Brief update: Cape May Eastern Shore Maryland volkssport trip

Today is the third and final day of the Liberty Bell Wanderers bus trip to Eastern Shore Maryland.

These trips include volkssport walks of 5 or 10K daily and some sightseeing highlights.

Unfortunately internet and free time have both been unpredictable so I’ve been posting more on YouTube and Instagram that blogging.

On Instagram, check out the hashtag #theadventuresofPJtheBear.

This is a tractor trailer at the grain mill at Purdue Chicken in Easton, Maryland:

https://youtu.be/cLMjk0Rol7E

This is a brief video of the weird little rail system in Cape May:

https://youtu.be/rpsziLk0vtA

Now, I am just starting to edit video on my phone so these are poorly & sloppily edited but this ferry might have been my favorite part of the trip:

https://youtu.be/FbJ4SkUyiAY

This cruise on the Patriot in The Chesapeake Bay and the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in Saint Michael’s are definitely my second favorite:

https://youtu.be/S0ZtdAtQnd0

https://youtu.be/3ZiQCLar6xM

The human experience of the Thin Mint Sprint

I have anticipated this 5K for a long time. My training started in November, paused for the Holidays, resumed in mid-January, paused in February for an illness caught from my daughter and then in March I dropped a 15-lb dumbbell on my toe, which is still a little sore and definitely swollen.

So last week, I could finally resume training, but new routines at work have made that difficult too. And my training partner and other half for this run is my almost-fourteen-year-old daughter who gave up on running weeks ago.

Three years ago, I swore I would get in shape before my fortieth birthday. And I did. At that time, I had explored some walk-run 5K events with my friend Gayle and found the Yuengling Lager Jogger. After the first year running for beer, I vowed to try and run my next one.

And two years ago (April 11) I finished the Lager Jogger is 44-minutes something.

Now, the Girl Scouts have hosted a fitness series of three events. I attended the orienteering style one at Camp Laughing Waters with Gayle and her niece and my daughter. My daughter planned to attend the second event, a walk-run through the camp, but she ended up with bronchitis and I wouldn’t let her attend the race in the race with a troublesome set of lungs.

Then Gayle registered me, the girls, and her nephew for the Thin Mint Sprint in Wissahicken/Fairmont Park outside Philadelphia. The sign “Welcome to Philadelphia” is on park grounds.

I have always wanted to run a 5K, and run it. It didn’t happen today, but I did shave two minutes off previous times for a new personal best. Well, except for the times in training that I came in at 38-39 minutes. That was when training was working.

But I want to tell some stories from the day.

And maybe start with some quick asides:

  1. The portapotties were nastier and covered with more human feces than anything I ever saw in Africa, and that includes facilities with no running water.
  2. Parking was awful but the park was so gorgeous it is quickly forgotten.
  3. There is a rustic coffee house IN the park.
  4. I’m sorry, but strollers do not belong in 5Ks.

So onto MY experience…

I love how other runners will say kind things to you.

The first half mile was physically easy but breathing was difficult. At mile marker one, I would have traded my first born for water.

I reached the road (that actually had cars on it) that the race route crossed WHILE TRAFFIC WAS STOPPED. The cars were waiting for us and backed up for what seemed like miles and I was part of that initial horde for whom officials stopped traffic. That was awesome.

I thought the first half was all downhill, so I expected, since the race was an out-and-back, the second half would be uphill. It also seemed to be downhill. How was this possible?

I had a lot of what I call “little disappointments.” I couldn’t get my new iPhone X to start MapMyFitness so I had no idea “how I was doing.” I felt most of the way, that I wasn’t performing as well as I had wanted myself to perform. I had to let go of those thoughts.

By the time I reached the finish line, pushing down that final hill, running… I saw the clock at 42-minutes something and I was overwhelmed. Not with any discernible emotion, just overwhelmed. Hot. (It was 80 degrees and I have never run in temperatures over 70). Dehydrated. (I drank 25 ounces of water before the race and the cup in the middle.) Tired. Proud. Disappointed. Happy. Crying. Smiling.

Less than one month out

I am not the most athletic person in the world. I am clutzy and awkward and have a gait from my cerebral palsy. I have struggled with severe anemia. And broken bones (one dominant hand, four years ago on Monday; one right ankle, two years ago come late August).

I vowed to get in shape before I turned 40 because of the lessons these ailments taught me. How quickly strength deteriorates. How weakness can sap energy and leave you a tired heap. How walking becomes impossible if I let myself go.

I changed my eating habits. My exercise habits. I seriously started weight training.

I tried to motivate my teen daughter to be active.

And in the height of my fitness craze, I admitted to my girlfriend that someday I wanted to run a 5K. Not walk. Run.

Two years later, she signed me up for one. Training started well, in my half-hearted lazy way. These were my best times: 41:47.91, 41.45.88, 38:51.28.

 

img_4480Two months out from the race my daughter and I got sick with the weirdest head cold.

Regained my strength from that, and tried to go for my second, outdoor, three-mile run. I got caught in a snow squall. Between the cold, the oscillating snow and sun, and my sheer out-of-shapedness, I surrendered at two miles.

Finally, a few days later, I was ready to get out there and do it. I dropped a 15-pound dumbbell on my toe.

It’s not broken.

img_4841But I’m not running on it.

This race is going to kill me.

The Wheel of Fitness

I know it’s common to witness women caught in a cycle of dieting/food deprivation. I know for a lot of women, weight melts away, plateaus, and returns. My experience with this yo-yo effect occurred due to various health challenges: cerebral palsy, anemia and anxiety, followed by an accident that broke my teeth, and two broken bones in the span of two years.

When I turned 39, I suddenly realized… my once relatively stable body had reached its lifetime heaviest and more than that, my stamina and strength had waned as well.

I vowed to myself I would get in shape before I turned 40.

Problem is, I had never tried to lose weight before. Turns out I was good at it. I started at 142 and dropped to 112 in about the span of a month.

I bought a fitbit to make sure I ate enough. I got my weight to 120. Then 125. Then 130. It didn’t stop there.  Today I’m at least 135.

But now, as I have my 43rd birthday approaching in 8 months, I have great upper body strength but I have gained so much of that weight back. I don’t have the stamina to go out and walk for four miles just as a fun jaunt. I’m afraid to ride my bicycle.

This isn’t the first time I’ve experienced this. In college I started weight training. Then stopped.

My first job came with a gym membership, my muscles returned. And I stopped.

Then I had a baby.

My first big supervisor job, I went to the gym if the staff started stressing me out. Between that, and the fact that my daughter ate half of all my meals, I got in shape again.

And then I changed jobs.

Now I am back to being out of shape. Strong, sure, but not as strong as a year ago. But I am out of shape.

So I started logging food, exercise, water and sleep habits. Even vitamins. Because what I need are healthy habits and routine. Seeing it on paper helps. And I won’t diet. I need good food to make my body feel hearty and to fuel it for exercise.

To start: do something every day. No excuses. I’m starting small, because I’ve had houseguests, worked a lot of hours, it’s PMS week and my daughter is in marching band. I’m rededicating myself to my home weights, doing ab exercises hopefully every day, and shooting for yoga everyday.

Yoga?

I find that a great place to start. I need to stretch out those muscles and body parts and prep it for whatever to come. Find the parts of my body holding stress. And most importantly, it can be a part of my day where I connect light activity with calm and breathing. A great way to slow down and reward my body, not just push it.

 

I gave up my Fitbit.

About three weeks or a month ago, I was standing in the kitchen at work and my bracelet broke. But, you see, it wasn’t merely a bracelet. It was one of the custom Fitbit bracelets my husband made me.

I slipped it into my pocket where the old Fitbit Flex could at least continue to track my steps and continued my day.

When I got home, I relayed the catastrophe to my husband. The next day, he fixed it. He fixed it while I was at work. My Fitbit broke on Saturday and I went to work Sunday without it.

Sunday is the first day of the week. This whole week would be “under” since I missed a day. I couldn’t “make up” those steps. I’d spend the whole week below my Fitbit friends in the rankings when I knew I had more steps than that.

So I challenged myself to take the week off.

It took until Thursday for someone to email and ask me if my Fitbit died. I’m really surprised that no one emailed or called my husband to see if I had died.

By the weekend, I didn’t miss it.

I’ve been wearing my Fitbit for more than two years. My Fitbit story is NOT the usual Fitbit story. I needed to lose ten pounds. I had some health issues that led to me gaining weight and I needed to lose about ten pounds. I was 39 and thought I had to do it now because the next decade historically is not kind to women in my family.

Well, when you walk a mile every hour at work, and suddenly cut carbohydrates, increase protein, remove junk food from your diet, give up alcohol and fancy coffee drinks… And decide to bike with your daughter, box in the garage and lift weights… Those ten pounds come off easily.

One month later, I had lost thirty pounds.

Oops.

I bought a Fitbit to make sure I ate enough for my increase in activity. And then when I understood how much food and what food my body needed, I kept wearing it because I liked the step goals. I loved seeing the charts and the impact. But then I started to know without looking. So, then my focus turned to my sleep habits. Now that I never mastered. My sleep habits stink. I’m a mom, after all.

I lost my drive for a lot of my activities. I used to roam the neighborhood for miles, do walks in new towns, even tried to run a 5K. I used to lift hard every day. I used to kick box and do yoga. But suddenly, my soul got tired.

Maybe it was stress.

I had regained about 15 pounds of that thirty lost, and it needed to return. It returned as muscle. I went from underweight and bony to muscular enough to toss forty pound boxes around in the freezer at work. I can carry a 35-pound of popcorn kernels on my shoulder across the entire store. I can do push-ups and chin-ups.

I have visible abs.

I don’t have wiggly arms.

So WHY did I stress myself out if I didn’t hit five miles a day? Why did I feel guilt if that number hovered around 10,000 steps? Why did I hate myself if I sat?

Even one “rest day” would drive me insane.

And the only time I watched a movie was if the battery died.

So, I’m glad I gave up my Fitbit.

Fitbit… I love you but I think you’re no good for me

Two years ago I had an unfortunate accident at work. I broke my right hand and spent my winter in a different job which requires less movement and I ate every piece of junk food I could get my hands… Hand… on.

I returned to full duty ten pounds overweight and so weak I couldn’t break apart the soda nozzles at the end of my shift.

I had a visit with my nurse practitioner two weeks before my annual physical and the numbers on the scale were higher than they were on the day I brought my newborn daughter home from the hospital. 

At first I just wanted to lose a couple pounds to show the doctor I had the situation under control. I’m not a big girl, so ten pounds hangs heavy on my frame even though I’m lucky that I gain weight evenly across my whole body.

But then I couldn’t get my thighs in my pants.

I had just turned 38 and I knew I had to shed the weight before I turned 40. 

I started counting calories, going for walks and bike rides and returned to weight training which I had done periodically since college.

I lost 30 pounds in six weeks. Oops. 

I am probably the only person on the planet who bought a Fitbit to make sure I eat enough. I had no idea how active I really was.

I’ve gained about 10-12 pounds back, over the course of two years, but my body has dropped dress sizes as the weight comes back as muscle. 

I’ve stopped counting calories. But I still have the Fitbit, and I love it, except for the fact that everyone is constantly challenging me. I work retail so I cover a lot of ground. People I know on Fitbit use me as their challenge but it stresses me out to “have” to keep ahead of them– especially since I know they’re using me as a success benchmark.

My goal is seven miles a day, so if I have a lazy day and only reach four or gasp three miles, I feel guilty.

I even monitored Fitbit when I broke my ankle this fall.

At this point I know my body’s needs and I can estimate how many steps I take on a day. So do I need Fitbit?

It’s nice to be held accountable but sometimes it’s too much of an obsession or strain. 

New Beginnings: Grad School & Life in a ‘Boot’

I’ve always believed that life has a way of keeping people in balance. Some people lament that life can never be easy, or that whenever things are going well it means something must go wrong.

I believe that if you act too smug or confident, the universe will smack you.

My part-time job is in retail, working in the café for a certain retailer associated with the colors red and khaki. I have worked for them for five years. It’s the perfect job when you’re working your way through school and/or trying to raise a family and be an active part of your child’s life. And the discount and other perks rock.

That’s detail one in my current tale. Detail two relates to fitness and health. I have cerebral palsy. I’m not getting any younger. When I broke my hand last winter, I lost all strength on my right side. This scared me. I gained something ridiculous like 15 pounds. This didn’t upset me until I could no longer fit my thighs in my pants.

And finally three: I start grad school today, at West Chester University, a 90-minute drive from my home.

These items set the stage for Monday. On Monday, I was preparing for a crazy week. Work 3-8:30 Wednesday, cash office and café at work Thursday 7-3:30, then rush to a class that starts at 5:50, get home about ten, and work noon to 8:30 in the café Friday. Husband works overtime all weekend. I have a picnic and 10k hike through the woods Saturday and a potential road trip to walk on Sunday.

Then this happened:

  
This is what happened Monday.

I moved all the furniture out of the living room, scrubbed the floors and put everything back. I went to the gym for a fitness orientation. They had to keep “upping” my weights because they underestimated me– good feeling! I have a body fat percentage of 21.8 which puts me in the excellent category for the 35-39 age range. 

I came home, and in an effort to get my daughter to move more, suggested the family walk to dinner. I was hungry for a salad and didn’t have fresh greens here.

3/4 of a mile from home, I tripped and twisted my ankle. My husband went home for the car. My daughter kept me company. We took photos of my wounds.

  
We drove to the restaurant. It was closed on Mondays. So we went to the Chinese buffet. After heading to the restroom to wash the blood off my hands and arms, I gathered my food and headed to the table.

When we went to leave, my foot hurt worse but only when I moved my foot a certain way. We went to Patient First.

Turns out I had a closed lateral fracture of the malleolous. Or a broken angle. Imagine a horizontal crack across the bottom of my fibula in the front of my leg. 

  
The next day, I visited my primary care physician for painkillers after the pain kept me up most of the night. Then I went to the Ortho yesterday.

He said with my reputation for clumsiness, a boot would be better than a cast because if I fall in a cast, my ankle would be fine but I’d break a knee or screw up my whole leg. So, boot it is.

  
But I can’t drive.

I had emailed my West Chester professor, and she said I could come late to class tonight. My husband has said that he’ll drive me but there’s no way he can leave work early. 

I returned to work today, in cash office, but can’t do my café duties with a broken foot. They may find me another work center if the store is busy enough… But it’s alarming to go from about 55 hours in the current pay period to ten. I am so grateful for my cash office shifts. 

So wish me luck. At school and with the ankle.