Friday, May 31, 2013

I fell off my bike

This is not a tragic story. Nor is it a badass one. I fell while biking. Twice, actually. I wish I could say "the only thing I have is a bruised ego!" but really, I have some other monster bruises too. Sadly, they don't look like anything yet.
I swear this is road rash and a bruise. Cameraphones need to make things look more 3D and less jaundice-y. Or maybe my freckles need to not work like camouflage.

I'm walking funny and ache like crazy, but if I say "oh yeah, totally crashed my bike. Twice." I look like a liar because I have very little road rash. Also, I'm not trying to tell anyone this story. I'm new to road biking. I'd like to say I'm good at it, but the only part I'm good at is being moderately quick for a beginner. Ask me to turn well or quickly, and I crash. Ask me to navigate traffic and I fail. Ask me to clip-in in a hurry, and I fall. Seriously. So yesterday, after 20 miles of biking in 90 degree weather, going pretty quick (for me) and sweating up a storm (a rainstorm! Because I was dripping! I slay me!), we were stopped at a light. The light changed and everyone else got going, clipped in and crossed the intersection. I went to clip in, and my right leg, which is my trailing leg when I get started, cramped up. I was on my tiptoes, with my left foot in the pedal, and the right leg wouldn't lift up and let me push off. Stupid muscles needing stupid electrolytes. I realized I was falling and just went with it. I probably would have been fine with that, but my reaction to falling is "I HATE STUPID BIKING AND I HATE MY LEGS AND I WANT TO GO HOME LEAVE ME ALONE, WORLD." Instead of calmly getting up, assessing what had just happened, checking out my injuries and my bike, and then trying to go again, I immediately got on the bike, crying and fuming. I'm such a child.

I attempted to get on. Then I fell again.Same reason, of course, because nothing had changed in 30 seconds. 

At this point, I'm grumbling at my bike and at the cars passing (someone honked? not helpful, guy). I'm angry at the world, and at myself. Although my bike is mostly ok, the seat was completely askew. When I fell, my whole weight + acceleration due to gravity knocked the seat out of alignment. When I got back upright, there was no way to get it straight again using my wimpy upper body muscles. So I grouched away from the intersection, slooooowly (our pace for this mile on my Garmin was 8 mph. That's a comfortable running sprint for me). I caught up with the rest of the group, riding with my seat at a comfy 45 degrees. It was horribly annoying but damnit, I wasn't gonna let 2 falls 2 miles away from my car stop me from finishing the damn ride. Everyone I was riding with was super helpful and patient and didn't make fun of me too much. My only worry was the 3 stoplights we had to stop at before being back at the cars- at each of those, when I unclipped, I was ready for my leg to fail again. So crampy and tight. I was left with bruises on the inside of both knees, my hip, and my left palm, plus some minor road rash on my lower leg and left forearm. I think the way I fell made small, concentrated bruises more so than the big, diffuse ones that I've had before when I fell and slid. I just fell straight down. 

I am lucky I didn't hurt myself more, and my bike is just fine. I wish it hadn't happened though. 

Next week's game plan: first, don't fall. Second, drink more electrolytes/gels. Stretch when we stop. Don't be a dummy. 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Half marathon success!

Subtitle: you had better be ready for one million details because I need to document this for future races.

The half was on Sunday. I, of course, prepared by running 5 tempo miles on the treadmill on Friday, then drinking lots of cider. I'm really big on seeing if my internal organs are ready for a challenge, as well as my legs.

Saturday I took apart our entire downstairs bathroom then helped Nick clean up tree branches from the yard. Pretty much taking it easy. We went to dinner at a local Indian restaurant where I rolled the dice by having gluten, dairy, and very spicy food all at once! That's the recipe for distance running success, apparently. After a quick stop at Lowe's, I was in bed clutching my stomach by 10pm.

Race morning we woke up at 5am. I had a banana and 2 eggs with salt, plus a ton of water. The drive to the race was super easy- it's only about 45 minutes which is basically as close as I can ask for in this area. Nick chauffeured me so I could obsessively check the weather on the drive up. It was a glorious 50some degrees with no chance of rain. Perfection. Packet pick-up was super easy (used my married name in a race for the first time, yay!). I had a double serving of Rice Chex at ~6am, a grande redeye at ~6:45, more water, and a Clif Shot at 7:15. Plenty of time before the 7:30 race start, although I felt like I'd had a ton of food, apparently the combo was a winner. I love getting to races super early because it helps me fit in my 2 or 3 bathroom breaks without feeling rushed. Normal people might want to sleep those extra 30 minutes, I prefer standing in a porta-potty line. 

Pre-race. I am happy and not quite awake! Funny enough, I ran behind the girl in orange for most of the race before passing her and her matching friend at the end. Outfit- Ragnar shirt, super short Brooks shorts, Balega socks, first race in Mizuno Wave Riders (love) and Moving Comfort Rebound Racer (super love)

There weren't any pacers or pace sections, so I lined up mid-way through the pack, guessing that I would be ok. The race started right on time and I took off, trying to pace myself and stay in a "comfortable" zone. 

Photographer Nick caught an action shot. The girl to my right was laughing because Nick didn't see me at first so I yelled "Hi baby!... honey!... NICK!"

Miles 1- 4: Run on a major road. Runners get 2 lanes for the first 2.5 miles or so, which was not quite enough time to spread everyone out before scrunching down to just one lane. My first 4 miles were 8:39, 8:30, 8:31 (uphill, scrunching up), 8:20 (downhill). At this point, I felt great, but I wasn't too optimistic yet. My unofficial min/mile goal was 8:45, because that would have me finishing somewhere around 1:55 and I figured a 3 minute PR would be great. When my first miles were below that pace, I was worried I was going out too fast. I tried to stay comfortable and enjoy watching people and the beautiful weather. I saw Nick right after mile 4 when the course veered onto a trail. 

Miles 5-10: The trail miles. Not my favorite. This course is kind of obnoxious because it has quite a few 90-degree turns and it loops back on itself. At one point, the race leaders, mid-packers, and back-of-the-pack folks were all on the loop at the same time. I was getting passed by the very fast people while trying not to run into slower folks. Very frustrating. I had a Gu at mile 5 and 10, and drank a couple cups of Gatorade and a couple waters. I was with the same bunch of folks for most of this stretch so I tried to keep up with them. It was also at this point that I realized how good I felt. My times were 8:14, 8:30, 8:15, 8:26, 8:25, 8:10. As I saw the consistently quick mile times and checked on my body I realized I could probably go a little faster, but was frustrated that the terrain and bunching up prevented that. I looked at my watch around the halfway point and realized that a 1:50ish was in my reach as long as I didn't bonk.

Mile 11:  Start on trail, finish on road. Wooo almost done, speed up a little! 8:04
Mile 12: All road. No really, almost done, go faster legs! 7:42
Mile 13: All road. Stupid bridge is stupid high and this mile isn't going fast enough stupid legs won't move I'm done I quit running forever. 7:52? (forgot to stop my Garmin)

Heyyyyy super pale legged girl, how you doin?


I finished, with Nick cheering me on. My thoughts for mile 11-12 were "woohoo, I'm almost done, time to start counting down the tenths, be done soon! Wooo!" Then as the tenths ticked by, I realized I was comfortably under 1:50, I'd blown my original time goal way out of the water, I was tired, so I would just relax the last mile. Because putting in effort at the end of the race requires mental toughness and I didn't want to play that game anymore. I AM AN INSPIRATION. Official time: 1:49:02, 8:20 pace, 25th in my age group. 

I finished, got water, found Nick, and realized how unbelievably normal I felt. Nothing hurt. Nothing was chafed or sore or sunburnt. I was tired, as I had been running for almost 2 hours, but I wasn't TIREDDDDDDDD like I had been after previous halfs (halves? whatever), I didn't feel like I needed to puke, I didn't feel like much of anything had happened. I chowed down on some salt and vinegar chips (best post race food in history btw) and we headed home. I had an apple and a Balance Bar in the car, despite it being chock full of soy protein. It had protein, and was yummy.

It took the 45 minute drive to the grocery store by our house for my body to figure out what it had done. Dairy + gluten + running finally caught up with me and all was not well. We did a super fast grocery stop, then headed home so I could shower. I still felt gross, but we had a party to get to that afternoon and I needed to make dip and chop veggies. I made this dip because it had excellent reviews but I was less than blown away. It was bland. Luckily, Nick had picked up canned chipotles at the store! We threw a couple of those in there, added some extra cinnamon, and it was delicious. 

We went to the party even though I still wasn't too keen on food or socializing or standing up. I powered through (I'm such a trooper, I showed such fortitude by drinking cider and eating picnic food.), ate a bunch, drank a little, talked to people, and was ready for bed by 9. Party hard.

Looking back on the race, what would I change? I think I would try to start faster. Knowing the course better this year, I would have benefitted from being ahead of a few more people going into the twisty stuff. This would have put me 10 or 15 seconds per mile faster the first half, and I would have been trying to hold onto that pace the last half, meaning I would have pushed it more. I've heard that's the way to do it- if you go  too easy the first half, you don't have the ability to really push it the last half because your legs don't have any raw speed left at that point in the race. If you pace a little faster in the first half but try and maintain in the second half, you're a little more likely to fade away but at least you'll have expended yourself in the first miles..... that was just a lot of words and not a lot of sense. Sorry. Anyways, I think I could have raced smarter and been faster, but overall I am very pleased with my time and can't wait to see what my legs can muster up this weekend! Nick and I are doing a local 5K and he's probably going to run it with me, which is how I got my last 5K PR in December! Exclamation points!!!!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Be less sedentary, office workers

Subtitle: Pedometer challenges emphasize how lazy I am. 

My workplace is doing a walking challenge that runs for 8 weeks. To satisfy the requirements, each week you need to walk 30,000 steps (somewhere around 15 miles of walking). I was all worried because the first day I only got 4800 steps in. Not so good, definitely not on track to get to 30k for the week. I was grouchy because I biked on Monday, and I felt like 20 miles of biking would count for something. Well, my wonderful coworkers informed me that I can make biking and running minutes convert to walking using a handy calculator. I got a LOT of "steps" from that. I'm now ranked 10th in the company for steps so far this week. Yay me!
That's right, I exceeded a goal set by my company.

I've never worn a pedometer before, and it has definitely made me think about how much I walk (or don't walk). Most of the day I'm at my desk, just sitting. Because the different office areas for my department are physically located pretty far apart (a good 10 minute walk), I tend to just communicate with most of my coworkers via phone and email instead of walking out there. I am lazy. You would think that an "athletic" person, someone who runs regularly, that my coworkers would probably think was fit, would walk at least a reasonable distance each day. Nope. The past few days (this is only day 3!) I have tried to walk to the farthest away bathroom and up my water intake so I need to go more often. I'm so crafty. The farthest bathroom is 600 steps round-trip. If I did that 3 times a day, 5 days a week I'd get... 9000 steps. Looks like I've have to be a little craftier to reach 30,000. I do a lot of wandering around at home, to run and change out laundry or put away dishes or whatever, but that's not enough. Here's my other strategies:

-Be less efficient. Put away shoes upstairs, then come back for laundry. 
-Drink from the water fountain instead of a water bottle
-Go see people instead of emailing (meh, that means interacting with people. I'll pass. jk. sorta.)
-Walk to the mailbox instead of getting the mail on the way home from work

Obviously, I'll still get a lot of steps in just from workouts, but on rest days, these tips will help me at least a little. Double obviously, these are not insightful or ground-breaking "tips," they're how I am gaming the system to keep my hard-earned spot in the top 10. Dream big.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Race week!

Last year I wrote a post the week before this same half marathon (I really should run more than 1 half a year so I have more blog content to reference when I'm trying to figure out if I'm failing horribly at training) about a "perfect" training week. Well I'll go so far as to say I had a perfect long run yesterday. Except maybe it would have been more perfect 2 weeks prior to my target race instead of 1 week prior. This is me throwing caution to the wind.

My long run last week was less than stellar and it made me doubt that I could finish the half without walking. I only got to 7.5 miles without fading. This week, I slowed it down a tiny bit for the first few miles, keeping everything right around 9:00/mile, and managed to finish well with 10 miles in 1:32. No walking. It helped that were was significantly less wind this week. It was a bit of a mental struggle at the end, but overall I was happy. I feel a lot more confident about the upcoming race. Right now, the weather looks fine (mid 70's for the high, low % chance of rain), although I know that could change drastically in the next few days. I ran this course last year, but I still figured I'd check out the elevation chart.

Scaling ftw.

The "big climb" is ~100 feet in a little over a mile. I don't remember that part at all. Last year, Nick was with me and he is a great motivator and distractor. I'll be all by myself this year because he's got nagging shin pain that's prevented him from running much. When I'm by myself, with no music, hills are harder. So now I'm worried about that one. Should not have even looked at the elevation map.

Anywho... the blog holds no record of what my longer runs looked like right before the half last year, and neither does my Garmin. Somehow, the Garmin recorded 0 runs last year for me between March 27 and May 1, and only 2 runs after May 1. I realize this actually probably means I didn't wear it between March 27 and May 1, but I'd much rather blame technology. The take home message from all this rambling is I have no idea what my goals should be for this race. It's easy to overshoot based on a final long run that felt really good, but my stomach has been in shambles since we got back from NZ and I'm not confident it'll behave (I got a major cramp after the Clif Shot I took yesterday at mile 5). I also haven't really tested fueling strategies (last 2 long runs I sipped water every 2 miles and had a Gu at 5 mi). I DON'T KNOW WHAT I'M DOING. Goals:

A goal: <1:55 (~8:45/mile)
B goal: <1:58 (last year's time, my PR)
C goal: <2:05

I'm going to take it easy on workouts this week. Workout plan:
M: Bike w/Nick
Tu: Run 5
W: Rest
Th: Run 5
F:  Run 3
Sa: Rest
S: Race

My workplace is doing a walking challenge where we try and get at least 30,000 steps a week. That's approximately 15 miles of walking, which is a significant chunk. 3 hours after waking up, I'm at 700 steps. That's sad. Hopefully this thing will motivate me to step away from my desk a little more often. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

NZ: The aftermath

Coming home from 17 days away is hard. It's hard mentally because everything feels weird and new (I can shower without sandals on? what sorcery is this?). It's hard physically because of the time change and needing to be back on a normal sleep schedule. It's hard emotionally because I'd just spent the previous month almost continuously with my best friend, and it was great. I'd definitely recommend taking a couple extra days off to unpack and settle, because what we did was silly and kind of stressful.

We got home on Monday morning, around 9am. My mom got us from the airport and we made a couple stops on the way home. We were tired and out of sorts, but I had scheduled myself to be back in at work the next day. 12 vacation days nearly depleted my supply for the year and I knew I'd be facing a storm of work issues when I got back. Nick and I settled in at home, unpacked as much as possible, and I started on some laundry. We also had to deal with mail, which my parents had kindly collected for us while we were gone. And groceries. Because I am the queen of food not going to waste, we did not have anything perishable left in the house (aside from condiments). That meant no fruit, veggies, cheese, bread. We made a grocery run where we had to replenish our supply of everything. Before I knew it, it was time for bed and time to get ready for work... weird.

My mom bought me these, which meant I got to brag about eating kale chips and how they're delicious and feel self-important for a whole afternoon while devouring the bag. They were ok. 

Returning to work was great and I realized I missed people more than I had thought. I felt pretty good, just discombobulated and overwhelmed, but made it through the day on Tuesday. I was exhausted, and maybe didn't notice how badly my back was hurting by the end of the day. Wednesday was ok, but my back was starting to hurt like it had after the Brussels trip, except in a new spot. It got to the point where I was struggling to put together full sentences because breathing was a challenge. All signs pointed to an ER visit.

At the ER, I got a chest x-ray and they tested my blood for D-dimer, a breakdown product of blood clots. They gave me Percocet for the pain and that was when things got weird. The doctors thought I might have a blood clot from the long flight, but after testing it didn't look like that was the case. Just a muscle strain that's making basic living painful. No big deal. I got a prescription for Valium and Vicodin and was sent on my merry way. Nick was my driver, but I still had paperwork to complete and meds to pay for. At this point, the Percocet was in full force and I was dying- I'm not used to painkillers like that. My head was spinning, I was extremely nauseous, and I was still in major pain. As I paid for my pills, I was desperately searching for a trashcan because I was certain I was going to puke on the nice pharmacy girl. WHY DID SHE HAVE SO MANY QUESTIONS!?!?!?
This is your brain on drugs.

Thursday, I slept and slept and slept. I woke up for a little while around lunch time to take medication and watched a documentary called "No Impact Man" (I just had to Google that because my drug-addled brain didn't hold onto the title of the movie. Yikes). It was great, but I really struggled to stay awake until the end. Nick came home from work and I woke up again, sort of. I ate some and watched more TV and then was back to bed. I think out of a 24 hour period, I was awake for 4 hours at most. I cannot fathom how anyone gets an addiction to Vicodin because it just make me completely unable to function and I felt constantly nauseous.

My coworkers are so nice.

I got back to work on Friday to find 2 balloons- one for getting married and one for getting sick. They're funny people. There was also chocolate cake that I wanted to love but couldn't because food still felt icky. My back felt about 50% better and far less stabby, but I had to be diligent about taking anti-inflammatories or the pain would start to come back. Luckily I have a super-duper ergonomic work chair, and it was quite supportive and kept me comfy most of the day. 

It's been 2 weeks since then, and I keep having little flare-ups. Anything that has me in a weird position for too long has the potential to make my back go into full shutdown mode. I was in the dentist's chair for an hour and by the time I got up I was in a bad place. I've also had a couple days at work that have been rough. Oddly, working out doesn't feel bad. I can even lift weights using my back without aggravating the muscles too much. I'm just gonna keep on trucking and maybe not take 2 international trips in one month. Ever again. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

New Zealand: Getting home

Getting home from NZ was made infinitely easier when Nick asked if we could just pack my wedding dress instead of hauling it all over. I said yes, he fit it in his suitcase, and we were on our merry way on Saturday afternoon (after going to the Antarctic Center- very cool! Little blue penguins! aww!)
(source) - PS I 

The first surprise was that we had a mini-layover in Sydney, when we thought we flew straight to Bangkok. Luckily, the agent at the ticket counter mentioned that. Otherwise, I think I would have been very alarmed to land in Australia and think we had gotten on the wrong flight. We continued on to Bangkok, arriving in the wee hours of the morning. We had a 20 hour layover there and figured we'd check into a hotel, sleep for a while, and then sightsee until we had to be back on the plane at 9pm.

From the very beginning, it was an adventure. We waited in line at the currency exchange booth for a long while before being told we weren't trying to exchange enough money (50,000 baht minimum. We'd have been hard pressed to spend ~$160 in 20 hours..although we probably did end up spending about that much) and needed to try the places past Immigration. We waited in line for Immigration for another long while and worried when we saw another European-descent looking person (we may have stereotyped way too much, but we had to make some assumptions to determine whether someone might speak English when we were there) get turned away for not having a visa. I had checked online and thought I remembered Americans not needing a visa for short stays in Thailand, but as we neared the Immigration desk I was not so sure. Turns out, we were ok, but the guy checking our immigration cards was not pleased when we put "N/A" as our address in Thailand. Not only are "N" and "A" not letters in the Thai language, they mean even less when put together. After a bit of explaining about not having hotel reservations, we figured out that he wanted us to put "Bangkok" because that was where we were going to be. Simple.

Next, the the currency exchange folks didn't take credit/debit cards.My frustration and sleepiness were building up rapidly and I was also getting concerned by the lack of English speakers. I'd been really spoiled by Brussels, where nearly everyone knew English or we could at least work our way through a conversation. This was my first time in a country where that was not the case and I was having a little bit of culture shock (fact: I am sheltered and sometimes kind of ignorant.) We walked out to the taxi area and were immediately approached by someone (you know how your mom told you never to get in a stranger's car? Yeah, this would have been a time to remember that advice). He told us he could take us to a hotel near the airport, and started leading us away from the taxis that were all parked right there and past some tour buses. It was as shady as it sounds. Especially shady since he didn't actually have a taxi- he was a taxi procurer, that's it. He summoned a taxi from who knows where and as it arrived, so did a transit police officer. Our taxi hookup (taxi pimp?) did not have the proper ID/license to be doing what he was doing, and neither did the taxi driver. At this point, I was on the edge of tears and wanted to smack this guy for being so underhanded. We asked the police officer if we could go and he said yes, so I did my best impression of storming away as possible amongst tour buses. The guy followed behind us but I told him repeatedly I didn't need the police in my life. We found ourselves a legitimate taxi (after another struggle to explain we didn't know which hotel we wanted to go to, just one near the airport... just a hotel.. with beds... sleep...) and he took us to a place called the Valentyn Hotel. As we were driving to this creepy place, I saw a shuttle for the Best Western. Western... I wanted something Western... and it was the Best too. Why weren't we going there instead of the Valentyn? I bet they had breakfast and real air conditioning and toilet paper in the bathroom. The Valentyn Hotel did not have those things. It was a steal, but it was also shady (notice a theme?), noisy, and the bathroom was the same temperature as the outdoors (I am super aware these are the exact definition of First World Problems. It's my blog, I'll sound like a privileged brat if I want to). Regardless, we watched some highly entertaining TV (why was the only American channel Fox News? I swear we're not all like that, Bangkok) and got a few hours of sleep.

After the sweatiest shower of my life, we set out to get to the city. Once again, slightly shady taxi driver. At the airport, the drivers made a big stink about their taxis being metered. This guy had a meter, but didn't use it. We were also having trouble explaining we wanted to go to see monuments, which is a word that does not translate easily. We settled for "downtown." He dropped us off at the Chatuchak Market which was immediately overwhelming. Even at 9am, there were tons of vendors with food and clothing. We walked around for a while, hungry for breakfast. Eventually, we found a spot that had a vegetarian option (the vendor even understood the word "vegetarian"!) and had some food. It was alright. I think this is what I had. Nick had some chicken curry that he said was good. We wandered more and tried to get our bearings. It was still morning, but it was hot, and even though 20 oz. sodas or waters were only about $1.50 each, I couldn't see myself walking around, getting sunburnt and chugging soda for 11 more hours. I had major jet lag and wanted to be wearing pajamas and reclining somewhere while eating something from a package (I am spoiled). It was just a more difficult experience than I had anticipated, between the language barriers, not really knowing where we were, the heat, and how difficult it was for me to find something to eat. We also walked by the feeder animal street, which consisted of all the small animals you'd feed to other animals. Baby turtle and bigger turtles, tons of fish, mealworms, crickets. Petco is basically feeder fish nirvana compared to this place. Seeing the little animals in those really crappy conditions was upsetting.

After getting our fill of the Market, we rode air conditioned public transportation and then hoofed it around the city. We were headed the right direction for the temples and tourist attractions, but things were farther apart than they looked on a map.  We ended up getting a little open air cab (Nick took a video of  what that was like... it was interesting). The guy drove us around for a while (air flow... lovely) after Nick explained to him where we'd like to go, and eventually he had to stop for directions. Sigh. He found another cab driver who explained that we couldn't go in the main temple we'd wanted to see since I didn't have long pants on (it was 100 degrees out!), but he suggested some other attractions. Our driver took us to one of those attractions (the temples are ridiculously ornate... beautiful), then seemed at a loss for where else to go. After more explaining by Nick, we went to another temple. Then he took us to his tailor, who tried to sell us custom made shirts. Really. It was around noon by now, hot as can be, and I was so done with the whole adventure. More explaining. Now we get taken to a boat ramp. The boat operator told us how much it was (1600 baht, which is only about $20/person for a couple hour tour), but we didn't have that much left. When we told them we'd need to get more money, they gave up on us, and we decided it was high time to get some food and maybe rethink our strategy. So we asked to go to a food place.... the driver said "seafood?" and although neither of us eat seafood, we said figured seafood would be served alongside non-seafood and said ok. But no. This was truly a seafood market. We were done. When we told our driver, he asked for far more money than we had originally agreed upon, money we didn't have, but accepted what we did have. Then Nick and I set off to find not-seafood. More walking. So much more. Our food salvation was a restaurant clearly geared towards Westerners. It had American and Australian license plates and some sports paraphernalia and lots of flags. It also had french fries, cold water, and some food options that I could request be made without meat (it still was not air conditioned. Will I never be pleased? no.). We hung out for a while, then got some sweets (Mr. BUN! fluffy balls of gluten and joy). We had a "butter bun" which is 100 times more amazing than it sounds. It was like cinnamon toast without the cinnamon. It was sugar, dough, and butter. I'm still thinking about it... Finally, we headed toward the airport.

It was only once we were back at the airport that we realized there is a hotel ATTACHED TO THE AIRPORT. It's magical. If we had known that, it might have seriously changed our experience, at least the shady cabby transaction part of it. But who has a hotel attached to the airport? I never would have thought of it until we started seeing signs.

Bangkok was a huge adventure and although the heat/confusion/lack of vegetarian options was frustrating, it was a really eye-opening experience. It was really neat to see another culture, especially at the market (although I could have done without seeing all the baby turtles packed into bins) and the temples we saw were truly beautiful.

After a lot of quality time at the Bangkok airport, we had 2 more long flights- to Dubai and then Dubai to Dulles. Those were uneventful (aside from 2 crazy cute babies sitting near us on our last flight), and finally, early on Monday morning, we were home sweet home. We were married, and had had the trip of a lifetime. Mission accomplished. 

Monday, May 13, 2013

Regularly scheduled programming.

I still have a couple of wedding/NZ posts, but we'll talk about running briefly. If you look at my workout log, it's really not exceptional. It does not really look like the log of someone trying to PR in a half marathon in 2 weeks. I should probably re-evaluate that goal.

Here's the highlight of the weekend.

Actually just the first 7 miles were a highlight. The last 2.5 were obviously a struggle. Even before I started the run/walk portion my pace was draggggggggggging (see the time between 50:00 and 1:06- late mile 6, early mile 7). It was gorgeous weather. I had a big breakfast (banana, 2 eggs, cereal, coffee), let it settle, then drank a bunch of water before heading out. Nick joined me for the first 4 miles, which were a 2 mile out-and-back. There was a bit of a headwind on the way out, but I was feeling fresh so it wasn't miserable, just annoying. After dropping Nick off at home, I did 2 more miles in the wind-favorable direction (the road I run on is east-west, with the water in the east, and the wind is usually straight on in one direction or the other). When I went to turn around, I realized how crappy the way home was going to be. I resolved to make it to 8 miles before starting the run/walk but there were some gusts that really sucked (blew? ha!) and I stopped at 7.5 to trudge through to the end. Average pace is not bad... if only the whole half could look like miles 1-7 up there, I'd be happy.

I've done a couple of other medium distance runs lately, but mostly around 5 miles. I plan on attempting 10 again this weekend as a final long run before the half. I was going to lament how I don't feel as prepared as I did last year and blah blah blah but I actually think that, except for being absent from running in April, I might be in a similar place to (as? I can't figure out that one) last year. I re-read some old blog posts and I wasn't running much more than I am now. So who knows. Cautiously optimistic that (as long as the weather doesn't suck and my stomach cooperates and I sleep well) I'll at least be in the neighborhood of last year's time, right around 2 hours.

13 days (yes, I am counting down to a half, which some people can do in their sleep, but it's been a while since I've done a race and a whole year since I've done a half. And almost 6 months since the full. Yikes!). 

Thursday, May 9, 2013

New Zealand: The activities

Near daily posts? I should go on vacation more often just so I have something to write about.

This post is largely for me to capture some memories of my favorite things about NZ. I am forgetting things. Just the South Island of New Zealand requires weeks and weeks of exploring.We were in New Zealand from April 14 - April 27 and that was not nearly enough time to experience all that we wanted to. It's not a big island, but driving between the different regions takes a lot of time and every region has so much to offer, you want to be able to see them all! Here are some highlights.

Ohau seal colony:
This place was magical. The seal colony is basically a seal hangout on the northeastern shore of the South Island. The adult seals hang out on the rocks beside the ocean. The baby seals will scoot themselves up a creek to a pool at the base of a waterfall and hang out together. After a 5 minute walk from the oceanside, you find yourself at the base of this beautiful waterfall and there's literally dozens of seals waddling around the rocks just feet away from you and frolicking in the pool. It is phenomenal. Unfortunately, it was getting dark out when we went and we couldn't get great pictures, but we have a dark video that shows the mass of baby seal bodies playing in the water. It's amazing. I could not get over the cuteness and the joy of the seals. You can read more about the seal colony here.

Mt. John Observatory
The middle part of NZ is recognized by the International Dark Sky Association as an especially dark place (I'm sure there's a more official term for it), devoid of artificial light, and it was chosen as the site for the Mt. John University Observatory partially for this reason. Nick signed us up for a tour that included a 15ish minute windy drive up a steep hill in a bus. And for the last half of the drive, the bus only had parking lights on. I was a bit uneasy. But after that, it was wonderful. We got to look through 2 "normal" telescopes as well  as a big, motororized one. The Wikipedia article has more specifics. The guides were informative and showed us "ooo pretty colors" astronomical features as well as ones that were more science-y. When we got back in the bus to go down the mountain, only having the parking lights on seemed more than sufficient. Having our eyes adjust to that level of darkness was really cool. 

New Zealanders love their hiking. During every casual drive around the country we'd encounter signs alongside the road that indicated trailheads for very short as well as very long hikes. My favorite was Roundhill Ski Area, which we found completely by accident. We were driving around and found a sign for a 5k hike to the ski area, and decided to do it. It was quite the climb, somewhere around 1000ft to the base of the ski area, then we did a steeper portion from the base to the top of the main ski hill which was another 300 meters. Phew. It was technically easy because we were walking on roads, but difficult because it was around 2 hours of straight uphill then another hour downhill. Very worth it to get a view of Tekapo from high up.

Helicopter Flight Glacier Landing
It's cheating to include this since it was part of our wedding package, but, as I said to Nick when we were up in the air, I felt like I was on a Discovery Channel show when we were flying over mountain passes and glacial ice formations. It was beyond beautiful. Even though the helicopter didn't agree with my stomach, I could easily get past that and just soak in the scenery. It is expensive but an adrenaline rush in addition to giving us such a unique perspective of the mountain.

Marlborough Wine Trail:
One rainy day, our planned boating excursion was cancelled. We made the best of it by going wine tasting instead! The Marlborough region of New Zealand is famous mainly for their Sauvignon Blanc but we tasted several reds too that were great! My favorite winery was Herzog Winery. We happened upon it while driving around. The young woman pouring our wine was informative but not judgmental. Great experience overall. We bought Gruner Veltliner from them (a wine I'd never even had before- fruity, acidic and crisp). My other favorite was Lawson's Dry Hills. Our guide was very helpful again (there are unhelpful ones, like the woman at a winery that will not be named that wouldn't let me taste wines out of their "proper" order but didn't tell me that when I blindly started in the middle of the bunch. Come on.). We bought a Pinot Noir from them that was pretty good.

We also, by luck, saw a brewery during our driving around. Moa Brewery was stuck right in the middle of wine country (their brochure explains that the founder made wine but took to brewing beer as well). I was trying to stay away from too much wheat, but we still had a beer tasting and it was great. Sadly, they only distribute one of their beers to the States and it was not our favorite. My favorite was the Hoppit, which combines small, furry footed folk with hops. My two favorite things. Jk, it's just a super hoppy beer which of course I loved. We bought some Weka Cider from them because cider is kind to my tummy and their formulation was particularly delicious.

Smash Palace in Christchurch:
Yeah, it's a bar, but it was a very unique experience. They have a website you can check out. This place was a bar that was destroyed in the Christchurch earthquakes in 2011 and has been replaced by a bus! An American couple that we met by chance while kayaking recommended this place. I definitely wanted to go, but after driving around Christchurch for a few minutes, I really couldn't figure out how anyone could ever find anything in that city in its current state. The city was devastated by the 2 earthquakes and they are still rebuilding. A lot of the main "downtown" area is still blocked off. While I can see how lively the city may once have been, as tourists, it was a lot to handle. I'm not complaining about a city that is still rebuilding after multiple natural disasters, I just wasn't prepared for it. Miraculously, we found the bar the other couple had mentioned- by chance, it was across the street from the Thai restaurant our campground owner suggested.

The bus/bar atmosphere is a lot of fun. They had 55 gallon drums with fire lits inside for warmth, as well as some covered areas with heat lamps. I saw someone carrying a hot drink when we walked up and the bartender told me it was mulled wine. That is pretty much my favorite warm beverage. I had a mulled cider and then mulled wine and they were both delicious. Nick was delighted by their unusual beer selection- they had brands we didn't see anywhere else in NZ.

Te Anau Glowworm Caves:
This experience could also definitely be called magical... if you don't have anxiety issues. We went on a short with a guide, boarded a boat, and then it got very dark, very quiet, and very unsettling. I think caves are beautiful and interesting, but I have to stifle feelings of uneasiness whenever I'm in a cave because if I think too much about how deep underground I am, or how far from an exit I am, I can quickly get in an icky anxiety spiral. The tour, unfortunately, took those feelings and added the complete darkness, silence, sitting very close to strangers, moving around on a boat, complete lack of a frame of reference for distance and time elapsed and.... I freaked out.

What am I leaving out? Oh, the totally awesome glowworms (these are not my pictures!):
What it looks like in the lighted part of the cave- lots of insects glowing up a storm on the wall (source)

Tons and tons of glowworms and their little insect catching devices hanging down. (source)

Nick loved the tour and he pointed out particularly impressive groupings of the little guys. It really was beautiful, and I wish I hadn't been so freaked out by it. I'm glad Nick had a great time and in retrospect, I can really appreciate how unique and special the whole thing was. 

Kayaking in Milford Sound:
Seriously, the best. The best ever. It helps that Milford Sound is heavenly (not my pics, again):
It was cloudy and misty about half our time there...(source)

...And glorious and sunny the other half!(source)

Nick and I had done a kayaking trip in Ireland that I really loved, and I didn't think this could top it, especially since we were on day 10 of traveling and I was tired and it had rained pretty much every day and we were really, really in the middle of nowhere. We drove around the night before our trip and saw enough crazy rock formations to know we were in a fantastic area, but the gloomy weather made me grumpy and dubious that being out on the water for 8 hours the next day would be pleasant.

I was proven very wrong. We were in a group of 6 total, with a young New Zealander as our guide. Surprisingly, all 6 of us on the tour were American. Extra-surprisingly, Nick and I were the only two there with normal, full-time jobs. The others were in varying stages of traveling around the world, which amazed me. My Type A-ness could not wrap itself around not knowing where I'd be sleeping in 2 days. Or 2 weeks or 2 months. My mind was blown. They were all really nice and laid-back and made for great kayaking companions.

Despite the rain, the protective gear we got from the tour company and the motion of kayaking kept us pretty warm. The views were breathtaking from land, even with low-hanging clouds, and once we got on the water we got an even better view. Milford Sound is not technically a Sound, as it was formed by glaciers, The rock faces we were kayaking next to went straight down into the water, and the slopes reached steeply upward and were covered in greenery. Our guide told us that the area gets around 9 m of rain a year. That's ~27 feet! This explains all the greenery and also why when the sun peeked out, our guide was delighted and began snapping pictures along with all of us tourists. It was glorious. There were several rainbows that were as vibrant as I have ever seen. The kayaking portion was slow and meandering, with lots of time for pictures. We stopped for lunch, got to hear a lot about the area, and got to learn about each others' lives. Combining that with the beauty of it all and it made for a pretty perfect day.

I used the word "experience" too many times. I sound like Roger Sterling talking about LSD. I am sure I am forgetting something. Also, some of my very favorite moments weren't "experiences" but those moments when I realized how lucky I am to have this time with my new husband in New Zealand, just seeing the world. Magical experience. Juuuuust kidding. Super duper magical experience is more like it. #winkyface #self-deprecationdoesn'ttranslatetotyping #hashtagsaredumbstopit

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

New Zealand: The Wedding!

The wedding day was moved forward by 2 days because once we got to NZ, it became apparent the weather wasn't going to cooperate with us on the original date (Tuesday). That actually turned out pretty great because it gave us extra time to settle in and explore the town we'd be getting married in. Lake Tekapo is a tiny, resort-y type town with half a dozen restaurants, a makeshift supermarket, a "hotel", a large campground and a bunch of tourist-attractions. It also has this gorgeous lake:
Not pictured: the perfect milky turqouise color of the lake from glacier runoff

On the wedding morning, Nick and I set out for an easy 3 miles around the area. It was a nice morning (but overcast! I was scared it wouldn't get sunny for our ceremony!) but roads/sidewalks were limited so we ended up choosing a route that quickly turned into a steep, technical trail. That shortened our run a little but was still a perfect way to start the day. We'd spent the previous night in a hotel and the ability to take a real shower in a private room was pretty great. We showered, had buffet breakfast at the hotel:
Milk. It'll keep you trim. 

 and then the waiting began... we made sure everything was laid out and hung up, but mostly it was just...waiting. And getting nervous/excited. My hairdresser and makeup lady arrived around 10am. 
Makeup is a serious business. Also, wtf am I doing with my feet???

I had emailed with them a couple times before the wedding but still didn't really know what I was in for until I could actually talk to people and look at colors. We all agreed on a plan pretty quickly and they worked their magic for a while. The photographers and wedding planner arrived a little while later. All this time, Nick was just hanging out, watching TV and watching me. Poor guy. 

There was lots of milling about, picture taking, and Nick got to escape with our male photographer while I got finished. They went and got coffee, returned, then he and I each got dressed.
My hand peeking out of the hotel room door. The photographer and planner kept calling my watch the "wee little watch." Wee! Cute. PS my nails are cheapie at home glue-ons and they were awesome- I got about a week out of them.

Nick headed to the lake before me while I got pictures taken alone. It was warming up and sunny by the time our ceremony was ready. I nervously headed to the lake and then... we got married! Our photograher, Wayne, was also our celebrant. We had prepared a ceremony ahead of time and I wish I could remember it all because it was gorgeous and very "us." Nick and I read our vows from the celebrant's iPad (technology ftw, I never could have remembered the vows if I had tried to have them memorized), and I cried. Is it normal to just want to tackle and cuddle your husband-to-be during your entire ceremony? I was marrying my best friend, I just wanted to hug him but I could just hold hands. Lame (totally kidding). We finished the ceremony, signed the marriage license, had some cake and champagne, and it was official!

Fun fact: in NZ, they do the cutting the cake and feeding one another tradition, but they do not try the cake smashing. Thank goodness. Our planner seemed appalled you'd let your husband smash cake on your special makeup on your special day. That's a tradition I want no part of, so it worked out perfectly for us.
Cheesy happy

Champagne, vows, flowers

We spent the next few hours driving around scenic central NZ, stopping every now and then for photos. 

Then we took a helicopter ride to the top of Tasman Glacier.  
I am happy to be married, but not happy to be in a helicopter--- weirdest feeling of my life! 
Then we were done, and I felt like this.

Nick and I had a special dinner back at the hotel, then had some champagne and cider and relaxed. It was a perfect day, although taking all those pictures is SO tiring. We were in and out of the campervan a half dozen times, and by the end of the day I was ready to take my dress off and brush my hair. And by the end of the day, I just wanted to take time and be with my husband and soak in our time together. Luckily, we still had 1.5 weeks of time in NZ ahead of us!

Monday, May 6, 2013

New Zealand: Food

I have so many thoughts about New Zealand, so there will be lots of posts. Deal with it.

The food... oh the food. Since we were there for 2 whole weeks, I wanted to make an effort to not be in vacation eating mode 24/7. This meant buying food for the campervan, eating some dinners in the van, and keeping all the gnarly allergens that bother me to a minimum. Not eliminate them, because that would have been sad, but at least try and keep it under control. Somewhat.

But here's the thing- New Zealand has yummy beer and fantastic wine. AND they have the best appetizer known to man: breads and dips. It's fluffy bread and yummy dip and it's heaven on earth.
Dips pictured, from left to right: balsamic and oil, weird but yummy hummus, delicious cream cheese perfection, pesto deliciousness.

Nick and I purchased dinner supplies including veggie burgers and GF pasta, and enough bread, PB and honey for sandwiches for the whole trip. We also got veggies, fruit, and breakfast supplies. We packed Clif bars and granola bars from home for snacks (Clif bars are gluten free-ish and seem to be at peace with my digestive system).  However, all these preps were not quite sufficient for the fair amount of "screw it! It's my honeymoon!" I felt every time we ate out. New Zealand is a surprisingly vegetarian and GF friendly country, but not both at the same time, so I could get a veggie burger but it would be on a big fluffy bun. And I ate the (sometimes metaphorical) bun. Every time. I didn't want to deprive myself/I make bad decisions. Of course, this had reliable consequences. My stomach didn't feel settled from the time we left the US until we landed. Actually, it's still not quite back to normal yet, a week later.

We had some pretty great meals. The airplane food was surprisingly good (I was able to choose the vegetarian option beforehand on all my flights- Emirates for the win). Nick also thought ahead and sweetly found a very neat little vegan/vegetarian restaurant (Arcadia Cafe). We stopped in for a late lunch/early dinner and got a TON of great food for fairly cheap. Everything else in NZ: not cheap. Overall, groceries were consistently ~20% more expensive. We easily spent $60 on meals at Thai places that would have been 45ish back home. I've heard before that in the US we spend a tiny proportion of our incomes on food (and that's partly because we're used to it and demand cheap food, partly government subsidies, lots of contributors) but that became very apparent over there with the sticker shock when dining out or buying groceries. 

Am I less than pleased with some of the decisions I made in NZ? Yes. There was definitely some junk eating that could have been skipped and I know I would have felt better. But overall, the crampy, bloaty unpleasantness of the past few weeks is easily cancelled out by the fun I had and all that Nick and I got to experience. /endsappiness

Friday, May 3, 2013

New Zealand: The campervan

The first day we got into NZ we went to pick up our home on wheels for the next 2 weeks: the campervan.
Campervan, plus way too much luggage for the poor campervan.

The bathroom/shower extravaganza!

It was... something else. The back "living area" was about as big as a walk-in closet. It had a lot of storage space overhead, which was nice, but still not quite enough space for me to put the excessive amount of clothes and shoes I brought with me, so my suitcase could never be completely stowed. It had a teeny tiny bathroom that I avoided using the first 5 days and finally gave in to. I have to say, it is very convenient to be able to say "hey, pull over when you get a chance so I can pee and we can make lunch." It had a sink with running water, a fridge, a stove, and a barbecue. It was a wonder of technology. Unfortunately, it was still tiny and I had a hard time getting over the fact that I was going to hit my knee, elbow, or head every time I moved (to be fair, I hit my elbow, knee, and head pretty regularly even when I'm not living in a dollhouse). I also went into the trip on the tail of end some major lower back pain (after my previous international trip the week prior... oh how hard my life is) and the passenger's seat and bed did me no favors.

We slept in the campervan all but 2 nights on the trip. Those 2 nights we spent in a hotel, the night before the wedding and the night after. I only showered in there once, when I was boycotting paying for the showers at one of the campgrounds we stayed at (because seriously, you're going to charge me to use your electricity, internet, laundry facilities AND your hot water? no you are not. I will shower in the same room where I pee thankyouverymuch). That shower was not necessarily in my top 10 best showers, but it did the job. We slept in campgrounds almost every night we were in the campervan, except one night when we free camped at a campsite near Milford Sound (a.k.a. the most beautiful place on the planet). That one night made me feel super uncomfortable because it was our only night without any backup. Somehow normal backpacking doesn't freak me out- even though in that case it would be my own two legs getting me to safety- but knowing I had a vehicle that could possibly lose power overnight and leave us stranded, and we'd be left with a monstrosity to transport somewhere made me nervous. We also didn't have any cell phone service, so if the campervan decided to die, we would have been stuck without the ability to call anyone. I make it sound as if we were in the middle of nowhere, and we were, but there were lots of other campers around and we were on a government-campsite, so I'm 100% sure someone would have rescued us if anything bad had happened. Still. Worrying is what I do.

Was I sad to say goodbye to our dear campervan? Yes and no. It contained a lot of memories. It is a great way to get around in a country like New Zealand where real hotels and few and far between, and the really wonderful sights are far from civilization. The bathroom/water/wastewater parts of it were not a hassle at all, but I'm sure if we had been away from dump stations for longer than a day at a time things could have gotten interesting. It was our honeymoon vehicle, and for that I'll always remember it. I've seen a couple of Mercedes Sprinter vans since we've been back and they make me wistful for the times when we'd drive away from the campsite and hear 2 drawers pop open and a water bottle fall to the ground because we'd forgotten to secure them (I got SO mad every time that happened, but also had to laugh because of course even the tiniest things are going to fly around when you take a turn or accelerate to 60 mph). Miraculously, I don't think we broke anything from the great falls that occurred. Will I ever travel this way again? Ummm... we'll see. 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

New Zealand: getting there

Getting to New Zealand is not easy. Our trip down involved 3 flights: DC to Dubai, Dubai to Sydney, and Sydney to Christchurch. The first 2 flights were around 13 hours each and the third was ~4 hours. 13 hours is a long time. I know, duh, obviously 13 hours is lengthy. But really. 13 hours ON A PLANE is the longest 13 hours of your life. We left earlyish in the morning on Friday after a night at a hotel near Dulles Airport outside of DC. I got up early and biked at the hotel to get some movement in for the day since I knew I'd be sitting a lot. 

One fun complication with traveling: I had this to contend with:
My wedding dress waiting for its first flight (plus Nick's suit). A 20 lb annoyance.

Traveling with the dress was something I totally dreaded. It was heavy and cumbersome, especially combined with Nick's outfit, and it was irritating to worry about it all the time. I definitely said "screw it, they'll photoshop the wrinkles" to myself a hundred times over the course of the trip down. But in the end, babying it was worth it since it meant very little steaming necessary on the day of the wedding.

First flight picture:

Individual movies screens!?!?!? Yes please.

For the first flight, it was just Nick and I in the 3 seats at the side of the plane. That was the best since it meant I could get up and down as much as I wanted to. That was handy after the free wine came out. Yes, free wine. Free wine. 3 days before my wedding. I guess technically it was $1800 wine, but it felt free. So I had a couple tiny bottles and drank lots of water (again, freedom to get up and use the bathroom was wonderful) and figured I'd be ok by the time dress-wearing day came around.

The layover in Dubai was pretty brief. I walked around and took a couple of pictures. 
Dubai: the wave of the future totally includes the Cone of Silence from Get Smart.

Caviar. For your airport Caviar Party.

The second flight was less fun because Nick and I shared the row. Luckily a nice Italian(?) gentleman graciously took the window seat so I could sit on the aisle and pee at will. It was still crazy long. I watched more movies. The flight was on a huge Airbus A380. It has a second floor with suites. The airline staff offered to put my dress in "one of the vacant suites upstairs" and I silently yelled at them to put the couple who belonged with the dress in one of the vacant suites upstairs as well. It didn't work.

 Layover in Sydney was again brief and our final, short flight (during which Nick and I watched New Girl [Parkour! Parkour!]) took us across the South Island of New Zealand and into beautiful Christchurch early on Sunday afternoon. And then the fun began....

Today's daily wedding picture:

The photographer said: "look at your flowers and be thoughtful" and I wish I could tell you what I thought about but I think I was just weirded out at being photographed so that's most likely what was going through my head.

April totals

My triumphant return to the blogging world is with some not so triumphant running news:

April 1: off
April 2: 5.8k (3.6 miles) in 34 minutes on tmill
April 3: random workout in gym, walk on tmill, elliptical, bike
April 4: walk a ton in Brussels
April 5: off
April 6: 5.35 on tmill, 49:00
April 7: off (back hurts!)
April 8: 3.11 outside, fast with nick. 24:45
April 9: 45 mins on elliptical plus weights
April 10: 5 @ 6.8, 0.2 @ 8.0 plus cooldown, 5.45 total 48:38
April 11: 5.5 on tmill 48:15
April 12: off
April 13: off
April 14: 3 miles
April 15: 4 miles
April 16: 3 miles
April 17: off
April 18: off
April 19: off
April 20: off
April 21: off
April 22: off
April 23: off
April 24: off
April 25: off
April 26: off
April 27: off
April 28: off
April 29: off
April 30: off

April totals: oof. not much. 33 miles in 8 running workouts. 2x elliptical.

While I say "oof" and am bummed about the actual number of miles I ran, I'm not at all bummed about why. April was an amazing month, I got to go to Belgium and New Zealand and have the most amazing time in both places. I got to spend so much quality time with my HUSBAND, running and not running, and although we didn't run a ton of miles, New Zealand was full of hiking and sightseeing.

The only reason I'm a wee bit worried about the mileage is this. Alexandria Half Marathon on May 26. Last year Nick and I ran it in a HUGE PR for me (and an automatic PR for him because it was his first half!): 1:58:39. Since the beginning of the year I had sort of started thinking I could finish faster than that. The pace from last year is just about 9:00/mile, and I had done a few longer runs in March and April that were in the mid 8 min/mile. So... I set my heart on PR-ing. Of course. Well, taking a month off running before your PR race is probably not the best idea. I'm not totally ruling it out, but I'll see this week how I'm feeling with a few runs and then maybe re-adjust my goal... 8:48's would mean a 1:55 and that's still great. To be determined.

And here's another wedding pic because they are amazing and I love them and they remind me how perfect that day was: