Tuesday, December 30, 2008


Well, it doesn't look like much... but that little white thingie top center is a church, and it's at about the same elevation as I am taking the picture.

Rocky Top Campground, Blountville, TN, is built on a mountainside, so of course I had to climb it. It's not a 5,000-ft elevation change or anything, but it's a mountain, and we're about halfway up it, and I saw the hill and the woods all right in our backyard, grabbed my hiking poles and my dog and up we went. It took about 5 minutes but it's the steepest hill I've climbed since June when I blew out my Achilles tendons on the Appalachian Trail.

It actually was a little steep... I found that the rubber tips on my hiking poles don't do very well on dry leaves on a hillside. I'll need more grip. I'm planning to put hex screws into my pole ends for this. I'll cover 'em w/ rubber tips most of the time.And I came down. Then I went back up and took a picture.

The reflex was striking, when I saw where we were and the mountain: I see, therefore I climb. I'm sick and I haven't hiked up a hillside in 6 months but I had to go.

I did not tear any tendons.

Short of breath, though. This bug, whatever it is, shows itself if I do anything but sit around. I'm still hoarse. Luckily, I don't have a dozen mountains to climb today as I will some days on the AT... just 3 months away now.

One was a start. I'm happy.

Monday, December 29, 2008

OR NOT....

Well, we WERE going to leave today. In fact, we got a couple miles down the road before the transmission temperature gauge in the truck shot up to H.

So back to Candy Hill we came, parked the camper, and Steve took the truck to the Ford place. Turns out it was only a sensor problem. That's the good news. Cost $600 to replace it. That's the bad news.

It shot a day of travel, but we'll get going again tomorrow. Guess we'll miss New Year's Eve in New Orleans after all. Oh, well; we'll be there for Mardi Gras.

Although I'm bummed out about the delay and the expense, I guess I'm just as glad not to travel today. While Steve was at the Ford place, I slept for a couple hours. I feel tired and have a headache. Wahhhh..... I haven't been really well since last Saturday, when I developed laryngitis and a cough that got worse until, on the last 2 days before Christmas, I couldn't make a sound and was coughing up crud. Had to tap people on the shoulder to get their attention to whisper something to them. If Steve called to me from another room, I had to go where he was to find out what he wanted, since I couldn't just call, "What?" He'd forget I couldn't talk and think I just hadn't answered.

Anyway, I'm better; coughing only in the morning, not producing any crud, still hoarse but able to talk. Every few days I'm really tired. Today is one of those.

We'll try again tomorrow to leave for New Orleans.

Sunday, December 28, 2008


Tomorrow we pull out and head south.

We won't get to New Orleans till New Year's Eve, but we leave Winchester, VA tomorrow, camper in tow. We'll spend tomorrow night somewhere in Tennessee, the next night in Alabama, and on the 31st, New Years Eve in the Big Easy. Except we'll probably be too tired out to do much celebrating, especially if it means going into town. We'll probably go to bed at 10pm just like every other night.

Today we drove the 2 hours back to Winchester from our son's home in western MD, which was a couple-day stopoff on the way back from our daughters'/grandchildren's homes in Columbus, OH. In the cab of the truck we had my full-length digital piano, my violin, Steve's big duffel bag, my big camera bag and tripod, a high chair in a box (long story, returned it to Wal-Mart in Winchester after buying it in Maryland), our pillows, many Christmas presents, our cat in a cat carrier, and our 50-pound dog (who had about 18 inches of space on the back seat.) Outside in the truck bed were the stand for the piano, my guitar, a food dehydrator from our son (now I have TWO! Yay!) and my AT hiking backpack, full of not only my clothes, but a bag of food that traveled with us, and more presents, all covered with trash bags in case of rain and wedged between all the tool boxes and bins that go with Steve's RV-repair business.

Yesterday my mother and I, with son Jon's help (and a fully-charged computer battery) finally got our music recorded satisfactorily. I'm not saying "perfectly." I have music in every molecule of my body, but I never pursued it, am largely self-taught, and only play my piano a few times a year. Getting this music playable has been a major undertaking. My mother was a superb cellist in her day, but she's nearing 90. The resulting CD, well, you just have to remember it's not Yo-Yo Mah and Van Cliburn. There are goofs. Maybe not noticeable if you don't know every note of the music, but goofs that made Mother and I groan and roll our eyes because we know how we wanted it to sound, how it should sound, and how it didn't, but we finally got acceptable renditions of everything. I am so grateful we had the chance to do it. I was exhausted afterwards. So was she.

It's a keepsake we made for ourselves and for family history as well as for anyone else who's interested. I'll see what I can do to get it on the internet, after we get settled. Our son has still to download it to CD from his computer.

In addition to the cello-piano numbers, we did one, "Ashokan Farewell," with her on the fiddle/violin and me on the guitar. It wasn't the best-ever performance for either of us. Her left shoulder and arm were weakened in a fall a couple years ago, tore her rotator cuff, and it's hard for her to hold the fiddle up. The arthritis in her hands makes it hard for her to navigate the fingerboard. As for the cello, she's diminished by osteoporosis to about the size of the intrument itself. It's hard for her to get it out of the case, let alone set it up, hold it, and draw the bow with full-arm strokes.

I just wanted to get us recorded before she's gone. I feel so much better now that we've got it done.

Thursday, December 25, 2008


Like you, I've heard this said hundreds of times about hundreds of references: any number of how-to's. Training programs, internet websites, books (there's even The Triathlete's Training Bible), magazines (remember Elle Wood referring to Cosmopolitan Magazine as "The Bible" in Legally Blonde?)

What is always meant is, the resource that's turned to, read, re-read, memorized, and followed to progress to and attain one's passionate goal. The guide. The source of answers for all possible questions. The ultimate word in how to proceed.

Wonder what people would be like, what the world would be like if everyone's Bible was....

The Bible.

What would I be like? I know the Bible, I've read it cover to cover as well as piecemeal (kind of like a thru-hike compared to a section-hike,) hear bits and pieces most Sundays, have a lot of verses in my memory, and I have one in the King James Version, one in the New International Version, one in French (which I can read and understand) and one in Spanish (which I can't) but I can't say I turn to any of them as often as I do to backpacking magazines, Appalachian Trail books, or Google searches for treating Achilles tendonitis, borderline blood sugar, or high cholesterol.

I'm planning to carry at least my pocket-size New Testament and Psalms on the Trail but.... humiliation here..... also pondering whether how often I'd look at it would justify the few ounces of extra weight. God, it was hard to write that. Ouch.

How would my life become different if my Bible were my Bible?

Merry Christmas, everyone.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


The recording session.... it didn't go well. Son Jon had new digital-recording software but wasn't expert at using it; took a long time to set it up and get it balanced properly. Plugging in his laptop to AC caused a hum in the recording so we went on battery. The battery kept going low and Jon would plug it in and we'd wait 10 or 20 minutes for enough charge to hopefully record one number, which would get flubbed up by one or the other of us and have to be aborted.

I was nervous being recorded, after months of preparation and anticipation, on the one day available to do it, with just enough battery for one try ("THIS IS IT!!!"), made goofs and we kept having to redo, after waiting again for the battery to charge. We'd get a good one, listen to the result, decide the piano was too strong or the cello not strong enough, readjust the settings, recharge the battery, do it again, I'd miss a few notes and get lost.... frustration added to the goof-up tendency, and we were both getting tired, which also caused compromised performance.

I should say "we all" -- Jon was wonderful but I think he was getting tired and frustrated too. Jon had custody of Abbie and Sarah that day; he'd brought Abbie (almost 6) with him and left Sarah (7 months) with Grandpa, my husband Steve. Abbie, bless her young heart, was an angel: sat absolutely silent on the sofa with coloring books for 3 solid hours, waiting till between recordings to tiptoe to the bathroom, or to tap her dad on the shoulder and whisper something to him.

Then Steve, alone at Jon's house with baby Sarah, called.... "When are you going to be done?" Apparently Sarah was not being as cooperative as Abbie. This did not help my growing agitation. Finally I said, "OK, we're going to have to do this some other time. But can we try just one more time for "The Swan?" Just in case God-knows-what happens, that is the one I really want to have recorded. So we did "The Swan" again. And it went PERFECTLY. And I was so relieved. Until Jon said, "The battery quit just before the end." I asked, "How much was cut?" He said, "All of it. If you don't stop the recording before the computer turns off you lose all of it." ~Sigh~

Well, we're going to be there overnight on the way back to Winchester from Ohio. There will be no rush to get back to Winchester, just spending the night and then hitching up in the morning and heading for New Orleans. So on the 27th we are going to give it another go. Maybe this was a good dry run. Next time I won't have stage fright (although I play well, I do make mistakes and I have never played for anything or anyone except my own pleasure in my own living room). Hopefully Jon will have the battery charged. It won't be his day to have his daughters. We'll all have had a break, and it will go well.

It will go well.

If not.... it'll have to wait till next October after I finish hiking. I can't fly to Maryland from New Orleans to make a recording. And she can't fly with her cello to N.O. to record in our little camper, there's not enough free space anywhere to draw the bow, being as how we already have a piano in there.

And who has the money for a flight, anyway?

It will go well on the 27th. It will go well.

Send us your vibes.

Thursday, December 18, 2008


Well, we've finished our 7-month-long workcamping gig at Candy Hill. It's one of the nicest places we've workcamped. We always like the other staff members, our young managers have been super at accomodating our scheduling needs (I'll never forget when Selena arranged my whole work schedule, and thereby everyone else's as well, around my Ironman training program.) I will especially miss 2.5-yr-old Thomas, my little surrogate grandson, for whom I cared several hours a few days a week. What a cool kid.

So now we're in transit again. Few days in our "home" area, Garrett County, MD, to see our son, his wife, their two little girls (baby Sarah is already 7 months old, how did that happen???), my mother, and the girls' other grandparents. Then, on Sunday, it's on to the Columbus, OH area, where our two married daughters are, one of them the mother of our other two grandchildren (ages 10 and nearly 13.) From there, back here (MD) for an overnight and final goodbye, then back to Winchester to hook up our camper (we're leaving it there till after Christmas), then on to New Orleans where our winter workcamping gig is.

That's till the end of March. After which..... Steve will drop me off in Georgia, and I'll start walking. And walk and walk and walk and walk until I get to Maine.

Now it's off to my mother's place to practice some more for our cello-piano/fiddle-guitar production. Time's getting close. We're recording on Saturday!

Saturday, December 13, 2008


Here's one of the pieces my mother (cello) and I (piano) are practicing. It's the one that I most wanted to record with her, while I still can. Click to view and hear -- not us, some two guys.

I think the pianist in this video doesn't really "feel" the music. The cellist does. When I play it, and when we play it together, I feel it so hard I feel tension and emotion, almost tears, ebb and flow through my whole body. However, the pianist in the video is more skillful than I am in a technical way. He doesn't miss any notes, he hits no wrong ones. For one thing, he's a man, and his hands are large enough to reach some of the spreads that are a stretch for me. Sometimes I miss just because I didn't reach far enough. I notice that only his fingers move on the keys: I have to roll my arms from the elbows and my hands from the wrists to reach some of the extensions.

Anyone who is a string player will understand this next comment: Towards the end of the piece, the climax note is a loooong, high cello note. It's six beats, starting at pp ("double soft") and increasing on a crescendo (louder and louder.) If you listen carefully, and watch, you can see that the cellist doesn't make the whole 6 beats and changes the bow (from "down" -- pulling back -- to "up" -- pushing forward.) To accomplish the crescendo, the cellist must start with light bow pressure not moving very fast, to heavier pressure moving faster and faster, and he runs out of bow and has to start going the other direction.

My mother says Saint-Saens made a mistake here on this note, didn't recognize that it's next to impossible to play the six beats continuously on a crescendo on one bow, and she's never heard it done, but it's the climax of the composition and changing the bow interrupts the smoothness and continuity and impact of that climax. She worked on it for months and months as a young cellist, trying to figure out a way. Finally she changed her bowing several measures in advance, and began the long climax note on an UP bow (pushing forward) which gave more control, and voila!! She'd found the way to do it all on one bow.

My mother, who's now 87, says she's never heard another cellist, live or recorded, do it on one bow. To her knowledge, it's never been done. But she does it. Whenever she hears this piece of music, she listens closely to hear a bow change, and it's always there. She has NEVER heard another cellist do it on one bow; possibly, no one has even thought of it or perceived, or felt, that it would be more powerful on a single bow stroke.

I believe that, in her day, my mother may have been, probably without realizing it, one of the greatest cellists in the world. But she was with the symphony (Baltimore, Washington National, also New York Philharmonic Orchestra) and never got to shine as the great soloist that she was. She quit the symphony to have a baby (me) and from then on her musical career was reduced to giving cello and piano (and now, at age 87, country fiddle) lessons in the living room, and teaching public school music.
I never heard her play professionally until I was probably 40. I'd heard the lessons, and I'd heard her playing with my visiting grandmother on the piano, and she and I played together at home for pleasure when I was in my teens. But later, she was invited by a local arts festival to give a concert. She had a professional piano accompanist and gave a truly professional concert. Attending, listening, watching, I was thunderstruck. This was MAJOR LEAGUE. This was an artist. This was exceptional. And I was 40 and had NEVER HEARD MY MOTHER DO THAT. Just listening to this cellist on the stage, never mind that she was my mother, I was mesmerized, paralyzed, transported..... I don't know when I have ever heard such a cellist.

Ellinor Learned Benedict. The world never heard of her.

She quit to have a baby. Me.

Here are the other pieces we're recording together:
Schubert Ave Maria (they do it a little more slowly; I think it drags a little)
Bach-Gounod Ave Maria (this one's done well, very sensitively)
And one with violin/fiddle (Mom) and guitar (me): Ashokan Farewell

She first picked up a fiddle and learned to play country-bluegrass at age 65.


Yesterday morning when I started brushing my teeth, I realized the toothpaste didn't taste right... sickly sweet instead of minty fresh. What the hell??? I picked up the tube and looked at it... sunscreen. I was brushing my teeth with sunscreen.

Then I got ready to go somewhere and when I got to the car realized I'd left the key in the house. So I went back but the key was gone from the hook. I looked in my pockets and everywhere else. Finally decided I wasn't going anywhere until the key turned up, and took off my jacket; that's when I heard the key jingling from my belt loop, right where I always put it when I take it off the hook or out of the ignition.

My cardiolite stress test was normal. No glitches. So I can go out and climb hills or whatever, knowing that whatever those panic attacks were, they weren't my heart.

I've got my longer walks up to 7 miles now. Yee-haw!!! My tendons feel good. Now my metatarsal area hurts. I've got these $400 orthotics but I don't think I have enough metatarsal cushioning. Don't know whether to get ball-of-foot pads or full cushy insoles to go under my orthotics. It's always something....

Friday, December 12, 2008



I was sweeping out the game room today at the campground. Behind one of the game machines I found a vanilla mini-Tootsie Roll, one of my favorites, still wrapped. I stuck it in my pocket. Then I found a caramel, one of those round ones with the white center. I love those. It was lying there bare in the dust and I actually considered eating it. Ewwww.....

I didn't eat the caramel. And I figured, if I could pass that up, I could pass up the Tootsie Roll, too, and I threw it in the trash.

It could have started me on a days-long sweet binge, yes, just that one little piece, and I've currently got 5 days straight of no sugar and very conservative carbohydrate intake. Believe it or not (I don't know whether to believe it or not) I've been running some borderline-ish sugar levels and my doctor is, well, I wouldn't say concerned, but kind of on the alert. So am I. I CRAVE sugar, breads, etc. I can keep it under control if I don't eat any. When I do, more than likely twenty minutes later I'll be having trouble staying awake.

Doc said it's all a sign that my body isn't handling carbohydrates well and it would be best to keep them down. She said it's not impossible that I could develop diabetes if I don't take control now.

I don't have a family history, or excess abdominal fat, I'm not overweight (never thought I'd see the day I'd say that) but I did have a baby over 9 pounds (the others were close,) which is considered a red, or at least yellow flag. And while, as I said, I'm not overweight right now, it's a constant battle. I've lost and regained 20-30 pounds 5 times in the last 25 years.

And of course my cholesterol is always an issue. Sugary stuff and refined carbs don't help that one bit.

Nutritional goals right now:
  • Emphasize lower-calorie, high-fiber vegetables as my major carbohydrate source
  • Grains, if any: Oat bran, oatmeal, flax seed meal, brown rice, occasional half-calorie bread(I do way better gastronomically without wheat)
  • Fruits: very conservative, mostly berries
  • Protein: Plentiful; lean
  • Fat: Mostly olive oil and nuts

Five days I've stuck with it. Let's see if I get healthier...

Thursday, December 04, 2008


5.75 miles today, mostly walking, with some "25-breath" runs inserted. Run for 25 "in-2-out-2" counts (GPS showed 5.8-6.3mph) and then back to walking, 3.8-4.2mph. I ran the hills but no more than 25 "breaths."

I guess I "passed" my nuclear stress test Monday. I have to get the final report when I see my doc next week, but I ended up jogging 4.2mph at 14% grade with no pain in my tendons, chest, or anywhere. They had wanted to stop me at 3.5mph and 10% grade b/c my heart rate was around 138, and they calculated that 139 was 85% of my calculated max, but I told them I was still easily conversational, not stressed at all, and that if we stopped now I wouldn't feel confident to go out on my own and actually stress myself running up hills; I asked to proceed on perceived effort. The cardiologist shrugged, the tech said, "It's OK, we have another crew coming in at lunch time," and the nurse cranked up the pace and incline. I heard a lady, waiting for her test, ask nervously, "Am I going to have to do what that lady's doing? Because if I try that, you're going to be picking me up out of the gutter."

4.2mph isn't much, but 14% grade is, and I haven't been running all summer, so it wasn't a bad showing.

Tuesday I had my front tooth/crown/post extracted. When I was in my 20's, I had an infected wisdom tooth pulled. In my 30's, another one. I thought those were what extractions were like. Well.... compared to this, those were like pulling young weeds out of the garden. This was like uprooting a tree. I never expected it to be so hard to pull out. But it came out all in once piece, badly abscessed (looked like a raisin), and then I had some bone debridement where the infection was trying to spread, and some drilling that felt like boring into ice with an augur to make a hole for fishing, and then the insertion of the implant (he used a ratchet), and some sutures, and an Aleve tablet and a prescription for Tylenol #3, and then I was done.

An hour into the trip home, we stopped in a tiny town at a tiny drugstore where I was the only customer, got the Rx filled in 5 minutes, asked the pharmacist for a glass of water and gulped a pill right there. It didn't help much and I had crying spells the rest of the 3-hour drive home. After 800mg of ibuprofen I started to feel better, and amazingly, the next day (yesterday) I had no pain at all.

Except psychological.... I look like a jack-o-lantern. My employer said just tell people I'm from West Virginia but that won't work.... anyone can see that the rest of my teeth are good. (We're close to the WV state line and there's mutual firing of WV/VA jokes back and forth.) I'll just have to say "It's a work in progress," or, "I broke it and killed it, what's your excuse?" Or say nothing and keep smiling and wait till next Tuesday when I get my one-tooth partial plate.

Off for bath-house cleaning now. Then 5 hours this evening of caring for 2.5-yr-old Thomas, the son of the campground managers. I love Thomas. He's like another grandchild.

Saturday, November 29, 2008


A couple days ago, Dee posted a thought-provoking essay, Cell Phone vs. Bible.

Suppose I used my Bible as much as I use my cell phone?

I'll tell you right off, I don't.

But what if.... every time I see someone talking on their cell phone, I shoot up a quick arrow prayer to God? For the person on the cell phone? For the ignored cashier checking the phone-user's groceries? For the drivers sharing the road with the phone-user? For the family of the phone-user? For the workers who made the cell-phone? For everyone in the world using a cell-phone at this moment?

Suppose every time I use my phone or hear it ring, I say a short prayer before I put the phone to my ear?

For my family?

For my husband?

For me?

Monday morning I have my long-anticipated, long-worried-about cardiac stress test, the follow-up to my hospitalization for the anxiety attack that I thought might be a heart attack. They'll shoot me up with some kind of nuclear stuff and garner high-tech images of my heart at rest and under stress on the treadmill. Hopefully my tendons will be up to the challenge, able to do what my heart is capable of.... walking fast/jogging on an incline.

I'm mostly over my semi-PTSD from the anxiety attack, but I'm still a little apprehensive about the test.... due to my tendons, I haven't done much real heart-stressing cardio since June, and don't know what will happen when I push to the max, since they never did find out what that attack was. No physician has told me it was a panic attack; I have told them. Maybe it was something else after all.

Then Tuesday morning I have oral surgery. The front tooth I broke at age 10, had crowned after a root canal, bashed against a glass door early this summer, cracking the root with the post to which the crown is attached.... that cracked root has to come out. An implant inserted and bone-grafting and gum-reshaping. Temporary prosthesis, a "flipper"(click for picture) for months and months while the whole thing heals. After I get done hiking the Trail, I'll get a permanent crown.

I'll have to walk around without a front tooth for a week or so until enough healing takes place to use the flipper.

Now I'm going out for my first FIVE-MILE walk on my Achilles Tendonitis Rehab Journey.

Maybe over the next couple days, once or twice when you use your cell phone or see someone using theirs, you could send up a little thought for me and my stress test and my teeth. Thank you...

Thursday, November 20, 2008


That's "LOSING IT" with my right hand on the wrong keys.

On the docket for today's training: 2 miles, an easy day in between two 4.5's.

Each walking day is a chance to try out trail-wear (needs are different for walking than for running, I'd know just what to wear for a run, still figuring it out for walking.) Today at start time: cloudy, 40*F, wind WNW at 19mph, wind chill 30*F.

Decision: Light acrylic zip-up hooded sweater (can be base, middle or top layer, $3.99 at Goodwill) and tights that I made by taking in the legs of a pair of sweater-knit pants ($2.00 at Salvation Army on half-price day.)

Both were in my backpack, which I had to go outside and get. Dug in it for my clothing bag. The sweater was there, but where the H were the pants??? I never wear them for anything in real life, there is nowhere they could be but in that bag, in my pack. Look through drawers and closet. Nope. Gone. ?????????

Well.... then my hotsy-totsy Marmot Precip waterproof windproof breathable rain/wind pants (real gear, $70 from an outfitter I can't remember near Bar Harbor, ME.) I'll see if they're windproof. I'll see if they're breathable. I'll see if I stick to them when I'm sweaty or if I'll need an underlayer.

So the rain pants, sweater, and over it all, half-zip windbreaker/rain jacket ($10 her at Candy Hill Campground.)

Where the hell are those pants? This is bothering me. It happens to me all the time. Things just disappear from my life without preamble or explanation. Poof. Gone.

OK, so 2 miles. Plan: Walk half a mile, run a quarter-mile (I carry a hand-held GPS), repeat until done. It's 2 miles to the fire house so that's an easy target. Things were going great until I was at 1.6, headed for the fire house and suddenly, DUH..... it's 2 miles to the fire house so it's also 2 miles BACK and that makes 4, not 2, and if I turn around right now that will be over 3 so I'm breaking training no matter what.

So I turned around but, what the heck here, am I losing my mind as well as my pants? Maybe losing my pants is part of losing my mind. Good thing I didn't forget pants altogether, although I'm sure I'd have recognized my mistake pretty quickly in the cold, if I could figure out why I was cold, that is.

Stats: 3.3 miles, four 1/4-mile runs making a full mile of running, my new PR in my post-Achilles incarnation.

More than planned, but not really too much, more than a mile less than my max, and besides, I have to "train" for my stress test coming up in a couple weeks. My husband says, "Who the hell trains for a stress test?" I do. I'm out of shape from not running/biking all summer and want to pull a decent test without having to get shot up with stuff to increase my heart rate.

Clothing results:
Acrylic sweater: Fabulous. Wicked that sweat right through to the inside of my windbreaker, which was wet although the sweater stayed dry.

Rain pants: OK. Didn't stick to me, although they didn't feel fabulous -- like nylon against skin. Blocked the wind. Apparently breathed though, they weren't clammy or anything.

Where the hell are those sweater tights????

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


Gosh, gang..... y'all have been asking where I am. You miss me when I don't post! Love ya!

Sometimes, life just seems to be the same thing every day and I can't think of anything to post about.

I'll start with my walking/training progress, since that's a great metaphor for still being alive.

Walking is up to 4.5 miles. Yay!! That's half a day's hike in the early weeks of the Trail. I expect to start with about 8 miles a day, upping it every couple weeks by a couple miles until I stabilize at the 16 or so daily miles most hikers put in. Daily distance partly depends on where the next shelter is. They're spaced roughly a day's hike apart, anything from 6 to maybe 12 miles. I don't plan to stay in the shelters for the most part.... the mice are plentiful and brazen, and I don't like to hear snoring. But tenting right near the shelter is good, because you never camp alone that way. Most shelters have tentsites nearby. If the weather is really, really awful (torrential rain, wild wind) I'll stay inside the shelter, with ear plugs (for the snores of shelter mates) and a piece of bug netting (for the mice, with whom I would rather not share my sleeping bag, or my hair.)

Next week I graduate to a 5-mile walk. Woohooo!!! I'm starting to jog a little bit, too, since soon my walking will be of enough distance to take a huge chunk of time without some "running breaks."

I love my new backpack. It's supposed to be "Lip Red" as described in my previous post, but it's really more of a rust color (thank goodness.) It's 3800 cubic inches, and all my stuff is packed into it with room to spare. It resides in the storage area under our RV home, since I can't hike yet, especially with extra weight in a backpack. Every few days I haul it out, unpack it, ponder what I'll need and what I won't and what I could make a lighter version of, then repack it, put it back under the camper, and read my AT books some more. Or something similar.... right now I'm reading Yukon Alone, by John Balzar, about the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race, less well-known and more rugged than the Iditarod. Like other athletes preparing for a major event -- marathon, triathlon, hiking the Appalachian Trail -- the mushers obsess over their lists of what they need, how much food per dog per day, pack, unpack, repack, revise the list, and start over. They weigh everything over and over trying to get their load as light as possible (their sled bags are commonly packed with 350 pounds of supplies, mostly food for the dogs, relatively little for themselves.) They plan airdrops of food and supplies (on the AT that's a mail drop; in the Ironman it's the Special Needs Stops;) they plan race strategies of how many miles in how many hours at what pace followed by what length rest break.... it's all so familiar. Sports are all so different but it seems endurance sports have features that bind their participants together in common experience.

Monday, November 03, 2008


I can't believe it's been so long since I wrote a blog post. Our computer was down for awhile.... or rather, we had to get a new hard drive after my husband spilled a glass of wine all over it!! Anyway, we're back up again.

Camping out in the cold.... it went fine. I was warm enough in my sleeping bag with an extra layer of clothes, even down to 28* one night. I got tired of faking a backpacking trip after 3 days of it, though. I slept outside, took down my tent every morning, put it back up every night, and ate hiking food cooked on my backpacking stove. But in the backyard it was just missing something.

Anyway, on to the news....

With my end-of-season bonus from Candy Hill Campground, I just ordered my backpack for my Appalachian Trail Thru-Hike. GoLite Quest Women's, MSRP $175, goes for $169 at Campmor, on sale for $119.99. I think I got a good deal. It's one of the ones that's been on my short list.

From the Campmor description:

"The Quest is an all season backpacking, mountaineering, alpinist, adventure, travel pack. The shoulder straps, torso and hip area are narrower for women's-specific fit.
Adjustable webbing hipbelt with two bellowed mesh pockets for closures
Two side hydration openings with internal sleeve for 3 liter hydration
Front pocket holds shovel, shovel handle, skins and probe [rain jacket, gloves, snacks...]
Two side compression straps with quick release
Removable lid with a welded watertight zipper for top pocket
Compaktor system
Side compression straps release and join to opposite side for carrying snowboard, snowshoes etc. [or wet tent.. it will be, most of the time, you dry it out during rest breaks]
Frame sheet with 2 adjustable aluminum stays [removable to shave weight]
Two angled side mesh pockets with elastic top binding for easy access while wearing
Shaped back panel and hip wings with padding to contour to the back and hips
Contoured, compression molded hip wings with supreme cushion that cups the hips while in use
Number of pockets: 6
Made of: 100% pu-coated nylon Velocity with DWR
S - H 28 in. x W 8.5in. x D 10 in.

S - 2 lbs. 12 oz.

S - 3800 cu in.

Yummy!!!! Yes, I got red. The other choice was "iris," which looked to me more like lilac, a fairly girly color. I don't want to be girly.

Now I have to wait for shipment :-( Not that I'm going anywhere, unless I take it on my now FOUR-mile walks.... Yes, FOUR miles!! With a few short smooth gentle jogs included! Movin' on up!!

Saturday, October 18, 2008


It's going down into the 30's tonight with possible frost. So I'm pitching my tent in the yard to test out the modifications I've made to my sleeping bag and warm clothing. While I'm at it, I might as well keep on sleeping out and living out of my backpack, including clothing, bathing (baby wipes), food and cooking.... I've got supplies for 5 days or so and I need a test run of just more than overnight. So I'm going to do it all but the hiking :-)

Saturday, October 11, 2008


And where is it that you get schwag like this?

Yup. Ellie here got admitted to the hospital overnight. For panic attacks. Except that the extreme apprehension, coupled with odd chest sensations, made me a cardiac patient. So I was there 24 hours on telemetry monitoring on a dumb cardiac diet (low-sodium, restricted fat, Mrs. Dash instead of salt, bleah) while I got all kinds of EKG's, echocardiograms, lab tests, and of course no more panic attacks.

But it felt like I might have something lethal during the couple hours that I had them.

They ruled out anything cardiac but didn't seem too interested in finding out what else might have caused it, sent me home with Ativan in case it happens again. The ER doc, however, listened to my history and ordered up tests for celiac disease, which probably won't be covered by my insurance since it doesn't fit my admitting diagnosis of "chest pain." However, I've been wondering about it for awhile, since lifelong IBS symptoms abated when I undertook a low-carb (grain-free) diet, and returned if I cheated with cookies, donuts, or pizza. The day of this incident, I was supposed to have had an appt. with my primary doc, and I had eaten wheat the day before to see if anything would happen so I'd be able to report it to her. So the ER doc ordered the test. And yes, along with the panic I had had bowel hyperactivity, so it wasn't all that irrelevant.

Anyway, I got a cool bucket that will be handy, and a hairbrush I like, and little plastic bottles I can put stuff in for hiking, and baby wipes I can use for bird-baths when I do my week-long backyard-camping gig to learn the ropes, and a toothbrush so I won't have to buy one when my current one gets old. And the little pitcher.... I may pitch it but it has a styrofoam insert that gave me the idea to use a styrofoam cup as an insulator inside a yogurt container for a lightweight heat-retaining cup/bowl/rehydrator on the trail.

Today according to my PT schedule I get to walk THREE MILES!!! It's starting to feel like actual distance. I mean, 3 miles is a distance I might, in my running incarnation, have put on my running shoes for and held in some esteem.

The cardiologist wants me to get a stress test, presumably as a baseline now that we've determined nothing is wrong, to compare to later on when something does.... "Because we all experience coronary changes as we age," he said. I didn't like him much. However, I'll have to figure out with my PT how to walk/run long enough on an incline to get my heart revved up without killing my Achilles. The cardio guy said, "You don't have to walk... we'll give you a cardiac stimulant to achieve the stress." Oh, goody. Sounds like just what I want.... something to make my heart race when I'm sitting still. Maybe I'll just cancel the stress test.

So the hospital experience is mostly behind me except for follow-up. I have Ativan in case I get another attack (it will still be within its shelf life on the trail, I don't want to deal with panic attacks on the trail...) And I have cool schwag that, if not completely useful or something I would have deliberately acquired now, gave me ideas for MacGyvering later.

It still wasn't fun. And I like salt in my food, and as for fat-restricted.... haven't they heard of the cardiac benefits of olive oil?

Tuesday, October 07, 2008


I just walked two miles....yup, my second 2-miler in my Achilles rehab/Appalachian Trail training. Tomorrow is its subsequent "rest" day, Thursday a one-mile "recovery" walk, then a rest day, then THREE miles on Saturday. WhoooEEEE!!!

Yesterday I biked to and from physical therapy, then reloaded my daypack for other errands by bike: return library books, pay a bill at an office, do some banking, pick up a few groceries. I returned from all that with 13.73 miles on my odometer, feeling exercised (maybe exorcised) and green -- economically and ecologically, saved money, saved fuel.

Physical therapy is tapering off, from twice a week to once every week or 10 days. I have a SLEW of home exercises and stretches to do. It will be good not to go so often, though... twice a week with an insurance co-pay each time is $50 a week, $200 a month. It could be worse; I could have no insurance at all.

Sunday, October 05, 2008


Dee had these questions and comments about my last post:

"You are so organized. I cannot wait for you to go and then report back to us at sometime. What do you plan to do about that? Will you write when you go into town every 5 days or will you wait until you get home? I am so excited about you going. How is your foot feeling?"

Well, I don't know about "organized," but I'm trying to learn! Organization is not my forte but I can't do this without learning some. I'm feeling I should have started earlier.

About reporting during my hike: ShirleyPerley has very kindly offered to be my "scribe." I'll write little journal entries in camp, then mail it to her from towns. She's going to post it on my blog for me. I'll be sending pictures to my husband (I guess sending my camera's memory card, keeping two or three in rotation) so somehow the two of them will struggle to align the pictures with the posts.

There's a huge site, TrailJournals.com, where most hikers post their journals, but I'm so used to blogging here, and have so many friends here, I think I'm just going to keep it here.

As for my tendons.... big improvements. Thursday at my PT session I actually got to RUN for 2 minutes on the treadmill while my therapist observed my gait. Last week I did 3 one-mile walks and a 2-mile walk. This week I'm scheduled for a 3, a 2, and a 1. She's going to give me an updated training plan tomorrow, plus more/different exercises to do at home, going longer between therapy sessions and tapering that off.

Now as long as I don't do something stupid and set myself back....

Thank you for the questions, Dee!

Wednesday, October 01, 2008


Photo from Vacpacker

Six months from today, I start hiking. Six months from today!!

So I'm going to start preparing in earnest (as if, up till now, I'd just been pretending.) Steve is going to be mailing me a box every two weeks. So, starting now, I'm going to start filling those boxes. If I get a box every two weeks, and spend two weeks filling it (drying food, etc.), that should take me up to Starting Day.

I won't be taking two whole weeks' worth of food at a time; I'll be stopping in (or detouring into) towns every 5 days or so, and I'll pick up replenishables there: cheese (keeps a week unrefrigerated), a few eggs, a little fresh fruit. But I can go more cheaply and nutritiously if I start hoarding pre-purchased shelf-stable things now, like bags of beef jerky and nuts. I figure on needing three 1# bags of frozen vegetables, dehydrated, a week. They'll take up hardly any room or weight when dried. I'll dry up 3 bags now, add a bag of walnuts and a bag of beef jerky, some dried fruit, a cup of olive oil in a plastic squeeze bottle, a couple boxes of instant rice and/or mashed potatoes, a zip-loc of powdered milk, a week's worth of instant coffee, and weigh 'em, along with a block of cheese, and see how much the week's stash will weigh me down, and what size pre-paid priority-mail box it will need. Then I'll modify.

I'm a champion at modifying. I modify way better than I solidify.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

"AT" REHAB, "AT" TRAINING: The next 6 weeks

Photo thanks to Photo Everywhere

Here's my rehab and training program as prescribed by my physical therapist. I'm just about to start Week 3. All miles are walking. I started slowly but am up to 3 - 3.5mph now. I get to do a 2-miler this week!!!

Week 1: 1-mi X 3 -- Total Miles: 3 (Done!)
Week 2: 1-mi walk X 4 -- Total Miles: 4 (Done!)
Week 3: 1-mi X 3, 2-mi X 1 -- Total Miles: 5
Week 4: 3-mi; 2-mi; 1-mi -- Total Miles: 6
Week 5: 3.5-mi; 1.5-mi; 2-mi -- Total Miles: 7
Week 6: 2-mi X 4 -- Total Miles: 8
Week 7: 4-mi; 3-mi; 2-mi; 1-mi -- Total Miles: 10
Week 8: 4-mi X 2; 2-mi X 2 -- Total Miles: 12

I have a tentative schedule right up till the last week of March. I'll post more of it another time. I'm planning to start hiking the Trail on April 1. No jokes, please....

Friday, September 26, 2008


Don't know if you remember (I do know it'd take me forever to find the post), but awhile back I decided to focus, not so much on weight loss but on waist size, since my muscle mass might throw off my BMI (not that I'm that muscular, but I do have some...) Also, waist/height ratio is now being used as one of the markers for cardiovascular risk -- you're supposed to be at no more than 0.5 on this, preferably less.

When I started, my waist was at 30.5 inches, my ratio exactly 0.5, and was going to aim for 28 and a ratio of 45.9 (I'm 5'1".)

Well, my waist is currently 27.5 and my ratio is 45.8.

This puts me in very good standing. My BMI, although not stellar, is at least "normal" (below 25) at 24.2 (started at 27.4.) However, as I said, you can't always tell from that, if the person has muscle; I'm not Ms. Atlas or anything but I've been doing upper-body work all summer, as well as isotonic/isometric stuff in PT to help maintain my leg strength in the absence of running and biking.

Maybe I should mention that I've lost an inch from my hips as well, in addition to other areas where it may or may not be desirable to lose but we all know that a girl's best two points are always the first to go when weight loss happens.

Since starting controlled-carbohydrate eating, the beginning of July, my HDL (the "good" cholesterol) has skyrocketed from 43 to 76 (supposed to be over 40); my triglycerides (one of the "bad" blood fats) plummeted from 128 (supposed to be under 100) to 56.

Unfortunately, my LDL and total cholesterol went up. A lot. Not sure what happened there, except that the leap in HDL would drive the total count up, but as for the LDL, I don't know why that went up. It was supposed to go down on low-carb.

My total cholesterol/HDL ratio is better than it was before. So's my LDL/HDL. Ratios are considered at least as important as raw numbers, and my ratios improved. My doctor doesn't like my total cholesterol and LDL, though. I don't either. Seems like something is working but something else isn't.

So I'm keeping my carbs low to hopefully maintain my great HDL and triglycerides, but doing away with the beef, bacon, butter and whole eggs I was eating, going with very lean meat/poultry/tofu and monounsaturated fats (e.g. olive oil.)

And as I progress in my exercise again -- with increased biking and walking moving up a mile or so a week, I should see some improvements that may have been frustrated by my relative lack of activity all summer.

Weight? Which is supposed not to be so important? It still matters to me. I'm having a hard time shifting the emphasis off it. I lost 11 pounds in the first month of low-carb. Then when I started adding to my carbohydrate intake (often by cheating with ice cream and candy, I will admit.... addicted, can't stay away) I regained 3, but I have maintained that weight. So I'm 8 pounds below where I started almost 3 months ago.

I love that 2.5 inches off my waist.

Thursday, September 25, 2008


OK, I've let this slide for awhile. But now I want to get back to that trip to 100 consecutive pushups.

On Monday, I cranked out 46 in a row, new PR. This was after a week or so of doing none, and haphazard bursts of them in the two or three weeks before that. I haven't been following the program.

So I started again today, sort of randomly choosing week 4. Sets go like this: 21, 25, 21, 21, max possible (at least 32.)

I did the first 4. I'm in my rest interval before going for the max. I'll let you know how I do.

OK! May I have the envelope, please? Drum roll..... 35! 3 above "minimum max" after having already done 88, total of 123.
I do better to wait 2 or 3 days in between pushup days. So my next one will be Sunday or Monday. On that day, the schedule calls for: 25, 29, 25, 25, max (at least 36.)
We'll see.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


I've got the food dehydrator running with smallish amounts of foods to reconstitute/recook and eat to see how they turn out. A sliced-up orange (will eat that w/o rehydrating), some cooked lentils (to see if they cook faster after being precooked and dried), brown rice precooked in the same way for instant rice on the cheap, and a recipe for pesto I found in Trail Food, a really nice simple book I found at the library.

I'm getting a yen to pack up my pack and a week's worth of food, ask our campground owner/manager/my boss for a tent site, and live in my tent out of my backpack on dried food cooked on my camp stove for a week. Because (confession time here) I've never done it for more than overnight.

Well... maybe 5 days. That's about what I figure between town trips on the Appalachian Trail.


I seem determined to demolish my feet this summer.

A week ago today, Steve and I were walking into a sidewalk restaurant, and I stepped on an uneven crack and rolled my ankle.
When we were seated, I asked the server for a bag of ice, which I kept on my ankle while we ate. When we got our check, she had handwritten on the register tape, "Ice Bag $20.00." Steve gawked, "$20 for the ice bag????" I looked at the tape and said, "No, she's joking -- see, the total is still $24.95." He let his breath out. When the waitress came back, I asked her, "Who's the wise guy?" She laughed and said, "Did you like that?"

It reminded me of the Neiman-Marcus Cookie Recipe story: The woman so enjoyed the chocolate-chip cookie in the NM restaurant that she asked if she could buy the recipe, which the server said she could for two-fifty, and when the woman got her bill, her credit card had been charged two hundred and fifty dollars for the recipe. The story has been relegated to urban-legend status, but the cookies are incredible, and you should click the above link, follow the recipe, and make yourself some.

Anyway, for the past week, I've been ICE'ing my ankle. RICE = Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation; I've been doing all but the "rest" part, since I'm "resting" already due to my tendonitis rehab, and my physical therapist wants me to continue the rehab program as much as possible even with the added complication of the sprained ankle. It's not a really bad sprain. Just a little swelling and soreness, no bruising. If I weren't already injured, if I'd been training normally, I'd have skipped running for maybe 2 days and then gone back to business as usual, which my therapist agrees with in this case, since business as usual is an every-other-day one-mile walk plus stretches.

So here I sit after today's one-mile walk, with my ankle squooshing a bag of frozen peas up against the side of the desk, so I can multi-task. At least I'm not on the computer at the expense of treating my ankle. When I'm done blogging, I'll elevate it.

This week's training program:
1-mile walk on 4 days; 2 upper-body workouts; biking as tolerated (yay!)

Next week:
1-mile walk on 3 days, and one TWO-MILE walk. Hoo!! Plus upper-body, and biking as desired.

I am SO relieved to be past the merely more-or-less-ambulatory stage. Now as long as something else doesn't happen....

Keep your fingers crossed for me.

Monday, September 22, 2008


Showed up for my 9:00a.m. physical therapy appointment, and found out it wasn't till 10.

So I went to the gym, 15 minutes away. A warmup round of presses with 8-pound dumbbells, then into pushups. Must be tired from yesterday, I could only manage 25. Over to the cable row, did 20 with arms together at a low-ish weight. Then I hopped on the stationary bike and pedaled 5 minutes, level 7 of 25, 90rpm's average.

Then another set of pushups. Wow.... maybe it was the vigorous biking that got my blood pumping. I passed 25 easily and went to.... drum roll please.... FORTY SIX! The highest number of consecutive pushups I've done yet. 46!!! Yay!!!

Back to the bike for 3 minutes, then 25 more pushups. Bike again, then 29 pushups for a total of 125. I like my numbers to be rounded off -- 5's, 10's, or a multiple of 3, an OCD-type of thing -- and had some confusion over the 29. Should I do one more and make it 30? But that would give me a total of 126 and I like 125. But for 25 I have to make that last set 29, which doesn't end in a 5 or 0. GACK!!! I left it at 29, total of 125, the world didn't come to an end.

In PT at the correct time, warmed up for 7 minutes on the treadmill, reaching 3.5mph for the last 30 seconds, then all my stretches and calisthenics. I'm doing eccentrics in a leg machine, one leg at a time at 20 pounds. Today was a "How many can you do" test and I managed 55 with each leg. I imagine I'll move up to more weight next time.

I get to walk one mile 4 days this week. And I'm cleared now for biking as tolerated, no restriction on mileage or gearing.... just common sense in not going all out.

Things are looking up in the tendonitis department.

Then back home to a quick lunch, cleaned the shower houses and a few other areas from 1-3, home for a break, then off to care for Thomas, the 2-yr-old son of the managers, from 5-9.

Tomorrow I plan a 1-mile walk and a bike ride. I hope.

Sunday, September 21, 2008


Photo by Darrell Cavey at savagemantri.org

So after wanting for 2 years to do this world's most difficult half-IM, being excited about it for months, registering in February, being devastated to be out of training with tendonitis for the summer.... the race was today. I'd tried to put together relay teams with myself as the swimmer, but two attempts fizzled out. I did the swim anyway, and turned in my chip. My first-ever DNF in 24 marathons, 2 previous half-IM's, and 2 full Ironman's. But I swam.

Last night I put my wetsuit on for the first time since IMFL 2006, to make sure it still fit. This morning was my first swim in it since that race 2 years ago. Somewhat dejected and non-motivated at the start, I didn't bother warming up. I'd considered, when the alarm went off, not even bothering to go to the race. But I was here, and in my wetsuit. I waded in knee-deep, realized the water wasn't all that cold (I've trained for 2 IM's in Deep Creek Lake and know what it's like), stuck my face in the water to make sure my goggles didn't leak, and hung out waiting.

The start was delayed 20 minutes because of fog. When the cold lake is warmer than the air, folks, there will be fog, and it will take a while to lift.

I should have warmed up. I'd forgotten about the in-water start; treading water sometimes whups me more than swimming. I was breathing hard when the gun (horn, whatever) went off.

For the second time ever (first was at a sprint tri after I'd already completed 2 half-IM's without problems) I panicked within the first few yards. Couldn't breathe. Heart pounded. Lungs burned. Treaded water. Oops, that doesn't work... dog-paddled, breast-stroked. Gonna drown right here in my old hometown lake in a full wetsuit. Looked for a boat. Swam to a kayak (why was that easy?) and hung on getting my breath. Figured that, when I could breathe, I'd swim ashore.... I was going to DNF the race no matter how far I swam or didn't swim. I shouldn't have bothered to come anyway.

Holding onto the same kayak was another woman who'd also freaked in the first few yards. She was frantic. It was her first time EVER in a wetsuit and she thought she was strangling. She was clearly hyperventilating. The kayak guy and I talked to her and got her to slow her breathing. She said she couldn't do the swim. I asked her if she could go to the next kayak, about 50 yards. She thought she could. I wasn't sure I could. I didn't say so. So we set out. I thought of swimming ashore and quitting. She did backstroke, breast-stroke, treaded water, made it to the next kayak. My breathing was OK now; she continued to have trouble. I said I'd stay with her and we did the whole 1.2 miles like that, pretty much kayak to kayak, with a lot of rest stops. It took an hour and a half. She made it. We hugged. She got her bike and continued the race. I dried off and turned in my chip.

So I DNF'd, but it had turned out not to be a useless swim after all. I'm really glad I could be there for her.

I spent the rest of the day walking back and forth to my car (total of 4 miles, parked a mile from transition, I'm only supposed to walk 1) to get/drop stuff; then cheering for racers, helping direct traffic when boat-ramp users competed with racers, and waiting for my friend Holly, whom I'd seen in transition but otherwise missed coming and going, and who put in an awesome day in the International distance.

I'm glad I went and now, reading others' reports, I'm salivating over my next chance to scale The Wall and Big Savage Mountain. 2010 if I do the Appalachian Trail next year; 2009 if I don't make it.

Except I'll make it.

Monday, September 15, 2008


Short version: I walked a mile! I did it! I walked a mile!
Long version:
After a whole weekend of being antsy about this day, resisting the temptation to go out and do just a little to stay loose and reassure myself that I actually could do this, I woke up this morning so excited I was almost trembling.

The day I've so looked forward to, prepared for with intensive training since June: My very first one-mile walk since June 19 when bilateral Achilles tendonitis, with a small tear in one, put me out of the running.

I dressed carefully: my favorite race shorts (a pair of very old, very soft, very thin cutoffs); my Appalachian Trail t-shirt; my new Brooks Adrenaline ASR trail-running shoes with my new custom orthotics; my SmartWool hiking socks. Except.... oh, gad, where is the other sock??? I just did laundry, is it still in the laundromat??? I couldn't find it. Luckily I had a pair of Danskin Now synthetic running socks (can't find a link) that were OK with my shoes.

Put on the sunscreen, drink a pint of water, grab the GPS to measure my distance, leash up Journey (who was thrilled to see my preparations, which she remembers from before we were both sidelined), and out the door to the expo: our campground store, where I bought "energy cells" (AA batteries for the GPS, it's way low and I don't want to take any chances. Journey was OK with being tied to a porch support while I was in the expo.

There was a long wait, at least it seemed long, at the start while the GPS tracked the satellites. I fumed. Journey panted. Finally the legend appeared : "Ready To Navigate," I hit the start button on my watch, and we were off.

I had to be careful not to go out too fast. Too fast and I blow my chances of finishing. I do not want to DNF my first mile. Slow, easy, relaxed. But it was tempting to try to make some tracks and finish with a good time. I had to hold myself back.

Down the campground lane, around the cul-de-sac, backtrack, take a left. Uh-oh. A hill. I thought this course was flat.... that hill's got to be close to 2% and 20 meters long. My coach (physical therapist) told me to pick a flat course for my first venture. But.... hey, I've been doing little hills like that all summer just working around this campground. Let's try it. Slow and easy. Relax your legs. Let them swing naturally. This is doable. Yay! The top! No pain!

Now a little off-road section; thankfully the course is planned around the next little rise. Cross the grass to the pavement again. Uh-oh, a little twinge in my left Achilles. Stop at a picnic table, put my heel on the bench, stretch out my calf. Don't panic. You've had this before, even just sitting around.... we can't say the activity is doing it. You get it now and then. Don't panic.

Moving again now. Dang, I forgot to stop my watch. Looks like a minute and 10 seconds that I stopped. Remember that number. I'm past 1/4 mile now, 9:15 (including the stop, plus pee stops for Journey.) Not too fast, not too slow, perfect. Now go nice and steady.

Onto another off-road section, flat and grassy. It feels soft to walk on and doesn't challenge my ankles at all... that's good. Back to the cul-de-sac, around the loop, half a mile now, good point to stretch again just as a precaution while Journey plays with a Labradoodle. She forgets what we're about and doesn't want to leave him. Back now towards that hill, but this time I turn before the hill and backtrack to stay on the level course. Around again, over the short grassy space, past the picnic table where I stretched, back over the long grassy section, around the loop. Uh-oh, a little pain, maybe 2 out of 10, in my left soleus. Stop to massage and stretch it. There, that's better. Whew, sun's coming out from the morning overcast, feels hot.... glad this is a morning event. But I'm doing well, don't even have to increase my breathing.

Home stretch now. GPS says .92 mile. My excitement had calmed once I got moving, but now it returns: I'm going to make it, I'm going to make it! I'm going to finish! I feel myself putting on a kick: I've been doing 2:00 miles (that's hours, not minutes) but I see the speed function on the GPS climb to 2.4mph. I'm gonna do it! I can't help the kick. I'm so excited! I've made it!! I did it!! I did it!! I walked a whole mile!! Without running! I walked the whole thing! While I did stop for those couple stretch breaks (and Journey's pit stops) I kept my moving pace steady and averaged 2 miles per hour. Perfect pace for next year's hike.

Distance 1.00 mile
Clock time: 28:08
Watch time: 25:10
Place: 1/1 overall

Came home to a breakfast of turkey wraps -- deli turkey slices around dill pickle spears, a post-race favorite -- hydrated with another pint of water, and now it's off to get a restorative massage (physical therapy appointment.)

I am so happy!!

Sunday, September 14, 2008


Why is it that:

When you're biking and your head itches, it itches under a solid part of your helmet where you can't scratch it instead of under a vent where you can?

When you're biking or running on a narrow country road and a car is coming toward you and another one is coming up behind you, the point where they meet is right where you are?

When you're in the supermarket and someone has stopped with their cart, they've always stopped right in front of what you need?

When you get up in the morning you decide not to use the computer until you do your stretches, take the dog out, and eat breakfast, but then you decide to do just a very quick email or weather check first and an hour later you're still on the computer, your stretches undone, the dog not walked, and breakfast now out of the question, and you have to scramble to get to work on time?

And how did I manage to LOSE a CD-PLAYER BOOM BOX in the 30-foot camper we live in? It's not in here anywhere. I take it with me to clean the shower houses; all I can think of is I left it in there and someone lifted it.

Saturday, September 13, 2008


A food dehydrator.

I've been thinking about getting one, to preserve leftovers and extra garden tomatoes (we live in our RV but have a little plot in the managers' garden.) I also thought I might dry food for my Appalachian Trail hike, but wondered if it might be easier just to buy Ramen and instant potatoes en route.

Not any more. I got the dehyrator and the sliced tomatoes came out so well I got totally turned on. Ten good-size tomatoes dried down to about half a sandwich bagful. Are they ever good! Super-concentrated tomato flavor just like.... yeah, sun-dried tomatoes.

I dehydrated a pint of cherry tomatoes (dried down to half a cup) and YYUUMMMM..... sweet little tomato raisins! A really novel GORP addition!

So I'm trying other stuff. I cooked up a bagful of kidney beans, stored a couple servings in the fridge, and dried the rest. Only took about 3 hours, and while they dried to about their original size at purchase, they rehydrate in minutes..... Instant Dried Beans! They came out a little mushy but excellent for quick soup or even gravy. Next time I'll stop the long cooking just before they're done, and see if they hold their shape and substance a little better.

Right now I've got a chicken/cabbage dish in the dryer: chicken chunks, cabbage, chopped onion, sliced garlic fried up olive oil and spread in the dryer. I learn something each time: It doesn't work to combine chunk protein and a leaf vegetable. I just had to rescue the completed cabbage to keep it from charring to ashes before the chicken gets done. Kind of like microwaving -- food pieces have to be the same size and thickness for even processing. And they do burn if left too long; there are dehydrators with temperature controls but mine isn't one of them Vigilance substitutes for technology for a lower price tag.

However, four thigh/drumstick chicken legs and a whole small head of cabbage, which barely fit in the frying pan, are now going to fill a sandwich bag. 4 single-serving main-dish meals in one sandwich bag! My next purchase is going to be a Seal-a-Meal....

I'll rehydrate stuff for taste/useability testing, and then I'm ON for making my backpacking meals. I'll pack 'em in boxes for Steve to mail to me every couple weeks on the trail. I'm not carrying 2 weeks' food at a time, probably just a week's worth, and will buy stuff in towns in between mail-drop pickups.

This is getting to be fun, and I'm starting to think I might actually make it to the starting line.

Friday, September 12, 2008


I haven't posted since my bike crash. But I survived. The bruises are even gone. It only cost $35 to repair my bike (only the gear hanger was bent, nothing destroyed.) I had an extra helmet in case someone wanted to ride with me, so I didn't even have to buy a new one. The shoulder I thought was just scraped, was in fact mildly injured.... couldn't swim or do pushups for a couple weeks. The thigh that just kind of stung right after I crashed and that I thought was just sporting a little road rash.... well, here's the picture of how that went. In EMT class years ago, I learned that a bruise the size of your fist represents loss of about 10% of your blood volume.

Achilles Tendonitis update:

I'm still not completely pain-free, but I got custom orthotics last week (still adjusting to those); a new pair of trail-running shoes today; on Monday, I get to start a walking program.

Week 1: walk one mile, 3 days on alternate days, flat terrain. Upper-body training at least 2 days a week on non-walking days. Then each week I get to add 1 mile to the week's total mileage, for the next 8 weeks. After that, I get to transition into running and HIKING, assuming all goes well up to then. My physical therapist wrote a disclaimer at the bottom of the training program: "This is not a complete program, nor does it ensure you will complete hiking the Appalachian Trail." LOL!!! I'll be tickled pink just to START, and THRILLED TO DEATH to make it to Harper's Ferry, WV (close to home and slightly less than half the Trail but considered by hikers to be the "psychological halfway point") and ECSTATIC to make it to Maine.

Although it's cotton, I just might have to wear my Penguin Brigade shirt with its motto: "The miracle isn't that I finished; the miracle is that I had the courage to start." Hmmm. Not for hiking during the day -- my backpack would cover it up. But for hanging around camp in the evenings, and sleeping.... yup, I think I just came up with something. It's been autographed by most of my closest running friends. Wish I could send it around Blogdom for more signatures. Hmmm, maybe I can. A chain-mail kind of thing. I send it to someone, they sign it and send it on to the next.... I have ideas cooking like crazy.

It does remind me of marathon training, where my primary goal is always just to get uninjured and healthy to the starting line. Everything else is gravy. That said, I have never DNF'd through 24 marathons and 2 IronMan triathlons.

I'll be having my first DNF, though, at SavageMan next Sunday. Since I'm out $145 for the registration fee whether I participate or not, I might as well get some schwag out of it. Packet pick-up will net me a swim cap. There's no reason I can't swim 1.2 miles. I haven't done that this summer but I've swum 1800 meters a couple of times, which is close.

If there's a participant's shirt (as compared to a finisher's shirt), I don't see why I can't wear it if I complete the swim. I participated. And I've been through hell instead of training for it.

I've toyed with doing T-1 and starting the bike, quitting at the foot of (i.e., not attempting) the Westernport Wall. There's no way my tendons or training would handle that. Because of them, this summer I've avoided hills altogether. That comes at Mile 19. I haven't done more than 12 miles this summer, and not even that, in fact no biking, for the last 3 weeks. Damn tendons.

Maybe if I do 10 or 12 or 15 miles a couple times between now and then.

Maybe I shouldn't even take my bike.

I SOOOO wanted to conquer that Westernport Wall and get my name engraved on a brick to be inlaid in the road.

I SOOOO wanted to complete the full course of the "World's Most Savage Triathlon." It was going to be my one of my three compensations for not hiking the AT this year. I honestly haven't had any compensation at all. Everything has gone down the drain. The new granddaughter I gave up this year's hike for? The one who was my reason for and my main compensation for not hiking? Her parents are splitting up. Three months after a new baby. So although Sarah and her big sister Abbie are wonderful, and we love to see them, it's not really that much fun to go up there to visit them, with bickering, separation, etc. The third compensation was, I'd be near the AT in VA and MD and could do overnights and 3-day's, getting the hang of what works and what doesn't.

So my summer has been like this: PT (physical therapy) instead of AT (Appalachian Trail) because of AT (Achilles Tendonitis.) Kids fighting and splitting up with a baby and a 5-yr-old with special needs.

So no running. Little biking (kind of tendon-y, the pedal motion.) No hiking, not even the overnight shakedown hikes I looked forward to, after the 20-mile round trip over the Roller Coaster section (5,000 total feet of climbing over 10 miles, both directions), that screwed my tendons. New-baby-family fun for her first 3 months, although there was a tension and heaviness that I knew wasn't good, even before the announcement was made.

Funny how Appalachian Trail and Achilles Tendonitis are both AT.

Sunday, August 17, 2008


The stars are just plain aligned against me, I'll tell you what.

Now I've crashed my bike. Set out to do 10 miles, slipped on a railroad track. I barely had time to yelp before I heard this tremendous THWACK as my helmet hit the pavement and something skittering across the road (turned out to be my helmet mirror, yes, I wear a hokey helmet mirror.) I picked myself out from under my bike and off the road and ascertained that other than road rash on my shoulder and a little ache on the side of my head, and some aching/stinging on my thigh, I was OK. But my gear hanger was bent in between my spokes making the bike unrideable.

My husband came and got me, I washed the chain grease off my thighs and changed my clothes. The stinging ache under the leg of my bike shorts turned out to be a 5-inch diameter patch of road rash.

My ailing tendons escaped. No further damage there.

I took my bike in to the shop. The mechanic thinks he can straighten the hanger; if not, it'll only cost about $25 -- my Shimano Ultegra derailleur isn't damaged.

I'll need a new helmet; it has 4 dents in it. I'm glad I was wearing a helmet. I'm glad a car wasn't coming. I'm glad a train wasn't coming.

I've ridden across those and dozens of other tracks hundreds of times and never slipped. I still don't know what happened.

Oh, well. I'm OK, the bike can be fixed, and a helmet is easily replaced. But I hurt. My whole arm aches and my road rash burns. Could've been worse.

Saturday, August 16, 2008


You might want to read the post before this one for a few words of background.

So I biked my permitted 10 miles and... no pain, even though I got courageous (or rebellious) and got out of my granny gears. I just kept my toes pointed down so my tendons wouldn't get pulled on. Cut 5 minutes off my time. Whoopee.

Then I hopped into the campground pool and started swimming laps. It's a 20-yard pool so turns come frequently. Since I am not a fast swimmer, normally it takes me between a minute and 1:05 to traverse the 40 yards. Today they were all in the 55-57 second range. I've been watching the underwater shots of the Olympic swimmers. I kicked harder and put in more of a glide.

Original intent was 45 minutes. But suddenly at 20 minutes I decided I wanted out. So I got out.

Now my calves are stiff, I can tell I did something, but my tendons don't hurt.

~Sigh~ It's not enough to make me feel happy, though...


My tendons had a setback -- I jumped up and ran after a departing RV whose storage door had popped open unseen by the driver. He never did see me and I re-injured myself. The right one is swollen and tender again. My physical therapist commented that it's hard to think about getting it healed and getting me back in condition to start the AT in the spring.

Our son and his wife of 11 years (and girlfriend since she was 14 and he was 17, 15 years total) are splitting up.

I'm trying to find two relay-team members for SavageMan -- a biker and runner -- so that at least I can do the swim portion. I have a probable biker but we're still out a runner. The triathlon is a month away. Time is running short. But I'm losing my motivation. I'm losing conditioning and feel like I don't even really care. Swimming is boring, I can't run or even walk (more than I need to just to get around), my biking is limited to 10 miles in granny gears.

Which I'm going to go out and do now.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008


My friend Karen (Downhill Nut) sent me this:

If you've read my couple of recent posts about internet addiction, and know I'm planning to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail....

...then you'll understand why I had to print it out, on good paper, at best quality, for framing!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008


Back again: both "back to pushups" and "back to an earlier program week."

I had let them slide. They were discouraging. I was regressing.... not able to do as many as I had a week or two earlier.

Maybe low on glycogen with my low-carb nutrition?

Maybe, as a friend suggested, spreading my restorative resources too thin, doing intense upper-body training while the same body is trying to heal a serious Achilles injury.

Maybe just good old overtraining.

Whatever it is, I've decided to drop back, not an ability level as I had previously, but a couple progress levels. I'm staying at Level 3 but dropping back to Week 2. The number of reps will not stress me, and I'm thinking they'll serve as a warm-up for the final Max effort at the end of the session, where I hope to make my real progress.

Over my 22 years as an adult-onset athlete, I've become notorious for tweaking programs and doing my own thing. I've also found I don't respond well to too much training. I get overtrained very easily.

BTW: With low-carb nutrition I've lost 8 pounds in 3 weeks, and 2 inches off my waist. Skeptics might call the 8 pounds "just fluid," but the 2 inches are hard to argue with.

How it went:
Sets: 12, 12, 9, 7, separated by 60 seconds each. The second 12 was a little hard (I'm dipping lower than I was before, my son said I wasn't going low enough.) Then the max effort after 2 minutes -- I did 20. Felt OK. I'm back!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


My last two posts have been about whether I'm addicted to computer communication and the internet. There's no doubt in my mind that I am, but.... there are a lot of other things I'm about, and I need the computer to tell the world.

But that's not what my blog is about, so I'm going to leave the pity party and drop that topic.

My blog is about endurance. Endurance in sports and endurance in life. It's about long-distance hiking, and long-distance biking, and long-distance running, and healing up my Achilles tendons so I can do those things, and about what to eat to support those long distances AND fix my lipids AND lose weight.

I'm becoming more and more convinced that low-carb is the way to go. Granted, since I'm injured I haven't been able to see yet what effect this way of eating has on my endurance performance. But what I'm reading about glucose-vs.-fat metabolism, and insulin response and fat storage, and availability of fat for fuel, is making me think maybe the high-carb/low-fat approach is just plain all wrong. And it doesn't work well for weight loss either, as many of us have found, and continue to find over and over again, much to our consternation.

Clearly, there's more to be learned. Check out the two blogs I just listed in my sidebar under "Low Carb." Especially LivinLaVidaLoCarb.... beaucoup information in that blog!!


I took this quiz to see what the "pros" think about my internet use. Here's what they said (sorry about the spacing, couldn't seem to HTML it out.)

(41% - 60%)
You seem to have a healthy balance in your life when it comes to the internet and life away from the computer. You know enough to do what you want online without looking like an idiot (most of the time). You even have your own Yahoo club or online journal! But you enjoy seeing your friends and going out to enjoy life away from your computer.

I don't agree. I think if something's negatively impacting your life, and you don't seem to be able to resist doing it to the exclusion of what you should be doing, that's not good. Maybe "average" is just plain too much. I check my email before doing my therapy stretches and end up not doing the stretches because I stay on until the last second before I have to start something else. That's negative. And that's just an example.

Monday, July 28, 2008


I can't imagine how many hours I spent on the computer yesterday. I worked 3 hours at the campground where we live, spent an hour and a half in church, an hour or so cleaning and testing my bike, maybe another one cooking and eating dinner; the entire remaining time I was doing email (several active groups) and looking up stuff. It's getting out of hand; my kitchen floor is covered with dog hair and onion skins, my bedroom floor with shed clothes and shoes. My husband sits outside in the evening gazing at the stars by himself.

Other than logging on FitDay, checking my %$&^* insurance status, and glancing at the weather map, I'm declaring the computer off-limits today. I've got to break the addiction.

You folks are the best, reading my stuff and commenting, letting me know I'm in your life. I will respond to all of you when I'm back in control, I promise!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


Well. Progress!!

I have lost 1.8 inches from my waist since I first measured it 3 weeks ago.

I am down 7.6 pounds in 3 weeks; 15.8 in 7 months. The sudden acceleration must be due to my low-carbohydrate intake. There's no other explanation. Watch out, I may turn into a pusher.

Speaking of pushing...

Today I started Week 4 over again, at level 3. Sets went like this:
27; 20; 20; 17; then max possible, at least 27, all separated by 60 seconds or more.

Well, I waited 90 seconds. The sets were hard but not impossible, until I got to the "max, at least 27."

I made 16 before collapsing. So I added that to my total for the day, and waited 5 minutes, then tried again.

I did 35. Total of 162!! Tracking your total each day isn't part of the program, but I'm going it anyway.

I've updated my tickers to reflect all of this, and moved them so you can see them without scrolling down.

My right Achilles tendon is a lot less swollen than it was. My left, well, not as good, but it doesn't hurt at least. I still get shooting pains in the right one. My physical therapist measured the angle of flexibility on Monday and I've progressed a couple degrees on each side. Normal is 10-20; I started at 9 on the left, 5 on the right; I'm up to 11 on the left and 7 on the right. Slow progress, but progress. She is also giving me lots of leg- and ankle-strength work, as explained in my previous post, so that I don't lose ground there while I'm sidelined. In fact, I should be a lot stronger when I return to training than I was before.

I'm encouraged.

By the way.... I was not sore after my pushup binge the other night! (see last post.)

Monday, July 21, 2008


I did my end-of-week-4 progress trial for the Hundred-Pushups Challenge.

I was able to do 35.

This is 20 more than I could do 4 weeks ago, but it puts me into Level One, and I started in Level Three. Despite my progress, I feel like I'm losing ground.

However, after the 35, I rested awhile, then cranked out 20 more. Then 10 minutes later, 25. Break for 5 minutes, 20 more. Five minutes later, 22, which was all I could manage, but my total was 122. This whole workout exceeds Day 3 of Week 4 at Level 3.

So I don't know where I am.

I think I'll do Week 4 over again, at Level 3. You may remember I dropped down to Level 2 at the end of Week 3. But now I seem to be back up to Level 3, if I repeat Week 4.

Maybe what Shirley said in her comment.... that, in running, a recovery week after a couple weeks of building puts you ahead for the next cycle of building -- maybe it's the same for strength.

Anyway.... I can tell I'm going to feel this tomorrow. On top of the increased lower-body strength routines my physical therapist upped me to today. I did "progress tests" there my last visit and today she increased my reps, tied me into heavier resistance bands, added tricky balance moves. Just when I thought I was a hot shot, she ups the ante.

But I have to appreciate that she is working on keeping up my conditioning so that when I can return to endurance sports I'll be strong. She said I'm a challenge: "We have to work hard to challenge a high-level athlete like you."

She called me a high-level athlete. I'll be darned.

Saturday, July 19, 2008


My weight is down a little.
My waist is down a little.
My mood is down a little.

I am discouraged with the progress (or, more appropriately, lack thereof) in healing my Achilles tendons. They haven't been getting worse, just not better. My physical therapist is abandoning the ASTYM for the present, since it doesn't seem to be helping, and doing more ultrasound treatment and physical realignment of the foot and ankle joints. My podiatrist is going to cast me for orthotics at my next visit. This is a good thing. I've thought for years I could benefit from custom orthotics; just never had a medical excuse to get them. "Well, you've got one now," said the podiatrist.

I feel a little negative about having had to drop back a level in the Hundred Pushup Challenge. I wanted to be at the TOP level. I wanted to be Super-Jock Granny right from the get-go. However, I did more pushups than called for, my last session: I was caring for the little son of our managers, had forgotten my printed-out pushup schedule, and "wung" it. Sets went like this: 25, 18, 18, 15, 20; then got ambitious and did another 20, then another 21.

Weight and waist: Since I'm not doing any endurance training, I've gone to low-carb. You read right. Actually there's news splash lately that the medical profession is acknowledging more and more that in fact it may be healthy. I was on it before the most recent study was published last week so I feel I've one-upped the media. I've been doing some studying and believe there's a lot of information supporting the safety and efficacy of restricting carbohydrate and acquiring a greater percentage of calories from protein and even fat, even saturated fat. Not Crisco, but I'm eating butter and whole eggs and bacon and beef. Imagine. Even though I'm as concerned about cholesterol as weight (actually, more so), what I've been reading about the interaction of carbohydrate intake, insulin, and glucagon in fat storage and conversion has me fairly convinced that the higher-fat, lower-carb nutrition will have a favorable effect on my lipid levels, which I will have re-checked in a couple months to see. In the meantime, after about 10 days I'm down 6 pounds with an inch off my waist.

Hope all is well for everyone!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


A group of my girlfriends have a challenge going: do something each month that stretches and scares them.

Since this is a group of athletes, the challenges are pretty much athletic in nature: hit a new PR for a distance, do a triathlon, cycle a time trial, do a different kind of race.

Me with my Achilles tendons, my challenge for this month is to clean out my closet and cupboards. Definitely a stretch and scary..... we have so little space in the RV, it's all at a premium, and I tend to accumulate stuff, and what will I do with the stuff I clean out of the storage space???

I got the closet done; cupboards are next. The closet only took 2 hours. I had to store my hiking backpack and all its contents in the backseat of the car, which we rarely use, to make room in the closet, which I do use.

I think my scariest and most difficult challenge, though, is sitting out this Achilles issue. I'm afraid losing my cardiovascular fitness. Running, walking, and even biking are out. Swimming.... well, I don't swim strongly or fast enough for it to count as aerobic. It's more like stretching. I asked the PT about pool-running and she was afraid of that much resistance causing dorsiflexion and extension of my feet, so that's out.

I'm getting stronger with my pushups and PT, but I am going to need to build my aerobic base back up when this resolves. I'll probably be out for another month at least. Then I need to rebuild slowly, being extremely careful of my tendons and guarding against too much too soon, to walking 8-10 miles at a time, to be ready to start the AT in the spring over mountains with a 30-pound backpack on.

I find this very scary.