Saturday, November 11, 2017

C25K W5R3


Just a very quick post to say that this morning Wil and I went to Green Lake for our run. See, today was Week 5 Run 3 of the NHS Couch to 5K plan ... which meant that we did a huge jump and ran 20 minutes non-stop -- and the previous longest single run was 8 minutes. 


I wanted to go to Green Lake so that I didn't have to think, to plan, to wait for traffic -- I could just trot along on a relatively flat surface. And though it was drizzling turing the first few minutes, it actually cleared up a little as we ran.

We started with the usual 5-minute warmup walk. Then the first 10 minutes of running felt hard -- I was relieved when "Laura" (the podcast host) said we were at halfway through. I felt surprised, however, when she said we were at 15 minutes -- I think I was finally warm and loose at that point.  And then I was happy to hear "just 2 minutes left", and really pleased and more than a little tired when we finished.


Then we did our 5-minute cool down walk, and then extended that a tiny bit so Wil could hit 3 miles on his GPS. Twenty minutes! Nonstop! I'm really pleased to be making progress. 

Friday, November 10, 2017

The 100-Day Challenge

On October 5 my friend Tony Dubose posted a link on his FB timeline. The header? "Imagine How You'll Feel on January 18 (If You Start a 100-Day Challenge on October 10)".


I was intrigued – you know how I love a project. So I clicked through to Bill Murphy Jr.'s article from Inc. magazine and read this pull quote:
There are 100 days between October 10 and January 18. What if you decided to change something big during that time? 
The idea is simple. 100 days is long enough to accomplish something big, but short enough to discourage procrastination. And I have things I want to accomplish!

I decided to focus on one thing – increasing my chances of success by decreasing my tendency to get discouraged when I try to do too much at once. And the thing I have really felt has been missing from my life? Running.

It's weird – when we started running all those years ago, it took me a while to feel like a "Real Runner". But then I embraced it. It became part of who I was. Oddly enough, when I went to work for a running shoe company, I felt LESS like a "Real Runner" – I felt like I wasn't fast enough to be legitimate, a feeling reinforced by some of my colleagues who would say things like "Oprah didn't RUN a marathon… she COMPLETED a marathon. Anyone who takes that long to finish isn't RUNNING." Mind you, Oprah famously ran the 1994 Marine Corps Marathon in 4 hours, 29 minutes … a good hour faster than I've ever run a marathon. It didn't *stop* me from running – hell, I ran a lot of half marathons during my time there – but it definitely made me feel like I wasn't a Real Runner.

And then when I left the running company – when I thought I would be able to re-gain my runner self – I hurt my hip. Not running, amusingly enough – in an overeager attempt to do squats and lunges at boot camp. With the Kilimanjaro climb looming I decided to stop running and just do my PT exercises and walk and hike to train. I didn't want to hurt my hip and risk being able to climb at all.

But now that we're back I really wanted to get back to running – to being more active every day, not just when hiking. So the 100-day challenge is perfect.

I set as my 100-day goal to be able to run for an hour, without stopping, at the end of 100 days. Note that it's not a distance goal -- it's a time goal. As part of the goal, I decided to spend the first weeks following the NHS Couch to 5K program. And then, when that ends after 9 weeks,  and I am running for 30 minutes nonstop, I'll just keep building slowly by adding 2 or 3 minutes of running to each run. I feel good about this goal.

HOWEVER, because I'm being very sensitive to my gimpy, old-lady knee, I wanted to have a backup goal. If I had to stop running because I got hurt, I would at least make sure that I got 10,000 steps per day for 96 out of the 100 days. This was, in many ways, the more ambitious goal: since going back to work I rarely get my steps in. I have become weirdly sedentary. In fact, I looked back and in the weeks leading up to the challenge I only hit my step goals once or twice per week, usually on the weekend. Grim.

Here are my step totals for the month before the challenge, September 10 - October 9:

It doesn't look too bad in the early part of that month ... until one remembers that we were on vacation in Africa until September 21.

Thursday 11/9 was the first milestone day -- 30 days into the challenge. I had set my milestone goals as follows: having completed run 2 of week 5 of the Couch to 5K program, and having hit my steps 29 out of 30 days. I'm super pleased to say that I have done both!

Here are my daily step totals for the first 30 days of the challenge, October 10 - November 9:


Yeah, there's one day where I didn't come close: November 3. But I felt like it was a conscious decision that day not to push it, and I was okay with that.

The challenge has served as extra motivation -- I don't want to slip up; and I want to see how I keep progressing. Compare the week before and the week after the start of the challenge, October 3 - 17:


I've been making sure to get my runs in on Tuesdays and Thursdays, usually running at work, either on the treadmill or braving the roads of Woodinville. And on the weekend I get to run with Wil. And to get my steps in, I've been trying to move more at work, and then we go for walks in the evening. And it's not just because I want to keep earning stickers...

Big stickers = runs; small stickers = hitting my step goal.
There's still a long way to go -- lots of minutes to run, and lots of steps to get. But I still feel motivated and excited to keep going. Okay, maybe it is just stickers...


Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Zanzibar doors

I wrote about Zanzibar doors back in 2016 ... and I don't think I understood just how prevalent these intricately carved doors are in Stone Town, and how much pleasure I got from seeing them. And to be clear, these doors aren't just on preserved houses, or on museums -- these doors are still used and locked every day.

Doors were traditionally the first part of a new house to be built. And the bigger / the more elaborately carved the door, the greater the wealth and status of the house's owner.

Older doors reflect an Arab influence, with geometric designs. Doors dating from the late 19th century, however, reflect an Indian influence. Many doors are fitted with brass spikes, which may be a modification of the Indian practice of studding doors with iron spikes to fend off the attacks by war elephants. (Apparently, when Marco Polo visited Zanzibar in the 13th century, he wrote that the island had "elephant in plenty". Pity there are none left.)

The remaining doors in Stone Town date primarily from the 18th and 19th centuries and are maintained by the Stone Town Conservation and Development Authority.

Click on the thumbnails below to see larger versions of these images.

...

Monday, November 6, 2017

African Adventures 2017

It has taken me longer to write about our trip than it took us to live it. Maybe because it still feels like three distinct trips. It also surprises me that it all fit in one little Poppin notebook.


And, though I don't think this picture is testament to the fact, the edges of the pages where we were on Kilimanjaro have a distinct dingy brown hue.


It feels like we really did go on three distinct adventures. First and foremost, of course, was our Kilimanjaro climb.


Then our amazing safari in Kenya.




There's a lot to read -- and lots of pretty pictures too. Frankly, I don't expect anyone to get all the way through it. But I'm happy to have recorded it here in this blog. 

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Sunday, October 8, 2017

African Safari 2017


Where can you see LIONS? Only in KENYA!!! After our amazing Kilimanjaro climb; our group headed to Kenya to spend a week on safari... and it was spectacular.

September 4: We crossed the border into Kenya, created the Best Van Ever, and went on our first game drive in Amboseli National Park.










September 9: We spent all day on a game drive in the Maasai Mara. We rescued a stuck van, poured cold water on a frisky zebra and his lady friends (oops), saw a leopard, and, of course, MORE LIONS. 





We put in a lot of hours with our driver, Njaguna, and the fellow members of the Best Van Ever ... so thankful for all of them! Thanks for singing all the parts of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight". Thanks for joining in the Best Van Ever chants. Thanks for dancing at gas stations. Thanks for insisting that we sang "I Will Survive" with feeling. Thanks for all of it.

Gretchen, Julie, Liz, Njaguna, Wil, Sunny, Tony... and Liberty #6, the Best Van Ever!


Sunday, October 1, 2017

Kilimanjaro Climb 2017

It's hard to believe that we've been home for over a week ... even harder to believe that it was a MONTH ago that we were here:


I've been typing up my journal and sifting through our 2000+ photos for the blog, but it's pretty slow going.

I have, however finished writing up each day of the climb. So sit back, grab "kikombe cha chai" (a cup of tea) and climb with us:

August 23: First we had to get to Africa. And to do that, we had to spend a night in Canada. (Eh?)


August 24-25: Then we spent the better part of TWO DAYS getting to Tanzania. Along the way we flew across the Atlantic, felt trapped in a featureless departures lounge, and ate a lot of airplane food.


August 26: Then we explored the town of Moshi and met the local wildlife. 


August 27: On Sunday we had our pre-climb meeting, packed for the climb, and went into Moshi to poke around the abandoned railway station. 


Then it was finally time for us to start the climb itself.








September 1: Summit day!






If this had been all we did in Africa, I still think it would have been worth it. We challenged ourselves -- summit day was the hardest single-day thing I've ever done. We met a great group of people and cheered each other on. We saw beautiful places. and we reached the roof of Africa. Sometimes I still can't believe it. 

Next up: safari in Kenya!

Sunday, September 24, 2017

We're baaaaaaaack!


Arrived home safely from our grand adventure a few days ago. We're still reeling from all of our experiences, the people we've met, the places we've seen, the things we've done.

You'll be unsurprised to hear that I kept a journal while we were traveling; one that's amusingly filthy on the edges of the pages from the Kili climb. I will slowly but surely write up our adventures, and backdate the blog posts to the days things happened. It'll be like time travel. Or something. And, never fear, I'll put up an omnibus post with links to all the days.

But for now, we're relaxing at home, holding on to our vacation glow, cuddling our little lions, drinking water STRAIGHT FROM THE TAP, and being thankful for all we have. More soon, I promise.


Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The long way home

Spoiler alert: we did not need to find room for towels in our bags. But that's okay. We will live. 

We had a slightly late breakfast this morning -- upstairs at 8:45 and as we sat there a huge rainstorm approached from the east and poured down. Amazing. We watched the water run down the roof, gather in the gutter, and roar down the downspouts. And seeing how quickly the gutters filled, and the amount of water -- wow. 

After breakfast we packed up our things, and considered digging out our Gore-Tex jackets so we'd have them if/when a shower returned while we wandered. I half-heartedly rummaged in both my big and my small bag, to no avail, and gave up... in part because of the STENCH coming out of my big bag. Ewwww. 

So out we went, heading past the food market and through the clothing market area, then stumbling across Quality, where I bought a box of tea. We started to head back, and as we wound through the narrow streets of shops, a drizzle turned into a downpour. We were following a "city Maasai" -- wearing traditional dress, but with a smaller walking stick, and talking on a mobile phone -- down the street, and when he hopped into a shop, so did we -- a shop selling football gear and other men's clothes. We smiled, they welcomed us, and we tried not to drip on anything for several long, silent minutes. It goes without saying that while we felt really awkward, the Maasai and the other local who ducked in felt -- or at least showed -- no discomposure during this time. 

It seemed to let up a bit, so we scampered out again, only to take refuge a few doors down when another wave of rain swept through. We were joined in the doorway by a local who, upon seeing an enterprising umbrella salesman, called him over to enquire about the price ... which, when quoted, seemed to insult the man, who waved the salesman away. 

Another break in the rain, and we hightailed it back to Emerson Spice, stopping briefly at Emerson on Harumzi (no joy, no towels), and then just relaxing in the Secret Garden -- and trying to dry out a bit. Russell saw us and said, "I told you you'd get a shower", with a smile. 

I love this quiet space -- even on days when we did have to share it with others!



We gazed up at our former room, Desdemona, with the two Juliet balconies and the tiny terrace.


It's the details, the textures of Emerson Spice that I will remember. From the walls of "our" table in the garden, to the remains of one of the old townhouses, to the flagstone floor of the patio, to the fresh blossoms placed in the fountain every day. A truly magical place, and I'm so glad we got to spend several nights there.







A few minutes before noon -- our pick-up time, we headed to the lobby, and soon we were being escorted through the streets of Stone Town to a taxi near Lukmaan's. I tipped the porters carrying our absurdly heavy bags TSh 5000 each, and left an envelope with a larger group tip at the hotel. They did look after us well!

Very short ride to the airport, where we grabbed a trolley in the parking lot and passed the first security check: three bored-looking men at a table in then walkway, asking to see our "tickets". We explained that the tickets were electronic, so they shifted to "flight information". So I handed over the overly detailed itinerary I had made, which he glanced at before waving us through. 

Then to the "airport security", where they scanned the bags, opened mine, looked at the luggage scale, and then asked about the shells. 

"Do you have a receipt?"
"I picked them up on the beach in Bwejuu."
"Shells are part of our heritage."
"I can take them out if you'd like."
"There's a procedure...."
[silence]
"Okay..."
"A procedure because they are part of our heritage."
[silence]
"Okay...."
[long pause, during which we just looked at each other]
"I want you to have a good memory of Zanzibar" -- and then he turned away and sat down. I zipped up my bag, still not 100% sure of what was going on. Wil gave the guard the "double thumbs up" sign, which the guard returned, so we left. 

Yeah, that was a shakedown. 

A gentle shakedown, to be sure, but he just tired of my willful cluelessness so waved me through. 

Then to check-in, where we waited behind one couple before one couple before it was our turn. It took a surprisingly long time, but once the clerk was done, she handed us boarding passes all the way to Seattle, and checked our bags all the way there, too. Well worth the wait!

Then immigration -- Wil was asked one question, I none. Though we did have our fingers scanned again. We left with new stamps in our passports and on our boarding passes. 


Then through "proper security", where the agents asked me to open my bag and looked at the camera before waving us through. I guess no one carries point-and-shoot cameras anymore!

Then a long wait in the departure lounge. When we arrived it was packed, but an earlier flight on a big plane boarded and left us nearly alone. As small airport terminals go, this is a pretty good one, with a mkahawa (coffee shop) and a couple of other stores to poke around.

We bought an overpriced cheese roll mkahawani (in the coffee shop), along with our last bottle of Stoney Tangawezi. I will miss you, Stoney. Then, to pass the time, we took turns browsing the shops. I bought some postcards, a tacky magnet soon to adorn our fridge, and some sweets ... but couldn't find anything I really wanted.

Finally it was time to head out onto the tarmac to our plane. I had mixed feelings -- I had loved our time in Africa, but was ready to go home and see the kitties. And, of course, I was dreading all the flying coming up. Star Trek promises me a teleporter someday...


Turns out our flight from Zanzibar to Kilimanjaro airport was empty -- we had a row to ourselves and most of the plane was empty. Short hop to Kili, where we knew we wouldn't be allowed off the plane. We had heard that this can be tiresome, as the plane heats up as it sits in the sun for an hour or so. But they kept the doors open, so it wasn't bad -- and only a couple of people got on the plane, so the next flight was empty, too. 

When we took off from Kili to Addis, we soon passed Kilimanjaro, poking through the clouds. And I BURST INTO TEARS. Clearly, I still have a lot to process about the climb and this trip!








It's really hard to believe that we got to the top of that on foot, and here we were flying next to it!

We were surprised by the amount of food we were served on these flights -- and hooray for the interesting vegetarian options (and for them not being vegan!). This meal was apparently personalized for me.


Then to Addis Ababa, where we had a few more hours to kill.


This time we emerged into the general area rather than the secured area, so we had access to SHOPS! RESTAURANTS! FIZZY WATER!!! We wandered and wandered and wandered -- watching as the airport seemed to empty, to fill up, and to empty again. We looked at knock-off athletic gear, cartons of cigarettes we had never heard of ("Lucky Panda"??), knew better than to buy Duty-Free booze as it would be confiscated in Europe, and avoided the area near the "smokers lounge" as when the lounge itself got full, smokers just stood outside it, puffing way. But suddenly we noticed that, oddly, all the security lines seemed to fill up and we realized we may have mis-timed our approach.

But we just slipped in -- semi-blatantly at one in the middle of the airport. And -- despite a hiccup where three wealthy women and their children pushed past all of us, despite having no idea how to navigate security, including the need to take of their heavy metal jewelry -- soon we made it through.

Then down to the gate, which was already heaving with people. We did a loop looking for a place to sit, before finally just shifting a barricade rope slightly and slipping in to a pair of seats behind it. Bold. And once we did it, we were joined by a woman and her son.

Time passed sloowwwwwwly, but then it was time to board. No pretense of using the "boarding groups" -- there was just a crush. Admittedly, we were well positioned to join the crush, so we did.

We were loaded onto a bus -- well, not just a bus, a COBUS3000 -- which took ages and ages to load. We sat there, jammed in, for a few minutes, and then the bus slowly lurched away from the doors ... and to a plane about 100 yards away. The closest plane.

When the doors of the bus opened there was a similar crush to get off ... and then a rush to the stair ramps, where there was a real "last helicopter out of Saigon" feel as people grappled with each other to get on the steps. And then, finally, we were on the plane.... which was, despite all of that, empty. Wil and I had a middle row to ourselves, but lots of people on the plane had entire rows to themselves. Sweet!

I don't remember much from this flight, other than that Wil slept while I watched movie after movie. And, finally, we landed at Frankfurt.

Frankfurt was odd -- super clean, lots of shops, lots of restaurants. We had pretzels for breakfast (hey, it was Oktoberfest!), were amused and annoyed by the staff at the snobbiest airport bar in the world, and walked and walked and walked. We were just so ready to be home at this point.

Our Lufthansa flight to Seattle was delayed a bit -- a strike in France and fog in Frankfurt meant that there were long departure backups. We were originally told it would be over an hour, but asked to stay close to the gate. Then suddenly they were letting us board as we had a tentative takeoff time. You have never seen a faster, more orderly boarding process!

Then more flying, more movies, more nondescript yet surprisingly spicy curries, and we landed at Sea-Tac. Thanks to our Global Entry cards, we were through immigration in under 5 minutes, customs in under 3, and we were out picking up an Uber 20 minutes after landing. CRAZY. We were home within an hour. Huzzah!

Home to happy cats and a cozy house, half wondering if our adventure had been a dream.