#AVonVoyage to Dubai

Last Thursday I hopped on board an Emirates plane en route to Dubai in the UAE. I had a bit of a scare at the airport, with my exit permit not being issued in time, but luckily after several frantic calls all before 5 am, I managed to get it. The mission for the trip? Well firstly, to complete the Standard Charted Dubai Marathon… My first real marathon, really. The last marathon I did was in April when I participated in my first IRONMAN event. Yip, that was my first marathon. What a way to introduce yourself to marathon running, huh?

The last time I was in Dubai was in 2012. I had no expectations when I got there, and so my time there was a lot more than I ever imagined it would be. The city was vibey, fun and my friends looked after me real good. It was enough for me to start looking at any working opportunities there. It wasn’t meant to be, but now being based in Doha, Qatar, it’s a lot easier to visit the city. So upon my return to the city, I was absolutely blown away by how much it has changed. For one, it’s a lot ‘taller’. There are so many more buildings, so many skyscrapers. The Dubai Canal is a new addition to the city, and the Metro is fully functional too. This city is truly world class, and they aren’t playing games when it comes to proving how much they want to be considered as such.

I headed off to the race registration. Now usually you find a big expo with loads of stalls and brands showing off all their latest trends and products. So I was a bit taken aback by the lack of exhibitors there. In fact, I was disappointed because I was hoping to get myself a new pair of running shoes there. I mean, in my head there’s no better place than the number one hub for runners, right? Alas, it is what it is and the one good thing is that I didn’t have to stand in too long a queue, which is always a bonus. All wrapped up, all registered and now officially ‘poeping’ myself, I headed off to my hotel. If you’re ever looking for a central place to stay, I would definitely recommend the Metropolitan Hotel. It’s newly refurbished, it’s a short walk from the FGB Station and it’s very affordable too. The room was comfy and it’s close to the Burj Al Arab…. So it comes highly recommended. It worked very well for me too because it was about 3kms from the start and finish of the race. There’s also a really nice grocery store down the road (it sells biltong). PLUS if you’re South African, there’s a Mugg & Bean in the centre too… A little taste of home never hurt. Gosh, was that necessary. I vowed to get myself a banana muffin after the race, but that didn’t happen this time around. So I’ll just have to go back I guess 😉

On race morning, I got up early, enjoyed my High Protein Futurelife and then headed to the start. It was supposed to be pretty chilly, but to be honest the humidity kept it quite warm. Perfect for running really. After checking in my bag, I made my way to the start – EEEEEEEEEK! I’ve come this far, the only thing left to do now is to run. And that I did. I managed to find my rhythm quickly and I slowed my pace down too. Sidebar, I recently did a 21km training in Doha and I managed to do it in 1:38, which is my fastest. Granted it’s flat here and the weather is perfect. I didn’t expect to keep that pace for the marathon. In fact, I knew I had to slow down, and that’s what I did. I found a group of runners from Dubai, who were running a really nice pace, and so I hooked onto their bus and ran with them. At around 19kms, I need to use the little boy’s rooms, and so by the time I was done (like literally 2minutes), they were gone. I tried to catch up, but they’d upped their pace and I couldn’t keep up. I kept it steady, though and found another group to run with. At around 30kms in, the wheels started coming off. I think I’d pushed a little too hard. That coupled with old running shoes and too little distance training in the build up. It was possibly the longest 12kms of my life. I battled through, but I came out on top and managed to sneak in a time of 3:48… Super stoked about that one, seeing as though my marathon time in Ironman was a long 4:50.

A few lessons learned on the run:

– Don’t drink too much

– Get your nutrition right. All I wanted were some baby potatoes (my mum will be happy)

– Slow it down in the beginning, and pick it up for the last 10kms

– Do more longer, slower distance training in the build up

– Make sure your running shoes are conducive to running long distances like this

– Have fun

If you have any tips, please feel free to share with me too.

I really did enjoy the experience and I’m keen to do more marathons now… I’m a global runner and I love this ish. Between running, swimming, cycling and a combination of all three in the form of triathlon, expect more travel and race reports from me. I’m longing to go to Ironman South Africa, but it’s looking unlikely. New York City Triathlon in July is definitely on the cards – entry was paid for last year and it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity. Plus it’s New York City… My home away from home 🙂 As for the city of Dubai. Well, I do love thee. The pulse, the people, the forward-thinking types, the infrastructure, the cleanliness, the services, Dubai stays winning. I’ll be back there soon, but first we prep for ITU World Triathlon Abu Dhabi 2017 in March.

JVB travels: happy cabin crews… Smile Emirates and Air Canada

As you know, I’ve been doing a fair amount of traveling this month. My trip to Turkey was fantastic. Everything worked out just perfectly, the people were great and it was just such a jol. I then turned thirty and to mark the occasion I decided to spoil myself, by booking a trip to New York City (the place that has completely captured my heart and soul). I also have a dear friend, who is based in Toronto, Canada. So I decided to hop across the border and come and see her… Add another stamp to the passport, another city and country to the ‘traveled to’ list. Blessed beyond words.

I will share a lot more about my experience of both cities in another post – I’m fresh into Toronto and I’m heading back to NYC next week, so more to come. For now that I want to talk about one interesting aspect I’ve noticed along the route of my travels. Air hosts/ hostesses can really make or break your flight experience.

I flew To New York using Emirates, which is hands down one of the best airlines out there. There’s a lot of space in the cabins, the food is good and the in-flight entertainment is fantastic too. After a long stop in Dubai (never again), some five hundred people boarded the A380 en route to NYC. What an amazing plane, gosh but the flight was extremely long. That is inevitable because it’s a transatlantic flight, so one merely has to suck it up, but just be prepared for that folks. I’ve always found the Emirates cabin crew very friendly and accommodating, but on board the A380 they weren’t that nice. In fact, I found one in particular air hostess to be extremely rude and snappy. I asked her for some fruit during the flight and she gave me the “urgh, sigh” sort of expression. Short of her throwing the apple at me, I was a bit astounded by her attitude. She did it to a few other people too and I really wasn’t impressed. I had a similar experience on board my Air Canada flight earlier. And those air hostesses were worse than the Emirates one. Could it be a break down in communication because of the language barrier? Maybe, but bottom line is, they chose to be in the service industry so they must just be strong, put smiles on their dials and make sure they do their job happily. Yes, we all have bad days, but unfortunately the customer service industry employees should always bring their a-game, especially when it comes to flying.

I do still enjoy flying Emirates, but sometimes experiences like this are bad enough to make you change. Hence the reason I don’t actively choose to fly South African Airways anymore. Have you ever had a great/ terrible experience with the airline crews? Who do you rate?

Pictures: Justin Bieber live in Johannesburg

Justin Bieber live in concert at the FNB Stadium on the 12th of May 2013. Check out some of my pics.