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:

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:

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.


"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...