Amok Vacationing Part 2: Air Travel

Now that the passport was secured, we could relax and get excited for London. And pack. I’m a chronic over-packer, which I’ve been trying to curb recently. A friend brags that she can manage with a large carry on for a 2 week trip abroad, and here I was barely able to zip my largest suitcase for checking for a 5 day trip. But, you feel me, right? You need at least three outfits for every day – daytime, nighttime, and workout gear on the off chance the mood strikes you to work out EVERY DAY. (I always work out on vacation. I never work out every day. But if I don’t have the gear and I wanted to …?) And, certain times of year, in certain climates, you have to pack extra in case you need layers! And you need at least three pair of shoes, maybe four depending on colors …

Let’s just pretend my packing only looks like this when I only have a few days’ notice of international travel and not all the time. ūüėČ

Anyway, yeah. I have a problem. I’m working on it. Sort of. It would be a lot easier if I was the type of person that didn’t have to plan for every contingency that runs through my head and just sport a carry on. Sometimes, I wish I was that breezy. It would make airline travel a lot easier, that’s for sure?

Speaking of, have I mentioned I find airline travel stressful?

I mean, I’m not afraid to fly. I don’t particularly love turbulence, and when there is a rocky landing, it’s really not my favorite, but that’s not fear. That’s me not liking the sensation of falling. I’m not a fan of elevators, either, and will typically opt for the stairs whenever practical. (My old job was on the 40th floor. That was not practical.) I also don’t like the pressure buildup in my ears, especially since I have inner ear issues to begin with. But again, not fear.

Even so, these aren’t the primary reasons I find it stressful. Sure, it’s convenient for long distances. But, the longer the distance, the more likely 1. I need a connection (and I can’t control what the plane is doing or when I get there!) or 2. I need to fly out of a larger airport, which means additional travel.

We flew out of JFK for our trip to London. It is my least favorite airport to fly in or out of. All things being equal, I would choose Logan or even Newark over JFK. But, Chris’ family lives on Long Island near the light rail, and the light rail goes direct to Jamaica Station, and from there you take the Air Train that connects directly with the airport. Painless, brainless. That is, unless you don’t give yourself enough time.

A few years ago, when Chris was still writing his book, I flew out to San Francisco to meet him for a week of sightseeing through the city and wine tasting around the Sonoma Valley. My flight was scheduled for a Sunday morning at 8am, and the earliest train from didn’t get into Jamaica until something like 6:15-6:30am. In hindsight, I should have let my mother in law call me a car service that morning, but it seemed silly to me to spend the money on that when the train was just as easy.

Needless to say, TSA on a springtime Sunday morning was MOBBED. (I didn’t factor in the honeymoon contingent into my travel plans.) After lugging my bags from the LIRR to the AirTrain, I had just barely an hour to get through security, and it took me nearly that. I sprinted to my gate, only to learn that the gate had changed (I didn’t have time to confirm on the board!). However, I will be ever thankful to the gate agents at JetBlue who knew the flight had not yet taken off, and they called them to hold the plane the extra 5 minutes it would take me to run across the terminal.

Ever since then, I have been ultra paranoid about getting to JFK super early “just to be safe.” We took the train, because our flight wasn’t scheduled to leave until after 6pm, though we took the 3pm train. ¬†However, a¬†Tuesday afternoon was far less chaotic. Checking into our flight and checking our bags was a bit of a hot, disorganized mess, but once that was done TSA took all of about 15 minutes. A record. Or maybe because so many people have TSA Pre-Check now, it makes the commoners line that much shorter. Who knows. However, we had a full hour before our plane would even begin BOARDING. Luxurious. Also, a little annoying. Because what were we going to do for an hour? (I’ll tell you – we were going to find outlets to charge our phones and play Words with Friends and troll Facebook, that’s what. At least, that’s what I did. Chris might have found a more productive use of his time.)

Yes, yes it is.

We headed back to our gate shortly before we were scheduled to board. Chris – who despite being a bit afraid of flying, is a total aviation geek – was really excited because we were flying in a new model jet, the 77W. Of course, it being BRAND NEW, when it pulled into the gate there was a minor mechanical issue. Nothing to be terribly concerned about, but it was going to delay our trip by about an hour. Well, let me rephrase: in a normal airport, it would delay our trip by an hour. But this is JFK, and once you lose your place in the queue, you have to get back in line. We ended up taking off about 2 hours late … an hour of that sitting on the tarmac, in line. More things I have no control over. Meanwhile, even though upon learning our flight was going to come in about 2 hours later than scheduled, even though it was still afternoon in LA and we could let those making our arrangements know so that they could notify the car service that was picking us up, it was past bedtime in London meaning whatever poor driver was scheduled to come get us was going to be there 2 hours earlier than necessary. Though he was very polite and pleasant to us, knowing it was not our fault, he was pretty clearly peeved by the inconvenience of being at Heathrow at the crack of dawn only to learn he could have slept in an additional 2 hours. Me? Despite having slept for a few hours on the plane, I was BEAT. I passed out in the car on the way to the hotel, and was so relieved to find out that even though it was only about 10:30am, we were able to check in and I could squeeze in a much-needed catnap before we began to explore the city in earnest.

We weren’t this smiley on the trip home.

I was really hoping our flight home wouldn’t be delayed. We were flying home Sunday and I opted not to take Monday off, which I was beginning to regret. If we were delayed 2 hours getting home, it was going to make Monday morning that much worse. More things I couldn’t control. Fortunately, our drive back to Heathrow was uneventful and featured a friendly and chatty driver, with whom we had a wonderful conversation. The drive home from Albany to Long Island that evening was painful. Our bodies were convinced we were leaving Long Island at 1am and getting home just before 5am, instead of reality, 8pm and midnight. Night owl Chris made it until about 11pm (4am) before he really began to crash, when I took over for the last leg after having fitfully napped on and off the last couple of hours. Otherwise, uneventful. As return trips usually are barring any adverse circumstances. Traveling home is never as fun or interesting as getting there.


Amok Vacationing Part One: The Consequences of Procrastination

It occurred to me that all of my posts to date have been about running.
Not that this is necessarily wrong.¬† The blog is called “Running Amok”, after all.¬† I had, however, meant it to be a play on words, albeit a somewhat ironic play on words.¬† I am extremely Type-A and highly scheduled, and though my desk (and my apartment!) might be organized chaos on a good day, for the most part I am pretty hyper when it comes to keeping order and plans and schedules and lists.
In other words, I am very much a classic ENFJ.
Anyway, I digress.¬† Given my choice of blog title and knowing my personality type (and the weaknesses that go along with it!), it seems most appropriate that the first “non running” post should be about the very impromptu trip that Chris and I took to London last month.¬† As I said in this post, Chris found out on a Thursday that he had won a trip for two through iHeartRadio to go to London to see the world premiere of Eight Days a Week, the Touring Years, in Leicester Square.¬† Of course, said premiere was only a week away, and they were looking to schedule our flights for that Tuesday.¬† Tuesday! Four days notice!¬† I didn’t even have a passport!
See, yes, I am as I mention above incredibly Type A.¬† I am also a Grade A Procrastinator, especially when whatever it is does not have a deadline.¬† I’m driven by deadlines.¬† Without one, it’s difficult to prioritize.¬† Until recently, I didn’t need a passport, so I didn’t bother to get one.¬† It wasn’t a money issue – of course, they are pretty expensive, and that is the reason most people don’t have them on hand unless they need them, but for me it was just not a priority.¬† That is, until it was.
Chris told me when I took a late lunch that afternoon where he was bringing me my favorite donuts.¬† I walked back into my office, relieved that my boss was at his desk, to tell him that I wanted to take the next week off and why.¬† I didn’t think there would be an issue taking the time – I had the accruals, it wasn’t a prime sought-after vacation time that would create a coverage issue, and I didn’t have any pressing deadlines looming – it was more that I was asking for time with literally no notice … after all, I needed the following day (Friday) off, as well, because I needed to secure a passport.
As I had mentioned in my previous post, my boss graciously granted me the time off, so the next step was calling the passport agencies to see about getting a passport in one day.¬† The Department of State website clearly discourages this practice, but it was clear from friends who had done it before that it was an option for “non-emergencies” that were just, well, surprises.¬† I made my appointment for mid-morning in Boston, giving us plenty of time to drive out there that morning. (I chose Boston instead of New York because we were originally supposed to spend a long weekend in Portland, ME, that weekend, which we ultimately decided to cancel, but not until after I made the appointment in Boston.)
For all of you who are wondering, here is how it works:
  • You make sure you have proof of immediate international travel (emails from the Universal Music with my tentative itinerary – Check)
  • You call and make an appointment at the nearest Passport Agency (being in the Northeast, we are fortunate that there are actually quite a few within about a 3 hour drive)
  • You get yourself a Passport Photo (thank you again, Kristin, for sending me a coupon!)
  • You gather all of your vital identity documents – birth certificate, social security card, driver’s license, marriage certificate, etc.¬† Being Type A, all of this was safely tucked in drawer with other vital documents for safekeeping in case I need them quickly – the animals’ shot records, our recent year tax returns, the titles to our cars, etc.
  • You set your alarm for Ass O’Clock so you give yourself more than enough time to drive to your Passport Center of Choice the next morning.
I did the first leg of driving, and Chris took over for me in Lee, MA.¬† It was then when I looked over at his head. “You aren’t wearing your hat,” I said.
“I brought a hat,” he replied.
I smirked. ¬†“Which hat?”
“My Saratoga hat.”
Indeed, Chris was as concerned as I was about securing the passport.¬† He didn’t want anything – not even the fact that my husband is a Yankees fan – ruining my chances.
There was no parking to be found in and around the O’Neill Federal Building (no surprises there), so Chris dropped me off and proceeded to drive around Boston, potentially looking for parking while he waited for me.¬† I walked by a CVS across from the building, and felt some relief that, if I needed it, I could get another photo taken if necessary.¬† That photo center must get a LOT of business.¬† I was an hour early for my appointment, which was fine, as it seems like it is merely so they can be prepared for the number of people who will be coming in that day.¬† After chatting with the woman at the point of entry, who confirmed I had all of my necessary documentation, I went inside and waited about 15 minutes before being called to the counter.
This is where things got a little dicey.
You see, this isn’t my first passport. I had one when I was in high school for a trip to Mexico.¬† Not only had this long since expired, but I didn’t renew it right away because I was in the process of legally changing my name.¬† By the time I got all of that situated, it became a source of procrastination for, oh, 15 years? ūüôā ¬†Anyway, in the meantime, I found out with my legal name change I could also legally “correct” my birth certificate.¬† I did so, only to find out that an official “correction” results in having the old name crossed off, rather than a clean copy be reissued.¬† Had I known this, I would never have bothered!¬† What a waste.¬† Because of this, I still carry around the court order allowing the name change AND the birth certificate when both identity documents are needed.
I filled out a cancel passport request for the old, presumably long since thrown away, passport.¬† I handed that in with all of my identity documents, including the court order and the “corrected” birth certificate.¬† The woman processing my forms looked confused.¬† I didn’t blame her.¬† I tried to explain why I was giving her so many forms.¬† She then went into the back to speak to her supervisor.¬† In reality, I probably only waited about 10 minutes, if that, for her to return.¬† However, it felt like an eternity.¬† The government is not a fan of aliases.¬† What if this is what keeps me going on this trip to London with Chris next week?¬† I began to panic.¬† I did my best to maintain my composure while I waited.¬† I tried to look in the back to see if I could see what was happening. ¬†(I couldn’t.)
She FINALLY returned. ¬†“Oh, so sorry about that.¬† Your old passport was so old we had trouble finding it in the system.¬† It’s so long since expired we didn’t even need to cancel it out.”
That was it?  A technical glitch?  I blinked, nonplussed.
“Also, I was getting approval to issue your passport this afternoon.”
I asked, “Did you get it?”
“Huh? Oh, yes.”
Well.¬† That’s a relief.
I paid, and was given a receipt with a confirmation number and instructions to return at 4pm. I called Chris, and as he still had not found parking, we decided instead to spend the next few hours at Trillium.
After all of that excitement, I needed to calm my nerves.


Given the parking and traffic situation in Boston, we miscalculated how much time we would need to grab a late lunch before heading back to get my passport, so I ended up being quite early.¬† Chris had an opportunity to drive his long loop through Cambridge and back while he waited.¬† At about 10 minutes to 4, a guard came out, with a thick Boston accent, explaining how everyone proceeding in an orderly manner would mean everything would go faster. ¬†“You get your passports, we get to go home for the weekend.¬† It’s a win-win.” ¬†His jovial manner put me instantly at ease – even though I knew logically I was very likely to have a passport in hand in the next few minutes, I still was not going to celebrate until I physically had it in my possession.
Finally – FINALLY – the wait was over and I had it in hand.¬† The angst of the last 27 hours or so had paid off.¬† I had a passport.¬† I could legally travel to London.¬† Let the adventures begin …


As I mentioned in my last post, one of the things I realized during this year’s training cycle is that too much of a good thing is, well, not a good thing. My cross training last year included 1-2 HIIT classes a week, along with yoga, aerobics, weightlifting, trail running, hiking, and spin.

This year, it was very sporadic yoga, 4-5 HIIT classes a week and … not much else. The weather was certainly a contributing factor in¬†keeping my road mileage up, in addition to cramping my style for trail running and hiking as much as usual, but I otherwise had no excuse for the lack of variety in my workouts. ¬†As much as “every day is different” in HIIT (especially when there are different HIIT formats on each day), like anything the effectiveness declines at a certain point. ¬†In fact, this article explains exactly why doing HIIT more than 2-3 times per week could be detrimental to your overall fitness gains.

Therefore, in my¬†new “off-season” training plan, in addition to upping my yoga attendance, I’ve resolved to start going to spin class more often. Hiking season (for me) will be coming to a close soon – the next few weeks are quite busy and I’m not a huge fan of winter hiking. (I do enjoy snowshoeing on moderate trails, such as those found at¬†Thacher Park, the Albany Pine Bush, and Plotter Kill Preserve, but I generally just say no to¬†high peaks if it involves needing crampons.) Anyway, last¬†night was my first spin class in nearly a year, and I felt it in all of the good ways. I was excited to see that my favorite spin instructor is still teaching at my “other” gym (the big box one with multiple locations nearby and a low membership fee, that comes in handy when I need to use the treadmill or … well, want to go to spin class!), and the room was recently redone with a large screen that plays virtual videos of beautiful roads during class. (When class isn’t in session, it plays videos of spin instructors, so basically even if there isn’t a spin class scheduled, you can still go to spin class – one of the things my freelancing husband loves about this gym.)

I found settling into a hard pace a lot easier than I anticipated – not physically, per se, but mentally. Before I knew it, I was pushing away in a hard gear, out of breath and sweating, while telling myself I just needed to get through the song before I took a sip of water and slowed down a bit. I forgot how much harder I push myself in spin class compared with other workouts … including running itself. Which explains why my body was missing this form of exercise so much. In fact, after class, I was not only excited for my next spin class, but I am also excited for my next HIIT class and see how hard I can push myself. I am also excited for my next run, to see if I can push myself harder and faster there as well.

Also, good news: I haven’t been having hip pain! I’m not sure if it’s because I’ve dialed back the mileage, gone to more yoga, visited the chiropractor, or switched back to a higher drop shoe (or some combination of all of these), but whatever it is, I’m glad for it! It still hurts to drive long distances (cruise control helps), but otherwise I am obviously doing something right!

Racing to spark joy

Well … it went.

It didn’t go terribly.¬† I knew I wasn’t going to make my goal of sub-2:00, or even PRing, but I didn’t even make my revised goal (2:10).¬† I came in just north of 2:13, which is about an average of a 10:09/mile pace.¬† Given most of my training runs have been in the 10:30-11:30 range, and given my injury, this really was not a bad showing at all.¬† My legs were feeling pretty wrecked at the end of the race, but by and large, I made it through this race feeling pretty strong.¬† My hip was bothering me in points, but it is definitely a lot better than it was.

This past year, and in particular this most recent training season, has taught me a lot about why I race and what I want to get out of it.¬† I had grand plans of training year round, increasing my speed, breaking a threshold I once never thought possible. Except I didn’t train year round.¬† This year’s winter was mild enough to allow me to run far more than I had even intended, but this summer’s humidity stopped that pretty solidly in my tracks.¬† Instead of subbing out missed runs with spin class – a tactic I’ve used in the past with some success – I subbed out for HIIT classes because I enjoy HIIT classes more than spin classes.¬† While HIIT is a great complement to training, it is NOT a substitution for running.¬† My endurance continued to improve, but I got slower.¬† A LOT slower.¬† And when I tried to push harder, I got hurt.¬† Too little, too late.

Even so, I’m glad I ran Hartford this year instead of deferring.¬† The race itself is really great – gentle rolling hills (just enough to keep it interesting), some really nice portions of the course, great spectators, well-organized, terrific post-race food and beer, good swag.¬† Hartford in and of itself isn’t exactly a choice destination, which is why I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it unless you have a tie to to the area.¬† I was happy that I was able to reconnect with an old college friend who ran the race as well, which, for me, gave an added bonus to the trip.

Always fun to catch up with old friends. ¬†It’s also always fun to drink a good microbrew post-race!

However, more than anything, I am glad I didn’t defer because it reinforced that my approach to choosing races has been all wrong.¬† At one point, I had thought I wanted to be a 50-stater, however I have since decided against this as I didn’t want to travel to a certain place or run a particular race just to check off a box.¬† With limited time and limited funds, I simply don’t want to commit to that.¬† Not only that, but some states have multiple races (and places!) of interest, and I don’t want to overlook those in favor of arbitrary race-bagging.

However, I still was registering for races to check off a box:¬† wanting to do X number of races in a year/season/time frame, without regard for whether it was something that would actually spark joy.¬† If I am spending the money and time, and putting in the work, I want it to spark joy.¬† Convenience is a legitimate factor, too, but not at the expense of joy.¬† As I said in my last post, I want to love my sport again.¬† This is how I’ll get there.

I’ve made some preliminary choices for possible 2017 half marathons, and I am already getting really excited about the prospect of competing in these races and seeing these places. As it so happens, the preliminary choices are all in different states (and none of them states I have ran half marathons in yet), but that’s merely a coincidence.

In the meantime, other than the races I am currently signed up for (Squirrely Six Miler and Troy Turkey Trot 10K), I won’t be competing in any additional races for the rest of the year.¬† While this decision certainly lifts any self-imposed pressure for the time being, the decision is bittersweet. Stockadeathon – one of my favorite local fall classics – is coming up too soon for comfort, and even on my four mile run last night I felt some nagging hip pain (it passed relatively quickly, before I even completed my run).¬† I still am going to keep running as long as the weather cooperates, but I am not going to push myself.

I also really need to get new sneakers.¬† There’s definitely still life in my sneakers (many reviews have my¬†sneakers going for 700+ miles, I currently have about 450), but if I am going to run for more than 5-6 miles, I need some newer cushion.¬† I can hold onto these for short runs while giving my legs a rest in newer shoes with longer runs.¬† I have a box full of sneakers to donate after a recent Fall Purge, so I really need to make a trip to Fleet Feet anyway…

On unexpected trips, minor injuries, and revised goals

Last month, I talked about my aggressive September training plan that I was excited to dive into headfirst.

On Thursday, September 8, the best laid plans went to pot.

My husband stopped by my office to bring me some afternoon treats, as he was nearby and it was on his way home. I had a webinar that I couldn’t pause, so he ended up waiting around a bit for me. It was during that time he had a pretty interesting email exchange with the promotions team at I Heart Radio and Universal Music. Turns out, he won a trip for 2 to London to see the premiere of Eight Days a Week. The trip ran from the following Tuesday through Sunday.

Long story short – we made plans for me to get an expedited passport (which, other than taking years off of my life as I waited and wondered if my application would be accepted, was surprisingly easy), canceled our original weekend away plans, and I took the following week off so I could fly to London. Fortunately, my boss was incredibly supportive!

My boss happily granted my leave so long as I came back with this mug for his wife! ūüôā

Though I was¬†not initially¬†concerned, this obviously put a damper on my original running plans. I scrapped the training plan I had previously, scheduled a 12 mile run for the Sunday before our trip, and hoped for the best. And, really, things were going pretty well. I had to cancel my chiropractic appointment, but my piriformis syndrome had been feeling better, so I wasn’t too concerned. I knew I was going to get fewer miles in that week than usual, but I just treated it as a step back week. I got a run in on Long Island before our flight on Tuesday (a route I like to refer to as my “Hills for Breakfast” route, but after the unrelenting hills at Ragnar, it seemed like child’s play!), and a couple of nice runs on the Thames Path while in London.

Trips to Long Island mean runs with Piper the Vizsla, aka the #redmenace!

I got about 6.5 miles in on the last day of the trip. A portion of the path through the park had some speed bumps in it – which seems incredibly dangerous on a walk/bike path, but I digress – one of which I didn’t see until I hit it. I didn’t fall, but when I caught myself, I collapsed into my right hip. I felt the pain radiate through my sciatic nerve and I knew it was going to be trouble. I finished my run, then proceeded to spend 8 hours on a plane and another 4 hours in a vehicle. Needless to say, on Monday I was in a lot of a pain.

I began to panic – I knew I couldn’t defer Adirondack Distance Festival, though I also knew I could still run it, if not as strong as I was hoping. I researched the deadlines for deferring Hartford. I still had time. I called and got into my chiropractor the next morning. I got out the ice packs and my foam roller. By Tuesday night I was already feeling a bit better, which was a relief. I went to the chiropractor on Wednesday and he chastised me for not stretching enough, though did not think I needed to stop training. However, in talking with my husband, *he* told me I needed to stop OVER training. And he was right. I needed to stop doubling up on workouts. And since I have these races coming up, running needed to be my focus.

I ran ADK Distance mostly without incident. (I wasn’t feeling great that day, but it had nothing to do with my piriformis.) I treated it as a long, leisurely training run and did not push myself, risking further aggravation of my injury. I decided not to defer Hartford, but rather modify my goal. I’ve been having trouble with my speed and I know it is due to my haphazard training this summer. Coupled with this injury, though I do want to push myself at Hartford tomorrow, the original goal is simply not realistic at this point. I did finally ditch my Altras and pulled out my old Adidas Glide Boosts from last year, which fortunately still have some life left in them, and my legs felt better on this week’s runs than they have in months.

Adidas Supernova Glide Boost 6, bought in the fall of 2014.  Over 400 miles on them, but still going strong!

It has me thinking some about next year, too. Where do I want my running and fitness goals to take me? I found that I love running destination races, so I am thinking about purchasing the 2017 Rock ‘n’ Roll Tourpass. Maybe I don’t want to train for PRs anymore, but rather train instead so I am at a fitness level to enjoy my races. I did find that while I very much enjoyed my winter and spring training, I have felt it to be a chore for the fall, and I think it is because the first half of the year I was training for fun and fitness, and the second with a goal in mind that has been hovering like a specter. Also, no more halfs 2 weeks apart (or less) unless it is for fun only (that is, special theme or destination race). They just cost way too much money and have too much pressure otherwise. While I enjoyed the race itself yesterday and we had ideal weather conditions, I think I would have felt better about it if it had been my goal race for the season rather than a throwaway.

I got chatting with a running buddy of mine last night who was in a similar dilemma this past spring. She’s already broken the sub-2 hour half marathon barrier, though, as she said it is a hard effort for her to do that, and her PRs were somewhat elusive this year. Though it is still a goal (one I know I can achieve at some point), we both agreed that it is more fun to choose races because we want to run those particular races and have a goal to work toward, not necessarily to achieve a new PR. Adirondack Distance Festival, for example, was a beautiful run with lots of amazing course support and cheering despite being a small race. It was near perfect running conditions. I ran a 2:24, which is my second worst (road) half time. (My worst time being 2:28 at Syracuse, which was by far the WORST road running conditions of any race I’ve run!)

It’s easy to fall into a pattern of discouragement when you come off of a run of PRs (which I was PRing all over the place last fall!), and easy to forget your reasons and motivations for doing all of this in the process. It’s time to start enjoying my sport again.