting the event at the Scientific Center ON Marina’s walking path. So of course they required authorizations, paperwork, approvals etc. Which we did not have from Marina. Fortunately, they let it slide and even gave me a ride for 500M in their electric car.

(props to @thescarletzeaster for being my executive manager and handling all phone calls as I went for a run!)

2- The start line was chaotic

We apologize profusely to Tami590 for her injury, which was as a result of OUR oversight, in that the start line was LONG, and the two poles in the middle were unseen by the people in the back as they began their run, so we sincerely apologize for that oversight.

3- No music

Planning the event on a frugal budget and having our mind focused entirely on the run made us miss entertainment, however we sincerely hope that the antics of @mradamantine made up for it!

4- Finish line banner placed on floor

Runners favorite moment is running through the finish line, however the one we had made was quite heavy, and was presenting a challenge both hold up and run through, so we decided to put it on the ground and have people run over it instead.

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Team Red Rage!

5- Everyone was running back

Initially we had communicated to our participants that only captains and co-captains would run back, however, when we saw that everyone was motivating everyone to run back, and that we had plenty of eyes at the finish line to tell us who had crossed before and who hadn’t to ensure no extra points were given by mistake, we decided to allow the people to motivate everyone!

What was beyond amazing was how everyone rose to the opportunity and motivated their team, not just caps & co-caps.

6- No ambulance

We contacted the MOH, they approved our request, an ambulance WAS supposed to come, however, nothing. We also contacted the MOI and got police approval, as well as the governor of Hawally to gather a crowd together, and yet no police came.

Pro’s:

1- as far as first events go, this was not that bad!

2- we reached out goal of motivating people to motivate others, which was something one of the mentors at En.v was skeptical we would achieve. I remember clearly he kept saying, you are assuming. What he failed to realize however was that in my core, I am a runner, and I KNOW how runners are. We’re the people who are over-eager and always happy to help strangers, we give advice when needed and remain silent when needed. We show support by running shoulder to shoulder with strangers and motivating them to reach their potential.

3- M&M’s and Skittles, the shirts were mutli-colored, the people were as different as you could imagine. Older, younger, faster, slower, smaller, bigger – but it wasn’t in how different we all were, as opposed to reflective we were of each other’s spirit – that of sustainable youth. Running is one sport where you can be as competitive as you want or as friendly as you want, there are two extremely and a million places in between where you can land.

4- Everyone was happy, no one was competitive, everyone was co-operative. Your individual finishing time did not matter, what mattered was your team’s collective finishing points, and guess what? we had points going up to 55 minutes, but EVERYONE was done by about 48 minutes, which is no small feat!

5- the t-shirts came out looking awesome, the logo was awesome, the medals were awesome, the trophies were awesome, the recipients who were captains were flabbergasted (especially our most influential runner who was not even paying attention to the guy on the mic as he sang him praise!).

What happens now?

If you think this is the end, you’re thoroughly mistaken. I saw the amount of fun people had, and save for one individual who had something negative to say about the race, we aim to ensure everyone is this happy again.

Our first time was free as it was completely funded by En.v, we plan to see where we can go from here, knowing full well the pricing of standard races in Kuwait.

The hope now is to find a sponsor willing to put their name on this project and write it off under Corporate Social Responsibility, now comes the difficult part of writing it up and pitching it, so if you know anyone that might be interested, please do send us their details.

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The winner’s and inaugural champions – Les Bleus!

Thank you to everyone that contributed to making this event a success.

Special mention goes to the wives of runners, who prove that behind every great runner there is a great wife that sacrifices and volunteers to help the common goal be reached, we were fortunate to meet two such lovely ladies (3 including my wife).

#SYQ8 #4forfitness #raiseawareness #Kuwait #healthy #physical #active #sports #Fitness #exercise #foreverfitq8 #freefitness #Running #Mindovermatter #yourhealthmatters #healthyq8 #tiretodaybettertomorrow #buildothersup #4awareness #4teams4health

The champions!

Review of the #NorthFaceChallenge 2016 @q8sportsevents @thenorthface @thenorthfacekwt

This past Saturday witnessed the 4th version of The North Face Challenge in Kuwait, organized by Pro-Vision.

(I have postponed writing this review as I have been very heavily involved in organizing my very own first community project, a 5KM team run this saturday morning, so apologies for the delay).

Initially, I was not slated to compete at TNFC, frankly because I feel it is overpriced, and based on the statements of people that took part in the earlier versions, quality has been steadily deteriorating, with give-away’s becoming virtually non-existent.

Map

The trail began as follows; short run uphill (soft sand), small rock climb, run on flat surface for a good distance, DANGEROUS run downhill (rocks), flat lands run till base-camp, run uphill (softer sand), run downhill, run uphill (SOFTEST SAND EVER), climb ladder, run to the side, run downhill (soft sand), back at starting point. Repeat X5.

Here are the pro’s and con’s of the race, as we saw and as we heard from several racers:

1- No medals

It is no secret that runners sole drive for participating in races is bling. The organizer claimed that it is a “challenge”, and the challenge was to complete 5-laps in a desert terrain, equaling around 17KM within a cut-off time of 2hrs30mins.

Now I do not know on which basis they decided to select this cut off time, maybe the organizer had an important breakfast meeting he had to run off to, but the fact remains that after checking the official North Face Challenges website (link), I concluded that the cut off time was too short. Here is how I arrived at that conclusion:

For their Marathons (trail) the cut-off time was 8hrs.

Half-Marathon (trail) cut-off time was 4hrs.

10KM (trail) cut off time was 2hrs.

The average runner would complete those distances in half that time, 4, 2, 1 hour respectively. They allotted double the time. Why? Because TRAILS.

Now the cut-off time given by pro-vision was 2hrs30mins, which even if the race were FLAT GROUND, would require 1hr37minutes to complete, meaning they only gave an extra hour, which still does not take into account that this race was a TRAIL, with several climbs.

2- No recognition

Most people refused to give up, even after they were counted out unceremoniously by the organizer, and pushed and persevered to complete the distance, however, upon arriving at the finish line, the timer had already stopped, and all their efforts were for naught. Not only that, the organizers had begun packing up to leave already, removing their signage etc. A sincere low-blow to people that made the effort to drive out 40 or so KM to the base camp. You were the reason they drove there, you better ensure they all leave intact.

3- Dangerous cliffs

As always, the organizer made a habit of yelling at everyone to keep quiet and to explain the terrain of the race. Not once did he bother to give any tips on running up sand dunes or more importantly, running down cliffs. When I was navigating the first downhill stretch, I was going on instinct, and felt more mountain goat than man:

mountain goat

There was only one volunteer at the top, and a camera man that moved towards the cliff as the race progressed, however there was no medical personnel in the area or any other volunteers that could assist should anyone be unfortunate enough to land incorrectly. What’s more there was a downhill jump that had a piece of metallic wiring for the first lap, obviously knocked over by a runner, which could have caused serious injury.

4- No food

Despite the organizers promising meals to the participants, there was not enough to go around, as by the time some finished, the food was already out. So no medal, and no food. Hey, atleast you could get your fill of water.

5- No Gatorade

In addition, the number one thing you need once you’re done with a TRAIL race in the DESERT is electrolyte replenishment.

Was there adequate gatorade? No. What the organizer was doing however was watering it down and giving each participant the equivalent of a few sips. And by the time the race was done the Gatorade was out.

What did they choose to pack in the “meals”? Gatorade you say? WRONG! Juice – Mango, Cocktail and Apple.

6- Faulty toilets

One of the bathroom stalls in the male bathroom had a door that does not close/lock. ’nuff said. How much does a lock cost? How difficult is it to inspect a door prior to driving out that giant porta-cabin to the desert?

7- Trash left behind

A friend that went out to enjoy the trails yesterday was shocked to discover the mess left behind by the organizers, who did not even have the courtesy to clean up after themselves. Just because it is the middle of nowhere does not alleviate the obligation of environmental awareness.

8- Bottlenecks

The ladder was a terrible idea, a bottleneck that would cause  a pile up as people stopped to catch their breath whilst climbing. There should have been alternatives.

editors note: 9- cut-off time for registration

a dear reader (#4 on the podium – Greg Ziembinski) brought it to our attention that one of the problems he saw with the race was that a lot of people that deserved a chance to run the race were denied because they’d reached capacity. Now, this makes us think, for next time, why don’t the organizers specify a minimum requirement for the challenge, seeing as how they officially came on record and said it is not for everyone, but instead of taking people’s money and not giving them a medal because they did not complete the race, set a condition for people participating, like they must have completed a half-marathon in under two hours etc. Something that people can see, compare to themselves, and then leave registration spots open for those that have earned them.

Just a thought.

Thanks Greg!

Pro’s

1- Super difficult trail

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The race took me 2hrs6mins to complete, of which 1hr44mins were moving time. I set my watch to autopause, therefore the race required almost 20 minutes of walking time in the sand.

2- Supportive crowd

Everyone was super supportive of their fellow runners, showing the true bonds of this fraternity.

3- Not as sandy as people made you believe

Everyone was going on and on about how the biggest problem was sand in your shoes. Instagram is littered with pictures of people with their shoes over their shoulders, and several people on race-day sat on the sidelines to get sand out of their shoes. Some had fashioned their own anti-sand covers, whilst others went for store-brought. I did neither, and had very little sand in my shoes.

The key is: thick socks.

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As you can see we were not shy about getting our feet ankle deep in dunes

If we had to do this run all over again, we would urge the organizers to plot a course that does not have ALL THE UP/DOWN hills in one area, back-to-back.

Stay tuned as I review my own race next.

#SparkMarathon Review 2016 @q8sportevents

Yesterday marked the inaugural run for Spark Marathon, a new contender on the running calendar of Kuwait.

The event was put on courtesy of the following sponsors:

sponsors

As we’ve done in the past, we’ll breakdown the positives and the negatives of the race – starting with the negatives:

  1. Total Takeover by Total employees: at the starting line, there was a very distinct sea of redcaps bearing the Total logo, despite them not being an official sponsor of any sort. What they did however was plant their employees at the start-line for some shameless self promotion, on the very front of the line, despite 90% of them not being dressed for running! This negatively affected the actual runners in the back who had to maneuver around them, in addition to the fact that they started IN FRONT OF the race line, meaning their bibs and chips didn’t even register. More care should have been given by the organizers to ensure they start the race like everyone else.

12545416_1529553034009260_1512260723_n2. Nonexistent markers: the organizers spent a hefty dime getting the road ready for race-day, with banners for the sponsors everywhere along the coastline. Would it not have been a smart move to also include a small sheet of paper at every KM signalling to runners where they were? There were even truss’s along the way, with no apparent logic to their placement save more advertising space! I was stuck doing mathematics along the way as I switched my GPS watch to Pace; I was a little past KFC and wound up thinking – ok, from Marina to Green Island is 5KM, from Green Island to Towers is another 5 or so KM, I’m almost at the towers which means I’ve done about 9 or so KMs. Too much math for a run! Just put up signs for the love of the road.

3. No giveaways: the biggest giveaway that there would be no giveaways for the runners was the running path, emblazoned with signage all the way from flags along the side to giant cranes carry giant banners advertising a giant sponsor. Runners pay the fees to take part in the race for the giveaways, sponsors pay money to get their name mentioned. What happened at Spark Marathon was a purely commercial stunt whereby the money went to the organizers from both participant and sponsor, and nothing trickled down to the participants in the form of giveaways. Low blow.

4. Cotton t-shirts: it has become a longstanding tradition to expect a dry-fit shirt from the seasoned organizers, however all we got was cotton. I’m sure to change it into lounge-wear-come-pj-top and end up running in my dreams.

5. Gatorade on the run: gatorade replenishes electrolytes, runners need to replenish electrolytes on the run, but they DO NOT NEED A FULL BOTTLE TO DO SO! A major mistake on the part of the organizers was putting all the electrolytes ON THE RUN as opposed to on the finish line! Runners ended up taking a sip or two and tossing it aside, a HUGE waste. The RAK Half-Marathon had plastic cups of two sips or so of gatorade along the run, which is what the organizers should have done.

6. Short distance: the 21.1KM was short by 100Meters. Puts me in a crappy position as I just nailed a new PR but Garmin won’t recognize it because the race was not exactly 21.1.

7. Race village: the race village was completely lack luster this year. Runners were offered pre-made packs of one orange, one banana, one bottle of water, one coconut water and a granola bar. Now, the organizers made the assumption that everyone requires the absolute BARE MINIMUM to recuperate, whether they ran 5, 10, 21 or 42KM.

8. Prize money in Half: now this is what the organizers put as the winning pot for the lucky top 3:

prizes

Now people would believe that that means each first place finisher would get the full amount, as is evident in the photo below:

winners

However, we were told that the prize money was split between #1 Male & Female, meaning they each get half the pot only.  edit: we were told that the prizes was half cash, half cash in kind i.e. flights from Kuwait Airways, dental procedures at Bayan Dental, medical checks at Seef Hospital etc. which is all well if you reside in Kuwait, however if you are not a resident of Kuwait, as the majority of the top winners were, these gifts are useless and infuriated the winners.

Benefits:

  1. Good medals
  2. Great ambiance

For a race that was meant to “kick start a movement that will integrate sport & fitness into the very fabric of society” (link), the only thing that got integrated was our hard earned money into the pockets of the organizers. Here’s hoping that next race is more participant-centric.

As far as personal achievement is concerned, this race proved that the winning formula for long distance runs is short distance speed workouts. Specifically 200M sprint, 200M jog X 10 (i.e. 4KM). With that regiment every other day, and the 30-day-shred on the other day, I was able to shave off 6 minutes from my time in the Gulf Bank Marathon and achieve a new PR of 1hr41mins.

In addition to that I was the designated pace-setter for the 1hr40, although I ended up overshooting it by 1 minute, it serves as a reminder that whatever the mind believes, the body can achieve.

And if you’re looking forward to the next running event, look no further than here.

Wearing your Jump on your Sleeve in Kuwait

Let’s face it; Winter is coming, and much like the searing temperatures drive residents of Kuwait into their Airconditioned homes, so to does Winter drive people towards radiators.

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A few elite warriors will choose to utilize this time however to expend their energy via exercise, most will choose running as their preferred poison, however there is another form of cardio that is great at burning calories, keeping you warm and scorching away your midsection to give you the chiseled abdominals you’ve always dreamed of!

How was my trainer pitch? Good? Bad? Ugly?

That exercise is jump rope. You can read more about the comparison between jumping rope and running here. But the gist of it is:

Jumping rope is a great calorie-burner. You’d have to run an eight-minute mile to work off more calories than you’d burn jumping rope.

Now, Mybloogle is NOT paid to advertise so we shall refrain from mentioning the name of the place DIRECTLY, however due to the extreme helpfulness and friendliness of the cashier-ette yesterday in taking my number to contact me when a product is available in more sizes, we’ll drop hints about their name. So, as I was passing by a Sports shop, which I Direct your attention to, I walked in and purchased a speed rope.

After a painstaking attempt to remove the rope from the shackles of its bondage to its packaging, I decided to strap the rope to my wrist like so:

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The thought of Lion-O, Lord of the Thundercats comes to mind

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Of course we will be sans the Sword of Omens, lest we wish to be deported for running with a concealed weapon…

Although…

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Let’s Jump (lol) start the new running (lol) revolution.

Adding jump rope to your running routine can definitely end up making you a better runner, targeting different muscle sets.

The Lazy life of Kuwait – Bicycle Ordering

For those that have spent a wee bit of time in the desert state of Kuwait, you will find that most of the creature comforts we enjoy are brought upon as a result of the external environment in which we reside.

For example, the infamous baqala-drive-by, whereby we park our cars outside the baqala, honk twice or thrice, give our order to the shopkeeper, receive the items, pay, wait, receive change, then drive off into the (hopeful) sunset.

This phenomena is also replicated outside restaurants, with the same conditions.

Earlier this week however, I decided to upset the established order and do things differently.

I rode up to my preferred restaurant to cure my cravings for fatayer, initially I was ignored by the people taking orders, because as I said earlier, I rode up to them, not drove; as in on my bicycle, not in my car. The following conversation took place:

Me: I want to make an order.

Restaurant Dude: go inside.

Me: But I am on a bicycle.

Restaurant Dude: its ok, don’t worry.

Me: Excuse me, can you please treat me as if I am a car?! (verbatim translation of what I said in Arabic)

Restaurant Dude: *laughs* *takes order*

~~~~~~~~~~~

I took to the streets whilst waiting for the food to be made, upon my return, Restaurant Dude goes, “here you go, Mr. Car”.

I’d like to think I am about to set a trend for bicycle ordering.

Of course, I have nothing on these guys:

drive-thru-car

Shenanigans

Review of the McDonald’s Flyingstart Triathlon @q8sportevents

The McDonald’s Flyingstart triathlon took place last Friday. For those that do not know, a triathlon is a succession of sporting events done in sequence to completion – Swim, Bike, Run. The event had teams as well as solo performers, competing in Sprint (750M swim, 20KM cycle, 5KM run) and Olympic distances (1,500M swim, 40KM cycle, 10KM run).

We arrived at Marina at 6AM and proceeded to stick all the stickers and tattoos where they need to go. Shortly after instructions were given, and once everyone knew where they should be, we all proceeded to the beach to watch the first leg of the triathlon commence.

Being short of a road bike I took my mountain bike to the race. We waited in the participants pen whilst our team mates rushed to hand over the tracker, strapped it to our ankles and were off. You could not mount your bike from the get-go, you had to run alongside the bike from the parking lot near Marina Hotel all the way to the parking lot near Starbucks, there you could hop on to your bike and go all the way down the Gulf road to Green island, and come back, the go again, and return for a supposed distance of 20KM for sprint and double that for Olympic.

As I was the bike-man for the team, my story will revolve around that, everything else is hearsay, hearsee and educated speculation.

cycling down the Gulf road was a pleasant affair; the organizer had asked those riding slow to stay on the right side of the road, and that is where I spent the majority of my time. I watched several athletes whisk past me on their road bikes, while I just focused on keeping a steady pace of 2mins40secs or less per KM (thank you Garmin Watch!)

Whenever possible, I would try to overtake from the left side, just to know the feeling, and in my head I formed various rivalries with other participants, just to push myself forward. The one that stands out was 466, another fellow mountain biker, who would eventually go on to pass me but not after I gave him a run for his money. Another mountain biker who’s number I cannot recall helped me out, as after a constant struggle for dominance I decided to ride behind him in his slipstream, and was successful in knocking down the time for that KM from 2mins40secs to 2mins21secs.

In the end, the atmosphere was generally nice.

Here is the list of faults I found with the event though:

  1. Under no circumstance is the organizer ever allowed to YELL at the participants. Granted, he was on a megaphone and trying to give people the Cliff notes regarding “how to Tri”, but you cannot take it upon yourself to lose your cool and yell at the participants, who paid to be there, and who’s ages ranged from those young enough to be your children to those old enough to be your grandparents. It happened twice.
  2. There was a lack of enforcement of policy in the transition area; for example, take the following road bike that was propped up against a pole as opposed to being hung on the bike rack like everyone else. I overheard the organizers state that this was a violation, but as the race commenced, the bike remained in its incorrect place:

DSC_4518-480x853

This is how bikes should have been kept in the transition area:

DSC_4515-640x360

3. Participants were expected to run beside their bikes (as stated above) however, the following obstruction was only cleared after the first two or so cyclists had to squeeze by it:

DSC_4519-640x360

4. The volunteers who were supposed to be helping out on race day, despite their good intentions, were not aware of the full list of rules – we had asked one near the bike mounting area where the transition from bike to run was, to which he replied, “I don’t really know”, later we found out that the pen that kept the cyclists was later refilled with the runners. Still, volunteers should know.

5. Despite the race being billed as 20KM cycling, the actual distance fell short, as tracked thru 2 separate GPS trackers – Garmin (watch) and SportsTracker (app – Android) as follows:

Capture

(this included the run from the transition area to the bike mount area).

6. The transition area was pure bedlam with people walking everywhere and runners trying to navigate around them.

7. The running part of the triathlon was by far the most poorly planned. Lets begin with the fact that it was in the most densely crowded area – the Marina walkway, all the way to the scientific center. Runners were recollecting how they had to dodge around people to finish their distance. A quick fix for this would have been to close off the road from Scientific center to Marina (the Gulf road was closed from Marina to Green island) and have the runners do laps there, where they would not be bothering those out for their early morning strolls.

8. The volunteers at the turn around areas were causing confusion for cyclists and runners. At the beginning of the race, the organizer stressed that each person is responsible to keep track of their distance themselves. What makes it confusing however is when you are going toward a turnaround area and see a volunteer pointing left and right. Left to go back and do another lap, right to go onto the transition area. I fell for this, as did several runners I saw when I was done with the cycling part.

9. Inadequate supply of bins at such a large event.

10. Joke of a takeaway from the race in the form of a t-shirt (good quality), a small (branded) bag and a water bottle. Here are some ideas for things you can include in the bag next time – vouchers from sponsors – anything to justify the exorbitant cost of the event – KD 35.

11. Very small area near the finish line, extremely crowded to be around sponsor booths and stand in line for t-shirts or tracker refunds.

The pro’s of the race:

1. Sweet, never-before-run finish line:

DSC_4531-640x360

right atop the fountain!

This event is growing in popularity and attracting participants from all over the region. As somebody who is now seriously considering getting into triathlete training, I hope the organizers take the points above into consideration, because if the next event is to be performed with the same caliber as this one, attendance might suffer.

Why I’ll never run the Mallnitz Marathon again

A dear friend told me, you haven’t lived till you’ve run a race in Europe.

Ok, maybe those weren’t her EXACT words, but the meaning was there. So on a recent trip to Austria, I searched to see if I could make any races in the area, and to my luck, I found one!

Now, you need to understand the serendipitousness of this endeavor – initially we were staying in Vienna for the majority of our stay, we chose to go to Salzbury as well and booked a lovely bed & breakfast there through Airbnb (here is the link to the place, it was amazing, the owner is very sweet and also a runner! which came in handy, as you’ll see later in the story). We had originally booked 22-24, I later found the race would be on the 25th, we would have returned to Vienna. A quick calculation of train routes etc. showed that I could get to this Mallnitz location by taking a train for 3hrs45mins!

Through sheer coincidence, we discovered that Mallnitz happens to be closer to Salzburg than Vienna! 73KM vs 500+KM. As we would have a car then, it would be a short drive away. And the rest as they say, is history.

To get to Mallnitz, you drive 60KM to a train, then pay EU 17 to board your car on a train that goes through a mountain to Mallnitz.

Arriving in the small town, it was everything you would expect a small town to look like, the one main road was closed off for the race, everyone was dressed in running gear or traditional wear to celebrate this annual event. I ran to the information office which had a poster of the race outside to ask where it was, the office was closed, a passerby saw my plight and asked if I needed help then directed me to go straight 200M and i’ll find the start line.

Mallnitz Marathon 2015

(more pictures can be found here)

Everything about the location screamed “picturesque”, small town race with a big crowd. I found the registration office, and they knew who I was ahead of time as I had already registered online, plus was probably the only one from “abroad abroad” as in outside the EU. I paid them EUR 20, got my bib and race pack which consisted of one bottle of water, 2 energy bars, a Salmon tennis cap (blue) and a coupon for a meal after the race. Now, EUR 20 is around KD 7, remember that. It was the same amount for both the 10KM and the 21KM. I opted for the former as I had not been running long distance in quite some time.

As the runners started showing up, they herded us inside to give us a briefing regarding the race. I was the only one that sat till the end for a “refresher” in English, although I got the gist of what the Austrian dude was saying initially. Red ribbons for 10KM, purple for 21. I told them I was used to running and that I run in high temperatures, they said, almost nonchalantly, that that won’t help as here the thing is all about elevation. They also said if I wanted to give up I just had to run to someone and hand in my bib number to get a ride back to the start line. I dismissed that as poppy cock. Little did I know I was in for quite the rude awakening.

T-20 minutes till the race.

Preparing for the Mallnitz Marathon

(me mumsy tells me my face looked very tired, but I wasn’t feeling it at the time)

The whistle blew, and the runners were off, GPS synced and ready. We ran about 500M on road then veered into the forest, initially I was thinking, ok, this is doable. However the minute you got used to the terrain of grass, it suddenly shifted and became gravel, rock, mud, river etc. throughout the course of the run.

Believe it or not, Longshanks came in 2nd

Believe it or not, Longshanks came in 2nd

My first surprise came when we passed through a meadow and I saw the largest black horse my eyes ever did fall upon. It was so gargantuan (especially next to the beige pony that grazed beside it) that I almost believed it to be a statue. That belief was shattered when I ran by it, only to have it turn its head towards me. Luckily I was not bitten.

The next shock came at the uphill that was mentioned during orientation. Initially he had said the elevation was “only 300M”, little did my feeble mind fail to comprehend the gravity of a 300M incline,, at an angle of almost 35*. I felt akin to a mountain goat, running on my tip-toes and much below my average speed to go up the harrowing hill.

Physics has taught us that what goes up must come down, well that theory is also true for what curves up, it must also curve down later, and just before you cheer at the downhill speed gain, keep in mind I was wearing the same shoes I run in in Kuwait, showing signs of wear and tear, smoother on the bottom. That, coupled with grass, and the fact that it was starting to rain so the ground was moist made the steep run down quite precarious, one wrong step and you would slip and fall flat on your face. Fortunately that did not happen.

After being passed by several runners more adept at mountain trekking than I, I decided mentally not to allow anyone else to pass. As always, there was one person hot on my trails, and as chose to forgo my earphones so as to be “in tune” with nature during my first forest run, I could always hear them behind me.

We came across a padlocked gate that fortunately had a volunteer standing by it to open it for the runners. It swung outward, away from the runners. Which was good. And not so good, as you will find out later.

Around the 6.5KM I almost took a wrong turn and was alerted by my pursuer, in sign language. I lost a few seconds in which he had caught up to me, but quickly managed to retain my place ahead of him. This game of cat and mouse carried on for several KM’s, with me begrudgingly deciding to just let him go and focus on finishing the race and not falling down and breaking my leg. However my inner competitor always roared in righteous indignation to allowing someone to pass me.

Another few meters, and we were faced with another padlocked gate, with no volunteer in sight. I stuck my hands out and pushed through, the door swinging forward before me. More uphills and downhills, and a pile of fresh manure followed (for the sake of this recollection, we shall say I ran over it).

Nearing the 8KM mark there was another gate, I sped up just before it so as to push through with authority and was surprised when I ended up crashing into it as it refused to budge! My competitor had caught up, and it took us a few seconds to realize that this gate swung “inward”, as in towards the runners, meaning you had to come to a complete stop to open the gate!

I was irate, at this point, my nemesis had caught up and taken the lead, and again, part of me wanted to relinquish the pursuit and just focus on finishing the race. However my inner demon refused to lose the lead we held for 8.5KM straight, and dug deep to find the strength to surpass him once more.

A very sharp right turn later, we were back in civilization, on paved road. It was only a matter of a few meters until we reached the finish line, and nothing can compare to the joy of hearing your name and country of origin spoken by a stranger to a standing ovation by a group of strangers.

at the finish line of the mallnitz marathon

In hindsight, the true beauty of the course could only be realized when you combine the actual task of running it, over hills and bridges, rivers and open fields, gravel and grass, with the aerial shot provided by GPS:

The Mallnitz Race

In addition, a review of their results posted online shows that I came in 7th place, which is not too shabby for my first forest run:

Lord Aymz at Mallnitz

However, the reasons I would never run the Mallnitz marathon again is as follows:

1) Despite the registration amount, which was the same for 10 & 21KM, there was no medal for finishers, only first place. Given that the amount is exactly similar to what we pay here for 10KM (642marathon) I felt cheated in that I had no metal to show for it, only the bib.

2) The fiasco with the gates was quite tiring indeed, to have to come to a full complete stop in order to open a gate towards you whilst running is pure idiocy.

3) The people of Mallnitz, although extremely welcoming of me as a participating runner, were very speculative of my wife who accompanied me and were caught staring at her, a lot, due to her being veiled.

The only way I would actually re-run the Mallnitz 10KM run is if they did what all other races do and offered a finishers medal to make the moment more memorable.

The meal at the end of the run was a plate of pasta, with cheese sauce and meatballs.

I had two plates, I was very hungry.

Beef, not pork.

August 2011 ( View complete archive page )

September 2011 ( View complete archive page )

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