Alyssa’s Costa Rica Adventure: Arenal

Oh, Double Chinners, how sad I am to be back in the Estados Unidos! I just had an amazing vacation in Costa Rica. My husband turned 30 this year, so we decided to celebrate the milestone with an awesome vacation. Airfare to Costa Rica was a steal, so we snatched it up and jetted off to CR. My father-in-law came along, and together, we zigzagged around the country, up unpaved roads, down muddy canyons, and across many, many, giant mountains, breathing in the beauty of the rain forest. I’ll split these posts into a few as there are just way too many things to tell you about. I’ll start with Arenal, a picturesque town at the base of a giant, dormant volcano (though active until five years ago).

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We stayed at Mountain Paradise Hotel, and Trip Advisor definitely didn’t lead me astray on this one. Each room was its own private bungalow, with a stunning waterfall rock shower, private patio with outdoor bath tub, and two rocking chairs for admiring the flora and fauna. Can you believe this room was about $89 a night? Yeah, me neither. They even knew to send me a tabby! (Just kidding:this little kitty found her way to me after discovering we were eating sandwiches. So, I named her Torta.)

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On our second day in Costa Rica, we decided to explore the Arenal Hanging Bridges. While these bridges wobble and sway a little bit, they’re no Indiana Jones bridges. They’re reinforced steel with plenty of hand rails. We hired a local guide, and climbed two miles into the rain forest. We saw two kinds of monkeys, Howler and Squirrel, tarantula holes and eventually, a tarantula, all kinds of birds, and the prize of the trip: a sloth! Had it not been for the guide, I would have never known that this tiny, brown ball of matted fur was a sloth. We used his telescope to zoom in and catch a peep of his blinking brown eyes. Did you know the Spanish word for sloth is Perezoso, which literally means lazy? Also that the sloth only comes down from the tree tops once a week, to poop, because if he pooped right from the tree, predators would easily sniff him out, climb up the tree, and enjoy a sloth dinner.

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We climbed varying degrees of distances before we got to an amazing waterfall. It was pretty much paradise to see this tumbling, picture-perfect waterfall nestled in hills of lush, green vines and blooming plants. We posed for a couple quick photos before climbing the hill to the final and highest hanging bridge. No words can do this view justice, so I’ll just show you.

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See? It’s been a bucket list item of mine that I can now cross off my list to see the rain forest. Especially as our natural resources disappear, it’s important to take in their beauty while you can. The beauty was endless in Costa Rica. We were all pretty thoroughly impressed, and headed back to our room for a brief rest before our night hike into the jungle.

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With a guide from Arenal Oasis tour, we set out into the rain forest with flashlights and our rain jackets in search of frogs. Though it took awhile to spot our first one, I had fun bantering with the guide, who spoke a universal language in which I am fluent: sarcasm. We spotted a few toads, millipedes, and stick bugs, and then, he asked us all to turn off our flashlights for a minute. Holy crikey, the rain forest is DARK in the jungle. Total immersion of darkness plus humidity plus the sounds of singing birds, chirping frogs, crackling leaves? Super cool. He pointed out a type of fungus that glows in the dark, and sure enough, as we looked around we could see blue fungus glistening in the darkness, like magical mushrooms. In the light they looked just like another ordinary stick on the ground, but in the darkness, oh how they shine.

We spotted two poisonous pit vipers, which are actually fairly small snakes (or at least the ones we saw, were).

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Then, we all looked around aimlessly trying to find the red eyed tree frog. This frog is the image of Costa Rica, and I have no doubt you’ve seen his image every where. Finally, the guide called us over and we spotted this lovely specimen lounging in a banana leaf. He kindly posed long enough for me to snap two of my favorite photos of the whole vacation, and then he scurried up the banana tree and back to his safe shell of darkness.

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How frickin cool is that, right? We headed back to our hotel, where we enjoyed frosty libations in the waterfall pool before tucking in for the night, lulled to sleep by the sweet croaking and crooning of exotic frogs and the occasional warbled “meow” at our screen door. The next day we were off to Monteverde… one of the few cloud forests in the world. Stay tuned !

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Walk the walk: My Komen 3-Day Experience, Day 3

We woke up on Day 3 and I was thinking, “Already? How is it Sunday already?” While elated to seal the deal on 60 miles, part of me was sad to see the weekend go, because after all, you don’t just sign up for the 3-Day and forget about it until the day before. You fundraise, you train, you anticipate, you get nervous, you get ready.

We got ourselves prepped and once again, headed out the door to the camp (most people sleep in pink tents, but because we’re primadonnas (myself included), we opted for a hotel room instead). We made it several miles in before I decided it was time for another blister pack, and got myself fixed up. Then, we made it to the Pit Stop where the famous Juan Street hill lurked in the foreground. I’ve heard lots of lore about this hill, and my teammates decided to ride the sweep for this hill as we had all been hobbling along. I had a sudden flash of ambition and decided that damnit, I was going to conquer that hill. Hills have been a big part of my fat to fit journey, because as I wrote about here, when you go up hill, you feel the weight of every extra pound you carry. I knew I had to do that hill.

The view from the bottom of Juan Street Hill

The view from the bottom of Juan Street Hill

I started on my way and knew within the first ten minutes, I knew that I had made the right choice as a Mexican restaurant had set up a tortilla chip buffet with three different kinds of salsa. Y’all know chips and salsa (and popcorn) are my kryptonite, so I considered this an omen of good luck. I passed another cheering station handing out cold diet cokes, and I grabbed myself some caffeination for the way up.

I was half way up when I had the realization that the hill was not nearly as bad as I’d expected. Although I was sweating like a beast, I just kept going, one foot in front of the other, thinking about the reasons why I was walking. I was tired, sure. I was sore, sure. I was a little bit grumpy that it was a Sunday morning and I’d been up at 5 AM three days in a row, sure. But all of those things fell to the ground like the small, insignificant things they were when I saw this woman, and particularly, the sign she was holding.

 

Inspiration at the top of the hill.

Inspiration at the top of the hill.

 

 

When you hear people talk about what it means to make an impact: this was that moment. Sore, hot, tired; these feelings all vanished for one new one: inspired.

I finished the giant hill and was greeted with more chips and salsa, and then was lucky enough to see my friend Margo! Margo from Nacho Mamma’s Blog is one of my FitBloggin’ buddies. I’m so grateful that she came out to cheer me on. We snapped a quick selfie and then I met up with my team to feast on a sandwich, sit down, and prepare for the final miles.

Alyssa and Margo!

Alyssa and Margo!

Except… we were a little too leisurely with our lunch, as we spent time writing the names of our angels, fighters, and survivors on our “Always in our heart” banner. So we took another sweep van, met ladies from all over the country, and got dropped off at the next pit stop. There, our team united and we set out for the final three miles of the day.

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The atmosphere of the final 3 miles was awesome: everywhere we turned there were people cheering us on, handing out candy and snacks, blaring music and dancing. I felt a little bit cold as we walked through the shady downtown, so I wrapped myself in the banner we had signed. While sad and symbolic to be carrying the names of so many loved ones, I felt proud to be carrying them in my heart and on my shoulders for the final leg of this journey. Who would have known that such a thin piece of fabric would have provided such warmth?

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With each painful step towards the Closing Ceremony, I thought about what it meant to be out there. Every donation you sent in. Every rallying piece of encouragement you gave me. Every smile, every nod, every dancing spectator. I couldn’t have done this walk without those things. As the sun sank into the clouds to reveal a brilliant pink sunset, we learned that with your help, we raised over seven million dollars in the fight against breast cancer.

That money won’t be buying lattes, paying electricity bills, buying a souvenir t-shirt, fixing a fence, sitting in a savings account, or burning a hole in your pocket. That money will be making a difference in the noblest way you can imagine; it will be saving lives.

Thank you, Susan G. Komen, the 3-Day, and my supporters: because of you, I proved once again that the limits I place on myself, both mental and physical, can be easily overcome …with the love and support of an amazing community.

Photo by Lynnette Joy Photography

Photo by Lynnette Joy Photography

April’s 3-day Experience

It has been over two weeks now since I walked a distance more than around a corner.

After walking 52 miles in the Susan G. Komen 3-day (60 mile) breast cancer walk, my feet have needed the break.

While I have been excited to write my re-cap blog  post from before I even walked, I feel like I may have been lagging on actually doing the writing because of this reason: I know that my words are not going to do nearly enjoy justice in describing how amazing this event is.

For the sake of keeping this blog post less than 1000 words, I’m breaking them up into two parts, the easy part and the hard part.

As most people probably do, I encountered some difficulties leading up to and during  the event. The easiest part was agreeing to it, as I said yes as soon as my sister asked without giving it much thought.

After months of fundraising and training (to be discussed in “The Hard Part”), I was finally ready for my flight to Los Angeles. I conveniently booked my flight to land at the same time as my teammate Aubrey’s flight landed from Seattle, so that was simple. The typically congested drive from Los Angeles to San Diego with my sister and Aubrey flew by and checking into our hotel was a breeze as well.

Flash forward to the next morning, past the night of not being able to sleep, past the waking up at 4:30 am, past the getting four girls out of a hotel room by 5:40 am….

The next easy part came when we finally set foot at the 3-day location at the Del Mar fairgrounds by San Diego. The Double Chin Divas, consisting of Alyssa, Aubrey, Monique, and myself were finally ready to begin our 3-day adventure.

Opening Ceremony.

Opening Ceremony

As soon as we set foot in the crowd of people, most all decorated in some sort of pink attire, my heart instantly lifted and maybe even turned a deep shade of pink in spirit of what I was around. I excused myself for the bathroom and while standing in line, it was easy for me to sense the excitement in the air and even more easy for me to start meeting people. I chatted it up with a woman who was going through her second round of treatments for her stage-two breast cancer she’s been fighting. I listened in for tips from walkers who had done it in the past. I smiled at every person who passed me by and was given a big smile back.

I easily knew that I was going to love this event.

After some beautifully spoken words and many sorts of tears, a wave of 2,400 people made way towards accomplishing our first mile set at the sea. As I crept along at a pace of a herd of pink turtles, I must have talked to at least twenty different people within a matter of a mile. As we edged closer to the ocean, a rainbow added the perfect magical touch to the beginning of our journey. In my mind, it was the spirits of all our loved ones sending some extra love and inspiration.

 

Double Chin Divas at the ocean!

Double Chin Divas at the ocean!

By the time I hit the ocean all the anxiety I had leading up to this event was gone. I was quickly recognizing an intense feeling that I have only experienced in a few sorts of places before. Between all the smiles and conversation, people were unifying themselves at every moment. People driving by in their cars would honk and yell so often at us that Aubrey said eventually I would get tired of waving and  yelling back by the end of the walk. I never did. ;)

A man with a dyed pink beard, rocking a pink bra and little tutu, cheered all of us on as we walked by.

Tons of people offered us water.

Even more people offered us candy.

Once I realized where I had experienced that feeling before, I couldn’t help but laugh and let out a few happy tears. There has only been three major event experiences where I have experienced such a glorious feeling of unity: Raves, Burning Man, and now the 3-day breast cancer walk. Haha! All three sorts of events allow and encourage people to dress themselves are creatively as they envision,  all three events offer an abundance of emotional and physical gifts, and all three events can bring a massive amount of people together for the same love. The 3-day event was able to capture a very special sort of positive energy that is so rare to find in general life. Everyone there was participating for their own personal  reason but yet we all found it so easy to be connected to each other.

Getting through the miles each day was anything but easy but with the help of constant support from people all along our routes, each step became at least a little easier to take.  By the end of those 52 miles I had walked/hobbled, it was easy to see that the hardest, but most fun part, of the entire experience had come to an end. When all the goodbyes were said and as I sat at the airport, charging my phone just enough to show my boarding ticket on my screen, I had one of my last 3-day conversations with a woman who had worked crew (the volunteers who make it all happen). She told me something along the lines of this:

“You know, at the event everyone around you is smiling and cheering you on for what you are choosing to do at that moment… and then you leave the event feeling proud and make your way home, a few people may smile brightly or say some kind words as they see you in your 3-day shirt and tons of buttons and ribbons… and finally you get home, your next day starts, and you make your way through life again. No one is cheering you on, no one is saying “thank you” for what you’re doing. It’s just back to normal.” I quickly realized how right she was going to be. When I woke up and went to Trader Joe’s and the bank, no one yelled at me, “You can do it!” or told me “Thank you for walking!”

It was life, back to it’s normal easy self. So… it is an easy choice to make when it comes to whether or not I will choose to be involved next year.  ;)

 

Lots of love and happy feet,

AprilSignatur

 

 

 

 

 

 

PS – Oops. 1, 098 words.

 

Reaching the end.

Reaching the end.

 

Walk the Walk: My Komen 3-Day Experience, Day 2

Day 2 started at 5:50 a.m., with the alarm clock blaring and my feet begging me to just stay in bed. But, all four of us got up and headed to camp, where we’d start day 2 of our 60-mile journey. Monique and I used a photo opp as a chance stay in bed for another couple seconds!

Monique and Alyssa press snooze.

Monique and Alyssa press snooze.

We got to camp, joined the moving sea of pink, and started walking! We walked past Sea World, and got to see a cool pink bird of some kind posing for pictures, as well as Sea World staff in wet suits cheering us on. We all remarked about why there wasn’t a whale jumping out of the water to greet us, but ya know, budget and stuff. A few miles in is when the problems started. Aubrey and I had been initiated as the blister sisters on Friday, and sure enough, our blisters began popping and throbbing. We opted to hitch a ride to the next Pit Stop, where we caught some amazing ocean views and then headed to lunch.

Team DCD started Day 2 PUMPED UP!

Team DCD started Day 2 PUMPED UP!

We ended up getting lunch with one of our awesome coworkers from a taco shop called Roberto’s. Holy cow. Mexican food is up there in my top three favorite kinds of food (Thai and Italian round out the list, if you’re wondering), and I eat a lot of great Mexican food living in LA County. But – this carnitas taco was off the chain! So flavorful, so simple, so fresh, so perfect on my tired tootsies and hungry belly. I also had a potato taco, which was so yummy, and basically like a fried shell of mashed potatoes. Perfect walking fuel!

It's Taco Time!

It’s Taco Time!

As we strolled out of the lunch stop, we walked by some amazing beach front apartments, and even better, DOGS! A therapy dog group had come out to cheer us on, and all of the pooches were decked out in pink bows, vests, or tutus. I fell in love with this fellow, a Great Pyrenese. He was so fluffy! After lots of head pets and scratches, we kept on walking.

I wanted to steal him.

I wanted to steal him.

I made it to Pit Stop 3, where I decided to go to the medical tent again and get fixed up. At that point I was having some random dizziness (dehydration), so I decided to hang out and wait for Monique and April, who were a little bit behind us since we had taken the van earlier. I caught up with them, and after surveying all of our various states of ailment, we decided to grab a ride back to camp. While I initially struggled with not walking close to a full day, I quickly decided that making myself feel crummy, either mentally or physically, wouldn’t change the fact that the money I raised would be making an impact. So, I looked on the sunny side, which was making it to camp before dark and having more time to explore. Once I got to camp, I was greeted by a beaming husband and smiling father-in-law with the coolest signs ever!

MEOW!

MEOW!

Once we caught up about the adventures of the day, we headed into the Remembrance Tent. The Remembrance Tent is a very special place on the 3-Day. It’s set apart from the hustle and bustle of camp, and is a beautiful, private white tent with soft music, soft lighting, and framed photos of those we’ve lost to breast cancer. In the center is an illuminated white tent that you can sign and write messages on for your loved ones. Outside of the tent are the white tents from every other city the 3-Day is, a traveling tribute to the lives lost. While difficult to be in the Remembrance Tent, it’s also cathartic. We all wrote my mother in law Shirley’s name on the tent, sniffled, and hugged. I know she was with me that weekend.

Photo Via Susan G. Komen 3-Day Facebook Page

Photo Via Susan G. Komen 3-Day Facebook Page

Later that day, I was exploring posts on the official 3-Day Facebook page when I saw the above photo. Coincidentally, the man standing directly in front of the tent is my father in law. It’s amazing to think that out of 2,000+ people at this event, he happened to be the one captured in this photo, right before our family had a very touching moment inside that tent. Call it hocus pocus, but I like to think that was Shirley’s way of saying, “Hey guys, I’m here, too.” :) My mom and dad came down to San Diego to cheer us on too, so it was great to show the family what the 3-Day is like.

We wrapped up at camp, and then the very tired Double Chin Divas crawled into bed for another 5:50 AM wake up call (Ugh!). I had been warned several times that Day 2 was the hardest day of the walk, and I found it to be true. You have the exhaustion and soreness from Day 1, and the adrenaline surge you had in Day 1 has come down a bit. While initially I was disappointed that I wasn’t able to walk all 20 on Day 2, I decided that feeling crummy mentally or physically wasn’t going to change the fact that we raised lots of money, money that changes lives. Every step I took was a step toward victory; for myself and embracing fitness, and for the thousands of women and men fighting breast cancer.

 

Walk the walk: My Komen 3-Day Experience, Day 1

When I signed up to do the 3-Day, I had two big hurdles to clear; the first, fundraising $2,300, and the second, preparing my body and mind to walk 20 miles three days in a row. While the fundraising initially made me nervous, I was so grateful to see there were plenty of people who were willing to support me. I surpassed $2,300, and today, am hovering at an incredible $3,300 — a number that I KNOW is making a difference for those diagnosed with breast cancer. The next big challenge? Walking. Plenty of people will say, “Oh, it’s just walking.” Sure, it’s just walking, but this isn’t a quick walk through the super market or around the local park. The average person walks less than two miles a day after all their steps have added up. If you’re active, you walk maybe five miles a day. But to walk 10 miles? Amazing. Make it 20? Incredible.

I started adding small daily walks to my routine. I’d walk on my lunch break to the grocery store to buy myself a turkey sandwich, or things to make dinner. I’d walk to the post office with a stack of Thank You notes ready to mail to my donors. I’d walk the block at night, dodging spiderwebs as my husband ran circles around me, laughing as we exchanged sweaty high fives. Slowly, walking became easier. I remember very clearly a 5k I walked last November. During the final mile, my feet were hurting, I was out of breath, and I wanted to quit. My first big accomplishment with training this year was a 6.2 mile walk I did with my friend Jason, and then later, a ten mile walk I did with Jason and Matt. I started tackling longer distances, at one point walking from my house to Michael’s Crafts, five miles up and three towns north. The longest walk I ended up doing was 12 miles, which was a few short of what the 3-Day training program recommends, but I felt confident that I could do at least ten miles each day. So I took that confidence and ran with it (errr, walked with it), and before I knew it, me and my team were boarding a bus in the rain to go to the Opening Ceremony in Del Mar.

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The Opening Ceremony of the Susan G. Komen 3-Day San Diego at Del Mar Fairgrounds

The rain stopped just in time for the sun to burst through the clouds, and as my team stood in a sea of pink, we listened to people share their reasons for doing the walk. People walked for their mothers. Their sisters. Their aunts. Their daughters. As I held up a picture of my mother-in-law surrounded by thousands of other people holding pictures of loved ones lost, I was overcome with a sense of grief and anger. This was too many people. Too many lives cut short. However, that anger fueled reminders of why I was here; to make a difference for somebody else facing cancer, and to honor the memory of so many wonderful people that have since moved on. Our first steps out of Del Mar, we were greeted with a magnificent rainbow, glistening in the sky. I felt in that moment that everybody had just received a special reminder that loss is physical, but memories will always live on.

Photo via Susan G. Komen 3-Day Facebook

Photo via Susan G. Komen 3-Day Facebook

We walked along the coast, marveling at the waves lapping the shore, the sea breeze crisp on our cheeks. Soon, we made it to the first pit stop, where we used the glamorous porta-potties and prepared for the first major hill up Torrey Pines, a nature reserve. I had been hearing about this hill all year long, so I was nervous. However, as I put one foot in front of the other, I realized my body could do a lot more than I thought it could. We climbed up slowly but steadily, turning every now and then to see the San Diego valley in birds eye view. When we made it to the top, we posed for this picture, feeling victorious. Our first major hill: DONE!

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Alyssa, Monique and April victorious after Torrey Pines!

From there, we walked through neighborhoods and business parks, and we began to scatter a little bit as we talked with the women and men around us. I met a 76-year-old woman who had walked eight times, and walked for her husband and son she had lost to cancer in the same year. I met a girl my age from Wisconsin, and twin sisters from Arizona who walked for their mom. Everybody at the 3-Day is there for the same reason; cancer. It’s an unpleasant thing to bond over, but at the same time, something pretty special to realize you’re part of a community of people dedicated to making a change. We arrived at the mile 10 marker for lunch, and we were all pretty darn excited to sit and take off our shoes! One thing really cool about the 3-Day is that each official stop, be it Lunch or a Pit Stop, is themed. Lunch was pirate themed, and all the Crew volunteers were in full costume. It’s things like these that made my first 3-Day experience so special: being handed a turkey sandwich by Jack Sparrow, walking past men in bras with miniature watermelons in them with signs that said “Squeeze my melons”, the people that come out to cheer you on as you walk by. I laid on the grass for what felt like a good, long 10 minutes, and then hobbled over to the medical tent. I felt some hot spots and blisters popping up on the fleshy pad of my foot right beneath my toes, and I wanted those suckers wrapped up before they progressed further.

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Cookie as big as my head? Don’t mind if I do!

Then, we were off again, and before I knew it, it was back to the glorious coast. At one point we walked through a patch of coast that smelled awful — garbage-like and just rank, when one of the walkers ahead of us said we were nearing a sea lion colony. Sure enough, we came down a hill to see a big rock formation covered in velvety sea lions, barking and frolicking in the water. It was so cool! We ended up meeting my parents along the route shortly after, and it was super fun to see them and get hugs and support at mile 15.

The Double Chin Diary in front of Sea Lion rock!

The Double Chin Diary in front of Sea Lion rock!

It was shortly after we met up with my parents that I encountered my first big hurdle: an exploding blister. Now, I’ve had plenty of blisters in my adult life. However, the experience of a blister exploding from the sheer weight of all your body, on the fleshy pad of your foot, at mile 16? Totally new and not so awesome experience. At first I didn’t know what it was, other than the fact that my foot suddenly had this searing pain ripping through it. Then as my sock felt squishy, I realized with horror that my giant foot pad blister had popped. GROSS! I ripped off my sock with the enthusiasm of a kid at Christmas, both grossed out and fascinated, and confirmed that sure enough, my blister had called it quits. I decided I’d flag down a sweep van (the 3-Day has nifty themed vans that drive the route to pick up anyone who’s tired, not feeling well, or just wants a break). I hobbled along tentatively, until I got a second wind. Blister? Who cares! That attitude served me well for two more miles, until the broken skin started to feel raw. This was around mile 17, so I took a van for another mile and waited at the pit stop for my sister and Monique to arrive.

The kind medical volunteers tending to my nasty Texas sized blister.

The kind medical volunteers tending to my nasty Texas sized blister. (Don’t worry, you can’t see it here. I’d like to keep some of my readers!)

Once they showed up, we got more Gatorade and continued our trek. It was dusk and those last few miles were feeling like they would never end, and we were teased along the way by chalk notes on the sidewalk of what the Garmin miles were. Toward the end we saw a Garmin 22 mile mark, so I decided right then and there that despite my quick van ride, I had very much walked 20 miles that day! Finally, we walked into camp — exhausted and stinky, and very much wanting to SIT and never move, ever again. We got dinner, enjoyed the plushy bean bags, massage chairs, trail mix bar, and snacks, and then collected our camp mail. Camp mail is an awesome invention where your loved ones can send you snail mail to pick up during your 60 mile journey. After our relaxation time, we watched an amazing show in the giant dining tent, where we got to hear from moving speakers and hear updates about the day on the route and the next day to come.

20 MILES!

20 MILES!

Even though at this point I was too exhausted to process anything more than “Macaroni and cheese. Hungry. Tired. Stink. Sleep,” I was able to process the fact that this girl had damn near walked 20 miles in one day. 20 frickin’ miles. That’s no small beans. That’s no laughing matter. That’s a HUGE, GINORMOUS, MASSIVE, LONG distance to walk. That’s only 6.2 less than a marathon, and granted, I wasn’t running (if you see me running, you better run too, ‘cuz something’s chasing me), but ain’t no thang. I walked 20 miles. That’s a lot.

I went to bed that night thinking about some of the things people had sent to me in so many wonderful cards, letters, and notes. Things like, “When it gets hard, remember… your body can do amazing things. Your legs are strong, your hips are flexing, and your heart will carry through.” Or, “Thank you for walking, thank you for making a difference, thank you for being my friend.” Or, “You inspire me every day to love myself just as I am.” With sentiments like that, how could I not close my teary eyes and glow with gratitude?

I drifted into a deep sleep, heart full of the amazing things I had seen and felt that day. Vibrant. Alive. Proud. Thankful. These feelings carry you far and wide, as beautiful and inspiring as the rainbow, as vivid and real as the blister, as simple and profound as the smile of a survivor cheering from the sidelines. These things were Day 1 of the 3-Day.

We walk.

We walk.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Epic Double Chin Diary Holiday Gift Guide

Ah, the holidays. The smell of chestnuts roasting (really, who does that?), family fighting (now that’s more likely), and the season of sales, sales, and sales, causing us all to stress out about the perfect gift when really it doesn’t matter. However, because gifts are kind of a thing, I’ve rounded up some new favorites for your consideration for those who like relaxing, cooking, fashion, and exercise. All of these gifts were sent to me gratis in exchange for mention (but only if I really liked them – two got the axe!). This post also contains affiliate links, so if you click on something and buy it, I might make four cents (I’m rich!). Enjoy — and be sure to read carefully as you have a few chances to win some of these goodies for yourself!

1) Royal Silk Scarf by World Vision

Looking for the perfect thoughtful gift for your world conscious friend? Consider this royal silk scarf from WorldVision. Vietnam’s Ma Chau villagers weave these traditional silky smooth scarves, helping to provide them with a sustainable income. This scarf is 68″ long, and has the most incredible colors and vibrancy.  Each is unique; size and color may vary slightly. You can make a suggested donation of $95, or enter an amount that’s meaningful to you. Want to see how purchasing from WorldVision works? Click here.

Alyssa rocks the World Vision Royal Silk Scarf

Alyssa rocks the World Vision Royal Silk Scarf

You know you want one of your own… so follow the steps below for your chance to win!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

2) Tiger Tail Classic

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Foam rolling both terrifies me and delights me; the concept of massaging painful, tight muscles is initially scary, mildly painful, and then after it’s sweet relief. When I heard about Tiger Tail, I knew I would need one of these puppies (kitties?) for my post-walk soreness. I packed it along with me on my trip to San Diego, and this thing was passed among my teammates with more enthusiasm than a box of chocolates. The small, compact size and quality build make it perfect for bringing along on trips, or for stashing in your house. Our traditional foam roller is bulky and giant, and this removes a lot of heft but still packs a punch. Plus, look at how adorable the packaging is! I loved this thing post 3-Day, and am super psyched about using it to roll out my muscles post-hike. The Classic is priced at $34.95, is made in the USA, easy to clean, and has a 3 year warranty. The next thing I’ll try out is the Knotty Tiger — I can really see that sorting out the giant knots in my neck!

The cutest sticker on the packaging!

The cutest sticker on the packaging!

3) Creekside Farms Kitchen Herb Wreath

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it’s too bad smellovision doesn’t exist yet on the web!

This is the type of thing that doesn’t come across my inbox too often; a gift that simultaneously makes me go “ooh, pretty” and “Ahhh, it smells good.” While I was initially struck by the photos of how stunning Creekside Farm’s Kitchen Herb Wreath is, when I received it, it was the amazingly lush smell of lavender, dill, oregano, sage, and rosemary that won me over. It looks great outside (away from direct light) and also inside, where you can see the naughty cat that isn’t supposed to be on the table. (She argues that the wreath smelled so good she just HAD to be closer to it.) This wreath would be the perfect gift for the Foodie in your life, and if you want a different style, check out my other favorite, the Sunflower wreath. Creekside Farms grows all of their own herbs, and they dry everything on site, truly making these family-created products artisanal.

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Stunning Kitchen Herb Wreath Scents Up The Kitchen

Visit Creekside Farms on Facebook here, and on Twitter here. Want 15% off your order? Use code CURAN. I know that I personally will be making an order for one of these beauties!

Gorgeous Up Close Shot of the Kitchen Herb Wreath by Creekside Farms

Gorgeous Up Close Shot of the Kitchen Herb Wreath by Creekside Farms

4) Natracure Heated Booties

So what if these are technically for Arthritis – after walking a ton of miles this past weekend in the 3-Day, I couldn’t wait to slip these babies on my feet. With separate microwavable gel inserts, you heat up the pads, stick ‘em in the bottom of the super fuzzy velour slippers, slip them on and oooh and ahh your way to toasty relaxation. Better yet, these booties are coated on the inside with a smart gel lining, with 7 botanicals. My feet did actually feel smoother and smelled like a foot that had been freshly scrubbed at a spa. One tip with these: don’t walk in them! Thankfully I Googled it online before I took a step and burst the gel packs, but these booties are meant to be worn 5-10 minutes at a time to heat up your tired tootsies, and they’re worn best when you’re relaxin’ in one spot. These retail for $49.99 and are great for people with foot pain and stiffness, and you can also find a pair designed just for the hands. Time for relaxation!

Cozy and comfy in Natracure's Heated Booties

Cozy and comfy in Natracure’s Heated Booties

5) Goody QuikStyle Brush

Ever since I got my hair cut and colored, I’ve been making an effort to actually style my hair rather than throwing it in a sloppy bun. Part of that means blow drying my hair, and since I’m lazy, I like to exert minimal effort. That’s where the Quikstyle comes in – an awesome, space age looking hair brush that has microfiber tufts between the bristles. I had actually seen this brush in stores and wanted to try it, so when it came through my inbox I figured this would be a fun one to review.

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The awesome Goody Quikstyle

While initially I was skeptical, it does actually dry your hair as you brush through it. And, it’s designed smart, so antimicrobial microfiber keeps the brush fresh and inhibits mold or mildew growth. Seeing is believing, so how about you enter to win one yourself by following the steps below? The Goody Quick Style Paddle Brush is six bucks on Amazon.com, a perfect stocking stuffer for the lady in your life who needs a darling ‘do on the go.

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a Rafflecopter giveaway

I hope you’ll consider some of these goodies for the loved ones in your life this holiday season. What’s on your wishlist?