Friday, October 31, 2008
The crowds were insane. We first tried walking up 17th (I work on that street) but b/c Suburban Station lets out there, we went down a block or 2 to get a better view. Even on 19th there were still tons of people.
Here is first a video of one bus going by with Mayor Nutter (I think it was him, we were debating it back at the office) carrying the World Series trophy (?).
This next video has the Philly Phanatic on it and some other players.
Here's a better shot of one bus of players. I'm such a dork, I was asking people if players were on the buses since they weren't wearing their jerseys and, well, because I'm not a baseball fan.
This is my attempt at capturing the confetti in the air w/ a cell phone. Of course, I didn't think to take my good camera out of my carry-on . . .
Thursday, October 30, 2008
I'm taking this trip with the same group I went to South America with, Amazing Journeys. The best part is that I already know 6-7 folks on the trip, including my roommate. We've already been corresponding back and forth via email about what we plan to do, bring, etc. I'm leaving out of JFK Sunday morning, hence the reason I'm trekking up to north Jersey . . . again. What sucks is that b/c I'm traveling w/ a group, I don't have an assigned seat. To get an assigned seat I have to be at the airport 3 hours before the flight, which means I have to be there at 6:15am!!!!!! Ugh. Of course, it's the same day we fall back and the running of the NYC marathon. I so hope that these things don't get in the way!
The flight is 15 hours and non-stop from JFK to Hong Kong. My plan is to knit for a good portion and then take my sleeping pill and sleep for a good 8+ hours of the flight. Please, let this stuff work this time. I had meant to do another test run but it just never worked out. It also won't be as easy to sleep since we leave in the morning and then arrive in the afternoon.
Ok, enough about the damn logistics. I'll be in China for 2 weeks and plan to visit 4 major cities: Beijing, Xian, Shanghai, and Hong Kong. I may do a day trip to Macau or Shenzhen, but that's up in the air until next week probably.
After a quick layover in Hong Kong and another 3+ hour flight, we will arrive in Beijing. I will be there for 4 nights. We will visit the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace, the Olympic stadiums, Tiananmen Square, the Temple of Heaven, Hutongs, and many other places. After our first full day of sightseeing, we will have what I've heard is an amazing foot massage. I may have to have one every night, that's how good they are supposed to be. While in town we will attend a traditionally prepared Peking Duck banquet. Wish me luck since I'm not a big fan of duck or fatty meat in general. Another night, my friends and I have reservations at the Li Family Restaurant which has come highly recommended.
During some of our free time, I plan on heading over to the Pearl Market to buy a butt-load of pearls. I have friends that are giving me orders. Whether I can find what they want, have the time to get them, or the room to carry them all is another story. My friend just got back from China and showed me a 16" strand of freshwater pearls she got for US$14! I just have to remember to print out the list of requests and bring it with me! There's also the Silk Market and a bunch of other shopping locales.
The highlight of the trip will be climbing the Great Wall. I will have a field day taking pictures!
Our next stop for only 2 nights will be Xian. Here the main attraction is the Terra Cotta Army. The army was only discovered last century but it is an amazing find. I can't wait to see it. There's an area outside of Xian that I wish we had time to see, but we don't. It's called Huashan, and they are very special mountains. I'm not into eastern religions, but I am interested in beautiful landscapes and this has it. I first saw it on the Amazing Race a few seasons back and it's really what made me want to go to China to begin with. Figures I don't get to go there, but I'll do it another time.
The other highlight, from what I've been told by another friend, is the Imperial Dumpling Banquet. My friend said that I should fast all day b/c the dumplings are sooooo good. Supposedly about 30 different types. Oh my!
We will spend the next 3 nights in Shanghai. Some highlights we'll see include the Yu Yuan Gardens, Nanjing Road, and The Bund. We will also take a Jewish tour of Shanghai. Apparently many Jews moved to Shanghai to flee the Nazis or the pogroms of Eastern Europe. It should be very interesting. Also, while in Shanghai we will catch a Chinese Acrobatic show.
Although some folks will be leaving from Shanghai, I opted to extend my trip to Hong Kong where I'll spend my next and last 3 nights in China. Well, technically, I guess I'm not really spending these nights in China since I need to show my passport to enter and it's a whole different currency. Still, I'm looking forward to exploring and conducting any last remnants of shopping. I will have plenty of free time here. I printed out a list of yarn shops and might check those out if I have time. I also might look into buying a little camera or other electronics while I'm there.
We will also have the opportunity to take a 1-day tour to either Macau or Shenzhen. Macau is the Vegas of the Far East, but it also has beautiful Portuguese architecture and a great fusion of Chinese-Portuguese food influences. I was really interested in going there until I learned that the Macau Grand Prix will be taking place the day that we'd being going there. This isn't some NASCAR stadium race, but an actual race on the streets of Macau. I don't think I want to deal w/ that. Shenzhen, on the other hand, is back in mainland China and is supposed to be a great shopping mecca. Check back here to see what I decide to do.
My plan, as I did w/ South America, is to update this blog throughout the trip. Not only is it a great way for me to keep tabs with folks back home (or more like they can keep tabs on me), but it acts as a journal which I was never good at keeping. So, stay tuned.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
I was out to dinner w/ friends tonight, trying to avoid any place that had the game on, yet we still managed to be at a place where the screaming drowned us out. No clue which inning it was when we left, but the score was 3-4. When I got home, I attempted to watch the Obama "ad" but really wasn't paying much attention.
Then, I hear screaming and then I see random fireworks outside my window. I didn't have to watch the game to know the Phillies won. All I had to do was open my window. The horns have been honking and folks have been running down the Parkway screaming in excitement. I guess they are all heading out to different corners in the city where folks have just flooded the streets. I don't have pictures of that -- I don't live in South Philly or Mayfair -- but I did capture some video of the screaming and honking on the Parkway. Mind you, this time of night is fairly dead on the street and few people are out. Imagine that this is not even close to the noise in the more populated sections of the city!
Oh, so you were probably wondering what the hell I was talking about w/ the curse of William Penn. Well, up until the mid-80's, city hall was the tallest building in Philly. A statue of William Penn sat atop city hall, the looking out over the city of Philadelphia. Soon, however, William Penn was no longer the highest point in Philly once One Liberty Place was built. Since then, if I am correct on the whole legend of the curse, not one Philly team has one a national title. Check out this clip on the curse. Now some have thought this was bullshit. I am one of those since I really don't believe in superstitions (I'm born on October 13 for heaven's sake!). Anyway, things in Philly changed this year with the new Comcast Center which is now the tallest building in the city. A huge to-do was had earlier this year, toward the end of construction. whereby a new William Penn statue was placed at the top of the building, reinstating his view over the city. Many thought that would lift the curse.
Well, it didn't help the Eagles. Nor did it help the Flyers. However, a new sport helped catapult Philly into the national spotlight -- area football. The Philly Soul won the national title. I thought a little about the curse, but not much. I mean this is indoor football, it's not the same thing. Well now it appears that the curse has been lifted. Philly has won a national title for a major sporting event (sorry Jon Bon Jovi).
Sunday, October 26, 2008
This morning I woke up and did a nice 5-mile walk along Kelly Drive. It was a gorgeous day for the Head of the Schuylkill (much smaller than the Head of the Charles), so I got to watch the races as I walked. It definitely kept me entertained.
Later, after stopping by the Free Library, I sat on a bench in Logan Circle soaking up the sun. What a beautiful view.
I had my knitting with me, which happens to be quite the conversation starter. A few folks came up to me, including one person that wanted me to teach her how to knit a sock on double-pointed needles! Very random request. Still, it was such a nice time to be out.
A snapped a few shots of my neighborhood on the way back. As you can see, things are moving forward with moving the Barnes Collection to the Parkway. They put these signs up last week. This will be the new location. Note to self: get yourself to the Barnes before it moves to the Parkway.
Of course, I couldn't resist a shot of the Philly skyline (at least, my view of it) and the new Comcast Center w/ the sun reflecting off it.
And finally, there are a few trees that have begun to turn.
I love fall foliage pictures. I wonder if the leaves turn in China . . . .
Saturday, October 25, 2008
I'm hoping to get away w/ only 3 pairs of pants and just wash them in the sink. See, the problem is we are limited to one checked bag, weighing no more than 44lbs (w/ a charge of $5/per pound over the limit) when flying domestically in China. That's fine except that roller bags weigh anywhere from 8-12 pounds without anything in them! How frustrating. So, I went out on my birthday and bought myself a duffel bag that is just small enough to qualify as a carry-on if I wanted to. Not bad. Now, it's just a matter of figuring how little I can bring that will fit in it.
Oh, and then there's the whole issue of wanting to buy stuff to bring back w/ me. It doesn't help that Beijing is our first stop. Beijing has the Pearl Market where you can buy freshwater pearls and have them stranded right there in front of you for $15-20 or you can even buy cultured pearls for a couple hundred dollars. I already have friends putting in requests for me to pick up necklaces for them. I have a feeling there's only so many pearl necklaces I can wear through customs before folks get suspicious. ;-) Then there also the Silk Market in Beijing. You can buy tons of clothes and knock-offs there. I'm not a huge fan of silk b/c it it doesn't breathe, but I would like to pick some stuff up as gifts.
And that's just the shopping in Beijing! I still have to fly to Xian, and then to Shanghai, and finally back to Hong Kong. All with a limit of 44lbs in my one checked bag!
Needless to say, I'm at a loss. Plus, I'm never good at packing. I either over pack or forget something important. So, today I am doing a dry-run of what I need and attempting to pack it all up in my duffel.
So, here's what I'm thinking:
- 3 pairs of pants - 1 somewhat nice, 2 for trekking around or wearing on casual nights
- 4 t-shirts
- 1 fleece
- 1 long-sleeve black shirt
- 1 black knit swing jacket
- 2 sleeveless tops/1 nice short sleeve - worn underneath swing jacket or on their own in Hong Kong for nights out
- Undies - toying w/ bringing enough for every day and just throwing them out or bringing less and washing them in the sink (thoughts?)
- Bras - these are easy to hand wash
- Socks - these will be a pain to wash. I'm thinking 4 pairs for my sneakers or hiking shoes and then a few pairs for my merrells.
- 3-in-1 jacket
- 1 pair mary-jane merrells
- 1 pair sneakers or hiking shoes
- 1-2 wraps/pashminas
- cotton hoodie?
What am I missing? When I pack it up, it doesn't seem like much. Since I get warm easily, I figure I'll use the t-shirts as base layers and then either just wear the fleece from the 3-in-1 or another fleece. If it's cold, I'll then have the outer part of the 3-in-1 to keep me warm.
Then there's all of the toiletries and other crap I need to pack. Looks like Cathay Pacific has a bunch of movies I can pick from so I think I'll leave my DVD at home. I'm also going to download some books on tape to my iPod. I'm also holding off on listening to some of my podcasts until the trip. The only books I'm bringing are my books on China.
Last thing to figure out is what (and how many) knitting projects to bring w/ me. I'll be at the airport 3 hours early on Sunday. Then, a 15 hour flight (8 hours of which I'll be asleep, I hope, with the help of ambien), followed by a 2-hour layover and another 3+ hour flight. And that's just the first day. Needless to say, I'll have time to knit. I'm thinking of bringing this (ravelry link) which is what I've been planning to make my sister. I might also bring some sock yarn and work on a pair of socks b/c it's so portable.
So much to think about. God do I hate packing.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
This past weekend I headed up to my parents' to help them babysit my nieces. At first my mom didn't want me to come up, but by the end of the weekend she was so happy that I did. I had a great time playing with Alex and Leah. Alex had so much fun playing with us. I entertained Alex while my mom took care of feeding Leah or putting her to bed. When she wanted time with Alex, I either took over with Leah or conveniently disappeared at bedtime so she could put read Alex stories in bed.
Leah is just precious. She is the happiest baby I've seen. I don't think I saw her cry or get cranky once. Every time you looked at her, this is what you got:
Let's me just say that as adorable as Alex is, she's a handful. Everything is a question. Why this? Why that? We were out getting frozen yogurt and the folks in the store were laughing at all the questions she asked me. How Alex managed to eat her frozen yogurt is a wonder based on the fact that she never stopped talking! LOL!
I ended up sharing a room w/ Alex b/c the new carpet in the basement still smelled. We each had our own bed, but at 7:15 on Saturday morning I hear from the other bed, "wake up Aunt Robin, wake up!" Sigh. I wasn't ready. I had her get in w/ me and cuddle. 10 minutes later, "I'm not tired anymore." I then convinced her to stay in bed until 8, but she still asked me questions and jumped all over me. But, at least my eyes were shut until 8.
That night I took a break and met my friend Amy in Union Square for dinner. It was great to see her, especially before she moves to LA. By the time I got home and watched SNL, it was late.
That didn't matter to Alex. At 7, she was up, informing me that she peed a lot. Of course I'm thinking she peed her pants so I bolt awake. Nope. She's just there w/ her pants down holding her pull up that she had just ripped off. Doesn't she know where the trash is yet? I mean she's 3 and a half already . . . . Ok, so I'm up to dump it in the trash. Alex gets in to cuddle, but that doesn't last . Instead I'm attacked by stuffed animals.
Needless to say, by the time I get up, I'm exhausted. By the time I got home I was still exhausted. In fact, I still haven't caught up on sleep w/ all the stress from work this week, planning for my trip, etc. I'm amazed that my sister is still a functioning adult or that any mother is a functioning adult! I love my nieces and am more than willing to babysit. However, I need to learn to sleep strategically in order to survive it!
Here are a few more pictures that I took of the girls this weekend. I may still be exhausted, but I'm also in withdrawal again!
Also in the package were gobstoppers (my candy obsession), a little Della Q bag that I can use for the scarf I'm knitting right now, a chart marker, and a thing of coconut lime verbana body butter from Bath & Body Works!
It really was a great swap. My fear has subsided and now I'll probably enter another one in the future having gotten my feet wet w/ this one.
Monday, October 13, 2008
Yup, October 13 is a big day in my family. Not only do I share my birthday w/ my Dad, but my sister got married on my 30th birthday! What a way to ring in a new decade! My niece just sang happy birthday to me over the phone -- so cute!
I've had a great weekend of "celebrating" so far. Friday night I had dinner with friends in South Philly. Saturday, I met my folks and my brother in NYC for dinner and to see South Pacific. Senator Kerry and his wife, Theresa Heinz, were there and we got a kick out of the fact that we had better seats than they did. ;-)
Sunday, I met up with the girls in Rittenhouse Square for some knitting and chilling outside in the gorgeous fall weather. Afterwards, I tagged along w/ Lisa and her friend for dinner and a movie. We saw the Duchess. Let's just say I am sooooo happy that I am alive now and not back then. I could not imagine being trapped in such an awful marriage and life.
Today, I'm planning to see my trainer, run errands to get ready for my trip, and then meet up w/ friends at El Vez for dinner.
A nice, jam-packed way to celebrate a new year! Happy Birthday!
Sunday, October 5, 2008
I still can't believe it! This blog post is going to take me a while to type b/c the right side of my right hand is still numb. Here's the breakdown of the weekend.
I got down to Salisbury, MD on Friday and went to the pasta party with the team. They always given an award to the person who raises the most money as the party. This guy raised a whopping $15,000! Schwinn is a new sponsor of TNT and they presented him with a new bike -- sweet! There were also folks who were recognized for having completed what TNT calls the triple crown. These are folks who have completed a marathon or half marathon, a triathlon, and a century ride. I now have 2 down, and 1 to go. Can you guess what I'm planning to do next?
There were 155 of us and as a group, we raised over $500,000. Not bad. Me? I raised about $2800.
Anyway, as I'm getting my stuff together in the room the night before, I mentioned to my roommate that I didn't bring a spare tube and that I've probably jinxed myself by not bringing one. I didn't have room for it anyway and wouldn't have known how to change it on my own even if I did bring it.
Saturday was a long day. I started out at 7:00am and finished at 5:00pm, with a total riding time of about 7 1/2 to 8 hours. The day started out cold and dark, with sun starting to rise when we left. I had a jacket on over my race shirt and undershirt, but my ears, fingers and toes were still cold. Actually, my toes didn't fully warm up until mile 40 or so. Here I am before the start.
I felt really good that first mile, passing some folks and cruising along. We were on the streets of Salisbury at this point and hadn't yet made it out to farm country. We made out 2nd turn and all of a sudden, my bike feels weird. At first I thought it was the road surface, but I pulled off and it still felt weird. Turns out, my tire was low. How is that possible since I had just topped it off that morning before we left. Actually, it was possible. There was some glass on the road that I did not see and, well, it punctured my tire. That's right, I got a flat tire after the first mile!
I was so pissed. I wanted to cry. I couldn't believe that I might have to quit after 1 mile. I didn't know what to do, but since I was only a mile from the start, I figured I'd walk back and see if there was a tube there and someone to fix it for me. Luckily, my coach rode by at that point and his tire was the same as mine so we used his spare tube. He and one of the mentors changed my tire for me. Only problem is that since they only had a hand pump, they only pumped the tire up to 40lbs of pressure (normally, these tires take 110lbs of pressure). They said that would get me to the next rest stop at mile 22 where there would be a mechanic and floor pump.
So, at this point, mile 1.x, I am off again. My group is way out in front of me. I won't really catch up to them until I cross the finish line. Only problem is now my ride is more laborious. I'm working harder than I had before, my ass is killing (shouldn't be until mile 50 or so), and my legs are really tired. Didn't realize this until the mechanic told me but it was b/c there was so little air in my tire. Once he filled it up, the ride was sooooo much easier.
The next 20 miles were great. I felt good and was moving at a good speed . . . for me. Our next rest stop was around mile 43. Ate some food, grabbed more water for my sports drink and took off. About 5-7 miles later, my knee started to act up. I have been dealing w/ this all summer and thought I had finally figured it out. Obviously, I didn't. For the next 10-15 miles, I had to stop several times to stretch and massage my outer knee. My goal was to make it to Assateague Island, and then decide from there. Assateague was the third rest stop and the metric century mark (62.7 miles).
I should note here that rest stops for century rides are way different than those for marathons and probably triathlons as well. In marathons, some folks don't even stop running, but grab the little cup of water as they barrel on by. Here, there's tons of food and folks sit down and take their time. The reason could be that w/ marathons (and triathlons), folks have a chip on their shoe that keeps time. Everyone is trying to beat a time, whether it be their last race, their initial goal, etc. Here, there were no chips. There was no starting gun. It was what they call a "show and go" start where folks have a 2-hour window to roll out of bed and start the race. Only rule is that they be off the course by sunset. So I don't have an "official" time like I would in other endurance events.
Back to the story. I made it to Assateague. I made it 62.7 miles and completed a metric century. The main hill on the course is the bridge over to the island. This is a picture a teammate took:
With my knee bugging me, I wasn't sure how well I'd make it up there, but I did. I stopped toward the top and took a few pictures myself. This one is looking up to the top of the bridge:
This shot is looking down at those pedalling up the bridge:
And here's a shot of me on the bridge:
At the rest stop there were tons of folks there milling about, eating lunch and relaxing. One tradition is to go and dip your feet in the ocean. I didn't make it that far. I just made it to the dunes and looked out over the ocean.
I felt pretty good after stretching and decided to push on a little further and make a decision at the next rest stop -- mile 83. I began to question that decision not even 4 miles later when I had to stop, stretch and massage. I did this another 3 times before arriving at mile 83. At one point, I told my coach that I was calling it quits at the next rest stop. We were then about 4 miles out from the rest stop when I thought to myself, I just rode 20 miles in pain, what's another 17? I was so close at that point anyway -- just 2 laps around Kelly Drive. I could do it.
So, when I reached the final rest stop, I consulted w/ the medics to make sure continuing further wouldn't fuck up my knees. She said my injury was my iliotibial band (IT band) which runs from my hip down along the outside of my leg and knee. It's a repetitive injury that is common among runners. The medic said it was inflamed and the only thing to do was rest, ice, stretch and massage, but if I kept going, it would continue to hurt. She even offered to wrap my knee in ice before I went further, but I declined. Too awkward.
After downing a banana w/ peanut butter and filling my camelbak, I was off for the last 17 miles. I was immediately kicking myself after about a mile, but then let adrenaline take over. I think I only stopped once to stretch. Jim, my coach, was great at that last stretch. Most of the time he followed behind, but here he and Katie (mentor) stuck w/ me most of the time. At one point I was going up a slight incline (there really weren't any hills on this course except the bridge above) and then I felt a bit of pressure from behind on my back. It was Jim giving me a "push" up the hill so I could pass this one woman. Too funny.
I finally finished after 5pm. One of my teammates got a "picture" of me riding in to the finish, but as you can see, #4873 was blocking me entirely.
I didn't believe her at first, but then if you look real close, you can see an extra piece of black that is not where it should be and a random tire behind the guy. That's me. I'm as amazed as you are that this guy could literally shield all of me from view, but it is true. Otherwise, I don't have any pictures of me on my bike per se. If someone sends one to me, I'll be sure to post it. Otherwise, this is all you get.
Everyone from our team was still there and they were all there cheering me on when I rode in. After checking in at the TNT tent and getting my pin and medal, I went straight to the medic tent for some ice.
I'm quite a site with my ice bags, aren't I?
I'm not sure whether I'll do another century or not, maybe just a metric century (62 miles). I did, however, have a great time, flat tire, IT band and all. The course was beautiful. There were barely any cars out on the road and we went through some beautiful wooded areas and farmland on Maryland's eastern shore. I had heard that the race has a history of bad weather, but for us, it was gorgeous. You couldn't have asked for a better day.
And the thing that kept me going and not quitting was not only the fact that I couldn't go home and say I only did x miles, but it was my uncle, my friends who are survivors, and a little girl named Kirsten from the Lehigh Valley who cheered us on. If they could go thru chemo, I could tough it out and do 100 miles.
Until my next team in training event . . . GO TEAM!
Thursday, October 2, 2008
I am riding in this event as part of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Team in Training Program. I am also riding this event in memory of my Uncle Eddie, my dad's twin brother, who died of Hodgkins Lymphoma before I was born. Eddie was only 24 years old when he lost his battle with Hodgkins. I have always felt a special bond w/ Eddie, even though I never met him. My parents tell me that I inherited his fair skin, his light hair, and his artistic nature. We also share the same birthday. In 1969, the survival rate for Hodgkins was very low. Today, it is one of the most curable forms of cancer.
You should have seen my mom searching for the perfect picture of Eddie for me to wear during the Dublin Marathon. This was one of her favorites and was taken during their honeymoon before he was diagnosed.
As I do with all of my races, I will be wearing Eddie's picture on my back. He and all the others affected by blood cancers will be riding with me on Saturday. One hundred miles is hard. One hundred miles will take close to 9 hours to complete. However, 100 miles is nothing compared chemotherapy and the struggles people face battling cancer. I can do this. I will do this.