Wednesday, July 29, 2009

We're having a heatwave, a tropical heatwave

Okay, so it's not quite the Libyan Desert (pictured left), but Victoria is in the midst of a heatwave at the moment. I got home at 4:45 today, immediately had a shower so cold that when I got out I had goose bumps, and save for trips down to deal with my laundry, have been sitting in my skivvies ever since. The one upside to the heat is you don't feel like eating much.

I'm not necessarily a horrible eater, but I'm a lazy eater. I have a habit of thinking about my next meal when my stomach rumbles. For the boot camp, we had to plan all our meals, have them reviewed and then note what we actually ate. It was great having that requirement, but when the boot camp went so did my planning. It's a habit I am trying to get back into. My other problem is that I like to snack and yet I never plan for that when I do my grocery shopping. To help plan meals but still allow me my love of snacking, I'm combining what I learned at boot camp with Weight Watchers.

I like the idea of Weight Watchers. There's so many diet companies out there which do it with healthy balanced meals and they work for people, but they'd don't teach you how to plan and make those meals yourself. That's one thing I've always liked about WW. Having said that, I'm not actually attending WW. Someone may have taken part in a 12 week program at work a year ago, and that same someone may have kept all their handouts and perhaps a few blank sheets for recording food and points, and again, that someone may have photocopied a few of these pages to ensure there would always be another blank one. I'm just saying may, I'm not copping to anything.

But for this week, I see a lot of simple salads with pine nuts or tuna so I don't have to turn on any other heat sources in the apartment. And water, lots of water.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

I've blogged enough, but here's a photo

I've already put up two blogs this week, and although I have a million other topics to cover, I need to pace myself. In the meantime, my weekend hike took me up Mill Hill. I love Mill Hill, it's incredibly challenging being vertical for pretty much the entire time, but it's not as long as Mount Doug. Plus, so few people seem to know about that you can often do the entire hill and see only a handful (if any) people. Still, the area around it is being developed at the speed of Langford so it won't be long before that changes.

The view from the top was worth it.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Shoes, Bras and Tide Tables

I have to start this post with my exciting news of the week. I awoke on Wednesday morning to an email from my friend “Maria” telling me that she and her boyfriend “José” are moving to Vancouver from Madrid for at least seven months. I have been walking around on a cloud since then. Maria and I first met in Tanzania where we shared a room for a month. Despite her tendencies to talk to her sleep (in Spanish, so I couldn’t even make fun of her later) and to manifest her nightmares by punching the air and thrashing about violently (both of which often disrupted my sleep), we got along very well. We bonded over our twinned sense of humour, our similar views of the world, and a shared knowledge of German and Germany. We’ve kept in touch, often being each other’s sounding board for issues in each other’s lives, and I don’t think I could ever convey in words how excited I am to have her back within easy visiting distance. And I will finally get to meet José whom I have heard so much about. The excitement about that meeting, according to Maria, is very mutual as she claims to have talked to him about me as much as she has talked to me about him. Her imminent arrival has very little to do with my goal/blog, but it is big news in my life so I wanted to share it.

I have been reminded this week about the importance of proper gear. I’m not talking about the hikes, worrying about that type of gear is a long way off… well, a relatively long way. I’m talking about proper gear for working out, namely shoes and – for us ladies – bras. The importance of both of these was solidified this week during my workouts, especially the shoes. The pair of shoes I currently have is not that old by my standards. I don’t like replacing shoes, mostly because I detest the blisters I inevitably get while breaking in the new ones. My last pair of sneakers lasted for 5 years before I admitted defeat and bought a new pair. My current pair is only 5 months old, but I have put them through a lot with the boot camp, and after only two months I had already worn the thread pretty much off the bottom. After jumping around in a step class in on Tuesday, the aching ball of my left foot confirmed on Wednesday what I already knew, I need a new pair.

Despite my reluctance to purchase new shoes, getting right pair of shoes can be the difference between success and failure in any exercise regime. A bad pair of shoes, in a best case scenario will lead to discomfort and short term muscle and joint issues. In a worst case scenario, a bad pair of shoes could very well lead to permanent joint and muscle issues. Given this, I’m amazed how many people (over the age of 17) buy their shoes based solely on appearance. The fit of your shoe is very important and if you've never had someone properly fit you for your shoes, I suggest you do it. They'll watch you walk in your bare feet and determine what you need (do you overpronate, underpronate) and will recommend shoes which will work best with your feet. Find out about the return policy at the store; if you try them out at a gym (or another indoor location) and they cause pain beyond blisters, can you exchange them? Go to a store where the employees actually know what they're talking about. I love SportsMart for the sales, but their sales associates really don't know what they're talking about 90% of the time. Especially in Victoria, we have a plethora of really good running stores with incredibly knowledgeable staff whose sole concern is getting you in the best possible shoes, not how much commission they'll make on this sale. Side note, one store even told me they didn't have what I needed and phoned their closest competitor to confirm I'd find it there. SportsMart would never do that. And don't worry, they'll talk you through the fitting so next time there's a sale at SportsMart, you can do it yourself.

As for a sports bra, as a larger chested girl, this is the second most important item of clothing. You don't need lululemon pants, you can get by with just a regular t-shirt, but a sub par bra and you're going to have a sub par workout. The great thing is there's a much larger selection of sports bras on the market than there was when I first started looking for these things in my teen years. Gone are the single tube which created the boobzilla in the middle of your chest. Don't get me wrong, you can still get those if you like them, but you can also get ones that are more fitted like a normal bra. I have been using the same bra longer than my last pair of sneakers. Between its age and the recent changes in my body, it's time for a new one and I'm looking forward to buying one that will keep the girl's contained without creating a boobzilla.

One of the things you have to be able to do for the Juan de Fuca and the West Coast Trail is to read tide tables. My stepdad taught me to do that many years ago, and it always seemed fairly easy but all the websites and books were making it seem like you'd need a slide ruler to do it. Now I have a slide ruler but I don't know how to use it (I grew up with calculators and computers), so I went online to confirm how to read a tide table and it really was as easy as I remembered. I tested myself by picking two locations, using the distance/time to figure out a point between them and then checking. I was always close enough I'd trust my call on a hike. It started me thinking, how do they determine what 0.0 is on the tide table. It's all fine and dandy to say 'high tide is going to be 4.7 metres, low tide is 1.3 metres', but how do they determine the line to measure from? I'm sure if I asked my stepdad he'd have an answer, but I'm curious if anyone else knows. I've looked online but have been unable to find an answer.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Books: The Have's and the Have Not's

So far I have surpassed my goal of getting up a blog a week... let's hope the fitness goals are achieved so easily! Something (my sore groin muscle, perhaps) tells me they won't be but I'm giving it the good, old college try (except sober).

In my quest to inspire myself, I have taken to walking to a bookstore each day at lunch to peruse books related to my goal (hiking, hiking in BC, travelling in BC--need to know how to get to and from these places). I have bought one, as a 'present' to myself,
Hiking Trails I to help with the planning of weekly hiking trips around town. There weren't very many hikes in the book which I didn't know about, but it's nice to have something remind me of some of the ones I've relegated to some dark, dusty corner of my memory. Sometimes I don't think we realise how lucky we are to live here when it comes to outdoor activities. I know there are places that have better year-round weather for outdoor activities (but who wants to live year-round in Phoenix?), but there aren't many places with so many great outdoor areas, with the great views which are usable pretty much all year-round... if you have a Gore-tex jacket (and let's be honest, we all do). If you're looking to get out more and see more of the local green spaces, I can tell you that this is an excellent book (as well, I enjoy this selection of books)

On today's walk, I ended up at the institution of Victoria's book history, Munro's. I love Munro's. I could spend hours in there (and would if I wasn't positive I'd end up with a lifetime ban) with its high ceiling and old book shelves. I bee lined to the back left corner (language and travel books, I'm in heaven) and felt a joy of excitement at finding Frommer's Best Hiking Trips in British Columbia. Having exhausted every website I had found about the Chilkoot (being the least published of my three upcoming hikes), surely this would have some tidbit of information I could store in a small corner of my memory to pull out to spur me on when I think I just can't make it over that last little hump on Mount Finlayson. Surely, it must! I eagerly pulled it open and scanned the contents. Nothing. Perhaps I was looking in the wrong place, so I switched to the index. Nada. Now, I understand that the Chilkoot crosses international borders so perhaps they didn't feel it was justified as a 'best hiking trip in British Columbia', but shouldn't it have at least had a mention? It's older and has more historical significance than the West Coast Trail . Plus, on the BC side there's a couple of day trips, couldn't those have had a mention? I was never a Frommer's fan mostly because they're aimed a travel comfort level above mine so they weren't useful for me on my trips, but I didn't dislike them. I kind of do now.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Family support

I had a blog written and all ready to post when my internet connection went down, in the interim I had a family dinner and, bam, I have a whole new blog entry.

I didn't quite make my goal of hitting the gym twice this week, mostly thanks to my short term memory issues which left my sports bra at home on Friday. So close! On the upside, I knew that going into this breakfast was going to be an issue. See, I'm not a morning person which really doesn't gel well with the fact that I voluntarily start work at 7:30am (but I get off at 4:00pm, who wouldn't take that option?). I always have good intentions when it comes to getting a bite to eat before I head out the door but more often than not it ends up that I pick up some snack-type breakfast item when I stop for my coffee. Not the healthiest option for my midriff or my wallet. Knowing that this was going to be the hardest meal for me to keep on track with, I bought myself a bowl from the dollar store and then stocked my desk with some instant oatmeal options for those mornings I decide to hit the snooze button just one... more... time. Yeah planning! I have also successfully integrated making my own coffee/tea back into my morning routine giving me that much more time before I have to leave for work.

My mom and stepdad were away when I officially started this blog, but upon their return I directed their attention to it and the response has been very positive. I knew that my family would support me in anyway they could, they've supported every other crazy idea I've had (even if they didn't necessarily agree with it), but I had the added bonus of my stepdad wanting to join me on the Juan de Fuca next year and the Chilkoot as well. I had a few people in mind of possible partners on these endeavors, some I've talked to about it, some who've yet to learn what I plan to rope them into (none of whom know about this blog yet), but I don't know anyone with as much hiking experience as my stepdad so he would definitely be a welcome addition to any of the expeditions. My mom supported me in her way by taping a picture of me to my stepdad's Chilkoot photo collage. It's the little things like that which make me smile and spur me on to make this a reality.

The family dinner was because all my stepsiblings and their assorted offspring were in town. I enjoy getting to see them as it doesn't happen very often. They never really lived with us when I was young and the holiday times when they'd come over, I'd usually be at my own dad's. Being a good six years younger than the youngest of them, by the time I was cool enough to hang out with (read=they could take me somewhere other than a G rated movie) they were off living their own lives. I was chastised one day at work when I mentioned I had nieces and a nephew but then failed to name all five, so I love having the opportunity to get to know both the stepsiblings and my nieces and nephew. During the course of the evening, my stepbrother (we'll call him JB) and I started to discuss my plan and he added to it. JB's been living in the Lower Mainland for a number of years now and has been wanting to hike Golden Ears Trail (feel free to hum a James Bond theme at this point, I've been doing that all afternoon/evening when I hear/say/read that name), a two day trek to the top of the north 'Ear'. By the end of the evening we had decided we were going to do it together next summer. (We also decided that my older brother would join us, but we've yet to actually tell him that.) The more backwoods hiking experience I can get under my belt, the more confidence I'll have when I look up the (now missing) Golden Staircase to the Chilkoot Pass and think "oh crap, what have I gotten myself into?"

I realise that three years from now, although close in the general scheme of life, is quite aways off. I might not make it to the Chilkoot Trail, and not for lack of want, desire or drive, but because sometimes life leans forward from its backseat and quietly whispers 'no' into your ear and there may be nothing you can do about it when that happens. The Chilkoot is a route marker that I have stuck in my life map, a physical goal I can share with everyone I meet. "I am going to do this." Ultimately, this isn't just about climbing the Pass, it's about moving closer to being the person I want to be for the rest of my life. And at some point--in three years if life lets me keep my plans--that will be a person who has hiked the Chilkoot Trail.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

One week down already? I'm Ron Burgandy?

When I first decided on the 'get fit' plan last November, although with the Mt. Meru goal and not the Chilkoot in mind, I kick-started the process by joining a fitness boot camp in Victoria. Despite a 5 year membership to the Y, I’m not a fan of gyms. I hate the feeling that I’m some how competing with the other people in there. I know that I’m not but when you see the gym rats trying to out-do each other it can be very difficult to avoid that feeling. Seeing young 20-something girls with painted on lululemon outfits also doesn’t help with one’s self-esteem as you sweat it out on the elliptical trainer. Also, I hate pushing myself. I will take myself to muscle fatigue, but I won’t push myself beyond that by picking up a heavier weight or doing another rep. I need someone to kick my butt for me (or make me kick my own butt as the case may be). Boot camp was the perfect fit. I checked out various websites, broke down the actual hourly cost of them to see which ones seemed to give the best bang for the buck, and then made my decision based on the fact that one of the sites had a good mixture of body shapes and ages in their photos. A big plus for an out-of-shape lazy bum like me. I can’t speak highly enough of the enjoyment I got out of the outdoor boot camp, Life Force Systems, and anyone looking for a non-gym experience to get in shape should give their site a look-over and see if it appeals to them. You will hurt so much the first two weeks you will debate quitting, but it gets easier and the instructors are so encouraging and good natured that it’s you’ll keep going and will be happy with the end results (if you give it your all and follow the nutrition recommendations). I have stopped going for the summer as I like having my Friday nights for social opportunities (which are always more plentiful in the summer) and I have some other goals for the summer which will eat up my budgeted ‘fun money’ which would have gone to boot camp, but I hope to return in the Fall as long as I can budget it (as I’m also returning to school).

As a result of no longer attending boot camp, I have reactivated my gym membership. I have yet to actually go as I have elected, so far, to do things like climb Mt. Tolmie and do the seven minute ab routine at home instead, but this week I have a goal to go at least twice on top of planning a weekend walk and doing the seven minute abs. Thanks to a few weeks with a personal trainer about two years ago I have a basic plan set up for what I should be doing during my time there, but if anyone has any suggestions for exercises which they think are really beneficial, I’d love to hear them... keeping in mind that I’m not (yet) that athletic so suggesting things like ‘jump over the waist- high bars for a good cardio work out’ will be met with laughter.

My workout this weekend consisted of walking from one end of Vancouver to the other. I took advantage of a free apartment in Coal Harbour for the weekend, and spent the Saturday walking to the aquarium, getting lost walking to Siwash Rock (which I want to see as it’s my favourite Roy Henry Vicker painting and I’ve never actually seen it), walking to Robson to meet a friend, walking to lunch, and then (after a bus ride) walking around Granville Island and then walking back to Coal Harbour. I explained my plan to my friend, who was very supportive. He agreed that I was slightly crazy but that it was a good goal and he was sure I could do it. This particular friend, let’s call him Cameron, has been one of my best friends for the last 16 years, so it meant a lot that he fully believed I could do it especially as he's done a lot of wilderness hiking himself and knows exactly what is involved. If there’s one person in this world who knows my abilities and limits better than I do, it would be him and I needed his support even if I didn’t realise that until after I got it. It gave me a ‘can do’ belief in this endeavour that had been missing before.

When I started this blog, I made the decision that I would keep specifics about myself and anyone who comes across my way in this goal to a minimum. This is for two reasons:
1) my friends aren’t writing this blog, I am. It’s not fair to them that I give away their specifics unless I have them read everything I write first. If I keep myself somewhat anonymous, then it keeps my friend anonymous.
2) I believe that the goal I have set for myself is one that anyone could set and achieve. I want people reading this to remember that there’s nothing different between them and me; they too could set a crazy sounding goal and achieve it. I think it's easier to believe that when I'm a faceless, nameless write at the other end of the vast internet.

Anyway, the ferry is minutes away from docking so it’s time to wrap this up.


Monday, July 6, 2009

Why the Chilkoot?

So, I looked at my stepdad's photos and that made me want to climb a 3500 foot high Pass... well, not quite. A little history on my decision:

I've always loved history, and after a family trip to the Yukon, it was just natural that I became interested in the Klondike days. I read lots of first person accounts, dressed as a 'Klondike girl' for Hallowe'en, chose the Yukon as the location for the fictional town we had to create in grade seven (and named it after the last name of my favourite actor at the time which I won't admit to except to say 'muh teef'), I had a romantic notion of moving to the Yukon and owning a dog sled team, and I began my life long love with Robert Service's poetry (we had a bonus assignment in grade five to memorize The Cremation of Sam McGee and I was the only person who did it). My love of that region and that time in history just added to this desire to do the Chilkoot Trail.

My decision to get into shape occurred after I returned from living in Africa in 2007. I wanted to return to Tanzania and be fit enough to climb Mount Meru, the mountain I had looked at every day. I wanted to summit and watch the sun rise over Kilimanjaro but there was no way that was going to happen in my current condition. It was all fine and dandy to say 'I want to be in shape for when...' but with plans to return to school and a plane ticket which costs almost the same as a semester at UVic, this probably won't be a feasible goal for at least five years (unless someone reading this wants to contribute to the 'Send Andrea Back to Africa' fund) and I needed a goal with a feasible completion date.

I sat in bed about a week ago, reading The Best of Robert Service (you may notice he pops up a lot in this blog), I remembered the Chilkoot Trail and a decision was made. I played around with a few ideas as to time lines for completing this goal before deciding on this one: I will do the Juan de Fuca Trail in 2010, I will do the West Coast Trail in 2011 and then (imagine some fanfare) the Chilkoot Trail in 2012. And there you have it, my feasible completion date!


Sunday, July 5, 2009

Under Construction a.k.a. My First Blog

So, I just wanted to get something up because trying to figure out what looks best with no actual blog to play around with is proving to be a little difficult. My goal is to have a new blog up at least once a week (it seems like a good Sunday afternoon activity), but we'll see how well I stick to that.

I created this blog as a result of my decision to do the Chilkoot Trail in 2012. The Chilkoot Pass (more commonly known as the Golden Stair Case) was the quickest and cheapest route to the Yukon during the Klondike. My stepfather did the Trail when I was about 8 or 9 and created a photo collage of the trip which hung above our stairs. I looked at those pictures every time I went down the stairs and always thought 'some day...'. Twenty years later, I realised that to make that happen I needed to set a date and make a plan. Despite that being the reason for this blog, I reserve the right to rant about anything I want when the mood strikes me.

In addition to the weekly blogging (again, wish me luck on that), once a month I will do an update on the getting fit/weight loss. Understandably, I don't really want to get into specific numbers on a public site (even on a private site, no one needs to know my exact weight) so instead I will pick a final goal range (I don't believe in having an exact number as I'm more concerned with reaching a healthy weight, so I'll figure out a healthy minimum and maximum weight) and will use percentages to show how close I am to my goal. For example, if my goal is to lose 20lbs total, and I've lost 10lbs, I'll let you know that I reached 50% completion. So, as of today, I've reached 0% completion.

I hope you enjoy the blog(s)!