Abu Dhabi Days 2 and 3

So I’ve already shared my perspective on the competition (read it here!) so now I will share a little bit about all the rest of the stuff surrounding the competition.

img_2606Finishing Day 1: After I competed, I went back to my hotel room. I was soooo hungry, but my need for sleep won out over the need for food. So I just downed a bunch of water and passed out from about 5 pm until midnight. I then looked at the clock, rolled over, and went back to sleep until 5:30 am. I did have the foresight to purchase food from a grocery store on the way to my hotel, so I inhaled a bunch of fruit and a rice biryani.

Day 2: My friend, Itzel, invited me to come train that morning with her. She needed to get some light rounds in with someone who wouldn’t break her – so I took a cab to meet up with her at the officers club where all the cool kids (aka black belts) were housed. They had matted out what looked to be a racketball court and it was just an open mat of awesomeness. I saw a lot of people I knew and surprised a few team mates (I’m talking to you DJ and Mike) who did not know I was competing. Of course, it was the black belt hotel so I was basically a minnow in a room full of killer sharks. And of course I loved every minute of it! After training we had food and just hung out for a bit before I started getting sleepy (stupid jet lag), and decided to take a cab back to my hotel.

Side Note: taxis in Abu Dhabi and Dubai are super convenient and cheap! I’d pay under $5 for a 15 minute ride. Cheap even by my standards! Most all of the drivers speak a good amount of English and I would just show them on google maps where I wanted to go and then off we went. The drivers generally do not talk with you other than to verify where you want to go and then to tell you the cost at the end of the ride.


Day 3: I met up with Itzel at the competition venue (we were hang out buddies this trip). She wanted to watch the country qualifiers because she would be competing against the winner on the following day. This was also her day for weigh ins so we waited around for that and met up with a few other friends who were also weighing in. She was good for weight and then we went and grabbed a bit of food from the trucks outside the venue. I got a shawarma – what kind I have no idea. I just told them to make it good because I was hungry. They delivered!

If you are a lady competing in Abu Dhabi, you are required to wear a bodysuit’esque style undergarment under your gi for weigh ins and competition. I squeaked through with just a rash guard, but apparently if your rash guard rides up you will be disqualified on the spot. The organization does have approved one piece suits available that you can purchase, and I know a lot of the ladies choose to wear a one piece bathing suit. So… bring on the wedgies!

So closes this chapter. For days 4 and 5, I will talk about competition results for everyone, a visit to the Grand Mosque (yes, I wore the veil), the grand finale of black belt matches on the big stage, a beach visit, and some cultural observations. I’ll then devote an entire post just to the desert safari adventure  before moving on to Dubai. So until then, here’s a teaser!



Coming Soon! Boston, Atlanta, and… Tokyo!?

It has been a huge dream of mine to go compete in Tokyo, Japan at the Pan Asian Championships. Well it has been renamed the “Asian Championships” now, but that doesn’t bother me too much because I’m freaking going this year!

This all came about very suddenly. Before an appointment two days ago, my client was admiring my medals from the Fuji tournament and it made him ask if I have competed in Japan. I told him “sadly not yet” and explained that the event will be held in 6 weeks and I’m going to have to miss it again this year. He asked if it was just a money issue keeping me from going and then offered a trade. He used frequent flyer miles to book my ticket, and in exchange he and his wife are set for their next year worth of appointments!

I think all parties are happy with how this worked out! I’ll be working my end of the deal for a while, but it is definitely worth it to me!

I will arrive on September 9, compete on the 12th or 13th, and fly home on the 16th. I am very excited to get to test myself against a whole new group of competitors that I might never get to slap hands with otherwise!

Other Plans:

I have decided that the day after I compete I will hike to the top of Mt Fuji since the climbing season is closing on the 15th of September and I’ll have just enough time to get up and down before the trails close. I’ve climbed a mountain before and remember it as a tough, and hugely rewarding experience. This will be about an extra 2,000 ft higher of elevation so I will definitely plan to take my time on the way up! I remember that on the last mountain I climbed I was starting to notice the thinning of the air for the last 1,000 feet to the summit.

Since my plane lands in the early afternoon, through the power of caffeine I plan to keep myself awake starting at least 6 hrs away from landing. This way by the time I clear customs, pick up my rental mobile wifi unit, navigate my way on the metro to my hotel, check in, find a ramen shop for dinner, and then relax a bit in the traditional Japanese bath at my hotel… I should be ready to sleep by 8 so I can skip the jet lag as much as possible.

I’ll have two full days to do whatever I like before the competition begins. I’m thinking the first day should be a good explore day and for the second maybe a visit to the Tokyo Disneyland would be in order (if budget permits!)

If anyone has any suggestions for things to do, people to see, places to eat… I am all ears!

Make sure to follow my Instagram page for a steady stream of awesome photos!

My Hotel:

I’m never one for spending much on accommodations since the more I can save in that area, the more I have to spend on food – besides, I’ll be out exploring all day anyhow! When I’m traveling abroad I usually stay in hostel type accommodations.

The place I have chosen to stay for my trip to Japan, is a capsule hotel. Think of it as a train sleeper bed, or a navy bunk. I stow my luggage in a locker and climb into my capsule which in this case consists of a tatami floor, a rolled up futon mattress, and enough space to sit up, lie down, and turn around – so it’s like a properly sized dog crate!

The perks with this place are that I’m staying in a ladies only floor, and the hotel has traditional bath houses, saunas, free wifi, really good network with local businesses, easy metro access, and a free vending machine in the lobby that dispenses coffee, tea, and miso soup. I get all that, with a bike rental included for just 20 USD per night!

Busy Busy Busy!

I wrote out my travel/training/competition schedule for the next couple months, and it made me feel very busy. Here it is!

August 19: fly to Boston and see family
August 22: Compete at the Boston Open with the family cheering me on
August 23: Overnight bus to DC for training
August 28: Overnight bus to Atlanta
August 29, 30: Compete at the Atlanta Open Gi/No Gi Competition
August 31: Take bus back home to Nashville
September 8: Start flight to Tokyo
September 9: Arrive in Tokyo
September 12, 13: Compete at the Asian Championships
September 16: Fly back home to Nashville
September 24: Fly to Las Vegas
September 25, 26: Compete at Master World Championships:
September 28: Fly from Vegas to DC
October 2: Take bus from DC to New York City
October 3: Compete at No Gi Pans
October 6: Fly home to Nashville

By the time I get home in October, I likely won’t have a dime to my name.

Totally worth it!

Lisbon – Castles, Food, and Training

IMG_1984Yesterday I spent my day up at the Castelo de S. Jorge. It was breathtaking, and not just because of the long climb up the hill and through the Alfama neighborhood (I took the roundabout route).

In the midst of my wanderings, I came across a gorgeous cathedral and just had to pop in. I sat down for a few minutes then lit a candle before continuing on with my uphill hike.

LisbonWhen I eventually made my way up to the top  of the hill and entered the castle grounds, the view just made me have to stop and stare for quite a while.

I was planning to take the tour but I completely misread the sign. It said the English tour was at 13 which I somehow translated in my brain to 1:30 so I showed up 30 minutes too late. Yea I know, I’m a dunce.

I stopped for a snack at the café before crossing the bridge into the castle itself. This was great fun as I got to climb up and down these steep staircases, many without railings, which made the adrenaline junkie in me very content.

One of my favorite things to do is eat! So you can bet I have been making the rounds! Here are a few highlights!
IMG_1248Pork at O Pote! I had been thinking about this particular meal since my previous trip to Lisbon two years ago! I was a very happy foodie!

The potatoes were a bit different than I remembered, but it was still amazing! Good simple comfort food!


Seafood RiceSeafood Rice at Casa de India! I was able to identify shrimp, mussels, crab, octopus, barnacles, and even a couple of whole prawns! I realized after I ate this that maybe I should have tested myself for a shellfish allergy before this trip but I ended up being just fine!

Just so you know, if you are in a more traditional Portuguese dining facility, you will need to flag down your waiter for the bill. Just something to be aware of if you are used to being hovered over! The service is excellent, you are just left to enjoy your meal in peace until you have a request to make. I rather like it that way!

GelatoI stopped at a yummy looking gelato shop named Amorino and discovered that they will sculpt your gelato into the shape of a flower! You just choose your size and you can choose as many favors as you want. I saw that they had my favorite Dutch spice cookie as a flavor so I took a base of that, plus caramel, and finished it off with chocolate.

I may have to go back tomorrow…

Pastéis de nataOf course I went back to Manteigaria for more Pastéis de nata! I found that they will actually sell packages of them to go, so I may purchase some tomorrow evening and see if they last the trip home!

I also imbibed in numerous sandwiches and other bits of randomness, but I promised just the highlights!


Jiu Jitsu
Today I took a bus ride out toward Belém in order to train at the Royce Gracie Academy. The instructor there is Hélio Perdigão and I highly recommend this school to any Jiu Jitsu practitioner visiting Lisbon! I got some fun rolls in and there are good variety of sizes and experience levels levels present.

In Conclusion
There are so many things to talk about in regards to this trip. The street performers, the architecture, the culture, the fashion, etc. While I am here and not wanting to stay holed up writing and editing, I am just giving general highlights. Once I get home I will start going into more details.

Tomorrow is my last full day here in Lisbon. I have a plan. It shall hopefully prove to be most excellent!

Lisbon – Sweets and Sunsets

I meant to do an update on my adventure yesterday at the zoo, but I became distracted by sleep and crashed out before I could put two words together! So here is a two in one update!

The Zoo

Lisbon ZooIt was a bit different than the Zoo where I grew up! One thing I noticed was how much more fun it is when people don’t assume that you are going to do something stupid like hop the guardrail and go try to climb on the buffalo.

I spent probably 3 hours at the zoo, finishing up by watching the dolphin and sea lion show. One thing you must do is ride on the lift that will give you the grand tour of the place from the air. You get to go directly over the animal pens (including the Lions!) and the view you get of the city is just awesome.

MeerkatI had the meerkat group in a minor uproar as I discovered I can imitate their peeping communication noise well enough that they started trying to find me. Too cute!

I was tickled pink to find that they have a pair of White Tigers! I wasn’t able to get a good picture of them however as they were snoozing bellies to the sun behind a chain link fence. Chain link is not friendly to photographs!

One thing I will say is that I think half the zoo was shut down for the winter. I wish I could see it when it’s fully up and running!


Pastéis de Nata
Pastéis de nataPlease note: if you are ever wandering aimlessly through Lisbon and you see a small shop with a line out down the sidewalk. Join it. Even if you can’t see what people are waiting for, it will most definitely be worth it!

This line happened to be for Manteigaria, a shop that apparently does nothing but create pastéis de nata. I ordered two and an espresso and slid over to the standing counter to enjoy.

Pastéis de nata and espressoI took a cue from one of the little Portuguese grannies and decided to try one with cinnamon on it. I think my life changed a little when I bit into it. I kinda gasped and inhaled a bit of the cinnamon and was coughing randomly for the next hour.

The sweet gooey/crispy awesomeness was perfect paired with the European style espresso. I may accidentally wander in that direction again tomorrow.


The Walk
My favorite thing to do when I’m visiting a city is to just pick a direction and just head that way exploring whatever catches my eye (or more often nose!) along the way. This time I made my way through the Chiado area stopping to take pictures with my big old pink cased iPad (anyone want to get me a big girl camera?) and just enjoying myself. Here is a collection of a few of my favorite photos from that walk!








Lisbon – The Underground

Brief summary of my experience at the Europeans:
I managed to lose my first round. I was up on the scoreboard and still do not understand how my opponent received pass and mount points when I had my xguard hook in deep enough to still lift her leg. Nothing I can do about it now though but move on to the next thing! The Atlanta Open is next Saturday!

After moping around in my hotel room, I decided to quit being a baby and get out into the city! I am staying in the Chiado area and wandered into a pastry shop for some goodies that were awesome enough to chase away the gloomies for a while!


After this, I took the subway to meet up with a fellow Raijin Army member, Will. He doesn’t like being in photos so I shall refrain from putting up a photo and will instead share a picture of the meal I had during our hang out time at O Pote! I’m a very simple person. All it takes to keep me happy is good food and good company! I’m kind of like a hobbit in that regards!

The Underground:
During my last trip two years ago, I took a cab from the airport to my hotel and missed out on the subway stations of the vermelha (red) line. I decided I shall have to pick a day to just ride the subway and stop at each station in order to take pictures. Each station is designed and decorated completely differently from the others! Here are some photos I took of the Olaias stop! The colors just are breathtaking!




What’s Next?
I think I shall go to the zoo tomorrow! It’s on a subway line I haven’t visited yet so I think I shall ride there, and then walk back afterwards. It’s only 5k and will allow me to enjoy the sights above ground some – and I will likely stop at some random food place as well!
Sunday I want to visit the Aquarium, and then do some training next week. I am here until the 29th and plan to enjoy every minute of it!

Sunday Fun Day

Finally wrapping up an immensely full day!

Did circuit training this morning and it was a blast! It used to be just myself and Ruth, but a few of the other ladies have started joining in on the action.

Here’s the video we made today. I edited it down a bit, but it was a 6 minute circuit repeated 3 times. Coach wants us working up to 5 rounds with a one minute rest.

I’ve come to the determination after watching myself on film that I some odd speech mannerisms. I’m totally gonna rock it though!

I’m going to talk with coach tomorrow about creating a time slot for this circuit training other than just on Sunday. Maybe Tuesday and Thursday evenings methinks?

Video Shoot
We did filming after circuits for the upcoming “Move of The Week” video series. Now just gotta wait for the intro to be completed so I can get that rolling!

And Now For Something Completely Different…
I spent the rest of the day designing a webpage for a local business. I got it all done and they were quite thrilled with it, and I get paid tomorrow! Yayness!

Grocery Shopping
I’m not cutting weight anymore, but can’t bring myself to junk out. I just stocked up on poultry, eggs, and some açai bowl fixings. On that note I close this blog post. My blender is calling!


Black Belt Conspiracy

Well I had some good training over the weekend. No rolling, but lots of biking and kettlebells. I have added two new things to my kettlebell circuit on Sunday. I’ve added snatches, and then this:

Yea I know, it’s not kettlebells… but it’s just as awesome! This was my last rep of this exercise and I think I took a little bit of aggression out on those poor innocent ropes!

When I got home last night, I made up some Acai – I’m working on perfecting my recipe and I’m pretty close to perfection with this latest batch!


Ah sweet glory!
Ah sweet glory!

I made two varieties. One with pineapple, and one with blackberry. The blackberry was the winner for sure! Wish I had a good ice cream maker so I could make it nice and smooth. Oh well, still amazing!

photo (7)I got to roll with three black belts today and have come to a conclusion. They all got together and decided “hey you know what would be funny? Let’s all do nothing but knee bars and heel hooks on Nicholle today!” They are out to get me. It’s some kind of conspiracy! What’s next? Toe Holds and Biceps Slicers???? Aaaaaaahhhhh!!!!

The only other option is that I’m doing something to give it to them… But that’s impossible! I am perfect in every way!


I’ve had a gnarly headache off and on since Worlds. I think it’s from getting slammed twice in my first match. I’m gonna try seeing the chiro tomorrow to see if there’s anything he can do to help!

Off To Worlds!

Well I’m on the plane to L.A. right now. I’ve already had my nap, so now seems a good time to compose something amazing.

I have standby tickets and managed to get the last seat on a non-stop flight. As an added bonus, it’s in business class! Yay leg room!

I’m ready for this. So ready! I’ll be competing on Thursday at about 5:20. Javier will be up at 11:45 Friday morning.

So yea, I’m kinda pumped! And I have 4 dinners planned for Thursday night – no joke, they are mapped out.

That is all I feel like sharing at this time. My next update will likely be results!

Nutrition Nutrition Nutrition

I had an epiphany after the Dallas competition. The last tournament I was in, and actually felt good and energized, was Europe. Since then, at every tournament I have been gassed halfway through my second match. Not winded, just exhausted and weak. I’ve been pushing through all 4 matches out of sheer willpower.

So I sat down to analyze what I did differently for Europe that I have been missing since then. Conclusion: calorie intake the day before.

When preparing for Europe, I spent the 6 months prior doing circuit training, and monitoring my weight. I got on the plane with several pounds to spare – and I was flying Alitalia airlines…

Man those Italians know how to feed you! I had a hot meal/snack every few hours. If I was asleep, I’d wake up with food next to me!

In any case, I had so much fuel in my system that I had plenty of energy for all my matches the next day!

Since Europe, I’m sad to say I have not been paying as close attention to my weight – and have basically been fasting the day before competing in order to make weight. Not so smart eh?

I’m correcting this problem. I’m already down 4 lbs since competing in Dallas. I plan to get onto the plane in two weeks with at least 3 lbs to spare. And I’m gonna EAT!

Right now my diet is consisting of lots of fresh fruit smoothies, kale, legumes, and an awesome protein shake after training. I’ve also added in rice and Ezekiel bread as my primary carb source.

Favorite Smoothie (to date)
2 bananas
1/2 c blueberries
1/2 c unsweetened vanilla almond milk
1 scoop Vega One chocolate protein powder