30 December 2010

What it's all about...

Special thanks to Jen for reminding me what traveling and life is truly about...

"I believe that true travelers want to go where the road takes them, no matter what.  Visitors want to stay in safe zones, doing touristy things for the most part- never really getting to know the natives, food, etc. This is why you are there - to experience life in Central America."

I've gotten a lot of clarity abt my life. A lot of the times it's not while things are happening, but it's after you realize you've changed. And with each day goes by, life becomes even better.

Backpacking Isn't Always Fun...

Sometimes, shhhh, I get sick of being a backpacker.

I get sick of long days. I get sick of 12 hour days on buses, on getting up early to catch the first bus, on eating bruised fruit and things you’re not really sure what they are at bizarre rest stops, on long, inefficient border crossings, on children laughing at my accent, on the work of it all. I love it – the discoveries of myself and other cultures, but sometimes, like today, I just wish I was at home with all the comforts of my life there – Thai food only a phone call away, hot water whenever I want it, clean clothes, a cute cat, friends, family, my love.

It sounds silly to call backpacking work, and it’s not work, but it’s not easy. I remember breaking down in tears in the basement of the Louvre, hating it all, hating Paris, just wanting to be home. But then I went out that night with my new sweet roommates, learned to like red wine, and got drunk underneath the Eiffel Tower. And those are the memories we’re really craving.

So I’ll keep on getting ripped off and stressed and not having my ATM card work and calling the States to no answer and lugging around too much stuff and dealing with roommates and bunk beds and strange food and all of it – just so I can really learn who I am and what the world truly is all about.

29 December 2010

Malpais y Santa Teresa, Costa Rica

I could stay here another week. Surf, sun, watch the sunset, run, eat, nap in hammocks, beach, beach, beach. 

My hostel has tons of hammocks, great vibe, neat kitchen and layout, cool peeps. I've been spending the days on the beach, with breaks for running, avocados, Trits (amazing ice cream treats!), chats abt life and traveling and philosophy with other travelers, practicing my Spanish, swims, shell-hunting, surfing and fun. I love it here.

Toilets in Central America - from my hostel in San Jose

San Jose, Costa Rica

Dangerous. Dirty. Ugly. Boring.

These are just a few of the adjectives you might hear applied to the capital of Costa Rica. Travelers joke about it, but it's really unavoidable since most buses and roads lead to San Jose...so you must enter and exit it more than you want.

After a treacherous border crossing from Panama, Brian and I ended up in San Jose for a night; he to figure out where to go next, me to take a 6am bus the next day.

We talked; we wrote in our journals; we saw a crazy parade with 5,000 horses, like a Wild Western party gone absolutely drunk; we ate; we slept; our dorms were in a hallway. Ah, hostel life.

It was just a night, and an afternoon, and it's a place to say goodbye.

27 December 2010

Surfer Chicas

Today I saw the cutest thing - two little girls learning how to surf. What an awesome thing to learn - to not fear the ocean, to enter a male-dominated hobby, to harness the power of the waves, to connect truly with water.

I'm in a total surf town, which I love. (I just came from Bocas del Toro, another surf town, but this town is quite obsessed with surfing, as opposed to just loving surfing.) Malpais y Santa Teresa are quite the place - I got here, ate, hit the beach to go surfing, did a run along the beach...and am feeling muy contenta. My hostel is chill with heaps of hammocks, great people, boards everywhere...if I can just satisfy my random ice cream craving (I never want ice cream, but today have wanted it all day), it'll be a perfect night.

And let's let the women continue to dominate the waves, and teach our daughters how to surf because there's nothing more amazing, more empowering, more fun than a little girl knowing what to do with the waves.

26 December 2010

No Such Thing As An Easy Trip

This is from an email I sent earlier today. Traveling isn't always fun...

My journey today has been quite crazy. I woke up at 520, pulled stuff together, out of the hostel by 540. It was pouring rain, disgusting. Me and my pink umbrella, Brian (also going to San Jose), Natalie and TJ (headed to Panama City) went to the water taxi from Isla Colon (the island in Bocas del Toro where we were staynig) to take it to the mainland. We were aiming to grab the 6am bus, but as Panamanians are on Tico time, things did not proceed as smoothly as we hoped. 

We did not leave until 635 am, and Natalie (and others) were freaking out. Despite our boat having a cover, we got wet. When we got there, I tripped on the slippery dock getting out of the boat, and dropped one of my bags into the water. Luckily, I got it out, just losing a water bottle (and everything in the bag got soaked).

We hopped in a large taxi, planning to take it to Changirola, but this French girl sharing the cab was also going to San Jose, and told us we should take the bus w her from Sixoala, this border town.

So, we took the cab to SIxaola instead, waited in the rain for immigration to open. I dropped my credit card ina  puddle and would not have noticed if Brian hadn't pointed it out to me. We got stamped, and crossed.

It was pouring rain. One of those absolutely disgusting depressing days. The kind of day you might as well be at work because it’s too disgusting to do anything else.

The crossing was awful. It was an old railroad bridge covered in wooden planks. There were holes, it was slippery, and it did not feel safe. I was okay but started freaking out in the middle and Brian had to stop, come back, grab my bag, hold my hand. Scary.

We got to the other side and had to wait for immigration to open. The bus was at 8am, but as the time slowly ticked on, we began getting nervous. Finally it opened, but it took them forever to process anyone.

The French girl cut the line, and we followed suit. I explained to the guys we were cutting that we had a bus in 10 minutes, and they were pretty nice. We got stamped, no problems, which was good b/c you need proof that you are leaving Costa Rica (and a plane ticket from Guatemala is not good enough – they want to see a bus ticket from Costa Rica to Nicaragua, or whatever. Crazy, right?).

Finally, we get stamped again, and search in the pouring rain until we finally find the bus. We’re soaked, my knee is hurting from tripping and we’re stressed.

We buy our bus tickets and hop on the bus, which proceeds to drive on bumpy dirt roads to San Jose.

I survived the rest of the bus trip, got into a taxi with a driver who ripped us off, and had to cross through this crazy horse parade to get to our hostel. Good thing the hostel has their own pineapple drink...I'll be drinking some for sure.

a few more random pics of bocas del toro

i can't believe i'm leaving. i don't want to. i love this city so much...beach, rad peeps, beach, cool vibes, beach, good weather, beach, relaxation, beach...tomorrow i head up north, to costa rica.


25 December 2010

Risk = Sexy

 Rio came back from the water, and said to me and Merja, "You know what we were just talking about? How when girls take risk, it makes them more attractive. No, don't laugh. It's an attractive quality to have - a risk taker. I wish more girls would do stuff like you do, like traveling alone. There's a risk there, and it's awesome that you do it."

I pondered this and we accepted his compliment. But then I voiced something that I've been thinking about. "The thing that sucks about not more women taking risk is that I become lonely out there for other women. Most of the women traveling in Central America are in groups, and they don't seem to want to include others in their groups. It's easier to meet other solo travelers, so I end up meeting more men. I wish I could meet more women."

Too bad at the end of my time in Bocas, I ended up connecting with Natalie (super cool Australian; she's headed south to Panama City, I'm headed north up to Costa Rica tomorrow) and Merja (rad Finnish journalist who offered much insight on life) and Natasha (super sweet girl in my Spanish classes) and Julia (who's unfortunately spent much of her time here ill). I wish I could've had more time to bond with them.

I want there to be others. I don't want to be the only solo female traveler. I want to meet other amazing women, hey, attractive for being the risk-takers that we are. 

It's not that scary. Bad things can happen, but bad things can happen at home, and remember, the soul dying and decaying from not following your dreams is worse. I'm ultra-cautious, a little nervous at times, but hopefully, all will be smoothed and safe for my travels.

I'm not drinking tonight, but for those of you who are, please raise your glass to the bravery, the fierceness, the awesomeness, and yes, the attractiveness of all of the other solo women travelers out there.

23 December 2010

Great running quote

"Running is something you just do. You don’t need a goal. You don’t need a race. You don’t need the hype of a so-called fitness craze. All you need is a cheap pair of shoes and some time. The rest will follow.”

Ted Corbitt

22 December 2010

What if I stayed here?

What if I stayed here?

What if I never left? It's the kind of thing you can't help but think when you're someplace amazing, running on a beach, loving the place you're temporarily living...okay, just hosteling, but I wish I was living here.

I can't stay. I have someone I'm madly in love with back home who would never move here, I have a good job, an apt that I can actually afford, a great running community, lots of awesome friends, family...I can't really leave, but a girl can dream.

A girl can dream, right?

A girl can dream of staying in a town like Bocas del Toro...of the beautiful weather, of the sunshine, of the awesome beaches, of the surfing multiple days a week, of the two runs a day, of the friendly people, of the beauty, of the chill culture, of the relaxed pace of the society...there are others who have beat me to the idea, working at hostels, in English language bookstores, surfing around until their money runs out. Meeting rad backpackers, trying new foods, new drinks, breaking all the rules, going to the places that scare you...

But could I do it, really live here? On the beach, the chill life? Would my job let me relocate here? Would I ever get tired of it? Would I miss things back home too much? Would I be happy here, all the time?

I don't know. It's something I don't need to think about, since I won't be staying here. I'm sure I'd find the island life limiting, the running boring, the Panamian time annoying, the lack of good fruits and veggies and vegetarian food frustrating, the tourists overwhelming.

When I'm back in NY, in the cold winter, seeking solace in the warmth of my love, friends, family, and cat, I will hope to cultivate the peace and calm and warmth and happiness I have found here in Panama...and hope to continue to feel this amazing way when I'm back in the cold city that is my home.

20 December 2010

Where to?

One of the things I love about backpacking is that there's always someplace else to go. Right now, I'm trying to figure out where to spend Christmas, figuring out what to do today, chatting with friends from other countries - friends I met few days ago but some of them have already given me advice on personal issues - because when you backpack, you skip out all the proper white picket fences that normally cut out all the interesting things from coming in and you just let it all in...because life is more interesting that way.

Bocas del Toro, Panama

It's amazing how great a beach town can make you feel - surfing, beaches, snorkeling, starfish, rad people at a good hostel (Hostel Heike), good Spanish classes, good friends...

Bocas is a pretty chill place - beaches, snorkeling, surfing, not tons to do but go to the beach, go to fun parties, chill, eat.

I met up with a couple new friends who I met in Panama City - the Canadians (aka Chris & Jess) and Brian, and met lots of rad people. We've been taking tours (snorkeling and beaches), going to beaches, going to fun parties where $1 tequila shots are followed by a late-night jump off the high diving board, maybe even in all your clothes...there's been a lot of good times here. I don't ever want to leave. And if I had my love here and my cat, I might not...but since that's not going to happen, I'll just enjoy every last drop of it while I can. 

16 December 2010

Panama City, Panama

Within ten minutes of being in my hostel, I had already changed, was chatting up my Israeli roommate, then went downstairs to the bar in the basement of my hostel. I grabbed a margarita (needed one after a crazy stressful day of flying) and was chatting with Brandon, these German girls, Pat (aka "The Australian"), and others. Within an hour, I was in a crazy cab, speeding towards Panama City's clubbing district.

We danced. I got super drunk (first on Temptations, then on Cuba Libres) and some Panamanian guy grabbed me and started dancing with me, which was okay but then he dropped me on my head. I got up, yelled at him in Spanish, then went back to dancing with my friends. They were playing reggatone, they were playing hot 92.3 music, it was so much fun.

Four hours sleep and I ran through the city. I was staying in Casco Viejo, but ran along the water to the new city. I loved the skyscrapers - such a unique skyline. I loved it. The men nonstop "psst" and whistled and yelled and sexually harassed me. Pretty annoying.

I met some Ozzies at the front desk of the hostel, told them that we had to go to the Canal, and after an exploration of Casco Viejo, we went. Our cab driver was absolutely mad and it was a mixture of exhilirating and scary to be in his cab.

The canal was boring. Boring. Cookie, Tortuga, Marco and I made jokes about how life-changing it was, but I guess we had to see it. Then I took a nap.

Went out again, of course. Relic first in the hostel with $1 pineapple rums, then more dancing.

And on to the next city, Bocas del Toro, and I know it's the #1 lie of Bocas, but really, I'm not drinking tonight.

Back in Myself

It's funny how quickly I fell back into the backpacking lifestyle. Living out of my pack. Awful showers seeming awful. Talking to complete strangers about your hopes and dreams and the deeper meaning of life. Struggling with a language not your first with strangers patient or confused, or both. Getting lost in a place where it's oh-so-obvious you're not from there (i.e., you're a gringa with blonde-and-pink hair). Not having a plan because then you're never disappointed. Sharing and helping strangers. Hearing people have sex and instead of being annoyed, you're just missing the one you love. Heading off with complete strangers, putting your life and day in the hands of strangers...you just go with it. You go with the wrinkled clothes, the sleeping on thin mattresses on the bottom bunk, throwing your toilet paper in the garbage instead of bowl, eating the most random combination of foods, doing things you normally would never do back home, thinking firewater sounds delicious...

I realized way too quickly, within two hours of being in Panama City, that I had lost part of myself. I'm not sure where or how I lost it, but I did lose it. I've become what drove me to leave NYC for grad school 9 years - stressed, running around like crazy. There's a lot of really good things in my NYC life right now - NBR, the NYC Burning Man Community - but I need to reclaim my life. 

I don't know how I can do this back home. Here, I can figure things out but how can I make them apply? How can I extend this calm state of mind there? True, it's easy; the main worries are how to get from one place in Costa Rica to the next without having to go via the dreaded San Jose; where I can find a vegetarian meal (not an easy task); what's next?I have mind space to think about my life, think about what I want next, think about what I want overall, think about why we're here (which I still firmly believe, is to help others). But this is mixed in between surfing and drinking and dancing and beaches and talking Spanish and seeing what cool things are going on at the hostel.

And I'm enjoying my life right now...but I hope I can extend this feeling of happiness and peace to every day in my life, post-traveling (but let's not think about post-traveling right now). 

14 December 2010

Running Wild

I must admit, running's my thing. Obvious. But I do other things...so I can run. I'd prefer to just run a few hours a day, but to prevent injuries, I mix it up. People always ask me, knowing that I run ultras, "How are your knees?" My answer: "Spectacular."

Here's what I do:
  • I run 5-6 days a week.
  • I cross-train -- elliptical and rowing machine. I'd like to do 3 times a week, but time usually puts me at just 1-2 times per week.
  • I lift weights. Boring. But my iPod, and the fact that I can lift more with my legs than most people at the gym, pushing me along.
  • I do some barefoot running. I mix it up. My form is heaps better now due to barefoot running. Winter makes it hard, but since I incorporated regular barefoot running into my routine (Vibrams in the city, barefoot when I can hit the beach), I'm a forefoot runner and feel a lot stronger. 
 What else I need to do:
  • More core training
  • More yoga
  • More sleep
  • More speed workouts
  • Run daily runs at a faster pace

Because this is what's making me wanna leap up outta my chair today and start dancing...

and of course...

Brooklyn Goodbye

This morning, I woke up to my final Brooklyn run to see a thin coating of snow on the ground. The soft was snow and the ice rare, so conditions were fairly good. It was wicked cold - 20, with windchill of four below. I met my running club and ran for a little bit until I had to turn back to deal with my insane day: laundry, work at home, head to airport at noon. I feel sick almost - hoping I remembered to pack everything, and also, sick at how much I already miss Brant.

But I'm lucky. I really am. I'm quite far from rich but it's really fantastic that I can afford to go away for so long. It's great that I work for a job that lets me take 7 weeks of vacation (paid!) - my friend Todd works someplace where he can't really go away for more than a week because he is considered too vital for him to be gone that long. I'm also lucky that I work for a job when I walk in with pink hair, the CEO says, "How festive!" I'm lucky because I am in love with someone who is so amazing that despite no prior interest in Nicaragua, is coming down to spend two weeks with me around Nicaragua. I'm lucky because my family and friends have all provided their love and support of this trip. I'm lucky because I get to create my own Christmas fantasy this year.

The minutes are counting down. Have to finish packing my asthma medicine (decided to bring it despite its bulkiness because I'm pretty sure a Central American hospital is not fun at all), rearrange clothes in my bag, take care of a bunch of last-minute work things, do a once-over for the subletter.

No expensive jewelry. Dresses. Bikinis. Rash guard. Glitter. Books. Netbook. I think I'm set. It's going to be a wild ride, with lots of ups and downs. I'm sure I'll end up crying in a bus station at some point, missing everything back home, especially the ones I love most, but then there will be that moment where I catch that wave, and it feels so good, so amazing, and it is then that I will truly remember what it means to be alive.

09 December 2010

Running to Myself.

The past few years, since I began addicted to ultras, I've been constantly training. A 50k. A 100miler. Training runs. Long runs. Eating to run. Social life around running. As my last relationship got worse and worse, I ran more and more. Running healed me, provided me happiness like nothing else. I found much of myself in running, while running towards the next finish line.

I have no races for the next two months. That's the longest I've had in a few years. I was supposed to do a 50k this Saturday, but decided I'd rather go to Santacon, plus I have ton of packing/prep to do for my seven-week Central America backpacking excursion. 

I also like the idea of no races. It feels a little relaxing. I haven't become burnt out - I think the 2week running hiatus I took in May after my surgery really prevented me from becoming burnt out. Also, falling in love puts things into a new perspective, and takes away some of the stressful focus. It also provided something I'd rather do...look into B's eyes, kiss him...he provides the happiest moments I have now. Really, being in love is the most wonderful thing in the world.

But while I'm in Central America, I will be running - just not hardcore racing. I have Dances with Dirt 50 Miler a week and a half after I return, and Umstead 100 two months...I hope I'm ready. I hope my easy time (no gym time for 7 weeks, ugh! I do hate lifting weights, but I recognize how I get stronger, faster, less likely to get injured, plus I do love the cross-training at the gym, esp my beloved rowing machine (How does anyone find it boring?)) means I run faster. We'll see. Maybe if I'm surfing as much as I'd like to, I'll really work on core strength.

But running...I'm running to train, but I'm also running for fun. I'm running tomorrow for good conversation with Nelson. I'm running for that feeling - you know, that amazing free wonderful feeling...I running for myself, and I'm running to myself.

new york, new york, first love of my life

I get weird sometimes. I used to call it New York-itis. Before, when doing some organizing for my trip, I panicked, thinking of all the things I'd miss. Miss drinking tea with Rachelle, walks in frigid Williamsburg, parties, family, friends, obviously B, races.

But no, I'm heading to Central America. I'm going to be surfing, swimming, practising my Spanish, meeting amazing new people, hiking, writing, thinking, taking long walks, and best of all, being with my love in Nicaragua.

Now, I'm running around like a typical New Yorker: five million things to do, cramming everything/everybody in. Sleep, yeah, I can cut that out. Tomorrow I have work, mom's Xmas gift shopping, Trish over to help me pack & drink, NBR drinks, Burning Man Decom Party (and what will I wear, oh my) and Saturday is NBR run, SantaCon, Jessica in town, Sunday's the craft fair, maybe mom & dad, Iliana sleeping over, maybe Jess too and her little baby...there's just too much going on. Sometimes I can't stand it. Sometimes I want to live in some quiet little town, do my runs, write, practise yoga, read...just get inside myself more.

Regardless, this is a great song, and this is a hilarious parady of my beloved city.

08 December 2010

Why I Run...

People ask why I run. I say, "If you have to ask, you will never understand". It is something only those select few know. Those who put themselves through pain, but know, deep down, how good it really feels.

Erin Leonard, athlete

03 December 2010

From the Mouth at Fish's Eddy

After we finally selected what we wanted at Fish's Eddy, my friend and I were lucky enough to get a woman with a completely hilarious and awesome personality at the cash register. She had a great hairstyle (bleached blonde and somewhat sticking up) and a blunt personality hard to find outside of New York. I loved her. She told us how she was 42, was on her third marriage to a 28 year old, had a crazy son who was a (she leaned forward to whisper in my ear "f-up"). We talked about abusive partners and she recommended that if I ever encountered violence in a relationship again, I should wait until the person was asleep -- "because everyone has to go to sleep" -- and pull out a bat. Eeeek, not my style!

But scary that so many people have been victims of violence. I talked a little about my old relationship, about my brother. It's funny how sometimes in New York, complete strangers open up to each other. She was ragging on men and poor Aaron stood there while she wrapped our purchases and dished with me. That's how it is.

I cherish these minor bonding moments. I love that in New York, because there is no personal space (small apartments, public transportation instead of private cars, cleaning your undies at the laundromat for everyone to see), the public sometimes becomes so personal. I love it. The suburbs, where I grew up, taught people to hold things in so much.

When I was younger, I was part of the zine culture. I did a zine called Freak, and was nearly suspended for the publication of it. I learned the importance then of the printed word, of speaking the truth. Sometimes it's hard to admit the truth - to say, "I had an abortion" or "I was raped" or "I had an abusive partner" but those are things you need to say sometimes so others realize they are not alone.

2010 Running Review

Wow. 2010 has been an insane year for me running. I wanted to take a moment to look back at the amazingly fun year I've had running.

Stupid Watchung Ultra. I have to do this 50k every year because it's so close and because my awesome friend Rick is the RD. He is a great RD. Oh yeah, and this race is perfect for my budget, free, and it is SUCH a fatass with the chill atmosphere, the cakes people bring.
I ran in Yaktrax, learned how painful that can be for 50k. But I had fun. (Full race report)

Continued training for Umstead 100 Marathon, with some speed for Boston. I flew to FL to see Gram and Papa (Sadly, Papa was in the hospital), and also, to drive across the insane state of FL to run 50 miles in mud with wild pigs and alligators. I met a superrad girl who I ran with the first 25 miles, and had SO MUCH FUN! I'm heading back this year. (Full race report)

Seneca Trails 50k. Cold. Muddy. Some snow. Had fun. Just another training run. (Full race report)

Volunteered at Caumsett 50k. Not as fun as running because you don't have excuses to eat all those M&Ms, but still pretty rad. (Report)

Umstead 100 Miler. My second 100 miler, and first time breaking 24 hours. WOOO! (Full race report)

Boston Marathon made me realize I'm an ultrarunner, not a marathoner. (Full race report)

Miwok 100k, just three days before surgery. Dehydrated, shin pain, asthma trouble, blisters, oh, I cried, it sucked, it was gorgeous. (Full race report) (Videos)

Surgery. :( (Report)

Mayapple 50k. An easy run after surgery.

My birthday - I ran 56miles to celebrate 31 years! Peaks "50" Miler in VT. (Full race report)

Vengeance is mine! I go sub-24 at the Vermont 100 Miler! (Full race report!)

Maylon Mayhem. Don't run a 50k when you're really sick - though I did have a great time bonding with Shannon. (Full race report)

Burning Man 50k! My first time as an RD, my 50k PR, ran in a tutu, what can be better? (Full race report)

Blue Cruise 50k. Whatever. A training run. A fun day with Iliana. (Full race report)

Javelina Jundred! Tough, OMG, so freaking hard. Had a blast dressed as a pink flamingo and chilling with Jon. (Full race report) (Videos)

NYC Marathon. I am not a marathoner, no, I am not. I wore a fun feather skirt and got a lot of comments, but ran slow (Full race report)

Wagathon 50k. Rock scrambling, getting lost, faceplant, oh fun in New Paltz with my girls! (Full race report)

Knickerbocker 60k: Central Park. I wish Ray K had been there, but I still had fun (Full race report)

Most proud accomplishment: going sub 24 twice, esp in the super hard VT100 miler in 90degree temps with super high humidity

Funnest race: Burning Man 50k
Runner-up: Javelina Jundred
Honorable fun mentions (for all the mud!): Peaks 56 Miler; Dances w/ Dirt Green Swamp

and then it crushed down on me

That he's not coming back. I'm never going to see him again. I don't need to talk to Lissy about what to get him for Christmas (he always loved those Sarah Brightman CDs, musical movies, good chocolates...) - because he's never coming back. He's gone. He's dead. And it's so hard to accept that but it's finally really hitting me.

He's nothing to you but so much to me. Isn't it funny how people are like that?
I miss my Papa.