#Frifotos Theme – Peaks

This week’s #Frifotos theme is “peaks” — and I decided I’ll share my favorites since hitting refresh on weather.com to learn about more freezing rain forecasted in Iceland for the 4 days I’m there isn’t too much fun.

Inca Trail, Peru

It’s been over 3 years since I’ve been to Peru, and I’ve had many amazing travel experiences since, but I have yet to go somewhere that has matched this trip.

Yosemite National Park (Half Dome), CA – One of the hikes that I really did almost die but totally worth it for the view.

Mt. Monadnock NH – The peak that kicks my butt post tax season every year.

Do you like mountains?  What’s your favorite “peak”?

Six Things To Do Before Your Vacation

Friends! I know I must have some, I’m only 120 votes behind first place in my silly contest.
Please vote I’m the retard in a pink cat suit
If I win, I get a free trip with a person of my choosing to go anywhere there is a Anytime Fitness facility.  This includes New Zealand (why WordPress just gave me a squiggly red line for misspelling for Zealand, I don’t know) and Australia !! Places I’m too cheap at this point to fly on my own.  Anyways I will now resume my purpose of this post besides self pimping.

How to Prep for a Short -Term International Trip

The worst part about traveling is the planning.  I hate it.  I hate researching, organizing, and obsessing over every detail.  With each trip I try to outsource some of the research to my travel companions like my mother (for Spain) or to Tony (for Costa Rica) or even a sample itinerary from a guidebook but in the end my type A personal takes over and I become the itinerary Nazi.

I know that usually I only have a few hours to a few days in each place I visit and I want to make the most out of every place I can for the moment.  I like to be prepared for each trip and no matter how hectic I am the weeks leading up to travel due to work and life these are the things I do.  It doesn’t mean I walk around with a check-off list of things to do for every minute (maybe just every hour) but I like to have an idea of what I want to experience with each new adventure and whatever will be will be.

1. Book my flight –… that’s important… can’t go overseas if you have no flight or means of getting there.

2. Research weather – Dry heat is different from humid heat, as is 40 degrees with no wind vs 40 degrees with 31 MPH winds.  Is the city you’re visiting prone to spontaneous flash thunderstorms before it turns bright and sunny a few minutes later. These are things you want to know before you pick your outfits and stuff your suitcase(s).  I like to walk around when I travel so being weather appropriate is more of a priority vs. showing off my new cute top (although if I can combine the two, I am truly happy).

3. Research essential packing items.  This is partially related to knowing the weather but applies to other things.  For example for Iceland I goggled “things to pack for Iceland.” This reminded me that I needed to purchase a new all in one outlet adapter (My POS laptop is a 3 prong pain) and rain pants.  I learned while looking up packing lists that Iceland is known for having random rain storms in between 31 MPH winds.  I figured I can pack these lightweight rain shell pants in my purse and be kinda prepared to die a little (less.) Now you don’t always need to run out and spend your hard earned $$$ on all the gear that’s fit to sell but you can weight the benefits vs. costs.  I like doing trekking/hiking travel and I assume my rain pants will come in handy later on.

4. Research Transportation – This is essential when traveling short term.  You don’t always have the luxury of booking the cheapest last minute option when you are on a short trip.  Look up if there is mass transit where you are going, is it buses, trains, or trams and how those systems work.  For example, with a simple search I learned that if I buy a 10 trip pass in Barcelona for the train I only pay about 1 Euro per trip vs. 2 Euro per trip if I buy individual passes.  I also recommend checking when the last train runs, as many places during the weekday the last train might stop at midnight and a cab ride back home can be a costly thing.

If traveling between cities like I did in Spain, sometimes booking in advance will earn you huge savings.  I paid half as much as Tony for the same train because I booked mined two weeks before while he stayed lame and booked last minute.  I also recommend looking at all options, often times buses can be faster than trains and can get you to a town center much closer than the train that requires a pricey taxi just to get you downtown (life lesson for Segovia).  When Tony and I were in Costa Rica we traveled from La Fortuna to Monteverde by Jeep Boat Jeep because it was cheaper and took half the time that a normal bus or shuttle bus would have taken us.  These are just some of the travel things I like to be slightly prepared for when I travel to a foreign place when my language skills are highly poor at best.

I would also look up if renting a car is worth the trouble.  Do the buses from city to city run rarely to never?  Are the roads well built and established?  Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico had a surprisingly great and easy highway to drive on.  Are you traveling with more than one person to split the cost? Is there parking?  Parking is a nightmare in most urban areas, especially if you’re not used to congested parking situations such as NYC.

5.  Look up what needs to be booked in advance – High season or low season you may need to book things in advance.  For example if you want to hike the Inca Trail in Peru, you need to book that specific trek two months in advance.  Yes, you can book alternative treks, but if you want the Inca Trail you’ll have to plan due to government limits on how many people can walk on it per day.  Even in Spain, to visit Alhambra in Granada, I had to book my tickets a month in advance to guarantee entry for 3 at the same time.

This rule also apples to the transportation research mentioned above.  Generally on peak time like weekends in Europe, the high speed rail trains tend to sell out quicker than local trains and if you have your heart set on squeezing in one more city in your trip, don’t lose out on your train seat.  Same rule applies to fancy, trendy, dining experiences. If you want a reservation for 8PM on a Friday or Saturday at a specific place you are dying to go (like Girl & the Goat in Chicago) make a reservation in advance.  The worst that can happen is you’ll have to cancel which usually is at no cost to you.

 6. Read Some Blogs –  Frommers and Lonely Planet can be a great resource but I often find them boring and better bed time reading than anything else.  I love reading travel blogs from other adventurous souls for example like AdventurousKate and my friend’s Steve’s BackpackerReport.  You can also go to WordPress.com and search for country or city you’re going to and read up and get lost in other people’s worlds.

These are generally things I do before every trip, if you have any other great suggestions  please share, I would love to add them to my bag of trips!  

First 50 Miler – Intro

Okay… I pulled the $60 trigger and signed up for TARC 50 miler in Weston, MA on June 14th at 7PM.  I ran part of the course before and as far as trails go, it is relatively easy and flatter than a lot of road races I’ve done.  Still I am crazy and not a second later I suddenly had psychosomatic pains in my hips and shins.  Goodbye weekends of being lazy, hello double runs.  Not sure what I’ll do when it snows as I am not brave enough to run 4 hours in snow.  I did most my marathon training on a treadmill, I wonder how a 50  miler will be on the TM.  Gosh I fell asleep just writing that!  Anyways, I’m all in and will start a category for “50 Miler Training” to track my research, plans, failures, and general whining and doubts that I will have.  Anyways, stay tuned for my plan and gear wish list for Christmakkah.

I entered a stupid contest

Anytime Fitness is running a photo contest where 10 runner ups get a free membership and the gym is a convenient two miles away from my house.  Yes in suburb terms, two miles is convenient.  Grand prize gets a free trip for two anywhere there is an Anytime Fitness location.     Anways, I’m not being too greedy I just want to win a free membership so if you have a second.  Go visit their facebook page and like my photo.  You can vote more than once and I think even more than once a day.  I will reward you with hugs and virtual hugs and cookies and virtual cookies.

 Anytime Fitness Photo Contest Link

Not gonna lie, I was totally just looking for an excuse to take another photo in my true skin.

Thanksgiving Weekend

For the first time in years I was not in a foreign country for Thanksgiving.  It felt a little weird eating turkey instead of rice and beans or tacos or who knows what other questionable meat other countries have.  Thanksgiving has always been a big week for me to take a vacation since I need to use less vacation days with the long weekend.  However, after traveling in October and going to Iceland/London later in December, it was time to stay put and do some housework and catch up on other things that I love besides travel.  I didn’t even travel to NYC to visit my parents.  Sorry mom and dad, love you both but all the traveling has been exhausting me.

Running

Watching the sunset on one of my runs along the Middlesex Fells as I race to get home before it became pitch dark.

This week has been a big running week for me. Over 55 miles!  I didn’t intend to surge from 30 miles back to 55 in one week but my body just felt like running with the weather and free time that I just listened to it.

Monday – 6.1 miles on TM

Tuesday – 7 miles on the TM

Wednesday – 4.75 miles on the TM doing intervals that killed my 5 mile race

Thursday – 5 miler turkey trot

Friday – 15 miles 2:02 8:08 pace.  I was starting to worry about my endurance after struggling on my turkey trot but I realize that I was just having an off day on Thursday.

Saturday – I started some circuit training at the Y (I have a post dedicating to mixed feelings about the Y later) and 5 easy miles on the mill

Sunday –  I was going to keep it easy at 7 miles or so but I felt so good I just wanted to keep running (instead of doing house chores like cleaning) for over 13.1 miles in 1:46 8:06 pace.

It’s good to know that when I restart my Boston Marathon training I will be at a good 13-15 mile base.   Part of me is still contemplating a March marathon but I think I will try my best to hold out. I want to work on my base and focus more on half marathons with only a few big races a year.  I run better on whim rather than a set schedule it seems.

Eating

It’s Thanksgiving weekend so of course there will be lots of eating.  For a while I sustained of my Friendsgiving leftovers.  However, come Thursday it was time for a second Thanksgiving with Tony’s family who live in MA vs. my family that lives in NYC.

Looks good had I stopped at one plate… if only it was that easy to stop at one plate.

And yes it is very important for me to try a slice of each and every pie.

One of Tony’s cousin’s brought a cake from Montilios and as you can see my little pie looks pretty pathetic in comparison to the rum cake.

On Friday night we made pizza, recipe for Homemade Spinach Pizza

After a jam packed session of lifting and building those muzzles at the Y, Lynn and I got some Vietnamese food on Saturday.  We split this stir-fry and then each ordered a large bowl of Pho at a joint in Chinatown.

P.S. When going to a Vietnamese place for Pho, do not order curry, as Tony learned.  I will spare everyone a photo but it was gross… looked like yellow mucus.

and as for the finale… well remember my friend?

How else does a gal drag a pumpkin home on a train haha.  Well it turned into this:

Roasted pumpkin medley some with paprika, some with cinnamon  some with just pepper and salt and all lightly drizzled in olive oil.

 

Did you have a long weekend?

How did you spent the rest of your Thanksgiving weekend?

Adventures in Spain – The rest of Seville – Plaza de España & Flamenco

In a very belated follow-up to my other two posts on Seville (day one & day two), I am wrapping up my final and third day (And a little bit of the hour before our morning train 4th day) in the beautiful relaxing Seville.  It was also the day Tony was to join me on my trip so of course I dragged him all around town of where I’ve been and what I still wanted to see.

I also finally gained a photographer who can take a straight photo.  No offense mom but you were not a great assistant in my quest for shameless self promotion.  Although considering I can’t keep my eyes open in the photo i guess I’m not doing myself any favors either.

Aside from taking him up the tower of the Cathedral we wandered the curving maze of streets while trying to avoid getting hit by taxis and cars that miraculously fit on the road.

We walked through a park that made me feel like Alice in wonderland.

After some more getting lost, we found the Plaza de España and perfected our self portrait taking skills.

Similarly to the Cathedral, I could have crawled all over the plaza taking photos from every corner!  Now if only I had some talent to express everything I saw… I guess I’ll keep practicing.

Not sure if you can see, but lined along the plaza were these bench areas representing every city in Spain.  I decided to take a nap in one of my favorites.

All the photographing and walking made us hungry.  Good part about having an extra person for dinner is that you get to try more tapas.  Unfortunately, I don’t know if I agreed with Tony’s tapas selection.

Iberian Ham

Scallop

Steak covered in too much oil.

Tony’s selection wasn’t bad per say but definitely not as great as mine.

Seafood salad

Breaded Whale!

Tuna steak with squid stuff and avocado sauce.  Clearly this dish was the winner of the meal.

My mom stayed boring with potatoes and sword fish instead of tapas.

And as we were eating, a group of conquistadors horsed by!

Now after dinner you have a few options since it’s most likely 10PM at least.  You could keep drinking and party it up, go to sleep because you’re jet-legged (Tony) or go see a flamenco show.  My mom and I picked the Flamenco show.

We went to La Carboneria, which is known for it’s free nightly shows starting at 10PM and a great vibe!  The drinks are reasonably cheap (around 2-3Euros) and the show that would cost you at least 15 Euro elsewhere is free.  I would recommend getting there early around 9:30 to get a better seat.

Now if you’re wondering what is Flemenco, it is not a misspelled pink bird as some would assume.  It is music, song, and dance from Andalusia, in southern Spain, that includes cante (singing), toque (guitar playing), baile (dance) and palmas (handclaps.)

My mom and I stayed for about 3 shows of it (30 minutes each).  The dancer had to change outfits after the second set.

I took a few videos as well that you can watch if you’re more curious.

Homemade Spinach Pizza

How to make an easy spinach pizza…

Pizza… how can you not love it?  Melted cheese. tomato sauce and fresh dough.  I won’t lie to you, the pizza you order down the street from your favorite joint is not exactly world’s most healthiest eat (even if you add vegetables to it).  However, the great part about homemade pizza is that you’re in control.  You get to decide how health or unhealthy you want to be.

It also looks very intimidating but is actually really easy to make.  It has to be if I’m able to do it, I’m not exactly Martha Stuart in the kitchen.  Here’s how Tony and I made this guy one lazy night.

Ingredients
1 Dough ball
1 Large can of crushed tomatoes
2 Cups of Spinach
Slices of fresh mozzarella
Shredded mozzarella cheese
Pepper, Oregano, Salt, Basil, Parsley

Directions

1. You could make your own dough but we’re lazy so we buy it from one of our better local pizza shops.  Spread it out on a pizza pan or a baking tray if that’s all you have.

2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. While you wait, start your pizza sauce by simmering a large can of crushed red tomatoes with your favorite herbs, pepper and salt.  We use lots of oregano with a touch of basil and parsley.

2. Once your oven is at 400, place the dough in the oven for 4 minutes at 400 degrees.  This will allow your dough to start cooking and prevent overcooking your toppings

3. Take out you dough from the oven and change the oven temp to 450.  Add your toppings, we used extra sauce (about 3/4ths of sauce we made), add slices of fresh mozzarella  add a little bit of shredded mozzarella  and spinach to taste.

4. Put back in the oven and cook for 10 minutes at 450 degrees.  And bam your pizza is all set and ready.

I went a little crazy with extra sauce but it was soo good.  And yes, wine is always acceptable with pizza.

What’s your favorite type of pizza?

2012 Salem Wild Turkey 5 Mile Run Race Recap

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tony and I woke up at 6:15 AM today to drive up to Salem to run the annual Wild Turkey 5 Mile Run.  Race fee was $22 that benefits the Boys and Girls club of greater Salem and first 1,250 registrants got a pretty slick long sleeve tech shirt.  I registered Tony and I 40 people too late to get one but I saw people run in them and I was slightly jealous.

We met my friend Dan at race start who grabbed our packets for us.  They had race day pick up starting at 7AM but I think you could get there at 7:30 and be fine if you can find a parking spot.  Race was suppose to start 8AM but started around 8:07.  No big deal except no one knew where the race start was until like 8:01AM.

I saw this pair dressed as butcher and turkey that made my day.  Other than that I think due to weather no one really dressed up…

The race was relatively flat with a few small bumps of up and down.  It was pretty good weather for running in light tights, about 43 degrees with mild winds.  The route had some nice little ocean view and I think we ran through a park.

I started strong around 6:20 pace which usually isn’t too wrecking for me in a 5 mile race. My approach in shorter races to go all out and by the time you feel like dying the race is over.  However, within two miles I felt dead… I know my endurance was down from my 3 week running break while I was in Spain but that shouldn’t effect my speed too much. Maybe it was because I was stupid and ran speedwork last night of about 4.75 miles at 7PM, not a large amount of miles for me but maybe I’ll use that as an excuse.

 DSC_0082
Photo source

I look in pain in that photo and I have to admit I am in pain.  That banana I ate 30 minute before was not tasting too well anymore.

Since I started running marathons (okay mostly half marathons), I haven’t been taking shorter distances seriously but when I checked the results after the race I found out I came in 4th in my age group.  I never won age group award (other than Malden 10K where only like 100 people run) and it would have been cool to win in a race that had 1,800 registered runners. I did run a 6:55 paced 10K just a month ago.  I know I sound spoiled complaining but this blog has always been about being honest even if the rest of the world things I’m crazy.  Luckily, disappointing results only motivate me to run another race and try harder.

Anyways here are the results …

 DSC_0228
Photo source

Total Time 35:33
Pace 7:07
Age Group Place – 4th in F25-29
Gender Place – ~14th, I tried to manually count so I could be wrong
Total Place – 98/1,609 who finished

My friend Dan ran 34:25 and Tony ran 39:46 and hasn’t ran since Newport Half (October 14)

And my friend Ryan ran a 46:51

and because running isn’t enough, Tony and I bagged 14 bags and a barrel of yardwaste and leaves.  Yup… that’s only a month worth!

And now I’m ready for some turkey sides and lots of pie… I’m bring mine that I ordered from CS!  Can’t wait to dig in.

 

How was your Thanksgiving?

Doing any Black Friday deals?