The blog of the adventures (or mis-adventures) of an active mountain woman.
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Triathlons – Blame it on the 7R

Early morning light before the triathaMOM began.

Early morning light before the triathaMOM began.

No, 7R isn’t the newest ultra-heavy base layer from Patagonia. It’s a genetic mutation (the variant is DRD4-7R for the really geeky) tied to dopamine, which is that addictive learning and reward chemical in our brains. According to the January 2013 issue of National Geographic (so I’m a little behind in my reading…), 20% of us have this variant. It’s linked to curiosity, restlessness and makes us more partial to movement and novelty. And here’s a not-shocker: it’s closely associated with ADHD. Ladies and gentleman, ski towns inhabitants in a nutshell.

But what happens when the restless gene meets up with something demanding a bit more stability, like pairing with a partner (marriage) and even offspring? In my mind, this explains the recent boon in adventure races, triathlons, trail runs and the like. Tough Mudder, an 10-12 mile obstacle course designed by British Special Forces, had 460,000 + participants last year. I just participated in my first sprint-distance triathlon and it seemed designed to coax a few 7R’s that have paused to bear children into action. It was fully supported, non-competitive, women only triathlon, or as they like to call it, a Triathamom. I’m sure if you grabbed DNA from these participants, 7R would appear in more than 20%.

The event itself was highly organized and incredibly enjoyable. My husband commented on the girliness of the body marking, which occurred the night before the event. Instead of conventional permanent marker, they used fun large stamps. As a side note to newbies- they stamp your AGE on your left calf. I was unprepared for this and found myself obsessing with the number on the calf in front of me. The calves starting with a “2” particularly irksome. But back to the event.

The 300 meter swim was indoors at the Kearns Olympic complex and I found myself wishing for open water because I knew it would give me an edge. I’m extremely comfortable in water and waves, wind, etc don’t really bother me, but had to rein in my competitive streak to remember that I was only racing against the clock, even if I would perform better with a shotgun and mass splashing. Since I had never done a swim, bike and run in quick succession (way to train, I know) I tried not to go “all out” in the swim and finished smiling and easily loped back to the transition area where my bike was waiting.

I thought I was relatively fast in the transition, but the clock showed otherwise. Apparently 4 minutes is quite a long time to spend downing a Gu and putting on my helmet. Oh well. I was a superstar on the 10 mile bike ride, or at least I felt like it. Feel free to copy my strategy: Only ride your race bike with knobby tires. The week before the race, get slick tires. Don’t ride the bike until the race. Whether you’re flying or not, you will be convinced that you’re incredibly fast. Ignore the clock and go with that feeling! The sign below was also posted along the bike path. Awesome.

Ryan, you are so right.

Ryan, you are so right.

Last was 3 mile run. As I began running, it occurred to me that I have never gone from a bike ride to a run. Why would I? And something was definitely wrong with my legs. They were leaden. The run was HARD. I knew that eventually my legs would loosen up, and the only way to get to the food at the finish line was to continue moving. So run I did. After a mile, glorious blood began to flow through my leaden legs and I could pick up the pace. When comparing my times with others, this appears to have been my strongest area by far. I wasn’t fast, but I pushed HARD through the suffering because I’m a mountain girl deep down and it’s a skill learned early on.

I’m so glad the 7R made me do it and can highly recommend this event to anyone wondering if they might have a bit of the variant themselves. I’m inordinately proud of the necklace I got after crossing the finish line, too.

Further-reading-book-of-the-day: The Scientist in the Crib by Alison Gopnik

Hell is Frozen OR I’m Getting Old

pathfinderThe older I get, the more I realize that the word “old” is completely relative term and highly situationally dependent. Only during pregnancy can a 35-year-old woman be labeled with “advanced age” and 25 seems a little old to be drinking Boone’s Farm wine. But this little blog post is inspired by my birthday and that boring of boringest boats, the sea kayak.

I abhor sea kayaks because they are designed for paddling across flat lakes with nothing happening more than a slow windmill of your arms. If you just sit in a sea kayak, chances are you will just stay in one place. I personally prefer a little acceleration from mother nature in the form of gravity or flowing water. Consequently I find a white-water kayak exciting (and sometimes terrifying). It is designed for dynamic moving rivers and surfing and fun! If you just sit in a white-water kayak, you’re moving downstream and things are happening, for better or for worse. So what was up with my post-birthday fun in a (gasp) SEA KAYAK?

I wanted to take our new camper trailer out to the lake for my birthday. We chose Pathfinder Reservoir along the North Platte, just over 40 miles from our house with 21,000 acres of water. Since I grew up swimming all weekend every weekend in the various bodies of water in Michigan, a camper trailer was the cheapest way we could think of replicating that experience for our little guy (and to be honest, for ourselves). The baby slept on a bed improvised out of the drop-down dinette set and a bed rail, so I slept lightly and checked on the baby A LOT (who was fine, of course) and was consequently sleep-deprived the next morning. Enter the sea kayak.

The boat was already at the waters edge and our schedule was non-existent, so I jumped in expecting to return the boat to the shore in about 10 minutes. But I got into a weird, peaceful trance and kept telling myself that I would go just to the next little opening in the meandering reservoir and before I knew it, I had paddled for an hour and enjoyed it. Naturally, I blame this on the lack of sleep. Certainly an alert, awake Michelle would be bored to tears by this mindless activity. But since consistent quality sleep could be a summer or two away, this may be a looong experiment full of that weird, long and maybe not so boring kayak.

Cool-mason-jar-add-on-of-the-day: the recap for mason jars

Tiny Houses and Hungry Ghosts

Manufacturer and provider of floor plans for tiny houses.

What would you be willing to give up to ski/bike/fish/hike/play five days a week and work two days a week? Your daily latte? Sure, that’s probably a no-brainer. But unless you drink really, really expensive lattes, that’s probably not enough to make up for the three (or five) missing workdays. What about your house? Your car? Would you share a $3,000 car with your spouse if it meant a significant lifestyle increase? Now we’re getting into the hard questions.

Like it or not, our default pattern for the American lifestyle is not to “give up” things. In fact, it might even be focused on getting more things. But at what cost? Do we have a choice? I say we do, and I would like to promote more of us exercising our choices (including myself).

The biggest investment most of us will make in our lifetime is a home, and our homes are getting bigger by the decade. Home theaters, once the bastion of the rich and famous, are now commonplace in middle-class American homes. Homes are bigger and families of five can easily spend weekends “together” in one home not interacting with one another, much less the larger community outside the front door (if a nearby community exists at all).

This phenomenon is sometimes known as the lack of the “third place”, a point where Americans in particular seem to lag. We have work (where we spend A LOT of time) and home, but community gathering places like cafes, pubs, bookshops, etc are on the decline as we spend more time in our spacious homes. One of my least spacious fixed homes (this does not include summers in cars/tents) was a cabin on Fish Creek in Wilson. It was probably all of 600 sq. feet and I had a neighbor on each side in a similar size abode. Because of the tight quarters and scenic location, we often had inpromtu gatherings based on the fact that we were all meeting in the yard, which was basically a share public (or “third”) place.

What if we all had smaller homes that encouraged us to get out in the community AND saved us a ton of cash with lower utilities and, of course, a lower total cost. There are a few companies peddling houses as small as 65 sq. feet to as large as 874 sq. feet (check out some tiny houses here). For less than the cost of a new car, you can get a complete house, which begs the question: what would you do without a mortgage or rent payment?

 

If you don’t like the weather…

Every state I’ve lived in has claimed the following phrase as their own; “If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes.”. While I can’t say that I was particularly bothered by kayaking in 71 degree sunshine on Saturday, the following Tuesday certainly brought enough change to make the infamous phrase ring true.

The change was snow. We went from a high of 71 to a high of 38 in three days time. Kayaking at the high was breathtaking. We loaded up the boats and drove upstream to enjoy a leisurely 2.5 hour paddle back to the house. Incidentally, I’ve decided my enjoyment of flat water kayaking expires at the two hour mark, but the real excitement of the trip came from back-paddling to avoid a very large cow crossing the stream directly in front of me. While that would have been a new and exciting experience, I will have to save it for another day. So I settled for my quota of vitamin D and wondered how long the weather could hold out. Not long.

For once, I welcomed the change. Although it is easier said than done, I find life is easier if one embraces the change instead of moaning in futile resistance. The snow was here and that seemed appropriate for November in Wyoming. It was as if my body and mind were ready for the seasonal shift that brings cozy nights reading books. It’s time to leave pots of stew simmering on the stove for the day and warming hands with big mugs of tea. For big puffy jackets and fun winter hats. I’m taking this snowfall as an official invitation to slow down, snuggle in and enjoy the shift.

Hat site of the day: Splurge for some winter cuteness at Jackson based Halo Hats. Their new skier design is a total 70’s throwback and is beyond cool.
Lift ticket deal of the day: Snowbird (Utah) Early Season Lift Tickets from $43.99 (Save 41%)

Wildlife before Breakfast

My new backyard

At 9 o’clock at night, getting up at 5:45 am to kayak the river the next morning sounds like a good idea. At 5:45 the next morning, it sounds like I want to throw something (anything) at the person who is waking me up. Did you know it’s still dark then? As in, middle-of-the-night-pitch-black dark? I didn’t. But I did get up, pull on a layers of clothing, hat, headlamp, and pogies (kayak mittens and incidentally, a key invention in the evolution of man) and proceeded to put my tired self into the front of our tandem kayak. Let me tell you what I saw.

I didn’t really ‘see’ the flock of geese as much I heard them. We weren’t 10 minutes into the paddle when a commotion sounding a bit like a Mack truck started immediately on my left. The Mack truck grew louder as we approached and started furiously honking for us to get out of the way before it decided to take flight and relocate downstream. A narrow miss.

The low water allowed for a more leisurely Chai-sipping pace and at one such interlude, I spied something moving along the bank towards an obvious den. The masked critter heard us and froze to assess the new bright orange creature on the river. Not often seen in this area, the raccoon decided we were more curious than threatening and we were allowed to safely observe him in his entirety with a comforting distance of water between the two of us. Cool.

Finally, I saw what I had been waiting for- a beaver! Although their dam-building can make them a serious nuisance for river recreation and to homeowners, it is super neat to see them in action. This one had its head above water and was swimming upstream straight at us. We spotted each other around the same time and he promptly dove underwater to resurface later closer to the bank. By this time we were downstream of him and he boogied to shore with amazing swim skills. He was probably breaking curfew as it was getting fairly light out. If this amazing Fall weather holds, I’ll try to find his dam and see if I can catch him in construction mode. But as that will require multiple 5:45am mornings, I wouldn’t hold your breath.

Super Cool Video of the Day: Tagging bears in Canada- the three adorable cubs are worth the watch (it’s funny, too).

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