Five weeks to Antarctica race

low storm clouds over running trail

Training is almost back on schedule. I’m still running about a mile short on the weekend long runs (seven miles), but feeling nice and strong during the run and recovering quickly.

Rainy weather has made for interesting conditions in the bay area, but still nothing like Antarctica. Not a snowflake to be found, just a lot of rain and wind.

Luckily, I have a couple more training trips to cold places that should help at least expose my lungs and body to the frigid temperatures anticipated on race day.

Also, I don’t feel like I’m getting the hill work needed in what’s expected on the Antarctic race course, but I’m doing my best to get to the trails.

The run I get to do most days is just outside my doorstep and this is a training no-no. Even though it’s so easy and convenient and connects to the bay trail, which goes on for miles, it’s not even close to what I am expecting in Antarctica.

If I can’t make the time to get to the trails and put in the work, I will pay for this dearly in Antarctica in the way of tired legs and a lot of huffing and puffing. 😟

That two-week sickness really set me back, but I have five more weeks to turn it around. 💪🏼

I still need to finish my packing list as well. The race company posts their recommendations, but I feel like it’s missing quite a few things that will make my race a happy – or at least more comfortable – race. Will post my complete packing list once done.

Until next time, stay healthy. 🙏


Antarctica race training

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. 


Becoming bulletproof

Photo by Kaboompics.com from Pexels

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.


Antarctica

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.


Throw that axe

Who would have thought axe throwing would be so badass? Well, probably quite a few folks who’ve been doing it a lot longer than me. It’s not just the badass-ness of the sport that is so intoxicating, the act of throwing just feels good.
While in my hometown of Chicago, I was able to hit a Cubs game and the annual Lung Run, which I’ve run every year since we lost my grandmother to lung cancer. My weekend would have been complete had I done nothing else, but a friend suggested we try axe throwing.
“Sure, why not,” I said, totally game.
Not only could axe throwing be a useful skill in a zombie apocalypse or in a SHTF situation, but I was curious how well I would do. It was for these reasons, I found myself at an axe throwing bar around 10pm on Saturday night taking a lesson from twenty-something year-old Ashley at Bad Axe Throwing on the north side of Chicago.
The place was set up like batting cages but a little closer together. You don’t need that much room to throw axes, just a high (or protected) ceiling, strong flooring, and some fencing that will hold. The back wall had a couple of wooden planks with bullseyes drawn on them.
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After we signed a few waivers, Coach Ashley gave us a quick lesson.
“Hold it straight above your head, keep your wrists straight, and release so it rotates once and then hits,” she said.
She released the axe and the blade landed on the board with a resounding, whack! My friends and I nodded and exchanged glances. We were impressed. There’s a satisfaction in hearing the axe land right into the wood and stick.
Although it’s a little fuzzy, as all history seems to be, axe throwing was used in war mostly as far back as the vikings, Celts, and other cold climate hooligans. They actually go way back to the Neolithic period.
In general, warriors didn’t throw them, unless they were urgently trying to kill someone before that someone killed them and wanted to avoid hand-to-hand or axe-to-axe fighting, but axe-making and usage in combat was in full swing thousands of years ago.
Even with that violent and bloody history of the axe, I still wanted a piece of the action.
It did not disappoint. There was a feeling of toughness, self sufficiency, primitive strength, and badass-ness that went into the motion.
And when you hit a bullseye, boom!
There was a feeling that came over you, like being in what psychologists call flow or the zone, but you feel — no, you know — it’s going to hit as soon as you let it go.
When it didn’t it, or when it was dumb luck, it was a different feeling. But, that right there, that knowing in flow or presence, was so worth the time and money.
In Chicago, we paid $20 an hour plus tax and we tipped our coach, which came out to around $28 per person.
For an hour or so, I was completely present learning, throwing, watching my friends, celebrating, and throwing some more. I worked up a nice sweat too. Not only was it fun to learn a new “sport,” but the repetition and physical exertion made any anxiety or stress I might had been carrying melt away.
Almost anyone can do it. It’s about technique, not strength or athleticism. Way more interesting than darts, and blows any other target games away. Take a seat, skeet ball.
Axe throwing – highly recommended. Go do it. Pick up that axe and let it fly. You’ll know what I mean when you hit the bullseye.

An Ode to Montana

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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.

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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.

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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.