MCM ’14 Week 10 – Virginia Beach Half Marathon!

It is hard to believe, but here it is – September 1st.  That means I can now officially declare I am running a marathon next month.  That is a little scary!  Tomorrow marks the first day back to school, which is just as nerve-wracking for us teachers as it is for the kids.  In the next 55 days I will meet my new class of 25 students, run a 5k race, run a half marathon, get married, and run Marine Corps.  I suppose this is what they call crunch time.

IMG_0632

Running at 4:00pm in direct sunlight on a warm day makes me red and disgusting.

This week marked the end of my summer of travel.  Teacher went back to work on Monday to attend meetings and prepare our classrooms for the school year ahead.  On Wednesday I went out for a particularly sweaty four mile tempo run through Burke.  On Thursday my parents let my kids spend the night, and for the first time since I was in Costa Rica schedules worked out enough for me to go on a quick two mile run with the fiance.  My week was also spent thinking about the half marathon I had schedule on August 31st, and struggling with a goal.  Before this week I had run three half marathons in my running career.  The first, which was my first ever race longer than a 10k, was the Shamrock Half Marathon in VA Beach in March of 2011.  I finished in 2:24, and was pretty sure I never wanted to do anything like that ever again.  Flash forward to March of 2013 and the DC Half Marathon.  I had not run a single mile since November of 2012.  This is the wrong way to attempt a half marathon.  I hit the ten mile mark right around two hours and then my body took a serious nosedive.  My finish time was 2:55.  

2014 has been my year to make my running comeback.  I committed to a race every month, and really buckled down and set to training.  I sat down with calendars and wrote in almost every run I should take for the entire year, which I realize sounds beyond insane, but was the kind of accountability I needed.  I had plans and goals, and if I wanted to meet those goals, I had to stick to these plans (or at least, stay kind of close to them).  In May I ran my third half marathon and beat my previous PR handsomely, even managing to break the two hour mark for the Frederick Half.  Official finishing time – 1:56.

I earned that time, and it wasn’t easy.  I finished that race feeling totally drained and ended up with some kind of silly cold that took me two weeks to shake.  When thinking about the VA Beach Half this week, I just couldn’t settle on a goal.  I knew I didn’t need to break two hours again.  I kept reminding myself that this was not my race.  Marine Corps is my race.  That is what all of my energy and focus is headed towards, and everything else is just to help prepare me.  I didn’t want to go all in on this race and then need multiple days to recover.  I spent the day before the race enjoying the water with my kids, and trying to come up with some kind of strategy, but even on race morning, I didn’t really have a goal time.  

This is what a girl with no plans looks like.

This is what a girl with no plans looks like.

We stepped out of our hotel room on Sunday morning and were hit immediately with the humidity.  Even at 6:15am, it was already 76 degrees and sticky.  Whenever I travel for races I try my best to get a hotel room that is about a mile away from the start line so I can take a nice walk/jog to help warm me up before the race.  Today we ended up walking the entire time due to my running companion wanting to grab a coffee, and we ended up at the start line right as they were firing the gun to start.  Not the BEST way to stumble into a race, but I was comforted again by knowing this wasn’t my race.  For my fiance, however, it was his race.  When we ran in Frederick it was his first half, so he didn’t go into it with a goal.  He finished that race at 2:01.  He ended up frustrated, as if he had known he could get that close, he was sure he could have gotten under two hours.  VA Beach was going to be the race where he tried to get there.  He went off in a corral ahead of me and I trotted off on my own.

By mile two I was drenched with sweat.  At each water stop I’d grab one cup to drink, and one cup to pour on my head, just trying to keep myself as comfortable as possible.  I have to applaud this race – the organization was wonderful and they had a ton of not just bands, but cheerleading and dance squads from the surrounding areas.  The locals really pitched in too – more than one person came outside with their hose to offer some relief to runners, and along the way I hit many unofficial aid stops.  Early in the race there was a beer table that we passed by twice (I only participated once).  Also were two separate skittles stops, and multiple places where people were out in their yards handing out icee pops.  Those icee pops appeared around mile 11.5, when it was already around 80 degrees, and were just about the best thing ever.  Early in the race there were kids handing out mardi gras beads and later in the race there was a neighborhood handing out plastic leis.  By the time I finished the race I had three strands of beads and three leis wrapped around my neck.

When all was said and done I crossed the finish line at 2:02.  It was fast enough to put me in the top 11% of runners in my division, but wasn’t so strenuous where I felt like I was totally spent.  Sean did indeed make his goal, finishing at 1:59.  I am currently involved in a serious debate with myself to shell out the money for marathonfoto as there are actually some pretty great pictures from this particular race, and if I break down I will certainly share them next week.  

 

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Post Workout Recovery

Coach Bruce, RRCA Certified Running Coach

Coach Bruce, RRCA Certified Running Coach

Ah …. the post workout recovery …  we all know it’s important but very few of us have developed and follow a well thought out recovery plan.  While we all want to run like the Kenyans, we can, in fact, all recover like elite runners.

Incorporating enough time into any training program to implement a post workout recovery is critical because this is the time that the body adapts to the stress of exercise and the real training effect takes place. Without sufficient recovery you mitigate much of the potential benefit which can result from the hard effort of the workout.

Recovery allows the body to replenish energy stores and repair damaged tissues. Intensive exercise causes changes in the body such as muscle tissue breakdown and the depletion of energy stores (muscle glycogen) as well as fluid loss.  Recovery time allows these stores to be replenished and allows tissue repair to occur. Without sufficient time to repair and replenish, the body will continue to breakdown from intensive exercise, which can lead to over training. The more intense and longer the training workouts(for instance, during the 8 week period prior to a marathon) the more likely the prospect of over training… symptoms include general feeling of tiredness, staleness, decreased training performance leading to increased risk of injury.  Thus the importance of adhering to a recovery plan after each of your hard workouts; usually the track (speed) sessions, tempo runs and weekly long runs. A recent article in RunnersConnect outlined the components of a thorough recovery plan.  Below are the nine components of that post workout recovery plan.  Admittedly, this plan is comprehensive and time consuming, but if you want those 16 mile runs to prepare you better for those 20 milers, its time well spent.  And hey, you still want to run like the Kenyans …. right?

So, as closely as possible, you should be doing a recovery that resembles these components.

  1. Hydrate as soon after your run as possible with Gatorade or electrolyte drink
  2. Stretch major muscle groups and anything that is sore or tight. Roll out any nagging injuries or problem areas.
  3. Eat a small meal that contains a 4 to 1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein
  4. Take an ice bath
  5. Eat a decent sized, healthy meal
  6. Nap, put your feet up, or get a massage
  7. Take an Epsom salt bath
  8. Roll out on the stick and stretch well
  9. ​Get plenty of sleep​.

​Next month we discuss each component in detail.

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Keeping Our Lives in Balance – Literally

John Faith has been with Metro Run and Walk since 2004

John has been with Metro Run and Walk since 2004 and enjoys being active!

Keeping Our Lives in Balance – Literally

Many of us have elderly relatives or friends, and are probably aware of how balance becomes more of an issue as we age. I’m not talking about balance in one’s life, e.g., between work and play, diet and exercise, etc. (all topics for another article, I’m sure!), I’m talking about the ability of one to maintain a steady upright posture in our day-to-day activities.

There are several aspects of balance, and, interestingly, they become more intertwined and interdependent as we age. An excellent article on the subject can be found at: http://www.askdoctork.com/why-does-balance-decline-with-age-201306054928

The article presents some of the major causes of age-related imbalance, and offers a handful of very useful, easy-to-do exercises requiring absolutely nothing more than our own body and a chair. I’d like to offer another, one suggested and strongly recommended to me by my physical therapist.

As some of you know, I had a major running injury some years ago. After years of false starts and a series of misdiagnoses and incorrect and even harmful therapies, I underwent an investigational procedure and began working with a sensitive, compassionate, empathetic therapist to regain my physical health. The work involved a lot of very specific weight work, stretching, and, interestingly, balance work, as my therapist noted that I’d lost some muscle mass, flexibility, strength, and I was off balance during some of the early sessions.

The strength and flexibility exercises helped immeasurably, as did the specific balance exercises, but I think the one exercise that helped my balance the most was simply walking backwards! I don’t think either of us realized just how beneficial it would turn out to be, but as I continued with my rehab, it was obvious it was helping my balance more than the specific balance exercises.

I’ve since done some reading on the subject. There are a number of excellent articles out there, such as the one at: http://www.movemoretoday.com/3-ways-you-benefit-from-walking-backwards/, which explains a couple of additional benefits – it burns more calories than walking normally, and improves our peripheral vision, both of which wonderful unexpected side benefits. Another fine article can be found at: http://fitness.mercola.com/sites/fitness/archive/2012/12/14/walking-backward.aspx

The one caution in most of the articles, and one I emphasize, is that when walking backwards, one can’t easily see where one is going! Several of the articles mention doing the exercise on a treadmill, which pretty much eliminates this danger, but many of us don’t have access to a treadmill. I’ve found a great place to do my backwards walking is on a local track. I have the benefit of having not only a high school outdoor track available, but also an indoor 1/8 mile tracks at one of the local Arlington middle schools. The only “danger” I’ve discovered when walking backwards on the middle school track is the jeers and looks from the kids who’s PE class coincides with my workouts!

School’s in session – please be careful out there, and watch out for the kids who won’t be watching out for you!

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A Cyclist’s Reflection on a Ride across the Country

Charles Simpson

Coach Charles

 

A Cyclist’s Reflection on a Ride across the Country 

On June 2, three friends – Ben, Sam, and myself – set out to tour the country by bicycle from Washington, D.C to Washington State, Seattle; East Coast to West Coast;

 

 

 

Washington MonumentPicture1 to Space Needle. pic2

We were wildly unprepared. We had packed the night prior. We had no physical maps charting our journey. The first 500 miles of our route from D.C. to Pittsburgh was based on second-hand knowledge of trails connecting the two cities. None of us had

much experience with bicycle touring. We knew how to ride bikes and how to read maps, and figured the rest would just be a matter of synthesizing the two concepts. Easy.

But in the first 15 minutes Ben had forgotten his cell phone. In 30 minutes we had gotten lost after taking a wrong turn to the C&O Canal Trail. In the next 45 minutes Ben had a flat tire, and Sam’s patch kit proved ineffective at mending it.

flat tire

flat tire

In the next week Ben would lose his wallet, Sam would begin developing Achilles Tendonitis, and I would have a concussion and a bloody shoulder from a 20-mile-an-hour crash.

At that point it was clear the journey would not be as smooth as expected. But like any journey from Odysseus to Huck Finn, it yielded life lessons that cannot be truly known until experienced affectively first hand. We finished the trip on Aug 1, and I have since tried to tabulate some of those experiences here: I hope you enjoy reading through them. We were three bikers, rode three thousand miles: here are three points of reflection, on politics, on life, and on home.

A Cyclist’s Reflection: On Politics

Leaving Washington D.C. set a mental agenda for observing our country: we were starting from the epicenter of partisanship, distortional rhetoric, and divisiveness. This was the city that – as the functional hub of a democracy – was supposed to represent the country around it. We cycled out of D.C. under fire: Republicans were attacking Democrats over the handling of the Bergdahl exchange; both parties were performing flanking maneuvers over the NSA and executive overreach; the left was pushing for EPA climate change regulation and the right was pushing back for intervention in Ukraine.

Escaping DC along the Potomac

Escaping DC along the Potomac

After about 40 minutes of riding we crossed under the beltway on the C&O Canal Trail, past the political battle lines and into the country that D.C.’s partisan leaders are supposedly representing. But from rural Maryland to inner city Pittsburgh, from Midwest cornfields to suburban Tacoma, and from sea to shining sea, the constituents did not reflect the divisiveness of Washington.

Universally, we witnessed people just trying to get by, living their lives, and supporting their families. In both blue Iowa and red South Dakota, there were farmers attending fields of crops. In blue Ohio and red Montana, there were retirees camping out and playing cards. In rural Indiana, a middle-aged woman stopped to ask to pray for us, and in a bar in Portland a young man bought us a round of drinks – different forms of well wishing but ultimately the same in its good will. In a trailer park in Illinois, an old man on a tractor offered us shelter from a tornado, and in suburban Tacoma a family opened their home to us as rain poured down – different settings, different political colors, but ultimately the same kindness and hospitality.

This is not to say there weren’t stark divides. Our country is wildly culturally diverse. Nowhere was it more visible than Washington state, where the Cascade Mountains split the state in two: the dry, arid, crop-growing east (and right-leaning voters) was delineated from the wet, green, service-based coast (and left-leaning voters). The division was tangible. But at no point did the roads we travelled on change color from red to blue. At no point did we feel the vitriol, polarization, or divisiveness political pundits spew forth in D.C. and on CNN.

Geographic / Political Dividers: East  Washington State

Geographic / Political Dividers: East Washington State

I wonder what would have happened if John Boehner could have ridden with us through deep blue Seattle? What if Nancy Pelosi had ridden through bright red rural Idaho? What if politicians knew each other’s constituents, and not just their leaders? Maybe it wouldn’t do much – but to humanize our politics would mean seeing the country as more than a binary colored map, and perhaps bring sense to our national debates. As Pico Iyer wrote in “Why We Travel”: “the first lesson we learn on the road, whether we like it or not, is how provisional and provincial are the things we imagine to be universal.” Amen.

Geographic / Political Dividers: West Washington State

Geographic / Political Dividers: West Washington State

 

 

 

 

 

A Cyclist’s Reflection: On Life

My experience with bike riding is from racing. I competed in triathlons in college, won my age group at a few races, and completed an IronMan. Every time I get on a bike, adrenaline sets in. I methodically calculate the calories, ounces of water, and milligrams of caffeine I take in. I push my legs until they burn, and up the tempo until my lungs do too. Runners reading this can empathize – whether you’ve run a 5K or a marathon you know this racer’s mentality. It is focused, engaged, aggressive, and goal-oriented. You hear Nike slogans blaring in your head: Just Do It! Pain is Weakness Leaving the Body! Don’t Stop ‘Till You Drop! In your head you’re a champion, a winner. You set your goals, and you accomplish them one lap at a time.

Instinctively, I set out from Washington D.C. with this mentality. We had a short 60 days to finish our 3,000-mile journey, which meant we had daily mileage quotas to hit. We needed to take in around 7,000 calories a day to keep our body weight up and avoid fatigue. We needed a liter of electrolyte-spiked water each hour in the June heat. We needed regular stretching to prevent injury, and constant bike maintenance to prevent breakdown. But on day four this racer’s mentality was knocked out of my head, literally.

I was frustrated on day four. We hadn’t hit our mileage quotas. Sam’s Achilles tendons were sore from not having trained appropriately and from not getting his bike properly fitted. Ben’s shoulder and quads were sore from not training sufficiently. I was tired from not doing enough weight-loaded training rides. I hadn’t planned our route out in enough detail, and I had packed too much weight. And so when a bee flew into my helmet at mile 40 for the day, I found the proverbial final straw. I crashed, and the next thing I remember I was on the ground fixing a blown out tire.

repairing one of many flat tires

repairing one of many flat tires

Just a little concussion

Just a little concussion

After repeatedly asking Ben some simple questions I should have known the answers to, we both realized I had suffered a concussion and was experiencing short-term memory loss. 30 minutes later my memory returned, my shoulder was covered in Neosporin, and the tire was patched. We were on our way (and would finish the day’s 70 mile ride), but I was shaken.

The next day we arrived in Pittsburgh, nestled in a river valley with the gently sloping Alleghany Mountains rising up on all sides. The next day was cloudy, and we spent it relaxing, taking a breather: the weather and the city set a perfect tone for reflection. I realized my race mentality was active in more than just this bike trip. I often get tunnel vision on objectives, benchmarking success academically, professionally, and athletically. I move at a fast pace, achieve a lot, but forget to look down at the roses, much less stop and smell them.

 

 

Racer's Mentality

Racer’s Mentality

For many of us – not just me – this is deeply embedded in our culture. Modern American society has become overwhelmingly success driven, with success very narrowly defined. We have revved up Weber’s “Protestant Work Ethic” into overdrive with Starbucks double espresso shots in the mornings and Red Bull in the evenings. We work too long each day, too many days each year. On average, we spend a week of time each year stuck in traffic getting to jobs we don’t like for an end we don’t believe in. We try to be super workers, super athletes, and super moms or dads. We try to do everything, and thereby enjoy very little. It is not surprising that the United States is ranked #1 globally for GDP, but 105th for happiness (right after Belarus. Yes there are statistics for this, check the HP Index).

I was guilty of this attitude in biking: I was so concerned about meeting our mileage benchmarks and calorie counts that I forgot to enjoy the view. We spent two days in Pittsburgh, resting. We fell behind our mileage benchmark in that time, but that was okay. I sat and read a book in a quaint brick-walled café. I ate delicious Polish sandwiches and drank amazing craft beers that would not help my cycling performance, but sure were worth it. I ate ice cream, listened to street music, called my family to catch up, and chatted with Ben.

“What is the point of this trip,” he asked me rhetorically, picking up on my pensive attitude. “Is it to be able to say we crossed the country on bikes? No. You have quite a long list of very impressive athletic accomplishments, but I don’t think this is supposed to be one of them. This is about seeing the country. It’s about meeting people and experiencing places. It’s about spending time reflecting with friends. Maybe we don’t make it all the way, but that’s okay.” He was absolutely right. And on a deeper level than I think he realized at the time.

When we live our lives day to day it is important to check our mentality: are we in race mentality, striving to achieve a laundry list of objectives, or are we in an easy cruise mentality? Are we enjoying our journey, coasting from town to town, or speeding between them trying to hit our daily mileage requirements? Perhaps it is important to ask this question before we crash and suffer a concussion.

Pittsburg:  A place to slow down and reflect

Pittsburg: A place to slow down and reflect

We left Pittsburgh for Cleveland, rolling a little bit more smoothly. The sky was grey from overcast clouds, but to me the world hadn’t looked so vibrant since we left.

A Cyclist’s Reflection: On Home

The night before leaving Virginia I rode my bike to a cookout with a group of running friends from Metro Run & Walk. It was a wonderful send off, but as I showed them my bike fully loaded I realized it hadn’t occurred to me how strange it was to have all of my belongings for the next two months fit into two backpack-sized bags on either side of my rear wheel. “Where do you keep your shampoo and conditioner?!” someone bawled.

Two months supplies

Two months supplies

There was a lot more than just shampoo and conditioner I couldn’t pack. I couldn’t take my family and friends. I couldn’t take my bed, or an air conditioner. I couldn’t take the corner café or the bar in Boston I like to relax in from time to time. I couldn’t take good home cooked food, or comfortable cotton clothes, or a TV, or my daily routine. There is an irony about the sensation of “home”: it is the routine and ordinary nature of the place that makes it so wonderful. It is our daily routine, the family we see daily, and the friends we meet with regularly on the weekends, the coffee we prepare each morning, and the dinner we cook each evening that all give “home” its value. But we don’t realize the ordinary, and therefore cannot realize how comforting home is for the exact reason it is so comforting in the first place. It is only by breaking away that we realize the special nature of that place.

For Ben, Sam, and myself, our surrogate “home” during the trip would be three, small waterproof bivy sacks, basically mummy-shaped tents. We each had an inflatable ground pad, a sleeping bag to keep warm (and keep the mosquitos away), and an e-reader for nightly entertainment. We had Fig Newton’s for snacking, and two friends to talk to. It shouldn’t have felt like home, but over the 3,000 miles there were numerous times we actually felt pretty, well, “at home.” And it wasn’t because of our gear, it was because of the people we met along the way, and the company we travelled with.

Home Sweet Home

Home Sweet Home

The first notable feeling of “home” was in Illinois when a tornado struck. We were riding through cornfields, noticing on Google Maps that there wasn’t a campsite anywhere near us: the sky darkened and it became clear a storm was quickly settling in around us. We rode up on a trailer park, and hoped that at worst we’d be allowed to lie low there under a tree until the storm passed. After briefly meeting the “co-manager” of the park, we were allowed to pitch our tents under a patch of trees to wait out the rain. But as the lightning picked up and the wind started pulling at the tent stakes, we began realizing this storm was a little bit more severe than we expected. From a concrete bathhouse across a clearing we saw a group of guys wave us over, and were more than happy to oblige. We took shelter in the men’s bathroom, Ben and I sitting on a stool outside the shower, with Sam watching the sheets of rain through an air vent behind the toilet stall. Awhile passed, but when the storm finally lightened we were able to check whether our tents were still around.

Stepping out of the bathroom we saw an old man, missing most of his teeth, but smiling ear to ear and sitting on a beat up tractor. He had the steering wheel in his left hand and a beer can in his right. “You kids still alive?” He shouted. “Well that was one hellofuh show wun’t! I tell you what, there’s a shed there you can clear out and make yourself at home, and oh! There’s beer in a cooler over there, help yourselves!” We thanked him, but kept our distance as he floored the tractor to clear a fallen limb, spilling beer out onto his lap.

Home, home on the range

Home, home on the range

He checked our tents. They were still staked to the ground but completely water logged – the old man’s offer of an empty shed was looking like a perfect place to call “home” for the night. That evening we got to know some of the town community while helping clear fallen limbs. They welcomed us, and we quickly forgot about our wet tents and sleeping bags as we sat around sipping cheap beer, moonshine, and talking about everything from the city folk in Chicago up north to the storm damage being reported by the little towns all around us. The locals told us funny stories, and we made them laugh with the “insanity” of our bike trip. We were comfortable, in every sense of the word.

There were these kinds of moments everywhere. There was the couple in Sandpoint, Idaho we met on a community moonlight bike ride that showed us the town and allowed us to pitch our tents right in their backyard because we had nowhere else to stay. There was the old hired hand in the central Montana plains that made us a pizza when there was no other food stops for 60 miles in any direction. There were the old retired women playing bridge in Hicksville, Ohio, who bought us lunch and shared the history of their town just as we were starting to get the feeling that we no longer knew at all where we were. There was the restaurant owner and wait staff in Tonasket, Washington who let us rest on their deck for two days, pitching our tents behind the restaurant, and sending along friendly hospitality as we waited for raging forest fires in the surrounding woods to be put out.

There were Ben’s aunt, uncle, and cousin in Seattle who took in three sweaty, tired, and hungry bikers, making us all feel like family too. There was also Ben’s co-worker in Portland, who made the city that flaunts its weirdness feel homey and welcoming. And there were the three of us friends, carrying on running jokes and lending support from the wilds of the Appalachian mountains to the middle of nowhere in the Cascades.

We realized a “home” is not built by brick, glass, and mortar but by an attitude generated from everyone living in it. It is a sense of belonging. It is a sense of security from the elements, but also from alienation and isolation. We thank everyone who built this feeling of home for us wherever we went.

My home is beyond place and name. It is with the beloved, in a space beyond space. I embrace all and am part of all.

~Jelaluddin Rumi, 1207 – 1273 AD

Some Last Thoughts

David Foster Wallace gave a commencement speech at Kenyon College in 2005. I think the speech went viral because it touched a nerve in the modern American psyche, and I think has something to say about this bike trip. The speech began:

“There are these two young fish swimming along, and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says, ‘Morning, boys, how’s the water’ And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes, ‘What the hell is water?’

If at this moment you’re worried that I plan to present myself here as the wise old fish explaining what water is to you younger fish: please don’t be. I am not the wise old fish. The immediate point of the fish story is that the most obvious, ubiquitous, important realities are often the ones that are the hardest to see and talk about.

The idea for the bike trip was formed about six years ago, as a wild dream shared between Ben and I while sitting beside a fire pit. We went inside and looked at a U.S. map and decided: “Yeah, that country’s not so big, lets do it.” The rest was a matter of timing and opportunity – we didn’t put much more planning into it than we did that first inceptive evening. But that was okay, because the point was never to make the crossing in record-breaking time, or log a certain number of miles, or bragging rights that we had moved on our own steam from coast to coast.

The trip was truly meant as a two-month meditation – a chance to consider where we have been, where we are, and where we are going (in life as well as on the road; as a country; as people; as actors on the world stage). It was a chance to escape from the daily grind of driving a car, going to the super market, being surrounded by the familiar, and to see the world and our lives through a new, ever shifting lens. It was a chance to leave the fish bowl and think about water.

"What the hell is water?"

“What the hell is water?”

Novelist Tony Hiss reflects on the sensation of travel in his book In Motion, describing “an exhilarating state of mind that travel can evoke, when everything seems suddenly fresh, vivid, intensely interesting, and memorable. Because you focus on what you’re looking at and listening to, Deep Travel is like waking up while already awake; things have a way of seeming emphasized, underlined.”

But he also notes that “travel can sometimes summon this kind of awareness automatically – we can all remember times when the world came alive unexpectedly – but we can also bring it to vibrant life voluntarily,” with our conscious choice to look on the world as constantly changing, novel, colorful amidst daily routine.

Reflecting on water

Reflecting on water

We don’t all have the opportunity to leave the fish bowl: we may have fish kids to take to soccer practice, or a fish job at the bubble factory. But we can all take a moment to consider the water we swim in.  For the three of us, the bike trip set the perfect stage and established a perfect emotional state for reflecting on water. It made this process easier, but was not necessary. The Tao Te Ching argues:

“Without going outside his door, one understands all that takes place under the sky; without looking out from his window, one sees the Dao of Heaven. The farther that one goes out, the less he knows.

Therefore, the sages got their knowledge without travelling, gave their names to things without seeing them; and accomplished their ends without any purpose of doing so.”

In Wallace’s words, we can understand the water we swim in without ever leaving the bowl. But as a fish that has done some swimming, if you can get out to explore the ocean, please do.

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MCM ’14 Training Weeks 8 & 9 – Lots of Long Runs!

Hello again!  Sorry for my lapse in posting last week.  I made my way back home from San Diego, regathered my kiddos, and mentally dealt with the fact that it was my last few weeks of summer.  Today I officially started back at work, which will actually make training a bit easier.  That may seem counterintuitive, but during the week I was able to very predictably get to the gym immediately after work.  I knew it was coming and I did it every day.  During the summer when I had all day to do it, it was much easier to let it slip.  But, I digress.  Let’s back up to the last time I posted, which was August 10th.  I was taking the day off to prepare for my long run and avoid running in some very inhospitable weather.

Monday August 11th – still in San Diego, I headed out for a 14 miler.  It would be the longest I have run since I ran the Marine Corps Marathon back in 2011.  I procrastinated quite a bit, and by the time I hit the road it was already afternoon.

IMG_0552San Diego makes for some beautiful runs, and I took advantage of the harbor area.  I was able to run the length of the harbor area to the airport and back.  It started out as a lovely run and felt great until about mile 11.  I ran out of water and was feeling the result of running out in the heat of the afternoon.  As I admit to in a previous post, Pepsi is really my one true vice.  I decided to stop at a vending machine (which graciously took credit cards) to let myself have a sugar kick to finish out those last three miles, only to have my spirit ruthlessly crushed when pepsi was sold out.  Lucky for me, Seaport Village, a very tourist centered shopping area was on my run.  So right around mile 12 I hit a snack stand and took a little sit, with a lovely view, to enjoy my ice cold pepsi.

My lovely view from soda drinking stop.

My lovely view from soda drinking stop.

If you've never enjoyed a mid-run soda, you are probably a better runner than I am.

If you’ve never enjoyed a mid-run soda, you are probably a better runner than I am.

I managed to carry on through the last two miles, but I was STARVING.  It was nearly 2pm and all I had eaten so far that day was a rice cake and some shot bloks during the run.  I do not endorse or encourage this kind of behavior.  I went immediately to a local mini-mart where I bought the following amazing collection of foodstuffs:  1 nesquik chocolate milk, 1 pepsi, 1 large red powerade, 1 kingsized package peanut butter m&ms, 1 package of bologna, 1 cup o noodles.  This, my friends, is why you should never go to the store hungry.  Or being absolutely beaten down by a run.  I spent most of the rest of the day recovering, and it wasn’t until later that day when I went out for dinner that I realized the terrible thing I had done to myself.

 

This is NOT a good look for anyone.

This is NOT a good look for anyone.

 

The sun is real, my friends.  It is not your friend, and the midday sun doesn’t care about you.  Don’t do this.

 

I managed to not run at all from Tuesday until the following Sunday, the 17th.  Let me repeat again, this is not advised.  Most marathon training plans will tell you consistency is key.  Unfortunately, consistency is not always my biggest strength.  Thankfully for me, our Metro Run & Walk training coach Bruce has a wonderful attitude – when I showed up at 7:30 on Sunday morning for my 15 miler and admitted I hadn’t run since Monday he smiled and said, “Good!  You’ve got fresh legs!”  I should add that Bruce knows me well enough to know that I don’t always have the good sense to follow training to a T.  With the help of the lovely folks in our training group, my 15 was just delightful.  I consider myself very lucky to get to spend those long miles in the company of other people that also think torturing themselves with hours on end of running to no destination is a good idea.  

Monday I hit up a yoga class at my gym for some cross training and to work out those 15 miles, and Tuesday was sacrificed to the cub scouts.  Wednesday I went out for a lovely five miler in my neighborhood and realized how much I have missed running at home.  I live in the Kingstowne area and the Franconia Road/Buelah/Manchester Lakes/Van Dorn loop has become one of my favorite routes for shorter runs.  There’s something nice about the familiarity of the buildings and neighborhoods, where you can tell exactly how much further you have just be paying attention to your nearby landmarks.

Saturday the 23rd I went out for a three mile run at my half marathon pace.  Part of my training plan has me running short to medium length runs the day before a long run in order to make me run on tired legs.  My three miles went great, despite the pouring rain, and it was actually only about 25 seconds slower than my 5k PR, which has me very excited for my next 5k in September.

Sunday the 24th I met up with our store training program for a 16 mile long run.  The exciting thing about marathon training now is that every time I have a long run I’m excited as it is the longest I’ve run since Marine Corps in 2011.  I had felt like I lost so much in running over the last few years, and to feel myself getting it back is wonderful.  Our 16 miler took us from Gravelly point to the C&O canal, on to Rock Creek Park (where we took a new to us trail and accidentally did some rock climbing), and then back down along the water to the 14th Street bridge.  The weather was wonderfully cooperative, and I am happy to report that I woke up today (Monday) able to walk quite comfortably!

This upcoming week will be a lower mileage week as I head down to Virginia Beach for the Rock & Roll Half Marathon.  I still haven’t settled on a goal.  I feel no need to try to set a half marathon PR in the summer heat, so I think somewhere around 2:00-2:10 would be just lovely.  What I am thrilled about is this will be the first month this year where I manage to hit 100 miles!

Week nine has marked the halfway point in training – which is hard to believe and very exciting!  Great things are ahead!  Until next week, take care and run well!

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MCM ’14 Training Week 7 – Training & Traveling Again!

Welcome to week seven!  When I last posted it was Tuesday and I was in the IMG_0494
air headed to my newest destination.  It looks like this.  Anyone know where?  I now find myself in “America’s Finest City,” San Diego.  I actually grew up just south of San Diego and am headed back for my grandmother’s 90th birthday.  I was pretty excited to trade in the humidity for some ocean views for a week!  After a very early wake up and a pretty long flight, I found myself back on the ground in my old hometown.  After getting settled in I decided I had to head out for my run or else there was no way it was happening.  Luckily for me I am staying near San Diego’s Balboa Park, so I headed out for four miles through the park.

 

 

IMG_0498On the left – after crossing the bridge headed into the park.  Below – the Prado Theatre.IMG_0508

It was a lovely way to stretch my legs after sitting on a plane for so long – but I will admit it didn’t feel great.  I was pretty happy to get back to the house and be done.  

Wednesday 8/5 – My plan called for seven miles, and I decided I would take full advantage of the location and try out my seven miles on the beach.  When it comes to footwear I run in a lot of different shoes.  Currently in rotation I have Nike Pegasus, Brooks Glycerins, Altra Torrins, Adidas Bostons, and Saucony Mirages.  As you can see I have zero preference on brand and am all over the place on height and cushioning.  I am a fan of the idea that running in different kinds of shoes is good for your foot and leg muscles – my zero drop shoes certainly feel different than my big cushy glycerins with their nine millimeter heel drop.  Even though I have quite the array of options, I decided that given the opportunity to run at the beach, barefoot was the way to go.  So off I went!

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Here I am in front of the Hotel Del Coronado

I decided to run in Coronado, which turned out to be not a great idea.  I parked my car near a naval post, which gave me only one direction I could head out in.  Only a mile and a half into my run, I hit a fence warning me I was about to enter military property and I needed to turn back.  The idea of running the same stretch of sand multiple times (there were lots of tourists and beach goers to weave through) sounded terrible, so I decided to cut it at three when I returned to my car, and change my seven mile run to tomorrow instead.  I also had a two hour drive to Riverside County ahead of me, so I figured it wasn’t the worst idea.

Thursday 8/6 – Today I set off to make up my seven miles.  I found myself in Hemet, CA – which is about 20 degrees hotter than San Diego and with some pretty terrible air quality.  After some internet research I learned that California’s largest reservoir – Diamond Valley Lake – was only a twenty minute drive from where I was staying at my grandma’s house.  It turned out to be a lovely place to run seven miles.  I had to be a bit cautious of the local wildlife, which was a novelty given my typical runs through Springfield or on the W&OD.  Here are some pictures of the experience:

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Some beautiful views, and unfortunate smog.

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Here you can see the winding dirt road that moved along the reservoir.

The run was beautiful, but HOT and in direct sunlight the entire time.  Now it is time for you all to learn of my recovery drink of choice.  Well, to be honest, FIRST choice would be chocolate milk.  I adore chocolate milk as a post run drink, but it is not always easy to come by quickly.  However – my unorthodox second choice is……

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Pepsi!  As you can see – I’m a little red and a lot sweaty and salty.  That pepsi made my day (it was actually sold in a small shop at the reservoir parking lot, and I was very excited about it.

Friday was my rest day, and it was lovely.

Saturday 8/9 – Today I needed to run seven at my race pace.  My current goaIMG_0546l is somewhere around 4:15 for the marathon, so my race pace runs are done at a 9:30 pace.  I was in a bit more of a hurry today than I was for my seven miles on Thursday, so the lake was out of the question.  I prefer to do any kind of pace run on trails or even the treadmill so that I can avoid the inevitable slow downs of crosswalks and streetlights, but it simply wasn’t possible today.  I ran my seven miles on the streets of San Jacinto and Hemet, California.  It was pretty brutal.  Hot, dirty, and direct sunlight the entire time.  There are lots of dairy farms in the area and given the central valley location – there is no breeze and tons of dust.  I didn’t take any mid-run pictures, but an example of what this kind of run does to me can be seen on the right.

That brings us to this morning – Sunday the 10th.  Today my scheduled run was 14 miles, but I’m actually going to switch it to tomorrow.  It is already pushing 90 here in the central valley, and I didn’t plan well enough (I have nothing to take along with my as a nutritional and no body glide – my thighs were unhappy after the seven yesterday!!).  I’m headed back down to San Diego today where I’ll be able to find a running store to grab some glide and some nutritionals and then go for a run about 20 degrees cooler.  I’m both excited and nervous about those 14 miles – it will be the first time since Marine Corps in 2011 that I’ll have run more than 13.1!

See you next week!

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MCM ’14 Training Week 6 – 1/3 Down!

This week marks week six of the 18 week training season for Marine Corps!  Thanks to the miracles of modern technology, today I am coming to you from 35,000 feet in the sky somewhere above Indiana.  Clearly, I do not know how to stay in one place (or remember to post promptly on Sundays).   Next week you’ll get to see the picture of running from my current travel destination, but I’ll leave you in suspense for now.

When we last left each other, it was Tuesday morning the 29th of July and I had just finished giving excuses as to why I did so poorly on getting all my runs in that week (and just general inconsistency).  Well my guilt got the best of me that morning, as I loaded my seven year old son into the car and hit my gym for some long, lonely treadmill miles.  I decided that I absolutely had to make up the missed long run, as between racing and traveling I felt like I had been really slacking on these important runs.  It wasn’t until I had signed my little one into the day care and made it to the treadmill that I realized the very big mistake I had made – my headphones were not with me.

I buckled down and somehow managed to run twelve miles.  Twelve very quiet, very alone, very little to look at miles.  I actually found myself spending most of those miles reading the closed captions on the big TVs that were showing sports center.  I can say with some certainty that I know more about what is going on currently in the NFL and the training camps than most people.  And that is not terribly interesting information!  But I made it through and felt better about it.

My feeling better about getting back for long miles didn’t last long – as for the next three days I just didn’t find the time to run.  Finally on Saturday night I went out for just a three miler once the kids were in bed, and given it had been a particularly frustrating day (anyone with seven and ten years olds probably can feel my pain), by the turn around point I wasn’t quite ready to come home yet.  I went an extra mile and a half and went to bed feeling pretty good.

Sunday it was up bright and early to join up with the Metro Run & Walk training group for my long run.  These folks have been some of my favorite people over the last three years.  The morning typically starts with everyone declaring what their mileage intention had been, and folks kind of grouping up with people that have a similar distance to travel.  Here is a shot of the lovely folks that I spent my Sunday morning with (I feel like you must be sick of seeing pictures of me by now):

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There were two of us there with a plan of nine miles, one with a plan of ten, two others with a plan of 15, one with 12, and one with 4.  We fell into our mileage groups and off we went.  Today we started off at Gravelly Point and headed towards the city.  It is amazing how much better long distances feel when you’ve got others to distract you!  We took a few meanders through Georgetown, along the Potomac River, and a slightly tourist loop around the Tidal Basin where I got to see the FDR Memorial for the first time (if you’ve never been – it is absolutely beautiful!).  Us nine milers decided we may as well tack one more on so the ten miler didn’t need to do any of her miles alone, and it was perfectly delightful.

 

So, six weeks into training I think I would give myself a C+ on training.  I’ve missed a lot more of my planned training runs than I would have liked, but so far I’m able to knock out the long runs with no issue or injury, and my speed has increased quite a bit from last year.  Tune in next week to find out about the incredibly painful cross training method I discovered and see my newest running location!

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MCM ’14 – Week 5 – Where Schedules Collide

Hi friends!  Welcome to week five of 18!  This was finally my week to get it back together now that I am home and have normal life happening again.  Well, I’m sure anyone with kids and a job or two can tell you – normal life is almost never normal.  But, away we go….

Sunday 7/20 – I spent today recovering from my epic victory at the Rockville Twilight (see week four for more information on that!).  Spent most of my day at Metro Run & Walk helping others with their own running goals and getting mentally prepared to head back to work on Monday (for a training – I don’t want anyone to tell me teachers don’t work over the summer!).

Monday 7/21 – I knew today would be a hard one to get a run in – but I was determined to make it happen.  I had a training about an hour away from home that would run from 8:30-2:00, and then I needed to be at the running store for a shift from 3:00-8:00.  I knew there was no way I would feel up to running after work in the evening, and given it was my first morning of needing to wake up to an alarm clock in quite a while, I wasn’t feeling confident I would get my body moving in time to run before heading to my class.  So, I packed my running gear, and during our one hour lunch break set out to run three miles before scarfing down my lunch.  

The territory was a bit unfamiliar – I don’t know that I’ve ever actually been in Herndon before, but I set out from the school where my class was, debit card in my pocket to grab some water on the way back.  The nearest gas station was about a mile from the school, so I figured I’d grab a drink on the way back.  It was pretty warm and I was feeling pretty ragged – not to mention I was wearing shorts with no pockets so I was holding my phone and debit card in my hand as I run.  The run was unremarkable, except for the last mile where I had the joy of experiencing running with a cellphone/debit card in one hand and a quart of water in the other.  I am sure I was a pretty funny sight for any car that happened to pass, but I had achieved my goal.  I managed to get in my three miles AND eat lunch (albeit inhaled in a span of ten minutes).

Tuesday 7/22 – Tonight I met up with the Metro Run & Walk distance training group.  These are the best people I know and were the reason for my success when I ran Marine Corps in 2011.  Tuesday nights are the track work outs – and tonight was a doozy!  We ran 400 repeats, but after each 400 we hit the bleachers at Lee High School.  While the work out was  hard, the company couldn’t be beat.  Here’s Brian and I actually still smiling after our work out.

No pain, no gain.  Right?  Right.  IMG_0322

Wednesday 7/23 – My kids have been away this week, and I figured tonight I would go run my six miles after getting out of class.  However, the heat and the humidity were intensely oppressive, so instead I headed off to the gym.  Running six miles on a treadmill isn’t terribly lively, but it will get the job done.  There’s a certain kind of zen to the treadmill.  It is so intensely boring with so little to look at, and as you are able to pay far less attention given you know there won’t be any cars coming, it really let’s you slip away mentally.  At least, this is what I keep telling myself so as to not go crazy while running on the treadmill.

The rest of the week – well, I can give you a lot of excuses.  On Thursday I planned to run after my class and before picking my kids back up, but then I ended up getting the kids early, heading to a cub scout event, and then picking my parents up from the airport.  Should have squeezed in three miles at lunch, but alas – poor planning.  On Friday I should have run six miles, but instead I spent the morning frantically packing the kids and I for a quick trip to West Virginia, and then I was in the car, driving to West Virginia.  Saturday was a rest day by design – which I spent petting ring tailed lemurs and a red panda.  Sunday included driving four hours round trip to drop one kid off at camp, and then heading directly to a wedding shower held in my honor by co-workers.  Sunday is the only day I feel quite guilty about.  It should have been 12 miles.  I know very well that life happens and missing a run here and there due to life is quite alright.  I hardly even sweat missing anything five miles or under.  But those big runs count.

Now it is Tuesday already and I’m looking at almost a week since my last run (cross training was yesterday and involved lots of hills with my seven year old at the zoo).  I’m about to load the little one in the car and head to the gym (when you can’t leave the kiddos home alone and you know that running in the evening isn’t ideal for you – sometimes it is the only thing to do).  I haven’t decided what I’ll do yet.  Run the assigned three miles?  See how much of that 12 mile long run I can squeeze in during the two hours he is allowed to stay in child care?  Split the difference and run seven?  I guess my legs will have to tell me once I’m moving.  We’ll have to find out next week!!

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MCM ’14 – Training Week 4 – Back Home & Racing!

So sorry for the late post!  Last week found me returning from vacation and coming back to reality.  While I will certainly miss the sights of macaws, iguanas, and the ocean while I run, I am excited to get back into regular life and having a more predictable schedule.  As I believe I mentioned in a previous post, I race every month.  These races are of various distances and help me stay motivated and try out different courses and speeds.  This week my post will focus on a race report from my experience at the Rockville Twilighter 8k on Saturday night.

IMG_0311This was a new race for me, and a distance I have only raced three times before.  My previous had been set in 2011, after the last time I ran the Marine Corps Marathon.  My time then had been 44:18, so my goal this time was 43:00.  I am not fast enough to be competitive, but I am always trying to beat my last PR! This particular race starts at 8:45 PM and includes free glow sticks.  I hadn’t managed to do my traveling laundry yet, so I ended up getting to run this race in a skirt that I bought to run the Cherry Blossom 10 miler.

Saturday night was much cooler than typical for July, but that doesn’t mean it was cool!  Last year this race was cancelled due to persistent lightning storms, and while we didn’t have any storms to contend with, it was trying to rain off and on.  The race started off with a family fun walk, followed by the 8k race.  It was dark by the time the starting gun went off, and we were off.  For those of you, like me, who have never run this course before, let me give you a word of warning.  IT IS HILLY!  Not that any particular hill is terribly long or terribly steep or brutal, but the course is definitely rolling!  Most of the course goes through neighborhoods in Rockville and it was really lovely to see folks sitting out on their porches and in their yards to cheer on the runners.  Several kind souls even hooked their sprinklers up to sit on their cars and spray into the roads.  These sprinklers may or may not have saved me.

 

It was a lovely race.  I had set my garmin set at an 8:30 pace to give myself a little wiggle room.  I have not become an experienced enough runner to really have a great personal sense of pace, so having a watch that beeps at me if I am going too fast or too slow is a huge help.  I was having an easy enough time keeping pace, but the hills kept slowing me down.  Shortly after the four mile marker I tried to turn up the speed, but the combination of speed and hunger (we hadn’t had dinner before the race!) kept me pretty steady instead of speedy.  The race still went well and I finished with a new PR of 42:05!!

Darcars Rockville Rotary Twilight Runfest 2014 - Photo by Ken Trombatore

 

 

Now I’ve got a break from racing until the Virginia Beach Half Marathon at the end of August.  For now, I’m firmly back into focusing on being ready for Marine Corps and can’t wait to get some more long runs in.  In the meantime – if anyone out there has any questions, please leave it in the comments and I’ll answer them in my post on Sunday!

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MCM Training Week 3 – Let’s Talk Cross Training!!

 Hi readers!  This week we’re going to talk about cross training.  Why?  Well……because I didn’t run.

That’s right.  I did not run.  Not one single mile.  This is not a great marathon training strategy and if we were closer to the race, or I didn’t have solid faith in the base I have built over the last several months I would probably be in some kind of panic over losing a week of training.  Our bodies, however, don’t just immediately crash and burn.  Anyone that has trained for a race knows that things happen.  We get sick, we get injured, our families come to town.  No matter how dedicated we are there are times when life or circumstance make us take pause – either for purposes of mental or physical health.  For me, this last week was a mix of both.

Cross training is an important part of marathon training.  Rest days are important as well.  When you are pushing your body to its limit, it needs a day off.  Bodies being worked hard need time to recover, and muscles occasionally need a change of pace.  People do a lot of different things for cross training.  When I’m at home I have a Zumba class I go to every week.  I also occasionally drop in on yoga or pilaties classes, and now that it is summer I also love swimming.  Here in Costa Rica I was looking for something a bit more, adventurous.  And boy did I find it!

When we last spoke it was Sunday morning and I was musing about whether or not I was going to set off in the blistering jungle heat to run eight miles.  The result of this waffling was I did not run nine miles.  Instead we headed to the beach for some good old fashioned boogie boarding.

Costa Rica 2014 090As you can see, I terrified local children and parents with my haphazard boogie boarding skills.  But it was lots of fun! 

On Monday we headed the opposite direction to one of Costa Rica’s beautiful national parks for one of my other favorite cross training activities – hiking!  I know of folks who even use walking as cross training, so I think a trek through a very hot jungle certainly counts as some decent cross training!  Given that we are in Costa Rica we had some beautiful friends come to watch us hike:

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The bird on the top is a crested caracara, and the monkey on the bottom is a white faced capuchin.  Now, hiking in Virginia may not give you the same kind of wildlife viewing – but I would highly suggest hitting the Billy Goat Trail or even Old Rag sometime this summer if you have occasion to.  They are both amazing hikes with beautiful views, and certainly make for good cross training!

While boogie boarding was fun, I felt like if I was really going to claim it was good cross training, I was going to have to do something a bit more intense.  Enter surf school!

10270828_517754824729_175430075136890256_nTortuga Surf School in Jaco, Costa Rica came highly recommend from trip advisor, so three of us decided we’d try it out.  If you have never had the pleasure of surfing, let me tell you – it is much more of a full body work out than one would imagine!  The first day started off doing drills on the shore.  Learning how to pop up properly to ride over the waves you don’t want to catch, how to get yourself up on your feet quickly once you’ve paddled hard enough to catch your wave, and how to properly squat down low enough to keep your balance long enough to ride your wave.  Then we hit the water to learn how to catch the small breakers. After two hours we were totally beat and we called it a day.

10547742_517776596099_1697934073018489902_oThe second day of surf school they had us paddle waaaay out and start catching swells to ride in.  This was significantly harder, and any time you missed a wave you had quite a long paddle back out.  This was an incredible full body work out, and after only two hours of this more intense surfing, we were about reading to throw up, as illustrated by the picture to the right.  I was more exhausted than I can remember being and absolutely every body part hurt.  Talk about a good work out!!  I did manage to ride a wave or two pretty well.10553753_517776196899_5215732611541202112_o

I took the day between surf school lessons and the day after surf school off.  During this last week I had my best childhood friend come down and hang out with us here, and my brother and his wife have also joined us.  Today (Sunday) is our last full day here in Costa Rica so we went for one last hike in Manuel Antonio National Park and found this lovely friend – Costa Rica Addie Upload 098

 

Today will be my last post from Costa Rica.  Tomorrow we will fly back home, and I imagine my training posts will be much more consistent!  This upcoming Saturday I will be racing at the Rockville Twilighter 8k.  I have set a goal for myself of 43 minutes – which would be a PR for me (I just realized we’ve never talked much about pace – I’m sure we’ll get into it more later).  If any of you are planning on being there and happen to spot me – please come say hi!  I’d love to know someone out there is reading my ramblings about running!  Until next week – run well!

 

 

 

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