Flying Blind (Sorta)

Recently, I decided to spend a year revamping how I live a bit. I have tongue-in cheek named this the "Year of Me" as I question different beliefs about myself, etc. More on that later on down the road.

Today I sat down and wrote down specific things I wanted to do over the next year. Under the "Stop It!" Heading, I decided that I need to quit measuring everything I do against some sort of benchmark. Like weighing myself or counting calories or measuring my body parts as well as not feeling like I have to be doing something productive every moment of every day. Essentially, I want to remember how it is to be a kid without all these measurements of how successful (or unsuccessful) I am.

So I went on and deleted all the apps I use to track anything from food to steps to miles. I want to just live and not make everything into a 'job' or 'chore' or 'goal'. I want to live better, enjoy the moments of my life more. Anyone who cycle knows there are many ways of measuring what you are doing from cyclocomputers, to Strava (GPS power) and so on. You can get pretty technical in weights in everything on your bike and what you wear (in grams) and so on. I decided today when I went out to my bike to remove my computer from the handlebars. I wouldn't be able to see my speed, distance, fastest speed, etc. a all. i had deleted my ride tracking app. Simply I got on my bike and rode my fave short route, to the end of my road and back.

Other than grumbling because they tarred and chipped the last section of my road, I had a very enjoyable ride. I know I rode about 13 miles but that's just from memory. I don't know how fast I rode, or how many minutes it took me to do five miles. What I did notice was many things I ignore on this ride. I saw the flowers blooming in the ditch, I found a natural pace without worrying about if I was going fast enough. I just rode for the sheer enjoyment of it. You know, like when you're a kid and you just get on your bike to ride to a friend's house or go on an adventure you dream up. Fun. Without worrying about mph or distance.

I am not training for any events, I simply ride for exercise and the fact I love riding. Today I found dropping all the gauges and metric associated with road riding, I had much more fun and it didn't seem like work at all. That's what we seem to do as we get older, make everything 'work'. Or a goal or a part of achieving something more. We forget to just be in the moment and have fun. And the distractions of all the gadgetry adds to missing whole parts of the experience.

Today instead of relying on the miles per hour displayed on my cyclocomputer, I simply listened to what my body wanted to do. Maybe I even rode faster, I don't know. And it doesn't mater. I'm outside, in the fresh air and working my cardio though it just felt like play.. That's how more things in my life need to be. Play, fun. I need to quit sucking the fun out of the simplest things because that's what I am 'supposed' to do as an adult.

This next year is learning how to enjoy my life more and take much better care of myself. I'm not great at that. i tend to push myself past my limits when I shouldn't. Just like forcing myself to ride 50 miles just to say I rode 50 miles. I'm not training for anything, then why do it? It's time to rethink the way I approach things in life. It's the perfect year to regroup, rethink and explore. And remember what pure joy a simple act like riding my bike can be. To rediscover childlike wonder with the world.

Maybe I'll get some sparkly streamers too!

Food Journal – 3 Month Update

Well, 2/21 marked three months that I have been using a food journal app (MyPlate) every day.  And I mean every single day even though at times it has been a bit annoying and a hassle.  They say that it takes 3 months to adopt a habit (good or bad) into your life though I think the bad habits probably are easier to adapt because they are usually more enjoyable.  So the breakdown for the 3 months (13 weeks):

Pounds lost: 17.2 (approx 1.3 lbs per week)

Inches lost (8 measurements): 10.75.  Inches lost (3 core measurements – bust, waist, hips): 6.25

When I went back and saw the highest weight I recorded last year which was on 5/21 (which will coincide with my 6 month food journal anniversary date), I’ve lost 20.6 lbs.  Though it doesn’t sound like much in some ways since I have probably approximately 75 lbs to lose still, it’s a big chunk.  Because roughly (since I do not know what my natural weight will be as muscle weighs more than fat), let’s say I needed to lose 100 lbs for the sake of easy math.  So I’m already 20% of the way there going from my highest recorded weight of 2016.  

So 17-20 lbs doesn’t sound like much but when I was in the grocery the other day, I bought a bag of cat litter that was 20lbs.  Lifting it into the cart, I realized this is how much weight I’m not dragging around with me.  Last May, I was struggling like crazy to ride my bike.  I’d just spent the entire winter buried in college classes finishing my degree and I didn’t pay attention to what I was doing to my body.  I graduated in May, at one of the heaviest weights I’ve been in my life.  I’ve been about 5-10 lbs more at one point years ago but here I had crept back up into that range.  Riding my bike was difficult.  

I will give myself a bit of a pass since my peri-menopause was in full blowout mode.  I wasn’t sleeping, my moods were awful (which were probably exacerbated by the weight gain and poor eating habits), exhaustion set it and the hot flashes made it miserable to do any kind of exercise on a hot day.  You can get an idea of what the fires of hell might feel like when you’re riding on a humid 95 degree day and one of those hot flashes hit you.  I had to pull off the bike path and sit in the shade while politely declining offers from well-meaning cyclists who wanted to call 911.  Yeah, no, it’s just a hot flash.  It will pass.  I just hoped I wouldn’t vomit because that’s how crappy I felt.  I pretty much hung up my bike and focused on doing the one thing that didn’t make me feel awful which was walking.  The dog and I pounded out many miles on pavement and trail.  

So how am I feeling now?  Luckily, the hot flashes and exhaustion and moodiness have settled down to a more manageable level.  I think that eating better and exercising even more has helped with this as well as the fact that peri-menopause eventually runs its course.  I’m hoping I am through the worst of it though I still need a sleep aid to get me through the night.  On top of things, I am hypothyroid but with dedication to the food journal and healthier eating, I’ve lost a good amount of weight in 13 weeks.  These factors may make it harder to lose weight but it’s not impossible.  

Since the weather in Ohio has been mild, I’ve been out road biking 3 times already this year.  I’m doing roughly 12-15 mile down and back road rides with the usual wind that accompanies this time of the year.  Last year, I was really discouraged and struggling.  This year, I’m feeling really good and I’m excited about the cycling season 2017.  I’m setting a goal of riding approximately 50 miles a week when the “season” starts which is usually about mid-April when you can start getting out and riding more consistently if you don’t like the cold weather (I don’t).  I want to ride over 1500 miles this year.  A few years ago, I hit 1000 miles but I haven’t been that dedicated since.  

Last night I was down on the rower and noticed I was able to do 20 minutes with minimal breaks.  I feel stronger in general.  After I row, I do some yoga to cool down and stretch.  I noticed I am able to flow through sequences and hold poses better and hopefully more gracefully.   I have much more energy in general and I can’t wait to see how I am going to feel when I lose the rest of this extra weight.  I imagine it will be like walking around with helium balloons tied to my limbs!  I already feel “lighter”.  

So I have passed my initial goal of doing the food journal daily for three months.  I’ve set a new goal of doing it every day for six months which will be 5/21/2017.  By this time I will be a good month into my riding 50 miles a week as well.  I’m excited to see what changes will come from continuing my plan.  I am certain I will hit a plateau at some point and will need to make some adjustments but I am enjoying eating better.  My husband bought me an Instant Pot to speed up cooking preparation so we eat out even less.  No matter what restaurant you favor, it is almost always better calorie wise to eat at home.  It’s also much cheaper too!  We still go out to eat but with less frequency.  Now, being able to whip up a delicous meal in 30 minutes or less on average, it takes away the urge to run into town to grab some fast food.  

Well, onto the next three months!  This is exciting!

I Will Never Do That Again (Skip Exercise for 4-5 Months)

For whatever reason, last November, I decided after reading an article that it wasn’t how much you worked out but what you ate that was more important.  Well, maybe it is but I don’t know why I got it in my head that I would give it a try over the winter months while I finished my college degree.  I was going to be busy with classes anyway, so what would it hurt?

UGH.  I’m 46-years old, not working out for months really affects your body.  First you start getting lethargic and then you start to grow weaker.  For me, depression runs in my family and exercise helps keep this at bay.  Which I knew and which I thought oh, a few months won’t hurt.  Another really dumb assumption.  School kept me busy but I just never felt good all winter.

Winter is a season I struggle with anyway because I am very much an outdoors person and well I hate the cold so I am stuck inside more.  I join gyms but then quit by mid-April when I can get outdoors again which means I have 6-7 months of the yearly fee that is wasted.  I wish they would let you do a winter gym membership for November – April where you could pay one fee up front.  Though I found I end up catching more colds and viruses when I go to the gym even though I clean every piece of equipment before and after use.  That and I’m not a fan of crowds or waiting on people who decided to camp out on say, the leg press, as if it is their personal throne.  There are only so many evil, impatient looks I can give in a day.

Probably unrelated was the fact my thyroid slowed down even more but I didn’t find out I needed a higher dosage of my medicine until spring.  So I put on 25-30 lbs.  Now I am heavier and weaker and more fatigued than I have been in a long time.  I got a new dosage of medicine and pulled out my bike on the first warm day.  I rode a little and felt like crying.  it was as if I was starting riding 10 years ago.  I wanted to kick myself.

Now I am 4 months later starting back to exercising pretty much an hour or more daily alternating between riding and walking or hiking. It has been a slow process and the longest I’ve ridden has been not quite 40 miles.  Last year by August I had ridden almost my 1000 miles for the year.  This year I’ve barely broken 600 miles.  I have no one to blame but myself (okay maybe my thyroid just a little).  Regaining my fitness has been a struggle and I have yet to lose the weight.  My clothes are looser but the scale won’t move but for me it could simply be muscle weight replacing fat.

Mostly though I am frustrated with starting over.  While winter is not my friend, I have to keep exercising almost every day to keep from losing my fitness.  The one thing I have to remember how much better I feel when I work out most days, how much less I eat because my appetite seems to diminish.  Instead of finding myself eating all the time for no particular reason, I’m finding that I wait until I’m hungry and some days I’m not hungry as often.  In a way, not doing what you body was designed to do, move, sabotages you and you end up gaining weight, feeling crappy and lethargic.  It is much like night and day how I feel when I am exercising vs. when I am not.

The moral of the story – Keep moving, every day.  This is more my reminder than your instruction though I would love to hear how exercise or lack of exercise affects you.  The one key I have learned, is you have to pick activities you enjoy.  Me, I have to be outside most times and I never stick with videos, classes or prescribed regimens.  I need it to be fun, like play when you are a kid.  I try to remember to keep active throughout the day which means cleaning my house, working in the yard, taking the dog for a walk or whatever I can dream up.

I’ve decided that I will invest in whatever equipment or clothing I need to keep active this winter.  I’m selling my rollers and going back to the rear wheel bike trainer (wonderful barely used set of e-motion cycling rollers for sale – contact me! :-).  As Denise Austin would say on her aerobics videos, if you rest, you rust.  As my great-grandmother would say, you are only as old as you feel, so she tried to stay as active as she could and lived to be 100.  Sitting on my arse is not taking care of myself, it’s destroying my health.

Note to self – keep moving, stay moving, stay strong.

Lawrence Woods State Nature Preserve – Kenton, Ohio

My daughter and I finally had a chance to explore a new nature preserve east of our home located at 13278 County Road 190, Kenton (Ridgeway), Ohio.  A gravel drive winds back to the parking lot where three kiosks stand with different information posted.  A little further past the first parking area there is a special parking for handicapped which offers convenient entry close to the 1.1 miles of boardwalk.  

Entrance sign


The area around the woods is a beautiful prairie that hosts all sorts of wild flowers and grasses.  You get a chance to view this terrain when you drive into the preserve.  The skies were overcast since storms were rolling in from a distance.  We could see flashes of lightening far off against the carbon steel tinted skies.  We checked the radar and determined that the storm was moving in the opposite direction before we proceeded.

Storm off in the distance from parking lot


The Trex boardwalk slips into the woods a short walk from the main parking lot (a mowed pathway traverses to the handicap parking area).  At first, there are boards with names of people who I am guessing people who donated money to this project.  The names are fun to read as you are walking.  The boardwalk is in excellent condition and well-maintained but with no side rails.  

The start of the boardwalk standing in handicapped parking


The preserve has 1035 acres in Hardin County with many mature trees and several endangered species of plants such as the Heart-leaf plantain.  There are many different types of oaks and it states on ODNR’s website that there is a great show of spring wild flowers.  Since the preserve is heavily wooded where the boardwalk trails through, I imagine a fall stroll would be gorgeous as well.  The setting is incredibly peaceful. 

My daughter standing next to a tree that looks like a rhinocerous


Along the board walk, which is like a lollipop, you walk the stick until you come to a junction where you can walk right or left which loops around and back to the junction.  You rewalk the “stick” back to the parking lot.  About midway through the loop is a spur that goes off into an open area.  We didn’t walk the spur because we had a moment of stupidity and forgot our bug spray so we were jogging parts of the trail to avoid the bugs.  There is also poison ivy that grows close to the edges of the boardwalk so be cautious of the sides.    

Namesake of the preserve at the loop junction


We passed one woman who was using the loop as a track for running.  The Trex boards prove to have enough traction and a bit of give for a more cushioned run.  I used my workout app to track how far we walked.  From the parking lot, through the loop and back, it stated 1.53 miles though I won’t swear that is exactly accurate.  There are numbered signs with “1, 2, 3” along the path I believe which are marking tenths of a mile.  At first I thought maybe there was an interpretive brochure that went with the numbers but they were evenly spaced at tenths.  

Number sign


This is a beautiful area that we plan on visiting again (and using bug spray).  As has been our experience so far, there are no pets and no facilities.  Pack water if it’s hot or you plan on walking the loop more than once.   There are many sections where there are small benches to sit and enjoy the woods.  It was very quiet while we were there and we were only accompanied by the usual sounds of the forest.  Leaves flittering in the breeze and bird song.  We didn’t see any wildlife but a storm was approaching.  

Boardwalk winding between 3 mature trees


In conclusion, this offers a nice stroll or maybe even a run.  The boardwalk is in excellent condition as of August 2016.  Like most preserves it is not heavily used at least during the week.  This is one of the better maintained preserves so far and a beautiful area.

Lawrence Woods State Nature Preserve

Why I Love Bike Paths…

Since the closest bike path to me is 35 miles, I do a lot of road riding straight from my driveway though cars fly up and down my country road like it’s the Autobahn.  While the roads out here are fairly straight, there are many hills near my house which when you are not a light person, are a bit of a struggle.  Cue in the wind and I’m usually always struggling on the road while feeling like giving up at any moment.  While I suppose it is making me a stronger rider, I don’t enjoy the ride as much and so it becomes a chore to even get my bike down off the rack and push it out of the garage. 

A shady and wooded path


Lately, I have been trying to reach my weekly mileage goal by peicing together 4-5 shorter rides where I used to do two longer bike path rides a week.  This adds to the ‘chore’ feeling of riding.  I’m simply meeting a goal and am not really enjoying my ride.  Plus the I’m gearing up 4-5 days a week rather than a few.  Though some cycling enthusiasts will say you should ride most days of the week, I’m not feeling like I’m getting anywhere fitness-wise.  Plus, I would like to do more walking or hiking, maybe put in a swim at the lake.  I’m not sure my knees are up to daily riding, I seem to do better riding several times a week for longer stints than fighting hills for 4-5 rides.  

A run along the river


Today, I had an early morning appointment to get the oil changed in my truck 10 miles away from the closest trail so I tossed my bike in.  I figured, I’m that close, might as well ride the path.  The heat across the country has been oppressing, and even though it was only 845 a.m., the temperature was a very humid 84 degrees.  I chose the shadiest section of trail and started at the closest parking lot.  Though the parking lot was in the sun and I was sweating before I even clipped into the pedals, I felt that I was already looking forward to the ride.  When I ride down my driveway, I am not usually excited to ride, but I feel more like it’s a forced march.  

A small lake tucked away


As I crossed the road and passed the dry creek bed, I slipped into the shady wooded area in some of my favorite trail sections.  Instantly, I am in my happy place.  I love the dappled shade, the twist and curve of the path, the river running near, the older couple who say good morning as they ride by, the little dog who sits and waits for me to pass, the black wrought iron benches placed at scenic spots, the downtown buildings, the different bridges I cross, the cemetary that reminds me that life is short, the white mansion that sits on the hill, the small quiet lake, the city parks, the mother pushing two young children in a double stroller with a third child strapped to her chest, the lady jogging who gives me a pained smile, the barefoot fisherman, purple lupine, dame’s rocket, Queen Anne’s lace and the miles that seem to pass without my notice.  Okay that is a huge run-on sentence, but that is just a few things I loved from today’s 22-mile ride.  

An iron bridge that trains once traversed


While I rode today, I wondered why have I been killing myself on more frequent, shorter road rides.  Why not just put in two longer rides on the bike path even if I do have to drive an hour round trip or longer?  If it means I enjoy cycling more, then shouldn’t I do that as much as possible?  Fill in with road rides when I need to.   When I am out riding on the road, I am worried about cars hitting me, fighting harsh pavement conditions, big hills, no shade and really not a lot of to engage my senses.  Miles and miles of crop fields broken up by the occassional home or farm.  

A field of wildflowers


I worry about dogs chasing me or weird strangers slowing down and abducting me while I ride out in the middle of nowhere.  I carry dog spray (pepper spray that shoots far) more for people than dogs.  Not that you don’t run into the occassional weirdo on the bike path. There have been moments when my spider senses go into hyper drive but usually there are people around moreso than riding in the country.

The river view from a recently opened secrion of trail


Not that you can’t have an accident on a bike path.  You still should wear a helmet and pay attention.  I’ve had two bad accidents on a path.  The first one was an ambulance ride and a concussion because I wasn’t paying attention (didn’t I just warn about that!).  My front tire had slipped off the pavement causing me to go end over appetite crashing head first into the pavement (why you wear a helmet).  The EMTs had to drive back in a pickup truck becuase there was no way to get an ambulance to me.  That was certainly an expensive mistake.

A white mansion tucked behind the trees


The second time was hitting a suicidal racoon that darted out of the woods.  Hitting him was like hitting a brick wall which again sent me head over heels and to the ER to later find I had a separated shoulder.  So, while cars are usually no an issue unless you are crossing roads, you still have to be really careful and alert.  

Canal view


That aside, I am a big advocate for bike paths and bike lanes.  They help keep us safe from vehicles though they aren’t bullet-proof.  The paths normally wind through interesting scenery and take you to places you may not normally see from a car.  It gives you the opportunity to interact, even if it’s just a quick hello, with other cyclists and exercises of all walks of life and ages.  They provide normally a fairly flat surface to ride or walk or run.  They help us get or stay fit.  Bottom line is that bike paths are a great asset to every community.

Davey Woods – Ohio State Nature Preserve

Davey Woods SNP is located in Champaign county at 7661 Lonesome Road, St. Paris, Ohio east of Piqua, Ohio.  I love the name of the road.  It is a very quiet and fitting for it’s moniker, Lonesome.  This is a 130 acre wooded tract with almost 2.0 miles of trail that winds up through gentle hills of old-growth woods.  The Conrad Trail is 1.4 miles and the Short Loop trail is 0.6 miles.  There is a gravel parking area right next to the road with the sign proclaiming that this is indeed Davey Woods. There are no facilities and no pets allowed.  Bring plenty of water.  

To the left of the signs, you walk down a wide path in the woods that was once a road bed now grass.  In mid-July everything is a beautiful lush green as we have not had any dry spells yet.  You come to a kiosk which has the trail map on it and you can elect to go left or right.  We chose left because we saw a dark wood bridge.  The bridge always wins.  There is also a small donation box with the kiosk if you so choose to help fund these great preserves.  The bridge crossed a small creek and headed up into the woods.  

The trail is well traversed, very shady and I am sure offers wonderful wild flowers and beautiful fall foliage in other seasons.  There are several small bridge crossings as the trail winds up through the trees and hills.  Quite simply, we walked on an extremely hot day but did not feel the heat within the woods.  Of course you want bug spray and sunscreen even though it is shady.  The trails give you a bit of challenge going up and down but mostly they are moderate and easy to traverse.   Short Loop breaks off of Conrad Trail so we only did just Contrad Trail this trip.  We want to return soon to do both trails we enjoyed this nature preserve so much.   It reminds us a bit of the Lake Hope area, with very large trees such as oaks and tulip trees.  

There was no one on the trails with us that day and only one spot of Conrad trail had a little bit of road noise.  Otherwise, you are ensconced in the sweet peacefulness of wooded bliss.  Toward the last part of the loop back to the kiosk area, we climbed a hill and came across a little surprise.  Three old gravestones which had been set flat into concrete to protect them in the place in what the sign stated was the Pence Family Cemetery.  David Pence and his wife, Barbara, moved to this spot from Shenandoah County, Viriginia in the early 1800’s.  We had to pause and pay our respects as well as read the gravestones which were worn by time and the elements.  

At this point the trail started to descend and brought us out on the other side of the kiosk.  We could have extended our hike by taking the Short Loop.  Quite a pleasant trek.  We will certainly do this one again as it has beautiful and quiet woods as well as enough trail length and challenge to break a good sweat.  This one is good for anyone in relatively decent shape as there is ups and downs over the hills but I would not call it much more than a mild hike for the average person.  You do feel though as if you were transported into an era before even the Pence’s settled the land.   One of my favorite preserves so far!

Siegenthaler – Kaestner Esker – Ohio State Nature Preserve

Siegenthaler – Kaestner Esker SNP is located near West Liberty, Ohio, at 5505 Couchman Road and consists of 37-acres which contains an esker, kame and kettle which are glacial landforms which I had never heard of or learned in school and completely forgot.  

Parking area


Some definitions as per the ODNR site:

Esker – long, winding ridge of stratified sand and gravel deposited in layers according to grain size by running water with steep sides and a sinuous shape.  Or to me, a long narrow hill.  

Kame – Knolls formed by piles of gravel that were dropped into pits and crevices in the glacier when meltwater streams flowing on top of the ice.  Or as I would call them, small hills.  Often associated with kettles.

Kettle – A pond formed when a block of ice remained and surrounded by till.  When the ice melted, a depression was left and filled with ground water.  Or to me, simply a pond.

Black sandy, silty soil at base of esker


In other words, geology buffs will love this glacial area or simply nature lovers who like a gentle stroll in a quiet area.  We literally drove right by this preserve and had to turn around and go back.   The parking area is a grassy area which you can easily miss for a field.  You park in the grassy area, driving through a narrow former gate area between two fence posts, where there is a sign and kiosk for the preserve.  Like most preserves, there are no facilities.  Remember to bring water, bug spray, sunscreen and pack out any trash.  Don’t remove any natural materials.  Pretty much the same instructions for most nature preserves.  Oh and no pets.  

The trail is like a lollipop and approximately 1 mile long depending on if you decide to also traverse the summit of eskers as well.  The initial part of the trail is much like walking along a narrow, grassy country road with fence on both sides.  One side during our hike was a crop field (soybeans) and the other side appeared to be a livestock field, probably cattle.  There are mature trees on one side and then you slip into a more wooded area, make a sharp right turn and down a hill to where the trail tees at the first esker.  You can go either left or right, the trail will loop around to itself.  The day we visited, the trail had been recently mowed but be cautious of the poison ivy if you go during the late spring to fall months.  I am beginning to think the state plant should be poison ivy.  

Start of trail from parking area


We turned right initially, choosing to walk in the more open sunny area first followed by what seemed would be more shady.  The day was hot but not unbearable as there was a nice breeze most of the time.  One we rounded the first bend in the loop, we took the trail that went up to the summit of the first esker or hill to me.  You can see larger rocks where they have mowed a trail among the grass meaning that the heavy rock was deposited on top.  Again, be cautious of the poison ivy.  The hills are narrow and long and there are two of them with old trees, such as oaks growing there as well as many wild raspberry bushes.  When we went down the first esker, and came around to the trail going up the second one, we decided it looked too overgrown with poison ivy to chance walking the top so we chose the lower trail that went between the base of the hill and the fence.  

Mowed trail taverses top of esker


As we walked, we noticed the dirt that was exposed was black and sandy different from the brown dirt we saw on the other portion of the trail.  Curious, we bent down to touch it and it was soft and silty which means the finer till was deposited on the bottom of the esker.  Admist the thick growth we saw wild delphinium, a white phlox  and a red bell type flower growing on a vine.  When we rounded the far side of the furthest esker, the trail became more overgrown with thistles and a grass (and poison ivy) so we had to be careful to step around the plants otherwise the thistles would have scratched us.  You return to the start of the loop and turn back right to return to the parking area.  

Vining flower, unidentified


Due to the overgrowth of poison ivy, this may be better an early spring, late fall or winter hike or if you are brave like us, you just go and dance around the poison ivy.  This is a pretty area, open and peaceful.  If you have an interest in glaciers and/or geology, this is also a good place to visit.  It could be an easy stroll with kids though again, poison ivy might be a concern, maybe older children.  The trail is about half shad and half sun so if it’s extremely hot, you may want an earlier morning hike or later evening.  Open dawn to dusk.