What to Work On

Coming back from injury means spending an awful lot of time doing rehab and strengthening and all kinds of things that I clearly wasn’t doing enough of before.  This has become absurdly evident with my new routine, which requires me to do these hip strengthening exercises and assorted recovery techniques DAILY, when I previously did half as much and only three times each week max.  I thought I was doing well, foam rolling after every run and incorporating core and hips two to three times each week, but clearly, it wasn’t enough.  I’ve learned it’s better to do a little every day to keep yourself consistently healthy and aside from those first few weeks, when it really felt like all I was doing was rehab, it really is manageable.  My routine is now so streamlined that it takes roughly 20-25 minutes to do the whole thing.  Twenty minutes out of my day is comparatively nothing.  And I’m still healing.  When I’m back to fitness, it will be more like 15 minutes.  Fifteen minutes to keep my body healthy and happy is a good deal, if you ask me.

 

But this whole comeback has me thinking.  I’m starting from scratch, so to speak, with my mileage currently at around 10 miles/week and (unbearably) slow.  It’s a unique opportunity to approach my running as trying to design the “perfect” version of my runner self.  One thing I have always been notoriously awful at is hitting negative splits.  Even in my best races, I have never hit them.  I’m an even-paced girl all around.  Almost every run is kind of ridiculously even paced, but I have had my share of positive splits in races (ahem, marathons).  One thing I’d really like to work on as I train is hitting negative splits in most of my speed workouts and doing progressive long runs.  I’ve failed those in the past,  somehow I could run at a faster pace for the entire length of a run but unable to start at a more moderate pace and finish fast.  It’s like my body doesn’t like to change speeds, which I’ve noticed in races if I get stuck behind a crowd and end up going slower, I can’t speed back up and hit my paces without blowing up.  It’s definitely something to work on.

 

Another thing that is high on my list of priorities is slowing way down on my easy runs.  I’m going to focus on nailing workout days (once I start those! base building for now), and running a true easy pace on easy days.  I’ve got a heart rate monitor that I don’t use nearly enough and I want to monitor my effort as I’m returning to fitness and make sure I’m not doing too much too soon on days that are supposed to be easy.  That way I can truly put 100% effort into the speed days.  I have been very guilty in the past of taking the easy day for granted.  Not that I tried to race my easy days, but I’d often run easy and start to get “bored,” especially on medium-long runs of 9 or 11 miles and I’d throw in pickups or end the last 2 miles at nearly tempo pace just to feel like I had some pop in my legs.  Ideal training means letting each run serve its purpose.

 

If you could had unlimited time/resources to incorporate an ideal element into your training or racing, what would it be?

Give me your favorite training advice!

Austria Days 6&7

I thought about skipping these recaps but these were some of my favorite days on our vacation so I decided that it’s better late than never.

 

On day 6, we decided to take a trip into Germany on the recommendation of Joe’s mom who visited this part of Austria/Germany almost thirty years ago (with baby Joe, who doesn’t remember!).  She wanted us to check out Lake Konigssee and Berchtesgaden so that’s what we did.  The lake was beautiful, a super clear turquoise or green depending on which part of the lake you visited but we only had the day so we didn’t spend a whole lot of time there, though I would have loved to take a kayak out there.

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So pretty!

 

We then visited this gorgeous little bridge which gave me some good vibes about what we’d see in Berchtesgaden, which was just a little walk up a hill from here:

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This is pretty much exactly how I expect this part of the world to look.  Everything we saw here was so beautiful.

We made our way to the town but we couldn’t figure out why everything except some restaurants/bars were closed!  I voted we just sit and have a beer, given that it was 96 degrees outside, but Joe wanted to make sure we weren’t missing things that needed to be seen.  Well, we quickly found out why everything was closed!

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We turned a corner and literally smacked into a parade, I had to stand in a window to avoid standing in their way!  It was a national holiday, it turns out.  We listened to their music and watched the parade file by but I have no idea where they marched on to, the town wasn’t very large.

 

Since now we knew that everything was going to stay closed, my logic won out and we picked a place to sit and have a beer.  It turned out to be the best decision.  Not only was it super refreshing to sit in the shade and enjoy the gorgeous sunshine but have a little respite from the heat, but we had the most awesome waiter who came by often to chat with us about German customs and just make us laugh.  I had been dying for some real German pretzels and he brought some out for me, though he thought that it was downright hilarious that I wanted mustard with them (apparently, butter is what you use unless you’re American!).

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We ended up staying there all afternoon, trying all the local beer and eating lots of pretzels (me) or crazy desserts (Joe) and making friends with the waiter.

 

On day 7, we wanted to stay local but we had already climbed the biggest mountain twice and wanted to tackle one of the smaller trails for something that wouldn’t leave us too sore on the flight home.  It didn’t help that it was in the mid-90s again so we definitely wanted to stay in the shade so we located some waterfalls on a trail map and decided to find them.  Side note: this part of Austria is crazy amazing with how well they mark everything, there are trail markers EVERYWHERE.  We ended up in what I ended up calling the Enchanted Forest.  This place looked like something out of Fern Gully the whole way.

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It was just so beautiful.  And so hot, so I kept taking my shoes off to play in the glacial water.

And eventually we ended up at the waterfall we were looking for.  It wasn’t anything like some of the big ones I’ve visited in Hawaii or even the ones in the Shenandoah, but it was so fairy-tale-forest and I ended up taking some photos that I just loved thanks to the freak of nature lighting we had in this little secret spot in the forest.

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I have always wanted to go to Austria but I was still impressed by absolutely everything we saw and did.  Our last day was so low-key and close to where we were staying (the whole outing was about a two hour walk) but it was no less amazing than everything else.  I’d go back in a heartbeat🙂

 

Did you take any vacations this summer?

Has anyone else been to Austria?  What part?

Injury Update

I was going to do this post tomorrow but I did pretty much nothing other than study yesterday to update you on so we’ll switch it to today.  I actually feel a little funny even saying that I’m “injured.”  I don’t have a stress fracture or a torn ligament or any acute injury, it’s more of a constant annoyance.  I started noticing it in the spring, a slight pulling sensation on the inside of my shin.  It didn’t hurt or change my gait, it was more of an awareness of a sensation than anything resembling pain.  Then, it started to pull a little more.  Then we went to Austria, land of mountains, and with all those inclines suddenly it wasn’t slight and it was just a little pull.  It hurt and it was pretty constant.  Not while doing day to day activities though, only if I tried to run or walked for a while.  So I wasn’t worried about a stress fracture but something was definitely up.

 

I was lucky enough to be able to go to a sports clinic that has 3D modeling and biomechanical assessment (much like the SPEED clinic at UVA) thanks to a girl who ran for my school’s XC program and now has a PhD in biomechanical engineering.  It was insanely cool, I got lasered up like a little video game figure and ran on a treadmill, which was assessed in real time and videotaped all with me looking like nothing but a skeleton.  We also measured both the flexibility and strength (with a little device that you push on while in various positions) of every different muscle group that is important for running.  My results were assessed in a 40 page work-up complete with graphs comparing me to the ideal runner for my height, weight, gender, and running ability.  It was seriously eye opening, because I’ve always thought myself severely inflexible (I can’t even touch my toes) but I actually tested right around optimal level in nearly every flexibility test (and it was explained that you don’t have to be flexible to be an ideal runner, you just need specific flexibility!).  But I also had a massive imbalance between my right and left sides when it came to anything hip-related.  My right hip was either not strong enough or too flexible, always way above or below the ideal range and even more disconcertingly, never close to what my left leg was doing.  Long story short, I learned that ten years ago when I tore my quad (soccer injury!), during the healing process an imbalance formed that I have never addressed.  I’ve never had hip problems (as far as I know), but because your hips are so important to your running, that hip imbalance was causing lower leg tightness which was causing my posterior tibial tendinitis (eventual diagnosis!).  So, to address my calf problem, I had to slowly strengthen and stretch my hips back into balance.

 

It has been a slow process, the tiny stabilizer muscles in my hips were the problem rather than glutes or any of the larger muscles.  They needed to be worked a little every day for months rather than strengthened with heavy weights.  So there has been no immediate relief, and I’ve been told not to run while still inflamed so for 2 months it has looked an awful lot like this: run 3 miles on Monday, inflamed Tues-Thurs no running, run 2 painful miles Friday, feel better by Monday and repeat.  But in the last 2 weeks, I’m noticing a change.  My hips have gotten a bit stronger, I can tell by how much easier the exercises are getting.  And my runs are sore, but the inflammation lasts only a day and the pain is more like it was in the beginning, an awareness rather than actual pain.  So I’ve cautiously begun running as of this week.  3 miles every other day to start.  There are walk breaks involved, I have to stop every ten minutes to stretch my calves more.  But it’s running, and I’m sensing a comeback that starts now.

A long vacation

The title is a little bit of a misnomer, I don’t know that I’d call what’s been going on this summer a “vacation,” but I sure took one monster of a vacation from blogging.  It started innocently enough, we moved two weeks after we got back from Austria so we had a TON to do, then the next two weeks were spent getting settled back in Virginia.  I planned on getting back to blogging once things had quieted down, but what you don’t all know (unless you’ve seen me mention it on instagram or twitter!) is that I sustained one giant pain-in-the-butt of an injury that just won’t leave me alone.  My motivation to post on my running blog while injured was pretty much zero, so I let it go while I focused on all the work I’ve been doing since we moved back.  It’s been so good for me, and maybe it’s even been good for me that I couldn’t run.  I have gotten so much work done and been so insanely productive, so while it has been frustrating to heal slowly, I also didn’t miss running as much as I normally would.  And I’ve even been weightlifting a decent amount recently, which is pretty much a sentence I never thought I’d say.  I usually avoid strength training like the plague but I’ve been enjoying it, if only because it’s the only place I’m seeing measurable progress ;)  I’ll go into a little more detail on the injury later this week but I am running again and excited for all the cool weather miles coming my way.

 

So, since you all don’t want to hear about work or non-running, I’ll do a little recap of some of the stuff I was up to this summer.

 

birthday

Spent several days at the adorable ice cream stand near my house where you can play games under the umbrellas while you eat homemade ice cream.  SO GOOD.  This was Joe’s birthday, with salted caramel flavored ice cream on his sundae.  I had a Kahlua milkshake, which I still remember vividly because it was SO DARN GOOD.  There was a lot of ice cream eating this summer.

 

 

 

 

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Went to a brunch with this girl that was a little about the delicious and a lot about the unlimited booze.  We made friends with our waiter and he brought us shots, which leads to wandering around the museum afterward like this:

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She’s too much fun for her own good.

 

And Joe and I had quite the awesome day at a baseball game!  Another sentence that isn’t something I thought I’d say…I’m definitely a football girl, baseball usually bores me to death.  But baseball is significantly more fun when you’re three rows behind home plate and there’s unlimited food and beer!

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And that’s us on tv!  I’m noticing a theme with my highlights…unlimited food=fun.

 

Just a few of my highlights but I’m so happy that it’s finally fall and I’m excited to be blogging again🙂

 

Tell me some of your favorites from this summer!

What’s your number one favorite thing about fall?  (Mine is football, but a very close second is the gorgeous weather!)

Austria Day 5

This was definitely our most strenuous day of our active vacation.  We found out that there is a route from the mountain we’ve been climbing to the next peak over (which is a little taller) and obviously, we just needed to do that.  Even though it’ll make our roundtrip hike 14 miles and it was predicted to be 89 degrees and bright and sunny.  Oops!

 

I probably should’ve been a little smarter and done zero running, but it is just so hard to turn down the gorgeousness of this scenery.  So hike, then 4 miles on the mountain thinking that I was keeping it pretty light for a full day’s worth of hiking.  Joe caught one picture of me again.

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Then we started really booking it to the top, we were pretty much experts at the main part of the mountain by now.  We made it to the top about 30-40 minutes quicker than the previous tries and that was a very good thing because it was getting HOT.  We had to stop to fill our water bottle with snow!  We knew the new route at the top would be an extra couple hours but we weren’t quite prepared for how steep, how slippery (lots of loose rocks), and how very very little room you had on the “trail” before massive drop offs off the side of the mountain.  In places, it was just one foot in front of the other and a whole lot of me not allowing myself to look 6 inches to my right.  I stared at my feet an awful lot.

 

Luckily, the views were pretty awesome whenever I found a place I wasn’t scared to take a pause and get a picture.

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Once we got close, I felt like I was on top of the world.

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And we got a pretty awesome view of the valley from the top.

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All the snow was pretty enticing, it was 90 degrees!  It was quite funny though, this side of the mountain (from the other peak) was very gently rolling downward and looked completely different from the rugged and steep climb we had from the other side.  You could tell who came from each side at the top, children and dogs had made their way on the other side and the ones with hiking boots and poles and covered in sweat had come from our side.

 

We had a pretty uneventful hike all the way back down, and I repeated “ice cream and diet coke” over and over in my head when I was starting to get tired and my feet were hurting.  I had been planning since about 10 minutes in to have that as soon as I got back.  We definitely made good:

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Except Joe decided ice cream and beer made a better combo.

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Does anybody else crave a soda when they’re eating ice cream? I very very rarely have a soda but I always crave the carbonation when I’m having ice cream for some reason!

What was your run today?

Austria Day 4

After the leisurely river run, I was really eager to hit the mountains again (whether this was a good decision or not is yet to be determined).  We followed the same pattern as the first time and hiked for about an hour, then I ran, then we hiked the rest of the way to the top and hiked back down again.

 

The views were pretty awesome again.

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And I decided to find a new portion of the mountain for my run.  Joe couldn’t catch pictures of me this time since I wasn’t running the same stretch over and over but he did manage to get one.

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And I found a tiny waterfall/stream and of course had to touch it.  It was cold and perfect to pour over my head.

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We started our day super early but it was quickly getting VERY hot, with temperatures in the mid-80s even on the mountain.  So I was pretty happy when we reached the false summit and only had another 90 minutes to the top!

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Luckily, we got to the top and were able to head back down before the sun came out strong and the heat got even crazier.  I almost stepped on this guy on the way back down:

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I thought he was a rock!

 

Obviously, the best way to refuel after 5.5 hours of really steep hiking is with Austrian beer.  I was a big fan of the local brewery, Huber, and particularly the lighter of their two hefeweizens.  Joe liked the Egger, but I think mostly because it was served in giant 1 liter stone steins.

 

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We bought two steins to bring home, Joe got one of the Egger ones he loved so much and I got one with a painting of the town on it.  I have a tradition of drinking the local beers when we go on vacation and if we are at the beach, I fill up an empty one with sand from the beach I’m visiting.  I’ve got some from the Bahamas, Honduras, Belize, etc.  I figured the stein was a pretty good addition to the collection even if there’s no sand!

 

 

Do you have any souvenir purchase you always make on vacation?

Or a tradition of always tasting the local food/drinks?

Austria Day 3

After the hell that was running on a mountain, I decided it was best to stay flat the next day.  We had seen a river from the top of the mountain that flowed all the way through the valley, connecting town to town so I thought that seemed like the ideal place to run.  I wasn’t wrong.  It started in a nice, shady part of town:

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And I quickly headed out of town and along the crushed gravel path running right beside the beautiful and incredibly clear river.

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The view to my left wasn’t bad either.

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It was seriously one of the most beautiful places to run I’ve ever seen.  I must have said to Joe 50 times that I could live in this town.  Obviously, one of the most compelling reasons would be the perfect running– this trail goes on forever and ever and no chance of getting hit by cars, just perfect scenery and a beautiful, flat trail.  Bonus: Even in the heat, the water was FREEZING (being glacial water and all) and made the perfect ice bath for my super sore muscles.

 

Obviously, the best way to recover was a gelato in town.  I got lemon and mango, Joe had hazelnut and blueberry (we only discovered this afterward, we basically guessed at the German words and what we thought they might be).  Best lemon gelato ever, it was super sour and felt so good on a hot day.

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We spent the afternoon being lazy and resting our sore bodies, which meant I got some serious sun time with my beer.

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Before we knew it, it was dinner time.  Started with a salad with blueberry dressing.

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Carrot and thyme soup.

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Quiche lorraine.

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Delicious fish and roasted veggies.  I would have felt pretty healthy if it wasn’t for the liter of beer and gelato I had earlier.

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Where was your prettiest run?

Favorite flavor of gelato?  I really like fruity flavors like lemon, mango, raspberry in the summer but cappuccino is my favorite if it’s not as warm out

 

 

Austria Day 2

I said I was going to run in town then hike the mountain, what ended up happening was a little different.  We decided to combine the two since it was 10 miles round trip up and down this gigantic and STEEP beast.  We hiked up the initial part, which varied from 17-25% grade (ouch) then we hit a more gentle 3% section and I did a one mile warm-up.  Next up was a switchback half a mile in length at 5-8% grade so I ran 4 miles by going up and back down this section.  Up was an awful lot of work and down felt like I might fly off the side of the mountain but you couldn’t beat the view.

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And because Joe was just sitting and reading while he waited for me to get my run in, he caught a few photos of me every time I ran past him (sometimes I was going up, sometimes down).

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He took about 10 pictures and they are the only pictures I think I have ever liked of me running but I like all of them.  Must be the mountains.

 

I did a cool down mile then it was back to hiking the rest of the way to the summit together.  The actual hiking time was 2.5 hours to the top and 2 hours down and 10.2 miles.  The steepest sections were 25% grade, the vast majority at 15-18% grade, and the nice “flat” section where I ran in the middle was 3-8% but covered such a tiny portion of the actual mountain.  Let me tell you, my hill repeats did not prepare me for that workout, I was sore in places that I didn’t know I had.

 

And I was so ready to eat all the food.  Thank goodness for a big meal.

Chicken pate and beef broth with horseradish dumplings

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And pork with balsamic onions followed by vanilla ice cream with sea salt and pumpkin seeds and pumpkin oil sauce.  Everything was delicious.

 

 

What was the hardest workout you’ve ever done?  This didn’t feel like the hardest necessarily while I was doing it, but I was more sore afterwards than I was after my marathons!

Do you like pictures of yourself running?

Austria-Day 1

Greetings from Austria!  Yesterday went by really quickly once all the travel nonsense got finished.  After the plane and the nearly 2 hour drive to the hotel, we had a walk around the tiny town while we waited for our room.  It was small but very cute:

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The town is so small that after about 20 minutes there was nowhere new to walk so we decided to try our first Austrian beer to kill the last half hour before we could check in.  Spoiler alert…it took me way more than half an hour to finish that thing.

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we entertained ourselves taking goofy photos and sending them to friends back home who were just arriving at work.

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When we finally finished and got our room, we took a little nap for an hour and then got ready for dinner.  Food is going to be one of my favorite things on this trip because I speak zero German and have no idea what any menus say, I just have to receive the food and try it.  Our trip includes a 4-6 course dinner each night so we don’t have to worry about anything except going downstairs and sitting down and just enjoying.  I forgot to take a picture of my mozzarella and tomato salad last night but here was the rest of the meal:

 

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Today I’m going for a short run around town and then we are going to hike up the mountain directly behind our hotel.  We are surrounded on all sides by mountains so we are going to just keep tackling different ones each day.

 

Have you climbed a mountain before? Which one?

 Ever had to eat food and have no idea what it was? Did you like it? 

 

Getting Ready

Today is a bit of a crazy day.  We are getting ready to leave on our trip in just a few hours so there is a lot of cleaning and packing to do today plus we still have people coming to the house to do viewings since our landlord is selling it as we are in the process of moving out.  It’s a bit overwhelming on top of all the school work I’ve still got going on so I cannot wait for vacation (though I’m still taking work with me for the evenings…yay). 

 

I decided I really needed a haircut before we left when I realized my hair had reached my butt again.  I went this weekend and had a new girl and I loved her.

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Funny thing is I’ve been getting increasingly frustrated with my hair like I do every summer, there’s just so much of it and it’s so thick and hard to control.  So I’ve been telling Joe I’m going to cut it off to around shoulder length and he keeps telling me not to do it because I’ll hate it but I keep seeing pictures like this and then I want to:

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But when I told the new stylist I was debating between cutting off a normal amount and leaving it long or chopping it off she flat out said she wouldn’t cut it that short for me.  I didn’t even know they could do that…  I’m really glad though, it was the right decision and I would NOT look cute with short hair, as I’ve proven every time I’ve cut it off in the past.  I’m just annoyed with humidity and it making my natural waves really frizzy and sticky.  That would NOT improve cutting it off, I’d just look like a lion.  Hair stylist of reason right there. 

 

Wondering why I have no runs to report on this weekend?  Well, this genius stepped on a nail and it poked a hole right through the sole of my foot.  Hurt like hell to even walk on, so I had to take several days off walking/running.  It felt better when I walked a few blocks around campus yesterday so I’m thinking I’m okay to test it on a run today.  Yay.  I’m such a klutz sometimes though.  To drown my sorrows I ate a lot of avocado grilled cheeses and made nachos three times.

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This (plus soup) was my dinner Saturday night, and my lunch Friday and Sunday.  Classy and healthy. 

 

So currently the garmin and ipod are charging and I’ve already put aside my running shoes and socks for the trip.  Literally nothing else is packed yet, but I’m so ready to run in the Alps (well, mentally, we’ll see how my lungs hate me later). 

 

Ever just eat nachos for dinner?  This is so not the first or last time I’ll do so. 

What’s the first thing you pack when you go on vacation?