Saturday, January 26, 2013

the Journey

I am currently reading Robert McFarlane's book The Old Ways: a Journey on Foot.  I am slow reader, always have been, but what I tell my students is that it just makes the story last longer.   I am intrigued by McFarlane's book. It is a book that tells the story of the characteristics of human foils with a little about his own journeys along some incredibly old paths. A foil for those of you that don't hunt is a animal track. We easily forget that we  are just like any animal in the sense that we create tracks because we spend so much time on non-impressionable surfaces or for that matter with our feet off the ground. I am going to hoof it a daunting amount of miles to get ready for this journey in the mountains. I am, at times, overwhelmed by the sheer size of the task, that is until I remember that the reason wayfarer clubs started in England  in the 19th Century was because of George Borrow, who was said to have covered the 112 miles from London to Norwich in 27 hours on a pint, a sip of milk, a few apples, and a roll. He was dressed in a suit.

Wayfarers Creed:
"There's night and day, brother, both sweet things; sun, moon, and stars, brother, all sweet things; there's likewise a wind on the heath. Life is very sweet, brother; who would wish to die?

I don't plan on taking this journey lightly. I plan on having it be infinitely more enlightening than any blister I pamper. So when I am told I am wasting my time on a quest that may never be realized, I turn my head into the wind and drink in the smell of the air, the sound of my breath, the feel of the ground beneath me and softly remind myself that they obviously have never stopped long enough to listen, to ponder, to experience their own sense of occupation of space. They have not yet been blessed with the quest to be a wayfarer. To them I say it's not about the miles, its about the views on that ridge and the experiences, both wonderful and difficult, along the way.

Shortly I will be setting off for my own exploration of Philadelphia today. I am excited about experiencing the city once again at a pace that allows me to understand its neighborhoods. I am on a quest to see as much of the public art as possible. Philadelphia is a city of murals, sculptures, and mosaics. It's a place that is so proud of its existence that it celebrates by blanketing its world with these beautiful visual accolades. The goal today, Philadelphia for free! I am looking forward to that brotherly love!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

People watching

Thursday night I made my way to Minnesota to watch my kid compete. I arrived at LGA with two hours to spare, found the short security line, had no issue with my skates, and found myself inside the gate area within minutes. While I am trying to put myself back together in the limited seating space there is a woman, who had caused her own issues outside the gate over cans of hairspray that she refused to give up and refused to check, sitting there completely finished putting her slip on shoes, sweater and coat ensemble back on but was having a phone conversation with all her other gear splayed across the bench. People were stacked up like flies waiting for that bench space to open up, barefoot and balancing everything they own and she was just having a grand old time chatting away, completely oblivious. I decided to eat something before I got on the plane and was seated next to this off duty flight attendant who seemed a bit weary. He and I chatted up a storm while he encouraged me to people watch. I think he just wanted to comment on what he thought was an affluent woman's behavior on the plane. Basically he told me that she and her family were one hot mess, not able to deal with the broken fingernails of life. This got me thinking about watching the people around me. There was the flight attendant on my flight who was getting ready to retire, she had been in the air for 63 years, and while her immediate colleagues respected her, you could tell that she had a career and they had jobs. The pilot on this flight barely spoke a word, which I found a bit unnerving. I like to know what is going on a little bit and this was the bumpiest ride I have every experienced. I am guessing he was all business and no nurturing? Then there was the group of 20 somethings that were sitting behind me, four of them, who pretended they didn't understand English when the young female flight attendant spoke to them but when the male flight attendant spoke to them in Spanish, which is what they were speaking when she spoke to them they told him that English would be far better. The flight attendant made a comment in Castilian Spanish and they laughed and shut up. My assumption was that they knew he was on to them. It was just a game they were playing with them, but it got pretty old pretty fast. They were rude, very loud, and disruptive in a manner that they begged to be called on. If it had gotten out of hand and they were escorted off the plane I am sure they would cry the foul of discrimination despite being the ones to encourage it. I am not writing to talk about people watching, though this journey has been one in which people watching has come hand in hand with my explanation of purpose. It was a brutally cold weekend in MN. I managed 7 miles of walking on Friday and spent most of my day on the ice on Saturday and Sunday helping to officiate the AM Cup meet and watching Chris skate in the Jr. World Cup. Chris was skating well, though not as fast as his technique looked like it could carry him. Later we came to find out that his coach had been trying to tweak his technique and it was in the process of making a showing but the muscle memory has not caught up with it yet. He was ok with his performance. I am guessing that is the most important thing one could ask. I left MN yesterday tired and very cold. I haven't been warm since sometime mid-week (last week). I have invested in some new funky base layer clothing and have decided that despite its high price-tag and promises it fell far short of what I expected. It sounded like a good idea, make your own heat…but when you think about it, metal is a good conductor (PERIOD) that means of both heat and cold! It will conduct whichever is more dominant at the time. So if your body heat is surrounded by hell bending cold, the metal in the clothing will conduct the cold better than the measly heat of your body . This underwear needs a wind layer to work. Its too bad I fell for it! Today I ran a second set of tests, putting a silk layer between the metal and my skin, and a found that I was even colder than I was a few days ago when it was (neg)11 and windy. Where I had wind protection over the material I was slightly warmer. The point is though that I exercised. I did so despite the grumblings about the cold because I needed to get away from myself feeling like a landing pad. It is after-all the last week of the semester and there is this dog-pile effect that comes over people as they try to squeak out every possible drop of credit deserved or otherwise. Its hard at times to suck it all up and stay professional as one must. Exercise does wonders for the soul! Tonight I listened to The Story Podcast while I walked. It was an interesting choice as it featured two mothers, one from Palestine and one from Israel, discussing how they teach their kids about the war that they are so weary of. It was sentiment that I knew existed despite never being able to bring it up peacefully in my family. Then there was the interview with Robert MacFarlane about his new book about walking the Old Paths as a life journey. Of course I arrived home and immediately downloaded it onto my kindle and started reading. Heck it is after hours and the school work I need to do will be there tomorrow! Here is some more food for thought

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The first XC ski of the year

It snowed last night, and since my district decided on a snow day, and there appeared to be at least 4.5 inches of the stuff, a xc ski workout was in order. I chose a local county park that has been intriguing me lately. It has a decent amount of XC trails that are secluded enough and long enough to feel like you got a decent ski in. In no time I found myself alone in the woods and the first one to break tracks. The trail gently climbed for a good 2 miles. All the while I was trying to beat down that "ALONE IN THE FRIGGEN WOODS" demon and enjoy the ski. I kept telling myself that this was good training for May when I will spend a good portion of a 50 mile hike alone in the woods. Demons are interesting. This one kept debating the training idea with "yeah but you know that park well". Let me tell you what I know about Mohonk and Minnewaska. Most of those trails are along cliff edge and despite knowing them well, I will be covering some of those miles in May in the dark. Today? I was just skiing in daylight in the woods, rock outcroppings, but no escarpments. There was no comparison. So how did it go? The snow was sticky and heavy with a crust of ice on top. It covered the trail well in most places but the main issue with sticky wet snow is the "STICKY" part. This makes for downhills that are almost as treacherous as an icy surface because instead of not letting one stop you gather up speed and then suddenly the ski stops dead, your body still traveling forward at top speed. Lets just say I will be sore tomorrow. I look like I was out inlining on pavement with no protection on. I bit it on 4 separate occasions, eventually skinning my knee. I have a feeling that I will feel a bit disjointed too. I arrived back at my car just in time. It had started sleeting at some point and between that and my falls I was pretty cold despite wearing the correct clothing. I was was soaked to the bone. I arrived home to the driveway in the same condition I left it in (workout before work you know). I had to get warm and so its still that way 3 hours later. How I wish I could find a kid with a shovel looking to make some cash!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

The first 9.8 is uphill after that its a picnic. Right?

I have often heard that the first step is the hardest and I will agree that the last month and a half has been a uphill climb but then again the first 9.8 miles of this challenge will be uphill. What surprised me today is that when I reached the gatehouse at the top of Lanape Lane I was not at all winded despite the nearly 4 mile climb with a 25 mile pack. I wanted so badly to keep going another few miles to the Crag despite not being able to see anything on a day like today but I had to remember I wasn't alone. I did need to be able to get my companions back in one piece. I didn't want them to be soured by a bad experience and working beyond your means can often ruin it for good. Company was not something I wanted to give up just yet so killing them with the distance was out of the question. I would just have to make up the miles later in the day. The walk down hurt but I did expect that. At about 6 miles my friend told me she was starting to feel it. I encouraged her to eat something and to continue drinking. Ten minutes later she asked me how I knew she was hungry? Andrew was right, I have been around this world of endurance efforts long enough to see tell tale signs in other people. By mile seven I was feeling a bit behind the curve. I had a few handfuls of dried fruit along the way but I knew I was running into the need for protein. I had packed almonds and was craving them, however my friend Diane informed me on the way up that she has an anaphylactic reaction to tree nuts, even if the exposure was minimal. I didn't dare get nut oil on my hands. I had contemplated asking them to meet me in town. I would walk. By the time we got back to the car though I was hungry enough to know I was teetering on bonking. I think I started the day behind the curve a bit after chasing blocks all day yesterday without much to eat. So I opted to go eat with them and finish the workout later. I have to admit on the way home, I napped and thought I would blow the last few miles off. Heck who would know? That little training voice stepped in however and reminded me I was only hurting myself. So when I got home I rolled a few cramps out, grabbed my headphones and headed out the door. The first 1.5 miles sucked but then again most of that was downhill. The second half I was elated as my training plan was finally clear. According to my calculations just adding 2.5 miles a week will put me at 45 miles two weeks (taper) before the event. I can do this! Small steps will bring HUGE gains.

Still going strong

I am not sure if I am exhausted or not. Some days I find myself bone tired, sore, and wondering if I will every be closer to my goal. The calendar ticks away moving ever closer to that date I will be asked to complete this double marathon and at times, despite knowing I am approaching training in the best manner, I feel like I am standing still. In a few hours I will be embarking on a hike that will take me over part of the course. I will be joined by a few friends as well as my best friend, Kenny. This has been pretty typical of this endeavor. I never seem to be alone. This brings me to a my experience yesterday. I have been contemplating finishing out my season obligations and then taking a break from the skating world to be selfish and take care of myself. While I wrestle with the idea of stepping back from helping people learn, learn to train, and train for a variety of goals I find myself reflecting on why I am making this decision. It is not unlike a grieving process. Yesterday, at the CT Thaw ST meet I was greeted with one of the greatest moments a coach could ever experience. I watched a former athlete, now a junior in college studying kinesiology/exercise physiology offer to do some fitness testing and design a strength training program that will tweak my current plan. I was intrigued. The athlete is now the coach. What I found interesting about this was how his depth of understanding and training philosophy were so familiar. I felt like he was imparting what he has learned in school in the manner in which I would have delivered similar information to him a few years ago. What was even more uncanny was that in his conversation with me I heard every coach I have ever considered a mentor speaking to me. One of the most important things was that he reminded me that despite not ever running/walking this distance I have to remember is that I understand endurance training. It is at the core of my being. Because of this I shouldn't waste time reinventing the wheel. I should go with my gut and just look to optimize what I am doing. He also told me that he had all the confidence in the world that I could do this because I knew what to expect. I knew how it worked. (Andrew, you are the best! Thanks for the gift!) Now off to conquer some mountains!