Monday, December 11, 2023

Day 2: Debrief, Dinners and Jet lag!

Day 2 in Punta Arenas is in the books as we get closer to race day. Fun facts: Sunday is considered a holiday to Chileans and everything is completely shut down- EVERYTHING. Except of course the magical Christmas Chocolate shop that I want to kidnap. 

I still managed to find some wonderful places to eat and found 2 other very nice runner friends to share a dinner with. Sagi from Israel and Daniel from Denmark. I’m always in awe at how friendly runners are both in the race and outside. 

We had our debrief tonight, which is the first time (near) all of the runners got together. I say “near” because there are people living at the base camp that will be participating this year! We will not meet them until we get to camp. During the debrief race director Becca Pizzi shared tons of logistical and race info for us. Becca is not only the reigning winner of the women’s race, but she has won the world marathon challenge (7 marathons, in 7 continents in 7 days) several times! Crazy right? 
Next steps for the race:

  • Monday 12/11 we are to check our checked luggage in and get our boarding passes for the private plane that is waiting on standby
  • Monday evening there will be a review of the weather by the pilots to determine if and when we will leave on Wednesday! 

Trying to pack all of the things, but keep enough behind in case the plane isn’t leaving on Wednesday was a bit of a stressful situation but I grabbed a brownie from the hotel kitchen and muddled through. 
There is a logistics group here that organizes these types of expeditions regularly (flight included). They know the right safety precautions and prepare us for waiting if need be. 
Jet LagIt is BRIGHT out until near 11pm and the sun is back up before 5am. It is throwing my entire body off. I cannot sleep but I’m so tired. It will only get worse when we are in Antarctica and there is 24 hours of sunlight 😬 so today I’m determined to get a long nap in! Maybe I need to back off on the kick-you-in-your-soul coffee I’ve been sucking down. One of the biggest challenges to long distance running is sleep deprivation. I can feel when my body hasn’t had enough rest- it results in a much greater exertion level for the same speed. Given the underfoot conditions of the race, I’ll need all the energy I can get 

Fun Facts RE Punta Arenas and Antarctica 

Everything is named after Ferdinand Magellan in this area due to being right on the Strait of Magellan which is a natural passage between the Atlantic and pacific oceans. Why am I kissing the toe of this statue (which by the way is NOT Magellans toe- he is at the top- but is the toe of an aborigine who is hanging out)? It is supposed to be good luck for a safe return. I would very much like to return from Antarctica safely, so I stuck my lips on this very coppery (likely) germ infested toe.

ANTARCTICA IS A DESERT those in the back, I repeat louder- Antarctica is, in fact, a polar dessert. Let’s break this down. It has such little actualy precipitation that it is considered a dessert. It is also extremely DRY (very little moisture in the air). 
But wait “it has snow!” Is what you’re saying… yes it does but it rarely actually snows (even in winter). The snow BLOWS from extreme winds, but it’s so cold year round that it’s not like the summer months can even make a dent in the ice/snow that is there. It is made up of ice sheets that develop over years and years. No snow melts.. no snowfall is needed. Mind literally blown by this today! 
That’s it for day 2. Day 3 is all about hurrying to wait. Getting all the luggage delivered and then RESTING while we wait to hear the weather report tonight! 

Saturday, December 9, 2023

Arrived and Eating My Way Through Punta Arenas flight hours, 3 planes, 2 layerovers, 1 customs stop and a partridge in a pear tree… and we are here in Punta Arenas, Chile!

When I arrived at the hotel the rooms had not turned over yet so I sought out some kick-you-in-your-soul coffee ☕️and went exploring the city. 24 hours of traveling with very little sleep left much to be appreciate in my ability to summon up any Spanish. I repeatedly told people “thank you in Greek and French. The whole of Patagonia probably thinks I’m a little loco. I found comfort in a dessert restaurant. Yes, people go to these places to get full desserts and coffee and I may move here forever.
In fact, I’ve used my recent baking exploits as a reason to “sample” many desserts already… for “research purposes”. The FOOD in this small city is an out of body experience. Even the simple foods are BEYOND anything you can find in the states. The chocolate tiramisu is from an amazing restaurant called Specechless Patagonia. If you ever visit, make this a stop and absolutely order the traditional Milcaos! They are these little potato bread things and I can’t explain why they are so good… just trust me 🤯

About Punta Arenas
Besides the food, this city is known as the gateway to Antarctica as it sits at the southern tip of South America and Chile. Many expeditions run through here and the city thrives in their summer months on tourists making their way down to the southern continent. It is summer here and in the high 40s / low 50s

The primary language is Spanish… not Greek or French 🤦‍♀️ It seems to be a very quiet area with little traffic (car or foot) and about 18 hours of daylight right now. 

What’s Next?

  • Gear check - tomorrow morning 
  • Runner Debrief: travel and race info, bibs given out, etc Tomorrow evening
  • Update on weather conditions at the debrief to see if we are clear to fly to Antarctica on Tuesday! 
  • PENGUINS! This area has a colony of penguins and I’m going to find them! 
Before all that ^ I need to run to burn just a fraction of the calories consumed today or I won’t fit in the plane to Antarctica.

More to come!

Thursday, December 7, 2023

It’s getting real…

The bags are (almost) packed, trail gear has been tested and this showed up on the Antarctica Ice Marathon Facebook page yesterday. 😬
This shook my soul a little when I saw it. I haven’t been nervous about a marathon in such a long time but part of me loves the nerves. It means I’m taking on a new challenge and doing something very cool. This is something I haven’t been able to do since I became a mom. 

When you become a mom, sometimes you lose a little piece of you (or a big piece). Before kids running, taking on new challenges WAS my life. I’ve been trying to get back to me here and there (learning to bake, taking some Zumba classes) but this is the biggest jump and I’m proud of me.

Travel plans and how to stay updated:
My first plane leaves Cincinnati tomorrow night and I won’t get to Punta Arenas, Chile until Saturday afternoon. Here is the estimated schedule from there:

We have a de-briefing and gear check on Sunday and then we WAIT. The race director and pilots will be watching the weather to determine the flying conditions. If everything looks good, we fly out on Tuesday. What happens if flying conditions are unfavorable? We wait.. and wait… but fingers crossed that Mother Nature is on our side. I’ve been stalking the weather in Union Glacier, Antarctica and was a little surprised that it didn’t just say “cold… duh.” I’ve also been watching the wind conditions out of Punta Arenas. I have no idea how much wind constitutes “dangerous” vs normal but praying for it to clear.

Tracking me… sorta
As I travel to Chile and while I’m there, I’ll be posting updates on Instagram (handle: StephEFit) and my Facebook stories. I’ll update when we are clear to fly!

Union Glacier, Antarctica doesn’t have wifi or cellular service (taking book recommendations!!). The race director will be using a satellite phone to call in race updates and results. Somebody on the mainland side will be posting on their Facebook page found here:

The course is looped, and based on prior years, they will update as we pass check points. I imagine it will look similar to past maps:

As we get closer to the race, I get closer to my fundraising goal supporting Autism Connections in Cincinnati. Please consider supporting me, Mavi, and this great organization. 

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Surprise … bonus Marathon!

T-15 days until the Antarctica Ice Marathon! This is what’s been going on since my last post:

  • I have run 2 marathons and endless hours of PT as I work through some Achilles pain from calf triggers
  • In have also run 2 VERY important races; Michaels very first and second 5ks!
  • Plus… surprise! I signed up for a trail marathon… for this weekend. 

Only 10 days until I start the 24 hour journey to Punta Arenas, Chile to meet the other runners, debrief and wait on the weather report to see when we are cleared to fly! Is it overwhelming? ABSOLUTELY. Am I excited? Also ABSOLUTELY.

#94 and #95
Over the past few weeks I completed the Hudson Mohawk Marathon (NY) and the Louisville Marathon (KY). I was feeling great in NY (running around an 8:10 mile) until mile 20 when I felt my the back of my left ankle lock up completely. Full club foot… so I dragged it for the last 6 miles. I went into the race knowing I had issues with my Achilles but no tears shown during my MRIs. 

The next week I became “that runner” and walked into PT saying “I ran a marathon yesterday and I need to run one in 2 weeks”. Luckily I found a PT that didn’t dismiss me right away and was able to narrow down what was happening: lots of triggers in both of my calves causing those to not work very well. When your calves don’t work, your Achilles take the entire brunt of pushing off causing a ton of tendinitis. The short term some was dry needling to unlock my calves. Have you ever heard of dry needling? It looks like this --> (note: not my calves... I'm usually squeezing my eyes into a pillow as this is happening)

After 2 weeks of therapy, dry needling, putting a heel lift in my shoe and generally taking it easy, I ran the Louisville marathon VERY easy. LIKE VERY EASY. 4:00+. I felt like my achilles ached around a 2-3 in pain at the start but it eventually went away. I was sore the next day, but happy that I was able to run. 

#96... This Weekend? 
As I'm listening to Peloton's Matt Wilpers in my training run say "don't do anything crazy and add extra workouts in your last 2 weeks of training" I was hearing "you should definitely sign up for another marathon... in fact, make it a trail marathon to really test the fates. Insert: The TOPO Trail Marathon. TO be FAIR... I had to get brand new trail running shoes with big lugs to run in Antarctica. I have never worn them and I do not want the first time to be IN Antarctica. Could I have just gone to a trail and run? Well yeah... but I saw this race and felt like fate put it in my path for a reason... to get to 96. Plus I only have another 4 races planned between here and the pig and needed another one. Shhh don't tell my PT. 

My Little Runner:
My main man, Michael, ran his first 5k 2 weeks ago. We took it very very easy doing running/walking intervals. REALLY proud to say that he finished STRONG at 35:40. 

Well last week, he did the Troy Turkey Trot and wanted to beat his first time SO badly. We started with running/walking intervals with LOTS of weaving as there were 4,000 runners! Well at the 1.5mile point he started taking off before the walk portion was over and eventually started doing run/run hard intervals and finished with a 34:26! Crushing his first time by over a min. 

Most importantly he had FUN doing this. He has definitely caught the bug. 

We are NEARING the HALFWAY point of my fundraising goal of $10k to support Autism Connections in Cincinnati. PLEASE consider donating to this amazing group... and supporting me as I take on 26.2 miles in the arctic :) 

Keep Running,

Sunday, October 22, 2023

Antarctica - When, Why, and for WHO

!LONG POST WARNING! You may learn, you may laugh, you may cry... hey you may book a flight to do something CRAZY. So keep reading... 

T-52 Days to Antarctica
We are just over 50 days until I trek down through South America and to Antarctica to complete marathon #95 (assuming I get through 1 more 26 mile jaunt between now and then). The 18th  Antarctica Ice Marathon. This race is touted as being "the world's southern most marathon" with challenges such as temperature (typically -10 to -20C), terrain (running on packed snow and ice), torrential winds (10 to 25 knots), and transit (waiting in Chili for clear weather to travel into, run, and travel back from Antarctica). 

Could I have completed my 100 marathon journey a little easier? Run in the states, closer to home, in temperatures much less painful? SURE. But I wanted to do something challenges; something HARD. Why?...


Since my 50 states marathon adventures, I've had 3 wonderful little boys; Michael (7), Mason (6), and Maverick (4). They are all so unique and amazing in their own ways, but our Mavi has a little something extra special - he is a neuro-diverse SUPERHERO. Just short of his third birthday, he was diagnosed with Autism. 

Why do I say Superhero? Because you have never seen STRENGTH and RESILIANCE, until you've seen a child that function, thinks, and operates completely outside of the culture norm and still finds a way to strive. Imagine being raised by a community of people that couldn't understand you and you can't learn the way 95% of them know how to teach you. Now imagine not only thriving, but doing it with a smile, a genuine love for those crazy people that have no idea how to teach you, and a zest for live that inspires others. \

That's what Mav does for me- his strength and ability to blow past the expectations and limiting beliefs of others makes me feel like nothing is impossible.

Autism Support in N. Kentucky and Cincinnati

Mavi has inspired me to use this incredible opportunity to run in honor of him and in support of one amazing group that helps our autism community directly in Cincinnati. 

WHY? KY and OH are 2 of the LOWEST ranked states for autism support and let me tell you, we feel it in the... 

1. CRAZY wait times (8- 12 months) to even get a diagnosis. A critical thing needed to start getting our children the support and therapies they desperately need
2. After getting the diagnosis, you're good right? NOPE. Even longer wait times to get INTO therapies, with trusted places like Cincinnati Children's Speech therapy on a huge wait list. 
3. Revolving door of Doctors to work with. We got our diagnosis a year and a half ago and Children's has lost 2 doctors in a row and will be on our 3rd as soon as they can get one assigned. 
4. 0 direction on how to handle the education system with special needs. We were handed a standard pack of paper on autism and sent on our way. We are feeling around in the dark on a daily basis. 

#4 is the scariest part! Autism is so unique to each person, so navigating a prognosis, needs, plans, medical, behavioral... it's ALL so unique to each child that nothing is standard. Because of that,
it feels like you're navigating a rare disease for the first time in history, instead of navigating something impacting 1 in 36 children today!

With 1 in 36 children being diagnosed on the spectrum (and growing), the medical infrastructure in cities like Cincinnati HAVE to grow. They have to do better. But until the states get better insurance mandates, grants, and inclusion in the ADDM network, group's like...

In honor of Maverick and the difficulty of his journey so far (and into the future) I'm using the biggest running challenge so far, to bring awareness of the immense need of increased autism support. I have partnered with Autism Connections, supporting individuals with autism (and their families) in the greater Cincinnati area, providing: support, training, social programs and HELP to those that feel lost. I've been there... some days I'm still there. But groups like this consist of individuals that choose to make the time to give families like ours support, so we feel a little less alone. 

My Goal: Raise $10,000 for Autism Connections and help bring critical funding to this group doing so much for the autism families of the greater Cincinnati area. ALL donations stay local to Cincinnati.

I'll be sharing more on: this wonderful charity, my journey (both autism parenting and running), and so much more on my way to Antarctica. Please consider supporting me, Mavi, and Autism connections in this "Antarctica for Autism" fundraiser:

Keeping up my mileage, Achilles pain, finding the right shoes for snow, and adapting to cold weather... QUICKLY!

Keep Running,