Eighty Days and Trying Not to Count

IMG_6925With spring finally upon us (though not without a snow shower here and there) and nearly four months since my last post, our remaining days in Latvia are numbered. Eighty days remain, to be exact… enough time, in the eyes of Jules Verne, to circumnavigate the world, but not nearly enough time for me to reach the point of feeling ready to leave this beautiful place that has come to feel like home. Having never truly had a place I’d consider home, at least in the sense of a hometown or a simple answer to the question “Where are you from?”, it holds great meaning that Riga – which I knew almost nothing about before M. was assigned to work here – has become such a place of comfort. Indeed, I will miss it. We’ll be heading back to the U.S. for about a year, and following that, on to Yekaterinburg, Russia, where many new and exciting adventures surely await. 

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I never get tired of these sunrises, just a block up the road from our house. It’s rare to see a sunrise like this, taken in January, in the winter in Riga.

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“Home is not a place where you live; it is a place where you are understood.” Just the right sentiment for our little family.

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Moving time is near when Frieda’s little house makes its appearance. We set it up about three months in advance of our flight so that she can feel comfortable in it. Thankfully, she loves it and goes inside voluntarily to play with her toys and take naps.

I’ve devoted the last few months to a few different things, including teaching, planning for our upcoming move and beyond, admittedly watching two entire series of teen soap operas that I’d prefer not to name (in my defense, I produced a knee-high pile of knitting in the process), and most of all, marathon training. Winter marathon training has always been a test of wills for me, and this winter was no exception. The dark days, icy paths, and periodic snowstorms challenged me daily as I logged my miles faithfully, trying to build a strong foundation for what I hoped would be my best marathon training cycle yet. Working only part-time this year has also meant more time and flexibility to train, recover, and plan healthful meals. I signed up for Run the Year 2017, which challenges runners to run 2,017 miles this year, to help keep me motivated, even after the marathon has come and gone. As of today, I have completed 690 miles for the year and built a surplus of nearly 90 miles based on the challenge’s daily average of 5.5 miles. I’m working through my second pair of shoes, which I hope will carry me through the finish line on race day.

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A portion of February’s knitting… the product of watching Netflix on cold, grey afternoons and me wanting to feel a little less lazy doing so.

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There is something uniquely rejuvenating about running alone in the cold on packed snow.

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An early spring project: I made 250 cupcakes (no animal products here!) for the high school prom at the international school where I taught last year.

With only 25 days to go before I toe the starting line at my third and final Riga Marathon, I’ve got about 130 more miles and a lot of mental preparation ahead. I set a goal for this race back in September, and took advantage of the race director’s offer to select my own race bib number. I chose the number 335, to serve as a constant reminder of my goal, which I’ll wear on my shirt for every step of the race. Running a 3:35 marathon would be a dream come true for me. It will require shaving seven minutes off my personal best, and eight minutes off the time I ran just two years ago at the 2015 Riga Marathon, pushing through discomfort and pain, and ultimately deciding how badly I want that Boston qualifying time.

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Bib number 335 awaits me at this year’s Riga Marathon. Could I have chosen number 1 and gotten the elite athlete special treatment?

Any number of things can happen on race day that are beyond my control: I could fall, I could get sick or injured, and of course Mother Nature will do what she will. In the meantime, I have done everything I can to prepare myself for anything that may come, including:

  • countless interval workouts in rain, wind, shine, or snow, both outside and on the dreadmill
  • my faithful weekly long run, also in rain, wind, or shine, including three 20-21 mile runs so far (with one last one scheduled for this weekend) and several grueling “workout” long runs that left me utterly depleted
  • more strength training than I have ever done before
  • plenty of easy days to help me recover from the hard ones
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One of my favorite sections of trail, between Riga and Jurmala. Here, it’s just the tall trees and me.

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The commuter train from Jurmala to Riga.

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I noticed this sign for the first time a couple of months ago on one of my regular running routes, and I liked it instantly. Photo credit: my friend L.

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21 miles done – a tough workout long run (for me, anyhow), which included 14 miles of alternating between 7:30 and 9:10 mile pace.

And while it’s true that I have run more miles – and more quality miles – during this training cycle than possibly any other in my life, it is also true that I have gained six pounds and I’m not quite sure why. They aren’t six pounds of  the “muscle is denser than fat” variety, either; rather, they are the “my clothes don’t fit me” kind. It’s been extremely frustrating, as logic tells me that a lighter body would run a faster marathon time, yet at the same time, I can’t argue with the fact that my vegan diet has fueled me to complete (and recover from) some of the most difficult workouts I have done since I started running marathons, and certainly in my 30s. So, rather than lament that pesky number on the scale that seems to creep up every time I stand on it, I choose to be grateful for what my body – and especially these legs, which are looking more and more… mature, with their saggy skin, pockets of chub that tend to appear overnight, and spider veins – allow me to do each and every time I lace up my running shoes.

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A recent dinner creation, inspired by my friend, L.: black bean, pineapple, pomegranate, and avocado salad with a side of roasted sweet potatoes. Yum!

And so, although it’s not quite over yet – there are a few more hellish workouts in my immediate future, this training cycle has been one of growth, discipline, and pure enjoyment. It’s also been a centering force, constantly pulling me back to the present at a time when the uncertainty and chaos of an impending international move can be paralyzing.

Eighty days… eighty more beautiful sunrises, eighty more chances to run, eighty more days to enjoy the coziest home I’ve ever had in my adult life, and eighty more days to enjoy this view.

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A panorama of Riga before the storm clouds set in.

Thank you for reading!

4 thoughts on “Eighty Days and Trying Not to Count

  1. I love having this connection with you, to bask in your love of life, your sincerity and passion. I can only imagine – no, I can’t even imagine – the strength of character it takes to do what you do. I have a feeling though, about your trepidation at leaving the place that you so dearly love. Now that you know how to do it, it will be even easier to love wherever you are, wherever you are. Thank you for writing!

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  2. Good luck on the marathon! Please share all of your Riga, and must see trips, before you leave! We are greatly enjoying riga, but don’t know the best shops or trips, or must sees!:)

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    • Thank you, Sarah! I am glad you are enjoying your time in Riga! How much longer will you be here? For must-sees, I highly recommend my friend Heather’s blog: ferretingoutthefun.com. She lived her for two years as well and did a super job of documenting the best places to travel, eat, shop, and hang out in Latvia. Check it out!

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