Black Fly Blitz

It’s only a 5k.  The millions of articles, advice columns and pages dedicated to racing hardly pertain to a simple 5k. After all, it’s only a 5k right?  Then why am I so anxious?  As I watch the clock tick down the final hour before I have to head out, my stomach is getting the familiar butterflies.  I’m not worried that I can’t do it.  I run longer than that almost every morning–most of the time on the trails.  I’ve run the loop (3.1 miles perfectly) several times without any issue.  So why am I so nervous?


Because I haven’t run against other people since high school track. And I sucked. Perhaps my subconscious is thinking “oh god, here we go again…how many times around that stupid track??”  I know I’ll have a great time. I know I’ll love it.  The route is nice, fairly flat, familiar and it won’t be scorching hot.  There’s even a chance for rain!  But the competition is making me a bit nervous, bringing back feelings of inadequacy and failure I’d been able to suppress for decades.   Maybe, just for that reason, this will be the hardest race for me.  Running not only against other people, but the memories of who I once was.


But today, all those ill thoughts, the doubt, the stress, the low self esteem will disappear, just like in this video.  It’s the best way to describe how running makes you feel…and I will be envisioning it happening to me today!

To Weigh, or Not to Weigh…

That is the question.

I weigh myself daily.  Some will tell you it’s the best thing in the world. Others will tell you to never weigh yourself.  It really is individual.  But the best advice about the scale came from my nutritionist. “It doesn’t become a problem until the number on the scale dictates your day.”

All too often it does.  Not just when it goes up; after all, if you weigh yourself daily you have to be ready for the 1-2 pound fluctuations. When I gain a pound (or two) in one day I generally shrug it off as water weight.  Think about it.  You have to eat 3500 calories to gain (or don’t eat them to lose) ONE pound.  I know I didn’t eat 7000 calories the day before.    When I lose a pound I get so pumped! Finally! Yay!   I get frustrated when, day after day, I eat right, get an hour or more of good exercise in and the scale doesn’t do anything at all.

While I always rant about being more than the number on the scale, I was also born in the late 60’s.  I lived in the peak of the aerobics and 1200 calorie generation.  Being on a diet was constant, no matter how thin you were.  You hair could be big but your hips couldn’t!   While I’ve hidden it, admonished it, even thrown it away only to buy a new one weeks later, the scale and I have always had a love-hate relationship.  It’s part of me; that nasty habit I hate to admit. But there are upsides.

For example:  by weighing yourself every day you can see the cycle your body goes through.  We all have heavy days, light days and everything in between.  Our weight loss goes in cycles and anyone doing this long term knows that it can be hell as we wait for that next pound to go.  For me, my average weight loss last year was one pound A MONTH.  yup.  And that was the average, not the actual.  There were months I didn’t lose an ounce.  Others I would drop a pound one week and nothing for three.  All the while eating well and exercising 5-6 days a week.  This year, I haven’t dropped a single pound from January despite kicking up my exercise to running and keeping track of everything I eat.  Something is wrong.  Or maybe it’s where I’m meant to be?  Click here for that blog 🙂  Despite the idea of being at the natural sticking point, I still want to see movement on the scale.  Please note, YES, I measure myself on a monthly basis. No real movement there either.

Back to the scale…one thing I’ve noticed is that if the scale does move down, I have a tendency to be a little more lax with my eating habits.  It’s the opposite of what you’d think, but  that’s the mental reaction to losing a pound.  When I gain, or remain the same, I am more apt to skip that bagel at work.  But not always…some days when it’s been stagnant for weeks, months, I just give up and eat what I want for a few days.  Why not? It’s not like anything I do seems to matter…or does it?  At least I’m not gaining.  Think of where I’d be if I just gave up.  I’d been back where I was a year ago and 12 pounds heavier!

So, long and tall of it is this:  do what feels right.  If you weigh yourself every day, just don’t let it dictate how you look at yourself in the mirror.  You really didn’t gain a pound in one day unless you ate a few cheeseburgers, a sixpack of beer and maybe even some pizza.  If you want to keep a daily reading to see what your cycle is, that’s fine, but only count one “official” reading each week (on the same day, time, situation each week…not just the best number you had!)

Here are some links if you want to look into it further.   Is it any wonder people are confused?  There are as many opinions on this as there are black flies right now.  Make up your OWN mind and what’s best for you!

Here are both Pros and Cons:

Fat and Fit

I’ve recently become addicted to Twitter.  Well, you can’t really say addicted, as I’m only following 13 people and 11 are British actors. But one is “Active”, a running website where I sign up for races.  They offer some great little tidbits of training advice.  Tonight I stumbled upon this: (you can find the whole article here:)

The National Institutes of Health gives us four marks on the BMI ladder. It puts the underweight/unhealthy BMI cutoff at 18.5, which indicates malnourishment. If your BMI is 18.5 to 24.9, you’re in the normal/healthy weight range. From 25.0 to 29.9, you’re overweight, and your health risks (such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease) start climbing. Anyone above a 30.0 BMI gets labeled obese and faces dramatically higher health risks. Approximately 60 percent of all Americans are overweight or obese, and this percentage is increasing.

Fat and Fit?

While it seems certain that higher body weights are unhealthy, fitness counts, too. Steven Blair, P.E.D., who often describes himself as “short, fat, and bald,” is the most famous expert in the BMI, exercise, and health field. He and his former colleagues at the Cooper Aerobics Center have collected the world’s most impeccable fitness data; they’ve actually tested thousands of subjects on a treadmill. Most other large studies are based on questionnaires that ask: “How much do you exercise during a typical week?” And you just know a lot of people are wildly optimistic (lying) when they answer that question.

The Cooper Center studies show that aerobic fitness is a powerful predictor of longevity. Indeed it’s often better to be fat but fit rather than lean and out-of-shape. Fitness can trump fatness. As a result, Blair, a lifelong runner now at the University of South Carolina, believes we focus too much on weight, which demonizes and demoralizes fat people. “I’d like to banish the whole idea of ideal weight,” he says. “We simply don’t have enough data to say what’s right for any individual or group. We should focus more on telling people they can get healthier by becoming more active, no matter what their starting weight.”

That’s a great message, and one we should all take to our nonexercising, overweight friends. They need every bit of motivation they can get. Still, we should also remember that weight loss is almost always good. Because lean and fit will always trump fat and fit.


Okay, going by the BMI tool they refer to, I would have to be 20 pounds lighter just to be in the “normal” range.  While probably not impossible, it’s highly improbable.  My goal is to lose 15 at the most, and even that is pushing a low weight for me.  I haven’t been 20 pounds lighter since 1998…and it was near impossible to maintain (which is why I gained it back very quickly).  Hence the question, is it really okay to just be “fat and fit”?  I don’t care about shaving 5 minutes off my race time.  I care about being able to haul a pack up Mount Washington!  Longer life would be kinda cool too.

Both my nutrionist and my doctor have said maybe I’m not supposed to weigh less.  Hmmm.  Interesting.  The generic health and advertising industries DON’T know my body?  They DON’T know what is best for me?  What a concept!  I’m not saying I don’t have a little too much around the middle and that I’m okay with that.  But perhaps, just perhaps it IS okay.  We’ll see what my sugars are reading at my next physical and take it from there! In the meantime, hike on!

On the right path after all…

I hate when I get caught up with convention.  The past few weeks I’ve been reading all I can about running.  It began with a search for the perfect diet for a runner, then turned into a search for perfection.  My question has always been, what is the best way to get in shape by running?  What is the best diet to follow, because what I’m doing now isn’t working.  The diet is one I’ve been eating for over a year.  So the trouble must be in my running program. One books says you must run 30 miles a week.  Another says to run 60-90 minutes a day.  You must add strength training.  Do yoga.  Do interval training.  The more I read, the less I enjoyed running.

Finally, I read a blog about the importance of trail running on the soul.  Ah, it’s just so true.  Not only does trail running make you a stronger overall runner, it nurtures you as well.  At least it does for me.  I’m not knocking those who prefer the road to the solace of the woods and trails; I’m just saying give it a try.  While there are few resources out there for the trail runner right now in comparison, one thing you will find is they tell you in all the magazines, books, websites, etc. to train on the trails to become a stronger runner.  I’m already out there!

Then, after a week of rain, I finally got out for a trail run.  After trudging on the treadmill all week, it was a blessing to be in the mud again!  The hour flew by as I splashed through puddles, sloshed through mud and swatted black flies.  Ah, there’s nothing like it!  I don’t get as many miles running trail, but I certainly get the time, the intensity and more importantly, the enjoyment.  I listen to my body when I’m out there.  If I need to walk, I walk.  If I want to run, I run.  It all comes naturally and without over-analyzing what I’m supposed to be doing.

There are things in life I am better off to just accept. While it’s easy to say, it’s a struggle everyday to live by.  I may never lose these 15 pounds.  I may never be a star athlete.  I may never run a marathon.  That’s okay!  I’d rather run my trails and enjoy myself than hating every moment on the road or on a treadmill.  Sometimes I get so caught up on what I should do that I forget to do what I love. While I could spend my time worrying about how many miles and minutes,  watch my heart rate every minute,  stick to a regimented plan, I’ve decided to enjoy what I do and let nature do the rest.    I don’t care about winning a marathon or running an Ultra.  I want to be healthy, happy and enjoy life.  I want to splash through the mud and get dirty!

Do what you love. Love what you do.

As the Life is Good people say, Do what you love. Love what you do.  I can’t tell you how many times that saying has grounded me and made me adjust my goals.   Being happy and content (to me) is the most fundamental piece of the puzzle of life.   But we can really only find out what makes us truly happy by taking it step by simple step. Let the journey take you where you are meant to go.

We’ve all heard stories of “Divine Intervention”, fate and miracles.   Someone stops to tie their shoe just as a piece of metal flies over them, right where their head would have been.  Someone takes a different route or has to go back to get something and misses a horrible accident.  They can’t get a seat and are saved from an airplane crash.  There are thousands of these stories.

Each day we make choices that dictate how we react in situations.  As I stopped to let a cat cross the road (as they always do on our road), I thought “what if stopping for that cat saved me from an accident?”  Random? Yes, because that’s who I am.  I love animals and I love to see the kittens and cats that breed like wildfire on the corner of our road.  They are adorable! It makes me slow down every time I go around the sharp corner, and more than once it has saved me from being hit head-on by a neighbor going around in my lane.    It wouldn’t really be fate that made me stop but my love of cats.  But, the question can be…did fate guide my choices leading up to that life-saving moment?

Looking back, I can see the natural progression that has brought me to where I am.  A class in Shakespeare sends me spiraling into 6 years of college.  A class in winter ecology (to fill a science credit) brings me to my back yard and hiking.  A seat on the historical society, coupled with that new-found interest in ecology, brings me to pursue a Master of Education in Heritage Studies.  That pursuit brings me into contact with Questing (historical treasure hunts in local areas) where I create my own quest.  I hike more. I write more.  I become more in touch with my surroundings, with the woods, with my body.  I take up yoga. I become peaceful and grounded. I take better care of my body. I start to trail run… you get the picture.  One simple step leads to a whole world waiting.   Doors open, dreams are created, desires realized and most of all, your actions and reactions change.

When I get frustrated with my weight loss (or lack of it) despite all I do, I have to remind myself there is more happening than what I can see.  Muscles are building, repairing, building some more.  My lungs are gaining capacity, my heart beats stronger, my mind is more focused.  I’m less stressed, I sleep better at night and I feel a touch more confident.  While I don’t always see it, each day is a step towards something; a mountain, a race, a longer life.  Perhaps, just perhaps, this is part of my journey that will someday change my life.  Maybe my future doesn’t lie in historical fiction but in nature writing. Maybe I’m the next Annie Dillard 🙂  Maybe my future doesn’t lie in writing at all but in teaching others how to love the outdoors.  Maybe I’m gathering the knowledge and experience to be a guide someday.  Maybe what I write will someday change a person’s life.    Who am I to know?  Does it matter?

Mid-life Newbie

I’ve always come into things late.  Both my babies were a day late. I started college at 33.  I came upon Harry Potter in book 4. I climbed my first mountain at 43. I started running at 44.  And last night I rode a mountain bike for the first time.  Man, does my ass hurt!

There is something to be said for waiting.  I truly think I appreciate everything I do a bit more than I would have at 20.  College would have been a HUGE waste of money for me back then, I’m certain of that.  As a late-comer to running and hiking, I’m happy with slower paces.  I’m content with a slow run through the woods, pushing myself to beat my previous time, which was slow to start with.  It’s all good.  I stop long enough to soak up the morning sun for a moment or two before carrying on.  I’m not too vain to walk if I need to.  I enjoy the vistas just a little more.  It’s all good.

They say if you learn something new your brain stays fresh and active.  By brushing your teeth with your non-dominant hand, you can add just a little more life to those “little gray cells”.  Just think of all the benefits of learning new sports at “my age”!  Not only is my brain getting the longevity, so are my muscles.  Adding years to my life all the way around. Yay me!

Jack Packing Blankets


As I walked up a steep piece of the trail yesterday morning, I couldn’t help think of my grandfather, Jack.  If he’d had the equipment and technology (and medical care) that is available today, he would have been hiking late into his life. I don’t think he would have ever stopped.  But plastic kneecaps, a bad hip and a pacemaker made that difficult.  Think what he could have done with the right boots, the right pack, the scientific knowledge of hiking today!  Cool thought as I trudged (happily) up my familiar trail.  How lucky we are to be alive now!!  If he could climb mountains, pack blankets and spend entire summers in the Whites with nothing more than thin boots and scratchy wool, who the hell am I to complain about anything?