January 11th, 2015vacation tales
It’s been over a month since we’ve been back from Peru and, every day, I lose a little bit more of the detail. I’m pretty much forcing myself to sit down and write about it now not just because I want to share our experience, but because I want to preserve some of the memories and nuances and just plain fab experiences we had.
In September, James and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary. It’s still really hard for me to wrap my head around the concept of being married for such a long time. Maybe it’s because we don’t have children, but it just doesn’t feel like that much time has passed. I don’t “feel” old enough to be married that long. Had we had kids, they would have better marked the yearly milestones, to be that physicality of time changing. Instead, it’s been an organic, subtle evolution. It’s only when things like realizing we’ve been in our house over 10 years or acknowledging the neighbor girl who was less than a year when we moved in is now suddenly a teenager that I get a shoulder-shake into the reality that time has passed… A LOT of time has passed.
So, it was our 20th anniversary this year and we wanted to do something big. J and I travel quite a bit, but we aren’t the most epic of travelers. Honestly, I’ve only had my passport for the past 4 years and last year’s worldly travels through work were a bit of an anomaly (a BRILLIANT anomaly — but something I can hardly get used to). We’ve explored so many parts of the US but are a little lacking in our international adventures. That said, as work and finances have evolved, we are in a much more fortunate position now than we were even 5 years ago to consider more transcontinental explorations. And we have our travel bucket list much like everyone else. For me, it’s always included Nepal (and the hike to Everest base-camp), the hike up to Kilimanjaro, ice climbing and kayaking in Alaska (okay maybe that one’s not transcontinental). For James and I, the hike to Machu Picchu in Peru has been on both of our lists. I grew up hearing about this wonder of the world. My father had traveled there with his parents and talked of it frequently while I was growing up. I can’t still hear him singing “MAT-CHUUUUU / PEET-CHUUUU…” to this day.
In March of 2014, there was a deal that came up for the Inca Trail hike through the flash deal/sport’s site, The Clymb. The price of the trip was significantly discounted but also included the amenities and guided services we require — especially when traveling internationally. Since we’d had so much luck a few years ago with purchasing the lodging for our Nicaragua trip through Groupon, we felt pretty confident this was a safe bet. We did our due diligence by reading reviews of the expedition on Trip Advisor and we made the plunge. Two tickets purchased for this Peruvian adventure. We selected November as our travel month simply to leverage the extra vacation days that Thanksgiving provides. We probably should have done a little more research since this is Peru’s spring season moving into summer and the start of the rainy season. But hindsight is 20/20. We were just smitten with the idea of our first two-week vacation to a foreign land containing amazing mountain terrain.
As the year passed, we were a little remiss in planning the rest of the trip. The guided Machu Picchu expedition we selected was a 7-day gig. We still had time on both the front and back yet to sort out. In our minds, we kind of knew we wanted to explore around but we didn’t really sit down to sort it out until a month or so before we left.
When we did the math, we had 5 days on the front and three days on the back. James wanted to ensure we explored Lima, the capital of the country. He also identified Ica as a destination with both Pisco distilleries and wineries as well as an amazing desert including ginormous sand dunes. Machu Picchu required a flight to Cuscu, the mountain city in the Andes where all the expeditions originate from. And for the last 3 days, we had a number of options: Paracus, Lake Titicaca, the Nazca Lines. I became enamored with the idea of Colca Canyon, a canyon over twice as deep as the Grand Canyon and one of the deepest in the world. Unfortunately, we just couldn’t make the travel there and back work given the limited transportation infrastructure in the country. We ended up settling on a guided expedition down to the Amazon. We didn’t have the time to go deep into the Amazon, but we could at least get to the outskirts. We figured, honestly, when would we ever get another chance to get so close?
I do need to credit our Fodor’s Peru Travel guide. This book was really instrumental in helping us to plan our trip. Online research can be great. But with all the options that Peru has, it was so much easier to page through sections of a physical book and the specific recommendations for lodging, restaurants (and even English/Spanish dictionary in the back) were so very helpful. Between discovery and vetting through this book (and validation by going online to Trip Advisor to read reviews), we really did a great job in planning such a long trip on our own outside of the expedition. We also need to thank a few good friends who’ve done the trip before for providing such great advice, guidance, etc.
One other note before I get into the meat of the trip is that we also splurged a little by booking first class airline tickets for the flight. Since we’d known as early as March where we were headed, James was watching airfare pretty aggressively. Unfortunately, all the coach flights from the Cities didn’t vary much in cost. Everything was ~$800-1000 consistently. Then, one day, J noticed the first class fares dropped from $4k to $1.8k. Still not a drop in the bucket, but considering the length of the flight (and the fact that J had never flown first class before internationally — something I’ve had the luxury to enjoy), it seems an appropriate splurge for “the trip of a lifetime” and our 20th anniversary. So, we did it. Two first class tickets to Lima purchased.
Okay. That was a lot of preamble. But a trip like this takes some pre-work! Now let’s fast-forward to the real thing.
Day 1 – Lift-off
The first day of the trip was one of travel. Our flight from Minneapolis left at 9 am so we had to be at the airport bright and early. Since I knew we had a long day ahead of us, I made the very sexy move of wearing yoga pants and my Frye boots for the trip. Yep. Comfy yoga pants to sleep in, and Frye boots I didn’t want to pack in my luggage.
We had a 6 hour lay-over in Atlanta, which wasn’t ideal. But it did allow us to visit family. James’ cousin lives in Atlanta and they made the trip out to the airport to enjoy a meal and swap stories. It was really lovely to see him and his wife and it made the layover time fly by.
The other benefit of first class (beyond the larger seats and liquor & food in-flight) is access to the Sky Club. After lunch, we downed a few cocktails before making our evening flight to Lima.
Our flight to Peru was pretty uneventful, but it was comfy. There is nothing like being greeted with a glass of champagne upon boarding, having access to unlimited movies and lay-flat beds and a 3-4 course meal served by lovely attendants who greet you as Mrs. Lockwood each and every time. I settled in with my wine (and water) and watched Boyhood (a film I’d been dying to see) before I falling asleep for the remainder of the flight.
James enjoying his “first-class” dinner
We arrived in Lima at 1 am and this is where the adventure really starts. Waking up from the fog of mid-night sleep and a few glasses of wine, we stumbled out of the plane and into a new world… one where my first observation was the rule of no toilet paper in the toilets… ever. And, often, no toilet paper even provided an option. For this, I thank my many Peru advisers — take TP with you everywhere you go.
While we waited to get our luggage, an official looking security man along with his Labrador inspected our carry-on baggage for smuggled fruit and meat. Once passing the test and leaving with bags in-hand, we exited to a ginormous crowd of people surrounding the gate. Still tired and groggy and clearly out of sorts since I don’t speak Spanish, I found this suddenly overwhelming. We had a driver meeting us, but there were so many people and so many signs. Taxi drivers soon starting approaching us offering service (clearly we were tourists) as we scanned and scanned the crowds for our driver. It actually took James a few trips through the crowd to finally find him. He was holding a small sign that simply read “James” — not “Lockwood” or “Heather and James Lockwood” like we’d expected. But we were relieved and he helped us with our luggage and walked us to the car.
Our driver didn’t speak any English. By now it is 2 am and, once we were packed in the car, he drove like a crazy person through the city — much like the other Lima drivers. My second observation after the TP: the people here drive so intensely. Lane lines, stop signs and traffic lights are all optional and horns are honked non-stop. The drive was about 30-40 minutes and it was hard to get a real picture of the city in the dark and late of night. What I saw was a lot of trash, a lot of kids out partying (it was Saturday night, after all). It felt like worlds away from the US and then, when we arrived at our destination, it was a very dark and quiet street with no signage. I didn’t even see numbers. A little hesitant and nervous, we exited the cab and followed our driver into the house. We’d booked an inn in the Barranco district of Lima. Since our arrival was literally the middle of the night, the inn owners had our driver (obviously someone they must know and trust) bring us up into the inn and into our room where we paid him his fare and then he left us in a strange house and in a strange country. There was a welcome note from the inn owners: “Don’t drink the water. No TP in the toliet. Breakfast was at 8 am.” We sank into bed, my thoughts all over the place. Mostly, I was wondering how on earth I’d rise in just a few hours to eat.
Day 2 – Lima: Barranco & the Central Business District
In the morning, James got up first. I could hear the conversations with the owners. I heard another lodger’s shower running. I checked the time — just before 8 am. I was surprisingly awake so I joined James in the kitchen.
View from atop the lovely terrace at Casa Nuestra
We were at the Casa Nuestra Peru B&B. The owners were a native Peruvian woman who’d lived internationally for many years along with her husband, an Italian, and their toddler. Francisco was very welcoming, our breakfast was fine (cereal, fruit, bread, coffee) and I got to meet the resident Peruvian dog — my first ever experience with a hairless dog.
A real life Peruvian dog
We received a lot of great advice on where to go for our two days in the city. And, soon, we were off to explore the area.
The Barranco district is the more bohemian of the districts in Lima. Everything was very walkable. We headed towards the ocean and around the lovely colonial streets. We stopped at Canta Rana, a cevicheria, for lunch since one of my number one goals for the trip was as to eat as much ceviche as possible. It was a bit of adventure since J & I know very little Spanish and the restaurant server spoke no English. We ordered shrimp and scallop ceviche as well as a octopus rellenos dish (basically octopus stuffed with cheese and fried — delish but super rich). This was our first experience with Peruvian ceviche, too, which is served traditionally with sweet potato, boiled & roasted giant corn and “cooked” in a sauce called Leche de Tigre. I found a recipe here. And I have to say it was quite a treat.
After lunch, we headed back to the Inn, cleaned up and then caught a cab to take us to the Central District of Lima (downtown). Since it was Sunday, we were promised traffic would be lighter and we were downtown in less than 30 minutes.
Some of the lovely architecture and wood-work in downtown Lima
It’s here that I have to admit that my interest in history is not my strongest quality. I didn’t do any research and I’m not sure exactly what we were looking at. There was the presidential mansion, many amazing old buildings with gorgeous architecture, numerous squares with monuments to historically significant figures and more churches than I could even keep track of.
And the super interesting thing was, as we were walking around, it felt touristy, but not international touristy. I’d expect to see a mix of cultures and colors. But, instead, I felt very aware of my American-ness and blondish hair. November is a bit of the off season, but at times we felt like the only Westerners walking around. Which was fine — everyone was really nice. We wandered around the shopping, mansions and churches. We ate ice cream (which was EVERYWHERE) and ended at a historic bar where we consumed our first Pisco Sours of the trip.
It was really a nice afternoon and the architecture WAS gorgeous. My only comparison to the churches we saw here were the ones we toured in Granada, Nicaragua and the money that exists in Peru (both then and now) was apparent. The Nicaraguan churches could not compete with the majesty and the grandeur of those in Lima. But with that, we also began to see the great divide between the haves and the have-nots in Peru. If we think the middle class are squeezed in the US, I’d say the middle class is almost non-existant in Peru. Of course, this is just through my tourist eyes. But it felt to me, while touring the central district, you either had a lot or not a lot of money – there really wasn’t much in-between.
After touring around for a few hours, we grabbed another taxi to try and hit the ocean for sunset. The destination was La Rosa Nautica in the Mira Flores district of Lima. It is a beautiful restaurant and bar right on the water. We had a great view of all the evening surfers and we settled in for some more Pisco and a snack. We were rewarded with a lovely sunset just before the clouds moved in.
Afterwards, we grabbed another cab to head back to the inn to change and drop off some packages. From there, we walked to a lovely local spot called La 73. Here, we sat down at the outdoor patio (and I can say how lovely it was to be eating at an outdoor patio in November?) and had yet another Pisco Sour (so good), more ceviche and just a pleasant, pleasant meal.
It was quite a packed first day of the trip and I hit my pillow soundly that evening.
Day 3 – Lima: Callao & the Palomino Islands
The next day was our last day in Lima and our destination was Callao, an outer district where you can take guided expeditions out to the Palomino Islands — one of which hosts thousands of sea lions. It’s a debatable activity and something that probably wouldn’t be allowed in the US (and many other countries), but many of the tours here do allow you to jump in the water and swim with the sea lions.
We booked a three-hour boat trip out to the islands which are primarily sand. We spied birds, even penguins.
And, when we approached the sea lion island, we were given the opportunity to put on a wetsuit and hop in the water. I was a little nervous about jelly fish, actually. But I was told it shouldn’t be an issue. So ker-plunk I went along with James and about 10 other fellow passengers. Our instructions were to just float on the outskirts. No climbing on the island, no approaching the animals. Just float and observe. And if the animals approach you, simply keep your feet out in front of you to push them away!!
I have to admit, once in the water, the sea lions seem much bigger form afar so I kept a very safe distance from them. Still, it was quite amazing how non-threatened they were by our group and just looked on with curiosity at the humans floating nearby. A few sea lions popped up from underwater right in front of a few of the other tourists. And at one point, a giant sea lion who looked like the chief of the place jumped from the island into the water and made us all a little nervous.
We did this for about 15-20 minutes and it was really quite cool. These are some of my favorite mammals and it was very cool to get so close to them.
After our boat trip, we were faced with having to flag down a taxi to return us to our inn and a whole adventure unfolded that was stressful and proof that I actually would never be good at competing on The Amazing Race. The story is a little lengthy, so perhaps I’ll tell it to you over a beer sometime in person. But let’s just say it included a “group” cab ride back to Lima that wasn’t not what we were expecting and then getting kicked out of said cab in the Central Business District where no other cab would agree to take us back to Barranco. There was much wandering around and wondering WTF we were going to do. Luckily, James didn’t give up and we finally found a guy to drive us the 5 miles in rush hour (which took about an hour) back to our inn. All of this was not helped by our lack of Spanish-speaking skills. If you do this trip, book a guided expedition IN ADVANCE that includes drivers and English-speaking guides. Ugh.
That evening, we were exhausted from our adventure and had an early wake-up call to begin the next leg of our trip. Therefore, we took the easy way out for dinner. We simply walked back to La 73 where we knew what kind of food we could expect. I felt a little badly that it was only our 2nd official night in Peru and we were already seeking the easy way out for dinner, but the stress and activity had left me drained and I just wanted something simple to eat — which was pasta. Funny, I know. But that evening, it was perfect.
[End of Part 1 of our Peru Vacation]
As I last left you all on this-here blog, I was starting a detox. For 14 days. I reviewed the crazy that led to the decision. And I’ll admit, I was pretty nervous going into this project. I was nervous as hell to tackle two weeks without alcohol — which might not sound very healthy, but it’s true. I love my booze: wine, beer, martinis, champagne. I love it all — probably too much.
I was also super nervous about the cooking thing. I don’t cook. At least not anymore. There is a day, way back probably 15-20 years ago when James and I were first married and starting to get healthy and that had me anxiously anticipating my monthly delivery of Cooking Light and spending Sundays and weeknights experimenting with vegetables and making “healthy changes.” But that girl is long gone. Somehow, she has slowly and surely been replaced by this chick who works too late, comes home famished and would rather settle on a dinner of salsa, chips and a hand-ful of baby carrots if it means she doesn’t have to (1) wait to eat and (2) work to make it happen. Not healthy, but the truth.
Luckily, however, as this transition happened, I was fortunate enough to have a husband keep his love of cooking. He gradually took over grocery shopping list creation and pretty much every meal assembled in our household. So, on nights when I didn’t have to nosh on snack foods for dinner, his fairly healthy creations have kept me nourished. Nourished, but not in control. Which has meant that each time in the past 5 years that I’ve tried to re-join Weight Watchers or follow a new diet plan, I was at the whim of either James’ cooking, my lack of motivation and whatever was on the menu at Organica, our cafe at work. Not exactly a recipe (ha, ha! get it? recipe?) for success.
So, when I decided I wanted to give this 14 day detox a go, I knew I needed to put forth 100% effort — not just in willpower to stay on plan, but in terms of preparation. I am the only one in control of what goes into my mouth and I needed to own it — especially if I wanted to see success.
So, that’s what I did. I started on Monday, February 17th — President’s Day. It was a holiday from work and I planned on using the time off to get everything together. I had no excuse to fail. And since I knew I did have to travel over the next weekend coming up, I knew it was even more critical to make sure I had everything I needed together to make the plan work.
On that first Monday, I spent more time in the kitchen than probably the last 5 years combined. I cooked chili, stuffed bell peppers with organic beef and wild rice, lemon-garlic chicken breasts and almond butter coconut milk curry with vegetables, chicken and quinoa. I also prepped vegetables. I cut up celery, bell peppers, cucumbers and mushrooms for salads and snacks. I shredded carrots and chopped 3 cups of onion for easy meal creation. I even made both hummus and guacamole from scratch.
At the end of the day, my back hurt but my fridge was stuffed. I also got to experience my first day “on the plan” in the comfort of my own home. This allowed me to experience, trial and journal in a thoughtful way during my first day on the program. Breakfast was very filling. It was a 1/2 cup of gluten-free oatmeal mixed with 2 scoops of the Vanilla Fast Fuel, 2 scoops of the fiber supplement, 1/2 cup of blueberries, 2 Tbls chopped walnuts, 1 Tbls of Flax meal and enough unsweetened almond milk to mix it together. It wasn’t the most pleasant textural experience — kind of actually gloppy and sludge-like. But it didn’t taste bad. And it was, like I said, very filling. I had the option for the remaining 13 days to either eat that or have a Fast Fuel smoothie for breakfast.
For lunch, I went the route of the “un-wrap” which is basically a salad in the form a wrap. It was a romaine lettuce leaf spread with hummus and topped with 3-4 oz. organic turkey breast, chopped peppers, shredded carrots and baby spinach all rolled up. I was a little nervous about the veggies & protein only lunch, but it was pretty filling and tasted good.
My afternoon snack was a big one: a Fast Fuel smoothie with the fiber supplement, Dynamic Greens supplement and almond milk. I had this with about 20 cashews. I don’t usually “snack” on this much food. But considering I had only veggies and protein for lunch, it was nice and filling and didn’t feel too over-the-top.
For dinner, I served up the almond-butter coconut curry with chicken and vegetables that I’d prepared earlier in the day. That was served over 1/2 cup of quinoa. This recipe was super delicious. It was very filling and even though I thought just 1/2 of quinoa seemed stingy when I served it, it was plenty.
This meal plan is pretty much the structure for the next 13 days. Lunch would alternate with salads. Sometimes I had a mid-morning snack of carrots & hummus or celery & almond butter. A few times I had to eat a small apple and 8-10 almonds pre-6 am workout to make sure I had fuel in the tank.
I also drank A LOT of green tea.
Before starting the program, I was also very nervous about the “no coffee/caffeine” part of the program. But the week before the detox, I prepped by cutting back on my coffee intake to where I was drinking just one cup of joe a day. This probably helped a lot because I didn’t have a single caffeine headache during the detox. But since the program allowed green tea, I think that also helped keep my withdrawal symptoms at bay.
The program also included supplements — herbs for liver cleanse, toxicity relief and other stuff I can’t remember. It was 6 capsules I took at both breakfast and my afternoon snack. I can’t really tell you how they work or made me feel, but I did take them as part of the program.
In addition to the nutrition, the program also recommended regular yoga, sauna, meditation and massage sessions. I didn’t get the 3x a week recommended. But I did manage 2 yoga sessions last week and this week. I made it to the sauna maybe 4 times, I got in 2 massages including one lymphatic and I meditated twice.
If I struggled with anything on the program, it was probably water intake. It was recommended I take in 9-10 glasses per day — I averaged probably between 7-8. But I didn’t count all the green tea so hopefully that helped covered the deficiency.
As far as sleep, I really did try to dedicate myself to attempting 8 hours per night and staying as close to a 10 pm – 6 am schedule as possible. Since I do try and workout 3 morning per week before work, that did require some early rise time.
But honestly, if I noticed anything during this process, it was my energy was high. And super steady. That’s the big thing that I will take away. Normally, I ebb and flow throughout the day. I have highs and I have lows. There is always a 2pm/3pm slump. If I go more than 2-3 hours without eating, I get “h-angry”. But on this plan, my energy was steady. No lows. And it didn’t occur to me until halfway through the program that I wasn’t getting ravenous at any point in the day. In fact, I could actually go 3-4 hours without eating. I wasn’t starving when I got home. And I actually felt more alert at work. It was weird, but cool.
I also think during this program that I have slept more soundly. It’s been easier to fall asleep and I’m waking up more “awake.”
Some of the challenges have been feeling deprived. The first week wasn’t so bad. But by last week, I was getting really sick of salads. The worst was probably the day that James and I spent about 2-1/2 hours XC skiing in 10 degree F weather (with negative wind chill temps) and we got back to the warming house where James ordered a hot panini and I had a cold salad with chicken and raw broccoli to eat. It was the last thing in the world that I wanted after being out in the cold and expending some serious calories. It’s almost like my body knew how hard it would be to breakdown raw broccoli and it didn’t even want to try. The second hardest part, was that very same night after we spent another 3 hours out on the cold hiking to the Apostle Island Ice Caves, all I wanted was a dark beer or rich glass of wine. I wanted something warming on a cold winter night after a lot of outdoor activity. Instead, I settled for a cup of cocoa — which was okay. I figured out I could mix cocoa powder in unsweetened almond milk and add some stevia drops for sweetness. It wasn’t a glass of wine, but it was something.
I do blame some of the deprivation feelings on the fact that there was a bit of travel during the 14 days so there was a lot of repetition on food. We were actually on the road for five the days. The first two were to and from a funeral in Illinios so I brought along my prepped food and managed to resist throwing back cocktails with my family the evening we got together. The second three were up north for the Ice Cave excursion. It wasn’t ideal to be on a detox for a cabin-weekend trip. But, as my trainer said, you just have to pick a time and start no matter what. You’ll always have “something” — some excuse to not start. And since I knew I was traveling to SXSW in March, this was really the best time to try. So, I once again brought my prepped food with me. We also had a kitchen in our cabin and James was kind enough to cook two dinner meals: salmon for one and steak for another. Can’t complain about that.
Our last evening of the cabin-weekend we did got to my very favorite brewpub for dinner. Going into it, I knew I needed resolve to not order a beer. I also planned ahead what I would eat since they do have a smoked whitefish salad on the menu. I made a ton to substitutions and tweaks — the waitress was super accommodating and I managed to stay on plan with that dinner out.
Finishing up the program, I am coming away with a new perspective on how to fuel myself. I’ve felt a different kind of energy and learned some new methods for nutrition. I’m also curious to see how adding back foods will feel and it should give me a new perspective on how they make me feel. My hope is to continue some of these habits maybe 75-80% of the time.
Last night, I did break the program for two glasses of Champagne. We had dinner reservations at Meritage and tickets to the Opera. The night with friends had been planned for months. And considering I was 12-2/3 days through the 14 day program by the time I got to dinner, I figured it wasn’t going to ruin anything if I allowed myself the glass of Champagne that I’ve been craving so badly. I ate pretty close to plan. I refused the bread and butter. But the glass of Champagne did turn into two and they both tasted so fantastic. I didn’t regret the choice for a second. Still don’t.
But a funny thing did happen last night. We arrived home, put on our jammies and settled in for Saturday Night Live. I brewed myself a cup a tea and finally headed to bed at 11:35 — because I had a headache.
Now, I’m not sure where exactly the headache came from. In fact, the Opera had been quite loud and the music was very discordant. It was actually my least favorite opera that I’ve seen the Minnesota Opera put on in the years we’ve lived here.
That said, I also can’t help but think that after 12-1/2 days without alcohol, maybe the fizz was the cause.
Luckily, Lifetime does has a before and after questionnaire that gauges all sorts of observations on things like sinus congestion, headaches, sleep, energy level, etc. I’ll grade myself after tonight and share results soon. With this, I’ll also be able to gauge the effects of adding things back from this more pure “after” state. I’ll see how adding back eggs, dairy, soy, peanuts, gluten, sugar, caffeine and alcohol feels. And if I hadn’t had taken this 14 day challenge, I’d never been in this fortunate place.
In the end, I’m really glad I did this. I feel great. The positives definitely have outweighed the negatives. But I’m also looking forward to getting to eat some hash browns, have a glass of wine and not have to scrutinize every label for soy, sugar and dairy.
Cheers, everyone. Thanks for following along for the ride.
For those interested in the recipes, this is a link to a PDF of some of them.
For those interested in the program, here is a link to the manual.
2013 was a crazy year. While I was busy not posting on this blog, some amazing things happened.
I finished the Big Sur marathon. Probably the most epic and rewarding race of my life.
I traveled to Hong Kong, Tokyo and Seoul for work. An unreal opportunity to experience cultures on the other side of the globe.
I worked my ass off. I love my job. I’ve been blessed with getting to do work that I’m passionate about for a company that I’m even more passionate about. But no job is perfect and work/life balance remains a challenge that I’m continually trying to negotiate.
I then got to go work my ass off in Australia for 3 weeks in December. Okay, maybe I didn’t work my ass off — I did make time to sight-see, tour and take in a ton of great food and sparkling wine. It was another opportunity of a lifetime. James even came down-under to visit.
But a terrible thing also happened in 2013.
My father did which I did write about on this blog. And I’m still going through the motion of a year of firsts without him in our lives. Which is challenging, sad. Certainly full of many bittersweet emotions.
And while those are the milestones that will be committed to the 2013 experience for the long-term, the year was full of other experiences and priorities. There was that half ironman race that I didn’t really train for ended up getting saved from the Lake Superior swim, but I completed the course anyway (even in the 100 degree heat of the run) and was rewarded with crossing the finish line with my husband who completed his very first triathlon — not to mention half ironman.
There were concerts. A lot of concerts, actually. And I got to meet some of my favorite performers such as Dessa, P.O.S. and the lead singer of Toad the Wet Sprocket.
There were vacations and long weekends, too, which included not one but two trips to the Apostle Islands in our sea kayaks.
And then there are all those other experiences that enrich are lives such as reading a good book (The Dog Stars, probably my favorite 2013 read), watching a good movie (Hunger Games Catching Fire really delivered), hanging out with friends and neighbors, cuddling with pups and running and racing with friends.
But amongst all this positive and some negative, I continued to lose a little bit of my flow. I continued down a path that started a handful of years ago where “fit and healthy Heather” took a backseat to work, to stress, to other obligations.
Then, three weeks ago, my body broke down. After finishing out my Australia trip, the holidays and then managing some intense first few weeks of January prepping for our big global sales meeting, I caught the full-on flu midway through the sales meeting week and things just shut down. I don’t think I’ve ever had the flu as an adult. But suddenly I was struggling with a fever of 103, aches and pains, a horrible cough and all the other crap that goes with this kind of sickness. I finally went in for help two days into the yuck where I was officially diagnosed, put on Tamiflu and I literally slept and watched TV for 5 days straight.
I’m still recovering. It was a pesky beast of an illness. But I honestly think my body was just tired of fighting, tired of trying to keep up especially in light of the fact that exercise was sporadic, my eating not the healthiest and the booze was flowing. Not ideal conditions for when one encounters Strain A of Influenza (should i even mention that I also had to fly to NOLA for a trade show the weekend right before the sales meeting? I’m still unsure if my bug came from Minnesota or Louisiana!).
So, as I’ve been recovering, I’ve been getting back into a groove with exercise which has been nice. I never stopped exercising, but I wasn’t consistent and I’d pretty much dropped Yoga and Spin altogether. In the last week or so, I’ve been to two yoga classes, a 90 minute spin, weight training/fitness circuit classes and I’ve been running with my group. And it feels so good! It reminds me of the girl I used to be in my early 30s. I’ve missed the endorphins. So, I’m committed to keeping this up. I need this.
I’m also looking at a race schedule for the 2014 season to stay regular with my running. The late April “Get in Gear Half Marathon” will be my first race of the year and I’m starting that training plan. I’m also registered for the Looney Challenge in October with TCM: a 5k, 10k and 10 mile run all in the course of the marathon weekend. I’m very excited about that — especially since it guarantees entry into the 10-miler, one of my favorite races in the world.
I’m unsure if this will be another marathon year. I’m feeling the itch again, but haven’t pulled the trigger on a race. I’m also thinking I should probably get back to physical therapy and see what they say before I head back into the 26.2 madness.
So, it’s good. I’m feeling good. I’m feeling like I’m getting back into something and I’m ready to focus on me for a bit.
And in addition to all that good stuff, I’m also starting a 14-day detox to give myself a real kick-in-the-pants. It’s a program through my health club. It will have me eliminating gluten, dairy, sugar and most caffeine. I’m a little nervous, but I do have lots of good food I can still eat so I’m too worried about being hungry. I’m more worried about making sure I’m prepared. So, to help with that, I’m using this President’s Day holiday to prep. I’m cooking a number of recipes for the week ahead to set myself up for success.
I’m both excited and nervous about the 14 days ahead. But what I hope to accomplish is to begin a few new habits — a few habits that used to be much more a part of my lifestyle. I need to learn to cook for myself again. I need to make time for that. I need to prepare in advance to set myself up for success. And I need to not lean so heavily on food and alcohol in times of stress.
I’m also excited to build a meditation practice into the next two weeks.
I’d also like to say I will journal my experience, but I can only commit to so much. I hope to check in and update the blog on how it’s going, but we’ll see. The priority is the food, sleep, exercise and meditation.
I’m excited. Let’s see how this goes!
August 3rd, 2013random
A week and a half ago, James and I returned to Bayfield, Wisconsin to kayak the Apostle Islands — much like we did in September of 2011. At that time, we had an ambitious plan of 4 islands in 4 days with no concept of just how mighty Lake Superior could be. Even though we’d felt “semi-pro” considering our water safety skill-training and guided trip to Isle Royale in 2009, we just didn’t fully understand what was in store for us, the magnitude of it all. And our first paddle out on day 1 of that trip brought reality smack down in front of our face. It was only a 4 mile paddle from Little Sand Bay to York Island, but the water was choppy, the boats hulls were smashing into 2 to 3 foot waves that (even at that size), were be pretty damn intimidating when sitting at sea level. And we couldn’t really even take a rest for even a minute or two because, even in that amount of time, we would float off course as the water pushed into its preferred direction. That day, we paddled our asses off for what seemed like forever — in actuality, it was only about 60 to 75 minutes. That maiden voyage was a rude awakening to how bad-ass Lake Superior can be. We needed to be cautious.
That trip in 2011, as I mentioned, was modified. We ended up staying at York 2 nights due to weather & water conditions. We did have a lovely day three of good-to-choppy conditions where we paddled about 12-14 miles including an expedition to Sand Island for the sea caves and then camp transition and paddle to Oak for the next two days. Our final paddle home to Little Sand Bay (approx. 10 miles) was even a challenge. The first 4-6 miles was clear and calm, but then we cornered around Raspberry point and the the full strength that day of Superior hit us head on for a tiring final leg that left me exhausted and wondering why we’d attempted such an adventure in the first place.
But, as if often does, memory fades with time. We own our boats that we don’t nearly utilize as often as we should. And we decided, being wiser as we are about the adventure, to head out to the Islands again. Disconnect. Take advantage of the summer months. Paddle, camp, escape.
This year, our plan was again ambitious. But ambitious with “experience.” We’ve done this before. We knew what we could handle. We were going to head out from Red Cliff Bay and paddle 6-8 miles to Oak for night one. Then we would paddle 12 miles to Ironwood and stay for two nights. After that, we would paddle another 10 miles to Stockton for another two nights. And we’d finish with a 10 mile paddle back to home base. Those are hefty distances, but we weren’t planning an island a day like last time. We know from that one 12-mile day, we were capable of those kind of distances. And we also knew that plans would have to change if the weather didn’t cooperate. With that said, all the weather forecasts leading up to our trip looked so good. Perfect even. Dry. A 40-70 degree temperature range. Like I said, perfect.
So, on Thursday, we headed to Bayfield with our wet bags packed and our kayaks strapped. It was a four-hour drive up north and our goal was to get there by noon. But we got out the door later than expected. Then, midway into the trip, we discovered James forgot his Tevas — aka kayaking shoes. And we had to make a detour to Duluth for a replacement pair. We also got lunch while we were there. All of that meant we didn’t arrive into Bayfield until after 2:30 pm.
We first checked into at the park station. Then it took us at least another hour to pack up the boats. During this entire time, the weather was gorgeous. There was a 30% chance of thunder storms, but the sky was blue. And as we were packing up the boats, a group of kayaks came in. They’d had a lovely day. They’d been out since 8 am. Looking at them and the conditions, I felt the trip to Oak Island would be easy. Even if we were leaving late, 8 miles at the maximum should only take 2 to 2.5 hours and we’d have daylight until at least 8:30 pm at the latest. We were fine.
It was a little before 4:30 when we finally launched. The sun was still out. The water seemed very amenable. We passed at least two groups of kayaks going in the opposite direction and one fellow paddler even called out, “Great day for a paddle!”
But 15-20 minutes in, the water started to get choppy. James suggested we stay close to shore until we needed to make the open water paddle across to the island which would then be a straight shot. That is when I started to notice some darker clouds approaching from the mainland.
They did say a chance of thunderstorms, after all.
As we continued to paddle, the sky continued to darken and the water continued to get choppier. This was no longer going to be an easy paddle and my nerves began to fray. As we continued along, I also took note of exactly how much gigantic red rock lined the shore. If we needed to stop and take shelter, options for beaches to land our boats on were slim to none. This fact didn’t help my anxiety.
When we finally started approaching the point where we’d have to begin our open water passage, the waves were at least 2-4 feet and my confidence was shrinking. I told James I was nervous. The sky was continuing to darken and the last thing I wanted was to be caught in the middle of Lake Superior in a thunder storm. James agreed and we decided to backtrack and attempt to find a beach to land and wait out the weather.
As we backtracked toward what looked to be an old marina, we noticed there wasn’t really anywhere to land our boats. We even kayaked up to the marina docks with the giant private piers. Unfortunately giant rocks lay beside them instead of any semblance of a beach. I suggested we try and head back to where we started and James wasn’t sure we even had time for that much distance. At that point, we did remember seeing a tiny beach maybe midway back. We turned around and just paddled until we could find something, anything.
Luckily, just beyond the marina, there was a smaller dock with two red Adirondack chairs atop and, beside it, the smallest of beaches. Yay! A place to land! We pulled up just as it started to rain. The wind picked up and it was clear we were not going anywhere anytime soon.
So, we did what we had to. We exited our kayaks and marched up the stairs to the property that owned the dock and knocked on the door and pleaded for refuge.
Okay, maybe saying pleading for refuge is a little strong, but we did ask very nicely of the sweet woman who answered if we could camp out in her lawn. She was more than accommodating (although, she did never open the screen door so all conversations had that wire barrier). About 300 feet from the house was a grassy area that had clearly been mowed overlooking the lake. We could camp there if we needed. Which, we clearly did.
And that’s how we found ourselves camping in some stranger’s front yard on night one of our vacation…
In talking about it with James afterward (which is funny how different our feelings about this development were), I’d felt awkward the entire time about camping on someone’s property. I kept thinking about the owner looking out the front window only to see our tent 300 yards away. I kept wondering if she was thinking about where we were going to the bathroom. I kept wondering what her husband or any other visitor would think if they arrived at the house and saw our tent.
James? He was content. He didn’t think twice about her. In his mind, we were safe. We could rest. Tomorrow was another day.
That evening after the heaviest rain fell, we walked down to the dock and saw the most perfect rainbow. It started and ended in the giant lake in front of us. I can’t tell you when I’ve seen a spectacle that amazing and complete in its display. All I could think was this was either a sign of good luck or my father’s ironic sense of humor sent from heaven. I imagined him from above sending us on this crazy adventure (complete with low-flying bald eagle right above our heads minutes before the water got its choppiest) with this perfect rainbow as his reward at the end. He’d certainly would have gotten a chuckle out of this one.
That night in the yard, I slept and I didn’t sleep. Weird dreams. Hard ground because we hadn’t unpacked our air mattresses in our haste to set up camp during the storm. 5:30 am arrived and I knew I wanted to get out on the lake and out of this woman’s yard.
We awoke to the calmest of lakes, barely a ripple in sight.
I thought this bode well for the trip ahead of us. Because we hadn’t made it Oak Island, the paddle to Ironwood would be more like 16 miles. I’ve never paddled that far in one day. But we figured we could take all day for the voyage, we could stop on some islands in between to rest from time to time if needed. Worst case scenario, we’d stay on an island in between if conditions required. It took us about an hour to heat up water from the lake for drinking, eat breakfast and pack up our boats. And by the time we launched, the calm lake had definitely transitioned into choppier conditions. Right before I got in my boat, I listened to the marine radio one last time and the forecast had changed. No longer were we forecast for partly cloudy with calm to 2 ft waves all day. Damn Lake Superior, she was living up to her name and ability to change conditions on a dime. Now conditions were currently 1-3 ft waves forecast to change to 2-4 ft with potential for a small craft advisory. A fog was also moving in and the clouds were dense and unforgiving.
With all that said, I’ve paddled through tough conditions before. We still had all day. I told James I was nervous, but we decided to give it a go. We could head straight towards Hermit Island, see how it went, take refuge if we had to or continue on our journey.
We didn’t even make it halfway to Hermit.
Maybe 30 minutes in, the conditions were challenging. Not the worst I’d ever paddled in, but the idea of slugging through 16 miles of this was daunting. I also had that “small craft advisory” in the back of my mind and the complete cloud cover made it hard to get a sense of how the weather could be changing. Being the worrier that I am, I couldn’t keep away the looming thoughts of being stranded out in the middle of Superior in 4 ft waves with no easy access to shoreline in sight. 16 miles went from challenging to impossible in my mind and I finally had to cry uncle to James.
“Let’s go back.”
It was hard to make the call. The stubborn athlete inside me hated calling it quits on any journey. But, on this day, I was fearing for my safety. It’s one thing to struggle through pain to get to the finish, it’s another thing to put oneself in harm’s way. And without a guide or a GPS or even a satellite phone, this felt like too much a gamble to me.
James conceded, although I knew he was disappointed. I cried a little in relief and we made the trek back to Red Cliff Bay where, just 15 hours prior, we had launched off. The plan was to find a campground on mainland until the weather broke. We knew Little Sand Bay was an option. And when we landed back on shore, we unpacked our boats, loaded up the van. And just before we headed to the only campground we were aware of, the groundskeeper at the launching point inquired on if we were going to cut our vacation short due to conditions. We said no, but we still needed to figure out what plan B was. It is then that he told us about Point Detour, a campground on the Lake Superior Chippewa reservation that didn’t advertise, but delivered “rustic camping.” Remote. A view of the lake. It sounded like the closest thing to actually being on a remote island as we could get considering the circumstances. And knowing the set-up at Little Sand Bay, it sounded much more desirable to camp somewhere less crowded with more access to views of the lake.
Before seeking out the camping ground, we did return to Bayfield. If we were going to be on the mainland, we might as well treat ourselves to a nice strong coffee at the local cafe. It was one of the best coffees I’ve ever had in my life. I credit the fact that this was the first time since we left home that I was able to truly relax. No daunting paddle to worry about. No lake conditions to obsess over. Just me and dark roast and a little half & half. So yum.
With coffees in hand, we then headed to the park service office to weigh our options. We knew we’d be on mainland for at least one night, if not two. But we wanted to see if there were some other (closer) island camping options if the weather broke. When we arrived, we also saw that the posted weather conditions had, after all, called for a small craft warning. We’d made the right call. After chatting through multiple scenarios and reviewing the forecast for the next couple of days, we landed on staying mainland for two nights and then attempting a small paddle to Basswood (the closest island to Red Cliff Bay) for two nights. Even in tough conditions, if the weather didn’t break, we knew we could make that paddle. I know part of James as a little disappointed that our epic vacation had turned into a novice-level paddle. But it was the safe route and would still salvage the trip.
With the itinerary nailed down, we proceeded to Point Detour. And the groundskeeper was not exaggerating when we said this place was remote and rustic. We followed a road into the wilderness which turned into a gravel road which then turned into a muddy washed-out mess that, a few times, we were worried the minivan wouldn’t be able to traverse. It’s amazing how remote 10 miles can feel when the driving conditions are that difficult.
With that said, the campground did not fail to deliver. It was right on Superior. There were only maybe two other occupied campsites in the 30-site area and we got a very nice, secluded spot that featured tree cover, lake views and a nice comfy tent pad.
The weather never really improved. It spat rain all day, on and off. It was windy. So we set up camp and spent much of the day in our tent reading our books and napping. And, after all the drama, this felt like heaven.
The only disadvantage to this spot was there wasn’t really access to water. There was a stairway down to some rocks on the lake, but the waves had gotten pretty violent and there was no safe way to get down low enough to fill our jugs without risking a total soaking (and possible stumble into the lake) due to the crashing waves. James did, at one point, have to make the 1 hour round-trip to Little Sand Bay for both water and firewood.
The next day was pretty uneventful. The campground was peaceful. The weather was cool and wet. We hiked for about 90 minutes during a dry patch in the day. I finished one book, started another. We had a fire that evening. We sat around absorbing the heat, drinking our boxed wine and even smoked a cigar.
On day four, Sunday, we awoke to a little more rain, but it eventually died down and we were able to cook breakfast, pack up camp. The weather forecast was looking up and it appeared we’d finally be able to make our trek to at least one of the Apostle Isles.
The rest of the trip was pretty uneventful. We easily made the trip to Basswood in about 45 minutes even with some wind and chop to the water. The campground landing area for the boats was actually a rock ledge, not a sandy beach which was its own challenge in terms of getting in and out of our crafts. Throughout the day, the water calmed. We hunted for firewood, set up camp, we were soon joined on the island by two other sets of campers. We saw an awesome sunset (finally!), had another great fire, slept soundly, finished another book.
On Monday, we finally got sun! And it was warm! I was finally able to free myself of my Patagonia down sweater and rain coat. We rose at 5 am to catch sunrise on the island which was stunning. A 90 minute hike later, we feasted on a breakfast of biscuits and gravy (my favorite of the REI dehydrated meals) and then set out for a morning paddle to see the sea stack on the north side of the island.
The weather was more than cooperative that day and our morning paddle turned into a 3-hour circumnavigation of the entire island. We saw baby ducks, got to play around the sea stack, absorb the sun and take in much of the island. It was probably our very best day and we napped like the dead after we got back to camp and ate lunch.
That evening, we had our last fire, we hung out and drank a little rum with our neighbors and finally rested for our final night of camping.
The next day, almost like the sun was a dream, we awoke to rain (again!) and I was not sad that we’d be leaving and headed back to the mainland and a hotel room and a shower. I slept in late, read my book until even later and, when the rain finally subsided, we packed up and headed out saying goodbye to Basswood and our adventure.
In the end, we didn’t paddle nearly as much as we’d planned. We didn’t see any of the islands on our itinerary. But we did learn a lot about what it means to be flexible. About the humility required when under the authority of the Greatest of Great Lakes. And, of course, how to make the best out of the unexpected.
I don’t know when we will be back or what kind of approach we will take next time if we do, but I do know that the Apostles and the national shoreline of Lake Superior are a gift in terms of its proximity to where we live, its majesty and its ability to shed the layers of modern day technology, stress and distraction. To unplug and just exist with only shelter, safety, fire and fuel as the sole concerns is a luxury in of itself. It provides a clarity of mind and an stripping down of self that is hard to get to anywhere else.
Coming back from trips like these make me feel refreshed in a way that is so hard to articulate, but is yet very, very profound.
June 19th, 2013weight watchers
And this is what happens when you rejoin Weight Watchers the day before your birthday…
The plus side, I guess, is that I know what I ate.
So, I just joined Weight Watchers. Again.
Which is a little different from how many times I’ve “re-started” WW. That’s about a trillion and, honestly, to very little to no success each time aside from the very first time when I actually did hit my goal weight for a whole 2 weeks until I settled in somewhere upwards of it 5-10 lbs. of it for a number of years. Then some more weight came on. A pound here. A pound there. I’d start counting points again which never lasted more than a week or two. And I finally gave up on WW. I quit. I deleted my account. I tried some other programs such as working with the trainers at my club who lead my small group training classes. I tried My Fitness Pal. I also didn’t try. I didn’t try a lot.
Then some stuff happened this spring. My dad died. That was kind of a big deal. I also ran the Big Sur marathon. That was not as big a deal, but still significant — especially since it came on the heel’s of dad’s death and I did manage to raise over $1200 in his name for Audubon MN by dedicating my run in his honor.
Other minor stuff has happened. I work a lot. I love my work, but it sometimes gets in the way of making good choices. Or at least that the excuse I’ve used.
Then today, as I settled into my desk in anticipation of a productive day working from home to get caught up on a whole bunch of end-of-fiscal-year stuff, I found myself on the site and signing up for e-tools for whatever reason. And all I can say is holy buckets, the site is all sorts of different. The program is different, too. Fruit is 0 points?? WTF is up with that?
Maybe it will be motivating. The tools for the smartphone are way better than they were before. Or maybe I’ll give up again in two weeks. Not sure. I hope not, but we’ll see.
For now, I’m back. I’ve got 7 points left for the day and I’ve drank a whole load of water this afternoon as just one tactic to avoid snacking on the left-over early birthday cake that James cooked for me last night.
2March 11th, 2013random
So, you may or may not know this, but my dad died last week. On Sunday night.
And it was sudden. Completely out of the blue.
Maybe “not really” out of the blue. I don’t think anyone would disagree with me if I acknowledged my dad wasn’t the “healthiest” guy. In fact, he wasn’t all that healthy at all. He smoke. He drank. He didn’t exercise like I do. But you still don’t expect that phone call. Not at 62 years of age. Not at 1 am. Not four days before his 63rd birthday. Not after spending a night out with your husband, a date-night of sorts spent de-stressing from the work week with a fancy dinner and drinks and a nice sound sleep in our warm & comfy bed.
But the phone rang. Oh, boy, did it “rang.” We did our best to ignore it for a solid 2-3 hours. Finally, at 3:45 AM, James had enough wits to acknowledge the vibrating cell phones and got up because someone wanted to get a hold of us. Someone. Someone as in my dad’s wife. Someone as in my brother. Dad is not well. Family needs to come. And suddenly we were packing ourselves up in the middle of the night and on our way to Kentucky.
The story doesn’t end well. My dad was sick. He was on life support. We got to spend some time with him while still “technically” alive. I had the sense that he was gone. But I also wanted to retain hope. It’s too early. He’s still so young.
On Saturday night, after leaving the hospital and attempting to get a few ZZZss at a local hotel, I dreamed/sensed exactly at 3:30 am that dad’s spirit had finally joined that of Grandma & Grandpa Begley’s. Still, I wanted to hold out hope that thing could change, he could get better.
That hope lasted until Sunday evening. 48 hours before my dad’s 63rd birthday, he was pronounced dead.
My dad was dead.
After that, the week became a whirlwind of decisions made and memories shared. I think we did our absolute best to celebrate him and make proper arrangements. But it’s a jumble. It’s a hazy, busy week spent in the state where I grew up. There were some hours in the hotel gym. There were hours in the local bar. There were hours spent walking across the campus where I met my husband and lunched with my dad, the professor. My brother was there with his wife and my niece. My dad’s wife’s family – so very big and bold – took up an enormous amount of space that I found both comforting and overwhelming. I ran into members and memories of my past that I’ve spent a good 20-30 years outrunning for reasons of which now I’m not exactly sure why. It was a long, hard week.
At at the end of all, we had a lovely visitation. Lovely words were spoken. And we all felt heavily the weight of the life that was lost. My dad. Gone too soon
I did speak some words at the memorial. And, being the planner that I am, I had to write them in advance. So, I only thought it would be fitting to share them here online as well. Put them on the internet. In loving memory of my dad, Thomas Reid Begley, Jr. The environmental engineer. The uncle. The husband. The grandfather. The man who played a big part in making me who I am and, I know, impacted the lives of many others:
If there is anything that resonates with me most about my dad it is both his passion for the outdoors and his love of of technology. My childhood was fused with both — whether it was my playing 3-Mile Island on our old Apple II E (a video game where you tried to prevent a nuclear meltdown) or going on one of our many camping/canoeing adventures. And I mean MANY. So many that I actually took about a 20 year hiatus from camping, just ask my husband.
We were always surrounded by technology and the outdoors growing up. I would go to the computer lab with dad and save my work on those giant, literally “floppy” disks. I attended my first Earth Day celebration on the Murray State campus as a very young kid — way before caring for the Earth was a popular mindset.
And it was these core tenants that made me who I am. A technology enthusiast with a passion for the environment. I get to go to work every day and talk about Facebook and iPad apps and do it for a company that genuinely cares for the world we live in. And I know for certain that I wouldn’t be doing this if it was not for my father’s influence.
Dad & I had a complex relationship and we didn’t visit frequently. But that distance or lack of words did not diminish how threaded he is in the fiber of my being. My love of animals. The fact that, after refusing to canoe for over twenty years, I actually bought my very own kayak. And the way that I look with wonder at the gorgeousness of nature on every run, hike or bike ride that I take. That love of looking on our world is not a skill that can be taught. It is an influence that happens by leading by example. And there is no bigger or better example for caring and appreciating the world we live in, than my dad.
We have shared a lot of stories about my dad over that past week. Lots of them funny and full of life. I have ton of my own. But when I think about him, I keep coming back to the simplest of stories. Growing up, when we would camp, he often would refuse to set up the tent and I would get so frustrated by that. Why would he do that? But he always responded that he just wanted to sleep under the stars. To this day, that memory resonates. He just wanted to sleep under the stars. Wanted to look on the majesty of it all and take it in. And we could all be so lucky to find such pleasure in the simple wonder of our world. And we are all so lucky to have had such an influence in our lives.
Thank you, Dad. You were truly one of a kind.
This has been a very transitional year for me. The job switch has been the most obvious adjustment. But during the past year, there have been other shifts in how I act, behave, see things, live. And probably the most pronounced adjustment (again, aside from the job thing) is that I’m becoming a different kind of athlete.
Fitness and activity is very important to me. Since I found multi-sport and running and cycling many years ago, my live has been truly changed. I’m a different person because of it all. This focus on activity has brought with it so many amazing experiences and outlets. Spending time outdoors. Achieving goals. Pushing through what once seemed impossible. The ability to detox and de-stress through physical exertion. The camaraderie that comes from running, cycling, swimming with buddies. All of these are aspects of sport that truly make my life the amazing thing that is.
But with all that said, I am not the crazy, competitive 35 year old that I was a mere five years ago. I no longer feel that drive to constantly get faster, to increase my place within my age group. And while, sure, I want to see progress and I like to run a personal best if that’s the opportunity in front of me on a particular day, whether or not I do so is no longer as defining as it once was. Maybe it’s just that I’ve come to accept that I’m going to have races that are slower than my personal bests. I certainly don’t put in the same amount of time to training that I once did. Other things have taken priority. And that’s okay. Where I once used to aim for 10-15 training hours per week, now I’m settling for 6 or 7. It’s a balance on the other side that I kind of like. Not devoting entire Saturdays to swim/bike/run can be a really good thing if it means I have time to go to the dog park or the farmer’s market, maybe catch up on work a little or even just linger over a cup of coffee with my husband.
So, as part of that, my goals are different. I still enjoy races. But the journey is the focus now. The finish time is not the only measure of success. And I’m really starting to enjoy the zen that comes from that revelation.
At the end of the day, I’m so very fortunate to have the body, the time and the economic freedom to do what I do. The luxury of laying down 10 miles on the trail padding away with my running group or while listening to a favorite podcast is something I am continually thankful for. There is no reason to beat myself up over not getting faster like I was once known to do. Going slow is no longer an indicator of a bad workout.
I’m not sure exactly when and how I go here, but I’m happy I made it. To be satisfied in the simple action is the end goal.
Life is good. We are constantly evolving, growing, learning. And just learning to appreciate and acknowledge that is such a peaceful and blessed state.
Of course, I say all that but have to acknowledge that I’m not giving up my heart rate monitor. I’ll still lap time my miles. I still love my numbers and tools. They’re just reflective of different kind of fitness end goal.
June 1st, 2012random
Oh, hi there bloggidy blog. How are you?
It’s June 1 today. What does that mean? Well, for me specifically, it means I’m exactly 17 days away from turning 40.
The big four zero.
If you ask my husband, he’d say I was taking this one kind of hard. I’m not sure I agree with him. I feel like I’m doing a heck of a lot better than other peeps I’ve known who’ve made the crossover fared. And the Mister had a heck of a hard time himself with #39, so I’m not sure he’s one to talk either.
But I have to admit. As positive and optimistic a person that I am (and as much as I adore my birthday), approach forty has been, for me, a little melancholy. It’s made me slightly sad. Reflective. As I was explaining to my stylist tonight as she was touching up my “over 50% grey roots”, I think it’s tough because I’m really sad to leave my 30s. The thirties have been really good to me and, on June 18th, they are technically over.
I think it’s also tough because there is the part of me that has to acknowledge that this is the last decade milestone where I can “keep getting better.” I was definitely in much better shape at 30 than I was at 20. And 35 was probably my sweetest year — lowest weight, most athletic. I’m not exactly there now where I was at 35, but I know I’m doing pretty good for my age. I ringing in 40 pretty well. And I can’t help but think that a decade from now… well… I’ll be 50.
And I’m just going to say it because I’m thinking it. 50 is most typically not as hot as 40.
I’m just saying.
There’s something in just acknowledging the fact that I’m crossing over to the flip side. I’m officially becoming middle-aged.
And it’s all cool. Really. I am in great shape. I have a great job. My life is pretty damn sweet. This 40 thing is just a milestone. As trite as the saying is: it is what it is. And I’m damn lucky that I am who I am.
I have a great life.
So, I’m counting down. Grandma’s Half Marathon on June 16th with be my last official race of my 30s. It will mark the decade that turned me into an athlete. A decade that changed me significantly in so many ways even beyond that. It was a decade that was an absolutely fucking blast.
And after that: bring it middle-age. I’m ready. I’m waiting. Just 17 more days.
So, a funny thing happened. On Sunday, I headed out for my Zone 2 run before the Super Bowl. I’ve been bitching all over Daily Mile and to anyone who will listen about how all this base building training is killing me. I don’t have a single cardio workout where I’m allowed to go over Zone 3 (unless you count random, short intervals that are part of my Team Fitness classes). Most of the workouts are soundly in Zone 2 which is between 125-140 bpm for me. And all of this has translated to slow, slow, SLOW runs. And, truth be told, I’ve become a little paranoid that overall these slow runs will make me a slow runner. How can I possibly run fast when I’m putting in all this time running 11-12 minute miles?
Then, last weekend, I headed out for my Zone 2 run. I had my Nike Plus app running. I was focused on not running any harder than 140 bpm. And when I finished, I managed to drop about 15 seconds per mile off my pace compared to my last Zone 2 run in early January. Granted, it still feels super slow at 11:37 per mile. But it’s faster than the 11:53 from a few weeks ago — so that means something is happening, right?
With all that said, I have about a month or left of this — then I am going to check in with my trainer for another cardio point test to see if my base has increased and if I can move onto another phase of training.
In other news, this has been a doozy of a week. So absolutely crazy. I attended our first global sales meeting for work which is basically 4 days straight of meetings and presentations. I actually got the opportunity to present on the big stage on Tuesday. Then Wednesday, I lead a follow-up deep dive session for digital. It was a lot of prep leading up. Then the week itself included intense sessions, lots of conference food, nights out. It was pretty exhausting. Fun. But exhausting. It took all I had to squeeze in a few workouts. And my eating was not the best. I didn’t always make the best choices and I really didn’t have much control over the food.
The irony of all this is I started the Lifetime Fitness 90 Day Challenge on Saturday. It’s a 90 day competition focused on weight loss and I thought it would be a good kick in the butt. That said, this week was hardly a good week to start off on. I didn’t track my food. I didn’t focus on protein as much as I should have. And I went to not one, but TWO cocktail parties. So much for laying off the sauce? ;)
I knew this would be the case, though. So today is a new day. The crazy is over. I’m back to logging, tracking, working out. And I swear I’m going to try and lay off the liquor. Sacrifices, right?