Hope Rising!, Thursday, February 20, 2020

Three weeks from Saturday I will be doing the Antelope Canyon 55K Ultra Marathon! Just a couple of weeks ago my chances of actually finishing it were looking pretty dim. My always troublesome right foot was doing pretty well mid-December and then as is my wont I pushed too hard too fast and wound up with a couple of very angry tendons in my ankle.

January was a training nightmare. Every time I went out to walk my ankle would heartily protest. It didn’t want to bear any weight, and the articulation would not track properly and caused a lot of pain. Eventually it started to come around, but it would take a mile or so just to get to the point where it was tracking properly. Once on track it would work well, but would too quickly tire and lose alignment.

Last Week

Last weeks summary

Finally, just two weeks ago it started to feel good again. I could start walking and have a working ankle right from the start. I was able to start putting on more miles at a faster pace, and at the beginning of last week I was on a good track. Then I got sick. I started coughing Wednesday night, felt worse on Thursday, and then spent most of Friday and Saturday in bed.  Not good!

My recovery started on Sunday when I was able to get in a 3 mile walk and a 10 mile bike ride. My distance and speed has been increasing steadily this week, and today and yesterday have giving me renewed hope.

Wednesday afternoon I did a 10K walk around the CSULB campus, and each mile was faster than the one before. The first mile pace was 18:43, and each subsequent mile was faster, culminating with a 16:25 sixth mile.

Today was even better! I had a dentist appointment in Santa Monica at 8 am, so I headed up there at 5 and had time to get in another 10K. This time the first mile was 16:43, and once again each subsequent mile was faster. My sixth mile, walking down Wilshire Blvd from the beach was done in 14:51! There are a lot of stoplights on that stretch of road, so I found myself occasionally trotting along in order to catch the green lights–the first time that I have gone beyond a walk in a long time! I maintained a 16 minute average for the 10K, and I am planning on another 10K excursion this afternoon.

Looking at the results from last years races (55K, 50 mile, and 100 mile) I noticed something a bit strange. There were about 150 starters in the 100 mile race, but only 47 finishers. That seems a rather high attrition rate for a rather flat course, but I think I have found out what the reason is.

First, the 55K and 50 mile races don’t actually get into Antelope Canyon. My race starts in Page, heads over to Horseshoe Bend, follows the rim of the canyon for a couple of miles, cuts across the slick rock to Waterhole slot canyon, then heads back to Page where it finishes with a 10 mile loop encircling the city. The 50 miler does pretty much the same thing.

The 100 mile race starts in Page and heads immediately out to the Antelope slot canyon. It runs up the canyon, returns through the canyon, and then heads over to the Horseshoe Bend and Waterhole slot canyon like the shorter races before heading back up to Page. It then finishes with SIX laps around Page (60 miles). Kind of a boring end.

100 Miler

But wait, there’s more! Antelope Canyon is a very desirable destination, but access is very limited. It is in the Navajo Nation, and in order to tour it reservations and a Navajo guide are required. I am guessing that a lot of folks who sign up for the 100 have no intention of finishing but instead use the race as a way to gain access for some quality time in the canyons and then just blow off that last 60 miles. Maybe next year!

Photo Credit for Featured Image: Erica Li (@sept_pancake) on Unsplash


Goodbye, 2019! December 31, 2019

Gee, I hope I still know how to do this! When last we met is was early March. I was still attending Orange Coast College (OCC) and doing internship hours toward a Pilates/Dance Conditioning Certificate. Best deal around–Pilates certification for under $1000! As part of that internship I had just started teaching a weekly Mat class at Pilates X in Long Beach.

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I was also pointing at that time towards an ultra marathon, the Bryce Canyon 50K, in May, but the time demands required to do the OCC program forestalled a lot of my training and I was not at all prepared for that event. Instead I moved my registration over to the Antelope Canyon 55K this coming March. I am going to have to up my training quite a bit if I am going to have a shot at that one, though.


I finished the Certificate program in early June. That freed up considerable time, and in the interest of expanding my comfort and familiarity with Reformer classes (most of my prior experience was with Mat classes) I purchased some Groupons for studios in Huntington Beach.

One of those Groupons was for a place named “Pure Pilates”. With a name like that I had great expectations, but when I took a class there I was more than a little nonplussed. Instead of Reformers they had MegaFormers, which are a kind of monstrosity very loosely related to what I was accustomed to. Instead of a teacher carefully and attentively guiding the workout there was a kind of a drill instructor wearing a microphone exhorting us to pump it up! Something called the Legree Method, and I failed to see any connection at all to what I would consider pure Pilates.

I did take another class there and was again disappointed. As I was leaving I looked at the strip mall across the street and saw that there was a Pilates place there as well! This one was named Love Pilates, and I took a walk over. It was the mid-afternoon dead zone so the studio was closed, but I was able to take a good look in through the window.

What I saw made my heart beat faster!! It was a veritable Pilates paradise: a large space, about double the tunnel-like dimensions of the other studios I had visited. There were six reformers lined up along a mirrored wall. Along the opposite wall were six WundaChairs, each paired with a mirror. In the back was the pièce de résistance, a Cadillac in all of its glory!

Love 3

I decided right there on the spot that this was the place where I wanted to work. On my next opportunity I stopped by and talked to owner Dena Lombardo. Dena is also a graduate of the OCC Pilates program, which was a good in for me. I did a brief audition which consisted of teaching Dena an exercise on the Cadillac and then doing a private session for her husband John. I did okay, I guess, as she offered to put me on the payroll, an offer which I gratefully accepted.

The biggest benefit is that if there is a class that is not full (six student max), then I am welcome to fill an empty slot. This is the biggest reason that my blogging has dropped off. My old modus operandi was to spend my mornings at my favorite coffee shop, Steelhead on Wardlow, writing. Since joining the Love Pilates family I have been spending my mornings at Love Pilates and have not yet learned (or yearned) to reallocate time for writing.

I am a regular for the 8:30 circuit class on Mondays. I am a regular for the 6 am Level 2 Reformer classes. The clients in that class are the strongest and most dedicated of students. The class is usually full, but there is occasionally a position that I can fill. Even if no slot is open the energy in that room is so high that a parallel Cadillac workout is a pleasure. On Wednesdays I teach a mat class at 7 am, and then on Fridays I pray for an open slot in one of Dena’s reformer classes commencing at 7:30 am.

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My goal was to establish a rapport with the clients, to improve my own skill set, and to learn what best served the needs of the clients. I quickly found out that the motto on the LP letterhead, “Community – Caring – Core”,  captures perfectly the ethos of Love Pilates. It is an incredibly nurturing environment, and my own personal development as both practitioner and teacher has been greatly accelerated by my time spent there.

I started teaching my morning Mat class in mid-August, but until recently had not ventured into the Reformer classes. Last month I finally bit the bullet and started accepting some sub requests. Requests that come in hot and heavy over the holidays!

The results have been heartening. I now feel comfortable building and teaching Reformer and Mixed Apparatus classes. I have been able to teach blocks of two or three consecutive classes and emerge energized after. I have fun with my students, and my efforts have been well-received by the clients. One of our most challenging and also most valued clients even told Dena that I was her favorite sub, and that is high praise indeed!!

Life is good!!!

It’s Official! Sunday, March 10, 2019

I am now on the schedule to teach two classes per week at Pilates X Studios in Long Beach! I had my first class, and my first three official students, on Thursday, March 7. Going forward I will be teaching a fundamental level Mat class at 4 on Thursdays, followed by a fundamental level Reformer class at 5. The Mat class is FREE! and the Reformer class is at a reduced price of $15.

One of these

One of these is not like the others!

My training program is proceeding apace. I am required to do two internships, one observations and the other teaching. Normally one would do Internship I (observing) one semester and then Internship II the next, but I am trying to fit them in both this semester. I need 62 hours of each, and currently I have accrued 24 hours of observation and 17 teaching hours, so the rest of this semester is going to be rather busy!

Pilates Strong

Still working on it!

On the restoration of the physical plant (my body) front, my battle to restore the functionality of my right foot and retrain my gait is coming along very well. My right foot now tracks properly almost by default. There was a point in time where it was possible to get it dialed in, but that took considerable mindful effort, but now it quite often is ready to roll right out of the box.

When I go for longer trudges I now find myself breaking into a run just because it feels good. I have always been good at keeping up a good pace going uphill, but because of the lack of stability in that foot any kind of downhill was slow and tortuous. Not now, and on my last couple of excursions I was even able to run (slowly) even the steep segments. That is a huge improvement and will greatly enhance my chances of achieving a reasonable pace for my Bryce Canyon 50K in May!


I must be doing a good job of building up the necessary musculature. Back when I was in college my old gymnastics coach Roger Gedney once said to me “Univac*, if I were you I would sue those legs for lack of support!” Things have changed, and in a mat class last week we were doing some heel lifts when Miss Becky (or Mistress Becky) pointed out the definition in my calves to the entire class:-)! Progress is being made as before even finding my calves would have been a challenge.

*Roger and his wife Judy were the ones who originally coined my nom de plume of Captain Univac.



Next Challenge, Monday, January 15, 2019

bryce ridge run

Photo courtesy of Vacation Races – Bryce Canyon Ultramarathons

On May 18 I will be there, doing that! I am now registered for the Bryce Canyon 50K. I wanted to do the Zion race again, but procrastinated too long and found it had been filled up. This race is a bit more challenging, having 5260 feet of elevation gain as opposed to 3125 feet feet for Zion, but I also have an extra four weeks to prepare.

My training partner Anna will also be running the race. Whereas I am just hoping to be able to run enough of the course (as opposed to walking like I was constrained to in Zion last year) so as not to get myself another DFL*, I think that Anna has what it takes to do quite well. If the race were tomorrow I would be a DNF, but I think that even in her current state of training Anna could not only finish, but do it in a respectable time. If our training goes well she could actually be a strong finisher in four months.

anna at end new

Anna showing no ill effects after running a 2:23 trail half marathon with virtually no training. Not a bad baseline!

As for myself, over the past few days I have once again gotten myself running on the treadmill. My strategy is to start really slow (0.5 mph) and walk uphill (working up to a 15% grade) until I can get my right foot dialed in. That is taking around 10 minutes now.

Once I am walking comfortably I start dialing up the speed. Yesterday I got up to 3 mph after 30 minutes, and when I hit 3.3 mph at 32 minutes I spontaneously broke into a run (insert happy dance here)! I did 3 minutes running 3.5 mph up a 15% grade and then dialed the grade down to 10% and upped my speed to to a blazing 4.0 mph. I was able to run quite comfortably at that speed/grade for another seven minutes. I started to feel some tightness in my left calf and decided to call it a day. My max heart rate was 148 after the 3.5 mph at 15% segment, and it dropped to 142 for that final 7 minutes at a lower grade.

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On another front, I have started doing my internship hours for my Pilates certification. I need to do 62 hours each of observation and teaching. I have already accumulated seven hours of observation and four hours of teaching. All of my teaching has been in my home studio, but I also have two studios where I can work.

Elevation Studios in Signal Hill is a dance studio but several years ago they acquired a couple of reformers they haven’t made use of to date. They have also tried a couple of times to start a Mat program but couldn’t find the right teacher. They are open to having me start up a class. As for the reformers, as they are a serious dance academy, and I am getting a Pilates/Dance Conditioning certification, I think they are a untapped resource that can be used in the rehabilitation of dancers recovering from injury.

The other is my other Pilates home, Pilates X Studios in Long Beach. They have a thriving mat program with 17 springwall slots, group reformer classes for up to four, and the perfect mentor in Becky Tyo. Their policy is that students new to reformer have to take a one-on-one orientation course, and my plan is to insert myself as one who would provide that instruction. I would like to start out working one-on-one, then small groups, and finally be ready to step in as a sub. My goal is to finish up by the end of May. Until then, please let me know if you are interested in getting some free Pilates instruction.



Scene of the Crime, Friday, January 4, 2019

I have some aspirations to be an ultra marathoner, and as I have already completed one (DFL at the Zion Ultra 50K in 2018) I can actually say that I am an ultra marathoner. My own training efforts have benefited greatly since last summer from the support of my training partner, Anna Isabel Godinez.

anna on mt wilson

Anna dragging me up Mt Wilson

Anna is a 24 year old young lady who is very strong, has tremendous endurance, and a real go-for-it attitude. Last summer we went on some serious hikes–we did a 17 miler down in Crystal Cove, and Anna also dragged me up the last two miles of our ascent of the Mount Wilson Trail (15 miles round trip with 4200 feet of ascent).

In some sense I have actually been holding her back a lot as my battles with my right foot have kept me from running, and Anna needs to run more. I was getting there back in August, and then, typically for me, I managed to set myself back several months. What was supposed to be a 10 mile round trip hike up the Ray Miller Trail in Point Mugu State Park turned into a 14 mile death march that left me unable to even walk for a full month. Bad enough for me, but also not good for her progress. And there we were, at the scene of the crime again.

full crew

At the trailhead. They ran. I walked up 3 miles and then back. A proper trudge–6 miles, 1000 ft

Yesterday my friends Kerry Ward and Dax Hock had plans to run the entire length of the Santa Monica Mountains Backbone Trail (BT), 67.5 miles. Anna and I met them at about 10 am at Will Rogers State Park where they left their car, and then I drove them up to La Jolla Canyon in the Point Mugu State Park where the other terminus of the BT can be found.

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Anna ran with them for the first 6.6 miles, a great experience for an up-and-coming ultra runner as both Kerry and Dax are very hard-core runners. Kerry has done all three of the US 200 milers (Tahoe 200, Big Foot 200, and Moab 240), and while he doesn’t challenge for the win he does generally finish in or close to the top 10 in those events. He is a valued member of the ultra running community!

Dax is no slouch either–he ran his inaugural 100 miler (Big Bear) this past August and finished first among non-purse runners. Dax is also someone Kerry can call when he wants to do something like circumnavigate Mt. Hood (41 miles), run the Cactus-to-Clouds Trail (Palm Springs to Mt. San Jacinto, 30 miles round trip, 12,000 feet of ascent), or the entire Backbone Trail. Dax also has a very understanding wife, Sarah, who was okay with him leaving with their 8 week old son (and the 4-1/2 year old elder brother) for this endeavor. Oh, did I mention that Dax and Sarah have won world Swing Dancing  championships as Dax Hock and Sarah Breck? That too. BTW, Sarah is the very pregnant and very lovely young lady with the camera in the Dax video.

Anna had to turn back after 6.6 miles. She was scheduled to work at 5 in Paramount, which was over 60 miles away from the car that she still had to run back to. She turned around, made it back (only got lost once and only a little–thank you Gaia GPS) apace, and arrived looking like she could just keep on going! I had told her to only go 5-6 miles because I was concerned about getting her to work on time, but Kerry over-ruled that and had her stretch it to 6.6 miles so it would work out to a half marathon–a distance more people can relate to.

So, on her very first trail running experience she ran a trail half marathon with 2000 feet of ascent in 2:23, which I think sets an excellent baseline! Anna just really shrugs it off because for her it was no big deal–just a nice run with nice company, and excuse me I am off to work now–but I was very impressed. As a comparison, I looked at the results from last year’s (2017) Paramount Ranch Trail Half Marathon. Anna’s time would have placed her 38th out of 93  finishers, and 17th out of the 57 woman finishers. Not bad for what to Anna was just a leisurely run!

anna at end new

Hey, I just ran a trail half-marathon. What’s next?

Speaking of work, Anna made it back down early enough so we could have a smooth and beautiful ride down PCH through Santa Monica. It got rough and slow on the 405, but I was able to get her to work on time. She worked her full shift, on her feet from 5-11:30, and was in fine shape this morning. As for the lads, I got a text from Kerry about 7 am letting me know that they were down to the last 2% of their trek, having stretched it from 67.5 to 73.5 miles via some creative route-finding (not an east trail to follow even in daylight. Kerry said that just after Anna had turned back they met up with this strange kitty (smile emoji here)!

strange kitty

They named him Bob, and gave him a good scare so he will not be so trusting of humans

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It’s Coming Together, Sunday, December 30, 2018

Whaaat!!! More than one blog post in the same month? Yes, it’s’ true–just days after my last post I am cranking out another!

This one is more of a status report. I am planning on making a push to finish my Pilates/Dance Conditioning certification from Orange Coast Community College this semester. This means taking another 8 classes, six of which are academic. The other two classes are internships, one requiring 62 hours of observation and the other 62 hours of teaching. It’s  good thing I am retired and don’t have to work as well!

Class Schedule


The observation hours should be no problem, but the teaching hours are more challenging. I have several places that have reformers that I should be able to use on an occasional basis, but in general finding apparatus to use is a challenge. Last weekend I made a big move to address that challenge by purchasing my very own home reformer.

I purchased it from a gentleman who is going through the Basi Certification program. He purchased it last year to facilitate his own program. He is doing an apprenticeship at a studio close to his home and he has a key to it, so he didn’t really need the reformer and his wife needed the space. The stars were aligned–I checked Craigslist, saw his ad, saw that he was only a couple of miles from my home, contacted him, borrowed a truck, and picked it up.


I think that there may be some history. It was advertised as a Teague reformer, but I could not find any such manufacturer. What I did find was a YouTube video titled “Teague Legacy Gerald Teague of Teague Pilates & Equipment” about a gentleman named Gerald Teague.

The video portrays him as a kind of Renaissance man in the mold of Joseph Pilates, or Julio Horvath (creator of the Gyrotonic Method). One of the segments casts him as an inventor and craftsman, showing him working in a very well-equipped woodshop, and my guess is that he built my reformer. He and his wife have Teague Classical Pilates studios in the Thousand Oaks area, and pictures of the reformers used in their studio have definite similarities to my machine.

There are some design deficiencies, however, and this makes me suspect that mine may have been an early experimental or prototype unit. The main problem is the positioning of the springbar. There are three carriage stops, but when the carriage stop nearest to the footbar is used the springs go slack when the carriage is all the way in (pictured below).

Slack Springs

Springs are slack when carriage stop is closest to footbar

The next picture compares the springbar setup for a reformer in the Teague studio (left) and the setup on my machine. Note that the Teague bracket has three slots, but mine only has two! Aye, there’s the rub! I have a plan for addressing that problem, and that is to use the space between the existing proximal (relative to the footbar) end of the bracket to cut a third slot closer to that end. Now what I need to do is find someone who can cut notches in stainless steel brackets.

Compare Slots

Current Teague reformer on left, mine on right

I also need to get some longer ropes, and the rope locking mechanism on one side is not working.


Not my Cadillac!

You may have noticed that there is a tower, and I believe that was added on by the fellow I bought the reformer from, hoping to use this as a Cadillac. Once he installed it I suspect that only then did he realize that without a surface to lie on the tower is pretty useless. I think that may have what prompted him to purchase the Cadillac that he hung on to. The Allegro reformers are convertible, and have a platform that joins with the carriage (sans shoulder rests). A platform could be easily fashioned, but the shoulder rests are not removable which is a barrier. My plan is to get back on Craigslist to find a light weight portable massage table that I can remove the legs from and then lay on top of the frame with the carriage removed.

I christened my setup this morning by giving my training partner Anna the first of what will be a series of private lessons. Onward and upward. If anyone else would like to get some free Pilates training please contact me!

Mr Little Jeans, Wherefore Art Thou?, Friday, December 28, 2018

One of my favorite new musical artists is Mr Little Jeans. Name notwithstanding, Mr Little Jeans is actually a lovely and outrageously talented young lady named Monica Birkenes. Monica is Norwegian but currently residing in Highland Park where she and her husband recently purchased a house.

Mr Little Jeans (MLJ) is an electronic artist and has been on the local scene for several years. She has also attracted a good deal of mainstream interest and airplay. Her breakthrough hit was a cover of the Arcade Fire hit “The Suburbs”. Other songs like “Oh Sailor”, “Good Mistake”, and “Runaway” appearing on DJ playlists, soundtracks, and commercials. I like her music a lot (big smile emoji here)!!!

For most of the month of October I had been tormented by reminders of an up-and-coming performance by MLJ! She was going to be playing at The Lodge Room in Highland Park on Thursday, November 8. But why the torment? Well, first Highland Park is not easy to get to on a weeknight in general, and Thursdays I had class at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa all day until 3:30. I did not feel like I would have the energy for such an endeavor.


That Tuesday evening I was chatting on Facebook with my friend Pinksu, trying to nail down our Runyon Canyon hiking date for that Saturday. Pinksu (aka, Johanna Marjomaa) is a lovely young makeup artist from Finland who is both insanely talented (see her work on Instagram @pinksumakeup) and game for adventures. Just then, that fateful announcement appeared in my feed, and on an impulse I asked Pinksu if she would/could like to go. She said yes, I got tickets, and the plot was afoot!


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Thursday was a long day! I was up at 4:30 am, and in Costa Mesa at Orange Coast College (OCC) by six. Took a power walk and did some studying. Then it was Kinesiology from 9-10:30, Pilates Methodology from 11:10-1:15, and Pilates Apparatus/Mat from 1:30-3:35. It was also a pressure-packed day as I was doing my first stab at teaching Reformer in the Methodology class. I survived, and then headed home.

The freeway was pretty busy and that trip took 45 minutes. Got home, grabbed a quick bite to eat, showered, dressed, and then it was off to Hollywood to pick up Pinksu. That trip was a nightmare and took an hour and a half. I picked up Pinksu and then found out that the trip from Hollywood to Highland Park was also a non-trivial endeavor that took about 45 minutes! Still we arrived at the Lodge Room at about 8:15, where we found that the start time was 8:30, and that there would be two bands up before MLJ. I was starting to fade, so we went in search of some caffeine.


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The Lodge Room is a very cool venue that occupies part of the former Masonic Lodge on Figueroa in Highland Park. There is a restaurant that shares the space so food is available. What is not available is coffee. I then found out that there are no coffee shops in that area that are open in the evening, and I finally wound up getting some coffee at a Mexican restaurant down the street. To my mind, there is a glaring need for a coffee shop with extended hours in this area.

We got back just as the first band, named ‘Taken by Trees’, began to play. I am writing this almost two months down the line, so my recollections of the night have faded and I don’t remember much about the opening bands and even had to search to find their names. The second band was named ‘Tiny Deaths’, and they played some music too.

Monica Birkenes

Mr Little Jeans on stage at the Lodge Room

After what seemed like forever it was time for the main event, and Mr Little Jeans took the stage. Just her, and some dude hiding in the corner behind some consoles. I don’t recall any introductions, but if I had to hazard a guess I would say that the dude might be  an LA producer named Tim Anderson who she has collaborated with extensively.

Any initial fears that Mr Little Jeans’ live performance would not live up to the quality of her studio work were quickly set to rest. Her vocals were sparkling and the computers provided the rich background instrumentation and vocals that make her music so special. What I was not prepared for was what a powerful performer she is. Her presence fills the stage and energy positively radiates from her. I was completely captivated by her, and her performance made all the effort getting there so worth it!


Luckily, by the time we headed back traffic was a lot clearer. It only took 15 minutes to drop off Pinksu, and then I hit no CALTRANS surprises (like closed lanes) on the way home, arriving just about midnight.

I have a new problem, though. I am now addicted to Mr Little Jeans, and lately I have found myself playing her soundtrack for hours at a time. I want to see her perform again, but this is what I see on her Facebook page…

No Dates Scheduled

Please, Mr Little Jeans, get out and play!!


Status Report, Monday, December 10, 2018

Okay, I am determined to not let December slip by without a new blog post, so it is time to make that determination manifest!! So, here goes!

I have been quite busy with school, and the semester is now coming to an end. I am in the Pilates/Dance Conditioning program at Orange Coast Community College (OCCC) and am enjoying the heck out of it!

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I have been doing Pilates for several years now, but almost all of my experience prior to this semester was in Mat Pilates. I had been on the Reformer a bit before, and the Cadillac once or twice, but my experience with the apparatus was very limited. That has now changed and I have been spending a lot of time on those devices along with the Wunda Chair, and that accelerated work has done wonders for my core control. As I sit here writing I am also enjoying a level of engagement with my core that I have not felt for many, many years!

I am working on my certification not so much as a career objective but to enhance my own personal development. This is a great time, however, and the OCCC program is a great avenue, for those who are interested in a career in Pilates. I already have two studio owners who have expressed a desire that I teach for them, and the Orange County LA Fitness locations have all installed Reformer rooms and are looking for teachers.

I looked at the schedule for the Anaheim Hills site and saw that they have 43 reformer classes a week, and that is going to require an infusion of new teaching talent. You cannot beat the price of the OCCC program–private certification programs cost on the order of $5,000 for certification just for Mat Pilates, but you can get a full certification through OCCC for under $1,000! Pretty amazing! I was planning on finishing up next Fall with this program, but Ms. Amelie (Hunter) is encouraging me to put my nose to the grindstone and finish up this Spring. Will see how that works out!

Speaking of my own personal development, the other big focus has been the rehabilitation of my right foot and there have been some promising developments on that front too! I hurt it pretty bad back in mid-August to the point where I couldn’t even do minimal walking for several weeks. I have been back to my ultramarathon training with my hiking/running partner Anna for about seven weeks now.

Anna and the Pipe

Anna, channeling Kerry Ward, in Chino Hills State Park

Up until this week there was no running, and our longest excursion was just under 8 miles. Last week I was on the treadmill, trudging along at a 15% grade, and when I got my speed up to 3.1 mph I spontaneously broke into a run, and I was able to keep up a 3.5 mph pace at a 15% grade for 5 minutes without hurting myself!! Yesterday I also found myself breaking into a run going up the steepest sections of our weekly hike. I was kind of sore when I got to the top, but that soreness did not increase on the descent, and an hour of rest later was enough to dissipate that soreness.

Anna and I were registered to do the Ray Miller 50K ultra that was scheduled for last weekend, but that was, thankfully, canceled due to the Malibu fires. Thankfully because I was not ready at that time. The next target is a 50K ultra that will be run in Griffith Park in early March. I think I will be ready for that one!

I also scored my own Gyrotonic tower last month, so now in addition to the Gyrotonic Foundation classes I have been taking with Veeseuth and Rachelle I can do my own home practice. Also on the Gyro front we will be wrapping up our introductory Gyrokinesis class (another OCCC benefit) at Orange Coast tomorrow. That class has also made major contributions to my core control.


Status Update, Saturday, October 27, 2018

Gee, I almost let October slip away without any posts! Caught myself in the nick of time. When last we spoke I had just completed the first week of my Pilates/Dance Conditioning (P/DC) certification program at Orange Coast Community College (OCCC). That program has been keeping me pretty busy, and I haven’t even been thinking about blogging,

I have been having a great time in the program! Going in I had considerable experience with mat pilates, but had very limited exposure to the other apparatus. Lately I have had a lot of opportunities to work on the Reformer, the Cadillac, and the WundaChair, and that exposure has been very enlightening to me. This past Thursday I first did a Level 3 workout on the Reformer, repeated the same workout on the Cadillac, and then headed back to Long Beach and Pilates X where I took a mat class. A pretty full Pilates day!


A multifunction Pilates system available from http://www.pilates-gratz.com

The P/DC program at OCC is not only a wonderful value–other folks have been paying on the order of $5K to do just a Mat certification course at private provider, whereas I will be getting a full certification for under $1K–but it also has a very therapeutic focus that is more in alignment with my own sensibilities. A lot of the graduates of the program wind up working in a Physical Therapy (PT) setting, and that is something that I would also like to explore.

There is also another side benefit. My goal of restoring my body to full function has been greatly expedited by the personal attention I have received from my team–those teachers (Yoga, Pilates, Gyrotonic, massage, and general body maintenance) who I have contracted with to provide me with one-on-one instruction. My classmates and I are all learning to provide the same kind of assistance to others, and my classmates and teachers have been very generous with their attention to my own quest–I feel like I now have a dozen or so personal coaches providing me with loving attention and correction! Feels good.


Waiting for a train–one of the features of life in Franklin Park, IL

Now, about that body. One of the downsides of being back in school is that the time that I can spend on burning calories (hiking, running, biking) has been negatively impacted. The problem was compounded greatly by the condition of my right foot. I had damaged it pretty badly back in mid-August and couldn’t even walk for a rather extended period. It is now only getting back to the point where I can now contemplate some more extensive hiking. Still not ready for running, but I hope to be able to get in enough conditioning over the next month so I can at least finish my next ultra marathon. That event, by the way, will be the Ray Miller Backbone Trail 50K which is (gulp) coming way too soon on December 2.

I have also been away from my ballet classes since the injury, and made my return last week for the Saturday class at Elevation Studios and will be heading over there again shortly. I am not yet ready for jumping and need to take care on the across the floor portion of the class, but I still get a lot of value out of the barre portion of the class. I was excited to return last week and was looking forward to seeing my teacher, Carri Burbank, but sadly I found that she had broken her foot a couple of weeks ago and hadn’t been able to teach. She is, however, expected back today, so I have my fingers crossed!

Things have been pretty slow on the adventuring front. Class commitments and other obligations conspired so that I had to pass up a couple of opportunities to “Hang With Ward” on excursions to Utah for canyoneering and ultra marathon adventures. One big highlight was my visit to my old high school, East Leyden HS in Franklin Park, IL. I traveled back there for my 50 year reunion on 10/13, and one of the activities on the schedule was a visit to the old school, where I and about 30 of my former classmates got a guided tour by Dr. Nick Polyak, superintendent of the Leyden Township school district.


Dr. Polyak speaking to 1968 graduates

That tour was a very inspiring event. When I attended from 1964-1968 the school was 100% white and very much middle class. The area has since transformed, and the school district is now 50-60% Hispanic. The white population is now only 29%, and according to Dr. Polyak is actually the most diverse population, with 30 different languages spoken by immigrants mostly from eastern Europe. Despite having 70% of their students qualifying for Free/Reduced Lunch programs, in 2014 the Leyden Township District was named the Advanced Placement District of the Year based on participation and passing rates adjusted for the population demographics.

The current successes of the District stem from a combination of a very fortuitous tax base–I once heard that Franklin Park has a nighttime population of 25,000, and a daytime population of 250,000 due to the number of factories in the village–and some consistent and enlightened leadership. Dr. Polyak, who is in his fifth year, is only the fifth superintendent in the 90 year history of the District. East Leyden is now in the midst of an 80 million dollar expansion, not to add students but to allow the students to spread out a bit more. One of the new features will be a daycare center for children of the faculty that will be staffed largely by students who will be earning preschool and daycare certifications.

That preschool certification program is just one of the innovative programs at the school. Leyden Township was the first district in the country to provide Chromebooks for all students. One of the obstacles to providing tech resources to students is the maintenance of those resources, and ELHS has created a student tech support program that allows them to complete 90% of repairs on site by students who will be earning a certification and valuable work experience. There is an extensive machine shop for the Industrial Technology program. Half of the machines in the shop are vintage World War II tools, and the other half are state of the art numerically controlled machines. Those newer machines came at no cost to the District; they were donated by local manufacturers who like to see students coming out of school ready to get to work.


Roger, Judy, and me, with some friends from Cambodia

Finally, as I need to wrap this up, on Sunday, 10/14, I took a whirlwind trip across central Illinois to Macomb, home of Western Illinois University where I earned my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees. The goal was to check in with my old coaches, Roger and Judy Gedney. They are now both in their 80’s, and Judy is suffering from corticobasal ganglionic degeneration (CBGD) and is now just a shadow of her former self. Roger, who until recent years was still lifting heavy weights also had some health issues in the past year. He had back surgery to alleviate spinal stenosis, and that surgery was a success, but he wound up having two bouts of Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections that caused him much discomfort and required some additional surgery. My time frame was very short, and I was only able to spend just over an hour with the Gedney’s. Judy was unconscious for the entire visit, something that Roger said is all too common these days.

Week 1 Done!, Monday, September 3, 2018

Last week was my first week in the Pilates/Dance Conditioning certification program at Orange Coast College. I am currently taking four classes for a total of 9 credit units:

  • Kinesiology for Dance
  • Pilates Methodology
  • Pilates Apparatus/Mat 2
  • Gyrokinesis

The Kinesiology and Gyrokinesis classes are both taught by my body mechanic Donna Place, and the other two classes are taught by Amelie Hunter.

I make the rather long drive down to OCC on Tuesday and Thursday. All of the classes are in the same room (all four on Tuesday, and the first three on Thursday), so on Tuesday I am in there from 9 am until 5:50 pm. Thursday is a little shorter and I am out of there by 3:30 pm.

The program is pretty intense, and I will be submitting my first homework assignment for Kinesiology tomorrow. On Thursday I had to do my first Pilates practice teaching, directing the class through a set of single-leg stretches.

On the other side, my right foot is still not doing well :-(! I beat it up pretty badly almost four weeks ago, and it has still not forgiven me. I did get to see a podiatrist on Tuesday, and he thinks I have the ankle equivalent of a carpal tunnel syndrome. The tendons and nerves that do a right turn when they reach the inside of my ankle are inflamed and angry. I am okay as long as I don’t push it too much, but it doesn’t take much in the way of walking to fire them up. He sold me a set of off-the-shelf orthotics and put me on a “take it easy and wait and see” program.


My guess is that it is the yellow tendon that is my problem