Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Best Vacation Yet (Part 4- Rome)

Finally! It may be months after the fact, but I am now going to write about the last leg of our adventure. This part of our block leave was in the overwhelmingly beautiful city of Rome; and while the city is amazing, our wonderful bed and breakfast pushed the last days of our trip over the edge, rounding off one spectacular vacation!

We arrived in Citavecchia from the cruise, and after a couple bus rides, a subway line, a wander around knowing that we were SO close to our B&B, we finally found Casa de Silvia! It was in a lovely area with pretty streets and tucked away in a gated courtyard of apartments. We were a bit early, but our lovely hostess with the most-est welcomed in and recommended what we could do while our room was cleaned. We loved her right off the bat, along with her free cakes, tea, and coffee offered all day! We had the next two days to explore the more famous attractions, so we decided to walk around the area we were staying in. While walking, we found delicious gelato, a nice park to sit in, and a slice of pizza to tide Cody over until dinner. That first evening we followed our hostesses recommendation to a small local eatery, Trattoria Simonetta, where I had the absolute most delicious, top of the line, comforting Italian food I have ever eaten! For the most reasonable prices I had ever seen! After that meal, we knew we could trust our B&B owner for the best advice on the rest of our trip :)

Our second day, and first full day, in Rome was definitely a busy one! We woke up early to a huge breakfast (brought straight to our room) so we could power through our walk into the city center. After stopping to see San Giovani (the closest church to us), the walk to the Colosseum was only about twenty-five minutes, and the confusing streets were all worth it when Cody saw the back of the ancient building for the first time. It wasn't time for our tour yet, so we bypassed the area and continued to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, looked out across the Roman Forum, and then went back to meet up with our tour. While waiting, we were accosted by a man selling jewelry, which is when I re-learned the "don't make eye contact" lesson; and maybe more importantly the "do not smile at people selling things" lesson! After we gave in and bought a bracelet, he left us alone and we were able to get into our groups for the guided tour. This tour was incredible! We were able to skip the lines, and then enter the ground floor of the Colosseum, where the gladiators used to actually fight- it was amazing to be there in a small group and look up at what used to be stands and all the other tourists. We then went to the very top floor of the Colosseum, where again, there was just the small group of us, to see views of all the other landmarks in the area. Finally, we went into the underground where the animals and gladiators used to wait to enter the arena; one of the few areas you can still see the original white-face of the stones. Our tour-guide followed this up with a quick look through the Roman Forums. After a billion thanks to our guide, we ended up strolling along Alessandria Street and making our way to Trevi Fountain! It was just as beautiful, and crowded, as I remember! We ended our touring at the Pantheon and then worked our way out to dinner at another recommended restaurant. This time it was delicious, but not AS great, and not priced as well. We were still happy, full, and sleepy so it was time for bed.

The last day we spent in Rome began with a tour of the Vatican. This was with the same tour group again, and while it wasn't nearly as spectacular as our tour the day before, it was definitely worth doing.  I got super hangry by the end of it all, and we ended up spending way too much money on some food that was barely edible inside the Vatican walls. We vowed to head back to the Trattoria for our last meal to make up for it. Before we could walk back, we checked out the castle, but it was too late to enter. After two full days of tours and walking we were worn out and had seen everything we came to see- now it was time to eat everything we came to eat! We showed back up to the Trattoria and feasted on lasagna, pizza, ravioli, and tiramisu. I felt like I was going to explode, but I wouldn't give back a single bite! We were sad to say goodbye to our new friend at the B&B, who was sweet enough to leave all of our breakfast items in our room for our early departure and order a taxi to pick us up at the gate for a special price.

When we flew home, it was sad to see such a fun vacation coming to an end, but we were also super content knowing that we wouldn't have changed a thing….

Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Best Vacation Yet! (Part 3- Cruise!)

After Barcelona, Cody and I embarked on our first cruise together! It had been years since either of us had been on a cruise, and neither of us had been on a Norwegian Cruise Ship--we didn't know what to expect, but we were hoping for the best!

Once we embarked, we were happy to find our room and start to check out the ship. The ship was beautiful, and we were stunned by the size and comfort of our room, with a balcony to boot! The last time I went on a cruise, the room literally had bunk beds that folded out from the walls and a tiny port-hole; not this time! This room was all luxury. That first day we just explored the ship, tried to figure out where all the restaurants were, played some ping-pong on the pool deck, and even took a tour of the biggest (and probably most expensive- whew!) spa on the sea. We chose to eat at one of the included, and more casual, restaurants for dinner, called Taste. We were both happily surprised with the quality of food, too. There are a ton of restaurants to choose from that have a cover charge, so we were shocked that the included restaurants left nothing to be desired! We ended up going to see The Blue Man Group that night, because, how could we skip it?! It was a lot of fun and tons of laughs, but at some point the ship started rockin' and Cody and I both decided it was time to get out of the dark theatre and get to our balcony before we felt sick. The bed, oh that glorious bed, was appreciated after spending three nights choking on cigarette smoke in the apartment we had rented in Barcelona.

I felt like I was on the cleanest, softest cloud in heaven, so Cody and I slept-in super late, knowing that our first full day on the ship was a day at sea. Once we finally woke up, we had missed breakfast in the restaurants and instead went up to the pool buffet for some lunch. Then it was time to lay out and relax some more- there is always great people watching at a crowded pool, and the adorable plastic-surgery couple dancing all around the deck to every song didn't disappoint! Everybody seemed relaxed and happy, and there were barely any kids around causing a ruckus (I found out later that there was all-day care for kids on the ship, which explained the happy adults!).  We didn't spend too long at the pool before we decided that we wanted to entertain ourselves with something else, so we went down to the Irish Pub, Sheehan's, for a pitcher of beer. We ended up watching tennis, playing Deer Hunter (flashback to Morehead BW3s), and other video games, as well as air-hockey! Before we knew it, we were two orders of buffalo wings and fries and two pitchers of beer down. We went to the casino to keep the fun flowing and managed to break even after a couple hours of blackjack. Relaxing in the room sounded just right, so we lounged around until we got hungry again, and then went to get ribs from Sheehan's and watch a Beatle's tribute band. The ribs were shockingly tender and tasty- totally unheard of! It ended up being red carpet night and a dance party on the upper deck club, Spice H20, so after a wardrobe change, we went upstairs and danced with the rest of the party people. Everybody moved inside while we were downstairs changing and fixing a drink, so we wandered into the ship's club and were disappointed to see everybody from upstairs just sitting around looking antsy. We decided to get the dancing going again; within a minute of us getting out there, everybody was up and moving again! We danced as long as our feet could handle, and then headed back to our room.

Day three of the cruise was our stop at Naples, so we pulled each other out of bed in the morning to disembark and catch a ferry to Capri.  I originally went to the Island of Capri during my Sophomore year of high school when I went on a school trip to Europe. Ever since, I had been dying to go back, hopefully one day with a significant-other because it was such a beautiful and romantic place! My wish came true, and my wonderful hubby obligingly made this second trip even better than the last by renting us a private boat tour for two! We spent two hours boating around, dipping into caves and coves, and being told the stories of the island. Our tour-guide Christian was a character; just a lively, Italian boy of nineteen, full of fun stories of his own (I'm sure you can imagine). By the time we got back to shore, we felt we had seen what we came to see, so we picked up some pizza and ferried to Naples. I think our night before caught up with us, and we decided to go back to Taste for dinner and then spend the evening playing Scrabble at the Martini Lounge. Then we settled in for one last sleep in ultimate comfort and I was reaffirmed that I don't need much space to live happily; I just need that space to be a Norwegian Epic Balcony Suite and for Cody to share it with me ;)

Friday, June 20, 2014

"Ugh, but YOU Don't NEED to Diet or Workout." (and other ways women put "fit" women down)

We all know that women are often mean-spirited towards other women. The list of reasons could go on for days, and has been written about by a wide array of studied (and not so studied) individuals.
Basically, it comes down to the fact that women are bitches. All of us. Come on, you know it….we all have it in us to be a bit terrible to each other; just some of us are more terrible than others.

 It really is unfortunate and a problem to be overcome.

I bring this up because something has me a bit ruffled:

Just because my body type is naturally thin, I not only get ZERO credit whatsoever for the hard work I put into being fit, healthy, and strong, but I generally get negativity instead.

Yes. You are right, other women who have pointed this out to me; I have never been what could be considered "overweight." Therefore, I do not necessarily understand the struggle of women who are trying to loose 20, 30, or 100 pounds. Although I may not personally have had the same experience, I do heartily applaud anybody, woman or man, who takes charge of their health and is working towards weight loss goals by changing their diet and exercise habits.

BUT, just because I am not overweight, doesn't mean that I wouldn't be overweight if I didn't live the way that I do. The reason that I am not overweight is not JUST because I was born thin. Although I was genetically lucky enough to not need to fight off weight as a child or adolescent, I, like any other human, have seen the effects of growing older on my metabolism and body shape.

 And so….

I work my ass off!  Doing workouts that a few years ago I never dreamed would be possible (or enjoyable) for me to accomplish. I put myself through mental and physical strain four to five (sometimes six) days a week, because I love feeling strong and being comfortable in my own body. And heck, I would love to look sexy-as-hell naked, so instead of wishing for it, I work for it! I won't claim to have a perfect diet (I know many people more dedicated than myself at following even stricter diets than my own) but I will say that I pay attention to what I eat in a daily, conscientious effort to stay healthy and happy.

When I go into a normal gym, there is the occasional woman who is excited for me and wants to know "What are you training for!? You look great!" and I can't explain how wonderful that feels.
Okay. Let me be honest- there has been ONE woman who has said that to me outside of the Crossfit box. But it did actually happen, so I can't leave it out!
I don't feel like I deserve a cheerleading squad every time I lift a heavy weight, gain an inch in my booty, or lean out in my midsection (although I often have one at Crossfit Ansbach- thanks guys!), but I would appreciate if all my hard work wasn't often negated by other women.
Generally, when I go into a normal gym and do a workout, I get sideways glances and sometimes outright glares. How dare I, a woman who is already considered somewhat fit and "skinny", go bust my ass in the gym!
Ironically, these same women would hate me even more if I was one of the few who naturally stays around a size two without going to the gym a day in their lives.

When I workout at my box, there is nothing but encouragement all around. We have women of every shape who sweat, struggle, and sometimes cry, together; all of us working towards being the best version of ourselves that we can be. No woman in the box looks disparagingly at any other (or at all like one another). When I see a woman who has that six-pack I would love, I am in awe of them, and cheer them on. This is the magic of community at Crossfit Ansbach. This is a magic that sadly goes "poof" as soon as I walk outside the doors of the box.

I guess what I'm saying is, don't forget to give fit women credit where credit is due! If I started out 50 pounds heavier than where I am now, I would get praise up and down the block for my hard work (and well-earned praise!). But just because I didn't have to loose weight to get where I am, doesn't mean I have muscles on accident. And it doesn't mean that if I sat at home, worked out once a week, and ate Ho-Hos and Cheetos all day that I wouldn't be overweight. Because, believe me, I would!

I pushed (and pulled) to get every single one of my muscles. I have figured out how to eat to keep my body at the weight I want and like. I have goals to be fitter, stronger, and more lean, too!

Just as we are all bitches, we are all guilty of getting pangs of jealousy or anger when we see a woman with a perfectly toned stomach, or long lean legs, or whatever attribute we would love to have for ourselves. But, we shouldn't let this initial reaction get the best of us (or our mouths)!

Don't hate that girl that looks great in a bikini, or who is tall and lean and jogging circles around your block.  That woman most-likely works at looking and feeling a certain way- it doesn't matter her reasons or where she came from. All that matters is that she puts effort into looking how she wants. REAL effort. AND Every women can do the same thing if they truly want. It is hard and it takes time. But maybe, instead of glaring at and disregarding these women for looking fit, you could ask them what work they did to get that way, give them the pat-on-the-back they could be needing, tuck their advice away, and start working towards whatever goals you have for yourself!

Monday, June 9, 2014

The Best Vacation Yet! (Part 2- Barcelona)

The second destination during our two-week-hop was beautiful Barcelona!

 Cody and I had already experienced Spain, and were excited to spend some time in one of it's most popular cities.

We ended up finding an apartment in Barceloneta, which is a small area between the harbor and the far end of the beach. I wouldn't have wanted to stay anywhere else in the city! It felt very local and friendly, like we were just a part of the residents' everyday lives. There aren't any hotels in the area, so any other tourists were renting apartments, like us. As soon as we got in we went to a little cafe attached to the market at the end of our block to get some lunch. We guessed what to try and hit a homerun! The local speciality, bravas, couldn't have been more delicious; imagine fried potato chunks covered in a "spicy" tangy, sauce and a cheesy, cream sauce. We had small sausages on the side with some bread to dip in all the yummy juices.  You better bet we ate at that cafe every day- with Cody adding fried eggs on top of his bravas! From there we wandered to the beach, where I was surprised to find cute beach restaurants, playgrounds, volleyball nets, and a long, clean, stretch of lovely sand.
Eventually we had to walk back to meet our friend Jacky at the apartment, and we basically repeated the same exact adventure for a second time! After cleaning up, we found a local tapas bar to hang out in for a bit before wandering around the city in the dark. We eventually found Las Ramblas and followed the lively entertaining street all the way to the pier, where we continued to explore until we finally made our tired way back to the apartment.

Our second day was set to be our "touristy time" when we could go see the sights I had researched. There were only a few that I HAD to see, so instead of spending a ton of money on a hop-on/hop-off tour, we decided to buy a day pass for the metro and figure it out ourselves. The first stop was Camp Nou, FC Barcelona's home stadium, where Cody and Jacky stocked up on all-things-soccer. From there we went to the famous Sagrada Familia, where we snapped a few pictures, but skipped going inside. The amount of people there was basically unbearable, and none of us wanted to stand in line all day. Instead, we went back to the apartment and decided to laze on the beach for a couple hours; you can't beat having it right there and the 10euro massages in the sand. After the beach, we got all fancy and got ourselves to the Spanish Village to see a Flamenco Show! We ate before-hand because we weren't sure how big the tapas meal would be at the show; that was a mistake. The food was wonderful and bountiful! And the performers were spectacular. Although Jacky slept through the first half, Cody and I totally enjoyed ourselves (and Jacky's portion of the Sangria!). On our walk home we got to watch the Magic Fountain Show and then go to the top of the 360* arena, before collapsing into a cab to take our sore feet home.

Day three was a total beach bum day, and it was fabulous. We got mojitos, Cody got a massage, and we all just generally lumped on the beach until we got restless. After a walk up and down the beach to find a place for lunch, the boys got into a pick-up volleyball match (very TopGun, minus the jean-shorts) and I got to talk to a lovely girl who lived in Paris. We found the perfect place to have our last dinner, where we spent hours enjoying house-made vermouth, Hendrick's gin and tonics, and seafood paella. The sun, food, and alcohol had finally caught up with us and it was time to call it a night; ending our Barcelona trip on just as great a note as it had started.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Best Vacation Yet! (Part 1- Porto)

Cody and I had the most wonderful time hoping around Europe!

We started our trip in Porto, Portugal… 

What a gem! 

We spent our first day wandering around and trying the local cuisine. First on the menu was a Francesinha and local beer from a diner near our B&B. The name Francesinha is way prettier than the sandwich itself, but the layers of toasted bread, assorted meats, cheese, and beer sauce make for a dish unlike any I've ever tried. I'm actually shocked it wasn't invented in America! With advice from our endlessly-helpful host, we managed to see a ton of sights in our first afternoon, including the main square, the beautiful tile-filled train station, a few ornate large cathedrals, and even one church completely gilded in gold. We were constantly shocked by beautiful architecture and views around every turn. We made our way up and down the hills of the city until we made it to the Douro River; luckily, there was a wonderful wine bar and restaurant for us to rest our legs and fill our bellies. On our way home we stopped in a small bar to grab a drink and watch some soccer, only to join in with the four Irish cyclists at the next table for hours of drinks and food. Not only were they a ton of fun, but they wouldn't let us pay for barely a thing! We were so spoiled- and so drunk! I couldn't have planned a better first day if I tried!

The next day in Porto was a bit more relaxing, as our legs were sore from all the trekking around the city, and we were still hungover from our partying the night before. We managed to catch a bus to the Foz (the area where ocean meets river) and check out the beach before heading to the other side of the river for our tour of Graham's. The history of port wine is truly remarkable, and I felt privileged to see behind-the-scenes where the famous port is aged- not to mention the fact that we each tasted four ports and enjoyed the tour for a total of 15 euro! After checking out the Vila Nova de Gaia side of the river, and eating a surprisingly delicious Italian meal, we headed back into the city, only to crash before 7pm. Thats what we get for going non-stop the day before and staying out all night!

 We had one last day to see anything we had missed, and so we started our third day by searching out the Majestic Cafe- a beautiful place with a long history, including being one of the favorite writing places of J.K. Rowling. We may have walked in 4 circles to get there, but the delicious cappuccino and lovely setting truly was worth it. We decided to carry-on with our mini-Harry Potter-tour and visit a bookstore, Livario Lello, that supposedly inspired sections of the famous novels. Across from the bookstore is the famous Clerigos Tower, where for a small fee, you can take one hundred steps up for a never-ending view of Porto and beyond. Once we had been to the highest point in town (and tackled 200 steps on sore-legs) we went back to the river where we enjoyed a somewhat-boring boat tour; but at least we got off our feet! We struggled to find the perfect place to eat, as the restaurants along the river seemed to all be the same and cost a bit too much (which in this city, is still not very much at all) and so we pushed our hangry selves up the hills once again before landing at a small Cafeteria.  The food looked incredible, the outdoor tables were filled with locals eating comfort-food, and the location was perfect for people watching. We ended up spending the rest of our afternoon sipping beer (mine was pink?) and enjoying yummy meals for three euros a pop!

Porto was a complete mystery for both of us when we decided to visit, and while it falls behind Lisbon on most tourists' lists of places to go in Portugal, we couldn't recommend it more! You wouldn't regret taking the time to check-out this beautiful and friendly European city!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Oberndorf - Future Home?

Last Saturday, I found myself at a bonfire the size of which I haven't encountered since high school Homecoming week (pallets for days!), but in an entirely different setting.

There were two soccer games in Oberndorf, a small Bavarian village just ten minutes from my house, and Cody was planning on playing in both. I must admit, I am not the biggest soccer fan, but as I've watched more of Cody's games, I've begun to enjoy watching more, too. Nonetheless, I wasn't entirely excited to spend my entire Saturday evening watching soccer, especially since Jill was going to be in Munich for the weekend with a few friends and if it wasn't for the Oberndorf soccer team, Cody and I would be there with her. Cody tried to pique my interest by explaining that if we stayed for both games there would be a bonfire afterwards for the team. I do love me a bonfire! But the idea of standing around a fire where I can't communicate with 95% of the attendees didn't serve to make me overly eager for my night.

I couldn't have been more pleasantly surprised!

After Cody's first game he was toasted, and because the 2nd team had enough players, we were able to run home and grab a quick snack and bundle up before the fire. Coming back and watching the end of the second game was more fun with Cody there to explain what has happening (and 2nd team is sometimes just more fun to watch, in general). I was happy to be introduced to a few of the players from the 1st Team who had way better English than I have Deutsch.

The game ended and we all headed into the locker room/common area to have a beer while the team cleaned up. The fire was already way larger than I expected and burning brightly in a field just a ways down a dirt and gravel road from the field. I started on my beer and had the challenge of trying to understand one of the eight brothers from Kazakhstan who was drunkenly speaking Russian to me, while also not glancing around as there were men walking around naked from room to room. I'm very aware that Europeans are more open with nudity than Americans, but that awareness doesn't make me want to look at middle-aged-men's naked behinds! Plus, I think some of the younger men were a bit embarrassed that I was sitting there... but not so embarrassed that they didn't proceed to get naked.

A few hours later, I found myself in the midst of a conversation with a group of college-aged guys and gals in English while we all enjoyed German beer and Jaegermister. There was a bit of dancing involved, a lot of fire-watching, some translating and language practice, and tons of laughing. It seemed that most of the town turned out for the fire, and even though we were clearly outsiders, I was never made to feel that way. Cody and I got to bond with the players and their friends and enjoy lovely weather out under the stars, with a makeshift bar and grill selling cheap juice, water, and beer and bratwurst and steak sandwiches.

I fell in love with Oberndorf and the people there that night- and the fact that I never want to leave here was reinforced.

Interestingly enough, Uwe (pronounced ooo-v-ay) said his father is selling land on the outskirts of the village, for much cheaper than land would be in Illesheim or Bad Windsheim, the two towns on either side of it. He assured me that I could have chickens and goats and a garden on the land with no problem or permission needed at all, and he also made fun of me for saying that I would use my chickens definitely for eggs and maybe for meat; "you sound so cute at first.... 'I want some chickens, cause I love them' and then you say, ' and I want to kill them and drink their blood!' " I, of course didn't sound exactly like that, but he got a kick out of it.
Even though I am normally hesitant about setting down permanent roots anywhere, I could imagine spending the rest of my life in this little village looking out over the farmers' fields, watching my husband play soccer, and going to small events on the weekend with the whole community. It doesn't get much closer to heaven than that!

Last week, Cody found out the exact location of the land and last night we drove over to look at it together. Where the village sits, the view is gorgeous, and though we would have to buy two sections of land to satisfy my "small farm" desire, and there is a lot of research to be done, I still can't help but think we will be seriously debating on a big purchase before leaving this country!


Monday, March 31, 2014


I recently returned to Germany after spending 16 days back in The States. I was a little apprehensive about being back in the U S of A for the first time in nearly a year, but I was also excited to spend time with my friends and family.

When planning my trip home, I tried to keep as much of my time un-scheduled as possible; in the past I have ended up rushing around every minute of every day and find myself exhausted and over-extended. This trip I just wanted to spend time with my family and fit in friend-time when possible.

One of the big plans of the trip was to help my mom move out of my childhood home, officially. She hasn't lived there for quite a while, but mine, hers, and my sister's belongings have been living there without us. For lack of a better description, there was just a ton of crap that needed going through. It was actually interesting to explore through our past belongings and it felt good to throw, or give, away items that I no longer have any use for. It felt good to take some responsibility for my past home, the place that will always be considered "home", and to help my mom do some cleaning, packing, painting, tossing, etc. Hopefully, she is able to find a renter or buyer in the near future!

I got a chance to spend some quality time with tons of family members and with a great group of friends. It is easy to forget how fulfilling it is to spend time with old friends when we are all so busy going about our day-to-day lives. I was absolutely astonished with how many of my friends from high school and college I got to share time with while back in Cincinnati, and I couldn't have felt more loved and complete than when we all got to catch up. There is nothing like a good, old friend. Nothing.

Another large part of my visit home was to continue competing in The Crossfit Games Open and to keep working out as much as possible to stay fresh. I ended up at the YMCA on most days, following whatever workout my Crossfit community in Germany was doing. I must say that it feels odd to workout in a "normal" gym, especially one dominated by older folks... I sure got a lot of looks and comments during my workouts, and many compliments! I don't think most of them had ever seen anything like a kettlebell jerk or even a woman doing pullups. It was flattering, but also kind of hilarious; I am far from impressive in a Crossfit box!

The Open this year has been such a wonderful experience, and I am so glad that I signed up and took the time to continue the workouts, despite being away from my home gym for 14.3 and 14.4. (Thanks to Crossfit Conjugate in Cincinnati for welcoming me with open arms and coaching/judging me for two Saturdays in a row!)

Unfortunately, I had to quit the games because the flu hit me last week. This weekend was the fifth and final weekend of the open, and I was faced with a workout which required completion (the other workouts have had time limits, so as long as one rep was acheieved before the time limit, the athlete could submit a score and stay ranked). After spending 4 days struggling with a fever, and several more with congestion, fatigue, coughing, etc. it became apparent to my coach and I that attempting 14.5 would be detrimental to my health. It is a hard pill to swallow. I hate that I worked so hard on the previous four workouts, only to quit at the very end. I know that I am making the smartest decision, but it doesn't make it the easiest. Hopefully, once I feel more myself, I will be able to do the workout as a way to make myself feel better about dropping out.

Friday, March 7, 2014

The Crossfit Games: And Why I'm Excited About Decimal Numbers For The First Time In My Life!

For those of you who are entrenched in the Crossfit culture, this blog post won't be too revolutionary; I give you permission to go ahead and skip this one. Or just look at the pretty pictures…

For the rest of you who aren't Crossfitters, or maybe just recently joined in, I'd like to give a brief explanation of how The Crossfit Games work. I'd also like to explain how I, with only 10 months of Crossfit experience, am able to be a part of a competition that aims to find the "Fittest Man and Woman on Earth"!

The reason you may not have heard of The Crossfit Games probably has to do with Crossfit's relatively short lifetime as a competitive sport and its rapid growth from the inaugural Games to now. The first Games happened in 2007 with a mere 70 athletes, who met on a ranch in northern California to compete in a series of workouts; the first of which was a complete surprise.
In 2013, the Games became The Reebok Crossfit Games and took place in L.A., with more than 138,000 people registered for the Open. Although the scenery and scale of the competition has changed, one major aspect has stayed the same: the element of surprise. According to the founder of Crossfit, Greg Glassman, the fittest athletes should be able to handle any task, so each year the workouts are announced within hours or minutes of the competition, which I believe adds a level of excitement unparalleled in the rest of the sports world.

This year, I am one of the 209,261 participants in the 2014 Reebok Crossfit Games Open, so I get to be an active part of all the excitement (although just spectating gets me pretty pumped, too)!

Now that you had a brief (and probably boring) history lesson, let me break down the stages of the Games to explain how there are so many of us participating, when there are obviously so few of us who could compete against this:

Samantha Briggs and Rich Froning- the 2013 Crossfit Games winners

Here's the deal. The Crossfit Games happen in three distinct stages, in order to narrow down who should compete face-to-face in L.A. each year.

The Open is the first step of The Games and it is literally open to anybody who would like to participate. It doesn't matter if it is your first day of Crossfit, or if you have been training since 2007; if you are 17, or if you are 70; literally anybody can register (I am proof positive of this!). All that is required, if you want to be a part of the leader-board and "officially" compete, is to register online and pay twenty bucks. I'm sure there are thousands of people who also do the workouts "unofficially" each week as they are announced; but if you want to be judged and compare yourself to the rest of the Crossfit community, you have to register.
Each week, for five weeks, a workout is announced on Thursday night (or Friday morning for those of us over here in Europe) and each participant has until Monday evening to submit a score. I happen to have a coach who is an official judge, so he is able to judge my workouts, give me a score, and then I can submit that score without a video. If you don't happen to have an official judge on hand, all you have to do is video-tape yourself doing the workout, and submit that video when you submit your score. For those athletes who feel they may make it to Regionals, they must have videos of every workout.

At the end of the five weeks, the top Individual Men, Individual Women, and Teams from each of the 17 regions meet at the Regionals for a three-day competition which decides who will go on to the Games. There are also Master's Divisions, consisting of Men and Women in age groups from 40 years old to 60+, and these athletes are invited to come straight to the Games following the Open workouts.

I am currently two weeks into the Open, and I have been loving every second of it! Even the painful seconds! The Open Workouts are titled as 14.1 for the first week, 14.2 for the second, so on and so on.

No matter how little my scores look compared to those big dogs up at the top of the Overall Leaderboard, I have been surprising myself with accomplishments throughout these two weeks, which is what the Games is all about! Even if my score is a fraction of other people's scores, it is still cool to see my name in the same place as these amazing athletes and strangers around the world- again, another aspect to this sport that no other sport can touch!

Here is a leaderboard showing just the athletes who are officially registered for the Open from my box, Crossfit Ansbach. If you are wondering about the zeros, those are there because 14.2 was just announced yesterday, so many of our athletes either haven't done the workout yet, or are waiting to give it a second or third try before they submit.  
You can tell that even in our box we have some top-notch athletes! Just look at those numbers! (and those numbers will make more sense after my next post…)

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Me encanta Alicante

Oh, Alicante, how I adore you, through and through!

I must admit, when I got home from Thailand and realized that in one short week I would be on another plane, to another foreign place, without time to readjust to normal day-to-day life, I was a bit apprehensive. There were moments I regretted trying to fit so many trips into such a short amount of time.
BUT, I do enjoy travelling no matter what (although I may have managed to marry somebody who loves travel even more than I do!), and I definitely appreciated that my sweet husband had planned us a special Valentine's Day weekend in Spain. How can somebody truly complain about going to Spain for a weekend? And what world do I live in where a normal work conversation begins with, "hey, have you guys been to Spain yet? I leave tomorrow and I haven't even packed..." We are lucky indeed!

By the day we left, I was ready for another adventure; I was just hoping there wouldn't actually be much adventuring so we could relax! The trip there was super easy, which was a huge plus. All we did was park our car at our local Bad Windsheim Bahnhof, take an hour train ride to Nurnberg, then hop on the U-bahn over to the airport, and voila! We were soon on a two hour flight to Alicante, with cute baby twinsies in the seat next to me to keep me entertained (I don't mean that sarcastically, which is shocking if you know me well!)

I have to add that Cody and I hadn't booked a place to stay in Alicante until we got back from Thailand. I had searched and searched before we left for somewhere affordable, yet nice, and hadn't had much luck. I was so sick of hotels by the time we got home that I told Cody it was up to him to book us a place, but I definitely wanted to stay somewhere on the nicer side (no hostels allowed this time around). When he booked a place, he told me I would love it, and that he found somewhere super nice, but that I wasn't allowed to check it out. That was fine with me!
By the time we were nearing our destination, I started to want to know what kind of accommodations I could expect. Cody wouldn't say too much, except he wasn't sure how nice it would be. I started to get concerned that my relaxing weekend would have to be spent mostly out of the room. He said he didn't know what to expect, but that it was only 60 euro a night, so it was a good deal. I put on a happy face, but deep down, I started to lower my expectations to somewhere merely clean and safe...

Imagine my surprise when we were dropped off at a huge, lovely hotel in between the pier and the beach! He kept up his game all the way until we finished checking-in, saying that we were probably staying in an off-shoot of this hotel or in the basement, maybe (is it sad that I'm so gullible, I actually believed him!). As I watched him sign-off on the paperwork, I was about to interject and ask him why he was paying so much more than he had agreed to, when the receptionist began explaining our special spa privileges and our ocean-view, top-floor, suite!
Cody had tricked me, once again! But it was a very welcome and appreciated surprise:)
(I wouldn't have thought he could top Valentine's Day in the Dominican Republic from last year, but he managed it!)

The weekend couldn't have been more beautiful. We spent the rest of that first day grabbing lunch next to the beach, walking around town stopping for drinks and coffee, then going up to the room to get ready for dinner. We ate at a charming, authentic restaurant on the second-story, beneath exposed beams and with a guitarist serenading people outside our window. I had my first authentic paella and fell even more in love with this small, beautiful city.

We woke up to the sound of the ocean the next morning and wandered downstairs for an amazing breakfast full of pastries, cappuccino, fresh-squeezed juices, meats and cheeses, eggs and sausage... basically any kind of breakfast you could want for was available. I could have sat and enjoyed breakfast all day!

Then down to the beach, where we were the only people present for at least an hour- and we were obviously tourists as the residents of Alicante all had on pants, sweaters, and scarfs as we laid in our bathing suits. After a quick trip to a local store to grab some beach essentials (about 20 euro for two beach mats, a beach bag, mixers for alcohol, a game of beach-ball, snacks, and sunscreen), we spent all day happily on the beach. I normally can only be out on the beach for a few hours before becoming exhausted, but I never felt that way because of the perfect cool air, warm sun, and light breeze. We also got pretty awesome at beach-ball and managed to get some sun without burning. Eventually, we went back upstairs to relax and shower, and then meet back up with our travel companions for another dinner out. This time, I had researched a place with traditional tapas; .90euro per tapa and .60euro for small beers, and waiters who walk around with trays of food so you can grab whatever looks tasty! We got there just before the rush, settled into a table, and managed to pile our table up with drinks and tapas galore! After an hour of drinking and feasting, the five of us only had a 60 euro bill, and we couldn't have been more satisfied with all the food and service!

The next day went in just about the same fashion, except Cody and I took a trip up to visit the castle and take in some amazing views. We even ate dinner at the same restaurant (can you blame us?!). We attempted to go out for drinks, but considering Alicante doesn't even start partying until 2 am, we were way out of our league. The next morning we got up and sadly left our wonderful suite and friendly, beautiful city.

Alicante was the most refreshing, fun, and relaxing getaway I have had in such a long time, that I could easily imagine travelling there every weekend, happily.

I can't wait until we get to go back!

And although I shared this with you (I debated keeping it all to myself!), I beg you to keep this city a wonderful and quiet secret gem filled with clean streets and amazing people....

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Thailand - The End!

Okay, so this is what happened… I was polishing off my final Thailand post sometime last week, and the pictures and text got all mixed up. As I was hitting the "undo" button, the post went all the way back to a blank page… and then it did the automatic save thing that it does every few minutes…

Yep. Everything I had been writing for about an hour was wiped clean, and I just didn't have the emotional or mental energy to start fresh. Which means that now I am really behind on this whole Thailand saga and I already have another vacation to write about!

This also means that I will be doing a super short summary about the second half of our trip to Thailand- you're welcome :) 

Day 2 in Ao Nang/Krabi consisted of renting a kayak for a little exploring and workout, and then going back to the resort to wait for Chris and Angela to arrive. Once they got in we had a quick lunch and then headed back to the monkey area of the beach to show those two the cute and stinky buggers. We ended up having some drinks on the beach and watching sunset before walking over to Carnivore for dinner- this was our highest quality meal in Thailand and we all appreciated the change for a night. After dinner we were just in time for a cabaret by some really convincing lady-boys!

The next morning we woke up early and took a tour over to Railay Beach, where we did some rock climbing, had lunch, and checked out one of the most famous beaches in Thailand. We had to rush back so Cody and I could catch our taxi to our ferry to Phuket. Something happened with the whole ferry situation and we ended up loading about 75 people into long-boats with their luggage to be taxied out to the waiting ferry (in open water) so we could all load onto the boat to Phuket and the already full ferry could be unloaded of all the people going to Ao Nang/Krabi. We got a late start, but ended up in Phuket and at our hotel by late evening, and we just had a yummy dinner and passed out for the night. 

On the following morning we headed over to the Phuket airport so we could fly up to Chiang Mai! We got into the airport in the afternoon and then were taken to our next resort, Mai Siam. We were really looking forward to these accommodations as the whole resort is only three chalets owned by a married couple, and they had wonderful reviews. We weren't disappointed! That night, Pranee, the co-owner of the resort, cooked us the best Thai food we had all trip and we relaxed in our beautiful chalet. 

The next morning we woke up to a yummy breakfast and got a ride into town so Cody and I could check out the city and get our yin and yang ring-finger tattoos! After our super ouchie tattoos we just wandered around and explored some beautiful temples, and then found a place to eat and get out of the heat for a bit. Instead of staying in town for dinner and the night-markets, we ended up getting a ride back to the resort for another homemade meal by Pranee. 

Our next day was our last in Chiang Mai and we got to spend the day at the incredible Elephant Nature Park. This park is home to 38 elephants and hundreds of dogs and cats (You can check out tons of pictures on my Facebook of the day!) The owner made the Park as an escape for injured and mistreated elephants, who now spend their days doing whatever they please. We got to feed and bathe the elephants, and just hang out with them throughout the day. 

We grabbed dinner out once we got back to Chiang Mai and then stuck around long enough to walk the streets during the Sunday Market. We were totally exhausted and went back to the resort to rest up for the next day of travel.

For our very last leg of the trip, we flew back to Bangkok. After an interesting walk through what I like to call the mechanic-ghetto of China Town, we found our hotel and ate at the rooftop restaurant while waiting for Chris and Angela to arrive. We all had a relaxing night in as I was recovering from feeling kind of funky for a few days and Angela had been throwing up all day. 

Thankfully, we were all back to feeling fairly healthy the next day, and we were able to spend our last day in Thailand seeing the largest Golden Buddha in the world, getting more massages while Chris and Angela got some Thai tattoos, and then taking a ride across the river for some shopping and dinner at an unexpectedly fancy area of Bangkok. Then back to the airport at 3am for our looong trips back to home!

As I said- this is only a super short review of all the wonderful experiences we had, but hopefully you get the gist of it all! We were totally exhausted by this vacation, and as I said, I wouldn't go back and do it again- but I wouldn't go back and choose not to do it at all, either. 

Monday, February 10, 2014

Thailand (Part Two)

After Koh Tao we had no set plans. We knew we had to be on the West side of Thailand to catch our flight up to Chiang Mai in a few days, but we left some days unbooked and unscheduled on purpose so we could stay somewhere longer if we really loved it, or cut somewhere short.
Knowing that we would only have a few days on the West coast if we moved that direction immediately after Koh Tao, we decided to book one night in Koh Samui, and then move on from there to the Krabi/Railay Beach area (where I was wanting to go the most).
Here's a map of Southern Thailand- you can see Koh Tao, Samui, and Krabi to get an idea of what we were trying to do.

We booked our hotel in Samui very last-minute, but based on reviews, and the fact it was across the street from the beach and was connected to a popular bar, I was fairly excited that we were able to get two rooms. We left Chintakiri and hopped on the ferry over to Koh Samui, where we then found a taxi driver to take us about thirty minutes away to our hotel. Samui was not what I was expecting; it was packed with people, and cars, and stray dogs, and seemed to be in a state of chaos. After being in sleepy Koh Tao, I think we were all surprised to see this side of Thailand!

When we got to Rich Resort I was a little worried. It was down a back alleyway, and yes, it was across the street from the Swing Bar and the beach, but the hotel itself wasn't anything special. As we walked down the halls I got a peek into one of the rooms and it looked super nice; unfortunately, that ended up being one of the deluxe rooms and we just had a standard. Both of our rooms were sleepable, and clean enough to not be concerned, but they definitely weren't nice. Think of a worn out motel. BUT, they had working AC and a bed and that was about as much as we really needed. Although I was relieved we were only staying for one night.

The beach was nice and after a long walk on it in the evening we settled in for a fire show and mediocre dinner at the Swing Bar, before calling it a night so we could get a ride to the airport in the morning over to the other side of the country.

We took a quick flight over to Krabi Airport and were picked up by a driver sent by our next resort, Phu Petra. I couldn't have been more delighted once we arrived! This was a beautiful resort, although small and simple, it had a friendly staff and a great location away from the bustle of Ao Nang and Krabi town. Not only that, but our rooms were huge and gorgeous with a real bathroom! Including a shower separate from the toilet and a bathtub to boot! I literally jumped up and down as we were getting our tour- this was one last-minute booking to be thankful for, especially after a night in a not-so-nice hotel.

We kind of wanted to relax in luxury all day and not move, but with such a tight time schedule, we decided to make the most of our day and we took the free shuttle into town to explore.
We were surprised, yet again! Ao Nang was the busiest place we had been to yet- but in a different way than Samui. At first I was relieved to be somewhere that felt like any other beach town- the familiar is sometimes nice after so much difference. But then the crowded, touristy, more-expensive-than-the-rest-of-Thailand area got old pretty fast. It was one of those places that you couldn't even walk down the sidewalk because of all the people wandering and all the shop owners trying to sell you something. This was what the Thailand area of Disney would be like... Luckily, there was one major redeeming factor of Ao Nang (besides the large beach)- MONKEYS!

We wandered to the far end of the beach and ended up in monkey-heaven! These little creatures were quite the handful- they were actually kind of intimidating, but the little babies were super curious and friendly. We hung out with them for a bit, and then had to take a dip in the ocean to get the poo smell off of us. Those were some dirty, stinky monkeys. 

We ended the night by meeting up with EJ and Merissa who had gotten to the area a day before us and we had a so-so dinner on the main street. With so many restaurants to choose from, it was hard to distinguish the good from the bad! We bailed on the night kind of early, like the geezers we are, and rushed to catch the last shuttle home so we could just laze about in our comfortable room and sleep the night away….

( I feel as if I am being a negative-nancy in these posts- but its hard to give an accurate description of these places by only writing positively. Please know that we had a ton of fun and enjoyed every place we went- but there were also things about each place that were not so enjoyable, as well!)

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Thailand - Part 1

Alright, so, lets skip all the flying to get to Thailand, and our few hours in Bangkok sleeping, and move on to the real first part of our vacation.

We flew from Bangkok to Chumphon, so that we could ferry over to Koh Tao where our first resort was located. Chumphon introduced me to culture shock for the first time in my life. I also got my first Thai massage in Chumphon- it cost about $6 for an hour long foot, back, and shoulder massage. Here are a few pictures:

Huge market-- not a tourist market at all, we were out of place!

There were shrines like this all over 

The smell of all the raw meat was overwhelming

Once we finally arrived in Koh Tao, it was late afternoon so we went for a dip in the resort pool, ate dinner and had drinks at the resort restaurant, and then walked down the huge hill to town where we chilled at a Rasta Bar for the strongest Mojito ever, and then hiked back up the huge hill to our resort where we all crashed out- relieved to finally be at our first destination, if only for a few nights.

Pulling up to the dock in Koh Tao
The main street
View from the reception area of Chintakiri Resort

 Day two in Koh Tao started with breakfast and a trek down the hill to find some scooters to rent. Once all three couples had found a sweet ride, we explored the island, looking for a beach entrance somewhere. After riding around in the wrong direction a few times, we finally headed towards the pier we had been dropped off at the day before. There, we decided to rent a long boat for the remainder of the day for snorkeling, swimming, and sight-seeing. It cost 3,000 baht for our boat and driver to go wherever we wanted- that was about $90, or $30 per couple!
We stopped in Shark Bay to snorkel, then checked out another snorkeling area, then on to Mango Bay for lunch, and we ended at Koh Nangyuan- the most beautiful island/s I've ever seen. I was pretty burnt up, so we headed back to Koh Tao to cool off and clean up. We eventually went out to dinner and ended the night with massages- Cody and I got Aloe Vera massages to help with our awful sunburns!

Just a day out in the Gulf of Thailand

Longboat lunch stop

Crystal clear waters on Koh Nangyuan

The next part of our trip included an early ferry over to Koh Samui for a two night stay….

(To Be Continued…)