Friday, April 30, 2010

A Plan for my Glam

As some of you may remember from earlier posts I have on and off pain in my left cheek whenever I add speed or mileage too quickly. I've been having problems with this for 8 or more years and think I originally hurt it during a defensive sprint in an ultimate frisbee game (in my fading memory I like to think I made a huge, game-winning play on that D). This pain is nowhere near a 10 on the pain chart. It's an achy pain that sneaks up on me. It starts in my rear and then likes to migrate down my leg and settle behind my knee and also likes to wrap around to my groin. It definitely changes my gait and sucks away my desire to run. I have felt for some time that it is hindering my performance and it's just plain annoying.
I've avoided going to the base doctors because I was afraid they would simply tell me, "you need to stop running, blah, blah, blah." However, recently a friend from WOOT (Women on Okinawa Trails), Kathleen, told me about a doc over at the SMART (Sports Medicine something something something) clinic on the marine bases here on Okinawa. She said he's also an athlete and would give advice that I could live with. The best part is that with Kathleen's help I got into this high demand clinic in about 2 days time.
Well, I finally went to the doctor and the pain that I've been having in my hamstring/gluteus area isn't really due to my glam, but my sacrum. I don't think I've actually heard of the sacrum before my visit, but apparently it's pretty critical.
It's the triangular bone located at the end of your vertebrae before your coccyx (I've been waiting for years to put coccyx in a post!). It sits between your pelvic bones and apparently everything is connected to it (admit it, you're now singing "your sacrum bone's connected to your coccyx bone, your coccyx bone's connected to ...). Not only is it connected to your vertebra, coccyx, and pelvic bones, but to tons of muscles, ligaments, and tendons too! All of your glutes as well as your hip flexors (another area that gives me trouble when I up the mileage) are connected to your sacrum.
Well, that's all well and good unless you're like me and your sacrum is out of whack. I kind of always thought that as a runner I would naturally have strong legs, but while running has given me powerful quads, my hamstrings and glutes have been feeling neglected. These weak glutes (my left is weaker than my right) have caused an imbalance in my sacrum.
So, what's a girl with an unbalanced sacrum to do? Good question and the first part of my healing process was to get manipulated!
Not only is Dr. Biery a medical doctor, but he's also a chiropractor. I've got to say being manipulated isn't really comfortable. I laid on my side on a table and then he kind of bear hugged me on the top, middle, and bottom of my spine. Then I rolled over and he did the other side. I know that's not a great description, but it's all I got. It's a little strange being bear hugged by a stranger in an open room full of more strangers so I giggled nervously with every pop and crack (trust me there was lots of popping and cracking).
I'll be going back next week for another manipulation. Along with the manipulations, Dr. Biery gave me strength exercises to do. They include squats (in a few weeks I'll move to one-legged squats):
and bridges:
I really need to improve my core strength so I can stay injury free.
He also mentioned that I should warm up for 5-10 minutes before running. This can include lunges, squats, high knees, and side step. I basically need to let my sacrum know that exercise is about to commence.
Lastly, he recommended that for now I use the Galloway Method. This is a method where you run for a set time (say 5 minutes) and then you walk for a set time (maybe 1 minute). I haven't used it before because it seems counter intuitive, but from what I've read some people actually improve their times because they are able to run faster during the run periods. It sounds good for now, but I hope to graduate back to constant running. I think the Galloway Method might be perfect for Mongolia because of the hills. Plus, since I'm pretty sure this could be my only marathon in Mongolia I want to take my time and let the memories seep in.
I am very excite to finally have a plan to get this injury under control. The doc also mentioned that if this doesn't give me the results we're looking for he'll try a little acupuncture on me. Woohoo! Pain-free running here I come!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Mongolian Madness

So, experts always say you should learn at least one new thing a day. I thought today we'd learn a little about Mongolia. I know my Geography Bee winning husband would know, but does everyone else know where Mongolia is? Well, let's look at a map:
There it is, nestled nicely between China and Russia. Mongolia is the second largest land-locked country in the world. You can tell by the star on the map that Ulaanbaatar is the capital (Chris isn't the only geography whiz in this family) and it also holds about 38% of the population.
Mongolia is a land of nomads and its most famous nomadic ruler was, of course, Genghis Khan, who founded the Mongol Empire in 1206. During the 17th century Mongolia fell under Chinese control and remained there until the collapse of the Qing Dynasty in 1911. Although declaring independence at this time, China held on to Mongolia for another decade and international recognition of independence did not occur until 1945.
During this time of unrest, Mongolia fell under Communist Russia's influence. This control lasted until 1990 when Mongolia had a Democratic Revolution. This revolution led to a new constitution, a multi-system party, and a market economy.
30% of the population still remains nomadic and the predominant religion is Tibetan Buddhism.
That's enough history (thanks wikipedia), now on to some fun facts:
-Mongolia is the most sparsely populated country in the world
-Mongolia is among the highest countries in the world with an average elevation of 1580m (this one scares me for reasons you will still discover)
-The Mongol Empire covered most of Asia and some of Europe at its peak
-The Gobi Desert in southern Mongolia is the site for over 150 dinosaur discoveries
-The two humped camel is indigenous to Mongolia
So, why oh why do I care so much about Mongolia all of the sudden? Because I'm headed there in July! In previous posts I've mentioned my wonderful trail running group (WOOT - Women On Okinawa Trails). Well, 5 of us plus 2 daughters are headed there in July for the Sunrise to Sunset (please click on this link to check out pictures). This is a marathon and an ultra marathon (in this case a 100km/62 mile) race. Right now you're thinking, "Amy has officially lost her mind". You might be right, but I'm not approaching it as a race because you have 18 hours to complete it. I know there will be lots of walking because check out this race profile:
I've got to admit that climb between 12 and 17 km makes me a little sick to my stomach every time I look at it. Seriously? An ascent for 3 miles? Yikes! I am officially stopping at the 42km marker, but hope to unofficially make it about 50km so I can say I ran an ultra in Mongolia. When I first started thinking about this race, I was thinking that if I complete it I will be a total bada$$, but then 2 of the ladies going with me registered for the 100km race. However, I am totally ok with them being the official bada$$es and me just being a baby bada$$!
The race is at Camp Toilogt near Hovsgol Lake:
The race fee includes staying at the camp for a week to adjust to the altitude. While we're there we can kayak, fish, horseback ride (probably not doing that after my South African experience, Sandy!!), and check out the trails. One of the coolest things? We get to stay in authentic gers (the Mongolian yurt):
It's going to be awesome!! I can't stop thinking about this adventure. We're registered and we have our flights. Now all we need to do is train. Mongolia get ready for WOOT!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Because I think we're funny...

Trust me, there would be more if the camera hadn't run out of batteries.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Brasington's - Part Ni

Alrighty, on to the second half of the Brasington's time here in Okinawa. On Wednesday morning my English student, Michiko, was kind enough to come over and teach Monica and Andrew bingata. She is so sweet and patient. Chieko and Takako came by too to meet the family. I was lucky enough that Michiko brought one for me to do also!
That afternoon was a little rainy so we went souvenir shopping on Camp Foster. The next day was full of fun though!
We started the morning off at Forest Adventures. After checking Andrew's height twice, we got harnessed up and flew through the trees with the greatest of ease. Chris was with us, but he's the magic behind the camera:
Andrew and Brian showed no fear! Monica and I might have been a little nervous, but Monica was great at pushing herself out of the comfort zone.
Man, we're cute:
Here's a little video with Chris:
After zip lining Chris took Andrew and Brian up for an island plane tour.
Monica and I are very different, but we share the Hester curse of major motion sickness so we opted out of the tour. From what I hear we made the right choice because the afternoon air was a little bumpy. It looks like the guys had a gorgeous day for the flight though.
Andrew even got to fly the plane!
While the boys were flying Monica and I went to Jusco so she could get treats for everyone!
On Friday we finished up souvenir shopping in the morning while waiting for the weather to clear up, ate lunch at Delicious Sushi again, and then headed out to snorkel. The water was amazingly clear at Maeda Flats.
Andrew is great at entertaining himself, especially if there's a tidal pool around!
Here are some of the fish we saw:
Then this fish got hungry!
It was a great afternoon and a good reminder to me and Chris that we need to get out and enjoy the island more!
The following morning Monica and I got up dark and early to meet my WOOT ladies for a trail run. This was by far the hardest run we've done so far. After parking we went up, up, up! Seriously, we summitted Mt. Yamada. The payoff was great though - check out this view:
It was a really hard run, especially with the super slick trails, and I felt a little guilty bringing Monica out there, but she was hard as nails and pushed to the top.
The trails were so slick that we thought they might be unsafe coming down so we headed to the roads. Again, we had awesome views!
You gotta love living on a tropical island!
While Monica and I slaved away on the trails and road, Brian, Andrew, and Chris rented a sailboat from the marina (sorry no pictures).
After that hard work out Monica and I went to Cocok's to get pampered. Not only did we get pedicures, but I swear the calf and foot massage was at least 30 minutes. It was heaven. Here are the final results:
Monica showed her school spirit and got some orange and blue in honor of the Orange and Blue game going on back in Gainesville.
I went with cherry blossoms . Even though they're long gone here on Oki I'm hoping they're still hanging on in Tokyo and Kyoto so Monica can see them.
Their last afternoon we went snorkeling again and had an incredible time. It was a little more crowded, but we might have seen even more fishes. It was awesome!!
We're getting this hosting thing down so go ahead and book your tickets for a visit.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Brasingtons come to Okinawa

Woohoo! We had more visitors. I thought living so far away would be prohibitive, but we're having just as many visitors as we did when we lived in England. Thank you friends and family for making us one of your priorities. It is so nice to see a friendly face, or in this case 3 friendly faces!
My sister, Monica, her husband Brian, and their 9 year old son, Andrew, arrived on Okinawa on Friday, April 2. I can tell you, that travel day from Florida is no April Fool's joke! After a good night's sleep we headed to Okinawa World. I figured a good way to start the trip was somewhere that showed them a little bit of a lot of the island.
We did go to the snake mongoose show again, but sadly there is no video (the room was too crowded and we had a bad angle). The snake won this time, but the mongoose had a false start (his tank didn't open the whole way at the start) and it was a close race.
I think all of us liked the cave most. For those of you new to the blog, the cave is the second largest cave in Japan and has the most stalactites of any Japanese caves.
I know you can't see much of the cave here, but Andrew is adorable!
Here are all the Brasingtons:
Of course they're supporting the Gators while in Japan!
We also enjoyed the Eisa dancers and Taiko drummers. There's no photography during the show, but you can pose with the performers afterwards:
The Brasingtons all dressed up and had their photos taken. Why, you ask, didn't I participate? Because we ran out of cash! I was sure that Okinawa World took cards so I didn't worry about hitting up an ATM. Well, they do take cards in the gift shops and restaurants, but not at the front gate. So, I had to shell out most of my money there (of course paid back later) and had to bargain with the dress up people to let them dress up for a slightly discounted price. Once again, the Okinawans showed their kindness and generosity.
Later that night I got to go the the squadron and pick Chris up as he returned from his extended stay in Korea. The Air Force relaxes its grooming standards the third month of the year for Mustache March. Technically, Chris came home 3 days into April, but look what his commander was nice enough to let him keep:
I am so glad he doesn't like having a mustache because it's a little creepy - perhaps it should be called a molestache.
The next day was Easter and we were lucky enough that the Easter Bunny found his way to our house to hide eggs for Andrew. Andrew was pretty excited and loved eating candy in the morning. We also had homemade cinnamon rolls that were perfection! Easter was the rainiest day of their trip so we played it safe and had a relaxing day watching "How to Tame Your Dragon" at the base movie theater and came home and dyed eggs:
It was a nice relaxing day. The following day we headed north to the aquarium. This really is one of my favorite places on the island. The tanks are always well maintained, the fish look healthy, and they have 3 whale sharks!
Here are Monica and Andrew on the topiary manta ray:
And a family shot in front of some gorgeous blue water.
I would hate to meet the owner of these while SCUBA diving!
Sorry I didn't take too many aquarium shot, but Monica has more that she might share. I know this next picture isn't that great with our squintiness, but I just wanted to show the breath-taking beauty of the water!
After the aquarium we headed to Pizza in the Sky for lunner (lunch/dinner). Despite the shadiness of the directions we were able to find this delicious eatery. Although I have no pictures of the delicious pizzas or salads we had, I did get this adorable shot:
The next day we went to a waterfall where you have to walk through the creek to get there. I don't know the name, but it's north of Nago. This was an awesome day and we were the only people there. Here's Andrew and his new friend:
The falls:
Chris and I had been to the waterfall once before, but we hadn't climbed to the top of it. We remedied that today. The climb was pretty steep and a little slick. It was so much fun! Please excuse the blurriness of the photos, I just want to give you an idea of the steepness.
After our full body workout of a hike we headed to Pineapple Park for some yummy treats.
That's all of us in the pineapple cart. "Do you know where the word pineapple comes from? From the words Pine and Apple".
That night for dinner we headed to Delicious Sushi. Trust me, the name is deserved. This is a one man show so it takes a little time, but the sushi is incredibly beautiful, fresh and delicious!
It was here that we discovered that my not-always-adventurous-eater nephew loves unagi (eel) and fish eggs! Who would have guessed?
What I would have guessed is that he's like the ice cream tempura!
The next day we took the Brasingtons and Rana to our favorite beach up north. There was just enough sunshine to light up the water:
I loved seeing Andrew and Rana playing together. They made a great combo:
Stayed tune for more Brasington Adventures! They'll be posted as soon as blogspot finds it fit to let me upload more photos. Have a great week and think happy thoughts for the Brasingtons as their journey continues to Tokyo and Kyoto.