Friday, August 15, 2014

Last Hurrah in Argentina : Books, Coins, and Tango

This may be my final trip to Argentina, ever.  I have accumulated about 15 sets of entry/exit stamps in my passports since 2010 for what has become like a second home.

Wednesday, Jul 30:
14.9k on the sit-up bike in 45 min.  I made it out at 9pm, after the plane ride, working from the hotel, having a big buffet lunch (had only a tiny breakfast on the plane), a beer for dinner, and an unsuccessful 50 min nap.  The gym felt cool ini­­­tially, but it got warm fast.  My body wasn’t in the mood for running, and I had considered doing a strength session in the room, but I figured that with the anticipated work schedule for the rest of the trip, I’d better take advantage of the chance to go to the gym, while I had it.   I drank a giant bottle of water during the ride, and I read my Runners World.  Afterwards, I did some arm exercises, where I pushed the reps a bit, to get some gains to prepare for Spartan, vs. my usual maintenance work.

Friday, Aug 1:
50 min hotel strength session.  500 crunches/side, 2:45 plank, 120/140 abductor/adductor leg lifts, 90s 6in, 30 tricep dips, 50+35 clam, 85 pelvic thursts, 30 pushups, 1:00 side planks were difficult, 65+70 quad dips, 30 burpees, 100 lower leg extensions, 30 supermans.  6am, before breakfast.  Didn’t feel like I did too much.  Wish I could’ve gone on longer, but I had to go to work.

Saturday, Aug 2:
7am gym time, since we were going into work a bit later that day.  I got in 8K in 45:43, 9:09 ave, at 2 degrees of incline.  I took it really slow  at the start.  I didn’t miss not having breakfast first, and I was well-hydrated going into it.  It was ok, other than the warmth, although when I pictured running back home at the park, it felt better.  Splitss> 5:58, 52, 48, 46, 40, 33, 10.

Sunday, Aug 3:
Another pre-work workout.  40 min sit-up biking, covering 13.5K.  A fair bit of sweat, read running magazine.  Could’ve maybe managed a run, instead of the bike, and I brought my running shoes, but the more modern treadmill was taken, which gave me a welcomed excuse to bike, instead.  Started feeling a bit low on carbs, mid-way.  Did arm exercises afterwards, including 30+15 burpees.

Monday and Tuesday, long days at work, supporting our go-live.

Wednesday, Aug 6:
Happy to finally get a chance to get to the gym again.  Did 8K (5mi) at 10.5kph breathing through my nose, which helped make up for me not using the elevation mask during the strength session last week.  BPM was 180, at the end.  Wore Puregrits.  Went at 3 degrees, which stretched my Achilles a bit initially, but they loosened up.  It was an easy, comfortable pace.  No time for any arms afterwards, because the gym was closing.  9:09 ave pace.  45:45 duration.

Friday, Aug 8:
50 min strength session, 6am.  500 crunches/side, 2:45 plank, 145/120 adductor/abductor leg lifts, 200 pelvic thrusts, 90+90 shallow but good single-leg quad dips, 110 lower leg extensions, 18 divebombers a record (vs. the usual 12 maybe 15), 90s 6in, 70s side planks, 30 tricep dips, 70s 6in, 40 superman record (vs. the usual 35).

Saturday, Aug 9:
Feeling hungry at 7am, and wanting to maximize time between breakfast and lunch so that I could have a good appetite for a highly anticipated vegan lunch, I started with breakfast.  I was thirsty, so I had a bunch of yerba mate.  

After giving myself some time to digest, I went out for a run at the Ecological Reserve.  I had considered just running at the hotel gym, but this would be my last chance to run there.  On my first series of trips to Argentina back in 2009, it was a nice surprise to discover this oasis of nature and dirt paths right next to the down town area, and I’ve run there every year since.  Each loop around the outer edges of the pretzel-shaped trail system is 5 miles, and it passes through the massive river on one side, the power plant on the far side, and the marshes on the close side.  The reserve draws runners, bird watchers, walkers, and some bikers.

I wasn’t sure how much I’d do… 5, 10, 15 miles?  5 was the min, 10 would be a run I could feel satisfied with, 13 would be Spartan-ready (in preparation for October), and 15 would be amazing.  Loop 1 – no biggie, loop 2 – still feeling good.  I started turning back after loop 2, because my plantars were starting to feel a bit strained in the normal-insole / minimalist shoes, but as I started going back, I realized that my legs were still ok, so I went on.  I first figured that I’d try to get in a couple of extra miles by cutting through the middle of the pretzel, but it seemed like not too much more to do the full 15, so I went for it.  The last couple of miles were a bit gritty, and my legs were tired, but I made it.  I didn’t miss fuel or water at all, because of the big breakfast, whose levels of tea verged on hyponatremia.  

15 in 2:09:35, 8:37 ave, 1184 calories (to spend at vegan restaurants J ).  Splits> 10:06, 8:53, 8:46, 8:52, 8:49, 8:31, 8:10, 8:27, 8:36, 8:17, 7:55, 8:22, 8:22, 8:14, 9:08.  It’s been a while since I’ve run that long…. It may even be a distance record for the year, so I was really happy about being able to throw that down.  It helped that the past few weeks were really low-mileage.  

After a shower, I took a taxi out to a vegan restaurant, which I was amazed to find in the land of parillas and beef.  It was ok… I’m most interested in deserts.  The Konu Bar had a variety of dishes that was the same seitan in different sauces…. Asian stir-fry sauce, BBQ, and a curry-like sauce.  There were also some pastas and plain salad veggies.  The sweet potato pattie and the greens pattie were good.  The carrot cake was good, but the cheesecake and brownie weren’t as good as ones you can get in the US.  Maybe just different tastes in Argentina.  

I took a cab to El Ateneo bookstore, which a theater converted into a bookstore, ranked the #2 most beautiful library in the world, by the BBC (against some tough competition, based on the pics of the other places).  Pretty much all the books are in Spanish, as expected, but it was pretty to look around.  I had a decaf expresso and a tea on the stage-turned-cafĂ©. 

After that, I walked to the Recoleta cemetery, which is surrounded by a craft fair.  At the fair, there was  guy who converts coins into really cool pendants, but cutting out pieces around the pictures, numbers, and words.  It’s quite amazing.  He had coins from many different countries.  It was so difficult to pick one.  I wound up with one from South Africa, which I liked more and more as I studied it after buying it.

1)      I liked the deer, which is an animal that I’ve always felt a special connection to, for multiple reasons.
2)      I’ve been to that country (there were other cool ones from Europe and who-knows-where, but they felt less meaningful).
3)      It was a 1-Rand piece.  Better to be “1” than “2” or some other number.
4)      The coolest surprise of all, was the inscription “Soli Deo Gloria”.

 I re-visited the cemetery with its maze of mausoleums.  It’s a big place, and there’s something interesting or new to discover around every corner.  It made me think about “legacy”, and what mark I wanted to leave on the world.  I figured that my chances of doing anything “huge” are pretty slim, but the one thing that I could do to make a meaningful impact, would be to help people and touch peoples’ lives.  That’s probably the thing that I’m the worst at, but it’s the most important thing, and something that I’ll have to figure out a way to do.  

I walked around some nearby parks afterwards, feeling relaxed after 2 straight weeks of working 7 days-a-week.  During that time, if I got to go back to the hotel at 7pm (after leaving at 7:30am), it felt like I was getting a vacation day.  Then, back to the hotel for just chilling and sleeping early.

Sunday, Aug 10:
My dad was intrigued by the cut-out coins, so I went back to Recoleta the next morning to find more.  I went too early, and the vendors weren’t out yet, so I walked back to the hotel for a 55 min bike ride with the running mag and a giant bottle of water.  My right knee complained a bit afterwards, but it was fine.  My second trip to Recoleta was more successful, and I got coins for the whole family.

Then, I went to another, better, vegan restaurant.  The main dish was “eh” (lasagna), but the raspberry beer and carrot cake were great.  Afterwards, I walked around the San Telmo antiques fair a bit, before going back to the hotel.  I had a giant salad for dinner at the food court, where you got to pick 6 different veggies.  I named my mix the “live-til’you’re-100” salad… beets, brussel sprouts, broccoli, carrot-and-raisin-and-pineapple-sweet-coleslaw, eggs, and lentils.

After dinner, I went out to a tango show with my colleagues.  I went to another one on a previous trip, but this was nice in that we were really close to the stage… it’s incredible how athletic the dancers are, throwing each other around with grace, executing complex steps with incredible precision, and conveying a diverse range of moods and styles of tango with passion.  It’s something to behold.

Monday, Aug 11:
I had to get in another workout today, because I planned on going out for dinner the next two nights.  I had gotten just 5 hours of sleep, because the tango show didn’t finish until midnight.  I was feeling it during the day, which happened to be very cold, too.  The day goes by fast with frantic work, though.
My legs were still recovering a bit, from the 15er.  I had leftover desert from the vegan place after work, before going to the gym, because my body wasn’t in the mood for food just yet…. It only wanted some carbs.  When I started running, my legs didn’t feel like they had enough endurance for a normal run, so I decided to take advantage of the laziness to do circuits.  To make myself feel better about it, I could say that I was training for the Spartan race, where I’d need to intersperse strength work with aerobic work.  I ran at 3 degrees of incline, doing 2K, 30 burpees, 2K, 20x20kg lateral pulldowns, 2K, 30 Roman chair leg lifts, 2K, then dumbells.  Had another giant salad afterwards, for dinner.  43:08 for 8K at 3 degrees, 8:38 ave.

Tuesday & Wednesday, out to dinner.

Thursday, Aug 14:
Today, my hands felt cold, and I felt like my immune system was down.  Maybe all the close contact, and the cold weather.  It was my last chance to get in a run, though, before the Friday travel day.  Even though I wasn’t feeling well, I knew that getting my blood pumping would make me feel better.  My body was craving cardio, anyway.   I wasn’t sure how much I’d be able to handle, but I ended up with 8K in 44:17, 8:51 ave, at 2 degrees.  I tried to make it all the way with breathing through my nose again.  BPM was 166 afterwards.  It was a good way to bump up the cardio and efficiency aspect, while not taxing my legs too much.  My Tibialis anteriors were feeling a bit pressed in the latter part of the run, but not to the point of risking any damage… maybe it was the incline or my stride or something.  Good, mild stress makes it stronger.  Had almonds before, and a nice, celebratory dinner out afterwards.  It would be my last night in Argentina, possibly ever… although I still think it would be cool to visit Patagonia once day.  Splits>  5:44, 41, 41, 36, 33, 32, 23, 04.

Friday, fly out, eager to see my family again, and to get a chance to do laundry, but sad to be saying goodbye for the last time.