Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Long Overdue

Wow, so it's been a year since I last posted to this blog. A lot happened since then.

The last time I posted, I had just started to ride my bike again after suffering from a herniated disk. Between April and August 2010, I continued to commute on my bike, but I never really got back into riding for fun. I had intended to return to leading the weekly women's ride that I co-founded back in 2007, but the motivation and inspiration never came. I continued to have nerve impingement symptoms while on my 5.5 mile commutes, which didn't make me feel too confident about getting back into serious training.

As a result, I got more and more into my yoga practice, because I didn't experience any symptoms so long as I was mindful and didn't push too much. I also worked with a wonderful physical therapist, a neuromuscular therapist (NMT), and had private yoga therapy sessions with my teacher, Karin.

During the course of my training with Karin, I mentioned that I had been interested in becoming a yoga teacher for a couple of years, but never felt like I had the time. Karin pointed out that since I was off the bike, I had more time at my disposal, and she was absolutely right! Turns out there was a great big silver lining to getting injured. Who knew?

Karin is the master teacher for a yoga teacher training program out of Tampa, Florida. It's a 200 hour Yoga Alliance certified program. I could apply the hours that I'd already studied with Karin to the requirements, so that was a nice bonus. After not too much deliberation, I decided to go forward with it.

I made plans go to Florida in June for a week-long intensive training at a lovely beach house in Bellaire Beach, FL (just south of Clearwater). I was joined by two other students of Karin's in Boston, Lynn & Lisa K. We had some homework assignments to complete before the training, which included reading a yoga philosophy book and writing a 2-page essay.

Heading into the training, I didn't know what to expect and just decided to go with the flow, which was lucky, because there wasn't much information to go on. I had been told by a few people who had been in past years that I would have an incredible time, but no one went into detail about what it would be like.

Well, they were right - I had an amazing experience! We studied the yoga sutras of Patanjali, learned about the 8 limbs of yoga, practiced meditation, and started to learn to teach yoga poses. I made some important personal discoveries, while at the same time developing wonderful relationships with all the other students who were there with me. They are my "yoga family", and I love them all very much. For anyone interested, here are some photos from the trip.

I had such a wonderful time and learned so much that I went back to Tampa in August for a weekend workshop on "Building a Class". It was great to see my yoga family again.

Then in September I had another opportunity to do a week-long intensive training, this time in Blue Ridge, Georgia. I had never been to Georgia before, so was pleased to add a new state to my list. This time I went with Lisa DeM., another of Karin's Boston students. Most of my Florida-based yoga family was there again, with a couple of additional people. Georgia photos

We were staying in cabins along a beautiful river. It was very quiet and peaceful. We practiced meditation, studied the Bhagavad Gita, practiced teaching more yoga poses, and learned how to teach various pranayama (breating) exercises. By the end of this training we had to teach a 40 minute class, and I felt very prepared to go home and begin teaching.

When I got home, I started teaching two of my coworkers once a week at the office for free. This was really great experience, because they are both people who have done yoga before (we had organized some in-office yoga classes in past years), who know me very well, and I felt very safe teaching them. It was a great learning experience for me and I like to think that they benefited as well.

By October, I had completed all the homework assignments (reading a few more books and writing some more papers, as well as filling out an anatomy coloring book) and earned enough hours to graduate! I hadn't planned to go back to Florida, but when I found out that I could graduate with my "family", I quickly made plans to go for the graduation ceremony. It meant a lot to me to be able to graduate with my Florida classmates. (Unfortunately neither the Lisas nor Lynn had yet earned enough hours/completed all the assignments.) Karin had gone down for the graduation ceremony as well, and when she handed me my certificate I was overcome with emotion. It was really a special moment for me and I was so happy to be sharing it with my teacher and my yoga family.

Unfortunately, immediately after the August training week, I had to have abdominal surgery. It was supposed to be a laparoscopic outpatient procedure and I expected to be home again the same day. Instead, when I woke up from the anesthesia, I was told that they had to make an incision and that I would be staying in the hospital overnight. Overnight turned into an 8 day hospital stay. It was a fairly traumatic ordeal. I was on IV fluids, with a tube up my nose, down my throat and into my stomach, and not eating food for 5 days. I don't really want to describe what happened because I don't like to think about it, but needless to say it was really awful and I hope that I don't have to go through anything like that again any time soon.

The other unfortunate thing was that my parents were traveling overseas when all this happened, so they didn't even know that I was having surgery, much less that I was in the hospital for so long. I didn't see them until they came back, although luckily their cruise ship docked in Boston about a week after I was back home from the hospital and they were in town for 5 days before they went back to Arizona.

Geoff was absolutely wonderful through my whole ordeal, coming to visit and check on me every day, while working full time and taking care of everything at home, and my aunt in New York called me every day to check on me. I am so grateful for both her and Geoff. The concern they showed me helped me get through it and I didn't feel so alone. Also, my friend Christine came to visit me a couple of times and brought me books to read, and my friends Monica and Karin called to check on me a few times as well. I'm so thankful for their support.

Needless to say, the surgery set back my bike riding quite a bit.

I didn't ride on a bike outdoors from August 6th, 2010 to April 9th, 2011. That was a very long time. I am quite pleased to say that I have ridden a bike 3 times since April 9th and plan to do more (as long as the weather cooperates!).

While I was not riding, I continued to both practice and teach yoga. In January, I began an 8-week series of "Yoga for Cyclists" classes at a local studio. The classes went very well, and I ended up with a core group of wonderful students. In March, I went to India for 2 weeks (a childhood dream come true), which I will post about another time, and then I resumed the cyclist yoga classes in April. They will end in May, but I'm hoping to teach a Monday evening "rest day/restorative" class for cyclists going forward.

I also started teaching a larger group of people at work. I offered an in-office yoga class in my company's annual charity auction. Ten people paid $40 each to Boston Cares and I will teach 20 classes in the office throughout the year. So far it has been great. In addition, I am officially on the yoga substitute teacher roster at BSC, although I haven't yet had the chance to actually sub for anyone yet. Perhaps soon, though. I look forward to that, although it's also a little intimidating.

Well, that's the update for now. I'm still sorting through my photos from India. I took more than 1,000 pictures and about 20 videos, so it's a lot to organize. I will try to post about the trip soon, and hopefully will be better about keeping this blog up to date going forward!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Road to Recovery

If you read this blog, you may have noticed that I haven't posted about cycling since November. This is because I have been off the bike since then, sidelined by a herniated disc between the L5 and S1 vertebrae.

It was a very difficult winter. The lack of sunlight and the cold get to me every year, but I am usually able to counter that by playing outside - snowboarding, cross country skiing, and either riding off-road or on, depending on the conditions. Unfortunately, all of those options were out this winter. I couldn't even walk for more than 20 minutes with out uncomfortable symptoms.

The only thing that kept me sane was yoga. It was the one activity, if done carefully enough, that allowed me to stay active and keep my body flexible. The rest of my time was spent on the couch in front of the television, or (on a more positive note) discovering new recipes and experimenting with locavore eating thanks to the Red Fire Farm Deep Winter CSA share.

I'm posting today, because yesterday was my first day on a "real" bike since October 31st. I rode my winter road bike to and from work yesterday and it felt just wonderful! I have been riding my upright commuter bike (to commute) a few times a week for the last couple of weeks, with every ride feeling better and getting stronger. Yesterday was a nice day and I didn't have a lot to carry, so I thought I'd see how it felt on a road bike.

It was the first time in the last 5 months that I've felt hopeful that I'm putting the worst behind me and that I am really and truly on the road to recovery!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Rimmer (1994-2010)

Our beloved kitty, Rimmer, lost his fight with cancer today.
He was very brave and stoic and battled this disease for a long time.

May you rest in peace, my darling. We will always love you.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

South Beach, Miami

At the beginning of December, I spent a few days in South Beach with my friend Catherine. I had never been to Miami before and it was a fun trip. We flew down on a Wednesday morning and I came home Friday night.

We stayed at the Sagamore (The Art Hotel), on Collins. There were cool sculptures in the lobby, paintings and photographs hanging on the walls in the hallways and rooms, and the back stairwell was painted in a mural. There was a video garden out near the pool, featuring computer generated images. There was also beach access from the pool area.

After we checked in, we had a leisurely lunch at the Front Porch Cafe on Ocean Drive. Afterward, we walked along the beach path back to the hotel, changed into our swim suits and dove into the pool. It was heated and the temperature was just perfect. Later that evening we decided headed over to the Delano hotel and had a couple of drinks at the pool bar. They had lounging beds around the pool. It was a such a beautiful setting that paying $17 for a Mojito feel quite pleasurable. ;-)

For dinner we wandered over to the Shore Club for some Italian food from the restaurant Apo. It was delicious and we got a kick out of watching all the fashionistas come and go as we dined. As we left the hotel we passed a huge queue of folks waiting to get into a party in the garden. Later we found out that it was a private party for a gallery opening with attendees like Lance Armstrong, Shepherd Fairey, Dr. Dre and others.

We walked out to the beach and stumbled on a free concert featuring London artist Ebony Bones. They were really fun. The music was catchy and they put on a great show. Check them out on youtube.

The next day we walked down to the News Cafe for brunch, then walked along the beach path, and lounged around the hotel for a while. In the afternoon we rented beach cruisers and rode around Miami Beach for a couple of hours. The bikes were single speeds with coaster brakes. It took a little while to figure out how to stop without falling off... when you're used to freewheel backpedaling, it really takes a while before you can learn how to backpedal, brake and put a foot down all at once. I have to say, it really helped to employ cyclocross-style mounts and dismounts. It was good to have some forward momentum to get the pedals turning, and swinging a leg over, coasting and then stepping off worked a lot better than the other method of stopping.

We ended up riding out along the Venetian Causway and cruising around the little island neighborhoods. Many of the homes were decorated for Christmas - it seemed a little odd to us to have 80 degree weather and palm trees with holiday lights. I suppose it seems normal to the people who live there. It was definitely fun to see.

That night we had Cuban food for dinner. It was a really casual place and the food was simple. Unfortunately, other than fried plantains (yuck), we didn't have anything that seemed to be specifically Cuban. We had chicken and rice and beans. All very tasty, but not very different.

After dinner we took a swim in the pool. It felt so decadent to be swimming in the warm pool under the moonlight. The hotel had lovely soft robes for their guests, so even drying off seemed luxurious.

I was bummed to have to leave the next day. It was such a short trip, but definitely worth it. We brunched at the News Cafe again, then rode the bikes along the beach (in the sand) for a while before returning them. Then back to the room for packing and off to the airport.

For your enjoyment, I have made a list of the highlights, lowlights and oddities of the trip.

  • cruising South Beach on beach cruisers
  • swimming in the heated pool
  • stumbling on the Ebony Bones beach concert
  • decadent drinks at the Delano poolside
  • rubbing elbows (sort of) with celebrities
  • seeing postal carriers delivering mail by bicycle

  • $17 Mojitos
  • a cockroach in the Cuban restaurant the size of a mini Clif Bar
  • non-working jacuzzi bathtub in the hotel room
  • obnoxious restaurant hostesses on Ocean Drive
  • complete lack of respect or rights of pedestrians and cyclists - the light would change, the walk signal would come on, and 3-4 cars (especially taxis) would charge through the intersection prepared to mow down anyone in their path - 9 times out of 10 you wouldn't be able to cross the street until AFTER the walk light started flashing red

  • while we were riding our bikes, we saw a black stretch limo equipped with a rooftop ski rack (where do they ski in Florida?)
  • walking down Collins, we saw a beautiful woman wearing a teeny white bikini and strappy sandals draped in shopping bags (she was nowhere near the beach and needless-to-say she stopped traffic)
  • while dining at the News Cafe, a dog came around to the tables carrying a bucket and begging for money (he was pretty successful, too!)

Friday, November 27, 2009

Very Late Canton Cup Race Report

I was really excited that Canton Cup was on Halloween this year. I love that race and it's always fun when people get into the spirit and race in costumes. Someday I'm going to get creative and give it a go myself. For the moment, fun & colorful stripey socks will be my contribution to my favorite sport. :-)

I carpooled with Leah, and we got there before the Mens 4 race with enough time for 3 preride laps. The course was a little different from the previous two years, mostly in the back section on the pavement in the woods, where the course went back onto dirt and over a log before continuing on the path.

The tiny barrier section was changed as well, happily, because it used to be super sketchy with the crazy downhill into a hairpin dismount. I was really pleased to discover the uphill section prior to that was either much easier or I am now much stronger (hopefully it's that) because there was no question that it was rideable.

Waiting for my race to start, chatting with friends and teammates, comparing socks and admiring costumes, I failed to pay enough attention when the officials called us to the line (perhaps I had been spoiled by G-Star and Providence's line-up by order of registration) and found myself in the back row. At the last minute I spotted a space in the 3rd row on the right side, went there, but then someone else followed me and stood to my right. This turned out to be unfortunate because when we started, I was effectively boxed in by people who were slower than me. I also failed to be in an appropriate gear (I really should practice starts - so important!) and when there was finally space to go into, I couldn't do it until I had shifted properly. Grrr.

For most of the first lap, I passed people (which is always fun), and luckily avoided the crazy crashes that were happening in the wooded asphalt section. I saw Guila on the ground with blood on her face, but she said she was ok, which was good or I might have been tempted to stop and help. I also passed Leah who was off her bike, but I wasn't sure if she had crashed or just had a mechanical.

I heard people cheering for me all over the course, which is always a bonus. When I crossed the start/finish line, I was shocked to see that we only had one lap to go - really? We only just got started.

On the second (and last) lap, I really wanted to catch up to the small group in front of me. I was going all out, but just couldn't raise my effort level enough to get to them. It didn't help that I must have been going a little too fast in one of the paved, slippery chicanes, and felt my front wheel start to slide out. I pulled up on the handlebars and shifted my weight enough to get the bike under control again, but it put me a little off my game, and made me slightly more cautious in the rest of the corners.

One of the MIT girls passed me just after the run-up when I boggled my remount, and I chased and drafted off her on the track, but lost her again in the barriers. Feeling slightly dejected, I wasn't exactly sprinting for my finish until I heard Cathy R. yelling at me that I better get going or someone was going to beat me to the line. No way! So I picked up the pace and managed to keep whoever it was behind me. I am really grateful to Cathy for telling me that because I didn't realize that it was happening. The race isn't over until it's over. Good thing to remember!

It was disappointing that we only raced two laps. I think that 30 minute races are too short as it is, but I was on the course for a mere 24 minutes! The leader finished in 22 minutes. There was a lot of time in between the fields - I don't understand why we couldn't have done a third lap. I suppose this may be a bit of sour grapes, because while I couldn't raise my game, I felt that I could have kept going at the same level for one more lap and that I might have gained 2-3 places if the race had been longer.

I wasn't very pleased with my race until someone told me that I ended up getting 18th place. With 37 finishers, this placed me in the top 50%. Yippee! This has been an elusive goal of mine for the past two years, yet I have achieved it in my last two races, which is a very sweet feeling.

All in all, I had fun, worked hard, learned some good lessons, and finished better than I thought. It was a good day with fun socks, great costumes, and good friends.

Here's my teammate Karin as a Yip Yip Martian.
It was my favorite costume of the day.
More photos of the race (by Geoff) at Flickr and Picassa.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Winter Vegetable Soup

I made a wonderfully delicious soup with some of our winter CSA vegetables. I wasn't sure what to do with radishes and a rutabaga, but the farm website had a recipe that included those plus carrots and butternut squash, all which we had gotten in the pickup this week. I didn't have all the ingredients so I modified it a little, adding some and ommiting others. It turned out really well, and I now think this is my favorite soup, pushing the Winter Barn Stew down to number two.

For anyone interested, here's my recipe:

4 cups vegetable stock/broth
1 large carrot
1 small parsnip
1 onion
1 cup daikon radish
1 cup rutabaga
2 cups butternut squash
1 can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup dried parsley
2T cornstarch dissolved in 1/4 cup water
1 tsp sesame oil
sea salt to taste

Peel squash and cut all veggies in bite-sized pieces. Sautee onions in 1 tsp sesame oil, add veggie stock/broth and bring to a boil. Add all vegetable pieces, beans, parsley and cornstarch mixture. Simmer 45 minutes, season with sea salt, and serve with crusty bread.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Break from Racing

I took a couple of weekends off from racing in October. One was to attend the Shining Light on New England First Regional Iyengar Yoga Conference in Providence, RI.

It was really great. I was able to take classes from some of the leading Iyengar yoga teachers in the country. It was also the first time that I have taken yoga so intensively. The conference was for three days, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and each day we had three 2-hour yoga sessions. That's 6 hours of yoga per day! It was a wonderful conference, and I felt great afterward. (A bit sore, but really stretched and lengthened. I went for a 5k run in the middle of all the yoga sessions on Saturday, and it was the first time that I've ever run and NOTHING hurt at all. It was amazing!)

The following weekend we attended Scott & ML's wedding, which was beautiful. It was a lovely ceremony, and the bride and groom were both radiant. As usual, Geoff captured the moment wonderfully.
The following day, I went to Franklin Park with Geoff to cheer him on while he participated in the Franklin Park 5K, which is a cross-country running race. Those of you who know Geoff are saying, "What??!!??", because as we all know, Geoff doesn't like to run. However, he wanted to see if the fitness that he has gained from all his years of bicycle racing could translate into something else. He didn't even really train for this event, yet he finished 20th in his age group! He ran at an average pace of 7:16 and finished 188th overall (out of 356).

I am so very proud of him! Considering that when I ran the Komen 5K it was on a flat paved surface, and that I had trained for it for about 6 weeks, I did a personal best pace of 9:54. Geoff ran amazingly fast and this was a difficult race - they were running across fields, through mud, up and down hills, and on gravel paths. He was really great. I don't know if he'll keep running, but if he decides that he wants to, I think he'll be very, very good at it.

Nice job, Geoff!

For all my Franklin Park photos, go here.