Back to reality

Day 208

I’m back from my short vacation to Chile just in time to be home for Christmas.

I saw a lot of things and ate well and slept well. The trip was well worth it. I was lucky to be part of the journey.

Before I was able to board the plane, many things happened that I thought, wouldn’t able to make it. Two months before the trip, protests broke out in Chile. It has no direct effect on the trip unless the state department put out a travel restriction, but it created an uncertainty and fear for the safety. My coworkers and friends urged me not to go when they heard about it. We assure them that most of our travel would be away from the crowd. I was checking constantly on Chile situation fearing a revolution might break out any time. Our fear was unfounded.

Then my work situation became very rocky. We had swings from having minimal work to being overloaded with too much to do. We had many people taking their vacations and leaves. My boss did not want me to go though I submitted my leave request almost five months before anyone else, because he needs me to hold down the fort when things become busy, and did not accept my request until at the last minute. All the signs pointed to that I should stay put. I was going crazy.

I got a funny feeling that the trip would be cancel by our team captain when there was very little communication until she confirmed that the trip was still on two werks before we departed, that in itself was nerve racking. I pretty much did not hear from her until we were about to leave for the airport.

But we invested too much into the trip. The god of the universe must be playing a comic joke on me. There was no way I wouldn’t get on the plane.

The first couple days after arriving, we stayed in Santiago. We explored on foot around the city, I think the Italian Park District / or where the protest was going on. We got to see the riot suppression police in action. We climbed a short hill that gave us the overviewed of the entired district. We entangled with the protest on our second night after dinner and was chased by the crowd and police. That was some heart thumbing moment. But both the people and police were friendly toward outsiders. At no point were we in danger.

Every night there was a protest there. One night the smoke from the tear gas canister even blew into our living room and we were 12 floors up. We got a taste of what tear gas feel like; and it was very diluted by the time it got to our floor room, but still those are some powerful stuff, causing our eyes to water, and nose to run and throat to choke. It was like smelling onion but worse.

We left Santiago on the third day to fly to Punta Arenas, and then to Puerto Natales. We gathered our supplies and entered the Torres Del Paines the following day.

We did the O Trek in seven days. Most people do the W trek hiking either from east to west or west to east. The O trek is a big circle that incorporate the W trek on the loop back to the start.

The first couple days were easy hiking. The last couple days were a bit harder. The hardest day was crossing the mountain pass. I came ill-prepared and did not expect snow, wind and the cold – all deadly combination. The pass is not hard to get through but ice and snow and some tricky footing put enough fear in me of not going attempt crossing it a second time. I could have died up there if the temperature was any lower and the pass was a bit higher and longer to get through. If it was 10 minutes or 20 minutes longer, I would have collapsed.

I was foolish enough to wear just one layer plus a windbreaker. It was enough to stay maybe 10-15 minutes outside in near freezing temperature but not when you are completely soaked and the pass I think took us at least two hours to cross. I was too cold by the time I came to my sense to add a second layer and I couldn’t wiggle my fingers to put on my gloves. After many attempts, I decided give up on getting my gloves on. Both of my legs were frozen stiff too and I lost all feeling of them. For the first time I understand the value of having a rain pants. I got those but left them at home thinking little wet, wouldn’t kill me.

I couldn’t be happier when we got to Central (where the entrance/exit locates). We stayed a night at Central in order to climb Chileno to see the ‘Towers’, the famous Torres. The stars did not aligned right for us. The next day, it was raining and cold, we got up to top of the mountain but did not get to see the any spire/tower. It was too windy and cold, we snapped a picture and immediately descended back to Central and took the bus out the park.

We spent a night at Punta Arenas before flying to Puerto Montt, which is a short drive to Puerto Varas. We stayed at Puerto Varas for a night before flying back to Santiago. We stayed another night at Santiago before flying to Calama and taking a bus to San Pedro, to vist the Atacama desert.

For rest of the trip mostly was traveling from place to place. When time allowed, we aired out our wet clothes and tents, which was much easy to do once we got to hotter and drier climate. Atacama desert was worth seeing. We visited Vales Acoritis (Rainbow Valley) and at night we star-gazed.

Monday, we left San Pedro, and retraced our steps back to Sandiago and then took an evening flight to Atlanta and then back to DC by Tuesday morning.

On my way

Day 207

I plan to stay offline for the next 2+ weeks for my trip to Patagonia. I should be back by Christmas. I am going to Chile. I guess many have been wondering where am I going. I kept it semi-secret because not wanting to jinx it. It is a trip I wanted so badly. Now within couple hours away from boarding, all is assure I will be on the plane and flying out. Actually, I am still on my way to the airport, anything can happen.

Also I won’t be running during those time away. This would be the longest time that I ever would stop running. Hopefully, when I get back, I can start my training. People think it is easy…but each race is hard and training is harder still. I will be training for three ultras, with the longest one being 70 miles. The nearest one will be four months away.


Day 206

Time is something we don’t have enough. There are so many things I needed to do before the trip but you can only do so much.

I was trying to finish the stuffs at my workplace but I did less than I wanted to be done. What can you do when you are short handed. I feel bad for the person who is covering for me.

I also wanted to do some work while I am away to lessen the burden of my helper. I know I am stressing her quite a bit. Feeling bad for her just not enough. I am feeling sick about it and feeling guilty of going. Still I will be going…with a heavy heart.

Unfortunately, I am currently not able to pack the laptop into my travel bag. I am doing backpacking and almost everything in my backpack is essential. A laptop just won’t cut it. Also, how will I get internet access? I will be in the wilderness most of the time. I looked into satellite linkup but that cost almost as much as my trip.

I have been quite stress out ladt couple days. I have less than 36 hours till point of no return. The trip is a go.

It will be a good trip, if only…!

I know for god’s sake, I am going on a trip of a life time and I should just relax. Many people make this trip possible.

Going places

Day 205

This post is hard for me to write. For some people (like my hiking friend), they love traveling. For me, I have such a fear, stressful/worrying kind of fear of going to places, no matter if it is local or is far away. I am content to stay at home. I know a coworker of mine too who shares my view and she is happy just by staying at home for her vacation. I like to tease her about it. Really, I was teasing myself too.

However, I have been going to many places recently due to backpacking and running. They do help me to build up a higher tolerant of fear.

I am an immigrant and came to the US when I was a child. Traveling shouldn’t be strange to me. However, I remember I did not want to come to the US back then. At the time, I did understand why we had to or how much better for us to move. I had to go where my mom was taking me. It was silly of me to have wanted to stay back at my home country than to go, now thinking back. Now I really love the US, having grown up here, there is no other home for me.

I had similar occasions while growing up during my teen years, when we would have to move to a different place. Looking back, it was not that many times, but each times were like a life changing event. Luckily in the recent years, I have not had to move. I have been staying put at the same place for a long time.

Last few years were kind of stressful, when I started running. Running let me to explore places around my neighborhood, to places where I normally don’t get to. I usually just drove/walked from my house to the bus/train station and to the grocery shop, which would be the extend of my travel. However, with running, I needed to put in the miles and it forced me to go to new places. I had to run a little farther to places I normally would not go.

Pretty soon, I was not just running just around my neighborhood, but running in other parts of our county/city. I would take my car to a new place and ‘explore’ it on foot. Pretty soon after, I was doing races in my neighboring states. I don’t have to, but one of my goals is to run in all 50 states kind of make me have to travel outside my area. I have traveled to about five states now (not including the state I am in). I wish I can add, pretty soon I will go run marathons in another country. Not yet for now.

Backpacking kind of get me through my fear of traveling the last couple of years. I am still much afraid, but I have been doing it with a friend, and I was not afraid when I was with her…unless she herself becomes afraid as once time she was. I have hardly done any backpacking just by myself.

Having a companion definitely helps. My trips for my races to Delaware, Pennsylvania, Washington, and West Virginia were all done with my mom. Haha! I went to Maryland to race (NCR and Baltimore Marathon) by myself (though the first half marathon in Maryland, my mom came with me, but subsequent trips to Maryland were all done alone by myself). I have become a pro now! I mentioned a one of previous entries, that Maryland is no longer a ‘foreign country’ to me.

Now next week, I will be out of the country. Really get out. This is my fourth times in my life. I have my passport and documents ready. Yes, my hiking friend will be going with me, but I have still been terrified about it. I have spent many sleepless nights staying up or awaking in the middle of the night and unable to get back to sleep because of it.

No one made me to go some would say, but I am going to go. I am taking it as a dare. I am not a globe trotter. Sorry I probably won’t blog about my travel – I wish I could. I am gritting my teeth and will get on the airplane next week with butterfly in my stomach.

Good news

Day 204!

I got into all the races included Laurel Highlands. I just found out today that my check was cashed.

Why? Laurel Highlands Ultra is just old fashion in the way they run the race. They require runners to print out an online application form, fill it out by hand and mail it in with a check of the amount needed. This is a first for me. I signed up so many races in the past and they were all done online. This race takes runners back in time.

This race, since it is done the old fashion way, the only way (earliest at least) to know if you get in is to monitor your bank account to see if your check is cashed. Mine just got cashed. I am so happy.

Now the real work is about to begin. This race is no joke. It is 70 miles and has over 10,000 ft of climbing. A significant amount.

I have six months to get ready. That seems to be a lot of time but really, it is not that much. Since, I don’t think I did that well in the JFK (75 percentile), I need to train harder. My goal is to finish under 20 hours. Not sure if that is a reasonable, but it is my goal to not get a DNF (drop-out).

I will be doing a marathon doubler in April (52 miles), and another 50 miles at Grayson Highlands in May.

Doing two 50 milers before Laurel Highlands is a bit of an overkilled. I mentioned to readers that I got into Grayson Highlands recently after being placed on a waiting list.

Training soon

Day 203

I should start running again. I checked my schedule. I don’t really have that much time to be slacking off. Ideally, I should start building my base now.

I don’t know if I will get into the 70-mile race yet. Some have gotten in. There is no announcement yet if the race is full. Technically, only two days elapsed. The Post Office was off on Thursday and Sunday. I should know by the end of the week.

People say to treat the 70 miles like a 100 mile race and I have been reading up on it. People were saying to keep big races 6 months apart. I have three big races all within a month apart. I did not know or think about that when I signed them up. I have the Roanoke Doubler in mid April, Two or three weeks later, I will do the Grayson Highlands 50 miler, and if I get into Laurel Highlands, that a 70 mile run and it is about five weeks later. I can do without one of the races.

For the April race, I should start training now to build my base. I went out yesterday and did a 15 mile run. The run was difficult the first couple miles and then it started to flow. I ran with ease for the remaining miles, finishing in about 2.5 hours. Funny, the circuit used to be tough for me for a long run while training for a marathon. I thought in the past, the course was hilly. However, right now, I blasted through it like it was a 10k. My limiting factor now is not my breathing but my muscle. Temperature might have played a factor. Last time I did it was in the summer. I run better in the cold.

Also I have a two week trip coming up. I don’t plan to train while I’m away. My December schedule is pretty much booked with holidays and travel.

I plan to post a few more entries before I leave. I won’t be back until Christmas. It is likely the place I am going will have limited or no internet access.

Some math

Day 202

I struggled with this of not having a purpose at the end of every running season. The things I do: I work. I run. and I relax.

Work is pretty much an auto-drive. I don’t write much about it. I go in, work, and I get paid. It generates revenue for me to do things. It is to me a necessary evil! I won’t describe it as real evil but I wish I don’t have to put 9 to 6 every day or any day, even if work is really good. It is a third of my life! But I do need the money. This is our world we in, and for most people is like this. There are only a handful of people in the world who don’t have to work – unless we are unemployed, retired, or can’t work. We work, so that we get paid. And we do stuff (spend) with it. People talk about investing, but that’s for another post.

I think about it a lot! I kind of need the money. In truth though if to just survive with food only, I have made enough supposingly to last for a lifetime.

How do you calculate? What is minimal calories need to sustain life? How much does that cost? Let guess $10-20 a day (first world problem I know; third world figure is $1-2 a day when I was back in school – the amount is probably still the same unfortunately). So you need about $3650 a year. I am at mid-life, and maybe will live for another 50 years, so times 50. I’d need about $187,500 to $365,000. Given it is still a big sum of money, and not many have it, but it is not unimaginably large. There are those who follow the FIRE movement (Financial Independent and Retire Early). I am not a high earner compare to my peers who are making twice or three times my salary — also a tricky comparison because there are those who made much less. For me though if I really want to, I can retire within 10 years, before my official retirement age. It is not out of reach. So it is kind of a false belief that we are tied to our work. I might have writen about this before.

Many immediately can point out, what about shelter and clothing and other stuffs we want and need. True. Hence, the reason I am and everyone else are still working. I love to drive my big loud truck and go places. A bit excessive I know. However, they are choices we make. Even my own food expense is costing me more than my estimate. Sorry to those who lives on a year with less than $600, or even $6,000 income and here I am debating if $600 is enough for food for a month. I recently watched a video on world wealth distribution and know how much wealth I have and my country have compare to the rest of the people. I am not rich, but the video has a point, I am very favorable. I know as I was growing up, not too long ago, our family food budget was between $100-200. Inflation does not account such fast growth in cost now. I spent more is the bottom line (and I don’t cook for myself). Actually I don’t know how much I need to spend for food. I really need to budget and to cook. I could do better. My shelter costs me more than food. I should aim to buy a piece of land in the wilderness and live off it! That would be a dream.

I am investing, with the hope that a day will come when I can’t work any more and when my income from investments, would be greater than my present earning salary. Yes, it is a hope, like many people. Who know if it is still true 20-30 years from now.

What else do I do? I run. I spent time running, reading about running, watching movies or videos on running, planning for next run or race, and looking up for the next race and so forth.

Then I veg’d. It may be a form of relaxation. I sometimes stop doing anything – like now. I don’t know why. I just finished a big race a week ago. I haven’t had much desire to run or do anything. So I have been laying low (literally too).

I can’t imagine a few years ago, before I took up running, I really had nothing to do. I wasted my life fulltime back then! Now I only waste it a day here or there. Well to some, running is also a waste of time. We each find what we like to do outside of work, where to others might be a waste of time. Not me, unfortunately. I do like what I do for a living, but just it is not the same as running. I definitely like running more.

I should think more on it too. Some might say I live only for myself. Is it not selfish? It probably is. I help other people incidentally but never purposefully like I am going devote my life for others. One of my friends is like that. She advocates on issues for the oppressed and of injustice in her free time. Most of us in the first world are blind or we put blinder on to ignore this (even me). Actually, that what God requires of his people, is to love mercy and render justice (Micah 6:8a).

Maybe a little time-out for me at this point in time, helps me to refocus my priority of what I should be doing in life: To not live in excess, and pursue a nobler life.