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.

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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

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.

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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.

Cadillac

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.

Announcement

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!

Gratz_Pilates_Designer_Instant_Full_Cadallic_Conversion_86_Designer_Reformer_2936e19d-11b2-422a-ac97-e929ec6205ac

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Ankle

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

Back to School!, Monday, August 27, 2018

It is that awkward time of year for yoga and Pilates studios. Schools are starting, and attendance in classes is falling off. Teachers, who had the summer off and were able to take daytime classes, are either back in their classrooms during the days, or preparing feverishly to go back to work. Parents, who had school-age children at home for the summer, are now free to go to the daytime classes they were missing but are still getting back-to-school duties managed. I expect them to start showing up next week

I too will be going back to school, but as a student and not a teacher. I have enrolled in the Pilates and Dance Conditioning certification program at Orange Coast College and will be commuting down to Costa Mesa on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I will be taking the Pilates Methodology class, the Kinesiology for Dance class, and a Gyrokinesis class. The latter two classes are taught by my long-time body mechanic Donna Place.

My objective in going back is not motivated by a desire to be a teacher, but more a desire to learn more about my body and the methods I can use to maintain and improve it. When I started practicing yoga six years ago I was frustrated by the lack of opportunity to ask questions in class. My solution to that problem was to do a teacher training program even though I had only been practicing for 8 months when I started. That was the perfect opportunity to ask those questions I had.

Now I have been practicing Pilates consistently at Pilates X Studio for over a year, and it is time to up my game!

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With respect to my own training, my right foot still has not forgiven me for beating it up almost three weeks ago! I can now walk pretty normally unless I try to go too fast or too far. On Friday I managed to walk almost 1.5 miles without a problem, and that gave me some hope for extending my range.

Saturday, however, was a different story. I went to the Fit Expo at the Anaheim Convention Center to watch my training partner Anna’s sister Diana who was entered in a Powerlifting competition. Diana did great, winning the 60kg weight class. That’s her in the video with her final squat of 237.5 lbs. I think I got caught up in the rushing here and there, all on unforgiving concrete floors, and wound up hobbling back to my car after only a couple of hours. I do have an appointment with a podiatrist tomorrow and I hope he can assist in getting me back on the road to a full recovery.

Sleep? Who Needs Sleep!, Sunday, August 20, 2018

When last we spoke it was Wednesday, and I was in Utah waiting for Kerry Ward and his intrepid band of canyoneers–Sam Edwards, Sam’s 13 year old son Max, and Kerry Sherman–to make the most challenging slot canyon descent in Zion Canyon National Park.

At the Trailhead

At Lava Point–Kerry Sherman, Max and Sam Edwards, and Kerry Ward

The target was Heaps Canyon. Heaps feeds the Emerald Pools, one of the most accessible and popular features of the canyon. It is so challenging that the first descent of the canyon was not even made until 1982. It is a full-featured canyoneering expedition requiring serious gear–wetsuits, long ropes, harnesses, slings, and rappelling hardware–and features numerous rappels, deep potholes that turn into keepers when not full of water, and culminates in a 280 foot free rappel to the upper Emerald Pool.

Entry to Heaps

The approach to Heaps Canyon

I had dropped off the canyon crew at Lava Point at about 8 am. Sam told me that I could expect them to finish between 4 and 6 pm, which was more than a little bit optimistic given that the CanyoneeringUSA.com guide to Heaps says that the descent can take from 12-20 hours. The expedition began with an 8 mile hike just to get into the canyon, and I had heard from Kerry Ward about 10:30 that they had reached the mouth of the canyon in very good time.

Later that afternoon I explored the park a bit and found that the trail up to Emerald Pools was closed, so around 5 I headed down to the Visitor Center where I would wait for them. As the day wore on I noticed some serious cloud buildup north of the canyon. This was a cause for great concern as one of the dangers of any slot canyon trip is the possibility of flash flooding. Sure enough, by around 6 the skies had darkened, thunder and lightning had commenced, and light rain was falling at the Visitor Center.

EUP by www78 on Flickr Edit

Final rappel sequence for Heaps Canyon. The second rappel is 280 feet. Image from Flickr www78.

As 8 pm and darkness approached I began to worry in earnest. There are a lot of things that can go wrong in a descent like this, and I had visions of them dropping their long rope and not being able to make the final descent. That would not be a huge problem under normal circumstances as there would be a lot of visitors to the Emerald Pools who could be notified and seek help. The trail closure nixed that possibility!

I was waiting at the shuttle stop as shuttle after shuttle appeared with no canyoneers. I noticed a very worried looking gentleman who was also anxiously watching shuttles. I found out that he and his wife and daughter had been hiking in the Narrows, had become separated, and they had been unable to locate the daughter. The gathering storms were also feeding his anxiety.

Sam Takes a Leap

Entering the canyon. Most folks rappel down, but that’s too slow for Sam.

Finally, just before 8 I received a text from Kerry W.  They had successfully exited the canyon, were hiking down the closed trail, and would soon be on a shuttle heading down to the VC! About 5 minutes later my co-worrier got a call from the rangers that his daughter had been located at the last shuttle stop before the Narrows (the Temple of Sinawava) and was on a shuttle down to the VC.

Heaps Narrows

In the narrows.

When she arrived she was very angry with her parents, and I wondered why. After becoming separated the parents had come out of the Narrows. They didn’t find the daughter at the shuttle stop, assumed that the daughter (who had been behind them in the Narrows) had gotten on a shuttle and gone back to their prearranged rendezvous at their car at the VC.

Finders Keepers

My fears of them losing a rope proved unfounded. They actually returned with about 600 feet of rope that had been lost/abandoned by other groups.

They took the shuttle down, didn’t find her, and made a fatal mistake–they got in the car and went looking for her, moving the car to a different location. My guess is that the daughter had come down after they moved the car, didn’t find it, and took the shuttle back up to where she had last seen her parents and where she had been waiting anxiously for them until the rangers canvassed the location. Kind of a comedy of errors!!

Final Rap Setup

Sam setting up the last rappel. Getting late, but still light out!

The shuttle with the canyon crew finally arrived about 9, and we all headed to Springdale for a well-earned dinner. Then it was back to St. George, where we arrived at Sam’s at 10:30. No rest, however, when hanging with Ward, as Kerry and I were headed back to LA! I drove the first leg to Primm, Nevada, Kerry took over until Barstow, and then I drove the last leg to the Morgan Castle in the Hollywood Hills. I dropped Kerry there, headed back to Long Beach, and got home at 5 am, which is when I usually get up!

My Costume

Me in costume at Versailles with a couple of new friends.

I had a lot to do, so after I slept for a couple of hours I got up, went to my 11 am Pilates class at Pilates X, and then it was off to my costume fitting at Bianca’s Historic Costuming! I had been invited to a costume party Friday at the Morgan Castle. The theme was “Let them Eat Cake Party at Versailles”. The Morgan’s are serious costume partiers, and I am costume challenged so had decided to seek professional help. Bianca and her husband Peter expeditiously fitted me with a great period costume.

I had a decent nights sleep, was up at 5 as usual, worked out, took a Pilates class, had a nap, and then drove up to the Morgan Castle in the Hollywood Hills for the epic costume party. A little after 1 am I managed to extricate Kerry Ward from the party–not a trivial task as he is traditionally the life of any party he goes to–and I drove him up to Big Bear where he planned to rendezvous with his friend Dax Orion Hock.

Party scene by Baxter Zappa

Dancers at the party–photo by Baxter Zappa

Dax, along with his wife Sarah, is a world champion swing dancer, and they are the owners of the Lindy Loft in downtown Los Angeles. About a year ago he expressed an interest in doing an ultra marathon. Since then Kerry has been mentoring him in that endeavor, and he finally felt that he was ready for his first 100 miler. Dax had started the Kodiak Big Bear 100 ultra at 8 am on Friday, and Kerry wanted to meet him at the Sugarloaf aid station to pace him through the last 30 miles.

Dax was faster than expected, and we left the party a little later than planned, so we missed Dax on his first pass through Sugarloaf. Kerry grabbed a bit of sleep in my car while I watched for Dax. When Dax arrived just about at dawn they were off for the last 20 miles of the race. Dax finished at about 11 am for a total time of 27 hours and was first among all male non-professional runners, a pretty spectacular result for a first timer!

Then it was the long slow drive home. Mid day traffic on I-10 was a whole lot worse than middle of the night traffic, but eventually I dropped off Kerry at the Morgan Castle and made it back to Long Beach just after 5 pm. Between Tuesday morning at 5 am when I got up and Saturday at 5 pm, a span of 108 hours, I had gotten a total of 13 hours of sleep. I will be getting some needed rest over the next few day. No rest for Ward, though. He was off today for a job Monday in Charlotte, NC, then back to Vancouver where he will gear up for the long drive to Burning Man!

 

Hanging with Ward, Wednesday, August 15, 2018

It is now 10:38 am on Wednesday, and I am sitting in one of my favorite coffeeshops, River Rock Roasting Company, in Hurricane, UT. At about 8 am I dropped off my buddy Kerry Winston Ward and three confederates–Sam Edwards, Sam’s son Max, and Kerry Sherman–at Lava Point in the high country north of Zion Canyon.

IMG_1456

Kerry Ward in Sam Edward’s well-stocked garage at 5 am

Their mission? To make a descent of Heap’s Canyon. According to Canyoneering USA, Heap’s is …

The Big Kahuna. Heaps is a truly wonderful canyon, but it is also BIG. Deep inside the mountain, it is dark, wet, sinuous and moody. When really wet, it is fast and cold, and such a blast! When the water levels go down, keeper potholes start appearing, and as the level continues descending, more and more potholes require effort to get out of.

Sam had planned to do this expedition last week, but was unable to get it together. Kerry W. had to scramble a bit to get in this rescheduled excursion. He flew into Los Angeles on Tuesday morning for a meeting, and then after the meeting I picked him up at the Morgan Castle in the Hollywood Hills and drove to the St. George area. We didn’t leave until about 6:30, and it was just after 2 am when we got to Sam’s house in Santa Clara, and then we were up before 5 am to prepare for the expedition du jour. As if that were not enough of a challenge, we will be driving back to the Los Angeles area tonight so we can take care of business tomorrow.

Pothole Dave Buckingham

Potholes in the upper reaches of Heap’s Canyon. Photo by Dave Buckingham on CBS

This is a very challenging canyon experience, and requires a great deal of expertise and preparation. In fact, the first descent of the canyon was not even made until 1982. Starting from Lava Point, wannabe canyoneers must hike on the order of 9 miles just to enter the canyon. Once in the canyon there are a number of rappels required, with the last one a 280 foot rappel down to the upper Emerald Pools. That last rappel is actually more on the order of 500 feet, but is broken into first a 200 foot drop to a very small ledge (just large enough for two) and then the final approach.

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At the Lava Point trailhead–Kerry Sherman, Max and Sam Edwards, and Kerry Ward

Another challenge is water, and sometimes a lack of water. This canyon has a large number of potholes, deep depressions that fill with water, and when they are full canyoneers need to swim them. When they are not full they can also be problematic–a keeper pothole is one that is deep and difficult to climb out of when it is not full. The upper reaches of the canyon require wet or dry suits, which must be packed in along with ropes, harness, and hardware for the rappels.

Heaps-Canyon-051

View from the top of the final rappel. Photo from T-Dawg Speaks

 

The guide for the trip indicates a 12-20 hour time commitment required, but this crew is planning on more like 8-10 hours. I just got a text message from Kerry W. (coverage is spotty and unreliable) indicating that they had reached the canyon in just about 2-1/2 hours, well under the 4 hours predicted in the guide, so they appear to be well on schedule. Keep your fingers crossed! I think I am going to find someplace where I can get in a bit of a nap before tonight’s driving.