Friday, December 30, 2011
So here are my goals - create your own drum roll!
(1) Lose 20 pounds. I am almost halfway there, having lost 9.2 pounds in the last 7 weeks. To achieve my goal I have dragged myself back to Weight Watchers, become a huge fan of Skinnytaste.com, and managed most of my workouts based on calorie burn. The goal of 20 pounds is realistic and attainable and I am working on it at a fairly slow rate so that later I can actually maintain the weight loss and not end up right back with my pants too tight. Why is the weight loss important? As a triathlete that is a lot of extra weight for me to drag behind me in the water, pedal with on the bike especially up those hills, and stress my knees with on the run. In addition, there is goal #2.
(2) Complete the Tough Mudder. In May of 2012 I will compete with a team of 5 other people to complete the Tough Mudder in Vermont. The race is a 10 mile obstacle course and my friend Pastor Josh thought it would be great fun to create a team from our church to compete. We were able to get 6 of us registered before the race was full. Silly me - I thought it was a 10K when I registered. Fortunately for me, the other 5 team members are all strong men who can carry my dead lifeless body out of the race course and return me to my mommy. To prepare I am working on goal #1 which gives me less weight to heave over the obstacles, I am increasing the intensity of my workouts by including some of the exercises recommended on the Tough Mudder website, and lastly I am trying to maintain my current level of endurance which is already pretty high given my triathlon training. For maintaining endurance, goal #3 becomes important.
(3) Ride 1,000 miles in 2012. I have done some calculations and I believe this to be an obtainable goal, especially if I purchase an indoor trainer. An average of 20 miles a week will more than get me to where I need to be, provided I can ride all winter long. I was inspired in this goal by my friend Sean who has a goal to *run* 1,000 miles in 2012. I was not inspired enough to run with him, however. And I think he is a little crazy... But nonetheless, I will ride a minimum of 1,000 miles in 2012 barring any serious injury in pursuit of goal #2. In addition, I will make some serious progress toward this goal with goal #4.
(4) Go on a European bike tour. I am planning this for the fall with Cori and some of my other tri-girls. We will average 27 miles a day for 6 days touring through three countries. It will be amazing! This is a longtime dream finally coming true for me. All three of the above goals will help prepare me for the rigor of this tour. The good news is that the 27 miles are spread out over an entire day with plenty of opportunity for sight seeing and enjoying being in Europe. And the calorie burn each day will afford me copious opportunities for sampling the local food and wine without compromising goal #1.
How about you? What are your goals for 2012? I would love to hear!!
Monday, December 12, 2011
The Saturday morning ride was a cold one. I dressed up like a stay-puff marshmallow and did what I call the Cold 12 Miler. There were only 3 of us on this ride and not only was the air cold, but there was a brisk wind that at one point almost knocked me over. For the first 3 miles my fingers felt like they would snap off. Clearly my fingers were not dressed for the occasion! But as we rode the temperature warmed to just over 40 Fahrenheit and the blood started pumping to warm my fingers. We rode a fairly slow pace to keep the wind chill to a minimum and called it a "warm up" for Sunday's Portage Ride. After the ride was over I checked my odometer and I was closing in on the 2000 mile mark! I also headed over to Bicycle Concepts, my local bike shop, and bought myself some fall riding gloves for Sunday. They were out of winter gloves - which means all the smart people got there before me.
On Sunday four of us did the Portage Ride which is a 20 mile ride with portage and 2 decent hills. Before taking off I asked Curtis to check my tires. Well, apparently I have not been inflating them properly for the last 3 seasons (which is how long I have owned the bike) and according to Curtis I was riding at about 50 lbs of pressure. I am a slow rider, but this was slowing me down beyond even what Curtis and I could explain. He had been thinking there was something wrong with my bike, and now he was finally at the bottom of the problem! We took off on a screaming downhill and once again my fingers were screaming at me. But also once again they warmed up after a few miles. It was there and then with my fingers screaming cold that I decided *definitively* to say yes to joining a Tough Mudder Team. (More on that in another blog post.) As I rode along I felt like I was on a cloud, now that I actually had properly inflated tires. Curtis remarked on several occasions that he could see the difference in my ride. Boy could I sure feel the difference!
We had a great ride - hit the portage area, climbed the first hill at about mile 10, and then continued on until the final climb back to our starting point. It was a cold ride, it never quite made it to 40 Fahrenheit. At one point we went over a river and saw a a waterfall and there was ice on the trees in the falls and black ice on the bridge. But we had fun and are hoping for at least one more ride before the Christmas holiday. And at the end of the ride I checked my odometer and was at 2011 miles. It took me three seasons to arrive at 2011 miles, and I did it in the year 2011! For me this is quite an accomplishment. I want to set a goal for myself of 1000 miles in one year, but I really need to think through that before committing myself to it. Stay tuned for my final answer for 2012.
Saturday, December 3, 2011
Burn the Pie ride #1 was on Black Friday. While others were exhausted from all their shopping, our little group of 7 rode a quick, flat 12 miles. We were joined by the Schoppe family for this ride. Dad Jay towed his 5 year old daughter Ella behind him. Ella gets the award for being our youngest ever tri-girl! She peddled hard and steady for the whole 12 miles behind her dad. I had my camera, but failed to snap a picture of the group. The weather was beautiful and we barely broke a sweat. I am not sure how much pie was actually burned that morning, but we all had fun. This short ride also gave a great option for people who wanted to opt out of the 32 mile Burn the Pie ride #2 on Saturday. This short ride was a just a warm-up for what followed the next day.
Burn the Pie ride #2 was on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. We had another beautiful sunny day in the high 50's (Fahrenheit) and 5 riders. We did a modified version of the Deary Bike route which normally starts at JD Coopers Restaurant in Putnam. Instead we started in Thompson and headed down to Putnam out to Dayville and Pomfret, through Woodstock past the fairgrounds and up Paine District Road, back into Thompson, and ending with a long 1.2 mile climb for a total of just under 32 miles. We had to take a detour at one point due to a car accident and downed wires across the road. This led to a really big hill that almost had us completely physched out and defeated because we knew what was still ahead of us. Cori (below all the way to the right) snapped this picture of the dreaded hill. Be we cheered each other on all the way to the top, and realized when we got there that it only looked bad. It ended up being a fairly easy climb. Some pie was definitely burned on that day. As usual I struggled on the many hills. But my friend Curtis (below in the purple jacket) was good to me and made sure that the group didn't lose me. I know that my ability to attack the hills will improve with practice, but man do I dread each and every one.
Today was our Hills & Chills ride, aptly named because it was mostly uphill and it was never over 40 degrees Fahrenheit. There were also a few sweet downhills but we needed to be pretty bundled up to avoid the wind chill. We had a group of 7 riders -- hard to believe for December! And we even managed to get a group photo. This was a 24 mile ride that had us reaching the top of Buck Hill in Rhode Island right around mile 16. I fueled my ride with chocolate from my recent trip to Venezuela and alternated between Powerade and good old fashioned H20. We once again ended with a roughly 1.5 mile climb and I whined a little coming up the last hill. But overall I felt good on this ride. In July of this year a few of us did a "Quad Buster" 50 mile ride. Today's route covered the final 24 miles of that ride. It was much easier to ride this route today having not ridden 26 additional hilly miles first!
Curtis, Michelle, and I did all three of the rides over the last two weekends plus a ride the Sunday before Thanksgiving with various other participants along for the different rides. I hope to get a few more outdoor rides in before we have to deal with the snow and freezing weather. My odometer is about to turn over to 2000 miles in just under three seasons of riding and I am looking forward to passing that milestone. I had taken a couple months off from riding this fall after the Funtastic Nantasket tri to focus on running and traveling, but am back in the saddle and feeling great!
Monday, November 28, 2011
Last night before bed Molly saw flames coming from the fire tree which was slightly worrisome given its proximity to the house. She headed off to throw some sand on it, since the water we had poured and the evening rainfall of previous nights had done little to subdue the burning. The flames did finally die down but the fire tree still smoldered. I imagine it will do this for another year or so.
There is definitely something to be said for having the surf and the coral reef right outside my doorstep, 24x7. All of it good, fantastic actually. Solitude is not for everyone. We had no internet, radio, television, or even newspaper to keep in touch with world events. We had no way of knowing if there had been a military coup on the mainland, what the latest news was in the Arab spring, or how Greece was fairing in its financial crisis. Other than the disembodied human voice on the other end of the 2-way radio, we knew nothing of daily life beyond our tiny tear-shaped island. And other than having contact with my kids, I cannot say that I really missed any of it. No phones ringing, no texts, no emails to answer. Just the wind, the waves, and the birds. Occasionally there would be the sound of a coconut falling. The humidity was exceptionally high again but a breeze wafted through the island to keep us cooler than we would otherwise be.
For someone who lives her life in perpetual motion and addicted to adrenaline, I have managed to slow my pace down enough to match the pace of the island. I have learned to appreciate doing nothing, sitting quietly and letting my thoughts be still as I take in the beauty around me.
Around 1:00 I decided to head back to the coral reef to an area where I had earlier spotted a fish skipping across the water like a flat stone with his lunch clung tightly in his mouth. Once again I found myself singing to myself in my head under the water - always one of two tunes: Under the Sea from The Little Mermaid (makes sense) or Lola by the Kinks which sadly had been stuck in my head all week. I can only guess at that one since I have yet to see a fish in drag, but there you have it. Today's snorkeling was by far the best. I saw so many varieties of fish and coral, and even saw three fish as big as Molly. She is a tiny women to be sure, but a fish her size is a very big fish indeed! The water temperature alternated between uncomfortably hot to downright nippy which result in a foggy mask at times. Frustrating but, seriously, who could complain?
After lunch I spent some timely alternately napping, reading or floating in the surf to cool off. After one such dip in the water I thought I would nap in the hammock for a bit. As I began to sit I heard a noise that sounded like a small propeller plane overhead. We had not had any planes overhead all week, so this was an unexpected sound. When I looked up I discovered that I was swarmed by angry bees. They were above me and descending quickly and they had encircled me. I have never seen so many bees at one time or heard such a loud sound coming from a hive. I was trapped and felt a bit overwhelmed. I stood like a statue and then as slowly as possible made my way to the beach so that I could jump in the water if necessary and take as many of the suckers along with me.
I will never know what got their knickers twisted, but I will forever remember the sound. And I will forever remember thinking that Molly would return from snorkeling to find me dead on the beach after having been attacked by those bees. I stood there for over 10 minutes waiting for their anger to subside. They blocked my way to the house and I was pretty much trapped until they calmed down and started their retreat. Gradually they did begin to settle down and most of them returned to their hive but many flew around me in the hammock for another 20 minutes or more.
Molly returned from snorkeling practically glowing from her experience, I was still alive and quite pale from mine. We lounged around for the rest of the day, read, chatted, had dinner, chatted some more and stayed up a little later than usual on this last night on the island.
Saturday - departure day. Once again I was awake at the crack of dawn, this time feeling like I was experiencing back labor. If I could have changed one thing on this island it was have been the mattress. But again, who's complaining?
During my morning walk today I saw the usual sights...beautiful blue ocean, crabs darting around at my feet, seagulls, fish, and of course - the fire tree which was once again back in flames. We had a very lazy morning with not a lot to clean up due to our minimalist living. We lounged, read, packed, showered and awaited Barry's arrival. He was spot on time and gave us our bill which we paid. Then we loaded the boat and sadly waved goodbye to our tiny slice of paradise. I don't know if I will ever return here, but I sure appreciated my time on this island with my wonderful sister. And I will always remember the experiences on this paradise in the Caribbean.
Sunday, November 6, 2011
Last night before bed Molly and I did some stargazing but the moon was still too bright in the sky. But then I awoke at 12:30 for another view and I finally saw the majesty of the beautiful night sky, the Milky Way, the blanket of bright twinkling stars. I should have woken Molly up and shared it with her.
On this morning my hair was so curly because of the humidity that I could barely pull it up into a ponytail. I managed to tie it up and then made some coffee and went for another walk around the island, this time making an overland trip as well. It was here that I finally found the flowers that had been attracting the hummingbirds.
The wind was really high and I was a little concerned about the surf and whether or not we would be able to get any snorkeling in, but we managed just fine. The tide was a little rougher but was still very manageable. Molly saw my shark, but I did not see him today. I checked for him and for Molly's lobster but neither were in residence while I was in the water for my morning explore.
For my afternoon snorkeling adventure I went out in the water off the front of the island, something that I had not done yet. There were many fish there and not a whole lot of coral. I saw a large barracuda and some trumpet fish, angel fish, butterfly fish and so many others that I cannot name but which were exquisite. The fish were so beautiful and I could actually see them better when the coral was so much smaller. I was so drawn in by their beauty and their seeming weightlessness and the effortlessness with which they moved.
This island, this place, this coral reef are so amazingly beautiful. I cannot imagine that I will need to leave it in 2 days. The peace and tranquility that I have experienced here will be hard to duplicate anywhere else in my life. I will try to keep a piece of it tucked away in my heart forever, but I know it will be a struggle once I have returned to the real world.
I spotted a conch shell today deep in the water. As I moved closer to see it better, I realized that it was occupied. I at once envied and felt sorry for the conch, enveloped in his own little world here in paradise, but never able to venture beyond it of his own free will. I swam away knowing that I have an amazingly blessed life with few regrets and an abundance of joy.
Friday, September 23, 2011
It was cold. Really cold and really windy. And I was headed to the south shore to swim in the ocean. Brrrrr. We arrived at 7:40 AM in plenty of time for packet pickup and for me to get my transition area set up. I had my winter hat with me to keep me warm while getting ready for the race - a trick I learned at the Lobsterman Tri a couple of years ago in Maine. This is the first year that we had race tattoos instead of using a sharpie to write our race numbers on our bodies. I thought this was really cool - until I tried to wash them off after the race!
As I was getting my transition set up I heard the announcer say that the water temperature was 62 degrees. Yikes! I look down at the beach and saw some significant chop in the water. Great...cold AND choppy. Two years ago we had ridiculous 5-6 foot swells but the waves were pretty far apart, so while it was challenging and a bit crazy, I was still pretty confident and I finished strong. Last year the tide was out and half the swim was a "run" in the water. Both times the water temperature was in the high 60's. I was in for something new this year.
My swag bag had a race shirt in it so I threw it on over the shirt I was already wearing as extra protection against the cold. Then I slipped (okay wiggled, jiggled, flounced, and bounced) into my wetsuit and stuffed my shirts in, ripped a hole in it while pulling it up (*#&$@*), and needed help to zip it because of my multiple layers. I walked down to the water to get the dirty deed done and acclimate myself to the cold. The hole was not helping my confidence because it was on a seam and I knew that it would grow and that the nasty cold water would get in and I would be distracted. Wow - what negative self talk! I decided that I would shut up that inner voice and take the plunge. As I got down closer to the water I realized that, what I had previously thought was chop, was really 4-5 swells, and they were coming in close together, fast, and powerful. People were getting tossed about like plastic toys as they were trying to warm up for the swim. Oh my! I warmed up the best I could and got myself out of the water and back to shore, fighting the undertow all the way. This was going to be a serious swim.
Before I knew it the first wave was corralled and heading down to the water. I was in the next to the last wave so I waited and waited and watched the swimmers ahead of me get thrown around by the ocean waves. Triathlon really gives one a healthy respect for the power of the sea! Finally we were at the water's edge and ready to go. Someone later described the swim as "like being in a washing machine", and that was how it felt. No matter what I did I couldn't get my head down to just swim and gain momentum because when I tried I would get tossed around. I thought I could at least body surf on the way in, but that wasn't possible because the undertow was so strong that I had to fight against it the whole way in. The 1/4 mile swim took me over 9 minutes to complete, a very slow 1/4 mile for me, but still good considering the conditions. I was one of the first out of the water from my wave and I headed up the ramp to the transition area, stripping out of my wetsuit on the way. Surprisingly I even passed one woman as I ran up the ramp! Seriously - that never happens...but many of the racers were pretty shook up when they got out of the water, which I used to my advantage.
I ran into transition, finished stripping the wetsuit and the extra shirt, slipped on my socks, bike shoes, and my bike helmet, rinsed the salt water from my mouth and pushed my bike out of transition to the mounting line. I jumped on my bike for an easy, flat 10 mile ride. I headed out at an amazing clip - 20 mph! I maintained that speed for just under the first two miles, but then knew that I would not be able to maintain it so I slowed to a more manageable 16-17...until I hit the turnaround and a brick wall - a nasty head wind. I have never hit such a persistent strong head wind; it stayed with me for the entire return trip. I felt like I was standing still for most of the second half of the ride. I think I averaged 12-13 mph on the return. I met a really nice woman on the bike route and we kept passing each other as we fought against the wind. We laughed about the swim, now that it was over and we were brave again, and about the challenge of the wind. We cheered each other on for 5 miles and wished each other good luck in the run as we neared the end of the bike route. My overall ride pace was 15.7 mph, slower than last year, but my overall ranking was better than last year so I was pleased. The headwind also explains my relative lightning speed on the way out, because I certainly must have had that wind pushing me all the way!
I returned to transition, racked my bike, changed my shoes, and took my time heading out on the run. Last year I was the slowest runner in the entire race! I had nowhere to go but up this year, and I knew I could do no worse. I started out with a one minute run, one minute walk strategy for the first 1/2 mile and then gradually increased until I got to the 1 mile mark. I hear a man's voice behind me encouraging me not to give up. The man had me run with him as he encouraged me to continue at his pace. We attacked mile number two together at a pace I knew I couldn't maintain for long, but it still felt amazing. At one point I felt a little light headed, but he just kept cheering me on. As we neared the 2 mile mark he told me that he was going to pull ahead at a faster pace for mile 3, but that he would be at the finish line to shake my hand. This was his first triathlon, and I know it will not be his last. I slowed my pace for mile 3 as he went on. I kept him in my sights for as long as I could, but he was just too fast. And true to his word, he was there to shake my hand. We congratulated each other and went our separate ways. As I walked away to gather my belongings and pack up the car, I thought about how one of the best things about triathlons is the people you meet along your journey and how they touch your life.
Sunday, August 21, 2011
After breakfast I headed back to the abyss. Molly had spotted a warm water lobster earlier. She told me to follow the sunken tree then take my first right and he would be there. So I went in search of him and something Molly described as “the thing”. She wasn’t quite sure what “the thing” was, but it marked the point where she would go no deeper. I found both the lobster and “the thing” – which turned out to be an old shredded plastic “burlap” bag caught up in a giant sea fan. I went to check on my shark friend but he was not home, a fact that made me slightly wary, and then I again went in search of a water route around the island. In my second failed attempt I happened upon a particularly active area of coral where the fish were varied and colorful and pecking away at the coral. I floated over them for a long time, marveling at the wonder of this undersea life and the serendipity of it all. A medium sized gray fish with a dorsal fin came in from the abyss and watched my every move until I moved on. I swam with a school of big blue fish that eyed me warily but didn’t dart away.
By the time I left the reef I had been in the water for over an hour, but it felt like minutes. How blessed to have snorkeling at my doorstep in unbelievably beautiful reefs. Amazing! I dried off and had a light lunch of peanut butter and crackers, put my plate down in the sand next to me and, before long, Molly said “you have a friend!” A hermit crab had crawled onto my plate and was helping himself to my crumbs and the peanut butter that I had left behind! When he was finished, he crawled off the plate and walked away. A little while later I was sitting in the hammock reading and I heard a thud behind me. The sound was not like the one made when coconuts fall, so I went over to investigate. I found a huge hermit crab - the size of my fist - which must have fallen from a tree. I grabbed my camera while he struggled to right himself. He allowed a brief photo op before crawling away dragging his huge home on his back.
After a little more rest I headed back to the reef to search for something new and to check on my shark friend to see if he was back home. The backs of my legs were starting to get a little red from my time in the water, even with 55 SPF, even with my base tan. Being this far south and adding to it the magnification from the water, well it’s hard not to burn just a bit. I don’t want to stay in the water too long this time. I headed out on the now familiar path over the sunken tree and began to explore the reef again. There are just so many beautiful fish, and I only know what a few of them are. My shark was still not home. The thing with the dorsal fin came back and kept his eye on me again, very closely this time. It felt like I had a stalker! In my attempt to shake him I swam away fast, wasn’t watching where I was going, and had a very close (too close!) encounter with a jellyfish, but I did get an up close and personal view of a trumpet fish before making my way quickly back to shore.
I spent a bit of my downtime today trying to open up the outer shell of a coconut without the aid of a machete (we didn’t have one). It definitely used up a lot of my unexpended energy trying to break through. I had very little success – coconut 1, me 0. I made so little progress, and am not sure if I will give it another try again tomorrow. It’s a good thing our survival does not depend upon my ability to crack through the sucker!
There are no storms tonight, and so far the sky is clear. Molly and I are hoping for a good night of stargazing before bed. We had a late dinner and read for quite awhile, and I am still not tired. I check the sky before heading to bed. The moon is too bright and its reflection off the water doesn’t allow any decent stargazing again this night. The lights from a neighboring island appear as bright as a city. The island probably has 20 houses on it. It reminded me of our trip to northern Scotland where we would drive for miles and miles in complete darkness, and then suddenly we would come upon these bright lights in the distance. We would swear it was a small city. When we would get closer we would realize it was a tiny village where the main street consisted of a pub, a fish & chips shop, and the post office. Perspective is everything I guess.
Saturday, July 30, 2011
One was our co-host George, but we did not know the other man. George spoke limited English and the other man spoke none. They came to check on us because we never were able to complete our radio check-in the day before. I suppose the second guy came along to help move our dead bodies to the boat if need be! With George's limited English and our even more limited Spanish, we let him know that we had tried to call but the radio did not appear to be working. He played around with it for a while and finally got it working. He asked us (in English) to call every day at 10:00, but then just before he left he said 12:00 in Spanish. After much back and forth in English and Spanish we finally established (in Spanish), that we needed to make radio contact every day at 12:00. And with that they left and we didn't see another human being until we were picked up on Saturday.
We ate our breakfast with a sense of relief that the radio was now working. Things were looking up. We knew that if they didn't hear from us they would come out to see if we were okay, my allergies were greatly improved, and it was another perfect 10 of a day. I decided to read a bit and then head back out to the reef.
We had found a new, easier waterway out to the reef over a sunken tree. This was important because the top of the coral reef was so close to the surface of the water making it very difficult to swim over. It was tricky and sometimes a bit overwhelming because of the feeling that you might get stuck and not be able to turn around. It was also easy to feel like you were lost in the reef because of all the waterways that were throughout. But when I felt that way I just came to the surface, looked up and around, noted the location of the island, and then went on my merry way.
Today I spotted what appeared to be a sand shark lurking in one of the coral caves. We were each a bit startled by the others presence. He and I kept a very close eye on each other and I kept my distance to make sure that he didn't feel trapped by me. When I went back to the house, I looked him up in the book and found out that he was actually a nurse shark. Very safe, but really - still a shark! During my second snorkeling run of the day, I went over to his lair to check him out and he was still there. I convinced myself that we now had an understanding and then I headed out in search of an underwater route around the island.
Because the island was essentially surrounded by coral reef, it was difficult to swim around the island along the surface unless we went out to the abyss. In my Magellanic quest I kept getting trapped by shallow coral reefs with no room to swim over them. Backing out while in a coral reef is a bit intimidating because you have no rear view mirror. You can't see what or who is behind you. I finally got frustrated and my mask began to fog from the shifts in water temperature - so I decided to head back the way I came. On my way out I made one last check on my shark, bid him farewell until the next day, and then headed back to shore over the sunken tree.
There is a lot of comfort in beginning to recognize areas of the reef, and despite my frustration, I am at peace in the water at last. It has taken a few trips out to gain comfort with the snorkel. My claustrophobia coupled with my fear of drowning (I know, huh?) were now both conquered and I am finally able to linger longer in the reef.
For the first time since we arrived here, there was no evening storm on the island. I saw a hummingbird perch briefly on a tree and I saw the resident pelican for the first time. We could see storms and lightening off in the distance, but it was dry on the island and it remained light outside later into the evening. There was no wind so I sat on the dock watching the sunset, the storms in the distance, the fish, and the movement of the beautiful clear water. The only sounds were the rumbling thunder in the distance and the tiny waves lapping the shore. I felt as if I were in paradise.
Today was such an incredible experience. I didn't want it to end. I went inside to grab a beer and then came back out to relax and enjoy the remainder of the tranquil show. I wondered to myself why Gilligan and crew would have ever wanted to leave their island. When the moon rose, the sky was overcast so we were unable to see the evening sky. We had been looking forward to seeing that amazing starlit show of beauty and splendor that you only get to see when you travel far away from the light pollution. We had hoped the clouds would blow over before bedtime, but there wasn't even wind to turn the windmill. We had a candle lit dinner, read for awhile, then were off to bed by 9:30 PM, hoping for a great night's sleep.
Monday, July 25, 2011
This murderer in Norway is claiming my faith and is using it to justify his hatred and his murderous ways. His called himself a Christian and then, wearing that disguise, he killed innocent people. Let's be clear, he is not a Christian. He is a hater, he is an extremist, but he is not a Christian. And me? Well I just want to start tossing some temple tables.
What is a Christian? "One who professes belief in the teachings of Jesus Christ." How is extremism defined? As the "quality or state of being extreme." - Merriam-Webster
So how then does one apply Christian Extremist and hate in the same person? It's an oxymoron. If one has an extreme belief in the risen Saviour then one does not behave with hatred. One behaves with extreme love. Christ teaches that there are two things that are the most important commandments of the Christian faith. When discussing the law, He was asked what the most important commandment was. His reply:
He answered: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' " ~Luke 10:27
My interpretation of this? That I am to love everyone, even this man who abuses my faith for evil. Extreme Christianity is extreme love for all individuals regardless of race, sex, sexual orientation, religion, lack of religion...you get the idea. Am I always successful? Of course not, but my failure is not in Christ, it is in my humanity. We as Christians cannot sit by while anyone uses Christ's name as an excuse for hatred, ever.
So much evil has been done in the world - for centuries - in His name. And what do we as Christians do in response? Seriously, it is time to claim our faith back. It has always bothered me that the Muslim community sat back and said nothing while extremists used their religion for hatred and terrorism. And now here we are as a Christian community doing the same thing. Well, I will not be quiet.
I know that Christ doesn't need me to defend Him. But we, as people of faith, cannot stand quietly by while others use the name of Christ for evil. I will oppose the view that this is Christianity in the extreme. That is a lie, he is a liar and a murderer, and the worldwide press is being duped into believing him. Why? Because it sells.
No - Christian Extremism is the complete opposite of what this man did. Christianity in the Extreme looks completely differently. It looks like Extreme Love. It looks like a hand extended in friendship toward those we may not love or agree with. It looks like Christ dying on the cross for me, for you, and even for this murderer.
Saturday, July 23, 2011
When I awoke I couldn’t stop sneezing. My allergies were in full force. It took some time for me to figure out what was causing all the sneezing. I finally realized that it was the dust in the mosquito netting. Every time I moved while I slept more dust would fall on me. I took the netting outside and hung it on the line to let the breeze blow through it and get all the dust off. Problem solved! Although I did continue to sneeze for the remainder of the day.
I made a breakfast of eggs, coffee, and guava juice. I do not love instant coffee – it is a huge sacrifice for me not to have my French press here with me. But on missions trips I have had much worse, and have been very appreciative even when it tasted like mud. So when I look at the beauty that surrounds me here, I decide that I can adjust.
After breakfast I strolled around the island with yet another cup of coffee. Surprisingly, the tree was still smoldering even after the rain storm the night before. I decided that the fire inside this tree must be incredibly hot and intense and that it must have been burning for quite some time. I just needed to be unconcerned. At this point I began to refer to it as the “fire tree”. Molly and I joked about throwing a crab on the fire for my lunch. I found a conch shell on the beach today. It was uninhabited so I brought it back to the house and added it to the collection left there by other visitors to the island.
When walking through rather than around the island, we need to be sure to look up and see what might be raining down on us. Coconuts are everywhere on the island, falling at will from the many palm trees –all day and all night. They make such a loud thud when they land that I am surprised by how loud the sound is. But then I realize that there is little other sound out here, just the waves, the birds, and the coconuts falling. There are no boats that go by, no planes that fly overhead, no music, no television. It is very, very quiet.
In the states, we are so used to seeing coconuts in the market with their outer shells removed. But they are really huge when you see them still wearing this outer shell and I am determined to open one before I leave this place.
Around lunchtime, Molly makes an attempt at calling Barry on the 2-way for our daily check-in to let them know we are okay. After several attempts we have no luck with getting a response from them. We tried several times throughout the day and joked that we were pretty much screwed if we had a real emergency.
Snorkeling today was another amazing experience. We found more wondrous areas of the coral reef. We saw parrot fish nipping at the algae on the coral, barracuda and trumpet fish, and countless other amazingly beautiful fish. I swam with a school of what seemed like millions of itty bitty fish. I swam out to the abyss; the place where the coral reef ends and the bottom disappears and the water gets very dark. It is here where Molly said that I was most likely to see rays, turtles, or sharks. I stayed there for quite a while hoping to catch sight of one of these amazing creatures, with no luck. I came back here along the edges of the abyss again and again, but each time I was too chicken to go out too far for fear that I would come face to face with a shark or some other big sea creature and not know how to get away fast enough. Near the reef I at least had a chance to hide, but in the abyss there is nowhere to hide. Contrary to my normal approach to life, my risk/reward calculation was far too conservative and as a result I never saw anything other than a jellyfish in the abyss. This has since become a great source of regret, but one that I will some day rectify by heading back out to the abyss and lingering for quite a bit longer and venturing out quite a bit deeper.
A lot of people have asked me about the bugs on the island. The mosquitoes here are vicious day and night. They bite Molly constantly, but for the most part they leave me alone. The closer I stick to her, the fewer issues that I have with the little buggers. Flies are somewhat relentless in the kitchen as the day heats up, but are fewer in the evening. On this particular day I saw what I was convinced was a brown recluse spider, I freaked out and crushed it into about 20 little pieces and thinking he might have friends – resolved to just forget I ever saw him. Well, he did have friends, and once I got a closer look at them realized they weren’t brown recluse at all, but I still didn’t spare their wretched little lives.
When it got dark, we very extravagantly turned on a light in the living room to read by. I quickly fell asleep and napped while Molly made a delicious dinner of rice and red beans. We ate by candle light and then watched the sky as the thunder and lighting rolled in with another storm. I was relieved whenever it rained at night because I knew that we would have water in the tank the next day for showers, cooking, and flushing. We again switched from solar to wind power and were off to bed and under our mosquito netting by 9:00 PM. With the help of some Benadryl, I was off to sleep shortly thereafter dreaming about parrotfish and sharks.
Sunday, July 17, 2011
The ferry was very small with no open air blowing through and the surf was high. Molly sat facing forward and I sat facing her so we could talk. Within 15 minutes, I began feeling like I was going to vomit. I was experiencing seasickness for the first time in my whole life! The windows were high so I could not see the horizon, which meant that I needed to stand for the remainder of the trip on the high seas, about 45 minutes. I have pretty good sea legs but that was a long time to ride out the waves. But I knew that if I didn’t stand facing forward looking out the window I would vomit like a school girl. I had visions of the captain having to call the school janitor to throw that sawdusty stuff on the vomit puddle. How humiliating that would have been!
We arrived in Utila I am proud to say that I made it all the way without vomiting. Once we got out of the high surf and into the harbor, I suddenly felt fine again like nothing had happened. We got off the ferry and found an ATM where we withdrew some Lempira and then headed to Bush’s Supermarket – the biggest store on the island – for our week’s food and supplies. The name “Supermarket” was a considerable misnomer as this was really just a great big convenience store. And, this being Sunday, the store was going to close early. We had little to choose from for food and no real time to plan a menu, but we actually made out okay in hindsight. We bought 6 ½ gallons of water for our 6 ½ days that we would be on the island and a whole bunch of food.
It was now noon and Barry wasn’t supposed to pick us up until 2:00. We had cold stuff and frozen stuff and it was about 95 degrees outside. The grocer was kind enough to contact Barry for us (who oddly enough she had on speed dial) and asked him if he could meet us earlier. He said he would be there in a ½ hour so we bought some ice to keep the food cold. We were very politely plopped out on the dock behind the market in the shade to await his arrival. We waited on the dock with our boxes of food and our duffel bags and watched the marine life off the dock. Before long Barry arrived in his boat and greeted us with “you are looking to go to Sandy Cay?” I couldn't have been more relieved. We loaded the boat with all our supplies, took off, made one stop to pick up our co-host George, and before long we arrived in paradise.
We went ashore and received some short lessons in how to power the water pump, manage the solar and wind power, use the 2-way radio, and light the gas stove. We were instructed to call into them with the 2-way radio with “Cayos, Cayos, Sandy Cay” once every day so that they would know we were okay. We could also call them on the radio if we needed any supplies or if we had any type of emergency. We waved goodbye to Barry and George and were now on our own until Saturday. We wondered aloud if we had brought enough drinking water and food, and investigated in our travel guides how long we had to boil the rain water from the pump to make it drinkable.
We unpacked the food. There were two refrigerators – one for cold food and one for all other food. The house is wide open so the food had to be tightly stored or the birds would get into it. We each chose a bedroom and bathroom and then had a light lunch of cheese and crackers. We spent a bit of time exploring the nooks and crannies of the small house, found the mosquito netting for our beds, found a living room stocked with books on the shelves, and even found some dive books with information on fish and coral that would later become a great source of information for us.
I set out for a walk around the small island, something that would become a morning ritual for me so that I could see what the storms and tides washed ashore. I found a large fallen tree that was smoldering from a fire. I attempted to put the fire out but had no luck because it was deep inside the tree and intensely hot. The shores of the island were white and pink coral sand and dead coral lined much of the island. Hermit crabs, a resident pelican or two, mosquitoes, crabs, and flies were our constant companions.
After my walk we decided to go snorkeling and went in search of the beautiful coral reefs with brightly colored fish. We began on the north side of the island only to find out quickly that the best reefs were on the west and south side of the island. Molly located a beautiful area of caverns and coral with fish that were unbelievable beautiful. She came back and told me about it and said that she felt like the Little Mermaid. I went to investigate and she was right. It was tough going out to the area because the coral was so close to the surface, but once I got there I didn’t want to leave. I was still adjusting to breathing through the snorkel and was beginning to feel a little light headed, so I headed back in.
For the remainder of the day we rested, read, and caught up on each others lives. It got dark very early – a rain storm was coming in so we switched the generator from solar power to wind power. We ate dinner and chatted some more over a cold beer. We went to bed at 9:00 PM and I quietly hoped that the rain would put out the fire in the tree.
Friday, July 15, 2011
After breakfast, they were on their way and they wished me the best of luck in finding my sister and continuing on my journey. I was still without an internet connection and needed to recharge my iPod battery. I wandered closer to the airport desks to find a power outlet and voila! Up popped a Taca Airlines wireless hotspot! I helped myself to their wireless connection and was finally able to find my dear Molly. I learned that she was bumped at LAX and was now en route to El Salvador. I was also able to message my son Dave to assure him of my safety and to ask him to call Molly’s boyfriend Andrew to let him know that I was safe just in case Molly contacted him. She eventually reached El Salvador but she still had no idea where I was. She begged to be allowed into the VIP lounge so that she could try to contact me. The hotel in La Ceiba that we were to stay at the previous night had contacted her to let her know that I never arrived. She was quite concerned about my whereabouts and safety as you can imagine. She messaged me about where she was, questioned what had become of me, let me know that she had rearranged all our forward going plans, and because she was not sure where I was, also gave me the address of our hotel in La Ceiba hoping that I could take a cab there. By the time I received her message and replied to her, she was already on her flight, still unsure of where I was.
I spent the remainder of the day reading, emailing Dave, and awaiting Molly. Then the most incredible thunderstorm hit. The trees were blown sideways by the wind, the airport roof was a sieve, and the airport was closed down for all flights. Even the flute man packed up again and left the airport for the safety of home. It was at this point that I began to lose hope that I would see Molly on this day. But as quickly as the storm had blown in, it blew right back out again and the airport opened with half an hour to spare before Molly’s flight was to arrive. When the time came, I watched the arrival board – no flight – I waited 20 more minutes – still no flight! I checked on line and the Taca website said that there was no flight 222 from El Salvador to Honduras that day. Completely disheartened I asked a Taca agent what was going on. She radioed someone who told her that the flight was in fact en route but would not arrive for another 20 minutes. Hallelujah!
I found a very conspicuous spot to wait for Molly and resumed reading my book, completely immersed in a great gruesome British murder mystery knowing that all would be well. Before long there was a tap on my shoulder and a familiar voice saying “are you as happy to see me as I am to see you?!?!?” We smiled at each other with those goofy smiles that can only come with the profound relief of finally knowing that the other was safe and okay. What stories we each had to tell the other of our respective adventures in flying! I messaged Dave that all was well with both of us and that we were in fact together at last. After approximately 30 hours in the San Pedro Sula airport, I boarded the flight to La Ceiba with my lovely sister.
30 minutes later we landed at the airport in La Ceiba and were met by the owner of the hotel who whisked us back to her place. We had an amazing dinner of rice, plantains, and ice cold beer at the Rainbow Village Hotel. We were so happy to have made it this far in our journey to the island, albeit 24 hours behind schedule. I took a hot shower and washed the airport off my body and out of my hair and fell into bed and off to a very restful sleep – one where I could lie completely prone if I so chose, where I didn’t have to hug my purse to my sleeping body, and where I knew that the next morning we would begin the next leg of our journey.
Monday, July 11, 2011
For about half the cost of a week’s summer rental on Cape Cod, my sister and I rented an island in Honduras. Let me begin by saying that my sister and I have traveled a few times together and we always have prepared a detailed itinerary with all the details of flights, hotels, contact information, dates, times, sometimes even sunrise, sunset, and the expected weather. This time, we did not. We got cocky. The more one travels, the more one realizes that there is always something that goes pear shaped during a trip. We knew this, but we threw caution to the wind nonetheless. She would fly in from the west and I would fly in from the east and we would meet in San Pedro Sula Airport in Honduras.
July 1st was departure day. I left my house at 4:30 AM to catch a plane out of Logan Airport that marked the beginning of a journey. This would be a journey of planes, cars, taxis, and boats that would eventually land me on my private island in the Caribbean, off the coast of Honduras. The first flight took me as far as Atlanta where I had a brief layover before boarding my flight to San Pedro Sula. There I would await the arrival of my beloved sister Molly who would be arriving about 3 hours after me. When we arrived the plane circled the airport for what seemed like forever, but was probably only 10 minutes. 10 long minutes, during which my eardrums felt as if they would rupture. When we eventually landed, I joined the long line waiting to clear through Customs and Immigration. I was in no hurry, I had hours to occupy until Molly would arrive. After a very uneventful screening I was cleared through. I amused myself at the very tiny airport by reading, eating, drinking coffee and water, and waiting. I listened to the flute man – a local craftsman selling his wares and playing music for the arriving passengers.
I checked the board to see if Molly’s plane would be on time and was quite surprised when I saw that there were no flights from LAX coming into San Pedro Sula. None. Not one. Hmmmm. There was a flight arriving from El Salvador at the same time as she was to arrive, so I assumed she must have had a layover there and must not have been flying direct. Sadly, without the itinerary, all I knew was the arrival time. I didn’t know the airline, flight number, or origination of her flight.
At last the time came for her to land (I was hoping anyway). I joined the crowd of people outside the Customs and Immigration area and waited as the passengers began to trickle through. One by one they came, but not my Molly. The crowd began to thin as more and more passengers were cleared through and were greeted excitedly by family and friends, but still no Molly. Even the flute man was beginning to pack up his wares. I watched and waited with a sinking heart and knew she was not on the plane. I waited until the last person came through. Even the flute man was long gone by this point. I had no phone with which to contact her and we were booked on the next flight to La Ceiba which was leaving in about 2 hours. I did not panic, and instead went to the airline counter to see if she had already checked in for our flight and had headed to the gate. Instead of hearing what I wanted to hear, they told me that she was booked on the flight to La Ceiba for the next day. This was not the plan, so something must have happened. They investigated a little further and told me that her inbound flight had been in an oversold situation; she was bumped involuntarily and would be arriving the next day.
Well now what was I to do? Should I go on or should I wait? Since Molly had made all of the arrangements I wasn’t entirely sure of the name of our hotel in La Ceiba. I did remember that La Ceiba is a kind of shady place for tourists so I decided to stay in San Pedro Sula, wait the 24 hours, and fly with Molly the next day. The airline re-booked me for a small fee and offered to help me find a hotel for the evening. I declined and opted to overnight at the airport. The shops all accepted US dollars so I knew that I could eat there with no problem. And I really did not feel at all unsafe. I made several attempts to secure an internet connection using the free airport wi-fi but I had no luck. I had hoped to get a connection to see if there was any word from Molly. I wasn’t sure where she was bumped, LAX or in El Salvador, or what time she would arrive the next day, or how we would rearrange all our plans forward going. But I chose not to worry about things and spent a remarkably enjoyable, albeit noisy, evening camped out at the Dunkin’ Donuts. When it was time for bed, I cleaned up the best I could, brushed my teeth, made a little bed out of a couple of easy chairs and my duffel bag, covered myself with my beach towel, and fell asleep. I actually slept quite soundly and was awakened only twice by well meaning strangers who were concerned that I may have missed my flight or that I would get in trouble for using the Dunkin’ Donuts as a hotel room.
For someone in my situation, I was pretty chilled. I felt entirely confident that I had made the right decision. I only regret that I hadn't taken pictures of the airport to share. Oh well, I will have many of those in upcoming posts. Stay tuned!
Friday, May 6, 2011
Once I was diagnosed and I had an emergency inhaler, my quality of life improved marginally and I was careful to avoid second hand smoke and situations that might put me at risk for an attack. This was the case for many years until I decided to begin martial arts training. Martial arts forms and self defenses are largely anaerobic exercise. Sparring and wrestling are somewhat more aerobic, but still do not exercise your lungs the way that the triathlon events do. Even so, my breathing was challenged and I experienced improvement. Wheezing was reduced to a minimum in my day to day life and I felt good about the exercise that I was getting. Oh, and that picture to the left? I eventually lost that match, but earned my second degree black belt that day. So I was pretty happy nonetheless!
I moved on from martial arts to triathlons and got serious about swimming and biking. I was not able to run at that time due to injuries so I participated in relay events. I spent a lot of time in the pool huffing and puffing my way from one end to the other hoping to get faster. I was about ready to give up because my breathing was so bad. I even had resorted to bringing my inhaler poolside. Instead, I got encouragement from the swim coach at the pool who told me that she knew of other swimmers with asthma and that I just needed to push through it. At times, asthma makes you feel like you are breathing underwater; how was I ever going to be able to master this?
I discussed this with my doctor who gave me a new prescription that was a daily maintenance medication instead of an emergency medication. Within weeks of starting the medication I began to feel a difference and I felt confident that I could push through the swimming. And I did! But what about biking? I experienced a very similar journey with the bike. I just had to hang in there and push through it to expand my lung capacity. I used to carry my emergency inhaler on my bike with me and use it before and/or after a big hill. I still huff and puff on hills and cannot talk to anyone until I reach the top, but I have made significant progress.
Once I was finally able to start running in 2009, I assumed the breathing journey would be the same. I have to say that I am not there yet with running. I cannot chat easily with my running partners, and I cannot sing along with my iPod while running - much to the relief of those around me! But I am working at it and I am getting a bit better and running a bit faster. For all of the 2009 season I ran with my emergency inhaler in hand. The inhaler can be seen in all the pictures of me crossing the finish line at my triathlons that year. Those pictures are a reminder of how far I have come. In fact, I no longer even carry an emergency inhaler in my purse or on my person. I cannot remember the last time I had an asthma attack.
In 2010 at my annual physical my doctor tested my breathing and I was still "below expected capacity." I am not one to accept that lying down. I was determined to do all that I could to increase my lung capacity. I am thrilled to report that one year later my breathing age is now the same as my chronological age as a result of my maintenance medications and my exercise! I am at 100% expected capacity.
If you have been diagnosed with asthma, talk to your doctor and review your options for medication and exercise. And don't ever, ever give up!