Sunday, July 31, 2011

Where I'm walking this week: the Wadden Sea

Yesterday I walked across the Wadden Sea, and it was as awesome as it sounds.

It was a cool and windy afternoon when I arrived at Noordpolderzijl, the smallest sea harbor in the Netherlands located about a half an hour to the north of Groningen. I met up with a group a friends who had all been convinced by our friend Joke (Yoka), the trip organizer, to take part in this Dutch pastime called wadlopen, or mudflat walking in English.

The Wadden Sea is the shallow, narrow part of the North Sea and it lies in between mainland Netherlands and the Wadden Islands. Some of the Wadden Islands are populated and others are uninhabited nature preserves with restricted access. Our walk took us near Rottumeroog, one of the uninhabited islands.

We took a short bus ride with the rest of the group, which consisted of about 45 people, including 4 or 5 tour guides, to the starting point of our walk. After walking over a dam and seeing the large expanse of gray water, and not a lot of dry land, we all started wondering what we had gotten ourselves into. But before we knew it, we were ankle-deep in slick mud, trying our best to keep up with the pace of the experienced guides. 

Professional guidance is key while mudflat walking because the walk needs to be perfectly timed between tides, and only highly trained guides know which areas are safe and shallow enough to cross. There were times during our walk where we had to stop and wait for the tide to recede more, and it was during these pauses that we took the opportunity to eat the snacks we had brought along in our backpacks. Apart from a handful of pauses, we had to keep up the pace so we could reach the boat before the tide started to come back in.

The first hour of the walk was the muddiest and after that I would say that we were walking in at least shin-deep water the majority of the time. At one point we were up to our bellies in water and the current was so strong that it seemed to take a million steps to make it through the dip. About 3 hours into the walk I started regretting my choice not to wear socks under my Converse All-Stars and my feet ended getting pretty cut up by sand and shells. Next time I will definitely wear socks.

After what I think was close to 4 hours, we reached our destination, which was a boat that would take us back to the mainland. The boat was anchored in a bit of water next to a large sand dune. Not long after climbing aboard, however, we were completely surrounded by water as the tide had begun to come in. It would still take 3+ hours, though, for the water to be deep enough for the boat to be able to get us back to shore. While waiting, we changed into some dry clothes, warmed ourselves with soup, and played games to pass the time. We also enjoyed the scenery, which included a couple hundred chubby sea lions.

At just under 9 miles, this is not the longest I have walked but it was certainly the most challenging. I am feeling it today in my leg muscles, and in my beat-up feet. But I'd do it again in a heartbeat!

Below is a video my wadlopen experience.

This week's walk: 

Distance: 8.6 miles (14km)
Time: Around 4 hours
Weeks Left: 7
Amount Left to Raise: $603

Friday, July 29, 2011

Where I'm walking this week: Dwingelderveld National Park

My parents-in-law celebrated 50 years of marriage this year and to mark the occasion they invited all of us (5 children, their partners, and 11 grandchildren) to Drenthe, a province located in the north-western part of the Netherlands. We stayed on the edge of Dwingelderveld National Park, an area perfect for outdoor activities such as biking and walking. Following the trend of this summer, we did experience a lot of rain throughout the week but I still managed to stay dry on one long walk and also during a few short ones.

I recruited my sister-in-law, Suzan, to join me on a 12.5 mile (20km) walk and she did great - especially considering she hasn't been training like I have been (trying to). Along the route she introduced me to "planking" a fad that involves lying flat on your stomach and having your picture taken. So, here I am making my photographic debut on this blog while planking on a log.

Dwingelderveld National Park has a landscape rich in diversity consisting of heavily wooded forests, marshland, and pastoral land for sheep, cattle and goats. We pretty much walked from one side of the park to the other during our walk, so we saw a bit of everything.

At the end of our walk, we met up with some of the group at an adorable little forest cafe called de Bospub, where the service was as good as the pannenkoeken (Dutch pancakes). I can't think of a better way to refuel after a long walk than eating pannenkoeken.

I received an email from Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure today reminding me that there are only 7 weeks left until the walk in Seattle. I really need to increase my mileage and I will try really hard to walk closer to 20 miles during my next walk. Finding the time necessary to train properly has definitely been my biggest challenge so far.

The other major component of this journey is, of course, the fundraising. I still have more than $600 to raise and any contribution would be greatly appreciated. :-) Click here to donate:

Tomorrow I will be heading back up to the northern part of the Netherlands to do a walk that I am very excited about. I will update upon my return!

This week's walk: 

Distance: 12.5 miles (20km)
Time: Just under 3 hours
Weeks Left: 7

Amount Left to Raise: $683

Friday, July 15, 2011

Where I'm walking this week: Amsterdam Center and Amsterdamse Bos

I met up with an old sorority sister earlier this week and took her and her travel buddy on a walking tour of Amsterdam. The weather was ideal for walking along the canals, with the occasional pit stop to refresh ourselves with a cold, Dutch beer. I am so accustomed to getting around the city by bike that I tend to underestimate distances when walking so we walked a little longer than I intended, especially since two of us were wearing wedges.

My second walk of the week was today and was also shorter than it should have been but we have a sick kid at home and schedules had to be rearranged so I'm happy that I got in a walk at all. We have had a few days of solid rain here so I was happy to be able to get in a few miles in some good weather. Today's walk took place in the Amsterdamse Bos (Amsterdam Forest), which is another one of the locations I give fitness classes in every week. It is also where the Mom in Balance - Run for Pink Ribbon will be held, a race that I have been very busy organizing!

Lots of branches on the path after a night of heavy wind and rain

The Amsterdamse Bos is technically considered a city park and is one of the largest in Europe. It was created during the 1930's, at a time when unemployment rates in the Netherlands were soaring. The planting of the Amsterdamse Bos provided jobs for more than 20,000 workers over a period of 5+ years and their work is now enjoyed by more than 7 million visitors annually.

And that brings this blog up-to-date! I really hope to get a long walk in next week but it is promising to be yet another hectic week. The week after that I will be on vacation though with lots of opportunities for walking, and at the end of the month, I have a very fun walk planned. Stay tuned!

This week's walk (#1): 

Distance: 4 miles (6.5km)
Time: a few hours with pit stops

This week's walk (#2): 

Distance: 6.2 miles (10km)
Time: 1.5 hours

Weeks Left: 9
Amount Left to Raise: $683

Where I'm walking this (last) week: Disneyland Paris

Once again, I didn't get a long walk in last week because I was off having fun at Disneyland Paris with the family, but walking around the park and being on my feet all day should count for something, right?!

(psssst....all the photos on this blog can be enlarged by clicking on them)

Eric and Jack in front of the Disney Castle

This  Last week's walk: 

Distance: No idea
Time: 6 hours or so on my feet
Weeks Left: 10

Amount Left to Raise: $683

Worsten voor Borsten (Wieners for Boobs) BBQ

I'm a little behind on posting so I'm going to backtrack a bit.

The Worsten voor Borsten (Wieners for Boobs) BBQ was a great success! Our house was only barely put back together after some home improvements, but luckily the weather was nice so we were all able to hang out on the deck. Thank you to everyone that came, and thanks for the donations! 

Multipurpose balloons! Here it's a heart.

And here, well, it fits the theme of the BBQ!

My walk two weeks ago was kind of boring, hence the lack of pictures. I've been really, really busy lately with some home renovations, race planning, sick kids, and the like which has all been interfering with my walk training. I've been sneaking in 5-10 mile walks when I can but mostly they have been squeezed in between other obligations. 

This week's walk The walk from two weeks ago: 

Distance: 5 miles (8km)
Time: 1 hours 15
Weeks Left: 11

Amount Left to Raise: $683