On New Goals

I have come to realize over the past few weeks that training while traveling is difficult. Especially when you don’t have control over where you live, the ability to run alone or when your day is so packed that oftentimes it is dark before it is over. Of all the parts of this semester, the inability to sweat as much as I would like has been the most difficult thing to deal with.  Exercise just FEELS GOOD. And I feel so much better about myself when I do it.

I cannot wait to be home where I have access to my teammates, a safe place to run, a bike, a pool and just about anything else I could want.  That’s not to say that I am not enjoying myself immensely, but I am starting to realize that if I were to lead a nomadic life, I would need to make some changes.  Exercise is key to my happiness.  It isn’t so much my body that physically demands it, but my mind is in a much better place when I exercise.  My inability to exercise here isn’t entirely a structural problem.  I certainly do take some of the blame.  There were ways to do it, buses to take to parks, afternoons where I hose to explore. But it is difficult.

Ironically, the best place to run was in Langa, the township we stayed in while in Cape Town. I went running about 4 days per week with friends, followed by some good strength workouts. There was a beautiful new bike path that went over the highway and connected Langa with Athlone and led to a practice stadium used only during the World Cup. This bike path seemed only to be used by us; I saw about 5 bikes during my two weeks in Langa and apparently people don’t cross the bridge because Langa is black and Athlone is colored. But nonetheless, we were fine and it proved great to have a flat, non-cobblestones place to run for two weeks. And the kids seemed to enjoy it; every time we would pass a group, they would run alongside us until an adult told them to go home. And the adults often would shout words of encouragement to the four white kids running by.

Instead of wallowing in my inability to workout to my desired level and the effect being fed by host families has had, I decided to changer goals to something I can do. Inspired by Emily  @sweatonceaday, I decided to start the 100 pushup challenge. It only takes about 7 minutes, but the results should be noticeable. It is a 6 week challenge prescribed to be 3 days per week with the goal to be able to do 100 push ups in a row.

I am crossing my fingers that I live near a suitable place to run in Vietnam, but even if I don’t, I will be the pushup master. And I resolve to find a gym if I cannot run. I cannot go through the self-pity that comes with a lack of cardio.  This is an important life realization and something I need to remember to keep track of, particularly once I graduate.



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A New Kind of Run

Today marked my third run in Brazil, and my first time ever doing anything that resembled sprint work on my own two feet.  Unfortunately the neighborhood I am living in (and the city in general) is not very conducive to running.  Think hills, uneven sidewalks a city built for cars.  The “park” close to my house is on a very steep hill and contains some trees.  And 87 stairs just to get the 100 feet from one side to the other.

But alas, I am trying not to let these things deter me.  My first run in Brazil lasted all of 17 minutes, but was an exploration into what it meant to really run a hill (pictures to come).  I came home panting and sweating, and probably kind of scaring my host family (exercise isn’t too big in this city), but it felt good.  My second run was an adventure involving a subway ride, a market, lunch before you run (said the host host family), a car ride and a park.  It was glorious and something I hope to do again.  And I would love to follow up every run with a churrasceria (lots of yummy Brazilian meat).

Something strange has happened in my head and I have started feeling like I NEED to run.  Who ever would have thought this would happen? But it has, and after an overwhelming desire to run yesterday that I could not fulfill, I decided to take advantage of our DIY afternoon to sneak in a short run.  I explored the neighborhood a bit before finding a hill that was WAY to steep to run up and turned around.  And then I discovered the hill at the bottom of the park.  It was perfect! No crazy sidewalks, no people, no crazy angles.  All you could ever hope for in a hill sprints-hill.  And so that’s what I did.  10x hill sprints.  I have no idea how long the distance was, or how fast I was going, but I sweated and panted a bit and remembered how much I need to do that.  Sweat is fantastic!

I must have looked like the crazy foreigner running up and down this hill in an area with only a few pedestrians and certainly no runners! But I was going to take advantage of it still being light out when I got home (it must be something to do with the location of Sao Paulo within the time zone, but it gets dark at like 6pm!).

My goal for this semester is to get faster and run longer; these are generic goals, but it means that I can fit in runs when I can and where I can without worrying about anything too specific.  I have only been running regularly for about 5 weeks now, but I can already tell the difference.  I am able to run a little faster, and have been craving longer runs (for me, about 6 miles).  I can sprint and hold it for longer, and I want to try racing at some point.  Megan and I have talked about running a half-marathon when we get back to Boston, and this is definitely on my goal list.

I promise to post pictures at some point in the near future, but unfortunately I don’t actually have many of Sao Paulo.  I have to figure out when it is okay to pull out my giant camera, and when I should just observe.  But be on the lookout because they will come nonetheless.

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Home at Last

1,134 miles later, I have made it home.  Summer is coming to an end much faster than I ever could have anticipated, but looking back, it was a great summer.  My internship was phenomenal, even if I will not end up working at the company.  I am grateful to have had the opportunity.







Now to step off the soapbox.  I went for a run this morning to shake out a little bit from almost three days of driving.  I am really starting to enjoy running, something I never thought I would say.  I’m still slow, but I’m okay with that.  I noticed that today must have been the first day of school.  All the parents were out with their kids on the path, lugging Target bags filled with notebooks, writing supplies and other school necessities.

In other running news, I got new running shoes!  I’ve worn out my old pair between some running, but also the hiking and cross-fit I used them for this summer (not necessarily a good idea…) but I was ready to give this new minimalist thing a shot.

I’ve always had knee problems, and was told that due to my super flat feet and way over-pronation, I need motion control shoes.  Well, I tried those and HATED them.  They were too stiff, and I felt like the shoe was controlling me.  I tried stability shoes, which weren’t too bad, but I’ve noticed recently how much the shoe controls how I run.  After reading about how barefoot/minimalist running has helped people improve injury through building strength, experimenting with running barefoot and attending a few different running clinics, I decided that I liked the idea of running on the mid-foot/fore-foot and felt that my shoes were inhibiting that.  I still feel like I am being controlled by the shoe, and haven’t felt that the stability shoes have helped my knees.  I am excited to try out my new shoes (and I know, slowly transition into them; we’ll see how that goes with a week before I leave). [UPDATE: I ended up exchanging them for something less minimalist, but headed that direction… Not enough time to transition unfortunately).


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I’m Leaving On a Jet Plane

Cliche title aside, I am all set to leave Bend today.  The car is packed and parked out front, and I’m finishing up my last day of work.  I can’t say I’m necessarily excited to sit in a car for the next 2.5 days, but I am pretty excited to be home for a few days.  And the drive came at a good time.  My calves and ankles are pretty sore from the past two days of running, and I probably should give them a rest.  I think that those hikes and cross fit workouts I ended up doing in my running shoes probably tore them down pretty quick.  I guess it’s time to buy some new shoes…


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Taking in Bend

I think I’m really starting to get the hang of this running thing.  For pretty much my whole life, running has been the bane of my existence.  It was hard, it wasn’t fun, and I was slow.  Well, I’m still pretty slow, but I’m starting to actually enjoy running.  And it helps when you run in places that look like this:

I’ve been trying to get out and run more the past few days.  Part of it is that I want to enjoy the environs of Bend before I leave tomorrow (eek!), but also I know that running will be my main form of cardio over the next few months, and I want to make sure I am ready.  Yesterday was a wonderful day because I ran the farthest I have ever run! (well, disregarding the run/walk attempt I made at the Bolder Boulder 10k four years ago).  It was only 4 miles, but it was four miles I ran and didn’t hate.  I stopped a few times to take pictures, but never walked, even up the hills on the trail.

I hit the path again this afternoon for a solid 3.2 miles (a 5k, anyone?).  It was hot because the part of the path I was on has absolutely no shade, but it does run along the river on both sides.  I’ve found that it is nice to run after work from the office because I can get right to the river, rather than through boring neighborhoods (if only I had discovered this earlier).  My run today brings me up to 10 miles for the week (Sunday was a 2.8 mile run to the farmer’s market with a light rail ride back– a perfect way to do it), plus an 8 mile bike ride.

I’m headed home tomorrow after work.  It’s a long drive (~1000 miles), and I’m sure it won’t be very exciting, but it’ll be nice to be home, and to have more time to stress about everything that needs to get done!  My to-do list is very long, needless to say.

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The Prodigal Blog Post

I chastised someone else for not having blogged yesterday, so I figure that I should probably take some time to catch up on my own blogging.

The past few weeks have been a little crazy with travelling (kind of for work!).  I did one week in Baltimore, one week in Bend (with some hefty weekend trips thrown in), one week in Portland; now I’m back in Bend for a week before heading off to Colorado for a week and then to Detroit!

There have been a lot of goings-on in the past couple of weeks, the least of which is work, or so it seems.  I may still be working 40 hours a week, but the actual amount of work I get done has been somewhat minimal due to meetings, tech sessions, tours and other various events.  But I’m going to tough it out for this last week and wrap up the projects I’m working on.

More interestingly, I did a bit of exploring last weekend, visiting the deepest lake in the United States, which apparently holds five trillion gallons of water.  I wonder how long that could tide us over?  Crater Lake is an incredibly beautiful place, which I butchered a bit with my very limited photography skills, but I highly recommend that anyone who happens to find themselves in the middle of Central Oregon take a day and explore.

Amy and Adrienne, Portland-based interns with the company I work for, took a bus down to come experience Bend for the weekend, and one of the things on their list was to visit Crater Lake.  It’s not a place I would have gone by myself, so I took them up on the offer.  The ring road around the beautiful blue lake only opened two weeks ago, so we got to fulfill one of Amy’s wishes: see snow.  I guess when you are from Central Florida, snow still really holds its appeal.  The snow resulted in some snowballs and a snowman lovingly named Atticus.  Sadly, we probably doomed him to a short and painful life due to the sun that was pounding down that day.

The Park Service has some hikes listed in their newspaper guide to the park, but most are of the 1-mile flat variety.  We decided to take on the two moderate hikes that were open in the guide, one which involved lots of climbing, and one which involved lots of descending.  Both were certainly worth it, but the latter hike down to the water was incredible.  Since there isn’t any boating allowed on the lake (other than the four daily tours run by the park service) the water is incredibly clean, and magnificently blue.  And rather cold.  We went for a little swim, some of us more than others, but that was just part of the experience.

Sunday consisted of a lazy float down the Deschutes River (if you ever wondered why the tube rides at waterparks are called lazy river, the inspiration must come from this river), with some apparently not allowed beverages and a giant 6-person raft.  A perfect way to spend a lazy morning.

Something I did last week which may have been a bit over the top was driving over 500 miles.  I know I can’t complain or really say anything because my weekend plans consist of driving over 1000 miles, but it was still a lot.  I think I started to go a bit crazy on the way back from Portland.  But the good part was that I got to go to Portland.

Although my time in Portland consisted mainly of work, I did have some time to enjoy the finer side of life (mostly I got to eat good food, from the plethora of food carts that exist in the Portland area).  Which were my favorite?

Real Czech food?? Yes, please!

Homemade gnocchi?  Don’t mind if I do.

I also went the first art museum that hasn’t bored me to death in while, a very long time.  Why do you ask?  There were lots of cars!  And interesting sculptures, but I’ll just give a taste of the beauty of the automobile.

Unfortunately a week full of working, eating and art museums left not much time for being active.  Something about these desk jobs…. I did go out and hike up the 11 switchbacks to the top of Multnomah Falls, went to the gym one morning, and ran to the farmer’s market on Saturday, but let’s just say that during the week exercise kind of fell by the wayside.  This unfortunately cannot be a recurring theme, particularly during my upcoming semester.  Luckily I am starting to enjoy running more than I ever have, and am pretty excited to make it a recurring part of my routine.

Question: How do you stay active while in new places?  When you travel for work, how do you make sure that you still have time for exercise?

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The To-do List (and some Baltimore pics)

I made a to-do list the other day, most of which was work related, but I realized after I made it that the 4th item down was “Think about life”.  This is a rather big bullet point, and hopefully one I can’t just cross of my list, but the past couple of weeks, and especially my week in Baltimore, made me rethink some of the plans I had.  It made me realize how many options I have and how many different paths there are, and that maybe it would be a good idea to explore some of these paths before going to grad school.  I realized that I am pretty interested in policy, in think tanks and in strategy, but that I couldn’t exactly tell you in what.  I realized that to go to grad school, I should have some more direction in life, and a better idea of what I want to pursue.  I shouldn’t specialize in something I’m not passionate about.  I think transportation is what I want to do long term, in some capacity at least, but I also want to figure out how I can go about this urban development planning thing.  I want to live and work abroad, and I should take advantage of any opportunities I have.  I have some amazing opportunities through MIT, and I may as well do it when I’m young, and later on in life too.  Hopefully it will help me decide what I want to do later in life, or point me in the right direction.  For now, I’m going to continue pursuing the year in the UK stuff, but I have to see what I think about going American graduate school right afterwards.

Anyway, that’s enough life planning.  In other news, I’ve gone running twice in the past three days, and have maybe kind of enjoyed it!  The first day was VERY slow, like 12 minute mile slow, and I only went 2.3 miles.  But this morning I just ran, and didn’t fret about it, and it was pretty enjoyable.  And I ran faster!  My pace today was 10:53 min/mile, which is a minute faster than Tuesday!  It was very exciting, and I went further. Well, only 2.75 miles, but still it was farther.  I’m going again tomorrow, and am just going to go.  I’ve realized that Bend really isn’t very big, so it’s hard to judge how far I’m going because things seem further away but in reality really aren’t.  I should probably work up to at least 3.5 miles, seeing as that is the running distance in the triathlon I am looking at doing.

That’s some other news.  I am planning on doing a triathlon when I am home in August.  It is only a sprint triathlon (500 yard swim, 10 mile bike, 3.5 mile run), and I haven’t really trained or anything more than some running and biking, but I’m excited to try out a new sport.  Long term I think I could get into triathlons.  I like changing up my work out routine, and I really enjoy biking and swimming.  And lately running hasn’t been too terrible either.  My background is in swimming, and definitely not the other two.  Biking is a lot of fun, and I don’t think should be too difficult once I get some more practice, but running is really my weakest point.  But that is just something I have to work on.  Keep an ear out for more updates.

And finally a short recap of my week in Baltimore.  Basically, it was a lot of fun.  After a summer of not having much of a social life, it was great to have a built in group of friends, all of whom were pretty cool.  As a group we got on really well, and aside from some slight differences in eating preferences (real food vs. fast food), it was great.  And of course, it was a work trip, so we did lots of work too.  And met the US Secretary of Transportation, among others.  But here is a recap in pictures of some of what we did.

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