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.
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.
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
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.
Back in Havana we visited a favorite of Hemingway – El Floridita.
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.
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.
Riding back to our AirBnB in style!
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.
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.
We spent the day in a classic car with our own personal Cuban tour guide.
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.
La Guarida rooftop bar
Sunday, June 17, 2018
Sights seen along my morning run on our last day in Cuba.
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.
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.
We made our way through the Castillo de la Real Fuerza
We returned to the AirBnB to pick up our things and catch a taxi.
By afternoon we were back in Ft. Lauderdale. Never underestimate the value of long weekend adventures.
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.
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.
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.
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!
It’s April 15th and it still feels like winter here. Today was the inaugural Fort Hill Brewery Half Marathon. Proceeds supported the town high school’s track and field and cross country programs. The weather predictions called for freezing rain and temperatures in the low 30s. Well Mother Nature was on our side. It was cold, but it’s afternoon now and still no rain. The cold I can handle. I was dressed properly and my hands were nice and warm. The wind coming right at us at various points along the course was not very nice, but no complaints because it was not raining.
My running partner, M, and I have been training for this race most of the winter. However, the last 6 weeks or so haven’t produced the best running. She was sick, I was away, I returned and have been feeling really off, and this winter just will not end. We stuck with our training despite some runs that felt downright awful. We maxed out at 10.5 miles and that was by far the most horrible run thanks to unexpected GI issues after I worked an overnight shift at the hospital. M kept me laughing though. We still made it 10.5 of the 11 planned miles that day.
The half marathon went much better than I anticipated. We ran, talked, and enjoyed the course. It was a route we have never run. The race was small and there were virtually no spectators. However, my dear friend Nancy waited at the end of her driveway to cheer for us around mile 5. She even had a sign for me! At the end of the race there was beer and pizza. I’m not a beer drinker and I don’t eat cheese. I sound like a lot of fun, don’t I?! They did have these amazing little energy bars and then, of course, we went for coffee.
Last weekend, I ran a local 5K with Carlos. It was a benefit for the town’s high school music program. I went outside after I woke up and was slapped in the face with 20 something degrees of coldness. The Tiger Pride Trot 5K started at 9am and at 8:15 I finally decided we should brave the cold and run. I do not love 5Ks because I feel like I have to hold a faster than normal/comfortable pace the entire time. Self-imposed nonsensical thought process, I know. Carlos ran with his friend and his friend’s dad, also his soccer coach. He’s an awesome guy who really tries to motivate the kids to stay active. I moved ahead of them early on because I knew Carlos was fine with his friend and might actually enjoy the experience a little more without me right there. I was by no means killing myself, but once I warmed up, I felt great. This teenage girl stopped about 3/10ths of a mile before the finish and I passed her. About a 10th of a mile before the finish line I could feel her coming up behind me so I decided to fire it up for a little friendly competition. We crossed the finish line at just about the same time. She did beat me though! I was just thrilled to be back to a sub-30 minute 5K. Seriously the bounce back from the Achilles injury and subsequent 10-15 lb (depending on the day) weight gain over the last few years has really slowed me down. My attitude about it has been very relaxed, but I am finally beginning to contemplate running goals again.
Carlos crossed the finish line shortly after I did and he was all smiles. It’s the first race he has accomplished by running the entire distance without walking or complaining. I was very proud of him and secretly proud of myself for beating an 11 year old! Of course, I did not gloat. A couple of days later, my friend who also ran the race with her 11 year old and pushing her 4 year old in a stroller, texted to tell me I came in 2nd and she 3rd in our age group. OK that’s not saying much about the speediness of our age group then. My friend would have come in first and smoked the competition if she didn’t have the stroller. I ran with her once a long time ago and literally thought I was going to die after a couple of miles. She is fast! But I still say hot damn! Who the heck would have thought I’d be running 5Ks never mind coming in 2nd in my age group? I am quite proud of that accomplishment.
2018 is shaping up to be an exciting running year. I am registered for my 9th and 10th full marathon. On August 26th, I will run the inaugural New England Green River Marathon, a point to point course from Marlboro, VT to Greenfield, MA. After a few years of throwing my name in the lottery, I was finally selected to run the Marine Corps Marathon. I will run the 43rd MCM on October 28th.
I also signed up to work with a new running coach. My amazing running coach, Laura, suggested I talk with her friend, an accomplished trail runner, who also coaches. Laura thought she might be better equipped to coach me in running the back to back marathons. I was reluctant because Laura is amazing and has really guided me through the last few years. She assured me this was just a nudge to get me out of my comfort zone and try something new.
I started this running thing over 10 years ago as a challenge to myself. As a new mom strapped for time, running seemed the perfect activity for me as I tried to lose weight, become more energetic, and develop the ability to keep up with my already active child. I never imagined where running would take me. As I began to run longer distances, I have often suspected that I am holding myself back from my full potential. I am ready to dig deeper to find out what I am really able to accomplish. I have already accomplished more physically than I ever imagined was possible. I truly never believed this body could run a 10 minute mile or less than that. It seemed ridiculous at one time to think of myself running a mile never mind a marathon. I have proven myself wrong time and time again. So what if I stop saying I can’t for a little while and stop fearing the temporary burning in my lungs and legs? What will happen? I will never know until I try.
I am a bit nervous of this can of worms I opened in my initial conversation with this new coach, but it is part of the reason why I treat myself to the expertise of a coach. It may seem frivolous or ridiculous that I would pay someone to coach me for a marathon. I mean as someone kindly pointed out, I am not going to win the race! Perhaps I will never win a race, but in my opinion I win every time I cross a finish line or even complete a day to day run. Whatever crabby person. It is my gift to myself to work with a coach for both accountability and education. My goal is actually not to win the race, but to race better, run injury free, and improve MY skills.
I will be 45 in August. This is a tough birthday for me. I have never felt time closing in like I do right now. I wasted so much time before I had Carlos being sedentary and living a rather unhealthy lifestyle. I was moody and miserable. I’m none of that anymore, and I think only about embracing each day to make it more awesome than the day before. I want to do all the things, go everywhere, explore, engage with interesting people, learn new skills, try new activities, and live really live! My dream is to live to be a really old age, but with my mind and body intact. I feel like now is the time to start pushing myself again to see what I am capable of doing. I may never be able to qualify for Boston, but that’s not the only running goal I have.
Trail running and racing fascinates me as do ultra marathons. Running a faster 5K would be a huge accomplishment. The word triathlon swirls around my brain sometimes as does duathlon. For many years now, I have talked about climbing Mount Kilimanjaro when I turn 50. I want to be in good shape when I do (and I will). I want to be in the senior olympics in my 90s. I want to mentor senior athletes when I’m 100. Right now I really want to feel fitter and develop some much needed muscle tone and core strength. This just scratches the surface of my goals.
It’s cold here in Western Massachusetts. It’s winter, and we expect cold, but it’s been extremely cold. I’m talking too cold to run outdoors. That’s how I determine the force of the cold weather. Now I’m fine going for a run when it’s 18-25 with no wind, 20-30 with a slight breeze, but anything below 18 particularly when it’s windy is just brutal. Friday was crazy warm for this time of year. It was nearly 50 degrees. My friend rallied me to run with her late in the afternoon while it down poured. The rain didn’t bother us because it was so warm out, but we were soaked!! My running partner and I have been keeping a keen eye on our weather app. Yesterday we called off a morning run due to cold and wind. We decided to take a chance and wait to run in the afternoon. It was a good call. The temperature got up to about 28 and there was minimal wind. We snuck in 7 miles for our first long run of half marathon training.
Spinning, Boot Camp, Piyo, Strength, Indoor track
Since I’m not running outdoors so much, it has been a great opportunity to try new fitness classes. My running partner is adventurous and loves trying out new things as well. We participate in a free boot camp every Sunday morning. It is welcome to all, family friendly, and requires no equipment. The woman who runs it, Laura, began a running/fitness/health craze in the area after she took charge of her own health when her daughter was diagnosed with leukemia at a very young age. Years later her daughter is doing well, and Laura continues to inspire many with her commitment to teaching others how to take one small step towards leading a healthier life. A local Cross Fit gym allows her to use the space on Sunday mornings to offer this awesome boot camp to her Run Your Health community. Laura leads us through a fun warm up which often entails a partner activity or group activity. It’s challenging, silly, and sometimes feels embarrassing, but heck we are all doing it. Then we do about 10-15 minutes of ab work. The last 20-25 minutes varies. Often we have a series of 5 exercises, we do 10 reps, run for 30 seconds, then repeat as many times as possible in the 20-25 minutes. Today we did a burpee challenge. Here it is:
Minute 1 – 1 burpee, rest for the remainder of the minute
Minute 2 – 2 burpees, rest
Minute 3 – 3 burpees, rest
You get the point. When you reach your breaking point and cannot possibly do any more burpees in a minute you could switch to 20 air squats and 5 push ups until the end of the boot camp round. I made it to 12 burpees in a row.
On Tuesday mornings at 5:30AM, my running partner and I go to an indoor track at a local high school for a monotonous run around the 10th of a mile loop above the basketball court. We usually squeak out a little over 4 miles in an hour. Sometimes we get dizzy because the loop is so short so we walk a couple of loops! It’s slow going, but we chit chat away and the hour goes by quickly.
Other mornings during the week we have been going to spinning and strength classes at a local studio not far from my house. I bought a 12 class pass for the month. Our schedule this week:
Monday – 5:45AM Piyo
Tuesday – Indoor Track with possible parking lot loops if not too cold
Wednesday – 6AM spinning; possible 7:30PM boot camp at studio
Thursday – 5:30AM express spin; 6AM express strength and sculpt
Friday – 6AM Turn and Burn (half spin, half strength)
It has been such a fun change for me. I’m still running when I can. Sometimes I go to the gym and do the elliptical and a short treadmill run. I don’t like the treadmill. I still associate it with my Achilles injury so I am a bit reluctant to do it for longer runs. I’m feeling good with this new routine right now.
Yoga with Adriene
It’s January and that means a New Year 30 day yoga challenge with Adriene. I love her and her at home practice that she shares with the world. It’s manageable and beginner friendly. This year is the True – 30 Day Yoga Journey. Do it in 30 consecutive days or do it when it works for you. The classes range from a little under 20 minutes to 40 minutes. They are all different. Don’t care to do the challenge, check out Yoga with Adriene or her You Tube channel for so many different videos. There is a yoga class for every ability and every need.
I’m taking a little break from grad school right now. The timing of the next eight week session runs into my trip to Mozambique. Since I’m not bound to read anything for school, I am elated to be reading for pleasure again.
Two recent reads:
It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover – just read it. It’s a quick read, seems like a light breezy romance novel to begin with, but then there is an interesting twist. Great for a cold weekend indoors or a long plane ride.
This is How it Always Is by Laurie Frankel – I just finished this and my mind is blown. I loved the characters. I was touched by the outcome. It was a sweet, somewhat uncomfortable at times, and well-written story. The topic of this book could not be relevant to our society than it is right now. I am reminded of the invaluable advice Atticus imparts onto Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view . . . until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” While we can’t quite go that deep into another’s experience, this story offers the reader an opportunity to see a timely issue through the eyes of those living it even if they are fictitious characters.
Indoor soccer, friends, snow fort, electronics
Winter soccer season is in full swing. My son has been enjoying lots of time with friends during Christmas vacation and on weekends. He’s officially a pre-teen and I’m taking a back seat to his budding social life. He has good friends and he enjoys spending time with them. They are active and play outside more than inside. Carlos and his friend, Tyler, built a killer snow fort in our yard last week. He was so bummed that it only took one slightly warm day and rain to destroy their hard work. Electronics abound in our house, but as we try to find a healthy balance, the rule is weekends only for fun, and laptop during the week for school work. It’s a constant challenge to find the right balance between allowing Carlos the opportunity to learn how to properly use the technology and to remain physically active and attentive to his school work. I’m always open to suggestions or advice. I am the first to admit that this is all new to me and I have no idea what the hell I’m doing. I’m just trying to do my best to keep my child safe and healthy.
Mozambique travel plans
My light at the end of the winter tunnel is an upcoming visit back to Mozambique. My house is nearly complete though devoid of furniture and kitchen appliances. I am hopeful a refrigerator will be installed before I arrive. I do not care about a stove or living room furniture. We do have beds. Most of the time I am outside so indoor furniture is really unnecessary. We will get it at some point, but this home has been a labor of love for Orlando. It has taken many years and extra work to earn the money to build the home. We have taken it one step at a time because there is no mortgage or home loan. This time around the bathrooms are tiled and equipped with a shower, sink, and toilet.
We are planning a family road trip up the coast to Ilha de Moçambique. It will be a first visit for all of us. This tiny island is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was used by the Portuguese as a trading post en route to India. Though in disrepair, many of the original architectural structures remain and speak to the integrity of the building materials and quality of workmanship used so long ago.
Other than our road trip, I am really looking forward to visiting with family and friends, reading as much as possible, eating mangos and papaya every day, and taking long leisurely walks through the fields at sunrise.
Preparations for the trip include:
obtaining visas for entry to Mozambique – send passports to Mozambican embassy in Washington, D.C.
Travel Medicine for vaccines and anti-malarial medication. I am always given a prophylactic prescription for antibiotics just in case we get sick.
Carry on: healthy food for the flight, compression socks, herbal tea bags, toiletries, tooth brushes/paste, vitamins, chargers, notebook, pens, iPad with tons of books loaded, etc.
Pack Carlos’ Birth certificate in carry on for entry and exit to South Africa
Arrange snow plowing service for our time away in case of a storm
Put mail on hold
Clean the house top to bottom so I come home to a clean home
Order Peapod to be delivered the day after we return to save me a trip to the grocery store