New Zealand Day 2: Rangitoto

Kia Ora!

I started my morning with a flat white, which is the favorite New Zealand coffee drink. It is espresso with a little bit of velvety, micofoamed milk. I'm a convert!

With my flat white in hand, Rory and I boarded the ferry to Rangitoto, an uninhabited volcanic island in the bay. Rangitoto was the last of 50 volcanos in the Auckland volcano field, but it hasn't been active in about 550 years.After a 25 minute ferry ride, we disembarked and started up the steepest, most direct route to the summit. It was very cool to hike through the lava fields. Rangitoto hasn't been active in many years, so we wondered why so many vegetation grew up in some places, but none in others.

We took a detour to the lava caves on our way up. They were very cool, but a little scary because it was pitch dark inside. We were trying to navigate using just Rory's phone as light, and there was both rough footing and a low ceiling!

The view from the summit was amazing. We could see the city and the entire gulf. I just couldn't stop taking pictures!

We walked all the way around the crater and then took the longer way down and stopped halfway for a picnic on the beach. I was hot from all the hiking, so I couldn't resist taking a long swim. The ocean was perfect!

In all we ended up covering more than 10 miles on Rangitoto, including a lot of hills, so we were very happy to get back on the ferry and enjoy the cool breeze on the way back. We are quite sunburned too, but we will certainly take that over 20 and snowy!

Auckland Day 1

Kia Ora (Hi!)

We have already fallen in love with New Zealand. After an early morning to get our flight from Boston to San Francisco and then an afternoon spent walking around San Fran, we were tired by the time we got on the plane. We had purchased the sky couch option: it ended up working out great for me (I could lay down completely) but not so great for Rory (who was way too tall). So I curled up in 2/3 of the space lying down and he sat up in the other 1/3 and we both managed to sleep for a lot of the flight. So we hit Auckland reasonably rested and ready for our first day. 

After very much needed showers and coffee we took a walk around the waterfront. Auckland is an isthmus, so it is surrounded on 3 sides by beautiful, teal ocean. There is a really nice path that runs for miles along the water, and we enjoyed getting some fresh air and stretching our legs. We stumbled upon an awesome little farmer's market. The produce looked so fresh and amazing! We decided to get our breakfast there. My smoothie was good, but Rory's mussel fritter with a fried egg on top was amazing!

We decided to do the hop on/ hop off bus for the day to help us get an overview of the city and learn our way around. We made the most of our tickets! We hopped off at Mission Bay and enjoyed a stunning view of the harbor and surrounding islands and got to put our feet in the ocean for the first time! Next stop was the Anglican Cathedral. It had beautiful stained  glass windows and the guide told me that they were designed by a Maori and incorporate Maori colors and symbols into the Christian bible stories. They seem to really respect their aborigine culture here and do a good job of both preserving it and incorporating it into the culture as a whole. Our favorite stop of the day was Mt. Eden, an old volcano. It was a steep hike to the top but so worth it. We had sweeping views of the city skyline and both the Pacific and Tasman. Next up was lunch- I had amazing Sashimi. The fish was so fresh! I guess all this ocean means really good seafood! 

There was a long line to get back on the bus so we decided to walk. Unfortunately, it was a lot longer than we expected. We were hot and tired by the time we got back to the hotel. Luckily a nice room and a swimming pool awaited us! After all that travel and then walking more than 9 miles today, we are ready to make it an early night tonight.

Here's a few shots I got with my phone today so I'd have something to show you how beautiful it is here. 

E Noho Ra

Marathon Training is done.

Our bags are packed (ish).

My nails are done in a fun honeymoon color.

We are ready for New Zealand!

"Wait," Sushi says. "You are going away without me? I want to come with you. Also, why is this snow so sticky?"

Dixie also seems a bit distraught.

Don't worry dogs (and friends and family)! We promise to update this blog as often as possible while we are gone. My race is March 7th at 7:30 am (which is 1:30 pm in EST in the US) so send some good thoughts my way!

E noho ra (Maori for Farewell)

New Zealand Training: The End!

Hi Friends!

I am starting to get really excited to New Zealand, well except for the prospect of driving there! I totally forgot they drive on the opposite side of the road. That combined with driving a much larger vehicle than I am used to that is also a manual is going to be a real challenge! Speaking of challenges, here's what I have been up these last 3 weeks.

Week 14 was the week we got about 3 feet of snow plus brutally cold temps, so I gave myself permission to not push the running and just try to get in a solid week of exercise over all.

Week 15 was my longest run of the training cycle. It was cold and snowy, but I felt pretty good. Hopefully just not having to wear 15 layers in the race will help me to feel lighter and run faster!

Week 16 was my first week of taper. I did one last double digit run and it was a real confidence booster. It was a sunny, warmer day and I felt great!

Here's a recap of all of my training:

Reflections on Training as Whole:

I was really consistent and stayed true to my plan's emphasis on mileage as whole, rather than just focusing on the long runs. I am not a high mileage runner- I am not built for it and I enjoy other activities too much, So having 16 weeks (with 2 exceptions) of 20-40 mile weeks makes me feel really confident, even though I only did a single 20 miler.

I am extra impressed with myself for staying so consistent giv en the weather. We have averaged 2-3 snow storms a week in January and February and today is the first day it is above freezing.

I only had one really bad long run, my 15.5 miler in week 10. I was really tired going into the run and the conditions were terrible. Since then, all of my long runs have been pretty solid (they are never easy), again a big confidence builder.

My formal speed work fell by the wayside once the track was covered in snow, but because of the snow I also spent a lot of time on the treadmill. My treadmill runs are always speed and interval workouts because I can't stand to plod along at one pace.

I am still undecided about how I feel about the split long runs. They are a nice change from a single long run, but kind of a pain logistically. Here is my post with more thoughts on this.

I have a total of 436 miles under my belt going into the race. That feels pretty darn good. But at the same time, I know I am not at all heat acclimated and I am heavier than I want to be. So my plan is to be conservative and just enjoy the race.

So provided I don't kill us trying to drive the campervan, I think I am ready to rock this race and cross off continent number 6!

Fitbit Charge HR

When my mother in law asked if I was interested in a Fitbit for Christmas, I was initially hesitant. I'd looked into fitness trackers, but it didn't seem like they offered anything that I couldn't get with my Garmin and a cheapo pedometer. But then, I saw that Fitbit was releasing the Fitbit Charge HR, with heart rate monitor, I totally changed my mind and said yes.

I've had my Charge HR for more than a month now, and overall I love it! It tracks the following:

Steps: I am very good about getting my exercise in, but I was surprised how sedentary I am the rest of the time. This has definitely encouraged me to move more in the rest of my life. The competition with my husband and friends really helps too. Do you have a Fitbit? Be my friend so we can challenge each other!

Heart Rate: I'd heard that the heart rate monitor wasn't super accurate, but I have been impressed. I've worn my heart rate strap that connects to my Garmin, and my husband checked it against the vital monitors in an ambulance at work, and it was right on in both cases. It is interesting to see that my perceived effort sometimes is completely off from what my heart rate tells me (in that some times I think I am working really hard, but my heart rate isn't that elevated). I've also noticed how food (namely sugar) and caffeine affect my HR more than I expected.

Distance: The distance at first was way under my Garmin distance, but once I updated my stride length it has been pretty close. I still use my Garmin for running because the display is much easier to read on the run.

Calories: I feel like this is the most accurate calorie count I've ever gotten because it is based on my height/weight, specific activity level, and heart rate.

Flights of Stairs: Kind of interesting, but not that useful. I did find myself running up and down the stairs during commercials the other night because I needed more steps and figured I might as well get some flights of stairs in too!

Active Minutes: I have been surprised at how many everyday activities count as "active," like vacuuming and walking the dog. These don't feel like an effort to me, but it is nice to know they are getting heart pumping.

Sleep: This has been the most enlightening feature for me. I thought I was great in the sleep department. However, I can see now that even though I am in bed for 8-9 hours, I am usually getting less than 7 hours of sleep! I am really restless (usually 20-30 times a night) and usually wake up at least 2-3 times. I need to work on my sleep hygiene to get better quality sleep!

Other Stuff of Note

Battery Life: I have to charge mine every 2-3 days. Using the exercise mode sucks up a lot of battery life because it is constantly monitoring hear rate, so I usually don't use exercise mode for my longest runs. Charging is quick and easy though, so no complaints about battery.

Sizing: This has been my biggest frustration. For some reason they make small, large, and XL, but no medium! When I measured my wrist I was at the very upper end of the small, lower end of the large, so I went with a large. I was having to use the second to last buckle hole in, so I had a lot of extra strap that made it feel to clunky and loose. My husband took the large and I ordered a small, only to have the opposite problem! I had to use the first or second buckle hole, with left me with a tiny nubbin of extra strap, causing the thing to fall off, especially at night. Plus, I couldn't get it high enough up on my arm to be comfortable with my Garmin. So now I've returned the small for a large. Fitbit, please make a medium!

App: The app is easy to use and bluetooth syncing makes it super easy. It also integrates with my FitnessPal which is super handy.

Other than the sizing, I am really satisfied with the Charge HR. Although I thought I led a pretty healthy life, it has definitely shown me some room for improvement and motivated me to make some changes.

*This is not a sponsored post. I purchased this product myself and am choosing to do this review because I like it and want to share my experience.**

Heat Wave

I got to run outside today! Hooray! And the temperature was in the double digits (barely, it was 11)! Plus there was no wind! So it felt pretty darn tropical. 

Based on the fact that 11 felt "warm," to me this morning, I am starting to worry about race temperatures. 

Let's compare the forecasts for Maine and New Zealand. It looks like we finally might get above freezing here on Sunday. 

While in New Zealand it won't get below 76.

My poor, white, vitamin D deficient skin can't wait to soak up some sun, That warmth is going to feel great when I am sitting on the beach, but I think it is going to be a major bummer during the marathon. I don't ever handle heat well and I am not even a little heat acclimated. 

All I can think of is my second marathon which I ran in Virginia Beach. I trained during the New England winter and then it was 85 on race day. I crashed hard at mile 16 and I spent the last 10 miles just trying to move forward as I threw-up and tried not to pass out.

My plan is to really hold back pace wise during the first half to avoid frying myself, start drinking my Nuun early and often, try to stay in the shade as much as possible, and throw water on my head at the rest stops. Hopefully that's enough!

Have you ever trained in the cold for a warm weather race? How did you deal with the heat?? Help me!

20 Miles Done, It's Taper Time Baby

While I did say the other day that that I have become more fond of the treadmill this winter, I am not fond enough to want to do a 20 miler on it. So when I woke up and found it already snowing (and a whopping 10 degrees) this morning, I was determined to head outside anyway. Besides, the rest of the week is going to be even colder and snowier.

I won't lie, the first few miles were miserable. My fingers and toes were painfully cold and I was constantly cursing the quickly moving traffic as I had to run in the road. I was trying to decide how much of my run I was going to force myself to do outside before I called my hubby to come rescue me and take me to the gym. I decided to do at least 14 so I wouldn't have to run more than an hour on the treadmill.

But around mile 8 I realized that I needed to modify my route. The side streets were still a slippery, snowy mess so I needed to stay on the main road. I headed myself out towards the end of Black Point. This was my favorite part of the run. There was hardly any traffic, the snow was falling softly around me, and the scenery was pretty spectacular. I was cold yes, but then I saw something that totally changed my perspective- surfers. For real, 3 people were out on this cold, snowy day surfing! At least I wasn't in the water!

When I turned around at Black Point, I was at 10 miles, by the time I made it back onto what I had planned as my original route, I was at 14. At that point, I figured I might as well just finish it out on the roads. I knew it would feel so much better if I was all done when I got home, than if I needed to go finish at the gym. And I did. It was a great feeling to walk back into the house knowing I had completed my last long run of this training cycle!

It constantly amazes me how I am able to just put my head down, keep my feet moving, and just finish these long runs given that I waste so much time and energy worrying about them beforehand and during the early stages of the run. Why do I still doubt myself? It is hard, yes. It's really hard. But I have proven to myself many times that I can do it.

So now it is taper time baby. To celebrate my wonderful husband gave me an early Valentine's gift- an edible arrangement! Seriously people, I have wanted one of these FOREVER. I think they are the coolest! I promptly opened up that sucker and did quite a number on it.

What are you training for right now? Do you look forward to the taper or dread it? Have you ever gotten an edible arrangement- what is your favorite fruit?

Learning to Love the Treadmill

It is no secret that I have never been a fan of the treadmill. The time just seems to go by soooooo slowly. However recently I've found myself choosing it more often and *gasp* almost enjoying it!

Of course these aren't exactly normal circumstances. We have gotten about 8 feet of snow in the past 14 days and it hasn't gotten above freezing. Running outside hasn't been a lot of run. There are so sidewalks, so I stuck sliding around the road, battling traffic. I am lucky if I keep moving forward.

So it feels pretty darn good to get on the treadmill, knowing I am safe, and get to actually run at a decent pace. I've learned a few treadmill tricks along the way. 

1. Find something good on TV. Distraction makes the time fly by. 
2. Do intervals where you are frequently changing your pace and/or elevation.
3. Find the treadmill where you are most comfortable. For me this is nearest to the fan, on the end of a row, and the treadmill that has separate controls for the TV and treadmill (otherwise I am always changing my speed instead of the channel!) 

Since I've been stuck doing multiple treadmill sessions a week, I've been trying to vary my workouts. This is one that focuses on longer intervals, helping to build endurance 

This one has shorter bursts of faster running which builds speed and torches tons of calories

Have you been forced to the treadmill by the weather? Or are you choosing alternate activities? What are your treadmill survival strategies?

Things that are always good

Yesterday I went for a long snowshoe with friends and after an active afternoon out in the cold, I was starving and majorly craving Thai. We headed to my favorite Thai place and I got my favorite pad thai. After my first bite I let out this huge satisfied sigh. It was just SO good.

It got me thinking about how you build some things up in your mind, but then when you actually have them, they aren't that good. And then there are those things that just never disappoint. Naturally that led to me making everyone else make a list of their favorite things that never disappoint.

POM's Crab Pad Thai. I mean pad thai is pretty much the best thing ever. Top it with tons of fresh Maine crab and you have made the best thing ever even better. Only twice in my life have I had the willpower not to eat the whole thing all at once.

Dairy Queen Turtle Pecan Mudslide Blizzard
I don't know what they do to those pecans, but they are the best nuts. Add in caramel, and hot fudge, and ice cream and I am a happy camper. Every time I try to branch out and try something I end up disappointed.

Heated Seats
My car is old and has a million miles but it totally redeems itself with heated seats. I seriously sometimes make up places to drive just so I can have a warm, toasty butt for a bit.

Scratch Bagels
Every weekend I try to convince myself I don't want a bagel because I don't want to deal with the crowd, but then I go anyway and I don't regret it. Crispy and sea-salty on the outside and light and chewy inside.

I love that feeling of getting all cozy and just letting myself melt into oblivion in a warm yoga studio after a challenging class. I truly feel reborn after.

What things never old to you? 

New Zealand Training Update Weeks 11-13

Hi Friends! I can't believe another 3 weeks have gone by and I am now in my final block of training. Here is what I've been up the past few weeks.


I am doing better about taking care of my body! I have taken rest days, done more core work, and made it to at least one yoga class a week.

I am so impressed with myself that I managed to get in all my scheduled runs and meet my total mileage during these weeks because the weather was terrible! We had a legit blizzard and several other serious storms so running outside has been very difficult, if not impossible.

That said, I am starting to burn out on the treadmill and am already done with the indoor track. So this week, which is an off week with no long run, I am cutting myself some slack and not worrying at all about mileage. I'll get to the gym or the pool and get in a couple runs, but I am not going to stress. I have the fitness. It is very safe to run outside right now and I don't want to get hurt!

I realized how important fueling is, and how well I have been fueling this cycle, when I totally skipped fuel on Sunday's 16 miler. I was dragging during those final 3 miles after the 10 mile race.

We are going to New Zealand so soon!! I am starting to worry about the temps during the race since they will be significantly higher than what I've been training in. It was 15 this morning and that felt tropical! I am afraid 80 is going to fry me.

What's up with you lately? Is the snow and cold messing with your plans?

Mid-Winter Classic 10 Miler

This was one of those mornings where I woke up thinking I was nuts. I was actually paying money in order to freeze my butt off. 

I signed up for the Mid-Winter Classic last fall, knowing that it would good to have a race as part of my marathon training. I did not imagine then that the race would be held on a bitterly cold day after several major snow storms. There was so much snow in fact that they almost cancelled the race. They were worried about safety on the roads and parking (since the giant snowbanks take up a good portion of the parking lots). In the end though, they decided that the race was on. 

I was equally glad and sad. I wasn't particularly looking forward to a slippery, hilly, freezing race, but on the other hand I knew that I needed to get the miles in and that it would be better with safety marshals, the company of other runners, and water-stops. 

My training called for a total of 16 miles for the day, so I needed to tack on an extra 6 to the race distance. I decided to knock 3 off early in the morning to get a feel for the conditions. Mostly the conditions were COLD. When I headed to the race I really bundled up. 

Bundling up included smearing Vaseline all over my face to prevent it from freezing. Yum.

The race starts at the Cape Elizabeth high school and is organized by the Maine Running Club. It is super close to my house and they had great parking marshals, so I was in the bathroom line less than 15 minutes after I left my house. After the bathroom, I hit up the local chiropractor who was offering pre-race stretching and massage. No line, so why not!

At the last minute I headed to the start. I waited in the huddle, trying to stay warm, and then we were off! The first 1/2 mile or so was really crowded but then it spread out nicely. 

I have to say they did an amazing job on the roads! They had salted and plowed a lot, plus being able to run out in the traffic lane made a huge difference. 

I had been really worried about the hills before the race. I bike a lot of these roads in the summer, and the hills kill me. But, surprisingly they didn't bother me much running. 

In fact the whole race felt so much better than I expected. The roads were clear, the hills were fine, there was great support, and I was HOT. Yes, HOT! The temp had warmed a whopping 15 degrees since my morning run, the sun was bright, and there was very little wind. I took off my mittens, my hat, and unzipped my jacket. Amazing how balmy 18 can feel!

I alternated between listening to my i-pod and chatting with other runners and the miles went really quickly, like more quickly than ever before in a race. I didn't push the pace too much, but I also didn't let myself totally slack. Soon, I was back at the high school and crossing the finish! My time was 1:32:55, or a 9:18 pace. I'm very happy with that.

First stop was the bathroom (there were none on the course because of the snow), and then I decided to just go knock off my last 3 miles. I knew that once I got home and showered and warm I wasn't going to get back out. It was fun actually to circle back on the course and encourage some of the runners behind me. 

Once I had my 16 done for the day I headed straight for the food. I hadn't brought any fuel with me for the race, so I was starving. I dug into a yogurt, some orange slices, and some pizza. Then, because there was no line again (!), I got a post-race massage before heading home. 

Now I remember why I sign up for races-It makes running in less than ideal conditions way more fun! Plus, free massages never hurt!

Did you run this weekend? How was the weather?


I turned 35 in June. It's an age that felt both momentous and ominous to me. I'm not just an adult, I'm an ADULT. I've never...