"Gratitude feels best, not when it gets breathed in, but when it is blown into the sails of others, that the vehicle of their journey has more power"
--- Friend

"Love and truth are the two primary manifestations of divinity in which we can partake, and by partaking in them we become truer manifestations of the divine."

--- Robert Wright

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Let's try this again

To blog or not to blog...

Yet again I am drawn to share some of my thoughts and experiences, and yet again I am not sure if I'll be disciplined enough keep posting on regular basis. For now I will write this one post and maybe that will lead to future posts, who knows.

Life seems to be full of "who knows" and all one can do is try to be flexible enough to adjust and I am noticing that unlike my physical flexibility, which seems to be vanishing with each birthday, my ability to change course when life throws hurdles at me, is improving. Gee, by the time I am 100 years old, I might even start looking forward to shifting winds.

I am training for Mt. Rainier yet again. Two years ago we started the summit bid under the clear, star studded sky but after a couple of hours the weather changed dramatically. Whiteout and very strong winds turned our team of summit hopefuls and our guides around. Even though we did not make it, that partial climb was the hardest physical thing I have ever done. I ran a marathon and biked 100mi in howling winds and rain - that was nothing in comparison to the climb. My legs were screaming for mercy, my lungs hated every oxygen deprived breath, and yet as soon as we reached the safety of the hotel, I knew I wanted to go back. So last year I started training again but just a couple of weeks before the climb the family situation forced me to cancel the trip.
I am lucky to have another chance to try, this time on a more difficult route with a heavier pack. What was I thinking? Have I forgotten how hard it was the first time? Why challenge myself even more? - I have no answers. Something whispered in my ear that expedition style climb will be more fun. That something forgot to whisper that this expedition comes without Sherpas to carry my gear for me.

I'm just happy I could ditch the backpack

In Ewa's world having dreams is easy. It is also easy to make plans as to how to realize those dreams. But in Ewa's world trusting in the process, keeping motivation and discipline high is very, very hard.
I knew I would have to train harder this time but I also knew I had a friend's promise of daily support "till the climb and beyond". I was all set then, my morale high, I was working out even on the days when just a thought of exercise made me feel exhausted, I was pushing myself and felt like there was nothing that could stop my progress. I was grateful and kept thanking the stars and my friend for all the help I was getting. I could not believe my good luck.
And then the support vanished, without warning, without explanation. I was devastated... I was left at the critical stage of my training totally on my own.
Apologies came much later but that was it, no offers of future help no words of encouragement. That felt like another blow.

It took me a quite some time to find my inner balance and strength to continue. I have nobody but myself to blame for the lost training time. I should not have relied on the outside help, I should have kept my focus no matter what.
I am back on track, I think. I am training again and hopefully there is still enough time to bring myself into climbing shape. The Mt Rainier guides tell me I need to be in the best shape of my life... so here come lunges, squats, deadlifts, pullups, pulldowns, hikes with the expedition weight (50-60lb) pack, runs, more lunges, more squats...
Best shape of my life, where are you?
The other day I managed to hike at a half way decent pace 3.5mi with 3,200ft in elevation gain (in my book that's pretty steep) with a 55lb backpack without any stops and did not die in the process.
There is hope, there is still hope...
I know I need to go faster but I still have several weeks and if I keep my focus, I just might be able to make it, and if not... well, if not, I will have learned a very valuable lesson that the only person I should have full trust in is me. And that, is not as bitter a lesson as it may seem to be. If I learn it well, it will make me a much stronger person, and that will be a very good thing.
Picture stolen from RMI Guides website. Emmons Glacier climb.

Monday, March 11, 2013


"Gratitude feels best, not when it gets breathed in, but when it is blown into the sails of others, that the vehicle of their journey has more power" ---- Friend - this post is, with gratitude, for you

I have not blogged in ages and I won't be making promises that I will again. Partly because of lack of time to read all the blogs I want to read. And then there is something, I have no idea what, writer's block or who knows what that prevents me from posting. Trust me that I miss you guys, especially those who are not on Facebook. Yes, I am on Facebook, a lot... quick posts, quick responses - for now this seems to be working for me.

A dear friend suggested that maybe I should write this one post so I am...

I have always been inspired by people who overcome adversity, any adversity, whether it be depression, handicap, addiction, or abusive childhood. For some reason, since high school, I have been especially fascinated by blind people who manage to live full lives. There is a blind guy who bikes despite numerous spills and countless broken bones. There is a blind lady who hikes places like Grand Canyon and competes in triathlons. Or how about a blind guy who hiked The Appalachian Trail? One of my Facebook friends plays amazing music.There are many, many more. And then there is Teresa**...

Teresa lost her eyesight ten years ago. It was a gradual, and I am sure terrifying process, that left her depressed, severely overweight, drinking and smoking. Her boyfriend of many years left her without a word five years after she had lost her sight. Who am I to complain about my life?

About a year ago I decided to spend some of my time volunteering and that is how I met Teresa. I was very happy to see that we hit it off right away. She is fine talking my overly sarcastic sense of humor and even joking about her blindness. She even liked it when without telling her I raised her weights since she could not see only to prove she could do it. But I am getting ahead of myself.

If you are thinking that this post is going to be about this amazing transformation, that I will post jaw dropping before and after pictures of her, you will be quite disappointed. Teresa hasn't really lost much weight, if any. She is very reluctant to do any cardio. But she keeps on trying and that makes me want to keep on helping her.

She comes with a huge baggage of misconceptions. Running is bad for you, really bad. Since heart disease runs in her family, she should avoid cardio. Since lifting weights will make her heavier, she cannot go snowshoeing because it will be just too hard. And so on, and so on. Most of those myths come from her friends and family who maybe are afraid she will injure herself and are trying to protect her. Whatever the source, at times I want to scream when I hear her talk. 

For some reason she trusts me and at least is trying to do the things I know worked for me when I battled my weight and total lack of fitness. I am not ashamed to tell her how many times I failed. I am not ashamed to share with her how hard it is to keep motivated. 

Teresa doing leg presses and even breathing this time :-)
I've been working with her for a year. Her progress though painfully slow by now has reached a plateau. She still likes lifting weights but maanges to avoid cardio every time I suggest it. No goal, no matter how exciting, seemed to motivate her.
Quite depressed, I called upon a friend who has been a personal trainer for decades, yeah, the same one who talked me into writing this post, and asked for advice. He told me not to expect much but offered some suggestions about re-introducing cardio into her workouts. Ultimately, he said, she is in the driver's seat. Darn, I thought, I was... :-)

It is funny how a small change in the routine can make a huge difference. All we did was to do some intervals. Some weights, some cardio, more weights, more cardio. In Teresa's mind she does not have to sweat on the treadmill, rower or a stepper for a long time. The reality is that after her first modified workout she did 4 times as much cardio as in the best workout ever. What is more, she was so excited about it, she could not stop talking about how much she liked that session all the way back to her house.

Why am I writing this? Two reasons. One: people like Teresa, despite slow progress inspire me a lot. She is open to suggestions and keeps on trying.  Two: we all hit the wall when our routines get boring. Even a small change can make a huge difference.

Do I think Teresa will ever climb mountains or run a marathon? Who knows. I am not holding my breath but I am going to be there to support her if that is what she wants to do. What makes me happy is to see that even though very slowly she is making positive changes in her life, and that she is excited about her new routine.

So if ever you feel like giving up think of Teresa who, just keeps on trying. I know I would get discouraged a long time ago. 

**Teresa gave me permission to use her pictures and to write about her.

Friday, June 22, 2012

17min 46sec - trust me, time well spent

Please, watch:

Monday, June 11, 2012

Keeping active

I decided to be nice to Mr Achilles Tendon so I am limiting my runs till it feels better. I hope he knows what a sacrifice this is and starts behaving soon. At least I can do hikes and bike rides. And then there are my backpacking workouts. Oh, yes, that is so much fun - NOT. Bay Area is blessed with numerous trails just minutes away from the urban madness. Unfortunately I don't always have the time to get away even for an hour. So I have to improvise. I find a building where I can use a staircase without anybody frowning, put my 60lb pack on, and off I go. Trust me, 60 flights of stairs even with the best music blaring in my ears is booooooring. Right now I am quite sure I could get to a 100 flights and if my mind lets me do it, I'll try this week. 

My weekends are usually filled with hikes and bike rides. 

Mt Diablo 3,864 feet (1,178 m) was my destination a couple of weekends ago. It is quite a drive for me so I don't get there as often as I would like to. This time my plan was just to go long and fast on any trail my eyes would find interesting. That was fun except for one nasty spill. I wanted to take a picture but I did not want to stop on a gravel downhill. The rest is a big, black and blue bruise on my butt. I saved my camera though. I was also very grateful for the advice somebody gave me to keep hands out of hiking poles straps on the way down. The way I fell, I am sure I would have done some serious damage to my wrist had I kept them in the straps. 
Despite all the fun and stunning views, this was not the best hiking day. I felt tired and slow. I was beginning to question if it made sense to even attempt the challenge I set up for myself and my kiddo for the following weekend.

The challenge was to do a on day 30 mile hike/run in the Santa Cruz Mountains. I have never hiked that distance in one day. I had attempted it a few months ago but the strap on my backpack broke and I had nothing with me to fix it so that ended that try. This time I examined our packs very carefully and figured that we would just do our best. Considering how lousy I felt the weekend before I did not hope for much.
We started in the dark. For some reason it seemed fun to us not to turn our headlamps on. I know, I know, I was just asking for another spill, especially that the hike starts in a very dark canyon the moonlight does not reach, full of roots and rocks. But guess what, we managed without even one stumble. As we got on the side of the mountain, the skies lightened and we could see almost to the ocean where our hike would end.
We could have not asked for better weather: not too hot, not too cold with slight wind, just perfect. I decided to skip running to pamper my Achilles and I am glad I did. I will run that trail yet but right now I do not want any injuries before my John Muir Trail adventure.
We kept a pretty steady pace trying not to go faster than 3mph. Pacing is something I don't do well. I tend to go too fast in the beginning and I pay for it later. This time I made sure to be smart about it and actually paid attention to my Garmin. Usually I only check the distance and wait till I get home to check the pace and other data. This time I was making sure that we did not push to hard especially during the first 15 miles.
I cannot believe how fast the time flew - must have been good company. We talked, joked, and then there were stretches of time when we would just hike in comfortable silence. A truly enjoyable experience. I those silent moments I was reminiscing about our past hikes. I recall our first hike, a 2 mile loop, 2.5 year old kid, and a very overweight mom. We both ended that hike tired but happy. Now both of us were going for a 30miler. Not too bad, I thought.
The last 3-4 miles were very hard on my "baby's" feet but I heard not even one word or complaint. Now that made me really proud. I am actually glad for that painful stretch. It is one of those experiences that makes a person stronger.
As for me, strangely, unlike the weekend before, I felt great. I still had quite some miles left in me. No aches, no pains, not much of a fatigue.

We finished our 30 miles with a huge hug and a feet soak in freezing ocean waters.

My baby is NOT a baby anymore.

I got up on Sunday all stiff with my body blackmailing me that if I don't start moving, it will totally freeze up on me. So I hopped on my bike to hit the trail early before it got too hot. I usually carry two spares but this time I had only one since I used the other one just the day before. Guess what, one mile into the ride I get a flat. That trail is covered with these little thorny things that seem to like my bike a lot. I was not going to ride without another spare. So I had to wait for the stores to open while the temps kept on climbing up. To make the long story short, I did my 34 miles in the hottest part of the day and for the first time in my life I welcomed the headwind.

A short update on my blind friend, Teresa. She is working hard. Her weight lifting is going great. We are slowly intensifying her cardio workouts too. She is improving her diet too though that change is the most difficult for her so she is not losing much weight. It will take time and I only hope she won't get discouraged. Right now her enthusiasm is still very high and we are both working hard on keeping it that way. She seems to like it that I feel comfortable making jokes at her expense. Good. :) 

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Running (not really), hiking and biking

My days have been so crazily fragmented that I don't have a larger piece of time to write. In that respect Facebook is much easier to handle; I can post, comment, 'like' on the run. I guess I could skip a hike, bike ride, or a run to write more... nah, as much as I love you all, I won't do that even for all of you guys.

So short: my running sucks. Mr Achilles Tendon has decided to wage another battle with me. I give it rest, it hurts more, I run, it makes me suffer especially the next day. I have no idea what his problem is. I am nice to him, I talk to him respectfully, I pamper him, he is still not happy. 
That makes my runs rather miserable and puts my Pikes Peak Marathon training in jeopardy. 

Golden Gate Bridged 75years and 1 day old
Fortunately I can hike and even with a heavy load there is very little discomfort so my training for John Muir Trail is proceeding fairly well. Again, time is a problem. I can't do really long treks so I opted for shorter ones with a heavier than last year backpack. Right now I am hauling 60lb. My pack on the trail will be probably 36-38lb  so if I keep up with my training, it won't feel heavy at all.

I rarely manage to hike anywhere north of San Francisco. I do not like the traffic near the city; I would rather be on trails than stuck on the highway, but last weekend I got up early and went on a trail  on Mt. Tamalpais that a hiking buddy of mine highly recommended. I was not disappointed (even thought the traffic on the way back sucked. 

I love, love mornings like that. If not for the fact that I wanted to hit the trail early, I would have just stayed on the side of the road and watched the fog roll in and out of the valleys.

Where I live, the spring is over. Hills have turned golden and there is very little green left. This part of the trail, since it is so close to the coast, made me feel as if I were in a tropical rain forest.

The only problem was that none of the escalators were working. That did not make my tendon feel happy one little bit. 

But who cares about sore (loser) tendon if one has views like this one. 

And then, above the 'rain forest' grassy hills and a lovely, smooth trail.

I wish I could tell you that I ran this trail fast and strong but it was a very pathetic run and yet I did not mind that at all. It was so beautiful there that it really did not matter that I was struggling. As long as I can be in places like that, I am happy.

And then there is biking. These days, I don't bike very long, 30-40mi at the most and it will have to stay that way till the end of the school year. I discovered a marvelous trail by the ocean. I've been seeing that trail from the car for years and kept telling myself that one of these days I would have to make it there. Well, I finally did and loved it. We did only a short ride but I know I will be back and do the entire trail really soon (I hope). 

I will leave these without a commentary.

As for other workouts, I am managing to do weight lifting and rowing. In case you did not know, I hate rowing but I made a deal with myself: no movie watching unless I row and I like movies. :)