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Grüße aus Deutschland! (Greetings from Germany!)

L to R: Our flight from Dublin to Frankfurt; practicing my German;

L to R: On our flight from Dublin to Frankfurt; practicing my German at 38,000 feet; the main street in the town where M’s family lives; exploring the Johannesburg Castle in Aschaffenburg; and the cast of “Spring Awakening”…auf Deutsch.

We’ve been in Germany just ten days, but it feels like a lifetime…in a good way.  We left Ireland last Tuesday after a fantastic week, capped off with two active days in Dublin.  It was a short, productive flight to Frankfurt; M worked on the poetry book he’s co-editing, and I practiced my German (which needs a bit of practice).  Our flight landed nearly an hour late, but M’s uncle and cousin were waiting patiently for us just past customs.  We had initially planned to take the train, but after a long week of travel, we were grateful for their offer to pick us up.  We chatted all the way back to their house in a small town along the Main River south of the city of Aschaffenburg.

We stayed local the first few days, getting used to another time zone and catching up with M’s family.  We’ve traveled here each of the past two summers, but in prior years, our visits have been planned around M’s cousins’ weddings.  It’s a nice change of pace to be without a formal agenda on this trip. (more…)


My Road to Achill

My road...err, flight path...to Achill

My road…err, flight path…to Achill Island for next week’s marathon

I’ve only been running for three years, but I’ve noticed a recurring runner (R)/non-runner (NR) conversation that goes a little something like this:

R: I’m a runner.

NR: Have you run a marathon?

R: No

NR: (Nods. Loses interest. Changes subject.)

Completing a marathon is a rite of passage for a distance runner.  It confers a level of commitment to the sport, of accomplishment as an athlete, of membership in a special (albeit slightly crazy) group.  And while half-marathon is now the most popular distance to race in the United States, the marathon remains out of reach for many runners.  Perhaps because it is more difficult, more of a training commitment, more daunting a challenge…whatever the reason, taking on a marathon is a milestone in a running career, and for me, that milestone is right around the corner. (more…)


And We’re Back…

Caption

L to R: Off the grid in Moab (UT) and Jenny Lake (WY); two road-weary (and oxygen-deprived) travelers at 12,000 feet in the Rocky Mountains in CO; Sal’s tripometer as it neared 6,000 miles; and an evening journal session by the campfire in Yellowstone.

From where, you ask?  From a much-anticipated, 9,084-mile, state-bagging road trip from our home base in New Hampshire.  We headed west in mid-June, crossing the northern plains into the Canadian Rockies before starting a slow meander down the mountains all the way into New Mexico.  We completed the loop back east via the southern states, and by the end of the trip, we had traveled through 24 different states and 4 provinces.  We slept in 16 of them, and ran in 13.  And in the six weeks we were on the road, we posted here on WPG exactly six times.

Why just six times when I had early visions of blogging every day, of sharing our adventure as it unfolded (or at least shortly afterwards)?  I’ve given that question a bit of thought lately, and here’s what I’ve concluded. (more…)


An Exercise in Flexibility

L to R:

L to R: Entering Saskatchewan with a bug-splattered windshield; making a pre-run breakfast at our hostel by the river; and a stunning view of the Canadian plains from yesterday’s drive.

As we headed out for a run on the Meewasin Trail in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan this morning, the question “right or left?” immediately came up. The trail runs along the South Saskatchewan River by the hospital and the University of Saskatchewan. We had planned our stay at a small hostel-like inn near the river, knowing that we had a run scheduled for this morning and having researched the Meewasin Trail online.

Despite our research and pre-planning–the Google images of the trail and the online maps–we still had to choose a direction to run with limited information about which direction was “better.” That choice got me thinking about the concept of expectations and subsequently the need for flexibility. We could be surprised or disappointed, not necessarily because of the trail or run itself, but because of our own expectations. Had we expected a populated, well-marked trail and a sunny run, we would have been disappointed. The trail was paved and wide, but the grasses were tall, the route wasn’t always clear and it was raining. Also, since it was Tuesday morning, only a few other runners and cyclists were out on the trail.  (more…)


A New Year of New Endeavors

January Scenes (L to R): What we've been reading [physiology and poetry], Whiteboard madness, and new tools of the trade...tape measures, yoga mats, and dumbbells, oh my!

January Scenes (L to R): What we’ve been reading this month [physiology and poetry], whiteboard madness as we brainstorm business ideas, and tools of the new trade…tape measures, yoga mats, and dumbbells, oh my!

Hello, friends, and happy 2013!  We hope your year is off to a good start.  We’ve been a bit quiet here at WPG, and it’s mostly by design.  We’ve been hunkered down this month, reflecting on last year’s adventures and taking care of a few important tasks to get this year started off on the right foot.  Two of those tasks are ones we wrote about back in August, upon return from our road trip to check out graduate schools in the Midwest.  We shared the debate we’d been having about our future plans, specifically whether applying to graduate school or starting our own business made more sense for us.  We concluded, “When in doubt, do it all!” and set out to do just that. (more…)


When in Doubt, Do it All!

L to R: Contemplating our next move at Spirit Mound; downtown Vermillion heating up on a Friday night; logo of the USD Coyotes (or ‘Yotes, to you…); and the view of the Dakota Dome outside our just-off-campus motel window.

For the past several months we’ve been debating our next move.  Not where we will go tomorrow, rather where we will go in 2013 and beyond.  Once we finish our self-prescribed creative sabbatical, where will we go?  Who will we be?  How will we focus our time and energy (because we have a lot of energy…)?  Over the past month or so, we’ve effectively narrowed our search:  in addition to being happy and centered together, we’re either going back to school in search of creativity, community, higher-learning and adventure, or we’re starting our own business in an effort to help others find wellness and fitness while we make a living doing something we love.   There are many pros and cons to each of these, many risks and possible rewards. (more…)


Unpacked…but Not Settled

L to R (clockwise): Our living room at the mill; NH farmstand dinner; today’s delivery=tonight’s homework; and our first apartment rainbow (as seen from the bedroom window)!

So we’ve been in our new apartment for exactly two weeks, and we’ve been going a bit nuts.  In fact, we may have each lost our minds completely at one point or another.  But we’re slowly reclaiming them, and along the way, claiming this space—and this life—as our own.  We’ve unpacked, organized, purchased, assembled, recycled, and figured out exactly where everything will live here.  Our new apartment is less than half of the size of the house we sold in May, and it’s the perfect size…perhaps even a little too big, if I dare say that.  But it’s home.  It’s also a bit loud (an adjustment to communal living in an old building) and quite scenic (the river and myriad sea birds are right outside our windows).  We walk out our front door and cross the street to our favorite coffee shop and breakfast café.  We’ve returned to our favorite New Hampshire farmstands at peak season for zucchini and cabbage and peppers.  And although we last lived in this town just a few months ago (and for years before that), our time on the road has given us new perspective on things.  Our standard running routes, which we tirelessly and willingly logged hundreds of miles on from the old house, now seem like new roads we’ve never run before since we’re approaching them from a different direction.  We are having trouble finding a groove.  Last weekend, we ran in a 5K race here in town and both posted PR times (personal records, or the best time we’ve each run in a race of that distance).  And then today, I went out for a routine 4-miler, while M set out on his longest run to date, a (crazy hilly lousy) 17-miler.  But there were no PR’s today; we both came up a bit short on both speed and distance.  I think part of it was the weather—hot and humid and stormy–but part of it was also our mental state.  Neither of us is centered.  We’re off.  We are unpacked, but we are not settled.  We’re antsy.  We miss the road.  We’re not cut out for settling down.  Or so I think. And then things happen to make me wonder if I should take a deep breath and (ugh!) settle down for a while.  After we returned home from our runs and rehydrated and showered, it started to downpour, and my first mill rainbow appeared across the river.  And then we walked upstairs and across the bridge to a fantastic new restaurant in our complex where we ate local brie cheese and beet salad and a smoked cheddar and butternut squash panini that were perfectly paired with a few local beers on tap.  When we arrived back at our apartment, there was a package waiting by the front door: a new reflective running vest (so we each have one for the Reach The Beach NH relay event we just signed up for…) and a textbook we ordered online yesterday: Essentials of Personal Training, 2nd Edition.  We both recently started studying to become personal trainers, part of a career switch and grander plan still in the early stages of formation.  But even with that direction, we’re not settled.  We leave next week for another stint on the road, two weeks across Michigan and the Midwest, visiting friends and checking out graduate schools.  At this point, we are exploring our options.  We have no idea what we’ll be doing in a year, and we’re not in a rush to figure it out.  But we are on a mission, because if we don’t keep moving, we just might go insane.  –J


Apparently We’re Too Busy Living to Blog

L to R: Logging foot miles in Prague, logging train miles across Europe, and waiting patiently in our hotel room tonight, our last night of homeless wandering.

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


It’s a Marathon, not a Sprint

My training locations so far.  Week 1–Hiking the Whites.  Week 2–Running along the Atlantic.

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


Home is Where The Car Is

Clockwise from bottom left: Front porch swing, gravel road leading to house, local swimming hole, morning yoga, and afternoon storm clouds

After our week-long stay in Maine and a weekend stop in Portsmouth for our friends’ wedding, we’ve made our way to a friend’s house in the mountains of central Virginia.  In a happy scheduling coincidence, our friend (who travels frequently) happens to be at the house for the first week of our planned three-week stay.  It’s been nice catching up with him over shared meals and late night card games, and it will be nice to find a rhythm of our own once he’s on the road again.  We arrived late Sunday night and have spent the week becoming familiar with the area and our new temporary home.  The house is set back about a mile down a gravel road, with few neighbors to encounter and many acres of woods to explore.  Each morning, I’ve taken my coffee outside and listened to the land come alive from my perch on the wooden swing. We’ve napped in hammocks and walked along winding paths.  We’ve witnessed deer grazing in the front yard, turkey vultures and coyotes scavenging along the main road, and countless birds and butterflies and bats and other things with wings.  We’ve also managed to keep our fitness routine somewhat intact, with some creative adjustments.  When the weather’s been nice, we’ve brought our workouts to the back yard, and when it was raining, I set up my yoga mat on the covered front porch.  We’ve explored sections of the Blue Ridge Parkway and hiked to a remote waterfall swimming hole.  Today, we ventured to the next county in search of a safe running route and ended up finding a converted rail trail that was perfect for today’s training run.  (We’re running a 10K here in Virginia on Saturday, and it’s been a little tough keeping up our mileage on the road.)  We’re now back at the house, enjoying a quiet afternoon and watching storm clouds roll in from the west.  I think it’s going to be a good night to hunker down on the mountain. -J