Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Reflecting on my 38th year

Interesting tree on the Woodlands Trail,
2nd annual Buck Lake birthday hike.
Today I turned 39. It was a lovely day, including physical therapy, loud music in my Mini Cooper (I love driving that car!), tanning sessions (vitamin D!) I didn't know I still had, shopping for groceries at my favorite store, having company for lunch, Steve coming here to enjoy the evening with me and the kids, and many birthday wishes via Facebook to warm my heart. I feel very fortunate today. I made some healthy-ish food to enjoy - a Thai-inspired raw salad (video here) and a decadent raw chocolate cake (link here). 

Last year I spent my birthday alone very intentionally. I was shaking off the events of the previous few years and figured I could be more kind and nice to myself than anyone else would be to me. I took myself out for a nice dinner downtown, stopped home to pick up my dog, and took a moonlight walk on some nearby trails. I remember how the moon illuminated open spaces on the trail ahead, and silhouettes abounded. The air is so crisp at night this time of year and I love the sound of the snow crunching beneath my feet. I enjoyed that evening. I found it very healing. I recall being grateful in advance for someone to share the trail with. Not just anyone, though. The perfect partner for me.
2nd annual birthday hike at Buck Lake
This evening I shared that same trail with my perfect partner. We are pretty sure we even found some mistletoe; looks a lot like conifers. Willow was with us. We did have to use lights. The sky was clear but no moon was to be seen. That's ok. It was about 7°F and the snow was very crunchy.

In reflecting on the past year, there have been some amazing changes in my life. About a week after my birthday last year, Steve and I began dating. I graduated last December. I passed the State Boards exam and secured my first nursing job with Aspirus in March. I pushed my limits on the bike, riding consecutive 100-mile days and winning the 24-hour solo women's division in Wausau 24. Recently I started working as a private duty nurse, participating in the care of an amazing 9-year-old girl. I'm able to share many laughs with my kids as they grow into their teens. Yes, my life is rich. Beautiful. Full. My 39th year is sure to be full of adventure, love, and light. Thank you all for being a part of my journey.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Winds of Change

It is about time for an update. I have not forgotten about my blog. I have not stopped loving 2-wheeled adventures. I am still quite injured. My attempts to rehabilitate Achilles tendonitis and IT band syndrome were so incredibly slow, I sought out professional help. I am currently in physical therapy. As of a few days ago, I cannot tolerate a 10 minute walk around my neighborhood with my dog. I have been doing some sort of strength training 2-3 times per week, but despite that, have put on several pounds. I miss the way my body felt after a long ride. So content and at peace. I miss the meditative rhythm. I miss the rush of the wind and the uphill struggles. I miss helmet hair. I miss my favorite jerseys. I miss green light sprints. I miss tinkering with my bikes. I miss planning adventures.

What brought this all on?? I feel it was several things.
- I sit far more than I used to, for work (I do love my job, and cannot put a stand-up desk in the car)
- I bailed on strength training in favor of bike miles, letting my posterior chain muscles atrophy or get "shut off"
- I ate a diet of primarily meat, putting my body into a rather acidic state (chronic inflammation)
- I spent hours upon hours hunched over the handlebars, and neglecting mobility work

It turns out that adds up to significant imbalances. Also, missing out on August, September, and October rides and hikes pretty much threw me into a depression. I hit my bottom when I stepped on a scale recently. Up 15# in a year. And no, it's not muscle. My clothes don't fit. I don't like to go out much.

10 days ago I lost my appetite for meat. I blame it on my backyard hen. She is full of personality and runs up to greet us when we go outside. She comes when called. How is the chicken in the grocery store any less of a living being? I've been struggling for months, looking at the packages of conventionally-raised meat in the grocery stores, having a pretty good idea what kind of inhumane life that animal had in order to be in a nice neat little package, ready to grill. I don't know if this is temporary or permanent, but I do know a burden has been lifted off of my shoulders in this past 10 days. I'm trying to find my place among the fruitarians, vegetarians, raw vegans, lacto-ovo vegetarians, etc. Do I really need a label, though? I think I'll just flow with this and follow my intuition for a change instead of trying to shut it up. Maybe my health will improve.

I've also been struggling with which strength program to choose. I like lifting heavy weights, but I don't want to go to a gym really. I feel very self-conscious. I know better than that, but it's the truth of the matter. Not to mention the expense. The local high school is affordable but has limited hours. The one workout that always, 100% of the time without fail, feels very good to my body in the way of strength, flexibility, and balance is yoga. Every single time, I think I should really incorporate that more. I'm just so inconsistent, always trying to do something harder, frustrated on days that I'm busy and don't have time for all of my stretching plus a good workout. I have not found one form of cardio that I can do without aggravating my injuries, but until then I suppose hitting the yoga mat 5 days per week would get me closer to 2 wheels. The key will be continuing to strengthen and stretch when I am to that point. I do believe I've learned my lesson.

Meditation is something I've also struggled with. This year I finally got it - on the bike. I totally felt that alpha brain state as I worked on deep nasal breathing and relaxing into my rhythm. Since about mid-July, when I tapered down for Wausau 24, I have not had a long road ride and thus, no meditation. I try and get frustrated. Then I quit.

I need a change. I believe 40 days of focusing on these 3 things - plant-based diet, yoga, and mediation - will help me to be back in my state of peace and calm, looking forward to immersing myself in amazing life experiences in the great outdoors. This is day 1. I woke up and did 10 minutes of humming meditation. I enjoyed a solid 50 minute yoga session. And I ate plants. Feels pretty good.

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Cuyuna, Duluth, Amnicon, Copper

At the tail-end of my vacation, I had a couple of days with Steve. We took our time travelling home. One of the reasons we were so excited to be in the Brainerd area is the Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Trails. I had been stretching, foam rolling, and icing faithfully in hopes of 45 minutes or so of flowing singletrack.

I had looked up a little information about the trails and saw that "Sand Hog Hill" was designated as one of two Flow Trails in the United States by IMBA. I happen to be a fan of flow, so that was the first trail I was going to hit. We started out on "Easy Street", the corridor that leads to Sand Hog Hill. The climbs were gentle and flowing. I could feel I was working, but never so hard I even considered walking. Nice, steady climb with some breathtaking views.
Steve, waiting for me as usual

Before the descent

Berms and lakes a'plenty!

Beautiful trail

Scenic Overlook

 Rode around a bit and came to "Screamer", which was highly recommended by a local rider. I was hesitant at first due to the warning signs.

Check out the video of this trail! This is from the LIC Ego camera I won at Wausau 24. Fun little toy. I am learning to edit video yet, so bear with me.

What a blast!! Sand Hog Hill and Screamer had me grinning until well after the ride was over. At about 1.5 hours we were back to the car. I had been taking it relatively easy so that my injuries would allow me to enjoy the trails. However, I still had more. I decided to hit Switchback which was also fabulous. Red dirt berms through lush green forest on either side of a small strip of land between two brilliant, blue mine lakes. It was as if you could launch right into the water, but the berm held you in. From there I went back to the car, grateful for the time I had on the bike, and Steve continued on to Bobsled (which he raved about). I rode the paved trail back to the parking area.

Hot day, covered in red dirt, and this is where we parked. Cool water to soak in? Yes, please!

Enjoyed some yoga on this rock before getting in the water.

Red dirt line :-) The kinesio tape did a great job of holding me together, too.

Got my tires dirty! :-)

My summary of Cuyuna Lakes MTB Trails:

From here we drove to Duluth. We were pretty hungry, so we picked up pizza (gluten-free, light on the cheese for me) and ate on the shore of Lake Superior. This is near where my grandparents lived when I was growing up. I have so many fond memories of hours looking for agates, pottery, bits of smooth glass, and seagulls.

Steve made some new friends.


So happy here. It was frigid cold, so I soaked my ankle as much as I could tolerate. We found a Whole Foods and picked up some camp grub.
Our walk-in site at Amnicon Falls State Park, just south of Superior, Wisconsin. We camped here for one night. Quite a change after the nice hotel room! It was over 90 degrees and humid. Perfect tenting weather (sarcasm). Nice place, nonetheless. The following are photos from our hike that evening.

Grow where you are planted?

Thimbleberries are delicious!

The next morning we stopped in Ashland at this unique coffee shop, in an old mansion with a view of the Chequamegon Bay. Next stop, Copper Falls for a hike.

And from there we went home!
What a beautiful couple of days with my sweetheart. 

Friday, August 16, 2013


Nice place!
As I write this post I am icing my knee/IT band. See, I got out for a little adventure today. No big miles, but noteworthy. I've been anticipating this vacation for months. My sweetheart is working at Brainerd International Raceway for Harley-Davidson, and I get the luxury of tagging along. I have 3 days to myself to explore the area. My original intention was to take some long road rides, and Monday we will ride together at the renowned Cuyuna Falls mountain bike trails.

Due to my injuries, I am unable to do those long miles. This is day 1. I took my time this morning, catching up on messages. I did a hotel room strength workout of 10 walking lunges + 10 pushups x 10 rounds. I stretched and iced.

Last evening I was so hungry when we went out. I did not ask for gluten-free chicken wings. I realized when we got them that they probably were breaded and I ate about 5 of them. Dinner was so nice. I feel incredibly spoiled to be eating out at nice places and staying in a hotel! About an hour after dinner, the belly cramps started. Suffice it to say I could not leave the hotel room until about 11 this morning. So, I took my time.

I could use Steve's car, since he biked to the race area, but I'd rather get a little exercise. So, I set out on my bike at the approximate intensity of a brisk walk. My Achilles and my IT band are kinesio-taped and I have no desire to push it. My first stop was the health food store. I picked up activated charcoal to help my belly feel better. I also picked up a couple of picnic lunch items, and krill oil. I asked the cashier for coffee shop and dinner recommendations, as well as some help with directions. There is a very busy highway between the hotel and.... well.... everything! They were very helpful.

My big plan for the day was to visit Northland Arboretum, find a beautiful place to sit, and read a book for as long as I wanted to. I rode around for a little while in search of the right spot. The scenery was lovely.

And then I found the perfect spot:

Curious what I'm reading? Check it out! I'd highly recommend this book.

Personally, learning to be in the moment has eluded me for years. Sometimes I feel like my mind is in the future so often that I completely miss out on the current moment. This is especially true of when my kids were little. There is so much I don't even remember, and I believe it's because my mind was not in the moment. I'm working towards being present and incorporating mindfulness in all that I do. I won't get those times back, but moving forward I can savor this amazing, miraculous life and all of the moments I'm given. 

I sat, laid down, stretched, counted my breaths, channeled Reiki, and nearly dozed off. It was very refreshing to have that time. Then, I wandered about the gardens.

I rode this trail briefly, to the very busy apiary :-)

And then I pedaled the few miles to Brainerd for some very good coffee and a gluten-free blueberry scone. I made sure to savor those moments. Delicious moments!

The trip back to the hotel included a lot of paved path as shown below. It also included a stiff headwind, and by the time I got back my injuries were more than ready for rest and ice. Good time to write a blog post!