The half marathon in Antarctica is two months away. My longest training run has been a five-miler on a trail with 564 feet in elevation gain. I was gassed.
As mentioned, I’ve been out of long distance running shape for quite a few years now. Getting back into it has been tough.
Training has been progressing but not without issues. I had knee pain when I switched from road shoes to trail shoes. My trainer recommended starting with a dynamic-stretch warmup before hitting the pavement, which I’ve done. It’s helped, but the knee hasn’t been the same since. It still feels a little weak and achy after runs.
I’ve had dozens of sore muscles, cramps, aches, pains, and knots. Plus countless moments full of fear, doubt, and uncertainty. This trip and this race are no joke. The conditions are harsh and luck, if there is any near the south pole, will favor the prepared.
On race day in Antarctica, the anticipated temperature will be anywhere from 0 °F to 34 °F. That’s a huge range. It’s the difference between a soggy, muddy run above freezing or a can’t feel your face while loping atop slippery, frozen rock run if it’s closer to 0 °F. Winds can be as powerful as 40mph and gusts even higher.
A couple of the big challenges training in the Bay Area for a freezing cold race in the arctic include preparing my body and testing my gear in expected race conditions.
It’s fairly mild where I live so locating a windy, frozen tundra has been problematic. The Antarctica course is snowy, rocky, and muddy. We don’t have too much of that either, just a little rain every now and then, and that’s only because it’s winter.
The good news is I’ve been traveling outside the golden state to prepare myself for the blustery conditions. Before New Years, I spent several days in Iowa where it was both cold and windy, and I got in several miles in cold weather gear.
Recently, I was in New York City and knocked out a freezing cold training run through NYC’s kind, flat, and relatively dry running path along the Hudson River.
There are a couple additional winter trips I’ve planned to help with training (and fun) this winter, like Pinecrest, CA for some snowshoeing, skiing, and, of course, running.
And, although global warming and climate change have made this even harder to predict, a few weeks before I leave for Buenos Aires, I plan to do the longest training run in my hometown of Chicago, which should be perfectly freezing, windy, and snowy (if not muddy) in late February.
More to come as we get closer to race day. My training goals have never been so frosty.
My personal trainer, Chris, has been nudging me, slowly at first but a little more aggressively after the New Year, to get into intermittent fasting (IF) and the whole Bulletproof thing. I’ve been resisting as it seems like a crazy movement and, candidly, another fad. I say this having not attempted it nor knowing much about it. So I promised I’d try it if only to prove that it doesn’t work.
First, what is intermittent fasting? There are a few different definitions out there. But for our purposes, it’s limiting our eating window to ten, nine, eight, or down to as low as six hours per day.
The Bulletproof Diet recommends six hours, but that seems like something we can work up to. If you’re interested, there is a ton of information (and rules) available to go all-in on the Bulletproof Diet. I’m simply starting with the fasting and coffee concoction, as that seems to be enough for Chris, and plenty enough for me.
Just before the New Year, I began intermittent fasting, and started with nine hours. The toughest part about it for me – being an up-well-before-dawn kind of gal – was pushing out breakfast to 9am or later so I could finish my last meal by 6pm. I continued to have an americano (10 calories) at the crack of dawn, which made it easier, but it was an adjustment.
By the time 9am rolled around, I’d been at work for a couple of hours, so it was awkward and strange to eat a healthy and tasty (and definitely not smelly) breakfast there.
Beyond the brands selling products that support the intermittent fasting diet, there’s not a ton of objective research published. One of the most reasonable and updated articles I came across from Harvard Heath said it best, “Avoid snacking or eating at nighttime, all the time.” Seemed simple enough.
The best good side effect reported in the study from the same article showed that IFer’s have a better metabolism and less hunger overall over time. However, all participants in that study were men.
Women can respond differently to IF. Obviously, if you’re pregnant, don’t fast. I’m not a doctor, but that seems like a bad idea. Other side effects that can affect women include late or no periods, feeling cold, irritable, hungry (no kidding), and low energy, and, really, those last four can affect men as well.
My sense is if it starts to feel more than a little uncomfortable, like really bad, then stop and adjust to what your body needs. We’ve got fabulous intuition, use it.
Now, let’s talk about the Bulletproof Diet. Beyond intermittent fasting, according to my trainer, the kicker to increased energy, vitality, and performance is to incorporate the Bulletproof coffee concoction. It’s also supposed to make the fast a little less painful, or fast-like, I guess.
As you might know, my first attempt at trying Bulletproof coffee failed miserably. What I learned later is you can brew Bulletproof coffee like any other coffee. But you need to add in a lot stuff, mainly fat, fat, and more fat to make it Bulletproof. I still feel like a lot of this is gimmicky, but I’m trying to keep an open mind.
Preparing to start this diet, I had to spend – invest – over $50 (beyond the coffee itself that was on sale) just to make it trainer-approved Bulletproof. The supplements he recommended that differ slightly from the website include unsalted, grass fed, organic butter; raw cacao powder (good antioxidants); MCT oil; and collagen protein.
I’m kind of expecting to get fat, bloated, and break out with all of the oil and collagen and butter in this thing. But, hey, that’s the fun in trying something new and a little crazy. 🤓
The plan is to stick with it for three weeks assuming I can tolerate it and see what happens. If you feel so inspired to go all in, let me know how it goes. I’ll be cheering you on from the still-eating-granola-and-rice sideline.
One of the things I love about January is I get to start anew. Of course, I bring my old 2018 self into the mix, but I have twelve new months to create just about anything.
In order to decide what I want to do or give or try or travel to, I need to take time beforehand to gain clarity. There are almost limitless opportunities, so it helps if you can stop for a second and get really clear about what’s next for you in the upcoming year.
Here are five of my favorite ways to gain clarity.
Writing. Journalling is the single best way for me to figure out what I think and feel and, consequently, want for the year ahead. It so happens I’m in good company.
Joan Didion said, “I don’t know what I think until I write it down.” Stephen King said, “I write to find out what I think.” And, just in case you’re not convinced, Flannery O’Connor said it too, “I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.”
Granted all of these people are famous writers, but the spirit of their words is true for all of us. And if you’re not into writing or journalling, read on.
Decluttering. Decluttering is a wonderful cathartic practice that allows us to see what remains as a way to understand what’s important. In Marie Kondo’s best-selling book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, she implores readers to keep only what sparks joy and let go of the rest. How lovely. She also has a killer method for folding clothing that has changed my drawers forever.
There have been dozens of books and hundreds of articles written on decluttering. Any of them can help, so I won’t spend time on detailing out all the methods. My favorite is to take everything you own and put it into four piles – keep, donate, sell, and toss. Then go for it. Start with the easy stuff like clothing and work your way up to tougher things like gifts or heirlooms.
In my experience going minimalist, every time I give, donate, sell or toss something, a little space opens up in my mind. In this space, I have more freedom for creativity and, you guessed it, clarity to focus on the meaningful stuff.
Praying. I pray a lot. Before meals, before a big meeting or work call, before I buy or sell something expensive and sometimes something cheap. If you ask, you shall receive. And I believe it. Ask for clarity in your prayers. Ask for guidance and perspective. Not in an oh, God, whoa is me, please help me, boo hoo hoo. Or as Wayne and Garth might say, We’re not worthy.
In all seriousness, ask in earnest and humility, as if you expect a response. Keep at it until it becomes clear.
Meditating. Some people say praying is talking to God and meditating is listening. I’m not sure about that exactly, but meditating is wonderful. The stillness and presence of being in meditation is special.
When I first started, a laundry list of to do’s would flood my brain. I’d think, wow, this is great, look how productive I’m going to be with all these things I need to do. Little did I know that it was my brain trying to bolster its importance (and you are important, brain) and sabotage my meditation. Thoughts will come, just let them come and let them go. No judgments.
The goal of meditation is to be present, watch (so to speak) your breath, and commune with all that is in the present moment. That is all. If you hear God, lucky you.
Reading. I’m not talking about picking up a good Stephen King book, but I wouldn’t begrudge or fault anyone for such an enjoyment. He’s the master of storytelling and I love his books.
But, today I’m talking about reading a couple, or even one, really good self help or inspirational (nonfiction) book. Whatever you might be drawn to or want to improve in yourself, pick up a book or three and get to work.
Read to understand and learn and to (most importantly) take action based on what you learned. A good book will give us ideas that might have been swirling in the ether above our heads, but once we read them – bam! – one lands on us. Hopefully gently.
Those are my five favorite ways of getting clear about what I want for the year ahead and beyond.
This morning I woke at 5:50am, pulled on a hoody, rolled out my yoga mat, and did about six minutes of morning yoga. Yep, starting slowly. I followed that up with 15 minutes of meditation. So far, so good.
Then I brewed a pot of bulletproof coffee. It wasn’t until I took my first sip did I realize it’s not really for brewing. It’s supposed to be pressed. Whoops. That’s what I get for not reading directions.
My trainer had mentioned he loved it, so when I saw it on sale I picked it up and thought I could just brew it like I would any other ground coffee. Um, not so. Well, I did, but it was awful. I didn’t bother popping in a lump of coconut oil or butter because I can only handle a little bit of change at a time. And I’m glad I didn’t. That lump of fat would have forfeited my intermittent fasting, which I had planned on doing until 8:30am. After a few sips of drinking the not so good stuff, I tossed it and made my usual americano. Oh, how familiarity feels so good.
That there is a lesson on why we have so much strength at the beginning of the year – or morning – to keep a newly made resolution and almost none after a few days, weeks, or months. We make mistakes and look and feel foolish. Plus, it’s easier and more comfortable to go back the way we were. Even though the changes were better for us, we lose the willpower or drive or whatever it is that keeps us moving in a new direction even though it’s uncomfortable. The good news is even when we try new things unsuccessfully we learn new stuff. Bulletproof coffee is not meant to be brewed. Okay, got it.
Last year, I resolved to become minimalist. For the most part, I did. I reduced my possessions by over sixty percent. I didn’t buy anything that wasn’t consumable all year. That is, until the end of the year in mid-October, when my willpower was exhausted and I bought all the things. I utterly failed.
When I had my shopping breakdown, I bought, among other things, $120 trail shoes, a $150 SmartWool sweater, and a new Jeep. A couple of months later, I returned (or in the case of the Jeep resold) them all.
This year, I want to continue down the minimalist path, but more moderately. I have less stuff so it’s not about reducing so much as it is about not buying stuff just to buy stuff. Lesson learned. No more unnecessary purchases because no more depriving myself. I’m taking the middle way.
Hello, 2019. This year will usher in a few exciting things for me, namely the half marathon in Antarctica. During that trip, I’ll visit Argentina, Ushuaia, and sail the Drake Passage – all of which are on my bucket list.
I’m also excited to get back to developing a yoga practice. Adding that into my morning routine, before meditation, will be interesting. When I had a proper practice, I did it in the evening. I’m not opposed to going back to evening, but I thought mornings would help me with my meditation practice. It’ll be a bit of a challenge, but I’m excited to see what I can do and, in return, what it can do for me.
Of course I have other goals around finances, career, contribution, and community, and they’re just as important to me. But making it to Antarctica would be the pinnacle of the year. Completing the half marathon would be the cherry on top.
Come to think of it, I better hit the trails today. Training has begun. 💪
It was 2014 when I sent my application in for the half marathon taking place in Antarctica. A couple of months later, I was waitlisted without an estimated date or time for acceptance. My assumption was it would take a year. It seemed reasonable, like most marathons, a year or a little less is about when they open. But not this one.
Four years later, I got the green light to send in the rest of my deposit. The race folks confirmed I would be running in the 2019 race. A full five years later. But, hey, it was official. I had a room on a ship going to Antarctica, and this would be my final half marathon.
The problem with such a long waitlist is I’m no longer in the marathon-running shape I was in back in 2014 or 15 or even 16. I’m older and slower and have really started to enjoy not running for hours, not training during what were supposed to be slow weekend mornings, not enduring a foam rolling after the run. No more ice on my knees and piles of sweaty running gear filling up my laundry hamper.
Come on, I tell myself, trying to get motivated, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. How can I not take it on, and try to enjoy it regardless of how old I feel, or how old I really am? Maybe with all of this training and running to come, I might feel younger again. But deep down I doubt it. It’s more likely, I’ll feel older.
So I’m starting slowly. I’ve signed up to work out with a personal trainer once or twice a week depending on our schedules, just to give myself a base level of fitness. I have a history of getting injured while training and I think it’s because I’m not really that fit before I jump right in to running longer distances. I’ve been working with the trainer for about three weeks now.
I’ve also signed up for the first 5k I’ve attempted in so, so long. It’s a hilly up and down, out and back trail race. Training for that has also begun. Training, meaning, I put on my shoes and attempt to meet the distances, but mostly I’m tired and winded.
Regardless of my fitness level, I am excited about visiting Antarctica. Not many people get the opportunity to visit that continent. For me, Antarctica will be my seventh and last remaining continent to step foot on. I’m pretty stoked.
Now, I just need to get that running and fitness thing moving in the right direction. I’ve missed a couple of training runs already this week. It’s time to get in gear or I’ll never know what it was like to complete my last half on the most remote continent in the world.
Signed up for a 5k in December. It will be my first trail race in preparation for my last, and most ambitious, half marathon in Antarctica in March.
But right now, my fitness level is embarrassing. I’m so out of shape when I run even short distances, I’m winded for the first five or ten minutes. Other runners say that will go away, but I’m not feeling it. This is my second week and I’m still fatigued. If I don’t start running now, by setting small goals like the 5k in early December, I can’t fathom being prepared for a much longer – four times longer – run in five months.
The training race I picked is called Summit Rock, and its organized from one of my favorite local companies, Brazen Racing. When I’ve run with them in the past, many years ago, I found they ran well-supported races and a good post-race spread. They have a great community of runners too. For Summit Rock, racers can partake in three distances: 5k, 10k, and half marathon. Located in Saratoga, Sanborn County Park has a challenging foot trail that increases in elevation for about four miles before leveling off.
Since I’m running the 5k, the course is straight up – about 2200 feet of elevation gain – and at the halfway point, runners turn around and head back down 2200 feet to the start/finish line. I don’t have trail running shoes, so I’ll use my road shoes and see how things go.
While I’ve sold or donated most of my possessions, oddly enough, they didn’t include trail running shoes or winter running gear, which is what I’ll need for the half marathon in Antarctica.
I haven’t started to think about the actual packing list for Antartica. When I get to it, I expect to have warm, waterproof trail running shoes on it, along with a solid race-day winter running getup, which I’ll get to test out during my cold winter training runs.
Until then, I’ll keep hitting the warm trails, working the hills, and feeling the exhaustion. Send love and support.