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Lake Serene

I’ve been doing a few training hikes lately: loading the old rucksack up with 55-60lb, walking through forests and scrambling up peaks. The winter has been unusually warm, which has allowed me to access places that are usually off-limits this time of year without technical equipment. Yesterday I ventured out to Lake Serene, at the base of Mt. Index (just the other side of the Skykomish valley from Baring Mountain).

Mt. Index

At a little over 7 miles (round trip) and only 2,000 feet elevation gain, this was a relaxing walk; a bit of an award to myself for completing the other, more difficult climbs.

Lake Serene

The trail was snow free till about a mile or so before the lake. After that, there was a dusting of crusty snow – no more than an inch – and quite a bit of ice.

I ate lunch at the frozen lake, watched an avalanche on Index’s north peak, and raced the sun back home.

Lake Serene and Mt. Index

Mailbox Peak

I hiked to the top of Mailbox Peak today, near Snoqualmie Pass. The trail has a reputation of being one of the toughest short day hikes in the Cascades: it’s only about 3 miles one way, but you gain 4,100 feet. That makes it a bit steep. The Mountaineers and the Washington Trail Association has this to say:

Wimpy hikers, turn the page. This trail offers nothing for you but pain and heartbreak. If you think you’ve got the goods to scramble up more than 1000 feet per mile, read on. Mailbox Peak brings a serious burn to the thighs of even the best-conditioned athletes, but the rewards make it all worthwhile.

The sign at the trail head warns:

Mailbox Peak Trail is a very steep, wet, unmaintained, difficult, challenging trail.

It is 2.5 miles one way to the top and gains 4,00 feet in elevation.

Search and rescue teams are frequently called to this trail to assist distressed hikers.

Please respect your own ability.

I figured it was all just a bunch of hype. It didn’t look that bad, standing at the bottom.

The trail starts out on an agreeably shallow grade for the first 100 meters or so. Then it gets steep. Then steeper. Then a bit steeper yet. Still, it’s not the challenge it’s made out to be. It may separate the obese, McDonald’s eating, TV watching, weekend warrior (1 in 4 people in the state, last I heard) from anyone who’s ever climbed a mountain before, but it certainly isn’t going to “bring a serious burn to the thighs of even the best-conditioned athletes”.

Mailbox Peak

The view from the top, in contrast to the hike up, was not over-hyped. Today was a crisp, clear Autumn day and one could see for miles in all directions. Mount Si, Glacier Peak, and Mt. Rainier were all visible. And at the top, there is not one but two mailboxes. (I vote we change the name to Mailboxes Peak.) One contained something called a TerraCache, which is some sort of alternative to geocaching. The other held the log book and a number of odds-and-ends that people had left behind. At the base of one of the mailboxes was a firefighting helmet. The state’s Fire Training Academy sits just at the base of the peak and they often use the trail as part of their physical training. (I’m told that they once hauled a fire hydrant up the peak. That is quite a feat.)

Mailbox Peak

I’d like to return to the trail with a fully loaded rucksack on my back. That would be some thigh burning!

Spring Training

Last February I began a training ritual in preparation for my anticipated journey to Spain. Every weekend that I could, up to the very time of my departure, I would load up my Kifaru ZXR with the heaviest books I owned till it reached something in the range of 70-80 lbs, then head out the door and hike 15-20 miles. In reality, this is far more weight than I usually carry while traveling and I tend not to walk much more than 15 miles a day. But by pushing my body and mind further than where I actually require it to go, the pleasure, serenity, and ease of travel is heightened.

I find that no amount of running, biking, or light-weight day hiking adequately prepares the body for the weight of the ruck and life on The Road. So, this year, I’m continuing the training. Yesterday was day one. I hadn’t walked under my heavy rucksack for a couple of months, so I started out with something probably closer to 50 lbs and did a 15 mile trip that lacked much elevation change.

It felt good to dust off the rucksack and move around some. At the end of the day, I could feel the strain in my gluteal muscles. Today I’m only a little bit sore. The exercise works and I’m glad of my starting weight and mileage.

In the coming weeks, I’ll increase the weight and mileage until I reach stability. At that point, I’ll keep things interesting by using my GPS to clock my speed and see what I can do about cutting down on time.

I think that I cannot preserve my health and spirits, unless I spend four hours a day at least -- and it is commonly more than that -- sauntering through the woods and over the hills and fields, absolutely free from all worldly engagements. You may safely say, A penny for your thoughts, or a thousand pounds. When sometimes I am reminded that the mechanics and shopkeepers stay in their shops not only all the forenoon, but all the afternoon too, sitting with crossed legs, so many of them -- as if the legs were made to sit upon, and not to stand or walk upon -- I think that they deserve some credit for not having all committed suicide long ago. Henry David Thoreau

My Morning Triathlon

I always run on Saturday morning. When my schedule allows it, I try to get in at least one additional run at some point during the week. The past few months, this didn’t happen very often. Since the new year, my schedule now allows me to run on both Tuesday and Thursday mornings, in addition to the usual Saturdays.

This morning was the first run I had taken in close to a month where it wasn’t raining (or snowing). It was so enjoyable that I decided to add something extra: at the park that marks my half-way point, I stopped and did 45 elevated push-ups off one of the benches before continuing on home. When I first started running again, it actually felt a little easier, since my legs and lungs had gotten about a minute break from the running, but soon after I discovered that my abdominal muscles weren’t too happy with me.

After running on weekdays, I only have about a 20 minute break to take a shower and break-fast before jumping on my bike and pedaling off to work. My morning commute is all up a hill that gets progressively steeper as one gets higher. Over the winter holidays, my office was moved about another half mile up the hill. Rather than riding my bike all the way up, I’ve taken to going up only about halfway, then walking up 55 stairs with the bike on my shoulder.

I find running more satisfying in the winter

There’s still 6” of snow on the ground (more predicted for tonight) and temperatures are hovering around 15-20 degrees Fahrenheit. The only runners on the trail this morning were myself, two women, and a fellow who looked to be in his 70s.

Two days ago (when the powder was fresh and the snow still falling), it was only me and a couple folks on skis.

What’s with that? Why retreat to central heating when you can generate your own warmth, achieve the satisfying feeling of beating up your body, and be harder, better, faster, stronger the next day?

(Rinse, repeat.)

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Account of a Rib, Being Fractured, Made Whole Again

The Wednesday before last I managed to fracture a rib at Fight Club. It failed to make itself known during class – only later did I inventory a small, sharp pain upon taking deep breathes. My journal that night accounts:

1-2-08 10:12 PM It hurts when I breath. Is that bad?

Thinking nothing of it, I returned to class on Thursday, which proved to be a mistake, the pain after that night being far greater. At this point, I decided that something was not quite right. My next journal entry reads:

1-4-08 8:10 PM My self-diagnosis is that I have a fractured rib. It is either the 2nd or 3rd rib (or both) down from the top on my right side. I don't think it anything serious: my breathing is even, at a normal cycle and depth, and (as near as I can tell) there are no abnormal sounds. This leads me to believe that it is a minor fracture, not a break, and that the lung has not been punctured by a stray splinter. Deep breaths are painful, but not so much as to discourage them. Certain obtuse movements of the right arm, as well as twisting of the torso, causes pain. The most painful act is bending over to tie my boots -- methinks it is gravity dropping all my guts and exerting pressure onto the rib. I now kneel instead. I have yet to cough.

Consulting the medical books I have lying about (and the global interwebs), the only treatment for such an ailment proved to be observing a minimum of one deep breath an hour and a strict rest cure, to last till the rib was healed, which on average takes 2-3 weeks. Clearly, this would not do. A month absent from Fight Club would be regrettable, but a month without running or riding my bike or any other activity that involves frequent deep breaths would not be possible (though the pain was not enough to discourage my normal cycle and depth of breathing, what was previously aerobic had become anaerobic and what was anaerobic was right out). As such, I decided to alter my diet in an attempt to assist the healing process.

Calcium & Silica

Of course, it is common knowledge that bones need Calcium to grow. I dislike milk, but instead increased my intake of almonds, broccoli, carrots and salmon; all of which are rich sources of the mineral. For teas, I purchased Horsetail and Nettle, to supplement the Alfalfa and Chamomile which I already had. Horsetail and Nettle, it just so happens, are also a source of Silica, which, I’ve read, aids in the proper assimilation of Calcium.

Magnesium & Vitamin D

But, surely, Calcium is not all that is required? Further research indicated that both Magnesium and Vitamin D intake should be increased when consuming more Calcium. And what herbs provide an ample source of both Magnesium and Vitamin D? Why, Alfalfa, Horsetail, and Nettle, of course! It’s almost as if Mother Nature knows what she’s doing. Food sources of Vitamin D include egg yolk, salmon, and sweet potatoes. Food sources of Magnesium may be seafood, apples, bananas, brown rice, and salmon.

Phosphorous & Copper

Care should be taken to increase the amount present of two other minerals, as well: Phosphorous and Copper. Eggs and salmon, it turns out, are excellent sources of Phosphorous. Copper may be acquired through almonds. (Side note: I’ve discerned that it is not possible to kill oneself by eating too many sprouted almonds. If it were, I surely would be dead by now.)

Results

So my diet changed to consist of much salmon, brown rice, carrots, apples, bananas, broccoli, with the odd sweet potato and a hard boiled egg once a day. Whenever I felt the need to munch on something, I’d toss down a handful of sprouted almonds (as I’m doing right now). Each morning I would have a cup of Nettle tea, each night a cup of Horsetail tea. If I felt the desire for tea in the middle of the day, I would mix together a bit of Chamomile with a bit of Alfalfa.

All said and done, the rib healed in a week and a half.

Did my diet influence that? Well, diet couldn’t not influenced the body, but as this is the first time I’ve fractured a rib, I’ve no bench-line against which I can measure; save only that the Medical Establishment deemed 2-3 weeks an appropriate number to publish here and there. It certainly didn’t hurt.

(Food and herbal sources of vitamins and minerals were all gathered from the CedarLily Vitamin & Mineral chart that John Gallagher used to sell.)

Fight Club

For the past two months, I’ve been attending Unbridled Martial Arts – or, as I refer to it, Fight Club. It’s a mixed martial arts club, mixed gender and of various skill levels. There is no belt-system, or ranking of any kind. Tuesday and Thursday nights are stand-up fighting, which draw from the likes of muay-thai, kickboxing, judo, American boxing, and karate. Wednesday nights are weapons and grappling. The weapons training is escrima, with the weapons themselves being escrima sticks and knives. Grappling draws from wrestling, Jujutsu, judo, Shamrok submission fighting, and Israeli self-defense.

There are no contracts, so class sizes vary. Usually attendance at the stand-up fighting class is around 16, and weapons/grappling about half of that.

Rob is the only instructor (though he sometimes draws on other students to assist). He’s a great teacher, and somehow manages to split his attention throughout the class’s various skill levels. During my first few sessions, I always felt that he gave full attention to us noobs, and now, I feel like he gives his attention to those of us slightly more experienced, even when we have a batch of beginners joining the class.

All the instruction is focused on real-world street self-defense. There are very few flashy moves. I believe one could become a more effective fighter by studying a classic art, such as Aikido, for an extended period of time, but what’s taught in Fight Club is skill enough to make one sufficient in a short period of time.