São Paulo marathon 2014 – better luck next time!

After months of training, being careful with my diet, and resting completely in the final week, I participated in the São Paulo marathon yesterday.

However, I didn’t manage to finish the race this time.

I have completed the London marathon a couple of times before and I’m used to 10km and half-marathon distance runs so the marathon is longer than usual, but it’s not a once-in-a-lifetime challenge. I had trained really well and was looking forward to it. In fact, based on my training runs I was expecting to do it this time in about 3.5 hours.

But once I started running I knew something was wrong. Within 3-4km I didn’t feel at all as if I was warming up. By that point I should have been hitting a regular pace and enjoying the early part of the run, but I was feeling really odd, a little out of breath and way too hot. That wasn’t helped by the water stops only appearing every 5km – so I knew I wanted some water and had to keep running to find some right at the start of the race.

It was hot yesterday, that’s true, but we started at 8am when it was about 27c. It did go up about another 10c, but in the early stages I don’t think the heat was my problem. I just felt like I couldn’t warm up or get going – as if there was no energy in the tank.

I rested for six days immediately before the marathon to ensure any little injuries were fixed – I had a niggling foot pain and a cut on my leg that was healing up – and all this was fixed. In the week before the rest I had run two half-marathons and several 10kms in training.

During the marathon, I kept going until 12km, but it was hopeless. I still didn’t feel at all like I had warmed up and I couldn’t get a regular pace going, it was like a constant struggle. I quit the race, took off my number, walked away from the track and found a taxi to take me home.

I then went to bed and slept. I’d had a really good sleep the night before, in bed by about 9pm, but I just felt shattered. Clearly something was wrong – whether I had a bit of a cold or something I don’t know, but the moment I got back from the race I just crashed out for a couple of hours.

It’s a shame as I was looking forward to the race. I’m feeling OK now so I don’t have any illness I can actually detect. I’ll head out for a 10km around town this evening just to see how I feel and to get the trainers back on.

I knew that I probably could have run and walked the race, just to get the medal regardless of how long it took, but I was keen to do this marathon in quite a good time given how much I’ve trained for it. I’m also aware that if I had forced myself to carry on for another 30km when I wasn’t feeling well then I might have ended up injured – because I knew something was wrong, but I couldn’t put my finger on why I just didn’t have any speed.

The Rio marathon is in July next year and I’ve got my eye on a few half-marathons before then so I’ll try again, but this time all I can say is that despite being well prepared I just didn’t feel right on the day. Better luck next time eh..?

A birthday surprise in São Paulo!

It’s been a week now since a group of friends surprised me in São Paulo with an Elvis-themed birthday celebration party. I thought I was on my way to the theatre to see a play when my wife said that we needed to call in at a bar to collect a friend.

Only once we got inside, the pub was packed full of friends and family all waiting to celebrate my birthday!

It was a really special moment. I know that Angelica visited São Paulo several times arranging this now and she must have been emailing and chasing people for weeks. When I saw everyone there and realised that we were not going to the theatre I was a bit stunned – I think I probably just looked shocked when everyone was singing ‘Happy Birthday’.

It’s at times like this – when you can see a big crowd of friend who all got involved to set this up – that the importance of friends and family really hits home.

I’m really looking forward to my brother, sister-in-law, and nephews all coming over to Brazil next Easter. I have lived in Brazil for over three years now and nobody from my family has visited. It’s really expensive – I’m well aware of that – but this is also why it felt nice to just see an entire pub full of people all singing happy birthday.

The pub we went to doesn’t even open on Saturdays usually – Angelica convinced the owner to open up because a big crowd would be ordering food and drinks at the party.

I’m really grateful to Angie for arranging this. It’s one of those crazy moments in life that I will never forget. And it was also really fantastic to see everyone who came – some had travelled hundreds of miles to be there.

Thank you everyone for making my birthday weekend a lot of fun, I really enjoyed it and I appreciate all the effort that went into arranging the party and just being there!

Lake Villas in Amparo – my birthday 2014

I visited a new hotel this week. It was my birthday on Wednesday and I usually try to get away for a few days around my birthday, but with it falling in the middle of the week it seemed a better idea to just take a single day off and to check in someplace relaxing.

Because I didn’t want to spend a long time travelling, my wife found a place quite close to our home. It might be close, but it’s still nice to getaway and to let someone else do the cooking and cleaning for a day.

Fortunately our house is in the countryside anyway, so there are a lot of nice places nearby. We chose the Lake Villas Charm hotel at Amparo. It’s actually about halfway between two towns called Amparo and Morungaba in rural São Paulo.

I had vaguely heard of this hotel because I see signs for it on the main road near Amparo. It’s about 25km from our house so I see the signs fairly often, but I had never seen the hotel.

It was quite remote so that’s no surprise. To access it, you need to leave the main road and enter a dirt track that runs for about 10km into the countryside. The hotel is not really as you might imagine a normal hotel to be – a big building containing hundreds of rooms.

Arriving there, it was more like entering a golf course. The reception building was close to the entrance, but it was a separate small building just for the purpose of greeting visitors. The hotel itself is laid out in enormous grounds featuring lawns, woods, waterfalls, and forest – as far as the eye can see is basically all the grounds of the hotel.

Various buildings are dotted around the grounds. A spa and gym, a café, a restaurant… they are just scattered around and are usually placed next to features such as a lake or waterfall.

The rooms are not rooms at all. Each guest basically gets a house – an entire house that is so well equipped they look like something out of a home decoration magazine. Each house has a terrace with hammocks and beautiful furniture.

Lake Villas Charm Hotel

The place is so big that you need bicycles or golf carts to get around – we opted for a golf cart. After arriving and checking in we headed off to an enormous lake and swam in the water with a black swan. We drove around the grounds and explored a waterfall and some islands, then went to the spa to swim in the pool and relax on the terrace watching the waterfall.

But aside from this being probably the largest and most enjoyable hotel I have stayed anywhere in the world – and I’ve been to a lot of hotels – what I really noticed at this place was the dedication to customer service. It’s funny that the best customer service I have ever experienced turns out to be at a place that is just a half-hour drive down the road from home.

Here are a few examples:

  • When we arrived at the room, there was a letter from the manager of the hotel with his personal mobile phone number saying we could call or text him directly at any time if there was anything he could help with.
  • When the booking was made, my wife had mentioned that I’m vegetarian. When we arrived at the hotel restaurant the evening for dinner, the waiter greeted me by name and explained how the chef had prepared five off-menu options especially for me in case I wanted more choice of vegetarian dishes. This was not just an extra risotto – they had some really special options.
  • When my wife told the waiter that the mint in her pre-dinner Mojito tasted incredible, he arranged for the hotel gardener to show her where it was grown – and he pulled out a few entire plants for her to take home.
  • My wife had mentioned my birthday when booking the hotel, but had not made any specific plans for a cake, yet after our dinner the waiter arrived with a delicious chocolate cake and a card offering birthday wishes from the team.

Of course, any hotel could copy these actions. For example, a policy could be created to always bring a cake to a guest when the restaurant team is aware of a birthday, but what struck me at this hotel was that nothing appeared to be forced – it was an attitude rather than a policy.

I have never seen a general manager offering to accept messages via Whatsapp and the gardener did not have to go around pulling out plants, but if these people work within an environment where the culture is to try helping guests however possible then why wouldn’t they do that?

Great hospitality depends on the level of service to customers and hotels are in the frontline. Travelling guests are often tired on arrival and require service 24/7, which can often lead to situations where the old adage that the customer is always right just plainly wrong. The customer is not always right when he is jet-lagged, exhausted, and light-headed after some chilled Chablis.

The motto of the Ritz Carlton group is: “We are Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen.” This strikes me as the perfect attitude for the hotel business. The guest is not more powerful than the waiter because he is paying the bill. The hotel team can make your stay memorable for the right or wrong reasons and I’m pleased to say that for my recent birthday the team at the Lake Villas in Amparo made it a fantastic stay.

Check their website here.

2014-09-24 15.57.29

The Picture of John Gray: for Wilde fans in London

One of my favourite books has always been ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ by Oscar Wilde. It’s the only novel Wilde ever wrote and has such a preposterous idea at its centre that it could almost be science fiction.

For those who don’t know anything of Dorian Gray, it is about a beautiful man who never ages in person, yet his portrait – hidden away in an attic – gets older in place of the man changing. All Dorian’s sin and hedonism is absorbed by the portrait – he can live the most extreme life and yet remain young and attractive.

Oscar Wilde was actually infatuated by a man called John Gray – they had a brief relationship in 1889. Wilde used Gray’s name for the main character in the novel, but the actual relationship ended and nothing more was heard of the real Gray.

A new play is set to open next month at the Red Lion Theatre in Islington, London, titled ‘The Picture of John Gray’. Written by CJ Wilmann the play aims to explore the real relationship between Wilde and Gray and what happened to the real John Gray.

I really loved this book and even the modern update by Will Self ‘Dorian’  is a great read. In that version, the work of art is a web installation rather than a portrait. When I read that book, I registered the URL for the art installation as featured in the novel. I was surprised the publisher had not reserved it and I left it pointing at my personal home page.

Eventually I tired of annoyed Will Self fans emailing me asking why I had any right to own the URL featured in the novel. I let my ownership of the URL expire. I don’t know who bought it after me, but perhaps I should have offered it to the publisher directly.

It’s a shame that I’m almost certainly going to miss this new play as I live in Brazil and have no plans to be in London during August. In fact, I’m actually planning to be touring the Pantanal in August. However, I’m sure the script will be available online soon.

If you are in London, do go and let me know what the play is like! :-) And don’t forget to check out this song about Dorian written by my friend Enda Mulloy and his band, The BibleCode Sundays…

Details of the play, including the venue and tickets, can be found here.

Grave of Oscar Wilde

Help me name my new book about blogging!

Can you help me please? I need help naming my new book!

I’ve been working on a new book about blogging for a while now and I expect to finish it off next week – the main draft at least. The focus is on content marketing and how more CEOs than ever are blogging and appreciating that blogs and social media are a very important way of reaching out to their customers *and* the people who influence their customers.

I need to think of a title for the book so does anyone have any ideas? I was thinking of ideas like ‘Your boss – the blogger’ but I need something catchy and creative… all comments appreciated and if I do actually borrow an idea then I’ll make sure you get a credit in the book!

You can comment here on the blog or if you follow this link to my Facebook then feel free to comment there – thanks in advance!

4867847109_ca922b7a75_z

Let’s get Ronan on Secret Sessions!

Online music video channel Secret Sessions is planning to feature some new unsigned artists based on them being recommended by the Twitter community.

This is a great chance to get my mate Ronan onto the channel. Please help if you can. Here is what you need to do…

  1. Go and follow @Secret_Sessions on Twitter
  2. Tweet them to say you want to see @rmacmanusmusic on the channel! 
  3. That’s it! Just do it ASAP – before the end of April!

Thanks! I’d recommend having a listen to Ronan’s great ‘War on Peace’ EP. You can find it on iTunes here.

ronan macmanus (1)

Marcos Carvalho is the last Brazilian in the world that should talk about the World Cup

Mark Hillary:

Excellent comment from Mauricio on his blog… do read this please!

Originally posted on A Brazilian Operating in This Area:

Just sent this to website Matador after they published that sickening Brazilian tea party article by Marcos Carvalho, saying Brazil should be the last country to host the World Cup because it is on the verge of becoming AN EVIL COMMUNIST DICTATORSHIP. I know this won’t give me any new friends, but I thought publishing it here would help the few international journalists that read this blog. After all, there are Brazilian journalists who can express themselves in English, there are good sources for all sorts of information and that gentleman, who sees it all from Washington D.C., isn’t one of them.

Here is the content of the email. I have added a few more comments for the sake of clarity:

I wish our first contact were because of something nicer, but I’ve written to talk about this pathetic article you’ve published. It was written by radical right-winger and designer…

View original 1,505 more words