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Haz el bien, y no mires a quién. -Spanish Proverb


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how to run 100 miles in 25 days

When I made this goal a few weeks ago, I thought it would be kinda hard. Now here I am, reflecting upon its completion and thinking I should have set the bar a little higher. That’s not to say there weren’t moments of difficulty, but it really wasn’t nearly as challenging as I originally anticipated.That said, I did learn a few things from this arbitrary challenge I gave myself, and I’d like to pass them on to those of you who might be considering any sort of running goal.

So here it is, my best non-expert (but spoken-from-experience) advice on how to run 100 miles in 25 days:

1. Get out the door. It’s always the hardest part.

“…but it’s raining/cold/locust-infested outside!”

“…but I’m tired/hungover/incapacitated with desire to finish this season of (insert show here)!”

There are always a million excuses not to work out, but I can’t think of a single time I’ve regretted a workout AFTER the fact. So shut your face. Lace your shoes. Get out the door.

2. Plan ahead. One of my plans for this month was to break my PR for distance in a single run, which actually didn’t happen (hey, I need a goal for February anyway, right?) Part of that was due to a realization of a few logistics that need to be worked out. A rule of thumb for extended workout sessions is that you should have some sort of refueling replenishment after about an hour of constant exercise. That means you have to carry it with you, or have somewhere to make a pit stop for replenishment. Finding places to put things when you have to run with them for a couple of hours can be problematic, so I’m planning to invest in a running belt.

For now, I’ll keep lacing my house keys onto my shoes:

Yes, these bulky metal shanks are really my house keys. This is how most keys look here, despite it being 2012. Very "Harry Potter", no?

3. Yoga mat + rolling pin + ibuprofen + Salonpas® = effective, simple pain relief and prevention. To elaborate: get a good yoga mat for post-workout stretching sessions (and some basic yoga moves, if you please.) The rolling pin is an acceptable, cheap alternative to the ripoff known as The Stick which will come in handy for working out knots in calves, hamstrings after long runs. Ibuprofen will help minimize the post-run inflammation in your muscles. Finally, Salonpas® are these magical little stickers of joy that you can just slap on any sore muscle and get serious relief within minutes. Their topical analgesics will go to work to relieve pain in the area which subsequently allows the muscles to relax. Ahhh, feels good.

Sports injuries are a big deal, and I’m no expert on them. I’m also lucky enough to have never suffered from a major one. Now that I’ve all but discredited myself on the issue, let me state my strong opinion: I think a lot of people tend to underestimate their exercise abilities, overreact to exercise-related aches and pains and then use said pains as an excuse to quit. I’ve had my share of knee and foot pain, muscle soreness, etc., but in my experience it has worked to push through it…with care. You should obviously exercise caution when you start any new type of exercise program, but there are lots of easy, cheap ways to prevent, and later treat, the aches and pains that are bound to come when you exert yourself more than you’re accustomed to.

4. Regular workout playlist facelifts. Some of you run without music in your ears, and that is truly remarkable to me. Music entertains and encourages me through every minute of every run. I guess if you don’t need it, kudos, but if you do, I recommend updating your playlist weekly-ish to keep it new and exciting. Here are some additions from my most recent playlist facelifts:

1- Victor Magan – Love is a Gamble

2-Nadia Ali – Rapture (Avicci Remix)

3- Andy Avrosa – Sunset

4- Thomas Gold & Matthias Menck – Everybody Be Somebody

5- Livin’ Joy – Don’t Stop Movin’ (90s throwback FTW!)

5. Make it a game. Check out my last post on how I made running into a game to overcome discouraging thoughts.

6.  Get over yourself. Millions of people run. Many of them run more than you and I ever will. Be inspired by other runners, but don’t think you’re awesome or superior for running. It’s a choice, and a great one at that, but just be grateful that you’re physically able to run and that you’ve tapped in on one of life’s secret pleasures. Run for YOU. It’s one of the best feelings in the world to love to run, and some people will never know that. Make it your goal to encourage others and appreciate the gift you’ve found.

Happy (running) trails to you…until we meet again!

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c’mon, let’s play the running game!

Note: In case you missed my last post, I decided to run 100 miles in 3.5 wks in the month of January, taking 2 days off/week. As of today, I’m at 80 total miles since January 5th, and I plan to finish ahead of my goal sometime this weekend 🙂

A common complaint about running long distances is that it gets “boring” after the first mile or two. I can honestly say I don’t relate with that sentiment. Rather, I find in long runs a feeling of solitude and a sort of meditative state of thought I’ve not been able to replicate any other way. I suspect many runners share in this sentiment; it’s what keeps us putting one foot in front of the other, right?

Perhaps it’s helpful that I got my start in running while living in arguably one of the most uninspiring/unmotivating cities on earth: Grand Forks, North Dakota.

Sorry, GF…what you lack in aesthetics, you make up for in…party rockin’?

party rockin' at Springfest 2011 in GF, ND

I used to run the same square-shaped loops from my apartment, past the foul-smelling Simplot potato plant, around campus and back, venturing as far as downtown GF (slight scenic upgrade) or along the river path (nature? what?) for longer runs. And let’s not forget the freeeeezing temps! I ran my very first long distance runs in the dead of winter, trudging through fresh snow with negative-degree winds whipping past my face. I’m not trying to sound tough—plenty of runners do this all the time—I’m just saying it’s a small miracle that I got into running in the first place, considering I started in less-than-motivating conditions.

So clearly, living in a big, bustling city surrounded by mountains and ocean has really added a lot of excitement to my running life. I remember my first run in the city back in October: I busted out the door of our apartment building into the warm fall air and immediately fell into a brisk, steady pace. I was using Google Maps on my phone to navigate as I wasn’t very well-oriented in the new neighborhood yet, and within a couple of blocks I realized that order to get down along the river, where it’s a lot more “culturally appropriate” to be running, I would have to take one of the narrowest, busiest, steepest streets of Bilbao: Calle Iturribide. Iturribide begins with a  descent of 6 flights of stairs (about 60 total steps), followed by a 300-foot downhill 3/4-mile plunge into the old quarter of the city. And what goes down…must go back UP on the return trip! Hills were a pretty foreign concept for my flat-lander self, so I became very quickly overwhelmed. On the return trip, I’d have to take on that elevation change in reverse…every time.  Not only was it really steep, it was full of people and cars and dogs and…jeez, how was I gonna do this on a regular basis?! Overwhelmed, I halted to a walk in order to navigate through the mess of crowds and traffic until I reached the broad river promenade. I remember feeling really discouraged and almost wishing for the boring but open, unobstructed running paths I knew back home.

Calle Iturribide:

If there was any hope for me to keep up running, I had to change my perspective.

So I’ve made it a game. An obstacle course of sorts.

In this game, the people in crowds become the moving walls of a maze. You musn’t make eye contact with any of them, as their looks of confusion and/or disapproval in your running can be distracting, but you must be keenly aware of what type of wall they are. Are they a predictably-moving and relatively forgiving wall (teens through middle-aged people)? Are they a miniature, erratically- moving, delicate wall (small children and dogs)? Are they an equally delicate, but slow-moving, taller wall (elderly people)? You need to remain very focused for the crowd-weaving stage of the game, always aiming for maximal speed with minimal crowd disturbance.

Then there are the inanimate obstacles—some are stationary and can be used to spring off of or jumped over just for fun (steps, benches, street performers’ money buckets), and others are mobile and range from mildly to extremely dangerous (cars, taxis, buses). There are other walls on wheels (cyclists) which are also sometimes found weaving through crowds, but they’re usually pretty safe to get close to as they’re likely playing the same weaving game as you, often with even greater agility.

Once you hit a wide open path, it’s time to kick back and relax into your steps until the next set of obstacles.

This game is exhilarating and rewarding: like games should be.

So, whaddya say? Why not get out there and play the running game?


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10K every day

With each new year comes the idea of a fresh start: the motivation to start this, quit that, improve this, reduce that…the infamous “Propósitos del Año Nuevo,” or “New Year’s Resolutions” as we say across the pond.

I worked as a fitness instructor at the UND Wellness Center during my college career, and through that experience I gained keen insight into the most notorious of New Year’s trends: the super-swelling of gym attendance during the first month of the year, followed by a sharp drop-off as early February. As someone who maintains a relatively consistent activity level throughout the year, I just see January as the time of year when going to the gym can be more stress-inducing than stress-relieving.

So my “anti-resolution”, for January at least, was to NOT purchase a gym membership (I pay month by month) at the fabulous Gimnasio Alhóndiga, but instead to run outside more (ironically during the coldest and rainiest month of the year) and become more creative and resourceful with home workouts.

To have something more specific to work toward, I rather arbitrarily decided that I want to run 100 miles (or 161 km for those of you from countries which have more sensibly adopted the metric system) by the end of January. I truly don’t consider this a particularly impressive goal, but it will be a PR for me I suppose. If you think I’m just being modest, you need to read Born to Run (hugely inspirational for me), and then my piddly 100 miles will seem trivial to you as well.

I started this venture on January 5th, and since I usually do my longer runs on the weekend, I’ve decided that I will polish off the 100 miles on Sunday the 29th, probably with some sort of epic odyssey run to break my PR of miles run in a day (currently 13.1; a half marathon.) I’ve decided to take two days off each week, so that gives me exactly 19 separate runs to total 100 miles–an average of 5.3 miles per run. As you can see from my low-tech tracking method below, I’ve got some work to do before the 29th:

mileage tracking, low-tech version

*Note: I also use MapMyRun.com as a more”high-tech” tracking method to ensure distance accuracy and to plan my routes. This calendar simply serves as a visual encouragement (it’s taped to my closet) to get out and hit the pavement so I get to use my über-cool hot pink pen to record my accomplished mileage.

You can also see that I’m tracking hiking miles as well, but that’s just for fun–the only miles that will count toward my 100 mile goal are those that I run. I’ve also recently decided to track the amount that I walk each day for commuting, errands, meeting up with friends, etc. I already know that the average is somewhere around 3 miles per day, but I’m curious to monitor it more closely and get an accurate total.

By a very conservative estimate, after adding up 100 miles run + X miles hiked + X miles walked, I will cover over 200 miles on foot in the month of January. That works out to an average of 6.7 miles (over 10km) every single day.

I’ve run in a few half marathons over the past couple of years, and I’m excited to have another one lined up for this March in Santander, Spain: a coastal city just a bit west of Bilbao. I’m also flirting with the idea of running my first full marathon at the end of April in Madrid.

What goals do you have for staying active in 2012?


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Feliz 2012!

Feliz 2012 a todos!

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season. I thoroughly enjoyed 17 work-free days (spoiled, I know) during which I rambled all around this fine country–literally from the northern-most extremes (home sweet home, the Basque Country), to mmmarvelous Madrid in the middle, and then 1,500 miles down to Spain’s southernmost properties, the Canary Islands. I took an outrageous amount of photos and videos, so I’m going to let those do the talking for this post.

For starters, I enjoyed 3 action-packed days of island adventures in Tenerife, one of the Canary Islands off the northwestern coast of Africa:

fantastic island colors

Did some whale-watching...another thing to check off the bucket list!

Soaked up some warm sun...they call them "the islands of eternal spring" for a reason!

feeling on top of the world at 12,200 ft: Spain's highest peak, Mount Teide

Here’s the short version of our very long trip up to the top of the very tall, aforementioned mountain:

And here is the rest of the island goodness I captured (winding roads, whales, sunsets on the beach) condensed into a few minutes for your enjoyment:

I got to experience New Year’s Eve in Puerta del Sol of Madrid: Spain’s version of NYC’s Times Square:

I put some miles on the new hiking shoes discovering some new places close to home, such as this sweet castle tucked away in a forest right here in Vizcaya, the province in which I live:

Butrón Castle

It was a fun-filled couple of weeks! I’m back to work now, but already thinking ahead to the next vacation…as one of my coworkers said today, it’s just “seis semanitas (six short weeks)” until our next big break: “Carnival“, for which we’ll have 10 days off at the end of February 😀

2012 is going to be another exciting year. One of my resolutions is to dedicate more time to my blog, and with that you will be seeing some exciting changes in the near future. One exciting change is that I will soon be incorporating a couple of my greatest passions (right up there with traveling, of course!) into meggrblog: specifically fitness and tech.

As always, thanks for reading!

¡Hasta pronto, chicos!