Category Archives: health and fitness

Roller Skating

This post isn’t really specific to Costa Rica other than some of the reflecting I’ve been doing while I’m down here, so if you’re looking for more travel-related stuff, you’ll have to wait for the next post.

But recently I have been reflecting on the journey that I’ve been on.  I knew that coming down here would be a challenge and would take me out of my comfort zone.  It would have been much easier, of course, to stay home.  But this opportunity was a chance for me to grow personally, to challenge myself, and to learn and experience new things.

In 2011, I was 100 pounds overweight.  I had carried the extra weight for almost all of my adult life, and for most of that time, I accepted it as just a part of who I was.  I was obese, I was sedentary, and that was that.

Thankfully, I got scared enough by my lack of energy and some potential health problems that were coming up to do something about it.  I wasn’t sure that I’d be able to take off the weight, but I was going to give it an honest effort.  And it worked!  August will mark 2 years of successful maintenance since I got to my goal.

One of the things that this accomplishment has given me is the chance to re-evaluate assumptions that I had made about myself over the years.  Since I was able to reach my weight loss goal by finding a plan and sticking to it, other things suddenly seemed within reach, too.  If there was something I really wanted, and I was willing to work for it, then suddenly everything seemed attainable.

I had never thought of myself as athletic before.  My sister was always the athletic one.  I was the good student.  But as I was losing the weight, I started to exercise, and eventually started running.  Now, that’s pretty much my primary hobby.  So I had to redefine my assumptions about myself to include somebody who would actually go out and exercise, for fun even.

So this week, my guide and I got invited to go roller skating.  It was actually a work party put on by one of the Costa Rican program coordinators.  Normally, I would think, no way, I don’t really know how to roller skate, and I am not very coordinated.

But then I started to ask myself, was that just an old-fashioned assumption that I made about myself?  Was it time to maybe put that one aside, and see if maybe roller skating was something that I could learn how to do?

If this were the movies, you might cut to the scene of triumph as I glided effortlessly around the rink.  Unfortunately, real life doesn’t always turn out like the movies.  I may be at a healthy weight, but that does not mean that I have developed any coordination.

What really happened was like this.  I put on my skates and did manage to make it from the bench to the rink.  Then, instead of heading to the rail to get the hang of things, I just sort of tried to go.  I might have made it a total of five whole feet before I fell- hard- onto my tailbone.  It instantly started hurting, and I had to sort of gather myself before I felt like getting back up again.  And it hurt badly enough that as soon as I felt a little bit better, I changed right back into my shoes and did not make another attempt at roller skating.

Now, because of what I have been through with my weight loss, I am sure that I could learn how to roller skate if that was something I really wanted to do.  But, honestly, I don’t think it is.  Instead, I am accepting the fact that even though some things have changed about me and about my life, I still do not have any more coordination or balance than I had before.  And, it’s OK to not be perfect, and to accept the fact that some things come more easily than others.

I watched the roller skating from the bench, which at least was always full of at least a couple of people resting or other benchwarmers.  Luckily, my tailbone seems to be feeling better, although it is still a tad stiff on one side.


Various Notes

Here are a few things I’ve noticed that are probably not worthy of their own topic.

Striped Polo Shirts– Costa Ricans LOVE striped polo shirts.  Seriously.  If you are outside and there are more than 1-2 people around, all you have to do is think “striped polo”, look up, and I guarantee you that you will see at least one person wearing one!  Bonus points if it’s red, white, and blue!

Red, White, and Blue– Those are also the colors of the Costa Rican flag, and around here it is very common to see people wearing their nation’s colors with pride!  Even if they don’t have all of their colors on one item of clothing, you will see a lot of outfits put together to feature all of the colors.  For example, a guy out running today had on a blue cap, white shirt, and red shorts.  Part of this, I’m sure, is due to pride in La Sele’s world cup success, but I don’t think that’s all of it.


Statue in Parque Central

Statue in Parque Central

Clean floors/streets– This is another thing that seems very important to people down here.  I have never been at the gym and NOT had somebody mop around my treadmill while I was running.  When I did a long run at the gym, they mopped twice!  It’s not uncommon to see them mopping out the parking garage there, either.  I am wondering if part of it is the rain mixed with tile floors means that there is probably a lot of mud getting tracked in.  Also, clean streets seems to be a big priority for people.  Now, I’ve heard quite a few complaints about the littering, but honestly for a city this size, the streets are pretty clean.  There are crews out working to clean very regularly.  At the vegetable market, you do just throw your fruit rinds from the samples on the ground, which feels very weird.  But apparently somebody does come through and clean up afterwards.

Parks and vegetation are a slightly different story.  Because of the climate, things grow very quickly.  When I first got here, for example, Parque el Bosque (close to my house) was very overgrown, but I heard that it had been mowed recently.  They came about a week later, and it took weedwhackers to tackle the grass.  It was several days worth of work, and then I guess they had the day off or something, because the piles of what they cut just stuck around for a few more days.  But since then, they’ve been back to mow and prune a second time, and it’s looking nice.  Seeing municipal workers out pruning the vegetation or mowing/weedwhacking in parks is a very common sight.

Signs in parks asking people not to litter ask nicely and try to appeal to people’s sense of shared ownership and pride in their community and the environment.

Guachimán (pronounced almost like “watchy-man”)- Almost every business, and many neighborhoods, hire private security guards.  Sometimes they just stand near the entrance or “la caja” (cash register) and keep an eye out.  Sometimes they are near the door, and you need to talk to them and let them know what you want before you can come in.  Sometimes, the door is locked or closed behind a gate, and you need their permission just to get in.  In my neighborhood, the guard goes by several times a day on a bicycle with a whistle and a billy club.  I hear a rumor that he’s actually only the guard for the other side of the street, though!  

Street vendors– It’s very common, I think, in all parts of Latin America for people to go block to block selling various items.  They go by in car or on foot, either calling out or with a bullhorn saying what’s for sale, and sometimes talking about it’s high quality and/or low price.  Occasionally, it’s a recording on repeat.  It actually seems less common here than what I remember from Mexico.  In some neighborhoods where more people drive, I don’t think they come around at all.  But if you need to get around on foot or by bus, sometimes it’s worth the convenience of having the items come to you.

Our most regular vendor is the egg guy.  He comes by every morning in this car, playing a recording of his sales pitch.  There are other egg guys that sometimes come by later in the day.  We don’t buy eggs from him because he only sells cartons of 30, and we don’t use that many.

The veggie truck comes every Thursday afternoon.  The prices apparently aren’t the best, but if you buy your produce at the market over the weekend, you are likely to be out of stuff by Thursday and need a few things to get you through to the weekend.  You also just have to take your chances that he will have what you want.

I have also seen guys selling wooden furniture and blenders go by the house, and people coming door to door to ask for food and/or money.

Out and about, there are of course street vendors that have a specific spot where they sell.  Sometimes, they sell the same thing, for example the mango sellers by my bus stop.  Sometimes, though, they change with whatever is happening.  During a downpour, for example, all of the street vendors put away whatever else they had and started selling umbrellas.  During the world cup, there were lots of flags, posters, and jerseys for sale.  When I had to catch an early bus, I noticed that in the morning, it was mostly newspapers and empanadas for sale.

Lottery tickets are HUGE down here, and there are vendors out all over the place selling lottery tickets.  They seem to do a lot of business.  Many people join a group and buy together instead of buying individual tickets from the vendors.

The most common items that I see for sale, other than produce and lotería, are cell phone cards, fried chicharrones, plantains, and yuca, DVDs, socks, leggings, hair ties, bracelets (and supplies for making those loop band bracelets), arm warmers (?), and purses/wallets.

Toothbrushing– Costa Ricans also love clean teeth.  They brush after every single meal, and there are toothbrushing stations at schools.

Suicide shower head

“Suicide” shower head.

Hot water– Apparently, hot water is on the “sort of nice to have, but not essential” list.  Most houses that I have been in do not have hot water anywhere but the shower.  Water for the shower is heated by an electric shower head that often combines running water and bare wires right above your head.  Some houses don’t have hot water for the shower, either.  Even if they do, if the water heater breaks, don’t expect anybody to be in a hurry about getting it fixed.

Toilet paper– Most of the time, you do NOT flush toilet paper down here.  There will be a small garbage can by the toilet to put it in.  Again, that’s not uncommon for Latin America.  What does seem different is the way that it’s referred to here.  In other places, it’s said that you don’t flush your TP because the sewer infrastructure can’t handle it and you’ll clog the toilet.  Here, at least according to the signs that are up in every single bathroom, not flushing your TP seems to be a matter of respecting your environment and the waterways, and that it’s cleaner for TP to go in the garbage.  Same practice, different way of looking at it, I guess.  Maybe it’s just that clogging the toilet isn’t a good way to respect the environment. 😉

Flax and Chia seeds– You’ll be happy to know that chia seeds are just as trendy here as they are in the US.  Maybe more so, because of the tradition of having fruit smoothies and taking the healthful properties of foods very seriously.  However, nobody is nearly as crazy for chia as they are for linaza, or flax seeds.  They put them in everything.

I guess that’s it, for now.  I will probably be busy over the next few days, and will catch back up next week.

Race Report- Correcaminos Media Maratón

Executive Summary: Official chip time 1:59: 39. 1,299/2,688 OA. 269/1,024 women. Time according to Garmin: 1:58:37.

Background: I am spending 8 weeks in Costa Rica this summer chaperoning high school exchange students, who are placed all over the country with different families. I saw this race online when I was planning the trip, and decided that it would be a great experience running a race in another country. I have been here 3 weeks so far, which was actually a nice amount of time for me to adjust to running here, with both higher elevation and humidity than I am used to back in Oregon (although neither is too extreme here in San Jose where I am staying).

I am also 4 weeks into training for my first full marathon, which is coming up in October. So although I had goals for this race, I wasn’t willing to sacrifice my marathon training for the sake of a HM. I moved a few miles around this week (ending up 4 miles short), and swapped my Thursday marathon pace run for easy miles instead, but other than that I just stuck to my marathon plan and figured I’d just show up on race day and give it whatever I had.

That said, my PR is currently 1:55:02, and I feel like I’m in as good or better shape than when I set that last fall, so of course it was on my mind that I’d like to break that if possible. But I didn’t know anything about the course, so I really didn’t have too much riding on it.
A bigger deal was that I had a hard time this spring with the mental aspect of racing and keeping my focus once the going got tough. I was also dealing with what I think was plantar fasciitis for several months that finally seems to have gotten better, so I know that affected my running this past spring.

Pre-race: I went to the expo on Friday and talked to the 1:55 pacer. That was my first chance to find out about the course. He said that it was downhill for the first 10K, then there were rolling hills for the rest of the race. As a result, he planned to bank about a minute over the first 10K so that he could take it a bit slower up the hills.

Race morning was a challenge! I don’t have a car here, and live about halfway between the start line and the finish line. I could have taken a city bus to the finish line (two buses, actually), and then a shuttle to the start. Instead, I took the easy way out and decided to call a cab. I had gone down to the taxi stand the day before to figure out about how much it would cost, and got a quote of about $14. Totally worth it for the lack of hassle. But then I got back to my house, and my host family insisted that I was getting ripped off, and went to ask a neighbor who is a taxi driver what he would charge, and got a quote of about $10 and his phone number. Start time was 6:00, so I was hoping to leave about 4:30 to arrive at the start by 5:00.

I would also be carrying everything I needed with me, since I wasn’t sure if I could trust the bag check and didn’t necessarily want to deal with figuring it out in any case. So I brought cab fare, bus fare home, and a little extra cash, my ID, my phone, my keys, and since I was already packing everything else, two gels and two bottles of water on my fuel belt. They did have aid stations every 2.5k, but honestly I prefer to drink a sip at a time rather than trying to throw water at my head at an aid station.

When I got up, I called the neighbor cab guy, but he didn’t answer. So I ended up just calling the regular cab company, and got charged about $13. I told my host family $12 when the asked later, because I knew they would be on my case that I didn’t bitch at the guy for driving too slowly (to run up the meter). I knew that he was, and I knew why, but again, was sort of willing to accept that at 5 in the morning, especially since it meant that I would get to the race safely.

I got to the starting area, paid the cabbie, got lots of heavy coins as change (ugh!), and tried to orient myself. There weren’t any signs, but one of the shuttles had just come in, so I sort of merged myself into that group and found my way to the porta-potties. At least they had porta-potties! 10 whole bathrooms for 2700 runners. That might be generous for here, though, considering that public restrooms are few and far between.

TMI alert- This is the first race that I haven’t been so nervous that I’ve had to use the bathroom a hundred million times before the start. In fact, it was so early that I didn’t even have to go, although I tried anyway. When you don’t gotta go, you just don’t gotta go.
I ran about a mile to warm up. It was about 70 degrees with a dewpoint in the mid-60s, but it was overcast. It was supposed to rain a bit by the time I finished, which I was looking forward to a lot more than the heavy, about to rain feeling in the air! I passed a guy with a walker with a “21k ¡Sí Se Puede!” sign who was warming up.

Then I went back to the potty line for one last try. No dice. I popped two Imodium and headed for the start.
By now the race was starting and the starting chute was completely full. There were equally as many people milling about in the street behind there, or in the bathrooms, or wherever, because there were a lot more runners than there was room for at the start. There was supposed to be 4 seeded corrals, and then a 5th unseeded one behind that, but that hadn’t happened. Plus all of the pace groups seemed to be clustered really close together, so there was no way to get in at all.

I inched my way up the chute until I got completely stuck behind the 2:00 pace group. So that’s where I started. I saw the 1:55 group get to the start and take off like they had been shot out of a cannon, and that’s the last time I saw those guys today.

First 5K: Busy, busy busy. It was really crowded, so at first I just worked on finding a comfortable pace and getting past people as I could.
The thing about roads here in the San Jose area is that I don’t think anything is ever flat. One block might go up, and the next one back down. It’s not even that hilly, really, it’s just that they just put roads over whatever terrain happened to be there, I think, without leveling anything. You also have to be really careful on the pavement, and especially on the sidewalks, because there are all kinds of little variations and things to watch out for.

That said, the start was in Tres Rios, which is uphill from San Jose. But the starting line itself was downhill from the main road, so we started off running uphill until we turned on to the main road. Then, just like the pacer had said, it was downhill from there. There were what seemed like quite a few twists and turns along the way.

One side of the road was closed for the race, the other side open, and they did a good job of stopping traffic for the runners. I had to slow down once at an intersection, but never had to stop, which isn’t bad for running in congested downtown. Since there are so many city buses, though, the stopped traffic filled the air with diesel fumes.

I was doing pretty well getting past people, until I got up to the 2:00 pace group. There were a ton of people in the group, and I realized that if I waited for an opening, I might not find it until we crossed the finish line. So I gunned it, jumped the curb, and ran around the group in the gravel until I got past. Then it was smoother sailing! The 1:55 group was nowhere in sight.

I decided to just follow the pacer’s general plan myself. I wanted to hit the 10K mark around 54 minutes, so was aiming for a 27 minute 5K split. It was hard to rein in my pace on the downhills, though!

Water stations are different here. They give out little plastic baggies with water in them. You have to bite them open or pop them to get water out. And if somebody drops one, you could step on it and splash everybody around you! I skipped the water stations and just took a sip from my water every time I finished a mile. It’s humid enough here that I have been needing to drink when I run, and I have found it’s better to start sipping early than to get behind and try to catch up.

Mile 1: 8:40
Mile 2: 8:26
Mile 3: 8:38

I hit the 5K mat at about 26:30 on my watch, but my official chip time according to the race is 27:43. I think that they maybe had the race start time or something listed incorrectly. Probably somebody’s clock was wrong. For example, at my house there are 4 clocks, all of them show a different time, and none of them are correct. This also means that my automated “finish line photo” based on what time I crossed the finish is of completely different people.

Second 5K: Easy as pie. Mostly I was just cruising down the downhill, but trying not to run my entire race in the first half. There was a nasty little hill in mile 4, though. And, like I said, block to block you might get a surprise uphill before it went down again. I saw the first person drop to a walk going up that hill at the 4 mile marker.

I passed the “sí se puede” guy jogging with his walker around mile 4. There were a ton of people shouting out encouragement to him. I am wondering if he started with the wheelchairs.

Right before the 10k mat, I began to realize that I was NOT going to be able to make it to the finish before the poo monster caught me. This was a problem because there hadn’t been any toilets at the aid stations, and there really aren’t public bathrooms down here. The few stores that might have had them, like fast food, weren’t open on Sunday mornings anyway.

Mile 4: 8:37
Mile 5: 9:02 (the hill)
Mile 6: 8:42

I crossed the 10k mat at about 54:30 on my Garmin, so pretty close to plan.

Third 5k: The going gets tough
First things first. I spotted a panadería that was open, and ducked inside. I asked if they had a bathroom (most don’t I was prepared to beg), and they told me it was occupied. I was committed now, since I had stopped, and there wasn’t anywhere else around, so I just stood there. The guy repeated himself. It’s occupied. I played dumb and nodded again, but didn’t leave. Then the kid who had been in the bathroom came out, and they did let me go in the back and use the bathroom. I was so thankful!

I came out, and the 2:00 pace group had passed me again, and was a ways down the road. I moved my watch screen to show current pace so that I wouldn’t be tempted to sprint to catch up to where I felt like I should be. I closed ground on them, but could see that it would take me a while to catch them. Once I got to 7 miles, I moved it back to the “lap pace” screen.

I’m no longer really closing on the 2:00 group, and briefly considered quitting. I am not going to make 1:55 today, that’s for sure. I pushed that thought aside, and just kept going.

This is about where the uphill started, and it was tough. I didn’t know the course at all to know how steep or how far it would be. Was it just back uphill to the finish? Or was the top right around the corner? I didn’t know, and there were enough corners that it was hard to tell. Plus we were running through Curridabat and Zapote, two places that I have not visited since we got here.

There was one particular uphill that was really challenging. We turned on to some sort of pedestrian walkway, and it was “paved” with these little round rocks that were really hard to run on. Parts of it were concrete pavers instead, but those were sometimes over on the left, and sometimes over on the right. Then, somebody’s family jumped into the race to run for a bit with her. They were the zigzaggiest family that I have ever met, even with the bad footing. They were always right in my way, no matter what side I was on. I finally managed to get past them, and was so happy that I had.

Towards the end of this stretch is when I had sort of an epiphany. Racing doesn’t have to be all or nothing. It doesn’t matter if I’m 3 minutes, or 5 minutes, or whatever off of a number that I pulled out of thin air when I was planning for today’s race (without knowing anything about the course). But it does matter if I am continuing to try my best and challenge myself the whole way through, rather than letting myself slow to a jog and not really trying just because I’m not going to PR.

I realized that this was a challenging course. Not challenging like some of the adventure trail races back in Oregon. Not challenging like some of the races that feature one or two killer hills. But challenging in a way that every little part has its own particular difficulty to overcome. The downhill at the start is easy, but also presents a pacing and effort challenge. You know you have to start ahead of pace, but judge how hard to push. Plus of course you have to do an inventory of quads, knees, and running form as you go.

The hills were just another part of the challenge. They were there on purpose, to push you to overcome them. Not with a PR, but by not admitting defeat. By meeting them head on and giving it all you have to give. Success today would not be measured by a number. Success today would be measured by pushing through. By holding tough and not taking the easy way out. And, I realized that I was up for the challenge.

Mile 7: 10:40 (with pit stop)
Mile 8: 8:54
Mile 9: 9:39 (OMG hill)

The 15K split time was ugly, and I knew it. But I had new determination and was going to do my best to make up ground, depending on what the course still had to throw at me.

The next challenge was the street surface as we got closer to downtown. I had to remind myself to keep a better eye on the pavement because it was more irregular than it had been out in the ‘burbs. But coming into downtown at last felt really good!

We came in from the east, and were running west towards the finish at Parque La Sabana, which is on the west end of downtown. I knew we had to do a loop of the park, which is big enough that the national stadium is inside of it, before the finish.

Finally the statue at the edge of the park came into sight! And the next challenge from the course- you can just about see the finish, and there is still a ways to go! I saw the 1:40 pace group heading in. They did have a bunch of drummers and people out shouting out encouragement. But one thing about Latin America is how direct everybody is about the way that they refer to people. For example, one of the spectators called out what would basically translate to “Good job, fat boy” to a guy behind me. And it was really meant to be a nice thing to say, to keep him going. I couldn’t help but turn around to see how “fat” you had to be to get called out that way while running much farther than the guy on the sidelines could probably run. “El gordito” was maybe 200 lbs, hardly the “fatty” that the comment would imply.

The fumes from all of the buses was really getting to me, but I pushed past it and kept going. I had slowly been reeling in the 2:00 group and finally got to the point where I needed to surge to charge past them, since they were a pretty big group still.

We turned the corner of the park, and I hit my stride! I was running faster than I had been since the early miles, and was feeling good again- finally! I suspected that I was probably on a gradual downhill, although to my eye it looked pretty flat. Still, I was feeling fresher and faster than I had been just a mile before. I was passing a lot of people, too. I started thinking that this was probably where my marathon training was paying off.

One of my water bottles fell off my belt. People called out to let me know, but I said don’t worry about it, let it go. It’s not that I was (that) worried about the 10 seconds or so it would take to stop and pick it up. It was that I finally had some good forward momentum and I just did not want to lose that feeling. The belt itself would have been worth going back for. The bottle? I decided it wasn’t.

But then a guy called out that he had my bottle. He had gone back for it, picked it up, and then surged up to catch up with me. I thanked him, and then he fell back off pace. He was willing to run faster for me, to give me my water bottle, than he was for his own self. And that was at mile 11 of a half marathon. I don’t remember anything about who he was, but he is awesome. And another example of just how nice everybody is down here.

Mile 10: 8:46
Mile 11: 9:06
Mile 12: 8:29

Now I realize that we were on a downhill going past the park, because we are around the other side, and are clearly on a slight uphill. But man is it tough! I push. It’s hard work, but I give it what I have left. I smile for the TV cameras and the big screen as we go past. I am still passing people. I’ve slowed down, but they’ve slowed more.

We are coming back around to the park entrance, and this time I will be on the other side of the divider and heading for the finish. I step on the gas. Everybody around me is out of gas, and I am running. I am happy. I am going to finish strong.

Mile 13: 9:35
Last 0.19: 8:00 pace

: I think I broke through the last bit of the mental barrier that I had about racing this spring. My time doesn’t matter. My ability to sustain race effort over time does, and that is what I am developing through training. I do think that this is the most challenging race course that I have run, and I am proud of how I did, considering. Could I have changed things up here and there, or maybe pushed harder on the uphills? Probably. But all in all, I think I ran a good race.

Here is the elevation map. I know it looks like it might be easy, just judging by the slope of the line, but I assure you that it isn’t! The race website goes on and on about the course designer, and I think I get it. This was designed to push you! And check out how much fun that last mile is.

correcaminos course profile

I am also really happy to report that my knees and quads didn’t so much as make a peep of a complaint about all of those downhill pavement miles. I am really thankful for that.

Finally, as I was heading home, I saw that sí se puede dude had finished. His time was 2:55:35. Not bad for a guy who clearly struggles to walk unassisted!

I would definitely recommend this race to anybody who is headed down to the area. It’s not a lovely run along the beach like so many destination races are. And while I am sure we passed many interesting features in San Jose, I didn’t really notice them. But if you want a little push as a runner, to see what you can do, this could be just the thing.

Out of town, take two- the runner’s perspective

Now it’s time to translate my last post into what it means for my running. As I’ve said, I’m training for an October full marathon, so I really want to keep up with my training while I’m down here so that the marathon is only miserable for the right reasons (it’s a really long way) and not the wrong ones (I wasn’t prepared).

I have a half marathon this weekend, but I haven’t been treating it as a goal race. I wanted to jump at the opportunity to do a race while I’m down here, and this looks like a really big and hopefully fun event. It’s a point-to-point race, too, so I should get to see a lot of the city.

My marathon plan recommends that if you do race during the plan, you run the Tuesday speed session as normal, but trade the Thursday marathon pace run for easy miles of the same distance. Then, after the race, you just get right back to normal the following week. But, that recommendation is for a 10K race, which takes less recovery than a half marathon does, at least for me.

The other factor is that I have some travel coming up in the next 2 weeks that might make it hard for me to run at all. So I really didn’t want to come in under my target mileage for this week, and then be low the next two weeks as well. That would be too much to miss, and I think it would make it tough to jump back into my plan, which is just starting to really ramp up.

To get all my miles in with the trip out of town, I ran my speed session on Monday and got up early on Tuesday to run 8 miles before I had to catch my bus. I did take Wednesday off while I was out of town, and tried not to get too twitchy whenever I saw a runner or somebody mentioned going to the gym. When I got back in to downtown on Thursday, I ate breakfast downtown before heading home. It was a nice excuse to hit my favorite restaurant (out of the one actual “restaurant” I’ve had a meal at, of course), but also it meant that by the time I got the bus back to my house, I should be far enough away from breakfast that I should be able to run.

So I ran 7 miles yesterday AM after the red-eye bus trip! The nice thing is that I am at a point in my training where the one scheduled rest day really leaves me feeling like a million bucks the following day.

Today it was just 6 miles easy, tomorrow it will be down to 4, and that should leave me with enough miles on Sunday to do my warmup and race and hit my 47 scheduled miles for the week. Whew!


I am training for my first full marathon, which is about 3 months away, and have chosen to follow a plan that has me running 6 days a week. So, when I got down here, I wanted to get into the routine of running (almost) every day as soon as possible!

My options are: outside on the roads, outside at the park, or on the treadmill

– Wherever you go, there they are
– Different stuff to see
– Can change route on the fly

– The cars will run you down and kill you, if the buses don’t get you first
– If you don’t get killed by the cars, the sidewalks might get you. I have actually fallen twice already since I’ve been here. I need to be careful (and to stop dragging my feet)! Both times, I fell in the exact same spot, and it wasn’t even a broken bit of sidewalk. Those, apparently, I have been watching out for. It was just a little spot that went up at the edge of a driveway that I didn’t see. The first time, I broke my phone and had to replace it. Good thing it is a cheap prepaid one! The second time, I skinned my knee. Ouch!
– I don’t know my way around that well
– No bathrooms (see below)

– Paved loops, no cars
– Lots of people out
– Open and in use early
– In one park, you can buy pipas (coconuts with straws in them) if you get thirsty. Or a Costa Rica jersey to support “La Sele”, of course.
– The one without drinks for sale has an approx. 400m flat track

– No bathrooms. There just aren’t a lot of public bathrooms around here at all. People wait until they get home. But when you’re running, that can be easier said than done, especially if you have a lot of miles left. In one of the parks, there are no bathrooms at all. In the other one, there are supposed to be 50-cent public toilets, but they have been locked and there hasn’t been anybody to take money. I did find a random bathroom not too far from that, not sure if it’s supposed to be open to the public.
– Can get hot/rainy/etc
– Longest loop that I have found is 1/2 mile, can get monotonous
– Sometimes bikes, random dogs, municipal workers, etc will block the path.

– Smooth running surface without killer cars, dogs, or sidewalks
– No sun or lightning issues, and they may have a little bit of AC (although they keep their doors open, and I suspect any cooling comes from the breeze)
– Can buy smoothies
– Bathrooms! Clean ones even, with seats and toilet paper!
– There are standard and metric treadmills, handy for speed workouts measured in meters

– Spendy. In the mid-$40s per month
– Limited hours, especially on the weekends

I have mostly settled on the gym, when they are open. It’s about 0.8 miles from my house, so I use my run to and from the gym as my warmup and cooldown, so that when I get there I can just hop right on a TM and do the rest of my workout or my easy miles, depending on the day. (Usually with a bit more of a warmup)

I’m happy to report that starting on my second day here, I have been able to get all of my scheduled miles in! I know that won’t be the case the whole time I’m here, since I have some big events that will probably take me away from running.

But the whole philosophy behind the plan that I’m using is that you build up your ability to run the full marathon distance by being consistent and putting in daily mileage. The runs are shorter and in many cases less intense than what you might see in a “traditional” marathon program, but it apparently works because you’re putting in solid mileage almost every day. So if I were to skip days, I wouldn’t get the advantage that the plan was designed for, OR the longer runs that I might be doing with a traditional plan.

So I am happy to have figured out a system for running, and running consistently, that has worked for me so far. I’ve fallen into a nice pattern of running just a little bit after breakfast that seems like a good routine.

Next week, I am even signed up to run a half marathon that will be taking place here! I am looking forward to it!

Health and Fitness

Costa Rica seems to be really into staying fit, active, and healthy.

Gyms- There are three “regular” gyms and two Cross Fits within walking distance of my house. Two of them have pools, and all offer a ton of classes. As far as I can tell, this is pretty typical for the San Jose area. The one I joined has a pool on the first floor, cardio and weights on the second, and then classes and more cardio/pilates stuff on the third. They also have a juice bar by the main entrance. Prices seem to be in the mid-$40s/month, similar to back home. There seems to be pretty high participation in the classes. My host mom is in her 60s, and is at the gym most days, sometimes doing 3 classes in a row! Classes are the same as home- insanity, spinning, zumba, etc. My 6 day a week running schedule doesn’t seem to be too alarming to people. The idea of get up, exercise, then start your day seems fairly normal down here.

Outside- It looks like there are tons of “polideportivo” parks scattered around, which have different ways for people to get outside and be active, in addition to the regular parks. These seem to get pretty heavy use, too. I see lots of people out walking and running at the parks, plus sometimes there are outside group classes that look like they’re pretty heavily attended. At Parque de la Paz, which is close to where I am, the walking and running path has a hill in the middle, and people were using that to do hill sprints, plus some people were up at the top doing sun salutations. Around the path, there were vendors selling juices and “pipas” (coconuts with a straw to drink the water).

Nutrition- In addition to staying active, there are about a million different stores selling health foods, supplements, etc. Several people on our block have started following a diet plan, and there is lots of talk about keeping track of the fat/sugar contents of different foods.

It has definitely been a good fit in that regard for somebody like me who wants to stay active and healthy during my time here!