Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Top 10 Iceland

This time last week, I was in Iceland! I had the most amazing time and it was truly a vacation of a lifetime. Iceland is a beautiful country with out of this world geologic sites, a wonderful culture and lovely weather. I could ramble on and on about Iceland, but I'll show the highlights here.

1) Scenery
There's just no way around it-- this country is stunning. Being a volcanic island, there is no part of the country that isn't either volcanic, full of lava, glacial or fjord-like. All of my scenery pictures could easily fill an entire blog.
2) Volcanoes and craters
The entire island was formed by massive volcanic eruption so there are volcanoes, craters and lava fields everywhere. They are incredibly impressive and beautiful. We hiked up two different craters and around a few different lava fields. Totally surreal. Another cool thing-- all of these lava rocks are super light because of the way they are formed and dry.
3) Birds
One of the major reasons I wanted to go to Iceland was for the bird life! As a recreational birder, I love checking out the bird life in different parts of the continent. Typically with island countries, the birds are especially unique because they generally evolve without land mammals. This was my first visit to an arctic island, and I had one thing on my bird life list: puffins.
And puffins we saw! We also saw skuas, oystercatchers (pictured first above), snipes, whimbrels, all kinds of ducks, many types of gulls and more. We logged 24 new bird species for this trip-- awesome!

4) Food
Because we spent all of our money on car rental and camping, we didn't try a lot of the local cuisine at restaurants. However, we did stock up a lot at grocery stores and supermarkets, and I generally find that I like to sample what the locals eat daily when I'm visiting a new country. My ultimate favorite find is Skyr: an Icelandic non-fat milk and whey product that's like super creamy greek yogurt. You can find a similar version in Whole Foods here called Siggi's, but I hear it doesn't compare. I ate Skyr at least once a day and it was SO delicious. Not to mention, only about $1 a serving (compared with $4 for Siggi's at WF!).
Another few food items I devoured while there: hazelnut cream wafer cookies and sparkling water. Yum.

5) Culture
Icelandic culture is pretty fantastic. Because they're a small island population (of around 300,000), the culture is somewhat homogenous and harmonious. The Icelanders are pretty progressive, with the entire country heated by geothermal power, having the first openly gay (and married!) prime minister, and no standing army! Even the police officers don't carry guns. Also, their education and health care systems are one of the best in the world, with their incredibly high literacy rate, and all children are fluent in FOUR languages by the time they graduate high school. Incredible.

6) The glaciers
An instrumental part in the formation of the country, the glaciers and icebergs in Iceland are absolutely breathtaking. Here's a shot of a glacial lake. Stunning, right?

7) The sheep
Driving around Iceland, we saw sheep everywhere. Almost always, the sheep were uncontained and were walking around and munching to their hearts desire. We literally saw them everywhere: at the geothermal plant, in the middle of the road, and on top of a giant sea cliff we hiked up. The sheep are unique because sheep imports are banned, and these sheep descended directly from sheep brought over by the original Vikings! They're so ubiquitous, many Icelanders regard the sheep as 'wild game'. Hilarious.

8) The mudpits
Here's another bizarre feature of the volcanos: mudpits. These pits form and are full of scorching hot mud bubbling and producing sulfiric acid. It seriously looks like something out of a Martian sci fi film.
9) The sun
Despite all of the crazy sights I saw, I still believe the sun in Iceland is the most jarring thing about the visit. Because the country is situated right on the Arctic circle, the sun's position relative to the Earth moves quicker, and thus there is no darkness. Even after the sun 'sets' around midnight, there is the 'midnight sun' or the leftover light from the sun. The sun rises again at about 3am. This means it's constantly daylight out, and made camping a totally weird experience. A few times I woke up at 2am while camping and it was bright out! Crazy. The picture above was taken at 9:30pm!

10) The hiking and camping
By far my favorite part of the trip was all of the outdoors time we got. I loved pulling over or going for all day hikes, and they were intense! Many times the hike started with a straight up ascent up a mountain or cliff. At one point, we hiked up a crater and the path was so steep there was a rope line to hold yourself up. The camping was just as beautiful, and many times I caught myself just waking up and laying in my sleeping bag listening to the water, the birds and the pureness of it all. Absolute bliss.
I'm so thankful and happy to have had a restful vacation. But now it's back to the grind, and look forward to an update on my running injury, a recipe and a grad school update coming to the blog soon!

What's your dream vacation?

Monday, June 27, 2011

Ann Arbor Summer Festival

Hi everyone! We're back from Iceland (apologies for the blog hiatus) and I can't wait to tell you all about it. While I organize my photos, let me tell you about the great night I had this past Saturday at the Ann Arbor Summer Festival.
The summer festival is nearly a month long, free and so much fun. They bring bands, entertainers, movies, local restaurants and community organizers together for an event that is fantastic and right on the University of Michigan campus.

We started out our night at Old Town, a bar/restaurant downtown with a pitcher of Bell's Two Hearted Ale. Yum.
I ordered a wet vegetarian burrito with housemade black refried beans, grilled onions and peppers, salsa and enchilada sauce. SO good.
Then we biked over to the festival. It was a perfect night out to listen to two great local funk bands and enjoy some beer.
I had a few drafts of Leinenkugel's Summer Shandy
while we listened to Funktion, a local band out of Kalamazoo.
Later, the main event for the night was NOMO, an awesome funk and jazz band from Detroit. We had so much fun dancing and jamming out, and followed up our night with Stucchi's chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream.
After such a wonderful time at the summer festival, I met up with some girls from my department that were having a bachelorette party! The bachelorette and I randomly showed up with the same purse. Cute, right?
It was a great way to end the night, and although I had a blast in Iceland, I'm so happy to be back home.

How was your weekend?

Monday, June 13, 2011

Weekly Workout Recap

After seeing so many different bloggers post their weekly workout rundowns, I want to share my recap. Primarily, I think it's good to reflect on what you've done and gear up for the week ahead.

Secondarily, I've been feeling a bit down about not being able to workout due to my injury and wisdom tooth surgery, so I want to make small goals to knock out this week. Let's get down to it.

Last week:
Monday: 1000m swim + 2 mile bike
Wednesday: 1100m swim
Thursday: surgery :(
Friday: off
Saturday: off
Overall, last week was pretty fun up until the surgery. I've really started to love swimming and the hot weather made the outdoor pool super nice. Since the marathon, I was trying to keep my fitness level high. Sadly, with the recent time off and foot injury, that seems to be slipping away.

This week I have some easy goals:
Sunday: off
Monday: 3.7 mile bike ride (done!)
Tuesday: Strength training for runners
Wednesday: 1-2 mile run
Thursday: run, bike or yoga
Friday: Iceland!
Saturday: Iceland!
I already knocked out a simple (but hilly!) bike ride this afternoon. Tomorrow is strength class, and then I'm hoping to go out for a run sometime this week. It all depends on how my face and foot are feeling. I don't want to push it, but I miss my long afternoon runs.

Speaking of missing things, this liquid diet has not been fun! I've had plenty of smoothies, yogurt and applesauce, but I look forward to the day when I can chew again!
This smoothie in a bowl contained frozen cherries, spinach, frozen banana, milk, yogurt, pumpkin, peanut powder and chocolate protein powder with berries and granola on top. Yum.

On Friday, I'm flying out to Iceland. I can't wait! Hope this week goes by fast.

What are your workout goals this week?

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Flexible Tri Training

Hi! After last Sunday's race, things got a bit hectic. I pushed it way too hard at the race and ended up with a minor injury on my left foot.

This is the first injury I've sustained during this training cycle, and I'm mad at myself for pushing too hard after finishing the marathon! Next time I'll take more time off. Anyway, it seems I have a little bit of inflammation of the peroneal brevis tendon.

I've been icing and have taken a full week off of running. I've also been swimming more for cross training.

Another reason I'm swimming is that I'm hoping to tackle my first Sprint Triathlon in July. I'm not a very strong swimmer, so I have some work to do. If all else fails, I would gladly drop to the Duathlon (run-bike-run). I've been working on my swimming endurance, and I really do think I'm improving!

However, life is getting in the way of my training. On Thursday I got my wisdom teeth removed. Ouch! I had planned to post after the surgery but the recovery has been rougher than I expected. I've had my fair share of swollen cheeks for sure.
Needless to say, I haven't worked out since then.

And in 5 days, I'm going to Iceland for a week! I'm so excited and have been planning and saving for this vacation for over 6 months. I can't wait to hike around volcanic regions, go birding and tour the entire country.
While I do plan to run a bit while I'm there, I can't promise I'll get in any swim workouts. At this point, I'm trying to be flexible with my training.

After 5 months of marathon training, it's nice to take a relaxed approach to my workouts. What are you training for this summer?

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Dexter Ann Arbor 5K Recap

What a difference a year makes! Last year I ran the Dexter Ann Arbor 5K as my second 5K ever in 34:24, a new PR for me at the time. Today I worked it out in 28:33-- just 8 seconds away from my current 5K PR!

The Dexter Ann Arbor Run is a local race that offers a 5K, 10K or half-marathon from the nearby town of Dexter into downtown Ann Arbor. The course runs along the Huron River and is beautiful.
I signed up for this race excited to run the same course as last year. Because I ran my first marathon last Saturday, I had planned to take this 5K slow. I had no plans to PR and just wanted to enjoy the race!

Of course, it didn't quite happen that way. As per usual with my race mornings, I started with PB+J toast and coffee with part of a banana.
Then we headed to the course start. It was pretty warm already at about 8am, so I knew it was going to be a hot race. Once we started running, the sun was intense! The first mile was mostly downhill, and my planned "easy pace" went right out the window. I tried to slow down in the middle but was having too much fun. The final mile brought a brutal uphill but I charged through it for a 28:33 finish.

Mile 1: 9:02
Mile 2: 9:21
Mile 3: 9:03
Mile .14: 9:11

I biked home quick for a cold meal of yogurt, pumpkin, blueberries and oats. Delicious.

Later this evening, I went to put my race bib on my bulletin board with my other ones. It was a mess, so I cleaned it up and filled up some empty space on the wall.
As I was putting up each bib, I reflected on the races and the last year I've had of running. I went from not running at all in March 2010 to running my first 5K at an 11:36 min/mi pace in May 2010. If you would have told me a year ago that I would have completed my first marathon and 10 races by now, I would have laughed in your face (and grabbed another helping of dessert)!
But really, a lot of hard work and desire for change has brought here today. I'm in awe of where this journey has taken me and am so excited to see what comes next. If you're looking for your next kick in the pants, remember-- anyone can get hooked on exercise. All it takes is a desire to get fit and the commitment to get there.

What were you doing this time last year?

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Saturday Swim-day

This morning I woke up with one thing in mind: swimming! It's super hot out today and I wanted to get in a short workout before tomorrow's 5K.

I'm going to race in my first sprint triathlon in July! I'm really excited, but I'm pretty unprepared for the swim portion. I'm foremost a runner, and a city cyclist, but swimming and I do not get along. I headed to my favorite outdoor pool today to do my first swim workout since August.
One reason I generally don't go swimming is because of all of the gear you need. A suit, goggles, swim cap, towel etc. With running, all I need is my shoes and I'm off for a great workout.
Anyway, today I swam 500m. The sprint tri swim distance is 500m, so I'm going to work on building up to swimming the whole time! I swam 250m at an easy pace (stopping every 50m) and then did pull drills and kick drills for another 200m. Finally, I had a 50m cool down. All in all I wrapped it up in about 25 minutes.
Post-swim, I headed to the race expo for the 5K tomorrow.
And had a delicious chocolate cherry smoothie.
Into the blender (for 2 servings):
1 heaping cup frozen unsweetened cherries
1 frozen banana
1-2 cups milk (more if needed)
3 huge scoops of chocolate protein powder

Next up on today's agenda? Lab!
What new workouts have you tried lately?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Post Marathon Eats and Body

After my marathon on Saturday, all I wanted to do was eat.

And eat I did. I enjoyed lots of local fare like Great Lakes chips from the post-race party...
and Short's Huma Lupa Licious IPA and chocolate covered cherries from the Traverse City area.
Later that night we had an awesome dinner of eggplant casserole and strawberry salad.
I was so incredibly sore for the few days after the marathon. I could barely walk and going up and down stairs proved to be quite difficult! Thankfully I didn't have anything that felt like more than just soreness (like an injury) so I stretched and waited it out. While lounging around I saw this little guy sneaking into the bird feeder!
I spent most of the first two days after the marathon sitting on the couch and reading the new Jodi Picoult book. I didn't like it at all! Usually I'm a fan of hers but this one was really lacking.
Mostly though, I just felt super tired and almost sick. I couldn't sleep, my stomach was off and I was really hot for a few days (from muscles releasing heat chemicals upon tissue damage). So mostly I just looked like this:
Before heading home from Traverse City, we stopped in Northport for lunch. I had an amazing grilled cheese on wheat with the famous tomato bisque.
And was shocked to see my name in the paper with the marathon results. So cool!
Finally, yesterday I went for my first run since the marathon, 1 mile in 10:30. I took it slow and enjoyed the sunset.

This weekend I'm running the Dexter Ann Arbor 5K for the second year in a row! I certainly don't expect to beat my 5K PR from December as I'm still in recovery and haven't been training for speed, but it's a fun local race and I'm super excited to run it.
My last few posts have been very running-heavy-- I promise to switch it up this weekend!

What are you looking forward to in June?
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