Saturday, April 12, 2014

My first book review: Wild

I've never done a book review in this blog, but have been wanting to for quite some time. An expression of thanks is necessary to my sister, Lisa, who has really opened my world of reading. Reading has always been a hobby, yet finding books and keeping me reading past Chapter 5 was always a challenge. So this summer, when I was miserable in San Antonio - she graciously made me a list of "books to read". That really got me going. My family has started a "Virutal Book Club" - which has also opened me to new reads. And finally, I've started a book club with small & selective group of girlfriends (so far there's only 3 of us...)

"Wild: Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail" by Cheryl Strayed, was given to me as part of my birthday present from a girlfriend, who knew I was getting into backpacking. This book was eye-opening for me, and interesting.

It's about a 26 year-old women, who essentially loses everything. She ruins her marriage through infidelity, she loses her mother to cancer, and with that loses contact with her family. So upon hitting  rock bottom, she makes the decision to quit everything and hike the Pacific Crest Trail.

The Pacific Crest Trail is a trail that essentially goes from Mexico to Canada. The book tells the story of her journey and treacherous struggles hiking this path. She deals with everything from severe heat, dehydration, snow, rattlesnakes, loneliness, hunger, severe blistering & pain, bear sightings, and potentially dangerous people on the trail. In these struggles, she finds herself again.
There is conflicting views on the character in this story. There were moments in this book that I found myself angry with her. How she irresponsibly would spend her limited funds. She didn't prepare her self for backpacking - and had never hiked prior to trekking across the US. And above all, she lost her husband due to her infidelity and drug abuse. But through her physical struggles on the trail, she worked through the emotional skeletons in her closet.
I tend to be a person who believes that people deserve a second chance and forgiveness. They have to earn it, of course.
This book showed the ugliness in backpacking, but it only made me more excited to do it. I think spending time out in nature really makes one contemplate and reflect on life. There is something very cathartic about being so far from civilization, that there's not a hint of it in sight.
After reading this book, it is definitely on my adventure list to hike a portion of the PCT. Obviously doing the entire trail is not in my it takes months to complete. But I've already started looking into trails that lead to Crater Lake in Oregon.
Do you tend to give people 2nd chances? One of my faults is probably that I can be too forgiving and trusting.  Hence, why I struggle with confrontation - because I assume the fault will fix itself so we can all move on with smiles on our faces.

Friday, April 11, 2014

New Finds

I am so glad this work week is done. I'm not going to even start explaining, or this will turn into a ranty novel. All I will hint at, is I wish I had noise cancelling headphones while I'm working in my cubicle. And I am thankful that most of my work day is spent out on the floor interviewing patients, reviewing charts, and nagging doctors. (Yes, most of being a case manager involves nagging doctors. But I've become very talented at nagging in a manner that seems like I'm helping, instead of nagging.


I have found 3 new things this week that are wonderful. They are not related. But all amazing.

1.  Smoothies. I've found that I don't have time to eat breakfast in the mornings - because racing from my work out to the shower to work...doesn't leave me time to even eat. Maybe if I didn't do my hair and make-up. But then I look like I'm 15 years old. So I busted out our blender, and have made some of the most delicious concoctions every morning. Here are a few combo's I do:

  • Blackberries, spinach, 8 oz almond milk, 1 scoop of "Amplified Wheybolic Extreme 60" vanilla protein powder, handful of chia seeds.
  • Strawberries, 1 large kale leaf, 8 oz almond milk, 1 scoop of vanilla protein powder, chia.
  • Sliced peaches, sliced mango, spinach, almond milk, protein.
  • 8 oz almond milk, 1 spoonful of natural peanut butter butter, 1 scoop chocolate protein powder.
**A note on the protein powder - it sounds like some extreme, mass-building, 'roid-poppin', kind of protein. But it's not. It's just low on lactose (easier on the stomach), and one of the lower calorie protein powders.

2.  White beans and sauce. I'm cutting back on meat consumption. Mostly because I'm too lazy to deal with raw meat when Ryan's not here. It has little to do with health or animals. I am just tired of cooking for myself, and don't feel like touching raw meat...for myself.

So I take canelli beans, 1/2 can tomato sauce, 1 oz can tomato paste, much garlic, S & P.....and it goes great on salads, in wraps, over quinoa, over rice, in a pita. Many options. It's delicious!

3.  Albuterol. Long story short -- I haven't been breathing well since December. I finally got an albuterol rescue inhaler. I tried it the other night, and almost made myself pass out from hyperventilating. I was so excited and thrilled to be able to completely inhale & exhale!! People that think doing drugs is cool should try albuterol - now that is some good stuff!

What have you found new lately?

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Catalina State Park 10.3 mile Trail Race: A new love

I did my 1st trail race yesterday. And I am in love. A group called "Everyone Runs" here in Tucson holds a race at Catalina State Park twice yearly, but in the past I have always had to work that Saturday.

(I love having a job that has given my weekends back....)

So glad about my decision to register at the last minute (Monday).

I went into this with no idea what to expect. I pictured myself hanging in the back of the pack with not a competitive bone in my soul.

Until I crossed the start line........and I kept passing people. And realized there weren't very many people ahead of me.

It was the most beautiful morning. It was slightly overcast, causing a 10 minute period of an orange sky. (I got to watch all this, because I arrived to the race way too early. My nerves always seem to do this.) Pictured below is a shot of one of the trails we took - prior to the sun peaking over the mountains.



It went from that, to this within 10 minutes.....
And it was time to start the race!:
I originally planned to take some pictures while running the race, with my lackadaisical attitude about this race. But, again, my competitive spirit came alive.
It was probably one of the most challenging races I've done. We were running up mountains - so there were some insanely steep areas. Also, almost the entire 10 miles of trail was sand. There was maybe a mile of packed down gravel, but the rest was sand. If you've ever run on a beach - you understand the defeat challenge of running through sand.
At miles 2, 4, 6, and 9 there were stair climbs. In fact, the race is advertised to have 92 stairs to climb. One of them has 30 stairs. There was a point running up these 30 stairs, where I thought, "I wonder how many people have had a heart attack climbing these." (Ha! :/)
The Results:
I ended up placing in my age group - and got 1st place! 7th place for overall women's. (I got 35th overall. There were a lot of men running this race.) I seriously think this is my favorite sport! I just feel so happy trail running - you're so close to nature, in the mountains, beautiful views all around, and the environment at these races is different from a road race. People just seem more at ease.
Trail vs Road:
It's an interesting comparison. I've done numerous road races, and there is definitely a difference.
In fact it's funny, as I talk with friends who are serious "road racers" -- many of their comments along the lines of:  "could never do a trail race - because it's too crammed," and you can't pass people freely and that would make them crazy."
Trail racing has more of the spirit of "The trail is narrow, I can't pass, I'll pass them when I can. Look! A fresh water stream!!"
Physically, believe it or not, trail racing is much less hard on one's body that the road. Yes, you run up and down very steep grades of mountain. But you're on sand and gravel that has some give. Not pavement.
Today, the only soreness is my muscles in my abdominals & calves - that's from the muscular stability required to run through sand and around rocks.
(However, I did have to soak my feet in the pool yesterday for a long time in order to extract a cactus needle out of my toe. Ouch!!)
After road races, I usually have sore knees, sore feet, and I'm on a short-term NSAID regimen.
I'm not dogging on road races, and will continue road running. But this definitely opened my eyes to a new love!

What are your thoughts on trail vs road? When you are attending an event you are nervous about, do you get there insanely early? Or do you try to get there just on time, to eliminate that phase of "wait & worry".