Archive for January, 2012

Clean Air Challenge 2011

Yes! May will actually come a little sooner than currently anticipated! Sitting here in my house with -20 temps outside, I can finally imagine, dimly, the outlines of my next bicycle ride.

Today I registered for the American Lung Association’s Clean Air Challenge, a fund-raising charity ride that I have participated in seven times to date. This ride is traditionally held on Mothers’ Day weekend each year, which means the weather can be dicey. May in Alaska is not guaranteed to be warm and sunny, though I have been lucky so far. Of the 14 total days of riding over the years, only 2 have been wet, and on neither of those days did it snow!

I must say that riding in a 40 degree downpour, water squirting from your shoes with every down stroke and dripping from helmet to nose to neckline is not very pleasant. I don’t even want to imagine the horrors of uphill against the wind in two fresh inches of slop. Subsequently, the organizers moved the ride further south and lower in elevation, and the route now winds from Houston to Talkeetna instead of to Denali Park.

Like many other riders, my involvement stems from a very personal tragedy. In October of 1999 dad’s kid sister, my Aunt Terry, died of lung cancer. She was only ten years older than I, had babysat my infant self and remained close to us though living far away in California. She did beat the odds, living five years beyond the doctors’ prognoses; at the end it was the fall onto bones brittle as dry twigs that took her from us. She was 58 years old.

All that winter I could barely stand to go to church, sing among my friends in the choir. I’d find myself sobbing through “Eagles’ Wings”, completely undone by “The Summons”. That January in an unrelated conversation a friend approached me about sponsoring her in the Clean Air Challenge, explaining the mission of lung disease education, treatment and prevention for which she was raising money. I donated on the spot, checked out the ride on the internet and determined that this was something I needed to do.

Ever since that first ride I have memorialized Terry on my event bib as the person I am riding to remember. As the years have passed so have other friends, acquaintances and relatives of co-workers, and sadly the event bib becomes more crowded with their names. I grieve for every one of those names, remembering them as my strong lungs power me up the hills, imagining them cheering me in at the finish line. This ride is not just a fund-raising vehicle, but a means of processing my sadness, of honoring loved ones and of affirming the great joy of life and health. Terry, I miss you still. Send some tailwinds my way this year, will you? 

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Drear Winter in the Garage

Have I ever mentioned how much I hate static exercise? JUST HOW MUCH I hate static exercise? Detest, abominate, abhor, loathe; recoil at, shudder at; shrink from, view with horror, hold in abomination, revolt against, execrate and disrelish? I thought not. And not all static exercise equally. No, first place for disrelishment goes to indoor cycling in all its iterations.

Loathing personified

And here is the current object of my non-affection; the wind trainer. An oxymoron complete, this vehicle of torture produces no wind at all, does not transport me to places where wind can blow freely through my hair and over my sweaty body, does not make me feel like I’m cycling like the wind, nothing, nada, no hay vientos!

Cruel joke, this trainer was a “prize” for raising a certain amount of money for a charity ride I participate in most years for the American Lung Association. I almost refused the thing, but then Tom said he would use it. And he does, shining example that he is, pretty regularly in the winter when it’s too cold for snowshoeing and the wood pile is fat with birch and spruce logs.

Today was the first time in three years that I actually mounted the beast. Let’s face it–this winter I am fat. I am currently heavier than I have ever been, and so I’ve taken to a food and exercise journal, even going so far as to track both on LoseIt.com. I’ve joined an old ladies’ exercise group that walks for half an hour at the local ice rink twice a week, and a similar group that meets three times weekly for some very moderate weight training. I’m not working yet this winter, which means that not only can I attend these morning sessions, but that I am reduced to finding free opportunities because I can’t quite justify the expense of  joining a gym.

It just isn’t enough, and thus I am forced onto this abhorrent, unloved, repellent, odious, abominable–well, you get the picture. I am clearly spending too much time at Thesaurus.com. And, avoiding another 15 minute session this afternoon by pouring out my aversion here. Sigh…back to the fiendish monster I go.

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Looking out my front door today at 2 p.m.

Winter’s always a little hard for me. OK, let’s be honest–winter is always a LOT hard for me unless I get out and walk or ski in the weak, low sunshine almost every day. So, quite often, that makes it hard for me to read my friend Sharry’s blog .

Sharry writes often about her outdoor doings. She bikes, skis, snowshoes, snowmachines, runs, walks–well, you get the picture. And she lives in a small town in Alaska, the snow capital of the world, and still manages to do these things, mostly without requiring an exercise partner to boot her butt into the activity. I admit right here, publicly and up front, that I am jealous of her ability to motivate herself.

Sharry's world-famous moose impression

Oh, I have my excuses. Don’t we all? I don’t have anyone to go with and it’s so lonesome /boring/ perilous (take your pick) getting out by myself. I can’t go today–it’s too cold/dark/windy/slippery (again, your choice). And so I find myself in a downward spiral of motivation. The less I go out and get sun and exercise, the less motivation I have to do so, the less energy I have, ad nauseam. Clearly I need someone to boot my substantial butt into activity!

I’m not a big maker of new year’s resolutions. I do think about my current situation towards the end of the year, and I note things that I’d like to change, do or become, but I don’t write a list, and I don’t proclaim publicly or privately that I have resolved to do such-and-such. I have joined a women’s exercise group this past week however. I figure it can’t hurt to widen my circle of acquaintance, nor to feel obliged to show up at the gathering and lift weights or walk with these women.

I was feeling a little smug with this group on the first day. I am probably the youngest, and probably have been the most active over the past year. The weight training exercises were really simple, slow and easy, and I wondered to myself how long I would be content to be in such a beginner group. Until the next day; it seems the chair squats took their toll on these legs that had not straddled a bicycle for nearly three months. As they say, pride goeth…

I’m glad to get out in the fresh air. I’m very happy to be meeting new people, doing new things. I really want to find a friend who is willing to drag me out skiing, willing to ride Bodenburg Loop with me, willing to bring the newbie with her when she goes mountain bike riding. I doubt I will find that person at this weight training group, but who knows?

I know for sure I won’t find her sitting at home in front of the wood stove.

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