Sunday, July 20, 2014

Re-Entry and Listening to My Body

After three weeks of straying far from our normal routine, it's no surprise that coming back to life as usual in Eugene wasn't seamless. In fact, I woke up from a nap yesterday totally confused as to where I was and sure that we were still in France despite the fact that I was in our living room.

As we left Paris, I could feel the beginnings of a sinus infection coming on - sneezing, itchy nose, foggy head, sore throat, etc. It's as if my body knew the honeymoon was over! We touched down in Eugene on Wednesday around 9:00 p.m. after about 20 hours of travel and limited sleep.

Not taken while traveling home. We looked much worse than this.

We crashed hard and survived two days at work. While it hasn't been easy and I'm still sick, a few things have been important to getting back to normal:

  • Sleep - while we both napped a bit on the planes, we tried not to sleep too much so that we would crash hard when we got in that night. And crash we did. 
  • Healthy eats - Thursday evening, I went straight to the grocery store and loaded up on veggies, fruits, yogurt, milk, oats, kombucha and some other staples. 
  • Exercise - I have still tried to do some exercise each day because it makes me feel good. Two short runs, a walk with friend Stef, long dog walks and a little strength training have helped me feel better about myself. 
  • Couch time - While we took the trip of a lifetime and had some relaxing moments, we really were on GO for three weeks straight. A few hours of reading books, scrolling social media and watching the Tour de France were much needed. 
  • Laundry - clean clothes and the act of doing laundry just helps me feel as if I'm getting my life back in order.
Listening to my body
It's probably some small miracle that I returned home with only 5 lbs of extra weight on me. After all the pasta, cheese and bread we consumed in Europe, I knew I'd be a bit heavier than when we left. 

Lunch at Mercato Centrale in Florence, Italy

And that's okay! I was prepared to not only fully enjoy our trip, the food and the moments, but not obsess about the work I'd have to do after to not only feel healthy, but get ready for that 50K {eeps!}.

Delicious strawberry cheesecake gelato also in Florence, Italy 

But I won't lie that running with five extra pounds doesn't exactly feel graceful and wearing tighter pants isn't my favorite. All that being said, I'm trying to be easy on myself and realistic as I let my body recover from this sinus infection and get healthy

Thursday, I ran 30 minutes after work knowing I probably shouldn't, but just wanted to get my run and sweat on! Victory: limiting myself to nothing more than 30 minutes

Friday, I did a short 15 min run around our neighborhood followed by 15 min of strength training in the garage before work. I had considered doing something else after work, but knew my body was run down and didn't need it. Victory: Being okay with 30 min of exercise

Saturday, I took Jonah Bell on a long walk while talking to my mom and then took a 45 min walk with Stef before Team Run Eugene's RUNderstand event on marathon nutrition. Victories: no strenuous cardio, tons of veggies & fruits, serious couch time and taking a long nap

Today, I did 25 min of strength training (two videos via Sarah Fit) + 25 min of yoga in the garage. Victory: not running

The moral of the story is, despite feeling a little uncomfortable in my own skin and being a bit undertrained for a 50K that's in 7 weeks, I'm letting my body tell me what it needs right now. And hopefully in return it will reward me with ridding this sickness so I can get back to some serious running real soon!

What was the highlight of your weekend?

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Le Tour de France

One of the things I was really looking forward to on this trip (among many) was seeing the Tour de France in person.

I purposely chose the first stage in which the riders would meet a few decent climbs so we wouldn't just see them whiz right past us. I also chose stage 8 because it ended in Gerardmer and stage 9 started the next morning there (which doesn't always happen). Turns out, the town had to pay 150,000 Euro to have the tour stages end and start there.

Anyway, a few months ago I booked a few nights through with our host Stephen of Chez Georgette. Stephen had inherited his grandmother's house in Gerardmer and was in the process of fixing it up and renting it out to visitors. Well, I'd say that we more than lucked out. 

Our first lunch in town enjoying salad with cheesey bread and fresh creme on top. Europeans sure do like their good bread and cheese!

His rates were not only totally reasonable (he charged about half what everyone else was), but he was also an awesome host, from cooking us a few amazing vegetarian dinners to buying fresh baguettes and good cheese from the markets to driving us to the train station 30 min away. And the house had an awesome view to boot!

The house was pretty large, so he had rented the rest of the house out to a group of 16 (3 couples with 2 kids each and 2 aunts). While it was a little crazy with all the kiddos, it was a lot of fun and the people were all so nice. They were all Americans, but two of the families have temporary international stays for work.

The town of Gerardmer was pretty great too. With a population of about 9,000 and a beautiful lake, it makes it the perfect relaxing destination, Tour de France or not.

Overall, it was incredible to get to see just a sliver of the tour! All of the details and man power that go into setting up and taking down just one stage of this race are incredible!

July 12, the morning of the stage (and our one year wedding anniversary) I got up early and went for a run up to see the finish area where we'd be spectating from. Decent hill workout! Then, came back to the house for a big breakfast and to get ready. 

We picked up sandwich supplies at the market (plus some tour swag) and hiked the hill for what would be essentially 5+ hrs of tailgating and anticipation with our housemates!

Serious game of Uno going on here!

We checked out the finish line and podium area as we were stationed just 250m from the hill top finish (a 2km climb in total).

During the afternoon, the team buses rolled through as well as a bajillion sponsors and all their free stuff.

The weather had been iffy, but about 45 min before the racers came through, it started to rain pretty good (and then thunder and lightning). But it didn't effect the awesomeness.

And finally, for about 30 min we got to see some wet riders pushing to the top! Some looked pretty miserable and others looked determined to get to the finish strong.

We also got to see the riders on their neutral roll out start the next morning from downtown, which was cool. They all seemed a little more relaxed and th rain had cleared for a bit.

As our host drove us out of town on Sunday to catch our train to Paris, he made sure to take us up to this cool view point of the lake and the entire city.

Gerardmer and Chez Georgette, we hope to be back someday!

We are now enjoying our last full day in Paris and fly home tomorrow. I suppose the honeymoon has to end sometime. ;) 

Oh, I thought it would also be worth mentioning that on several occasions, we've been told that in Europe, three weeks is a minimum length of vacation for most people and 4-6 weeks is more normal. Au revoir! 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

When in Tuscany

After a few nights in Florence, we took the suggestion of a few friends back home and decided to take a side trip to Siena.

While we loved our little apartment in Florence, we were excited to explore a smaller town in Tuscany. Within 20 min or so from stepping off the bus in Siena, the manfriend and I agreed we were in love with the little Tuscan town. It was just the thing we needed to relax a bit.

I lucked out by booking us an affordable hotel (porta romano) for about $85/night with this view. 

That evening we grabbed slices of pizza from a local gourmet market with an awesome bakery and also picked up a bottle of Brunello di Monticelo wine, which is sort of notorious in this area and delicious!

El Campo where the town was gathering for the culmination of the big contrada (horse racing) event that had just taken place.

We then enjoyed the wine on the hotel's patio with a side of this view. 

Monday, we booked a small wine tour so that we could see the country side and really enjoy the chianti wine region. It was a small group with just one other couple and allowed us to learn more about the region and do a wine a food pairing tasting at a small organic winery, St. Agnese. 

The owner and leader of our tasting was hilarious, which added to the experience.

This family winery also makes their own high quality olive oil, 8 and 30(!) year old balsamic, bruschetta and truffle oil and only ships directly to the purchaser (not retailers).

Everything was amazing, but we ended up purchasing one bottle of Chianti Classico to drink later in our trip. If I wanted to spend more, I would have been tempted to buy the olive oil and balsamic as the flavors of both were amazing.

We capped off our time in Siena with dinner out and snickers gelato that was most definitely the best gelato we have had on our trip.

And now we are on our way to Muenchen (Munich) for a few nights. 

                 {View from our train}

I won't lie that after being away from home for this long, the manfriend and I have both started to feel a bit guilty (and tired of spending SO much $ on everything). But, we don't take vacation often and this really is a once in a lifetime kind of trip, so we are just trying to enjoy the moment. 

On the running front
I have only been out for three runs, but that is good considering I wasn't sure if I would get the chance to run at all. They have been only 30-40 min long, but something anyway. We have also been walking and biking most days, so that helps offset all the bread, cheese and wine we have consumed . ;)

I hope to take a yoga class or something in Paris, but we'll see!

Moral of the story: if you ever get the chance, visit Siena, Italy and enjoy the wine, views and relaxed pace of life. You won't be sorry. 

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Winging it in Florence

You may not be surprised, but it's not like me to be too unprepared. Today, July 4th, we arrived in Florence, Italy around 10:30 am with 20lb backpacks and no place to stay. So, we found the Internet cafe in the train station and I got to work!

Yes, carrying a few week's worth of clothes and a few pairs of shoes gets tiring. And no, I didn't need to bring all those items of clothing in my bag. ;) #overpacker

I ended up booking this cute little apartment that was a little more than I wanted to spend, but definitely worth it. This place has a little kitchen, washer, internet, digital TV and internet. Plus, it's a super cute and more relaxing than a hotel.

Our last several days of vacation have been fun, but tiring. I think we have had maybe one or two nights of 7+ hrs of sleep, but hey, we are having a lot of fun and seeing a lot. 

Let me tell you, July is a crazy time to visit Europe. There are hoards of tourists, tour groups, guides, etc everywhere. Because of that, Rome really wore us out.

Tonight we stayed in for the first time on vacation and made an easy dinner of salad with bread, olive oil, balsamic and slices of tasty cheese for dinner. We also shared a bottle of chianti that was left for us by the rental company.

We are now debating whether or not to proceed to Munich and Lucerne, SZ or change up our tentative plans before the tour de france. It's hard knowing the cities we could be missing, so we'll see. One thing's for sure: I am ready to explore a bit beyond the city centers and just enjoy the moment. 

Tomorrow we are hoping to rent bikes for a few hours and see what we can find. After several days of walking 5-7 miles each, it will be nice to give the feet a rest.

Tonight after dinner we stumbled upon this band playing live music outside of another old building. Not a bad view!

Also, I feel silly to say that I just downloaded the blogger app {thanks to the manfriend's encouragement} and man is it easy to use. Just call me the resister of apps. For some reason, I have a hard time wanting to download them, but occasionally they are really helpful! Oh, technology.

On this trip I have also used City Maps 2 Go, which has allowed us to access major city maps on my phone without using wifi. I just had to download the cities beforehand when I had wireless.

Happy 4th of July to everyone who celebrated! It feels strange to be missing a major holiday, especially with no mention of it here. I've also come to appreciate home a bit more as traveling definitely broadens your horizons, but also reminds you of all that you have and where you call home.

What's your favorite handy app? Tell me what you're up to this weekend activity wise as I'm itching to get my exercise on!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Buongiorno from Barcelona

Hola from Barcelona! I am blogging via iPhone, so bear with me. I just got back from a muggy 5 mile run down to the water front, and holy moly I'm sweaty! Eighty percent humidity is a real thing that this Oregon girl knows nothing about. It makes a 5 mile run feel like 8 or 9.

Waterfront view this morning in Barcelona

Anyway, I wanted to catch you up on our trip a bit. Things started rocky with a flight delay and then a missed transfer for our direct flight from Calgary, BC to London. Luckily, the airline put us in a nice hotel and have us meal vouchers AND we got to see blogging friend Leigh (who I did the Victoria Marathon trip with) and her husband while in Calgary.

We had less than 24 hours in London, but saw as much as we could. Caught the changing of the guards at Buckingham Pallace, had a few pints in English pubs, experienced a good downpour while enjoying said pints, saw Big Ben, Abbey Road, the London Eye, etc.

We then moved on to Barcelona for three nights. Barcelona feels pretty huge - 1.6 million and is definitely tourist dense in the center of town, but it is gorgeous with so much to see and do.

Just another picturesque street in BCN

A few things we did just yesterday - walked down La Rambla, a major pedestrian street filled with shopping and food vendors, bought fresh fruti from La Boqueria, toured the famous Gaudi designed Sagrada Familia, enjoyed a gin and tonic the size of my head, and chowed down on some tasty bolognaise after walking almost 6 miles.

My first gelato of the trip!

This morning, we enjoyed breakfast at our hotel then walked to a Gaudi designed home Casa Battlo to see more of his crazy, yet incredible designs. We enjoyed a few croissants and coffee and walked back to the hotel. Now we are getting ready to head to the beach for a few hours of relaxation in the sun! And tomorrow, on to Roma!

Casa Battlo

The internet seems to be slow here, so I'm not able to upload other photos, but check out my instagram account for a sneak peek into our trip thus far. 

These feel like a fancy version of sweat pants. So tempting...

A few observations about Barcelona and the people here - everyone likes their perfume/cologne like whoa, lots of people smoke, people tend not to smile at you unless you're talking with them, the poncho pants are very popular, so popular and comfy I almost bought a pair, it seems that eating veggies is not as important or easy here as it is in the U.S. Often times, you have to order a salad separate to your meal if you want to enjoy both veggies and protein. 

Okay, off to the beach! Ciao!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Altra Provisioness Shoe Review

As a runner, if you're anything like me, you like testing out the latest gear and feeling 'in the know' about what's happening in the industry. After changing my stride several years back from a serious heel striker to a mid foot striker, I have gradually moved away from shoes that were super rigid with a ton of support. 

For years, I have run in the Brooks Adrenalines, which have done me well. But I started branching out a bit buying Nikes that had less stability and I really liked how they felt on runs.

And after Altras hit the market, I was definitely curious about how a zero drop heel would feel. Zero drop essentially means that the ball of your foot and your heel are on the same plane. Well, it turns out, if you're running on the mid to forefoot, it doesn't feel all that different!

I ordered the Provisioness 1.5 because it's a light stability shoe with a 'stability wedge' that can provide a little extra arch support for those who need it. I prefer the shoe without the wedge, personally. 

What I really like about the fit of the shoe is that the toe box is W I D E so your toes have some room to breathe, whereas other shoes often have my feet cramped. I also like how comfortable the footbed is. The downfall for me, is that near the ankle it feels a bit looser than I'd like, so I find myself lacing them pretty tight. 

The shape is a little different, but you get used to that in no time. Plus, I love this color combo. 

I've probably taken these out on about 10 runs ranging from 1 to 8 miles and haven't had any cramping in the calves. I did have that little hip issue, but I have no idea if it had anything relation to the shoes.

Of course, I would definitely recommend easing into a shoe like this if you haven't been transitioning to low or no drop shoes. 

Another feature I really like about these shoes is the reflective pull loops, which makes it much easier to get the shoe on! There is a loop on the top of the tongue and the back of the heel. Every shoe should have these. 

Overall, I would give the Provisioness a 7.5 out of 10. I'm still debating if I would go down a half size next time (I ordered my regular running shoe size). 

Want to see more? Check out Altra on Instagram

By the time you're reading this, we are likely en route to London, so I'll talk to you from the other side of the pond!

Have you tried any new running shoes or products you're loving lately? 

Disclosure: All thoughts and opinions are my own. I received a discount on the Altra shoes in return for a review.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Hotels vs. Hostels

This past weekend, I was smart not to plan much of anything. Friday night we had a fun going away party to attend. The music and the people were just too good, so we kept dancing around to the tunes in the back yard until nearly midnight. Pretty perfect way to kick off summer (minus the saying goodbye thing).

The rest of the weekend was full of travel prep - errands to Target, REI, Verizon, etc. Per the usual, we walked into Target for a whopping three things and came out with about 20 travel "necessities" and forgot to grab ear plugs! As much as I hate buying overpriced travel size items, I know it's worth it when you have to lug your stuff with you for three weeks straight.

We even spent a few hours reading travel books because you know, there's nothing like last minute planning!

And in reality, they do have some pretty good tips about specific cities and travel in general.

Hostels vs. Hotels
We now have London, Barcelona, Rome and Gerardmer (northeastern France) accommodations booked! They won't be fancy, but they should suit our needs and be fairly close to the main attractions. It's funny how 6 years can change your perspective a bit. I keep saying that we'll stay at hostels, but so far, we only have one night booked in a hostel.

Paying $20-30 more per night just seems worth it over having to deal with a poor night's sleep or partying 20 year-olds.

That being said, I still have a hard time wanting to splurge on any of our places because we're going to be gone for three weeks! But then I think about a peaceful night's rest, our own bathrooms, safety, etc. and the money seems completely worth it.

So far, we will be staying in a hostel, University dorms, a hotel and a room in a home via airbnb to see the Tour de France. The variety should keep things interesting, that's for sure.

Last Week's Workouts

Monday - Rest (but ran around all day at work as it was graduation day)

Tuesday - power yoga

Wednesday - a.m. Summer Shape Up workout 1 + 1.5 mile easy jog, p.m. bike ride with Lindsey! Beautiful night. Legs were definitely sluggish the last few miles.

Thursday - 45 min a.m. Yogaglo flow with Kathryn Budig, p.m. miles around Hayward Field. The right hip was still feeling pretty cranky, so I did the first 10 min of tempo with the speed group, then stretched and jogged easy for another 25 or so. 

Friday - 35 min on the bike trainer + 35 min strength + ab session

Saturday - 5 mile Ridgeline Trail run with friends + summer solstice yoga flow with Lindsey. Starting my morning with a sunrise trail run and then an energizing, mindful yoga practice felt like it was straight out of my perfect little story book. Happy heart, body and mind. 

Sunday - LONG run. Powered through 2.5 hours of running (~16 miles) along Pre's trail, out to Doris Ranch, along a new bike path and through a few new to me streets and hills.

Overall, the theme of the week was to try and figure out how the heck to get rid of my cranky hip. Thankfully, Friday's spinning rid the hip of most of its attitude and she was ready to go come Saturday morning. As much as I might have liked to get in another 5+ miles this week, I'm glad I played it safe.

The trip is now so close I can almost touch it. Two days of work and then we're out of here! I better start packing...

Are you a hostel, hotel or airbnb traveler? Do you have any good book recommendations for the long flight?