Monday, October 24, 2016

3 chicks and 1 stony cold bitch: Birthday adventures on Esther

A few weeks ago, we planned to go on a ladies-who-adventure trip to the Adirondacks this past weekend. A few days prior we were inundated with winter storm warnings for the area. Rain! Flash flooding! Up to 15" of snow! It was not the fall forecast I was expecting and my excitement was soon dampened by nervousness. I don't have much mountain climbing experience. I'd like to change that but I don't want to be an idiot about it. I'm not an aspiring 46er, I don't care about peak bagging. I just like climbing on things. And not being broken or developing hypothermia. So we let go of our original plans to hike a peak like Skylight or Panther and decided to make a day-of, weather dependent agenda, whether that involved a hike, snowshoeing or, if it got too bad, staying inside to play games and watch movies.

We stayed at The Little Peak Chalet, an adorable A-frame cabin in Wilmington, NY. Friday night we stopped for dinner at Strong Hearts Cafe in Syracuse, then continued on to the Adirondacks. It rained for the entirety of the trip there and was still raining when we woke up Saturday morning. It was damp and chilly but there was no snow yet so we decided to attempt hiking Esther, the little sister of Whiteface Mountain.

Ladies who adventure!

We parked at the secondary trailhead on Reservoir Rd, went up Marble Mountain and then on to Esther. It was a beautiful trail, particularly with the rain glistening on the fallen leaves. At first it was a pleasant, albeit wet, fall hike.

In the beginning...still Fall

But as we climbed higher in elevation, the temperature dropped and the pine trees were covered in ice. Esther was turning into one stony cold bitch. We were nearing the peak on Esther when we came to a section of trail that was more like a mini pond. We were wearing waterproof shoes, but the water was deep enough that our feet and legs would have gotten wet anyway. The visibility was so poor that there wouldn't be much in the way of views at the peak and then we'd have to brave the freezing wind at the top with drenched feet and legs, so we decided seeing the top wasn't worth the wet and cold we'd have to endure to get there and back. This was perfectly in keeping with our goal for the weekend: do something active and not be miserable. So we turned around and headed back down the way we'd come.

Up until this point we hadn't seen another soul on the trail. It was only on our way back down Esther that saw our first fellow hikers, a yellow lab and a woman who succinctly summed up the conditions with a friendly smile and an "It's not a nice day." As we continued our descent, we passed a couple of big groups a few more hikers on their way up, plus a couple of dudes headed down from Whiteface. The way back was less rainy but increasingly more windy. Other than my hands getting cold, which was remedied with hand warmers and gloves (Thanks Mort!), it was a very enjoyable hike. There's something about being in the woods that is very soothing, despite the weather. I suppose it's sort a of a zen place for me, where I don't have to think about anything except putting one foot in front of the other. And luckily, we arrived back at the car just as fall was turning into winter.

After showering and changing into warm dry clothes, we drove into a snowy Lake Placid for warm beverages and window shopping. Which turned into actual shopping when I saw some elephant pants (!!) in a storefront display (once I got home, I got rid of a few articles of clothing, in keeping with my one in/at least one out policy on possessions). We spent the night eating soup and cake, chatting and watching a movie at the chalet.

And now it's Winter.

Sunday morning we awoke to howling winds and started our drive home through snow covered trees. We stopped at Buttermilk Falls in Long Lake, NY, for an accidental detour down a super long (but pretty) dead end road (thanks Google Maps!) and then to eat at Keye's Pancake House in Old Forge (buckwheat pancakes are an excellent second breakfast and it's totally worth paying $2.75 for the tiny bottle of Adirondack Maple Syrup).

The other Buttermilk Falls

It was a fantastic weekend and a most excellent start to my 35th year of aliveness. I am infinitely grateful for the past 35 years of life and especially for all the carbon based lifeforms I have been lucky enough to meet. I hope the next 35+ years are filled with more mountains to climb, friends to love and experiences to share.

Bear! For obvious reasons.

Lyric of the moment: "Climb a mountain to reach yourself. Climb a mountain to find zen. Free your mind and drift away. Free your tribe and float away..." ~The Cult "In The Clouds"  

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

This Is Marriage: Day 408

I was browsing the EMS website and this awesome sauce happened:
EMS Lumberbear T-Shirt

And then this happened:

Me: Do you think we need matching Lumberjack Bear T-shirts? I agree!
Pete: I didn't answer honey. And what are these websites you are looking at while I am away?
Me: Eastern Mountain Sports. They sent me a $10 off coupon.
Pete: The T-shirt looks nice.
Me: They have a matching one in lady sizes!
Pete: You're so funny. I'll take an XL.
Me: I know, it's already in my cart.

In little ways and big ways, during moments of stress and moments of silliness, I've found myself thinking that this marriage thing is the best decision I've ever made. That's particularly funny coming from someone who spent three decades having no interest in marriage whatsoever. But then I met Pete and suddenly it seemed like the obvious and best thing to do was share all our money and our living space and spend the rest of our lives adventuring and wearing ridiculous outfits.

Marriage is more awesome than a bear lumberjack.

Lyric of the moment: "Well you work in the woods from morning to night. You laugh and sing and you cuss and fight. On Saturday night you go to Eugene. And on Sunday morning your pockets are clean..." ~Johnny Cash "Lumberjack"

Monday, October 17, 2016

Full moon, full heart

I was in Danielle's car. With a puppy on my lap. Marveling at the enormous moon and my iPhone camera's inability to adequately translate its awesomeness into pixels. We were dropping Petra off and then going to see Pushing Dead at the Dryden Theater, part of the ImageOut Film Festival. We were wondering if the Eastman House was haunted and asking our phones if George Eastman killed himself. And our phones were telling us that he did, after suggesting that we call a suicide hotline (in what was either a comedic misunderstanding of the nuances of human speech or a complete understanding of human nature and touching attempt to protect us from ourselves). Like all the best plans, this one was hatched just moments earlier, while eating falafels and vegetables outside on a gorgeous fall night.

The moon was full and so was my heart. Full of love for weekends like this, with their spontaneous adventures in trail running (see also: Meandering Around Mendon and Near Death Experiences on the Crescent Trail) and seeing friends move into their dream house and watching quirky, comically tragic movies. Full of love for friends, because of whom this year, which threatened to feel so empty, instead overflowed with camaraderie and escapades. Full of love for this life and its ever increasing awesomeness.

Lyric of the moment; "Out of the darkness came a light. Turning the stars and diary pages. I'll tear out the day our stars aligned. And fold it away for the ages...It was one of my best days on earth, one of my best days on earth. I'm a satellite of you..." ~Trashcan Sinatras "Best Days on Earth"

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Heavy Metal Yoga

Yoga Vibe's Heavy Metal Yoga class is as contradictory and fantastic as it sounds. It's a laid back vinyasa flow class set to instructor Jesse's heavy metal playlist. This time it happened to be Electric Wizard's Dopethrone album. I will not pretend to know who Electric Wizard is, other than someone who is awesome at naming things.

I thought it might be a little jarring, the juxtaposition of loud, heavy music and the calm zen-ness of yoga. But once I was in class I didn't feel that way at all. I liked the contrast between the intensity of the music and the relaxed nature of the movements. I found it metaphoric, like the metal was all the chaos of life swirling around me but I was content in the eye of the storm, going with the flow. At the beginning of class, Jesse said "It's not about feeling good all the time. It's showing up where you are and being okay with that." Which is good advice for the practice of yoga and for the practice of life.

Surprisingly, I felt more focused in this class than I usually do in yoga. The music simply became part of the ambient noise. Probably because I don't normally listen to heavy metal. I don't know any of the songs or the words, so the music didn't evoke any memories or emotional responses like familiar songs would. Basically, there was nothing to distract my brain from focusing on the present. Usually the only place I ever find myself completely "in the moment" is during a trail run where all my attention is concentrated on the current step (to avoid faceplanting or falling off a cliff). But now it seems I have two meditative places: trails and heavy metal concerts.

At the end of class, Jesse said "The darkness in me recognizes the darkness in you. Party on." Which makes more sense to me than "Namaste" ever has. It's like those moments where I hear someone's life stories and recognize myself in their struggles. And suddenly I realize the reason we became so close is the instant connection that results from understanding both the darkness and the lightness, and especially from bringing the darkness into the light. And then partying on through the chaos together.

Lyric of the moment: "Millions are screaming, the dead are still living. This earth has died yet no one has seen... Nuclear warheads ready to strike. This world is so fucked, let's end it tonight. Fuck..." ~Electric Wizard "Funeralopolis" (If Mr. Internet hadn't told me that this song was released in 2000, I would have thought it was written by someone watching the current presidential election season).

Friday, October 7, 2016

On age and abnormality and awesomeness

This week I went to the Muscular Rehab Center and as Benson was fixing my right vastus medialis, he said "You're not in your twenties anymore" (in reference to my apparently advanced age of almost 35) and "What you do is not normal" (in reference to ultrarunning). I think his comments were meant to be cautionary more than anything else. But I found them mostly comical. I can't argue with the validity of either statement. Currently, I'm the oldest I've ever been. And let's be honest, I did not acquire the nickname Robot due to an excess of normalcy. The thing I find humorous is the implication that either of those things - age or abnormality - are negative or undesirable. Age is an accumulation of adventures in aliveness. Abnormality is what happens if you go about being who you are instead of trying to contort yourself to fit into the box of other people's expectations.

Personally, I don't think I run all that much. I haven't run 100 miles or a 24 hour race, which is what I would consider to be "a lot." That's not even on the horizon for me. Though admittedly, my perspective is skewed. I've been a runner for two decades. I've been active pretty much since birth. Physical activity is so much a part of my life that not running feels abnormal. If I had to be someone else's idea of normal, to "settle down" and "sit still," I'd be restless and bored and terribly unhappy.

And I know I'm not in my twenties anymore. But I don't think I could have been an ultrarunner in my twenties. I didn't have the muscles or the mental resilience for it. Not that I have any discernible muscles now, but at least I've built up a habit of consistent, weekly strength training (compared to the approximately zero strength workouts I did in my twenties). Age has been kind to me so far. Probably far kinder than I deserve, given the shit ton of sugar I ingest (that is the focus of my next life improvement project). So I'm not getting any younger, but that only makes me want to cram in as many miles and adventures as I can into whatever time I have left. I don't want to be an action figure preserved in its original packaging, unused. I want to use my allotted aliveness up, to be active for as many days as I get. I suppose that some age related decline is inevitable, but I'm going to fight it off as long as possible (or get bionic parts!). Because I intend to be active and abnormal and awesome until I die.

Lyric of the moment: "Running now, I close my eyes. Oh I got stamina. I see another mountain to climb. But I got stamina..." ~Sia "The Greatest"

Monday, October 3, 2016

Chin-ups, trail run, chainsaw: an inadvertent triathlon

Triathlons are not my thing. Except for the kind that happen accidentally and involve chin-ups, trails and chainsaws. Saturday got off to a gloomy, overcast start, but as the day wore on, more and more awesomeness ensued.

I am not registered for any races this fall or winter. I actually enjoy training far more than racing so I decided that's what I'd do: run and strength train for the pure enjoyment of it. If I end up doing any races, it will be a last minute decision. If I don't, I'm perfectly content with that too. In lieu of a goal race, I set a different fall goal for myself: do at least one full, unassisted chin-up or pull-up. This may or may not have been the result of all the detective shows I watched on Netflix all summer. I noticed that the person-hanging-off-a-building was a common plot device. (Why do people always run up to the roof of buildings when being chased? Unless you're meeting a helicopter up there, this is a terrible plan since you have limited your means of escape to 1) the way you came, which is now blocked by the person pursuing you or 2) plummeting to your death. Lose-lose.) This got me thinking how long could I last if I had to hang off a building? Not very long. A pitifully short amount of time. Which got me thinking I should do something about that. And that's how I ended up ordering a chin-up bar from Amazon. I assembled it and put in the guest bedroom doorway. It's very easy to put up and take down, but I leave it there all the time so I see it whenever I walk down the hallway. Which I have to do anytime I go to the bathroom or bedroom. Whenever I see it, I jump up and try to do a chin-up or pull-up. So far, this consists of me jumping up, lowering down halfway, pulling myself back up, holding and lowering slowly. I can't do a full chin-up yet, but I'm hoping that will happen eventually if I keep at it. At least, that's how the plan formed in my brain at 5:30am on Saturday, day 1 of the Cockamamie Chin-Up Challenge.

Why was I awake and doing chin-ups at 5:30am on a Saturday? This may or may not have been the result of the overactive and apprehensive brain of which I am the owner. Tuesday morning's run and Wednesday morning's hill repeats had felt fine. But Thursday morning when I tried to run, my leg hurt, the kind of hurt that's inadvisable to run through. I stopped a mile into the run and went to spin class instead, where nothing hurt except for the terrible, terrible music. I'm still awful at pain-to-English translations, but I interpreted this particular leg pain as a signal to take a rest day. So on Friday, I stretched, foam rolled and iced and on Saturday I hoped for the best. Alison was planning on running four of the Mendon 10K loops. I decided to play it by ear (leg?) and join in for however long my legs felt like going that day. It was cloudy and in the 60s when Alison, Bob, Stacey and I headed out to get loopy. That first uphill out of the parking lot always makes me feel like oh shit! this is a very bad idea. But a funny thing happens on long runs. I get in this zone of happiness where I'm just running along chatting and the miles and hours pile up without my realizing it. Soon we had finished the third loop and Alison was heading out for her fourth. I felt pretty good but didn't want to push things too much. So I decided to follow Alison up to the water tower, then head back to the parking lot while she continued on (She would go on to run a total of 28 miles that day! Like it was nothing!). Once we arrived at the water tower, I had intended on taking the short cut back down to the parking lot. But somehow I did not do that. My legs took off the other way before I realized what was happening. It's true that I have a terrible sense of direction and little to no spacial memory. But I also think my legs have a mind of their own. So I did not end up doing what I planned to do, but I did end up back at my car at exactly 20 miles. And all's swell that ends swell I suppose. I chatted with Bob, who was back at his car after running three loops, and with Steven and Chris, who had just arrived and set out to run a loop. I went home to shower, eat and run some errands.

Then a very exciting thing happened! I got a message from Todd saying that he was coming over with saws!! There was a large tree branch in our backyard that had cracked - from lightning or tree disease or overzealous woodpeckers - I don't know. At this point, it was probably one windy day away from crashing down into the backyard. Luckily, it was too far away to have fallen on the house. Even more luckily, I have a Todd in my life (Everyone should have a Todd. He's the best). And Todd has lots of fun tools. Tools I didn't even know existed. Like a saw on a long extendable pole. So Todd got to work sawing through the rest of the branch with the extend-o-saw (I'm pretty sure that's what it's called). Meanwhile, I practiced my Karate Bo moves with this long bamboo pole Todd had brought to duct tape to the end of the extend-o-saw if needed (Bo and stilts, these are my only life skills. What can I say, I know my way around a pole). Once it was mostly sawed through, Todd threw a rope over the branch and pulled it down. It was an epic and very satisfying crash (sorry neighbors)! This was where the real fun began, as Todd gave me a chainsaw (possibly poor judgment on his part) and I cut the branch into firepit-sized chunks. Chainsawing is loud and sawdusty and so much fun! I don't think the chainsaw liked me as much as I liked it though, because periodically it would just give up and stop working. I gave it back to Todd, as it seemed to like him better. Infinity of thanks to Super Trail Steward Todd for helping me turn a dead tree branch into firewood! Fall firepit fiestas coming soon!

And thus concludes my very first triathlon, a trifecta of chin-ups, trail loops and a backyard chainsaw massacre (sorry trees).

Lyric of the moment: "No I don't wanna sit still, look pretty." ~Daya "Sit Still, Look Pretty" (This song is hilarious. See also: "Snow White, she did right in her life. Had 7 men to do the chores. 'Cause that's not what a lady's for.")