Friday, December 31, 2010

Things I Did Outside in 2010

I don't have a year-end total of how many miles I've run, how fast/slow I have gone, average heart rate or elevation gain. I did take pictures from time to time though. 2010 was a pretty good year for me in terms of playing outside...

On New Year's Day I watched Bill bobsled ...

... and then followed it up with a cross-country ski.

The next day we skied at Lake Placid. Year is off
to a lovely start.

I slogged to the finish of the Boston Marathon with a smile
on my face.

Marshmallows outside of a ...

...tipi! We celebrated our second anniversary in style.

My best cheerleader (although my mom and dad are pretty
good too)...

...cheered me on to a solid finish at a beach duathlon.

My brother-in-law Kevin did the tri. Had a successful day as
he didn't have to be rescued from the ocean like many of the athletes did.
Followed one duathlon with another. Did OK but, thanks to my
beer gut, the chick behind me here passed me in the last half-mile.

I rode roller coasters with The Iceholes ...
... tried to cheer the Phillies on to another trip to the World Series (but watched
them get the boot from the playoffs instead) ...

...but did OK in an adventure race the next morning anyway.

I finished the New York Marathon...

...see? I did it!

I got to a race a bit early ..

... and ended the year soaking wet.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Snow + New Toy = Pictures

This morning I bungeed a broken pair of Yak Trax to my trail runners and headed into Wissahickon Park. Conditions were just right. Not too cold. Not too warm. The trails were packed down just enough that I could run without being knee-deep in snow (I almost ordered snowshoes the other night but then decided that maybe I would like cross country skis instead, possibly, so now I've ordered neither so far).

I was wishing that a camera would magically appear as the park looked beautiful. How I love technology -- I had a new iPod that the mom and the dad gave me for my birthday and it magically has a camera. Hooray.

Bungeed the hell out of these things to my shoes.
Quite bobo. But it worked.

Monday, December 27, 2010

What I Did On My Winter Vacation, Part Three

After much looping around mountains we arrived. We were literally in the clouds. I felt like we’d been sucked into a placewarp and ended up in Switzerland (not that I would know – I’ve never been there). The Guayabo Lodge sat on the top of a mountain. It’s backyard was the Turrialba volcano (because it isn’t a true trip to Costa Rica unless a volcano threatens to blow) and the food was fantastic. It was cold and we decided we felt like we were in the Alps in early summer. Even though we’ve never actually been there.

We’d decided to end up there only because it was roughly half-way back to the airport and was relatively near white-water rafting. We weren’t expecting the amazing views and the yummy local food.

Bill doesn't look right until he's had his first full cup of coffee.

No one seemed concerned about the smoke coming out of the volcano so
we weren't either.

After we checked in we wandered around the grounds, had a home-made dinner and then hung out in front of the communal fireplace for a bit. Went to bed early, yet again, in the hopes of waking up in time for a 7:45 a.m. departure to the Pacuare River for 18 miles of whitewater rafting.

As we went to sleep I decided I was scared.
“Bill, I am scared,” I said.
“Seriously?” he asked.
“Yeah, I think so,” I answered.
“Don't be nervous. It will be fun. You are still going to go, right?”
He sounded concerned.
“Yes,” I said. “But I don’t want to fall out.”

He knew what I was referring to.

Western Pennsylvania, 2003 (I think). The second adventure race I had ever done. The bulk of the race took place along the Youghiogheny River. My teammate was a virtual stranger who I’d met at the climbing gym a few weeks before. He was my AR sugar daddy, offering to pay my entry and for a place to stay if I would race with him because he didn’t know anyone else who even knew what adventure racing was. All I had to do was drive him, our gear, his girlfriend and slobbery but adorable dog across the state – he was a pure city guy and didn’t have a car.

The race turned out to be a glorified out-and-back with no real navigation. We were plugging along, slightly better than mid-pack when we got to the paddle put-in.

“Have you ever been in whitewater before?” my teammate asked.

“Uh, what?” I questioned as we dropped our raft into a river that appeared to be perfectly flat. We took off.

About a mile later we found ourselves in Class II rapids. Fun! The river seemed to be doing most of the work. Then, Class III. And apparently Class IV. I felt like we were paddling up, over and down waterfalls. I was scared, but it was fun. Until I got bucked out of the boat and found myself going for an unexpected swim with a fully-packed AR pack on my back.

The only thought going through my head was this: “Keep your head up and your feet forward because if you get snagged on a rock bad things will happen.” Over and over again, for what felt like hours (but was only about 5 minutes) this thought replayed in my little brain.

I bounced off of boulders, got slammed by the rapids and grabbed mouthfuls of air whenever I managed to have my head above water for more than a second. I never panicked (impressive for me …I generally panic if I see a rock while on a mountain bike ride or if I almost run a red light) which probably helped.

Finally I found myself in a small calm pool of water. My teammate maneuvered our boat up next to me and I hauled myself and my sopping-wet pack back in.

I paid for this, I thought. No, wait, he did.

A few minutes later we were at the take-out. At first I was thrilled. And then we noticed chaos. We saw a woman being dragged by the straps of her PFD out of the water. She was grey. She was limp.
Her rescuers set her onto a flat rock and immediately started CPR. Medics soon arrived, threw her onto a backboard and began to negotiate the rocks and hills in the hopes of getting her to somewhere safer.

She was a racer. I’d met her the day before at check-in, along with her three-month-old adorable son. This was her first race after popping out the kid and she was excited to be back. I was impressed that, a mere 12 weeks after squeezing out a child and a placenta and whatever other grody things happen when a person comes out of you that she was in race shape.

And now she was grey and we sat in our boat and stared. The race ended early, about 25 miles short of the original course. She was a good friend of the race director. By the time we hit the finish we were told that the woman was in the hospital on a ventilator but was expected to be ok, largely because of the good physical condition she was in.

Reminder: Don’t turn into a blobby slob. You might die easier.

Anyway, as I slowly fell asleep I was a bit worried.

Fortunately, in the tortless land with of no liability law we managed to actually end up with a rafting company concerned with its reputation. There were five people in our boat, plus a Costa Rican guide, plus another guide in our kayak for rescue purposes if necessary. And a bonus dude who paddled ahead and took pictures.

Our raft had us, a guy from Montreal and a Slovenian couple on their honeymoon. Of course. Everyone was normal and everyone seemed concerned with making sure that none of their new raft buddies drowned.

Rafting was awesome. I don’t know quite how to describe it. So, instead, pictures.

Us and our sopping wet stuff made it home in time for dinner. Our last night. I hate the last night of vacation. The only thing that prevents me from crying is starting to plan the next trip.
I hate the last day of vacation fron the core of my being.
“So what’s next?” I said.
“What do you want to be next?” Bill asked.
“The Great Wall of China marathon.”
“That sounds like the worst, most boring thing I have ever heard of. What about climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro?”
“Like in Tanzania? Or is it Kenya?”

My geography sucks. Please buy me Geography for Dummies. Or the Idiots Guide to Africa. Actually I probably need both.

“Either, or. That seems like a good trip to me. Maybe REI has a trip and we can get a discount,” Bill said. Turns out he was right.


So far our pretzel barrel jar that we emptied to help us get to Costa Rica has 88 cents in it. Not even enough to get off of our block, let alone to Tanzania. We will get there, though. Just not any time soon.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

What I Am Doing In My Winter

It is fianlly snowing. Sweet. Went for a run for about an hour on the trails. Aside from the rando dude on a road bike barreling down a technical hill (like, on a Scott road bike, on rocks and roots. I was impressed. And bewildered) I had the park to myself.

Outside our door looks like this right now:

The advantage of living across the street from the popo
station is that our street is plowed early and often. Meaning
I have no excuse to not go to work tomorrow.
Happy snow.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Thing to You

Happy holiday of your choice. Merry Christmas. Happy New Year. If you don't celebrate Christmas, happy December 25. Happy the Hours of Sunlight Are Now Increasing. Happy Chinese food if you have a Christmastime birthday or celebrate something that doesn't focus on giftwrap and bringing trees inside. Happy 24 hours of A Christmas Story. Happy time with your family. Happy running in the cold if we share a hemisphere.

That is all.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

What I Did On My Winter Vacation, Part Two

After a grueling 3k drive a bit farther south we arrived at La Costa de Pepito in the pelting rain. We were wet, we were tired. My arms hurt from surfing. We smelled. And we liked our bungalow.

What to do? Easy! A six-pack of Imperial, a few good books, a magazine or two, a camera and a hammock.

I am reading about people learning to swing from treetops wihle Bill reads
about quantifing academic progression in undergraduate writing assessment.

Then it was off to happy hour at the little hotel bar. Then to dinner at the hotel restaurant, attached to the bar. Then Advil. Then bed.

Peace out. Time for bed.
The rain continued to fall throughout the night. The thatched roof kept us completely dry (I was impressed) but holy mother, it was loud. Fortunately, in the morning, it had mostly stopped. We hopped in the car and headed as far south as we could until the road literally ended. We weren’t far from Panama but we left our passports behind in the room and didn’t want to find ourselves stuck south of the Costa Rican border.

A soccer field near the end of the road.

Near the end of the road was windy, abandoned and had
old boats scattered around.

The literal end of the road.

Bill, a hungry doggie, a boat and our car.
On the ride back we passed a sign that said “Jaguar Rescue Center.” Neither one of us had seen a rescued jaguar before so we decided to stop. It was 11:29 a.m. The place is apparently open for only two tours a day, and one was at 11:30. We paid a few bucks and hopped in with a group. Our guide was a woman with a tiny, tiny baby howler monkey clinging to her neck. She (the lady, not the monkey) explained that the animal’s mom had been killed by an uncovered electric generator and the little one was found clinging to her. Sad, but also so cute that I sort of wanted to squeeze him a lot.
Seems to be contemplating where his hat went.
The center apparently takes in injured and abused animals from all over Costa Rica, patches them up, rehabs them and then works to re-release them into their natural habitat.

I was actually pretty impressed. Just two people (the place was run by our guide and her husband) and a few volunteers. Eventually we made our way to a giant cage containing 8 or so monkeys that had either been brought to the center after being injured in the city or after being confiscated as illegal pets.

“Ok, go in there and see the monkeys,” our guide said. “They don’t have rabies or anything you can get. We test them frequently. If you have a cold though, please don’t go in. For you Americans it might seem strange that we let you in because you come from the land of lawsuits.”

Yeah, it did seem a bit strange to be allowed to go hang out with a bunch of monkeys, but it also seemed a bit awesome.

So in we went. The monkeys wanted to be Bill’s BFF. One immediately climbed onto his head, swung around his neck and wiggled its way into his arms. As for me, they seemed perfectly happy to perch on my back for a few seconds before bounding onto someone taller.

Why do I have to share my baby with a monkey? Why can't he
set his monkey free?

After monkeys came the sloths, my favorite animal of all time. There were three sloths – one that had to have a shattered arm bone repaired (through Facebook, they finally found a vet who knew how to perform sloth surgery) and two rescued babies. They moved like they were practicing tai chi and seemed to have permanent smiles (which, I think, I would have too if I lived in Costa Rica). I decided to pull a Veruca Salt by demanding a sloth of my own right away.

Hi. I am a sloth. Be my friend.
I didn’t have a chance to though because, very suddenly, a rouge monkey swung up my arm and onto my head, squeezing my forehead with its little hands.

“Bill,” I whispered. “There is a monkey on my head.”

"Yeah, I can see that," he said.

The guide, fortunately, immediately intervened, plucked the monkey off of me and took it back to the cage. Turns out that every day for a few hours, the monkeys with a chance of being released back into the wild get taken a mile or so from the rescue to practice being on their own. Volunteers stay nearby to make sure things are going okay. Apparently, a wild male monkey had a little crush on the monkey that made its way onto my head. He tried to hump, she ran home and jumped on the first person she saw. Nice!

After cleaning the monkey drool off of us we went to Jungle Love for dinner. For about $60 we had shrimp from the ocean we could hear just a few yards away, dressed with lemongrass we saw the chef pick from the garden we were sitting next to, salad, two entrees, four glasses of wine and mousse that made Bill very, very happy. As an added bonus, the owner’s cat, Elmo, joined us for a bit.

The next morning was more beach and then I decided to go for a run. I packed a small pack and headed north. We’d only seen one runner the entire trip so far but the town was friendly and I felt safe.

One thing, however, that I hadn’t considered, was that this part of the country is apparently not used to runners, let alone female runners with a backpack. People literally stopped and stared, a few joined me for a few strides, one offered me a bottle of Gatorade. I wasn’t expecting the attention but it reinforced my perception that most people in Costa Rica are welcoming to tourists and quite friendly.

We awoke to sunshine the next morning and immediately headed to the beach. Bill rented a board and headed out for a bit. I was a bit nervous to try and surf in the chop without a teacher by my side so I wussed out and practiced on land instead. It was a crowded beach day – about 20 surfers and 50 people on the beach, the most crowded we had seen it.

After a few hours we brushed off the sand, packed up the car one last time and headed west to place number three. Not wanting to have to do the entire drive from the coast back to San Jose on the day of departure we decided to go two-thirds of the way back, see another part of the country and go rafting from there.

We backtracked a bit before turning off of the main road into an amazingly beautiful series of mountains. I kept wanting Bill to pull over but, instead of a shoulder on the side of the road, there were cliffs to plummet off of so we kept going.

Next: The end. So sad.