In Sickness and in Sloth

While I’ve been absent from the blog, I haven’t been totally absent from my life. On numerous occasions, I’d tell myself that I really needed to type up a blog post to get my thoughts into a more permanent form; as is often the case, my “Kim, you really need to …” never went beyond the scolding stage. Prior to Christmas, I’d made the decision that I will train to walk to Snake Island Hop 100K. It’s highly unlikely I’ll walk all 62 miles within the 14-hour cutoff — that would require maintaining 13:23/mile for 14 hours — but I’m confident that I can be prepared to walk the 50K in that time frame. But it frees up training a bit. I’ll need excellent Zone 2 cardio endurance, muscular endurance, and the ability to be on my feet for all those hours/miles. That means I can do something other than just running & strength training.

On December 23rd, I hiked Badger & Candy Mountains. We traveled to visit family over Christmas, so I did some abbreviated workouts (better than no workout!).  On December 30th, I went Nordic skiing at Lake Wenatchee. I’d hoped for a longer workout, but I really suck at descending on skinny skis. And the dumb part is I keep forgetting this. I don’t mind climbing, so I climb – and then I have to descend. Several embarrassing falls, a few painful ones, and I was getting weary. So I headed back to the truck.

But I also skied down a few hills that scared me, and I’m proud of that. I won’t get better at descending unless I do it. However, this experience led me to decide I’ll stick to the campground area until I’m more comfortable skiing down hill – I’m a danger to others right now!

And this is when the sickness evidenced itself. My throat felt scratchy on the way to Lake Wenatchee — so much so I stopped at a store while en route to buy throat lozenges. (Note to self: Cold-Eze zinc lozenges are gross. They’ve always been gross. You’ve always disliked them. You’re never going to think they’re not gross. DO NOT BUY THEM EVER AGAIN. K Thx Bai) And it only got worse.

I was exhausted when I arrived home, and I spent most of the next week on the futon or in bed. Missed church for two Sundays in a row. Went to work for a couple of hours on Wednesday just to prep the docket, and then did the docket on Thursday – I worked a total of about four hours that week. I did no workouts the next week, either. While I was over the worst of it, I was still wearing & I still had a cough.

Last weekend, we went up to Echo Valley/Echo Ridge. We stayed in a one-bedroom cabin at Chelan Rentals. While it’s $100 more per night than the one-room cabins, Jim said it was worth the expense. First, the bathroom is in the cabin, not across the parking lot. Having the extra space was nice, too. Jim was more interested in relaxation than skiing or snowshoeing, and that cabin was perfect for that: we had a view of the alpine ski area in Echo Valley as well as the surrounding hills. He could sit on the couch while playing his game while enjoying his scenery.

The one-bedroom cabin also has a kitchenette, which gave up more flexibility for meals. I brought along the slow cooker and made a batch of chili on Saturday (I’m still eating the chili!). We brought a Papa Murphy’s pizza along with us for Friday night’s dinner and we were ecstatic to find the counter-top oven was just large enough.

I headed up to the Upper Echo trailhead Saturday morning with the intent to ski. I was really disappointed with the snow conditions, though: the snow was so wet & sticky that it adhered to the kick area of my skis as if there was klister on them. I’ve never had that happen with no-wax skis, so I was surprised when another skier who was suffering the same problem told me it’s not unheard of at Echo Ridge. I gave up about a  half-mile in and headed back to the trailhead to switch to snowshoes. I didn’t have much of a plan; I just hoped to get a good workout in.

I broke trail down to an open-use trail. “Open-use” means it’s open to anyone, including both dogs and snowmobiles. The first section of the trail had been used by a few snowshoers. I crossed the road to the next section of trail, which hadn’t been used since the previous heavy snowfall. I’d hope the route would return me to the Upper Echo trail head, but alas, it did not: I headed through a lovely valley, breaking trail the entire way. While breaking trail is more work, this section was mostly downhill.

I stopped when the trail met the Purteman Gulch Road. The road is covered in snow, and thus not open to motor vehicles (other than snowmobiles), but I decided it was a good time & place to stop.  I ate my Goldfish and admired my tracks down the hill. I figured I’d head back up the trail a ways to get into a better position and take a picture of my lovely tracks through the trees.

And then, a couple of snowmobiles showed up…. They were coming down Purteman Gulch Road. The lead rider paused briefly and the intersection, and then headed up the trail I’d broken. Yup – driving right over my beautiful track through the trees. I can’t complain too much, though: they did break the trail nicely, so I didn’t have to break trail going uphill!

I was pretty impressed with my work, and then laughed when I realized the trail I’d blazed was all of about a half-mile long.

The next day, Jim & I went out snowshoeing briefly. He has some issues with some core or leg muscles — from his description, it sounds like the gluteus medius or psoas — and he gets weary pretty fast with this type of exercise. Rather than exhaust him and make him miserable – which would then make me miserable – we headed back to the cabin. We decided to take him back to Moses Lake so he could get his car & head home. (He had to work on Monday; I didn’t.)

I listened to the Saints/Vikings game on the radio on my way back to the cabin, and I got to the cabin in time to watch the last quarter. (What a finish! Go Vikings!) I drank a beer while watching the game, and it made me very sleepy. I decided I’d take advantage of being alone & go to bed early, in hopes of being up early Monday morning. I’d planned a roughly 7-mile snowshoe trip for Monday, and given my slowness – about 1.5 mph – I wanted to have plenty of time to make the hike.

I woke around five Monday morning. I ate a leisurely breakfast, loaded the truck, and was on the trail by 8:00 a.m. Mine was the only vehicle at the Zoom trailhead when I got on the trail, and I had the trails to myself the entire day. The only other person I saw on the trails was coming up Zoom as I was the trail between the North Junction & the Outback loop. I didn’t hear a snowmobile all day. The stillness was remarkable.

I’d set the Garmin alert me at each 300 calories burned; each time, I’d eat a small (ca. 100 calories) snack. I planned to eat my lunch – a chocolate-coconut-peanut butter & banana sandwich – at the peak of the hill the Outback trail loops around. (I was disappointed to learn it doesn’t have a name. I climbed you, and I want to be able to put a name to you other than “4324′.”) While I was pretty confident I’d make the trip up what the map describes as a “backcountry trail to the summit,” I knew the  best thing to do was to make the decision based on how I felt when I arrived at the trail junction – assuming I could find it.

I was still feeling pretty good when I got to the trail junction, so up the summit trail I went. The only other tracks on this trail were from skis. I was surprised by how frequently I sank a foot or so into the snow in places the skis only sank about 6″. While I only climbed about 260′, it was tiring. I finally decided that eating would take priority over summiting; after eating, if I felt up to it, I could climb to the summit.

Whilst sitting on the rock outcropping that became my dinner spot, I noticed I’d damaged one of the snowshoes. A loop that holds the decking to the frame had torn at the rivet. That’s repairable — one just needs to put a few grommet holes in the decking around the damaged area & lace the decking to the frame through those holes — but given that I still had a few miles to get back to the trailhead, I decided to forego summiting in the name of ensuring I could get back to the truck safely.

The route back was pretty uneventful. I encountered another trail – primarily a summer-use trail – along Outback that I’d love to try next time. I noticed a couple sets of snowshoe tracks on the way back down Zoom. Once I got back onto Zoom it was a pretty  quick jaunt back to the truck. I even considered taking of the snowshoes, as I was getting a gob of snow stuck to the underside of my boot. (Zoom seemed pretty solid, so I figured there was a good chance I could walk on it. It’s also open to hikers, unlike most of the trails on Echo Ridge.) It only took me forty minutes to make the trip down Zoom; the trip up took 70. (It gains about 550′ over the course of about 1.4 miles.)

There were a couple of Nordic skiers arriving at the trailhead just as I got back to the truck. If your skis are properly prepared for those snow conditions, it’d be a quick ski up to the North Junction and back.

The statistics for this snowshoe hike were 8.3 miles with 1250′ of elevation gain, with an average pace of 1.6 mph. (I left the Garmin running most of the times I paused. My actual moving time was 4:05, compared to the 5:10 clock time; my average moving pace was about 2 mph. Not great, but better.) Garmin says I burned 1658 calories. (I tell the Garmin I weigh 145 pounds as I believe that’s an appropriate racing weight for me; thus, I believe it’s a fairly accurate calorie count.) My base calories is 1541/day, so burning more than I eat in an average day is a good workout!

Given the physical challenge of this snowshoe hike, I figured it’s time to get back to working out. This week was not great on paper — so far, I’ve only managed on core strength workout — but I skipped Wednesday evening’s workout so that I could donate platelets (the blood center was having a crisis as many donors are unavailable because of influenza or other illnesses), I slept instead of working out Thursday morning, and Thursday evening I attended the church’s book club meeting. (Fellowship & intellectual stimulation are important, too!)

I’m excited by the prospect of doing more snowshoeing while the trails are still covered in snow. It’s a great workout. My legs were sore in places I’m unaccustomed to being sore, and my glutes felt it, too. Burning 1600 calories over eight miles is plus, too; I figure that bolsters the idea that a mile on snowshoes is the equivalent of two miles of running or walking. Given that I’m supposed to run fifteen miles this Saturday, the 12-mile snowshoe hike I have planned will fit the bill nicely.

I have no idea how well-prepared I’ll be for the Snake River Island Hop. I’ve got a couple other races already on the calendar between now & then. I have a follow-up appointment with the orthopedist next Tuesday, and I’m hopeful I can get a referral for physical therapy; I’m having trouble understanding how such minor cartilage damage can be causing so much pain when I’m running. (I’ve lost about ten pounds over the last six months, and my body-fat percentage is down about three percentage points. I mention this because I’m hopeful that continuing to lose weight will take some of the pressure of my damaged knee, but thus far it’s not showing much of a difference. I haven’t run on asphalt in six months, and I haven’t run down hills, either. It’s discouraging that I haven’t had better results despite the changes I’ve made.)



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