My 1st 50K & Burning Man Ramblings

Oh gosh!!! It’s been far to long and updates are definitely in order, (this is now a moot point as I have skipped this post and am now backtracking) especially on the running front as that is what has become of my life (I believe this still holds true). I forgot how much I missed running until it became my evening routine after being tucked away for over a decade.

As usual I made my way to Burning Man, I love that place and I can’t think of many other places I would enjoy returning to for almost two weeks annually. This year I decided to do two things while I was there:

  1. Run the 4th Burning Man Ultramarathon, it’s a 50k.
  2. Get married.

Both of these were things I haven’t done before and they were also among the infinite number of things I knew I could do on the playa. For some strange reason I also thought it would be a great idea to do both of these on the same day. I would later regret that, well my body regretted it. Mentally, I am glad that I followed through on both!

The ultramarathon was great. A couple things to note:

  • Cherri Bomb is the Race Director
  • You get to run beside some kickass runners
  • It’s free! Instead you are asked to bring a gallon of water & a shareable snack/fuel
  • Cool 5am start
  • It’s a looped course – four loops and an out and back
  • It gets hot
  • Clothing is optional
  • You need to acquire a ticket to Burning Man
  • It’s Ah-May-Zing! (Don’t believe me, watch this video)

I planned to use this race as a long training run while prepping for my first marathon.  I barely made it to the start on time because I love sleep. Upon arrival I jumped in for the group photo before hearing that there was only two minutes until the start. DAMMIT. I needed to pee, badly. Start on time and hold it as long as possible or use the potty and tack the time on my run? I’m a Virgo, I stood among my fellow Burners and started at the sound of the …. I don’t remember what was used, it wasn’t a gun. Right?

Into the darkness we went for almost two hours, which is when the center of the solar system decides to rise above the mountains and naturally light the city that me and my camp light every night. Although the course is looped you do not see the same thing each time since you are at Burning Man and people, art cars/mutant vehicles and parties roam around day and night. As the sun beat down during the fourth loop I remember just wanting to finish. I hadn’t run more than 23 or so miles and I tired. Hours ticked by. I sorta forgot about my bladder. A few of my campmates knew I was running and it was nice to see them on the course as they were doing morning lantern pickup. Eventually the out and back came, I was pushing it as best as I could. There it was, the finish line. Shuffle, shuffle, shuffle. I was done. I finished my first 50k in 5:15:23, fourth female finisher and 21st overall, not shabby.

A friend, whom I met on the playa two years earlier, met me at the finish and let me sit on his bike as he pushed it back to my camp. Upon entering camp I was greeted by, “How was the run?,” to which I promptly responded that, “Dumbest idea ever.” (I’ve since forgotten the pain and plan on running it again.) Other than tired legs, one toenail felt like it was in bad shape. Thanks to one of our awesome doctors, Dr. Tink, I was bandaged and ready to go.

I should note that I forgot my running gear on the East Coast so I resorted to wearing new gear, it worked out, kinda. I ran in an old pair of Nike Shocks, shoes that I wore for three weeks while cleaning homes in Staten Island and Far Rockaway following Hurricane Sandy. The pain of wearing those shoes for 50 dusty kilometers was worth it.

BMUltraFinisher

I was slated to be married three hours later. TBC

My Honolulu Marathon Fun Run

I decided to run the Honolulu Marathon in late 2012 and I’m glad I followed through on the run. I stopped training and running in early November, after the NJ Trail Series 24 hour run that I completed (a race report for another day), so I wasn’t sure how I’d do on no training. I’ve had mild knee pain since my 81 mile run, which I haven’t had checked out yet. Reading other reports I knew there were three things to be aware of:

  1. The runners that stand at the start line watching the fireworks that kick off the run
  2. Diamond Head elevation
  3. The weather

The night before the race I had dinner at Auntie Pasto’s, which was delicious. If you are in Honolulu, it’s worth checking out. I’ve decided that two bottles of beer the night before the race shall serve as my pre-race “good luck” tradition. I opted for two Kona Brewing Company Longboard lagers this time. Since the race starts at 5am I needed to be up by 3:30am so that I could walk to the start with enough time to wiggle my way to the front of the start. laid out my race gear, drank my beer and off to bed I went.

The morning of the race I woke up, got dress, ate a quick snack and headed off toward the start line. My strategy for the race was simple, have fun! If I finished under 4:00 I’d be happy. I didn’t notice the humidity initially, although it wasn’t terrible overall. Florida still holds the crown in terms of humidity. The fireworks went off and some of us were off. I wasn’t as close tot he front as I wanted to be so I crossed the start line about 2:00 into the race. I ran with one of the reps for The Stick that I met at the expo. I’d see him pull up to me again around Mile 21 and I reminded him he needed to pick up the pace if he wanted to finish within his goal. There were small crowds through the first seven miles.

When we reached Diamond Head the road narrowed considerably. I decided to plow through the hill and run along the caution tape that volunteers were hold up. Hi-fiving them as a darted by was nice. For the next however many miles it was residential running, but nice to see folks out cheering, singing and playing instruments. I was able to catch sunrise early in the second half of the race, of course this was after I’d watched the front runner pass me (this is an our and back course). 21K – 1:53:39


Once the sun came up the cold sponges at aid stations REALLY came in handy. I took one at each aid station that offered them. More ‘Good Mornings’ and ‘Hellos’ to everyone I passed, including lots of police officers. I was having fun, as hard as it is for some to believe. Time ticked away and one thing I tried to do was learn the Japanese phrase I kept hearing. It reminded me of the word ‘Sabaidee’ which you hear a lot in Thailand. I later found out that is was something like ‘Gambatee.’ Anywho, back to running. Diamond Head was a little more annoying at Mile 24, but there was a bonus. A group of Hashers set up an aid station near the 40k mark, just before the downhill begins. They made sure folks knew they were doling out beer and I gratefully accepted. 2.2km left in this race, Woohoo!!!

As I neared the finish I saw a Minnie Mouse, I didn’t want to get costumed so at this point I made an effort to sprint through the finish. The only issue with that is quite a few people slow down just as they get to the clock…. Run through the clock, if you can, please! The mouse got under just before me, but that means I finished also. Second marathon completed in 3:57:08. As the volunteer handed me my finisher beads she said, “You don’t even look like you just ran a marathon. It looks like you could run another one right now.” I smiled, told her, “I just had fun” and headed to the finishers village. My knee was throbbing a tad bit, but I was able to walk on it.

Time for my 10 minute shiatsu massage and a few malasadas before spending the afternoon at Lanikai Beach. The finishers village was well organized and had a lot to offer, especially since there were only about 1,200 of us there at the time.


Overall the race was nice, as most say it could do for a little nicer view at some points, but it wasn’t terrible. The race director may want to consider making at least one seeded corral so that those who want to run the race can without having to run on dividers and such for the first few miles, the corral signs they use are completely ignored. There is no reason why people should be dodging walkers from the start gun/fireworks. I’d definitely recommend this race to anyone looking to run a destination race just don’t come in expecting a super fast course. Come to have fun!

Now to take a few weeks off and let my body recover from all this running!

What I’m Thankful For: Three Weekends Of Aiding Hurricane Sandy Survivors

November proved to be one of the months I was most grateful for. I can’t think of a more worthwhile and gratifying way to spend a little bit of my own time than helping those that were affected by Hurricane Sandy. 20121104_085245Like thousands of others, I originally planned on volunteering at the ING NYC Marathon. Instead I headed out to Staten Island on Sunday, November 4th with a ferry full of runners and other folks looking to lend a helping hand. That day turned out to be more rewarding than I could have imagined. I was in awe of the number of people that were willing to go into a disaster zone without a second thought.

20121111_111836We didn’t come with a real plan. We didn’t want anything in return. We were simply strangers coming together to help strangers in need. I guess you could say the feeling was euphoric. I definitely wanted to share that feeling with others so for the two next weeks I went out to Far Rockaway in the same manner. Myself and the folks who joined me worked at the homes of complete strangers for as long as we could. At sunset we headed to the bus stop and waited with volunteers and locals to get off of the inlet. The commute back to the train was the low point. Even then we made the best of the 1.5 hour long bus ride, which should have only been twenty minutes.

The smiles and hugs were the only compensation that we accepted. As we lifted floor boards, ripped out drywall and pulled out waterlogged insulation we tried to make light of a 20121111_150050really tough situation. One owner joked with his wife that he didn’t want to get the floor dirty as we trudged though muck while clearing his basement. What many people fail to realize is that these were working class people who were simply living the ‘American Dream.’ For many they spent a pretty penny to move to their communities and in a matter of hours everything was turned upside down. Suddenly you are tapping into reserve funds to pay for water removal and electrical rewiring. This was the last thing on anyone’s mind since everyone was comparing this storm to Hurricane Irene, which did minimal damage to New York City.

Beyond the tears and feelings of doubt you could see the light coming back to those that lost almost everything. The people in the homes I went to were much stronger than they realized. I immediately thought of the lines:

20121111_152448Through this place of wrath and tears looms but the horror of the shade
And yet the menace of the years finds and shall find me unafraid
William Ernest Henley
You think about what you would do in a situation like this, but you never really know how you will react until you are living through this nightmare. I am grateful that I was fortunate enough to sustain no damage to my home, but I am even more grateful that I was able to provide an ounce of assistance to a few people in Staten Island and Far Rockaway during some of their darkest hours.

20121111_162332

Merry Christmas.

Los Colores De Panama

As my flight prepared to land at Tocumen Airport I got my first glimpses of the red soil and a vivid green countryside. From the landscape to the people, everything in Panama appeared to be bright and full of life.There was color everywhere and I loved it.

Even the humidity being above 80% the entire time didn’t stop me from wanting to walk everywhere and take it all in. Of course I stopped to see the Panama Canal, explore the Parque Natural Metropolitano and wander through Albrook Mall. My deeper goal was to travel off the beaten path and find those hidden treasures. One of my first finds was a graffiti park near Escuela Santa Familia in Casco Viejo. The art may not compare to the works of Banksy or Nick Walker in some books, but it is beautiful, and the Pacific Ocean along the basketball court serves as a great contrast. The colors plastered on the surfaces also liven the school that it is adjacent to.

My second find in Casco Viejo were the homes. I should specify that although I liked all of the homes in the area I found that the older homes told a story. There was a contrast that was reminiscent of the tenement buildings during the early 20th century in New York City.  The buildings and its tenants were doing everything within their power to withstand the changes around them that would eventually force them out of their homes. In Casco Viejo you see banners on the streets opposing the gentrification that is pushing out the people that have inhabited this seawall peninsula for ages. Some mention that it is somewhat unsafe in Casco Viejo at night, but it is also worth noting that the President of Panama, Ricardo Martinelli, resides there. It’s just as safe as wandering around Paris, Brooklyn, Chicago, or Fes; simply use common sense.

My favorite treat was the cab ride from the Panama Canal. The driver took a shortcut through El Chorrillo, which has been documented as an impoverished neighborhood. Its history includes canal workers, Manuel Noriega, the US’  Just Cause invasion in 1989 and Roberto Duran. I stuck my cameras lens out to capture the streets  we were passing through without thinking and I’m glad that I was able to capture a part of Panama that will inevitably go through the same changes that are happening in Casco Viejo.

Cab rides for only a few dollars, ropa vieja meals for just about the same price and the Panamanian version of Walmart, El Machetazo. This city will give you a lot of bang for your buck. I equally enjoyed walking and shopping along Avenida Central in Santa Ana. If it weren’t for the humidity and lack of a winter season I would consider making Panama more of a mainstay. That and the fact that there is a clear obsession with American fast food chains, but with some effort you can find a fonda and enjoy an authentic Panamanian dish. I would recommend anyone interested in exploring Panama City to go for it, there’s more to this city than just the Panama Canal.

Looking For A Place To Go!

It wasn’t even a month ago that I took a long weekend trip to Paris, thanks to Iberia Airlines and an amazing deal that I found. That has prompted me to make sure that ever spare moment I have will be spent traveling somewhere new. Well it won’t all be new, I do plan on making trips to places I have been to time and time again. Looking for a great deal right now is my current mission, but the greater mission is deciding where to go!

I think I have pretty much narrowed it down to Eastern Europe unless some ticket to Uruguay or Chile pops up for $600. My only real goal is to be somewhere else. I can’t fathom how someone could turn down the opportunity to travel when it arises. Would it be nice to visit family over the Thanksgiving holiday? Sure it would, but the travel bug has burrowed inside of me and I can’t seem to shake it!

As of now I am juggling a few ideas, although I am open to any country I haven’t been to before. It seems as though Istanbul, Prague and Budapest are pretty high on my list so far. I’ve gotten suggestions to check out Marcolla (Spain) and Dubrovnik (Croatia) but I’m not even sure how to get to those places.  What to do, where to go, what to see. I definitely have come to the realization that I live to travel.

Do You Live To Travel?

I know I do! I’m not sure when my love for traveling started, but I do believe that it was passed on from my parents. They met abroad and spent many years traveling the world. That paired with living all over the US left me to want to see more of the world.

As a child I would write fictional stories about families living in Africa at the turn of the 20th century.  I even joined pen pal agencies and corresponded with a girl in China and another in Japan. Nowadays I wouldn’t advise giving your home address to someone you  met over the internet. Since this was before internet I assume the pen pal agency screened the applicants although I don’t remember what information was required. I didn’t get a passport until after I graduated college which means I have a lot of lost time to make up for.

As mentioned in a previous post, my overall goal is 100 countries and all 50 states which makes for at least 150 destinations. As of now I have 102 more destinations until I meet my goal, I’m almost 33% there. I’ve always been curious about those that have spent their entire life in one state, some people haven’t even left their own town. What keeps someone from leaving the nest? Is it a lack of drive to see the rest of the world, simply due to lack of funds, or is it a fear of leaving your comfort zone? I definitely don’t have the answer but I know that once you start you just can’t stop. I guess this is how coffee drinkers feel.

I’ve come to the realization that without the opportunity to see the world, or even get a change of scenery, on a regular basis I would be a pretty unhappy individual.I’ve created a pretty ambitious itinerary for myself that includes a blend of domestic and international travel. I’m pretty excited and I’m still looking for activities to fill my weekends with when I can’t make it across the Atlantic. I’m still curious to know why some people don’t travel, even it’s one weekend a year.

I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who learned about the Great Lakes, the Great Wall, and the Mayan ruins in school. Why not go beyond the textbooks and computer screen and really see ’em first hand? I finally made my pilgrimage to my state’s capital, and although Buffalo isn’t a dream destination, it was an interesting city with a lot of history. With low-cost options like Jetblue, Southwest, Spirit, Virgina America, and even Megabus, if you have a fear of flying, what’s the excuse?

I live to travel, do you?

Shooting my 1st Wedding

This past weekend I got to shoot two friends wedding. I was more of a second shooter as I let the more experienced photographer borrow some of my equipment. I definitely enjoyed it, it was a learning experience and I may enjoy shooting people more than I expected to. I’m still going through the shots that I took.

Wedding bands:

Just after they tied the knot:

I plan to post a few more after scanning the batch.