Monthly Archives: July 2009


Wednesday.   I cannot believe how fast this summer is flying by.  I look up and it is Wednesday.  Last time I checked it was Thursday.  Crazy.

Very busy, busy weekend in CT.   I spent the day Thursday shopping for new cars.  I had already done all of my research and I had pretty much decided on buying a Subaru Forester or Outback before I even got to CT (where somehow I trust the car dealership in my home town a little more than the guys on 12th avenue in NYC….)   Of course once you’ve decided on a car and drive anywhere you start seeing the variety of cars on the road.  I even rolled my window while on Interstate 95 to ask a couple who had a kayak on the top of their car and bikes on the back how they liked their car.  “We love it — Xterra” they shouted back and I made mental note to look at that one too.

Jeeps, Hondas, Hyundais — it was overwhelming.   They all look great.  I decided to trust my Consumer Reports and Motor Trends magazine and my  friends who swear by their Subarus and go with the Subaru.  Plus it is less than one mile from my house in CT so I could even walk home if I have to.  I test drove the Outback and loved it.  Then I test drove the Forester and like the roominess (and the $2,000 cash back deal) so Forester it was.   Done.  It’s a real bare bones model — but it is what I needed for my lifestyle. 

Went to buy a bike rack at Collinsville Kayak and Canoe (’cause that’s where you buy bike racks in Collinsville.)  Decided to go kayaking on the Farmington river and went out on the river with Dan — not born in Canton but has lived there 39 years so he’s almost considered a local and not an outsider…. (Collinsville is part of Canton)  We had a wonderful time kayaking on the river and he gave me so many tips.  I’m going to list them all here so I won’t forget next week when I go out again.  It’s not that you can’t just jump in a kayak and paddle but you’ll go faster if you are efficient in your technique (hmmm, sounds like triathlon….)  I’ve paddled before but I had no idea what I was doing.

The thing I found so interesting about kayaking is how many similarities there were to biking and swimming.  ?!?!  Yes, there were many.

First the swimming comparisons.  You don’t pull the paddle through the water as much as you HOLD the water and pull the boat past the paddle.  I had to laugh out loud when he said that one.  “If I could master that my swim coach would be thrilled!!”  That’s what they are always trying to get me to do — hold the water and drive your body to pass your hand.  Yeah it sounds fine until I get in the water and say, yeah, well I’m still pulling.  Dan told me to think of a railroad track — it’s like you are putting your paddle on a railroad track and pulling your canoe up, then you put your paddle in the next railroad track (on the other side) and pull your canoe up to meet it.  I think I get it — I’ll go to the pool and practice more.  Your hips go forward to meet your hands.  Not your hands coming back to meet your hips.   Confusing I admit.

To place my hands in the right position on my oar, I balance the oar on my head.  Yep, balance it so it is even.  Then put your hands up so your arms make a 90 degree angle.  That is the starting place for your hands.  You may end up adjusting to compensate for paddling power but this is the start position.

Next imagine you have something absolutely disgusting hanging in a bag off the end of the paddle.  Now you are going to paddle trying to keep that bag as far away from you as you can.  Guess what that ends up translating to?  High Elbows!! Another swim technique!

For paddling technique he told me to remember paddle close to the kayak to go straight.  Paddle wide to turn.   Close/straight.  Wide/turn.   He showed me all kinds of cool turning techniques that I had never known before.  Not sure I can replicate them but he had me doing some pretty cool maneuvers across the river.  Learned to stop fast and turn fast.  I felt like such a badass kayaker, lol.  We did NOT go near the rapids.

Turning the kayak ends up being a lot like turning your bike.  My coaches constantly repeat that turning your bike comes from your core not from the handlebars.   When I finally realized that I think my biking became a lot more smooth.  If you try to control your bike turns with the handlebars that’s when you are a squirelly rider.   Initiate turns by your lean and core.    Dan was showing me that the proper paddle stroke comes from your core — the twist.  I said that’s a lot like riding your bike AND swimming AND tennis.  Everything starts from the core.  It’s twisting your core that gives you momentum and controls direction.  I was learning to use my legs too.  I never used my legs when paddling before — you go so much faster!! 

Finally Dan kept reminding me to lighten my grip.  Since the steering  is really coming from you core you don’t need a tight grip.  Light fingers.  “Aha” I said, “like playing the piano on your handlebars.”  He looked at me strangely.  “Never mind, just another coaching tip from my triathlon coach for keeping your fingers loose on your handlebars.” 

My favorite part of the weekend was taking a nap under the oak tree in the back yard.  Best workout of all.

Off to Lake Placid for the weekend.  Going to cheer for my friends who are doing this crazy race called the Ironman.  I feel kind of sad that I won’t be racing but considering I haven’t trained for anything in a long time, let’s just hope I can get through the spectating!



pics of my new car and bike rack.



AND I installed my new bike rack all by myself.  Very proud of me (hope it holds the bikes!)


Was standing next to the barn to take pictures of the car so I snapped one of the barn too.  That’s a heavy door.  I always joke that I can kick the barn door open with my legs but I can’t pull it open with my arms.   Mabye kayaking will give me stronger arms.

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7/14/09 To be Continued

Wednesday.  Sneaking in a quick blog entry before another crazy day begins.  Been working like a dog for, well, okay only two days but it feels like much much more….  I’m too old to be putting in long work hours anymore.  I honestly don’t know how I ever used to pull all-nighters for work projects but I remember I used to do it all the time.  I thought I’d be retired by now…

I’ve had a very good week.  Despite my lack of working out I am feeling rested and energized and very good.

Two of the people I did Marathon des Sables with back in April have gone on to do the Badwater 135 mile race across Death Valley which is going on as I write this.  Molly, one of the gals who I did stage 3 with in the Sahara (only because she was sick and having to duck behind bushes every five minutes) is doing Badwater as well as Terry one of the nicest guys I met doing MDS.  Ten weeks after Marathon des Sables, they are doing BADWATER and I’m patting myself on the back for making it to UPS to pick up a package.  What’s wrong with this picture?  (Oh and Molly is two years older than me, did I mention that?)

I seems like I am continually starting over.

I gave up tennis for one year when training for Ironman.  Mostly because every time I played a match on a hard court I was twisting my knee.  I didn’t want to risk that for Ironman so I shelved tennis fully expecting to play even the day after Ironman.   Hah!  Wasn’t able to play until March due to injury and still couldn’t serve for a month after that.  But by then I was in Ironman training again so I didn’t play that much.  And then I was training for MDS and I wasn’t playing that much.  And then I was training to be fat and lazy and I still haven’t been playing much.

So somehow I find myself in the exact same position I was in September of 2007.  I’m starting all over.  AGAIN.  My biking is gone, my swimming is gone, my running is long gone and I fought a spider off my tennis racquet and gave myself WW activity points for the exertion.  I moved my golf clubs out of the corner to bring them to CT and I actually heard them creak.  Golf clubs shouldn’t creak.   I just sighed. 

Despite all the lack of training, I think I did well with moving last week.  Every day I did some form of walking.  I’m trying to sneak back into training without my body catching on to what we are doing.  I don’t say words like “run” or “jog” or “working out” so it won’t get upset.   I set my goal for Saturday to walk from home to the park and once around the full bridle path loop in Central Park.  I was pleased.  I did it.   I figured every week I would add a little more jogging in there until I’m running the whole thing again.  I’ll have to do it sneakily to not arouse suspicion.

Then on Sunday I went to Inwood Hill Park and went on their speed hike put on by the park rangers.  I don’t why they call it a speed hike we didn’t really speed through anything.  I guess speed is such a relative term it can mean slow speed, fast speed, whatever speed.  It a beautiful park with a lot of hills and a lot of trails.  It was great to get a guided tour and I could easily go back there now on my own for (shhh, whisper) running.  The NYC park department puts on all kinds of programs for free all summer long.   Hikes, classes, kayaking lessons.  So much stuff.  The have an entire calendar at this site

Monday I did a reconnaissance walk with my friend Mo to map out the route for my Monday night walking group (who are so kicking butt by the way).  I wanted to find the exact markings for quarters and full mile along the westside highway so we could time ourselves.  Then that night I did the workout with the gals following behind them because most of them are doing run/walking now and I’m just walking.   I had a good workout nonetheless just walking along.

After Sunday’s hike I was so excited because it was so much fun that I signed up for morning TaiChi in Bryant park and went to that on Tuesday.  Fabulous.  I loved it.  A little different from what I’ve been doing with my DVD but still some of the same.  I’m really getting into Tai Chi — it’s a struggle for me to get that calm and move that slowly but in a way it’s like golf — you have to relax and concentrate otherwise you can’t hit the ball.  In Tai Chi I have to relax and concentrate otherwise I fall over….  I like the class so much that I’m going to start going to their regular classes at Chu Tai Chi in Times Square.  Meanwhile they have free classes every Tuesday and Thursday morning from 7:30 – 8:30 in Bryant Park.  Am I brave enough to go there in my bike clothes straight from practice on Tuesday morning?  Maybe….

WW I’m starting all over again too.  I’ve put on so much weight.  None of my clothes fit and I refuse to buy new clothes in a bigger size so I’m just sucking it all in and hunkering down to start all over again.  I had to miss the last meeting and I’ll miss this Friday and next but then I’ll be back in my chair for every Friday and every morning I get up and tell myself to just try to do a little better than yesterday.  Gratefully there is plenty of room for improvement so little changes are not that hard.

Here is what I know about starting over.  You rarely start completely over.   You might lose some muscle memory and some physical endurance but you rarely lose all knowledge.  In Weight Watchers we often say you can’t “unlearn” what you know.  You can’t all of a sudden look at a piece of cheesecake and claim you don’t know that there is a truck load of points in that.  You may choose to eat the cheesecake but it is not out of ignorance .  It’s not like you think you are getting the same health benefits as a plate of broccoli.

The same goes with sports.  When I couldn’t swim for so long after hurting my shoulder, when I finally got into the pool it’s not like I didn’t know how to swim.  I didn’t suddenly sink to the bottom of the pool.  I didn’t suddenly not know how to breathe.  I wasn’t back to Spring 2003 when I was just trying to make it to the end of  pool.  I was just not where I wanted to be.  And ironically I probably never will be.   I will always be somewhere on the spectrum between clumsy and adequate when it comes to swimming.   So Dara Torres can sleep better tonight knowing I’m not coming to claim her records.

I’ve learned about biking since 2003.  A lot.  I’m not great but I know a lot (not as much as those crazy guys doing Tour de France but enough).  When I came back to riding, I didn’t suddenly fall over and off my bike because I didn’t know how to stay balanced.  (Well, okay maybe that once…)  I knew what I had to do, it was just a matter of getting out there and doing it.  I didn’t lose the knowledge.

And so too with running.  I’ve never been a great runner but I’m a better runner than I was when I started this whole mess.  I understand the mechanics of running and I understand what I should be doing (and what I’m not doing.)  So it’s not like I’m really starting over — I still know what I know.

So maybe starting over is not the right way to phrase it.  Maybe I should just think of it as continuing.  Picking up again, just not where you left off.  Any given day any given athlete.  I think of that phrase I have heard since I was a little kid.  Any given day any given athlete could beat his/her opponent, could have a good day, could have a bad day, could set a world record, could crash and fall. 

I stopped by Sam Ash music to pick up some guitar strings for the guitar that has been in my closet since college.  I have literally not touched it since spring of 1982.  It has moved with me from apartment to apartment year after year.  I’ve not plucked a string or even opened the case in 27 years.   Twenty seven years.  Now I will say I do not remember how to play.  I do not remember how to make chords or pick out notes (I used to play classical guitar not folk). 

 When I opened the case and looked at it, it looked totally foreign to me.  But then I opened the little case and found my tuning fork.  I struck it on the dresser and put the tuning fork to my ear to hear the perfect sound of an A.  I remembered doing that.  Then I looked in and saw the little device that goes across the strings.  I remembered it was called a capo and it was used to change the key or pitch.   I remembered something.  I wasn’t totally blank. I wasn’t starting at square one.  And for all my years of playing the piano I will be able to read music until the day I die so that’s something.

Although to the untrained eye I may seem like I am starting over at everything.  Swimming, biking, running, tennis, golf, guitar, Weight Watchers, I prefer to say instead of starting over that I am continuing….   Like this blog, I am (for better or for worse) “To be continued….”


Some pics from my “speed” hike in Inwood Hill Park.
Wigwam at Inwood Hill Park

Wigwam at Inwood Hill Park

Rock marks the place where the island of Manhattan was sold to the Dutch

Rock marks the place where the island of Manhattan was sold to the Dutch

Trail leading up to the caves

Trail leading up to the caves

Peeking out of the cave

Peeking out of the cave

View from the top

View from the top

more view

more view

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7/10/09 Perfecting Practice

Friday.  I’ve had a great week.  Feeling very energized and finally, for the first time in a long, long time, I’m feeling on the other side of recovery.  I remember several years ago after some event (can’t remember what it was) I said I would not run again until I “felt like” it.  I thought it would never happen but lo and behold it was only like two weeks later that I woke up antsy to go running. 

I also remember recently crossing a desert plain in the Sahara thinking “this stinks, I’m going to finish this race and then I’m NEVER going to run another inch in my life.”    And so far I’ve pretty much kept to that promise.  I ran a few pathetic miles when I got back but then the match went out.  Phht.  Exhausted.  And I’ve rested.  And rested.  And rested.  And then this week I woke up.  I’m not running yet but I’ve been walking every day and doing some Tai Chi moves.  Practicing gentleness.  More important than anything is I have resumed my morning meditation practice.  When exactly did that fall by the wayside?  I don’t know.

So here I am 8 weeks of no real running and that puts me by my calculations pretty much at square one.  As a matter of fact puts me where I was in September of 2007 — looking at doing my first mile.  I’m not running this week, I’m working my way up.  Just walking this week.  But by the end of next week I’d like to start my run/walk/jog/slog/wog or whatever expression of movement I find.

I’m surprised that I’m not more depressed about having to start at square one.  One reason I’m not is I remember EXACTLY how hard it was to get back into running after my bike accident in 2007.  I remember that stupid little bump in Central Park that became my goal (the bump on the path leading to the garbage trucks).  Just make it up that bump (can’t even really call it a hill).  Once I could do that without stopping, everything started to fall into place.  That is my beginner’s bump.  From that bump in October 2007 to running 126 miles end of March 2009.  I get it now.  There is always a comeback.  In some shape or form.  And every comeback starts with a beginning.  

We are always in process.   And like a good computer program each process is the sum of other processes.   Sure we have peaks and the really talented can coordinate those peaks to happen at the right times in their lives but regardless of timing, in everything we do there is a process and for every process there is a practice.   Even the process of  not practicing is a practice — might not be the best practice but it’s a practice.  (Reminded of Beck’s saying to exercise your ‘not giving in muscle.’  I’ve been practicing my “not being mindful” muscle.)  So despite years of running, I’ve not be running.  And despite even more years of meditating, I’ve not been meditating.  I’ve been practicing NOT doing the things I want to do.  (Did I just say I want to run?  Hmmm, that one just slipped by the censorship board.)

When I was at Kripalu a couple of weeks ago I was so surprised to find how alien meditating felt to me.  I’ve meditated for years.  I just haven’t meditated this year.  I don’t know when it stopped.  Just one day I decided I was too tired, too busy, too something and I didn’t do it.  Then the next day I didn’t do it again and then I found myself at Kripalu trying to torque my legs into half lotus and my legs were screaming.  Right there  I had a little revelation.  You’ll always come back to here.  You’ll always come back to HERE.  No matter how far you run, no matter how rich (or poor) you get, whatever ailments you may suffer, no matter how many reps you can do, how many kids you have, how many problems you have — you are HERE and you will always come back to HERE.  And I realized the best practice starts with acknowledging being here, being present, having prescence.  Once again I was at the beginnning but for the first time I was okay with that.

I’ve reclaimed my morning practice.  I’m not perfect.  Not even trying to be.  Yeah I used to be able to do a lot more yoga.  Can’t twist that way right now.  I’m confident I’ll be able to do more later but even if not, who cares?  As long as I am in the practice I am present.  What does my morning practice entail? 

I do try to set the “mood” for my practice. I have a little buddha who holds a candle for me.  I light a nice stick of incense mostly because I like incense.  And I turn off the AC and put on a cd of nature (birds and babbling brooks and such).  Although it only takes two seconds to set the mood, it’s part of my personal ritual.  I’m setting my intentions to be present for my morning meditation.  Whatever.  It’s what I do.

I start with a few deep breathing exercises.  I do a little one nostril breathing and some of those short, fast exhales.  I don’t do too much.  I just do it until I feel like moving on.  Maybe 1 minute?  Not even. 

I’ve now added saying the word AUM or OHM before I start.  I like to think of saying AUM.  One of the Kripalu teachers was explaining to say it like all the sounds blended together Ah-oh-uh-mmmm.  Or something like that.  But saying it loud enough to feel it reverberate.  Feels weird at first but now I kind of like it.  It’s like sound therapy.    I say it three times slowly.

Then I move into reps of yoga sun salutation.  This morning I only got through 2 rounds — I used to do 10 — I’m okay with 2.  I’m blessed to be able to do 2.   Then I do a couple of twists and poses — this morning I did happy baby (lie on your back and bend your knees to grab your toes)  and fish pose and some of those triangle positions.   That’s all.  Somedays might do more.  Didn’t today. 

Then I sit cross legged (don’t even attempt lotus pose these days but I do craddle my leg for a minute or so to try to loosen up) and then I settle in to meditate.  I watch my breath go in and I watch my breath go out.  Today I tried to meditate for 5 minutes.  That is what I have been trying every day since Kripalu.  Strangely yesterday it turned out to be 20 and today it was 25.  I don’t even know where the time went.   I have to get one of those bell chimer things to tell the time.  But if it was 5 that would be good too.  Then I lie in shavasna (just lie on your back with palms up) for 5 minutes (I’m not really good at that, shoot for 10 but I get antsy…)  And that’s my morning practice.  Afterwards I feel very centered and positive.  Is my mind totally still for the entire time?  Heck no, but I am constantly striving to bring it back to stillness.

I think I like the morning routine the best for the same reason I like my WW meetings.  For the recentering properties.  Clean slate today — tabula rasa.  Beginner’s mind.  We get to start all over.  Any hang ups or preconceptions we had yesterday, we get to start today without them.  Any negativity I was holding onto yesterday?  Today I can choose to not pick it up.  Beginner’s mind is a beautiful thing.

As I reflect on my day ahead I realize I have opportunity upon opportunity to practice on everything that deserves my attention and focus.  Calculating my time and billing.  Washing the dishes.  Working out.  Kindness.  Forgiveness. Gratefulness.  These are all practices.  Every day we start anew with beginner’s mind and attempt again.  And of course the biggest practice of them all (for me at least) is my diet.  Today I return to weight watchers with beginner’s mind.



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