Friday, December 12, 2014

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year......(is the song stuck in your head?)

I started writing this blog on November 30, to kick off the month of December. And here we are, halfway through the month! I sometimes get frustrated by how fast this month goes! Christmas is just such a fun time with all the parties, snail mail from you friends, and glimmering lights. I try so hard to savor every single day, and then it's gone like the blink of the eye!

I understand the holiday season is a source of stress and sadness for many. And that becomes very eye-opening for me, especially in my career.

Taking out the sadness attached to this time of year is often out of one's control. But I really do wish people would take the stress out of the season. Looking back on the seasons' past, people don't remember how pretty your Christmas card was, how many varieties of cookies were baked, how nicely the gifts were wrapped, or the presents. The memories are what truly stick. (I know I'm getting kind of sappy....) My fondest memories of Christmas include:
  • The year where we made this shrimp scampi dish with an obscene amount of garlic in it. I'll never forget our giant family (10 of us) scooting into the church at Christmas Eve mass smelling like one big roasted garlic clove.
  • Christmas celebrations with my Dad's side of the family, sitting around the large table snacking on flatbread my Grandma made, playing Trivial Pursuit and Balderdash (staples in family gatherings). Those are some of my last memories of my Grandpa.
  • As a teenager, putting on a snowmobile suit, and helping my Mom and Dad hang Christmas lights in -10 degree winter days. We'd nearly freeze our fingers off, but it was fun!
  • 5 years ago when Ryan and I went home for Christmas (last time we went home for the holiday), smirking all the way through security as we wore the dorkiest Christmas sweaters we could find at Goodwill.
  • Another memory from 5 years ago, was getting to see my Mom and Dad renew their wedding vows to celebrate their 40th anniversary on December 20.
  • Many-a-Black-Friday's since Ryan and I have been dating, where we wake up 3 am, get the most caffeine possible, and hit the insanity of shopping. Crazy. But fun.
  • My 1st Christmas away from home, trying to my make Grandma Valeria's "easy fudge" - I had not yet been educated on the "soft ball, hard ball phase" in candy making. Let's just say our little apartment at the time smelled like burnt chocolate for days.....
  • My 1st Christmas away from home period. It was very hard and I remember sobbing like a fool. Moments like that make you appreciate the time you get with your loved ones!
I could go on and on about all the memories of this magical season. When you really sit down and reflect on your favorite memories, I bet they have nothing to do with how pretty the presents were wrapped or what materials were in those presents! It was about the laughter, joy, or maybe even tears.

What are some of your most fond holiday memories?

Friday, November 28, 2014

Four Things

Happy Thanksgiving weekend, American friends! I pray that most of you are spending a weekend among family. Mine is not so much that way. It's spent working kind of long days - but I'm not asking for a pity party. I entered a field that never shuts down. So my mantra this weekend is, "Suck it up buttercup". Although, it pained me to drive into work this morning when I really wanted to be shopping at the Express jeans sale.....and putting up my Christmas tree.

I will have Cyber Monday, however.

Oh, America and our shopping. Talk about a 1st world problem. Did I just try and complain that I couldn't spend a stupid amount of cash on clothes on the day I wanted to?...

Er.... Let's move on.

I found this little meme, and thought it was fun. You are welcome to join. Or maybe answer a few questions. Here it goes!

Four names that people call me other than my real name: 1. A variety of names around "Abs". Some family calls me "Abster". My brother Kevin calls me "Aborigine". One of the docs I work with calls me "6-Pack-Abs".  2. Nasty - that came when I married. My last name is Nastase. Which kind of looks like "nasty"  3. "Lil Ninja". My group of girlfriends refer to me as the ninja. I kind of have ninja like kicks and run like a gazelle.... 4. Ryan mostly refers to me as "Babe". Unless I've done something wrong like started a fire on the BBQ or taken the keys to both vehicles to work.   Four jobs I’ve had: 1. Traveling ER Nurse 2.  Waitress 3.  Hotel house-keeper (that lasted a whole week) 4. Bank Teller (That was my favorite job.....)   Four movies I’ve watched more than once: 1.  When Harry Met Sally - that movie never gets old. 2.  Four Christmases. Ryan and I watch that yearly. 3.  Cool Hand Luke. Classic and fantastic. 4.  Mr.  Holland's Opus. Probably my favorite movie ever. Four books I’d recommend: 1.  Still Alice 2.  Gone Girl 3.  Orphan Train 4.  The Sunflower  Four places I’ve lived: 1. Tucson, AZ2. San Antonio, TX 3. Maple Grove, MN (for 1 summer) 4. Wyndmere, ND  Four places I’ve visited: 1. Cancun, MX 2. Vail, CO 3. San Francisco, CA 4. Washington DC(I need to get out of the US more....) Four things I prefer not to eat: 1. Bacon  (I have texture issues) 2. Donuts (I don't like the taste...but love the smell. Espeically when I run past the bakery in the mornings)3. Hot Dogs (they are just wrong) 4. Twinkie. Never had one. Never will.  Four of my favorite foods: 1.  Sushi (especially Spicy Tuna) 2.  My Mom's apple crisp 3.  Neapolitan Pizza (Margherita) 4. Beets  Four TV shows I watch 1.  New Girl  2.  Mindy Project 3.  Fargo (I pray there will be a 2nd season....) 4.  SNL Four things I’m looking forward to this year: 1.  Christmas with my family  2.  Our backpacking trip in Kawaii 3.  Ragnar AZ in Februrary 4.  Ryan being officially done with all his pilot training and back to "normal life" (kind of) Four things I’m always saying: 1. "Unbelievable" (I find myself saying this a lot lately....in awe and in sarcasm) 2.  "I'm all in!" (I seem to sign up for crazy things a lot....)  3.  "It's mind over matter" (that seems to be my advice for everything) 4.   I love you (I tell this to the people I love and frequently!)

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Thankful

I simply cannot be a "blogger", and not write some form a "thankfulness post". But I fear that this may turn into a novel. Or an Odyssey-like poem. I will try to keep it simple. Bare with me, my friends.

Every single day I am reminded with how blessed and lucky I am. Maybe it's because I work in a career where every day I'm talking to people who are dealing with bad news, and it  gives me an overwhelming sense of grace. But lately I have really honed in on listening to my patients, and trying to be a shoulder to lean on.

Being that shoulder to lean on, and focusing more on really listening instead stressing about all the work that needs to be done has really made me take a step back and count my blessings.

So here are a few of the things in which I am grateful for:

  1. Every single day, I have a home to return to. Let's start with the obvious. It has a roof. During the 100+ dog days of summer, I have the ability to crank that AC to as cold as I want it. When winter comes, I have heat. Our home has unlimited resources. I can shower and wash clothes whenever I please. I can trust the water that comes out of our faucets. These are blessings that are easy to take for granted.
  2. Every single day, I return to a home of peace. My home is a sanctuary for me. I have safety around me. I have a husband who loves and respects me. If I need to vent, he listens. If I need advice, he offers. If I need to cry, he consoles. There is no drama. There is no unrest.
  3. If I ever am in need of a simple hug, I have numerous people that will give that to me. I remember once listening to a priest from the middle-east speak of a mission in India which houses those with AIDS and mental illness. He told me a story about how when you would hug these people, it was hard to get them to let go. For it was probably the 1st human contact they've experienced in years. Can you imagine a world of such loneliness? In my life, I have so many friends and family who are always willing to extend their loving arms out to me. What a luxury.
  4. I have a job that is steady, and that I never have to worry about going away. I have never had to worry about being laid off or losing my job. I work for a company that makes me proud. My colleagues and I support each other. I learn something new every day.
  5. A freedom that I often overlook. I can walk out my door, dress how I please, drive where I want, buy what I choose, and have the freedom to speak my opinion. There are countries in our world, where a lot of those freedoms would never exist. Especially as a women.
  6. No matter where I go, and what happens in life - there is a constant that is always present. And that is my family. My Mom, Dad, husband, and siblings have always been there to love me and support me no matter what phase I went through in life. And also, my nieces and nephews provide me with so much joy.
Sometimes I get a little blue on holidays that aren't spent buttering lefse in my Mom's kitchen or helping her brine the turkey. It is easy to focus on what I'm missing. So over the years, I really try to focus on how truly lucky I am.

What's on your mind this holiday season?

Monday, November 24, 2014

Weekend Recap

We had the perfect balance going this weekend between fun, productive, and relaxing. Sometime that is rather challenging. But I think we had it down!


Here's our weekend in bullet-point style:

  • Went for a nice solo run Friday morning. Almost all of my runs these days are with friends. This is awesome, but for most of my life I've always ran alone. So I value my solo runs done at my own pace with my own thoughts.
  • That night we went to a Ragnar "wrap up party" with 3 other couples. It was such a fun evening. Definitely came home that night with "sore cheeks" from all the laughter!!
  • Saturday morning I shared a pot of coffee with Ryan, and went to the gym to lift weights. Mornings like that make me really appreciate being done training for my 70.3. From June-October, my Saturday mornings would be spent waking up at 4:15 am and doing a 3+ hour brick workout!
  • After the gym, we got coffee and met a few friends to watch the "El Tour de Tucson" - which is one of the biggest cycling races in America. We are very lucky that it goes right by our house. Fun to watch the thousands of athletes! It was fun to see several of our friends/coworkers! Weather was perfect! (we are SO doing it next year!!!)
  • Saturday night we had a date night. We went to the I-max theater and saw "Interstellar" and went out for Neapolitan pizza.
  • Sunday morning I met a girlfriend for a hilly 8 mile run.
  • I made quite the spread of breakfast burritos and Ryan and I went to church together.
  • The rest of the day was spent cleaning and relaxing, since Ryan had to go back on night shift Sunday.
  • Sunday night I made a new recipe, which I will share! Cheesy Chicken & Broccoli.
I saw a casserole recipe for this, but wasn't feeling like firing up my oven. So came up with my own recipe! It was all organic, too! (which I always shied away from recipes like this, because they always seemed "unhealthy")



  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 cup organic brown rice
  • 1 cup broccoli florets
  • 1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1 1/2 cups almond milk
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt (I used Fage)
  • 1/4 white onion, sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • salt & pepper to taste
  1. In a skillet, cook the brown rice per package directions.
  2. In a separate skillet, heat 1 Tbsp olive oil and garlic in pan. Add in the chicken breasts. Season with salt & pepper. Cook on medium low. When the chicken is almost done, add in the onions and mushrooms.
  3.  When rice is done, add in the broccoli. Allow this to steam.
  4. In measuring cup, whisk together almond milk, yogurt, and cheese. Pour into the rice mixture. Stir until combined and cheese is melted.
  5. Cut chicken into chunks, and add into the rice.
  6. Cook for about 2 minutes until blended.
  7. If desired, sprinkle extra cheese on top and allow to melt.
This was ultimate comfort food! Makes excellent left-overs!


Check out these cute "Mexican Tarts" I made for Friday's party! I cut circles from tortilla shells, filled them with pureed beans and salsa, and topped with cheese, olives, and sour cream. Baked in muffin tins @ 425 for 10 minutes. They were adorably delicious!!


 
 

What were your weekend highlights? What have you been cooking lately?

Thursday, November 20, 2014

A day at the market

Tucson has been trying to increase the Farmers' Markets scene. And this is something I support 100%! We have great farmers doing great things, and this should be celebrated. I think my appreciation is heightened, as I have had many-a-failures on "Tucson Gardens".

Stay tuned, however. I have been picking brains of every single gardener I meet, and I am heart-set on growing a tomato garden this year! Seed planting begins in January! (indoors)

Ryan and I have a great love for food, and good food. So after church on Sunday, we decided to check out a festival in town that celebrates local farmers, food, and entertainers: Viva la Local Tucson.

We had so much fun, and will definitely start attending this bi-annual festival!!

The 1st section of the festival is the farmers market portion. This had local farmers/vendors selling their produce, olive oil, teas, ranchers selling their meat, local bee-growers with their honey, tamales, and the list goes on.

We go to the local farmers market a few times a month, so didn't spend a lot of time at this (since we are quite familiar with the vendors). But we did stop at our favorite stand to get some heirloom tomatoes. Always a delight.

The farmer always jokes that his tomatoes are a fertility agent, just because they taste that good. He makes me laugh. I will say they are pretty dang good. We got some heirloom tomatoes, some local home-mode mozzarella. (For dinner Sunday night I made fresh & local caprese salad and butternut squash soup!)

We ate a light breakfast to get an appetite for lunch, because we knew there would be some good food. And indeed there was!

We decided to share 2 things. So we got a pulled pork sandwich, and split it. That came from Rod's KC BBQ. This is a well known BBQ company in Tucson that has been open for years. The pork was melt-in-your-mouth good.

Then we made a stop at "Mexico In Season" for tamales. We got 2 small tamales. 1 was a green chile and cheese. And the other was a pork and red sauce. We both decided the pork one was better.

I've decided I'm not a huge tamale fan. But it's such a big thing in Tucson this time of year! We couldn't pass it up.

We passed on the local beer & wine stands, since we decided to save our money for produce and food. But it all looked awesome.

Our lunch was enjoyed on the grass as we enjoyed the sounds of a local band called Reno del Mar. They were awesome! It was a trio of violin & guitar playing jazz, latin, and western swing. I definitely want to get their album!! It was so relaxing.

It was also entertaining watching some of the "baby boomers" (aka Tucson hippies) dance to it. (I think some of them went to Woodstock at a different time of their life. But that's just a guess). In fact, at one point the violinist said, "As I look out on the crowd, I'd call this a family friendly style Woodstock!"

Check them out!! They are awesome:
(this is them performing at one of our favorite places by the university)


 
Here is my plate of deliciousness. 
 
And here we are enjoying the beautiful afternoon! It was a perfect 73 degrees out that day. Thank God fall was arrived at last!!


 
It was a wonderful day, and made me appreciate where we live. Which is refreshing, since our hot summer makes that very difficult!!


Monday, November 17, 2014

Fall Party

Finally, the temperatures in the Sonoran Desert have dropped below 90 degrees Fahrenheit!

Excuse me while I break into a fit of dance and attempts at cartwheels. (I never figured out how to do a cartwheel)

My girlfriends Michelle, Heather, and I decided to co-host a fall-themed party. We co-hosted the "White Party" right before Labor day, and loved entertaining together so much - that we decided to do it again. All 3 of us love parties, love cooking, and we just work together so well.

Menu theme: Chili bar. Heather made a traditional chili with ground beef and beans. Michelle made a chili with beef tenderloin. And Ryan and I made a Green Pork Chili with tomatillo and roasted chiles. (I have to give Ryan credit since we came up with the recipe together)

We had a bar of various "chili toppings" (chives, black olives, cheese, tomatoes)

For the desert we had s'mores. There was a bon fire, and Michelle made miniature mason jars filled with s'more fixings (grahams, chocolate bar, marshmallows, and oreo cookies). It was adorable. But I was having too much fun to remember to take a picture!!

For libations, I made a Bourbon Apple Cider and a Cranberry Vodka Punch. Delicious.

And our friends brought a variety of comfort foods such as queso dip, crock pot apple crisp, butternut squash pudding, sweet potato cheese cake, jalapeno popper dip, Ina Garten's cornbread.....There is never a lack of abundance of food & drink at parties with our friends!

This was such a fun gathering before the holiday craziness begins.

My face still hurts from all the laughter.

Here are a few photos we got of the night:



 Serrano Cheddar Cornbread Muffins I made. They were the perfect combo of sweet (from the honey) and spicy (from the serranos). And the cheddar cheese made them chewy and delicious!

Over the years, we have become rather fond of hosting parties. And I have found the best party is one where the food can be pre-made. We had the chili slow-cooking by 1pm. That way 2 hours before your guests are to arrive, you can sit on your patio with a book...:)

This was a shot taken of the girls at the end of the night, before we sat down for a feisty "match" of Cards Against Humanity. The guys weren't as thrilled about taking group photos.

But we did sneak one of these 2.  :)

 
Me with my lovely co-hosts Michelle and Heather. We absolutely did NOT plan on wearing flannel shirts. We are just that awesome that we coordinated naturally. When we saw each other, we were laughing hysterically.
 
I absolutely adore these 2 women. We plan these parties during our "Book Club". Which is really just an excuse to get together and drink wine and catch up on life. We still read the same books - but we aren't very good about actually discussing it (besides via text while we are reading at night). This is the kind of friendship that is just comes easy! Thank God for girlfriends.
 




Sunday, November 16, 2014

Ragnar take 3: McDowell Mountain Trail

My 3rd Ragnar is in the books! The thought of these 24 hour races is rather daunting. But the more you do, it becomes addicting.

This was my 1st "trail" Ragnar.

For a refresher: Ragnar is a company that sponsors 24+ hour relay races. It's a company that makes tons of money. Because it attracts insane people from all over the country to pay hundreds of dollars to run with their friends for 24 hours on zero sleep. All for a medal, tshirt, and car decal. But great memories are always included!



I've done the Ragnar del Sol (Wickenburg to Phoenix), Napa (San Francisco to Calistoga), and now McDowell Mountain trail. I must say this trail Ragnar was my favorite. Here is my recap:

  1. Trail Ragnar is made up of a team of 8 instead of 12 runners (like on the road). It is also 120-160 miles instead of 200. Instead of going from Point A to Point B, you stay in one area and run 3 different trail loops.
  2. This race had 3 loops: 3.1 miler, 8 miler, and 4 miler. Every runner did these different loops in a different order.
  3. Hardest part of the race was running the trails in the dark. I thought trail running was technically challenging? Try it in the dark. You really have to watch your footing to not fall into a cactus, trip over a rock, or slide off a cliff ;). Especially if you have terrible depth perception like me!
  4. Best part of the race? You didn't have to be in a van in between runs. You got to sprawl out at your campsite!
  5. The camping area in the middle where all the trails started was called "The Village", which was a 24 hour party. There were camp fires, music, s'mores, hundreds of tents. It was so much fun!
  6. My muscles were more sore after this than they were after my half ironman! Especially my calves and ankles.
  7. The temps varied like crazy! When our team started at 3pm Friday, it was 84 degrees. Miserable. Then when the sun set at 6pm, it was in the 50's. Then by 9am Saturday, the sun came back out with a vengeance and it hit 86 degrees for the last runners! Luckily, all 3 of my runs were either in the dusk or dark, so I didn't have to deal with the hot weather.
  8. My team is already planning next years' event. And plotting out our campsite and food. :)
Here are a few photos I took, and some that I pulled off the Ragnar facebook page. These photos just speak "Arizona desert trail running"!



Here's a "pre-race" shot. We decided to take a picture while we were still clean. Our team name was "Running our AZ Off"

This is a picture I took off the Ragnar Trail website - they had some really great photos, and it gives you an example of the terrain we ran on!
 
Here is a picture one of my team-mates got of the sun setting behind the mountains...


This is an photo of "The Village". It was like a 24 hour race expo, obviously with a lot of Solomon gear, since they were the official race sponsor. Solomon is my choice of trail running shoes, by the way! They fit so well, and have great treads. My feet never hurt during the whole race experience!
 
Here's a night picture of Ryan and I with our headlamps! Being all sweaty in between runs, your body got super cold! So cuddling was necessary.
 
I took these 2 photos of the sun rising Saturday morning while I waited for Ryan to come in! He got to hand off to me in the relay all 3 times, which was super fun to get to hug him when he came into the "exchange shoot".

This is the finish line that you crossed every time you finished a loop, since all 3 loops met up for the last 0.4 miles.
 
 
They ran out of food Saturday morning. They were supposed to have "food vendors". Well, they had one food truck for approximately 3000 runners. I love Ragnar, but that did NOT impress us. Especially since you fork up $1800/team!  We ended up getting to have a conversation with the race director, and sadly she had no idea they ran out of food. She apologized profusely, and was able to get our team free sandwiches and beers. But I feel bad for the 1000 runners after our team who didn't get to eat!! 
 
Ryan was especially hangry. ;)
 
But he perked up after his pulled pork sandwich.
 

 
 
Our Tucson network of "Ragnarians" has grown over the years. And we actually had 2 teams out there this week. Here's our team with a few other girls.

Team "Running our AZ Off" relaxing our "AZ" off :)

We will definitely be back next year!! (We will just make sure we bring our own food!!)
 
(The tattoo on my leg is just a stick-on. No real in ink for this gal! Don't worry, Mom! Ha!)
 
 

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Trail Running Mount Lemmon

I have been a bit absent from here lately. :(

I've really lost my "mojo" to write. I can't say I'm "too busy". I'm just not making time for it. Life has been busy lately! But I love busy.

Since my half ironman I have been.......

  • Enjoying the fact that I don't have to squeeze in 2 workouts a day
  • I've been picking up some shifts working in the ER to brush up on my "bedside" skills (my iv-starting skills didn't skip a beat! *skip, jump, high-five*)
  • Resting
I have a Ragnar trail race this weekend, which is more of an excuse to camp, party, and run with friends! Both Ryan and I are doing this - so it will be fun. He's been on opposite shifts of me for the past 2 weeks, so I'm excited to catch up.

With a double ear infection and several skin rashes, I have decided to stop the Masters swim team. Swimming was great, but I don't particularly like my apparent intolerance to chlorine (3 hours/week).

2 weekends ago, Ryan and I decided to escape the heat. So we headed up to Mount Lemmon and did a trail run.

I found the route via another blog. And this particular blogger said this was an "extremely runnable trail". Let me tell you, it was not.

It was 1900 ft above sea level. It was a 6.5 mile loop that basically went straight up and straight down the mountain. Coming down was on rocks, and there were parts that were so steep you had to hold on to the walls of the mountain in order not to fall.

"Runnable", my ass!! (is what I was repeating frequently during this run)

It was breath-taking, I will say. The leaves were changing, and there were incredible views.

But it was not wise to run.

I love this picture (sorry for the crappy quality of my I-phone camera).

A little snapshot of the trail we ran on!

I love the colors of leaves

Gorgeous contrast.

 

Once you get to the top of the loop, you were rewarded with these views! And then you had 3 miles down the mountain to tumble!

I felt on top of the world here. It was super windy on top of the summit!!

Trail running makes me happy :)


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Soma Half Ironman - consider it DONE

It's taken me quite some time to post my "race recap" of my half ironman from October 19. There have been so many emotions, positive and negative, running through my mind. I wasn't ready to put it down on paper, or blog.

So here's my recap! Which is so hard to put into words!

Pre-Race:

Let's start this journey talking about how I felt going into this race. The word is crazy. Going from 10 hours of training per week to 5 made me feel utterly stir crazy. But that's what an endurance athlete wants! As my training partner Sharon reminded me all week, "We want to crave that distance race morning!"

And that we did.

It was a so good to have my girls with me. I had my friend Sharon who did the full 70.3 with me. Two of the other friends in my training group split it into a relay, as one of the girls had a plantar fasciitis. One of our friends was our supporter. She trained with us the whole summer, but isn't too keen on the open water swim, so just came to support us!

Here we are at the expo Saturday afternoon. Craving that distance!
 
We went to "My Big Fat Greek Restaurant" as our pre-race dinner. Greek food is my "go to" pre-race food. Don't ask me why - it just gives me good luck. I love getting pita bread, hummus, and grilled veggies with a greek salad. It worked before my last marathon, and so the rest of the group decided to join my tradition Saturday night. We then walked around Mill Ave in Tempe and just laughed off our nervous energy!
 
The Swim:
As you probably know, the swim is 1.2 miles. This was what I was most confident about. I swim hard 3 days/week in the masters team. And I felt amazing in that water! Hardest part was the mean men who would grab your legs, push you underwater, and swim on top of you
 
The swim for me was about being "strong" and "steady". I knew I had 6 hours to go, so didn't want to get my heart rate too high. The 1st 800 m, I couldn't see where I was going, because of the sun rising in my eyes. The swim felt fast and extremely surreal. 
 
Total Time: 44:14. No records here, but I'll take it.
 
Here are a few photos of "swim mode":
 
 
 
This is my friend Lisa and I - who I swim next to every M, W, F. We were feeling nervous, so taking pictures was a fun distraction!

I'm on the right - and team Lisa/Amber are on the left (they relayed this race together! And they placed 4th in the women's relay!!! Amazing!!!)

This is kind of a neat picture to just show the energy of all the people in a tri! I love it! Triathlons are the coolest race experience ever!!

These are my "swim sisters". We are next to each other on our masters team - and our energy carries us through!

Here I am "launching!"

 

And here I am finishing the swim, running into the "chute" to my bike! I was crying happy/excited tears in this picture!
 
The Bike: 56 miles
The 1st thing I'm going to say about the bike was: I have a $500 bike, and many of the athletes in the race were seriously riding $10,000 tri bikes with aero-bars, and crazy looking tires and helmets! Like this:
 




 
So I could beat myself up over a my 3:26 total time, with my 16.5 mph pace. And I did. But I won't. I had a lot of fun on the bike. My goal on the bike was to hydrate and get in calories. I never take any nutrition when I train. So forcing myself to take 4 "gu's" was torture.
 
I did Skratch Nutrition for my hydration. It's an all natural electrolyte drink mix. And I took Vanilla Bean Gu packs. I forced myself to take a drink of fluids every 5 miles, and a Gu every 10 miles (but after 40, I stopped to get my stomach ready for the run.
 
I have a very weak stomach.
 
The Run: 13.1 miles
This snuck up on me. I thought this was going to be my strong point since I'm a runner. But being it was hell on earth 95 degrees out when I started running around 11:00 am, it was awful. I have never seen so many walkers in a race! I ran most of the 1st 6.5 miles, but the last 6.5 miles, I walked for 40 seconds every 4 minutes!
 
This was hands down the hardest physical thing I've ever done. I couldn't keep hydrated, even with a water station at every mile. I was downing Gatorade, pouring ice on my head, and putting ice in my sports bra.
 
Stopping caused my legs to start spasming. Stretching would make my cramp up and then I'd fall.
 
This was my wall.
 
This was where I found myself saying, "What the hell am I doing? Why did I sign up for this? How will I ever finish?"
 
But I finished. And let me tell you, when I could hear the music at the finish line, tears were rolling! I couldn't believe I made it!
 
My total run time was 2:12 minutes. I normally finish a 13.1 in 1:45. So this was ugly. Unfortunately, for about 4 days after the race, I spent a lot of time feeling bad about my run time and beating myself up over it.
 
I finished the whole thing in 6:32. That's a one hell of a long "cardio" workout. Ha!
 

I don't even remember taking this picture, but I was absolutely stunned it was done!! 
And here we are with our medals!!
 
Post race:
 
Post race was rough going. The dehyration really set in. We got to our hotel, showered, and headed out for some pizza. At this point, every time I'd stand up, I'd get dizzy and nauseated. Let's just say it was a rough "journey" to the restaurant.
 
But once I got some water and margherita pizza in me, I was golden!
 

And then from Sunday evening - Wednesday morning, I couldn't eat any solid foods. Due to a raw, burned, red, sore mouth. I'm not sure why. But I couldn't swallow. So lived off smoothies and squash.
 
All in all? This was an amazing experience! The heat juts really sucked. Bad. If I were to do this again, I would train so much more on the run.
 
I waited over a week to do my recap, but I had to let it sit. And I'm done beating myself up over my pace and time. Because at this point, no one cares about my splits. A lot of people have no idea what a "good" pace in a 70.3 is compared to a "bad" pace. Nobody cares! I shouldn't either. I finished. I trained my butt off. And I had fun doing it!
 
Next up?!:
 
I am looking forward to weight training, trail running, sprint triathlons, and just doing what I want!
 
 
 


Friday, October 17, 2014

Top Hikes of Tucson

As you probably know by now, one of our favorite things about living in Tucson is the hiking. In fact, every time I start feeling negative about living here - I remember the beautiful hikes that are right outside our front door.

So I thought to compile a list of our favorite hikes in the area. I'll be honest and say that no matter where you hike, you're guaranteed to have views of beautiful desert landscape and challenges. But this is a list of our favorites, in no particular order.

#1 Mount Wrightston from Madera Canyon.
  • Where it's at: South of Tucson. You would take I-19 south to the Pima Mine Road exit. It's a pretty drive through the pecan groves. You drive into Madera Canyon, and there is a variety of hiking trails.
  • Our favorite trail: Follow the signs to "Old Baldy". This is more of a "woodsy" hiking trail, in opposed to Tucson's typical desert landscape.
  • What it's known for: Bird watching. You will see many beautiful birds, bird watchers, and wild turkeys along this hike. (Years ago, Ryan and I had a minor bear encounter.)
  • What kind of pass do I need?: Coronado National Forest pass. Which will get you into various parks, as you will see in this post!
  • Difficulty level: Moderate. It gets pretty steep at times, but it's nothing too technical.
#2 Catalina State Park
  • Where it's at: North of Tucson, off Oracle Road. It's actually about 10 minutes from my house, which I love! Again, there are about 2-3 different trails a person can take.  The trails link up with other ranges (if you're interested in a 20 mile backpacking trip, or trekking)
  • Our favorite trail: Romero Pools. This is a very popular trail around Tucson. It's about 5.5 miles round trip. And you are rewarded at the end with natural pools of water. You are sure to find people swimming in these pools almost year round.
  • What it's known for: Again, the water. And you also will snag some breath-taking city views!
  • What kind of pass do I need?: This is a state park, so your Coronado Pass won't work here. It's $5/vehicle. If you're military or 55+ it's $3/vehicle.
  • Difficulty level: This is a more challenging hike. I'd say 4/5. In the middle portion, it just gets steep with some stair-like climbs. April-October it gets hot, so hydrate smart!!
I did a 10 mile trail race here last April. This was a picture of the sun rising over the mountains. Breath-taking!

What a difference in views - as it peaked over the horizon!

Here I am running in the race! As you can see, there are some "stairs" on this trail.

Here's a background picture of the park. Ignore my husband's creepy mustache. This is when he was growing his 'stache for "Mustache March". *cue gagging*
 

 

These are a few pictures I found of the pools at the top! Pictures don't seem to do justice, but you get the idea! ;)



 

 


#3 Sabino Canyon
Where it's at: In the foothills of Tucson (northeast side of town).
Our favorite trail: Seven Falls. It's a popular trail, where you have to cross 7 little streams. When you get to the top, there are again, pools of water! This is a beautiful hike, with some amazing views.
What it's known for: The streams of water, "forests" of Saguaro cacti, and beautiful desert landscape. This is probably the most popular hike in Tucson!
What kind of pass do I need?: Again, the Coronado State Park pass will get you in. Otherwise, I believe it's $5-6/day.
Difficulty level: Although this is about a 7.4 mile hike, it's not terribly steep. Crossing the streams takes a little balance (since you have to step on the rocks to get across). Biggest thing is bring water - especially from the months of April-October!!

In the months of April-June, the cactus flowers are in bloom on these trails. Such a treat!

This is the water after our recent rainfalls. It doesn't normally flow this much, but we got to there to enjoy it!

The roads do look similar to this in April, as the canyons fill up with water when the mountain snow melts!


#4 Marshall Gulch
** If you're visiting Tucson, I highly recommend taking a day trip to do this one. It requires driving up Mount Lemmon via Catalina Highway, which is one of the most break-taking drives in the area. It's about 1 hour north (or above) Tucson. At the top of the mountain, there is a ski resort (yes, snow skiing), and a little town called Summerhaven. There are a few restaurants, to reward yourself with at the end of your hike. But during the winter months, there is usually snow up here so hiking isn't an option. (Come in late September-October, and you will find polka music and a lovely Oktoberfest celebration!)
Where it's at: At the end of main street in Summerhaven.
What it's known for: There are freshwater mountain streams along this trail. The landscape on this hike is pine, as you are at 9000+ feet elevation! Dress warm, as it's typically 20-30 degrees cooler in Summerhaven than it is in Tucson!
What kind of pass do I need?: Coronado National Forest pass will get you in here, too!
Difficulty level: Because the air is thinner, this is a little more tricky physically. But again, it's nothing unreasonable! 3/5 because there are parts that are steep.





These are some old pictures I found of us hiking Marshall Gulch. Very different scenery compared to Sabino Canyon & Catalina State Park, isn't it?!


It's fun finding "natural bridges and hammocks" in this forest!


And here we are at Oktoberfest a few years ago. Enjoying a Paulaner and some kraut!
 
I feel like I could write a short-novel on all the fun and active things to do in Tucson, but here is my short-story version! I really love all the active lifestyle Tucson has to offer. One of my girlfriends and I joke about quitting our jobs, and being "active tour guides". Starting our own business where we "guide" people on bike rides, trail runs, and hikes - and then take them to the best happy hours in town. But I don't think that would pay my mortgage. So the closest thing I can do is blog about it, and host family &friends! ;)