Sunday, January 24, 2016

Honeymoon in Patagonia and Mendoza

When Bart said that he could take two weeks off in December for our honeymoon, I instantly knew where our honeymoon would be: Patagonia. Southern Argentina and Chile have been at the top of my travel list, and there's a small 'optimum hiking weather' window available because of the extreme temperatures. Ever since hearing about Patagonia from a hiking buddy I met in the Himalayas, I couldn't get this image out of my noggin:

Patagonian icefields: It's absolutely mesmerizing! I could look at this photo for days on end! 
*Sidenote: Patagonia is one of the windiest places on Earth, and the north-south orientation of the Andes mountains forms an extensive rain shadow over Patagonia. Add to that its location between the anticyclones of the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, and you've got a region that sees a ton of precipitation! Raincoats, check!

One of the oh-so-many wonderful things about Bart is that he's completely happy being told where to go and what to do, as long as it doesn't involve swimming in a pool or looking at pictures/videos of babies or a cat on a Roomba. So when I proclaimed to Bart that we would take a flight 21 hours south to Patagonia and camp in Torres del Paine National Park for our honeymoon, he said, "OK. But you have to hike fast so that I don't have to wait."

Then he added a second request: "Make sure I get at least 4 days in wine country."

Done and done. I was so excited about our honeymoon that I planned our Patagonia and Mendoza itinerary before planning the wedding events. Hey, picking trekking routes is so much more fun than being price-gouged by wedding vendors!

Condensed itinerary below: 

Full album here
Highlights of the trip: 

1. Hiking to the famous Towers in Torres del Paine. 

2. Outdoor rock-climbing for the first time near Salta (in Mendoza province)

3. The W Circuit in Torres del Paine - although it's a long bus ride to get down to Laguna Amarga, the trailhead of the W Circuit, the scenery is absolutely spectacular. It's so far south that the sun set at 11pm and rose at 4:30am. What a treat!

Hiking towards the next campground! 
Day 1 of the W Circuit - still smelling fresh

Gaining altitude 
Hiking towards Cuernos 
The glacial water was so delicious - best water I've had! 
Giddy to be hiking! 
At a very cold lake 
Snow for Christmas! 
Our last day, as we were taking the catamaran back, the clouds parted and revealed the peaks! 

4. Having a white Christmas - we set out on a grueling 10-hour hike on Christmas morning. The weather instantly turned on us - we were soaking wet from cold rain, which turned to snow at higher altitudes. A white Christmas is magical - but we were soaked, every body part was freezing, and we were combining two days of hiking into one. Even our snow-covered tent was welcoming at the end of the day!

So cold...I couldn't feel my fingers, and our 'waterproof' jackets were soaked through!
Smiling behind chattering teeth
5. El Chalten - magical mountain town host to plenty of day hikes! The best of the best: Loma del Pliegue Tumbado and the hike to Laguna de los Tres. 
Vista of El Chalten 
We kept waiting for the clouds to reveal the peaks! 

6. Steaks and wine - the perfect recovery fuel! 
Parilla - this is a carne-lover's dream! 
Start of Asian glow at La Garde winery 
Malbec grapes 
Views of the Andes at a vineyard 
7. Glacier hiking and ooh-awwing at the crevasses

Glaciar Perito Moreno - it made us feel so small! 
This pic and angle doesn't begin to capture how enormous the ice walls were on Perito Moreno 
Hiking on Glaciar Viedmas in El Chalten 
Glaciar Viedmas in El Chalten 
Viedmas in El Chalten 
Ice climbing on Viedmas 
8. And finally, even though we'd gone to Mendoza to gorge on vinos and great steaks, we were only an hour and a half away from Cordon del Plata, which many mountaineers use to train for Cerro Aconcagua, the highest peak outside of Asia! We had to get in a hike, of course!, and made it as far up Cerro Plata as time would allow, getting to Campo Salto. 

The first few kilometers were extremely easy...

but then the greenery disappeared, and the path got steeper.

This was the only time besides the Himalayas when I suffered from the first symptoms of high altitude sickness. Ugh. 

But we made it to Salto! Disappointingly, the clouds were completely shrouding any peaks. 
Descending back down from the clouds! 
The trip was a blast; we spent Christmas in the mountains and a cozy tent, and New Year's with Argentinian neighborhood kids blasting fireworks in the streets. We suffered through wind that nearly blew us off the trails of Patagonia, snow and rain that made me whimper, and altitude that made my breathing extremely shallow - but we were rewarded with amazing vistas, glacial freshwater, steaks and wines that were served with gracious smiles, and a great first two weeks of wedded bliss! 

Next adventure planned: We're attempting to summit Mt. Washington in NH with four other burly men. Feb 20 is set as our attempt date! It's a gamble; Mt. Washington holds the record for highest wind speed at 231 mph. Um...don't worry, mom! I'll be safe! 

Here's a best-case scenario pic of Mt Washington in February: 

and a worst-case scenario pic: 

Wish us luck! 

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Boston Marathon - 26.2 Miles of grit and brief flashes of runner's high

Once upon a time, in a small town called Hopkinton, 26 miles southwest of Boston, a 5-foot Asian chick waited with 27,000 other runners at the Boston Marathon starting line.


OK, I'm not that geeky. I just stuck that opening bit in there because Bart requested that I begin this blog with "Once upon a time." Small things make him happy.

Happy to get to the starting line healthy, ready, and excited! 
More than a year earlier, I had qualified for Boston at the Rock n' Roll Marathon in DC. Time to ramp up the miles on this girl's legs again!

My twin sister Phebe, a 2-time Olympic Trials Marathon qualifier, coached me through one of the worst winters for spring marathon training. Thanks to her, I got in a few track workouts, intervals in the snow, and long Sunday runs! Two days before the marathon, I arrived in Boston feeling antsy, nervous, and full of restless energy - just the way an endurance athlete should feel after a week of taper!

Pre-race Dinner: Whole wheat spaghetti, homemade pasta sauce, and ciabatta bread. Ice cream with warm cookies. nomnom.

Race Morning: Bagel with butter and a bowl of oatmeal. Two cups of coffee followed by a morning dump - always a relief to get it out of the system! Took in Osmo Pre-load just before we left for race start.

Race Start: Boston is extremely well-organized...they've got to be, since this was the 119th anniversary! Everything went smoothly with no pre-race hiccups, and I waited at the starting corrals with my mom, Phebe, and Bart.

Cold enough that I wore a down jacket to the start!

Trying to keep warm with the family!

About to head to the start line!

Did some dynamic stretches, then it was time to shed the layers and meet my fellow runners!

Miles 1-7: Just an extended warm-up for a long run
Easy pace, pretty much settled into a good rhythm. 7:45 miles. Took the advice of so many veteran Boston marathoners and didn't let myself get too excited at the initial descent.
Rain started to sprinkle, but it cooled me down and felt refreshing. Thankful that temps weren't blazing, although I wasn't exactly appreciative of the headwind. Found a few taller gentlemen and tucked in nicely behind them - thanks for the wind block, dudes!
Took in a Clif Shotblock at Mile 6.

Miles 8-12: My Happy Miles (before the pain cave)
Clipped along at a decent 7:40 pace. Legs loosened up and felt better as the elevation evened out. A few decent short and steep hill pitches gave my hamstrings a good wake-up call, and I continued to focus on not letting my hips drop.

Just before mile 12, I heard screams from a few hundred feet down the road. Soon, I was surrounded by screaming college girls from Wellesley holding signs that read "Kiss me, I'm easier than a marathon!" Talk about some motivation! I heard "Go, SNAPPLE!", waved an acknowledgement, and picked up the pace.

Popped another Clif Shotblock at mile 10.

Altitude Chart for the Boston Marathon

Miles 13-16: Bonding with my fellow runners 
By now, the runners had spread out quite a bit, and I found my niche with a few fellow runners, one of them an amazing 70-year old gramps who took 1 long gait for every 2 quick steps of mine! 

Hit the half-marathon mark at 1:41:00 and was pleasantly surprised that I was clocking in a bit faster than I had planned for. 
Wait - faster. Panic set in. 
Was I going too fast? Would I fall apart at mile 24? Shit, Phebe and Bart had warned me to hold back for the front half, because the last 13 miles of Boston is where people inevitably fall apart - hills and fatigue are nobody's friend. 
I berated myself for over-analyzing. Just focus on the last 13 miles, I told myself. Save your legs for Heartbreak Hill and conquer this bitch of a course. 

Clif Shotblock at mile 14. 

Miles 17-19: Deep in the Pain Cave 
Slowed down considerably to an 8:00 pace as fatigue set in and the hills caused my hip flexors to scream yelps of agony. I focused my mental energy on the upcoming Heartbreak Hill at mile 20...I had to take my mind off my slowing pace! 

Took a Shotblock at mile 17. 

My only action shot!
Miles 20 and 21: Heartbreak Hill - the dread, the climb, the aftermath 
The crowds thickened at the base of Heartbreak Hill, and my mom, Phebe, and Bart later told me that they were screaming on the sidelines, cheering me up the dreaded hill that everyone had warned me about. I was so tired that I didn't even hear or see them! 

Well, my training runs with teammate Steph Lundeby in the hilly neighborhoods of Arlington and Alexandria prepped me perfectly for Heartbreak Hill. I trotted along at an easy pace, keeping my eyes glued to the feet of the runner in front of me. Soon, I heard cheers from the sidelines: "You MADE IT! That's the LAST HILL!" 

That was it? That was Heartbreak Hill? Yeeaaaahhhhhh!!!! Time to crush the rest of this run. I told myself that with only 5 miles left, I could surely push through 40 minutes of pain in my hip flexors and quads.

Clif gel at mile 20. 

Found Finley at mile 23 and the finish!
Miles 22-24: SHUT UP, LEGS! 
At mile 22, I reached the point where I thought about slowing the pace down...wouldn't walking for just 10 steps feel so nice? If I could just stop, and stretch out a bit, maybe even hop into one one of the medical tents and warm myself up...

At mile 23, I told myself that this was just a 5K on tired legs. I took in my last Clif Shotblock and locked in on a tall dude in a red jersey who I'd been running alongside for the last few miles. His gait looked strong, so I forced myself to stick with him for as long as I could. 

Mile 24 rolled around, and I could feel that my hips were dropping with each step. No bueno! Even hips, even hips, Mindy. I've learned that if I focus on my form and think of what I'm going to demolish post-race (for Boston - CANNOLIS!), it's my best bet to ignoring the pain and cruising forward.

Mile 25: I don't want this to ever end! Can't I stay in this moment forever??? 
The party was pumping. I felt like a local celebrity. Months of tough training had boiled down to these last few miles, and I was loving every agonizing step! Yeah, a few tears were shed.

Mile 26: Beat the clock, beat the clock, beat the...JUST FINISH ALREADY!
I knew I could break 3:25. It was gonna be close, and I tried to pick up the pace. My Garmin later showed that my last mile was actually quite a bit slower than the previous mile, but I felt like I was sprinting towards Boylston! I didn't quite break 3:25, but happy with the PR!

Relieved to be done! 
Mile 26.2: Seizing quads and chattering teeth 

Relief! I ran into teammate Maggi Finley at the finish line, and we shivered our way through the crowd. Congrats to Maggi for braving through the cold temps! 

I found my sister and Bart at the finish line, then we rushed on over to Mike's Pastries for some cannolis and a lobster claw! 

Shivering even with my space blanket. 

A box full of CALORIES

Hello, doesn't this space blanket look like the next fashion fad? 
Congrats to everyone else who ran the race! Teammate and friend Steph Lundeby deserves a tenacity shout-out...she hit the med tent at Mile 17 with hypothermia, and somehow still managed to finish the race! I'm more in awe of her determination to cross the finish line a third time at Boston than anyone's PR!

Thanks to my wonderful team and sponsors! The Snapple Tri Team has been such a wonderful network of friends, teammates, and training partners for the past 4+ years! 

Mile splits below. 

Mile 1 7:51
Mile 2 7:40
Mile 3 7:44
Mile 4 7:27
Mile 5 7:51
Mile 6 7:33
Mile 7 7:37
Mile 8 7:38
Mile 9 7:36
Mile 10 7:40
Mile 11 7:42
Mile 12 7:34
Mile 13 7:39
Mile 14 7:36
Mile 15 7:42
Mile 16 7:34
Mile 17 8:00
Mile 18 8:04
Mile 19 7:56
Mile 20 8:12
Mile 21 8:35
Mile 22 7:58
Mile 23 7:53
Mile 24 7:51
Mile 25 7:32
Mile 26 7:50
26.2 3:25:10