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Stay tuned for updates from our Africa trip!

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Boston Marathon 2017

Pre-race –

Unlike my first Boston prep, this one felt surprisingly easy – I used the same training plan for both races.  Granted I missed training sessions here and there due to laziness – if I felt a slight twinge anywhere on my body, it was reason enough to skip that day’s training.

Motivation was a 5/10.  At one point I had thought about not running, granted it was a very brief moment.

I had loosely set a goal of 3:35.  Last year, it was 3:30 but I missed it by 10 minutes.

In the 2 weeks leading up to the race, I was semi-obsessed with the weather prediction.  It started off with low 50s and cloudy, but as we got closer to race day the temp started inching higher, and the clouds evaporated revealing brilliant sunshine.  Brilliant sunshine is fine on normal days, but totally overrated when one is trying to run a marathon.


Had Ryan Hall sign my shirt.


Race Day –

Mother nature decided to give all us runners a big middle finger.  This is her second one in a row.

I’d resigned to the fact that 2017 was going to be a repeat of 2016 – hot and slow.  It was 70 at the start and no cloud in sight.  At this point, I had dialed back my expectations to 3:40 – 3:42.  I still wanted to qualify.

Normally, the doubt and regret of running a marathon starts when I hit mile 20.  The idea of having to run another 6 miles is exasperating.  This year the doubt started earlier – on the BAA bus on the way to Hopkinton, the starting line.  That’s right, I hadn’t even start the race and I was already regretting my decision to run.

It was going to be 26.2 miles of exasperation.

After learning my lesson last year, I purposely started out slower.  The last thing I needed was to run the second half of the race with simultaneous quadriceps and calf cramping.

I also started earlier with the cup-of-water-overhead at every water station to keep me cool.  Ran through every single sprinkler and spraying hydrant.  I was surprised not more people did what I did, and I later found out that some people don’t like their socks and shoes to be soaking wet.  Well, I don’t like to be hot while running.

It wasn’t hard along the way, but I was bored.  I like doing different things, seeing varying sceneries.  I rarely go back to the same vacation spot twice, and when I do, I don’t usually enjoy it as much as I did the first time.  I like to be awed.  Given that this was my 3rd Boston, it was becoming familiar.  There was no element of surprise.  I was totally lacking in motivation, but I had to keep going because it was the only way back to Boston.

I was struggling with motivation.  At the outset, I had wanted to run a 3:40.  That turned to “I’ll just try to qualify”.  At one point, I made the decision that I wouldn’t care what time I ran because this was going to be the last marathon that I will ever run in my life.  Oddly enough that made me pause and enjoy the moment – the runners around me and the cheering spectators.  It’s akin to when you know you only have a finite time to live, you start appreciating what’s around you instead of taking everything for granted.

Interestingly, the 2 opposing motivations kept changing along with the hills.  It was yeah-I’m-going-to-try-to-qualify as I was cruising downhill, to last-marathon-ever as I was going up.

One thing I was looking forward to was mile 17.  That’s where the family was supposed to meet me.  I say ‘supposed to’ because they never made it there in time, thanks to the wonky Boston T – something about the T going express at one point and skipping their stop.

On the flip side, having done Boston twice gave me the advantage of knowing the course and managing my race strategy.  I knew if I made it to mile 21 without any major issues, I’d be golden, because 21 and on was all gradual downhill to the finish.

Mile 21 has to be my favorite along the entire Boston course.  That’s where the Boston College kids are.  Everyone talks about the Wellesley girls, but they just don’t do much for me.  I love the BC kids – maybe because there are more boys, and I’ve always been partial to boys.  But, they are a wilder bunch.  Imagine Super Bowl Sunday in the sports bar with people screaming at the screen, that’s the BC kids shouting at us.  They gave me such an adrenaline rush that I sped up too much, and briefly caught a cramp in my calves.

From then on it was cruise control to the finish line – a 3:41:32.


So I’ve qualified again, and am obligated to run 2018.

Everyone said I wasn’t obligated to do anything, but only runners would understand why it’s an obligation.


Finally did meet up with the family at the finish.


I’m just hoping for 45-50 degrees next year, because I really want to go for a sub 3:35, hopefully, a 3:30.

One final note, I did not end up in the medical tent like I did last year.


Stretching out the pain on the T platform

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One of my intentions for this trip was to pick up a painting from Ubud, but that wasn’t to be.  We were limited by time – traveling in traffic from Tanjung Benoa to Ubud ate into precious time, and the heat – the heat just made me long for the hotel room.

We did manage to stop by one artist studio outside of Ubud and woodworking shop in Mas.  The problem with tour guides bringing you to specific places is that it raises skepticisms about the shops.


Artists at work at the studio.

We did finally get some reprieve from the heat at the Monkey Sanctuary Forest after our ordeal at Gunung Kawi.

Joined the monkeys in a nice shaded walk,

and were recharged to go check out some other sights before we were off souvenir shopping.

Souvenir shopping in Bali is not straightforward like it is elsewhere.  In other countries, there’s a list price you pay.  In Bali, the vendor gives you a starting price, and you’re expected to counter.  The haggling process ends when you arrive at a price you’re both satisfied with.  I’d been wanting to get a Buddha head for years, but all the ones I’d seen in the US either just did not look right or the price was unreasonable.  Finally, I spotted the perfect one in Ubud.  When I asked for the price, the lady typed in 250,000(about $20) on her calculator.  I made a face indicating it was too steep, so she asked me to type in what I wanted to pay.  After a brief back and forth on the calculator, we settled at 150,000 RP.  I thought I had scored, until later when our tour guide said people who are good at it, can get 60% off the asking!

No worries.  I plan on going back to Ubud, and I’ll be ready then…

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Gunung Kawi

Despite how hot Bali was, we still decided to venture out to check out the island.  We booked a tour through the hotel, and one of the first stops was Gunung Kawi.  We didn’t know what to expect, but we went because the guidebook ‘told’ us to.

Gunung Kawi is an 11th century temple and funeral monuments dedicated to the King Anak Wungsu and family.  To get there, we had to take 250 steps down, which was the easy part.  The uncomfortable part was to don the free sarongs at the entrance.  I was already hot in my short dress, and now I had to cover up and block all breeze.


Mom and dad in matching sarongs.

On our way down, we encountered several tourists coming up all sweaty and short of breath.  I thought, “Can’t be that bad coming up!?  You guys are out of shape”.

The view was spectacular.  Everything was so green and lush – so different than the yellow/brown I’m used to seeing in Southern California.

We got to see a small rice terrace from atop.


The temple structures were not particularly ornate, but different enough to make it interesting.



As I lingered and fell behind while taking pictures, I ended up on a different path heading back and happened upon a set of steep steps.  I thought to myself, “This looks different.”


Do I go up, or should I backtrack?

Ever the trooper for an adventure, I decided to go up and check out what awaited me at the top.



A rice terrace up close!

The Balinese are famous for their rice terraces, as it is an ingenious design to water their rice while conserving water at the same time.

The path I took was actually parallel to the one we took going down, and eventually led me back to the 250 steps up.

As I was going up, I realized my mistake of mocking the ascending sweaty and breathy tourists, as I look about as bad as all of them did, maybe even worse with my sarong and skirt hiked up as high as was modestly acceptable.


This is sister – I’ve never seen her sweat so much in her entire life.


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Snake Skin Fruit

On our first day in Bali we came across a fruit we’d never seen before – the snake skin fruit.


Also called the Salak.

The inside is white.  Texture is crunchy, and tastes like very mild melon/pear/apple.

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Grand Mirage in Bali

Mom wanted to go on an all-inclusive trip to Bali.  At this point, we all knew that this trip will never surpass the Cozumel trip, but we obliged.

It was pretty warm (86F) in Taiwan early November, but nothing prepared me for what awaited us in Bali.  Having lived in Southern California for the last 6 years, I’ve been pampered and spoiled.  It’s mostly 68-78F, sunny, and dry here in SoCal, so any kind of humidity requires a bit of acclimating for this body.  Taiwan was warm and humid, and I was feeling uncomfortable.  Bali was crazy muggy!  I was sweating just standing still.  How the locals could wear short sleeves and slacks and not break a sweat was a wonder.  All the locals looked chill, while the tourists looked disgustingly sweaty.

Luckily, we were picked up by hotel transportation which whisked us (not fast enough) to the hotel.  We stayed at the Grand Mirage in Tanjung Benoa – all the all-inclusive hotels were in the Tanjung Benoa/Nusa Dua area.  With 5 of us, we elected to stay in their new villa.  With 3 rooms and baths, it was perfect.

Mom and dad got the room with the separate beds, with the view of the private pool, and the bathroom to die for.

Sister and BIL got the room with the king bed.

And I got the queen bed all to myself.

Nicely appointed living space.

Even mom was impressed and admitted that it was better than Cozumel – at least her memory isn’t that distorted.


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Benchmark Trip

Cozumel – the trip that all other trips are measured against.

The year was 2002.  It was the first trip we’d brought mom and dad on.  Mind you, it’s not the first trip we’d been on as a family – mom and dad had brought us to Hawaii, Brazil, Canada, and Germany in prior years.  Cozumel was the first trip we’d treated them to.  It was their first all-inclusive beach resort trip.  The ‘all-inclusive’ was a foreign concept to them at the time.  It was relaxing – none of that running around from one town to another, one museum to another, one sight to another.  This was all about doing absolutely nothing at all for a week.  There was no need to worry about the next meal, find the next McDonald’s or whatever the cheapest food option that was available.  The food was laid out throughout the day for one to choose as one wished.

There was nothing fancy about the lodging nor the food.  The resort was a very modest 2-3 star hotel with your average American fare of hamburgers, hot dogs, and the prerequisite tropical island pina colada.  But somehow mom had romanticized it over the years to the point where the place was beautiful, people friendly & welcoming, food delicious & abundant, and the pina colada was the best she’d ever had.

This was mom’s mother of all trips.  The one all others were measured up against.

We’ve subsequently brought her to Santorini, Bora Bora, another higher end all-inclusive Mexican Riviera vacation – yet they had all failed to impress her.

Cozumel had become the benchmark trip, the one she’d remember details of (however, distorted), while those of others were blurry and even forgettable.

This must be the power of first experiences.  All senses are heightened and encounters cherished and stored in a very special place in the heart & mind.  Nothing else can take its place.  Looking back, we should have brought her to Bora Bora first, because at least that’s a trip deserving atop a pedestal.

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