Sunday, December 31, 2017

The Couch to 5K Transformation

I've never considered myself athletic, in fact I think book worm would have been a good name for me as a kid.  It wasn't that I didn't enjoy soccer or playing outside, I just never excelled at it and so in the fierce life of competitive childhood  you were either good at something or were bad at something, and at some point society basically told you, don't try, you're bad at it, go work on the things you're good at.....

Well 38 years of doing the academic things I was good at and telling myself I wasn't athletic, that I can't run, that walking's great but I will never be able to jog more than the mile they made me do in high school.....I think finally a small part of me told me that was just Bullsh@t.  Maybe it was the yoga I've been doing for 10 years, teaching me to be balanced in both mind body and spirit, I can't say for sure, but something led me to ask myself why did I accept this definition of myself? Why can't I change this preconceived notion of who I am? Use my strength and determination to remake the vision of who I am, not at what others see me but how I see myself.

And that something took root, and it grew until it became a GOAL. like a Capital G goal, not one of those New Year's resolution's that last a week. And that Goal was to actually run a 5K.

And then because fate always helps you out when you need it the most, Amazon sent me a link to a book... And that book was "A Beautiful Work in Progress" by Mirna Valerio.  And that book and the Couch 2 5K Training App by Zen Labs helped me fundamentally change my self-image.

So I downloaded the 8 week C25K training plan and I signed up for a race that was 10 weeks out, because I knew I needed a deadline.... and I started.

So here's my journey in recap and all the conversations I had with myself during my 3x a week runs.

Week 1:  Holy Crap I'm out of shape!  How could jogging for one minute be so hard!?!?!  I'm never going to get through this, what was I thinking??  And then... you got this Erin. You are strong. You are brave!  Tell those muscles they can do it. And they did.

Week 2:  Wow my knees really hurt...Ed (my husband)  how am I going to do this? Am I going to break?  to which he said a little pain is okay, it just happens and it will get better, you just have to be strong...

Week 3:  I'm hot, sweaty and wondering how can I be sweating like this when it's below freezing outside?  My knees ache and I finally realize that it's because my hip flexors are tight, and so I start religiously doing a bunch of yoga moves to open them up.  Every day, doing stretches, doing ice packs, taking Aleve, and thinking to myself, you can't give up now.... make this pain count for something.  Also I'm reading Mirna's book and she's telling me the same thing... don't let anyone tell you that you don't have a 'runner's body'  or that overweight people should lose weight first, etc etc....  so I keep going...

Week 4 and 5:  These were hard weeks.  Just when I started getting my thigh muscles, knees, hips and core working together, the training program takes it up to longer intervals, and man my cardio just sucked!!  Then one afternoon I was plodding along, slowly dying inside, and a woman who was sitting in her car with her kids waiting for someone, smiles at me  and puts her thumb up and says sincerely "Hey, Nice Work"  Will she ever know how much that voice of confidence meant to me??

So I keep going......  I find new problems to deal with; how do I run at night? How do I set a route when I don't know how long I'm going?  I'm fortunate I have friends and family that helped me overcome each obstacle that I put in my own way.

Week 6:  Mirna has a great quote in her book.... "You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience which you look fear in the face" 
At this point in the training plan it has you running "1 mile or 10 minutes"  Well I could now jog for 10 minutes without stopping but it sure as heck wasn't a mile.  I knew as a beginner runner you should only worry about time or distance, not both, but I kept asking myself how am I going to get ready for a 5k if my training plan thinks I'm running a 10 minute mile when my mile is more like 13 minutes. I have to run longer then my app has planned for me.  Another obstacle, but I'd overcome so many already.... so I started to create my own running plan for those last few weeks..   I got a timer app and set up my own intervals.

Week 7.  The week I ran 2 miles without stopping.... for the first time my life...  I still start to tear up thinking about it. 

Week 8.  The week I put Live Like Legends by Ruelle on my running play list and believed it....

Week 9.  It was Thanksgiving week, and I was at the end of my training plan but still hadn't gotten to 3 miles, so that Wednesday I went out there, on the fabulous Clear Creek Trail where it's uphill on the way out and downhill all the way home, and when my timer app told me to turn around I went just a little further,  and turned around at 1.5 miles instead of 1.3 and kept going and then I did it.. 3 Miles!!!!

Day of the Race....
So 5K day is here.  The weather is unseasonably warm, I didn't sleep well, I'm out of sorts, nervous,  start the run too fast, and start to really exhaust myself.... I don't know how I'm going to finish...I'm overheated, I'm sloppy, I'm distracting myself by all these people around me, so many doubts running in my head, but then I get to that 3 mile mark, and there's only .1 to go....  and I keep going....  My husband and my good friend Joanne are waiting there for me, full of love and support and they make me brave.  and I keep going... all the way.  And I tell myself I am brave, I am strong and I can be whoever I choose to be.


Sending Love and Light to anyone who journeys to create their own vision of themselves, and works to create a balanced mind, body and spirit through courage and through self-love.

Here's a link to Mirna's book if you'd like to read it too...

and the app I used for my C25K

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Adventures in Italy - Rick Steves Style

So this spring (yes I know it's almost fall), my husband and I went to Italy for the best of culture, art, and architecture in Italy; Rome, Florence and Venice.  And so of course being a faithful PBS viewer I had to take my Rick Steve's Italy book along.  Instead of blogging about our entire trip, I wanted to highlight all of the BEST (in our opinion) aspects of touring with 'Rick'.

Our book, de-binded and ready for travel

So the crazy thing about the Rick Steve's book, is he literally tells you to take it apart. We sliced the binding up right before we left and made compact purse sized travel guides for each city.  Crazy and genius!  There is nothing more 'touristy' than walking around with a giant book, but when I had little bite size booklets I could discreetly figure out where we are going, what we should be eating, and of course where could we find the best gelato.

The other amazing tip we picked up on was that Rick Steve's has free audio guides.  Download the app and you will get detailed histories, including maps of all the best sites in Rome, Florence and Venice. As we walked through the Uffizi Gallery in Florence or the Colosseum in Rome we had Rick's cheery voice in our earbuds guiding us through the best of the best.

Audio Europe

And the last crazy great travel tip we got from Rick Steve's book was to download maps to our phone.  With maps on our phone we could be total insiders as we wandered around lost in Venice, AND these maps download for offline mode, which is essential for us Americans traveling in Europe with limited data.
The one we used was City Maps 2 Go by Ulmon

So those are my three amazing tips from Rick Steve, but the actual information in his book is pretty awesome too.  We joked that the only times we had a bad meal in Italy was when we didn't consult his dining guide before we picked a restaurant :)  And since why does anyone go to Italy but to eat (oh and see amazing architecture and art) good dining recommendations are pretty important.  So here were some of our all time favorites out of the Rick Steve's book.

The Collosseum

So when in Rome, eat as the Romans, and that means do NOT eat by the Colosseum! Yeah, if you are starving, you may cave and get an overpriced pizza but the best places to eat are a short walk away in the Monti neighborhood.  We followed Rick's recommendations to Taverna Romana and had an incredible homemade fettucine with boar and the most delicious ricotta cake I ever put in my mouth.

Another touristy area is Piazza Navona, and yeah we definitely had a spritz and watched people wandering through, but when dinner time came, we went just a little south to 'Cul de Sac'. There we enjoyed duck ravioli and tagliatelle with hare ragout with a lovely abruzzi vino.

So with such dining success we headed north to Florence to sample some of that incredible Tuscan food, oh yeah and see pretty much every piece of Renaiisance art we learned about in Art History Class.
Do I even need to label this one??
The hauntingly beautiful Mary Magdalene by Donatello
Again Rick Steves did not steer us wrong. I think the most amazing meals we had in Italy were in Florence.  One of his suggestions was freely admitted to 'look' like a tourist trap, but it was actually incredibly good food and a really fun atmosphere. Trattoria Za Za on Piazza del Mercato Centrale served us up some seafood pasta and the most delicious beef loin with cream and green peppercorn sauce.  And if you are a true carnivore be sure to try the bistec alla florentine while you are there.

We stayed a little north of downtown so we ended up at this incredible family run restaurant near the Academia called Ristorante Cafiggi.  I loved this place because it had three generations of family working there, and it was obvious they put a lot of love into their meals.  The charmingly grumpy matriarch taught me how to properly order house wine in Italian and helped me with all my pronunciations.  We had a beautiful ravioli with walnut cream sauce, cooked to perfection lamb chops, and peas.  Oh the peas in Italy were like no other pea I have ever tasted.  I think I fell in love....

Lastly we went to Venice.  What to say about Venetian food... very expensive, and many mediocre places and I think Rick Steve's is honest about that as well.  We found a few great meals there; an incredible mushroom risotto, great pizza and some very interesting squid ink fettucines and razor clams, but the tip I will give to you about Venice restaurants is if there is a picture map of their menu outside the establishment, just keep walking.  And in Venice it is fun to keep walking... there are so many great places to get lost in that city.  But really, if you are in Venice, go ahead and splurge on a coffee at the Caffe Florian in Piazza San Marco and listen to the orchestra.  It is just an experience that must be had.  and don't rush.... Italy is not for rushing....
San Marco, St Marks Cathedral

Happy Travels!!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Northern Lights in Iceland - All the Details

It seems this is the year to go to Iceland for the Northern Lights...  IcelandAir has been putting out some great deals, the dollar is strong against the Icelandic Kroner, and the northern lights are in an active cycle.  We jumped on the bandwagon and went this November, and since a few other people I know are planning the same I thought I'd share my trip to help others plan and make the best of their stay on this beautiful island.

One of the biggest questions I had was what to pack.... I'm from Colorado so I am used to some cold winter temps but NOT used to the bone chilling humidity and wind that comes from such a wet island. The kind that freezes through your jeans and makes your toes and fingers go numb.  So packing list item #1 is Thermals.   Item #2 is a good pair of hiking boots.  The key is getting something that is waterproof and has good tread. There is a lot of ice and wet and so those fuzzy fashion Ugg boots will just not work well.
Item #3 is a waterproof/windproof jacket and Item #4 is a good pair of gloves and hat. Of course if you forget the hat and gloves you can pick up a lovely hand knit icelandic wool set from just about every single store in Reykjavik..... Oh and last but not least, pack your sunglasses.  It's not always sunny there but the sun is low in the winter so when it is sunny, it is right smack in your eyes.
My dress code for November in Iceland

So now you've packed your bag, what to do when you get there?

We were there for only four days but we still packed a lot into the trip.
First off, I'd recommend you have a ride to your hotel from the Keflavik airport booked before you arrive.
I booked our transfer on FlyBus+ and paid the extra little cost to go right to our hotel. Well worth it!   Flybus - Reykjavik Excursions
Grayline is another bus transfer provider that seemed to be a good option and had shorter lines.
Here's my little tip though... know the name of your hotel and know how to pronounce it properly.  Iceland is full of very organized people and their transportation system is fantastic but not if you don't know your own hotel (yes I sadly saw some Americans who couldn't communicate this simple piece of information to their bus drivers)

When we arrived at our hotel (Hotel Klettur which I would highly recommend as a good budget friendly hotel) it was only 8 am so we couldn't check in... Not to worry they had a room to store our bags and off we went to explore the town.  My very few thoughts on Reykjavik

1. There are two main shopping streets, Laugavegur which runs sort of east/west, and Skolavordustigur, which runs from the Hallgrimskrkja (the really big church) and intersects Laugavegur. Everything you ever wanted to buy from Iceland are on these streets.
2. Old Reykjavik, the Old Harbour and the Tjornin Lake are also a must visit; especially watching the swans in the Tjornin, or if it is frozen over there is ice skating.
3. We got the city card which if you like to visit museums I would recommend as almost all the museums are free with the card, plus free bus transportation.  Our favorite museum was the National Museum, but also make sure to stop and visit Hallgrimka and Harpa concert hall if you are into architecture.
4. The Icelandic language is pretty hard to pronounce, and everyone speaks english but try and learn at least how to say good morning - Góðan daginn. (Goh-than da-yin.) and Thank you - Takk. (Tahk. or Tahk Fyrir)
Laugavegur at night, or should I say at 4 pm

The one interesting thing to note about Icelandic dining is that you don't request the check at restaurants. When you are done eating you just go up to the register and pay. I think it is a security thing and it makes A LOT of sense.  This was the case even at nice restaurants.  And there's no tipping or tax added on to cost in the menu, it is all inclusive. And definitely bring your chip card, as that is the only way to pay there.

Our Favorite dining spots were
1. Breakfast: Grai Kotturinn (I think it is the Grey Cat in english)  A really good place to get a proper eggs, bacon potato breakfast.  It's on Hverfisgata St and takes a little finding but is worth it after a long overnight flight
2. Lunch:  Honestly we didn't have many great lunches in Reykjavik. All the sandwiches were too mayonaisse-y for our tastes.  Our favorite lunch was a nice meat soup and some fresh bread we had during the golden circle tour so I would recommend meat soup if you can find it
3. Dinner: Our favorite dinner hands down was Hofnin Restaurant at the Old Harbour. Very reasonable for excellent seafood. If you can get online and make a reservation they will seat you at the table by the window which was quite lovely.
The lamb, the seafood and the beer are the real treats in Iceland.  All are excellent! They are also very proud of their skyr (yogurt)

Last but not least, our excursions.

Most of them were pre-booked with our IcelandAir trip and they were all very enjoyable.
1. Northern Lights boat trip by Special Tours - They have very warm suits to put on and they boat you out past the city lights where you can watch the northern lights, provided it is a clear night.  If you want to get a photo of the lights, be sure to bring the right kind of camera... we did not have one so had to rely on the photos that the tour group put up on Facebook
Photo from Special Tours Northern Lights trip

2. Blue Lagoon - We went on this as part of a package deal from Reykjavik excursion.  The Lagoon is almost an hour drive from Reykjavik but was really well worth it.
The Blue Lagoon
3. The Golden Circle Tour - I arranged this separately from our IcelandAir package and it was probably the highlight of the trip.  We took our trip through Iceland Horizons because they have smaller busses and we had a great guide. It takes you to Thingvellir National Park (where two continental plates meet), the Gulfoss Waterfall, and Geyser (where there are of course lots of geysers)
Gulfoss Waterfall 

And well I guess that's about all you can fit in a long weekend.  We really enjoyed the people and the beauty of Iceland and hope to get back there soon for a nice summer adventure.

Happy Travels!