Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Bootcamp and Bicycles

Yesterday a group of us participated in a bootcamp class led by our friend Maggi, a personal trainer. We agreed to be guinea pigs for Maggi's demo class. For some of us (like me) this was  a chance to learn what might be involved in a bootcamp session and for all of us to see if there was enough interest in having regular sessions going forward.

I'd like to blame Michael M for having my muscles handed to me like jello on a platter. It was Michael who commented in the days leading up to the class that he would give up his boxing/core fitness class to help Maggi in this demo. To which Maggi replied that she would try to make it worth his while.... and he said it was. But in all honestly no one is to blame for how I feel. It's not a surprise that I need to do more work like this. Also, Maggi made it clear throughout that we should all do what we could at our own pace. It's not a competition but there is definite value in doing this as a group. There was a lot of support being shared and misery really does love company. :)

My goal in attending was to stick it out for the entire 45 minutes doing the exercises to the best of my ability. I know my form was far from perfect but I was trying hard on each and every one. Immediately after class I felt used but not abused. Once I got home however, I was surprised at how difficult it was to go down stairs. Up was not too bad - it just felt like I had done a good hill workout - but the struggle to walk down the stairs was something I have not felt since the days after my first marathon.

Although I'm feeling it today I am excited to go back next week. Maggi wants to offer the classes Tuesdays and Thursdays each week. I'd like to try to go as often as my body and my schedule will allow.  I am surprised at how much I feel it today. Typically muscle soreness affects me the day after the day after. I can only hope that the intensity of the exercise is why I'm feeling it sooner. If that's not the case, tomorrow is going to be a bear!

I had set my sights on biking today. And then yesterday happened. Still, I packed a bag last night and put my bike in the back of the car. And this morning as I hobbled down the steps I still talked myself into putting the bag IN the car. As the soreness grew during the day I flip flopped on biking or not. My last outing was the National Park ride in September. Weather and schedules were keeping me off the bike despite the return of daylight saving time. I really wanted to get back on it.

Quitting time came and I gathered my things to go down to my car still not sure what I was going to do. Then I thought of two things -

  1. If I didn't at least try to ride I'd spend the evening wondering if I should have and beating myself up which is not constructive at all and 
  2. I have 28 gears on the bike! I might was well use them. No one is gonna care if I go low on a more or less flat bike path like the Chester Valley Trail. 
So I changed into riding clothes and already felt better. Stiff but better. :) There were only two obstacles left. The first was inflating the tires after a long winter off. The bike pump and I have a love hate thing going every Spring. I love having properly inflated tires and it hates doing it's job. (Ok I'ts likely user error but still.....) I persevered and won that battle. The second obstacle was getting my leg up and over the bike. Go ahead laugh. I did. After yesterday's workout my legs were having none of it. It was comical but again I stuck with it and I won. 

The ride itself was awesome. The weather was great, the views beautiful, and I didn't have to go into granny gear or even close to it. I got to ride on the new section of the Chester Valley Trail which is nicely done! All told I went 10 miles. I would have been happy with 5 or even 1 if it came to that. But 10 felt good and way better than not going at all. I'd like to thank Mother Nature for the gorgeous day. Had it been cloudy and cold or threatening to rain it would have been much harder to make this ride happen given how I feel. 

Keep smiling and keep moving

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Pinnacle Hike Attempt

It's probably hard to see but just about in the middle of the left photo is a white blaze showing where the trail went. Some feet to the right of that was the view on the in the right photo. And that did me in. Thousands of people hike there every year but likely none with my fear of heights. I sat with my back to the rocks for several minutes trying to convince myself I could do it. I took a step up three different times. Each time my legs began to shake, I felt dizzy and my heart rate picked up. :( I can look back now and tell myself that there was plenty of buffer between where I had to walk and the drop off. But at the time my brain could not convince the rest of me to get with it. Short of closing my eyes (not a wise choice all things considered) I could not climb up there. I knew this was a possibility going into the hike. Although from the various hike pages and blogs I read - including photos - I had myself talked into thinking I could manage it --- until I got there.

So I headed back down and wandered around on the lower part of the mountain well below the tree line. I stopped at the Eckville Shelter and walked up to and around the reservoir.

I had a very nice time but just not the time I thought I'd have. Behind me in the reservoir photo is a blue blazed trail. As I wandered around I realized it was the trail that would complete the loop had I made it all the way to the Pinnacle. (I couldn't get past Pulpit Rock). I may go back some day and try it from that direction. I have no idea how long the walk along the ridge line is. My sense is that the ridge walk is between the two overlooks so maybe, just maybe, if I come at it from this direction I can get closer to the Pinnacle Overlook.

Since my hike was finished much earlier than expected, I drove across I-78 into New Jersey and had a nice visit with my sister before taking back roads down to 95 and home. It was a great day for a hike and a drive today!

Keep smiling and keep moving

Monday, April 13, 2015

Mt Penn

This hike combined two things I really enjoy. Three actually. 1) I enjoy hiking 2) I enjoy research and 2) I enjoy road trips with Dave.

When I heard that Dave's softball game in Reading originally set for Friday was rescheduled for Sunday I wondered how close the field was to Mt. Penn a spot that's been on my hiking list for awhile. It turns out the softball field is just under a mile from the western edge of Mt. Penn. So a Dave & Paula road trip was possible.

But most of the trail maps I could find were for trails on the eastern side of Mt. Penn. Could I get over it by way of the mountain not the street? For the purists in the group of course the answer is yes but I wanted to know if there were identified trails to do it rather than bushwhacking and trailblazing my own path. Ahh a chance to do some research. After entering the parameters several different ways I stumbled across a mountain bike forum where one of the posters put up this map.

That white trail appeared to be perfect for what I wanted to do. A zoom into Google Maps Street View showed me that Richmond Street intersects Oak Lane at just the right spot. A few more searches and I found a 2009 article in the Reading Eagle which spoke about that white trail being a great way to get from Richmond Street to the Reading. Pagoda.

Now I needed to see how easy (or hard) it would be to get from the Pagoda to that yellow trail you see there which is the Ferndale Trail up to the Antietem Lake Reservoir in the top right of the map. Some more mix and match searching and I found a trail runners blog indicating that about a quarter mile down the Skyline drive from the Pagoda was a model airfield and the yellow Ferndale trail come off there. I don't know the blogger personally but I recognized him as a friend of several of my trail running FB friends so that gave his account lots of credibility. I wanted to limit my time on asphalt in hiking shoes. They are not very forgiving on paved surfaces. All signs pointed to a good hike!

Dave and I arrived at the softball field just before 11. If both games went full term he estimated he'd be done by 5. My goal then was to aim for a 4 p.m. return which allowed some wiggle room for getting lost or underestimating my ability on the hills I was going to find here. So I had 5 hours to work with. I'd hike out 2.5 hours and turn around.

The walk from the softball field to the entrance to the trail was all uphill; as was the hike up to the Pagoda. This would bode well (or so I thought) for a tired return trip downhill. The start of this white trail was well marked. About halfway in though the blazes were badly faded or nonexistent. I had to turn around frequently to check for return blazes to see if I was still on the trail. It was not well traveled so I often thought I was off the trail. I had printed the map I found and it is now all torn up from going in and out of my pocket. It proved very useful though and the intersections with other trails were pretty accurate and helpful. I also figured if I kept the city of Reading on my right and the rise of the mountain on my left I'd eventually get to the south side. I didn't want to be down on the street though and have to walk back up to the Pagoda. I did make one wrong turn somewhere and ended up on the blue/white trail but the map showed that it would re-connect with the solid white so all was good and I made a note not to make that same mistake on the way back.

I arrived at the Pagoda around noon. It is only open 12-4 on Saturday and Sunday. I had originally though I'd take a tour on the way back if there was time. I'm proud to say I changed my mind and decided to take the tour right then. I need to work on enjoying the hike and be less focused on how much distance I cover. For that goal alone this hike was a big step. Here is a photo of the Pagoda as i came off the trail You can click here to see it's history. It's over 100 years old. Older than me! And I'm ashamed to say I've lived in PA all my life and never heard of it before.

Inside on the first floor is a gift shop. Being the non shopper that I am I had no trouble skipping that. I headed for the steps to walk up to the 7th floor for the view. For those that know me and my fear of heights; a) it was not an elevator ride b) the stairs were indoors so I couldn't see how high I was and c) the observation deck was indoors and only 7 flights up so less scary. However, would like to say that one should never underestimate the amount of work that goes into climbing steps. I was more tired after 6 flights of these steps then the 3 mile hike up the mountain I had just completed. Here is one view from the top.

To the left of the parking lot is the trail I had just come up

Next I was off to find the Ferndale Trail. It was were it was promised to be just off the edge of the model airplane field. On the way back, btw, there were some men setting up to fly planes. But they had just arrived and still had a lot of work to do before flying so I didn't get to see any.

The Ferndale Trail would eventually take one to the Antietem Lake Reservoir. I was about 1 hour and 15 minutes into the hike plus 15 minutes at the Pagoda so I had an hour left before I needed to turn around and come back.

A half hour later I came to Kuechler's Roost and the abandoned wine cellar. I chose not to go in because my gut told me not too. I couldn't see if there were any animals 4 or 2 legged hiding in there.

It was here that the Ferndale Trail separated from the Gravity Trail. The Gravity Railroad is another piece of interesting history in this area. I decided to continue on the Ferndale Trail. It was unlikely I was going to get as far as the lake at this point but since Ferndale took less twists than the Gravity I figured I had a better chance if at all going that way.

The trial continued behind this wine cellar and went straight downhill for about a mile. Actually it went down hill some more but I had reached 2.5 hours and need to head back. The going down was harder than going back up. Going back up was hard. I was fighting hard all the way but going up did not make me feel like I was going to hurtle down head over heels. The incline plus that rocks made me very unsteady on my feet going down. :( I have been debating getting trekking poles for hiking and I wonder if they would have helped. Here is a photo I took on the way back up...about halfway up. If you know it's there you can see the serpentine shape of the trail lined with boulders as it goes up. Ok, well I can see it cause I was there. You may have to take my word for it.

The good news was that I knew there was an identifiable landmark (the wine cellar) at the top and until I got there I had to keep going and once I got there the rest of my journey was not nearly as steep up or down.

So if you haven't fallen asleep yet reading this long post you will recall that I figured the trip back down the mountain would be a welcome downhill trek and that I would avoid the wrong turn. Well I did avoid the wrong turn but it turns out the piece of trail I had missed earlier goes way up the side of the hill and then back down (twice). In general the trip down the mountain was difficult because of all the leaves covering the rocks. It was impossible to tell where the rocks were. I didn't twist an ankle to the point of injury and I only slipped once and saved myself before hitting the ground. But my ankles, knees and hips were already beat up from the first 8 miles of the hike so it was a bit of a rough trip down.

All that said, I very much enjoyed the hike. About 1950 feet of total elevation over 11.6 miles. Not bad for an old lady. I'm looking forward to going back to these trails some day to try some other options.  I got back to the softball field at the bottom of the 3rd inning and got to see Dave work the bases for an inning and a half before it ended on an 8 run mercy. We both changed into clean clothes and stopped at the Queen City Family Restaurant (Diner) for dinner.

Keep smiling and keep moving.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

12 WINDY Miles around the Green Lane Reservoir.

I must be feeling better because I didn't let the forecast for 20+ mph winds keep me off the trails today. The winds did present a 'what to wear' debate. The temps were going to be in the 50s most of the time I'd be out but the high winds presented a challenge. I hesitate to call it wind chill challenge since it is Spring but I don't know another name for it. On the water I knew the wind would make me feel colder. So I dressed one way and packed alternatives and before taking off on the trail out of the parking lot I opted for long sleeves and a knit hat on to cover my ears. I even wore gloves for the first mile. Toward the end of the hike I felt warm in the long sleeves but once I stopped moving at my car I was chilly so I'm glad I didn't change.

The wind made me concerned about falling trees too. There's been a lot of rain in recent weeks including yesterday and just before arriving at the parking lot I heard a news story about some downed trees. I was hyper aware at first of any creaking noises from the wind in the trees. Then I realized that when the wind gusts came all I could hear was the wind so I decided there was no point worrying. I tried to be alert but there wasn't much I could do to stop a tree or branch from falling anyway and why ruin an otherwise enjoyable hike worrying.

And just when I had decided to stop worrying I saw this by the side of the trail. Really? I took the photo and moved on quickly still determined not to worry. It is what it is.

I wanted to get to 12 today and I did. Garmin stats here. I followed the blue and red trails with a few side trails in between to make a loop of the reservoir. For the first 10 miles the trail meandered up and down the banks of the water. Only one climb in those first miles 10 was significant and it was a short one. During the last two miles that changed. I felt like all I did was climb in the last two miles. I wondered if I was just tired or if the trail really was steeper here. When I got home, I was glad to see the elevation profile supported the steeper climb. I WAS tried but it was not all in my head. :) I saw a lot of hikers with their dogs. In fact, two groups I saw twice. They were obviously doing the loop in the opposite direction. I was surprised that I didn't see more runners. It's a nice loop for that. I only saw two.

I'd like to do this hike again in a different season. It would be quite different with trees in bloom I think. The trails for the most part are well marked. The only trail that wasn't was a side - allegedly yellow - trail. There were no yellow blazes to speak of but the trail did do what the map and it's description said it would do so all's well that ends well.

I finished today feeling no worse than last weekend. I feel good about that. I still think the Super Hike is still an IF at this point. I need to test myself on the SSH course to move the needle toward LIKELY. Here are some more photos from today.

If you want to see more photos from today or any of my hikes they are saved here  I set the album as public so you do not need a Facebook account to view them.

Keep smiling and keep moving

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

I Ran Today (No Fooling)

I am not a fan of April Fool's Day, so you can believe me when I tell you that I ran today. First time since April 27, 2013 - almost two years ago!

I packed my bag last night planning to hike today. Around mid-day though I realized I didn't know where I was going to hike today. The decision was mostly between RCSP and Valley Forge but I wasn't feeling either of them for some reason. I started to think about going home and taking a long walk around the neighborhood and the next thing I know I was planning to run 3 miles.

I did 1:1 run:walk intervals. Here are the Garmin Stats. From interval 6 to 7 I switched up the run walk because I had to wait so long to cross I didn't feel like walking again so soon. (Old habits die hard).

My route took me from home to and around the cemetery and back. But I did not die and, in fact, I did not feel even one irregular heart beat!

I'd like to close this post with a shout out to  Jennifer, who posted today about her first 5k three years ago. I think subliminally your post is what inspired me to run today.