Monthly Archives: January 2013

costa rica

Nine days is not enough to travel to a new place.

bridge

By the time I reached Alajuela, Costa Rica’s second largest city that’s an arm’s length from the airport, I finally adjusted to the Tico way of life. I got comfortable using the colones currency (just multiply by 500!), figured out how the bus systems work, and learned if you don’t ask for your check, your server will stare at you with your empty plate and wonder why you haven’t. But instead I’m in Alajuela to catch my morning flight, I am in a private room with three beds and a garden (ok, that was kinda cool), and I’m reluctant to take a shower and wash the final bits of sand out of my hair.

The trip is finally over.

 It also was everything I wanted, so I can be nothing but grateful for my adventure. Here’s a brief timeline of what went down in the land of Pura Vida: 

San Jose. I stayed here for a night because my flight got in late, and decided to spend half a day exploring the capital before heading to Monteverde, the cloud forest. I could tell the man who owned the hostel had an immediate hatred towards me, and when I asked when the bus to Monteverde was, he said there wasn’t one and I should take a taxi. I knew that couldn’t be the case, so when I asked him again, he said there was one at 4:30, but the bus station was too far away and I would need to take a cab to the station. I still sensed he was lying, so I left the hostel at 9am to go explore and figure out when the real bus was. The bus station ended up being a 10 minute walk and I purchased my 2:30 bus ticket. I had half a day to walk around the city, but unfortunately everywhere I walked I was stared at, gawked at, or warned I would get my stuff stolen. I didn’t feel threatened, but the people coming up to me were mentally exhausting. Some guy even told me I was in the “red zone” (?!) so I eventually turned around and waited at the bus station for four hours. Not the best way to start the vacation, buuut I got some solid reading in? 

Monteverde. The bus ride to Monteverde was my first glimpse at what Costa Rica really looks like. I was unaware of the drastic elevation change, and was awed by the winding hills we were climbing up and the green stretches of forest in the distance. We made it to Monteverde after dark, and when I got out of the bus there was an eerie wind. I walked (ok, sped walked) into town to find a hostel ASAP; even though it was only 8 or so, the town felt desolate and the wind was creepy. I ended up finding a nice, affordable private room on top of a HUGE hill, and tried to sleep as the wind banged against my window all night.

I learned the Sandy-like gusts were due to the collision of the coastal winds and the mountain winds, which also form the clouds, aka…cloud forest. I spent the morning exploring the small town, then rode up to the forest, going hiking, gondola-ing, and zip lining. Zip lining was INCREDIBLE, totally not scary, and I bonded with a 60-year-old man named Lawrence who was my partner when we rode tandem. (Everyone else in the group was 100 years old and married.) When I returned back into town I considered taking a night hike to hopefully spot from sloths (<3), but I had barely eaten all day and opted for a big meal and one (five) beers. I was in bed relatively early, knowing I had a 6 am bus in front of me. It was time to go to the beach. 

zipline2 zipline

 

Montezuma. This town is also known as “Montefuma,” and now I know why. There were hippies everywhere and it felt like some international Woodstock convention. The vibe was super cool and very laid back, but there definitely was that air of pretension. BUT, there was also an incredible, incredible beach. I checked into a modest hotel, and once I saw my $25 private room w/ a bathroom, I almost demanded my money back. You know when you’re convinced you’ll get bed bugs when you sleep on a certain mattress? Or when you feel dirtier after taking a shower? Yeah..that was this place. Instead, I figured ” a bed is a bed” and stayed.

bed

 shower

Still, the hotel was lined with hammocks that faced the water, and it was literally in the heart of town. I spent the day exploring the beach, reading, and soaking in the first set of rays (it was cold and cloudy in Monteverde) and then got dinner with two guys I had met on the bus. One was from Canada, the other Austria. The following morning the three of us bought papaya and pastries and ate them at the beach, and then I hiked alone to the waterfalls nearby. Later in the day, Iost my two amigos and checked into Hotel Lucy about a quarter-mile from the center of town.

Hotel Lucy was gorgeous, and for a $5 hostel I had a view I’d pay $500 for. I did more reading, more writing, more hammock-laying (I think I spent 80% of this whole trip in hammocks…) and then went into town for dinner. I went to a place with live music and watched La Jazz and Roll, and Argentinian duo, rock out for two hours. I treated myself to an amazing meal of coconut curry rice with shrimp and sweet wine. It was seriously so epic — one of my favorite nights. 

band waterfall


Santa Teresa. Shit. Had I went to Santa Teresa first, I would have stayed there the whole nine days. Seriously. It was a totally laid back, friendly surfers town, with awesome food and awesome people. I found a really interesting hostel to stay at and bunked with four Argentinians. The three days spent there were a blur of walks down the beach, eating avocados with a spoon, drinking mohitos, talking to random Europeans, and feeling incredibly, incredibly content. Some highlights were going to a sunset yoga class in a beautiful studio overlooking the ocean, watching the sunset every other night at the beach while the surfers got in their last ride, and talking to a German guy named Felix who I’ve dubbed The Most Beautiful Man On Earth.

hammock yoga


 All in all, this trip was exactly what I wanted and what I needed. I had so much time to myself, but oddly, I didn’t really get lonely. I was also able to really think about traveling alone (for another post!) but for now I’ll say there were some unexpected pros and cons to being by myself.

And even though I definitely was a little bummed returning home, I also felt lucky. Lucky that my job lets me travel. Lucky that traveling excites me, inspires me, and fulfills me. And lucky that I have the funds to go away. 

Yet, I also realized  that I’m not a totally frugal person, but rather I just use my money in different ways. I don’t need a bed frame, but need a plane ticket. I don’t need to spend money on rum in the US, but will gladly spend it on rum in Costa Rica. And that’s the most important thing I learned: If you want to do something, you can make it happen. You’ll find a way… because you simply have to.

Because it’s your life.

So I’ll never stop traveling — I just can’t.  It’s an incredible learning experience and adds so much awesome meaning to my life. Plus, who can turn down the views? (:

mountain

 

marathon training: week 2 + pre-travel quandaries

This week was an interesting one as far as marathon training goes. After the high of an awesome long run on Sunday, I was greeted by some less-than-stellar challenges. Tis life, I guess.

Monday: Optional rest or yoga.
You know those people who “forget to eat”? Yeah, I didn’t get them either…until Monday rolled around. I was super focused/slightly stressed at work, and before I knew it, it was 6:30 and time to go to my favorite hot yoga class. I realized I literally only ate a few handful of pistachios and a macaroon all day (!!!) yet I still wasn’t hungry and decided to wait until after yoga to eat. Yeah. Mistake. The class was super crowded and I was stuck in the middle of the room inches away from other sweaty, sweaty people. At one point I put my head down on the ground and the whole floor was spinning. I jetted out of there as soon as class was over and inhaled food. Tons of it. Namaste!

Tuesday: Cannonball warmup, 4 miles (7:50), core.
Nothing to note here. Except that I was stupid and wore shorts because I thought it was still “warm” out. It was probably 30 degrees. Poor choices.

Wednesday: Dynamic warmup, 5 miles (dreadmill, 7.5 mph), 6 x stride (dreadmill, almost fell off) 30 minutes lift.
I was not looking forward to working out at the gym, but it ended up not being too terrible. I’d rather run and lift at the same time then split it up throughout the day, and was surprised that I survived 5 miles on the treadmill. I played many, many mind games to pass the time.

Thursday: Dynamic warmup, 8 miles (8:00 pace), 8 x 100.
Well, this run was interesting. I was supposed to do six miles, so decided on an out-and-back that would take me to the East River Park and home to the track for speed work. However, it rained the night before and the exit I normally take to get back to the Williamsburg bridge was flooded. I had to take a detour to get back to Brooklyn, which meant I clocked in 7 miles when I got to the track. And then after the 100’s, I realized it was 8:45 aaaand I had to be at work in an hour. So I had to run the mile home from the track, where I took a record-speed shower and somehow got to work on time.

Friday: Dynamic warmup, 4 miles recovery (treadmill, 7 mph), core
Nothing to note. I was not digging the super cold morning temperatures, and knew I could bust out 4 miles on the treadmill after work. Twas fine.

Saturday: Supposed to run 13 miles. Failed. Reason below.

So now…Costa Rica!

So, I’m leaving tomorrow, which is SO AWESOME. However, the one littttle not awesome thing is that I woke up in the middle of the night shivering, shaking, and super nauseous. I ended up throwing up for way too long (WHAT?! Also, sorry) and have been bed ridden since, only able to hold down water. Not a good look. I’m more frustrated than anything because I had plans to finish up some loose ends at work, make copies of my passport, and go on a trek for sunscreen, linen pants, and a fanny pack. (Yes.) I’m not worried that by tomorrow I’ll feel better (fingerscrossed) but I’m also so confused as to how I got sick. I never get sick. Germs never get to me! This sucks.

In the meantime, I’ve tried to “pack.” So far I have an empty backpack, two books, birkenstocks, passport, and half a bathing suit. Makin’ moves.

pack

I also have been practicing my Spanish. I emailed my dear friend Flo, who’s from Argentina and just happens to be fluent. Here’s what she helped translate for me:

“I have a boyfriend” Tengo novio

“I am innocent” Sou inocente

“May I have guacamole?” Un guacamole por favor?

“Shots” Shots

“Help, I am lost” Ayuda por favor, estoy perdida

“Where is the sloth sanctuary?” Donde esta el sanctuario de sloth?

Again, making moves.

Fingers crossed I wake up tomorrow alive and can get on this damn airplane. Pura Vida!

having vs. wanting

I’m just barely skimming the surface of this whole marathon training thing, and I’m already catching myself thinking the wrong way:

“I have to run six miles tomorrow morning.”
“I have to get a long run in before I go to the airport.”
“I have to find a way to run while I’m away.”

This sucks. I love running so much, mainly because it is something that has never felt forced. And now that I’ve signed up for the race, created a goal, and received a plan, I need to remember that I’m doing this not because I have to, but because I want to.

I woke up to my alarm clock this morning and for the love of god could not move a muscle. I had trouble falling asleep and had only clocked in five hours of sleep, so decided to skip my morning run in favor for some extra shut eye. Aaand a date with the dreadmill in the evening.

All day I kept reminding myself “you have to run 5 miles later.” The treadmill is definitely the most challenging way for me to run mentally (I honestly don’t think I’ve ever run more than five miles on a machine for sanity’s sake) and yet I managed to do it. I warmed up, pounded out the miles (while CNN repeatedly aired people getting the flu shot), did some strides, and lifted.

But I went though the motions because I had to, not because I absolutely wanted to. Not because I love the sport, and the challenge, and because I want nothing more than to go sub 3:30.

So before I really dive into this train-for-something-for-awhile-to-accomplish-something-really-fucking-hard-thing I’ve got going on, I have to play with words.

I want to run. I want to do tempo runs and see how smooth they can feel. I want 13 mile runs to no longer feel “long.” I want to value rest days and foam rolling and core work. I want to wake up early and explain to the Latinos outside my door the reason I’m just standing there in bright blue spandex while it’s seven degrees out is because my garmin doesn’t have signal yet. 

I don’t have to do anything, so there’s absolutely no point in telling myself that. I want to run six miles tomorrow morning…and I will.

See you soon, East River Park.

marathon training: week 1

I must say, having a running plan is the best thing ever. There’s absolutely no guesswork — I just do what my little sheet taped to my wall tells me what to do. Anyways, here’s a recap of what went down this week:

Monday: Cannonball warmup, 4 miles (7:54 pace), core
For day one, I was more excited than anything. It was one of the few times I’ve actually “warmed up” before a run (I know…) and this cannonball warmup was really cool. I was a little all over the place since I wasn’t used to the routine yet, and there were many chairs and tables in the way since I was doing it in my apartment. After the run, I less than happily did core work, which is deeeefinitely one of my weakest links. I hate that burn. And six-pack abs. Oy.

Tuesday: Dynamic warmup, 5 miles (7:55 pace), 6 x stride, 30 minute strength train
For whatever reason, I was really tired this morning. When I got up to warmup, it took every ounce of willpower to not hop back into bed as the sun was finally starting to rise. 5 miles at that pace felt SO fast for some reason, which kind of bothered me. Doing strides felt nice and I think finally loosened me up. I almost skipped strength training in the PM, since I was literally falling asleep at work. But, I got to the gym and did pushups, squats, core, lunges, aaaand lots of nice stretching and foam rolling.

room yoga

Wednesday: Optional rest or yoga.
I went with Jocelyn to Yoga Vida to take a class with Hilaria, Alec Baldwin’s wife. (Check em outtttt.) The class was SUPER crowded, and for whatever reason I was squished between the only two guys who were breathing awkwardly heavily and flinging their sweat on me. The class felt more like a boot camp, and at once point we did “ABS!” for 10 minutes. I almost died. Not zen. However, any fitness outing with Jocelyn warms my heart, and apparently Alec even walked into the class. I missed it, though, probably more concerned that the guy to my left might collapse… on me.

Thursday: Dynamic warmup, 6 miles (7:49 pace), 8 x 100.
This run was great. My legs felt fresh and it was warm out. I did 100’s on the track in a tank top and shorts in JANUARY (!!!), yet the tricky part about doing speedwork after runs is the track is about a mile from my apartment. I allot myself about 15-20 extra minutes so I can walk home, yet I still end up rushing every single morning so I’m not late for work. To save time, I eat breakfast and drink water in the shower, which is something I do pretty regularly. Aaand it’s also something I recently learned is a weird thing to do.  Now I’m really scared that the other “normal” things I do are actually quite strange. (I’ll just keep my day-to-day habits to myself…) In any case, here is the shelf where I can keep my oatmeal nice and dry. 

nuun

Friday: Dynamic warmup, 4 miles recovery (8:13 pace), core
This run felt nice and relaxed, and was a good way to kick off Friday. 
Especially since later in the night meant tacos and tequila (and wine…and guac…).

taco guac

Saturday: Rest or optional lift. I chose rest. So exciting! I just did work, laundry, trip planning, bar with friends, and a (relatively) early bedtime. Perfect Saturday.

Sunday: Dynamic warmup, 13.1 miles  (7:49 pace), IT Rehab Routine
This run was awesome and hilarious. Awesome for the fact that it’s the longest I’ve run since October, I was wearing shorts, and ran a new route which I love. Hilarious for the fact that I PR’d in the half-marathon, technically. I woke up so excited to run (mainly because of the weather) and decided to try going over the Pulaski bridge to Queens, the Queensborough bridge to Manhattan, down 1st avenue from 59th street to the east river path, then the Williamsburg bridge back home. It was magical. I definitely was feeling it by mile nine — at that point my legs were super tired and probably confused as to why I was running for so long. Buuuut I thought about the brownies I’m making for a dinner I’m going to tonight, which carried me happily home. 

13.1

One week down, 15 to go. It’s like I’m practically there!….

costa rica: the “plan”

A week from Sunday, I’ll be in Costa Rica. This trip certainly snuck up on me, but it couldn’t have arrived at a better time, either. When it comes to living and breathing in nyc, I need a break every now and… always.

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the art of traveling alone. I’m excited that every decision will be mine, and the only expectation I have to uphold is my own. I can set my own pace, plan my own itinerary, meet the people I want to meet, talk to the people I want to talk to, and go to bed exactly when I’d like. (9pm? 3am?) It’ll be the most selfish nine days of my life… and I can’t wait.

Considering, though, that I’ve spent more time thinking about how I’m traveling by myself than actually planning my trip, it’s time to buckle down and figure out what I want to do and what sort of stuff I need to figure out prior. So here is a working to-do list, more useful for me than anything else:

Learn a few words in spanish. So far I only know “hola,” “adios,” and “cervesa.” I bet it’s worth knowing a few more. 

Finalize travel documents.  I should make a few copies of my passport. There’s a chance I need my yellow fever vaccination card since I traveled in Ghana. I deeefinitely need to call the airline and change my last name on my plane ticket, since I spelled it wrong. (That’s embarrassing.) 

Decide what I’m doing about work. At first this trip was my chance to unplug from everything. But now I’m realizing if I don’t check my email for nine days, my inbox will probably give me a heart attack (maybe several) when I come back. I may allow myself to organize the inbox a few times throughout the trip. 

Pack? This will happen approximately an hour before I leave for the airport. Not worried there.

…Figure out where I want to go. Aside from a booked hostel the first night in San Jose (I’m getting in late and found something super close to the airport), I have absolutely no plans. The hardest part is I simply want to see everything, and I know once I get my bearings straight I’ll have a much better idea of where I want to go/how much time I’ll need. But until that happens, I’ve kind of narrowed down the places I really, really want to see:

The Sloth Sanctuary. Okay. A big reason I decided to go to Costa Rica was because of the sloths. If all I do is sit in this sanctuary for a week and a half and stare at them, I’ll probably still have the best vacation ever.

sloth

Monteverde is a major ecotourism destination spot, filled with cloud forests, coffee plantations, monkeys, zip-lining, and tree house hotels. There’s a 7am bus from San Jose, so I’ll probably hop on that after my first night and spend a few days frolicking in the forest.

Montezuma. Something is pulling me here for a few odd reasons. Montezuma is a small, bohemian beach town tucked away in the Nicoya Peninsula on the Pacific side. While the pacific coast tends to be way more developed and touristy (think: all inclusives), this town is touted for its youthful, hippie, and relaxed vibe. It also happens to be the name of the first track of Fleet Foxes’s Helplessness Blues, a song and album that holds a special place in my heart. Unfortunately, Montezuma is far away from everywhere else I want to go, but I still want to make it happen.

via

Puerto Viejo is the largest town on the Caribbean coast — the side I want to explore most. This coast is known for its laid-back, Afro-Caribbean population, with less tourists and more culture. I want to make some Rastafarian friends, go white-water rafting, and hang out with monkeys.

Tortuguero is difficult to get to, which is exactly why I want to go. There are no roads to Tortuergo — a National Park in the Limon Province — which means you need to take a plane or boat to get there. (I’ll choose the latter.) There are canal tours, turtle museums, jungle strolls, and more. The best part is even though January is “peak season” for Costa Rica, it’s “off-peak” for Tortuguero, since turtle hatching season is from July through October. I’m banking on things being a liiiittle less crowded/cheaper. Plus, I’ve already seen the little turtles do their “being born” thing in Ghana.

GHANA 965

Sooo that’s what I have so far! And even though I have a basic idea of where I want to go, I totally know it could change within a heartbeat. I may meet a bunch of backpackers my first night and follow suit. Or a local could tell me I have it all wrong and suggest other places to go. I honestly can’t really picture what this trip will look like, which is what makes it that much more exciting.

Oh! And if anyone was wondering about my marathon training while I’m away..I am 100 percent completely not sticking to my plan while traveling. If this somehow screws up my sub3:30 goal, then so be it (although I doubt it will). Between hiking, swimming, yoga, and maaaybe the seven push-ups I’ll do, I think my fitness will survive (: 

marathon training: week zero

Welp, it’s time. After running my first marathon, almost running nycm, getting hurt, taking a month off, falling more in love with yoga, and slowly but surely finding my way back on the roads, tomorrow begins my 16 week journey to Eugene. This is the first time I’m actually going to stick to a plan. With hindsight, I realized that even though I snuck in some decently long runs before my first marathon (a 16 and 22 miler), my overall mileage was way too low. And when mile 20 rolled around during Wineglass, I was greeted with “the wall” that was more like “see, thiissss is what happens when you don’t train properly for a marathon.” 

My running plan is all thanks to Jason Fitzgerald, the guy behind Strength Running. I wanted his help because of his emphasis on (you guessed it!) strength training for runners. He ‘s also big into injury prevent (awesome), science and running theory (good for the brain), aaaand he’s a 2:39 marathoner. Clearly his tactics are working. (I used this personalized race plan.)

marathonplan

I only function because of duct tape

 

What I love about the plan is that it’s going to challenge the hell out of me. It’s not impossible, and it’s flexible. But… it’s hard. I’ll be forced to get in the habit of warming up and cooling down and doing routines that will help with injury prevention. I’ll be told when to do long runs (they happen every weekend, not only twice, Laur) and when to do speed work. My weekly mileage starts at 32 and peaks at 48, which I think is extremely doable. 

It goes without saying I’m a bit nervous though. First of all, I’ve never committed to something for 16 weeks. That’s long. (Way longer than, say, a marathon…) And secondly, I’m feeling all wimpy with this blustering, windy NYC weather. I usually love the cold, but realized that was in the context of being bundled up, next to a fire, or simply devoid of sweat on a subway platform. 20 degree winds smacking at your face is less than pleasant. Waiting for your garmin to get signal when it’s freezing out sucks. But…I’m hoping (and maybe assuming?) that I’ll get used to it. The longer days of sunlight will start kicking in, and it will have to get warmer. Or I’ll just toughen up.

Time, though, is what I’m scared about most. No longer can I slot 45 minutes in the morning for a run. (I literally hop out of bed, hop onto the streets, hop in the shower, and then hop on the subway.) Until the sun starts significantly setting later, I’ll be training in the morning. To make sure I properly warm up and cool down, do core, strength work, and stretch, I’ll be getting up a biiiiiiit earlier than I’m used to. Again, I hope I just get used to it. Or invent a way to add a few hours to the day.

But, I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t want to. This is a commitment I’m devoted to, and one that I’m incredibly excited about.  I’m so curious how legit training for a marathon will change me as an athlete. I think I have a lot of room to improve, and I’m hoping there’s some secret speed I haven’t unlocked yet. And…. maybe this is my ticket to reaching a new level in the running world.

So with that… sub 3:30 or bust. (!!!)

 

believe i am update III

traininglog

Oh hello. It’s finally time to write about my goals I set out to tackle with my Believe I Am journal. (Read more on why I did it, how journaling helped me take flight, my first and second update, and how it helped me feel free, fast, and have fun!)

Overall, I loved using the journal. I’ve never actually tracked anything in my life before — food, workouts, etc — and it was both rewarding and helpful to look back at my training, especially when I needed a little mental push or wanted to figure out why I was so freakin exhausted. I definitely plan on continuing to use it, especially since come Monday, marathon training starts (and my life disappears…).

Sooo, here were those goals I set back in October…and where I am now.

Gain back my speed.

Yes, but not in the way I had originally planned. At first, I wanted my sprint-speed back. My sub-30 second-200m-repeats no-problem-speed. But after really thinking about it, I realized my goals were stretched too thin. I could either get fast on the track, or get ready to run a strong marathon. I decided I wanted to build endurance — faster, yes — but that meant focusing more on speeding up on the roads, not the repeats. So with that, I think I’ve succeeded. After not running for nearly a month, I came back to December maintaining sub 8’s on the roads, which has felt nice and comfortable. Good things on the horizon for marathon training, I hope!

Move outside my comfort zone.

More or less. I was challenged in a few different ways this fall: dealing with injury while trying to get faster at the same time. It’s pretty impossible to balance the two; I knew I needed rest, but I was also restless. I wanted to see what boundaries I could push, but was simultaneously scared of hurting myself, burning out too quickly, of just feeling the freakin pain. But I think — and journaling helped me a lot when my stupid head wouldn’t shut up — that I was able to get better at knowing when to take it easy and when to dive into mile repeats.

Stop being so hard on myself.

Kind of. I think I’ve come to accept that my stubborn nature does more help than harm. However, here are some success stories: For the second half of December, I had a haaard time getting myself to run in the mornings (6am alarm clocks and freezing temps is never something to jump out bed for). So…I just let myself sleep. I have all winter when I train for Eugene to wake up early and potentially freeze to death, so there was no need to get ahead of myself. Example two? I saw SO many people on Twitter run 10,342 miles on new year’s day, or go to seven different fitness classes, or run races right as the clock struck midnight. And while that’s insanely awesome, I was equally, totally, 100 percent satisfied with drinking copious amounts of whiskey and champagne on new year’s eve and spending the whole next day in my bed. So…there’s that (:

calm

All of my love to Lauren, Ro, Morgan, and all the #sistersinsport who have made this happen/have been along for the ride. Tis only the beginning of a beautiful thing! 

 

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