RSS

Monthly Archives: February 2013

Travelin with the Thomases

What do you get when 2 great friends, kindred spirits, and former teammates who haven’t seen each other for over 6 months and 1 crazy awesome husband reunite in New Zealand?

Nonstop this:20130226-154053.jpg

And just enough memories to tide me over until we reunite this fall, but definitely not any longer. (Sea what I did there with my ocean reference?)20130226-154100.jpg

I spent last week with one of the most joyful, adventuresome, generous, loving couples that exist– Paul and Callie Thomas– and had very few opportunities to give my jaw a break from smiling or laughing. Callie and I even had to enforce a forbidden topics list during one of our workouts because there were so many things that got us chuckling and would surely have disrupted our flow. One rare exception was driving away from Geraldine, a place whose only flaw is that it doesn’t extend across the whole planet. And that someone honked at Paul (although I’m convinced it wasn’t a Geraldinian but a mere passer-by).20130226-154757.jpg

From minute one, Callie, Paul and I struck out on as many naturey, scenic, new adventures as possible. Paul set the tone for the week when, barely out of the airport, he proposed we go paragliding over Queenstown.20130227-061505.jpg

I hope it’s not true, but I think that was the closest I’ll come to feeling like a flying squirrel.

That afternoon, we drove to Aoraki, a pretty little village beneath New Zealand’s highest mountain, Mt. Cook. I could have spent all day soaking up the majestic mountain view from our hotel, but Paul, adventure-planning extraordinaire, had better ideas!20130227-111945.jpg

We went on a stargazing tour the first night and learned all about the sky and constellations in an area officially recognized as the International Dark Sky Reserve. I wish my camera captured how mind-bogglingly clear the stars and moon were, but I know for a fact that I’ll never look at the night sky the same way again.20130226-161716.jpg

The next day, we went on a glacier tour and I exponentially increased my glacial knowledge and appreciation. 20130226-162837.jpg
See that long rocky slab of ice below the mountains? It’s 27 kilometers long and 90% underwater. Wild, eh?!20130227-111506.jpg

Our second night together, Callie and Paul surprised me with the sweetest birthday surprise ever. They showered me with a stack of cards that the world’s best mom collected from friends and family, treated me to a delicious dinner and cake, and delivered some awesome gifts from the Wade clan. To give y’all a taste of how detailed and caring my mom is, get this: She sent a perfectly-sized, labeled piece of wrapping paper to go with each gift, as well as wrapping materials and instructions for Callie. If I can’t have some motherly love up close and personal on my birthday, her outrageously meticulous and thoughtful touches are the next best thing!20130226-163541.jpgEvery single one of those cards made me smile big time and appreciate having such amazing friends and family. So thanks to every one of you who sent one– it means a ton and I will always remember my special 24th birthday and very first one away from Texas.

After two nights at Mt. Cook, we cruised to Christchurch for a quick afternoon and evening before flying to Auckland the next morning. We speed-explored through the Re:Start area of downtown, which is a shopping district created out of big shipping crates after the earthquakes devastated much of the city two years ago.20130226-164834.jpg

We also stayed in an adorable lodge that’s connected to a vineyard and a perfect warm-up away from a trail where Callie and I did a solid 400m session the next morning.20130226-164840.jpg

Back in Auckland, the good times with the Thomases rolled on, starting with a ferry ride from our hotel to downtown for a delicious Asian feast. 20130226-165322.jpgAll of our meals were hearty and delicious, but the best part about each of them (and our long dives) was a little something I like to call TPQ. Paul has a way of coming up with some deep, and sometimes completely absurd, thought-provoking questions (TPQs) that usually involve my future husband or supernatural powers. Words of wisdom from a now-experienced TPQ player: If you ever hear Paul utter, “So ______. Here’s one for ya!”, get ready for some major introspection and challenges to defend your answer. And then be sure to boomerang the question right back at him for some serious entertainment and creativity.

On Saturday morning, Callie and I headed to the Millennium Institute track and completed another quality session together (8x1000m). I loved every second of running next to that girl, and can’t wait for way more laps by her side. (Hopefully most of them will involve a certain human’s watchful eye, incredible strength, and tricky tricksterness as she pretends like she doesn’t notice us but is actually dying to befriend us.)

We spent the remainder of the day cruising all around Coromandel, a beautiful stretch of beaches about 2 hours outside of Auckland. We made it to Hot Springs Beach, Hahei, and Cathedral Cove, and all were insanely beautiful. (Look closely in the bottom right picture for a sneaky guest who swooped into my picture at the last second. I thank him for that.)20130226-170608.jpg
20130226-170620.jpg

For our final full day together, Paul, Callie and I drove 2.5 hours to Matamata to see the farmland and set of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.20130227-111717.jpg

It had been a while since I saw any of the movies, but walking through the set and envisioning myself living in a hobbit hole someday made me eager to read the series and re-watch the films. I’m still mystified about the effort, details, and ingenuity that went into the creation of Hobbiton, and can totally see why New Zealand offered the ideal setting for the film. 20130227-103443.jpg

In addition to exploring the 48 hobbit holes and little village, we hung out underneath the Party Tree and finished the tour with cider and treats in the Green Dragon.20130227-103449.jpg

Needless to say, Paul and Callie’s visit was one of the most special, delightful, and fun weeks of my life, and they are truly my ideal travel partners. I hope to see much more of this big, beautiful world with them and to someday spoil them as much as they spoiled me all week long. So thanks, Thomases, for coming all the way to NZ, including me on your adventures, celebrating my birthday, pack-mule-ing all of my goods from home, and being a constant example of life done right. I love y’all and think you’re both… 1.. 2.. AWESOME! And I love it when you show me your moves.20130227-111902.jpg



And finally, did I just turn 24? Yep.

But was a crib delivered to the hotel room for me? Was art supplies one of the best gifts I could have asked for? And do I still wear a child’s life jacket? You betcha!20130227-102842.jpg
Have fun paying the regular movie ticket price and ordering off the adult menu, Lucas… I think I’ll join ya next decade! Oh, and thanks for these… you really outdid yourself this year.20130227-110912.jpg

Advertisements
 
1 Comment

Posted by on February 26, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

Melbourne Mems

First things first… To my Owl friends racing Indoor Conference this weekend: Commit, zone in, and believe in yourself and your teammates. (and please tell me about any suspicious brown loafers peeking out of a stall in the women’s restroom)

Secondly…Some mems from Melb:
20130222-224659.jpg

 
2 Comments

Posted by on February 22, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

An Evening with the Snells

The week before I left the U.S. last July, I had the immense pleasure of meeting one of my running heroes and one of– if not the– greatest middle distance runners of all time: Peter Snell. Three times the Olympic Champion (two titles which were achieved through the unthinkable 800/1500 double in the 1964 Tokyo Games), twice the Commonwealth Games Champion, and many times the World Record Holder, Snell was the dominant force in middle distance in the 1960’s. Along with his teammates Murray Halberg and Barry Magee, who also medaled in the 1960 Rome Olympics and who were all coached by the legendary Arthur Lydiard, Snell spearheaded tiny New Zealand’s (current pop.: 4.4 million) golden era of track and field.

I’ve wanted to meet Snell, who lives in Dallas and works at the UT Southwestern Medical Center, for as long as I’ve been a serious runner. I was finally able to justify contacting him when I was awarded the Watson Fellowship, which would sling me around the world and to his native New Zealand to run and to learn from other runners. So I e-mailed him, hoping that he’d be willing to answer some questions over the phone. Needless to say, I was delighted when he responded with an invitation to his home near White Rock Lake, my favorite running spot in Dallas, for an evening chat with him and his wife.

I’m not sure what I was expecting to find in the home of such a sporting giant– maybe a dedicated trophy room, a wall plastered with certificates, or a bronze bust of Snell himself. Whatever it was, I didn’t find it. Instead, I found a pretty, cozy, but unpretentious home with a beautiful, artsy backyard, an open and bright living room, and two decks in the shape of ferns, a subtle nod to Snell’s homeland. I also met a lovely couple who melted the intimidation I initially felt as quickly as the New Zealand sun burns through the clouds each morning.

Now that I’m in Auckland, his former training base, my conversation with Peter Snell has become especially meaningful and vivid. As I run in some of the places that he ran on his way to becoming New Zealand’s Sports Champion of the 20th Century, I recall some of the things he told me, which I believe other runners would enjoy hearing as well. Here are some highlights from our conversation:

  • Snell was the best runner growing up in his town. Then his parents sent him to boarding school in Auckland, where he was badly beaten in the 880 and 1500 in the annual school championship by regular club, world-trained runners.
  • He saw the reason for him being beaten as a talent difference until he was 19, when he did well at a summer race, running a 1:54 800, and one of the guys he beat introduced him to his future coach Arthur Lydiard.
  • Lydiard prided himself on never asking anyone to be his athlete and never charging anyone.
  • Even though he was a middle-distance specialist, Snell did a standard 22-mile long run on Sundays called Wiatarua.
  • Snell mainly trained on the roads, but also ran on a grass race track for horses.
  • Even when he was World Record Holder and Olympic Champ, Snell didn’t own a vehicle (just a bike).
  • At his prime, Snell worked an 8:30-5:00 job and made the most of his time by running to and from work. To keep up a high volume and save time and money, he’d take the bus to work on Monday with full sets of clothes for the week. For the rest of the week, he ran to and home from work, finally bussing home with his dirty laundry each Friday night. His free time was sparse, but he created opportunities to run and made running a priority.
  • Summer was an opportunity to train full-time; he and a few friends went to the beach and trained twice a day. One summer, his standard schedule while recovering from a stress fracture was a 10-miler in the morning and a speed workout in the evening.
  • Snell talked at a camp for emerging elite mid-distance college seniors who were all worried about not having shoe sponsorships. He told them the best thing to do is to get a job– “You might have to sacrifice a social life, but if you’re a high achiever, you’ll do that anyways.”
  • He was goal-directed, but sometimes had mileage aims he didn’t meet (he wouldn’t do 2 extra miles just to hit 100).
  • Keeping records was very important to Snell. However, he has some big gaps in his training logs during down periods when he was too depressed to record training (during times when he wasn’t hitting mileage, blowing off workouts, etc.)
  • Snell said it’s important to try to not dwell on failures– he tries to forget them.
  • He moved to the US for education when he was 34, and then brought his family over. He funded graduate school by doing well in the Superstars competition (athletic events for famous athletes in which each person competed in 8 or 10 events, none of which could be their own event). Snell excelled in tennis, rowing, and cycling, all of which he did when he was young.
  • Snell and his wife got into orienteering after running. They don’t run anymore, but now do a good amount of biking.
  • Snell now works as adjunct associate professor in the internal medicine depatment at Southwestern Medical Center. When I talked to him, he was working on a project to find out how to help disabled individuals become more active.
  • I concluded my interview with Dr. Snell by filming 2 questions I thought might be particularly insightful. Here they are…

    In addition to learning all about Peter Snell, I also got to know his darling wife Miki, who became a runner relatively late in life. She considers herself a product of the running boom as she didn’t start training until she was 26 years old after she watched the 1968 Olympics and decided she could do that. She started running in Highland Park and the Turkey Trot 8-miler was her first race, in which she placed second but didn’t consider herself in good shape. She ran seriously for 15 years, during which time she lowered her personal bests to a 2:12 800 and also dabbled in the 400 and 400 hurdles. In addition to athleticism, Miki also has a creative and crafty side (which I love!). She took me on a tour of their gorgeous backyard and showed me a beautiful mosaic she created as well as an adorable miniature village she molded out of clay. Running and art is a combination I stand behind!

    I asked Miki the same questions as her husband, and this is what she had to say…

    I owe both Peter and Miki Snell a huge thanks for welcoming me into their home and cheerfully answering the questions I arrived with and more. My conversation with them was the perfect way to launch my Watson year, and I look forward to ending my journey symmetrically with another visit upon my return. In the meantime, I’ll enjoy running in some of the places and meeting some of the people that were integral parts of Dr. Snell’s career. Coming soon: an attempt to tackle the Lydiard group’s standard 22-mile Sunday run. Supposedly it has brought some stellar runners to tears and a dead halt, so I’ll be thrilled to finish it in one piece!

     
    2 Comments

    Posted by on February 18, 2013 in Uncategorized

     

    Coast to Coast Multisport Race

    Imagine the cross between a triathlon, an ultramarathon, and some off-road pounding… and you’ve got the essence of the Coast to Coast Multisport Race.

    Last weekend, I got my first taste of any sort of adventure racing as I followed the 800+ competitors by car and by foot as a member of a friend’s support crew. The Coast to Coast is a notoriously grueling multisport race that horizontally spans New Zealand’s South Island, beginning at Kumara Beach on the Tasman Sea and ending at Sumner Beach on the Pacific Ocean. Competitors choose to complete the race in either one or two days, with the single-day option serving as the World Multisport Championship. Every individual, then, cycles 140 kilometers, runs 36 kilometers, and kayaks 67 kilometers over several stages.

    A few days before the race, I accompanied Simon (who elected to do the 2-day race) to Christchurch as we checked, fiddled, and bought all the gear he’d be needing and made our way over to Greymouth, where they race would begin. Along the way, I soaked up the South Island sights that, at times, seemed like a totally different planet from the North Island. The clear turquoise water, Castle Hill, and Arthur’s pass made a big South Island fan out of me.20130213-170409.jpg

    Daybreak Friday morning rolled around pretty quickly, and both the competitors and their support crews got down to business.20130213-172036.jpgAs the athletes churned out the miles, the crews drove ahead to ensure everything would be ready at each transition point. Depending on the event, the transitions required navigating Six Flags-like parking chaos; trekking to the changeover areas with all gear and equipment in hand; waiting for the competitors to arrive and cheering them on as they came in; feeding them and helping them change clothes and gear; and sending them off on the next stage as we re-loaded the car with the used equipment and got ready for the next transition. Here are some shots from the transitions and the landscape in between:20130213-172713.jpg20130213-174805.jpg

    In between days, the 2-day competitors and their crews camped out in a big field. The crews had to be packed up and cleared out before 5am the next morning while the competitors got a little extra shut-eye before their 7:30 start, so the campground was understandably silent by 9pm.20130213-172903.jpg

    After another full day of racing, transitioning, and supporting, the 2013 Coast to Coast came to an end as each competitor officially finished the journey by dipping into the Pacific Ocean. Unfortunately, crazy traffic and narrow roads prevented us from cheering Simon in, but he finished in a respectable 40th place among 2-day-ers in just under 15 hours. We found our way to him soon after and got to see the leaders of the 1-day competition steamroll through the finish line. The winner completed the course in a mind-blowing 11 hours and 6 minutes and walked away with the World Championship Multisport title. Although multisport racing isn’t on my personal horizon, I have tons of respect for all those who completed the event and hope they’re all recovering well from the carnage they put their bodies through.

    I’m now back in Auckland, staying with runner, coach and PhD student (but not for much longer) Kyle Barnes and his American and Scottish roommates. Kyle has been so good to me, scooping me up from the airport, taking me on some stunning runs, answering my excessive questions about his research, and putting the grill to good use, and I’m loving the view and proximity of the ocean from their pad. I’ll be here for a week before I jet back down to the South Island to meet a girl and her husband who are very near and dear to my heart, and whose visit I can hardly contain my excitement for… Mr. and Mrs. Paul and Callie Thomas!

    Happy VDay, friends! So much love to you all!

     
    Leave a comment

    Posted by on February 13, 2013 in Uncategorized

     

    Love ya, Wombie!

    Not all of us are fortunate enough to get to share a womb with a pretty rad dude for 9 months. I won’t go so far as to say I’d like to do it again, but I sure can’t think of a better wombmate than the one I got.

    He did get a little greedy in there, hogging all the nutrients and sprouting 10 inches and 80 pounds past me. But I’m over it– I got the first victory in life by escaping before him, and can now scurry through small tunnels way easier than he can. 20130207-091436.jpg

    After getting some good practice in the womb, Luke and I grew up sharing most things: a crib, a bedroom, birthday parties (half of which were Peter Pan- and Tinkerbell-themed), schools, vacations, pets, State Fair of Texas Twin Contest prizes (yep… that happened), summer jobs, friends, and some pretty fly matching outfits.20130207-091321.jpg

    Luke was my very first classmate, campmate, and teammate (no mind that my chili bowl led people to know us as the Wade boys… Thanks, Mom). He was also my first co-worker (if you count his 8-hour ping-pong tournaments as “lifeguarding”) and even a part of my first tap recital and school play.

    For the first time since 1989, however, our birthday is something we don’t get to share (in person, at least). In fact, the 19-hour time difference between New Zealand and Texas marks the biggest difference in our ages ever. I like telling people I’m older than Luke, but frankly the usual 2-minute gap does it for me. I hope it’s a long time (or never) until we celebrate another year of life without each other.

    So Lukey… I know we drive each other crazy sometimes, but you really are the only other pea I’d want in my pod. Your soft spot for animals…
    and ability to sweetalk others into buying them for you,20130207-092743.jpg
    your inspiration to relax, procrastinate every now and then, and not take life too seriously,20130207-092849.jpg
    your perfection of the booty-bump…20130207-093204.jpg
    and the fish nibble,20130207-093632.jpg
    and your comedic relief at opportune moments (i.e. asking me to get a competitor’s phone number in the middle of a Conference Championship 10k and calling me “Becka the Wrecka” in a text not 2 minutes after I totaled my car)…20130207-091602.jpg
    are as precious to me as that full-body cheetah-print unitard was to you between the ages of 6 and… well, now.

    I miss you and your goofy self every day that I’m gone, but especially on the anniversary of the day I proved that I’m the strong and dominant twin. I wish we could celebrate together, but I have a feeling you’ll ensure that we more than make up for it when I get back. Have a great day, Lucas, and rest assured that, although I’m continents away, I’ll be doing lots of this in your honor today:

    Love ya, Wombie! Happy 24th.
    20130207-093901.jpg

     
    2 Comments

    Posted by on February 9, 2013 in Uncategorized

     

    Auckland: First Week Favorites

    Other than captions, I’ll let the pictures do the talking…

    Bethells Beach:
    20130204-090153.jpg

    20130204-090201.jpg

    20130204-090206.jpg

    20130204-090212.jpg

    Simon training for the Coast-to-Coast adventure race:
    20130204-090438.jpg

    20130204-090444.jpg

    One of New Zealand’s many grass tracks:
    20130204-090518.jpg

    20130204-090525.jpg

    Escaping Auckland for a weekend with 2 former Tulsa runners:
    20130204-113500.jpg

    20130204-090611.jpg

    20130204-090615.jpg

    Waitakere Ranges Regional Park:
    20130204-090810.jpg

    20130204-090816.jpg

    20130204-090820.jpg

     
    Leave a comment

    Posted by on February 3, 2013 in Uncategorized

     

    Made it to Middle Earth!

    Here I am in New Zealand, after ending my Australian stint in the best possible way: one last track session at Melbourne Uni, dinner with the MUAC crew, and my first ever nibble of kangaroo meat.
    20130201-152802.jpg
    I had such a good time getting to know the team over countless runs, meals, and coffees this month, and am so appreciative of the extent to which they included me and showed me around. Their classically Australian relaxed approach to living, combined with an intense focus and dedication to running, made for an impressive mixture that I hope to carry with me from here on out. I’m also pumped to add one more club singlet to my growing collection and to rep it proudly when I return for the Zatopek 10k down the road.

    I arrived in Auckland on Wednesday to a big smile and hug from Simon, my good friend, former teammate, and fellow Martelian. He grew up here and moved back after graduating from Rice in 2010, and is the ideal guy to show me around this amazing country. I could dig around for some words to describe how cool New Zealand is, but I think this video that Simon made does a much better job: Coast to Coast Roadie
    He filmed all of that while training for the Coast to Coast adventure race, which I’ll get to watch and be on his crew for next weekend. We’re flying down to Christchurch and road-tripping all the way back up to Auckland, stopping in a few of his favorite places along the way and doing some substantial running of course.

    He also entered the video in a big competition and would appreciate your vote a ton. If he gets enough support, he’ll be short-listed and in the running to earn some money for travel and equipment. So if you have a spare second, follow the simple instructions on the site above and show some love to my Kiwi bud!

    As soon as I touched down in NZ, Simon took me on a spin through the city, pointing out the major landmarks and stopping at a couple of his favorites. We drove through Cornwall Park, a hotspot for Kiwi runners, and stood on top of Mt. Eden for a brilliant 360 view of Auckland. I’m already loving the warm but mild weather, the sight and sound of the ocean from almost anywhere in the city, and the 48 volcanic cones that sprout from the earth due to New Zealand’s location on the Pacific Ring of Fire. Even more than the sights though, getting to catch up with an old friend and to stay with a family after many months of solo traveling is the best. 20130201-165746.jpg

    Si also gave me a little gift to welcome me to New Zealand: an original copy of Peter Snell’s book No Bugles No Drums. I had the pleasure of meeting the legendary Dr. Snell (3-time Olympic Champion and multiple times World Record Holder, among countless other accolades) and his lovely wife Miki in their Dallas just before I took off on my trip, and will share some of our conversation in an upcoming post. 20130201-172308.jpg

    G’day, mates!

     
    2 Comments

    Posted by on February 1, 2013 in Uncategorized