Saturday, March 8, 2014

Anvil Lake Ski Trail

Ah... nature. With the sun shining brightly and temperatures finally out of the single digits, it's time to get outside! Today I took a little adventure. I have been hearing about chickadees that will eat out of your hand at the Anvil Lake trails near Eagle River.

"If there's a light in everybody, send out your ray of sunshine" - from Sunshine Song by Jason Mraz
I went with a bag of bird seed that I swiped from my hens' supply, a bottle of water, and an energy bar. I was happy to be wearing 1 less layer than usual. The trailhead was easy to find and I figured I would set out on the "easy" West Trail, then perhaps take "Nine Mile", which is rated Intermediate, back to the car. No Strava. No heart rate monitor. Just me and nature.
Glitter snow
Conditions at the time were mid-20's for air temp and slick! I would say Anvil Lake is groomed more for classic than skate. Skating was marginal for a few reasons: hikers, dogs, snowshoers and a ridge of a few inches about 2/3 of the width of the trail, for the entire skate-groomed section. It was mildly annoying, but I was more in it for the adventure today than the workout. 

The forest is very beautiful. Brilliant sunshine made the snow glitter and I paused for a few photos on the way to the cabin, where the chickadees supposedly are.

West Trail dumps into a central area with a cabin and outhouse. The downhills today were scary fast. I went trucking right past the cabin until I could come to a stop. There was a couple enjoying the birds, and I wandered to a spot a little distance from them. With my mittens off, I scooped a handful of birdseed and held it out, waiting and still breathing with some effort from the difficulty of the "easy" West Trail.

It was truly amazing. Chickadees and nuthatches ate out of my hand for about 20 minutes. The following are a video and many photos. I will write about Lake Loop and East Trail after.

If I had to pick a favorite photo, this is it.

What an amazing experience. Communing with chickadees :-)

Lake Loop

From there I went in the direction of Lake Loop. It appeared to be pretty much groomed for skate. Until it wasn't. Military and Lake split and at that split, Lake turns into class only. Apparently classic and snowshoe. And hill. It was 3k of narrow ups on a path that had been snowshoed, fast downs in the classic tracks for the most part, double poling and falling. Lots of falling. I think it was 5 times in 3k. Here's Ninemile Lake:

And some interesting scenery:

Lake Loop

Back at the cabin where the trails merge, I hopped on East Trail. Similar to West Trail. Hilly, kind of groomed, and via a connector to West I was able to get back to the car with about 12k. 

I would recommend going here with classic skis, black oil sunflower seeds (the chickadees have a distinct preference for those), a bottle of water and a camera. Lovely!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Bucket List: Swimming

Starting these posts is always the hardest part. I mentally compose the key points in my mind over time and when I feel the urge, I write. It surprised me to see my last post was on my birthday, 3+ months ago. I post frequently on Facebook but find this format more conducive to a longer format.

For a quick update: Still feeling the effects of an injury that I thought was overuse. In reflection, it has been going on almost since I started into the world of silent sports. Even before I discovered my love of distance, any time I tried to run I would feel as though I sprained my ankle. It even brought me to the doctor's office on a few occasions. I couldn't recall an actual injury, but it didn't feel right. In 2013 my focus was to experience Wausau 24, which was at the top of the "Bucket List" I wrote on my Lake Superior Soul Ride bike adventure. I only rode my mountain bike a handful of times last year, because of the pain in my right Achilles that I would experience afterward. I logged about 1400 miles on the road bike prior the Wausau 24 and found I could ride 100 miles with minimal pain. I can tell you my saddle issues were far worse than anything. However, my legs did feel tight and I noticed little pea-sized sore spots on my IT bands. I went in to Wausau 24 with kinesio tape and hopes my body would hold together while I found the answer to how far I could ride my mountain bike. I've barely been able to ride since. Even as recent as 2 weeks ago on a spin bike riding "easy", I felt the knots in my calf and pain in the Achilles for days afterwards. I have tried so many things to remedy this, including:
Physical therapy (helped some)
Dry needling
Trigger point therapy
Foam rolling
Stretching like it's my job
Not walking
Energy healing
High dose curcumin (anti-inflammatory)
Plant-based diet
The relief from any of these was marginal at best. I am currently working with chiropractor, clinical nutritionist and athlete Dr. Marcus Steele and I feel we are on the right track. We started with a blood test for food intolerances and I found that many of the foods I ate on a  basis were actually causing inflammation. My connective tissues throughout seem to be affected. Wherever a tendon connects, if I press it with a  medium touch it hurts. In addition to a dietary change based on my blood test results, I am supplementing with vitamin D, L-glutamine, and fish oil. I returned to eating meat (meat and vegetables are the least inflammatory to my body and I feel best eating that way intuitively). I rejoined the YMCA, and at this time I am feeling like Crossfit Endurance is the best program for me to address muscular imbalances while preparing me to get back on the bike. It's low volume with a strength bias.

And that brings me to swimming. I have dabbled in it a little in the past, but came to discover the clavicle I broke in 2007 was still broken in 2008 when I was trying to learn the freestyle swim. I put that aside. I've met people in the past few years who would urge me to try swimming. Learning about Ayurveda, swimming is an ideal activity for Pitta types. At Wausau 24, the athletic trainer friend who was taping me up mentioned I'd be well-suited for swimming. Awhile back I was skiing with a friend who suggested swimming. Ok, Universe, maybe I'll try swimming. After all, it is a Bucket List item for me. My mission is to check at least 1 item off of that ever-evolving list each year. I tried it out with a guest pass to the Y from a friend. Didn't hurt my legs. So, I rejoined the Y and have been practicing 1-3 times each week for the past few weeks.

Swimming allows for some good thinking time. There's not much else to do, after all. Of course I am thinking about what I'm doing, but I've been able to enjoy moments of flow, meditation, and the clarity of mind that I have found on 2 wheels in the past. The feeling of movement, the water rushing past as the wind does on my bike fill an emptiness within me and brings me joy. I can be in the moment when I'm in that state of mind.

In regards to the Bucket List, I was specific regarding learning the Total Immersion method. It looks graceful, effortless, and sustainable to me. I am not interested in being the fastest, but I do want to be confident swimming across a lake this summer. What perplexes me is how to determine when I've reached this goal. It doesn't have a finish line like so many of my past goals. I am not in it to compete. As of this time, I have progressed to where I feel comfortable with the breathing, and can swim 1050 yards without feeling very fatigued. My instructional DVDs arrived yesterday. Now to decide what constitutes being able to cross it off my list. There is no beginning and no end, just a continuation.... yet my brain wants to define the reaching of a goal. I have been pondering this for the past couple of weeks and what I will pursue is this: complete the Total Immersion Freestyle lessons and swim a mile without pause.

Until next time, keep moving forward :-)