12/26/2019

Happy day after Christmas. It’s not a Monday or the beginning of the year. I didn’t get up at the crack of dawn like I hoped. I was tired.

I started working at 7:30AM. The normal workday for me is 8:30AM to 5PM. I need to commit to 8-hour workdays. Maybe today will be a 9 hour day. Still better than a 16 hour day.

Thankful for black scrub pants that hide the extra layer I’ve put on in the last couple of years. I have one pair of scrub pants that I am aiming to wear again. They aren’t meant to hide anything and require slightly smaller thighs!

There are tons of cookies and desserts in my house. I will get rid of them a little later once everyone else has had their fill or when the temptation becomes too strong.

No promises today other than to make good choices that make me feel healthier. I am worth taking care of.

 

Time Flies

It is unbelievable to me that the last time I wrote was to chronicle Marine Corps Marathon training. Well the marathon has come and gone. The training was a disaster for all intents and purposes. Quick wrap of the year: Work took over my entire life.

However, I refused to give up on the marathon. I went to D.C., I ran, walked, and finished my 10th marathon. It was one of the most physically challenging experiences, but perhaps one of the most rewarding.

Today is Christmas. The weather was unseasonably warmer than normal. There is a little snow on the ground, but not quite a white Christmas. It was a beautiful morning for a run/walk. That is where I am at right now.

I am hoping to start writing again on a regular basis. I gave myself over to work almost a year ago. It’s time to take my life back. Writing here once helped me to develop healthier habits and a better lifestyle. This isn’t a resolution or a diet. I’m not waiting until Monday or 1/1. I’m not making promises I can’t keep. I am just admitting that I don’t feel great. I have been in an unhealthy relationship with my job. There is no sense of work-life balance. I am heavy both physically and mentally. It’s time to let the light back in and there is no time like the present.

Marine Corps Marathon Training – Week 1

I got into Marine Corps through the 2018 lottery. After running the Green River Marathon from Vermont to Massachusetts last August, I sustained a bizarre pelvic injury. I actually ran the entire marathon feeling like I was in early labor with a massive pressure bearing down on my pelvis. Needless to say it was not my best marathon. I had felt it a little the week before, but didn’t really think anything of it. I continued to train for Marine Corps until the third week of September when I finally identified that the pressure and dull pain only occurred when running. Three doctors were unable to diagnose a specific cause for what I was feeling. I was basically told to just rest and let it heal. Thankfully I was able to defer my entry to Marine Corps to 2019.

A week prior to the Green River Marathon, on a whim my husband and I went to an open house around the corner from where we lived in a nice quiet neighborhood we have always loved. Two weeks later we sold our house and less than four weeks after that we moved! Talk about a whirlwind.

In the midst of our move my son started 6th grade in a new school and I began another graduate class. My job began shifting into high gear as well. I was working from early in the morning until it was time to go to the library in the evening to do school work.

I went from a 20 mile training run in mid-September to zero! It was devastating, but it had all become just too much and something had to give. The injury (or whatever it was) was a clear sign that I would have to give up the intense training. Without dwelling on my regrets at this juncture, I just want to say I really wish I had not completely abandoned all physical activity. Inevitably I gained weight, lost flexibility and endurance over the course of the next 6 months. What is done is done.

By mid-winter I was feeling better and ready to move again. My running partner was also coming out of a lengthy running hiatus due to illness. We started slow, really really slow with walks. By early spring we were running again, a little bit, but building up to more regular runs and eventually a 10K in early June. We ran the Amica Iron Horse 10K in Simsbury, CT. It was a beautiful day, quaint area, and a really well organized race. Oh and cute medal! In all honesty, I felt like crap. I am out of shape. But I have the best running partner in the world. She does not care how fast (or slow) we go. She talked me through some of the challenging parts of the race and we ran and talked the entire way.

I wish I could say I have taken the bull by the horns, jump out of bed every morning at 3:30AM ready to workout, make my green juice, and tackle the hard road ahead. April threw a massive wrench into my plans. These aren’t excuses just reality. I work in the private health insurance industry for a senior care plan that is essentially overseen by my state’s Medicaid program. Long story short, the state needs to save money. We were required to remediate charts and revise entire sections of documentation from February on by the end of April while still doing our current work. We also endured multiple trainings at our headquarters out near Boston to learn new assessments and how to complete current assessments to comply with state requirements. In order to arrive for the 9AM start time, I had to leave my house by 6AM because the traffic is ridiculous the closer you get to Boston. We were not mandated, but strongly encouraged, to work overtime to get our work done. I was working almost around the clock between my job and another graduate course.

I was losing my mind and I was joined by every nurse case manager in my company across the state. Some of the nurses quit and I am sure there will be more as more changes continue to be made almost on a weekly basis. I wanted to quit and cried almost daily. Let’s be real though. I have a mortgage to pay, bills to pay, and a child to care for. I would love to follow my dreams and passions (this certainly isn’t my dream job), but I also have responsibilities and obligations. This job may not be ideal, but I work from home and therefore I get to be present in my son’s life. He can enjoy summer at home hanging out at our pool with his friends while I type away from the patio or our beautiful granite topped island in my kitchen that overlooks our backyard. This is what kept me hanging on my the remaining shreds of fingernails I managed not to bite off during the intense upheaval of my professional life.

Days went by and my training plan got pushed further and further out. My plans to lose that winter snowsuit were overshadowed by emotional eating. Oh dear god it’s like a vicious cycle. Through the chaos I tried to move as much as possible even if it was just a walk or a short run. But I was exhausted (and if you know me you know this is not a word I use – ask my husband and son). On a couple of occasions when my son slept at a friend’s house in the first couple weeks of his summer vacation, I could not bear the thought of waking up and getting out of bed to face my work computer. I ignored the alarm. I tried to shut off my brain. I buried myself under the blanket. Finally at the latest possible moment, I would get out of bed feeling the heaviness on my body and mind. I was depressed (another word I do not use lightly).

No time to wallow though. There was a ticking deadline that I could not ignore. I have already paid far too much money for the Marine Corps Marathon between the entry fee and deferral fee. Plus I want to run again and having a lofty goal like a marathon is probably exactly what I need to get my rear in gear. I knew that as of July 1, 2019 training had to officially begin, but until then I would give myself some freedom to do, feel, think, and eat however I pleased.

I have started reducing the overtime at work over the last few weeks. I am taking a break from graduate school for the summer. I am trying to be more mindful of what I eat and have started tracking my food again on My Fitness Pal.

My Marine Corps Marathon goals are:

  • to have fun and enjoy running
  • to forget about pace
  • run by time rather than miles
  • return to a vegan diet for the training cycle
  • incorporate stretching, yoga, hills, speed work, and a variety of activity to keep my body moving

Below is my plan and what I really did for the first week:

PLANREALITY
Monday 7/1 – 30 minute run 

Tuesday 7/2 – Strength, Cross
training (bike, walk, hike), Stretch 

Wednesday 7/3 – Speed workout (2×400, 2×800, 2×400, 1×800, 1×400) 

Thursday 7/4 – 45 minute run 

Friday 7/5 – Yoga, Stretch, Core, move (12,000 steps) 

Saturday 7/6 – long run 

Sunday 7/7 – Core, Move (12-15,000 steps minimum), Stretch
7/1 – Pre-run stretch, 5 minute
walk, 35 minute run with cool down walk – Total 4+ miles 

7/2 – Walk, HIIT video, Groin
stretch 

7/3 – 45 minute run 

7/4 – Walk, rest 

7/5 – Walked just over 15,000
steps, groin stretch, yoga for
neck/shoulders video, Barre core 
video

7/6 Rest 

7/7 – 60 minute run

So the groin stretches are for another weird issue. One morning over a month ago, I woke up and my right leg shot up in the air spontaneously. I felt a shooting pain in the groin area and have felt it the tightness radiating to the knee ever since. I consulted two physical therapists and was given some exercises to do. I was told it should heal over time. It does not bother me at all when running and does not feel worse after a run. My running is slow and I have been trying to keep up with the stretches as often as possible.

I would say all in all I feel good about how the week went. I think week two will be even better.

Cuba

This year for Father’s Day, my sister and I took our father to Havana, Cuba for a long weekend getaway. He apparently told my sister that he’s always wanted to visit Cuba since his naval ship was briefly docked in Guantanamo Bay when he was in the navy. I was game. Cuba has always piqued my curiosity.

Prior to the trip, I was told by many people that we wouldn’t be able to get into the country. Of course we would not just book airline tickets and keep our fingers crossed that we would get into the country. The truth is, Americans can travel to Cuba. It is preferable to book certain aspects of your trip through Cuban owned businesses or accommodation rentals to support the Cuban people and their culture. We booked an AirBnB rental privately owned by a Cuban citizen and we booked a tour with a locally owned tour operator.

In the Fort Lauderdale airport, we checked in at the Jet Blue Cuban travel counter. It took all of five minutes and no questions were asked. Upon arrival in Havana we breezed through immigration and customs. Our return trip was equally as uneventful.

In our short stay, we saw as much as we possibly could, but I left wanting to see much more of the country. Being in Cuba is a bit like stepping out of a time machine.  Havana was vibrant and lively. The people were friendly and as Americans we felt very well received. There were only a couple of occasions when we were asked for money, but other than that there was no pan handling or begging. I felt very safe. I ran both mornings we were there and was not alone running along the Malecon and through the main streets of Havana and Old Havana.

The food was delicious and for the most part very affordable. The coffee did not disappoint. I have never been a fan of rum, but when in Cuba, I highly recommend trying a frozen mojito and perhaps a shot of Cuban rum. My smoking days are long over, and I was never a cigar smoker, but my dad enjoyed one.

We visited Hemingway’s home and the iconic El Floridita, home of the Cuban daiquiri and a favorite drinking haunt of Hemingway. I’m really not a big drinker, but again when in Cuba, have a daiquiri at El Floridita, and if not just go in for 10-15 minutes to cool down in the A/C and appreciate the spirited vibe of the place. We took a vintage car tour with a private tour guide. We explored the Bellamar Caves. We toured a Mexican naval ship in Havana harbor. We went to the Castle of the Royal Force. Mostly we wandered the streets and squares in Havana and Old Havana.

A photo tour of our weekend in Cuba 

Friday, June 15, 2018

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Our AirBnB rooftop deck

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Street near our AirBnB

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Back in time

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Gone but not forgotten

About 10 kilometers outside of Havana in the town of San Francisco de Paula is Finca La Vigia, the house that belonged to Ernest Hemingway. He lived there from 1940-1960. In 1961, the Cuban government expropriated the home along with thousands of books. Though the home is now a museum, you cannot go inside. You can only peek through the window to catch a glimpse of the eclectic lifestyle of Hemingway. On the grounds are the graves of Hemingway’s dogs and his boat Pilar.

 

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Finca La Vigia – Hemingway’s Home

 

 

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Hemingway’s Office

 

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Hemingway’s Boat The Pilar

Back in Havana we visited a favorite of Hemingway – El Floridita.

 

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El Floridita

 

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Inside El Floridita is a dedication to Hemingway

On our first night in Cuba we were led to a cute little Cuban eatery I believe was called Paladar Doña Eutimia. The food was simple yet delicious and so reasonably priced. We enjoyed mojitos before our meal and then we were treated to shots of Cuban rum after dinner.

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The perfect meal: black beans, rice and plantains

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Shots of Cuban rum on the house

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The captain with his rum and Cuban cigar

After dinner we explore Old Havana on foot. The Castillo de la Real Fuerza was beautifully lit up. It has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1982. Construction of the castle began in 1555 and was completed in 1577. The Real Fuerza castle is considered the oldest Spanish stone fortress in Latin America.

 

Castillo de la Real Fuerza
Castillo de la Real Fuerza (Castle of the Royal Force)

Riding back to our AirBnB in style!

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Classic Car Taxi

 

Saturday, June 16, 2018

My day began with a run through Havana and along part of the Malecon, a seaside avenue. From my AirBnB, I ran past the capitol building, El Capitolio, and Museo de Bellas Artes down the Prado.

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El Capitolio

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Museo de Bellas Artes

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The Prado

As I circled back to the capitol building less than an hour later, a race had almost magically appeared. I received conflicting information about the distance and I cannot seem to find any information online. I finished up my run around 8AM and the race was starting at 10AM. It was already very hot and humid. I cannot imagine beginning two hours later.
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We spent the day in a classic car with our own personal Cuban tour guide.

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Bacunayagua Bridge – Highest bridge in Cuba 

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Cuevas de Bellamar (Bellamar Caves)

We dined at La Guarida. This not so little “hole in the wall” paladar, the term used to describe private Cuban restaurants sometimes located in a one’s home, is perhaps best known as a location for the Oscar-nominated film Fresa y Chocolate. It is unique and inviting. The food was delicious. The decor was kitschy and creative. The rooftop bar was stunning. Reservations are strongly encouraged.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Sights seen along my morning run on our last day in Cuba.

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Jose Marti’s home

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Havana Club – Cuban Rum Museum

 

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An old canon

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Early morning fishing on the seaside wall along the Malecon

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A view of the Castillo de la Real Fuerza from the outside

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Around Havana

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Chinatown, Havana, Cuba

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Street scene

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Wall art

Breakfast at El Cafe. That was the name. It took us 2.5 days to find the little eatery, but it was well worth it. Cuban coffee for me, fresh pineapple juice for my dad, and fresh guava juice for my sister and me.

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After breakfast we made our way slowly through Old Havana marveling at the intricate details on the buildings, the spectacular doorways, and the beautiful colors all around us.

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We made our way through the Castillo de la Real Fuerza

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Looking out onto the moat around the  Castillo de la Real Fuerza 

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Classic car line up

We returned to the AirBnB to pick up our things and catch a taxi.

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By afternoon we were back in Ft. Lauderdale. Never underestimate the value of long weekend adventures.

Until next time Cuba!

Daffidil 5K and 10K

On Sunday, April 29th, my running partner, M, and I ran the Daffidil 10K in Amherst, MA. Carlos and his friend ran the 5K. Despite weather reports indicating a gray but dry day, the weather was cold and rainy. That did not stop us! It was actually perfect running weather. The rain let up for most of the race, but started coming down at a good clip in our last mile of the 10K. The hills in this race were no joke. Thankfully we ended on a glorious downhill and a flat stretch to the finish line. Personally I like a challenging race. There is something about pushing myself during a race and using the experience to improve for the next time.

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Poncho action!

Since I got into running, I have run the Bridge of Flowers 10K every August. Much to my disappointment they are changing that race and making it an 8K. It’s not the same in my opinion so I have decided not to run it this year. It stands as my 10 KPR prior to the Achilles injury. I haven’t even come close to running that time. I know I am a different runner since the injury, but it’s been 3 years. It’s time to stop using it as an excuse to stall improvement.

Here’s the truth…I’ve gained a little weight this winter, about 10lbs. Yet my body feels like  it’s carrying 30lbs. I feel weighed down and that makes it harder to run. I’m still running and pushing myself, but it just doesn’t feel good. Today is day 1 of marathon training. My first marathon of 2018 is on August 26th, two days before my 45th birthday. If ever there was a time to make important changes in my life and promises to myself it is now. I know what needs to be done.

Someone once asked me why I can’t just lose the weight and be done with it. Clearly this was a person who has never struggled a day in her life with weight/food issues. On the contrary, she was the type of person who literally only ate because she had to in order to live. She experienced no joy in the act of eating. Food was food. Ahh! What must that be like? I love to eat. I eat too much. As a result I am overweight and have a difficult time saying no to food. I have succeeded in losing weight and keeping much of it off, but I am at a crossroads and if I don’t revert to the important habits that allowed me to lose weight slowly and healthily after Carlos was born, then the pendulum is going to keep swinging up.

To answer that woman’s question as to why I can’t just lose the weight and be done with it…the honest answer is I don’t know. If I knew I would probably be able to quit my day job. What I do know, is that I will not give up trying. The secret to weight loss is not so secretive. Eat less, move more. I’ve got the moving part down. It’s the eating part I need to continue working towards conquering.

Today is a great day to start fresh. It’s Monday, April 30th. Marathon training begins. A new graduate school course begins today. There are exactly 120 days between me and age 45. Let’s see what I am capable of in 4 months.

We will not be put off the final goal

We have it in us to attain…

Robert Frost

Dubai – January 2016

Another unpublished draft…

Our journey to Mozambique in 2015/2016 took us to three different continents, Africa, Asia, and Europe. Carlos might have missed having a Christmas tree, but he thought it was pretty awesome to be able to say he stepped foot on three continents in less than 3 weeks. We flew home from Johannesburg, South Africa via Dubai. We landed in Dubai after midnight and did not have to be back to the airport until about 11:30AM. So we made the most of the long layover. We went immediately to the hotel and slept for a few hours. We got up early and made our way to the world’s tallest building the Burj Khalifa. We arrived just as the elevators were opening for the day. We were only able to go to the 125th floor. Later in the day visitors can ride the elevators to the 148th floor. Throughout the visit we learned about the history of the building and the city. Although Carlos was actually quite interested in the history of the United Arab Emirates, one of the highlights of the trip was flying Emirates Air, a major sponsor of his favorite soccer team FC Barcelona!

I often hear people complain about long layovers. Because we went to Mozambique at Christmas time in 2015, the direct flights from NYC to Johannesburg were ridiculously expensive. Booking separate flights via Istanbul on the way to Mozambique and Dubai on the way home cut the cost in half, and we had the added bonus of visiting two places in the world we might not have otherwise. I didn’t see it as a nuisance. I saw it as an adventure!


Washington, D.C. – June 2017

I have a horrible habit of writing posts and never finishing them. Carlos and I went on an awesome road trip to Washington D.C. last year right after he got out of school for the year. Here are a few of the highlights of our trip.

The FC Barcelona jersey Carlos is wearing caught the attention of a secret service agent. The two of them chatted for nearly a half hour about all things soccer.

We stayed in Old Town, Alexandria, VA. I could have explored the area for days. There was so much to do and see.

Carlos and I are not all that keen on visiting zoos, but we were interested in seeing the pandas at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo. Entrance to the zoo is free so we wandered in and found the pandas. I hate seeing them in captivity, but they are really interesting animals, and quite adorable.

Perhaps one of our favorite things on the trip was the International Spy Museum.

We strolled around the mall in the early evening to see the monuments lit up. I haven’t been to DC in so many years. It was as awe inspiring as I remember it.

We saw so much in the course of a few days. We walked everywhere or took the metro. It was very hot, but the air conditioned museums provided much needed respite from the heat. Carlos insisted on seeing the Holocaust Museum. He has studied World War II at length throughout the last couple of years. I had been to the museum before, but seeing it through a child’s eyes is very interesting. On our last day we went to the George Washington Masonic National Memorial in Alexandria, Virginia because Carlos was very interested in the history of the freemasons. All I could think of was The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown. I love that Carlos has interests in such a range of topics. I learned so much on the trip.

What better way to end a wonderful trip than with a delicious cupcake from Georgetown Cupcake.

Today is Earth Day, 4/22/2018. I enjoyed a lovely early morning trail/road run with my running partner M. She is getting a little more adventurous on trail. We ran about 6.4 miles today and 4 yesterday. It’s been a real treat seeing the sun for two days in a row.

Marathon training begins on 4/30 as does my next grad class, Health Information Systems. Carlos is playing spring soccer and baseball while continuing with weekly karate.  I know that organization will be the key to maintaining my sanity. I began getting a few things in order this weekend. Off to a good start!