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?

Runner’s Wish-List

With all the traveling that I do for work, one of my main concerns this Christmas is that Santa knows where to find me! Hopefully he knows what hotel to look for me at because I’m thinking of leaving hot dogs out instead of cookies this year.

Just kidding about all of that, but with the holidays coming up I started thinking about my own wish-list for the season.

Rock n Roll Tour Pass
What a GREAT idea! This seems like a fantastic investment for anyone pursuing a 50 States goal or who enjoys destination running. For $399 you get access to any and all Rock n Roll races across the country. I know those races can be expensive, so this would pay for itself in just three to four races!

Tour Pass

(Ooh – when grabbing the link I saw they will have the pass $20 off tomorrow, 12.12.12! Alright, I might be buying myself a Christmas present tomorrow…)

Compression Socks
I must have missed the memo on how amazing these are until recently. I hadn’t even heard of them, but now I’m reading reviews left and right by people who swear by them. A cute pink pair perhaps, to go with the watermelon shoes.

Compression Socks

These CEP compression socks seem to great rave reviews and seem to be worth the splurge.

Marathon Necklace
I think after two marathons and hopefully more on the way I’m entitled to a little bling. (Especially since I can’t exactly put that 26.2 sticker on the Wienermobile!)

Marathon Necklace Marathon Necklace 2

Marathon Necklace 3

(Making this wish-list is dangerous! I might just have to go on my own mini shopping spree here soon. These are all from the same Etsy shop and I might see if she can do a custom combination for me.)

Kalorie Box Membership
I heard about this service through a blogger review that I recently read and it looks pretty neat. You get a box each month with a variety of low calorie snack options. This would be perfect to stash in the company car for drive day emergencies!

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I absolutely love getting mail and this would be like getting a care package each month filled with goodies and surprises!

Omnivores Dilemma & In Defense of Food
Can you believe I still haven’t read either of these I’ve heard such great things about Michael Pollan books and these would be the perfect addition to the library I’ve been building up in the Wienermobile.  Omnivore's Dilemma

In Defense of Food

Cozy Socks
I used to get the very best winter socks from Sam’s mom, but I think I’m on my own for these this year. There is just something comforting about pulling on thick socks in the middle of winter. And as Dumbledore said, “One can never have enough socks.”

Cozy socks

That’s right, my wish-list includes not one, but TWO types of socks! Oh my – I must officially be an adult now!

Touristy Tuesday: San Diego & Santa Clarita, CA

It’s a double whammy Touristy Tuesday Saturday this week as I’m trying to catch up on our road-tripping adventures across the Southwest. It’s been awhile, but the blogging absence has been because we’ve been having so much fun!

After the trip to Madison, Abe and I flew back to California and made our way down the coast to San Diego. Hungover, jet-lagged, and exhausted from too much Midwestern fun, the sight of the Pacific coming into San Diego was more than enough to get us pumped up for the week.

Incredible sand castle from Coronado Beach

It was a pretty busy week, with only one day off, but as I posted about in my previous blog, I still got plenty of running in. In addition to being a great week for scenic workouts, it was also a great week for meeting up with people.

The Hotdogger reunion continued with a trip to Hotdogger Monica’s, from Class VII, Pollo Grill restaurant in Lemon Grove.

Talk about some hardcore delicious authentic Mexican food. We visited her in the afternoon after my 23 mile run so the grub hit the spot!

I also stopped by the Hotel del Coronado to visit my old coworkers in the marketing department there. It was great to catch up with them and hear about all the exciting new things going on since I left. It could have only been better if we were able to meet up over Sunday brunch in the Crown Room!

From San Diego we headed to Santa Clarita, CA in the San Fernando Valley. We had two days off right away there and here’s all the exciting things I accomplished:
– Assembled a 1,000 piece puzzle
– Finished the book “When Everything Changed”
– Started 50/50 by Dean Karnazes about his 50 marathons in 50 states in 50 days
– Ate a ton of fro-yo

It was two days of total vegging out. Literally the least two exciting days on the road yet… but not the least fun! Doing that puzzle was actually a total blast. I had been telling Abe that I wanted to do one (semi-joking, semi-serious) for weeks. I started the first evening and watched chick flicks all night (Mean Girls, Runaway Bride, and Sliding Doors – yeah, clearly Abe wasn’t around) and then finished the puzzle in the morning while streaming This American Life and The Truth podcasts. It was the perfect way to relax.

I also got some quality reading time in. It seems that I’ve got a growing library collection in my bags right now. I finished the book “When Everything Changed” that chronicles the women’s movement since the 1960’s, which was both inspiring and informative. After starting it I also ordered “The Feminine Mystique” and “Sex and the Single Girl.” While I haven’t opened “The Feminine Mystique” yet, I did start and give up on “Sex and the Single Girl,” which was far too dated for me to really get into.

Instead, I nursed my sore legs in the hot tub next to the fire-pit (the reason I love Residence Inns) while digging into Dean Karnaze’s book “50/50 – ” Talk about absolutely incredible! My two friends Josh and Barrett got to meet Dean when they did their Northface Endurance Challenge ultra-marathon in Wisconsin. Very jealous now, although at the time they posted the picture I didn’t even know who the guy was!

I did leave the hotel eventually, to meet up with Cleveland Dave (from Monterey and Fresno) for dinner. He’s on orders with the military, moving from Monterey to Virginia and stopped through LA on the drive.

We had some great pizza, but more importantly some phenomenal beer. I tried my first Lambic – where has that been all my of-age life? That stuff is delicious!

Work this last week has easily been the best week on the road yet. We’ve had fun event after fun event.

While in Santa Clarita we did have two days of grocery stores, which are usually the least glamorous part of the job. They were a total blast though because they were really busy from all the media attention we scored this week.

Abe and I did two radio interviews in Lancaster. During the first one the rock station DJ Fathead made a joke that Ron Jeremy should drive the Wienermobile, which we greeted with awkward silence. I thought he was might have been confused and trying to talk about Paul Ryan or that this guy was some rock musician and that I was the confused one.

Well, I later learned just who Ron Jeremy was and was absolutely mortified! Google it if you don’t know who he is, but make sure you’re not on the work computer for that one!

Friday we drove down to University of Southern California for an event on campus. It was a total blast being back at a college and USC was a lot of fun!

When Abe and I showed up we initially thought everyone seemed to cool for the Wienermobile and I was definitely jaded when they told us we couldn’t play the jingle horn. But the day turned out to be one of the best events yet! I tried to sell just about every student on postponing life in a cubicle to drive the Wienermobile for a year and we also got to network with some Kraft bigwigs.

The most fun part of the day was when this comedy troupe showed up across the sidewalk from us. Commedus Interruptus does improv comedy and they were absolutely hilarious! Their show was about an hour long and had students stopping the entire time. Afterward Abe and I tried to recruit the whole cast to apply to be Hotdoggers.

We thought one of the guys looked familiar and when Abe googled him later we realized it was because it was this famous actor who has been on Glee! What a sweetheart for not stopping us and saying, “listen guys – I’m famous and a big deal – there is no way I’m driving a hot dog!”

After the awesome day at USC our next day at work consisted of a parade in Agoura Hills, CA.

If you ever see the Wienermobile in a parade and the Hotdogger is singing the jingle, will you please send some love and join in? Those solos from the bunroof were rough – it’s way more fun when the whole parade route joins in!

We finished our tour of the region with an event called Bark in the Park in Lancaster.

THOUSANDS of dogs, from 4 lbs to 180 lbs! They had costume contests, best “human barker”, and lots of obstacle courses for the dogs. Talk about an easy and fun day!

I can spend a Sunday hanging out with a bunch of fur children any day!

Abe and I also had the incredible opportunity to give rides to two Make a Wish siblings. Riding in the Wienermobile wasn’t their wish (they both took trips to Disney) but it was nice to bring the whole family a sense of joy. They definitely relished that experience.

On Sunday, our last night in Cali, Abe and I went separate ways. He headed off to Universal Studios with one of the Hotdoggers from Class XXIV for a Fright Fest. Since being scared isn’t really my thing, heavens knows Abe does it far too often and I get my fill of fear that way, I decided to do something a little different.

That night I went and saw The Giver at the Canyon Theatre Guild, a local playhouse. It was unbelievable! Not only was it really cheap, but the performers were phenomenal! The Giver was one of my favorite books as a child and I was really excited to see how it would turn out as a play. It was so well done. The lead was this 17 year old who blew me away with how well he played the part. The rest of the cast ranged from a 3rd grader to a retired senior. I told the five young performers how floored I was with their talent and how proud they should be of being able to get up there like that!

That was about it for San Diego and Santa Clarita. While we took it fairly easy I still had a great time! I’ve told people before how much fun this job is each week, but having fun can be hard and tiring. It was nice to have some nice and easy fun for a change!

That was perfect timing too because this week we’re in VEGAS!!! Yeah, no nice and easy here. I can’t wait for next week’s blog – it’s going to be a good one… you can bet on that!

Touristy Tuesday: Boulder, Colorado Edition (And a little LA adventures for good measure)

Finally – we had our long-awaited trip out to Colorado! I’m especially excited to write a recap of this last week for Touristy Tuesday because I got to spend it in the Boulder and Estes Park areas! Not only are those absolutely awesome cities, but that also means quality time with my family!

We made it to Boulder Sunday after quite the drive in from Salt Lake City. While we didn’t stop anywhere cool, like the Middle of Nowhere from last week, we did have a good time.

Abe and I played 20-questions (with no question limit – haha) but we played it with characters from the road. I write on this blog about all the new friends we’ve made, so you can tell that we have quite a few people who play with, but we also included literally every single person who has made an impression on us. Funny bartenders, quirky consumers – you name it, we made each other guess them! For TWO. HOURS. It was actually a great way to look back and reflect on all the cool people we’ve met on the road though!

 

Because we got into town so late I decided to stay in Boulder and leave the trip to Estes for the next day. So glad I did. Abe and I went to Pearl Street (it’s Boulder – of course!) and went to the Mountain Sun bar, which has live music every Sunday. It was packed! Not only was the music great, but the people were awesome too. Being Boulder, I knew the sundresses could probably stay packed, but even my jeans and tank top were dressier than most of the people in this place! Everyone was so laid back – such a nice break from California.

Naturally, Abe and I left with a cohort of new friends, including one guy who does market research for a Boulder company. Yep – that’s right – market research in Boulder. Basically my dream job! Of course I had to be best friends with this guy! When we swapped numbers at the end of the night I put him in my phone as “Future Co-CEO” so you know it’s going to be a promising friendship!

The next day, or rather 5 hours later, I got up and did a run, rounding out 50 miles for the week. Then after sweating out all the white wine from the night before, I hit the road and headed up to Estes Park to see my family!

My aunt and grandma both live in Estes and I was lucky enough to see them pretty recently when I came out for the Bolder Boulder in May. This trip though I took the company car and headed up the canyon where it fared quite well actually! When I got into Estes I took it right down Main Street to the arts and crafts fair that was going on downtown to meet my Aunt Karla. Talk about a warm welcome – the whole town was there to greet me!

My aunt, grandma, and I all headed to lunch at their favorite Estes establishment – the Mountain Home Cafe. If you ever find yourself in Estes make sure to check this place out – a really nice local family owns it and the food is great! The rest of the day we spent surprising various friends of theirs around town with the Wienermobile, which was a blast.

Of course one of the best parts of seeing family (besides of course seeing your awesome family) is the food! My aunt made all my favorites – granola and chips and salsa! (Not to be eaten together of course!) The next best thing – pets! My aunt got a little kitten in May and I got to see little Earnie again on this trip!

The rest of my time in Estes Park was low key and just hanging out – a much needed break! Before I left back to Boulder I had breakfast with my grandma (Mountain Home Cafe – I’m telling you, yumm!) and gave her a Facebooking 101 tutorial along with teaching a course on the Art of Copy and Paste.

Wednesday night I went out with the Future Co-CEO. I love seeing a town with the locals because they always know the best places to go! We went to this Pearl Street bar with Big Jenga. Yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like – Jenga with enormous blocks.

The best part of Big Jenga though is that each block has been graffitied on so when they fall and you’re picking them up it’s basically like that magnetic poetry on the fridge – they form a story… a very drunk, vulgar, and incoherent story, but a story none the less!

 

After Jenga we picked up some paddles and played some ping-pong, only to be challenged by another couple. The Future Co-CEO had casually mentioned having won two tournaments in his day, so there was no saying no when they challenged us. Now, you think your odds are pretty good at winning when one of the two players on a team has won a ping-pong championship right? Well the guy on our opposing team was on his college team! What are the chances??

As the night went on it turned out that the couple we had been playing against met through Mensa. Yes, that’s the genius society. When it came to playing Big Jenga with them they certainly had an unfair advantage – actually commenting on the different properties of each block choice. WAY. TOO. SERIOUS. Just kidding though because they were actually absolutely awesome and a ton of fun to hang out with!

I imagine this is how they play Jenga at home…!

Eventually we decided we should probably actually get to work, so the extra-curricular fun slowed down a bit. I did do some running while in Boulder though. It’s crazy – there are just so many bike paths! They’re all connected too, which actually overwhelmed me. I like to just get on a trail and zone out, the options made me have to think too much about my route.

Friday we headed to Colorado Springs for an event at the Fort Carson military base. I was super excited about this trip, having lived in Colorado Springs when I was younger! After work we went and scoped out my old stomping grounds. What a trip down memory lane.

The company car in front of my old apartment building back in Colorado Springs!

Of course the number one thing I had to show Abe was Garden of the Gods. It was just as spectacular as I remember. I can’t believe I used to walk there every morning with my mom – how lucky we were!

We made it back to Boulder after a long drive, but it was Friday night and there was no calling it an early night. It’s the SW team – choose your own adventure, but always choose an adventure!

Abe and I met up with Traci (akaTaligatin’ Traci) a former Hotdogger, and her boyfriend. We had a total blast barhopping on Pearl Street with them! There was some deal going on in Boulder where if you wore a mask bars would give you certain specials. While we didn’t participate, the number of costumes and masquerade masks made for great people watching.

At one bar we got to chatting with the guy who was responsible for $7 worth of the jukebox  music. That led to us sticking around to give him the thumbs up/down for each song! He had 6/7 thumbs up – not bad!

We ended the evening the way a Hotdogger reunion should end – with hot dogs from a hot dog stand! Somehow I was convinced into ordering an Elk Dog, which was SPICY!!! When in Rome though… I mean, how do you not go to Colorado and get Elk? Haha!

We took off from Colorado on Sunday, California bound! After spending a few weeks out of the Golden State it was a little weird to go back, but we did, with 16+ hours of driving ahead of us. Day one of driving was a blast. Of course, Abe got a chili dog on the way, what is now becoming a drive day tradition for him!

We also made a stop along the way at Arches National Park in Moab, Utah. Featured on a majority of the Utah state license plates, this was one National Park that I HAD to see!

It lived up to its license plate infamy and was absolutely stunning. We were able to drive through almost the entire park, which was breathtaking.

Not only was I able to cross one more National Park off my bucketlist, but I was also able to proudly get another stamp IN my National Park Passport. That’s right, not FOR it, but actually IN it! I’ve got about 6 little slips of stamped paper just waiting to be cut and pasted into my passport because I always forget it. This time I actually remembered! It’s pretty ridiculous how much joy this $11 book brings me!

After our scenic detour we headed to Richfield, Utah – almost the exact halfway point between Denver and LA. The next day we were hoping to make another detour to the Hoover Dam outside Vegas, but after 15 hours of driving we just weren’t up to it. We will have to revisit that when we actually come out to Vegas next month.

We probably didn’t need to rush into town though, because when we finally did make it to San Bernardino we didn’t exactly receive the warmest of welcomes. First, while entering LA, we were cut off by this madman driver who was driving dangerously aggressively. I was so concerned I actually called the cops and it was sweet victory when we saw him pulled over 10 minutes later! Making magic, saving lives! Our second welcome came when we were approaching our hotel and at the street corner there were three cop cars and a fire truck simultaneously arresting/bandaging this guy. Oh California, it’s so good to be back!

Despite the cornerside commotion, we were undeterred and eagerly checked into our hotel for the week – the Route 66 Wigwam Motel. We were supposed to be staying in TeePees for the week! What an iconic place – Americana at its finest – I mean, it was featured in cars!

The motel itself was very charming and peaceful. Each room was a separate Wigwam and they were adorable. The area surrounding the hotel was another story. It was the absolute ghetto! So scary that I didn’t even want to leave the Wigwam compound on my own.

We made it one night in the TeePees, but after that I knew I wasn’t going to be able to last six more days. A fun novelty, but the unsafe neighborhood and sketchy Wigwam bathrooms were enough for me. Luckily, I managed to get rate at a Hilton Garden Inn. Hello hotel points, fluffy towels, and continental breakfast!

We washed off the long double-day drive with a few beers and margaritas at a local dive. That was pretty much the highlight of the week.

San Bernardino proved to be one of the calmer places we’ve been. That was fine though because with 100+ degree weather and the great hotel, we were fine just relaxing by the pool! Although we didn’t go out too much, I did make some good progress on the latest book I’m reading “When Everything Changed” which chronicles the women’s movement from 1960 to the present. My grandma got it for me while in Estes and now I’m on this big women’s liberation kick, having also just ordered a few more books, including “The Feminine Mystique.”

Our week in San Bernardino was spent at the Route 66 Rendevouz, which was actually a pretty fun place to work. We met a TON of crazies (one guy said that downloading images online would lead to people not buying groceries) and the corn-on-the-cob guy hooked me up with free corn every day, so the Iowa girl in me loved it!

While we were leaving the festival we did have one other fun story, which was when a fireman stopped us at the gas station and had us come take a picture at the station. Normally we relish these opportunities because it means a free carwash for the company car, but because we were putting it up for storage we knew we wouldn’t be able to take advantage of it. Turned out to be worth it though – they gave us a great tour of their facility and let us explore the whole place! Our tour guide went to Nebraska, so, while I’m not a big fan of his school, he had that Midwestern charm and friendliness that I crave whenever we’re in California!

That’s about it for Boulder and San Bernardino! This last week we spent in Madison, WI for our Hotdogger Fall Staff Meeting and the 25th Class Reunion of Hotdoggers. Now THAT will be an exciting blog! As for now, we’re currently in sunny San Diego and as always, if you know anything to do, anyone to meet, or anywhere to go – make sure to let us know!