Thursday, September 26, 2013

Don't Look Back?

In the past week, I kept having this (or something like it) pop up in my social media:

I know that is meant to be an inspirational poster to keep people from looking back with regret.  But the thought kept stirring through my head that sometimes, it's absolutely OK to look back, because what was behind had excellent life lessons or really was better than where an individual is in the present.

That's definitely the case with me!  Since our return from the Grand Canyon vacation in May, I have been working very hard to get my running back.  I realize that with each year I age, I am going to lose some speed but my fractured foot had pretty much ground my running to a halt.  So, I do look back at where I was before that and use it as motivation that I can get there again.  I'm at the point now where I'm running about 20 miles a week, with my longest run generally on Saturday.  Right now I'm running about 5 1/2 miles and trying to increase my mileage by 1/2 a mile every few weeks. (My ultimate goal is to do a weekly 10 mile long run.) I know that sounds ridiculously slow, but honestly I need to be conservative because each time I've done that increase my foot has been a little achy at first.  Like weird phantom pain that goes away once my foot realizes I'm going to keep running.

Also, (during one of my very first comeback runs) on Memorial Day running along with a friend, we were going up a hill and I'm sad to say I felt a "twinge" high up on the back of my leg.  As we went along it kept pulling and tugging to where I'd have to stop every once in a while and try to stretch.  It turned out to be a hamstring injury of some sort that actually got worse and worse as the summer progressed.  It was so sore, I couldn't even lift my leg to stretch it out. I refused to go the doctor (I'm sick of doctors and physical therapists!) and when I finally did Google and read up on it, I probably should have, as it seems when it's that high up it generally means a tear of some sort.  It was just such a stupid thing and the minute it happened I knew it would dog me the whole summer.  And it has.  I'm just now getting to the point where I don't have to walk up every single hill.  So that has held me back a bit too.

Still, I look back at 2010, 2011, and early 2012 and I know I can run like that again.  So I look back with hope.

I'm that same way when it comes to my weight I guess.  Maybe I should settle and stop worrying about the scale... but I don't quite feel excellent yet.  I feel good and definitely so much better with the weight that I (re)lost over the summer, but not quite excellent.  I know that excellent feeling is about 20 more pounds away.  I know this because I've been there before.  There's also something in me that wants to prove my doctor wrong, who told me in 2008, "Most people who have this sort of thyroid issue are never able to get back to their pre-thyroid weight gain."  NO!  I refuse to let that be true!  I want to feel excellent again, and so I look back and that's where I want to be.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

I'm a Little Worried

As usual with me and weight loss, I have reached a point where I feel like I'm literally grinding every single ounce off my body.  My brain panics and I have ridiculous thoughs like , "I should fast." "I should exercise THREE times a day!"  "I should just go see if I qualify for a lap band procedure."  running through my head. Not good!  I have a number that I set on January 1st as to where I wanted to be at by December 31st.  It sounded easy and doable at the time... now I'm worried.  I literally need to lose 1 pound every single week between now and then to make my goal, and we know that's not going to happen.  Which means I need some weeks where I lose 2 or even 3.  Possible but again, see the sentence above about grinding the weight off.  I'm pretty sure I don't have the patience Debby has displayed - and it plain makes me MAD to think that I might have to eat around 1000 calories a day to do this.  I feel like I've been trying to get this same weight off for 7 or 8 years (oh, that's right, I have...) and I'm tired, which makes it hard to get through the grind.  Yeah, I'm worried.

We had a couple of days at the beginning of the week last week where where pre-winter decided to visit.  Those same couple of days came back at the beginning of this week.  I mean pre-winter in that it got down to 42 degrees at night for a couple nights in a row. We have a natural gas furnace so we don't ever shut it down, we just turn the heat down.  After the first night when we woke up and the windchill was 37(!!) Mr. Helen decided that he'd push it up to 64 just in case.  Don't you know after the second night of cold, the heat kicked on with it set at 64.  I was mad and sad all at once.

I was talking with a co-worker about the craziness and we both agreed, it's not just the unexpected coolness, it's the darkness that seems to come so fast after August is over, that can make you a little stir crazy.  And once the sun sets this time of year, the temperatures drop fast.  Last Thursday when I went out to run - in the dark morning - it was 52 but with no humidity so it meant that I ran for the first time in long sleeves as that's pretty chilly.

Even Mr. Helen noticed how quiet I got over those few days and mentioned that he missed "Summer Helen."  I replied that I missed her too, but quietly, to myself, I was worried.

The last thing I want is to fall down the rabbit hole like I did last winter.  This year I've got no pressures of black belt tests or fractured feet so (fingers crossed) I should be able to continue exercising consistently which most definitely helps with my mood.

Yet still I worry that somehow my tolerance for short days, cold weather, and no sunshine has peaked. Last I checked I haven't won the PowerBall so no sunny winter residence for me yet.  Along with grinding this weight off, I'm beginning to have days where I feel an overwhelming sense of dread all day long. I need to figure this out before the real dog days of winter set in and I find myself spiraling out of control.

I'm trying really hard not to worry and to just take this one day at a time, but truth is, I'm a little worried.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Grand Canyon Adventure Part 9: Wrapping it Up

In case you missed it:  Part 1  Part 2  Part 3  Part 4  Part 5  Part 6  Part 7  Part 8


At the end of our last full day at the South Rim, we had a dinner reservation at the restaurant in the El Tovar Hotel.  This is the premiere lodging facility on the South Rim and the one with the only gourmet restaurant in Grand Canyon Village. Little Helen had purposefully made the reservation here to celebrate Mr. Helen's birthday.

Our reservation was quite late so about an hour beforehand we went over to walk around El Tovar to look in their gift shops and have a pre-dinner cocktail in the bar. Though the hotel itself has been updated over the years, the lobbies and common areas are full of rustic charm...  these were all around the lobby area lol!

The restaurant itself is lovely and the food, while not presented in a very fancy manner, was absolutely delicious.  The other thing we found interesting is that though this is a nicer restaurant, lots of folks were still clomping around in hiking clothes and shoes.  While we didn't dress up, we did wear regular clothes for a change.

Decoration on our table, available for sale at the Hopi House

I had a filet with gorgonzola sauce and both Mr. & Little Helen chose the duck

Mr. Helen's dessert, which we all shared:  a chocolate taco filled with chocolate mousse - yummy!

By the time we finished dinner it was nearly midnight and we were all ready to go to bed and get a good night's sleep because we had to leave in the morning.

The next day dawned bright and sunny and hot.  It had not been very hot the entire time we were there but employees were saying this day's weather was more normal.   A few last views as we walked to breakfast.

We had a 3 1/2 hour drive back to Phoenix to the hotel where we would stay before flying out but we didn't need to be there early so we decided to do the eastern portion of the South Rim, Desert View Drive.  It's a 26 mile road that ends at Desert View and you are allowed to take your own car and pull into any of the stops.  Unfortunately we didn't have time to do that, but we did drive all the way to the end to see The Watchtower, another of Mary Coulter's amazing designs.  This is the highest point in the South Rim and once again the views were amazing!

It's really a fascinating building, with interior walls that feature murals by Hopi artist Fred Kabotie.

We were very glad that we made the time to take this drive.  When we were finished, we went back to that fabulous deli in Grand Canyon Village to buy sandwiches and drinks for the road. Several hours later we arrived in Phoenix, feeling a bit of culture shock at being surrounded by so much pavement and city.

Since May, we've discussed it and have all said we'd like to go back and we've already started talking about what we'd do.  We'd definitely go back to Supai but I made the condition that we have to helicopter out.  I just think it would be a cool experience. We'd also like to actually stop at all the overlooks on the Desert View Drive.  And, call us crazy, but we'd even like to hike to Phantom Ranch and experience staying there.  Additionally, I want a cowboy to help me with my horse on the way back up!

I hope anyone who has taken the time to read has enjoyed this as much as I have writing and reliving it.  As much as I worried about all the hiking prior to leaving, this absolutely was the trip of a lifetime, chock full of memories.  There really are not enough words to describe it or to thank Little Helen for this wonderful gift. Besides, this is where I got my groove back, so the Grand Canyon will always hold a special place in my heart.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Grand Canyon Adventure, Part 8: We Didn't Have to Hike!

In case you missed it:  Part 1  Part 2  Part 3  Part 4  Part 5  Part 6  Part 7


On our final full day at the South Rim, when we woke up and realized we didn't have to hike, Mr. Helen and I high-fived!  As athletic as he is, even he had tired legs at this point.  It was Little Helen's first birthday gift to him as this day was his birthday.

We started our day by having a nice breakfast and once again, enjoying that gorgeous view.   It still feels dreamlike that this is what we saw when we walked outside of the lodge.

After breakfast, we wanted to visit the Hopi House, Bucky O'Neill Cabin, Lookout Studio, and Kolb Studio, all within walking distance of the lodge.

The Hopi House was one of eight projects designed by architect Mary Coulter, whose passion was to make sure that the buildings she designed fit into the surrounding landscape.  It was built as a concession so that Native Americans would have a place to sell their wares.  So, SHOPPING! I bought the cutest handmade Elk ornament for our Christmas tree, but the building itself is very cool too.

The Buckey O'Neill Cabin was built on the South Rim before the Grand Canyon was a National Park.  It is the oldest surviving historic structure.  At one point it was used as a tourist office, but eventually was incorporated into the Bright Angel Lodge facilities and yes, you can actually stay there if you'd like.  I'm not sure I would based on how many people I saw stopping to take photos (guilty!).

Lookout Studio almost hangs over the edge of the Canyon.  It is also used as a gift shop and there is a terrace with telescopes.  The views are amazing and it was really fun to look back and see our lodge!

The larger building is El Tovar, the grand dame of South Rim accommodations.  Our lodge is the lower buildings to the right.

Emery and Ellsworth Kolb were some of the first people to video and photograph the Grand Canyon and Colorado River.  They were complete daredevils and the exhibit inside Kolb Studio tells their story. It is also a book store and has other revolving exhibits.  I'm glad we saw this after all of our hikes because it really made me appreciate what they did and went through to document the Canyon.

This is their actual canoe that they ventured on the Colorado River with. It's leather!

Even after seeing all that, we couldn't resist going on one of the two trails that are accessible via the shuttle bus system or by driving, and cover the South Rim from west to east.  Today, we decided to sight see on the South Rim Trail.  It runs from the South Kaibib Trailhead to Hermit's Rest, is approximately 13 miles long, has 13 overlook points, and most important, is mostly flat! The only way to get to the beginning of this trail is to take the shuttle bus or ride a bike.  Once you're at the beginning, you can choose to either walk the entire trail - most of it is paved with one small stretch of packed dirt - or hop on and off the shuttle buses.  Each stop offers a slightly different view of the canyon and there are historic plaques and markers that describe what you are seeing and what to look for.  We did a combination of shuttling and walking between the lookout points.  We figured between our morning visits and this trail we probably walked another 5 miles this day, but again, mostly flat!  I am not going to describe each point, I am just going to show some photos that shout Grand Canyon.

This gives you an idea of what the lookout points were like.  See how nicely paved?  And everything was so clean. Mr. Helen loved his binoculars - I don't think they left his hand for 8 days!

Notice there are no rails behind us?  There were lots of areas like that. And yes, there were dummies people who stood right at the edge or sort of dangled over.  


I love these next two photos.  Besides showing the Colorado River, you can see the variation of colors in the Canyon.

Ahhhh!  We got to see a helicopter taking supplies to Phantom Ranch

We made it to Hermit's Rest!

After reaching Hermit's Rest and looking around, we got back on the shuttle to go back to the lodge so we could rest up. This was a long day but we were trying to keep busy as we had a dinner reservation to celebrate Mr. Helen's birthday, but it wasn't until 9 p.m.!  Little Helen made that reservation 9 months before we went and that was the earliest seating they could give us.

Up next:  Celebrating and Saying Goodbye.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Grand Canyon Adventure Part 7: Elks and Sunset

In case you missed it:  Part 1  Part 2  Part 3  Part 4  Part 5  Part 6


When we got back from our hike to Skeleton Point, we were hungry and tired so we went to the village supermarket and got lunch from their small deli/restaurant.  Again, why does food taste so extraordinarily good when you're really hungry?  

After our late lunch we went back to our rooms to clean up and rest prior to dinner. We planned waiting until after dark to have dinner to see if we could catch any type of sunset since we'd heard they were spectacular.  The staff who live and work at the South Rim were talking about how odd the weather was for May:  cooler than normal and a bit rainy. The issue that day was clouds and some rain that had moved in just as we finished our hike so we were keeping our fingers crossed that it would partially clear up.

The other thing we wanted to see was the Elk.  They come right up onto the property every evening and early morning to feed on the grass.  Mr. Helen in particular was quite excited that we might see some.  

We came out of the lodge just prior to sunset and voila!

Oh my goodness he was like a little boy he was so excited.

Now to concentrate on the sunset.  These photos are a bit different because, sure enough, clouds hovered right where the sun was setting,  But still beautiful and again, amazing to see the Canyon in a different light.

It was fascinating to photograph the Canyon itself because on the opposite side, there was a rainstorm that was clearly visible.  Not to mention that when the setting sun would hit various parts of the Canyon, they looked like they were on fire.  

It was a great way to cap off our first full day on the South Rim. Pictures do not do it justice! Oh, and it's true what they say:  when the sun goes down, it gets cold!  The temperatures were around 37 degrees in the evenings.  

"Wow, this is the 'darkest' sunset I think I've ever experienced."
Take off your glasses and then you'll be able to see!

Next up:  A little over 24 hours left.  How much more of the South Rim can we cram in?