Aug 31

Pac West Spartan Sprint 2014: The best race EVER! #spartanup

A month ago, I had the opportunity to run the Pac West Spartan Sprint. Oh. My. Goodness. This was definitely the most fun that I have ever had at a race in my entire life!!!

I was a little nervous about the race. While I’ve wanted to do this race for a long time, I knew that it included obstacles that I most likely would not be able to complete. Most people complete the Spartan with friends, and have each other to help them over walls, etc. I was flying solo, and didn’t know anyone else at the race. I anticipated that I would either 1) have to frequently ask strangers for help, or 2) Do a lot of burpees (burpees are the punishment for not successfully completing an obstacle). Since I’m in marathon training, I knew that cardiovascular challenges would be my strength. Since I lack upper body strength and balance, I knew that everything else (uh…like all the obstacles) would be tough. I was worried about scaling tall walls on my own, I was sure that I wouldn’t be able to complete a javelin throw, I knew I probably wouldn’t be able to climb a rope (I’d never tried to climb a rope in my life), and finally, I was scared of getting knocked over by gladiators.

Despite all my worries, I was pretty excited about the race the night before. I decided to wear a Wonder Woman costume that I made for a race that I never got to run because I got injured. I figured that strangers would be more willing to help Wonder Woman than they would be to help lil’ ol’ me. When I arrived at the race, I was super embarrassed and didn’t want to wear the costume, but sucked it up and put it on anyway. Soon enough, strangers were complimenting me on my race attire.

Ready to be a fierce Spartan!

Ready to be a fierce Spartan!

I arrived at the race early, which gave me time to hydrate, eat, and look around a bit. I got to see some elite runners run through the finish – they looked like super gritty Greek gods! I also got to watch some of the waves start. I was surprised to see that there appeared to be an obstacle before the race even began! A five foot tall wall was set up, and in order to get to the start line, competitors had to scale it. Gulp. It looked tall. I watched other women getting over and failing to get over. Some women looked confident and sailed over. Some struggled but did it on their own. The lamest attempted and then made their husbands/boyfriends help them. As I watched them, I realized that I was actually excited to be doing this race on my own. If Husband Saign were with me, I definitely would rely on him to get me through the tough obstacles, and he definitely would pressure me to go FAST. Since I was by myself, I would have the opportunity to run my race…you know, as long as I could get over that 5 foot wall to get to the starting line!

Soon enough, my heat (the 9:30 heat) was on deck for start. There was a nervous energy in the air. I hate how anxiety seems to be contagious! I chatted to a few people around me as we waited for our turn. Finally we were called to jump the wall. I approached the wall and easily sailed over! It was a perfect confidence booster! I could do this!

Once we were made it through that first hurdle, we were led through a series of chants, such as, “Who are you?” “I’M A SPARTAN!” and “Aroo, Aroo, Aroo!” It was a fun way to get a race started. Soon enough, we were off! It started off with an incline on dirt trails, which was quite welcoming to a trail runner such as myself, and was a nice way to get the crowd spread out so that we weren’t all on top of each other. I followed my breathing – on the uphill if my breath got heavy, I walked. On the flats I walked until my breathing was calmed to my normal long slow distance breaths, and on the downhill, I ran past everyone. Not joking. People hate downhill!

Soon enough, we were at our first obstacle:

  1. Hurdles. These were just short little walls dispersed along the running trail. They all seemed to be 5 feet or shorter. Even better, I aimed for the sides where the dirt was higher, and therefore the walls were shorter. Throughout this race, I aimed to work smarter, not harder!

We ran just a little bit more until we came to a clearing where there were:

  1. Taller walls, ending with…an 8 foot wall with no rope. Just a plain old wall. Gulp. This was exactly the type of obstacle that I most likely could not do on my own. Thankfully, the walls were all on stands, and there were no rules against climbing up the stands for this particular obstacle. I used this to my advantage, and quickly got both foot hoisted over the top of the 8 foot wall. I did it! I was so proud! Um…until I realized that I couldn’t quite get my body over. There I hung, my shins and feet on one side of the wall, and me hanging by my knees with no hope of getting myself over. Thankfully, a stranger asked me if he could help. “Yeah you can help me, but I’m not sure how…” I said. He pushed on my butt. It was not enough to get me over. Remember, these were 8 foot walls, I was above the poor guy’s head! He didn’t give up though! It was hard for me to see him, since he was under my butt, but I recall him looking visibly stressed as he helped…poor guy. He kept pushing on my booty, above his head, until I was able to get over. Thank you, kind sir!

And I was off again! So…this is what the Spartan Race is all about! Getting help from the community! How wonderful! After this, I felt really confident that I was going to have a great time and would have all the help that I needed to get this thing done! I ran along a bit more, chatting with the people around me, and then we came to:

  1. An Inverted Wall. I actually don’t remember this obstacle very well. I think that there might have been ropes hanging down, with some ridges on the wall so that you could pull yourself up the rope and your fit could climb the wall. It was relatively easy.

More running, though this slowed when I saw that there was a line to the:

  1. Lattice bridge. This was just basically a rope ladder made with a bunch of squares. The big challenge is that it moved around super wonky. People who were with friends had friends trying to hold the ladder still while they climbed. Soon enough, there was a spot for me, and I climbed to the top. There was a girl next to me screaming her head off at the top, as she couldn’t figure out how to get over the top without falling. I attempted to swing my leg over the top, and – WHOA! It swung all over the place, and scared that girl AND me! A stranger ran up and said, “I’ll hold the bottom for you!” and he did his best to hold the swinging ladder still while I got over the other side and climbed back down. Thank you, stranger!

More running – and perhaps a water stop, I can’t remember. Then we got to:

  1. Water pits. This seemed simple. It was just two pits with water and a volunteer spraying us with the hose. However, it got a little complicated when I tried to step in. It was a sudden drop, and my ankle rolled a little. Oh well, no big deal.

    Simple little obstacle...other than the sudden drop!

    Simple little obstacle…other than the sudden drop!

My shoes felt heavy when I got out of the water, but I just ran along. Then I came to another line for the:

  1. Traverse Wall. This was one that I was a bit worried about. Basically there were walls with little square two-by-fours screwed to the top and bottom. We were to climb across the wall without grabbing the top and without falling. I’m not the most agile creature, so I didn’t particularly think I’d do well on this. When it was my turn to go, I was surprised to find that I was better at it than I thought I’d be! “You’re stronger than you think!” I thought to myself. The biggest problem here was that you could only go as fast as the person in front of you, so there was quite a bit of somewhat uncomfortable waiting. However, soon enough the men in front of me had fallen off. I climbed along and then…lost my footing just a few feet before the end!

    Burpees

    Burpees

As a punishment, I had to do burpees. Thirty of them. My arms started to feel a bit tired, but I got them done! Then I ran some more, and came to:

  1. Ladder Ascent, platform, ladder descent. I don’t really know how to describe this one. It was pretty simple – climb a ladder, run/walk across a platform, and climb down a ladder. It was fairly simple, except the platform had gaps, so I chose to walk instead of run across the top.

I ran a little more, and came to another:

  1. 8 Foot Wall. This wouldn’t have seemed too bad, except that on this one, they strictly told us that we could not use the platform sides to help us climb. The platform had two strips of wood on the bottom four feet, which offered a little assistance. I climbed those, and I think someone must have given me a boost. Thanks, nice booster friend!

My arms continued to feel tired as I ran along, so I was disappointed when I came to the:

  1. Herc Hoist. Basically this is where there are large sandbags tied to a platform 12-or-so feet in the sky. Participants have to pull a rope till the bag reaches the top, and then have to slowly let the rope back down. Thankfully, they had different-sized sandbags for men and women. It was heavy, but obviously this was an activity in which you could really use your body weight to your advantage. I passed another obstacle!

I did a bit more running, and came to a choice:

  1. Tires – either pulling or flipping. We got to choose to either flip a tire 3 times, or pull a tire to the end of a rope, and then pull it back into place with the rope. I have never attempted tire flipping, so I went for the pull. It was harder than I thought it would be, but I got it done! (They also had girl tires and boy tires on this one). I found that when it came to using the rope to pull, it seemed to work best to sit on the ground, grab the rope, and fall backwards, using my body weight to move it along.

I did more running and ended up at:

  1. Bucket Brigade. For this, we had to fill a bucket with rocks and then carry it around a track. Girls got to fill the bucket less full than boys. The two things that made this task difficult were 1) Trying to fill the bucket with rocks…it just took longer than I thought it should. 2) gripping the bucket…it was just plain uncomfortable. I ended up taking two rests, in which I rested the bucket on my thigh, since I didn’t want to have to lift it up again!

    Not the greatest photo of me, but I'm there with my bucket-o-rocks!

    Not the greatest photo of me, but I’m there with my bucket-o-rocks!

We got to do some super fun trail running then! The problem is that Spartan racers are not trail runners, and don’t seem to know simple etiquette rules such as staying to the right when someone says, “On your left,” but I had nice stretches in the woods in which I was far away from others and got to speed along! Eventually I got out of the woods, and found the:

  1. Rock Pull. Ugh. This was basically a brick tied with a chain. We had to drag it around a little track. I couldn’t seem to get a rhythm on this one, and feel like I was passed by quite a few people!

Once that was over, I ran up a hill to a platform. Oh! It was the:

  1. Slip – N – Slide. It sounds so fun and nice! It all seemed fun and nice…until I saw people FLYING off the bottom through the air in uncomfortable positions and smashing awkwardly into the muddy water below. For safety reasons, we had to wait in line on this, and couldn’t go until we were given position. When I was on deck, the volunteer told me to pull my headband down around my neck because, “You’ll definitely lose it otherwise.” Okay! So I took off, down the slide, and it was going really fast. So fast that there really wasn’t much time to worry about position as my body hurled into the air and then into the muddy water. Thankfully, I was able to plug my nose. Hitting the water was just…shocking. It wasn’t cold, but I just hit it so hard! My contacts felt out of place, my shirt was not covering my belly. I did the best I could to get re-oriented and out of the water. Then, as I was trying to put my headband and tiara back on, I realized…I had hit the water so hard that my bra was no longer covering my breasts! I quickly pulled it down.

    A guy flying off the slip-n-slide!

    A guy flying off the slip-n-slide!

Almost immediately, I was at the next obstacle:

  1. Super Muddy Barbed Wire Hills. This was a funny one. It was just a lot, lot, lot of mud and barbed wire with little hills. The best method for this seemed to be to stay to the sides, because the barbed wire is run from posts on each of the sides, so there tends to be large sections with several wires coming in , and then large sections in which there is no barbed wire. I clawed my way through, doing the best I could to keep my tutu on.spartan 5 copy spartan 6 spartan 7
Can you see my muddy tutu in this photo? I dropped it seconds after this photo was taken. It was so heavy!

Can you see my muddy tutu in this photo? I dropped it seconds after this photo was taken. It was so heavy!

When I got out of the mud, my skirt weighed approximately 10 pounds, and had no desire to stay on my waist. I left it behind and ran on. Some people stopped at a hose to rinse off, but I didn’t quite understand this – clearly we would just be getting dirty again. Next up:

  1. Sandbag Carry. This was a nice easy one! Grab a sandbag, carry it up a big hill and back down. No prob!

It was a short little jog to the worse obstacle of all:

  1. Barb Wire Crawl Up Hill. This was a muddy mess of a traffic jam. I honestly think I spent 20-30 minutes to make it up this stupid hill because of waiting behind other people. At around 15 minutes, I saw people walking up the hill, planning to do burpees. Um. Brilliant. That was definitely a much faster option! However, I really wanted to complete all of the obstacles that I could! An eternity latter, I made it to the top!

I ran down the hill to find my most dreaded of obstacles:

  1. Rope Climb. Basically, we climbed into a pit of water. Then we were supposed to climb a rope and ring a bell at the top of the rope. As I said before, I’ve never climbed a rope before. I gave it a try, but found that I had no technique, and opted for the burpees. The only problem? I couldn’t get out of the pit! It was a really steep drop! I eventually went to the outer corner and managed to claw my way out.

    Lots of people looking awesome on the rope climb! (I did not look like this!)

    Lots of people looking awesome on the rope climb! (I did not look like this!)

Thirty burpees later, It was just a short walk to the:

  1. Spear Throw. Not much to say with this. I had no concept of how to do it, and we each got only one try. I hit low, and missed.

It was more burpees for me! Then, around the corner, I got to a:

  1. Slip Wall. Basically we had to crawl up rocky wall with barbed wire, slide down into water, swim under a barrier, and then climb up a slanted wall with a rope. The climb up was hard because the rocks were sharp. I panicked when I saw the wall in the water, but then found the bottom of it with my hand, and learned that it ended just a few inches under the water. It was no big deal to dip under and to the other side. The guy next to me counted with me and we dove under together. Climbing up the slanted well went fine-ish. I got to the top, grabbed it with my fingers, and flailed about trying to pull myself over. I then slid back down in failure, which was painful. Thankfully, a volunteer had pity on me, and held on the rope next to mine, offering his feet as steps so that I could hoist myself over. Thank you, kind man.

    Do you see how rocky that hill looks? It hurt!

    Do you see how rocky that hill looks? It hurt!

The water pit with the wall we had to swim under.

The water pit with the wall we had to swim under.

I don't know why I look so disturbed, it really wasn't bad going under that wall!

I don’t know why I look so disturbed, it really wasn’t bad going under that wall!

I climbed easily to the top...and then slid back down because I couldn't get over!

I climbed easily to the top…and then slid back down because I couldn’t get over!

And then it was here! It was here!:

  1. Fire Jump. I saw the photographer, and tried to smile, but the fire was putting off such terrible smelling smoke, that I’m afraid that I looked more like I was choking.

 

I wanted to look awesome for the camera, but I couldn't keep my eyes open because the smoke was so toxic!

I wanted to look awesome for the camera, but I couldn’t keep my eyes open because the smoke was so toxic!

spartan 17spartan 18After that, it was just a few yards to the finish! Yes! I am a Spartan! Aroo! Aroo! Aroo!

I grabbed some finish line food, and went to my car to get my camera. I asked a stranger to snap a photo of me in all my dirty glory. I got my finisher’s t-shirt, and headed for the showers. I did my best to shower down, but found that I couldn’t seem to remove the mud (I was still tinted mud color). I did the best I could, and was about to leave when a stranger told me that I still had mud on my face and chest. She helped me get cleaned up. I then took a few photos of the course for the blog. It was pretty entertaining to watch! Finally, I went to the beer gardens and got myself a beer. I asked some strangers if I could sit with them, and found myself amongst a number of friendly people, two of which had just competed the last race that they needed to complete the Spartan Trifecta – this means that they completed all 3 race distances (sprint, super, and beast) in one year. I thought it was funny that they finished with the easiest distance! After some pleasant conversation, I headed home.

I am a Spartan! Aroo!

I am a Spartan! Aroo!

I can’t believe how wonderful this race was! The themes for the day were, “You’re stronger than you think,” and “People are kind.” It was amazing to be out there, having a blast, running at my own pace, but then continually coming across kind people who were willing to help me! I never had to ask anyone for help, and I had an absolute blast laughing with strangers all day!

Have you ever had kind people help you out on race day?

Aug 24

Back Country Camping for First-Timers

Did you know that some people turn their noses up disdainfully at camping as I have always done it??? They call my kind of camping “car camping”! I mean, there I was, living my life, roasting my meals over the fire, sleeping in my tent, and thinking I was camping, but I wasn’t! I was apparently “car camping.”

Hmph.

Well, once I found out that there was a different (and supposedly better) type of camping, I was determined to experience backcountry camping for myself.

Ada the Dog and I with our camping supplies on our backs!

Ada the Dog and I with our camping supplies on our backs!

A few weeks ago, I packed up my backpack and went for my first back country camping trip, determined to find out what all the hype was about. (I call it “back country camping” instead of “backpacking” like many people do, because “backpacking” is what 22-year-olds do in Europe, IMO).

This is where we camped - Ross Lake

This is where we camped – Ross Lake

Here’s what I learned:

  1. You need a lightweight tent. I was horrified when Husband Saign told me that we weren’t bringing a tent. We don’t own a lightweight tent, and he told me that it wouldn’t rain so we wouldn’t need a tent. I told home that I was worried about bugs and wanted a tent. He told me that wanting to bring a tent was “stupid.” In the end, I let him win the argument because the truth is that bugs tend to irritate me less than others, so I figured he’d actually be the one to suffer. In the end…the bugs were horrible and poor Ada the Dog suffered the most. Never again. Always bring a tent

    Poor Ada the Dog cuddling up to Saign in an effort to escape the bugs.

    Poor Ada the Dog cuddling up to Saign in an effort to escape the bugs.

  2. The meals are terrible. My favorite part about “car camping” is the food. For back country camping, since you have to hike to your camping site, it’s ideal to keep things light and not carry too much food. For this reason, we bought dehydrated meals. They were terrible. First of all, they’re super salty, which is nasty. But the worst part was the texture. It felt like I was eating food that someone else had chewed. So gross. Also, dehydrated meals are expensive!

    This was my dinner. No, I didn't chew it up before I took a photo.

    This was my dinner. No, I didn’t chew it up before I took a photo.

  3. The sleeping arrangements are uncomfortable. When we car camp, I bring three sleeping pads, a pillow, a sleeping bag, and a bed sheet. I sleep quite comfortably with these accommodations. Because we had to keep things light, all I had for back country camping was a pathetic foam sleeping pad and a sleeping bag. It made for a night of tossing and turning.
  4. You will have peace and quiet. Husband Saign and I have an ongoing joke about “Hunter!” We went camping about a year ago, and happened to have a campsite near two badly behaved brothers named Hunter and Zack. Hunter and Zack’s father had a loud booming voice, and anytime his boys misbehaved (which was often), he’d yell, “Hunter!” It was a unpleasant camping experience. When we back country camped, it was absolutely peaceful and pleasant. There was another couple at a nearby site, but they were far enough away that they could not be seen or heard, so we were able to relax and enjoy the great outdoors!

    We had this amazing view and beach all to ourselves!

    We had this amazing view and beach all to ourselves!

  5. It’s organized! Since I had never back country camped before, I thought that the sites were first come, first serve. I was worried that we’d hike miles, only to find that the sites we wanted were already occupied. It turns out that I was wrong! If you want to camp in the backcountry, you just have to go to the Ranger’s Station the day before your trip or the day of your trip, and let the ranger know your intentions. The ranger will tell you what is available, and will let you pick your campsite. Then the ranger issues a permit that says which site you belong in. After you have your permit in hand, you can take your leisurely time getting to the site, because it’s all booked! I was pretty impressed.

    The Ranger also gave us this bear proof pod to put our food into!

    The Ranger also gave us this bear proof pod to put our food into!

  6. It’s FREE (usually). We camped in National Forest, and it was absolutely FREE. I was pretty excited about that! What’s the best kind of camping? FREE CAMPING!
  7. The rules aren’t as strict as you might think. I was surprised to learn that not only were we permitted to have a fire (I thought there would be a burn ban in place), but we were allowed to gather wood from the forest to burn (doing so is illegal at most car camping campgrounds). I was also surprised to learn that we were allowed to eat berries or other fruits that we found growing along the way.

All-in-all, back country camping was a fun adventure. I’d totally do it again! However, car camping is also a great way to spend the weekend!

Have you ever back country camping? Do you prefer back country camping or car camping?

 

 

Aug 11

EuroBikeTrip 2014 Day 2: Rechnung? Germany to Switzerland and Back to Germany

We had a great adventure today! It was raining for most of the day, so we got soaked! I fell off my bike and into the road right behind a dump truck. I had barely gotten up when the dump truck started backing up! It was scary to realize that I could’ve been squashed! That fall shook me up, but thankfully most of the rest of our day was spent on bike trails that were closed to cars!

Husband Saign riding in the rain.

Husband Saign riding in the rain.

Rain biking selfie

Rain biking selfie

We rode our bikes across a bridge and onto a small island called Reichenau. We rode around, admiring the scenery and the old churches. We then caught a ferry which took us to a village called Gaienhofen.

Elaborate ceiling in a church in Reichenau

Elaborate ceiling in a church in Reichenau

Another church on Reichenau

Another church on Reichenau

A stranger made fun of me for taking this picture, and my explanation that, "I like pretty doors!" did not appease him, so I threatened to take his picture, and he ran!

A stranger made fun of me for taking this picture, and my explanation that, “I like pretty doors!” did not appease him, so I threatened to take his picture, and he ran!

IMG_1208

I loved the lines of these fields pointing at this church!

I loved the lines of these fields pointing at this church!

We rode along some pretty paths and eventually found our hotel in Ohningen. Getting to the hotel was a little confusing. I saw a sign that I thought indicated that we should turn right, but Saign disagreed, because the written directions from our tour operator did not match this turn. We followed the written directions instead of going my route, which brought us up a road that was blocked for road construction. Saign asked one of the road workers if we were going in the right direction. He confirmed that we were. We then asked if we could continue on through the road construction. He said that we could. However, he didn’t put forth any special precautions for us, so we had the pleasure of squeezing past a bulldozer as it moved back and forth, pushing around gravel. It was just a few feet from us, and it wasn’t clear to me that the driver noticed us. For the second time that day, I was worried about bring smushed.

Bodensee

Bodensee

There are lots of charming homes like this all over Switzerland and Germany!

There are lots of charming homes like this all over Switzerland and Germany!

I loved the drama of these trees framing the sailboats on Lake Constance

I loved the drama of these trees framing the sailboats on Lake Constance

Husband Saign biking along Lake Constance

Husband Saign biking along Lake Constance

One of the highlights of the day was riding our bikes into a town called Stein am Rhein. As we road into the town, I saw Swiss flags flying. Oh! We’re back in Switzerland again! When we got to the town center, I couldn’t believe my eyes! The buildings were charming and old, and also covered in beautiful scenic paintings! It stopped raining, so we were able to have a lovely picnic lunch under the sun. I enjoyed exploring the shops in the charming village. I also saw my first-ever Swiss cuckoo clock. I was amazed at the detail of the woodwork, and thought the clock was very beautiful!

A beautiful frescoed building in Stein am Rhein

A beautiful frescoed building in Stein am Rhein

I loved cute little Stein am Rhein!

I loved cute little Stein am Rhein!

The buildings were so pretty!

The buildings were so pretty!

Charm

Charm

Our amazing picnic lunch. (And this was the most delicious cheese that I have ever eaten in my life).

Our amazing picnic lunch. (And this was the most delicious cheese that I have ever eaten in my life).

I wish I could live someplace this cute.

I wish I could live someplace this cute.

Dinner was another highlight of the day. Saign and I can’t figure out how to request tap water, so each meal in a restaurant is a new adventure in trying to have water without bubbles. Today the waitress asked if we wanted bottled water. We told her “no.” I tried to make a gesture for a faucet to help her understand, but she looked very confused. After some more communication, she said, “Oh! In a glass!” I was so happy that we would finally have non-carbonated water! She returned to out table a few minutes later with two tall glasses of sparkling water. The funniest thing is that sparkling water is actually really expensive…we’d save money by ordering beer or wine instead.

We then had quite the time getting our bill and paying. This has happened consistently as well. As far as I can tell, it seems that in Germany, the bill must be requested. They don’t just give it to you when your meal is done. I have a little translator app on my phone, but pronunciation is really just a guess at this point. Usually when I try to speak in German, I get perplexed looks. Well, after a 10 minute post-dinner wait, i finally waved the waitress down and tentatively asked, “rechnung?” (You can see why pronunciation is difficult…). When I said this, the waitress nodded with recognition and returned with the bill! Success!!!

Countries Visited Today: 2, We biked from Germany to Switzerland, and then back to Germany again.

Kilometers Biked Today: 34.5

Total Kilometers Biked for the Trip: 46.3

Sparkling water: The most annoying thing about traveling in Europe. Yay or nay?

Aug 06

EuroBikeTrip 2014 Day 1: Politically Incorrect Meat (Switzerland to Germany)

I’m a bit excited, because after burning out on writing about our Ireland trip last year, and then never actually writing about our Utah National Parks trip, I decided that the best way to share about the trip would be to simply journal while we went along, so I did! Here’s the story of our first day of the trip:

We’ve arrived in Europe after 24 hours of travel. So tired and dirty. The directions to our hotel given to us by bike travel company instructed us to take a bus. It was only 1.3 miles though, so we figured that we’d just walk.

Konstanz, Germany

Konstanz, Germany

Walking was more confusing than we anticipated…our American minds are not used to streets that run every which way. Along Lake Constance, we found a detailed map of the city of Konstanz. I tried to take a picture so that we’d have a map, but Saign reprimanded me, saying that we already had a map. I told him that our map was not as detailed, but he disagreed. I told him that he was wrong, which pretty much sent him on a mission to find the hotel without my help. This meant going way out of our way, getting lost, and stopping several strangers to ask for help.

Saign asking a nice little German man for directions.

Saign asking a nice little German man for directions.

Eventually we found our hotel. We weren’t allowed to check-in yet, but we were allowed to drop off our luggage, which was a relief. We walked to the bike company to pick up our bikes.

Saign biking into the main square in Konstanz.

Saign biking into the main square in Konstanz.

Later that afternoon, we stopped for some food. We picked the restaurant because it had a sign that had lots of German foods on it.

I ordered wienerschnitzel and frites because it seemed like the right thing to do whilst in Germany. I imagined that I’d be given sausage and fries. I was pretty excited. When my meal arrived, it was not sausage at all. It was some sort of breaded and fried beef. I don’t typically like my food breaded nor do I like them fried!

Me and my wienerschnitzel.

Me and my wienerschnitzel.

I ate the food anyway. It was greasy but filling. Later that night I consulted Wikipedia, and learned that wienerschnitzel almost always means breaded and fried meat. The type of meat varies in many countries, but in Germany, it’s usually veal.

Awesome, my first meal in Germany was politically incorrect meat.

A pretty door in Konstanz

A pretty door in Konstanz

A pretty garden in Konstanz

A pretty garden in Konstanz

Countries Visited Today: 2, We flew into Zurich, Switzerland and then took a train into Konstanz, Germany

Kilometers Biked Today: 11.8

Total Kilometers Biked for the Trip: 11.8

Did everyone else already know what wienerschnitzel is?

Aug 04

Wild Woman Trail Marathon Relay 2014 Review and Recap

Two weeks ago, I ran the Wild Woman Trail Marathon as a relay. I ran it last year, and I knew that it was a great event. I’m not going to write an extensive race recap, since I already wrote one last year. Here’s what changed for me this year: Last year I was on a team of two and ran legs 3 & 4. This year I was on a team of 4. Our team-name was Happy Feet, and our team consisted of my friend Sarita (who I ran Ragnar Trails Tahoe with last year), Molly (who I ran the Helvetia Half with this year), and Trisha (who I met the night before the race). These girls had a great attitude the whole weekend, and I had an amazing time running and laughing with them. The whole team camped the night before the race. It was warm, so we decided to leave the rain fly off the tent. I distinctly remember waking during the night, really really angry because someone was shining a bright light right into our tent! I waited for quite some time, assuming that they’d turn the light off eventually…but they didn’t! Finally, I put my glasses on and sat up so that I could see who the terrible light perpetrator was…and there, shining down on me was the moon! So funny!

Team Happy Feet Post-Race in front of Mount Adams

Team Happy Feet Post-Race in front of Mount Adams

I hoped to run 20 miles on the day of the race (for marathon training). I woke at 5am on race day to finish 5.5 miles on the road. I then planned to run my assigned 8-mile leg, and also to run the 4th leg as well in order to complete around 20 miles. On Friday when I was setting up the tent, I stepped into a hole and rolled my ankle. It didn’t seem to be that big of a deal, but then at around mile 6 of my 8 mile leg, I noticed my ankle twinging when I landed on it a certain way. Because it is a trail race with uneven rocky terrain, there wasn’t much that I could do to remedy the situation. I ended up deciding to sit out leg #4 to avoid further injuring myself.

Team Happy Feet!

Team Happy Feet!

About the Event: This is such a fun event! It’s basically hosted on some nice lady’s property with an amazing view of Mount Adams. The trails are mostly public land, and some private property as well. It’s a women-only event, but it is more than just a race because she lets runners camp on her property the night before the race and the night of the race, there is a potluck the night before, a meal the day of the race, and yoga sessions throughout. You can run as an individual or as a team; individuals can choose between a 50k and a marathon, while teams can split the marathon between 2, 3, or 4 people. There are no timing chips or fancy things like that, and the start is just the race director yelling, “Ready, Set, Gooooo!” It’s fantastic.

View from our campsite

View from our campsite

The Course: I’ve run the 3rd and 4th leg of the marathon course. The 3rd leg is incredibly pretty and includes all the things that I most love about trail running: trees, occasional features that you have to watch out for, and hill. It also has several bridges as it zigzags across a stream a few times. I recall the 4th leg (which I ran in 2013 but not 2014) to not be quite as charming as the 3rd leg. The first time I ran the race, I was super disappointed that I never reached a point where there was an amazing lookout. I learned this year that the ladies running the first leg had great views of Mount Adams. Overall, I think the course is pretty fun!

Organization: While this is a small, somewhat relaxed event, I feel that overall it is well-organized. I can’t read maps, but they have little mini maps for athletes to carry if they want, as well as one huge, 6-foot-tall map of the course. Most importantly, the course is incredibly well-marked. I have run several other trail races, and Wild Woman is the only trail race where I haven’t had issues with the trail markings. Anytime that I would begin to worry that I hadn’t seen any ribbons for awhile, a ribbon would show up within just a few minutes, so I never had to worry long!

Aid Stations: The Aid Stations at Wild Woman are full of randomness. You never know what you’re going to get. You might get pretzels, you might get bananas, you might get homemade proten balls, there’s just no way of knowing. If you have a stomach that tends to act up with running as mine does, it’s best to carry what you need! For example, I was excited to see Nuun at the Aid Station at the first exchange. I had my own Nuun in my handheld during leg #3, but didn’t carry any extra tabs with me because I thought they’d have some at the exchange…but they didn’t.

The Medal: The Wild Woman medals are some of my favorites! They hand make the medals with hemp, wood, beads, and markers. Each one is unique! I love the care that they put into the cute, colorful medals!

Quite possibly the cutest medal of all time!

Quite possibly the cutest medal of all time!

The Swag: This is a relatively inexpensive race, so the swag isn’t extensive. This year we got water bottles, a little zip pocket to put on your arm, and a running magnet. Good enough for me!

Post-Finish Food: As I said above, each runner is provided with a post-race lunch. In 2013, the lunch was phenomenal! It was some sort of amazing wrap sandwich, and it was filling and delicious. This year, the lunch was edible but not exciting – it involved tofurkey, some slaw, asian dry noodles, and mandarin oranges. They also had Orchard Bars, which are a Washington company that makes delicious fruit-and-nut bars. Finally, both years there were cute Boy Scouts making snow cones with local berry flavor toppings!

Berry Snow Cone!

Berry Snow Cone!

Value: I love races that are a good value! For $50, I got a race entry, camping, and lunch. Wild Woman is definitely a race that is well worth the amount that you pay for it!

Overall: I’d definitely recommend this race to all females! It’s a super-fun weekend getaway for you and your dirtiest girl friends!

Jul 22

Radweg Reisen

Remember when I mentioned that I went on a bicycling adventure around Germany, Switzerland, and Austria? Well, I plan to tell you all about it! Today, I’m starting with a little intro.

It all began when I decided that I wanted to go on a bicycle tour around Thailand. I googled something along the lines of “bicycle tour Thailand,” which led me to an American website that had bicycle tours for various areas around the world. I couldn’t afford any of the Thailand trips, but I clicked on their “Best Deals” page, where I read about a place called Lake Constance, which is a lake that borders Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. This sounded like fun, AND was something that we could actually afford!

The website that I was on offered bicycle tours around the world, so I figured that they were probably just working with local companies. I thought I’d cut out the middle-man, and more googling led me to a German company called Radweg Reisen (loosely translated, it means “bicycle path travel.” Husband Saign and I decided to book with them. They offered higher class tours, in which we could stay at fancier hotels, and economy class tours in which we stayed at simpler hotels. As you might guess, Husband Saign and I opted for the budget option.

Here’s what we got:

Tricked out bikes: I loved my little hybrid. It had an odometer, lights that were powered by my pedaling, a comfortable seat, a handlebar bag, a saddle bag, a bike lock, and a little repair kit. Everything that we could need!

Our awesome bikes!

Our awesome bikes!

Planning: I used to love to take time to plan vacations. These days, I could care less. I love it that I didn’t have to research hotels or decide which town was best to stay in. I just showed up, and was told where to go!

A Variety of Hotels: It was kind of fun not knowing what to expect at each little hotel! Some had cable TV with BBC or CNN in English, some gave us special little treats like gummy bears, some were in the heart of town, while others were on the outskirts. This variety made it fun!

Luggage Transport: I could barely carry my suitcase up the stairs on my own (European hotels typically lack elevators), so I was really glad that I didn’t have to take it on my bike with me!

Ferry Transport: We had to take ferries on a few occasions, and our tour package included our ferry tickets.

Breakfast: Our hotels provided us with breakfast each morning.

Peace of Mind: Radweg Reisen staff were available to us, should we run into any huge tragedies while on our trip.

In the end, our experience with Radweg Reisen was amazing! They offer tours all over Europe. We would definitely use them again in the future!

Here’s what we were doing:

We spent a week biking around Lake Constance (aka Bodensee), stopping in little towns along the way. Our longest biking days were 35 miles, and some days were much shorter than this. There are designated bike paths around most of the lake, and the route is relatively flat. This was a great trip for a beginner! We pedaled our hearts out, rode through farmland, rode through charming little towns, ate a TON of gelato, ate our fair share of local foods, and had new adventures each day!

While we were on our trip, I kept a little journal about our experiences. I’ll be sharing those journals + photos here on the blog over the next few weeks!

Do you like planning vacations, or do you prefer to let someone else do the planning?

Jul 16

Don’t Tell me What to Do!

I have this thing where I hate doing what I’ve been told. It’s really weird, because I’m also a rule follower. I am a conundrum.

Anyway, this whole hate-doing-what-I’ve-been-told thing works out to be pretty funny when it comes to athletics. For example, in college I regularly worked out – running and Tae Bo were my favorites (I don’t know why Tae Bo lost popularity, it was way more fun than spin class or Zumba!) Anyway, I exercised on the norm. Then I took a required class called “Physical Wellness for Life.” In this class, not only did I learn about the cardiovascular system and why Mac & Cheese is bad for me, I was also required to exercise 3 times per week. So what did I do? I stopped running and doing Tae Bo. (Hey! You can’t MAKE me exercise! I’m not going to do it!) Of course, since I’m a rule-follower I still had to exercise (because it was demanded by my instructor), but I wasn’t going to do it to my full ability when it was being forced upon me! I started walking 3x per week. That’s right. I gave up running in my own silent protest against a stupid class. Oh, and guess what? As soon as the class ended, I started running and doing Tae Bo again. Yep, I just couldn’t do it when it was required of me.

This whole you-can’t-make-me, I’m-not-going-to-do-it attitude is a huge reason that marathon training is difficult for me. I hate it when Hal Higdon tells me what to do! I just want to run for fun! You can’t force me to do it!

Um, I’m kind of just battling with myself here, aren’t I?

Anyway, as you may recall, I’m trying to train better for my upcoming marathon than I did for my first marathon, and I’m also trying to have fun with training. Because training better means following a training plan, but I hate it when my training plan tells me what to do, it’s a bit difficult. But here’s the good thing: I’m having fun! I really, truly am! Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not usually super excited when it’s long-run day, BUT I’m much more content with long-run day than I’ve ever been in the past! Last year I dreaded the long run so much that I typically didn’t start until 5pm. Then I’d spend most of the run thinking about how miserable I was and wanting to cry. But this year, things have changed! I typically get my long run in before (or during) lunch, and I’m honestly pretty happy the whole time!

Here I am! Happy as can be on a recent long run!

Here I am! Happy as can be on a recent long run!

Success! I’m having fun!

Now, stop telling me what to do, stupid training plan!

Do you hate being bossed?

Jul 10

Want S’more? Nope! I Want a Cloud!

Sometimes people say really sad things to me. Things like, “I hate camping!”

Wha? You hate camping? That’s terrible. And it makes no sense!

And then I realize that the people who might say something like that probably think that I’m crazy because I LIKE camping! And I have to explain to them, “Silly, no one LIKES sleeping on the ground. That’s not the fun part of camping! Camping is fun because you get away from everything, unplug, and eat delicious food.”

And really, the delicious food is truly my favorite part of camping.

Then sometimes people say other sad things to me. Things like, “Yum! S’mores!”

Really? S’mores?

I get sad when people are excited about s’mores because I’m worried that they are missing out on amazing camping dessert culinary adventures. Guys…s’mores are a pretty inferior camping dessert. If you’ve been eating s’mores your whole life, you’ve been missing out.

Let me introduce to you…the cloud!

This is one of the greatest camping desserts ever invented. The cloud.

This is one of the greatest camping desserts ever invented. The cloud.

Yum. So delicious.

Ingredients/Materials:

Marshmallows

Chocolate bar

Biscuit Dough

Butter

Tin foil

Fire

Tongs

I usually use canned biscuit dough like Grands, but couldn't find any...crescent rolls work too!

I usually use canned biscuit dough like Grands, but couldn’t find any…crescent rolls work too!

How To:

  1. Butter a piece of tinfoil.
  2. Flatten two biscuits
  3. Rip two marshmallows into little pieces and lay them on a flattened biscuit.
  4. Break bits of chocolate and lay them on your flattened biscuit.IMG_1354
  5. Place the remaining biscuit on top, and seal the edges so that you’ve created a biscuit cocoon around your marshmallow/chocolate.IMG_1349
  6. Wrap the biscuit cocoon with the buttered tinfoil.
  7. Place on embers in the fire. Flip a few times. Check frequently.

    This cloud was perfectly cooked on one side, and burnt black on the other...still delicious!

    This cloud was perfectly cooked on one side, and burnt black on the other…still delicious!

  8. Eat. Celebrate the wonder of this marvelous creation.

And that’s it. I will give you this tip: It is VERY hard to cook a cloud perfectly. It will often be perfect on one side, but doughy or burnt on the other. The key is to check it frequently. I can’t tell you the perfect time to cook it in, because it will depend on how hot your fire is. Regardless, it will be melt-in-your-mouth delicious! Also, you can totally add other ingredients as well. Caramel is my favorite add-in!

I haven’t had anything yet, so how can I have s’more of nothing???

 

 

Jul 08

DIY Dog Car Seat Protector Hammock – How To

I have never had a nice car until now. Even now, there’s nothing particularly fancy about my car, but it’s much nicer than any car I’ve ever owned before. Because of this, I want to protect it and keep it looking nice.

There’s just one problem: I love Ada the Dog so much and want to bring her everywhere with me. And she’s kind of furry. And smelly. And dirty.

So, I had to come up with a solution. I thought about making her a cool little dog trailer, and then giving her a dog helmet and doggles to wear while I pulled her behind my car, but that seemed like a lot of work. Instead, I remembered something that I had seen in my friend’s car before: A backseat hammock. Basically it’s a heavy duty sheet that attaches to the front seat headrests and the backseat headrests so that the back of the car is protected from smelly dirty hairy dog.

I shopped online, and found that hammock car seat protectors with good ratings were running around $50. No way! I could make one myself! So I did. Here’s how I made Ada the Dogs’s cute hammock care seat protector. Ada the Dog loves it! (Just kidding, she doesn’t really care much either way, but she loves it that she’s now allowed in my car!)

Materials:

1. Blanket. It should be thick and strong (I bought a picnic blanket at Target for $20).

2. Webbing/straps

3. Thread

Steps:

1. Measure your seats. You need to know the distance between the headrests and in the backseat of your car and the headrests in the front seats or your car. You also need to know the width of your headrests.IMG_1527

2. Analyze your headrests. If your headrests are removable (e.g. if you can pull them complete out of the seat), you’re in luck! You can make your hammock with loops that are completely secured to your blanket. This is the best option, because it’s very secure. If your headrests are not removable, you will need to create ties with your webbing, so that you can tie your hammock to the headrests.

3. Measure your blanket. Plan out where you will need to put the webbing so that you can secure your hammock to the headrests.IMG_1528

4. Sew the webbing in place. In my case, I put two loops for my backseat headrests, because they are removable, and two tie-able straps for my front seat headrests, because they are not removable.IMG_1530

5. Tie/Loop it in place! If your headrests are completely removable, you can choose whether you want to wrap your hammock over the top of the headrest (I chose to do this because it protects the seat better), or simply hook the loops underneath the headrest. If your headrests are not removable, simply tie the hammock in place.IMG_1539

Wah-lah! You’re done!IMG_1532

I think my hammock turned out pretty well! When it gets dirty, I can just throw it in the wash, and I also like it that I got to choose pretty colors and a fun design since I DIYed it.

This is Ada the Dog's excited face! She's so excited that she's allowed in the car!

This is Ada the Dog’s excited face! She’s so excited that she’s allowed in the car!

Ada the Dog is ready for some road trips!

Are car seat protectors kind of dorky like pocket protectors?

 

Jun 30

Five Mile Lake Women’s Tri 2014 Race Recap

Two weeks ago, I faced my fear and completed my second-ever sprint triathlon: The Five Mile Lake Women’s Tri. Here’s how it all went down:

Pre-Race: I was really excited for this race! Last year I had tons of pre-race nightmares and a lot of fear. This year, after my confidence-boosting swim with Lindsay, I was just plain excited when I got to the race! It was also the first time ever that Husband Saign has come to a race to cheer for me, so I was extra excited! (Husband Saign was grumpy because it was early, but I didn’t let his negative attitude get me down! I was just happy!)

I racked my bike and as I began to set up my transition area, I worried that my running shoes might get wet in the rain. I hadn’t brought a plastic bag or anything to keep things dry! Thankfully, I heard a stranger offering a bag to her friend, and her friend turned her down, so I turned around and asked her if I could have it instead. She gave it to me. Thanks, nice stranger!

I started chatting with people, and found myself reassuring a lot of first-timers that they would be just fine. This really is the perfect race for a beginner! I love seeing people try new things!

Eventually the Olympic-distance ladies were off, and soon enough it was time for the Sprint-distance ladies to start!

The Swim: I opted against wearing my wetsuit after having a hard time getting out of it last year. After our pre-race meeting, we were told that we could get in the water if we wanted, though it was 10 minutes to start. Like a little lemming, I followed everyone in, even though it didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me to get in so soon before the race. It was kind of chilly, but for a Minnesota-girl like me, it was nothing too disturbing. I shivered a little, but mostly made jokes and chatted with those around me. I heard someone shouting “Becky! Becky!” and I thought there must be another competitor named Becky around. Then I realized that it was Nicole! She came by to cheer me on! How exciting!

Getting in the water 10 minutes prior to the race - I'm the cool one waving at the camera!

Getting in the water 10 minutes prior to the race – I’m the cool one waving at the camera!

The crowd in the water for our wave was much larger than last year. The race directors had opted for a 2-wave start instead of a 3-wave start. I did not appreciate this decision. I had intended to hold back for just a minute after the gun went off, but because the crowd was so large, I couldn’t figure out how to do this without being in the way. I ended up just having to go when the ladies in front of me took off. And just like that, we were off!

Prior to the race, I practiced sighting in the pool, and it really paid off! I was able to swim and watch out for the buoy! I felt much better and more confident than last year (just as I had hoped), but still felt like I was a bit panicky, and was not keeping the calm, efficient, and steady strokes like I have when swimming in a pool. Instead I flailed along, allowing my outward movements to reflect my inner distress. I was much more in the middle of the pack as compared to last year, and kept running into people. Worst of all, there was some inconsiderate lady doing the breast-stroke in front of me! She plagued me for the entire swim! I couldn’t figure out how to get away from her, so I kept having to slow down in order to avoid being kicked. Tip: If you can’t do the front crawl, then either 1) don’t to a triathlon, or 2) stay to the back and side away from the other competitors! She was a very not-nice lady, I think.

While in general I was much less panicky than last year, the swim was still pretty uncomfortable. I saw some ladies flipping to their backs to give themselves a little breathing time. Um. Brilliant! I joined right in – and did that a few more times during the swim! When I finally made it around buoy number 2 so that I could go towards shore, I was so excited! And then I looked and…it was so far away! So.far.away. Why was it so far??? Oh well, I swam into shore, got out of the water, and saw Husband Saign, Ada the Dog, Nicole Ricole, and Baby J all there cheering me on! While I was breathing very, very hard and was very tired, I found that I had much more energy following the swim than last year, and I even jogged a little to my transition!

So happy to be out of the water!

So happy to be out of the water!

Transition 1: This transition went pretty fast since I didn’t have to take off a wetsuit. I traded my surfing rash guard for a tech tee, slipped on my shoes, and drank some Nuun. I really wanted to take some gel, but I didn’t have any water or Nuun on my bike (I was 1 water bottle short on accident), so I was too afraid to try a gel. Soon enough, I was off. I couldn’t believe how my chest was burning, and how out of breath I felt, but I still had energy!

Bike: I don’t have much to say about the bike. I felt like I was still recovering from the swim for the first half of the bike ride – I think that I swallowed a lot of water while I swam. I tried to remember to keep my cadence up, as Lindsay had taught me at our practice. I had more trouble this year with getting stuck behind other bicyclists (because I’d want to pass, but simultaneously another biker would be passing me or a car would be coming). That was a little frustrating. I was having fun though, and feeling confident. I shouted out my thanks to each volunteer on both loops. I noticed during the last few miles that the toes on my right foot had gone numb. Very odd – perhaps getting them cold in the water and then stuffing them into tight bike shoes had caused the problem?

Biking along, content as can be!

Biking along, content as can be!

Transition 2: This transition seemed pretty fast to me. I still felt strong and confident, and I was really, really happy to have access to Nuun and gel! I ate a shot blok while I switched shoes, and soon enough, I was off.

Run: I still felt strong for the run! My toes were still asleep, which was annoying at first, and painful as the feeling came back, but I still had energy! If I had to guess, I’d say that I passed at least 15 people on the run, and got passed by only one. (Actually I got passed by two, but I passed one of them in the last mile, so she doesn’t count). The run was hillier than I remember it being, and I felt bad because before the race I told some people that it wasn’t hilly. I really didn’t mean to lie! I didn’t remember the hills! And soon enough, I was back in the park, and running for the finish! The clock read 2:04 when I finished, and I’m not going to lie: I was disappointed to see that time. I knew it meant I had gotten a 1:32, because we started 32 minutes after the first Olympic ladies left. I really hate feeling disappointed with myself after a race, but I had felt so confident and strong through the whole thing that I had myself believing that I might get a 1:30.

Feeling happy and strong for the run!

Feeling happy and strong for the run!

Finish!

Finish!

Post-Race: Ada the Dog and Husband Saign sat with me while I ate a few snacks. I checked my time, and learned that I had finished less than a minute faster than last year! I was surprised and disappointed!

Proud finisher!

Proud finisher!

Time Comparison: 

Swim: 11:17.5, T1: 1:54.7, Bike: 52:55.9, T2: 1:18.9, Run: 25:10.6, Overall: 1:32:37

I wish that I could do a direct comparison to last year, but because of a timing chip malfunction for the 2013 race, I have limited information to compare to. Here’s what I know: Last year, I finished in 1:33:16. So I was only 39 seconds faster this year! The reason this bothers me is that I felt so much stronger this year! I should have been able to do better! Further, my transitions were much faster, which means that I was SLOWER in the actual events! My swim time from last year was 11:20, so despite feeling WAY better this year, I apparently didn’t actually perform any better. Perhaps my bouyant wet suit was more helpful than I realized??? My first transition was 3:21 last year, which means that I cut almost a minute and a half off of my transition time by leaving the wetsuit out…but again, this also means that I was much slower at the actual events in order to finish in almost the same amount of time. Now, I can’t really compare the bike or T2 to last year, because I don’t have actual numbers for these from last year. I don’t have a specific time from the run last year, except that last year I wrote in my blog that I was running 9-minute miles. According to the race website, I ran 8:15 minute miles this year. Sooo…that means that I sucked it up on the bike this year! I was so busy trying to use new biking technique that I got really slowed down! I now know that if I want to triathlon again, I need to start working on my biking speed.

Husband Saign also pointed out to me that I didn’t train this year, which is totally legitimate. I guess that if I want to do better, I need not just feel more confident, but I need to actually practice. Whoops.

Overall: It was a really fun race again this year! Last year was a roller-coaster of emotions, and this year was just plain fun! I still haven’t totally decided what I think of triathlons. I think they’re really, really fun, but I just can’t imagine putting the time, money, and energy into becoming a serious triathlete. I think for now, I’m content just being a runner who dabbles occasionally into other sports!

If you had to choose one name for yourself, would you call yourself a runner or a triathlete?

 

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