Tag Archives: active alex

Sochi-bound and I couldn’t be more excited

27 Jan
Skiing in the Dolomites, because, why not? March 2013 after Nordic World Championships in Val di Fiemme, Italy

Skiing in the Dolomites, because, why not? March 2013 after Nordic World Championships in Val di Fiemme, Italy

I’ve been thinking about writing for a while now, ‘Gotta restart the blog. Where do I even begin?’

I guess the best way to jump right in is to make the point that everyone who’s traveled even a little bit has a war story. That’s why I’m not scared.

Yes, the Olympics, which start in less than two weeks in Sochi, Russia, about 500 miles from the volatile region known as Chechnya, present new fears — fears that are infiltrating our news and validated every time a terrorist strikes anywhere near Sochi. People are concerned and I don’t blame them.

Chicago's Midway International Airport on Jan. 2, 2014. My home sweet home for the next 24 hours.

Chicago’s Midway International Airport on Jan. 2, 2014. My home sweet home for the next 24 hours.

But back to the travel stories.

Two days after New Year’s, Chicago was a hub of airport mayhem and tens of thousands of unhappy passengers — customers, really — all trying to get to their final destination.

I stood inside one of Midway’s terminals for 24 hours trying to figure out how to get the heck out. It was Friday and I heard murmurs about how there was no way anyone was getting to Salt Lake (my final stop) until at least Monday. Succumb to hotel life for the next three days? Not an option. Everything was booked solid in the windy and snow-impacted city.

Fear never crossed my mind (why would it?), nor thoughts of what if I never get out, although a couple I befriended jokingly entertained that possibility. It wasn’t funny but it wasn’t scary either.

I got out of Midway by staying alert and being somewhat savvy. I made sure I hustled, stayed on top of my game, and didn’t let the situation take control of me. While Russia and the Olympics are an entirely different ballgame, I’m approaching it similarly.

Fact is, you can’t prepare for the unexpected. At least that’s how I feel. You can, however, be as alert and savvy as possible, stay on top of real threats and warnings, and seek out the safest environments in a given place. But I won’t stay home or let opportunities pass me by out of fear alone. It simply isn’t worth the risk to me of not going to the Olympics, of not experiencing a once-in-four-years Winter Games, which will be my first.

Up at dawn to watch the flag ceremony in Tiananmen Square, just outside the gates of the Forbidden City before the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, China.

Up at dawn to watch the flag ceremony in Tiananmen Square, just outside the gates of the Forbidden City before the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, China.

Six years ago, I went to China. For two months. As a student. I interned for the Olympic News Service at the 2008 Summer Games and ran around greater Beijing with little international travel experience and learned a lot in a hurry.

Russia will be different than China, no doubt, but one thing I took away from there was to not be scared of feeling uneasy. Instinct is our most basic and often most reliable form of security. Stay in tune with exactly how you feel in a situation and try to figure out what’s behind those feelings, whether those nerves are justified or not. You won’t always know what’s ahead — but when does anyone, ever?

Above all the stresses that surround travel, there’s the underlying reason some of us love it. New experiences. That’s why China and its Olympics left me wanting more; that’s why I’m going to Sochi.

I wrote this blog post in my head while hiking in Lake Placid, N.Y. Thirty-four years after this region last hosted the Winter Olympics, that spirit is still going strong in this little touristy-yet-twinkling village. That’s the kind of spirit I can’t wait to experience again, and that’s the spirit I hope will outweigh, overshadow and defend against any kind of radical acts in Sochi.

Alex is heading to Sochi with two coworkers to report on the 2014 Winter Olympics from Feb. 7-23. Check out their stories on FasterSkier.com and follow her on Twitter @Active_Alex.

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Let’s get summer started

1 Jul

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It’s been a while, I know. Rather than rehash my entire winter and why I didn’t blog from March until now, I’ll get to the point about what’s been up.

I had an amazing winter in my first year with FasterSkier. I went to an incredibly diverse set of places, including British Columbia, Quebec, Wisconsin and Park City. I caught some fresh tracks and sunburns, met nice people, made new friends and interviewed some of the world’s best athletes. I need to write about some of my experiences later in the season (including a week in Craftsbury, Vt), so stay turned to my FasterSkier blog for that.

On the home front, I got engaged nearly the second I came home — Brian surprised me in early April while we were on vacation in Florida. The wedding’s planned for next September so that gives a stress-case like me some time to relax.

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And that’s the life I’m leading now. Lady of Leisure II (following my cousin Lindsey, who called herself that when she was pregnant with her first child and not working. Two years later, she’s got a beautiful little girl and another baby on the way … I think my life is way more laid-back than hers!)

I’m still full time with FasterSkier in the summer, but this job rocks — to give it that ’80s enthusiasm. I work from home and generally on a self-driven schedule. If I get the work done, I can go out and play. I’ve been trying to improve my time management and productiveness, and the summer’s already shaping up to be a fun one.

Yesterday, I participated, err, competed in my first triathlon of the season. I’m hesitant to say which I did at the North Country Triathlon in Hague, N.Y., whether I took part or really raced, because it was a mix of both. For starters, my mom and I teamed up in the Olympic-distance race: she did the 1-mile swim, and I did the 25-mile bike and 6-mile run.

Charlie’s Angels

That was our team name and we came in 11th of about 20 teams. Not bad considering we were nearly dead last of the relays last year. My biking improved — I would say I raced that part. It’s a challenging course with about a three-mile climb that’s the toughest I’ve ever done. But it went better this year. I ended up averaging nearly 16 mph over the entire course, up from around 13 last year.

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My mom, Wendy, did outstanding. Pretty sure she was the sixth woman out of the water and fourth of all the relays — which are coed. I was in decent position for a top-10 finish after the bike, but things fell apart in the run. It wasn’t the worst I’ve ever experienced, but around the turnaround point at 3.1 miles, I was toast. My body started to shiver in the 85-degree heat, my fingers swelled so much they hurt and my stomach turned upside down with each step. I had to walk several times on the way back because I was struggling to keep it together. About a quarter mile from the finish, I saw my mom, dad, cousin and parent’s dog, Archie, smiling and cheering. That got me to the finish.

And that was the day. I went for it in the bike and suffered in the run. I need to learn how to hurt more, how to keep my head straight and body moving when I feel that bad, but I have no regrets. It was a great experience with family, a beautiful day on Lake George and a good way to start summer.

I’m not sure how many triathlons I’ll do this year, but my mom and I already decided to each do the entire race — all three legs — next year. Something to look forward to, for sure.

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This summer, I’m excited for a few events. After surviving the Spartan Beast race last year, my brother and I signed up for another obstacle-course trail run — this time a 10- to 12-mile Tough Mudder at Mount Snow, Vt. The race is July 15, so the countdown begins now! We’re raising money for The Wounded Warrior Project in the process, so please consider donating to this important cause.

Two days after that, my father and I are doing our somewhat annual hike-to-the-huts trip in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. We try to go somewhere different in the AMC’s trail system every year.

After that, I’ll keep trail running in preparation for the Jay Peak 50 k in September. (I did my first trail half marathon in Paul Smiths last month, which went well, otherwise I wouldn’t have signed up for anything longer!) I’ve written before about the importance of goals, especially in training. I don’t always follow my own preachings, but this summer, I’m making a point to.

I’d like to get back on the running wagon after having too much fun (and workouts spent) on the bike. Trails are a great place to lose your mind and get in some jog time. Sometimes, I just feel happier in the woods. You forget you’re running, you forget your to-do list (or figure out how to tackle it later), and occasionally you get lost. Or at least I do.

That’s why I’m going to leave you with an important message from experience: if you’re going to go to an unfamiliar trail system, or one you’re not 100-percent comfortable with, bring a trail map. Many are online so just print it out, fold it up and stick it in your shorts. Especially in places like Moreau State Park with intersections marked by a letter (usually S) and a number (1-17), it’s good to know where you are and how to get out. Oh, and bring water. My dog peed in a brook today; I’d hate for you to be downstream of that.

Three days ’til Beast Race

3 Aug

As if I hadn’t learned my lesson after struggling in the West Mountain Warrior Run, I’m about to get my you-know-what handed to me in the Spartan Beast Race on Saturday at Killington.

T.J. Hooker -- The Post-Star: Still a little spring in Alex Matthews' step as she leaps over a tiny fire at the finish of the Warrior Run at West Mountain in Queensbury in June.

For starters, it’s a 10-12 mile mountain and obstacle race. The Warrior Run was 3, maybe. There in June, my biggest problem was that I never looked at an updated course map. It was straight up hill then down, an absolute killer.

This race at Killington, the third tier of the Spartan franchise races (the fourth being the ultimate Death Race), has no definite length, no outline of obstacles and therefore, no course map. I am SCREWED.

At least I’ve been training … a little. Dehydration and poor preparation made the Warrior Run my toughest race yet (and I’ve run a marathon). I’ve never felt so sick or walked so much during a race.

For this event, I’ve recruited my brother, a burly yet fit and mentally tough rugby player. I knew I needed to do this race with someone, and I was hoping it would be someone bigger than me. Main reason: so he can help me with the heavy lifting and be there to hide behind when we run through the gladiator pit.

The gladiator pit? Yeah, that’s one thing I know is coming. Apparently, we have to run by a couple of men swinging long sticks, aiming for any and all body parts.

That sounds bad, but to me, the promised pond-swim is worse. I have a hard time getting into a lake where I know fish await. I think it’s only a 100 yards across, but still.

And then there’s the time. The fastest go-getters should finish in 3 hours. I guess Will and I will shoot for 4-4 1/2, but it’s hard to say. I’m going to get hungry out there.

So as I enjoy my “taper” over the next few days (fattening up and enjoying being pain-free), I likely won’t get much sleep. Has anyone done one of these? The stories about the Death Race were unbelievable, and from what I’ve heard about the Tough Mudder (another type of extreme race), these things are pretty intimidating.

For more info on the race, check out Killington’s Spartan Race website. And the example video on spartanrace.com is definitely worth watching.

I’ll try to get pictures, but am not sure I want this documented.

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