Catching Up: Australia, Singapore, and Under Armour

I’ve been MIA, but not because things have not happened.

After Regionals, Mark and I took a few days to travel around Australia.  We headed up to Port Stephens where we spent a couple days kayaking around, eating good food, and relaxing.

 

Before heading over to the Blue Mountains, we stopped by Oakvale Farm and Fauna to feed some kangaroos.

We arrived at cute little AirBnB cottage in the mountains where I felt cold for the first time since my visit to the states.  We hiked the national trail the next day to see some waterfalls.  Then we popped into a CrossFit gym for a quick session of deadlifts and kettlebell swings.  One of the coaches was search and rescue and gave us a fantastic hiking itinerary for the next day.

The final day of hiking was long, but beautiful.  We looked out on valleys, hiked down, down, down into the valley, walked through a gum tree forest, walked along a creek, then hiked back up to the top.  What a perfect end to a fantastic trip.

Full day of hiking thanks to a search and rescue CrossFitter

The next weekend I had a trip to Singapore for the Under Armour South East Asia Test of Will.  I wasn’t mentally prepared for another competition, but I had won the free trip during the qualifiers in Manila, so I figured I would go see Singapore.  Then I got sick, so I was both mentally and physically unprepared, I was even on antibiotics.  I landed in Singapore, went to the athletes briefing, dinner with all the UA Athletes and Brand Athletes and quickly headed to bed hoping to feel better in the morning.  I didn’t.

The day was a struggle, antibiotics, advil, and athletics – not a great combo.  I managed to pull out a win though.  I won a bunch of goodies along with a 12 month contract with Under Armour and a feature in a magazine.  So, say hello to the newest Under Armour South East Asia Brand Athlete! Since the win, I’ve had a lot of firsts: First Glamour Photoshoot, ok first real photoshoot ever, first TV inverview (CNN Philippines Sports Desk), and first press conference.  Crazy couple weeks!  Oh, also, apparently I’m a filipina.

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CrossFit Games Pacific Regional 2016

Before I continue my 3 part series about my trip with MGZ, I have a nice little update on my previous post, Playing The Leaderboard.  At the end of the five week online qualifier, the CrossFit Open, I finished in 8th place in the Asia Region.

My score was not solidified until I sent in the requested video.  I sat anxiously until I was told it was accepted and I received my invite to the CrossFit Games Pacific Regionals.  I will compete in Wollongong, Australia the weekend of May 13th.  In addition to my advancement to Regionals, I was also named the “Fittest Female in the Philippines.”  I will receive a certificate and shirt…well maybe, last year people just got a certificate, womp womp.

I am very excited to compete in Australia, unfortunately, athletes must pay for the travel, hotel, and entrance fee for the event, so I’ve started a Go Fund Me.  To my surprise, I was able to raise almost my entire goal in 24 hours, but haven’t had much movement since.  If I reach my goal, I plan on increasing it to raise money to fly a coach in with me.  It would be sad and lonely to be in the athletes area without a coach.

Mt. Balagbag

I’ve been trying to come up with more adventures for the weekends.  I decided to hike Mt. Balagbag because it’s not too far from Manila. The top of the peak overlooks Manila and there’s a waterfall.  Plus, it’s ranked a 3/9 on the difficulty scale, so it seemed like a nice active recovery day.

We were surprised the day before the hike with a dog.  A friend’s friend shows dogs and one of the huskies was not show eligible, so he was up for adoption.  We brought Xena over to meet him, there was lots of tail wagging, and he came home with us that day.  The next day, we decided to continue with our plan to hike and bring both the pups.

Meet Conan! Our 2.5yr old Husky

Waze stopped working so we switched over to google maps, which led us onto a dirt road.  This made the hour and a half trip to the trail head about a 2 hour trip.  We hopped out and began trekking the mountain.  Although the trail was not challenging, the heat and sun beaming down made it a little strenuous.  Within five minutes we were sweating and the dogs needed water.

We came to a fork in the road and were told one way led to the waterfall and one led to the summit.  We hadn’t gone all that way to NOT go to the summit, so we decided to head up and then go to the waterfall.  We arrived at the summit and were told there was a path to one waterfall from the top, but it was steep.  We figured we would be ok and went for it.  Better to go that way than back down to the fork in the road.

Tired pups at the top of the summit.


Now, normally when someone in the Philippines says something is a far walk it’s not actually that far, it’s just that people are used to driving.  So, we assumed that when he said it was steep, it was an exaggeration.  This was no exaggeration.  It was steep, and slippery.  We were walking in a muddy creek bed, straight down hill.  The dogs were pulling us down full speed, I think nervous about the path and falling.  Conan is a husky, so he had some fur to cover his paws and stomach down the rocks, but poor Xena got beat up.  Whenever there was shade, she would lay down and refuse to get up.

The downhill trek to the waterfall took over an hour, probably closer to two.  We arrived, shocked to see a huge crowd of people.  Within seconds, we learned that Conan swims.  He walked right down to the water and got in, we’re fairly sure it was his first swim.  We enjoyed the cool water on our (my) sunburned skin.  We discussed the fact that the trek was harder than expected and so we were low on water – our 2 hour hike was already at a 4 hour hike and we had to get back.  We asked how to get to the easier path and were told there wasn’t one, we would have to go back the way we came.  But what about the easy path leading to that fork in the road?  That’s another waterfall.  Oh.  Shit.

 

Finally, some cool water!


We began heading back up the mountain, thankfully it was easier to go up than down, but we were VERY low on water.  After an hour we arrived at a house with a little store in it.  We bought ALL of their Gatorade, including the display bottle and guzzled it down.  It was the best damn Gatorade I’ve ever had.  Then we were happy to continue walking.  We took a path that didn’t go back up to the summit, but rather around the side, so it wasn’t too hard.

 

The hiking crew at the top of the mountain and the river at the end of the trek.


We arrived back at the trailhead six and a half hours after we started.  Hungry and ready to eat.  All in all though, it was worth the adventure.  The dogs did great, the company was fantastic, and it’s a good story.  We later found out we had hiked two summits, Mt. Balagbag and Mt. Maranat where the Maranat Falls are, instead of the Kaytitinga Falls.

SUP Dog

We finally got out on another adventure.  At 7am on Sunday morning we met four friends and our guide, Tono, at a gas station off of SLEX. Only about 1.5-2 hours later we arrived at Taal Lake, a crater lake inside Taal Volcano. Tono gave a thorough overview of proper stand up paddling technique and we headed across the street to the launch site. 

Before heading out to the water

As you can see, I had Xena with me. Xena coupled with the fact that two people in the group had never done SUP, meant we were doing a short(er) beginner paddle. We spent about an hour and a half paddling around the lake. The view is amazing, a lush green forest, perfect glassy lake, and a volcano in the middle. The longer paddle, which we will do next time is a 12km paddle around the volcano. Also on the to-do list is to hike up Taal Volcano and see the inner crater lake (a like in a crater, in a lake, in a crater). 

Paddling with Xena presented a whole new challenge. For starters, I forgot the peanut butter I had planned on giving her to make her happy to be on the board.  So, she was not the happiest pup at the beginning.  She fell in early on, thankfully she had a life vest on with a handle so I was able to easily pick her up and put her back on the board.  It took her about an hour of pacing up and down the board to figure out the safest thing to do was lay down.  She chose to do that directly below where I was standing, I think that was where she felt safest.  All in all though, I think she got over her fear a little, we will keep trying – next time I won’t forget the peanut butter.

 

Xena’s first time on a SUP


We finished the day with a delicious meal at Balay Dako in Tagaytay.  This massive restaurant has amazing views of Taal and delicious food.   We ordered a ridiculous amount of food, and all of it tasted great.  Family style was definitely the way to go, that way we all got to try everything.  To top it off, the bill was only 800php per person.
 

View from Balay Dako

 
I can’t wait to head out and do the 12km paddle around the island! Here’s to more adventures in the coming weekends.

A Weekend of Celebrations

I witnessed my first proposal.  I was rowing away on an erg while another group of coaches did sled drags with a long rope.  One coach asked his girlfriend to hop on and pulled her in, got down on one knee, and proposed.  Of course, that meant we all got to celebrate.  We went to People’s Palace for an amazing dining experience.

In order for you to truly understand why it was so awesome (which it really was), you have to also understand what other dining experiences are like.  Generally you wait a while to order your food then the food arrives one plate at a time, with up to an hour wait from the first delivery to the last person’s food deliver.  It then takes a long time to get a bill and then we have to tell them we don’t pay VAT and wait another hour.  It’s a more pleasant experience to eat at home.

We sat down at the table and were lucky enough to be there with the head chef, so he ordered for us.  Within five minutes of him ordering, our food arrived at the table.  We asked if it was just because he was there, and he said no, he enforces a 5 minute ticket time.  Once the order comes in, it should leave the kitchen within 5 minutes.  The waiters also don’t take notes, they just memorize the order.  To top it off the food was phenomenal.  From the pomelo salad to the sticky rice with mango dessert, there wasn’t a single dish I didn’t enjoy.

I tried to figure out why the service could be 1000 times better at People’s Palace than every other restaurant I’ve been to here.  Apparently after six months or so working somewhere, the company has to start paying benefits.  Instead of doing that they just fire them and move on to the next person who is eagerly awaiting a job.  It’s not worth the time to properly train the wait staff.  I assume, that at People’s Palace they are willing to train their staff, because they are also willing to keep them.  Now, I have not been able to confirm that training and money is the reason service is poor relative to what I experience at home, but if that’s the case, it’s certainly a sad reality on the part of the businesses.  Unfortunately, there is a high demand for jobs, so it’d be challenging to convince a business owner to retain employees at a higher cost when it doesn’t stop many people from dining out anyway.

Onto the next celebration, or party.  A going away party for one of my swolemates.  He’s not only someone I work out with, he’s also the one who got me in contact with my gym.  We booked a cabana at the Palace Pool Club.  It’s exactly what it sounds like, a nightclub with pools.  Thankfully it was not Saturday night, I can only imagine how crazy it would be to party in a pool and how many drunk injuries there would be.  The idea is pretty sweet though, especially given how hot it is here.

The pool was nice, they had some floaties for us to jump around in, the mojitos were delicious, and so were the burgers.  We were the only ones there for a while so we used the open dance floor space to do the typical CrossFit thing, drinking relays.  Handstand walks, push ups, and squats, plus chugging a beer.  All in all, it was a pretty fun day.

I’ll see if I can get photos from other people this weekend since I failed miserably at taking them.