Entries Tagged as 'By Foot'

DENALI NATIONAL PARK

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

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“Alone in an unknown wilderness hundreds of miles from civilization and high on one of the world’s most imposing mountains, I was deeply moved by the stupendous mass of the great upheaval, the vast extent of the wild areas below, the chaos of the unfinished surfaces still in process of moulding, and by the crash and roar of mighty avalanches.”

 – Charles Sheldon in 1906, “The Wilderness of Denali”

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BY FOOT: EXIT GLACIER, ALASKA

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

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Leaving Le Barn Appetit, we head towards Exit Glacier, about eight miles up the road, for a quick visit.  A mile long trail leads from the visitor center to the view point.  The majority of the trail is paved and it is well worth the walk.  We stare at the ice and look through binoculars at its formation – the frozen bubbles and soot and the little waterfalls formed by dripping snow melt.  As I have said before, I am never one to turn down a trip to a waterfall.

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WHEN IN: SAIGON

Tuesday, March 24, 2015


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When in Ho Chi Minh City (or Saigon as everyone calls it), here’s what you do:  first, do a little shopping in District 1 and second, get a massage at Cat Moc Spa.

Hop in a cab and head to Duy Tan.  This was the only shop I was able to find in Saigon that was selling artisanal goods.  I’m sure there are others, but the majority of shops and markets that I popped into sold only mass produced, factory made junk.  This shop had beautiful ceramics and tableware at very reasonable prices.  The staff was happy to bubble wrap all of the breakable items that I bought.  My favorite items were oil lamps constructed from glass soda bottles ($2-3 each).  From Duy Tan, walk down the street L’Usine.  Should you suddenly find yourself in Saigon with a pressing need for Rifle Paper Co. stationary, you are in luck.  This store is full of high end hipster brands.  Items are well-curated and it’s fun to browse.  There’s a cafeteria upstairs if you’re hungry.

Next, head to Cat Moc Spa.  I visited this spa two nights in a row because I had such a fantastic experience.  After a series of subpar massages near my hotel, I turned to Trip Advisor and found this place.  It’s not the cheapest place in town (though still incredibly well-priced, think $15/hour for a massage), but it’s a serene space with a very helpful manager who pointed me towards treatments tailored to my skin type.  They use Dermalogica products and my facial was fabulous.  Plus, they will call a cab for you and direct the driver back to your hotel.

LONG RUN: RISING FROM ASHES

Friday, March 20, 2015

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On Thursday nights we go to spin class.

This sixty minutes is at once my most anticipated and most dreaded workout of the week.  We’ve been going to this spin class consistently for about two years and if my math is correct, I’d say that the average time from class start to feeling like I’m going to puke is 17 minutes.

Last night was no different. After being leveled by the flu at the New Year and an epic respiratory infection in Honduras, I am still building back to my fitness base state and, good heavens, I was feeling this workout.

The best part of this class is the instructor. My first memory of her is from about five year ago when she came to the gym on a Sunday morning with freshly marked triathlon numbers.  At that point I knew nothing about triathlon and thought it was odd for someone to have their age sharpied on their calf.  A few minutes later I overheard a fellow inquiring as to whether she’d completed a local tri that morning. Indeed she had, and then she casually mentioned that she won her age group…and was just getting in a bit of strength work after the tri.

Needless to say, this Thursday night spin class is a killer workout.  But, here’s my favorite part:  her words.  What’s funny is that they are largely the same every week, which means I’ve heard them about a hundred times, but each class they seem to ring true to whatever circumstances life has dealt that week.

Each week as we climb she prompts us to “add another gear, don’t be afraid of it.”  She assures us that our legs are strong enough to climb and that they will only get stronger if this week’s hill is bigger than last week’s hill.

I love running because mental knots seem to dissolve across miles.  I come back from a run and my head is almost always clear.  Cycling presents a challenge in this regard.  I get into a ride and I feel both uncomfortable and stuck.  When I run, I might feel uncomfortable, but I am moving and creating space.  When I am breathing heavily in the middle of spin class, there is something about having my feet strapped onto the bike that makes me feel panicked and trapped.  But, I wonder if this might actually be the best possible position to work through the fear.  You cannot move, you cannot distract yourself with the scenery.  It’s just you and the bike in a dark room.  Feel the fear, but choose to add the gear anyways.  I realized this is how I can avert the panic:  confront the fear and ride through it.

After spin, I picked up Thai takeout then came home and while scanning Netflix documentary options stumbled upon Rising from Ashes.  If you are having trouble finding motivation for your long ride or run this weekend, watch this.  Seriously.  The documentary follows the building of Team Rwanda, the nation’s cycling team, in the aftermath of the genocide.  This is one of the best stories of sport that I have ever seen and it serves as a powerful reminder that “the most devastating circumstances can yield the most powerful forms of hope.”  The documentary is at once tragic, full of hope, and a beautiful portrayal of the power of the bike as a vehicle for each of us.  Ride on, friends.

BY FOOT: PICACHO NATIONAL PARK, HONDURAS

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

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If you’re in Tegucigalpa and want to see sweeping city views, you go to Parque Naciones Unidas El Picacho.  An expat friend picked me up from my hotel on Saturday afternoon and we drove up to Parque Naciones Unidas El Picacho.  The park is home to a statue reminiscent of the Christ the Redeemer in Rio (but on a much smaller scale) and includes a zoo and replicas of Mayan ruins.  The panoramas are unparalelled, but residents come here for a much simpler reason:  to be outside.

In many areas of the capital city it simply isn’t safe to walk around outside.  I found this hard to believe, but confirmed it with my friend who said that when he leaves his house he walks directly to his car and drives away.  Their family goes to parks like Picacho when they want to spend time outside with the kids.  Honduras has the unfortunate title of “highest murder rate in the world” according to the UN.  I knew next to nothing about violence in Latin America before I went to Honduras for the first time and I wrote off friends’ murmurings about safety as exaggerated and overly fearful.  Unfortunately, I was misguided and the security situation in Honduras is real.

I wasn’t sure whether or not to write about this.  I am not an expert in Latin American politics and my understanding of violence in Honduras is extremely limited.  I am often asked if I get scared when I travel and my answer is an emphatic no. Traveling has afforded me many of the richest experiences of my life and as I travel to some off-the-beaten path locations, I am careful about the stories I tell when I get home.  I’ve come to realize that mine might be the only perspective informing the point-of-view of the person I am speaking with.  My singular experience becomes someone’s universal perception of the place.  This is a risk and it’s why I hesitate to tell this side of the story.  But, pictures of poolside palms and mountain panoramas don’t tell the whole story and it felt disingenuous to leave the account here.  I expect I will be back in Honduras in the next few months and I look forward to my next visit.  Looking beyond the instagram frame, the situation is certainly more complex, a bit messier and less edited, but isn’t that what reality always looks like?



[ For more information on Picacho, check here and here. ]

LONG RUN: SANTA MONICA

Monday, February 23, 2015

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I wrote this not long after our trip to Sedona when I was still feeling wrapped up in the same head space.  I was on the brink of something new professionally, but at the same time walking through the challenges that so often accompany life’s transitions.  This particular weekend  in Santa Monica was important in deciding where one thing would end and another would begin.   Now, from the other side, the weekend reminds me of the ways that running serves and accompanies us as we navigate change and uncertainty.

Recently, I have not wanted to run.  Last week the winds finally changed and I found myself lacing up, eager to get out the hotel door.  I landed at LAX on Saturday afternoon, greeted by sunshine and temperatures in the low 80s.  I dropped my bags at the hotel, enjoyed lunch on the veranda and then went out to run a few miles.

The next few days were really, really tough. That ever volatile combination of stress and frustration and self-imposed pressure combusted on Monday afternoon leaving me feeling at once shaky in the aftermath of a confrontational conversation and relieved for having said what needed to said.

With Tuesday morning came an important professional commitment.  I woke up early to prepare and was greeted by entirely too much of the emotion of the previous day.  As if reaching out to an old friend, I grabbed my running shoes and ran out the door.  I ran to Venice Beach, then I ran back to the Santa Monica pier and walked onto the beach.

The run was so hard — perfectly hard, I suppose.  My breath was heavy, so were my legs and so were my thoughts.  Disproportionate in difficulty to distance or level of exertion, the run perfectly mirrored the state of my heart and head – discombobulated, trying to find my breath, on the brink of exhaustion.

I stood at the shoreline for a few minutes, watching the waves.  I took in a big inhale of the salty air and thought about the day ahead.  I could see my hotel in the distance; it looked small.  I began to catch my breath and with it came the smallest sliver of perspective about the day ahead.

As I walked back up the beach to the boardwalk, I realized I wasn’t thinking about yesterday anymore.  Somewhere in the miles behind me, my mind’s vice grip on yesterday’s events had loosened and I’d let them go.

I turned back towards the hotel; internally I turned and faced the day ahead.  I consciously decided to replace my stress with hopeful expectation, then I ran back to the hotel and into a day much better than I could have imagined.

As for running, it feels so good to be back.  Seems I had almost forgotten about the power of our sport – the ability to move oneself from one point to another, the ability to create space and adjust one’s outlook.  Space to be and to think, forward movement and perspective – here’s to lacing up and letting go.

BY FOOT: HIKING IN SEDONA

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

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A while back we spent a couple of weeks in Arizona.  We were both working remotely at that point and Ryan had an event to attend, so I tagged along and we decided to extend the stay.  We visited the Grand Canyon, then spent time in Scottsdale and Sedona.

I was in a job that I would soon transition out of and I spent a lot of time thinking about what might come next.  Preoccupied with the future, I wallowed in the uncertainty and angst.

One afternoon we packed a picnic and hiked into Red Rock State Park to watch the sunset.  The trail crossed one of the most well-known vortexes in Sedona.  Vortexes (yes, that is the correct plural form of the word – at least in Sedona) were a phenomena that we knew exactly nothing about.  We would come to learn that a vortex is an area of concentrated energy that can be sensed by people who pass through it.  Think places of palpable energy that allow insight and inspiration.

We set up a picnic near the river just down the trail from the vortex.  All sorts of hikers passed by – middle age ladies wearing Grand Canyon t-shirts, older couples with long gray ponytails, and all manner of hippies.  As we snacked on a Theo chili dark chocolate bar, occasionally a confused seeker would ask us if we knew where the vortex was.  We’d pull out our map, then point to the rocky portion of the trail they’d just passed through.  Given that the basic premise of a vortex is that it is a place of palpable energy, we found this a bit amusing.  The seekers had quite literally walked right through what they were looking for.

Just a few months after that trip, I’d find myself presented with an exciting opportunity that fit – like Fit with a capital F.  A significant, meaningful transition was, indeed, right around the corner.

In Sedona I remember feeling so anxious and preoccupied.  And yet, the freedom of movement, discovering my affinity for spicy margaritas, Yelping the most hipster coffee spots and working together for the day, and hiking into the red rocks made those days so rich and so significant.  Sedona represented adventure and togetherness – the pursuit of things we value.

In the end, I guess I was not so different from the hikers who unwittingly walked right through the vortex.  The trip to Sedona came to mind recently and served as such an instructive reminder:  when we are preoccupied with our own agenda we risk missing the energy and significance of the space we are passing through – we risk missing exactly what we are looking for.

THE BEST TIP FOR NEW RUNNERS

Friday, January 9, 2015

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Perhaps you’ve made a New Year’s resolution to start running.  Maybe you’ve signed up for your first 5k or half marathon and are getting started with your carefully researched training plan.

Here’s the one (unsolicited) tip I would give you:  keep going.

I started running in 2009.  Ryan was training for his first marathon.  I was intrigued competitive and quickly followed suit.  My first race was an 8k.  I found a training plan then stepped onto a treadmill at the YMCA.  I ran for about two minutes and thirty seconds before I had to walk.  I was embarrassed and more than a little bit surprised.  I was young, thin and at least vaguely in shape.  And I couldn’t run one mile.

It took several weeks of run/walking to work up to being able to run a couple of miles.  So often friends say that they’d like to start running and then they begin by lacing up and trying to run a few miles.  This (almost) never works.  Running, especially in the beginning, is painful and hard.  Your lungs burn and your legs get heavy so quickly.  So, you stop and walk home after ten minutes.

When I found myself in this exact situation, I remember thinking “But this is what all my runner friends do!  They just go out and jog a few easy miles, so why is it impossible for me?”.  The key is to keep going — not by painfully extending initial outings, but by committing to seeing through the slow process of becoming comfortable running.  Allow yourself to be a beginner.

Set realistic expectations from the outset.  Going out and running a few miles is not realistic (at least for most of us) at the beginning.  Setting a five to ten week schedule to get to you to the start line of a 5k may be.  I wish someone had shared this 5k training schedule with me when I was getting started.  I know several marathoners whose first steps towards becoming a runner began utilizing this run/walk training schedule.

I often tell new or aspiring runners that the first time I ran 20 minutes continuously was almost as significant an accomplishment as crossing the finish line of my first marathon.  The beginning is hard, but keep going.  It will be worth it.

MADAGASCAR: LEMUR SPOTTING

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

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Lemur spotting was at the top of my to do list in Madagascar.  One afternoon we drove to Parc Ivoloina to try our luck.  Parc Ivoloina is part zoo, part lemur natural habitat.  The Parc houses a dozen lemur species, most of which are endangered.  Species include black and white ruffed lemurs, white-fronted brown lemurs, crowned lemurs, red-bellied lemurs, grey gentle lemurs, bamboo lemurs, brown lemurs, and blue-eyed black lemurs.  A path curves along the lakeside and lemurs ruffle through the tree branches above.  These guys are incredibly quick with feline agility — kind of like a cat crossed with a flying squirrel.  We lucked out and happened upon feeding time which afforded us the perfect photo opp and the chance to see a few lemurs up close.  All in all, a great afternoon.

 

[Parc Ivoloina is located about 30 minutes from Tamatave on the east coast of Madagascar.  The parc is open every day from 9am-5pm.  The price of admission for foreign visitors is about $8 and guides are available for an additional $4.]

LONG RUN: LABOR DAY

Friday, August 29, 2014

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Running last night it hit me:  I’ve been home for almost two months (save a quick trip to Boston, meetings in DC and a weekend at the beach in North Carolina).  After traveling for the entire month of June, being stateside this has been both unexpected and welcome.

There is something magic about being seaside in the summer – maybe it’s simply the proximity to water.  Our favorite trail ends at the bay – the ideal place to recover.  After work we hop on our beach cruisers and bike to the bay – the perfect punctuation between the office and a summer evening.  On Friday nights we order takeout (or we did until our long runs got really long, now we have pasta) and head to the beach to eat and watch the sunset.

I’ve got 16 miles on tap tomorrow morning.  Afterwards, I fully intend on taking advantage of everything a seaside summer has to offer – there are plans to kayak, steam clams, make ice cream and relax at the beach.  Wishing you a long weekend full of the your favorite summertime things.

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