Sep 30

Free Floors!

I have to tell you about an amazing, beautiful home improvement project that is free-ish!

When we bought our house, we knew that there were hardwood floors under the carpet in the living room, hallway, and guest room. We planned to pull up the carpet in those rooms, and to refinish the floors underneath.

We were ecstatic when we found that the floors were in beautiful condition in the living room!

But then we pulled up the carpet in the hallway, and found that there were chunks of floor missing. Uh oh. We had to replace the missing oak flooring with salvaged flooring.

Thankfully, Husband Saign is clever and decided that rather than going to a salvage store, we should look for salvaged oak flooring on the Craigslist. Sure enough, he was able to find some free oak flooring!

We now have patched oak flooring in our hallway and we replaced the laminate that was in our dining room with free salvaged oak. We also have enough oak flooring to complete the office, which has dingy old carpet in it right now.

One day, I came home from work, and found that Husband Saign had put in this gorgeous (free) oak floor in the dining room!

One day, I came home from work, and found that Husband Saign had put in this gorgeous (free) oak floor in the dining room!

Now, I’m not going to pretend that it was an easy job. It was a lot of work. We had to go to 3 different sources to get enough free flooring to complete our projects. Then we had to go through the flooring and find the pieces that were salvageable. Then we had to pull the nails out of the flooring. Then Husband Saign decided to plane the wood down by just 1 millimeter-or-so, as he thought that would be easier than sanding off the old finish. Then Husband Saign had to nail all the wood in.

Now, it definitely would have been way easier to just buy new wood, but there are two reasons that we chose to do things this way:

  1. We’re saving money. I love being able to say that we got our wood floors for free!
  2. We’re saving the environment. By using salvaged wood instead of buying new, we’re able to re-use old materials rather than chopping down new trees. Pretty great stuff! I love it when the most economical choice is also the most ethical choice!

Now, we did have to spend $20 on a big roll of paper that we put on top of the subfloor and under the oak flooring. Husband Saign also bought a used flooring nailer on craigslist for $75, but we’ll be able to sell it when we’re done, most likely for a profit. Once all our floors are in, we’ll have to rent equipment to sand them down, and then we’ll have to spend money on stain/finish. But all-in-all, it will be an inexpensive home improvement project that will improve the value of our home AND make it more liveable for us now!

If you’re looking to replace flooring, consider using salvaged wood! If you’re pulling flooring or other materials out, try to be careful as you do so, so that others might be able to reuse your materials! We’ve been giving away the carpet that we pulled up. i have no idea why people want old carpet, but we’ve gotten people to take it, and it’s great knowing that we’re not filling a landfill up unnecessarily.

Would you put salvaged items in your home?

 

 

 

Sep 24

The Most Exciting News of the Century!

I have an important announcement to make:

Nants ingonyama bagithi Baba!

Nants ingonyama bagithi Baba!

I see a llama eatin’ his pajamas, I see a llama eatin’ his pajamas…

That’s right guys, I’m going to AFRICA!

(In case there was any confusion, those 3 lines are lyrics from “The Circle of Life” from the Lion King. But, I’m pretty sure that you already knew that from my very clear typing of “I see a llama eatin’ his pajamas…”)

So, I’m crazy excited. Like, thinking about the trip every day, reading, planning, and dreaming, even though the trip isn’t for 5 months. I’m like a little kid looking forward to Christmas!

I’m also a little apprehensive because…I’m going by myself.

That’s right, married girl on a solo vacation.

One of my best friends presented the idea of solo-vacations-while-married to me years and years before I got married. I remember that I felt confused when she said that she and her boyfriend had discussed how they would still sometimes take separate vacations if they got married. “Why?” I wondered. “Why would you want to take separate vacations?” But she was in a committed relationship, and they were both convinced that it was a great idea. The more I thought about it, the more I realized, “Why not? Just because you married someone doesn’t mean that you have to spend every second together.”

So, the idea of taking a vacation without Husband Saign has been with me for years…longer than I’ve even known Husband Saign. The reality is coming about in 2015 for one very important reason: We want different vacations. I think many of our friends are shocked, and maybe even a bit worried. But here’s the reality: Husband Saign wants to have a Heli-boarding vacation. Guys. HELI-BOARDING. For those of you not in the know, this means that he’ll be dropped by a helicopter onto a mountain in Alaska, and will be snowboarding amongst the wolves and the avalanches. Hopefully that last sentence made it absolutely clear to you that I would be TERRIFIED to do such a crazy thing. Nope, I can’t go along with him for this adventure, because I’d like to remain alive for now.

And meanwhile, I’ve wanted to go to South Africa since I was 19-years-old, and never had an opportunity that really fit.

So…we’re both taking our dream vacations this year! Separately. And it’s going to be amazing.

Here’s my plan:

  1. Fly into Cape Town, South Africa, spend a few days there.
  2. Take an “overland tour” through South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe. (An “overland tour” is basically a road trip. It’s a term that people use outside the U.S., as far as I can tell.) My tour will involve me spending my days in a huge monster tour-truck thing with 20-or-so strangers-who-will-become-best-friends. We’ll see amazing terrain: sand dunes, rivers, deserts, jungles, and Victoria Falls. We’ll see lots of amazing animals, including lions, tigers, elephants, rhinos, giraffes, zebras, and pumbas! We’ll eat meals together around the campfire each evening and morning, and sleep in tents most nights. I.cannot.wait!Screen Shot 2014-09-24 at 8.01.32 PM
  3. Visit an amazing friend who is a missionary in a village in South Africa. I’m really looking forward to doing life with this girl even if just for  a few days! I don’t know what to expect, but I think I’ll get to play with kids and hopefully help my friend out!
  4. Have the BEST TIME EVER!

So that’s the plan. I just want to jump out of my own skin, I’m so excited!

Would you go on a vacation without your significant other?

 

Sep 21

EuroBikeTrip 2014 Day 3: Stadtgardens are wunderschön! Germany to Switzerland and Back to Germany

Today was a beautiful day! The sun was shining, we rode past lots of flowers, fields, cows, sheep, and horses. We had to ride in the road quite a bit, which was scary.

Husband Saign riding on a highway. This was terrifying.

Husband Saign riding on a highway. This was terrifying.

We heard lots of cowbells today, and I felt super bad that the cows had to have that loud ringing near their furry ears all day, every day! They are loud!

We heard lots of cowbells today, and I felt super bad that the cows had to have that loud ringing near their furry ears all day, every day! They are loud!

I'm not sure I've ever seen a baby donkey before. Cutest thing ever.

I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a baby donkey before. Cutest thing ever.

At one point, we weren’t quite sure if we were in the right place. We stopped in front of the sign with the arrows pointing in various directions, and were consulting a map, when a German lady pulled up and started giving us directions in German. We responded in English, but with gestures and saying the town name that we were aiming for, we were able to gather that we were on the right track. We were very appreciative of her kind help!

The sign that we were examining, in hopes of getting on the correct route.

The sign that we were examining, in hopes of getting on the correct route.

We got to stop and have lunch in Konstanz, Germany, and it was nice to be back someplace familiar! Being back in Konstanz meant going to Gelato di Toni, the BEST gelato ever!

We got to stop and have lunch in Konstanz, Germany, and it was nice to be back someplace familiar! Being back in Konstanz meant going to Gelato di Toni, the BEST gelato ever!

The gorgeous bike bath near Konstanz

The gorgeous bike bath near Konstanz

Konstanz

Konstanz

I loved Stein am Rhein so much yesterday, that I was worried that it would be my favorite village of the trip, and nothing else would live up to it. Thankfully I was wrong. Today, after a great deal of cycling, we took a ferry ride to Uberlingen, a beautiful coast town on a hill. I love it! We wandered the town, exploring the cathedral (Munster), the town hall, and the old town area. We then went to the stadtgarden, which was a beautiful park overlooking the city and the water. It was so special!

View at the waterfront in Uberlingen

View at the waterfront in Uberlingen

IMG_0275

View from the Stadtgarden

View from the Stadtgarden

The view from the top of the Stadtgarten

The view from the top of the Stadtgarten

Uberlingen

Uberlingen

Uberlingen

Uberlingen

I love the bright colors and the purple flower vines!

I love the bright colors and the purple flower vines!

Inside the Munster

Inside the Munster

Munster in Uberlingen

Munster in Uberlingen

We still have not successfully had any wurst (sausage). Saign chose a bar this evening that he was convinced would have wurst. There was no wurst to be found…only smoke. Blech. We’ve given up on ordering tap water, and now just order beer, since it’s less expensive than the sparkling water they keep bringing us!

Dinner was a cheesy greasy pressed sandwich and a wheat beer!

Dinner was a cheesy greasy pressed sandwich and a wheat beer!

The smokey pub that we at our dinner at.

The smokey pub that we at our dinner at.

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

Kilometers Biked Today: 65.5

Total Kilometers Biked for the Trip: 100

When you have a great experience while traveling, do you worry that nothing for the rest of the trip will live up to that great experience? Or is that the strangest thing you’ve ever heard?

Sep 18

Snohomish River Run DISCOUNT!

So, marathon #2 is in the books. What’s next for me? It’s half marathon time! Since I’ve decided that I’m done with marathons, I think I’ll be spending the rest of my racing “career” focused on enjoying half marathons. Which shouldn’t be too hard, because half marathons are super super fun!!!

First up on my half marathon agenda is the Snohomish River Run.

Event photo for Snohomish River Run

Here’s what I’m excited about with this race:

1) Great people. So, I had an embarrassing incident with the Snohomish River Run People. They offered me a free race entry for the Snohomish Women’s Run in exchange for blogging about the race. I turned them down because the race conflicted with my schedule. A little bit later, I got an email from them asking me why I gave the race a bad rating, and politely asking what they could do to improve the race. I had no idea what they were talking about! I hadn’t run the race! Why would I rate a race poorly that I hadn’t even run? I then logged into my facebook account and tried to solve the mystery: I discovered that I had, indeed, given the race 1 out of 5 stars on their facebook page. Now, this was totally unintentional, and my guess is that I must have been on facebook on my phone, and accidentally bumped the one star with my massive thumb. I was completely embarrassed and felt very guilty about the whole situation, even though it was an accident. I apologized and explained the mistake. Their reply to my email was great, and along the lines of, “Oh good, that’s funny, now would you like to run the Snohomish River Run in the fall for free?” Yes, they are nice people. Now, I suppose that many runners don’t care about running races with nice people in charge, but I personally think that their cheery attitudes may have a trickle-down effect, and having good people in charge creates a nice, warm atmosphere for race day, which is wonderful!

2) Perfect Weather. I love doing my absolute best at every race that I run. Having temps between 40-60 degrees sets me up to be able to perform my very best. As the Snohomish River Run’s website states, “…late October historically enjoys perfect running weather with an average high of 56 degrees and a low of 41.” Wonderful. I’m in!

3) Soup at the End. I LOVE hot broth at the end of a cool race. I am telling you, I am convinced that it is absolutely the perfect post-race food. I’ve had soup or broth available at the end of two races in my life, and thought it was so great that I’ve considered heating up soup before races and putting it in a thermos to have post-race. Unfortunately, I don’t own a thermos, so at most races, I have to go without hot soup. Thankfully, at the Snohomish River Run, I won’t need a thermos, because they plan to provide soup for all runners. Give it a try guys…it is the most wonderful food following a tough, cool race!

4) Two race distances to choose from. 10k or half marathon. Now, I think the half marathon is always the best choice (I’ve never run a 10k, but I hate running fast, which I feel inclined to do for shorter distances like a 10k), but if you think a shorter distance would be better, the option is available.

5) Beautiful race course. It’s Washington State in the fall. The leaves will be oranges, yellows, and reds. We’ll be running along a beautiful river. It will be amazing!

Use code RUNFUNDONE2014 for 10% of the Snohomish River Run. Good till October 21. Join me! It will be fun!

 

Sep 10

What Just Happened??!! Lake Chelan Shore to Shore Marathon 2014

Whelp, I ran my 2nd (and most likely last) marathon this past weekend. I’m using the word “ran” rather loosely. There was a lot of walking involved.

Things didn’t go as planned.

I thought that I could probably get a 4:10, and I thought at very worst I’d at least get a PR, beating my first marathon time of 4:18. I had trained well for the race. I felt confident. I even mentally prepared myself, reminding myself that it was all a mind game, that I’d be in pain, but I’d have to keep going, telling myself that I was strong, etc, etc, etc. Despite all my training and planning, I sauntered in at a 4:40.

So what happened?

I have absolutely no idea. Things just fell apart.

I started out strong, though in hindsight, faster than what I should have. The first half of the course was pretty hilly, so I had a hard time pacing myself, as I’d want to create a “cushion” in my pace so that I could slow down when going uphill. I loved seeing those low numbers flash across my Garmin. I was feeling good! I was feeling strong! Until…I was feeling the exact opposite.

I can’t tell you exactly what went wrong. In fact, I think it was really just that a whole bunch of things all went a little wrong, and that resulted in me just totally falling apart. The worst part for me was that before I had even hit the halfway point, I experienced something that I had never experienced before: As I was running, my vision went kind of blurry around the edges. At first I tried to rationalize this strange experience, and I thought, “I probably just got sweat into my contacts and that’s making things seem blurry.” But the blurriness seemed to get worse and better at odd intervals that seemed unlikely to be related to sweat. And then I saw a big black spot in front of me. I don’t know how else to explain it, but it just kinda reminded me of what people describe happens before they faint. I’ve never fainted before, and I really didn’t want to try it for the first time in the middle of a marathon. I walked for a little bit and the spot and the blurriness went away, and didn’t reappear…but I remained cautious for the rest of the raise!

Here are the things that happened that slowed me down:

  1. Hills. Yep. I should have known that those were going to be there. But I didn’t. This marathon had 2x the amount of elevation gain as my first marathon. Is twice as many hills a lot? It is to me!
  2. Heat. The first hour of this marathon occurred before the sun was over the horizon, and felt amazing. But then the sun came out, and while it wasn’t Florida hot, It was hotter than I’m accustomed to.
  3. Loneliness. In some ways this was nice, because I didn’t have anyone out there bothering me with their hacking, strange gait, or obnoxious conversation. However, for my first marathon, I had a bestie along supporting me the whole way, and I’m sure that my performance this year would have improved if I had someone by my side encouraging me along.
  4. Terrifying Black Spot in my Vision. This scared the crap out of me! I already hydrate more than the average runner, but I started hydrating like a fish after this happened. I drank the 40oz of Nuun that I had planned to drink, but also started walking at water stops so that I could drink the whole cup (rather than gulping down a few sips while most of it ends up on my face and on the pavement like I usually do), and stopped to fill my Nuun bottle back up at one of the stations. I also started walking quite a bit more after the black-spot-incident. I’d rather be walking than unconscious!
  5. Hip and knee pain. I knew that I’d have normal marathon pains, but I wasn’t prepared for the shooting pain that I experienced in my knee and hip during the last 8 miles of the race. It made it hard to keep up my goal pace.
  6. Elevation? The elevation ranged from 1100 feet to 1300 feet. I typically train at sea level. is 1000 feet enough to affect one’s athletic performance? I would have thought the answer was “no,” but maybe it did contribute to the problem.

So? It happened. Things didn’t go as planned. I really can’t point to one thing as the true problem, but I kind of think that it was all of the above that made for a tough race for me.10668971_10100481600670829_8847867389952368693_o

Here’s what went well:

  1. Gorgeous views. We ran around beautiful Lake Chelan. It was a spectacular marathon course.
  2. Husband Saign and Ada the Dog cheered me on! For the first time in my life, I had a sign that was made just for me saying, “Go, Becky, Go!”
  3. I got it done. There’s just no way around it. Completing a marathon is a great accomplishment. I’m proud I did it!

 

 

 

Sep 04

Marathon Week! GOAL!

Oh dang! I’ve got a marathon in two days! Let’s talk about the important things: Fears, Training, and Goals.

Fears

Um…I’m not sure if having one marathon under my belt makes me more or less scared for marathon #2. On the one hand I think, “Hey, I’ve done it before, I can do it again!” On the other hand I think, “Ow. Marathons hurt. Ow. Ow. Ow. And it’s going to be hotter at this one!”

Yeah. I chose the Lake Chelan Shore to Shore Marathon for 3 reasons:

1) Small = cheap. I love saving money.

2) Scenic. I want pretty scenery while I run. Lake Chelan offers amazing views.

3) Fall in Washington is the best time to run! Yay! Oh. Wait. Fall in WESTERN Washington is the best time to run. But Lake Chelan is in Central Washington, where the sun beats down like it’s the desert. Or at least it feels like a desert heat to those of us who live in Western Washington where it rarely get’s into the 80s.

So yeah, I’m really, really worried about the weather and how the heat (upper 70s) will affect my pace. I’m definitely at my peak performance between 40-60 degrees, and this weather has me scared!

Training

Of course, I didn’t actually follow my training plan. I don’t ever properly follow a training plan. How do people do that??? However, I trained better than last year! For my first marathon, I ran 1-2x per week (and usually it was closer to 1 than 2). For this marathon, I ran 2-3x per week, and it was 3x/week more often than not. I also kept my gooditude on, just like I promised myself I would. Good job, Becky! You are a winner!

Goal

I think a 4:10 is a reasonable goal when considering my training and the anticipated heat.

Does heat scare you off???

 

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?

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