Wednesday, July 17, 2019

La Zanja in Fajardo, PR

Elle: This morning, somehow, I managed to haul my butt outta bed at 6am for a 6 mile run. Honestly, every Saturday that I get up and out for my morning run I'm proud of myself, no lie. And I'm always a little surprised that I actually did it. But I got it done, and I gave myself some kudos and showered up. 

As planned, Sabrina picked me up around 10am, and we headed out for our Fajado day trip, east of San Juan. We wound our way into the beachy town and actually found a good parking spot right in front of the beach. Excellente. I had read about this hike, and I knew it was going to be a little challenging. And yeah, it was. Maybe even a little more than a little challenging...

If you plan on doing this hike, here are my tips to you.
Head to the beach and start walking along the beach to the right. This long stretch of beach is known as Playa La Matita. All along the beach were families camped out for the day. After awhile the throngs of people thinned out, and we kept walking. And walking. And walking. Around a bend, past the sandbar where all the pelicans hangout, through the mangroves. Then, at some point, there was a sign about a nature reserve. We kept walking past the sign onto the rocky portion of the hike.

There was some climbing over boulders and rocks, and eventually we got to the tip. There is a path that leads up the hill from the beach. Luckily, at this point, we ran into some people.

"Hola. Are we going the right way?"
"Yup, just keep going up, not far now!"

So we kept climbing up to a grassy area. Where to now? We walking along until we saw some more people who pointed us in the right direction. And then we were there. At the trench. Success! But wait... there's more.... how do you actually get into the trench? Yeah, it's tricky. Effing tricky.

From the top of the trench, you need to carefully make your way down the rocks, about 30 feet, to the water. There's no clear way of how to scramble down there, you just look, make a decision, and go with it.
At the bottom, there is a cave, which is great because it gives you a nice dry and shady spot to keep your stuff. The floor of the cave is rocks, so having water shoes is a good idea.

The trench!

We spent a nice while relaxing in the trench, watching the waves come crashing in and die, then gently roll water into the trench. It was delightful.

The walk back.
Oy, the walk back was hot, sunny, and sweaty. We stopped to take a break and took a dip in the water, which was super shallow, and uber salty. Ack, the stinging! If you've ever been in the Dead Sea, or any body of water that is more salty than the (general) sea, then you'll know that it's is part cool, because you float like a beach ball, but part pain, because before long, things start to sting. Like, a lot. So we got out of the water and kept walking back towards the beach center. Sweaty and salty. Oh, but of course there were no showers. Arrgghh! I had to use precious water from my water bottle to get as much sweat and salt off as possible.

At this point we were pretty hungry. So we drove to the surf town of Luquillo, and via TripAdvisor, I found The Green Cactus, a great little place for lunch. Fantastsic coleslaw!

At the Green Cactus with Sabrina, post-hike

Good day. Good hike.

Spelunking is Arecibo + boating to lunch

Puerto Rico day trip: Cueva Ventana + Lago dos Bocas

Dear Diary,

As I continue on my quest to explore the island of Puerto Rico, I planned out a fun day trip to Cueva Ventana in Arecibo, and got my friend Lisa to join me...

I started the day by hauling my bum outta bed at 7am for a solid, albeit short, 15-mile solid bike ride on Big Bertha, my trusty road bike. Afterwards, I showered up and prepared for Lisa to pick me up to head out for our exciting day. We wanted to make it to the 10:30am tour for the sake of the heat and also crowded-ness And after a short-ish 40 minute drive from our home base of Dorado, we arrived at the spot. There it was, just on the side of the road. We walked over to a hut and signed up for the tour. I got a discount because I had a PR license. Woohoo, glad my Puerto Rican license is really paying off.

Lisa and I were instructed to walk up the hill to where the tour starts. The forest was uber lush and tropical. Oh, and really effing hot. As we started the tour, the guide told us all about the nature surrounding us. It was a little annoying at first though because they make everyone wear hardhats. I have to say, when you are in the caves, it's not such a crappy idea, really. More than a couple of people hit their head on the low rocks, so the hat wasn't so annoying then. The caves are truly spectacular. I felt like I was on the set of the Goonies, I swear. Freaking amazing. And when you get to the 'ventana', what a view! I'll go ahead and let the pics do the talking here.

The Cueva Ventana excursion was fantastic, interesting, stunning, and a little challenging at times. And by the time we were done and handing in our hard hats, we had built up a bit of an appetite.
So, as I'm known to do, I had researched the heck outta this trip, and I knew that we could drive ~10 minutes and arrive at Lago Dos Bocas for a lake-side lunch. Which of course we did. There is a parking area where you can park and wait for the 'boat man' to arrive, which he did, after a time, and then he ferried us (and some other folks) to the restaurant, Paisaje Escondido.  We all climbed out of the boat, up the (steep!) stairs, and got a table at the open air restaurant. Great menu, view, service and food. Lisa and I had a spectacular time.

I did a write up on TripAdvisor for the hike and the lunch, just as a reference.

Webb: Did they have Rocky Road ice cream?

Elle: What is wrong with you? Yeah, I get your 'Goonies' reference. Weirdo.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Sunday Funday! kinda…

Elle: Dear Diary,

Sunday in Dorado is the day they shut down a section of road to cars, so runners and cyclists take to the road for a car-less workout along a stretch of road with a nature preserve on one side and the ocean on the other. Not too shabby.

I’m used to getting up with Webb and going out together for our rides. Being alone and having the discipline to get up at 6am and out of the apartment and proceed to cycle on my own takes a bit of mind strength for me. Most mornings my mind and body say, ‘No, I don’t wanna goooooo.’ But then I think, consistency is the key to gaining fitness success. And of course it’s hard. If it wasn’t then everyone would do it, right?!? So I drag my body out of bed and get to it.

Webb: Oh yes, consistency is consistently the most important aspect to long term success. 

Elle: Since my light + lovely Argon tri bike is in the shop, I’ve been riding Big Bertha, my heavier road/commuter bike. Honestly, It’s work to haul that thing around. Plus it doesn’t have shoe clips, so I’m losing power in the back half of my pedal stroke. Every stroke. So it’s truly a challenge. 

HOWEVER, today I actually passed a couple of people... Yeehaw! I mean, yeah, they were going pretty slow, but hey, I’m calling it a win.

On my rides my mind wanders. Here are some of the thoughts that swirl around:
  • Look at all the guys (and gals) in full on kits. There are a lot of serious cyclists around here.
  • I am so thirsty. Doh, I forgot my water bottle! Sooooo thirsty. Make a note for next time, DON’T FORGET A WATER BOTTLE.
  • I have a run after this (doing a transition run to train for triathlons), oy, that’s going to hurt. Stop thinking about the run! You’re on the bike, think about the bike!
Now there are lots of big groups of riders out here every Sunday, but something AMAZING happened today - there was a super big peloton of ladies wearing pink. They came up on me and I got swept up in their peloton. Whether I wanted to, or not, I was in the peloton now! It was incredible! I could feel the physics of the peloton pull me along. Some of the cyclists going the other direction would yell out words of encouragement to the group, and everyone would cheer and yell. I think it was a breast cancer support group. Anyway, it was freaking great. This is what I get out of bed for!

Webb: Dear Elle's Diary, Her cycling has really improved. Could you let her know? 

Elle: One thing about this ride is that, at the end, about 1.5 miles from the end, there is a killer of a hill. I mean super steep. Short, but steep as a mother. And every time I approach, I get a little nervous. And a little excited. But I am determined to attack and beat the hill. I was tired and still determined to win hill today. Ok, here we go......push, push, push. You. Can. Do. This.

.....yassss! Made it the top! 

Elle: 1 // hill: 0

I was done with my 25-mile ride, and it was time for a run. Ugh, I sooooo don’t want to run. But then I said to myself, ‘You can do this! Rock this run!’. More thoughts:
  • This is hard. This is hard. Stop thinking about how hard it is. This is easy! (not really)
  • Damn, I’m running a 10 minute mile. Stop! Stop the stinking thinkin’! You’re a beast!! You're a champ for even getting out here today!
  • You are strong! You can do this! Picture that podium on race day and know you're going to finish strong because you got up on these hard days and got it done!
  • This will be over at some point, just push through!
  • Strong. Strong. Push. Push.
  • I DID IT! Now lets go jump in the pool

So glad I got out of bed this morning. Good job self!

Susan G. Komen - Race for the Cure 5K

Elle: So I signed up for my second race in Puerto Rico, The Susan G. Komen 5K Race for the Cure. And although it was another race without Webb (*tear*), this time I wasn't alone; my co-worker Ashley agreed to race with me. Woohoo!

And as it often happens, before I knew it, race weekend was upon us. I planned to get a ride into San Juan for packet pick-up with my good friend Bridget.

First of all, I didn't even know when or where packet pick up was. Usually races send you emails about this sort of thing, and at least have info on the race site. Oh no, not this race. The only way I was able to find out how to get the race packet was through Ashley. She said the reason I probably didn't have all the info I needed was because the race site was all in Spanish. Yup, that was a problem. So she told me it was at the Plaza las Americas, just outside of San Juan, and give me all the details. OK, cool.

Now neither Bridget nor I had ever been to the Plaza las Americas, but we'd both heard A LOT about it. People rave about it. Neither of us are 'mall people', but we were interested in checking it out. So here's the story: IT'S HUGE. HUGE! There's a supermarket in the mall! So many restaurants! Pretty much anything you could ever want. And in one area there was a large group gathered, about 90 people. They were playing Bingo!

Webb: Who has seen "Dawn of the Dead"?  (Don't even try with 2004 - Romero 1978.)

Elle: Ok, so I don't know what Webb is talking about. Moving on....

We headed to the place in the mall where the packet pick-up was located. There were over 1,000 people signed up for this race, so we knew it might be crowded. We got there, and stood in line. And get this. Without ANY planning or coordination AT ALL... who is directly in front of us in line? Ashley! What are the freaking odds!?!?!?!? This bit of serendipity gave me a good feeling.

Ashley and me at packet pick-up
When I got home I explored my race packet. Wait. A. Minute. The race starts at 5pm? Is that true? Sooooo weird! Ok, well at least I'll have a lot of time to get ready tomorrow morning!

Webb: Race Start Times:
Puerto Rico 1 - New England 0

Elle: Having all time in the world to get up, get ready, and putz around was kind of nice. I called an Uber and got to the race site with lots of time so spare. Which was a good thing, because there was a decent race expo with lots of tents and a good amount of swag. Eventually Ashley showed up, and we got ready to race.

A little bit about me and my racing experience: Before moving to Puerto Rico, I'd never raced alone before. It's always been me and Webb or me and friends, but never alone. And not having Webb by my side at any race is kinda sad for me, since we've always raced together. But thankfully Ashley was there, and we walked around and got ready to race.

Pre-race with Ashley

Fun things at the race expo
Ashley was planning to run a 10 minute mile, and then she told me... This was her first 5K! I felt so honored to be there for her first race! I gave her some tips, and told her I'd meet her at the end. And then I moved up close to the front of the pack.

Self talk: "Just do your best. It's great that your even out here. Run your own race. Enjoy the experience. No matter what, it's all good."

Ok, ok. Here we go. And then the gun sounded, and we were off. I hadn't reviewed the course (bad runner!), but I figured I could just follow the pack. Everyone around me started off too fast. Myself included. I looked down at my watch, oh shite, I'm running a sub-7-minute mile. Woah Nelly!!! Slow it down, partner! Just calm it down, you'll thank yourself later...

Early on, I spotted a man in a red shirt who seemed to be running around my pace. So I stuck with him for awhile. Then, as often happens, we kept passing each other back and forth. Yeehaw, a race partner! I always enjoy having a race partner, a stranger who's with you for a bulk of the race. Good for pacing, and also pushing yourself that extra bit.

After awhile, things started to get harder. As it should.

"You can do this. The pain is temporary. Winning is forever. You've got this. It's not a long race, it's a 5K! Go! Go! Go! The finish line will arrive sooner than you think! Leave it all out on the course!"

Back and forth, back and forth with my race buddy. Until the last 1/4 mile or so when I dug deep and kicked it up. Then I didn't see him again. And I finished strong.

Now, some strange things about this race:

- No email about packet pick-up or anything, really
- No bag check (WTF?)
- The 'Finish' arch was not at the finish line! The finish line was BEFORE the arch. Way before. So THAT was confusing!
- The finishing chute for this 5K was almost as long as the frickin' Boston Marathon! It went on for at least a 1/4 of a mile.
- Near the end of the finishing chute, just before you get your finishing medal, there is a HUGE bell that you can ring. What? But of course I'm ringing it. That was pretty cool, actually. Now I want that at the end of every race I do....

I circled back to the finish line to cheer Ashley in. I was so excited for her. And there she was, running in for her first official 5K. WELL DONE MY FRIEND!

We chatted a bit afterwards, and then she had to head home. I stayed behind, thinking I may have placed. So I waited. And waited. And waited. Until I figured out THERE'S NO AWARDS CEREMONY. WTF? Ugh, fine, I'll get an Uber home.

So there I was, in the Uber, heading home. Hungry. Tired. A little confused. I remembered that on one of the race info sheets it said that results would be posted on
So I decide to check it out to see if the results were up (AllSports is known for their speedy postings). Lo and behold, the results were there! There were no age groupings, just all men and all women. That's fine, I'm sure I'll be able to find my name on the women's list. I started scanning the list....


I yelped, and pretty sure that I scared the crap out of the Uber driver. That's fine. I'll take my third place and go home.

Second race in PR, second time placing  :)

Saturday, April 6, 2019

A visit to the Puerto Rican DMV. Oh yeah....

(Disclaimer: A bit different than the posts of the past, I'm using this blog to not only document training and racing, but also as a kind of diary of my time in Puerto Rico. So if you don't want to read a long story about the Puerto Rican DMV, you might want to skip this one.)

Elle: After much searching and some anguish, I bought a car in January. Halleluja! No more biking everywhere I need to go. Not that I didn't mind it too much. And it was a nice boost to my fitness. But being able to go further than 5 miles from my apartment and being able to purchase more items than I can fit into my backpack is a 'nice to have'. I think I mentioned my new (used) car in an earlier post, but just a reminder:

Sooooo, in Puerto Rico, you need to have something called a 'marbete'. And it needs to be renewed once a year. And apparently if you get stopped with an expired marbete, you can rack up a fine/fee of $700 (here's a story of a sad soul here who got caught with an expired marbete). Now, my marbete expires in May. But being the newly motivated gal I've become, I wanted to get on it early. So I looked up the process of renewing this thing. Holy carrots, what a pain in the arse.

Step 1
You need to get your new vehicle license/renewal notice. The Puerto Rico Department of Motor Vehicles should send renewal notices every year by mail; they seldom do. But there's a site you can go to and you can get the notice there. You print that out and then...

Step 2
You take your vehicle along with all copies of the renewal notice to an inspection center at an authorized gas station. They will provide you with an inspection certificate for $11.00. 

Step 3
You may purchase your marbete sticker at the Inspection Center or any bank that has them in stock. I looked this up, but it's a little confusing as to which banks you can go to. Again, you must provide Insurance Vouchers to avoid the compulsory liability insurance charge of $99.00. You will pay $40.00 for annual rights, $35.00 for driver’s insurance (ACCA), $10.00 renewal fee. If you do not provide Insurance Vouchers, you will be forced to pay the $99.00 fee and choose from government insurance providers.

Oy! I thought, "Well, I'll start the process and get this 'vehicle renewal notice', that way I'll be ahead of the game." So I went online and filled out the info. The last page opened up and I was able to roughly translate the Spanish enough to know that it said that there was no car available for renewal under my name/license, etc.


After asking around, I was told by several people I had to go the Puerto Rican equivalent of the DMV. And when they said it, a look always come over their face. Not a good look. But a sad, condolences look. I was told to get there EARLY. One thing I've learned about Puerto Rico is that when you need to go to any government office, you've got to be prepared to wait A LONG TIME. Cool, I can get there early.

I was on the road by 7am. Yeah, things are going well. But since my phone decided to not do the whole navigation thing (don't know why that stopped working), I had to write down the directions and do my best to memorize where I needed to go. (If you're itching to read more about days gone sideways, I put pen to paper - or fingers to key, the details of this day).

Issue 1: Somehow I forgot about traffic heading into San Juan weekday mornings. Oy! At one point I tried to count how many lanes of traffic were merging, and I stopped at 10. But I stayed strong and drove with confidence. Then a small miracle occurred, I actually got off at the right exit (a BIG feat if you've ever driven in Puerto Rico where a lot of exits don't even have a sign).

One more exit, then my destination would be on my left. Coolio. I was able to find it and get off, woohoo, things are happening for me now!. I figured it would be an obvious building, and my directions said it was a bout 3km on the left, so I drove. And drove. And drove too far. Frick. I missed it! I checked out Google maps and saw I had overshot it, so I found some landmarks on the map, and turned around. Well, this isn't the first time I used landmarks on Google maps to find my way, and got lost. Here's a tip:

If you're driving in Puerto Rico, and you use Google Maps and rely on stores/businesses/etc. aka things on the map for landmarks, DON'T. Most of them just aren't there.
And today was no different. The landmarks weren't there. And I missed it AGAIN! Arghgh! So I turned around again, and, with an eagle eye, drove slowly until I finally found it. Yass.

I walked in, and there were hundreds of people there. I didn't know where to go or what to do (all the signs were in Spanish). So I got into the long, main line. And I came prepared. I had my Kindle with me, loaded with 'Do your OM thing', a wonderful book by Rebecca Pacheco, a master yogi and an incredible person. So as I was standing in the line of hell, I was reading about the way of the yogis, peace and acceptance. I felt confident that I was the most zen person in that line. Finally, 45 minutes later, I got to the front - yay, it was my turn! I went up to the window, and despite a rough time with the language barrier, the man behind the counter explained to me that I was in the wrong line, and pointed to another line that I was supposed to be in. Breathe. Breathe. Yoga. Zen.

Well, the line I got into next was much shorter than the original line that I accidentally queued up in. And in 20 short minutes, I was at the front. My turn! So after some some more time trying to bridge the language barrier, I basically found out that they couldn't help me, and that I'd have to come back in May. Oy. Breathe. Breathe. Yoga. Zen.

Back in the car to head home. Oy, what a day. OH, and then the 'Check engine' light came on. Frick! And to make a long story short, on my adventure getting home, I took my first wrong turn. Oy. Then wrong turn #2. Ack. Then finally got safely on Route 22 and sailed on home. And by the time I got home, I saw that it was only 10:30am! How is that possible? Anyway, I'll take that as a win.

And that was my day at the Puerto Rican DMV. See you again in May!

Hills, Glorious Hills

Elle: When you want to get fast as hell and beat the competition at your choice triathlon, I've found (for me at least) that there are 3 essential run workouts necessary for each week:

1. Speed work (on the track or elsewhere)
2. Hill work
3. The LSD run (Long Slow Distance)

I've been doing the speed work on the wonky track in my neighborhood (see past blog post, featuring a couple of nasty track workouts). And LSD runs are easy, just head and go long. But I hadn't found a hill to do the required weekly hill workout. That is, until my run buddy, Adam, told me about a somewhat hidden hill in our neighborhood. Oh, and what a hill it is! It's quite glorious. It starts gradually, but then gets into a nice steep climb. Then summits, and loops back around to the the start, because, hello, it's a loop. So we've started meeting up weekly (in addition to our weekly Tuesday speed workouts on the track) for hill workouts. It's no Boston Commons hill, but it has it's merits. It's a richly lush and gorgeous route, with outstanding ocean views at the summit.

I'm still working on figuring out some different workouts, but we recently did these:

- Walk/run/bike to the hill
- Hard effort 1/3 of the way up the hill, recover back down the hill
- Hard effort 2/3 of the way up the hill, recover back down the hill
- Hard effort 1/3 of the way up the hill, recover back down the hill
- Solid effort 1 full loop
Then do that 2 times


- 1/2 up one side (to the top)
- 1/2 up the other side (to the top) 
Do that twice.
- 1 full loop with a run a bonus short, flat stretch to the Embassy Suites - back (which is pretty close)
- I full loop

(I threw up in my mouth a little doing that second one)

Some good news, my long runs have gotten longer. I'm up to 6+ miles, woohoo! Now, this doesn't seem like a lot, but as anyone coming back from an injury knows, you gotta celebrate the milestones. So I am.

Webb: Meanwhile back in Boston, I did my own hill workout of sorts: Le Stade. Where Elle's workout is lush and green, mine is drab and grey. Hers is warm and humid with ocean vistas. Mine is cold, windy and dry with concrete views. Stadium workouts are very popular here, mostly due to a pop-up fitness group that has spread across the country over the last five or so years. For me it is not about running or trying to do it faster each time. It is basically a step-up workout with more than 1,000 reps. You feel it the next couple of days for sure. Even if you are not running your HR will bump into that muscular endurance zone which helps both cycling and running. Or that is what I repeat to myself starting with the 500th rep.

Elle: Stay strong Webb! And next time you come to visit paradise, you'll be able to enjoy the hill!

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Baby's got a brand new bag

Elle: Okay, so not a 'new bag', but new shoes, I'm of the brand of people who DON'T buy running shoes every 6 months, or whatever the running shoe companies tell you. When my shoes start to break down or fall apart, THAT'S when I buy a new pair (right Trent?!?) So I haven't bought new running shoes for a couple of years. But finally, I decided it was time. Mostly because I needed a new pair of tri shoes that would make my transitions speedy as hell (If I don't have one of the top 3 fastest transition times, then what the hell am I doing there...competitive much? Yup. Not apologizing). I've been looking for shoes like this for a LONG time. And no dice. And then one day, out of the shoe-ness blue, I found these, like a gift from above:

Integrated tongue, pull tight laces, high back and front for quick slip on. YES! Finally! After so many years of searching. See, sometimes dreams do come true...

So far, as I slowly get back into running, I've only been running short distances. One of my staples is an out and back from my apartment to the hotel in Dorado del Mar and back. When I run, I like to establish landmarks that I run toward, or pass, as a mental push that helps me along the way. The first and favorite is the kitten house. There are like, 5 - 6 (or more?) kittens that live at this house. I've been trying to make contact, and I'm determined to make friends with them. They are cute as hell, obviously.

Somewhere in mile 2 are the Egrets. Like a bunch of them. Ya just get used to their white feathered beauty after a point. And that's right near the 'Bird Tree'. A shite load birds live there. And they are always there. Right in this specific spot. Every day.

And there's also a couple of geese I pass. They're on the other side of a fence, always in the same spot. They live on the golf course near a pond with a smattering of other fowl. And a calico cat also lives there. Like a boss. I often see her sitting by the fence right where the goose couple are. She just sits there, hanging out with them. Her and all her fowl friends. The geese squawk at any one who passes by, and she just sits there. It's like her goose friends are protecting her. And she's like, "Yeah, you wanna mess with me? I don't think so.....".

So for my speed workouts, I use the 'track'. A term I use loosely, as it's far from a typical American track. But hey, at least I have a wonky track to use! No complaints here, it does the job. Here are a couple of speed workouts that I've done so far. Try 'em for yourself:

Workout 1:
200 meters @ your 5k pace, 200 meters at your mile pace (x2)
30 second rest
400 meters @ your mile pace
rest: 2 miuntes
(Now do that 4 times. If you're not completely gassed after that, you didn't run hard enough.)

Track Workout 2:
300m @ 10K pace, 100m @ 5k pace
1 full lap strong
(Repeat 3-4 times)

Now normally, I've been running in the morning, which is ideal on a tropical island. It's still relatively cool outside, and the sun hasn't had a chance to warm the ground up to 100-degrees. But one day, I had to postpone my workout (something to do with a bike ride in Old San Juan, which was fantastic), but lack of planning left my friend and I without food and water for about 5 hours, and we got dehydrated. And that sticks with you for awhile. Long story short, I ended up doing my run at 3pm. In the blazing sun + heat. The plan was to do a simple 6 mile run. But I couldn't even manage that. 4 miles and I was DONE. But hey, got a run it.

Meanwhile, here's a couple of pics from the Old San Juan excursion:
Plaza in Old San Juan

Famous side street of umbrellas

Me + Bridget with whom I bike around Old San Juan...