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.
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.
Montana is an incredibly beautiful, not to mention enormous, state. From east to west it’s about the equivalent of driving from Chicago to New Jersey. Crazy big.
About a decade ago, I had the opportunity to do some backpacking inside Glacier National Park. It was one of the most memorable backpacking trips, from seeing a massive and somehow majestic moose standing only a few meters away to crossing a waist-high, ice-cold mountain river hoisting my camera and the rest of my pack above my head in an attempt to keep it dry. We also came across a mama bear with her two nine-month-old cubs. Luckily, no mauling ensued.
When I arrived in Bozeman earlier this month, the little airport felt welcoming and cozy. It was built like a mountain lodge with raised wooden beams supporting a roof that takes on an average of seventy-two inches of snow each year. Outside, the Montana that I recalled entering many years ago, with it’s clean air, grand mountains nestled on an eternal horizon, and impossibly large clouds somehow not blocking the warm sun that fell on my face, greeted me kindly. Although many years ago, I had landed in Kalispell almost three hundred miles away, this was the same big sky country. It felt like an embrace from an old friend.
We stayed at a newly built dwelling called the Sage Lodge in Pray, MT. They were still putting the finishing touches on the rooms. When we checked in, we were missing oddities like lightbulbs and the sliding screen door handle. Strange, but the staff were mostly friendly and you couldn’t beat the location, which was almost on top of the Yellowstone River and a thirty-five minute drive straight across the Wyoming boarder into Yellowstone National Park.
Since taking on the minimalist way of life, there wasn’t much packed in my suitcase. It was light as a feather. Two t-shirts, an athletic long sleeve pullover, a SmartWool shirt, hiking pants, jeans, socks, hiking shoes, sandals, pjs, undergarments, a hat, sunglasses, and a toiletry bag. (Minimalism aside, I was glad the lodge we stayed in had laundry because by the third day, I needed them all cleaned.)
I’ve heard fishing is good for the mind, body, and soul, and we were in the best fly fishing spot in the world, so I figured why not. And it did not disappoint. On the Yellowstone River, there are rules about which fish you can keep, which you must release, and others you must keep or kill. According to the law, we released all our catches.
Every time I’d get a bite, I’d “set” my pole, which basically means pull it up as hard and fast as you can, and hope there’s a fish on the other end of it. I missed most times, but managed to net two beautiful rainbow trout. The experience of pulling them in, feeling their weight on the other side of the pole, and then guiding them gently into the net was invigorating. I’d wet my hands, hold them for a quick picture, and then they went back into the water hopefully a little wiser for the wear.
We also spent a day in Yellowstone. Did a six-mile hike out and back to the Imperial Geyser, saw a few bison, a bighorn sheep, and watched good ole Ole Faithful do its thing too. Impressive.
When the four days were over, I was sad to leave Montana. There is a rugged wildness, a real wilderness, about the state. And yet, I felt safe and supported by the mountains, the rivers and streams, the vast earth. Maybe it was just nice to get out of the city and see the stars. Whatever it was, I want to go back.
People say Montana winters are a “dry cold,” which I guess is supposed to be less cold somehow. I don’t know about that, but I might go back this winter just to test out the theory. I’m thinking snowshoeing or cross country skiing. Anything to get outside, even in the freezing temperatures, to be with those mountains and rivers, and under that big sky again.
It’s been almost six months and yes, I’ve lost a little steam, but no, I haven’t given up.
I’ve continued to whittle down my wardrobe to just five button-down shirts, two jackets, three pairs of jeans, four Smartwool shirts, and a handful of t-shirts. I went from almost a dozen pairs of Chuck Taylors down to three. I’ve still got a lot of work to do on my socks. I don’t know why, but I just can’t bring myself to go there, as if I might – or they might – run out on me.
I haven’t bought anything new since – no strike that. I haven’t bought any new clothing or shoes or socks or undergarments or hats or things to wear since January. But I did buy a new bike.
In my attempt to cut down on gasoline consumption coupled with my desire to ride a motorbike, after much debating, I finally purchased a little Honda Ruckus. However, I did sell all of of my other so called transportations possessions, with the exception of my little GTI, before I bought it, including two road long boards, a beautiful Specialized road bike, a skateboard, and did I mention all those shoes?
With the purchase of the scooter came a few other possessions, mainly a helmet, faux leather jacket and gloves, all for safety. Because my closet was cleaner and more austere than ever, it was easy to find a spot for each. The helmet looks badass on the shelf where once upon a time too many pairs of mom-jeans sat folded and unused.
On the whole, I feel good about the new possessions because every time I get on that bike, I smile. I feel alive and happy. I have fun. Most people who ride a motorbike will tell you there is something wonderfully therapeutic about the experience. It’s inexplainable but palpable and real. One day we might want to swap Xanax or Zoloft or Prozac or Percocet for a an hour or just thirty minutes on a bike to see the results. Imagine the possibilities.
But back to the acquisition of the bike. It’s made my commute so much more fun and in some ways meaningful. It’s a strange paradox. By getting rid of so much clutter, so many other possessions, I had space to think and feel and figure out that I truly wanted a bike. Then take the action to go get one.
I wanted to reduce my petrol consumption and usage and increase fun and meaningful life experiences. Now, I get to do all of it while doing something that was once mundane, like commuting to and from work. My commute is mundane no more. It’s an adventure.
As the summer progresses, I’ll continue to reduce my possessions as promised in my New Years resolution. Those socks – at least thirty or forty pairs – need a little thinning out to start with. And while I’m doing that, who knows what other epiphanies or grand adventures await.