Tuesday, March 31, 2015

15.5 & Phillies Charity 5K Race Recap

I was dreading 15.5 all day.  I'm usually finished by 7 am, but since our gym was doing a Friday Night Lights event, I had all day to contemplate the workout.

It took the pros 7 minutes and change.  I knew it was going to take me at least twice that time.  I figured I had to do the workout Rx because I knew I could, but the 65 lbs thrusters were going to be heavy!  I was right.  They felt heavy from the first one during warm up.  I kept looking around beforehand hoping one of my coaches would notice the panic on my face and tell me I should scale it (which was 45 lbs), but that didn't happen.

The workout started and I took my time on the rower.  All the advice I had read beforehand told me to pace myself rowing and save it all for the thrusters.  It probably didn't matter... the thrusters felt heavy immediately and chipping away the 27 was challenging.  The rest of the workout was pretty much a blur of trying to catch my breath on the rower and pushing through the pain on the thrusters.  My legs were burning and I was sucking wind.

During the WOD I just kept thinking of this mantra that I read earlier that day in a 15.5 mental performance tips post: I love getting to the dark place, because I know that's where the magic happens.  I'm not really sure anybody loves getting to the dark place, but I knew I was in it and knew it wouldn't end until I finished all the work.  All I can say is thank God for my CrossFit family.  I was seriously struggling, but everyone kept cheering me on and encouraging me and it helped so much!  I loved the energy in the gym all night!

Thanks for all the great photos Kate :)

16 minutes and 12 seconds later, I crashed onto the floor so happy that it was over!  15.5 was honestly one of the hardest workouts I've ever done in my life.  It was the perfect end to a mentally and physically challenging 2015 OpenLike I said before, the Open took me out of my comfort zone and pushed me to accomplish things I didn't think were possible!  It was a great experience and while I'm glad it's over, I'll definitely be signing up next year.

Usually I'm not sore from CF until the next day, but my legs were really hurting immediately afterwards.  We all went out to a local sports bar for dinner, but when I got home I quickly popped some ibuprofen and covered my thighs in icyhot.  I woke up in the middle of the night and had trouble getting back to sleep because my legs were just aching.  When I woke up in the morning, it hurt to walk.  Between that and the 30 degree temps outside, I really contemplated trying to convince Dave to just skip the race.

But I knew I'd hate myself and I'd never be able to wear the nice tech T race shirt because I would just feel like a big liar in it lol.

We left our house around 6:30 am.  There was no traffic, so we cruised down 76 and parked a little after 7.  It was cold, so we hung out in the car until 7:30.  The race was very well organized.  They had a ton of porta pottys so I didn't have to wait in a long line, which is a race day win!  The announcements were loud and clear, so we knew what was going on and where to line up.  We settled in between the 9 and 10 min/mi pace markers and did some stretching.  Did I mention my legs were sore?

At 8 am, the race started and we were off!  The beginning was a little crowded.  It's always a little bit of scramble trying to dodge people and get into the groove.  My quads were on fire immediately and as we passed some people walking during the first mile, I was thinking that it would've felt pretty good (and also that I hate when people suck at lining up based on their pace).  We ran past the Fanatic and soon we were in FDR park and headed into mile 2.

The path was a bit more narrow in the park, but the further we got into the race, the less everyone was trying to pass.  At the halfway point, they were handing out water, but I knew if I stopped at all, I wasn't going to get my legs to begin again.  I realized we had been following a couple for a little while, so I made it my goal to stay with them.  I tried to zone out and just concentrate on them.  My legs felt awful and I was definitely winded.  I was so cold before the race began but now I was wishing I could ditch some of my layers.  I just kept thinking this will all be over soon enough.

We finished mile 2 and soon we were leaving the park.  As we headed back onto Broad Street, I could hear the announcer at the finish line.  As we rounded the corner, the finish line was in view!  We left our pacing couple behind and started to push.  Right after we finished mile 3, I saw a guy go off to the side and thought that's weird we're so close... until he started tossing his cookies.  The last little bit of the race was so tough, that 0.1 felt so long.

Crossing the finish line was the sweetest relief!  Our official time was 30:06.  While I didn't have any goals for this race other than to just survive, Dave wanted to finish in under 30 minutes.  My running app said we ran 3.22 miles (instead of 3.1), so I'm still counting it as a win!  We both only did 2 training runs beforehand and our legs were smoked already, so I was quite impressed with our performance.

Negative splits, for the win!  We grabbed our medals, some water, bananas, and soft pretzels, and made our way to the field entrance for our cool down lap around the warning track.  It was pretty neat being down on the field!

We snapped some pics and took in the sights, but soon I was cold and ready to get out of there.  We hobbled up the stairs out of the stadium (cruel!) and headed to the car.  We grabbed some cheesesteaks (at 9 am, breakfast of champions lol) and headed home!

Now it's Tuesday (Happy Birthday Mom <3) and it still hurts to walk!  Hopefully my legs will feel normal at some point this week....

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Another Whole30?! + My Meal Plan

Oh God... not again ;)  This time, I wasn't even the instigator! Someone from my January Whole30 facebook support group posted that they were doing another round in April and next thing I know, the post is blowing up with "me too" comments and I started debating.  I really don't want to commit to the prep work required, but who doesn't want to clean things up and look their best right before summer?  We are headed down to TX to visit some friends at the end of the month, so instead of setting myself up for failure (and to make the challenge a little less daunting) I've decided to commit to a Whole24 beginning Monday March 30th and ending Wednesday April 22nd!

If you don't know what the Whole30 is all about go read this guest post I recently wrote for my hilarious blog friend Josie and go visit the Whole30 website!

I'm in a much better starting place than last time when I was coming off a holiday bender of treats and booze.  My diet has been part time Paleo and although I've consumed things like pizza, nachos, and oreos, I haven't let anything take me completely off track which was one of my goals for the year!  I did gain back a few pounds in February, but I've been tracking my weight every morning for the past month and I've been pretty consistent.  My weight has varied from 148 to 152, it goes up and down depending on my diet.  I've noticed that I'm typically at the higher end on a Monday after eating out all weekend.

Thankfully that's a habit I'll be forced to ditch since eating out is so difficult during a Whole30.  My gym just set up a partnership with Kettlebell Kitchen, a Paleo meal delivery service, so I may order a meal here or there if I'm looking for something that I don't have to cook.  But otherwise I need to psych myself up to get busy in the kitchen.  This week I'm mostly sticking with some tried and true favorites to make things as easy as possible.  Here's what the first few days will look like:

  • Lunch: Leftover chicken fajitas that I'll be making on Sunday
  • Dinner: Leftover Paleo Shepherd's Pie
  • Lunch: Leftover Buffalo Chicken Meatballs with Mashed Cauliflower
  • Dinner: We're headed to a preseason Phillies game and I know I can bring my own food into the stadium, so I'm going to bring some chicken sausage with sauteed veggies and a sweet potato

A little throwback Thursday action for you, 2 years ago today I was prepping for my first full Whole30 (I did a Whole21 in January) and wrote this How to Succeed During Your Whole30 post! 

So who's going to join us?  Come on, you know you want to!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Guest Post: Leah's Whole30 Results!

I have been looking forward to this post for a while!  Leah and I have been friends for around 10 years, but I had no idea what she was going through with her health until recently.  I was so excited when she decided to do the Whole30 with us at the beginning of the year, but it was a phone conversation we had a few weeks after we finished that really moved me.  Leah told me that she thought she would always be tired and there was a certain sadness in her because of that.  But now, by changing her diet, she is finally free of her chronic fatigue and happier than ever!  To deliver this happiness to one of my closest friends is the reason I just can't shut up about this stuff.  They say the Whole30 will change your life... well it did for Leah.

My First Whole30 

This has been a long time coming.  When Amber started telling me about the paleo diet and how she was committing to 30 days without gluten, grains, dairy, sugar, legumes, alcohol, etc., I thought she was a little crazy…but then again, when I tell people about it now, they think I’m crazy…Until I tell them my story.

Let me start at the beginning: For my whole life I have been the one in my family who never wanted to get off of the couch.  My mom thought I was lazy, my sisters thought I was lazy and I just thought I had tired blood.  I had an active childhood, I played sports and ran around with my friends, but if you were to ask me what my most favorite thing was, I would tell you “sleep”.  My mom began to get worried so I went to a slew of doctors who could not figure out what the problem was.  I was tested for celiac, lupus, and a host of other issues…all results were negative.  I was 10 years old. 

Fast forward to high school: I was diagnosed with IBS and put on prescription medication.  Needless to say, it did not work.  I was experiencing so many side effects of the medication I decided to stop taking it.  I tried to change my diet, but continued to experience severe fatigue.  It was so bad that if I went for a walk in the morning, I was unable to get off of the couch for the rest of the day.  My sisters always wanted to hang out and go out at night, and I just couldn’t.  All I wanted to do was sleep. This was not good for my social life either.  I missed out on a lot of high school social events because I would be sleeping.   

I then came to the conclusion that I was just always going to be tired, and there was nothing I could do about it. This was just something that I was going to have to live with.  When I was 29 other weird things began to happen to my body.  My husband and I had been married for 2 years and we were ready to start our family.  We weren’t trying trying, but it was like, ok we are not going to try to prevent anything, so whatever happens, happens.  One month I was getting excited because my breasts were tender and my period was late, I was tired, all of these things were pointing to pregnancy! Well…not so much. I took a test and it was negative.  A few days later I got my cycle, but then it would not stop.  I thought I was having a miscarriage.  We were devastated.  After 3 weeks of bleeding (I know it seems like a long time, but it was not a heavy flow, so I thought it would stop) I called my gyn and got an appointment right away.  Everything checked out and I was given a clean bill of health.  I was still unsettled and sitting on the examination table dejected, when the doctor popped her head back in and said, “Have you ever had your thyroid checked?”  I responded, “No.” and she immediately ordered a script for me to get blood work.  She also checked to see if I had had a miscarriage, just to rule everything out.  My result came back positive for hypothyroid.  My older sister was diagnosed when she was 16 and this runs in my family.  I was shocked that I had never been tested before. 

So began my journey with hypothyroid.  The research that I did only brought more sad news.  We were going to have trouble getting pregnant.  At this point I’m 30, I just had this diagnosis, and needless to say I was devastated.  I became depressed and my symptoms just perpetuated.  I was prescribed synthroid to regulate my thyroid.  My bleeding stopped and my energy levels did rise a bit, but not as much as I has hoped. 

Enter the whole30: Amber encouraged me to join her (and many others) in January for a whole30.  I thought, what the hell, why not.  There is no way I can feel any crappier, if anything, I can finally figure out what is causing all of my stomach issues.  Backing up a second: My stomach issues continued and were getting worse at this point.  Like so bad, I was literally, TMI WARNING, pooping in my pants whenever I drank beer or ate anything.  So, Amber let me borrow It Starts With Food and my eyes opened.  I began doing more research on hypothyroid and realized that gluten and soy are straight poison for my body.  I was so mad that I didn’t know this information before! And why the hell didn’t my doctor tell me this stuff?!  

I then decided that, yeah, I’m totally in with this whole30, paleo thing.  Amber and Heather had both given me paleo cookbooks and I was set! When I started January 3rd, I weighed 128 pounds at 5 feet 2 inches.  Now, let me just quickly say, I was not in this to lose any weight, I seriously wanted to get to the bottom of my chronic fatigue and other stomach issues.  I dove headfirst into the cookbooks and loved everything that I cooked. 

A peak inside the Against All Grain Cookbook!

My husband was so super supportive.  Whenever I had a weak moment, he would keep me on track.  There were those days when I came home from work and all I wanted was a glass of wine and he would say, “Leah, it’s not worth it!” and he was so right.  We were in this for bigger and better reasons.   While he did not participate fully in the whole30, (he would never give up drinking for 30 days) he was “paleo by proxy” and enjoyed every meal I cooked.

I really enjoyed meal prep every week.  I would look through my cookbooks and mark pages that looked yummy, wrote out my grocery list and got to cooking.  I always made sure to buy in bulk and make things that could be transformed into multiple meals.  This cut down on my grocery bill and kept our palate interested.  I made big batches of soup on Sundays and ate that for lunches and breakfast, (yes, soup for breakfast, it’s amazing) because it was a quick and easy way to get my protein and veg in for the morning.  

I began to notice that my clothes were fitting better, but more than that, my energy level sky rocketed.  I honestly never thought I would feel this good without coffee and energy drinks.  As I said before, my energy levels were always so low, all I wanted to do was sit on the couch and sleep.  Not anymore.  I get up early, sometimes without the need for an alarm clock, and fall asleep at a decent time.  I am no longer sluggish during the day.  I also noticed that I had ZERO stomach issues.  ZERO!! I honestly didn’t even realize that I wasn’t having tummy troubles until I took a step back and reflected on my experience.  Then it hit me…I had not taken any antacids or pink bismuth the entire month.  I could not believe it.  When I told my husband he was shocked and so happy for me.  We had finally found the solution.

I also noticed that I did not miss drinking alcohol and my sugar cravings were totally gone.  I have not had any headaches (other than the detox headache that lasted a week) since I changed my diet. 

Ok, the results:  I lost 13 pounds and 4 inches off of my waist.  I fit into my tiny jeans that I have not been able to wear for years.  What a confidence boost, let me tell you!!  But with that said, if I didn’t lose any weight, it would not have mattered, because my biggest goal was achieved; my chronic fatigue and stomach issues were completely gone.  I am now a believer.  I do have to admit that I have eaten some gluten since ending the whole30, but I can tell immediately that it is not a wise choice because my thyroid flares up and then I regret eating whatever it was that tempted me.  Sometimes it is unavoidable and I have come to terms with that, but I avoid gluten and soy as much as I can.  

What I learned: the biggest thing that I learned during the whole30 was that sugar is in EVERYTHING!! Even in foods it has no place being.  I am religious at reading labels now. If there is anything weird, aka, something that I cannot pronounce or I have no idea what it is, then I will not buy that product.  I have become one of those people who has their smartphone out at the grocery store looking up the things on ingredient lists.  There are also weird preservatives in foods that, in very small doses are “ok” (according to the internet), but they are in everyday foods in a big way and are not healthy for us to be consuming daily.  I avoid these at all costs. 

What I eat now: I totally stick to whole foods.  I try my best to stay out of the middle aisles of the grocery store, and if I do need canned goods (tomatoes, stocks, etc.), I read labels.  I avoid vegetable oils when cooking at home and use butter or ghee when sautéing veggies.  The only starchy thing that we eat now is potatoes, and even then I limit them in our meals or sub it for sweet potatoes. 

I just went to the doctor and she was super impressed with my weight loss.  She said that I was never really overweight, but the pounds I did lose helped my body recover and become regular on many levels.  She said that I am smart for avoiding gluten and soy because of my medical issues, she also told me that many people think that soy is a healthy option, and it really isn’t. 

Friday, March 20, 2015

15.3, 2 Miles on the Trail, & 15.4

I knew a workout with double unders (click the links to see some short demo videos of the movements) was coming up in the Open and I was dreading it!  I can barely do them and when I do it's one at a time with some singles in between which takes forever.  I've connected two in a row a handful of times, but recently I feel like I'm actually getting worse at them.  And when I miss, I whip myself with my speed rope and it sucks!  They are extremely frustrating and the more frustrated I get, the worse they get.

Enter 15.3 last Friday.  The workout was announced: a 14 minute AMRAP of 7 muscle ups, 50 wallballs, and 100 dubs.  Muscle ups are an advanced CrossFit movement and I do not have them.  So I was saved by the muscle ups!  I had no choice but to scale which was 50 wallballs and 200 single unders.  And I got a 10 lbs medicine ball instead of the 14.

This workout was a test of endurance.  The wallballs made me winded and my thighs started burning.  Jumping rope was my rest period, but my calves were feeling the burn too.  I got through the first two rounds and had a few minutes left.  I broke most of my wallballs into sets of 5-7, but I really wanted to get through the last round so I pushed hard and did them in sets of 10.  I finished the wallballs and whipped through 78 singles before time was called and I dropped to the ground to catch my breath.

In 14 minutes I did 150 wallballs and 478 single unders!  And then I forgot the enter my score into the website before the deadline.  Big time womp :(

I skipped CrossFit in the beginning of this week to give my back a break (and to enjoy St. Paddy's Day).  I went for my first run (in possibly 9 months) with Dave on Monday night to shake my legs out for a 5K we're running next weekend.  It was my first run on the trail near our house!  When Dave mentioned that he wanted to run the 5K under a 10 min/mi pace I laughed out loud and told him I'd meet him at the finish line.  I did not think that was a realistic goal for me, but then we ran 2 miles and I felt great.  We did the first mile in 10:08 and the second in 9:17!  Considering I ran my fastest 5K at a 9:15 pace, I was kind of shocked that I was able to run that fast without any training.  I guess all those grueling long WODs have been keeping me in shape after all.  Apparently running uses some different muscles in my legs though because they were sore for days!  I'm going to try to get another run or two in to prep for the race, but we will be facing our last Open workout the night before, so I'm not sure how great my legs will feel that morning.  Either way it will be fun.  The race is the Phillies Charity 5K and our cool down lap will be around the warning track of Citizens Bank Park!

In the meantime, 15.4 is in the books!

When I saw 125 lbs cleans (which is the PR I hit in 15.1a) and handstand push-ups (which I do not usually Rx since I put extra mats under my head), I immediately thought ok I'm scaling, until I got to the gym and my coach was like nope!  My coaches have encouraged everyone to push themselves and see how much they can grow in the Open.  And the way it is scored, any Rx workout, even if you only get 1 rep, beats a scaled workout.  So I loaded up my bar to warm up and see if I could actually lift that weight today.  Max cleans are so mental for me, I lift the bar up where it's basically high enough to catch it... and then I lose confidence and bail.  After a quick freak out, I got it together and cleaned 125 and knew I had to Rx it.

The first 3 handstand push-ups were no problem.  When I came over to my barbell, I was definitely playing mental games.  I bailed a few times and then boom, the first clean went up no problem.  The next two were fine!  I went over to do the 6 HSPU and they were definitely harder.  I did them one or two at a time and before I knew it I was headed back for more cleans.  I wasn't even sure I'd make it this far!  I mixed in a few more head case moments, but I got all 3 cleans and was headed back to the wall!  I busted out 5 messy, but legit HSPU before the 8 minutes were up for 20 reps total.  I guess it's safe to say that I can Rx HSPU and 125 lbs is not my one rep max for cleans!  So pumped!!!!

Thanks for the video Amanda!

When I signed up for the Open, I didn't really understand the point.  I know I'm not headed to Regionals.  I knew I wasn't going to have all the movements in the workouts (I'm looking at you muscle ups).  I thought, what's the big deal anyway?  I signed up because my coach told me to, it was only $20, and everybody was doing it.  But now, I get it!  After each Open workout, I felt like I left it all out there.  I pushed myself, felt the support of my teammates and coaches, and accomplished things I didn't think I was capable of!

And now, I was supposed to be headed to yoga to get my zen on, but I decided to hibernate since we have a few inches of snow and it's still coming.  Happy first day of spring indeed!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Saying Goodbye to Coaching

This past weekend was my last competition as a coach of the Souderton Braves.  Our spring season is always laid back, with only one practice per week.  We work on new skills for next year or this year we're prepping most of the kids for high school tryouts.  Our spring competition is nearly an obligation that we have to get out of the way.  We lost 10 kids from our fall team of 35, which meant adjustments for nearly every stunt group.  Over the past few weeks we've had some stressful practices, so when we were at the competition, I was sort of just happy knowing that it would be over soon.  Until it was.  The rest of the coaches had been tearing up all week, but it wasn't until the gym was clearing out and we were hugging all the girls goodbye that I found myself in tears.

This season was a bit of a rollercoaster.  After winning Nationals last year, the bar was set so high for our squad.  We started the season with a rough performance at our local competition, but with no one in our division, we hit the minimum score and moved on.  At Regionals, the performance was a lot better!  There was still a few things to clean up, so I wasn't too sad about our second place finish.  The team that beat us was extremely clean.  I thought their routine was more on the simple side, but they truly aced it... except for the girl who puked all over the mat.  She stopped them mid routine.  They got to perform again and supposedly the score from the first performance was merged with the post-puke portion of the second performance.  At this competition the third place team was also very good, so when they announced us as second, we were just happy to be invited to Disney again.

At Nationals the girls rocked the floor!  It was their best performance of the year and they really looked amazing.  We had random people coming up to us telling us that we should go buy our champion t-shirts and bows because we obviously had it in the bag.  Well we didn't.  We got second place to the pukers.  There was a long delay before they performed, which had everyone speculating that the same issue had arisen behind the scenes.  Finally they took the floor and not soon after they began, guess what happened?  At least she didn't puke all over the mat this time.  She ran off the floor leaving a group of girls without their full stunt group, so throughout their entire routine one stunt group just stood there marking their stunts.  Maybe I am a callused competitor... I mean I felt bad for them at Regionals, but when the same exact thing happened again?!  Maybe that girl should pick a sport that's not based on adrenaline, just saying.  My sympathy was gone and instead I find myself still filled with rage that they were not penalized at all for it.  Our team had a participant with strep throat who literally couldn't breath through the performance.  Did she run off the mat mid routine?  No, she sucked it up and came through for her team!  I suppose next year we could just pick whatever stunt group is struggling and tell one of the girls to run off the mat pretending to puke.  #soreloser

I know.  Second place in the nation is nothing to be sad about.  I just honestly think we were better!  Their routine was vanilla, it was super simple and didn't have any extra pizazz.  I can't even think about the competition without getting emotional and angry.  Why oh why did I have to fall in love with a sport that is solely decided by a few judges' opinions?  On a brighter note, we did get the high score of the day for our stunts, beating the pukers and a bunch of squads in the more advanced division above us!

This was my 15th season coaching for this organization and my last.  Since moving out of my parents house 3 years ago, the 40 minute commute home from practice has really worn me down.  Every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday I would leave my house in the morning (sometimes before 6 am if I was headed to the gym) and not return until 9:30 pm or later.  When I got home, it was time to pack my stuff for the next day and go to bed.  Not to mention, convincing 35 13 year olds to stop talking and actually focus can be beyond frustrating.  I still plan on participating in our spring season, but after that I want to take the next year to spend time with my husband, cook healthy meals, hit the gym, decorate my house, and plan our trip to Italy! 

Coaching has been one of the most fulfilling things I have ever done in my life.  Watching a timid, unsure girl transform into a strong, confident leader.  Admiring the perseverance of a group that’s struggling, but won’t ever quit.  Seeing the visions in my head come to life on the floor.  Witnessing my team mastering things they never thought possible.  Developing amazing relationships with the girls, coaches, and parents.  Feeling intense pride when I look at my team and know that they have worked so hard!

Stepping away makes me extremely sad, but it also offers me a sense of relief.  I know I'll coach again one day, but right now I'm looking forward to having the extra time to take care of myself.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Fifteen Point Two

Another week, another Open Workout!  15.2 was a repeat of 14.2 from last year, but between the PE (the 8 hour exam I took in April) and our wedding, the open was just too much so I didn't participate.

I definitely don't have chest-to-bar pull-ups, so it was a no brainer for me to do this one scaled!

Unlike last week, I didn't have any anxiety going into this workout.  My pull-ups have been getting really strong lately.  The scaled division was also a lighter overhead squat (for women 45 lbs instead of 65 lbs) and less reps per round (start at 6 vs 10).  The only thing I was mildly concerned about was that I had already torn my hand earlier in the week doing pull-ups, so I figured I was probably just going to bleed everywhere.  Fortunately my friend Jeremy had a similar situation and he taped me up!  It still hurt throughout the pull-ups, but it was so much better than it could have been.

I finished the first round of work with over a minute of rest before the next time slot.  The next 3 minutes were a little harder, but I still had some rest before the 6 minute mark.  In the 10 rep section I was feeling pretty winded.  I wasn't sure I was going to finish before the 9 minute mark, but I whipped out those last 10 pull-ups and finished just in time... just in time to start the next round!  This was definitely going to be my last round, so I knew I only had to endure 3 more minutes.

Shout out to Coach Jules for always taking sweet pictures!  Maybe next
time she won't wait until the last round when everyone is dying ;)

I felt strong through the overhead squats.  The pull ups were a struggle, but everyone was cheering me on.  I finished the first set of 12 and had 1 minute left.  I did all 12 of my overhead squats without a break and ran over to do 2 more pull-ups before time ran out!  I did a total of 134 reps in 12 minutes!

This time last year I could barely do a pull-up and yesterday I did 62 of them!  Progress :)  Today is a lazy day!  We had a nice family brunch this morning and we don't have much on our agenda for the rest of the day except doggie snuggles, living room yoga, and a sushi date.

Happy weekend everyone!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Our Honeymoon Recap Part 1: Traveling to Nicaragua

Well, we have at least 6 inches of snow on the ground and it's still coming down like crazy.  So naturally I'm thinking about how I totally dropped the ball on sharing our honeymoon pictures!

And yes, this is going to be another annoying multi part recap that I post at a ridiculously slow pace.  I'm sorry.  No I'm not ;)

When we started thinking about our honeymoon, we knew we wanted to go somewhere tropical but we agreed that we wanted something different than some all inclusive in the Caribbean. Although they can be fabulous, we already did one in Jamaica a few years ago and we wanted to do something a little off the beaten path.  Costa Rica immediately came to mind, but when one of my coworkers told me all about his amazing trip to Nicaragua, I was convinced!  It didn't take much to get Dave on board too.

Just in case you weren't sure where Nicaragua is located!

Our honeymoon adventure started at the crack of dawn the Monday after our wedding.  We were picked up by a car service somewhere in the 3 o'clock hour and headed to Philly to catch our 6 am flight!  We grabbed some breakfast and obligatory cocktails at the airport and took our first 2 hour and 45 minute flight down to Miami.  Next we flew from Miami to Managua, Nicaragua's capitol.

In the Miami airport

I was a little nervous when we got off the plane, I think going through immigration is always pretty intimidating, but not knowing the language further complicates things.  We made it through fairly quickly and headed into the pick up area at the airport.  We had arranged all our transportation with the owner of the first place we stayed, so we followed her instructions and looked for someone holding a sign with our name on it.  It was extremely warm in this area since it was in the 90s outside and super crowded.  We searched around and didn't see him and in the meantime, I was almost knocked over by a frantic man running after someone carrying his luggage.  At this point, I was feeling pretty overwhelmed, but within minutes we saw "David & Ambar" and I was a bit more at ease.

I wish I took more pictures during our drive.

Our driver spoke a bit of English and we chatted a little as we hit the road.  We were eager to get the most out of our trip, so we decided to take a pit stop on our way.  We stopped at Laguna de Apoyo, a large lake inside the crater of the Apoyo Volcano, for some lunch and a swim.  The views were awesome, the lake was very rocky but nice, and the lunch was tasty.  While soaking up the sun there, we also met a couple our age from Nova Scotia.

This hot sauce was everywhere in Nicaragua and I was obsessed.
It literally just occurred to me that I can order it on Amazon!

And then we were back on the road.  At this point Dave and I were so exhausted that we both managed to take a nap while riding in the back of the car with all the windows down in 95 degree heat, swerving around random bikes, livestock, and other obstacles.  After two 1.5 hour rides (one before and one after lunch) we arrived at the ferry.

The ferry ride was fairly uneventful.  We chatted with a local who had spent some time living in the states.  Some creepy men spent some time staring at me.  We decided to sit below the deck to get out of the sun and we unknowingly picked some seats right next to the engine, so we did a lot of sweating.  My butt was completely numb from the crappy wooden benches by the end of the hour, but as we got closer, the sight of the island was more than enough to keep me entertained.

We finally arrived on Isla de Ometepe, a beautiful island in Lake Nicaragua.  But we still had a 45 minute cab ride to our destination!  Our driver was easy to find, we loaded into the roomy van, and completed the final leg of our journey.  Arriving at Linda's Guest House was so relieving!  Our lengthy travels had come to an end just as the sun was setting.  Linda offered us fresh juice and some cold beer and we immediately ran into the lake.  The sunset was amazing, the lake was warm and refreshing, and we were both in disbelief that we were finally there!

Volcán Concepción

Maderas, the smaller of the two volcanoes on the island.

To be continued... Part 2

If you're married, where did you go for your honeymoon?  Have you ever been to Central America?

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