Greetings from…New Hampshire! We last posted from Prague more than three weeks ago. So what have we been up to since then? Everything except blogging, it seems. We’ve continued to wander and travel, both internationally and domestically. We’ve attended weddings and birthday parties, dance recitals and backyard barbecues. We’ve hosted out-of-town relatives (a challenge when homeless…) and danced the night away at concerts in the city and to sounds by the sea.
All of that brings us to tonight, the last night of this month. It’s also our last night of voluntary homelessness and our last night on the road for a while. Tomorrow morning we will pick up the keys to our new apartment. Construction is complete, and the crew is putting the finishing touches on the newly renovated textile mill along the river that runs through our town. We will be the first ones to live in the space, and we’re looking forward to making it our own.
Several people have asked me, “Now that you’re not working, what do you do all day?” I used to try to explain how I spent my time, as if what I was doing outside of a corporate workplace had to be justified. I have realized over the past several months that there are so many things wrong with the question, and I rarely attempt to answer it anymore. But tonight, in reflecting on why we haven’t posted in weeks, I took stock of what I’ve been doing with my time this month, and by extension, my life. The answer is quite simple: I live…as fully and authentically as I can each day. I run, I hike, and I travel. I spend time with family and friends and strangers. I cook them dinner, babysit their kids, and help them move. I attempt to speak foreign languages and eat spicy foods and finish ice cream cones before they melt. I read books that make me laugh and watch movies that make me cry. I manage my finances, plan our meals, and research topics that interest me. I plot and scheme and daydream about my next gig. I take pictures, paint, write, and create. I eat and I drink and I breathe. I live deeply, sucking the marrow out of life. And since I’m wired to be analytical, I count things…
In the month of July alone, we logged nearly 5,000 miles by air, 1,000 miles by train, 2,300 miles on the road, and 200 miles on foot. We spent at least one night in 14 different cities across 3 countries and 4 different U.S. states. That brings our tally for the past three months of wandering to 26 cities in 3 countries and 10 states. We’ve spent nights in the homes of family and friends, in hotels and hostels, and at B&Bs and campgrounds. We’ve milked the hotel points we earned during years of business travel, and we’ve mastered the perks of our rewards credit cards and travel-related loyalty programs. The longest stretch in any one place was 13 nights at a friend’s house in Virginia. The shortest—a simple one-night stay—happened in many places…11 to be exact. Everywhere else fell somewhere in between.
After all that travel, beginning tomorrow night, we will again have a place to call our own. And we plan to spend at least a few nights there before we hit the road for our next adventure… -J
Since we’ve started our travel blog, a pattern has emerged with the timing of our posts: First, we hit the road, blogging three to five times per week about our trips. Then, after a few weeks on the road, we return to New England and go quiet for a while. Our silence is usually because our time in New England is filled with chores, errands, and visits with family and friends. It’s not all fun and games, though…someone has to wash my stinky running gear!
We followed this same pattern after returning from our last trip to Virginia and Tennessee. Now that we’ve been back in New England for a couple of weeks, it seemed about time to get back on the wagon and get some new posts published. Of course, we leave for Europe next week, which should make for much more interesting posts than picking up dry cleaning, going to the bank and organizing our gear in storage. Stay tuned!
For now, I wanted to put a little context around an activity that will color all of our upcoming travel for the next few months. Running! I know…I know…how is this different than any other trip? Well, it’s time for marathon training! It’s almost the end of Week 2 of my 18 week training plan for the Mount Desert Island (MDI) Marathon in Maine. The marathon is Sunday, October 14th, just a couple of days after my birthday, and we’ll be spending the weekend in Bar Harbor for the event.
The race is an important milestone for me, since it will be my first marathon since I started running in late 2009. In addition, it takes place in a location that is very important for J and me. We got married on Mount Desert Island in Northeast Harbor in 2011, and (as you may know from some of our prior posts) we returned to the area this year to celebrate our first anniversary. Not only is MDI beautiful, but it carries a huge amount of sentimental value.
Anyone who has run a long race or marathon before knows that you don’t just show up to compete. You have to train. And anyone who knows me knows that I like to train hard. It’s rare for a race to go by where I haven’t set and trained for an aggressive time goal (aggressive for me anyway), and the MDI marathon is no different. I’m pushing to finish the race in under 4 hours, with a target pace of 8:30 to 8:45 per mile. I’ve run faster than this in prior races, but never anything longer than a half marathon. Also, in addition to being voted the most scenic marathon in America and runner-up for best overall marathon, the MDI marathon is hilly. One blogger who ran the race reported his GPS watch showing 1,700 feet in elevation gain over the 26.2 miles and just as much in elevation loss.
I’m loosely following a Hal Higdon training plan. Higdon is a widely respected runner and author who has been helping runners succeed longer than I’ve been alive. I chose his Novice 2 plan, since it is a little more aggressive than Novice 1. I’ve not run a marathon before, so I stayed away from the intermediate training plans. In a nutshell, the plan increases your training mileage and the length of your longest weekly run week-over-week for 18 weeks leading into the race. There are some lower mileage weeks built into the plan for recovery after the longest of the training runs, and a taper period (period of rest and recovery) for the two to three weeks leading into the race. The plan also designates the pace of each run, with several runs being completed at the desired marathon race pace (“at pace”). The longest training run on the plan is 20 miles, and for me it will take place in late September about three weeks before race day.
So far, my adherence to the structure of the training plan has been less than perfect. I have gotten in all of my training, but it has required some substitutions and schedule changes due to travel and other activities. Here’s how Weeks 1 and 2 have gone so far, with the yellow representing what’s left this week:
I moved my long run up this week because we’re running a 5K race on Saturday (part of our goal of running a race per month in 2012). I also substituted some hikes for runs in Week 1 because we were in the White Mountains and the weather was fantastic. I was comfortable with these adjustments in the early weeks of the plan, since the mileage is in my comfort zone of 15 to 25 miles per week. As the plan continues, I need to buckle down. Given the demands of the plan, I don’t want to risk injury due to over-training . Also, since the plan is designed to provide enough rest leading into the longest run of the week and enough recovery after, it’s important that I stick to the prescribed schedule to avoid getting hurt or falling short on the important long training runs.
This will make for some scenic, interesting and challenging runs in upcoming Weeks 3 and 4, since I’ll be traveling in Germany and the Czech Republic! We will be visiting with family and friends for my cousin’s wedding before taking the train to Berlin, Leipzig, Dresden and Prague. I’m looking forward to seeing more of Europe, practicing my less-than-stellar German and, of course, logging some international marathon training miles! – M
“Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must undergo the fatigue of supporting it.”
– Thomas Paine
Freedom from a mortgage and a job might not be what Paine had in mind, but the spirit of his statement fits! First things first, we are sorry for our silence this week. Who would have thought that being home would be more hectic than being on the road?! We received an offer on our house the day we returned home from our trip, and we’ve spent the past week setting the wheels in motion to move into a much funkier and more economical river-view apartment that better suits our lifestyle. So we spent most of our time this week organizing and resolving the things within our control, and now we wait for the rest of the pieces to fall into place.
Unfortunately, we’re not very good at a waiting, even after a lifetime of practice. When you’re a kid, it’s waiting for your birthday or waiting for Christmas or waiting for your friend to come over. Then it’s waiting to get your license, waiting to go to college, waiting to graduate. Once you start working, it’s waiting for the weekend, waiting for vacation, waiting for the next job or promotion. Waiting can take over your life. This realization brings to mind the quote most often attributed to John Lennon (though said by others before him): “Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.”
There is some truth in that statement, but is it all just waiting? What about preparation and effort to ready oneself for what’s next? Is preparation the same as waiting? The answer, of course, is no. Preparation involves taking an active role in the future and showing initiative, while waiting implies a being passive while other things occur around you. We’ve arrived at this juncture in our lives through preparation. We’ve done our best—sometimes failing and sometimes succeeding—to control the things we could and to mitigate risk from circumstances outside of our control.
And now, we wait. Better yet, we wait and we live our lives! This is a time to be active. To put worries to the side and run races, write poems, visit friends and family, and enjoy each other’s company (and of course, update our blog!). And as we wait for items outside of our control to be resolved, we can take comfort in the fact that we have prepared the best we could.
We stumbled across the quote below from a great adventurer and wanted to share it as an encouraging piece of wisdom that sums up the impact of preparation and initiative:
“Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.”
– William Hutchinson Murray, The Scottish Himalayan Expedition (1951)
The anticipation is high, and the waiting is painful. These last two weeks are moving more slowly than any of the previous twelve months. We’re distracting ourselves by staying focused on trip preparations. We’ve sketched out the itinerary for our first two weeks on the road, and it’s shaping up to be a 50/50 split of camping nights and nights spent in other accommodations (like highway hotels or the homes of family and friends along the way). We have reservations for a few anchor nights, and we’ll play the rest by ear. I’m obsessively checking the 10-day forecasts for Key West (stunningly warm) and Gatlinburg (confusingly bipolar). We are planning to camp near Gatlinburg in the Great Smoky Mountains NP, and the overnight temps are still dancing in the 30s. I’ve started to work on a meal plan so that grocery shopping and food preparation and cooking gear all scream efficiency and economy. And given that writing will be a major component of this journey, we’ve created several new blog sites, including this one to track our travels. (In addition to this blog, we’ll each maintain our own individual blogs for topics ranging from food and fitness to poetry and photography. You can find links to them on the right side of this screen.) Each day brings us one step closer to the morning when we shift the car into drive and log our first mile. That moment cannot arrive soon enough. -J