The blog of the adventures (or mis-adventures) of an active mountain woman.
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Wind Blows, Especially in Casper

Casper Weather

32 MPH. Not gusting. Not high. Just 32mph steady, gusting up to 50 MPH.

If you’re going to spend time in the mountains, you are going to encounter weather of all sorts. Of these sorts, wind has always been my least favorite. I have literally watched birds soar underneath me 5 pitches up on a wall in Mexico and thought, “huh, cool”. But blind me with sideways wind that nearly knocks me off my skis at my hometown ski area and my heart is all aflutter.  Just. want. shelter. NOW.

But I guess I’m lucky that I just get a little freaked out. This way too technical medical study states that “there seems to be a marked correlation between suicide and winds.” This may cause you to question why I live in Casper, Wyoming, otherwise known as Wind City and is, according to at least one medical study, a place that literally depresses people.

You probably know I’m here for love, which turned into marriage and a baby in a baby carriage. But does that mean I have to stay in Dorothy’s nightmare? It seems like weeks since since the alert board has read anything other than “Caution: Gusts over 50 MPH on Wyoming Blvd”. Wyoming Boulevard is a beautiful, scenic road that efficiently links the west side of town (where I live) to the east side of town (where my grocery store is) without having to pass through downtown. And it’s dangerous to drive when it’s windy.  So it’s officially too windy to enjoy the drive to the grocery store. I’m grasping for straws and failing.

Yes, we have amazing fishing, an impressive nordic center, a town alpine ski hill (I can’t even pretend to qualify it, but click for Hogadon stats) and a booming job market, but this wind has me all freaked out and thinking about more mild climates. Because babies are kinda fragile.

Mountaineering has been called, “the art of suffering”, but babies suffer on a daily basis. They put their finger in some impossibly small place and are earnestly surprised and upset when it hurts. Massive bits of enamel and bone are erupting through delicate gums. And their head is ridiculously out of proportion, making drunk-seeming motor skills even more difficult. Sure, I’ve got the most protective stroller known to man but until they make an indoor swing set and park, Owen is going to be a little frustrated with the small snippets of outdoor time before tiny fingers freeze and wind suffocates. Or maybe it’s just the elusive beast of springtime in the Rockies.

Older and Wise(r)

It was just two weeks ago when opened my cell phone calendar and saw a curious entry. “Skunk Hollow Sneaker Chase, 8 AM, 7/27/13”. My heart briefly fluttered when I realized that I had indeed registered for an 8-mile trail run in early June, than promptly forgot about it. Which means I forgot to train. Oops.

I hadn’t exactly been sedentary; it’s summer and well, I’m me. I was actually quite focused on swimming in preparation for my sprint-distance “Triathamom” in August. But lack of preparation has never stopped me, so I stubbornly forged ahead. And I’m soooo glad I did.

Race day dawned with a bleary-eyed but excited Michelle. The baby hasn’t been sleeping for very long stretches at night and my coordination was a bit off as exhibited by my morning shananigans including dropping a Gu shot in the dog water bowl and knocking over my latte on the counter. I ignored my inner sarcastic voice about the auspicious start and loaded up the baby to drive up the mountain.

Part of my race excitement can be attributed to the location. I will take an 8-mile trail run over a 2-mile pavement run any day of the week. Add in aid stations and race volunteers (I love those people) and my participation is pretty much guaranteed. This particular trail was also located on Casper Mountain, which rises 3,000 feet above the town at 8,130 ft. This meant cooler temperatures, more variation in elevation (read: hills) and a little bit more huffing and puffing.

The race offered an eight mile OR sixteen mile option and during the pre-race meeting, someone asked “What if I’m feeling plucky after 8 miles and want to continue?”. Since I had no such delusional thoughts, I chuckled along with the rest of the “completion not competition” runners. The race began and the field inevitably spaced out to leave me keeping pace with a nine-year-old and his parents. I couldn’t decide whether to be annoyed or empowered. Chatting with his mom occasionally, I found myself at the aid station at the halfway (four mile) mark before I knew it.

I stuck to my “drink at least one water and one sports drink” rule while I downed a Gu. Actually, it was a Hammer Gel Espresso shot (my favorite), but I digress. I always force myself to drink slightly more than I want at aid stations and it serves me well. Overall, I felt fantastic and naturally started reflecting on this odd experience. I hadn’t slept but I HAD eaten properly, and it had made all the difference.

I ate my usual breakfast of two eggs and a bowl of oatmeal about 1.25 hours before the race. I drank a latte and then downed a Hammer Gel with water 15 minutes before the race started. Having good carbs and some protein with plenty of time to digest is key. Equally key is refueling about 45 minutes in. I kept a nice even pace and found myself (somewhat smugly, I’ll admit) flying by the nine-year-old, among others, around mile six. My refuel and even pacing left plenty in the tank for a strong finish while others were commenting on the end of race difficulty. Even though my training wasn’t very strong, my day of race preparation was smart, and that may be worth just as much.

Totally-awesome-female-product-advertising: Hello Flo video spot and website

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

I’m Judging You by Your Clothes

And I don’t like what I see. No, it’s not the brand that I’m obsessed with – it’s what your lack of sport specific apparel implies. It says, “I just rented this bike and am out for a jaunt in the woods,” rather than “I live for single track and my ultra-light full-suspension bike”. And the only real reason I care is that you, Mr. Basketball Shorts, are passing me. And it killed a small part of my ego.

 

If it ain’t broke…

Satellite view of Cache Creek drainage in Jackson, Wyoming.

Satellite view of Cache Creek drainage in Jackson, Wyoming.

You should still take it in for a tune-up. In this case, the “it” is my beloved Kona Manomano full suspension cross-country bike. While the components are far from original (some were busted, some upgraded), I still love it. And most of the time, it loves me back. But this is about the time it went rogue.

Saturday marked my first mountain bike ride in two years. I had decided that biking wasn’t worth the risk while pregnant and had been dreaming about a weekend of biking for weeks. I made sure that the trails were dry enough to ride before getting my hopes up and continued to plan my long weekend in Jackson around my adrenaline obsession. First up on the docket was my all-time favorite trail up the Cache Creek drainage, Putt Putt.

One trail change since my last pre-pregnancy ride was most welcome. The excellent trail building in the Jackson area has continued with the addition of “the sidewalk”, which serves as a single-track bypass to the busy Cache Creek road. I happily pedaled up with a few short, less technical downs to summit on the top of Putt Putt. Eagerly awaiting my first real down, I took off with gusto. When the gusto got fast, I hit the brakes for a quick speed check, but things didn’t feel quite right. In fact, things felt like a big pickup with a trailer bearing down. Instinctively grabbing more brake, I had a dramatic forward weight shift and realized I was going to have to ride this out with minimal brakes.

This is where occasional fast and reckless riding experience is invaluable. Extreme familiarity with the trail also helps. I focused on the single-track and enjoyed the ride (with a tad bit more trepidation than normal) until my speed petered out enough to steer into some sage for a full, partially controlled stop. A quick examination of the bike confirmed my suspicions – my back brake was out. I knew there was a small adjustment that could be made on the trail, but wasn’t sure how to complete it. The popularity of Putt-Putt soon paid off when I asked a trail runner if he could possibly help. He checked the small adjustment and confidently diagnosed my ride as dead, advising me to walk the down back to the road and coast to the nearest bike shop to have the brake lines bled. While disc brakes are totally ah-maz-ing, this is one drawback – there simply is no trail fix.

Cursing my luck (and lack of thought in regards to a tune-up), I walked my bike down to the road and made it back to the house in one piece. One of my close friends married a talented bike mechanic who bled the lines with new hydraulic fluid in a matter of hours and I had a much more successful ride the next day. Even on my oldest favorite trail, there is always something new to learn.

Awesome-stay-on-baby-shoes-of-the-day: Cade & Co – like those “other” wildly popular shoes but made in Park City, UT instead of China.

 

Capitalizing on “mis-adventures”

2013 Trail Mix finishers. Obviously, 2.5 hours was not realistic given that these people are in top running condition with significant training.

2013 Trail Mix finishers Obviously, 2.5 hours was not realistic given that these people are in top running condition with significant training.

The thing about blogging is that you pretty much owe it to your readers to follow up on the event you talked up in the previous post. In this case, that would be the run. Oh, that run. At  one point during that now infamous run, I said “oh sh(oot), I’m going to have to blog about this. Well, my masthead does say ‘mis-adventures’.”

The issues started when we left the house, and my husband left his cell phone on the dresser, thus preventing communication during the race should baby assistance be required. The next issue was all me. Before the first of four water stations, my running partner and I had ventured off-course to complete an extra mile and somewhat significant hill. While we’re not quite sure how this happened, I have a few theories.

1) We are chatting.

2) The pin flags marking the trail were a bit sparse.

3) She has an 8-month-old. I have a 4-month-old. Our best calculations estimate that two baby brains equal about 3/4 of one average adult brain.

Enter the race coordinator, who picked us up in her car and dropped us back off on the trail we had already run with explicit instructions for the next mile.  She also gave me her cell phone number should future questions arise. And arise they did.

Unfortunately, she gave me her husband’s cell phone number by accident. This means that my calls went unanswered. While frantically dialing various phone numbers (I had already forgotten that my husband did not have his cell phone), I realized I had one more resource. Wiping sweat off my screen (I’ll save you the details of where I stashed the phone, but most women will figure it out), I pulled up last weeks post on mountainkidd.com to view the topo map. This helped in a very generalized manner but still resulted in us completing a few extra hills. By the time we reached the second water station, it was clear that we were in a race of our own.

We had estimated our completion time at about 2.5 hours, which was critical as both our nursing babies eat every 2-3 hours. Also, my husband had a flight to catch. But we had a backup plan – if I didn’t finish promptly at 2.5 hours, he would leave the baby with a good friend who was volunteering at the finish line.

My confidence in this piece-meal plan was low for good reason. Largely, because it was piece-meal and there was a misunderstanding about the exact location of the finish line and backup baby rendezvous point. But back to me.

We were at 2.25 hour into the race and running up a looooooong slow street (Ridgecrest, for the locals) when the number the race coordinator had given me was finally answered. I was looking for a mileage estimate since we knew hungry babies wouldn’t wait forever. The dismal report from her husband was “a little more than half way”. Having a sneaking suspicion that my husband was about to miss his flight and with some concern about the babies state of mind, we threw in the towel and asked the coordinator to pick us up. She confirmed that with our “variations” (the ones she knew about…), we had likely completed 7 – 7.5 miles. We clung to the 7.5 mile figure and figured that next year, we would train, sleep more than 2 hours in a row, and watch for those little pink flags a bit more closely.

Non-profit-of-the-day: Soroptimist! I’m a Soroptimist and the Trail Mix run was a fundraiser for us!

Sense of Impending Doom

2013 Trail Mix Course

2013 Trail Mix Course

It started with the best of intentions. Surely signing up for a 10 mile, mixed surface run would spur some serious training, right?  As the race date looms near (THIS Saturday), I’ve realized once again that “planning” and “babies” are not necessarily compatible terms.

Training peaked last week with a 6-mile hike with 14-lb Owen in the Ergo carrier. Two days later, I ran four miles (sans baby) and thought I was going to be pretty well setup for success. Then the baby stopped sleeping.

The doctor is coining Owen’s current lack of sleep preference “day/night reversal”. It involves severely limiting Owen’s day naps to two, one-hour segments. That’s it. He normally sleeps about 4.5 hours a day, which is on par for his age. Otherwise, it’s stimulation all day to teach him that day is for play! The ultimate hope is that Owen will stop waking up every 45 minutes – 2.5 hours during the night, which would be brilliant.

It is extremely difficult to “train” on no REM cycles. With sleep deprivation comes marked declines in memory, overall cognition and – here’s a fun one – balance. Swwweet. So Saturday’s race is pending, but if history is any indication I will likely forge ahead and pay the sore muscle consequences later. If anyone wants to painfully shuffle by my side, register here. No training required for the truly bull-headed.

Cool-movie-of-the-day: Living on One

Back to Biking

View of Casper Mountain from the Platte River Parkway.

View of Casper Mountain from the Platte River Parkway.

Some women will curse me for this, but I’ve never carried extra weight. Sure, I’ve been more toned at times than other, but I’ve mostly been the same size since high school. Then I had a healthy, full-term baby and like the great majority of women, have a little extra baby padding that needs to come off.  There is only one way to accomplish this: healthy whole foods diet (check) and now that my body is healed, exercise.

Exercise is harder when you have extra weight. I’m just now fully appreciating this. Go jog a city block. Come home and strap on a 20 lb backpack and go run again. That sucked, right? According to the film Fork Over Knives, the average American carries 23 extra pounds. I have no doubt that people would enjoy exercise more if they were to shed their proverbial backpack. But there’s only one way (outlined above) to do it, and I’m right there with you.

My quest started in my neighborhood, which is fortuitously the start of the Platte River Parkway, an 11 mile bike path that weaves through most of Casper. I was huffing and puffing on a few hills into Mills, Wyoming but the awesome thing about being “out of shape” is that the massive endorphine dump (also known as an exercise high) comes much, much sooner. I was flying! I was amazing! Why hadn’t I done this sooner? When the endorphins allowed me to get more blood to my brain, I remembered that the bike path was snowy and I was terrified of a bike seat in months prior, which gave me my answer. But the moral of the story is the same: lose weight and feel great. And be careful if you ride with the wind at your back…

Healthy-recipe-of-the-day: Curried French Lentils

Adventures in Food

Convenience foods by Mother Nature - a totally appropriate food gift!

Convenience foods by Mother Nature – a totally appropriate food gift!

I’ve ranted about food before. Whole foods are best, take time to cook, blah blah blah. And while I don’t think that kids are a free “I don’t have time” pass, the first few weeks (months?) after a baby is born is a TOTAL FREE PASS. Read and remember this – one of the BEST gifts you can bring a new baby is food for the parents. They are tired. One of them has been through a major physical event. I can’t speak to the experience for the other partner, but I think it was fairly intense for him, too. Enter convenience foods. Here’s a guide, which is also applicable to students cramming for finals, people recovering from a major surgery, etc.

1) Freeze food in advance.

My mother-in-law came in August and froze gallons and gallons of a variety of homemade soups. I also froze 2-person portions from dinners I cooked instead of slogging through leftovers. This was invaluable.

2) Choose the healthiest ready-to-eat foods possible.

I was lucky enough to be asked to review a few new cereals from Post shortly after Owen was born. While I’m not normally a cereal girl (except for my homemade granola, of course), a few buzzwords caught my eye, namely “protein” and “less processed”. The new Great Grains Protein Blend cereal comes in two varieties. Cinnamon Hazelnut was largely gobbled up by my sweet-tooth loving husband and my favorite was the Honey, Oats & Seeds. I loved seeing whole pumpkin and sunflower seeds from a mainstream cereal company with more protein per serving than an egg (6g for an egg vs 8g per cup of cereal). Of course, my inclination is to combine the egg and cereal (not in the same bowl silly!) for a nice hearty breakfast.

For lunch/dinner/snack/whattimeisit? haze, I love love love Amy’s Frozen Meals, too. They have more sodium than I would like but the ingredient list is totally recognizable and they have a ton of special diet varieties like dairy-free and gluten-free. Even if the mom doesn’t need a modified diet, a fair amount of breastfed babies have sensitivities to dairy and/or gluten.

3) Accept any and all food gifts from neighbors/friends/strangers.

One of our neighbors came over a day or two after Owen was born and casually mentioned, “I just made some pheasant* noodle soup, does that sound good?”. Food? Yes, that sounds good. Don’t be shy, don’t be proud. And reciprocate down the road.

*This is Wyoming. People hunt. Chew carefully.

 

I’m baaack! Babies and 5 favorites things

birthannouncementI feel I have to address the reason for my looong absence from the blogosphere, but I’ll keep it brief. After a fairly difficult pregnancy complete with 8 months of vomiting and a 16-day hospital stay for pre-term labor, the baby went full-term and arrived on a beautiful winter morning without complication. His name is Owen Lowell Drechsel and he is the most amazing thing I have ever done (made?). But enough sappy sentiment. Here’s the knitty-gritty.

Labor (not TMI, I promise)

I wasn’t sure how intense labor would be for me. After all, I’ve pushed myself pretty hard physically in a variety of climates. It was still pretty intense. But it was also short. 4 hours, start to finish with probably 2.5 hours of super intensity. In the moment, I said some gems like, “How does anyone have more than one kid? You have three!” (to my doula/labor coach) and “I think I want drugs”. The drugs rational went like this: you know when you have a really bad headache and it’s distracting and you’re cranky until you take a loading dose of ibuprofen and poof!, it’s gone and you think “gosh, why didn’t I take that ibuprofen earlier?” I knew that such drugs were nearby and available, but I abstained, which was the right choice for me.

Baby Sh-tuff (0-3 months)

Owen amazes me every day. And I don’t think babies HAVE to have a lot of stuff, but some stuff makes life easier. Here’s my favorites:

Swing1) A swing

This is currently my most useful kitchen item as it actually lets me have extended time to cook. It is also his favorite napping place. I like that this particular swing plugs into the wall, preventing massive battery buying and ensuring that  it never has to stop. Ever.

OBall2) Oball

The first toy Owen reached for and still his favorite as it’s easy to hook fingers into. It’s also light enough where he doesn’t mind it bopping him in the face.

3) Jacque the PeacockJacque

Read this review from Amazon By M. Lyon:

“I’ve never written a review for any baby toys before, but I’m going to make an exception for Jacques. We call him Pierre the Peacock, because alliteration is more fun than consonance, but I digress.

As far as our 5-month-old is concerned, Jacques is the greatest thing that has ever existed. Our son goes absolutely insane at the mere sight of Jacques. Even a month ago, when he was not such a grabby baby, he wanted to touch all parts of Jacques simultaneously. With great intensity, he wants to stare at Jacques and never look away; he wants to squeak and scream and laugh at Jacques as loud as he can. His love for Jacques is metaphysical.
In fact, if it was possible to be a little too excited by a toy, Jacques might potentially fit that bill. Sometimes our son is overwhelmed by his excitement for Jacques. Jacques is baby cocaine.Our only complaint is that we wish Jacques was machine-washable. He fell on the garage floor and got very dirty, and now our son spends his days in a deep, Jacques-less, existential depression. C’est la vie…”
’nuff said! We like this teething blanket for similar crinkle and chewable reasons.

 

Owen is in love with the baby in the mirror, which is understandable since he’s so stinkin’ cute. Honestly, after little goofy talking in his face after feeding and about 10-20 minutes on the play gym Owen is usually ready for a little zone-out time or to go back to sleep.
We “suscribe” to these diapers and get a full month supply of diapers and wipes for under $80. Owen had some diaper rash issues from the regular Huggie’s, so we switched to Pampers Sensitive and that cured the rash, but I didn’t like the little gel crystals that would get on his skin from a really wet diaper. The monthly cost for size Newborn was about $5 more but the convenience and quality is worth it to me. Honest Dipers use way less gel (no crystals spotted yet) and hold more pee than any other diaper we have tried. Plus, I love the cute designs. Who doesn’t love a baby with skull and crossbones diapers? They’ll do a free trial, too, but be careful to cancel if you don’t want the trial to roll into membership.

 

Wrapping it up:

I’m more tired than I’ve ever been. I am also a regular coffee drinker for the first time in my life. Bring me caffeine anywhere, anytime and I’ll thank you. But I also have had a long hot bath with a book almost every day since he has been born. I still cook and knit and am getting back into my old active routine with some modifications. It’s both better and harder than people make it out to be. And if you made it to the end of this post but could care less about baby crap, thanks for reading and I promise adventures will resume next week!

 

Almost forgot: Don’t love Origami? They make helpers for those swaddles! Try a Swaddle Me or for Houdini babies, a Miracle Blanket. See The Happiest Baby on the Block for why a swaddle works (another favorite, but seven isn’t as great of a number as five).

 

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