Since 10kForNurses Pt.1, I have decided to drive myself down to Wales straight from work the night before the event. The itinerary (below) said registration is at 9am Saturday 13th, so I’d rather relax the night before than make my way down for 2.5 hours in the morning on the day. Storm Callum has made the journey quite scary, plenty of instances where my car was swayed and other cars on to mine. All the way down I was thinking about how the hike is going to be in the morning… we are all definitely going to be absolutely soaked!
It took 2 hours and 16 minutes (100miles) from Wigan to the Royal Victoria Hotel. The event will start in the morning from the Padarn Hotel, and the Royal Victoria is conveniently located 2 minutes drive away from there.
This hotel is a 3-star hotel, I had a single room, including breakfast £99. The room was very small, there was not much room to move, but it was clean (which is great). It has coffee and tea making facilities, iron and ironing board, hairdryer, corner chair, shower and a small wardrobe. They also do 24-hour room service, always a good thing because it was raining out and all I wanted was to dine in the comfort of my own room. I was there before 9pm and they do 12-inch stone baked pizza for £10 before 9:30pm. Room service cost £4, so altogether £14.
It was a pleasant experience altogether, a quiet night with hot food and a hot drink to get ready for the challenge the next day.
What a busy week it’s been! I turned up to work on Monday and agreed to do a 13km trek in Snowdon this Saturday (dear Lord). The company I work for have been supporting Cavell Nurses’ Trust for 4 years, a fantastic charity that helps nurses, midwives and healthcare assistants who are facing times of hardship and are in need of financial help and support. The 10kForNurses campaign is divided into 3 types of fundraising activities. You can bake, dive or walk to raise the funds. We signed up for the October 10k walk challenge to conquer Snowdon.
It was all fantastic, it was going to be a fun day out, for a good cause, raise some funds, and this will be a totally new experience for me, until… I saw the weather forecast and realised I have no gear to tackle something like this. Apart from my ski jacket, I have nothing else. The guys at work have been talking about yellow weather warning all week but inside I was secretly hoping that the unpredictable English weather will change. But.. no, it looks like… we’re going to get poured on and blown over (well, maybe only me on the blown part).
Since I’ve never done anything like this, I had to read a few articles and talked to the people who have done it before to get an idea of what kind of equipment I needed to bring. Yes, to go somewhere like this, with a weather warning nonetheless, you have to spend a bit and make sure you prep as much as you can. I only went to Go Outdoors for mine, if you are a member, you can get pretty decent prices on good quality products, and there’s one near where I live. Win!
The good thing about being a dinky 5’2 is that sometimes… the kids’ size fits me, and they are cheaper (another win). So… here’s what I gathered from Go Outdoors:
Waterproof walking boots £35
Thermal multifunctional headwear £19.35
Waterproof gloves £22.50
2 pack walking socks £4.99
Anti-blister lining socks £9.44
Insulated waterproof pants £20
Winter legging £15
700ml vacuum flask for coffee (8-hour heat) £17.10
Grand Total: 168.38
The prices here are a mixture of member discount prices and clearance prices. With the addition to the above, I also have a base layer and a Cavell Nurses’ Trust T-shirt to wear. Can’t wait to test these out tomorrow and hopefully they all work as advertised. Some of the guys I’m going with have a waterproof spray I can use too, so that’s a plus.
The trek is estimated to take up to 7 hours. Now that I have all my gear sorted, all that’s left to do is food and drink prep. Some important things people have been saying is to try and keep your head warm, avoid puddles as much as possible, bring snacks, water and sweets to keep your energy up. Let’s do this!
“When you react, you don’t give your mind the time to get filled with emotions. You are devoid of anger, fear, and frustration; you are simply moving.”
Friday, August 24th 2018. Another exciting seminar today at the World Master Championship! See, I have a book by the man who wrote the Jiu-Jitsu University, and today, I got a chance to meet him and his brother, another multiple BJJ World Champion, ADCC and God knows what else Champion… Xande Ribeiro, in person. Eeeeekkk.
Whilst waiting, the conversation I had with other people was what to expect from this seminar and how different this would be in comparison to yesterday’s seminar with Romulo Barral (read here). See, Romulo’s seminar was very relaxed, he was laughing and joking around with people and just… relaxed. This one on the other hand… was very… strict. People did expect the ‘old school’ approach with the Ribeiro brothers but I didn’t know what to expect so the experience was a different one!
So here’s what happened…
We all had to line up. From the highest belt to the lowest in order, 7 man across, with arm extended length to each side. Took a while for people to get into this formation though since there were a lot of people. Oh, also, if your uniform is untidy, Saulo will kick you to the back of the line (of your belt rank) even if you are a black belt. Respect was what radiating from these guys. No bull shit, you respect them, you respect the art, you respect the rules. I have been seeing Saulo walking around during the time of this championship even before the seminar, Ribeiro Jiu-Jitsu have their own corner with a matted area and he never failed to bow out as he leaves the area. The 6 blades in their logo stands for 6 values which are: Family, Loyalty, Discipline, Attitude, Respect, and Honor.
After all was in order, we went to do some warm-ups, we ran around the mat, we did some whip transitions from the S sit position and a bunch of other things then learnt our first technique which was the double under pass. Saulo made a point as to why people find it hard to do this, and how people are not bothered by understanding the science behind a technique to make it effective. He simply asked everyone… ‘why would you fight the legs with your arms??’ It all made sense when he explained it. Watch the video below to understand more about the ‘Warriors Walk’.
When we were all drilling the techniques, we were stopped to greet the guests to the mat. See, if I didn’t know who they were, I probably wouldn’t think that it was a big deal… but I do know who they were and I was trying so hard not to squeal from excitement. Actually, my partner at that time and I did squeal a little. Honestly, the amount of BJJ/Judo personalities in this championship is crazy. Enter Jimmy Pedro (Judo Olympic Bronze medallist, multiple World Champion) and Travis Stevens (Judo Olympic Silver medallist, BJJ Black Belt).
Travis then proceeded to teach us how to break grips when an opponent has a double collar grip and how to attack for a takedown from there. After a few drills, Xande then took the mat again with some demonstration of guard retention, scissor sweep, back take and choke from an open guard position. There were some awesome gi, t-shirt, keyring and other novelty giveaways for attendees as well. So cool.
To finish off, Jimmy Pedro gave a speech about competition mentality, which hit home for me. Within the speech (some above), were things I knew I must do when I go compete at the Worlds the next day but perhaps still need to learn how to do. This was definitely an experience with a strong food for thought I need to digest and put into practise.
“A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.”
Wednesday, August 22nd, 2018. The World Master Championship has finally begun. I had to leave the very comfy bed at the Venetian (part 2) for a more convenient and budget-friendlier hotel nearer to the championship venue. The Westgate. From Venetian, I took the Monorail from Harrah’s and bought a one day pass which cost $13. It was nice to see the view of the strip on the rail and it only took a few minutes to arrive at Westgate.
Once I got there, the first thing I noticed was the amount of Jiu-Jitsu people at the hotel reception. Jiu-Jitsu branded everything! Hats, t-shirt, bags, shorts etc, and they were all talking about training and the competition (I was listening yes). So, unfortunately, I arrived too early. The check-in time is 3pm, and if you want an early one, it will cost you $25. Luckily they have a bag drop off area where they can keep your luggage for free. After sorting that out, I went straight to the Convention Centre next door to check out the venue. There is a shortcut from inside the hotel which you can take to get there in 5-10 minutes. Really convenient.
What a massive venue! The whole event is called Evexia Fit Fest. It’s a 4-day event which hosts BJJ championships (5 in total), seminars (also 5), bikini & physique contest and had 30 exhibitors selling products from BJJ apparel, CBD oils, wellness aid and much more. Oh my goodness, the Gi stands… if only I could buy them all… I would. But alas, reality sucks, I was on a budget!
The first thing I always do whenever I go to an IBJJF competition is to get the free goodies! I’ve entered 2 competitions in Las Vegas so I got 2 bags. What you get is a t-shirt and a cardholder inside an IBJJF branded drawstring bag. Until now, I don’t understand why IBJJF don’t have an XS size for their free t-shirt? What about us Rooster weights?
At this point, I was still watching my weight so I couldn’t buy much food yet. But what was there in terms of food? There were 4 food stands, selling hot and cold variation and drinks, one of them was an Acai stand. Water, coffee and tea were all I drank when I was there prior to the competition, the prices vary depends on where you buy them from. For example, in the venue, a bottle of water would cost $3, same when you buy on the streets in the Strip. In the hotel, they are $6, and in Downtown Vegas, you can get one for 99 cents.
A little mention:
Today was also a birthday celebration of a CFS BJJ Black Belt & Coach, a good friend to myself and our team at Fighting Fit Manchester (where I train) and just a generally cool guy who came here with his family, but still made time to coach and look after me during my stay here. I was also mind blown by how many people he knows in BJJ ha! So here he is, Mr Steve Payne.
After the little tour we did of the venue, we went to visit Sergio Penha’s gym. Steve has arranged for us to go down and train there for a bit, so we took a Lyft taxi again (easiest way to get around). It is 3.2 miles from the venue to the gym, around 8 minutes drive and cost us $9.41. The gym itself is nice, good space, nice mats, and everyone were so friendly… like, they came over to me, shook my hand, introduced themselves and made small talks. My goodness, I need to follow this example more. I got to watch some of the higher belts roll and in the end rolled with a super cool purple belt.
After the gym visit, it was time to head back to the hotel and get me checked in. How much did the Westgate cost? 5 nights + resort fees + taxes > £140.67 + £149.99 = £290.66. They will also charge a $100 refundable deposit when you check in. I took a quick video of what the room looks like below, literally lots of motion going on ha… well, I was suffering from jet lag :p
After the plane landed at McCarran Airport (part 1), I was picked up by a friendly Lyft driver. He talked to me all the way from the airport to my 1st destination, The Venetian Hotel & Resort. As a first-timer in Las Vegas, he was very eager to tell me where to go for cheap food, what attraction to see and where not to go. It was a very pleasant drive so I gave him 5 stars and with the Lyft app, you can also tip the driver. This is cool, I love technology.
“We’re heeerreeee”, he said. I’ve been in awe even before we got to the Venetian. So many things to see, so many mental notes on where I wanted to go. I got out of the taxi, and I was even more in awe… the exterior of Venetian is impressive. Before I went I did some research on YouTube, but really… you have to see it in real life to appreciate it. The design inspiration for this hotel like the name itself, is Venice, Italy.
The interior artwork, marble floors, polished pillars are just some of the things welcoming you to the hotel reception. Renaissance artwork, hand painted by famous Italian artists are on display on the frescos decorating the ceiling. Have I said I was in awe? So enchanted I was I forgot to take pictures of the interiors.
Let’s see the hotel room…
I booked a standard room through Hotel.com, it gave me an option to upgrade to a room with a view (£20) but I wasn’t too concerned about a particular view so I didn’t bother. I was planning to go explore anyway so I’d rather save the money for the resort fee.
My room was the Luxury Suite, what’s included in this were:
1 King Bed
A separate sitting area with a sofa bed, chairs, a table, a small dining table in the corner and a work area in the other corner
2 x 46inch flat screen TV, premium channels and PPV
Bathroom – bathtub, separate shower, private toilet, vanity set
I should’ve rested after all that journey from the UK, but, I was too excited all I wanted to do was explore. So, with a map in my hand, off I went to find the Gondola ride.
There is an indoor one which is located at St.Mark’s Square and an outdoor one (see map). I just love how everything is a replica but in so much detail it’s amazing to take in. There are so many restaurants and shops here, but the darn thing about going to a competition in the next 2 days meant I had to watch my weight. I’m 2 kgs under but I will take no chance by indulging in food yet just in case (cries), this is torture… for a foodie, this is horrible torture.
So then I went outside, and the thing I remembered the most is how blue the water was on the outdoor gondola ride. It was a very hot 40+ degrees and the sun was reflecting on the water, the Gondolier was singing a song. He was good. The facade on this part is a reflection of the Doge Palace, so beautiful. I just stayed there for a bit taking everything in and then again… food, cafe and restaurant signs everywhere. Damn it. I started to walk towards the Rialto Bridge and walked away from the Venetian towards Harrah’s. It’s quite funny as people here just drink alcohol casually on the streets at 4pm. Cocktail slush for sale on the streets, it’s very different, slightly peculiar but it was fun to explore so I kept on walking.
See more pictures of the Venetian on my photo journal here.
“The man who goes alone can start today, but he who travels with another must wait till that other is ready.”
Henry David Thoreau
In all my 30+ years of living… I have never been on a solo holiday. I go abroad on my own sure but at the end of the flight, I was always greeted by family or close friends, and be with them. So for me, this was a new experience and I was super excited to go. What prompted this was a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) championship, which you can read about in Part 3.
Cold, Tuesday morning drive to Manchester airport. I kept thinking about how hot it’s going to be when I land in Las Vegas, my app said 38 degrees (thank you Lord, get me on that plane). The first thing to do was to drop off my car at the airport JetPark 3, then get the free bus service to the terminal. The bus runs every 15 minutes and it takes 7-9 mins from the car park to terminal 1 minus traffic.
I booked the flight with Thomas Cook, not the cheapest option but they were the one who offered an affordable direct flight to Vegas, with one 23kg check-in baggage and food included. There are cheaper options, but I really didn’t want to bother with transfers and long waiting time.
Finally arrived in the terminal to see the longest queue I’ve ever seen. See, I can’t check in online because of visa issues so.. I had no choice but to queue up. My phone suddenly beeped with a message from Thomas Cook saying the flight was going to be delayed, didn’t say how long just that it would be less than 3 hours.. great stuff. It was 7:30am, and I’ve not had a coffee.
The good news though, after everything is checked in, the flight was only delayed for an hour if that. But it was still annoying. When we all boarded the plane, there was a bottle of water on each seat, and the leg room is not bad, but then again I’m only a dinky 5’2ft. The aircraft itself was an Airbus A330-200 with a 2,4,2 seat configuration. I didn’t choose my seat when I booked, because there is a charge for seat booking starting from £20, so I took my chances on the day and got it free of charge.
For the delay, they upgraded us to premium entertainment, which included 53 movies plus TV shows, radios, etc. Economy without an upgrade, you only get 6 choices of movies, unfortunately.
Talk about charges, they charge for everything but the in-flight meal and drink that comes with it. An awkward moment between myself and the air hostess was when she came around with a tray of drinks. I was in need of more coffee, so I asked for one… she passed it over and said, “That’s £2.85 please“. I gave her a look of confusion before realising that everyone around me actually has their card and wallet ready. Are you serious?? I’m not used to paying for drinks and snacks on the plane so this was a first.
Let’s talk about food. From the advertisement, the food looked amazing! Especially if they have been crafted by a chef just for you. My food came around, the first in-flight meal was:
Cornish ale braised beef, herb dumpling with baby baked potato
Cheese and crackers
Mint and chocolate mousse
I would give it a 2/5 rating. Maybe it’s harsh but… I’ve tasted better. Oh, and now when you eat… you can actually get coffee/tea/juice for free. Another coffee for me, but holy cow… it was not a good cup at all. 1/5 rating. The one I ordered earlier tasted slightly better, but I didn’t want to pay for more (I’m tight, I know).
The second in-flight meal included:
Egg, cress & mayonnaise finger sandwich
Cheese & spring onion finger sandwich
Seed and fruit shots
Lemon drizzle cake
I was disappointed. I was hoping for a bigger meal but, the sandwich was literally a strip. They did say ‘finger’ sandwich but I was hoping for a bigger finger sandwich. Oh well. It was at this moment that I cursed myself for not buying snacks before I board. Lesson learned.
After 10 hours and 50 minutes on air, the plane has finally touched down in Las Vegas. It landed after 1pm, so the weather was at its peak at 40 degrees. Lovely. I downloaded an app called Lyft before I boarded, so it was quick and easy to go and find the ‘car share’ area which is located on the first floor across the walk bridge. Then off I went to my first destination in Las Vegas. The luxurious Venetian.