It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine

Hola, chicos! We’re back from Argentina and over the next few days I’ll be responding to all of your wonderful comments, posting a few more pictures, talking about where I’m at with my running, and more. Things are pretty hectic around our house right now, but I’m going to do my best to keep my head on straight! So here we go.

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As I write this, I’m on a plane heading from Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world, back to Buenos Aires. And although I’m a bit sick of using the word “surreal” to describe different parts of this trip, that’s really the only word I can think of to describe “el fin del mundo” – the end of the world, as Ushuaia is called. After an amazing few days in El Calafate, I was honestly a bit worried about heading to Ushuaia. How could it possibly measure up to what we had just seen and done? It was bound to be a letdown, I thought.

Thanks to the spectacular scenery, once again, and some new friends, it definitely was not a letdown. I don’t know why I doubt myself, because the internet and TripAdvisor haven’t failed me yet. Saturday was AJ’s birthday, so I made him pick the activity for the day (he’s not a person who loves to plan things in general). Well, my friends, this is where I went wrong. Bless his heart, the man gets motion sick very easily – on planes, boats, cars, buses, whatever – and yet he chose a 4×4 tour. This means we would be basically going over super rocky back roads and on windy mountain trails in an SUV. It’s one of the most popular activities in Ushuaia and yes, to me, it sounded cool. But I know my husband, and I knew it could only end poorly. He insisted he would be fine and who was I to stop him? What the birthday boy wants, he gets. Spoiler alert: the birthday boy did not even make it to the mountain roads before he started to feel sick, and the tour guide had to call us a cab and continue on with the rest of the group. Womp womp. I felt awful for him, but thanks to my research, I had a backup activity ready to go for just such an occasion. Bless his heart. The rest of the day turned out to be a pretty crazy and interesting adventure, as you’ll see below.

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We took a ferry ride through the Beagle Channel – the water body that connects the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean at the bottom of South America! Charles Darwin sailed through here.

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If you go to Tierra Del Fuego National Park in Ushuaia, you can also visit the southernmost post office in the world and get “El Cartero” (the postman) to stamp your passport!

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We met Cristina and Stefano, who are from Italy, at the bar the night before and became fast friends! Between their broken English and our broken Spanish (they spoke Italian, French, and Spanish), we communicated just fine. We ended up going hiking the next day  at Tierra del Fuego National Park and spent a lot of time together before we left. AJ is now learning Italian on Duolingo so we can go visit them.

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I reached the end of the world! We walked to the end of the Pan American Highway, which stretches from Alaska to the end of Argentina, and I grabbed this photo at the end of the walking trail. 

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After the 4×4 incident of 2015, our backup activity was a hike to Laguna Esmeralda, which came highly reviewed. The reviews mentioned it being a “little muddy” – um, that’s one way to describe it!

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The reward was worth it, although my shoes will never be the same. I’ll let you slide this time, Trip Advisor.

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Laguna Esmeralda in all her glory. I don’t even mind the unfortunately placed sun.

LEAVE A COMMENT: Make AJ feel better and tell him about your worst birthday!

Say hello to HOKA!

If you’ve been running for more than about 3 days, you know that your running shoes are basically sacred. Once you find a pair that works for you, you stick with it til that inevitable horrible moment when the company makes some weird change that ruins the shoe or, even worse, discontinues it forever. I’ve been a pretty diehard Mizuno Wave Nirvana fan since I discovered them after my second marathon, but guess what? That shoe no longer exists. When I got news that it had been discontinued, I started hoarding pairs that I found on the internet in an effort to delay the inevitable. After my back surgery, I decided I needed to branch out a bit – after all, all the running magazines say that running in two different types of shoes can reduce your risk of injury by up to 40%, right? I think we call agree that if I need anything, it’s to reduce my risk of injury.

One kind of shoes that I had never tried, but had always thought about, was the HOKA ONE ONE brand. They’re a pretty big deal in the Marathon Maniacs and 50 States Marathon Club communities, which makes sense – if you’re going to run marathons on back to back weekends or days, the more cushion you have, the better! The shoe started out as being very popular among ultramarathon runners and trail runners who loved the huge amount of cushioning that the shoe provides, which helps when you’re running 100 miles or over a ton of uneven surfaces. When I first heard about them a couple of years ago, they were just breaking into the road running culture but had a reputation for looking kind of like…well…clown shoes! The huge amount of cushioning and unorthodox design of the shoe definitely did not make for a traditional profile, although they look much different (and a lot less clown-esque) now.

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Unorthodox – yes. Super cushiony – also yes.

As much as the brand intrigued me, I was also nervous – I hadn’t had much luck with shoes with a low heel-toe differential, which means that the difference in elevation between the heel and toe of the shoe is very small. I had tried some slightly more minimalist shoes in the past – think Saucony Kinvaras and the like – with not such great results, but I wondered if it had something to do with the lack of cushioning in those types of shoes as compared to the heel-toe differential.

About a month ago, HOKA ONE ONE reached out to me and a very small group of other bloggers in hopes of starting a brand ambassador program. I was given the opportunity to try out and model of shoe that I wanted to see if it worked for me, and then decide if I wanted to join the program. To be honest? I was intrigued, but extremely, extremely skeptical. I lose toenails very easily if the toebox of my shoes is too small, and the Wave Nirvanas (R.I.P) were the only kind of shoe I had ever found that did not cause that to happen at distances greater than a half marathon. Plus, the shoes have so much more cushioning than I was used to, and I’m used to a lot. It’s almost like running on platforms! Finally, I was worried about what the low heel-toe differential would feel like, since Wave Nirvanas have a very high differential.

I tested out a pair of the Stinson Lite model on a few short runs at first. Based on the recommendations on the website, it seemed like the right pair for a road runner like me who is a moderate overpronater. Although I liked the cushioning, I felt like I needed some more arch support. Fortunately, I had a pair of insoles from Insoles and Beyond that I could put in, and they immediately felt better. I gradually built up my runs until I felt confident about doing a long run in them, and I completed 15 miler in them! My longest run since December and I felt no pain or soreness the next day plus didn’t have any sore toenails! It was then that I knew that Hokas might be great solution for me.

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After 15 miles in those sweet kicks, I knew it was a match!

So, I have officially signed on as a HOKA ONE ONE brand ambassador! I’m excited about this partnership because of what the company represents. This is a company devoted to helping its runners stay injury free and on the road as much as possible – who doesn’t want that? After announcing my partnership on Facebook and Instagram (as well as briefly here on the blog), I’ve been so excited to hear from so many of you who love your Hokas as well! Here’s what my partnership means for you: you’ll be hearing from me occasionally about different races that I may attend or participate in as a HOKA ONE ONE ambassador – they sponsor some pretty awesome events, including the L.A. Marathon! I may host some giveaways or mention new products as they become available, but I will not be doing a bunch of sponsored posts or product reviews. I’ll link up with HOKA ONE ONE from time to time on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and I’ll be writing some original content for their website as well. Basically, you’ll be the first to know about all the great new stuff happening at this company! And if the ambassador program expands in the future, I’ll be sure to tell you all about that, too.

LEAVE A COMMENT: What kind of running shoes do you wear? Have you ever needed to switch brands? What questions do you have for me about HOKA?

Disclosure: I receive occasional pairs of free shoes in my role as a HOKA ONE ONE ambassador. You can come to my house and borrow them sometime if you want to try them out.

“Always look with your eyes first, then the camera.”

You guys, this trip is incredible. I’m normally constantly worrying about getting workouts in, keeping up with everyone’s blog posts and Facebook (even if I don’t always comment…I always creep on y’all), and all sorts of little things. Right now, I’m exhausted and loving it. I don’t have time to do anything other than our daily activities and eat delicious food and drink tons of wine, and you know what? It’s not so bad. Yes, part of me would like to be running right now – and I think my back/hip/leg/whatever has probably improved to the point where I could try, but I’m too busy. And I’m ok with that. I’m writing right now while AJ takes a nap, as apparently my excessive planning of activities has worn him out. If I do say so myself, I plan a mean trip. Let me know if you want me to plan yours because I absolutely will. It’s my favorite thing after negotiating for cars.

Ok, so this post has a few pictures from our trip to El Calafate (as always, follow me on Instagram for more)! This tiny resort town is in the Santa Cruz Province in the Patagonia region of Argentina. You know, like the clothing brand? It was inspired by this place, and it’s easy to see why.  While in El Calafate, we went horseback riding, trekked on a glacier, and went for one of the most stunning hikes I’ve ever been on! And y’all know I love to hike.

The title of this post comes from the slice of humble pie I was served by our glacier trekking guide. We were invited to come one by one up to the edge of a crevice in the glacier and look at the bright blue water below. Not even thinking, I immediately got my camera out to prepare for the perfect shot. “Uh uh uh, always look with your eyes first, then the camera,” the guide said. I was so embarrassed to be one of “those” people caught up with getting the perfect shot and forgetting to actually look at what I’m seeing, especially since I actually really try hard to do that most of the time. I’m always reminded of the verse of one of my favorite John Mayer songs, “3X5″: Didn’t have a camera by my side this time, hoping I could see the world through both my eyes. Maybe I will tell you all about it when I’m in the mood to lose my way with words.”

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The view of la estancia (the ranch) where we went horseback riding! I forgot my memory card so no pictures on horseback…just a few from my phone when we got back. It was surreal.

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This little baby is an orphaned guanaco! He’s only 4 months old and comes when you call him, like a puppy. Guanaco are everywhere in Patagonia.

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This is the massive Perito Moreno glacier, which we walked on! It’s hard to see in the picture, but it’s all jagged, sharp peaks. The glacier is created from snow that comes in hard over the Andes mountains and compacts quickly to form the glacier. It is constantly building, breaking off at the end (where we were taking the picture from), and rebuilding. It’s staying the same size!

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Trekking on the Perito Moreno glacier! Yes, it was this steep and jagged the whole time. You have to wear special attachments called crampons on your shoes – basically spikes.

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Next up, hiking in El Chalten – the trekking capital of Argentina! I asked AJ to take a picture with me in this tree, but he did not fit. #giantproblems

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The seasons are reversed in the Southern Hemisphere, so it was a bit funny to see such beautiful fall foliage in April! This is a view of Mt Fitz Roy on our hike! I couldn’t take enough pictures. I have 1000.

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It was a pretty tough hike, but we made it to Laguna Capri! More of spectacular Mt. Fitz Roy in the background. I could have spent weeks hiking here!

We’re in the southernmost city in the world right now – Ushuaia – for a few days, then back to Buenos Aires. Lots more activities planned, which means more exhaustion for AJ and more pictures for y’all! Stay tuned, and keep the comments coming – I’ll be responding to every single one when I get back, and I’m loving reading them all!

Comment time: Do you prefer an active vacation or one that’s more relaxing? You may be able to tell which kind I prefer.

HOKA, Buenos Aires, and an injury update!

This post was going to be one where I talk about my new partnership with HOKA ONE ONE…and trust me, that is coming up later this week because I am SO excited about it. But as I finally got around to reading all of the comments on my most recent post about travel (I had it scheduled to post about 10 minutes before our first plane left for Argentina), my blood is pumping and my heart is so full. I can’t wait to respond to them all!  I’ll be talking about Hoka soon, but first, I want to give you a little injury update and some pictures from Argentina!

On the injury front – well, it’s hard to say. My back doesn’t really “hurt” anymore, per se. I have some lingering pain in my hip that is preventing me from doing anything other than moving my leg directly forward and backward, and my entire right leg is still having that continuous pins and needles feeling. Sadly enough, I’m kind of used to it at this point and not really noticing it so much anymore. I’m definitely not in pain anymore, but I also haven’t been running at all. Plenty of walking and an 18 mile bike tour around Buenos Aires, though! We just landed in the Patagonia region (El Calafate) a few hours ago, and it’s a totally different world than Buenos Aires, of course. But for now, a few pictures of the “Paris of the South!” Follow me on Instagram for more pictures and videos from the trip and of course, my life in general.

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Recoleta Cemetery is where the wealthy go to be buried. It’s kind of like the cemeteries in New Orleans…if all of those graves were built like giant castles. Most tombs have glass doors that relatives of the deceased can open to pray for the dead. Oh, and you can see the caskets inside the tombs. Evita is buried here!

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El Caminito is a section of one of the poorest areas of Buenos Aires. Immigrants who moved here built houses out of corrugated steel and painted them with whatever extra paint they could get from boats passing through the harbor. The result is an incredibly colorful and lively neighborhood where the tango was born! It’s now an open air museum.

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Buenos Aires is called the “Paris of the South” thanks to its love of French architecture and beautiful plazas all over the city. It’s got a really unique European feel that is also distinctly South American.

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We hit the market in San Telmo, Buenos Aires this morning hoping to snag some good deals. Well, I was, anyway! This open air market is every Sunday and it’s several miles long! We went early, but it is packed later in the day and runs til the wee hours. I got an amazing vintage leather duffle bag for so cheap, it’s sinful. More room for souvenirs!

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Young people in Argentina apparently form traveling singing and dancing groups to support their candidates in upcoming elections. This group was so fantastic that I could have stayed watching them all day! Who wants to form one of these with me in America?! Check out the video on my Instagram.

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Just making friends with one of many “perros de calle” in El Calafate. AJ was highly annoyed that I kept petting every single dog that walked by…especially when they followed us to our hotel and sat outside our window. Whatever, I thought it was adorable!

Leave a comment: What did you do this weekend? Do you pet stray dogs, or is this just a weird thing I do and I’m probably going to get a disease?

It’s in my blood

An obsession with the world at large, with culture, with geography, with the human condition, is in my blood. Well, maybe I wasn’t born with it, who really knows? What I do know is that as a toddler, my placemats were maps of the world and of the United States. I was an observant and curious child, and my parents loved to provide an “educational experience” wherever possible, so we talked a lot about different places: where we lived, where Nana lived, where my cousins lived, things like that. They pointed out places I saw on the news. I remember watching the Berlin Wall fall when I was 4 and my dad showing me where it was on the map. Now that I’m thinking about it, why did my parents let a 4 year old watch the news? No wonder I’m afraid of everything. I digress.

I loved “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego” – the show, the computer game, all of it. My favorite game was “geography” – one person would name a place, and the other person had to think of another place that started with the last letter of the previous place before the time ran out. I could play for hours before I was in third grade, with a seemingly endless list of places I had read about on my maps and in books. I was very popular in school, obviously.

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Small Danielle = full of sass and state capitals

I remember when my dad took a trip to the Amazon when I was in second grade. I was absolutely incensed that my mom would not let me go with him. Her argument was always “What would you eat? They don’t have peanut butter sandwiches in the Amazon.”  That’s actually an extremely valid point since I basically ate three foods as a child, but I would have made it work. I was equally distraught when he went to Egypt and Israel to see the pyramids and the Holy Land and I couldn’t go. Again, my mother said I would have nothing to eat, but I think she was mostly worried about bombs.

I was lucky as a kid to have parents who were young and mostly retired, so we traveled around in an RV for about 2 months each summer when I was in middle school and high school. I’ve been fortunate to see almost every state and more national parks than I can count. As beautiful as America is, and as much amazing stuff as there is to see here, I still wanted more. There is a whole world outside of the U.S., despite what many people seem to think.

 

Travel, for me, is not about scenery. It’s not about finding the prettiest mountains or the clearest waters or the softest sand. All those things are bonuses, but they aren’t why I go. I go because I want to see how other people live, to know their stories and understand their opinions and learn about their culture. I want a mix of the touristy sites (because let’s be honest, some things are famous for a reason) with the gritty back roads of a foreign land. That’s the travel “sweet spot” for me. I think the most beautiful thing about the world is how all of our beliefs and traditions are different, but at the core, we’re all the same. I seek that sameness in others across the world because it invigorates me. Finding that you can be friends with someone who doesn’t speak the same language as you or celebrate the same holidays or have any idea where your state is is such an enriching experience. It makes the world feel smaller to me.

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I’ll be the first to say I don’t understand people who say they don’t like to travel. I understand not liking the process of getting somewhere, sure. No one wants to sit on a plane cramped in like a sardine while paying through the nose to eat microwaved food. I get it. But to not enjoy meeting new people and seeing new places and learning more about this gigantic and tiny world we live in? That I do not understand.  I want to go everywhere. The more different a place seems from where I live, the better, because that is when the sameness of people shines through with such stark contrast.

It has been eleven months since I last took an international trip, and while that might not seem very long to most people, it has been torture for me since about…ten months ago. Yes, you could say I’ve been bitten by the international travel bug. Traveling restores my faith in humanity when I feel like the world is an awful place. Terrible things happen everywhere, yes, but so do good things.

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Once upon a time, I traveled to escape life. All the races and the states and the places served to help me forget the pain I was struggling with, but they only helped when I was gone. Now, I travel because, like the quote says, I don’t want life to escape me. I can’t help it, it’s in my blood.

LEAVE A COMMENT: Do you love travel? Why or why not? Where would you want to go if you could go anywhere?

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Training Week 11: Or Not

This week marked another week spent out in the swamps for work. Given that I couldn’t bend over at all when I got out of bed on Monday morning, I wasn’t feeling particularly optimistic about how the week was going to go. I brought workout clothes anyway because I’m stubborn.

  • Monday: 4 mile run
  • Tuesday: 4 mile run
  • Wednesday: Online barre workout (1 hour)
  • Thursday: 4 mile run
  • Friday: Off
  • Saturday: 3 mile walk
  • Sunday: Off

Despite working outside and working out each evening, I actually woke up each morning feeling a little bit better. Don’t get me wrong, not great, but I could sort of bend over. Things were looking up. The pain was definitely worse in the mornings and loosened up in the afternoons. I struggled with the idea of whether or not to do a long run on Saturday, but with 16 miles on the books,  it didn’t seem like the best idea. I took Friday off in hopes of feeling better on Saturday and maybe going for a “short” long run and went to the chiropractor to see if an adjustment would help.

Suffice to say, it didn’t help. I woke up on Saturday feeling like someone was stabbing me in the back. Usually it helps to move, so AJ and I headed out on a walk with the dog and I was determined to go 3 miles, which didn’t seem that far. Well, it started feeling really far at about mile 2 when I could barely walk anymore and was repeatedly considering having AJ go home and get the car and pick me up. You know how really pregnant women walk when they’re about to go into labor – kind of like they’re waddling and with their hands on their lower back? That’s what I looked like, minus the pregnancy. I spent the rest of the day pretty much doing nothing but trying to figure out the right combination of medicine, ice, and heat to make the pain go away. Spoiler alert: it didn’t work. I slept for about  2 hours Saturday night and 4 hours last night because I was in so much pain that it was impossible to find a comfortable position.

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So yeah… things are going well. I know it’s only a matter of time before this flare up calms down and goes away. Fingers crossed that that happens before our 9 hour flight on Wednesday night!

Tell me a fascinating fact (about yourself or the world) to take my mind off my back!

“Back” to Reality

As I mentioned in my post earlier this week, my back has been giving me trouble the past few weeks. I’ve been blessed with many virtually pain-free months since my back surgery last April, which has been incredible. After 12 years of nearly constant pain, it seemed like a miracle when it finally went away. I pretty much went back to living like a “normal” person and took my back more or less out of the equation when it came to daily activities.

When I started my marathon training plan for Casper, I wanted to work my way up from running 3 days a week (which I did for the first 6 months once I was cleared to run after surgery) to 4 days a week, which is the maximum number of days my surgeon recommended. I alternated running 3 and 4 days a week and built up to consecutive 4 day weeks, and everything seemed to be going well. I felt confident, refreshed, and excited to be back on the road.

About two weeks ago, that changed. I started having some aches and pains during field work, but I chalked it up to being on my feet, trekking through swamps for 8-10 hours a day. Since I don’t do field work all that often, doing this every other week on top of my escalating mileage seemed to catch up to me pretty quickly. When I woke up this Monday, I couldn’t bend over at all. It took me more than 10 minutes to put my pants on…and then I had to head out for another week in the field.

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If I’m being honest, I haven’t handled this well. In fact, I would say I’ve roughly followed the 5 stages of grieving:

  1. Denial – Refuse to believe there is actually anything wrong with my back or any reason to cut back on workouts. Carry 35-pound backpack on long, tough, hike to prove strength.
  2. Anger – Pitch daily, private hissy fits about how unfair life is. Rage about why I can’t be “normal” and workout like a “normal” person. AJ reminds me that “normal” people workout way less than me and that I may have a mental disease if I think otherwise.
  3. Bargaining – Promise to cut back on workouts during Argentina if I can just keep up my volume til then.
  4. Depression – Decide to quit running forever and write poetry.
  5. Acceptance – Realize that I may have to modify my schedule a bit. Consider taking more rest days and nearly vomit at the thought, but still consider it.

The reality is I might need to back off running 4 days a week all the time, as much as it pains me to admit it. I may be able to handle it occasionally, but not every week, or maybe just not at this level of mileage.  When I started thinking about how I can switch up my workouts, I realized that the obvious area with room for improvement and escalation is the bike. Right now, I am mostly doing just easy rides, so I decided to consult The Bicycling Big Book of Training (get it here) to figure out ways to step up my training on the bike and limit the impact on my back. As much as I love cycling, I do not consider myself a cyclist. I find the sport downright confusing and overwhelming most of the time – there’s so much gear, many different types of races, billion dollar bikes, and so on. Running just seems so much more simple! So picking up the book, I was a bit intimidated but eager to learn more.

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The book pitches itself as providing “everything you need to know to take your riding to the next level,” but I’m not sure you could say my riding even has a level at all right now. All my rides are done at the same speed, and while I have completed a century ride and several metric centuries, I still don’t really know what I’m doing although I have a decent level of fitness. That’s where the book comes in. It starts with the basics and goes through everything from the physiological ways to measure training efforts, to the different types of rides and races, different types of cycling (road, mountain, cyclocross, etc) to training plans and more. The thing I like most about it, besides the training plans (which are very non-threatening and doable), is that the book provides information in a way that is easy for beginning cyclists to understand. Even when the information is very technical, there is often a “low-tech translation” at the bottom of the paragraph. I love that! Too much detail or information and I start to get overwhelmed.

At a time when I’m feeling a little defeated and disappointed (ok, a lot defeated and disappointed), I’m looking forward to beefing up my cycling a little bit in hopes of taking part in some fun cycling events this summer. Who knows, maybe a triathlon is even in the works?

Do you have any advice for me on how to deal with this setback mentally? 

Disclosure: I was provided a copy of The Bicycling Big Book of Training for free. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Training Week 10: A Matter of Time

Last week, I wrote about realizing the real reason for running and keeping in shape – so that you can enjoy every moment with your friends and loved ones without worrying about keeping up. This week, I got a big reminder of why we should never take our health and fitness for granted. I found out that my friend Chelsea, one of the very first members of Team T-Rex, a Marathon Maniac, and a very fast runner, has been hospitalized in the ICU for several weeks with Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome after getting the flu. Hearing about this literally brought me to tears, as Chelsea is one of the most generous, wonderful, and sincere people I have ever met.  She and her fiance are supposed to get married in just two weeks and have had to delay their wedding due to her illness, which breaks my heart. Chelsea works 3 jobs, including one as Prudence, a Revolutionary War-era woman who gives tours of the Freedom Trail in Boston (it’s one of the best/funniest things I’ve ever seen) and she needs Team T-Rex’s help! Her jobs do not offer vacation or sick pay and she has a long road of recovery ahead.  Click here to read her story and help Chelsea get back up and running!

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Pretty sure Chelsea qualified for Boston at this race (Baton Rouge Beach Marathon 2012) and I ran a PW. Same!

Now back to your regularly scheduled training update.

I started the week pretty sore from my epic hike the previous Sunday. My pride definitely got the best of me on that one, and while I have clearly proven that I can hike for hours while carrying a conspicuously heavy backpack on tough terrain, that doesn’t necessarily mean that I should. This week I was faced with a dilemma: after running 4 times a week for 3 consecutive weeks, I was technically due for a cutback to 3 times per week. However, since we’re leaving for Argentina soon, part of me wanted to get the extra running in knowing I was going to be taking it easy for a couple of weeks. Here’s how the week shaped up:

  • Monday: Barre class
  • Tuesday: 20 mile bike ride with Amanda (15.5 mph), 4 mile run
  • Wednesday: Barre class in the morning, 3 mile run
  • Thursday: 10 mile run
  • Friday: Barre class
  • Saturday: Off (planned)
  • Sunday: Off (not planned)

I had always planned on taking Saturday off since it was Carolina Cup day here in South Carolina! For those of you not from the South or who don’t follow me on Instagram, Carolina Cup is basically our equivalent of the Kentucky Derby. Well, except for the fact that 90% of the people who go never actually see a horse, you can’t gamble, and the winner is the person who drinks the most without passing out. Either way, it’s a good excuse to get dressed up, put on your finest monogrammed apparel, and day drink.

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It was really chilly, so I immediately put my jacket back on and crawled under a blanket after this picture. Ah, the things we do for social media.

 

In case I didn’t feel great after Cup, I didn’t want to have my long run scheduled for Sunday even though it was only 10 miles. I had time to do it Thursday night, and Amanda happened to be in town, so I just got it done then and figured I would save my scheduled 7 miles for Sunday. As it turns out, I didn’t drink much at all on Saturday and felt fine the next day…except for my back.

Although I haven’t talked about it much yet, my back is not doing well. I’m chalking it up to a combination of a lot of field work for my job, increased running mileage and number of days per week, and yes, maybe even the backpack hike. It’s been building steadily and it’s really a pretty bad situation. I’m not really sure how to proceed from here, but I’m grateful that our trip is coming up so that I can take a couple of weeks mostly off (running a few miles when I feel like it and just doing active daily activities) and reassess from there. Look for another post this week on the topic, but yeah…not good.

As a result, I ended up skipping the 7 mile run and did work around the house and yard. Given the fact that I couldn’t bend over when I woke up on Monday morning, that may not have been the best idea either. This week is another in the field and I’ll be cutting back on my mileage significantly, if I run at all. I guess I knew it was only a matter of time before my back caught up with me, but I was really hoping it would wait awhile longer. Sigh.

How do you know when you are overdoing it? 

Newberry Half Marathon Race Report

Although I felt confident in the days leading up to my 15 miler last weekend (which would be run as the Newberry Half Marathon plus 2 more miles), the night before, I definitely wasn’t so excited. I guess I accidentally ate something with gluten in it (we had gone out to dinner on Friday night) because I was in serious physical pain both Friday night and Saturday morning. I had planned to give the race a decent effort, but on my way to the event, I was no longer quite so sure and just hoped for a finish.

I met up with my friend Kristen before the race. We had talked about running together, but she was planning on taking it easy while recovering from her recent marathon and I was not really sure what I wanted to do. I said a few quick prayers to the digestive system gods and before we knew it, the race was off!

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This is an old picture, but downtown looks pretty much the same.

When I signed up for the half marathon, I only knew two things about it: 1) It fit nicely into my training schedule and 2) It’s a tough course. This area of South Carolina is pretty hilly, but so is where I live and run, so I wasn’t too concerned. Everyone who had run it warned me about a monster hill at the end of the race, so I literally envisioned a massive all with the finish line at the top. I was all wound up to contend with that, but we’ll get there later.

At the starting line, I saw my friends Carol and Tracey – fellow Marathon Maniacs and 50 Staters who were in town from Arkansas and New Jersey, respectively! It was such a cool surprise and definitely not expected at this race. That’s one thing I love about being a member of these great clubs – you have a pretty good chance of seeing a friendly face at every race!

My plan for the half marathon, if all went well, was to run it at a comfortable pace but still push myself a bit. I wanted to be able to have conversations but also not totally slouch and take it easy. I really had no idea what to expect given the course, but I set out at a comfortable pace that seemed simultaneously fast and slow. Am I the only one who has ever experienced that? It’s weird.

We ran through downtown Newberry and some of the surrounding neighborhoods, which are chock full of beautiful historic homes. I enjoyed looking around a bit, but by mile 4, I was kind of wishing that I had someone to talk to. I guess I was a little bored, but still running a good pace. The water stops were every 2 miles and I walked briefly through each one, careful not to linger too much.

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One of Newberry’s stately homes

As luck would have it, I saw Carol and Tracey around this time and started running and chatting with them. It was nice to catch up after not seeing them for awhile! I had no idea what our pace was but I felt I slowed down a bit, which was fine. There were constant rolling hills – literally, if you weren’t going up, you were going down! Then a man ran by and said “I have to tell you, you have the most effortless running stride I have ever seen!”

Ok, time out. If you have ever seen me run, there is definitely nothing “effortless” about it, so that made me laugh. I have been wearing new shoes lately (more on that in a future post) so the thought crossed my mind that that might be it,  but I doubt it. I will say I was feeling particularly light on my feet that day, though. Anyway, the man was wearing an Outer Banks Marathon shirt and I told him how much I loved that race, and we started chatting. Turns out he is a fellow Maniac and 50 Stater as well! I really need to get better about asking people’s names when I talk to them in races, because I’m pretty sure I know everything about that guy now except his name. By this point, we were probably around mile 7 or so and I wanted to speed up, so I said goodbye.

As we ran past the campus of Newberry College, I spotted a group of 3 people that had been ahead of me pretty much the whole race. Interesting fact: Newberry, despite being a very tiny school in a very tiny town, sells out all of its football games, and hotels in town are sold out during every home game.

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We ran right past the stadium and cemetery

The three had a good pace going, and I wanted to catch them but was determined to be smart about it and not wear myself out since it was hilly. I picked up the pace and noticed myself steadily gaining ground. Around mile 9, I finally caught up to the group, who had sort of split up by that point, and said to one of the guys “I’ve been trying to catch you guys for miles!” He smiled and said something to me in a heavily accented voice, and it was then that I remembered reading in a race email that there were runners from the UK, so I asked him if he was! Turns out, I was right, and he is from Wales but working in nearby Greenville, and he and some of his coworkers had come to do the race.

The more I talked to this man, the more amazed by him I became. The miles were flying by as he told me his story! For one, it was his first half marathon, and the farthest he had ever run in his life was a 10k…at a race two weeks ago. He told me that the woman behind us, who had been in his group, was on pace for a 2 hour half marathon, and he thought he would be “quite pleased with that” for his first attempt. At this point, I got pretty excited because that’s a great time for me, and we were ahead of her! I learned that his family lives in the UK and he works in Greenville for 6 weeks at a time, then has 2 weeks off and flies back home, and then repeats. He has worked all over the world like this for the past 10 years! He and his coworkers work 12 hour shifts, often at night…so he worked a 12 hour shift the night before the race, then literally left work, got in the car, RAN HIS FIRST HALF MARATHON ON NO SLEEP, got back in the car, took a nap and then worked another 12 hour shift.

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I could tell he was starting to get tired (for obvious reasons), so we chatted about different places we love around the world and where we want to go and all that sort of thing. It was a really lovely conversation and again I find myself regretting not asking his name. We ran together from miles 9 – 12, when THE HILL happened.

The Newberry Half Marathon is notorious hill at “the end” of the race, which is really mile 12. When I think “the end,” I literally envision running up a hill to the finish line, but that’s neither here nor there. I was feeling really optimistic about my time since we were still ahead of the girl who was going for 2 hours, so I wanted to push myself and kept chugging up that hill, which was indeed quite steep but not the worst thing ever. After that, it was about half a mile to the finish!

Well, the downside of not wearing a Garmin and relying on other people to give you an idea of your pace is that sometimes, people don’t stay on their pace. So while I thought I was cruising to a call 1:58 – ish finish, it was actually more like 2:01. While I’m thrilled with that time – it’s my third fastest half ever, partially because I don’t race half marathons very often – I also had gotten my hopes up a bit about running under 2 hours and was disappointed that it didn’t turn out to be the case. However, I have no one to blame but my own self-induced anti-Garmin agenda.

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Tracey, me, and Carol after the race! Can’t run without my Headsweats gear!

However, I am feeling great about the race for the following reasons, sub-2 or not:

  1. I felt like I was running at an easy pace the entire time
  2. I slowed down to talk to people pretty frequently
  3. I never let myself get worked up about the hills
  4. I paced myself well, backing off when I needed to and speeding up when I could
  5. I was able to finish my extra 2 miles after the race easily

I still had two more miles to get in after the finish line, so I grabbed some water, chatted with some friends for a minute, and then turned back around to run down the course and find my friend Kristen. I got to her when she was in the middle of the giant hill, so I got to do that one twice – hooray! I ran her back in to the finish and did a couple of loops around the parking lot to finish off my 2 miles. To measure it, I ended up downloading RunKeeper, which constantly updated me on my pace and distance and basically shamed me into running faster. Highly annoying, but effective.

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Kristen and me

After a solid race and 15 miles, I’m feeling optimistic about the next couple of weeks of my training plan before AJ and I head to Argentina for our honeymoon. I have a 10-mile cutback week long run this week and a 16-mile long run next week, then I’ll be taking two weeks off of training (but still running and staying active) while we’re away. When we come back, there are just 7 weeks of training left before race day! Eek!

Training Week 9: What’s 35 pounds among friends?

Another week of marathon training down, and I was back in the field in Georgia for the week. My instagram was just chock full of the glamorous pictures you’ve come to expect from me these days.

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Nothing says high fashion like a mosquito net and a camo hat.

As usual, it was a bit of a struggle to get in my normal workouts, but I did my best. As I wrote in my post for Women’s Running last week, my basic process is “Prioritize, Compromise, Concede.” Basically, I make a list of which workouts are the most important (typically my running since I’m in marathon training mode) and those are the priority. Anything else is a bonus. If I don’t have time to get in my entire planned run, I do what I can – that’s the compromise. And some days, I don’t have the time or energy to do anything, so I concede. I’m not paid to run and I never will be, so sometimes my real job has to come first.

  • Monday: 3 mile run
  • Tuesday: One hour barre workout online
  • Wednesday: 7 mile run
  • Thursday: Off
  • Friday: 4 mile run
  • Saturday: 15 mile run (Newberry Half Marathon plus 1.9 miles)
  • Sunday: 6-7 mile hike wearing a 35-lb backpack!

I’ll be writing a race report for the Newberry Half Marathon, so look for that later this week! As for the rest: well, the time in the field definitely takes its toll on my back. Full days trekking around in the woods are pretty exhausting, and the last thing I want to do when I get back to the hotel is run. I had planned to do my 4 mile run on Thursday, but our plans changed and I ended up working a fully day Thursday  and heading home that night instead of staying til Friday, so I spent 4 hours driving home after work. Not exactly conducive to a workout! My run on Friday was awful. I was dehydrated, achy, and exhausted and just did not feel like running.

I think in the past, my bad 4 miles on Friday would have shaken my confidence a bit for Saturday’s run, but I guess I know enough now to know that some days are really bad and some days are really good and they often have nothing to do with each other. I still felt pretty optimistic about Saturday and went into the race determined to get my 15 miles in with a smile on my face. I did that and also ended up with my third fastest half marathon ever! More details to come.

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Love my hat? It’s from Headsweats! Use code TREXRUN25 to get 25% off!

Sunday’s “non-traditional workout” was a hike at South Mountain State Park in North Carolina. In my mind, the park was only 1.5 hours from where I live, but it was actually more like 3 hours… oops! There are some great trails up there with plenty of challenges if that’s what you’re looking for! Steep stairs, tough climbs, hard descents – the trails have it all. Of course, there’s always an opportunity to make things more difficult than they need to be, and I’ll be damned if I don’t seize it every time. My friend Tom had brought his Army backpack with him and loaded it with 35 pounds of stuff for more of a challenge. He was struggling a bit so I gave him a hard time and he challenged me to carry the backpack to prove I could do it. CHALLENGE ACCEPTED. I refused to give it back the rest of the day and actually really loved it. What an AWESOME total body workout that is! I’m going to be that psycho hiking with a weighted backpack from now on.

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And of course I couldn’t resist a little Barre3 Power Leg at the top of the mountain…like I said, I’m fun to hang out with.

The backpack did kind of become my worst enemy when Tom and AJ decided that it would be more fun to hike down the creek instead of the trail. And by that I literally mean that we climbed down a mountain stream through the water, over boulders, down little waterfalls, etc. You know what’s not that easy to do while wearing a 35 pound backpack? Climb on slippery rocks. As such, my refusal to yield the backpack to Tom led to me falling down in the water on more than one occasion. I guess that’s karma for you. I wasn’t so sure we’d make it down the stream alive, but eventually, we did, with my body intact and my dignity lost somewhere upstream.

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Smiling because my butt was still dry.

While hiking up a pretty steep hill yesterday with the backpack on and realizing that I really wasn’t struggling, I had the thought “This is what it’s all about.” This is why exercise and fitness and living a healthy lifestyle are so important. It’s about being able to enjoy your life no matter what activity you choose to do because you’re physically capable of handling them all. As much as I often make working out about appearance or social things or whatever else, at the end of the day, what really matters is that I can have fun playing around with my friends and living a life that I love.

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Otherwise, you miss out on moments like this.

That’s my epiphany for the week. What’s yours?