Monday, December 22, 2008

Training in a Winter Wonderland

Whoever decided to start a training plan 3 weeks before Christmas?!?!

I suppose I did. Doh.

Please pardon my silence on the blog of late... I've been scurrying around like mad trying to fit in my runs with all the other social events and whatnot that make this time of year so busy.

But so far I've been able to stick to my schedule (for the most part). Here's the whole plan, plus my progress for the first two weeks (the top row for the week shows what I'm supposed to do, the bottom shows what I ACTUALLY did):

Christmas Poem

Christmas is coming, there’s so much to do:
Wrap up the presents, deliver a few
Get ready for family, make bed with clean sheets
Crank up the oven, bake Santa some treats
Hang stockings by chimney, send last Christmas card
Hang lights on the house and out in the yard
Straighten the tree, and check on the trim
Then lace up my shoes and head to the gym!

Monday, December 8, 2008

This week starts my training plan for the Snow Joke.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Hard Core

Over the last several weeks I've developed a new core routine that really seems to work me over good. I thought I'd share:

For each move, you'll do 3 sets. Ideally, you'd do 15 reps in each set. I started with 15-10-5, then 15-12-9, and today did 15-12-12. So I'm getting there.

Move #1: Hanging Leg Lifts
If your gym has them, hook up the arm holsters onto a pullup bar. Otherwise, just hang on to the bar (this is a bit harder). Let your legs hang, then think about tipping your pelvis forward, then lift your knees, toes straight down. For more advanced move, straighten legs out parallel with the ground. Slowly return to hanging. That's one rep.

Move #2: Seated Ab Crunch
Sit on the edge of a stable chair or bench. Place your hands next to your butt and grip the front of the seat. Lean back slightly and extend your legs down and away, keeping your heels 4 to 6 inches off the floor. Bend your knees and slowly raise your legs toward your chest. At the same time, lean forward with your upper body, allowing your chest to approach your thighs. For more challenge, focus on squeezing your knees together as you bring them up.

Move #3: Medicine Ball Twist
Either sit on the floor, knees bent so that your upper body is at about a 45 degree angle, or lie back on a stability ball. Grab a 5- to 10-pound medicine ball and hold it straight out from your chest. Rotating from your upper hips/lower wiast, twist your upper body as far to the right as possible, keeping the ball in line with your chest. Then immediately rotate to the left. That's 1 rep.

Move #4: Pushups on the Ball
Place your lower legs on a stability ball and get in a pushup position. Keeping your back straight, do a pushup. That's one rep. For more challenge, add a pike in between pushups: use your core to pull the ball toward your face. Hold for a second, then roll back out until your body is straight.

Move #5: Arm Pull Over Straight Leg Crunch
Grab a pair of 2- to 10-pound dumbbells and lie on your back with your arms behind you. Extend your legs at a 45-degree angle. Bring your arms up over your chest and lift your shoulders off the mat while raising your legs until they're perpendicular to the floor. Return to start (don't let your legs touch the floor). That's 1 rep. For more challenge, really concentrate on going slow, and make sure you're touching the floor behind you with the weights.

Give it a shot, see what you think. I think it's a pretty well-rounded routine that works all parts of your core-- including the lower back. But I might be missing something. So give it a try, see what you'd add!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Yogahhh

Started off my morning with my favorite yoga class. The class is similar to Bikram yoga, though the room isn't as hot (more like a comfy 80 F than a sweltering 105 F). And it's a bit less rigid. But in essence, the class starts with a breathing exercise that gets your body generating heat and gives you an opportunity to really start focussing on the breath. Then there's a series of postures that are held for up to a minute each, done in the same order each time. Some days we'll repeat a posture twice, some days just once. The first half of the class is standing postures, then the second half is lying or seated postures. All of the postures have multiple health benefits.

I love starting off my day with yoga. It helps me set an intention for the day (today it was to work on my posture-- drop my shoulders/lift my chest-- rather than slouching which makes me feel more lethargic and decreases the amount of oxygen I take in, especially while running). And it's a great way to get mentally focused first thing in the morning.

But perhaps it ws too much of a good thing.... After the final relaxation pose (savasana, or "corpse pose," in which you lie on your back, close your eyes, slow your breathing, and release any thoughts), I headed to the shower and proceeded to wash my hair with conditioner. Oops. ;)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Dear Santa,

I don't know if you're in the habit of reading blogs, but if so, I'd sure like to have this for Christmas!

Love, C

PS- I promise to leave you carrot sticks & non-fat ranch dip instead of cookies & milk :)

Thanksgiving Plans

For the past few years, we've gone hunting on Thanksgiving Day, and then done a big potluck Thanksgiving dinner with friends in Seeley Lake. This year, however, most of our friends have other plans, so there's no potlucking to do. It seems that everyone either has family coming in or is going elsewhere-- there aren't any young family-less folks floating around looking for a good meal.

So, I figured we had two options: either stay home and make a turkey dinner for ourselves, or say screw it and forego the pig-out tradition. We opted for the latter.

So tomorrow morning we'll get up and feed the cows, then head for the mountains, rifles in tow. (I shot a young deer the other day, but other than that, we still have several tags-- for bull elk or for either sex whitetail deer or buck mule deer. It's the last weekend of hunting season, and so it's time for us to stop being so picky. Instead of only going after elk, at this point in the season anything legal will most likely come home with us.)

Anyhow, rather than sitting around all day and pigging out, I figured it'd be much more fun and healthy to spend the day hiking around in the woods. I mean, Thanksgiving is really all about giving thanks for the blessings that you have, right? I count among my best blessings:
  • the opportunity to live in a land where I'm free to choose how to spend my holidays,
  • to ability wander through vast amounts of publicly-owned forested mountains
  • to provide food for myself because wildlife are abundant and we still have the right to hunt and fish, like our ancestors did to provide their food for the first Thanksgiving (I mean, if they'd had an elk, I'm sure they would've chosen to eat that over a stingly ol' wild turkey!!!)

So for me, a burger and a beer when we get done for the day will be all the feast that I need to help me have a great day of giving thanks.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Why My Legs Were Sore Earlier This Week

Not all hunters sit in the back of their pickups drinking beer, listening to Nascar, and waiting for the deer to walk by...

Jim and I spent the weekend hunting with his dad out on the MT/ID border. We put on some good hikes, traveling at least 6 miles each day over steep, rough country... mostly off-road/off-trail. We didn't fire our rifles at all, but still got some good shooting done (pictures, that is):

Me hiking the last little stretch up to the top of Taft Mountain. Jim and I started hiking at 6:30am-- about an hour before sunrise-- and bush-whacked our way up, up, up the ridge so that we were on top of the country early in the morning (trying to catch some elk crossing over the ridge).



I don't take this hunting thing TOO seriously!




Jim smiling because we're almost to the top!!! (early morning hikes make for good lighting!)

Back down into the woods for a while... "Heeeere, elky elky elky... come out from behind the tree-eee...."








Ahh, soaking in sun after our post-lunch nap :)


We saw lots of sign, including elk tracks, scat, and rubs... but no elk. (Here I'm demonstrating how a bull in the rut scraped his antlers against this small tree to mark his territory).


At the top of the ridge I laid my tracks on top of wolf tracks on top coyote tracks on top of elk tracks... I see where I stack up on the predator ranks-- need to get up earlier, I suppose!


All in all a great weekend. Saw lots of cool places, got good and tired so that I slept great and woke up slightly sore. And came home to a nice warm house on a ranch full of cows that we can eat if we don't end up shooting an elk next weekend :)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Last Race of the Year

On December 6, I'll be running the Freezer Burn 5k in Frenchtown.

I haven't been doing much speed work lately, so I definitely don't have my sights on a fast time. But, since I'm revving back up the running in preparation for the Snow Joke, I'll use this as a fun "long run" for the week:
I can jog the mile-and-a-half to the start line, run the race, then jog home, for a total of 6 miles.

It'll be a good way to get in a long run with a harder-than-usual push in the middle, and to support a race in my "backyard."

Anyone want to join me? (There's also a 1/2 marathon if you're really motivated).

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

New Shoes

Did you know that shoes wear out on the inside much faster than on the outside? I never knew this until I really started running some longer miles. The interior cushioning takes a big hit every time my foot hits the ground, and can only handle ~250-300 miles worth of supporting my ~140 lbs before it starts to wear out.

Last fall (while training for my first 1/2 marathon) was the first time I'd put enough mileage into a pair of shoes to wear them out. They still looked fine on the outside. But I was starting to feel the difference-- my shins would burn a bit, my hips felt weird, my toes would ache after a run. Who'da thunk that running shoes could make such a difference?

Well, I went to my local running store, and the folks there helped me out. They looked at the wear patterns on my old shoes, watched me walk, analyzed how my feet were shaped and how they moved while I ran, and suggested several shoes for me. The pair I really liked was the Asics GT-2130. I bought a pair and loved them... so much that when it was time to buy a new pair of shoes this past spring, I went in and bought the exact same pair.

For the last month or so now, I've been starting to feel things again-- shins hurting, hips feeling stressed... signs that my shoes were on their way out. Again. (I try to only use my running shoes for running, and wear older pairs for doing other activities like walking or biking.) As I always seem to do, I first thought that it was me. Maybe I just haven't been running enough. Maybe I'm not stretching enough. I must be out of shape... But then it dawned on me-- it'd been about 6 months since I'd gotten new shoes. (Dang, could it have been that long?!)

Since we're headed into the winter months when conditions can be kind iffy-- slushy or slick roads and trails-- and because I've been enjoying trail running a bit more, I thought that maybe I'd branch out and try a trail shoe. I was a little nervous, though, about giving up on my 2130's, though, because they're such a great fit.

So imagine my delight when I went to the running store this weekend and told the guy what I've been wearing and that I'd like to try a trail shoe, and he said, great, Asics just came out with a trail version of the 2130! It's built to the same dimensions and everything as the shoe I've been wearing, but has a more aggressive sole (good for gripping) that's a little stiffer (good for running over rocks and branches), and has a water-resistant material on the upper (good for slush and mud).

I tried them on, and they felt perfect. "Do you want to try a few other kinds of trail shoes?" the salesguy asked? "Nope," I said, "these will work."

I tried them out on the treadmill yesterday, just to make sure they fit well (they do, and nothing hurt in my legs for the first time in several weeks!). And now this afternoon I have plans to take my new shoes for a spin on a 5-mile loop on trails in the Rattlesnake. Whooppee!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Let's run on Public Lands!

How often do you run on trails that are on public lands? For me, the answer is QUITE OFTEN. Here in the Missoula area we are blessed with numerous trail systems that let us run for miles through scenic grasslands and forests, uninterrupted by No Trespassing Signs-- the Rattlesnake, Blue Mountain, Pattee Canyon, the Frenchtown Bike Trail....

It's truly a gift to be able to run or hike or play on publicly owned lands and trails, but one that we often take for granted. These public lands, though, come at a cost. Everyone must share in the cost of purchasing and maintaining public lands or lands that allow, through conservation easements or other frameworks, public access.

In 2006, voters in Missoula County approved a $10 million bond to assist in the purchase or protection of Open Spaces that allow for resource protection and public access. The Montana Legacy Project will soon purchase 320,000 of private timber company lands in western Montana (for a mere $520 million) with the goals of protecting natural resources, maintaining public access, and sustaining a timber economy (as opposed to a trophy-home economy). And this week Lewis & Clark County (Helena area) also passed an Open Space bond.

Indeed, all across the nation folks decided this week that, even in the face of poor economic times, that having open space or public lands to play on, look at, and enjoy were worth a lot.

See the re-cap below from the Trust for Public Lands:

On Tuesday, November 4, voters across America backed 62 of 87
conservation finance measures, generating a single-day record of
$7.3 billion in new conservation funding. The results capped a
record-breaking year in which voters approved 88 measures,
totaling nearly $8.4 billion in new public funding for land
conservation. TPL, and its lobbying affiliate, the Conservation
Campaign (TCC), played integral roles in the success of many of
these ballot measures.


Among the other significant measures yesterday:
* East Bay Regional Park District, CA: a $500 million bond
measure received 71% support
* Hillsborough County, FL: a $200 million bond measure received
78% support
* Hunterdon County, NJ: An extension of the county's 3-cent
property tax for 20 years will generate $152 million
* Community Preservation Act, MA: 7 of 8 measures approved,
bringing the total of communities statewide that have adopted
CPA to 140
* Blaine County, ID: a two-year property tax for open space will
establish the first county conservation program in the state
* Johnson County, IA: a $20 million bond will establish Iowa's
first county conservation program

Complete details of this year's measures--and all conservation
finance measures since 1988--are in TPL's LandVote online
searchable database, a service of TPL's Center for Conservation
Finance:
http://ga0.org/ct/Fp_cJjs1er2T/landvote

The Trust for Public Land conserves land for people to enjoy as
parks, gardens and other natural places, ensuring livable
communities for generations to come.
The Trust for Public Land depends on the support and generosity
of individuals, foundations, and businesses to achieve our
land-for-people mission. For more information please contact us
at (415) 495-4014 or on the web at www.tpl.org.


Now, go out and enjoy some public lands. And encourage your community to financially support the places you love!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

NOW RECRUITING

Late February probably seems a long ways off to most folks. And, well, to me too. But I'm already looking ahead to it, as the Snow Joke 1/2 Marathon lands on Feb 28 this year.

For the past two 1/2 Marathons I've done, I've followed Hal Higdon's beginner training plan. This time around, I'm going to do the Intermediate plan, which incorporates some intervals and tempo runs to work on overall speed, and increases the weekly mileage to work towards better endurance. All-in-all it's a more aggressive plan than what I've done in the past.

While I hesitate to say that I want to improve my time on this race (since snow conditions can often alter abilities on this course), I'd at least like to train to be able to do better than I have before.

And since my running has been fairly unstructured since August or so, I'm looking forward to getting back into training mode.

The Plan I'll use has a structured schedule for 12 weeks, which means I'll officially start following it on Dec 7. That's a month from now, I know. So for the next month I have two main goals:

1. Start running on a regular basis and slowly start increasing my weekly mileage so that the first week of the Plan doesn't knock me out with a 17-mile week. I won't be working on speed per se, but will be working on re-building my endurance for the next month, running at least 3 times per week and starting to build from a comfortable 10 miles per week to 16 miles per week. This doesn't seem too challenging, as I'm plenty comfortable running 5-6 miles at a time. But I need to work on my consistency in my training and start running more than I have been (aka get off the slightly easier elliptical machine in the morning and get on the dreaded treadmill!)

2. Find a training buddy (or two, or three...) to train for this race with me. Having someone else to talk with and share stories about training, and to have run the race with me (or at least at the same time) is so great. The last two 1/2 marathons I've done, I've run with Robyn and Amy, and they were great accountability partners. Although Robyn was training from NC and me from MT, we still chatted about how training was going and had made a promise to each other to run the race, and thus helped keep each other on track. And with Amy, it was great to have company for doing the longer runs on the weekends-- we had great times chatting while running. So for this race, I'd at least like to have someone else who I know is going to do the race and wants to be an "accountability partner." And beyond that, it would be terrific to have someone to do longer training runs with... even if we don't end up doing the race together (if we have different paces or whatnot).

So... who's interested? If not you, do you have friends who may be? If so, have them get in touch. They're welcome to use the plan I'll be using, or use their own. It's tons of fun (well, okay, sometimes it's fun... other times it's just hard). But it's a great way to meet people, get in shape, and have a goal that's non-work-related.

Oh yeah, and one other goal: find new shoes. Mine are starting to wear out (again), and so I need to get a new pair before I start upping my mileage very much. I'm thinking of trying a more trail-running-type shoe for these winter months, as much of my running may be on snow-covered roads or trails. Any thoughts?

It's a Family Affair

Two weeks ago Mom & Kurt ran their 5k. Last weekend Robyn (who's like a sister to me) did her 1/2 IronMan. And this weekend my cousin Deb is running the Outer Banks 1/2 Marathon.

It used to be that only my dad and brother, who are into motor sports, were the only Racers in the family. But now many others are starting to set their own race goals. Cool.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

What I Was Going to Do Before I Got Sick

Bah humbug. I caught a cold. Crud. Sunday evening, all was well, and then *hugh hgh hgh*, a cough. Then another. And another. And by 3am I was up making hot tea and not able to sleep for my sore throat and cough. Drats.

But I slept a lot yesterday and stayed home from work (I did get a little work done, but mostly rested). And after sleeping another 12 hours or so last night, I'm feeling much better today, and am looking forward to going to the gym in the morning.

Of course, I probably won't be up for this workout quite yet. But soon. I did this one a few times last winter (Amy shared it with me), and it was a great cardio workout that kept me from getting too terribly bored while running on the treadmill. Basically it combines some speed intervals and tempo sections and keeps you switching things up enough that the hour goes by fairly quickly (especially if you can watch tv while doing it, like you can at my gym!)

Give it a try sometime... hopefully I'll be back on the 'mill by the end of the week:

Try this running workout from Robert Pennino, a certified USA triathlon coach. Be sure to keep the incline of your treadmill at 1 percent throughout the workout. If the pace seems too fast, modify to suit your fitness level.
Minutes Pace
0:00–10:00 Warm-up jog; 5.0 mph
10:00–10:20 Sprint at 7.5 mph
10:20–11:20 Jog at 5.0 mph
11:20–14:00 Repeat minutes 10:00–11:20 twice
14:00–17:00 Jog at 5.0 mph
17:00–27:00 Run at 6.5 mph
27:00–31:00 Jog at 5.0 mph
31:00–35:00 Run at 6.5 mph
35:00–39:00 Jog at 5.0 mph
39:00–55:00 Repeat minutes 31:00–39:00 twice
55:00–60:00 Gradually slow pace to cool down at jog/walk

Monday, October 27, 2008

Walker('s Mom) Runs

On Saturday evening, my mom and her husband Kurt participated in their first ever 5k. They've been working up to this distance for the past 6 months or more, doing a combination of walking and jogging. So when the gun went off at the start of the race in Brevard on Saturday evening, they followed their plan-- walked slowly to start, then began picking up the pace little by little until they were nice and warmed up, and then did intervals of walking quickly, then running a bit, then walking quickly, then running... all the way to the finish line. On the last hill Mom's lower back was aching and she wanted to walk, but when she looked over her shoulder and saw another couple closing in on them, she took a deep breath, found some race-induced adrenaline, and pushed on to the top of the hill and across the finish line... ahead of the competition. Go Mom! Go Kurt!

I'm so proud of them for doing this race, but more so for the work they've put into getting into shape. Mom turns 60 this week-- how many 60-year-olds can cover 3.1 miles in 49 minutes?

Instead of kicking backing and relaxing in their retirement, these two whipper-snappers are actually more active now than they ever have been. With increasing health issues arising in the past few years, they've realized the importance of getting good exercise. So now, unlike ever before, they work out daily, going for walks or hikes or jogs around the mountain they live on, or doing a kickboxing video and ab work. Service is extremely important to them, and keeps them on their toes. In the last few months they've helped a disabled friend move into her own home, have escorted a group of folks who are blind on a fishing trip to the Outer Banks, and have worked with middle and high school-aged boys at a residential school. That's in addition to working closely with the church youth group, and lots of other activities.

It's great to see these two making and living the mind-body-spirit connection. They set a great example, and I've enjoyed watching them act on the realization that God gave us these bodies to house our spirits while here on earth. If we want to do good things in His honor, we have to take care of our physical selves as much as our spiritual selves.

So a big congrats goes out to Kay & Kurt for their race on Saturday and their young-at-heart spirit!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Lunch Break

It's Friday. No meetings. No deadlines. Brisk, sunny late October day. Perfect for a long lunch break. Say about a 2 hour break!

I hopped on my bike, rode a few miles over to the trailhead at the University, then headed up the switchbacks towards the "M," running every third switchback and hiking the others. Then I hit the service road and ran it out for a few miles as it parallels the valley bottom. Gorgeous views of town with the leaves all orange and yellow (actually they're fading and falling off already), and blue skies forming the backdrop for the golden grassy hillsides. Listening to Merle Haggard sing about my favorite state, thinking how nice it was to be so close to an open area and trails like that, so that I could "walk off my steady job" for a few hours and run on bare earth, as I'm tired of running in town on the "dirty old sidewalks."

It was about a 5-mile loop, then I biked back to work, showered, ate some soup for lunch, and now I'm trying to get back to work. It's one of those days where I "haven't got a thing to show for anything I've done," but I got a great workout and am happier than I was before. So that counts for something, right?!

Okay, back to the grindstone.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

New Look

As my "new look" is getting increasingly softer and rounder, I've realized that I need to go back to using my good friend FitDay to help with my food-to-workout balance.

For the past few months I've basically been eating what I want when I want-- well, at least sometime. The good news is that my "default" foods-- those I pick up when I'm grabbing a snack or my standard dinners & lunches that I make-- have been foods with whole grains, lots of vitamins and lean protein, and all that good stuff. The bad news is that my "treat" foods have been too numerous, and I'm feeling the results. My energy level is lower, my mid-section isn't as tight (not like it was ever trim to begin with!)... ugh. It's frustrating that all of my hard work can be reversed so easily with a bit of mindless eating.

So, I need to be mindful again. I need to re-instate my habit of tracking my intake in relation to my output. And the best way I've found to do that is to use FitDay-- an online food & exercise journal.

I haven't used it in several months now, and so when I signed in this morning, I was suprised to see that they've gotten a new look, too. So if it's been a while since you've used it, or if you've never used it at all, check it out. You have to register, but it's free. And a great tool, I think, for tracking your progress.

And tracking my progress. I've made my journal available to be viewed by the public. So check it out if you'd like: http://www.fitday.com/fitness/PublicJournals.html?Owner=mtcurls

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

New Moves

If you're looking for some new moves, Women's Health magazine offers several one-page 20-minute workout ideas-- nice to try after a run or spin class.

I tried the "Rock Solid Abs" workout this morning (after spinning for 50 min and running for 20). While not all of the moves were ones that I'll keep in my repertoire, a few were-- namely #3- the "arm pull over straight-leg crunch." That move is NO JOKE.

It's always nice to find new moves that really challenge your body, rather than sticking with the same old routine. Doing so will help you grow stronger and develop even more depth to that strength.

Similarly, confronting issues that make us uncomfortable will ultimately lead us to growing stronger as citizens and adding depth to our personalities. Thanks to those who've responded to my last post. I hope to address some more issues here in the future.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

How homelessness affects me... & what I do about it

Homelessness has never been one of my top "issues" or "causes." There are lots of other social or environmental concerns that seem more pressing to me, or get my attention more. These are things like the poor health care system we have in this country, in which folks like my good friend "C" can't get health insurance because of his diabetes-- the exact reason he NEEDS health insurance.... or the lack of adequate streamside protection measures, so that folks with big money can come and build their McMansion right in the river corridor, remove all riparian vegetation that helps stabilize the soil and filter out pollutants and provide habitat for numerous wildlife species, and fertilize their finely manicured lawn right up to the water's edge.... or the fact that Montana still allows the trapping of wolverines, although there are estimated to be fewer than 500 individuals in the whole country, and no other states allow trapping...

These are all issues that I'm faced with on a personal and/or professional level on a near-daily basis. These are the causes that get my attention... and my limited lack of extra cash when I have it to donate to charities or campaigns.

So when Robyn started talking with me about her TriToEndHomelessness campaign-- an effort to raise awareness about homelessness and generate funds for the Genesis Home shelter in her hometown of Durham, NC-- I thought it was a nice sounding cause, but didn't really relate at a personal level, except in the fact that my friendship with Robyn has spanned nearly two decades, and I respect that anything she does is worth supporting..

But over the last two years-- and the past two months, in particular-- I've started thinking more about the issues of homelessness, and realizing that it DOES affect me.

Through reading Robyn's blog, I've learned more about the diversity of homeless people. My uninformed stereotype has always been that homeless folks are bums who are too lazy to get jobs and take care of themselves. And you know, for some, that might be the case. But definitely not for all homeless people. I've learned about single moms who have had major medical issues that have led to them losing any savings... then losing their job... then losing their house... and thus being forced to live out of their car, bathe their kids in the gas station bathroom before school. Those moms aren't homeless by choice. And a similar scenario isn't all that far-fetched for many that I know. I'm fortunate enough now to have decent health coverage through my job, and a family who I know would do all they could to help me out if times got tough. But not everyone has those things... and it's not likely their fault.

I've opened my mind to the fact that not everyone who's homeless is a "junkie" or a "bum." Some are, for sure. But many have gotten to where they are because of a series of bad luck or poor choices. Who am I to judge?

And yet, I do. I judge them for making bad decisions. And I judge myself for wanting to turn my head to the issue.

Homelessness is not a "pretty" issue. Not like "save the whales" or "protect the panda." But, as I've learned throughout my career as a wildlife biologist, saving cute animals isn't really a pretty job, either. The issues are complex, multi-layered. They have much to do with politics, with money, with competing social values. Dealing with homelessness is the same way-- complex. Homelessness doesn't just happen. It's the result of many socio-economic falterings. It's the culmination of many problems: poor health care, lack of affordable housing, cracks in the education system, abundance of substance abuse...

But regardless of how much I can rationalize that homelessness is a cause worth supporting, there's still something deep within me that doesn't want to.

So I've been trying to figure out WHY do I have such negative feelings towards homelessness as a cause.

To do that, I've been thinking about how homelessness affects me. Here are some examples from the last few months:

One morning I rode my bike into town, and as I was just a few blocks from work, I saw a homeless man fall down face-first onto the sidewalk and go into convulsions. His friend flagged down a passing car, and the driver used his cell phone to call 911. I stood there, straddling my bike, paralyzed with the lack of knowledge of what to do, and watched as the two men tried to stabilize their friend and pad him from further hurting himself on the concrete. I didn't know what to do. Other homeless folks started coming to the scene, consoling each other, and helping to flag down the ambulance when it arrived. But I did nothing. I felt helpless to help the homeless man.

In the mornings I love to run on the Kim Williams trail along the river. There are two parks along my route that have bathrooms. And running in the morning usually makes me have to use the bathroom. But, the City locks these bathrooms at night, to prevent homeless folks from taking up residence there. And they don't open the bathrooms until after I'm done running, usually. So, I have to either change my route to include a place with an open bathroom, or (what happens more often) use the bushes. When I'm squatting over my freshly dug hole, I'm often perturbed that homeless folks indirectly inconvenience me.

For the past many years, I've lived and/or worked in more rural areas, where you just didn't ever see homeless people. Now that I work downtown in one of the larger cities in the state, I'm faced with homelessness on a more regular basis. In fact, it's so regular that I've shifted some of my habits to deal with it. There's quite the culture of homeless folks who panhandle on the streets downtown. They often sit on a wall in front of the courthouse, or on a bench near a particular street corner, and ask for money as people pass. I don't like being asked for money. It makes me mad. "I've been at work all day earning my money," I think, "while you've been sitting here bumming it. Hell no, I'm not giving you any spare change." That's what goes through my mind. What comes out my mouth is usually, "No, sorry," as I avert my eyes and walk quickly by. I've started looking ahead as I walk downtown... if I see panhandlers along one side of the street, I'll cross to the other. Avoidance like this is the only way to not get asked. Walking along talking on the cell phone or having conversation with a friends is apparently not a detractant, as panhandlers will interrupt my conversation to ask for money. These people anger me-- they break my rules of common courtesy and respect. And that makes me uncomfortable.

So to sum up, Homelessness makes me feel:
uncomfortable
inconvenienced
helpless

No wonder I don't like thinking about the issue. No wonder it's not on my list of "causes that I care about." It's NOT warm and fuzzy. I DON'T like it.

So I should ignore it, right?

Ugh, wrong. That's not the right answer. Or at least not the answer for a socially conscious, well-educated, responsible citizen. Not the right answer for someone who believes that problems are to be addressed head-on, not to be pushed to the side for later.

So what do I do? Do I give a few dollars to the folks that ask for it? No, that definitely doesn't help the cause.

I can make financial contributions to organizations that are helping to end homelessness-- either for one person or one family at a time, by helping them get back on their feet and learn to manage their lives, or by working within the political realm to change some of the policies and programs that make it more difficult for people to provide for themselves. This morning I've donated to both the local Poverello Center here in Missoula, and the Genesis Home in Durham, NC.

And I can help spread the word. I can talk to my friends about some of the root issues regarding homelessness. I can talk out my feelings and my stereotypes, and try to become a less judgemental, more tolerant person. And I can write about the cause on my blog, and refer folks to Robyn's blog for much more information.

And I can give thanks to the people in my life who have supported me, making it possible for me to provide myself with a good life in which I have the time to run, to think about larger causes, to donate money to help those who aren't so fortunate.

And I can vote. I can research the candidates who are running at local, state, and national levels, and I can cast my ballot for those who will work on mending some of the problems that lead many Americans into a life of poverty and/or homelessness.

What can you do?

Monday, October 6, 2008

Week In Review... And Look Ahead

Last Week:

Monday- 40 min run + strength exercises
Tuesday- Mt Sentinel trail run/hike (4.8 mile loop)
Wednesday- 45 min swim (first in ~6 weeks!)
Thursday- 50 min spinning class + 30 min weights
Friday- 60 min run
Saturday- 1/2 day horsing around
Sunday- full day horsing around


And the plan for this week:

Mon: 6:30am run; 5:30pm yoga
Tues: 6:00am spinning + weights
Wed: 7:00am run on Mt Sentinel
Thur: 4:30pm spinning; 5:30pm The Lift (weights class)
Fri: 6:30am swim; 4pm short run

Diva Day

Here's an email that I sent to Jenny last Wednesday:

"I just found out that a work-related event on Saturday that I thought was "optional" is decidedely NOT optional for me. I have to be in Potomac from 3-7pm. The hitch is that I promised Jim that I'd help him vaccinate cows in Ovando that afternoon after the race. There's no way I can do all three.

Given our concerns about the "Diva Day" race (e.g. congestion, stupid name, etc.), plus my scheduling difficulties, I was wondering if you'd consider an alternate race to do in a few weeks. Then I could do cows in the morning and work in the afternoon. Here are some upcoming races:

Sunday, Oct 12:
Goat Pursuit
9 AM
Mt. Helena Ridge Run, 6.6 miles point to point time-trial format. The trolley shuttle will leave the Helena Public Library at 8 am to carry runners to the top.
"The course starts with switchbacks up to the Helena Ridge, the rest of the course is primarily downhill on moderately technical singletrack, finishing at Dump Gulch Trailhead. This race is run as a time trial format - a runner will start every 30 seoconds, starting with the slowest runner. If this is your first race in the series, please send a recent 10k or 12k time."

Saturday, Oct 18:

(NOTE: I THINK this will work-- I have a wedding to go to later in the day, but I think I could make the race and then get to the wedding. But I'll have to double-check)
Pumpkin Run • Missoula

400 meter kids run & 5K, Proceeds benefit the Missoula Food Bank. 400 meter kids run (12 years old and under) at 9:45 am and 5K race at 10 am. Cost is $3 for the 400 meter run and $8 for the 5 kilometer race. Race is located at Maclay Flats on Trails in the Lolo National Forest.

Sunday, Oct 19:
Marshall Mountain Scramble
--Choose Your Challenge, Pick Your Pain! • Missoula,

11:00 am start, race day registration/packet pick-up starting at 9:30 am at the Marshall Mountain Lodge. Choose your course to the top of Marshall Mountain (2000' gain)--0.75 miles up the lift line? 3.2 miles around the access road? Something in between? Then cruise the access road down to the finish. Prizes for fastest guy and girl, as well as door prizes and best costume! $20 entry fee before October 13 guarantees you a long sleeve shirt; after that you take your chances.

OR

"Goat Grind" at the Elkhorn Endurance Retreat... Helena South Hills Trail Series • Race #4 - 10AM One series champion referred to this course as a "meatgrinder." It has steep hills, a creek crossing, and some technical singletrack. Race is followed by a pancake brunch and awards ceremony.

Whaddya think?"


Uh, so she laughed at me for even suggesting all but the Pumpkin Run. But I think the others sound pretty fun, too. Different challenges than your standard road race. Plus, it's getting to be pretty slim pickings finding a race anywhere in the Northern Rockies this time of year. (I have no idea why...) ;)

So, no, I didn't end up doing the 5k for "Diva Day." Which is okay by me, given that the t-shirts were kinda dorky... and that I got to spend the morning riding my horse and working cows with Jim, and the afternoon worked at a landowner's BBQ learning about conservation/land management tactics for ranchers & rural landowners.

But Jenny & Liz ended up running, and Jenny came in close to her goal time (really close, considering she was doing tequila shots the night before!)

I'll keep you posted if we do any of the runs...

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Biker Bums

If you get a chance today, say a little prayer for my buddy E. She had a bike wreck on Sunday-- nothing too bad, it didn't seem-- just a few scrapes and a raspberry on her abdomen where the handlebars jabbed her. But then several hours later, after being kinda tired and run down all afternoon, she started vomiting.
A trip to the ER resulted in numerous tests and finally an exploratory surgery in which they found a tear in her colon. The surgeons repaired the tear and then put her on numerous antibiotics to help stave off infections that can arise when internal fluids mix in unprecedented fashion.

She'll be recovering in the hospital for about a week.

E is eight years old.

Weigh-Ins (or the lack thereof)

A faithful reader who would likely prefer to remain annonymous recently sent me a message inquiring as to why I haven't posted any weigh-in information in over eight weeks now. "Is that because you've been hanging around a different 'jim?'"

Well, yes and no.

First off, the main reason for the lack of weigh-ins is that I just haven't had a chance to collect the data. I used to weigh myself every Friday morning (and other mornings when I thought of it). I noticed that my weight would fluctuate a good bit during the day based on how hydrated I was, what I'd eaten, etc., but it seemed to be a pretty consistent measurement if I hopped on the scale first thing in the morning.

Since I moved back to Missoula, I've only been around a scale a few times in the mornings, and I just haven't thought to weigh myself. Although I've been working out at least 3 mornings per week, I just meet my friend Jenny at a park where there's no locker room or scale. Twice I've been to the gym to do an early morning spinning class... and haven't thought to weigh in (the scale's in a weird place where I don't walk right by it).

So sorry, but I just don't have any numbers for you.

But, I can tell you how I feel, and what I've noticed. First, I definitely have not continued on the LOSING streak since I moved. And I know I've gained back some of the pudge that I got rid of during my mid-summer crunch to diet and train hard. I have one pair of pants that were just starting to fit well in early August, and now they're a bit snug again. Everything else is still fitting fine-- just not the "honesty pants."

I'd say I'm probably back in the 139-141 range again, where I was most of the past year.

So is that because I've been spending more time with Jim and less time at the Gym?

No, I definitely can't blame him. Here are a few things I can blame:
  • impulsively eating bagels that are so easy to acquire from the bagel shop across the street from my office
  • making lunch dates to get Thai food in the park instead of just having a bowl of soup or a salad for lunch
  • drinking beer on weeknights as well as on weekends (okay, we'll let Jim take some of the blame for that... )
  • once having consumed said beer, making poor choices for dinner (e.g. scarfing down a frozen pizza instead of making fresh stir-fry)
  • scrambling around trying to figure out my new schedule, trying to juggle work, workouts, social life, commuting, etc., and letting meal planning fall down on the priority list... and thus not being as conscious of what I'm eating and often finding myself in the "I'm hungry. Must eat. Now. Don't care what it is" situation
  • taking too much advantage of the "treats" that people sometimes bring to the office (so cruel... just because you get the urge to bake doesn't mean that you can bring it to the office to get it out of your house!)
  • shifting my workouts from hard training-specific workouts to more fun, and slightly less hard-core workouts
  • decreasing my weekly workout time by at least a few hours because of said juggling challenges

HOWEVER, I've now been in Missoula for eight weeks. The thrill of the good bagel shop and other restaurants is wearing off. I've "caught up" with many of the friends I wanted to visit with, and no longer feel quite the urgent need to hang out with folks every night. I'm getting into a new routine of workout times. I've started making meal planning a higher priority again.

And I think that I'll buy a scale to have in my bathroom at home. That way I don't just have to rely on my britches to tell me how I'm doing-- I can do check-ins as often as I want.

For the next few weeks my goal is to just get myself reined in-- not necessarily to diet to lose weight, but at least get back on a good maintenence routine. No beer drinking during the week. Stock up on salad makings, and eat that for lunch. No going out for lunch, or grabbing breakfast from a nearby bakery. Making eating out a special occasion, not a normal thing.

Once I get those habits re-established, then I can work on re-losing what I've put back on!

So, dear reader, I hope that answers your question. Thanks for asking!

Monday, September 29, 2008

This Weekend's Race

My, it's been nearly two months since I've done a race. And mentally I'm not in race-mode, as I haven't been in training-mode. But I'm going to do this race anyway, as it's an annual all-women's run here in Missoula.

I'm not a huge fan of the name. And I'm a little bummed that there's only a 5k offered-- in previous years the Blue Mountain Clinic hosted the race and offered a 5k, 10k, or 1/2 Marathon. Last year I did the 10k, and would've liked to do that distance or the 1/2 this year. But I suppose I'll be forced to suffer a 5k this year! (in my experience, shorter races are tougher because you have to go faster-- rather than slow and steady for a longer time)

Jenny and I will be running this, but not together. She's going for a PR, so I'm leaving her alone to do it (if we run together we'll talk the whole time and not run fast enough!). I haven't been doing much speedwork lately, so don't have any illusions of setting a PR. But I do have a secret time goal (I'll let you know what it is if I make it!) I'm going to go as hard as I can go given where I'm at right now. That's my goal.

And, this will be a great Anniversary celebration. This is the first 5k that Jenny or I ever ran-- back in 2006, after we'd learned to run together. It's hard to believe sometimes that I've only been running for 2 years! Who'da thought back in Oct '06 that I would be whining this year that I couldn't do a 10k or 1/2 Marathon this weekend?!

Anyway, if any ladies in the Missoula area or within a reasonable driving distance want to join, please do! See you there!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Earning Friendship

For the past few weeks my friend Jenny and I have been meeting at McCormick Park (near downtown, along the Clark Fork River) at 6:30am (yes, it's still dark) to run and then do some strength training.


Jenny was my first ever running partner, back when we started doing the Couch-to-5K plan together back in August of '06. And she remains one of my favorite running buddies-- she has some grit-- she always shows up, no matter how hard it is to get out of bed or how tired she is from the day before-- which really helps motivate me and keeps me accountable on those mornings when I could easily just hit the snooze bar just a FEW more times! Also, Jenny has a great sense of humor, and we always have something to talk about-- whether it's work/school-related, what we ate last night that's sitting heavy in our stomachs this morning, where we fantasize about going on vacation, what new scores on clearance-rack shoes we've found.... on and on we chat, until the time has flown by and we're done with our run.


But today we paused in the conversation for a bit. The annual Missoula Women's Run is coming up in a few weeks. This will be Jenny's 4th 5k, and for the first time her goal is not just to finish, but to finish under a certain time. She just shared this goal with me on Monday, and asked me to show her what the pace would be like to do the race in that time. So this morning we headed to the track-- a little graveled track along the river trail about 3/4 mile from our starting point. So we jogged to the track nice and slowly, and then kept our easy pace for one lap. 2:51, or about an 11:24 min/mile pace.


Then we kicked up the pace to Jenny's goal pace. No talking on this lap. I was concentrating hard on trying to hit the pace right on. I've realized that since I've started doing pace work, I've gotten pretty decent at "feeling" a pace. My breathing is the best indicator of how fast I'm going, but I can also tell by the turnover of my legs. So I concentrated on those signs, and checked my watch at the half-way point. And when we got to the end, I looked at my watch again: exactly on our goal, which was 2:34, or a 10:17 min/mile pace.


We walked a bit to recover, then did another lap at this pace. This time I had a little better sense of what we needed to do, so I was able to chat. Jenny focused on her breath, and concentrated on what it felt like to maintain that pace for a 1/4 mile.


We walked again, and then did 2 repeats of 2 laps at race pace, again with me talking about race strategies, about how to be okay with the less-than-comfortable pace, about my strategy to focus on my form when things get tough and I want to quit. And Jenny worked on breathing, keeping her legs turning over steadily, and not chewing me out for being such a perky early morning coach :) She did great!


On our slow jog back to our starting point, she told me about how she was at a dinner party with several gals the other night and told them about our morning workouts and how I always come prepared with a plan for the day. "Wow," one of the girls said, "Carly should charge people like $5 a day to come work out with her."


I laughed! I come with my own workout plan every day, anyway. Having someone there to do it with me just adds that much more motivation and fun. But, then again, $5 would add up after a while, and I could buy another pair of shoes...


So Jenny and I started joking about how her friendship MUST be worth the $5 a day that she would pay me for my workouts. So my pseudo-coaching is really just how I'm earning her friendship :)


But you know, the real vale of our friendship is completely priceless.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Week In Review

Been busy. But amongst juggling a busy work schedule, household chores, cooking, and sleeping, I managed the following:

Monday-
6:30 am: run workout w/ Jenny: after a 10 min warmup, do walking lunges for 1 min, run for 5, and repeat 5 times; then situps, pushups, and hamstring/glute presses

after work: groundwork/training with our 2-yr-old horse (getting him ready to start riding)-- this is fairly active work

Tuesday-
6:15-7:30am: bikram-style yoga class
5:30 pm: hour-long mountain bike ride up the Rattlesnake with Kevin

Wednesday-
6:30 am: a Women's Health track workout with Jenny
5:30 pm: biked home from work (15.5 miles), then 1 hr of work with my horse

Thursday-
doh- got lazy and had Jim drive me to work instead of riding my bike; was nice, though, since we've both been busy and haven't seen each other this week-- so we had coffee and a bagel, then both went to work; the rest of the day I was busy-- thought I'd have time to sneak in a run in the afternoon, but ended up being gone to the Swan until 5:30, then had ameeting from 6-9pm. so no workout today. lesson learned-- get it in first thing in the morning, 'cause you may not always have time later

Friday-
6:30 am: 40 min run with Jenny, followed by 15 min arms & abs work

and the rest of the week's plans:

this afternoon- ride my bike home, then work with my horse

Saturday- ride bike back to town to the Farmer's Market; then meet Mamie, Jenny, Megan (and others?) for a hike up Squaw Peak (7 mi round trip, ~2000' elevation gain... I see this peak from my house every day but have never hiked it, so this will be fun!)

Sunday- ??? help Jim work cows, or find something else fun to do if he's still finishing haying

Yep, a nice week with fun activities. It's nice not to be in full training mode right now, and to just enjoy doing a variety of random activities. But never fear... I'm already starting to set some new goals for races in 2009, including the Snow Joke 1/2 Marathon in Feb!

Sometimes Walker Rides

A few photos from last weekend...
Sunrise over our horse pasture as I headed out to catch our trusty steeds early Saturday morning.
Jim and our friend Charlie heading out to gather the cattle that were pastured at the High Meadow Mountain Ranch in Ninemile. 60 cows and their calves, plus 2 bulls, all needed to be gathered, sorted, hauled home to get shots for the calves, and then taken out to fall pasture.
Charlie in the distance pushing along his little bunch of cattle. who was moving my bunch while I was taking pictures?! ;)
Early Sunday morning, gathering pairs at home to take to fall pasture.
Jim watching intently as his "girls" filed through the gate into to the corrals.

We successfully accomplished the mission. But there are still 3 more little groups of cattle that still need the same treatment-- gather, sort, vaccinate, move to fall pasture. So that's what we'll be up to over the next few weekends... once haying is done!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Planning for the Week

Since I started my new job, every Monday morning, I've sat down and typed out my intended work plan for the week. This is something that's done by all 7 people in my office. We cc each other, and thus have a good idea of what everyone is working on, what we need to discuss as a group in our Tuesday staff meetings, etc.

It's also the time that I schedule my workouts for the week. And since I'm now entering Week 6 of my new job/new lifestyle, I'm starting to (hopefully) get a better idea of what's going to work and what isn't, in terms of my time committments, energy levels, and the likes.

One thing I do when figuring out my week is to check the weather forecast to see if some days will be better than others for biking (e.g. no wind!), or for doing yoga (e.g. rainy afternoon), etc. This week's forecast: friggin' gorgeous. Every day. Highs will be in the low 80's, lows in the low 40's. Clear skies. Calm. Fantastic. This weekend was the same-- stunningly beautiful blue skies, crisp cool mornings where sweatshirts feel oh so good, starry nights. This morning on my run I started a little before daybreak, but my path was lit by the full moon. When I turned around and headed west, I got to watch the moon sinking over the western hills as the sun creaped up and lighted them from the east. Incredible.

I LOVE THIS TIME OF YEAR IN MONTANA!!!

I'm so excited for this week, and psyched that opportunities for great outdoor fun abound. I haven't gotten the schedule fully figured out yet, but one thing is for sure: Jenny and I have committed to meeting at 6:30am Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays for a 30-45 min run followed by some strength training for 15-20 minutes. Other things I'd like to do this week: bike to work (~16 miles), and run/hike a 5.5-mile loop that goes up Mt Sentinel to the M, then across the face of the mountain on an old dirt road, then down a gentler grade back to the University district. The weather will be perfect for whatever I decide.

Hooray for stupendous weather! Horray for lots of options in my "workout plan."

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Non-Race Report... The Weekend I DIDN'T Do Garden City

Oh, what a glorious non-race weekend it was! I was so incredibly glad that I got to use my fitness and training and apply it towards an activity that was decidedly un-stressful: backpacking!

Here's my report, in the style of a race report:

Pre-Trip:
We had originally talked about leaving on Friday afternoon after work, heading up to Holland Lake to car-camp for the night, then packing up and backpacking in to Upper Holland Lake on Saturday morning. Well, Jenny had to work til 6 or 7, Kristina had to run home and get her dog, we still needed to get some last-minute things, and it was starting to seem a little stressful (oh no!). Then it started raining. Which, to me, was a clear message from the Universe: Don't go camping tonight.

So we decided to all sleep in our nice warm beds on Friday night, then pack up our nice dry gear on Saturday morning, drive to the trailhead, and start hiking all nice and fresh and dry and non-stressed. Good call.

First Leg:
We hit the trail at about 10:30 am. It was quite chilly at the trailhead, and we all had on our fleeces over top of long-sleeve polypro and t-shirts. Jenny outfitted her dog Lucky with his own backpack (containing the dog food and her lunch), and Kristina donned her dog Maggie with a matching pack (containing the dog bed and some food). Jenny's other dog Dallas lucked out and was the only one in our 6-member party who didn't have to carry anything. So she officially got to be our Lead Scout.

The trail was flat for about 1/4 mile, but then started its climb. By the third switchback or so we were stripping off layers. The trail winded across the face of the mountain for a while, giving us great views of Holland Lake and the Mission Mountains to the south, then headed into a deep canyon where we were blessed with the roar of a rushing river and glimpses of lush vegetation surrounding us.

The trail criss-crossed the creek a few times as it wound on up the mountain, and in a few spots passed by some spectacular swimming holes. But alas, swimming was not a part of this endurance adventure... it wasn't THAT warm!

Eventually we reached the lake and wandered around for a bit looking for the perfect campsite. We found a nice big spot on the northern end of the lake, and decided it looked like a great place to spend some time.


"T1":
We dropped our packs and began pulling out gear. Tents went up in a flash, we set up our beds and unloaded our gear, and then, all set up, sat down for a snack.

And got cold.

As long as we were moving, the low-60's temperatures were great. But being still damp from sweat and inactive, it was just not tolerable to sit around. And it was only a little after 2pm, so we decided to go for a "day hike" up to Gordon Pass, about 2.5 miles up from the lake.

But in order to leave our camp unattended, we had to hang our food. Bears are abundant in the area, and we'd even seen fresh bear tracks on the south side of the lake. So to keep them out of trouble, and to make sure we'd have dinner when we got back, we knew we had to get our food out of their reach.

The recommendations are to have your food at least 10 feet off the ground and 4 feet away from the trunk of a tree. Well, that's all fine and easy to do if you're in a forest with great big trees with great big sturdy branches. But we were in an area with smaller trees, most of which were subalpine firs, which have smaller-diameter branches that swoop to the ground. They're beautiful trees, but not so hot for hanging food. And so we decided to deploy a method that I used to use when working in Glacier:
1. climb up Tree A, wrap the rope around the trunk about 15 feet up, and tie it off
2. climb down the tree
3. find a rock, tie your rope around it, and pitch it over a branch that's about 15 feet up in Tree B, about 10-12 feet away from Tree A
4. wrap the rope around Tree B
5. now you have a rope stretched between two trees; pull the rope down enough so that you can tie your food bag onto it about 4-5 feet away from Tree A
6. tug on the loose end of the rope to hoist the bag into the air
7. tie off the loose end on a nearby branch, log, etc

Sounds simple, right? Yeah, not so much. Read this for an idea of how the process REALLY goes.

So, we finally got our food hung, packed our day packs with water, snacks, jacket, cameras, etc, and set off for the pass around 4:00.



Second Leg:
This round was much faster than the first! With only about 10 lbs instead of 45-50, we were able to hike faster and enjoyed the lightness that we felt. The trail went uphill, but at a nice easy grade. We were able to walk pretty quickly and still have good conversation.


As we wound up the canyon, we began to see signs of higher elevations-- most notably some whitebark pines, which only grow in subalpine areas. I love seeing these trees, as they're signs that good views abound!

At the pass we ran into two gentlemen who had been backpacking since Tuesday, and were spending their last night there. They took our picture at the wilderness boundary sign. We also had Kristina pose for a "Baby on Board" shot, as she's 4.5 months pregnant! Then we wandered around looking at the views for a while. It was surprising warm at the pass-- the sun was shining, the wind was calm, and it was warmer than where we'd come from!


But alas, our bellies were urging us to make haste for camp, and so we soon scampered back down to the lake, yakking and cackling all the way (note: we did NOT see any bears or other wild critters... they could've heard us coming for MILES!)

"T2":
This tranisition was between camp and hiking again. Let's just say we took our time :) As it had rained most of the night and was pretty cool in the morning, none of us were extremely motivated to leave our toasty sleeping bags and step out into the dampness.


But finally I'd had all the laying in the tent I could stand, so I got up, retrieved our goods from the tree, and began boiling water for coffee and breakfast. The other gals got up shortly thereafter, and we all huddled around the stove drinking coffee and eating oatmeal and chatting. Dallas took a morning swim... brr! That dog LOVES the water.


Eventually we made our way towards the tents to start packing up. We shook off as much rainwater as we could, stuffed our bags full again, and finally hit the trail at the early hour of 11am.


Third Leg:
From Upper Holland Lake, we hit a trail that took us through a series of switchbacks for about a mile as we wound up, up, up the mountain. We stopped for a few photos along the way, but mostly kept chugging up, enjoying the chance to get warm (I, obviously, was plenty warm, and stripped down to my tank top, despite the 50 degree weather-- I don't wearing sweaty shirts!)


After a while the trail mellowed out, and we followed a winding path through subalpine forests and rocky outcrops. Kristina and Jenny, who are both bird biologists, were excited to hear and see some white-winged crossbills. These birds, I learned, are rather nomadic in nature. They typically stay in larger flocks and travel around to find the best food sources. They may breed at varying times of the year, depending on the resources available, rather than just in the springtime like most birds. Cool.


After birdwatching for a bit, we rounded the corner and headed down to Sapphire Lake. Again, Dallas raced ahead to make sure she could get a good swim in (see photo). The rest of us, deeming 50 degrees and cloudy inappropriate weather for swimming, opted to just find a good spot for lunch. As we were dining, the clouds rolled in a little more, and it started graupling on us (graupling? yes. see #8 here) Brr, chilly. 50 was a high estimate, I think. Good thing our lunch consisted mostly of sausage, cheese, crackers, nuts, and dried fruit-- get some fat in us to stay warm!


We didn't tarry too long at the lake, as it just wasn't all that pleasant. Again, we were thankful to get to hike uphill for a while to get warmed back up. Soon, however, we came to The Notch-- a place where the trail shoots through a notch in the mountainside. All of the sudden, we left the cloudy, precipitous backcountry, and found ourselves on a south-facing slope speckled with sun and overlooking the Swan valley. La-ahhh!


The trail stayed high for a few minutes, and then started its plunge down the face of the mountain. It was steep and winding for several miles, and by the end we were really looking forward to not having to walk downhill anymore-- especially with packs on. But no one got cranky, or had to stop, and we reached the car in good spirits. The sun was shining on us, and we enjoyed losing our loads.


We ran into the fellows we'd seen at the top of the pass the day before, and they offered us their last beer-- a tall can of Coors. Yes, banquet beer! Since Kristina was pregnant, and Jenny was driving, I took one for the team and accepted the gift graciously. They got their just rewards, though, in the form of chocolate milkshakes at the Ice Cream Place in Seeley Lake on the way home.

So all in all it was a terrific weekend. Great to spend time with friends. Awesome scenery and by-golly-we'll-take-it weather. Fun laughs, good exercise, and no stress. Just what we all needed.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Juggling

I haven't written a post in a while. Quite a while. As you may guess, it's because I've been struggling with juggling.

I'm now in Week 4 of my new job. The work is terrific, and I'm so tickled that I got this position... but there's a lot to learn, and my brain has been feeling very full of new information of late. It's made "extra curricular" thinking much more difficult. i.e. I've been finding myself not at all interested in sitting down at a computer to compose a blog post when I get home in the evenings. Plus in the past few weeks I've had several evening meetings that have lasted until about 9pm.

And with this career change has come a change in many other parts of my life. I'm no longer living the "bachelorette" life I was during the week when I was in Kalispell this last year. No, now I have a boy to come home to (and also to tempt me into snuggling and sleeping in rather than getting up early to work out). And with someone else to eat with, I've been more motivated to cook meals besides just a bowl of soup or cereal for dinner. Then add to the mix all the great friends I have here in Missoula, who are terrific to hang out with, and I've been enjoying the chance to be social-- even on weeknights. For example, I've recently gone to an African Dance class with friends, had a picnic down by the river one evening, have met friends to go to Out To Lunch in downtown, etc. It's been so nice to get re-connected to several folks who I've only seen sporadically for the past few years.

And then add into this mix the fact that getting to work now includes a 20 min drive plus a 5-10 minute walk, rather than the 5 min drive I used to do.

Oh yeah, and for some reason at the end of the first week of this new melee, I thought it would be a good idea to add an Olympic Distance triathlon into the mix. So I've also been trying to do some last-minute long rides, runs, and swims.

So, yeah, I've been a little busy. Thus the lack of blogging.

That and, well, I've really been re-thinking my decision to do the Oly Tri, and hadn't until this weekend made up my mind about it.

Here's my thinking, in a nutshell:

I considered this race earlier in the spring/summer, and thought it might be something I'd want to do. But, I looked at my schedule and the fact that August is usually a busy fire season in MT (which, thankfully this year it wasn't; that, and my new job doesn't involve fire work)... but I decided that I couldn't commit to training for the race given the timing. I'd kind of kept in my mind the thought that maybe I could try it, though, if fire season wasn't too bad.

So when Roni prodded me (again) after the Whitefish Tri (when I was super high on endorphines after finishing the race), I said "sure, I'll do it." And you know, I could do it. I physically could complete the race, I know it. And like I said before, it might be good just to gruel through that distance this fall so that next year I'll have a better sense of what it's like and I can train better for it.

But here come the "cons": I haven't trained for that distance! Thus I know it would be a slog. I'd be mentally unprepared, if not physically, and compared with times from folks the last few years, I'd definitely be near last. Now, I'd be okay with that position IF I knew it was the best that I could do. But being last or near last because of lack of preparation just isn't acceptable for me.

So the thought of the race, and the pressure to keep training has really been adding a disproportionate amount of stress to my already stress-full situation. (Not that stress is a bad thing, necessarily... I do best with a moderate amount of pressure!) But I just haven't been looking forward to my workouts, because they're geared toward an event I don't want to do.

That and, well, there've been too many other fun things to do besides do some last-minute training for an event I don't want to do.

So the last straw came last Thursday night when Jim said, "hey, I have a 3-day weekend, too" (he RARELY gets days off, especially not 3 in a row!), "so do you want to take the horses up to the Mission Mountains and go camping & fishing this weekend?"

My first thought was YES! That's one of the things I enjoy most in life... riding horses. in the mountains. with Jim.

Followed by, oh, but I have to do a Swim/Bike Brick on Saturday and a long run on Sunday.

So I decided not to do the Oly this year. The reason I race is to have fun, and to give myself good goals to work towards. This race just wasn't shaping up to be fun, and definitely hadn't served the purpose of being a long-term goal to help keep me on track with exercising.

So this weekend, I'll instead be going backpacking with two of my girlfriends. I was really glad to be able to say yes, I'll go! when they asked, instead of no, I have a race this weekend.

I'll send a "Backpack Report" rather than a race report. And I'll do some thinking along the trail about what my next longer-term race goals will be. But for a while, I just wanna have some fun and let exercise be a little less structured and regimented while I make some life transitions.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Note To Self

Running gets easier, or at least more comfortable, after I do it for a while. Namely about 20-30 minutes.

Case in point: today on my lunch break I had a run workout planned in which I would warm up for 10-15 minutes, then do three cruise intervals (run for 8 min at tempo pace, then recover with a slow jog for 3 min). I started out at a nice slow jog, and all felt good. For about 5 minutes.... then I wanted to stop. Nothing hurt. I wasn't tired. But for some reason my body and mind both said, "this is silly. can we just walk somewhere instead of trying to run there?"

But I kept on jogging, and then after ten minutes picked it up to tempo pace for my first interval. It sucked. Not only was I sucking wind, but my whole body felt just out-of-sync and gangly, like I'd never run before. It wasn't smooth. It wasn't comfortable. And again, nothing was WRONG, but it just wasn't RIGHT. I wanted to stop.

And you know, the first 10-30 minutes of my runs are often like this. ESPECIALLY in a triathlon. In the two that I've done now, I really haven't felt good running until the last mile or less, but then things come around and it's okay. And on my run today, the second interval felt better, and by the third it was feeling pretty darn good to crank along at a quickened pace. I even went for a slightly longer-than-prescribed cool-down jog, just because it felt good (and I was digging listening to the live music playing at the park along the river where I was running).

I'm not sure why it takes me so long to get into the running groove, even when I run on a regular basis. But it does. I guess I'm just made to be a distance runner?!

Regardless of the reason, I'll be trying to remember this fact when I do the Olympic distance triathlon in a few weeks. Instead of the 5k/3.1 mile run that I've done in the last two triathlons, this one will be a 10k/6.2 mile run. I know the first few miles will be tough. But I'll be working hard to remind myself that IT WILL GET BETTER. I know that I have the cardio strength and endurance to keep going. I'll just have to have the mental strength to push myself through the first few miles of awkward discomfort on the run, working towards that slightly smoother feeling that comes once my legs and core get used to the feel of running.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Wacky Weather

Yesterday's high was 100. Ugh. Too hot for nearly anything (except swimming!)

Today I had planned to do a 50 min run with cruise intervals, then an hour-long bike ride tomorrow. When temps are so high, I have to run in the early morning. I hate doing any speed work in the mornings. So I really wasn't looking forward to this morning.

But then last night I watched the news and saw the weather forecast. Tomorrow's high is supposed to be a mere 74. And 67 the next day!

So I decided to flip-flop my workouts. I'll do my bike at lunch time today, and do my run tomorrow at noon when it's much cooler (I have evening meetings both tonight and tomorrow, so I'm taking 2-hour lunch breaks to work out).

Now that's what I call adaptive management:)

Monday, August 18, 2008

Getting My A@! Handed to Me

I thought I had a great idea. Since I just competed yesterday, and running and biking might be a little rough, I thought a swim workout would be good.

So maybe a little easy recovery swim would've been nice. But did I do that? Noooo. I had the bright idea to try a Master's swim class.

The day after a race.

In a 50m pool full of turbo-fasties.

Yeah, good thinking there, C.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Race Report: Whitefish Triathlon

I raced in the Whitefish Sprint Triathlon today. It was fantastic. I went fast, had fun, didn't crash. Cool. Then I came home and started cooking dinner and proceeded to chop the end of my thumb nearly off (it looked like the eggplant I was chopping, I guess). So I now have a giant wad of maxi pad and 1st aid tape wrapped around my left thumb. (Goes to show you can be a triathlete and still be a clutz!)

Pre-race:
A gorgeous morning. Beautiful lakeside setting (see picture below of the end of the swim course). Cool set-up. Fun taking pictures with others from the Triathlon Flathead group. Most are turbo-fasties. Then there are about 5 of us that are allowed to sport the colors to represent the club's openness to back-of-the-packers ;) Thanks, Ted, for designing and ordering the suits and let us newbies join the club!


The Swim (1/2 mile or 880 yards):

I got suited up, pulled on my cap and goggles, and jumped in. Crap. Goggles leak. Screwed around with goggles for a few minutes, to no avail. So I made a last-minute sprint back to the transition area to get my backup pair. Made it back to the lake just in time to start. Winded. 130-some people all started swiming at once. Turbulence. But I pushed on through. I got a little caught up in the hey-we're-racing melee, but soon found my rhythm and churned towards the first buoy.

I had a great line going into the turn and passed several folks who were wadded up next to the buoy. Passed Teresa in the turn (short dark-haired gal who's one of my best training buddies), and since she and I usually swim a pretty similar pace, it was good to see her there and know I was on-track with how fast I needed to be going. On the long back stretch I had a race/clobber-fest going on with some girl. She'd breast stroke for a while and I'd pass her, then she'd switch to freestyle and pass me. Back and forth every minute or so. We bumped into/kicked each other several times, and I kept trying to lose her, but just couldn't get away! Finally we rounded the last turn and headed in for the beach, and one of us finally pulled away from the other-- not sure who. I finished nice and strong, perhaps a little faster than last time.

T1:
Smooth. Didn't biff running up the stairs. Slid my wetsuit right off thanks to the help of Pam. Noticed that Roni was putting on her second shoe as I was getting my suit off. Way to go on the swim, Roni, I thought. But then "Durn, she'll probably beat me. Maybe I'll catch her on the run if her knee is hurting." (Being competitive with your friends is kinda fun!) Washed the sand off my feet, popped on shoes, glasses, helmet, all as planned. Took off up the stairs to start the bike leg.

The Bike (20K or 12.4 mi):

I started off in my smallest ring but quickly worked up. First few miles were flat and fast. Sped through a 90 degree turn past the cops who were working the traffic light. Giggled at speeding by cops ;) Reminded myself that my intention was to give 'er hell on the bike and really see what I could do. So I did. And I had a blast. The course was hilly, but the hills were just right-- as soon as I'd really start wishing the hill would end, it would! Then I'd zip down the other side, thrashing through my super-cool gears. McDreamy was a champ-- didn't let me down, didn't drop the chain, didn't ask for brakes. And that's what helped me pass Roni a mile or so before the turn-around. A big turn was up ahead, and I'd had her in my sights for the last few miles. She braked hard going around the turn, and after a moment's hesitation ("does she know something I don't?!), I just kicked it. I'd driven the course the day before and knew what this turn looked like, and figured I could hold my speed through it. So I pedaled hard, felt the G's, and kept cranking as I flew past and hollered "Go Roniiiii!" It was fun to pass someone, although I felt a little bad passing my friend! But it's all friendly competition, and I knew that I had to put some quick distance between us, or she'd catch me. So I kept gearing up, pushing hard, huffing a good sigh now and then. I soon reached the turn-around and was a bit bummed that I didn't get to keep going on this awesome windy mountain lake road. But, the way back proved to be just as fun as the way out. I had a great game of cat-and-mouse going on with a guy in a blue jersey. I'd pass him on the uphills (all the hill work I've been doing was greatly beneficial!), then he'd pass me on the downhills or flats. Back and forth we went, for the entire 12.4 miles. I finally passed him on the last uphill stretch about a mile before the end. As I made the turn back towards transition, I saw the overall race winner coming in for the end of the run. I beat him back to the transition area by 30 seconds or so! Another notch in my finisher's belt: I finished the bike before the first person finished the whole thing!!! Anyhow, I was bummed the bike was over because I'd had so much fun with it.

T2:
I quickly popped McDreamy back into the rack, grabbed my visor and a sip of water, took a deep breath, then rubber-legged it out of transition.

The Run:
Ugh. First thing: a hill. Then a small flat/slight downhill. Then a friggin steep 200 yard hill. I remember thinking "this is just rude. who sticks hills right in the beginning of a run, anyway?!" Yes, I was whining. As I experienced in my last tri, my legs were whooped. But unlike the last time, I was at least expecting it. I walked a few steps up the hill so as not to de-wind myself too much, then took off again. Guy in the blue jersey that I'd bike raced with passed me (easy to do when you're >6 feet tall!) and gave me an encouraging thumbs-up. My legs began to come around more and more, and I appreciated the heck out of the two aid stations that offered ice-cold water to dump on my head. I definitely wasn't running fast, but I was running. Another training pal who injured her neck recently and couldn't race was working the run turn-around spot. "Looking good, Carly," she said, "you're going strong." Thanks, Krista! I felt like a weakling, but took your encouraging words and let them boost me along.

I high-fived Roni and Teresa and Kristy as I passed them and shouted whoo-hoos, and knew that if I stayed as I was, I'd have them all beat. Yay. About 2 miles in, I was really feeling more up for running. My legs were a little tired, sure, but were just starting to feel like this running thing wasn't all that bad an idea. I lifted my chest a bit to get more air, and tried to stay positive in my thinking. Less than 1/2 mile from the end, I heard footsteps fast approaching, and then a gal passed me sporting a 32 on her right calf. Crap! Passed by someone in my age group. I tried to pick it up and chase her, but just didn't have any more speed in me. So I hollered "go get 'em, way to go!" and watched as she pulled away from me. Not seconds later the same thing happened-- but this gal was 30. Who are these freak women who can pick it up so strong at the end?! Oh well. Those were the only two that passed me, besides blue shirt guy, the whole run. (Oh, and there were two people who were running it as part of a relay team, but they don't count, since they were fresh!)

As I neared the finish, I saw Ted putting his stuff in his car (he, of course, had been done for about half an hour!). "Aren't you going to cheer for me?!" I teased as I passed him. He did. As did lots of other strangers who were lining the last few hundred yards. I love spectators who cheer! I finished with a little micro-kick thanks to the cheers, and didn't puke at the finish. Good things. I did huff and puff for a minute or so, and then remembered to run up and grab my camera to take pictures of the other gals finishing. Roni was just coming in as I got back down to the finish, and Teresa was in hot pursuit. We all walked it off together, grabbed water, posed for a quick picture in which we were instructed to show off our numbers and "look tough," and then we headed back to the lake to splash around and cool down. (pictured left-to-right, Roni, me, Teresa)

Post-race:
It was while chillin out in the lake and re-hashing how things went that Roni once again brought up the Garden City Triathlon, an Olympic-distance race in Frenchtown a few weeks from now. I've kinda secretly been considering this race all year, but not wanting to commit to it in case I got sucked into firefighting or other things this summer. I haven't specifically trained for that long of a race, but know that I could at least finish it, albeit slow. Well, in my post-race elation, I let her help me convince myself that it's worth giving it a shot, so I decided to do so. More on that later...


The post-race party was good, with burgers and such and cold water and beer, prize drawings (I won a new bike helmet; although it doesn't clash with McDreamy like my pink helmet does, and I briefly considered keeping it just for fashion's sake, I ultimately decided to trade it in at the store it came from for a t-shirt and a few new pairs of running socks, which I actually need as some of mine are getting pretty non-cushiony). It was fun to chill out and talk about the ups and downs of the race with a bunch of folks. Triathletes are in general just really good people and really interesting folks. I guess you have to be, in order to be nuts enough to want to put yourself through such an ordeal yet organized and Type-A enough to figure out how to balance all the workouts, gear, and real life. I'm glad to be a part.

Okay, it's beer-thirty. My thumb actually has held up better than I thought. Good. Before I go, here are the times:


Total: 1:36:10 (8:35 faster than the one in June!!!)

Swim: 18:34 (avg. 2:10 min/100 yards... about what I expected)
Bike: 46:20 (time includes both transitions? or just one? waiting for official splits; avg. of at least 16.1 mph, including transition times)
Run: 31:16 (avg. 10:05 min/mi)