Monday, January 30, 2012

And Yet Another Week of No Race Training

It's been a week since I have been able to run. I thought I had an ear infection last week, so my general doctor put me on an antibiotic and said no more running for a week. I never improved, the pressure in my face got worse, my ear hasn't popped, and I'm so exhausted from trying to be human this weekend. I saw an ear, nose and throat doctor today, and he came to the conclusion through a very painful examination of my sinuses that I have the sinus infection from hell that wasn't responding to the weak antibiotic I was on last week. No ear infection after all, just fluid behind my ear drum because of the sinus infection. And now I'm to stay home from work for two days AND I'm not allowed to run for another week! That'll be two weeks of no running at the very beginning of my training regime. Then I'll go to Turkey and I hope I'll be able to find places to run there; otherwise I feel like I'll NEVER get back on track. The race is in just 10 weeks! I'm so nervous that I won't be able to start training again in time to get my body ready for the 21 km.

Please pray that I'll get better soon!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Entering the Quarter Century Club-- Turning 25: Best Birthday Ever!

In the morning, my roommate surprised me with a birthday muffin (in the background is left over birthday carrot cake from work)
In the late morning, I joined 10 or so others from my church for a pajamas flash mob in the subway  (video to come)
Then I met my friend Alex who gave me this lovely rose. She then took me out for lunch, coffee and cake!
In the evening I hosted a party for 20 or so people at  my apartment. Although I'm still a bit under the weather, it was loads of fun! This is my friend Allison and I.
My friends pretty much rock. Everyone was really thoughtful in their gifts. This is a wonderful vegan cookbook full of colorful pictures that my friends gifted me.
My bible study even was rather thoughtful and got me a pedometer so that I can keep track of mileage during training!
My friend Emily who has been here in Austria with me since the beginning made a calendar for with lots of pictures and highlights from the last two years!
I even scored lots of yummy chocolates and good wine
My roommate got me a guidebook on Istanbul, which is where I'll be off to next week!

As you can see, my birthday was fantastic. It's hard to think of a birthday that could top this one! I am so blessed to have such great friends here!

The Second Best Birthday Card(s) I Ever Received

On Friday in school I received 40-some individualized birthday cards from the preschoolers. Here is a picture of my favorites:

The Best Birthday Card I Ever Received

"Dear Amber,

Heartfull luckwish for your börsday! Wis dis card your house circle wishes you healthness, staisfyheit, and outduration for your new year! Mayest you will your half marathon. May you live sinnful and sufferschaftlich!"

That was from my Hauskreis, or cell group from church. Hauskreis literally means "house circle". They wrote out the card in German and translated it directly into English, and that's what I got-- it was extremely hard to read and understand, so I can't imagine how hard that was to write!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

One Week into Training and Sick :(

I registered last week for a half marathon in April, and now just one week into training and I've developed an ear infection! I already missed a run yesterday, and I'll most likely miss my run tomorrow. The good thing is I am on antibiotics now, so I'm hoping by the weekend I'll be feeling better and able to run, and subsequently enjoy my birthday party.

In good news, I received the nice running jacket I had ordered on Amazon. So that means once my health is back, I can start running outdoors!

Wish me a fast recovery!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Half Marathon in April!

I am officially registered to run the Vienna City Half Marathon on April 15th!

What a strange feeling! It feels exciting on the one hand to imagine participating, but on the other hand I'm asking myself if I'll be ready in three months. The half marathon is 21 km, or 13.1 miles, and my goal is simply to finish. I can already run for more than an hour, but the holidays and my stupid plantar fisciitis problem set me back a bit  the past couple of months. But now that the holidays are over, and my foot is doing much better, I have 12 weeks in front of me to whoop my butt into shape and run this thing! The good thing is, I kind of know how the beginning stages of training look; I had thought I would run the Twin Cities half marathon in the summer, so I began training for that in the spring of this past year. I got a third into the training before traveling, work, and the realization that I wouldn't be in Minnesota for the race caused me to stop progressing.

But now I've got a customized training plan that Asics generated for me online based on my fitness level, when I can run, etc etc. I'll be running four runs a week, one of which will be a "long" run. In addition, I hope do some strength training and/or cross-training two times a week. Thankfully I now have another free afternoon to devote to training since the English play date I was leading is over. I also ordered a fancy new running jacket on Amazon, so that should motivate me to run outside once a week.

Time to hang up my confirmation email on my wall as motivation for the next weeks!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Vegan Progress

As I previously posted, I have decided to try to do a one-month vegan cleanse. I've been a vegetarian for two years now, and since I rarely drink milk or eat eggs, I thought cutting out the cheese would be an easy thing to do. It's day five now, and I've had a couple minor slip-ups. I'd say then that I've been eating 96% vegan.

I thought I would immediately feel lighter and have more energy, but it's actually the opposite. A couple of days ago I woke up really light-headed and nauseous. Yesterday I slept through my alarm going off for two whole hours (consequently I was late for work), felt groggy and lethargic all day at work, and later I had the worse work-out of my life; I thought I was going to die doing a simple 45-minute cardio routine. When I got home, I felt so weak and in so much pain, my entire body was throbbing in pain. I ended up getting sick and feeling feverish at night. Today my body aches have slowly started to subside, but I called in to work and have been in bed all day.

I can't figure out if I picked up a virus while traveling, or if this is a result of jet-lag, or the new diet; perhaps it's a combination of all three. Today I've been doing research on diets, and I read that you can actually have withdrawal symptoms when you cut out dairy in your diet. There is a protein or chemical in cheese and milk that resembles morphine, and your body can literally go through painful withdrawal when you cut that out. That totally freaks me out! Can my body really be that addicted to something as simple as cheese?!

I hate this feeling, but something in the back of my mind keeps saying to push through, that once these horrible days are behind me, I'll feel so great, have my health in my hands, and be doing something positive for the world and global warming.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Traveling: Pressed for Time? Don't Look Stressed!

**Written directly after boarding my first flight today, after nearly missing it

So what's up with new TSA regulations with swiping hands and culturing them at security checkpoint? Isn't it enough that they make me remove my shoes, jacket, sweater and scarf all while juggling with my laptop out of my backpack, bag of liquids, boarding pass, etc? And how about the full body electronic scan? Is the additional pat-down thereafter really necessary?

Word to the wise, don't totally scoff the two hour suggested arrival time prior to a flight. I thought 30 minutes would suffice the security checkpoint line, and when I finally got to the conveyer belt and X-ray machine, my flight had already been boarding for 15 minutes, causing me to nervously pace, ticking TSA off and wanting to search me even more. So when you're pressed for time at the airport, don't look stressed, don't pace and don't ask if they can skip the silly hand swabbing; otherwise be prepared for even more lengthy security measures.

Holidays in Minnesota

24 Dec - 5 January: Minnesota!

I just returned from a short holiday visit in Minnesota. I stayed with my family, saw my friends, and pet my cat. I ate lots of food and definitely did not practice what I preached to my parents about health and the benefits of eating a wholesome plant-based diet (but I never ate meat!), hence the feel like I need to go vegan for a month and cleanse my body from all the additives, preservatives and nasty stuff that is in my body after eating "American" for 10 days. 

I watched lots of TV, read lots of books, did my fair share of shopping, and ate at delicious restaurants. I caught up with my best friends back home, and convinced a couple of them into visiting me in Vienna! I slaved in the kitchen on Christmas day preparing a delicious vegetarian feast for my family, on top of the ham that they consumed themselves. I think they were pretty impressed that vegetarian food can be good and healthy! I even made a traditional Viennese Apfelstrüdel, or apple strudel.

 I went to two American doctors concerning my foot--turns out I have plantar fascitis but it's healing and I can continue running--and experienced quick and efficient American health care. *I even got my teeth cleaned finally! And I finally caught up on sleep. Now my two week vacation is nearly to an end, and reality starts again on Monday. Just less than one month to go until my next one week break from school, and then hopefully it's off to Istanbul!

*For some reason, routine teeth cleanings are not, to my understanding, covered my insurance providers here. That is something that one must pay for out of pocket, although it's not terribly expensive. But my dentist doesn't even provide cleanings here! I'd have to go out and find that on my own, which is a pain in the butt. It's interesting that maintenance and treatment is covered by insurance providers here, but not prevention! 

2012: My Year?

"A new year, a new start!" How many of us have felt this empowerment New Year after New Year? How many of us have actually made resolutions or goals, and actually implemented them and carried them out? I think all of us. Every new year brings about reflection of the year past, and consequently, how we can improve our lives the coming year.

So here's my 2011 year reflection in a nut-shell:
  • I visited five countries; Malta, England, Scotland; Norway; USA
  • I saw a ton of Austria; Innsbruck; rural Tirol and Salzburg; Burgenland; Graz; the Wachau wine region; Styria
  • I finished up my second year with the Fulbright USTA Austria program
  • I started a "real" job as at an English immersion preschool 
  • I moved to a new place and finally feel "at home" with awesome roommates who are okay with my refusal to speak English to them
  • I continued to master the German language, speaking it daily, and took up Norwegian on the side
  • I started training for a half-marathon that never happened, but ran a 5k and got third place!
  • I grappled with my future and finally figured out what I want to do professionally... later on. Hey, I'm still young and enjoying life abroad!
And now, my goals for 2012:
  • eat vegan for (at least?) one month
  • slowly cut back on coffee --> this will be hard, but help me feel better while training for other goals (see below)
  • train and successfully complete the Vienna City Half Marathon in April
  • speak and read more German (duh), continue with Norwegian and pick up a third language? Spanish maybe?
  • read more and rely less on technology, internet, my computer, my iPhone, etc etc. 
So bring it on 2012!

Where is the Jet Lag?

I just arrived in sunny Vienna (which is rare this time of year) and I'm actually wide awake and running on adrenaline. I didn't sleep a wink on the journey, as I flew out at 2:00pm from Chicago. I'm not tired, just hungry and relaxed sitting in my bed.

On a side note, today is, of course, a random Austrian holiday. That means that my pantry and fridge are empty, and the supermarkets are closed. Luckily I noticed this when I was at the train-station and as able to buy a bit of bread and cheese to tide me over until tomorrow. I guess that means I'll have to postpone starting my one-month vegan stint (more on that, as well as other goals of 2012, in later posts).

I'll catch up on the holiday happenings in another blog, too. For now, I'll just eat and watch movies until my jet-lag inevitably kicks in.