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Fiction vs Reality

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Tonight I began the INSANITY exercise program. I’m not doing the fit test or measurements, since my goal is to improve my ski conditioning. I’ll know if my ski clothes get lose that I’m losing size.

Hello everyone. I finally did it. After being encouraged about several different themes, I finally finished writing a book. Yes, I wrote a book! However, it’s none of the non-fiction ideas many were hoping. Instead, I wrote a novel. It’s a superhero story, but not the typical save the world action packed fantasy. My superhero story is more of a drama, with a few action scenes for good measure.

In the backstory, which I wrote but cut out of the final version, 2 of my teenage superheroes are forced to do intense daily workouts as part of a tough love program to keep one of them out of jail. I do mention several times throughout the novel that the group of superheroes does intense exercise regularly to stay in shape.

So that got me thinking, why not me? I’m not a superhero, but one of my heroes was just an ordinary teen when he began the workouts. I had something in mind similar to Beach Body’s more intense workouts.  A tenant left behind the disks for P90X. I looked at a few of them briefly, but decided Tony Horton’s style isn’t for me. Sure, it will probably work, but I don’t think I’d stick with it. I have Turbo Fire, but don’t want to commit that much time. I began Insanity a few years ago, and decided to go back to it again and see how far I can get this time beginning tonight.

I skipped most of the basketball drill section because of my knee. I remember not liking this workout the first time either. I did find it a bit less challenging now since many of the exercises are similar to what my kids’ ski team do, and I train with them one or two times a week for the past 2 years. Also, needless to say, the exercises simulating cross country skiing and slalom jumps are super easy because of doing them several times/week in reality. So, I’m starting with a somewhat better fitness level this time around.

My goal is to get in better shape for this year’s Sonot Kkaazoot which is March 25. This silly named race is a ski race on the Chena River with 20, 40, or 50 kilometer skate and classic style options. Last year I did the 20 km (12 miles!) skate race, and finished in about 2.5 hours under very challenging conditions. I hope to bring that down to 2 hours this year. In order to do that, I’m going to need to be in better shape. I need to train smarter, not necessarily just harder. Start now, instead of 2 weeks before the race.

Speaking of ski racing, my son just entered his first USSA sanctioned race. He’s in the U16 age category. They are doing a 3k classic and a 5k skate race this weekend.




Just ski

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I am a volunteer cross country ski coach with our local ski club. I started out helping when my daughter was little. She was too shy to ski by herself, so I skied along with her lesson group, even though I wasn’t a very good skier myself. As she got older, I continued to ski with her group. I learned along with her. The other coaches were understanding and glad for the extra adult. Then she and my son joined a ski team last year. Guess what? I still ski with her once or twice a week. I don’t ski with my son very much anymore. He’s too fast for me now.

Sometimes parents will tell me they wish they could ski better. I tell them to ski along with their kids or a beginning group like I did. You don’t have to be an expert skier to be an assistant coach or parent helper, especially with the younger kids. Only a couple of these parents have actually done that. The others don’t. Nor do many of them take adult lessons, which happen at the same time as the kids, so it’s not like they have to make an extra trip to the ski trails.  They complain about not being good enough, but are not willing to put in the effort to do anything about it. Often by the end of the season, many of these parents aren’t even trying to ski anymore. They have joined those who sit inside. That makes me sad.

My advice if you’re one of these parents: just ski. Do what you can. You’ll get better. Watch what the good skiers do. Ask for a few tips from coaches. Unless they are super busy, often they are happy to give advice to those willing to learn.

Some parents always sit inside. This also makes me sad because it’s setting a bad example. I hate to say it, but the kids whose parents don’t ski are the ones more likely to drop out and quit skiing. Just because you aren’t ready for the World Cup doesn’t mean you can’t still ski. Don’t be embarrassed or intimidated by the faster skiers. Get out there and enjoy yourself. They were beginners once too. Like any sport, the more you do it, the better you will get. Just ski.

Last winter there was a very overweight mom who was a beginner skier. Three nights a week as her child did lessons, she skied slowly around the stadium by herself. She took a few lessons. By the end of the season, she was able to ski some of the easier trails. If she could do it, chances are you can too.

Just ski. See you on the trails!

Moose on the run

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Last night my daughter and I went running on the trails at Birch Hill. We went up the nature trail beside Stadium hill then through Roller Coaster and up East Ramp. I managed to run up the entire East Ramp without stopping *yeah*! Then we  crossed over the upper stadium and went down West Ramp with a few yummy raspberry stops. Now we’re both warmed up and ready for a longer trail so we decided to head down White Cub and out White Bear awhile until it was time to go home.

I was slightly ahead of my daughter at the end of White Cub by the biathlon range. Coming out of the woods, I spotted a mama moose about 25 feet away! Although I couldn’t see it, I could also hear her calf nearby. I waved my arms and told my daughter to stop then turned around quickly back up White Cub. Despite their calm appearance, a mama moose with a calf can be one of the most dangerous animals around.

So we cut short our run. We still managed to go about 2 miles. I’m glad we decided to return early because we still had to cover the firewood at home. We had just finished that when it began to pour rain. If we had finished our run, we would have been soaked.

An intense bike ride

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Last Thursday, I went on one of the most intense bike rides I’ve ever done. Yes, I rode from Fairbanks, Alaska to Seattle, but that usually wasn’t intense riding. That was just weeks with long days of riding. However, Thursday was intense riding (at least for me).

It was an hour and half of mountain biking at UAF with the FXC Jr. Devo & Prep teams (kids age 10-14) summer training program. They started out with some fun drills. The first was a slow race. It was like the opposite of most races. In a slow race, the person who comes in last wins. The idea is to ride as slow as you can and still maintain control of the bike. If you stop or have to put your foot down, you are out.

After the slow races, the head coach had everyone go into their easiest gears as if going up a steep hill. Then they had to ride a mostly flat route about 200 yards long. The idea was to build up leg stamina and cardio endurance through constant fast pedaling. You are in a gear that won’t let you coast far because you don’t get much speed so you have to keep pedaling. Since it’s flat, there’s not much resistance so you pedal fast. Everyone did that a few times then went up just 1 gear and did it a few more times.

Finally it was time for a distance ride of about an hour on the UAF ski trails. The group I went with was all girls. We went down the main trail then around the 2 large fields (potato field and T-field). The main trail was packed dirt and gravel but the side trails were grass and roots. So far, not too bad although riding on the grass was a bit challenging with touring tires I have on my bike instead of knobby mountain bike ones.

Between the two fields, we did a trail aptly named Bicycle Bumps. This is where the intensity of the ride really began. You have to pay close attention to where you are going so you don’t fall as you navigate up and down very steep, short hills with twists, turns, lots of roots and even a few small drop-offs.

After Bicycle Bumps, we headed up Powerline trail. This steep trail’s surface was wood chips to prevent erosion. The wood chips were damp from all the recent rain we’ve had so it was like riding uphill on a trampoline. I had to stop to catch my breath halfway up and got separated from the group. The assistant coach came back and told me where they were going but I’d never been on those trails so ended up in the wrong place. I ended up riding alone back to the starting area and was the last to arrive. Oh well.

Overall, this ride was quite a workout but a lot of fun. I think I want to do it again by myself or with my kids so I don’t have to worry about staying with a larger group.

Bike trip packing

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Now that summer is almost here, many people take to bicycles for exercise. A few use them for long distance touring. In 1999, my husband and I were in the later group as we spent 7 weeks on the road riding from Fairbanks, Alaska to Seattle, Washington.
One thing we get asked was what we packed. It can mostly be divided into 3 categories: camp/bike equipment, clothes, and food. There was no room for anything else. In fact, we mailed a large box of items home from Whitehorse (Yukon Territory, Canada) with the winter gear (mostly bedding and warm clothes) we would no longer need further south.

Don’t over pack, weight is your enemy. We spent days making lists and gathering items in my apartment. The living room floor was littered with stuff as we tried to decide who would carry what and what should be left behind. We got up early and did much of the actual packing the morning we left Fairbanks.

Get a good, heavy duty rack and set of large panniers. Line them with heavy duty large garbage bags. That will help not only keep your stuff dry, but cleaner as well. You can strap large items like tent and sleeping bag (after placing them into plastic bags) to the top with bungee cords or light rope. Get the smallest tent possible to hold you and your stuff inside. You can also get a small handlebar bag to hold a jacket, wallet, quick snacks, and other small items you want handy.

We carried a triangle bag with spare parts and repair kit. Don’t forget spare spokes and spoke tool. The spare spokes went into the seat tube of each bike. Many bikes use multiple size spokes in their wheels so be sure to bring a few of each size. Other things in our rather extensive repair kit included lots of patches, tubes, hand pump, tire puller, lube, wrench, allen wrenches, and a roll of electrical tape. My husband kept a metal clip for his pant leg so it wouldn’t rub on the chain guard in there as well. Along with all that, we carried a Leatherman multi-tool in his pocket. We actually had enough tools so we were able to rebuild my bike to (almost) rideable condition after it was run over by a drunk driver. The problem was that after we repaired all the moving parts and wheels, the frame was bent so we didn’t want to trust it on a long ride anymore.

One thing I think is fairly important for riding cross country is a mirror on your bike. That way you can easily keep an eye on traffic without turning around. I don’t like the helmet mounted ones because they may break off into your eye if you fall. Another handy thing are small red flashing lights you can clip to your back at night or in tunnels so cars can see you better. We carried them in our front bag. Most hardware stores sell them for just a few dollars. Today, you can get special light sets for bikes, but they were not as common in the late 90’s. So we used these little red lights and our headlamps if caught out after dark.

1-2 changes of clothes is plenty. Be sure to have a good lightweight rain coat, a long sleeve and short sleeve shirt, leggings, extra socks, and change of underwear. Wear bright colors or consider a reflective vest. Get a small set of lightweight, stackable pots with either a folding or removable handle. Most camping and outdoor stores sell them. We kept our sponge between the pots. That was not only convenient, but kept them from rattling.

Except on rare occasions when we ate at a restaurant, all our food had to be carried with us; breakfast, lunch, dinner, and 2 large snacks daily. We tried to carry 3-5 days of food at once. Dehydrated food is a must rather than cans. After trying several different things and talking to other long-distance cyclists, we decided oatmeal makes the best breakfast. We made our own oatmeal mix (oatmeal, raisins, sugar, powdered milk) and then divided it into ziploc sandwich bags for each day. Lunch was usually peanut butter & jelly. Smuckers makes a variety called Goobers (available with either grape or strawberry jam) that has both together in 1 jar which make it easier to pack. Dinner, or when we wanted a hot lunch, was high calorie foods like pasta and rice packets, occasionally adding Spam or a small canned ham. Since we were sweating and getting a lot of exercise, we weren’t as concerned about the high sodium content of these as we would have been at home. We also carried lots of high energy quick snacks like granola bars, nuts, and candy. Be careful because chocolate bars will melt and make quite a mess. Buy a few pieces of fresh fruit whenever possible like apples. They are good variety and provide extra nutrition.

You don’t want to run out of water. We carried a gallon jug (an empty juice bottle that was very sturdy) tied to the front of my bike in the middle of the spare tire, a 2 liter bottle on my husband’s, and several smaller water bottles. We had a small water filter to take out bacteria since we knew we would likely have to drink creek and river water. We also carried water purification tablets in case the filter failed.

All this was loaded into the panniers or otherwise strapped to our 2 bikes as we headed out of town. It made for a rather heavy, unwieldy load. I had not made it even 5 miles before I became unbalanced turning a corner and crashed. We spent a few minutes readjusting the load. it would take a few days before we perfected exactly what needed to be where.

Confusing month

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This month’s progress has been confusing for lots of reasons: Up, down, up went my weight; Stress; Going out of town unexpectedly for 4 days on short notice; and Inconsistent with exercise and diet because of a hefty dose of seasonal depression.

All I have to say is, March, BLAH! I’ve always hated March. It’s my least favorite month. In college I was diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) that hits me hardest in March when the days quickly start to get longer. However, it’s my husband’s favorite, which is stressful because while I just want to hibernate, he has lots of energy. This March was no different and our weights reflected that. His went down while mine went up.

SAD makes you just want to sleep and eat comfort foods. Being stressed about work and low on time, I gave in too frequently. I ate a lot of bread. Too much. Sometimes, 5-6 large slices in a day. Then add on the cheese, butter, or other high fat, high calorie toppings and you have a recipe for weight gain. Especially since I wasn’t exercising consistently. Yes, I skied 2-3 times/week with the kids, but I need daily exercise. Not only does that help with SAD, but it makes my weight go down nicely.

I started the month at 156 pounds. Today I was 157.5. *sigh* Not much of a weight gain, but still a gain. However, my waist size went from 36 down to 31.5 inches! So my body is changing for the better, even if the scale didn’t reflect it this month.

This means in order to meet my goal for the end of April, I have to lose 4 pounds. The good news is that I discovered a drink that seems to help with my SAD symptoms. One things we noticed since we started eating cleaner is that if I eat more foods with high B content, I feel better. The other day I was browsing drinks and saw an energy drink that said it has B vitamins so I tried it. It only had 35 calories so there’s not much sugar in it to leave you with a big crash in a few hours. Well, within 20 minutes I was feeling less tired.  After 2 hours, I was feeling better mentally than I had in a long time. The symptoms of depression were gone. No more negative thoughts. No more blahs. No more grumpiness at the world. And most important for my weight, no more junk carb cravings. I’m going to have one of these drinks every few days when I start to feel SAD creeping up on me again or my family notices I’m acting frumpy. We’ll see how much difference it makes.

Curried lentils & sweet potato

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I’ve been hungry for a vegetarian curry, so tonight I tried a new recipe. It’s lentils, sweet potato, onion, and of course curry and cumin. The sauce is supposed to be chicken broth or coconut milk. I didn’t have enough broth, so I used about a cup of broth I had, a can of condensed milk, and water. We had it over rice.

The lentils and sweet potato are nice complimentary flavors and textures with the curry sauce. Even my daughter who doesn’t like spicy foods, enjoyed it.

2 cups dried lentils

1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes

1/2 large onion

olive oil

1/4 teaspoon garlic

1 teaspoon cumin

1 Tablespoon curry

1 can condensed milk

Chop onion and saute in olive oil in large pot until tender. Add sweet potato, lentils, milk, and spices.

I started with about 6 cups of water. Bring to a boil then loosely cover and reduce to low. Allow to simmer until lentils and sweet potato are tender. The sauce boiled down, so check it and add more water if necessary. I also wanted it more soupy so added extra water. Serve over rice.