Friday, April 20, 2018

Alone in the woods...

Thursday, April 19, 2018
So…with this posting I’ll have exceeded the posts I wrote in 2017.  I feel good about that because the catharsis associated with the writing…and the things I’m doing that make me want to write…tell me I’m back on track for who I want to be.  I’m eating sensibly again.  I’m exercising and looking forward to it.  I’ve set goals and I’m working towards achieving them.  I think I’ve got better balance as a human being or I couldn’t be writing and feeling these things.  I intend to stay on track.

My sister asked me to stop over so she could make me a birthday dinner and so I headed for Mentor from the farm.  My neighbor agreed to let Dakota out and feed her, though I did have some guilt about not taking her on our after-work hike.  For me, I stopped in the North Chagrin Reservation and put in the steps I would need to get to 20,000 for the day.

As I walked though, I considered why I was doing it.  It was overcast and cold and there was no one else hiking.  It was a day to just say ‘what the hell’ or do something inside where the conditions would be more favorable.  And yet I was walking in the woods, listening for the sounds that made it special and looking around with each step hoping to site something living and scampering.  One black squirrel, perched on a nearby downed, rotting tree watched me closely.  And so I stopped and returned the stare…and it was then that I concluded there was just something in my DNA that made the woods special and the reason I’ve roamed them freely since I was seven years old and growing up in Connecticut surrounded by them.

There is peace and solace in these woods and I go and walk them to feel it.  I can’t say that I’m conscious of it every time and all the time, but it is there for me and draws me back.  It’s definitely one of the reasons I brought my children and friends to the Adirondacks.  I think they’ll suddenly ‘feel’ it and want it all the time, too.  Some have.  More will in the future because I’ll continue to do that. 

The forecast is semi-promising for the weekend and I’m hoping for a couple of good rides.  Adirondacks are four weeks away and I want to be bounding effortlessly up some peak or over some challenging trail.  Solace awaits…
Hike: 45 minutes.
Training Heart Rate: 70 - 80 bpm.
Calories Burned: 275
Bonus: 21,000 steps.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Sixty-three...

Wednesday, April 18, 2018
Happy birthday to me…

Sixty-three.  How our perspective on what is old changes as we age.  I thought of my grandpa as a very old man when he was in his sixties, but not so my dad even though he looked and acted every bit as old as my grandfather had.  Now I’m there…and beyond…and thinking, ‘this ain’t so old’.

April continues to act like late February to early March.  It was below freezing when I took Dakota out to do her thing first thing in the morning.  I had the day off and planned to do both a hike with Dakota and a bike ride before heading north to have dinner with my kids.  Hiking wouldn’t be a problem and the forecast (those lying sacks of …) was for temperatures in the fifties, so I maintained my hope that I would ride, as well.  After breakfast at Molly Brown’s, which was a Paleo turkey and spinach omelet with an un-Paleo order of rye toast, we went for a 90-minute hike that included the beaver marsh, trekking along the railroad tracks, and siting numerous creatures of the wild such as painted turtles (about 20), a great blue heron, a Canada Goose standing guard on one leg over a momma on her nest, a red-tailed hawk, a pair of wood ducks, and the skeleton of something – likely a rabbit – on the of the trail.  The sun was out and although it was chilly, I found myself beginning to sweat and getting anxious to get home and hop on the bike.

We finished the hike around 1:30, which would only leave me around 90 minutes to ride since I had to fit in picking up a Dutch Apple pie from Patterson’s before heading to Jason’s for my birthday dinner (that’s right – non-Paleo and with ice cream, would be the highpoint of the day).  I put on a long-sleeved t-shirt and a pair of socks, pushed gloves and a hat into the pockets of my riding jersey, and rode out of Indian Springs my 2 p.m. 

I hadn’t been able to ride because of the weather since having ridden consecutive and exhausting days the previous Friday and Saturday.  I wanted to cover my 24-mile course and knew I’d have to push it to have the time I needed to get the pie, and so I began by attacking all rises and climbs from the start.  I realized early on that this was going to be a good ride – the result of weight loss, hard training, and several days off – early on.  I pushed up the Everett Road hill and cranked in a hard gear over the flats and small rises over the next ten miles.  There is such exhilaration in riding hard and knowing that you’re not going to tire and this was one of those rides.  I cruised hard for the ninety minutes I had to ride and arrived back at my place feeling like I could have easily gone another hour.

Sadly, I did not have time to ride 63 miles, but I know I’m ready to.  I bought some new hiking shoes which I’m beginning to break in for climbing in the Adirondacks – weather permitting – towards the end of May.  If the weather cooperates here in Northeast Ohio and I can get in 4-5 rides per week, I have plenty of time to be close to peak form.  My 64th year is going to be a good one.
Hike: 90 minutes.  Bike: 90 minutes.
Training Heart Rate: 70 hiking and 130 bpm on the bike.
Calories Burned: 525 hiking and 1.125 biking.
Bonus: 19,000 steps.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Gotta love the rain...

Monday, April 16, 2018

Weather.  I sure love to whine about it.  And that’s good because it’s so productive and works wonders making it better and more to my liking.  I say it’s been a weird winter, but that would assume there is something that would be considered normal.  There isn’t, so quit bitching.

Sooooo…Friday, it was 80 and Saturday, it hit the high sixties, but began to rain.  And when I woke up Monday morning, it was still raining and my roof was leaking.  Oh…and it had dropped into the thirties.  All day Sunday I waited for it to let up because I’d walked over 20K steps on six consecutive days and wanted to continue the streak.  I thought with some rain gear and an umbrella, Dakota and I could get in a good one.  But it never even pretended to let up and so I resigned myself to an easy day.  I did manage another Paleo eating day, though I broke down and had toast with my omelet for breakfast.  I’m down ten pounds and I wanted toast.

Yesterday dried up after the early morning drizzles, but flooding was occurring throughout the Cuyahoga and Chagrin River valleys – including road closures near my home.  I stopped to check out the put-in point for my kayaking at Russell Park and found the road was gone and the river twenty feet up the drive.

Dakota didn’t care about the wet, muddy conditions and so once I arrived home, we suited up and headed out for a long hike.  I stayed off the trails, which would be ankle deep in mud, and put some extra steps in climbing the closed section of Everett Road.  My step total was high, but my heart rate never got much above 80 and I longed for a hard ride.

The forecast continues to look bleak for riding.  Snow is again in the forecast and I’ve left the plow blade on the truck at work.  That’s right…April is two-thirds over and I’m still thinking about plowing.  Well…when winter leaves for good I’m sure I will put myself in the best condition of my life.  I’m charged up to ride hard, climb bleachers with a pack and tackle some big goals this fall.  Weather…I’ll show it…in June?
Hike: 90 minutes.
Training Heart Rate: 70 - 80 bpm.
Calories Burned: 525
Bonus: 24,000 steps.

Monday, April 16, 2018

And the weather report says...

Saturday, April 14, 2018
I try to plan my weekends based on the Weather Channel forecasts I review the day before, but in Cleveland weather forecasts are simply suggestions.  In any event, the prediction was unequivocal.  Rain all day.  100%.  No doubt about it.  With this information, I gave up any notion of going to Mimi’s for yard work or of doing another bike ride.  I figured I’d use the day to at least visit with Mimi and my granddaughter in between running chores.

Then I walked outside Saturday morning to temperatures in the sixties and overcast skies, but no rain.  Dakota, out for her morning poop, looked up at me as if to say ‘let’s hike while we can’.  Maybe we could make it…

We started on our 5-mile loop, me carrying an umbrella and doubts about staying dry.  We completed it in a little over an hour with hints that the sun might poke out.  I called Mimi and told her I’d be over later and put off my visiting plans while pulling on my riding gear.  In less than five minutes I was on the road. 

I followed the course I’d done the day before without making the mistake of going down the very steep slope to Bath Road.  My legs were far from fresh following the previous day’s effort, though.  And the wind was still pushing in my face as I pushed my exhausted legs over the final part of the ride.  As I coasted up the driveway to a stop, I knew I was spent, but that a ride of 63 miles on Wednesday was not out of the question, should the weather cooperate.

I went to Mimi’s and did some yard work for a couple of hours and watched the steps on my Fitbit climb towards 25,000.  I was anxious to return home, shower again and climb on the scale.  All this effort was undoubtedly going to mean something.

And it did.  I was down another half-pound and loving it.  I celebrated by eating a burger that night, though I passed on the cheese.  My pants were hanging loosely again and my belt had no more notches to use.  I may need a new one because I’m not stopping until I’m down another five at least.
Bike Ride: One hour and 45 minutes.
Training Heart Rate: 120-135 bpm.
Calories Burned: 1,250
Bonus: 25,000 steps.

A tough ride...

Friday, April 13, 2018
The forecast said temperatures in the 70’s and no rain.  As I went through the day at work, I kept going over where I’d be riding my bike.  With the weight falling off from the combination of the Paleo Diet and increased activity, I was starting to think about a birthday ride on the coming Wednesday of 63 miles.  It’s been a very long time since I’ve gone that far…the summer of 2014 during Tour Ohio, but my conditioning is coming together.  Now if only that weather holds…

I was on the bike at 3:30 p.m.  Dakota watched forlornly from the screen door, wondering why she wasn’t heading out for a hike.  “I’ll take you when I get back, Dakota, but I just HAVE to ride,” I said.  She nodded in agreement.

I figured I had a couple of hours and could do 35 miles.  I started out on the towpath to avoid parts of Riverview Road that was so full of holes, it appeared to have been part of a war zone…or anywhere in Cleveland.  With hikers and runners out in abundance, the decision was not such a good one, though.

I reached the bottom of the closed section of Everett Road in ten minutes and was already sucking on my water bottle.  It was hot!  I did the climb staying in the saddle and working the quads hard.  With a trip to the Adirondacks only four weeks away, I want to get in some decent climbing shape and working a hill on a bike while seated works those same uphill muscles.

With the gearing on Locke, the climb is actually very little problem.  I had four easier gears that I didn’t need, which is saying something about both the gearing (fabulous for steep climbs) and my conditioning.  Once out of the valley, I rode south along Revere Road, a new route for me.  It is lightly traveled, which is my first criteria in rating roads, but my second, a decent shoulder, was pretty much non-existent.  I knew it would dump onto Bath Road, which I would take back to Brecksville Road for a long stretch of the ride.  As I got closer to Bath though, I saw the sign at the top warning of a steep grade.  As I rode down, I was thankful I wasn’t riding up – it was that steep.  Then I reached the bottom and looking west on Bath Road, noticed it was just as steep and with its winding nature, heavy traffic and a lack of a shoulder, quickly concluded that I’d be turning around and climbing back the way I’d just come down.  Shit.

I dropped into my third lowest gear and slowly, but steadily, climbed back up.  My heart beat hit about 170 and my thighs were burning from the combination of this effort and the ride up Everett Road fifteen minutes earlier.  Mid-summer and maybe a thousand miles of training under my belt, this wouldn’t have been such a big deal, but we were a long way from there.  I reached the top with that burning in my quads that warns of a heavy lactic acid build-up, which normally says ‘you’re about to be done’.  Well…I wasn’t about to be done.  And did I mention the winds were blowing about 20 mph and gusting over 30?  I made my way north as my legs began to recover.  That strong wind was at my back for the time being…

For the next half hour, I rode the rolling hills on Brecksville Road and sucked down a full bottle of water.  I headed east and dropped back into the valley on Akron-Peninsula Road near the ski slopes, which still had some dirty snow pack on them.  Now I turned my bike back into the full force of the wind and was riding on legs that begged for a break.  I would not come for another eight miles.

I limped into my development 45 minutes later a beaten cyclist.  Dakota greeted me with that happy ‘I can’t wait to hike’ look and bounce, which I did accommodate after changing.  It was a short one, though.  The remainder of the night was one of recovery.  Still, it was a good conditioning ride and the bathroom scale had a very encouraging report – down ten pounds in a little over three weeks.  It’s all working…
Bike Ride: Two hours.
Training Heart Rate: 120-135 bpm.
Calories Burned: 1500
Bonus: 23,000 steps.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Time for new camping gear...

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Did spring arrive?  I was dressing for my hike, which would follow a trip to Appalachian Outfitters to look over camping gear.  I need a couple of things and have two trips planned – one for the end of April and another mid-May – and know that a day pack is amongst my future purchases.  A bed roll that doesn’t leak air would be nice, too.  Anyway, it was in the low 70’s and I realized jeans were not the answer.  I dug through my dresser and finally dug out a pair of shorts.  I put them on, walked outside and declared to Dakota, “my legs sure are white!”

I bought my last backpack over 15 years ago and, like with so many products, there have been some major improvements.  My pack weighs six pounds empty – too heavy – because it is too big.  I thought that made sense at the time, bigger is always better, but in reality I just try to fill it up, which weighs me down.  I could pick something up now that would weigh 1 to 1.5 pounds less and that’s significant when you’re walking all day, which I plan to be doing in retirement.  They also make them with compartments to hold water bladders, with the hose feeding through and opening near the shoulder for easy access.  But the feature I like most is a mesh bracing that lifts the pack away from your back, creating air space of about an inch.  I sweat profusely without a pack, but when carrying it directly against my back, the soaking sweat becomes even more uncomfortable.  This single feature would be reason enough for me to make a purchase.  I’m holding for now, but it is $250 I know I’ll need to invest.

I reached the trailhead at the Everett Road Bridge around three and hike a rugged trail for the next two hours.  I broke a sweat hiking for the first time since last fall, which felt good.  On a hike of six miles, I never saw another hiker.  Unlike the North Chagrin Reservation, the trails in Peninsula are farther from population centers and thus less convenient to reach.  That, and the one I was on was actually steep and difficult, meaning I will continue to have fewer hikers with which to share.  Okay with me, though.

I finished the night at the Courtyard CafĂ© in Brecksville where I enjoyed a burger with an old friend.  It wasn’t Paleo entirely since I ate the bun, but I did say ‘no’ to the fries he offered to share.  I’m down over seven pounds now and my belt is already out of loops.  I’ll drop another ten by summer’s end and should be lean and ready for the 150-mile hike of the Northville/Placid trail and the four peaks I want to climb in September.
Hike: Two hours.
Training Heart Rate: 70 - 90 bpm.
Calories Burned: 700
Bonus: 23,000 steps.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

"Leash that dog!"

Wednesday, April 11, 2018
Since last August, I’ve been walking Dakota through different parts of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park pretty much as I did in the North Chagrin Reservation.  I keep a leash with me, but let her walk without until someone approaches and, from body language, I can see they are uncomfortable.  I know dogs are supposed to be leashed, but I also know she is completely passive, disinterested in other people and dogs (particularly if I’m holding a stick), and minds me.  So I break the law.

I had just passed through the park and was walking along Oak Hill Road past Hale Farm and Village.  The road has only six houses on it and with almost no traffic, I let Dakota walk off-leash.  She tends to walk several paces behind me and moves over to the grass when I tell her as a car approaches.  On this particular evening, a Gator was approaching, which should not be on the road (though I do it myself at the farm).  I had seen the Gator several times on the Hale Farm property and took the driver to be a caretaker/employee of some kind.  He pulled alongside me as Dakota, walking on the berm, moved over to say ‘hello’.

Somewhat aggressively he said, “I need you to leash your dog.  We’ve lost some chickens and lambs.”

At first I was stunned to silence – a very unnatural state for me, but my brain had gotten ahead of my mouth and was trying to decide if he was kidding.  “Are you kidding?  I'm walking in the road and she doesn't have to be on one,” I finally said.

“No.  I need you to leash it,” he repeated, with a bullying authority.

“My dog walks at my side.  I’m pretty sure I’d notice if she was eating a chicken or a lamb,” I said.

“That’s what everyone says.  Leash it,” he demanded, implying my blood-thirsty killing machine ate half a dozen chickens on a hike while I stood by cheering her efforts.

Unlike Dakota, I am not passive and I hate bullies.  “If you were a better farmer, your chickens and lambs wouldn’t be out here on the road where my dog could eat them even if she wanted to,” I said.

He glared at me and asked, “So, you’re not going to leash her?”

“No, I’m not.  I’m walking in the road nowhere near your farm or chickens or lambs – if you actually have any since we’re busy doubting each other.  And let’s face it – you don’t think for a second my dog was killing anything.  You may have lost livestock to the many coyotes and fox that prowl these woods and your property and you’re lousy at protecting them so you thought you’d take your frustrations out on a peaceful dog owner.  Well guess what…you picked the wrong guy!”

He reached for his pocket as though he was going to pull out a pad and write something down, giving me his ‘tough guy’ stare.  I returned it and said, "and you're driving on the road illegally with that thing."  

Realizing he was wrong and being an asshole (doubtfully – one of the characteristics of being an asshole is not knowing you’re an asshole), he drove onto his farm.

But he did truly mess with my serenity for the remainder of the hike.  I let him get to me because I’ve always hated bullies, but gained nothing in the exchange.  I wish I could just walk away from such confrontations, but something in my DNA always flares and puts me nose to nose with an antagonist.  Ah well…something else to work on during my trip to perfection.  Quite a long journey…

Hike: 75 minutes.
Training Heart Rate: 70 - 90 bpm.
Calories Burned: 500
Bonus: 23,000 steps.