A bend in the road is not the end of the road unless you fail to make the turn....

It's gonna get harder before it gets easier. But it will get better, you just gotta make it through the hard stuff first.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

TRT - getting focused

Last Fall I had decided I want to backpack Tahoe Rim Trail. It is longer than Wonderland (172 miles vs 96 miles), but it is somewhat more benign with elevation change (approximately 25,000 feet of gain for TRT vs 33,000 feet of gain for Rainier circle, and spread out more too, yet somewhat higher the whole time).

Larry couldn't commit this summer for a 10-days away from work/kid duty, so I offered my good friend Lori B. to join me. She agreed, and I began dreaming. Unfortunately, some life's demands prevented Lori from coming to the trip, and as of last 2 weeks, I had to make some changes and wrap my mind around a new thought: in about 5 weeks I am embarking on a solo circumnavigation of Lake Tahoe, all 172 miles of it, bears, lack of water, beating sun and the whole shebang.

Big p.s.: I will have a help from my friend Gretchen to spend night before/after, shop, do a couple water drops, and to get to and from a trail head - thank you!!!

My plan (which I meticulously figured out by reading the best book out there on TRT, purchasing a detailed map, and then ending up buying a smaller booklet with map-per-section AND elevation profile, which, by the way, below is wrong, but best I found to steal online) looks like this: start at Tahoe City, go clockwise in 22-26 miles a day increments and complete in 7 days (spending 6 nights with creatures).

I had done backpacking as long as I remember myself (well, since 10 years old, and no, not with parents, always with friends or short trips by myself, and later with my first husband and kids, then Larry, lucky for me, is in love with it), and I had done a week-long trips on numerous occasions, with alone backpacking outings occasionally - but never in combination, let's be honest. So, this is going to be a blast! I am not taking it lightly, but I am so looking forward to it, and the challenges and solitude fuel me incredibly.

So, since the time I came back from Oregon in mid-May, including our Pikes Peak/Incline combo in CO on 4th of July weekend, and this last week, things had escalated where my training is concerned.

Just of note, I am getting fitter in many ways, what reflects in the way I look too, loosing 4% of body fat and gaining muscle too. I am sitting at just a touch above 133 lbs (from 140 past winter) with 15% fat measured at the end of June (and counting), and finally fitting in to my running shorts from 2 years ago (not very comfortable yet, but I can wear them to the gym).

Here is an example of my week: I am now running 5 days a week, and cross-train on a Stairclimber once (30-45 min). My highlights of the runs were a Hill Loop in 10:02 (vs 1:06 2 weeks ago, but still a far cry from sub-54 min PR in 2013), and a 10 milers on flatter roads in 1:41 (with first mile in 11:15, all others were 10 low and sub, what almost freaked me out, as normally I average 11's). Good stuff.
Post-6M hill run

10 miler tempo

4 days at the gym with weight lifting, and 1 Vinyasa yoga class.
This week in training.

Speaking of yoga, I had a falling out with the studio I used to practice at and took training due to some small yet important enough reasons for me, and in June I only took 3 classes, 2 of which were in some random studio I wasn't particularity happy with. This week I tried Yoga-Yoga NW and while it was much slower (and easier) than I am used to, with an open mind I was able to enjoy it enough to buy a 8-class card, and will see where it will take me, at least it's a close-by place to do it once a week. (p.s. if anyone cares/interested where my yoga teaching stands, I've been so busy I haven't even began putting resume together, yet along applying for positions, but I am thinking I'd like to be at the general gym, helping regular Joe's and Jane's see benefits of yoga, not be afraid of the word and elitists status of some of the studios and that one does not need to be folding in a pretzel to be a yoga practitioner).

This Sunday I also added a power-walk with a backpack. I put 20 lbs to start with and took a very mildly rolling loop of 6.3 miles, where I averaged just sub-15 min/mile, and it felt like not enough weight. Next week, 25 lbs and more hills! It felt good to know I am in better shape than last year when I did same thing prior Wonderland.

Miles 0-3-6
With that, on another news, Larry signed up for my favorite gym - Pure Austin! After a 2.5 years break from gym membership, he is back, as he is NOT going to miss out the backpacking trip that is planned for next year - John Muir Trail 220 miles in Yosemity, CA!!

With my health slowly, but now with more certainty, improving, we are back to having more precise goals and plans, running, backpacking and life.

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

In search of a perfect place.

It's no secret when I moved to Texas, it was a temporary arrangement. Granted, "temporary" meant 10 years, a rather long haul, but I knew that, buckled up, and dreamed. Lucky for me, Larry always had the same dream - living in the mountains. We both struggle with somewhat a depression dealing with flat horizon, long steamy hot summers and lack of tall trees and fresh air. We scouted a number of places, pretty quickly mentally settling up for Colorado Front Range. The state has to be in the middle of the country geographically so each of us can easily travel to see our kids, and friends and family, and thus also close enough to a major airport (our love for travel is not going to disappear just because we live in a beautiful place - there are plenty to see/visit/explore!). The city has to be small, with friendly neighborhoods, where one can (if choose so) walk to a street with local shops and coffee spots, at which "everybody knows your name". It better still have some kind of a job market, because nobody truly retires at 50. A close proximity to the mountains - real mountains, mind you, not foothills, not bumps, but high peaks with forests accessing them - is a must. The city must be vibrant with its own life, and it would be nice if it's close enough to a bigger city with some kind of serious music/art/theater options. Yet it shouldn't be "in" the mountains, as dealing with 8 months of snow is technically only marginally better than dealing with 8 months of summer. A potential for cross-country skiing, downhill skiing, river rafting and lake gazing are a huge plus, even if within 2 hrs drive. No ocean front, please.

And so our frequent visits to the state of CO in the last 4 years were surrounded by research and a general feeling. We kept wavering on Loveland/Longmont areas, and couldn't "feel the love"...until we stared to the map and pointed at Colorado Springs, which we only passed by a couple of times, but never stayed in.

A new trip was planned, as the interest rose.

And it didn't disappoint. All I can say, we got a dream materialize. 4 more years. It's all downhill from here on now...A peace and calm are nesting in our hearts.

Garden of the Gods was our first stop

The smiles were so wide, my face hurt!

I jumped of joy, and then broke into tears from emotions overflowing.

Colorado Springs. Mountains views anywhere you look.

Check this out! Who wouldn't want to be on the streets?

Yes, they got this! A yarn store - actually, 3 of them!

Cheyenne canyon

Cheyenne canyon, top of Waterfall

Cheyenne canyon

Cheyenne canyon waterfall, I added a pin for Moscow!

Enjoying Manitou Springs

Checking out Incline for the future

Barr trail our day to do "Pikes Peak marathon", 26 miles round-trip from the base to Pikes Peak 14-er and back

Pikes Peak hike

OMG, this is awesome!

Barr trail

First look at Pikes Peak from the trail emerged.

Trees are getting sparse, air - thin.

The walk slows down some.

Still mastering a smile, before the final push.

Snow patches in the last 1,500 feet of climb.

Larry set a PR for minimal whining! May be he just couldn't waste his breath for talking.

Top of Pikes Peak, way too crowded with tourists from cars and cog rail!

Time to get off the mountain before the storm rolls in. Rule #1.

Throwing some running on nicer downhill stretches.

A day after Pikes Peak brought us to Incline.

Incline. 2,000 feet in less than a mile climb. Yep, we got that!

Now I know how people come back to beat their time, again and again.

With 4:45 start, we were treated to the most beautiful sunrise at the top of Incline.

More of Barr trail.

Visiting Leadville, 4th of July parade.

Start of Leadville 100 - 6th Street

4th of July fireworks at Manitou Springs.

A local trail to Red Mountains.

A view on Manitou Springs from Red Mountain.

A view on Pikes Peak from Red Mountain.

Happy to see real trails.

A welcoming site - Dazbog coffee was introduced by Russian immigrants to Central CO a century ago.

We'll be back. Pikes Peak and Garden of the Gods.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Moscow, the Beautiful.


With Facebook overtaking any other media connection, here are the snippets I posted as my trip to Moscow went along...

Just talked to Olga. She made it safely to Moscow. Right now, she has no way of communicating via internet (i.e. Facebook). Her Sister's internet isn't working, which is the least of her problems since there is no (zero!) hot water due to "building maintenance" occurring this week. The things we take for granted here in the U.S. and the difficulty most people have in understanding the true nature of Russia. If she can't get online, don't expect to hear from her until late next Tuesday. FYI...

This could be my one and only time to say Hi during my week in Mother-Land! Ever since I took Larry King to Moscow a few years back, I learned to discover new places and connect dots of the ones I knew. Moscow has miles of wild parks and amazing buildings, old and new alike. Walked 35,000 steps yesterday, and then lost my step-measuring clip-on as walked another hour. I am inspired and amazed, and summer is beautiful here. So proud of my nation, its rich history (Moscow was built in 1147!) and its people's kindness, beauty, strength and resilience. I will never stop being Russian.

Positive emotion #57: went to run loops around local lake this morning. A young boy (15 yo) fell in stride and began chatting. He is "HLS" (Healthy Life Style, in Russian abbreviation, of course, which he had to spell for me) - no drinking, smoking or drugs, pro-exercise, and in general a great human being. In 45 min we discussed his life in school and soccer and my life in America and mountain ultrarunning and career, with advice on weight lifting and running (he just started), and ending him wishing me healthy kids and parents and a kind husband. Bonus: in this weather, I didn't need to spend too long in cold shower to clean up, sweating was minimal!

It is nearly impossible to choose the photos to share, and I know only a few will see the full albumhttps://picasaweb.google.com/102…/MoscowTheBeautifulJune2015. I had walked more of Moscow than I did in my entire lifetime there, and I am sorry I wasted my youth working, studying and partying (in that order) instead of exploring as I despised the city I moved to when I was 12. Sadly, we grow wise with years. The combination of amazing miles of parks within the city limit and buildings of old town of merchants with churches on every street and newer - the Stalin era, and then the 21st century - is insane. The history, the strength, the beauty. My people never give up and always survive and thrive, regardless what those at power throw at them. And Moscow gets more and more beautiful every year I come. My parents, on the other hand, get older and lonelier, and so is my sister, and leaving them behind gets more and more difficult...what, on a positive side, means I have more visits to explore ahead of me. The difference in two worlds I live in, Russia and USA, is vast, and every time coming back is hard to get back into abundance and entitlement. Yes, they got all that, but most people have to make much more simple choices daily - and, despite being in America for 22 years, I still prefer just that. Life is simple. The rest is layers of stuff nobody truly needs.
The great realization is that I am so blessed I have people in both worlds who love me unconditionally and eagerly wait for me to come, whether to visit or to live. I am blessed.
 Stats on my Moscow visit: 
- I knitted 21 hats (once an addict...but truly, I had an order, and utilized my time in public transportation wisely)
- I walked somewhere in a vicinity of 40 miles in 6 days (I mapped a few of my outings, so this is the best estimate, conservatively)
- I only ran twice, but my average pace was a full min/mile faster
- my favorite weather is 21C (70F), and I feel even 1 degree after that, not to mention humidity (the day after rain the run was much less fun)
- I lost 3.5 lbs - our American portion control is out of control, despite my healthy cooking from scratch and using smaller plates. Also, snacking is overrated, even "healthy" snacking.
- I figured why Russians don't drink water (those who know me always surprised that unless I exercise, the bottle is not coming with me): the public restrooms either don't exist or you better run for your life away from those you find
- I spent only $30 on yarn and 60 rubles on 1 ice-cream. Even with my frugality, I spend way more here: the costs are the same, the wants are less there, even if you do have money. Just different mentality
- it gets dark at 10 pm in Moscow, and the first light comes out shortly after 3 am. At 4 am the sun rays shining in my windows woke me up every darn morning! But the long day allows you to do so much more
- we turned on TV only once (and even that was because my sister had guests. I thought I don't watch the "box" often, but it's on for 2 hrs every night
- my father called me fat. And while the choice of words could be better and I got my feelings hurt, the truth is, our American view on normal is distorted
- a good half of Russian women wear either dresses or skirts, as well as always nice shoes, many with heels. They look beautiful! While I am not jumping at the "heels" idea, the pants all around, comfortable and stuff, really are not appealing.
- no or slow internet frees up time. Why am on FB right now? People actually communicate, even texting is more personal
- Russians (at least those I know) live by the Oz principles: if you need something to happen, you are the one doing it. Don't expect things to fall on your laps or mom/pop/Gov't come and help
- every time I come back, I am inspired for so much in my life