On the Eve of my Birthday…

Turning 33 is accepting, accepting that there are things that are beautiful in life when I take moments to appreciate them and that there are things that are just outside of my control. As I “age”, hopefully, like a fine wine, I’m still working on the latter. Over the years, I’m getting better, slowly but surely in realizing that control is simply an illusion. I’m also accepting that I will always have that part of me to cherish, borderline need to control.

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On this eve, I’m particularly feeling beautiful both inside and out. There are many times that people say “it’s important to be beautiful inside as the outside will eventually change” The so-called age gracefully. Ah, always perfect as a quote but never something I dwell on. Feeling beautiful isn’t just about the appearance, but an attitude to cherish everything and everyone that comes in my life.

For example, lately, I’m feeling really in touched with ‘youth’ again with going back to hip hop dancing through this class, Groov3. It reminds me of the college days and more importantly, feeling beautiful with each beat of the music and every move of the choreograph. Dance like no one is watching and dance with each heartbeat and not caring if my techniques are there. It’s teaching me to let go of what is supposed to be right and keep what feels right!

 

For the upcoming year, I want to continue to grow. I want to conquer things that I may find fearful. One of the biggest things I have overcame this year is fear of water by surfing in open ocean in Cabos . I cannot say that the fear is completely gone, however, I can live with that trepidation of water while enjoying some part of it. That’s one step closer.

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There are other things on my list to conquer and for the sake of not jinxing it, I will keep this list private. The concept is the same – the desire to live with as little fear as possible and living life as fully as possible. “Go after it” will be my motto for 2016!

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In less than 10 hours, I will turn 33. Go after it like no one is watching, especially when I go for that second slice of birthday cake!

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Time Machine: One, Two Steps back to College Days

This week, I discovered ‘Groov3‘ at a local dance studio. Ever since I’m dialing back from running training, I’m itching to go back to dancing. It’s actually one of those activities that I love! I just haven’t really found a place/style I am excited about.

My friend and I checked out K-Pop at the dance studio. It was my first visit to this dance studio as well as first time attempting K-Pop (Korean Pop). The studio was fine, however, I did not ‘feel’ K-pop. It was possibly because of the choreograph that focused heavily on team formation. Another reason was I learned that the teacher was literally re-creating moves from the MV. There was nothing wrong with modeling after what I’d imagine very awesome dancers/choreography, but I was just more excited with original choreography. Plus, it was a turn off for me when the teacher kept going back to the video to recreate it. It killed the rhythm. To dance well, just like everything else, practice makes it perfect. You just keep going/practicing. The stop and go was distracting.

Luckily, I went back to dancing with the intent to try styles of dance that I have not done (which was why I tried K-pop). I then discovered ‘Groov3’ this week! It instantly brought me back to college days when I took a year of hip hop with Jossie. For one, the DJ was spinning music that reminded me of the 90s hip hop (yes, LIVE DJ!!) Second, it was the EXACT feeling I was searching – high intensity, higher energy, fun, and somewhat easy choreography to learn but welcomes individualization of the moves.

According to the website, Groov3 is targeted toward people who may have danced in the past and are looking to get back into it. It also serves the ‘beginner’ level too. I would agree with both although a beginner may feel out of place the very first time. The friendly, energetic crowd and teacher totally makes up for it. As long as you’re down to having fun and not caring you’re a beat or two behind, you will grow into it. I was definitely off beat the first class.

What makes Groov3 slightly different from Zumba or UJam is that you learn a set of choreography with DJ playing LIVE songs (to the same beat/count). Part of the ‘experience’ with dancing hip hop from back in the days was learning choreography and putting it together. Zumba focuses on latin moves and it just does basic moves with different songs. UJam is also hip hop but does not emphasize on choreography. I have done and enjoyed Zumba and UJam, but I definitely LOVE Groov3’s party atmosphere so much more!

I’m excited to return next week for the Halloween special dancing/choreo to Michael’s Jackson’s ‘Thriller’! Next on the list is also to try ‘House’ dancing style.

“Running on Empty” Ulrich’s Trans-America Run

Thanks to a month-long cold that turned into an incessant coughing, instead of running, I read about running. I had to get my “fix” from somewhere!

I decided to pick up Marshall Ulrich’s “Running on Empty” that recounted the story of him running across America from San Francisco City Hall to New York City Hall. The epic quest was a mind-boggling (and physically-challenging) 3063 miles in 52 days at age 57 years old. Every day, he ran the equivalent of TWO marathons and TWO 10K’s. (For those who prefer a number, that was about 70 miles daily)

Yeah, this guy was extreme (or crazy, that was my first reaction). No doubt.

The first part of the book described his ultra running’s accolades fairly succinctly, which surprised me. (And Marshall pushed boundary with Badwater and numerous other activities) I had expected a more detailed story. However, a third way through I realized this book was about the incredible trans-America journey. It provided a chronological trip from west to east, providing a lot of the backend story, viewed from Marshall’s perspective. I flipped through the pages, as if I was running with him (spiritually, of course!)

Of course, Marshall’s story and accomplishment was amazing. Perseverance. Mental toughness. Persistence. Courage. Physicality. We could throw another dozen quality out there that would describe the lessons from this book. However, one of the biggest lesson that touched me was when Marshall was recounting his mountaineering activity of summiting the Everest.

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(I know, this man just does A LOT of extreme adventures!)

In particular, it was the story of a group of Russian climbers who were summiting the Everest along with Marshall’s group, coincidentally also lead by a Russian leader. The Russian National Climbing Team was setting a record of a never-done-before North Face route WITHOUT oxygen. They also did not use Sherpas; they would carry the heavy equipment themselves. Marshall was observing how one day, one of the climbers from the National Team came down dejected, because he was kicked off the team for “gripping about his hands being cold at 27000 ft”.

WOW. Talk about a dream vanishing in front of you. Or there goes years-long preparation. Or it just sucks!

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The take away for me was “quit complaining”! Just because it was cold, it did not mean that you had to say it. It would have accomplished NOTHING. If anything, it brought down your mental toughness and killed the energy for those around you! In the case of summiting Everest, obviously, mental strength was probably the biggest asset to accomplish the task.

In life, myself included and guilty, it can seem easier to gripe about little things. At the end, it really does NOTHING. Absolutely counter productive. There is a subtle and a blurred line between expressing one’s emotions/feelings and complaining. After reading about the Russians (which by the way, I’m married to one), I am more aware the difference between a healthy (and quick) expression of one’s state of emotion and a useless complain.

In line with my Chinese upbringing of Taoism, everything in moderation is the practice. I don’t vow to become a “Macho-Russian” (Marshall’s words). Instead, I want to adopt this “suck it up and just do it” attitude in my plethora of tools. It may be helpful in certain situations, like halfway through a 10 mile long run. I choose to train and run, therefore, suck it up, don’t complain about the pain, just do it!

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Helleyer 10K with Brazen Racing

With my ankle injury and subsequently my knee issue, I’ve taken a break from running since October 2014. I miss running! Of course, I have ran few times after the pain has decreased, but overall, I have not done any running or training. In an effort to stay relatively active, I have joined a climbing gym and practiced yoga.

People say you don’t know what you have until you miss it, well, that’s absolutely true with running. I’m itching to go back and just resume simple 30 minutes of running. I don’t need any fancy tempo or speed work. Just running.

The break also helps me to realize that I miss running for running itself. I used to think that I ran because it helped me to stay fit (read: weight management) Part of that is still true. However, I miss running the most for the simple joy of being carefree and the mental freedoms that it comes!

In an effort to get back to the bliss, I registered for the Brazen’s Helleyer 10K. It will get me on track with running. Oh I’m so excited to get started with running and training!!

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More on Costa Rica: Animals that Marvel!

What made Costa Rica so extraordinary was the abundance of wild animals residing in nature. It is phenomenal that Costa Rica takes up only 0.05% of the land mass on earth and yet it contains 5% of all the biodiversity on the planet! I jokingly said to my husband that in some areas, there might be more monkeys than people!

On my “to-see” list was the sloth. That was the one creature that fascinates me for its always-happy-go-lucky look and for its notoriously slow movement! I made it known to our guides that was the one creature I wanted to see while I was in Costa Rica. To be fair, on all excursions, there would be another like-minded tourist. Can you blame us, especially, after seeing this?

We saw our first sloth HIGH up on the canopy at Tortuguero National Park, while on the boat in one of the canals. Sloths live on the tree (more correctly: hangs upside down) and spend 18-20 hours sleeping. The only time it comes down from the trees is when it needs to poop, which due to its slow metabolism, is every 10-14 days. It made sense to spot the three-toed sloth on the tree. BUT, it was not the best viewing experience!

Thankfully, at the later part of our trip, at Manual Antonio National Park, our guide had a super magnifying binocular. We were able to observe closely of both three-toed sloth and two-toed sloth. In Manual Antonio National Park, there were definitely more wild life than human. This was the best video:

Not on my list, but equally as fun to see was the red-eyed tree frog. We did not plan to visit Arenal Natura Ecological Park but fate brought us to see this wonderfully colorful little fella. We lucked out that day because of the rainy, humid condition that this little fella came out and we were able to see it in person and hold it. There weren’t too many tourists that day so the guide was able to spend more time and let us look at him closely. It was the most colorful animal I’ve seen!

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You’d think with all the strong colors, it might be poisonous. It turned out that the colors were just faking it to scare its predators. The colors were used as a “woah” factor so that the predators would be stump for a moment or two to allow the frog to escape. It was the coolest combination of color and sensation to hold it. The gelatin-like legs were giving me all sorts of weird sensation when I held it!

The last two stars were very funny in their behavior. At Manual Antonio National Park, the beach was gorgeous and it was tended by two animals that marveled us: the white-faced monkeys and the raccoons. The jungle that borders next to the pristine beach is filled with the white-faced monkeys. They were not afraid of the tourists, instead they were waiting for the right moments to steal your bags away! They apparently liked the cookies very much. In fact, when our guides took out the pineapple (which did not interest the monkeys) and other food, we were quickly encircled by monkeys. It seemed like the monkeys were come in groups and few would distract the tourists to take photos and videos and all of a sudden, there would be another one that stealthily take the cookies!

The raccoons were just as funny. There was a family of three raccoons constantly “patrolling” the beaches. We kept seeing them going back and forth and preyed on unsuspecting tourists! It was the most hilarious thing we’ve seen, ON A BEACH!

All in all, there were many awesome animals that completed and utterly surprised us. It was definitely the highlight of Costa Rica – the natural wonder that it contains!

 

 

Running Pause. Indoor Rock Climbing Go.

Officially, I rolled over my Morgan Hill Half Marathon registration to next year. The race is in two weekends and I’d admit that there is certain dissatisfaction that I would not participate. But, as life happens, so does injury. I need to lay off the pounding on the ankle and get better before I’m back on the trail.

That being said, I have to also admit that taking a break has been the right decision. Surprisingly, the right knee is feeling better (I can almost see my doctor saying “told ya’ so”) However, having to “pause” from a consistent 5-months training has been challenging for the mind and soul. I enjoy running because of the challenge and also because of the working-out-staying-fit aspect. Darn it, it just feels so good to get those endorphin!

Luckily, good friends are around and one of them suggested that I tried indoor rock climbing. I had only done rock climbing once in my life. That was in my teenage years, during summer camp. It was outdoor climbing. I was given a quick belay lesson and up I went. I could not remember how tall that climb was. All I could recall was I was literally 4 feet from reaching the top but never made it. I was too darn exhausted.

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In any event, fast forward to now (older and supposedly wiser). I said “why not?” Note: the night before I went out with my friend, I barely got any sleep. But, one latte later, nothing was going to me from trying something new. I took the 1-hour belay lesson and several double 8 loops and fisherman’s nodes later, I was up on my first climb!

Okay, running takes a while to get the “high” and sometimes on a bad run, it just feels like work and no high! Scratch that with climbing, especially, if you get a little “queasy” with height. Adrenaline started to pump as soon as I realized how HIGH I was off the ground. Additionally, the “fight” against gravity to go upward was very grueling for my upper body. As a runner, upper body strength training is mostly neglected. Oh, I felt that on the climbs.

After temporarily “passing” belaying class, I joined my friend whom was anxious to get up herself. She was more advanced and that meant higher wall (seriously, these folks feared no height!). It was mesmerizing to see climbers like spider man and defy gravity like that. I then tried few climbs and after the third trip, I was out of gas. My arms felt lifeless …

All in all, I’m glad I’m finding fun and exciting substitute to staying fit. It’s unlikely that I’d return to running for rest of the year (winter times are just not my favorite time to run). With this indoor rock climbing gym, there is also a gym with yoga and cross fit classes. There will be plenty to choose from to stay active while recovering and passing this winter. Who knows – maybe spring time comes, I’d be out climbing and running! It’s never too late to develop another hobby!

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A Future DNS … Tough Decision…

5 months into my half marathon training, hoping for a PR, I’m making the decision to stop training due to repeated ankle sprains. Last week’s visit to the third doctor finally confirmed that it was best to stop. However, to my stubborn self, I still went out hiking with a friend yesterday. It was an moderate hike with elevation at about 5 miles total. Yup. The THREE doctors I saw were right – I needed to rest and recover.

The last mile of the hike felt painful to my knee. I had rolled my ankle three times in three months, in July, August, and September. The body is amazing, it starts to adapt. By the third sprain, the ankle felt pain minimally. But it started to pull the calf muscle and affecting the knee. I started to feel pain on my long runs longer than 5 miles. I used KT tape to support and provide stability to knees and ankles, pushing through the pain.

One day I looked in the mirror as I taped up both ankles and the knee, I thought “wow, I looked like a pro athlete”  Then, I thought “wait, I am NOT a pro!” I shouldn’t be doing this to my body. I went to see my chiropractor who recommended that I stop running to allow the ankle to heal properly. There was sign of overuse on my calf hence causing the knee pain. Two other doctors recommended the same thing.

There was still some part of me that wanted to see if I could still complete the race somehow. I haven’t ran for two weeks now (biked, walked, zumba’d, yoga’d instead) and yesterday’s hike was a test to see the progress. Sigh… I’m definitely out of shape to run the race after taking the third week off now. And most importantly, the ankle/calf/knee is still out of whack. Morgan Hill Half Marathon is definitely out of question. I’m disappointed.

Sigh… I keep telling myself to look at the big picture and to see it as a long term good decision. I know I can probably push through this last month and the race with will power. The question is why… and the only reason I started to run was to be healthy. It’d be crazy to end up more injured and less healthy by ignoring the injury. I will have to look at different option with the half marathon, perhaps go as a volunteer instead.

DNS – Do Not Start – that is a tough call, especially being so close to the goal but really need to sidestep from that.

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I’ll have to take a leap of faith and believe that I will be back running soon!