Saturday, May 30, 2015

Critter Hill to Warwick Park on the Horseshoe Trail.

When Alexis asked if we could start our hike from her house today. I was all for it. I was happy for company, she was on a time crunch and that meant more time for hiking.

I forgot about her driveway.

See the dip at the beginning of the elevation chart? That's down her driveway. Going out is one thing. Coming back almost 10 miles later and I was wishing for some Harry Potter-like teleportation power. It's not the climb as much as the twisty nature of the drive. It doesn't look so bad at first then you get to the bend and the damn thing just keeps going!

And I really should quit my complaining since Alexis runs this for sport. She once did a 5k distance up and down the driveway just because.

Driveway aside we had a nice hike today. The clouds and haze were kinda thick when we started but by the time we got back the sun and broken through and blue skies were abundant. As you might imagine it was pretty humid throughout. I enjoyed the opportunity to catch up and hope we get out there together again soon.

View over Crows Next Preserve

Toward the end of the hike there was finally enough sun for this

Friday, May 29, 2015

Boot Camp: Fun or Fitness

A week or so ago I challenged the notion that “Fun” and “Boot Camp” could be used in the same sentence believably. Today I’m going to try to make you a believer.

I’ve been trying to figure out why I enjoy and look forward to our Bella Boot Camp sessions. I had doubts at the beginning about whether I could do it. I was sure I’d embarrass myself by failing to finish the session. I signed on the first day partly out of curiosity and mostly to support a friend. I surprised myself when I decided to go back. And now, after 7 sessions spread over 5 weeks I’ve discovered I like the body-weight workout. I feel stronger and more confident**. Whether the strength is in my head - a result of endorphin after effects - or real doesn’t matter. Eventually, it will be real. The big deal for now is feeling confident enough to want to stick with it and try harder.

But there has to be more to it than just the workout and being able to finish them. I’ve tried body-weight exercises before. I downloaded and attempted to get into a routine with the “You Are Your Own Gym” app but did not stick with it. So what’s the difference? Why do I want to a Bella Boot Camp when I couldn’t muster up the enthusiasm to stick with it on my own?

Having a good coach with the right mix of honesty and encouragement is a big factor. The other is that there is a group. While some might think that would be intimidating, the truth is it’s not competition it’s camaraderie. We huff, we puff, we mutter, we grunt, and we laugh. Sometimes the laughter comes at the most inopportune moments (try holding form while laughing) but it’s all good. I am at the same time aware of and oblivious to the rest of the group as we go through the workout.

Post Boot Camp Smiles 5-28-15
Does it help that the coach and most of the group regulars were friends before we started? Maybe. A little. I don’t think that’s the whole story though. I think you have to be there to understand. So I’m issuing a challenge to my readers. I am offering an opportunity for two people to attend Bella Boot Camp next Thursday, June 4th on me. There are three requirements

You have to be new to Bella Boot Camp;
You have to show up and;
You have to do the workout at your own pace and ability

First two people who request the opportunity get it. Since this blog is read through different forums, the request must come to me via email to count. Please be courteous and request it only if you can make it on Thursday, June 4th 6:30 - 7:15.

Keep smiling and keep moving

** The confidence thing may be the death of me. I leave boot camp feeling I should give the super hike the full 50K a try after all. I really think that ship has sailed though.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Conestoga Trail Out & Back from Pinnacle Overlook

A gorgeous day for hiking on a challenging and very beautiful trail. I had such a good time today.

I arrived at the overlook at 8:30 a.m. took a few pictures found the trail and went off. The trail is very rocky, steep in some places and almost constant up and down. The one 'flat' path along the creek was so full of boulders that you have to climb your way along. The poles were perfect for this. I kept them fully extended the whole time. On the way out I didn't know what was around the next bend and on the way back with tired knees from all the uneven terrain I found the poles to be helpful.

The sound of rushing water made it all worthwhile. For the entire hike today I either had a view of the Susquehanna River through the trees or heard the water rushing over rocks in the creeks. And there were a lot of butterflies. Some got in my face to say hello but none would sit still long enough to try a photo.

I had to blaze my own trail twice today. You can see them on the map from Garmin. Once around a big group of boulders/rock slabs. They were huge and I went one way around on the way out and a different way around on the way back. But the biggest off trail adventure is at the end. You'll see that my out and back looks like a lollipop.

On the way back I missed a blaze. I wasn't uncomfortable with the lack of blazes at first because I remembered on the way out there were few on this section. Then I started getting the feeling it didn't look quite right. I was probably about halfway up to the overlook by now. I wasn't completely convinced that I was wrong though and didn't want to go back down only to discover that I was on the right path after all. I decided to pull out the phone but of course there was no signal. I knew I was more or less heading in the right direction so I kept going. A little more up the hill and I  got a signal. I could see now that I was not where I needed to be but that if I kept going I'd pop out on Pinnacle Road not far from my car.

I decided to continue on. There were two things that might happen  and neither was horrible. I wasn't sure if I would end up in someone's field before I got to the road. I decided  if I did I'd just have to beg forgiveness - perhaps show them my watch which indicated I'd been out for 4.5 hours already. I did not end up in anyone's backyard. The second thing that might happen was that the path I was on - which I think was created by water run off down the hill - would end. It did. I could hear people though and knew the road had to be just ahead. I plowed through grateful for long sleeves and pants. Gotta love an unplanned adventure.

I set out on this hike to test myself for the super hike. The miles I did today are on the first section of the hike. I started out in the opposite direction of the hike. After one mile I was on a 2 mile per hour pace. Not good enough to the 50k super hike. I LOVE the trail but to try to travel it for time just wasn't worth it. There's a saying among the runners half marathons are half the distance and twice the fun. I think maybe I should look toward doing the 25k distance at the SSH instead.

Keep smiling and Keep Moving

Friday, May 22, 2015

Boot Camp times 2 with a Bicycle Ride Chaser

This week I did Bella Boot Camp on Tuesday and Thursday and a bike ride on Wednesday. It's the first time in a long time that I did any workout three days in a row. I'm pleased with that and with how I feel overall.

A challenge this week was fatigue. Tuesday was hot and humid. I was conscious of drinking extra water during the day but I still felt woozy during and after boot camp. Not horribly so but enough to be a nuisance for sure. I'll give some credit to the weather for how I felt but it is a fact that I need to build my aerobic capacity. I was confused that it appeared I had held my own with Julius and Russ that day. It's not a competition but I was pleased that I was not holding up the progression by lagging too far behind. I found out later (on Thursday) that I was counting knee-knee-toe-toe wrong so was only doing half the prescribed exercise. Oops!

On the ride home on Tuesday, I felt the effects of the workout in my left knee and the muscle or tendon (not sure which) that goes up the right side of the back of my left leg. The knee felt bruised but I had not fallen on it. The calf soreness felt like a strain. Both were gone by the time I went to bed Tuesday night and I'm still not sure what was going on with either. On Wednesday, I was feeling the effects of squat thrusts and dips in my shoulders and neck. This continued into Thursday but is much better today.

On Wednesday, I rode the bike 12 miles on the Chester Valley Trail. I was tired after work but knew I'd feel better if I went for it and worse if I didn't. So I changed at work, unpacked my bike behind the Wegmans in Malvern and headed East on the trail. Wednesday was much cooler and it was breezy. Without a jacket and cover for my ears I was uncomfortable for the ride. They can't all be glorious, right? My neck and shoulders loosened up a bit on the ride and my legs were appropriately buzzed. I was still feeling very sluggish though.

Thursday dawned, cloudy and gray. It spit rain most of the day and never got out of the 50s. Bella Boot Camp was still on. I was very close to calling out. I was still feeling so so tired and a little groggy as I left work. Getting outside (away from the fake air in the office) helped and when I got home I immediately changed into workout clothes which helped keep momentum moving in a positive direction. When the time to leave arrived I was looking forward to going and glad I had not bailed. Sara, Russ and I, with Maggi's coaching and encouragement, had a workout in much cooler conditions than Tuesday. I had gloves and ear covering on for the first half of our session.

Boot camp does not suck. I hesitate to say it's fun because I'm not sure the two can be in the same sentence believably. Last night was my 4th class since it began. 45 minutes goes by quicker than you'd think despite the physical stresses. So my new goal is not to worry about making it through the session but to make it through a set without stopping.

Typically we do a warm up and then three sets of 3-4 exercise groups. Coach Maggi says that we should try to get through the group (at our own pace and ability) without stopping. Taking breaks as needed between each repeat. So my new goal is to do that while paying more attention to form, and remembering to breath. This is likely going to make me slower than I am. I'm ok with that.

A word about knee-knee-toe-toe. This involves bringing first one knee up to opposite hand, then the other, then the same with toes. We can do this at a jog or marching. So if you know me you know I have NO, NONE, ZILCH, NADA, sense of rhythm. I can't hold a beat or a flow of movements to save my life. Doing Knee-Knee-Toe-Toe at a jog AND counting is impossible for me. So I do them at a march. My heart rate doesn't elevate as it might if I did it at a jog but at least I don't fall on my face.

If I can do this, anyone can. If you'd like to join us on Tuesdays or Thursdays let me know or visit MPower Training's website for more info or to get on the mailing list.

Keep smiling and keep moving.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Vacation Planning 2015

This year's baseball vacation is St. Louis.

Travel and lodging reservations have been made. We will travel by Amtrak train from Philly to St. Louis. It's a little more than a day and a half travel this way. The first 2 legs are the same as our trip to Seattle a few years back; including the sleeper car from Washington DC to Chicago. In Chicago we'll catch a train heading south instead of west. We have a 5 hour layover in Chicago and we are both excited about that. My brother was the first to ask me if we 'paid extra for the keeping the train upright' option. All kidding aside, the derailment just outside Philadelphia this past week is awful but it does not mean train travel is unsafe.

While in St. Louis we'll stay the first two nights in at a hotel in downtown and travel by foot or metro to the sights and the game. Then move to a B&B just outside the city and get a rental car. Our final night will be at a hotel near the airport making it less stressful to get to our morning flight home. All told we'll be on vacation for a week.

Right now I'm deep into researching the trip. This, for me anyway, is just as much fun as the travel itself. Of course we will visit the Arch but Dave will be the only one to travel to the top. My family visited the Arch in the summer of 1977 and I have vivid memories of steering clear of the tram car system that takes one to the top. I thought perhaps my memory had exaggerated this over time but my reading lately tells me it's spot on.

We've begun a list of things we might want to do. I doubt we'll be able to do it all but making the list helps figure out how we might mix and match things to get to do as much as we'd like. A drive along route of Route 66 is a must. It appears that another great road experience is the Great River Road along the Mississippi in Illinois. In St. Louis we have Forest Park, the Cathedreal Basilica of St Louis and the Brewery on the list so far. A visit to Laclede Landing and Historic St. Charles appear to be good ideas as well. Dave loves the Blues so a stop to hear some music is a must as well.

If you've visited this area, we'd love to hear your suggestions? What should we do? What should we skip?

Keep smiling and keep moving

Friday, May 15, 2015

A Milestone

A "milestone" is an action or event marking a significant change or stage in development. A small change in the letters and it becomes "millstone" which means a problem that does not go away and that makes it difficult or impossible to do or achieve something. Yesterday I went to Bella Bootcamp and turned a personal millstone into a milestone.

The second Thursday of almost every month is New Member Orientation day at work. I've mentioned it before and how much I love that day. I've probably also mentioned that as much as I love it it is an exhausting day that often leaves me dehydrated and listless. I often go home and get up close and personal with my magic couch after New Member day. Yesterday I went Bella Bootcamp instead.

I'm am thrilled and so proud of myself about this. I did not want to miss class, so I paid extra attention to drinking water all day. It's hard to stay ahead of that when teaching. But I didn't want to miss the class. In addition I was  playing catch up from giving blood on Monday. Normally, three days would be enough recovery time for me but my system went a little wonky on Monday and I felt a little unstable on Tuesday and Wednesday. But I was determined to make the class. And I did! :) I'm a little stiff in the shoulders and tight on the inner thigh muscles today. And this too shall pass.

So a milestone achieved. Small though it may be, it counts.

Not sure what, if any hiking, I'll do this weekend. Tomorrow I'll be volunteering with the Schuylkill River Heritage group at Play Manayunk from 12-2. If you are out and about stop by and visit! Play Manayunk is a celebration of all things recreation, fitness, and fun in Manayunk.

Keep smiling and Keep moving

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Trekking Pole Test Hike @ Ridley Creek State Park

After many months of research and analysis (yeah I know, no surprise there) I finally made the purchase of a pair of Blue Diamond Distance Z-Poles. And today I went hiking at Ridley Creek State Park to test them. 

I can hike RCSP without them. I've been hiking there unassisted for years. Knowing the trails gave me the advantage of being able to play and get used to using them without fear of needing them and not being able to manage them. One of the many reasons I love to hike is the unpredictable nature of the trails - the challenge of finding the footing and being able to keep moving with new surprises just around the corner. But as I venture farther and farther out I find situations that make me uncomfortable.

Crossing larger creeks and streams for one. French Creek is tame by some folks measure but when the creek is rushing and the rocks are slippery I feel unstable. The poles will give me more stability. In summer I can wade across and change socks on the other side (I've done that) but in winter it would be much too cold to risk getting my feet wet. There are no creek crossings in RCSP so I was unable to test that today.

I also believe the poles will give me more stability on steep descents. I often feel like I'm going to go head over heels. The descents in RCSP are nowhere the steepest I've been on but today I was at least able to get a feel for where the poles might go to give me more stability without getting in my way. I'm anxious to try them on a proper descent. I noticed that I'll have to find a balance between placing the pole for support without leaning on it too much that it digs into the turf and I have to pull it out. Once today I got one pole basket (small as they are) snagged on a tree root as I brought it around. I imagine that will happen much more on the rocky terrain of the northern and western trails on PA.

I have never had issue climbing. I enjoy a good climb and I knew that I would not want to use poles to pull me up a hill. However, in my reading prior to purchase I found many long distance hikers who spoke about using the poles on a climb at your side and slightly behind - planting in line with your heel  more or less - and using them to help propel up the hill. I liked that idea and tested that today. One of the steepest climbs at RCSP (in my opinion) is from the creek up to picnic area 9. I hit this mark about 6 miles in today. I used the poles as described to propel and was amazed at how that worked. It took more energy - since arms and legs are working now - but the benefit of distributing the work between legs and arms made for less muscle fatigue in my legs at the top.

I am going to have to get more strength in my arms and shoulders now. And coach Maggi has helped me see that core strength will be a big help there.

I noticed about halfway up that I was going harder than I normally do on that climb. I guess unconsciously my brain was thinking, you've got four points of propulsion now you should go faster. Not a problem on a short hike like today but that would be a problem in something longer (like the Super Hike). I'm going to have to practice and find that sweet spot between taking advantage of the pole assist without depleting too much energy that I'll bonk later. Heart rate may be the way to go there.

One place where the poles may help too is the rocky ridges that I've been afraid to try. Like the one on the Pinnacle Hike a few weeks ago.

I wonder if having more points on the ground would make me feel less fearful? I'm looking forward to testing that.

All in all I'm pleased with the test hike. Investing in the poles was a good move. I specifically wanted the folding ones because I know I won't want to use them all the time. I practiced folding & deploying them and stowing & removing them from the pack at random intervals today. I want to be able to do it so that I won't get in the way of others around me and not have to stop necessarily to do it.

I was pleasantly surprised to discover that they didn't bother me too much on flat sections. In fact, I found that I could fold them and let them hang from my wrists. They are so freaking light it's amazing. So while I don't want to use them on flats I don't have to put them away every time either.

Keep smiling and keep moving

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Boot Camp Class #2 - [Don’t] Hate the Trainer

Last night I attended Bella Boot Camp again. For a recap of last week, click here. During the final series of exercises we were instructed to do a jog in place while touching opposite hands to knees and then to toes for 30 seconds. It’s as funny looking as you may be picturing it. One of my camp buddies commented something like “Ok, I can NOT hate you for 30 seconds”. Our trainer, Maggi, replied “Hate me, just don’t hate you”. Those were likely not her exact words but more the impression I got from what she actually said. And therein, for me anyway, lies the reason for doing this.

Strength training is a necessity. I do not doubt that. Even if I didn't want to hike, bike (and maybe someday run again), strength training is really important if one wants to continue moving through life. Despite my best efforts and intentions it is not something I’m good at sticking with on my own. Boot Camp - strength training with a group and a trainer - is what I need. The support of the trainer and my fellow camp buddies keeps me moving (and yes smiling) through the exercises. There is a lot of good-natured teasing during the sessions but I think we all agree the ‘torture’ is worth it.

Torture is of course the wrong word for what is happening. I’ll prove it to you. Here is a definition of torture: “the action or practice of inflicting severe pain on someone to force them to do or say something…” Let’s break it down -

  • Any pain is self-inflicted (no one made us attend) 
  • If it hurts it’s because we are stretching the limits of what can do (and will be amazed later at how much more we can do if we stick with it)
  • Forced to do or say something? Aside from the good natured teasing and motivational chat among us, what I've heard most often is “I should have started this sooner or I should do this more often”. 

A few words about pain. First, I feel way better today than the day after last week. I’m not sure if that is because I didn't work as hard or because my muscles have realized that I am determined and resistance is futile. (I hate the Borg but they have a great tagline). It’s weird but I kind of miss it. I’m NOT a no pain, no gain believer but there was something about feeling the soreness the day after that made me feel strong. Second, Maggi is careful to make sure we do not hurt ourselves. We have to speak up, though. Last night I had pain in my left shoulder that I knew was not supposed to be there. No problem, Maggi modified the exercise for me.

Each of us has strengths and weaknesses and each is at a different level of fitness. It doesn't matter. As Maggi says “The biggest challenge is you vs. YOU.” Not one person is judging or watching you out there. I know I get so focused on trying to do the exercises fully and completely that I’m only vaguely aware of the others until someone yells something encouraging to me or another. It’s awesome.

If  you are a local and would like to join us click here for more information including links to contact MPower Training.

Keep smiling and keep moving

Saturday, May 2, 2015

What do Lou Gehrig and Frank Olivo Have in Common?

They both became famous after substituting for the first string guy.

Now I'm fairly certain that Lou Gehrig likely would have become famous even if Wally Pipp did not get a headache that day. He just got famous sooner. And Frank Olivo wasn't famous for being Frank Olivo (at least not as far as this story goes).

Frank Olivo was the Eagles' Santa Claus in the story that has made Philly sports fans famous around the world.

Frank Olivo was not scheduled to 'play' Santa that day. As I've recently learned, the scheduled Santa (not the real one who we know was too busy at that time of year to attend an Eagles game) got stuck in New Jersey (on account of snow). Frank, wearing his Santa suit, was spotted by Eagles personnel and asked to fill in. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Coincidentally, I have very fond memories of this day though not because of the Santa Claus story. It wasn't until years later that I knew about the significance of this day to anyone but me.

December 15, 1968 was my 9th birthday and there was a LOT of snow on the ground. We walked to church and I remember my aunt singing "Let it snow" as we did. We weren't barefoot and it wan't uphill but we did walk. My birthday present was my first camera. A Kodak Brownie camera. This photo isn't of me but the resemblance (hair and clothes) is spooky. Someone, I think it was mom, took a photo of us returning from our walk in the snow before presenting me with the camera as my own. I wish I still had the camera and the photo.

It was the last significant birthday snow for me. It has flurried on some years. And a few years ago there was a decent storm a few days before but since 1968 there has not been a buckle down and bear it snowstorm on December 15th.

Getting back to Frank. If the Eagles are smart they will pay tribute to this man during the season. And I'm laying odds that someone is going to throw snowballs at his funeral. Even if it is May.

Keep smiling and keep moving

Friday, May 1, 2015

Super Hike Update

A few people have asked if I'm still planning to do the hike. I guess the answer is yes, kinda sorta. I'm struggling with balancing the "I really want need to do it" thoughts and the fear of a training meltdown when my schedule doesn't go as planned. The meltdown is sometimes something others can see but mostly thoughts in my head. Destructive buggers, too. I'm having some as I type this -- "Are the meltdowns real or am I just making excuses?".

I need to find some keep smiling and keep moving zen. So - after weeks and weeks of trying to identify what I need - here is how I'm kinda sorta yes gonna do it:

On one weekend each month May, June, July and August I will do a long focused hike of increasing distance. The goal is to get to 30 miles before our vacation in August. Then taper of sorts leading up to event day September 12. It's a fast ramp up yes but since I've done 24 already (albeit 6 months ago) I feel weirdly confident I can do it. And if I can't well then kinda sorta yes becomes kinda sorta maybe because I really have nothing to lose by trying.

No weekday mileage goals; no other weekend mileage goals. I will get out but I purposely want to leave myself open to walking, hiking, biking, boot camp (heaven help me) or whatever for whatever time or distance works. Structure is important but I think too much structure is what was killing me too. Maybe I've gone too far the other way. Who knows. But I'm not an elite athlete. I'm a 55 year old who has always enjoyed the outdoors and movement and really wants to keep moving and enjoying it. So there ya have it. (Whether you wanted it or not).

Meanwhile I committed to Maggi's Bella Boot Camp again for Tuesday. Just don't tell my muscles. It's best if they don't know what's coming. :)

-Keep smiling and keep moving