Most people consider January 1st the New Year, but teachers think in academic years. The first day of school is our first day of the year. The two month summer is a sort of reprieve from time itself. As we head into another year, we get ready for it in expat fashion. Two fifty pound bags per family member, car seats, baby backpack carriers, and lists of all kinds all over the place. Lists of American items not to forget, lists of teaching beginning-of-year ideas, lists of logistics.
In preparation and throughout the year, I think about what the family needs for the following year, ordering enough on Amazon to warrant buying some of their stock shares. As a result, as soon as I get “home” I start packing. First order of business, books. It is hard to get good English books abroad, so I order them as I learn of books that I need. I end up with a surplus no doubt, but the book lover in me anticipates coming home to a giant stack of beautiful books. Next and with slightly less excitement, I pack over-the-counter medicines and vitamins, seasonal clothes, makeups, lotions, health foods, three pairs of running shoes, birthday and Christmas gifts. All of this adds up pretty quickly in weight. I have been nearly packed for our departure since we arrived.
This will be our 11th year teaching overseas, 12th year teaching. No matter the year, I still sit on a mixture of nervous and excited. It is a similar feeling I have before a race. It is because I care so much about the outcome.
Living overseas has taught me to be more flexible and open-minded. One must roll with the punches, choose your stresses, and be open to learning from another culture. I have intentionally and unintentionally adopted parts of every country I have lived in and even some from places I have visited. There is this sort of internal filter that keeps the things I respect about my culture and replace other parts with philosophy’s from another. I changed a lot after Thailand. There was plenty to learn in the land of smiles–mi pen lai, ka (no problem, a favorite and deeply ingrained saying in Thailand). I see this happening rather seamlessly with my children, too. Personally, it has made me a better teacher, parent, person. I don’t have plans of stopping working in foreign lands any time soon. I am looking forward to another year stretching myself outside of my comfort zone.
Before children, my husband and I lived in New Zealand and Kazakhstan. We moved to Thailand and there started our family. Last year, when we moved to Bosnian and Herzegovina, it was the first time we had moved as a family. New job, new country, new caregiver for my daughter, new teachers for my son, new house. As you would imagine, it was stressful. I am looking forward to having some familiarity going back to Sarajevo this year. However, we do this for newness and there is still plenty that will feel novel and exciting to the human experience. I have my list of places to explore in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Those lists. They are everywhere.
So, we are on our final goodbyes. We used to do them as one big hurrah, but now we like to make it more personal, saying goodbye one by one. We have said goodbye to some good friends that have a son the same age as ours. We have said good by to my in-laws. We have said goodbye to my aunt, uncle, cousins. We have seen fellow international teachers that do the same thing we do, most likely seeing them abroad this coming year, so it is a quasi-goodbye. We are getting ready to go camping this weekend with my dad, his wife, and my sister and her family. That will be goodbye until next year. I can feel it, the wheels will be picking up soon for another year abroad.
The same week as my race, my mother and mother-in-law had surprised me with a spa day so I could get a deep tissue massage to work out some of the knots that have been hanging around for too long. My massage lady nailed those knots, but it left me seriously wondering if I would be able to run again, much less race on Saturday. It seemed like she had brought back my plantar fasciitis full force and added a knee issue to boot that was nonexistent prior to the massage. I did some self-medicating, I went to the doctor, foam-rolled, iced, rested, and elevated. I had all but written off showing up to the race. I almost didn’t even get the race packet, but the runner in me wouldn’t cave. By Saturday, all of that pain was gone and I was in better shape than when I went in, so all’s well that ends well.
To add insult to injury, I spent the night before the race at a concert, carb-loading via red wine where I had one drink too many. I did not reap the benefits.
I did manage to make it to the race, where I had the usual and awesome support of my family. See below my pom-pomed son.
So, once I got myself there, I drank the coffee and ate the bananas they had set out for us. This was rough on the stomach, but ultimately I had consume calories and caffeine or I wouldn’t be racing.
After I got my bib, I looked around and realized it was going to be a pretty tiny race. Most people had signed up for the half marathon or the 5k. I had decided to do the 10k to try to get a specific time, which I knew between the injury prone week leading up to it and the wine carbs, I was going to fall short of my goal. I figured getting myself there and doing the race at this point was sufficient.
They did a countdown, and we were off. I pretty much stayed at a 5:10 (per kilometer) pace. I felt much better once I started running, but I certainly was not running at peak performance. There were two or three times I had to check to make sure I was on the right course, but it was pretty well marked. The greenbelt system in Boise just has a lot of path and the course did have quite places to turn around, so at times that made it a little confusing. I carried the map with me and worked it out. That didn’t help my time though.
I came across the finish line about 5-10 minutes behind what I had planned months ago, but that is okay. 10k is not my racing distance. I may look for another one to test out how or if I can improve, but I am still focused on the half and full marathons. I did manage to come in first woman overall, and second runner overall, but again, it was a small race.
I was impressed with the race organization. I knew it was going to be a bit of a mom and pop show, but they had a great swag bag, cool tech shirt, coffee and scones for pre-race goods. The race used timing chips, they had plenty of volunteers, music to start us off. The awards were also pretty sweet-better than most races, really.
The week didn’t start off that great in the injury sector. It has ended much better than it started.
Sunday: Took the day after the marathon off to recover. My recovery time has been much shorter in recent years.
Monday: I went slow and easy. B joined me on his bike. It was good to get some good quality time in with my son. He is a good conversationalist.
Tuesday: Felt pretty good considering my legs are still a bit wobbly from Saturday’s race.
Wednesday: Taking it easy but definitely should not have run on this foot. I went to get a deep tissue massage yesterday. My plantar fasciitis is back now. This sucks. Also, California and Oregon are on fire– the smoke has traveled to Idaho making outside sports a little bit less fun.
Thursday: My foot is starting to get back to normal, but it is still hurting and not even close to 100%. The elevation felt good tho.
Friday: This is not my week. My PF seems to have improved but now my knee hurts from that same deep tissue massage.
Saturday: I wrapped my knee yesterday and in the morning, foam rolled, and crossed my fingers. It worked. My knee had no issues and I managed to complete my race as first place woman, second place overall runner.
While that massage caused some serious issues in the short-term, I think my PF may be completely gone now. Things are on the up and up.
Being just far enough away from our home to not warrant turning around into our already long road trip to northern Idaho, I realized I had accidentally went all purist and forgot my headphones and armband at home. I ended up doing this marathon sans music. I always leave the music at home for trail runs, but road running is a different kind of beast so I was a little nervous–pushing myself and going all out just short of four hours without music. It worked out– I enjoyed being in my head without any annoyances, fumbling around with technology. I have two young kids and a husband. Quiet time is golden.
Road tripping to the in-laws and then on to my hometown in northern Idaho was a trip in more than one sense. We traveled around northern Idaho for the week prior to my marathon, seeing loads of people, stirring up old memories and making new ones. The kids took horse riding lessons from their grandma, we hiked around some beautiful places, and I got to see my 96-year-old grandmother. I even got to see some old university buddies. It was pretty awesome. Traveling before the race did lead to some challenges–not the greatest eating, falling a little behind on rest, and generally being slightly less prepared than I knew I could have been for the marathon. Let’s just call it a few days of carb-loading and a solid rest day on Friday–it took 8.5 hours to drive from my hometown to Idaho Falls.
Road tripping while listening to Johnny Cash.
After an extensive amount of time spent in the car, it was good to arrive in Idaho Falls, pick up my packet and swag bag, and figure out a few important locations of the race.
We got to see friends from our Kazakhstan days, too. They have a house in Idaho Falls, so we stayed with them, spending the evening catching up.
For the morning of the race, I set my alarm for 4 am.
I drank some coffee, grabbed a banana, and my husband took to me to the buses. This course required us to be bused out to Bone, Idaho for our start at 5:30 am. I sat next to this cool lady–this was her 48th state that she had run a marathon in. She was 60 years old. I want to be like her.
It ended up being a 15 minutes late start, but no one complained. We ran alongside windmills, a sunrise, fields of wheat, cows, and in some pretty comfortable temperatures. There were also lots of rolling hills. More than I expected. I had set my goal thinking those hills were smaller. For whatever reason, the last few years hills and I have struggled to find a symbiotic relationship. It is more of a parasitic relationship. That elevation gain in the beginning messed with me both physically and mentally. I had moments of doubting myself and my ability.
Thankfully for my goal time, the hills only lasted for around 11 or 12 miles. Then it was a steep downhill for about 5 miles (8 kilometers). This is where I made up some of my lost time. I regained my third place on the descent, which was a little touch-and-go, but ultimately I was able to hold that position.
After the downhill portion, it leveled out and remained flat for the rest of the race. As the course wound through residential areas, I started to feel like I was running a marathon, in the sense of feeling its difficulty. When there was roughly a quarter of the race left, I was up and down with my energy levels. I made sure to take at least two cups of water and a Gatorade at each station, about two miles apart. I had also brought along five energy gels and two electrolyte tablets, making me semi-nauseated for a majority of the race, but a necessary evil. Even with these precautions, I was feeling the push.
I managed to miss one of the arrow stickers, ending up going down a wrong street for a quarter mile. A man more conscious of his surroundings than I at that moment, waved me back onto course. After this, the half marathon runners merged with the full, resulting in plenty of people to follow on the weaving course.
The whole time I was running, I was mentally calculating possible finishing times, readjusting for the times I felt depleted and for the times I was feeling strong. Somewhere in the last 3 miles I knew that if I ran just a little bit tired, I wouldn’t make a sub-4. If I dropped down to a comfortable pace, I wouldn’t make my goal. Testing my mental strength and ability is, in part, why I do this. I went with all I had.
I was really grateful to have my family and friends there at the finish. Mr. G ran with me at the end so he could get pictures of me finishing. Super sweet.
I was beyond stoked to get a 3:54:28 as my finishing time. I did have a better time in mind, but those hills. I need to find a completely flat marathon someday. Still. I was really happy. It was 9 minutes faster than my last PR.
Idaho Falls Marathon was a well-organized race, with lots of support and volunteers. They had a fun theme–Christmas in July. This was a little bit of a selling point for me, if I am being honest.
After the race I waited around for the awards ceremony and had a recovery beer. A hazelnut brown ale. I failed to get a picture of this, but trust me. It was good.
Then we played tourist and went to check out the actual waterfalls of Idaho Falls.
This may seem tangential or tenuously connected to running, but hey, runners get smelly. Deodorant makes you less smelly. So, here is a recipe for a natural deodorant that is better for you and the environment and it is terribly easy to make.
Here you go:
Homemade Deodorant Recipe:
1 cup baking soda
1/2 cup coconut oil
Jars to store the deodorant in
*optional: essential oils for scent
Simply mix the baking soda and coconut oil together in a bowl then put into smallish jars of your choice. Apply with your fingertips. Voila. Not stinky anymore.
You can make a bigger or smaller batch if you just remember the ratio is 2:1 baking soda to coconut oil. Also, if the baking soda agitates your skin at all, add more coconut oil. It really helps smooth out the baking soda and is also antimicrobial. If you want your deodorant to be a smoother texture, add more coconut oil. If you want it to be thicker, add more baking soda. There really is no right and wrong.
P.S. This works better than store-bought deodorants and you don’t get any of those nasty white streaks all over your clothes.
Hey hey hey! It is that time of week again–weekly running log rundown.
Early Madonna is my spirit animal. Getting back into the groove this week.
Sunday: Went to the Foothills for some trails. I ended up doing the Cobb Trail, making a loop back home. I have been getting more rest and felt much stronger today.
Take a moment to read the segment titles. Gotta love Boise people.
I am a Honey Stinger ambassador now, which is awesome because I genuinely love their stuff. This was today’s fuel. Tastes great, is made with organic honey, and goes down much easier than other gels.
Every time I go by this bus, I wonder how in the world they got it here.
Monday: Hot sunny day down by the river today. Lots of people out and about. I am feeling stronger but still not back to 100%. I am hoping that I start to recover soon as I have a full marathon coming up that is and has been my race focus for the last few months.
This series they are doing on Radiolab is so freaking gold! If you need something to listen to on your runs, check these out. So far I think there are four in the series by Molly Webster–Birthstory, The Primordial Journey, Fronads, and X & Y.
I also went for a hike with my family, my mom, and her husband.
Tuesday: I just didn’t feel like taking any pictures today. Today has been rough, so I ran it out. Running is my way of coping with life. I also ran into my aunt out walking. Small town Boise.
Wednesday: Took my mini on a 5k run and then myself on a 5k run.
Thursday: Rest off.
Friday: I love how easy it is to get out and into nature here. The City of Trees.
Next week is my marathon. Gah! Hope I am ready for it!
Saturday: I needed actually set my alarm–a summer cardinal sin–to get my run in before taking my children to their Run Wild at the Boise Zoo this morning. It felt really good running in the crisp morning air. I also listened to part of the new book Squeezed about the middle class in America and how they can’t afford life here–an important read.
The kids did awesome at their race. They met some of their friends there too, so they had some buddies to hang with.
These are great for a pre-run snack and a guilt-free treat. They have banana and oats, some pretty awesome running fuel.
Ingredients for the “dough” base:
3 overripe bananas (I freeze mine and pull them out when I am ready to use)
3.5 cups oats
1/2 cup any kind of milk
2-3 packets of Stevia
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
*Non-stick spray for the pan
Nuts and seeds, dried fruit, coconut flakes, cocoa powder, chocolate chips, cinnamon, almond flavoring, peanut butter, jam for topping
*combination variations I have done: peanut butter with jam on top (put jam on after cooking), almond flavoring with cranberries or dried cherries, coconut flakes and chocolate chips, coconut flakes and dried mango, poppy seeds and lemon flavoring, cocoa and coconut, pumpkin pie spice and nutmeg for the fall.
For today’s healthy cookies I just used what was in the house. I didn’t have any dried fruit, so I went the chocolate chip route. Turns out I had butterscotch and white chocolate chips to throw in there too. Other versions would be healthier, but I figure dark chocolate isn’t the worst–antioxidants!
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Mash bananas in a bowl.
Add milk, vanilla, Stevia, and salt.
Then mix in the extras. I put in sunflower seeds, chia seeds, almond flavor, cinnamon, and the three kinds of chips this time.
Spray your pan with non-stick spray. I used coconut oil spray.
You can plop them on the pan and let them take their own shape or you can roll them into a ball. I have even made them into different shapes for holidays, like hearts for Valentines using cookie cutters.
Endorphins. It’s a fact, your emotional state will vastly improved when you start running. Those endorphins pumping through your body are powerful, making you pretty damn happy as a result.
Time to yourself. Think of running as time away to improve yourself, letting your mind be open to thoughts. It allows you to process what has happened or is happening in your life.
Audiobooks. For the readers and runners out there, audiobooks are a great compromise. Running takes up a lot of time. Deciding to combine these two aspects of your life provides not only a time save, but adds motivation when you have a good audiobook waiting for you.
Food. Raise your hand if you like food! We all do, but food tastes even better when you have worked for it. You also get to eat more to the foods you love and have few regrets. I mean, you get to eat tacos and not feel guilty about it. That is some motivation.
Change it up. Some of the ways one can do this is switching up the actual sport; go for a hike or swim or bike. You can also mix up your running by spending a day on hills, hit the trails or road, working on your pace, running with friends or joining a running group, and tackling different distances. Loop runs are great because you get new scenery the whole time.
New running clothes. I know it may seem shallow, but finding some new running clothes that you feel good in can be motivational. Some may consider “cute running outfit” an oxymoron, but look around for some funky colors and mix n’ match. It’s fun.
Races. Nothing says motivation quite like having a personal goal to work towards. If you can, try to book a race that allows you to see a new part of the world.
Overall health. This is sort of a no-brainer. You feel better, and consequently your quality of life goes way up. When you start running, you sleep better, a lot of those aches and pains go away, and you don’t feel so old. Motivation, check.