Tag Archives: Travel

combining lifestyle changes with the things I love to do most

In a Nutshell

So after Berlin I had a few days of “normal life” then I was off to Rwanda.

What an amazing experience that was. I started writing about it and then I realised that:
1) I was really hard to put into words
2) The post was getting longer and longer and I wasn’t even finished with Day 1 yet.
3) Maybe you guys weren’t 100% interested in a giant recap of my trip

(sorry that I was making that decision for you, by the way)

So in a Nutshell – I went for work, but it was more like a reward for hard work, dedication and enthusiasm, especially since I don’t work in one of our stores, nor do I have anything to do with the actual product. I love the company I work for and I have a lot of passion for the coffee AND the brand. I feel honored to have had this opportunity.

To say that the experience changed my life would be an understatement. I got to see first hand exactly what farmers go through not only to grow the coffee but all the steps it takes to actually make it so those beans can eventually become your morning cup of joe. If you ever thought that prices are too high for “just a cup of coffee” think again – the blood, sweat and tears that goes into getting that coffee to you deserves a bit more than what they are actually getting. Companies like mine actually invest a lot of the money made back into these communities so the farmer benefits in the end (and of course the company as well, as it is a business). I’ve now also seen this with my own eyes.

The coffee part was awesome. The human part? Indescribable. I fell in love with the people. The country. The children. Oh my God, the children!! The first thing most people think of when they think of Rwanda is the Genocide 19 years ago. Neighbours killing one another. Now? They work side by side, together in their communities to build the country up again. The President talks about forgiveness. The only way they can truly move on is to forgive. And they’ve done it. What a turnaround. Can you imagine? We hold grudges or stay angry or decide we want nothing to do with family members over petty bullshit. These people have forgiven the neighbour that killed their children. They have forgiven the rapist who gave them HIV. We could learn a lot from them.

Meeting AMAZING colleagues. I will never ever forget these new friends.

My team prior to getting down and dirty to help build the Health Clinic.

My team prior to getting down and dirty to help build the Health Clinic.

African Rain. HOLY COW you’ve never been rained on until you go to Africa!!

picking coffee cherries in the downpour

picking coffee cherries in the downpour

Ladies of the village singing to welcome us. Amazing and emotional.

The ladies of Musasa

The ladies of Musasa

Picking coffee cherries with the utmost care for the farmer, Suzanne (in the pouring rain)

I know it's not much, but I wanted to be sure I got the good ones.

I know it’s not much, but I wanted to be sure I got the good ones.

This will seem odd but – the Genocide Memorial. Heartwrenching. Soul-crushing. The desire to have this never happen again even more prevalent.

Going to the Farmer Support Center in Kigali. Again, amazing colleagues here.

Community Project – helping to build a health care facility that will serve over 7,500 people and provide 24/7 care (old facility 2K people and not 24/7)

no common language but a common goal.  we made it together!

no common language but a common goal. we made it together!

Seeing my Aunt again after 15 years – yes, ladies and gents, my Auntie lives in Rwanda! Of all places I could go in Africa, I went to the one place where I have a family member!

my Auntie Clodagh aka Sister Margaret Mary.  She's lived in Rwanda for a long time.  Before the Genocide and again after (since 2008)

my Auntie Clodagh aka Sister Margaret Mary. She’s lived in Rwanda for a long time. Before the Genocide and again after (since 2008)

Oh and look at these adorable kids!

the children were captivated by us.  Everywhere we went they waved and smiled and looked in awe.  Some even ran after the van we were in!

the children were captivated by us. Everywhere we went they waved and smiled and looked in awe. Some even ran after the van we were in!

I can’t believe I was only there for less than a week. I can’t believe I’ve already been home for a couple of weeks!!!

After I got back, literally, the day after, I ran the Spieren voor Speiren 10K in Hilversum. I did this last year as well and even PR’d at the time.

I was not looking forward to running. I was tired. Exhausted even. I have been coughing since March and the last few days of the trip were kind of hard on my lungs, probably something to do with the altitude there. I decided I was going to do it anyway. I made the commitment. If there is one thing running has taught me, or at least reinforced, it’s to keep commitments. So off I went, to meet up with Patricia and Samantha. I knew I wasn’t going for any world records, and in fact, I wasn’t even concerned with time, etc., I just wanted to finish. I ran it last year at 1:04:22 and that was when I was feeling fit and ready! So this year I was just going to run, not pressure myself and enjoy the beauty of the day.

Samantha ran last year as well, but it was Patricia’s first time. Sam was more than ready to achieve a sub 1 hour 10K. Patricia? I was almost afraid she wouldn’t make it on time as she still hadn’t arrived when Sam and I were heading towards the start. With a stroke of luck, we walked too far and had to come back around to the gate and there was Patricia running towards me! We were complete!

It was a good day for running. And as much as I was tired and having trouble breathing, it was a very fine run. In the end Samantha killed it at 58:25. I came in at 1:02:29. Poor Patricia, who was completely overheated, came in at 1:06:14. In fact, I was waiting for her to come in and when she did I thought the poor thing was going to pass out. Thankfully, she was ok after a bit and we were able to go and have a couple of beers at the pub. Stephane and his wife were there as well – they are the parents of Lotte, the little girl I started my fundraising page for, for the National Epilepsy funds.

We did it!!

We did it!!

Interesting – last year I was sort of in the back third of the pack. This year, just a couple of minutes faster, I’m almost in the middle:

2012 results

2012 results

2013 results

2013 results

Since then I’ve been a bit of a wreck. I have no schedule. No real heavy plans. Work’s been super busy. I’m still tired and not feeling 100%. I have become lax at my diet and exercise plan. Not that I’ve gone and thrown all hard work in the toilet, no, just *not* feeling it. I have gone to the gym a few times and run a few times, mostly on auto pilot. Figure it’s better than nothing at all.

I have a 10K next Sunday and a 5K the Sunday after that. I also want to get my training plan in order again. I did sign up for the Rock ‘n Roll Half Marathon in Lisbon in October, but I’m not going to wait until August to start!

Last but not least, I *am* going to Fitbloggin! I wasn’t going to go, cancelled my live-blogger application, my roommates, everything… but I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I started looking at flights again. Hubs said “just do it”. My friend Jill-ann swooped in a bought me a round trip ticket to San Francisco with her air miles so all I had to do was arrange SFO – PDX! Unbelievable. The universe works in mysterious ways.

I think I’m caught up now. Back to regular life and regular blogging again, I promise!

Recap: Berlin Half Marathon 2013 – CHECK!

What a whirlwind!

Life was busy before and leading up to the Half and didn’t stop. With a few days break I’ll soon be off again, this time traveling to Rwanda with my company!

But the HALF in Berlin! What a day! Let me tell you what happened leading up to the day…

Normally I wouldn’t drink or eat out a few days before but a friend of ours turned 50 on the Thursday and asked us to come out at least for a glass of champagne straight after work. Of course, we obliged. Hubs and I went and had pizza (my eating/ food habits are out of whack at the moment anyway) afterwards so that we could get home early-ish and get packed up.

Saturday morning up not too painfully early, got ready and headed out at 8:30 to pick up M. She doesn’t live far from us and is actually on the way to Düsseldorf, where we happened to be flying out of to get to Berlin. The weather wasn’t so great in the Netherlands or in Germany; I’d been checking for days and it was snow, snow, snow, but funnily enough on the forecast showed a giant sun with a few clouds hanging around and warmer temps. We were keeping our fingers crossed that it wasn’t too good to be true.


Things went pretty smooth – picked up M, were early enough at the airport, got ourselves some yummy coffees and a bit of food and eventually headed to our plane. We were off! The flight’s pretty short so it was uneventful and we arrived in Berlin with our bags being almost the first off the flight. We then figured a taxi split would be easiest – Berlin airport (Tegel) is right in the middle of the city so it’s not expensive really to get where you need to be. Found our hotel, checked in and then all decided a nap was in order!

My friend Alex. who used to be my colleague in Amsterdam, is from Berlin and moved back about a year and a half ago with her boyfriend. She happened to be volunteering at the Half and was kind enough to pick up my race packet! This took some stress off – otherwise I’d have had to immediately go to the Expo after checking into the hotel and we didn’t have a lot of time before the Expo was closed. Alex and I arranged that she would drop by the hotel and at least we could have a chat and a coffee and I’d have my race materials as a bonus. Alex was right on time and as lovely as usual to see and it was great getting a bit caught up! A while later she had to go and we all needed food as well and besides we had a big day ahead Sunday so we didn’t want to be too late!

We headed off towards the Alexanderplatz and about midway turned down a street that looked as if there were a few restaurants and we were right! We settled on Italian (I didn’t think Mexican or Korean would be a good idea…) and instead of pasta carb-loading I had risotto and a salad. Oh and a beer :) Seemed like a good idea anyway.

Back at the hotel I had a bath and got my stuff all ready for the next morning. I actually slept pretty well (the hotel bed was huge with fluffy pillows and blankets) and was up Sunday morning around 6:30 to get ready in a non-stressed way. We had decided the evening before to meet for breakfast at 7:30. There were a LOT of runners at the hotel (we were only 3KM from the Alexanderplatz, which was near the start/finish) and I didn’t want to be fighting for a table at breakfast. I was pleasantly surprised to see a HUGE breakfast room with an amazing array of different types of foods. No worries at all to get a table. I was feeling a bit nervous but made sure to eat properly (and vowed to eat all the things the next day as I didn’t have to run a race) and once we finished we went up to the room to finalize my bag and my stuff. Right before we went downstairs I just panicked and had a little cry to my husband – what if I was going to fail? I felt so nervous but I knew I did everything I could to prepare (did I?) and there was no reason to worry (was there?).

We decided that walking the 3KM to the start was the best idea. I wouldn’t take that long, right? Wrong. It actually took longer that I imagined, but we were still on time in the end. I thought walking would make my legs super “warm” so I wouldn’t have to panic about not having enough time or space to do some warming up exercises (thank dog we did this and it was so incredibly busy – there was no WAY to anything once we were at the starting corrals). It was amazingly sunny and blue skies – a bit cold but perfect weather for running!


Eventually I said goodbye to Hubs and M as it was impossible to get into the corral. Hubs really wanted to see the elite runners and I just needed to somehow get into place. Start time was 10:05 and I of course was in the last corral. We were like sardines, all packed in, waiting to go. Around 10:20 we started moving slowly up to the front. At 10:30 we were off!

I had decided a few days before that I didn’t want to continually look at my watch or my heart rate. I just wanted to run and enjoy. I wanted to RUN the whole way. I knew if I thought about people who inspire me, people I love, and Lotte, the little girl with Epilepsy who inspired me to run for charity, I would make it through. I wore my “Because I Can” bracelet to think of Janet and my “Go the Distance” bracelet to think of Robby. I had a strange calm the moment we started like I really could do this!

There were no KM markers until 4 kilometers. I was actually happy with this because it felt like less than that! The route was fabulous, passing by so many historic buildings and monuments. I chose Berlin because I love it so much from an aesthetic point of view and it did not disappoint on Sunday! I eventually looked at my watch at 5K, 9K and 20K. I wanted to know where I was and if I was just intuitively on track. It was going well. At 5 I was around 31 minutes. At 9 I was at 58 minutes. Somewhere around 13 or 14 I was really starting to get tired. My brain wanted me to stop. I again thought about the ones who would get me to the next KM marker. Tammy. Robby. Janet. Lotte. Repeat. At 17 I was so happy because I thought at 18.5 I would be at Checkpoint Charlie. That would mean I was, for all intents and purposes pretty much at the home stretch. I ran through Checkpoint Charlie with a HUGE smile on my face.

I checked at 20 because I wanted to know, again, if I was on track. I gave myself the time goal of 2 hours and 30 minutes. At 20 I was at 2:15. Again, smiling down the road, I thought “Girl if you can’t make another 1.1K in 15 minutes you may need another hobby!” I laughed to myself :) Of course I was going to make it.

I crossed the line and stopped my garmin at 2:23:24. My official time of the race was exactly the same. I DID IT!!!!!! Not only that, but I crushed my time from my first Half which was 2:41:49. Ladies and Gents that’s almost 19 minutes better than the first time!!!



Once I finally found my posse we headed to Alexanderplatz for sausages and beers (as you do when you are in Germany) and later walked back to the hotel (making it more than 6KM just in walking around + 21K for the race), I took a nice hot bath, had a nap and we later went out to Mexican to celebrate.

rewards sm

It was a great weekend, a great race and I am super grateful to everyone who supported me, especially my husband and M – it wouldn’t have been the same without them!

Since I’ve been home I’ve been under the weather and very busy at work. I haven’t done anything running or gym related. Monday I’m off to Rwanda. When I return I have a 10K in Hilversum. AFTER all of that I think my life may finally get back to normal again. Then again, I’m not sure what “normal” is…

Even the Blog has Jetlag

I did not mean to take so long to update!

As you (may or may not) know, last week I returned from visiting my family in Albuquerque. It was a good visit but also a little bit heartbreaking. That sounds dramatic, but let me tell you why.

My grandmother – she’s very old, she’s in a home and she’s suffering from Alzheimers. She knew who I was (but not at first – she didn’t recognize me without my glasses, but I haven’t worn glasses since I was 13!), but nothing really stays with her for a long time so the conversation was really a 10 time repeat of the same questions. The part that is heartbreaking is that she just doesn’t know where she is or how she got there (even though we tell her) and she just wants to go home. She was very independent up until a little over a year ago but it seems her mental health is going steadily downhill. It’s heartbreaking that of everyone, only my father is there for her, even though other family is near and could go to see her. I’m not saying they have to see her. The thing is, when we have problems or quarrels with family, at the point where a person doesn’t know what is going on, why not just let go? When are we ever going to learn that life is very short and if you get a chance to let go of a grudge that is not adding any value in your life, why not do that. The look on my grandmother’s face when we were there was absolutely priceless. It made her day (even though she wouldn’t remember later). She was smiling, truly happy, and remembering bits and pieces and that made her feel good. When we left she almost started to panic and I thought she would cry. It was awful. If I were there I would see her every day. She doesn’t have much more time on this earth. In fact I have no idea if I ever will see her again.

My long-time friend T – she’s my age, we’ve been friends since we were 10 or 11. She’s one of those friends that even if you don’t talk to each other for a while you always pick right back up. I think last year when I was there we were saying that for our 45th birthday (we are I think less than a week apart) we would do a marathon together. Well, she has cancer. While I was there she had surgery and we’ll find out soon what next steps will be. She’s doing her best to stay positive and I know I should as well, but I have a sick feeling in my stomach when I think about it. I’ve mentioned before about my good friend Michael who died 4 years ago; this had a huge impact on me and makes me really think hard about our mortality and how important relationships and friendships are to maintain. I didn’t get to see T, it was just not a good time what with surgery and family staying with her (and I didn’t want to impose – I’m sure it was NOT an easy week for her!), but if you could keep her in your thoughts or your prayers if you do that sort of thing, that would be awesome because I think she has many more years to enjoy in her life.

Then there was my Aunt – she hasn’t been well and on Wednesday she had the right mind to go to emergency where she basically was immediately hospitalized for almost being in a diabetic coma. I did not get to see her but again, this makes me think about how maybe I need to reassess how I handle and maintain my relationships with my family.

To summarize, I need to get my arse home again soon. I feel more and more homesick anyway, but this is getting ridiculous. I don’t know yet how or when I can make this more permanent (it will take at least a couple of years; it’s complicated!) but we really need to start thinking about how to make it work. In the meantime, I will focus on getting back possibly for Thanksgiving, maybe the health level will be up by then.

It wasn’t all gloom and doom! I got to hang out with both of my parental units, and I got to see some other good friends up in Santa Fe! Last summer I saw them with T and her husband and this time my friend S came down from Los Alamos. It was too short, again, so I’ll have to spend a wee bit more time next time!

On the Health and Fitness front:
Dad got me a week’s pass at his gym so I went a couple of times with him. In hindsight it was the BEST IDEA EVER to continue training because last week, after I returned, I had the WORST jetlag so far (you’d think I’d be more used to it by now). I did three runs (2 outside) and one strength training session at the gym.

At least there was a blue sky.

At least there was a blue sky.

Run one was down at Tingley Beach (the name is hilarious – knowing that we are in New Mexico and there is no ocean), suggested by Debra from Miles To Run. It was cold and very wintry looking (ie dead trees. A LOT of dead trees). Hubs wasn’t feeling up to running so he decided to just hang out in the park and read while I was off for an hour. I have to admit it was very uninspiring. I had no music with me (I’m about 50/50 with music now and if I’m not familiar with the area, I’ll just pass on the tunes). And get this… about 3 or 4 KM into the run there were two dogs not on leashes just running around and one came at me and tried to bite me! Seriously what is it with dogs not on a lead!?? I’m pretty nervous about dogs since the crash in Cornwall but this was just a tiny dog who thought he was a big dog and he didn’t break the skin when he bit me. There was a cyclist on the side of the road and she was apparently trying to call animal control – they weren’t her dogs and no owner could be found!

Run one was 9KM, 55 min in D1, 5min in D2.

why would anyone want to sit here?

why would anyone want to sit here?

the sad road to nowhere

the sad road to nowhere

really, this was not inspiring.

really, this was not inspiring.

Run two was on the treadmill at the gym. I think it was around 5.5K total running with 30 min in D2, 3 min in D3 and 7 min cooldown. (should have been 10, but I needed to be sure I was on time for when dad needed to leave.

Run three was a real challenge. I was suppose to do fartleks but wow is this hard anyway, let alone at a high elevation. I did what I could but it was not totally to the training schedule. Was supposed to 10 min D1 3 times with 2 min fartlek in between. There was quite some walking involved in this run.

So that was the Week 5 update!

Week 6 was not at all what I had planned. Jet lag was a killer and I managed exactly one run on Thursday of 6KM. It was a good run though, much faster than my normal D1 (it was supposed to be 40min at D1) and I managed it in 37 minutes. I was kind of surprised that it went so well when I felt so exhausted.

Today starts week 7 – I decided to just stick to the schedule which was 15KM; 70 min at D1 and 30 min at D2. I did the 15 just under the 1:40 mark. It was NOT easy and maybe tomorrow I’ll be cursing myself, we’ll see.

It’s March 3rd and that means it’s just over one month to Berlin. Kind of freaking out! Tomorrow we are announcing to everyone at work that I’ll be running for charity and that will pretty much seal the deal. Of course I’m going to do it anyway, but once I announce to all that I’m doing it for a specific reason there’s really no turning back. I guess I also better arrange my travel to Berlin as well. On top of all of this, I still have Rwanda to think about and I need to get my shots ASAP. I think I’ll be doing that Wednesday. Keep your fingers crossed that I don’t get too ill from the shots!

Do you work out when you are on holiday or do you take a break from your training?

Week 4 Half Marathon Update

It was am incredibly stressful week last week. In my head I knew it would probably be like that, knowing that it was my last week before holiday (yay!) but I also knew I needed to go to the doctor care of some female stuff (don’t worry, everything is fine and I won’t go into detail) and that maybe I wouldn’t be feeling great but I really hoped going into the week I would still be able to do my runs and my cross training.

Well, sometimes we have to just accept what our bodies will or will not do and not get too wrapped up into thinking you’ve failed. Monday I was absolutely exhausted already and my body and brain were not having anything to do with a fartlek training session. I did try but I probably only ran maximum 20 minutes on the treadmill. It just wasn’t happening. I struggled to push myself past thinking what a failure I was but eventually I just let it go. Thankfully my husband was with me to remind me that even great athletes have bad days, but it doesn’t mean suddenly they are no longer athletes.

On Tuesday I had my doctor appointment and let’s just say I felt pretty bad physically. There was no way I was going to make my Les Mills GRIT class that evening.

Wednesday morning I decided I was going to try again. So I packed my bag for the gym in the morning , ready for another treadmill run. I also decided I was going to skip the fartlek training all together and move on to the next training run which was 65 min at D1 and 10 min at D2. This actually went quite well once I got started (seriously I really never thought I would enjoy the treadmill as much as I am lately!!).

Thursday the plan was to run at lunch with a colleague and the weather was not in our favour but we brought our stuff anyway. About 15 minutes before we were supposed to head out it started sleeting. We were supposed to do 6km (PP and I have a similar average pace) and to be perfectly honest I’m still amazed we did anything at all! The sleet combined with the wind was like little razors against our faces! In the end we did 5K which was a total win in my book!

Friday was a rest day thankfully- I was absolutely wrecked from finishing stuff up at work and not sleeping well. I did get to sleep in a bit Saturday, thankfully, but I had a 12.5K on the schedule and wasn’t exactly looking forward to it. Knowing that I wouldn’t get a chance to run again for a few days I finally got my head together and went out and did it. Once again, a great run once I got started. 75 minutes at D1 and 10 minutes at D2. It’s worth noting that as I was not on a treadmill it was still a challenge to do a faster continuous 10 min but I managed to stop only once and pick up again after only a few seconds. Progress!!

Week 4 was probably the hardest week so far and here I am now, blogging from my dad’s living room in Albuquerque already in Week 5. Dad’s arranged a week pass for me at his gym and I’ve gone this morning just to unstick the body and legs after 18 hours traveling. Feeling pretty good, just hanging out at home. I love it!

Week 3 Update

This week has been Cray Cray.

I mean seriously. Between work, running and gym I have zero time left over. I’m trying to make it work, you know, but I’m burning the candle at both ends!

For week 3 I needed 4 runs, 1 cross training day and 2 rest days.

Monday – this was a treadmill run at the gym again. I’m feeling pretty ok about treadmill runs, they are much easier when it comes to continuing at a certain speed (i.e. faster) than outside running. Who knew I would be less of a hater? Although I kind of messed this one up; I should have done 10 min at 10KPH and 4 Fartleks for 1 min at 12.5KPH but I only ended up doing 3 fartleks. I don’t know what happened except maybe I didn’t set the right time on the TM.

Tuesday – GRIT class and 20 min on the bike. I have been leaving work early just to get to this class and while I really like it and think it’s great for cross training, it’s also very frustrating. I am just not up to speed on proper pushups and while my burpees are getting better (I can do the three sets in the beginning of the class), nearer the end of the class I just tend to collapse instead of jumping back up out of the burpee. Not going to give up, just need to keep pushing through.

Wednesday – I worked from home so that I could either go outside to do my intervals, or go to the gym early. Well neither of those things happened, we ended up going to the gym fairly late and I had to cut my run short. It should have been 7 x 800 at D2-D3 and 3 min walking in between each interval, but I ended up with 5 x 800.

Thursday – RECOVERY RUN. AHHHHHHH… it feels good just to run normally. OUTSIDE. Went with my colleague and he was like the speed of light while I trudged along miles behind him. Still. Great run. 4.65 tiny little kilometres.

Friday – REST day! I did this on purpose so I could go out with friends Thursday after work. I was exhausted Friday. Going out kills me.

Saturday – sort of a rest day. We went ice skating with friends. It was HILARIOUS. I think between Tammy and I we must have tried 57 different pairs of skates until we found a pair that fit. The rink was GREAT, we all liked it more than the one we went to in January, but the skates were AWFUL. Time to buy our own skates I guess, but is that another sport I want to be participating in??? You kind of have to in this country.

I also cooked quite a bit this week – Wednesday I made a paleo chicken casserole, which was ok, but I’m going to play with the recipe a bit to pimp it up. Then I made paleo pumpkin pancakes. I did quite a few Kale salads. I made my paleo pumpkin courgette hummus. Oh and the larabars, which are delish. I also prepped quite a bit yesterday for the week – I have at least 3 lunches ready to go and lots of cut up veggies.

I am really loving the fitbit – not only the sleep data but how it’s actually keeping me on track with my food! I am now almost 100% convinced that I was not eating enough. I have been actually not eating enough for a long time and this is why it’s so hard to lose weight. It sounds crazy but honestly, at least for me, it’s true; don’t eat enough, don’t lose weight!!

I started Week 4 today with an 11K run – 65 min at D1 and 10 min at D2. Today we went outside. It snowed yesterday but it was perfect running weather today. I roped Hubs into doing the Bridge loop I was doing before I did the Bruggenloop in Rotterdam in December:
bridge loop

bridge run hubs

bridge run pinky

The run went really well. Except of course the last 10 minutes that I have to do faster which I just can’t do all in one go when not on the treadmill! I’m not unhappy with it, it was a gorgeous day for running, even if it was a wee bit cold and windy. I love my Sunday runs – I look forward to them all week!

I have some other news…

Thursday I was surprised with the news that I have been selected to go on this year’s Origin Trip! Each year a group of colleagues goes to one of the countries that we have the privilege to source our coffee from and this year the destination is Rwanda!! I don’t normally brag a lot but I actually believe when people say to me “You deserve this!”. I may be in financial administration for my “normal” job, but all of the stuff that I get to do outside of that is what makes me get up in the morning and go to work each day. I love where I work but more than that I love the coffee, the story of coffee, what love and hard work goes into getting those beans to our roasting plant, the care that goes into roasting and the delivery of that gorgeous cup of coffee to the customer. I spend a lot of extra time teaching others what passionate partners have taught me and to actually go to one of the coffee growing countries and see for myself what it’s all about is just an absolute dream come true. I don’t know many details except it’s likely happening around 15th of April. So, stay tuned. When I know more, I’ll post more.

How was your week? Are you training for anything?

How about this – have you ever been to Africa???

Fitbloggin – part II

Did I tell you guys I also got to meet Tara and Meegan?

this photo thoughtfully nicked from Meegan’s facebook page

So Saturday I somehow messed up the clock on my phone and was up 1 hour earlier than planned but still too late for the 6am Boot Camp (yeah that was never going to happen anyway). In fact we were all up within about a half an hour of each other and managed to go downstairs for breakfast. There was a jump fitness class scheduled that I decided also NOT to participate in. Jumping on a trampoline and my bladder do not mix! It looked like great fun though!

After jump fitness was Sue and Sam‘s Zumba class! I have done Zumba before and this wasn’t much different than the classes I’ve been to, with the exception that the moves weren’t really explained, just performed. Tons of energy though, loved both of them and was totally impressed with their mad gyrating skillz! I’m unsure if I would continue Zumba here at home, mainly because I have limited time, however if anyone has a DVD recommendation, I’m open.

After class more chatting, snacks and of course coffee (I think Michelle was concerned with my coffee consumption; not to worry, I am in fact a professional) and then upstairs for a shower.

In the afternoon, I attended “When you have a lot to lose” which to be honest I was afraid I didn’t really belong – as I mentioned before, I’m not one of those people who had/has to lose more than 100 lbs and I haven’t been overweight my whole life. I have however had body image issues since I was 10, however and I believed I was “fat” and “ugly” and abused my body pretty badly for a good chunk of my life.

When you sit in a session like this and you hear people telling their stories you soon realize that issues faced are not only for people with a lot to lose. I identified with so many people. I told myself I wasn’t going to cry yet I was already in tears when Nikki spoke. Then when Alan spoke up I completely lost it. Not because I’ve been through the same thing with Nikki or Alan or Amy or Kenlie – I cried because I really felt love and compassion in my heart for them and hated to know they had suffered or were currently suffering. In a way if one of us is suffering and it affects us so deeply, does it matter that we have 10 or 100 lbs to lose?

From there many of us just sort of floated around, talking with each other, taking pictures, participating in fun things like the Grow Soul Beautiful Yoga poses and Oakley’s Performing Beautifully campaign where several of us received a pair of sunglasses. I also got to speak to Annelies from Attune Foods, turns out she’s half -Dutch and even had relatives that lived in or around Arnhem! How cool is that??

Now that’s what I call “performing beautifully”

At some point the four of us roomies went out for dinner where I had crab cakes (again), beer, corn on the cob and other noshables when suddenly the wind kicked up and the heavens opened up, with an umbrella from another table nearly knocking Robby’s eye out (I’ve decided that it’s always exciting with Robby no matter what) and slightly dinging Michelle’s shoulder. Luckily we all lived with a silent moment of “thank dog that didn’t actually go in Robby’s eye…”

After dinner was the reception, which was, in my opinion more promotional stuff (things to win, coupons and goody bags to take home) a free drink (or two if you were lucky to have someone give you a drink ticket) and some food items (that I didn’t participate in, because I just had dinner – though I had a two bites of potato something or another and 2 bites of a cupcake I think) but mostly it was about talking to newly made friends, mingling and getting more photos (something I regret I didn’t do much of).

And the end of the reception we were going to go to the bar with our own wine, only to find out we couldn’t go to the bar because some local football team was in town. We ended up talking to Mark from the Biggest Loser (at home winner, season 10) as I had actually been in a few tweets with him earlier so I wanted to introduce myself to him so he could put a face with the tweet. Since we weren’t really able to go to the bar, the responsible ones went upstairs to bed, where we prepared for the next morning’s early alarm – the 5K was taking place at 7am!

Look at these peeps ready to go for the 5K!
FitBloggin Day 4 9-23-2012

Even the trainer thought it was too early to be photographed!
FitBloggin Day 4 9-23-2012

loving the start, it truly was a beautiful morning in Baltimore
FitBloggin Day 4 9-23-2012

Flickr Photos are courtesy of Carrie D Photography

My last post on Fitbloggin will probably be scattered with thoughts, swag, other friends I was happy to meet and the rest of the day, saying goodbye and the long journey home.

September: That’s a Wrap!

79.2 KG

That’s what the scale told me this morning.

My first thought was to curse at it or throw it out the window but it only took a couple of seconds to come back to reality. You see, I did this, not the scale, and I wouldn’t throw myself out the window now would I?

We all know how mental September has been. I’ve made a point to tell everyone I know. It was an absolute blast – from my birthday to meeting new friends local and abroad, to a 10K in my home town to biking in England (and having a kind of scary accident ) to Fitbloggin.

Food has not been entirely off the rails but I reckon I’ve had more beer this past month than in several months prior. More beer = more wheat, right? And for someone who claims they are off wheat, well, it’s a little hypocritical.

So this little number on the scale, it’s 2.2 KG higher than the lowest number I saw in September and dangerously close to that 80KG mark that I really despise. This means it’s time to refocus and have some goals:

1) I will not only log into MyFitnessPal every day, I will actually log the food I eat as well.
2) if I am out, for whatever reason, and I am unable to log electronically, I will do it the old fashioned way and the enter when I have a chance (I am volunteering at the Amsterdam marathon this month and will be away from the computer at that time)
3) the whole month of October I will be beer-free
4) I will go to the gym twice a week. No excuses.
5) I will run minimum twice a week.
6) I will continue to not eat the chocolates from work, the entire month of October. (not cutting out chocolate in general, just not mindlessly stress-eating from the candy jar.

I would like to see that 77 again this month, though I’ve trained myself to not weigh very often, and I don’t want to start that jumping on the scale 12 times a day habit again. Goal would then be to weigh-in on November 1st with this result.

Did you have a crazy month? Are you ready to crack down again? What are your goals for October?

Recap: Cornwall – Women’s 40KM Cycletta 2012

This weekend was amazing and dynamic on so many levels. It was physically and mentally challenging and there were highs and lows.

I had an incredibly busy week but did my best to think clearly about my trip ; what did I need to bring? Could I fit it all in one case? Was I going to be able to have time to check in or get my train ticket arranged ? Passport? Race pack? Food?

Each time I do something new I learn that I still need to have a little more patience with myself and to learn to be less controlling. Roll with life a bit , you know? So this trip was just another chance to not only enjoy life but learn something too.

My flight was at nearly 4 pm Friday, it was tricky checking in online and I took half a day off anyway so I left work and was headed to the airport already at 1pm. Checking in there was smooth and I just had carry on luggage for once in my life so I had plenty of time to kill before boarding.

Eventually we boarded and after a quick flight we landed in Exeter. I thought I would get the bus quickly “downtown” and then the train to Penzance and how hard could that be, right? Well…

I landed around 16:15 and I made a reservation for the train at 17:45. Plenty of time. I went inside the main hall at Exeter International Airport, and checked at information where to find the bus and when it would be departing. Seems I just missed a bus, and the next one was at 17:00 arriving at the train station at 17:35. Hmmmm. What to do? The kind woman at the desk told me it was probably around 20 quid to get a taxi. All right, I’ll be cheap and wait.

“international” being the key word here

As I was waiting I kept thinking about it. What if we run late? What if I can’t find out where to get my ticket? What if I miss my train? I’ll take take a taxi, it will be worth not having the stress. So I go outside and… No taxis.

I wait. And I wait. And there another couple there, and they are waiting. They ring for a taxi. Yet still no one arrives. Finally I can see my coach arriving. It’s 5 o’clock.

I walk back and get on the bus. We arrive just in time. I pick up my ticket at 17:42. I run up and over the footbridge to the platform. The train is absolutely packed. Here I thought it would just be little old ladies drinking tea in rural England on the train, going to some cottage in the south. I was so very wrong. It was FULL of people. I found a seat and asked if I could sit since a woman’s bag was on the empty chair. Others were trying to get past me. I sat down on the woman’s bag and she gave me a dirty look. “I thought since I asked you if I could sit there you’d have moved the bag.” Sheesh, woman. She proceeded to play Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” on full-tinny headphone volume. This wasn’t at all what I imagined. This was even worse than home!

At some point I just decided to have a giggle on the inside and get over it. We arrived on time at Plymouth and I texted my friend that I’d be in at 20:45. And then we sat there. And waited. And waited. After about 25 minutes they finally came on and said they were just “waiting for the police” to clear us to leave again. Uh, what? Apparently there had been some aggressive passengers in Coach B that were removed from the train. I texted her again that we were late, but she thought we were late but our arrival was at 20:45 and ordered up our curries for dinner. Nope. That food will have to go in the oven my dear!

FINALLY I arrived in Penzance. There were just a few of us left on the train, it was the last stop. 3 (and a half) hours to get to the end of the world, but it was so great to see her! Big hugs and laughter about the whole situation. We drove back to her house, said hello to the husband and sat down to a proper English, uh I mean Indian Curry.

Her husband went off to the pub (as they do) and we started getting read for the race which was starting at 8 am the next morning. Did I mention I was tired? Didn’t matter it was exciting getting it all together!

of course you have to get ready with a beer

checking the tires

Up early Saturday, we got ready, had some breakfast and much to my controlling-ways dismay, left later than planned for the starting line. Oh, wait, she only lives 2 minutes from the starting line, no need to panic! There were around 175 ladies doing the Cycletta so it was not a huge group, but they split us into staggered groups of 10-12 so we wouldn’t all run over each other in town. Did I mention I’ve never driven a car or ridden a bicycle on the wrong side of the road? Oh dear, I was a little nervous. Especially for the roundabouts. We were off though and this was it time to make our way through Cornwall!


It was really beautiful once we made our way out of town, but it was hilly! In fact, I cycle hills here in Gelderland, but nothing compares to what I did this weekend. UP and down. UP and down. Lots of constant climbing and braking. I was getting used to the bike and the left side though and we were both feeling good. We hit the first feeding station at 11KM around 50 minutes into the ride. It was a gorgeous day with a bit of mist coming off the sea – like a fairy tale really when we came up to where we could see the coast and the cliffs. Heaven!

the view of the cliffs and sea around 15KM

Then it happened. About 4KM later we were cycling along. UP and down. I saw a woman in the distance jogging with her dog. A big dog. A very long lead. Didn’t think much of it, I know people do this often. He went a bit close to Elsje but the owner pulled him back. We were on a down so I had a bit of speed going. Suddenly he bolted for me! I had to stop, I couldn’t hit the dog! Unfortunately I pulled too hard on the brakes and I went flying over the front of the bike. It happened so fast yet so slow. I remember thinking “don’t hit your head” so I pulled my head up and my neck back and stopped myself with my hands and arms. I hit my chin. I thought “Oh my God did I knock out a tooth?” Because that’s what I needed, to lose a tooth, right? Elsje heard what happened, dropped her bike and came running up. The lady came running up. The dog was there licking my face. She asked me “are you ok?” Yes. I’m ok. Can you get this bike off me please?

They pulled the bike up. They pulled me up. I’m ok. I didn’t hit my head. Is anything broken? No. Is there any blood on my face? No. Everything is fine. I checked my knees. My right one was banged up. Oh. My left thigh was banged up. Everything else ok. The woman felt very bad. She blamed her dog. I didn’t blame her dog! It happened, he’s a DOG. She wanted to take me to her house but I was fine and I needed to finish. We checked my hands. Left one is fine. Right one? Oh, my glove is ripped. Crap, my hand is ripped. Several people stopped at that point “are you ok?” I’m fine. Elsje asked if one of the ladies had a bandaid – they didn’t but they had a compeed. That will work! All in all both knees, left thigh, both elbows, both wrists, chin, hand and nose were banged up. Sunglasses were scratched. Don’t ask me how I didn’t break anything or hurt my head. I’m just lucky. After everyone left I cried a bit on Elsje’s shoulder. A Bike guy came up and helped us when she was putting the chain back on. I had to go on. We had to finish this.

It was really ok starting up again, I was just a little bit nervous and my palms really hurt so braking wasn’t so much fun. The hills were incredibly steep but the scenery was amazing. We had to walk up a few hills as well, even towards the end; the elevation was relentless. We talked to many people later and they all said the same thing – there is NO FLAT in Cornwall – it’s either up or down.


still smiling at 27K!

Just over 3 hours we crossed the finish line. I really loved the ride and I’d do it again in a heartbeat but boy was I so glad to be back as well! I went off to the medics just so they could double check that everything was ok and they sent me home with an ice pack. We went back to the house and I took a lovely hot bubble bath. I was still processing what happened and thinking about how lucky I was that I didn’t hit my head or even break anything (not even a nail!). The first time in my life I wear a helmet and I have an accident like that. I shudder to think about if I hadn’t reacted the way I did.

Legs before

Legs After

We are already planning on participating next year. Maybe even with a 1.5KM swim. Maybe I’ll even do a little run on the beach. It was such an amazing setting for a sports festival – lots going on, great atmosphere, nice people. Later we (obviously) had to go back and have a few beers and listen to some music.

Sunday morning and already up and having to head back. It was sad to leave as it would have been great to watch the triathlon on the beach, though if I’m honest I was also glad to be heading back home to the Hubs. Elsje drove me back to the incredibly huge international airport of Exeter, we had some lunch and soon it was time for me to board my flight. I was back in the Netherlands at 5pm and back home at 7pm.

Incredible how exciting, dynamic and fast a weekend can go. A weekend I definitely will never forget for so many reasons!

Have you done a long(ish) distance organised bike ride? Would you like to if you haven’t?

Recap: Milano City Marathon Relay 2012

I know it’s a week later but it’s been crazy since I’ve returned from Italy! Where to start?

I actually took Thursday (the 12th) off of work because I hadn’t actually had much time to prep for the trip and the race. A few days before I received a phone call which inquired whether I would be able to leg 2 instead of leg 4 (10K vs. 7K) as the organisers had kind of messed up our order. Considering that I hadn’t really trained for 10K I stated my preference and hoped for the best. On Thursday, just in case, I went out around lunchtime and did 9K here in Westervoort (it’s a 1.5KM walk to the bridge and then a 7+K loop back up to the bridge again) as I didn’t want to do 10K cold after only doing little 5 and 6K training runs with the Hubs. Afterwards I was able to get my bag packed and prep up some food to take with me to be prepared for hunger and not give in to carbo-snacks.

On Friday I was up just a little earlier than usual and out the door a little earlier than usual and on the train at 6:45 to Schiphol. I’m one of those like to be early rather than late so to be sure I could check in my bag on time and get some coffee I arrived at the airport around 8 (my flight was at 10:20). Admittedly I did eat a muffin from Starbucks (and I did enjoy every bite without any stomach repercussions) but that was as exciting as my time at the airport got. The flight was uneventful (well besides the group of quacking ladies sitting all around me) and I arrived in Milan two hours later. I picked up my bag, and caught the €5 shuttle to Milano’s Centrale FS (Central Station) and then picked up some metro tickets to get to my hotel. Of course being the control freak I am, I had already studied the underground map to determine which metro lines I needed to get where I wanted to be :) Of course I figured out later that Centrale FS was totally walkable but better to have taken the underground instead of schlepping my wheelie bag down the street a kilometer.

My hotel was luckily recommended by a colleague who is originally from Sicily but lived up in Milan for probably the last 15 years. Originally we were told that we might have accommodation paid for by MCM who was sponsoring us in the race, but sadly this was not the case. I was happy anyway with my hotel and the location which was extremely central and I would most definitely go back there again.

I got settled in and was a little bit tired so I decided to take a quick cat nap before going out to have a look around. Once I was up and fresh again I decided to walk down the main road my hotel was just off of Corso Buenos Aires (a major shopping street), looked in a few shops and then decided to go to the Duomo, walk around, maybe get something to eat.

(the weather wasn’t so great and I only had my mobile phone camera with me)

I’ve been to Milan once before and I am still in awe of this building:

Of course this is the major tourist section of town and I just wanted to get a salad but at prices around €20 I really didn’t want to stick around there. I was looking at one place and the waiter was trying to get me to come in but I said no, it was too expensive and I just needed a salad nothing else, so he actually recommended me to go somewhere very close to there as it was cheaper. Unfortunately that salad was €12 and I could have made a better one myself but with fresher ingredients and less money. Ah well. They did have a good espresso :)

as much as I wanted to, I did NOT order my favourite Sicilian dessert that happened to be available at this restaurant…

At that stage I got a message from Monique that the VIP party was at 8pm that evening and could I come? So after I finished up my sub-par salad and coffee I headed out to the Expo where the MCM Village was located. Of course I didn’t fully get that right and ended up walking in the rain quite a bit but finally found it.

Amazingly enough as I was walking out I heard someone call my name! Hanna, who I’ve never met before, recognised me from my photos here and on Daily Mile :) How coincidental is that? I mean, sure, it was possible I suppose, but we didn’t plan on meeting there and I had no idea she would be with her boyfriend who was picking up his race packet for the marathon! We chatted for a few minutes and we went out separate ways. I headed back to the hotel, with a slight detour to the supermarket to pick up some snacks. Then I hung out for a while in my hotel room before going out again to the Expo to meet Monique and go to the VIP Party.

To be honest, we were a bit late in and maybe that’s why, but the VIP party wasn’t much. We did get a complimentary beverage and a water bottle, and there was food available but we did not partake.

Monique and Alessandro, one of the MCM organisers:

Monique had quite the adventure just even getting to Milan so we both were not 100% into the party. Ended up back at the hotel I’d say around 9:30 where I chilled out with a glass of wine and some nuts (pistachio – paleo style, yeah!!)

Saturday morning up early to meet the girls (Maya and her mom and sister and Monique; Hanna lives in Milan and skipped the tour) at the Duomo for a walking tour. As I said, I’ve been to Milan before but I don’t recall much from the trip and I certainly didn’t do anything touristy so the walking tour was a really nice experience. We spent about one hour alone in the Duomo, and then through the Galleria and up a shopping street until we reached the palace, which happened to be where the finish line of the race was :)

Fun Fact: I did not know that Leonardo da Vinci actually lived and worked in Milan for quite some time

When I saw this I really started feeling nervous and excited!

After the tour we went and had lunch, then went to the Expo to pick up our race packets and goody bags and got our T-shirts personalised (and I went and finally had a cappuccino even though it’s totally not done in the afternoon in Italy) and then at some point we all parted ways again at least for a few hours. Hanna was kind enough to not only invite us for dinner, but even made sure she had something for me to eat since she knew I was off grains (serious hospitality!!).

Quickly back at the hotel I prepped my luggage, my race gear bag and my clothes for the next day and then off to Hanna and Francesco’s for dinner!

Race Day

As it had been raining off and on I was still hopeful that we would have some sunshine on the day of the race itself but sadly it wasn’t meant to be. It was already raining when I woke up at 7:30 and it just continued. I had my breakfast and did my final checks before leaving the hotel (I had to check out but leave my luggage there) and I was off to my part of the Marathon (the red bit at the end)

I arrived quite early for my leg but wanted to be sure I could drop off my bag on time. I spent probably the first 1.5 hours in McDonald’s of all places (I know :( ) because I just wanted to sit next to the window, have a coffee and stay warm (did you know in Italy they actually steam the milk for cappuccinos unlike in most other countries??) while I watched the first Marathoners come in around the 33K mark. At around 12:30 I walked back up to my area, waited the obligatory ages to use the loo for the last time and then I waited in my section for Hanna. I thought she would be in anywhere from 1:15pm to 1:30pm but alas she was there much later and it was absolutely bucketing down (and of course I had to use the loo again by the time she arrived but because I didn’t know where she was, I didn’t) – I felt so bad for her, she really got the worst of it.

Then suddenly, she was there! She passed off our timing chip bracelet, I started my iPod and my Garmin and off I went! The first KM marker was 34… remember I was supposed to be doing 7K??? Yeah, it was definitely going to be more than that! It rained the WHOLE time and I was soaked to the bone. I actually ran all the way through except for maybe a minute and a half when i had a little stitch in my side around 6K. In the end I came through in 1:00:58 at a smidge under 9 kilometers.

I found my bag and my teammates eventually and we took some photos (that I’m still waiting for *wink* Maya), Maya headed off with her family and Monique, Hanna and I went over to a Gelato place for coffee and, well, gelato! Francesco was still moving and smiling after completely the Marathon so he joined us as well.

Hanna and Francesco were kind enough to let me shower at their place and afterwards I sadly had to go back to the hotel, pick up my luggage and go to the airport. My adventure was over.

Lots of things learned about this experience, mainly that I need to really do something about my need for everything to be organised and sorted out in advance. I do think I would have done a few things differently but I think all in all Monique had a pretty tough task in front of her to bring four busy people together for a Marathon relay. I’m really glad I was asked to do it, and I’m glad to have met 3 (plus one mom and one sister!) lovely ladies I wouldn’t have met otherwise. Would I run Milan again? I’m not so sure. Maybe. Maybe not. The race wasn’t bad, I found the organisation good, I thought they took quite good care of us but personally I don’t think the route is that beautiful. My leg was quite OK but only at the end did I get to see some amazing architecture and history in front of me. It’s not the Marathon Organisation’s fault of course if the route isn’t gorgeous, I just think I’d like to try a few more places like perhaps Barcelona or Paris in the future.

Well, Well, imagine that!

You know that saying that goes around all the billions of weight loss boards, communities, groups and what not?

Well, it’s pretty true. I’ve been doing different stuff over the past couple of years but still pretty much the same. You know, maybe less of this and more of that, or different combinations of foods, more protein, less carbs, no carbs before 11am, only carbs before running, etc. One thing I didn’t do very successfully was cut down on pasta and rice in particular.

Until a couple of months ago of course… now that I’m getting used to NOT eating grains, it’s actually OK. I even went to ITALY and DID NOT EAT THIS:

But instead I went to the supermarket and for example I ATE THIS:

I mean, seriously, I never would have imagined I would go to Italy and NOT have pizza (I was tempted whilst we were out, but I had a salad instead) or pasta (and thankfully my relay team-mate Hanna who lives in Milan invited us for dinner on Saturday and her boyfriend made me a special meal of steak and salad while the rest of the gang carb-loaded). Actually, if you ARE A meat eater, Italy is a great place to be, plus the vegetables are wonderfully ripened by the sun, the olives are divine, the cheese amazing. You don’t even NEED pasta or pizza, there are plenty of other choices.

I have to say too, I feel good. I feel strong. I feel kind of lean. It sounds strange to say it maybe but when I’m running lately my core feels really strong – I don’t think I’ve ever felt like that before.

Anyway, the whole point of this is that I am actually losing weight:

and down 900gr according to the scale at the gym this evening, from the last time I weighed in.

So yeah. About time I did something different!!