WILD: Recommended Adventure Reading + Pre-Grad School Pep Talk

This blog has been almost entirely dedicated to race reports and travelogues up to this point. I’ve shared stories from the road from both the vantage point of my Mizunos and behind the bun of the big dog. As I begin my next life transition, to grad school, this blog is going to transition along with me.

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For those readers who are friends, family, or connected with me on Facebook you probably know that I am going to me starting my MBA at the University of Wisconsin A.C. Nielsen Center for Marketing Research in the fall. This was a last-minute divergent from my initial plan, but one that will offer two years of incredible education, networking opportunities, and experience. With all that it delivers, this graduate program is going to demand quite a bit.

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As one of the (substantially) younger members, if not youngest, of my program and one of only four girls in a 12 person cohort, I know that I have a lot of work ahead of me to prove myself. I don’t have extensive office experience and I don’t have a business degree. My work will be cut out for me. Class hasn’t even started yet, but over the summer I am tasked with Excel formulas to understand and memorize, and accounting theories to brush up on. Faced with the competition and the curriculum, I have honestly felt a bit out of my league thinking about the coming semesters.

Anxious and intimidated as I am, I have been reading an excellent book that has been a well of confidence. Wild by Cheryl Strayed is a best seller memoir about her solo trip hiking the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) in her 20’s. This trail goes from Mexico to Canada, through mountains and deserts, and she spent many days without seeing a single other individual. I haven’t finished the book quite yet, but it has been a compelling read, both inspiring and motivating.

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In the book she talks about fear – of the trail, of the wilderness, and of failure. She writes,

“It was a deal I’d made with myself months before and the only thing that allowed me to hike alone. I knew that if I allowed fear to overtake me, my journey was doomed. Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, and so I chose to tell myself a different story from the one women are told. I decide I was safe. I was strong. I was brave. Nothing could vanquish me. Insisting on this story was a form of mind control, but for the most part, it worked. Every time I heard a sound of unknown origin or felt something horrible cohering in my imagination, I pushed it away. I simply did not let myself become afraid. Fear begets fear. Power begets power. I willed myself to beget power. And it wasn’t long before I actually wasn’t afraid.”

This paragraph struck a chord with me, about mental outlook. Choosing to take control, to have self confidence, and to trust in the preparation (or in the case lack-thereof, the determination) and continue. I am trepidatious about grad school, about hacking it in the big leagues, and excelling. BUT – I’m going to try my damnedest, and that is honestly the best I can offer.

The same attitude of “feeling the fear and doing it anyway” is applicable to running. How often are we at the start line, questioning our preparation, our shoes, or our fuel? When the gun goes off though, we gotta go!

I highly recommend this book if you want to be inspired to continue reaching toward the next goal and toward self discovery.

Do you have any recommended books to read that are also inspiring adventure memoirs?

My first 12 hours in Istanbul

I finally landed in Istanbul and the adventure began as soon as I exited the plane.

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Before reuniting with my mom, I first navigated my way through visas (I had purchased mine online which made that an easy line to circumvent) and then headed through passport control. The line looked miserably long, but moved quickly and the people watching made the time fly by.

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After I got my first passport stamp ever, I was through the gate, grabbed my bag, and was off in search of my mom. That proved to be a pretty easy task given that as blonde Americans we both kind of stuck out.

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From the airport we took a train, two buses, and a cab to get back to Besiktas – my mom’s neighborhood. Everything in Turkey is packed. Granted, it was rush hour, but we were like a can of sardines on the buses. The Turkish people were all very helpful though, pointing us in the right direction along the way and helping us find the right stops. If the buses are a tight squeeze here, so are the houses. Everything is built on top of each other! With all of the hills in Istanbul you can look at a hill and see layers upon layers of apartment and business buildings, with the minarets of mosques spread intermittently throughout.

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When we arrived I was shocked by all the animals that greeted us. From the cab to my mom’s front door, I saw at least one dog and four cats. I wasn’t aware this was common in Turkey. Apparently Turkish people love animals, but don’t keep them as pets because of the expense, so the city is just filled with all of these communal animals. It is both adorable (the cats) and terrifying (the dogs roaming wild).

One of the cuter cats! (They aren't all this adorable!)

One of the cuter cats! (They aren’t all this adorable!)

If the population density and hustle and bustle was surprising, the sounds of Istanbul were as well. From dogs barking, seagulls chirping, and just the sounds of the city I couldn’t believe how loud it was!

When we got settled in, my mom and I had an impromptu gift exchange. I had brought a few things with me for her, and she had been stockpiling gifts for me over the years as well. When I asked my mom last week what I could bring her from America she had three requests: an English language Scrabble set, wasabi peas, and an iPad mini. If you had paid me to guess what she would have wanted, I would have been 0/3. I guess sometimes you miss the comforts of home and they can be things you didn’t expect to miss!

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She had a few boxes for me as well. My intro into Turkish culture started with a parade of hats. First, she gave me two Fez hats. Although popular in the Ottoman empire, I don’t think I’ve seen any Turkish people wearing them… yet.

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Next, were two green Turkish hats.

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After we finished goofing around with the hats, I opened a few more classic Turkish gifts, include: Turkish Delights (gummy candies), two absolutely beautiful Iznik style tile trivets, and a 1,000 piece puzzle of Kaplumbaga Terbiyecisi by Osman Hamdi. My bag is already going to be heavier on the way home it appears!

The puzzle

The puzzle

We headed out dinner with a trip through her neighborhood and went down to a cafe on the Bosphorus. As we went through her neighborhood we saw dozens of police. My mom lives in an area where the pretests had been fairly active, so I was initially alarmed at how many uniformed men were on the streets. They were just having coffee, smoking, and texting though – definitely not ready to engage in any rioting at that moment anyway. From there, our bus ride to the cafe took us through Bebek, the swanky neighborhood next door that I can’t wait to explore in the coming days.

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Dinner was divine. We ate at this quaint cafe that was adorned in greenery, and our table was right next to the river. If you look across the Bosphorus you are looking at Asia!

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By the time we made it to dinner it was about 8 p.m. and dark out. Since we were next to the water it was a little chilly, but each of the chairs had shawls on them. I loved it! Why don’t restaurants in the U.S. do this – I’m always freezing! I ordered salmon and my mom had this beautiful tomato tart that was to die for. (Note to self: look up how to make this back home!) We finished the meal with Turkish chi tea and then headed home.

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Outside of her apartment, we met a family who was out celebrating the Muslim holiday of Lailat al Mi’raj. They had made red lentil meatballs (also known as mercimak kofte) and halva, a sweet dessert. They asked us if we supported the protest and it was so interesting to hear how they said the protest had bonded together the neighborhood. Nur, an English speaking psychologist, said that she never knew any of the neighborhood, but with this last week they all say hi to each other and are much closer now. Throughout the night we didn’t see much protesting, mostly just people banging on pots and pans. It was interesting to see the climate in Istanbul first hand, and hear the local perspective on the situation.

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I’m so excited to be here in Turkey, with my mom, off on a week of adventuring! I didn’t see this coming a week ago, that’s for sure!

Touristy Tuesday: Istanbul, Turkey – The Flight In!

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I love to travel and even before the year with the Wienermobile, I tried to get out jetsetting every now and then. It may surprise you then, hell it even surprises me, that I have never been abroad. In college I was focused on graduating debt free, so study abroad just never seemed to be an option in my mind. Given that my mom has been living overseas for five years, you might think I would have been over to visit her. But again, I never seemed to have both the time or the money at the same time.

That is, until now! I’ll have to save the details of how the time came about, but in a Kelly-esque last minute change of plans, I booked my ticket to Istanbul, Turkey five days ago!

Five days ago it seemed like a really great plan. Four days ago it didn’t. Suddenly, out of seemingly nowhere, there were riots all over Istanbul. Maybe I missed some of the build-up coverage, but it felt like in one day the city had gone from a destination promising rugs and coffee, to one on fire. When I checked in with my mom, although she tried to be reassuring, hearing “they just tear gassed my street and there are helicopters overhead… but don’t worry, everything is actually fine,” just wasn’t the comforting message I was going for.

But the women in my family are both courageous and delusional, plus – let’s be honest – I had already booked my flight so there really was no turning back now.

So with my bag already packed (you know, living out of a suitcase is kind of nice sometimes) I headed to O’hare to enter my first international terminal. Call me overdramatic, but they are certainly different than regular terminals. Each of the different airlines had a much different look to all of their patrons. The Middle Eastern airlines, for example, had families that were much more diverse than Swiss Air, which I was flying. It was fun just to take all of that in.

I got to the airport with plenty of time to spare, playing the over-anxious traveler for the first time in a long while. Normally I have a more “meh, I’ll get there eventually,” than a rush-rush-rush attitude. With my extra time I headed to the airport bar. I love bars at the airport because everyone is interesting, going somewhere, off on adventure of some kind. The one in the international terminal was even better because there were just so many different languages to listen to! The downside: one glass of wine cost me $15! Oh well, it’s vacation, right?

I was pretty eager to board and see just who I would be sitting elbow-to-elbow with for the next 8.5 hours on our flight to Zurich, Switzerland. The plane was 2 seats in one aisle, 4 in the middle, and then 2 more seats. I held my breath as I counted across to find mine, hoping it wouldn’t be in the middle block of seats. Hurray! An aisle seat in the two person section! Relieved, I exhaled slightly and started looking back to see if anyone was already sitting by the window in my row.

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An eager-faced girl pleasantly greeted me. Stella, an 11 year old (12 tomorrow she proudly exclaimed!) Greek girl from the Chicago suburbs was taking a solo trip to see her family in Athens, Greece for the summer. Hmm… an unaccompanied minor. I wasn’t sure what to make of the situation initially, but Stella ended up being just like me when I was that age, for better or worse!

She was very cute, admittedly not the best photo of either of us.

She was very cute, admittedly not the best photo of either of us.

She was a chatter, that’s for sure. But in a silly, anxious, wants to talk but not sure what to talk about, so she’ll say everything kind of way. The first thing she said was, “I’m glad you’re not a man or a boy because I would be nervous, but you seem nice!” Well – that’s the right foot to start out on.

She was adorable. Yes – she squirmed entirely too much for me and fidgeted a ton. Yes – she talked about everything that crossed her mind and her pedicure wasn’t exactly something I was dying to know about. But she could hold a conversation pretty well and something tells me she is probably going to be pretty great when she grows up. Plus she shared her snacks, and who doesn’t love that in an airplane, especially when they smell so tasty!

The flight itself was incredible. My mom had advised me to spend a little bit more to fly with an international carrier like Swiss or Turkish Airlines, opposed to United, because of the service. No kidding! The whole flight was a game of “what will they bring next?!”

I had texted a friend beforehand saying that all I wanted were outlets and warm towels. He had said I could at least count on Swiss chocolate. We were both right. There was an enormous selection of really good movies and TV programs, games, and music – all that were free! This already was a huge contrast from the U.S. carriers I’ve flown with.

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I snuggled up with the blanket they provided, which was surprisingly cozy unlike those cheap red Delta blankets, and set into a movie. From then it was a mix of sleeping through the night and waking up for all the food they provided.

Used to a dixi-cup beverage and a palmful of pretzels, I found the spread that Swiss provided incredible. When they came by for drinks, out of curiosity, I asked how much wine was. Free! Oh, well then sure I’ll take some red wine! (I figured it balanced out the expensive wine from the airport bar.)

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The food was equally impressive. Snack mix to start, followed by a chicken, rice and vegetable dinner, salad, and a brownie. In the morning they brought by a croissant and yogurt. Perhaps it is since I’m new to this whole international travel thing, but I thought the flight was divine.

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Plus, the flight attendants were just adorable. Our aisle was attended to by this gorgeous Swiss flight attendant, who was charming both in his demeanor and also his ability to talk in so many different languages. I easily heard him speak in three – English, Italian and French.

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The only hiccup in the flight was in the middle of the night, when I pulled a typical klutzo-Kelly move and while letting Stella up to use the restroom accidentally spilled the red wine. Miraculously, it didn’t stain my jeans at all! In that moment of horror all I could think was how embarrassed I was, trying to be cosmopolitan but failing in quite the fashion.

Stella woke me up in the morning (I forgive her, she was adorable in her enthusiasm) and we watched the plane come in over the Swiss mountains. Even the arrival was different than the states. Everything in the U.S. is laid out in a grid pattern, where as things were so loopy down on the ground in Switzerland. I looked at the hilltops, hoping to spot a yodeling blonde girl with braids, but that was one expectation that unfortunately wasn’t met.

When we parted ways in Zurich I found that navigating the Swiss airport was difficult not because of language barriers, everything had an English translation, but because it is set up much differently than U.S. airports. Luckily, all of the staff kept pointing me in the right direction and I eventually made it to my flight from Zurich to Istanbul, just as it was boarding.

And that’s where I am now – en route, in an aisle seat with ample leg room, having just enjoyed another tasty meal, waiting to touch base and get my first stamp in my virgin passport!

(Update: I have since landed and made it safe and sound to our apartment in Istanbul!)

Touristy Tuesday: Indianapolis, IN + A Night in Chicago Edition

With just a few weeks left on the road my Touristy Tuesdays are starting to get jam-packed again. During that winter hibernation period, where you didn’t see any blogs about travel or running, it was a struggle just to get out of the hotel. Now that the foot of snow is gone and the summer clothes have reappeared it’s a lot easier to get out and about!

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Our first day in the Indianapolis we had high hopes. It was a maintenance day. Get the ketchup and mustard levels checked. Wash off the relish. That kind of thing. The idea is you get some work done those days, which we do, but they’re usually over pretty quickly, leaving time for adventuring. For example, our last maintenance day in St. Louis Eliot and I snuck in a tour of Busch Stadium, where the Cardinals play. This maintenance day on the other hand did not lend well to being a tourist. Instead, we hung out at Penske for almost the entire day. (Let me tell you – the Indianapolis Penske is not exactly the finest way to be introduced to the city.)

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Luckily we found a Cracker Barrel and hung out in their rocking chairs for awhile. We had lunch nearby and played Yahtzee for the rest of the afternoon while we waited on the company car. We had just enough time to play three games, and I will shameless gloat that I had three Yahtzees and won 2/3 games!

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That afternoon I met up with Tim and his buddies from the Bourbon Street Running Club for a group run around the Indianapolis Downtown Canal. Although I didn’t experience too much of the downtown area beyond this, I was really impressed. From the run you could see several different museums, arenas, and tons of parks! Between the people and the copious amounts of things to do in the area, I could easily see myself moving to Indy one day down the road. It’s up there with Louisville, KY I think!

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I saw another running friend, Kathy, on our day off on Wednesday. University of Indiana got lucky that week – I brought the Wienermobile by both their Indy and Bloomington campuses. It was finals week, so it was kind of fun to catch up with her – hear about her running escapades (she does a marathon each month!) – and also surprise the kids on campus.

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That afternoon I headed down to the main Indiana campus in Bloomington to see my friend Rachel, who is there for grad school. Now believe it or not, I do have friends that aren’t from the running community. (Or forced friends like Eliot and Abe who are friends with me only because we are stuck in a giant hot dog together.) Rachel and I have known each other from way back in the dorm days. She made my Wilma Flintstone Halloween costume that year and I’ve been trying to repay her ever since.

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Egyptian. Genie. Wilma.

Just for throwback’s sake I’m including some fun college photos because they’re adorable and who doesn’t love a walk down Nostalgia Lane?

Ridiculous outfits we made to cheer on an intramural basketball team in our building. Go big or go home, right?

Ridiculous outfits we made to cheer on an intramural basketball team in our building. Go big or go home, right?

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At the statue of David Francis. You rub his nose for good luck before exams! Whoo!

Rachel just finished her first year of grad school at IU studying Student Affairs, where she also worked as a Graduate Assistant managing Briscoe Residence Hall. (Yep – she’s a ResLIFER. Res Life, For Life. haha) I promised that she could totally take advantage of having the Wienermobile come visit, so she set up a hot dog bar for all of the residents to enjoy on move-out day. (That made me miss being an RA in the dorms for half a second, until I actually remembered all the babysitting that went into being an RA. haha)

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That evening she showed me all around the IU campus, which was unbelievably gorgeous. I am really proud of how beautiful Mizzou is, but IU is a close rival. Perhaps because all of their red and white tulips were in bloom, but I was tempted to switch grad programs and move in with her!

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We chatted quite a bit about grad school, girly things, and everything else under the sun. I love that girl because we can go for awhile without talking (sometimes too long) and still fall right back into cahoots together, planning adventures. It was over frozen yogurt that I talked her into coming to Chicago.

One of the traditions at Indiana is to dip in this fountain. Check that off the list, I guess!

One of the traditions at Indiana is to dip in this fountain. Check that off the list, I guess!

Rachel is adventurous in a crazy/zany/spontaneous way, but hasn’t traveled too much on her own and somehow had never made it to Chicago. When I heard that, I insisted she come with! Our mutual friend David was taking the bus into Indianapolis and driving back with Eliot and I already. She could do the opposite – drive up and take the bus back! I can be pretty persuasive (not that going to Chicago in the Wienermobile is a hard sell) and I left Bloomington assured she would be joining us on the adventure.

Friday afternoon David came in for the race. If I was Rachel’s first friend at Mizzou, David was mine. Just a few days before I talked him into coming to Indy for the Mini-Marathon, which turned out to be a pretty awesome time. You can read more about the expo, carb-tastic dinner, and the race on my latest race recap.

After the race though it was time to pack and hit the road. I’ve managed to squeeze in three half marathons lately, but it has meant busy days afterwards. After the Go! St. Louis half marathon Eliot and I had to drive 7 hours to the middle of Kansas. After the Mini-Marathon we were headed to Chicago, +2 with Rachel and David in tow.

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That drive was only supposed to be a few hours long. Unfortunately we hit a massive accident, that left us going 6 miles over the course of 2 hours.

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Yes, that is us going 3.9 miles.

Yuck! I think the novelty of the company car had worn off for those two by that point.

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It was probably good they slept because we headed out on the town that night. David and I really wanted to take Rachel downtown for a real night out in Chicago, but we got in much later than expected and they two of us were a little tired from running PRs. Instead, we went to the Rosemont Entertainment District right near our hotel.

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After sharing an oversized margarita pitcher (or two) we decided to share some oversized beers as well at the Hofbräuhaus.

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Somehow these German beer places bring something out in me, like my accordion playing skills in Chicago, and when they had a ladies beer drinking competition Rachel and I were both up on stage. (And to think, we were both RAs in college!) While neither of us won, we did put in a good effort.

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This entertainment district has 10+ bars all within walking distance, so from there we headed over to Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar. WHOOOO! I have been trying to go to one of these bars the entire time we have been on the road, but failed at two other attempts while in the Southwest.

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After the long wait, it finally lived up to my expectations. (Sadly, my cowgirl boots were already packed away so I’m not sure I got the full experience.) Let me just say that after this country bar I’m even more excited to move to the South. (Georgia – Lookout!)

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After our around-the-world tour with Mexican margaritas, German Beer, and some good old American country music we headed home and crashed. Sadly Rachel had to head home in the morning, but that was just the start of Chicago adventures for me!

So that was Indianapolis. Running. Friends. Running Friends. Board Games. And Beer. All around a great week!