Sunday, December 23, 2012

I had a good talking to at dinner last night the minute I brought up my plans to complete this endurance challenge. I left quite discouraged with the mantra that I was way out of my element, didn't belong in the company of fast runners that do ultras for a life sport and training or not there was no way in hell I could sustain a 4MPH pace for 50 miles despite making it a point to train at that pace, especially if there are hills. While I gathered myself together this morning to get out there and say FTS to anyone who doubts my ability and wrestle with whether or not I have to curtail how often I chose to be in the company of such doubters I honestly asked myself a serious question, am I in or am I out? I am in and to anyone who has the nerve to say I cannot accomplish something I say this is a FREE world and even if May 4th comes along and I only finish a fraction of the event I will know in my heart that I tried, it was for a good cause, and was better for it. SO pardon my French when I say FU! I went out this morning with several goals in mind. Clearing my head of nonsense was one of them, as was sustaining a steady pace for 2 solid hours on varied terrain. Guess what, 8 miles ravenous later I can honestly say I am well on my way up that mountain! It will be ugly at times (see above photo) but I will be persistent.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

day 13 - half way back to a habit

I have been diligent about working out on the schedule I set for myself. I am enjoying the way it feels, remembering the good, even relishing in the sore muscles. I am still excited over this venture yet I am scared too. Accomplishing a 50 mile trek in one day, no matter where it is is a long way to go. I will do this laughing at myself, in spite of myself, and for myself! I was in Lake Placid this past weekend and enjoyed getting back on my long track skates. Its been too long. I have spent this week mostly on my feet. They key I am told is to finish every task with a 5 minute walk. There is a 5 minute passing time between classes, finish each task with a 5 min walk, the miles and time on your feet will add up. Today's agenda? Going for a hike! Tomorrow is intervals. Sat I hope to hit the first leg of the course. (finish every task with a five min walk) Thanks goes to Bob Tysen for the help with great fitting shoes (and the 5 min tip)!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

day 5- procrastination lost!!!

Day 5- I had planned on getting out right after school to go for my first trail walk/run interval set then hitting the weight room. I actually caught myself procrastinating. I eventually won! I managed 5 miles with 30 min of running and a full olympic lift workout. I am a bit sore now but totally pumped!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Day 3- Work is definitely getting in the way

Day 3- I woke up at 4:30 planning on attempting to get out before my 11 hour work day. I heard the rain and decided that I just wasn't into getting wet until it was time to take a shower so I rolled over for another 45min. I got up, got myself to work, brought my clothes to work out planning on trying to get out the door right at 2:05 so I could get in a 45 min effort prior to my afternoon class. That didn't happen. I finally arrived home around 8PM and yes, thanks to my wonderful husband I managed to get out around 8:30. It was short and sweet 35min or so, but it was not blown off.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Day 2- inspired by another blog

Day 2: I know I am on a quest that is a long shot, but it has me out there and as my friend Cathy said you never know what tomorrow will bring unless you seek it out. This morning I woke up, pulled on my running clothes, ate a properly sized breakfast (portion control is also part of seeking balance), did some research over coffee (started with trying to find a couch to 50 app- there isn't one). I came across this blog though, that had me excited, especially since I read it wrong and will maintain that what I read is the truth, going from the couch to 50 will be easier than the couch to 26.2. Then again even though I am out of shape I wouldn't exactly call myself a couch potato and there is that fact that I know how to approach training and how to approach the mental side of training. So there you go. I am out the door and hitting the pavement. This morning my goal was to find out just how fast I could walk in the 45 min I gave myself, and how long I could sustain that pace without being more than a step or two above my comfort level. The rule I gave myself was that the pace I chose had to be maintained even if I was climbing or descending for that matter. What I learned 4.3 is the number for 30 min (I lost my focus after that because a friend was walking in the neighborhood at a slower clip and I figured it was better to accompany her as she was just starting out and possibly score more milage than it was to continue on my route and be done in 15min) I walked another 30 min with her then decided after I couldn't regain my pace I would call it a day (I still had to walk home up a monstrous half mile long hill). So there you have it, day 2. Tomorrow presents its own challenge. I have a 7AM-6PM work day with 90 min of commuting. Time to get creative and plan it now. I know if I wait until I get home I will struggle to go out. I also know that being up before 5 is not going to work either. There is the hour between school and when I have to leave for my after-school class that I could spend on the trail? I could also use it as one of my interval days, which means that the overall timeframe can be less. I am thinking...

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Day 1- trying to figure out why I am so intrigued

I am planning on attempting an ultra challenge in May, so much so that I will fork over the $150. registration fee on Friday. Why am I doing this? Three reasons: 1. My friend Marty gave me an assignment to chase motivation and find balance to be able to return to myself. 2. Its a great cause. I have said many times before that there is something about that ridge that draws me in. It's my connection to things unworldly. This event benefits the preservation of that open space. 3. Kenny and I have been trying to go on a trekking trip that will involve 10-15 miles of hiking a day in an extreme climate (above the circle). This will get me ready to attempt that. So day one, I figure I am already used to 2-3 mile walks in my hilly neighborhood. Today I changed it up a bit trying to go uphill as much as possible. I also tried to maintain a pace of 3.5 miles and hour uphill (faster on the flats). I walked for about an hour with my leggy husband keeping pace. It doesn't sound like much but it's a start. I plan on approaching this as I would any endurance challenge, train 6 days a week, increase 10% a week. It worked in 1999 like a charm when I went from riding 3 miles on my first training ride to 350 miles 4 months later. I can do this! (who knows maybe I will get tot he point of running) What did we see? Walking is interesting. The world slows down tremendously. For the past month whenever we have walked the neighborhood we have witnessed the changes left by SANDY. Each time we have seen something different. What amazes me is how much cleanup is still left 5 weeks later. Today there are still houses with trees resting where a roof once was, massive amounts of logs in yards, twisted wire still laying all over the place, and piles of wood chips everywhere. Guess we won't need to find mulch this spring.

Friday, November 2, 2012

It is all so surreal. NY is a different place. I left my house at 3:30AM this morning to head to LGA for a 7AM flight. Why so early? First, traffic is a nightmare, especially when there is a mandatory HOV restriction going into Manhattan and the checkpoint is at the airport. Secondly, Kenny needed to get into the city prior to the opening of that HOV checkpoint (6AM). We played it safe. On the way we passed a gas station with a line more than a mile long (at 3:45 AM). We passed two more stations without gas. We didn't hit any traffic, maybe it was due to the gas shortage, maybe it was due to the train restoration? Anyway, as I arrive at LGA 2.5 hours early, I am bid goodbye along with some rumbles of MAD MAX. Not sure I will have a ride home on Sunday, I may have to share a cab into NYC and hop on Metro North. After clearing security, I headed to get something to eat, I waited almost an hour for oatmeal and coffee, the airport sputtering a bit in the aftermath. While I sat and waited to board, I listened to a newly married Hasidic couple, she was pregnant with her first child. She was speaking about how hard this storm was on her sister, with 3 kids under 4. She lives on the top floor of a 15 floor building. Without an elevator she has had to walk up carrying 2 children totaling 45lbs combined, her husband refusing to help her as its deemed woman's work. Matter of fact, he claimed that the elders should shut the elevators in the building for a week each year so the women in the building could get used to such burdens. The reading I happened to be doing this week? Unorthodox so I found this eavesdropping both interesting and SAD. Chalk it up to a different culture. Kenny arrived in downtown Manhattan, still dark, and eerie as he put it. I can't help thinking about the possibility of Post Traumatic Stress as I am sure that eeriness draws up all kinds of post 911 junk (it would in me anyway). Southern NY is a mess, a much wider spread mess than that horrible day 11 years ago, but just the same, a dark downtown has to be heart-wrenching! I boarded my flight and took to the heavens just as the days light was coming up, the electricity of the landscape should have been evident, it was archaically dark, and looked undeveloped. It was hard to get over. People here don't understand, actually I am feeling like I have no right to even claim how bad it was, my neighborhood exploded and several buildings will require being torn down, but I don't live on the coast. I don't live in Long Beach, or Seaside, or on Fire Island. Sea water did not accompany the wind. In that sense we were good. Trees were just chewed up and spit out like projectiles. You know the way HS kids throw pencils into the drop ceilings whenever you have a sub? I am in Milwaukee now, removed from it, but find myself drawn to the pictures that I couldn't see all week. People don't understand,that is unless they experienced the gas lines of the 70's or maybe experienced Andrew or Katrina. I am not sure I will have power when I get back? I am not sure I will even be back to school on Monday? I arrived here a bit battered and so tired. I was not aware of how incredibly spent I was until I was able to relax a bit. Tomorrow, after a good nights sleep, I will finally enjoy watching skating.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

our corner of the northeast

Yes we are alive, I think. Its cold this morning in the house (48 degrees)and promises to be even colder tonight. Our camp stove is being put to good use,paper plates and plastic utensils have new meaning, we run the generator for the fridge and the septic and our pre-storm water supply is holding up. Yesterday Ken and I spent the second morning cutting and moving a tree that fell in a neighbors yard then went to our friend Pete's to take a long needed shower. The hot water felt so good I could have stayed in there all day and I was really sleepy when I came out. Watching the devastation on TV was an eye opener, made me think about just how lucky we were despite the destruction I have witnessed here. We stopped at Home Depot on the way home and scored a $72. oil radiator for 40. because it was mis-marked, score! We also stopped at DiCicco's for a beer and heard about Janine's horrifying walk up 118 during the storm from someone else who lived the same thing… Dinner consisted of pizza and BBQ steak with Mikey and Kathleen. We ended the night with Young Frankenstein with friends. Twitter feeds and the radio tell us that LGA just reopened this morning, maybe, and because I don't have school I am hoping to catch a flight out between now and Friday to see Christopher Grizzy Windman race, see friends and escape this mess (the idea of sitting in an ice rink seems tropical) . Life is funny sometimes…laugh until it hurts!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

and I get tossed again

I went out for a ride this morning, not really feeling it. Actually cranky was really the best way to describe how I was feeling. I just was not into anything, my head hurt, my lungs were tight, my mood was irritable at best and I felt like I was being tossed out of the house with my bike against my will. It is a pretty nice day out there, I will give you that, but all I wanted to do was sleep in, which also seemed to escape me. I have been restless since 3AM. Kenny dropped me at the trailhead on his way to the grocery store. It wasn't more than 10 minutes into my ride that I realized I had ridden through one of my usual get off my bike and panic points without thinking about it. I am beginning to think that leaf cover is a great psychological buffer. Today, however, I learned how they also hide a multitude of things that I NEED to be aware of such as sticks that jump up and bite your back wheel, root outcroppings that require some technical finesse, and then there is the rock garden that sits on the bed of scree, more realistically it is a washout drainage area that has everything from small pebbles to boulders that are shin height and not secure in any sense of the word. Yep, I found my front wheel wedged, my momentum stopped, my bike twisted and my leg still attached to it because the mud in the cleat had managed to cement it to the pedal. The worst part about this tossing that had me falling into the same stuff that hung me up in the first place was my mood, I was even more ornery now. Damn that hurt and yes it already left a mark. I pulled my whiney ass up out of the rubble and dusted myself off, took a few steps to make sure I could and got back on the bike. It really was pretty and quite honestly not such a bad way to spend an hour. I took the wrong turn and found myself all turned around in a pretty technical cluster-f#%K in places. There was the drop-off that almost had me in a really green smelly swamp because of wet roots in the turn right at the end of it and the numerous obscured logs that were hiding under leaves, one was big enough to have to J-hop. Then there was another damn skinnie across a deeper mud puddle that then one I have issues with. Thankfully, I owned most of that one and only got my foot wet at the end. From the looks of it the last guy was not so lucky. How did this crank fest end? I cut my ride 2 miles short and had Kenny pick me up where the trail crossed the road. He was on his way home from the store and it was on the way. My brain was too fried from the unexpected to manage the technical stuff I knew was ahead. Now? I'm cleaned up, looking for something for lunch, very sore in places,tired enough that I may nap before ice, and not so cranky anymore.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

I'm gonna ride my bike now...

A perfect day to be tossed off that bloody skinnie again deep into that mud puddle only this time it ate me up and cut my ride to 30 min (I was kinda cold, stretched and muddy) In the end though I was all smiles! I know that one day this fat chick will beat that skinnie (no harm in trying anyway)!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Leaf cover

I decided to go out for a ride this afternoon at 3:30 but by the time I got all the nonsense out of the way my afternoon was whittled away to one hour before it would be dark enough to need lights. Yes I had them, but gathering gear seemed for some reason to be part of my problem. Eventually I left that note. I wasn't at Ninham, or Brewster Woods, or even Graham Park in Yorktown. By the time I got all my crap together I was in the woods along the power lines. At first I was dismayed at that but then when I realized that the leaf cover was hiding all those obstacles from me so that I could ride over them instead of contemplate them I found myself doing loops so I could do tricks. I managed a bunch of small drops and one medium sized one, a bunch of rock wall crossings, a few rock gardens, a few root tangles, loads of logs and a few skinnies including one that threw me knee deep into a puddle with lots of thick mud at the bottom. I rode home cursing the meager 30lbs I had in my tires when I got out of the woods but I was smiling, wheezing, and fully satisfied. Tomorrow? I hit the ice!

Monday, October 8, 2012

getting technical

I have had my Gary Fischer 29"mountain bike for two years now. I got it because I was getting bored on the road. I used to love riding in the woods but as I age I haven't been finding the courage to go over some of those technical obstacles and that has meant that I haven't progressed as far as I would like to, that is, until now. This weekend Kenny was away and I spent part of it visiting with Alison and my mom. Alison found this really great group of women to ride with and has been riding quite a bit in the past year. We went out for a ride the other day. I think the fact that she is an elementary school teacher makes her more patient than most. We both had a bunch of WAHOO moments and a blast in the 90 minutes we shared. What changed? Well, there is determination to own myself again. The there was this ride in Huntington State Park a few weeks ago that where there were 4 women my age and two guys willing to both teach and spot. I didn't ace that ride but it left a definite impression on me, enough to make me not bail on anything other than the super-technical stuff with Alison. I still couldn't j-hop really large logs, ride really long boardwalk type skinnies (to my credit they were soaked through and covered with leaves in places), or ride root and rock gardens. I tried almost everything, including some drop offs. There were so many WAHOO moments that I was stoked. What does that mean? Well today I rode in Graham Knolls Park. I decided that I would try everything, bike more that I got off, and if I got off I would at least retry the obstacle. It was like those workouts where you realize you are in shape. I managed every log (even j-hopping a few), I tried a few skinnies on purpose, I went over a bunch of rock gardens without hesitation, rock walls were a piece of cake and I left that park feeling accomplished despite my snail's pace. It has been a busy weekend riding and skating. This week will see the same. My muscles as so sore but I find myself renewed and excited about working out. I can't wait to ride with the girls again next Sunday!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Adventures with my Best Friend

I found myself in Maine again, almost a month later, This time with the love of my life. We were camping. Nostalgia really, a combination of an anniversary trip that couldn't happen and a chance to do some of the things we had always wanted to do but couldn't (when the kids were young). We headed to Acadia National Park. We started our week off with an incredible concert, Jackson Browne at the Beacon. Tent, bikes, and hiking gear loaded, we hit the road the next morning at 8AM. On the way, we stopped in Portland for lunch at this funky little place called Po" Boys & Pickles. It was as if we couldn't cross that border without indulging in seafood. Our first order of business after setting up camp and renewing our National Park Pass? We toured some of the carriage roads from the Hulls Cove visitor center. It was an easy 1.5 hour ride, done by lunch (though we did eat that on the trail). We headed to Sand Beach after that for a quick dip in the icy water before relaxing the rest of the day, contemplating the lecture about the precipice trail we received that morning. Climbing that was on Kenny's bucket list. Mine, not so much. The ranger managed to freak me out with tales of this girls death from missing a wrung on one of the ladders. She made sure to tell me how young and FIT she was, a college athlete even. to get an idea of what this trail is like check this out I am coupling it with a review from trip advisor which sums it up: “Terrifying but Exhilarating!” Reviewed September 8, 2009 4 people found this review helpful This is a straight vertical climb up a granite face of a mountain. Spectacular views from the top and worth every second. I'm in very good physical shape and used to frequent hiking, but I found this challenging due to the fear factor (I also have a healthy fear of heights - well, not of the heights - but of falling off of them!). There are ladder rungs where you literally have a 15 inch ledge 20 feet down and then nothing but a 200 foot fall below you. The Park Ranger told us they usually have at least one death a year from this trail - but generally due to people being unprepared, not watching the weather or hurrying rather than thinking through their next moves. We watched a lot of foolish people attempting this (one in flip flops carrying a purse), and a few with children who were absolutely petrified with fear. We encountered two people crying inconsolably along the route with ther climbing partners trying to calm them down. With proper footwear (good gripping soles), agility, and good physical fitness, this is a terrific trail - but be warned that there is some level of rock climbing involved (actually finding handholds and scrambling yourself up 8-10 foot sections of unlevel granite). We descended down Beachcroft (beautiful views of the other side - but pretty steep - not recommended for kids or those out of shape) and caught the bus back to the parking area for Precipice. Bear Brook is supposedly the easiest route down. We got back to the parking lot midday to discover that Precipice is a spectator sport - there were throngs of people with picnic lunches and binoculars just spectating and watching people attempting. We dissuaded a few folks who were thinking of climbing the trail with young children (like 4 year olds....), and talked to a few people who got 1/4 of the way up and turned around. We loved it - but it's not for the faint of heart. Kenny read my face right, the woman absolutely, unequivocally, scared the shit out of me. Which I tried all week to get over. I so wanted to hike this trail so Kenny could check it off his list. The next morning we were off and climbing, Acadia Mtn. followed by a short bike and swim that afternoon. Acadia was one of those hikes that we had been advised not to take our kids on when they were little. It was super steep with LOTS of tall stairs. We went up and over, planning on climbing St Saveur with it but then this couple told us it wasn't a bald and not worth the effort. We skipped it, and planned on lengthening our hike by walking the cliff edge to Flying Mtn. Figures, the woman sent us down a closed trail (peregrine nesting sight). Instead we looped back and chose to fill the rest of the day with a short ride and swim. The next day we headed out for an extended trip by bike. We climbed about 3 miles and descended 1.5 only to have Kenny announce he had a flat and despite having tubes for my 29er, I had nothing that would fit the 26" wheel that was in distress. It was a slime tire and did however have a patch kit, so I wasn't exactly worried about a flat, besides who gets a flat on a MTN bike on a carriage road? I pull over and hear the hiss, I see all this slime leaking out of the where the tire and rim meet and I think it was the valve stem that went and it must be a gaping hole that cannot heal itself. I pull the wheel off, get the tube out just as it stops leaking (of course). I decide to give it a once over since I do have it OFF the bike and I see what looks like debris sticking out of the tire so I pull on it. It was this white, thread like thing and as I pulled it out of the tire I am realizing that I just unplugged the slime patch (it figures). So I pull out the patch kit only to find the glue dried up. We were apparently batting a thousand at this point. I managed to force more slime out of the tire it wouldn't plug things up anymore but maybe it would help me hold the patch on, or at the very least it would help the duct tape I was about to use? We filled the tire with 35 lbs and headed back the way we came, stopping every mile to refill the air which would drop to 20lbs. We had so many people stop and ask if they could help, funny, not one had any patches, not one had a spare tube much less one I could throw money at. One guy even stopped and told us he had air (a CO2 pump in fact). I asked if he had a patch or a tube, he said no, all he had was a pump. I have a question for him, what would he have done if he was in our position? It was like we were the only ones who were semi- prepared for this outing. On the way back we stopped for lunch. When we got back to the car we headed into Bar Harbor bought some patches and tubes then headed back out for a 10 mile ride on a different loop. Here the biggest challenge was dealing with all those people who do stupid things on bikes, like park perpendicular on a bridge that is at the bottom of a steep hill or ride taking up the whole trail, forcing you to dodge and weave around them on a blind corner. There was this guy walking up a significant climb in the middle of the trail near a blind spot. When I came up on him and politely told him I would like to pass him he asked me what was stopping me. I told him the blind corner up ahead would put me in danger of being hit from someone descending. To which he saye, I'm watching so its safe. I asked him to move right, to which his companion says I have been telling him that all day. He told both of us where to go... people can be such fools. After that we headed into town for a beer and some steamers. Why this detail? We met two of the coolest people (Becky and Liz) who just happened to be our camping neighbors, literally. It made the rest of the week really nice as we kept bumping into them. Our final day of activity sadly was Thursday, when we attempted to climb the west ridge of Cadillac Mtn. We heard it was such a great climb and one that was very challenging. It would be a consolation for not climbing Precipice. We couldn't find parking anywhere near the trailhead. We chose the GORGE path instead. This was a hike up a riverbed with steep walls, large steps, and multiple river crossings. If there had been more water it would have been a terror. About .5 miles from the top the trail starts its non-technical climb that in places felt like a little slip would have you hurling down a cliff at breakneck speed. There was one place where I dug in both my fingernails into the tiniest of hand holds and my feet into an even smaller foothold. Oh I was so happy I was wearing barefooters, a pair of hiking boots or sneakers would not have allowed me to feel the pressure I needed to not slip. We ended our week with a lazy day and dinner at this crazy place called Nemos where we were entertained by the local crowd and disheartened by a lobsterman who seemed so gracious until some guy ordered a 4 lb lobster at 10/lb when he can't even get 2. He immediately looked forlorn and soon got up and left. My thoughts are with the lobsterman who cannot make ends meet this year. Lobster prices are so low due to many different factors. We spent our last night in a tent with 2 inches of water in it. Packed up our gear, ate breakfast out and picked up 10 of our own clawed hitchhikers. Yesterday we had a feast fit for kings with our closest friends. My only hope is that we bought them from a lobsterman rather than a distributor. Sometimes that line is hard to understand, especially when it comes to packing them to ship a long distance. Summer is over in a few days, things will get crazy busy again. I only hope that this trip stays with me enough to ease that transition.

Friday, August 3, 2012

I am so tired

I have spent the last two weeks at camp. I was working with 5-11 year olds in clay. I thought it would be a piece of cake. Man there is a reason that most people have babies young. I have found that I have spent almost every drop just trying to keep them occupied enough so that they stay out of trouble. I think they had fun. I know I did. With that said, life has been crazy, but who's isn't. I have been working really hard at playing hard. I am hoping that by winter Mike will be coaching me on the oval. Yes, I plan on racing long track again, I think? A few former team mates from my college swimming days have decided to make a girls weekend out of the Alumni meet. I am planning on getting in the water. If I have the courage to do that I think I will have the courage to race on the frozen stuff. I think? It has been tough without Chris around pushing me. He moved to the Twin Cities area about a month ago. I miss him, but then again, I miss all my kids, even Mikey who still lives here. My empty nest has allotted me much more time to occupy my world with things I want to explore more. My clay life has been exciting too. I have been making some different work. Stuff I am really proud of. I have this feeling that this is just the beginning. I am not thinking about this one, I know it!

Saturday, April 21, 2012


I had dinner with Pete and his nephew last night and the topic of religion came up. Pete's nephew was presenting a paper at SUNY Stonybrook this week on the intertwining of Catholicism and Mayan culture. The conversation around this fascinated me. It was about the origins of faith, the parallels in every culture on this planet, and how at times the western variety religious teaching could be pretty insular.
My parents were an interfaith couple in a time when "the faiths" even if they were both "Christian" didn't mingle. I grew up hearing that the faith I was being raised in was the only "true" faith and that non-believers would surely go to hell, or purgatory, or somewhere really, really unpleasant. I grew up thinking that maybe my mom, even though she was a protestant, would be saved from certain doom just because she showed up at the catholic church twice a week to drop us off at Mass and CCD. Then later having to explain to my own children that daddy would surely not burn in HEdoublehockeystix for being Jewish and that "heaven" was not secular and full of separate faith-based rooms. My journey through life has led me to do some extensive research on religion and quite often I venture there metaphorically with my artwork. Why? I think it is that one word that stands out which is MYSTERY. That word "mystery"intrigues me. The risk of wonderment is almost as great as the RISK of jumping off a cliff and in most of my life. It is what drives me. I love flying by the SEAT of my pants! Despite leaving the "church" 10 years ago though, I have yet to give up my faith, that is TOO risky so I study other things as if I am searching for a reason to let go completely. Yet secretly, I pray that what I was taught to believe in will eventually stop being hypocritical and come around to the true meaning of the word catholic: broad scoped, liberal, open to ideas, and universal.

I eventually got back in my car and headed home just catching the tale end of This American Life. The episode: Return to the Scene of the Crime. Act 3: Our Man of Perpetual Sorrow, Dan Savage.

"Keeping you in my thoughts"

Thursday, March 8, 2012

In Search of The Ghost Train

I grew up in this town and have always been so incredibly intrigued by its history thanks to a third grade teacher who made every kid in the district passionate about it. Thanks Mrs. Egan. Then there was my friend's mom, Doris, who is now the town historian, who I adored, that made that history come alive. Despite being a relative outsider (my kids have more legacy in this town than I do) I am in love with this place.

A few days ago, Kenny and I were hiking and while I stopped to take a photo of an old foundation I found this cache. At first I was sure it was going to be something hunting related, only to find out that it was a geo-cache. The rest was history. I have spent more time than I should this past week, thinking about it, plotting strategy and waypoints…uh hello, reality is calling…you would have thought I was planning that expedition to the top of the world, which I had told myself at 10 that I would do when I was  55. Well, I have 8 years to go and honestly no real desire to die climbing. I can't bare to be above 9K feet for too long without a massive headache I can't imagine 29k. (oops, sorry got a bit sidetracked- that was a whole other story).

So today, it was beautiful. My meetings were over by 3. My work was done by 4. I drove home, music blasting out the sunroof and got the urge to go treasure hunting. I decided to go on the quest for the ghost train. It was late when Roseanne and I started down this abandoned railroad bed. Leave it to me to decide to follow way-points in the woods during a solar storm. We walked past the first cache while I was trying to get the coordinates correct, oh yea, another stupid point, I was in a rush so i figured I could enter them on the fly. This did not work out so well. I spent stupid time trying to get it correct. we walked almost  mile past the first waypoint because I had a typo. Remember the Little Rascals episode, the First Round Up, when the kids went camping? When we figured it out we were so deep into the woods, had lost track of time,  and it was already 6:10. we were loosing light fast. We decided to turn around and head back in the interest of making it out of the woods before it was too dark. Put it this way, I was glad I had a hoodie on as there was this BAT who decided to make us feel like we were trespassing. Then there was the train whistle in the background right as i saw the fox run across our path. On the way home I decided that i was disappointed that i missed that cache, looking at the map I know I must have looked in the tree its in. Now I am determined to complete this one. Until tomorrow?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

purging the past

This post isn't what you might think. I have spent the past few months trying to go through our stuff. mostly because I am trying to downsize our clutter. One of the things that I seem to have collected is cookbooks. I am not talking about your latest and greatest fad things from today. I am speaking of the latest and greatest from the 20's, 30's, 40's and 50's, etc…there seems to be an incredible amount from that casserole age.

I have been making my own bread exclusively for the past 2 weeks or so. It came out of the desire to have a whole grain product that had a lot of flavor with zero salt and only needed fat. So far I have made oatmeal bread, a dark rye, and this afternoon a whole wheat polenta bread. While I started to think about culling cookbooks I decided to make some recipes from them first. I wanted to "test" things out before I dismissed the "old". The CIA cookbook is my latest keeper. Published in 1969 it has some interesting recipes. One thing I decided was that I would also pay close attention to serving sizes. I learned that we have expanded our portions greatly. Actually that revelation was not a new one but the actual portion sizes when I stuck to them were about 1/3 of what we are accustomed to now.

I made some meatballs tonight- it called for 3/4 of a pound of ground beef, 2 eggs and breadcrumbs along with a range of spices. The recipe served 7-9 people (and made between 28-32 meatballs). Think about that  for a minute, less that a pound of meat to feed 8 people. I encountered this thought in Korea a few years ago- the average serving size of meat per person was about 70- 90grams, about 2 oz per person. What was surprising to me is the calorie count for this recipe, nothing special in it, each meatball was about 150 calories so my serving actually was limited to 300 calories, not the 450 for the average called for serving.

These vintage books are fascinating though, less Americanized than I would have suspected too considering they were from that "wonder bread age". So as I work my way through them eliminating the salt, halving the butter and sugar and keeping to the suggested serving I am learning a great deal about both my mother and grandmother and Kenny's mother and grandmother(s) from the notes that they have left behind.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Conquering mountains! OK molehills is a better description.

Yesterday Kenny and I decided to go out for a ride, only his road bike had a mechanical issue so in the interest of time we decided to head out on the mtn bikes. Neither of us could decide where to go, Stewart Boundary Lands, Fahnstock, the Horse Farm, Blue Mtn Lake, Huntington State Park, Wilton Woods, Mianus Gorge, Ninham, Taconic Hareford, do you get my point, too much to choose from and one of us really hates mountain biking. In the interest of making a decision that did not involve too much preparation or thought I decided to just tour the dirt roads that are inhabited by most of this country's 1%. I admit that I uttered WTF under my breath a few times, but other than trying not to feel less than by gawking atmulti-million dollar real-estate I was just enjoying the sunshine and being out with the coolest guy on the planet!

Today, Kenny bagged the bike for the gym so I was on my own. I decided to do the same as yesterday but making it a much longer ride with even more challenging hills. Who knows maybe I will be trail ready by the end of the muddy season. the thing about riding on a dirt road with a mountain bike is that I am far less likely to hop off at the sight of a steep incline. In other words I ride much more. When it comes to the paved links in-between proves more difficult too.

What can I say, it was a gorgeous day for a ride. Tomorrow? Maybe I will actually get into the woods!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Is your head screwed on right?

Apparently my new chiropractor has just informed me that mine was not. Kenny wants to know why I had to pay money to hear that as he has known that for years. All I can say is what a difference an adjustment makes. Other than that, its been one of those really slow days. I spent most of it trying to get caught up on school work so that next week registers low on the stress scale. I hope it was a good decision.

So the chiropractor asked me if I was aware that I hold my breath a lot? Hmm, never really focused on it. I guess its another thing to add to my mindfulness quest. She suggested I learn to meditate. Its funny, our friend Joey tried to encourage the same thing this past summer. I have been thinking about his reasons more than hers. His were stress reduction thoughts, hers were more technical.

I think about this. Joey is just younger than Justin and such a balanced young man. A speedskater and member of the US Sprint Team he has been quite the inspiration to me. This past summer he was a wonderful influence on Chris while we were out in Salt Lake. Joey started his season with wonderful results only to be taken out with an injury in December which has been heartbreaking to many I am sure. (Joey, if you read this, which I hope you will, know that we are thinking about you and remember, as you would most likely say to me "positive energy only for the next few weeks no matter what you are going through". You can do this. You are strong! There will be an ax and a big log waiting for you when you recover!)

I am off to focus on my breathing among other things...

Thursday, February 16, 2012

being mindful is exhausting

Mindfulness: the Buddhist practice of pouring 100% of your focus into the activity you are engaging in.

My health has been on a roller-coaster ride lately. I have seen my doctor more times in the past 14 days than I have in all the years I have been going to him, well almost. I have to say that despite doing all that I am supposed to do, I am getting mediocre returns. It is certainly teaching me about patience. So where do I go from here?

 In the past two weeks I have been making an effort to try to be mindful about a great deal of my life from eating to work. I have learned a great deal about how this sense of hyper focus works. Its exhausting and quite difficult to mindfully devote your heart, soul and body to one activity at a time. I am a woman after all, I have that extra leg to the second chromosome (x) which demands that I multi-task! I have never thought so much about sipping tea,  eating a bowl of cereal or each step of a run in my life. My head hurts. Mindfulness is exhausting.

Some things I have observed:

I haven't been able to taste anything for years, its an occupational hazard that I have come to accept. What I have learned though is that part of this is also due to my lack of paying attention to my interaction with what I am trying to taste. How often do you even question what you put in your mouth? Is it salty, sweet, sour, bitter, savory, bold, subtle, tart, etc?  My taste buds are still not all that great but I do know that after spending the past 14 days counting every milligram of sodium in my food and limiting it to about 1gram a day that a normal restaurant experience is like chomping on a salt lick from the Dead Sea. Even a piece of commercial bread tastes like it has been bathed in the white stuff. We eat WAY TO MUCH SALT!

I have made is a point to record all my exercise on a GPS, even the hamster routine of the speedskating practice which, by the way, turns out to look like a toddler's refrigerator drawing. My purpose? I wanted to be mindful of not only what I was doing, but how far I was going when I was doing it as well as how long I endured the activity. ACTUALLY, in all honesty, I wanted to be able to PROVE that I am doing what my health care professionals seem to think I am lying about. If I hear one more time that I need to exercise more and eat less!!! (3500 calories a week average burn / 1450 calories a day average intake) This week I even managed to GAIN weight. BTW, I measure and record every morsel too. This mindful act is exhausting.

Now we get to the mental health piece, STRESS! Some things I have been teaching my self to do: laugh more, advocating for myself, saying no and asking for help, then there is the act of rating stress like a samalog system. In other words I am taking the average of the possibility of content and dividing it by the difficulty/awkwardness factor and coming up with a scale. The stress that other people try to infect the world with would score high points, which like calories I try to avoid. I have essentially reduced myself to a rating system. I guess these are my compartments. I am learning that unless my house is burning down, someone I love is gravely ill, or our family finances (even that is a stretch) suddenly careen off the north face of Everest then there is no reason for me to fill a steamer trunk full of cortisol, especially when I am the one that owns that hormone and have to pay the price to harbor it.

Slowing life way down…ALMOST - Red beans are in the oven, cooking 6 hours and I am working around the house getting things done that I have wanted to accomplish for ages but then there is part of me…still racing along!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

getting out of Dodge

I spent a week trying to figure out if I was going to make it through finding the right blood pressure medicine and going through countless tests to be told I had to do three things; reduce stress, exercise more and eat less. I was also told that during my stress test I was only expected to be on the tread mill for 6 minutes or so, but 25 min later the thing was cranking out full speed and full tilt and my HR was still only at 90%, apparently it takes longer for those who exercise regularly,  even longer for those who run on treadmills, and way longer for those who are active outdoors. I apparently caught them profiling, which will tickle my doctor as he understands my frustration to some extent. Someone I know told me that "the financial markets are closed on the weekend so whatever happens with my money will have to wait until Monday". What he was trying to say about my latest bout of work related stress was that "school is closed on the weekends all problems will have to wait until Monday or even school is out around 3PM so all related problems will have to wait until 7AM". I am trying to learn this way of thinking.

I got out of Dodge this weekend. I decided to go to Lake Placid to visit some friends despite not feeling 100%. The reasons? I needed to exercise and the atmosphere in that town is conducive to it. I needed to relax which I always seem to be able to do up there. I needed to laugh and I knew that a combination of Jen keeping me on my toes and the Ottawa Pacers in town, there would be plenty of that. I also needed to be inspired and Kevin Frost was racing.

I am not home yet. Tomorrow I head to Dana Farber with my mom. I won't speculate about that. It is just a fact. I will think of it as an adventure in its own right. Maybe we will see or hear something exciting along the way?

More later!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The people you meet

 I spent last night in Danbury hospital. Some would blame it on the Superbowl excitement or even being a closet (ahmmm) Pats fan. Most of you don't know me well, but I have been a Redskins fan for forever and despite not really following the game, or caring about who wins, when push comes to shove its either DC or NY. Really? To think some silly pigskin is going to rattle my cage?  HA, you missed something that was very elementary, there was no ICE involved, not any bicycle, nor any running shoe, or even some adventurous feat of athleticism. Don't get me wrong football is a very strenuous sport, but its played that way every day of the week, just like any of the above, it just doesn't rival a scramble up K2. In any case, my hospital visit in a nutshell: I went to bed on Sunday night with a headache. I woke Monday morning at 4 AM with a headache and numbness in my left arm, shoulder and back. I took some aspirin and went back to bed. An hour later I woke up with an even bigger headache and even more pressure so I went to the hospital. I had what they call hypertensive urgency. What an ordeal! I guess there is more to that middle age crap than I gave my mother credit for (ha). 

In some ways I almost think I should write about the cast of characters I met. There was the PA who was so serious we thought his face would crack BUT he shot me up with morphine the minute I got there, then wanted to give me every other pain killer under the sun. Then there was the PA who kept telling me I had to change my lifestyle the cardiologist who I thought was going to give me the same line but almost broke into tears because he felt my pain, working hard at eating right and exercising and being jealous of those who do nothing and sail through life without these problems. He was Russian, wore these really cool shoes, and made me want to ask him to be my training buddy! Of course, there has to be one, there was the nurses assistant who had no sensitivity. How much do you weigh? I tell her, she corrects me. As she is taking my blood pressure she asks "you have high blood pressure?" I answer yes. She says how high? and then snarks something at me as she walks away. Little did I know that there was a friggen scale on the bed. 

Ok so I am home, now what? Nothing more than I was doing already, low sodium, low caffeine, exercise, loose weight… HELLO, sorry sometimes I feel like I am at the bottom of this hole yelling up CAN YOU HEAR ME? Then I secretly think that the doctors who tell me to do the above should be challenged to spending a week with me! Matter of fact they should pay me for food too as we don't eat food that has been processed, nor do I add salt. As for the exercise piece? I wonder if they could handle it?

For now, every morsel, every step into my log book…Join me 

Saturday, February 4, 2012


Did you ever stop and wonder if someone has been trying to ell you something for a while? My dad's family has high blood pressure, weight and lifestyle don't seem to matter when it comes to this hereditary fact of life. I seem to have inherited it by the time I was 38, despite being at a healthy weight and having an overly healthy lifestyle. I have managed it pretty well for the past 9 years despite the scale crawling up with the calendar. I spent 5 of the last 6 years on a low level medication. A year ago, a severe parasitic infection that I picked up abroad had me wondering if I was preserving my liver. After months of trying to control the infection my doctor and I decided that maybe a drug holiday would be in order. As far as my BP was concerned it was contingent of course on the numbers.
 I managed to keep things in line for a solid year then the creep set in. First time it was a slight rise, I blamed it on caffeine within the 3 hours prior. The next few times, I blamed it on hormones. I was after-all running every day and I haven't eaten processed food in decades and at this point I was really watching what I was eating. Then came the subtle indicators that something was up, the occasional blurry vision that lasted for less than a few minutes, which I just thought was work stress and sinuses. I do suffer from post-concussion syndrome that comes and goes. Then there was the slight nausea that I have felt since November that I attributed to the fact that things will be changing soon, I am female and almost 50 after all. Last week there was the bloating that I attributed to the same thing.
On Jan 31 I started to think about my dad and how much I missed him. He suffered a stroke when he was my age and died a handful of years later. That was my exact thought, no elaboration, just he had a stroke at my age. Why I was dwelling on that I have no clue?  The next day I got an e-mail from a speedskating friend, an early groundhogs day card. My mothers father was a 4th generation CHUCKER, meaning he was from Punxy. My only thought when I opened it was I wished I could have shared it with my "Grampy" because he would have laughed a hearty belly laugh at it. I wrote Bridie and told her of my ancestral connection to groundhogs. She replied with "read your blog…how's the month's exercise going?" That was Thursday, the same day I woke up with a bad ear-ache. The night before I hadn't wanted to skate, I was tired,  felt feverish or at least I had been sweating all day like I had one. I skated anyway, felt a bit out of it, but managed. On Thursday however I was in enough pain to actually want to go to the doctor after half my day teaching. I left work after my last class and arrived at the Dr by 2PM. I was there until almost 6 while they tried to decide if I needed to be hospitalized for a medical emergency. My blood pressure? It was a whopping 167/110 and not coming down that easily. The worst, Kenny didn't even know I was at the doctor. I texted him and told him I was being held hostage by a nurse wielding a cuff. I had been there for 3 hours. I had both sets of keys and the car. I was most likely not leaving on my own power. I was most likely heading to Danbury to spend my weekend in PJ's, eating really bad over-cooked processed food and growing tubes. Then came the text CAN YOU COME HOME? I AM SCARED.
By 6 PM I was allowed to go but with strict instructions. No exercise until at least tomorrow, no salt, no caffeine, no getting off the couch, no stress, no…, coaching in Lake Placid this weekend, absolutely NOT!
I had to take a dose of med before bed and come back to the office at 8 AM. I had to make sure that if I experienced any symptoms of what I was told could be a FATAL situation such as blurry vision, nausea, confusion, headache, or pain I needed to call 911 immediately. WTF had I gotten myself into?
So, I sat home all of that night, all of yesterday and now my pressure is back to normal with the help of a diuretic. I have a new perspective on my life and quite frankly loosing weight and living an even more healthy lifestyle is something that is not even a question, it is mandatory! I'm so convinced someone was trying to tell me something and I am grateful!