Monday, July 28, 2014

Alta, Wyoming - the other side of the Tetons!

I hesitated to write anything after Ben's & Sierra's epic adventure but thought I'd tell everyone about our trip thus far.

We are currently renting a vacation home in Alta, Wyoming, on the other side of the Tetons. You might ask yourself 'Why?' and it would be a good question. Basically we are waiting for Becca, who is doing the U-16 Regional ski camp in Jackson. Rachel and I could not afford to stay for a week in Jackson so we found a lovely spot right over the top of the pass. As soon as Becca is finished we will drive to Banff, Alberta and bicycle tour the Icefields Parkway to Jasper! 

This is the view from our back porch!
The view from our back porch in Alta, Wyoming.
Our plan was to find a place with internet so Rachel could finish the grades for her class and I could work on getting her class ready for the fall semester. This was a lovely plan but we soon found that the internet at the rental was basically broken! Everything we have to do needs internet! Rachel is doing online office hours and my class is actually an online class so....Internet had to be found.

The closest internet we could find was actually in Driggs, 6 miles down the road. We are without a car, Becca has Clifford at the U-16 camp, but we have both our road bikes and our touring bikes so we hopped on the bikes, put our computers in the touring trailers and headed for Driggs on Sunday afternoon, Rachel had office hours at 4pm. It turns out that all the places with internet were closed for the night but we found someone at the Community/Art Museam/Senior Center/City Offices and asked where we might find a place to get online. She said Driggs has free city internet! Yay! We sat outside the building, on the grass for 2 hours and were able to work before riding back to our house and watching a lovely sunset on The Grand!

The next morning we had a fantastic ride from our house to up Grand Targhee Ski Resort. I mean UP! To give you an idea of the grade it was 9 miles and took us 1:15! The downhill was great fun and the entire ride was wonderful and beautiful with very little traffic.
The view on the bike ride!

Rachel had two office hours today so after breakfast we once again rode down to Driggs for internet. Behind the Multipurpose building with free internet we found a lovely picnic table and immediately commandeered it. It was wonderful and perfect but soon the sun and the 87F heat began to work it's way up the table and we started getting nervous, what to do....

Our lovely picnic table!
We were about to go in search of somewhere in air conditioning AND internet when an older man from the senior center told us that together we had more computing power than Neil Armstrong on the Moon Landing and that we should come inside because of holes in the ozone in this area and besides lunch was about to be served in the Senior Center. It's difficult to resist such charm, as well as air conditioning, power, internet and lunch, so we joined a lovely group in the Senior Center for wonderful and interesting conversation, minestrone soup, homemade bread and salad. After which we settled down to work until they didn't kick us out. After 2 hours of working the woman in charge said she was locking us in and we could stay as long as we wanted, just make sure the doors are closed when we leave! Seriously rocking people here!

We worked until 5 and then had a lovely dinner of some of the best Thai ever and then came back to our trusty picnic table for Rachel's 7:30-8:30 office hours. After they are finished we'll ride our 6 miles back to the house and sleep to be ready for more adventures tomorrow!!!

WHAT Adventure

     Once upon a time in a land not so very far away there was a fest. "What Fest?" you might ask... Exactly. In this not so very far away land there was a boy named Ben and a girl named Sierra and they very much enjoyed music and dancing and adventure. Because of this mutual appreciation for radness Sierra and Ben found themselves at the aforementioned What Fest; a great gathering composed of eclectic local-ish hipsteresque musicians and the roving band of hippies that accompanies such musical entities.  Now music and dancing and shenanigan-like behavior is great by itself, but when these ingredients are combined with a liberal dose of adventure the result is straight-up raditude. Sierra and Ben, both holding advanced degrees in adventure studies, realized the potential for a heightened state of awesome and began implementing project A1, (the "A" stands for Adventure:) Project A1 would utilize a not so top secret algorithm for assured maximum stoke:
[(Endurance +  ΔH20 + Wild Wilderness)*Looping]^1.5 sketchiness = Awesome
 Sierra, the mastermind behind the real world implementation of this well known formula, designed project A1 as a 5 stage adventure. The following is a story chronicling the sequence of events that transpired that day


Saturday July 26, 2014

-- Prelude:
Ben awoke to the smell of warm fluffy pancakes and Sierra's voice announcing the completion of "stacks on stacks of flapjacks". Extricating himself from the maze of limbs entrapping him, Ben groggily poked his head out of the tent and narrowed his eyes at the onslaught of brilliant summer sunbeams. Sierra's face sharpened into focus; armed with a spatula and with the glint of impending adventure in her eyes she announced that it was time to consume the stacks on stacks of flapjacks so as to get an early start adventuring. Not being one to discount the merits of maximized adventure time, Ben's head quickly disappeared back into the tent. As he leapt into action an indistinct voice trailed out from the recesses of the tent asking if it was past noon yet. "Nope!" bubbled Sierra, "Its 8 AM"! A chorus of mumbles and groans emanated from the unzipped tent fly as Ben tumbled out, Fully dressed in sheik matching red and black running shorts, shoes, singlet, and signature bandana. As they gulped down the delightfully fluffy flapjacks, Sierra raised an eyebrow and commented on the unique flavor of the savory golden pastries. "Do these sort of taste like beef"? Hmmm pondered Ben. "Yup".  "They tots do". "Thats because I used the same griddle we made burgers in last night" Smiled Sierra. "Extra flavor"!
     Finishing up their beautiful breakfast, Sierra and Ben bid goodbye to their fellow hippies preparing for a tough day of day-drinking and hopped in Sierras signature blue Ford explorer bound fast for high adventure!

--Stage 1:
Our two adventure aficionados headed east away from the densely populated metropolis of Encampment Wyoming (population 52) and towards  the first target location of their adventure: Six Mile Gap Landing on the North Platte River. After turning on to a winding dirt road wandering the rolling hills through sage brush and cattle land, the two pulled into a dusty gravel parking lot overlooking the breathtaking North Platte valley. Here they unloaded their two boats, made lunch, pumped water, and proceeded to carry everything down the steep trail leading to the rivers edge. After making several treks up and down the hill (and Ben commenting several times about it's potential for hill bounding if not for the foolishly placed stairs) they finished ferrying their essential gear and hopped back into the Explorer and stuck out to find destination two of their adventure.
     In order to complete all 5 stages of adventure, Sierra and Ben needed to find Pickeroon Landing, a location approximately 9 miles down river from Six Mile Gap. It was here that both stages 2 and 5 of their adventure would begin, and as such a necessary point to drop their vehicle. As they drove further down winding dirt lanes that crisscrossed the sun scorched prairie, they noticed an ominous sign warning of terrifying terrain and almost certain imminent death. Unfazed, our two heroic adventures laughed in the face of such trivial travel warnings, confident in their ability to rally the explorer up Mount Everest if the need should arise. As Ben smiled to himself about the juxtapose of the brown prairie against the blue sky, he noticed that the  point where to two met in front of him seemed to be getting rapidly closer. "Odd", he thought. "I wonder what's up there? Ben did not have long to wait before he found out. The dusty ground immediately in front of the explorer fell away into the sky as the previously flat prairie dove into the abyss. Ben and sierra slowed and looked down in awe as the road before them forked, either diving straight down into the great chasm before them, or skirting it's edge before plunging in snaking spasmodic switchbacks down the sheer hillside. Sierra cut the engine and Ben jumped out to determine which path would be more feasible. After an extensive survey of the landscape the two adventurers leaned back against their trusty transportation and looked at each other. Without saying a word they both knew what had been decided. "I just don't want to risk him". Said Sierra. "I Know”, replied Ben. "He isn't the young truck he used to be"... "It would be a lot for him". "Well then" Said Sierra, "Stage two starts from here?" It could be a long walk with the boats later on" Ben said raising an eyebrow and peering into the canyon depths." "We can deal" Intoned Sierra in a deadly serious manner as she shrugged back her shoulders and leveled her steely gaze on the crazily careening road before them.
"Stage 2"? asked Ben, clipping on his water belt. "Stage 2." Sierra replied as she shouldered her hydration pack. "Stage 2".

--Stage 2:
Carefully picking their way down the treacherous hill our two adventurers set off on stage 2 of their epic journey; The goal of this stage being to find the trail that reportedly parallels the river, then follow said trail up-stream to the gear drop site from stage 1. As the two neared the bottom of the canyon they were met with another surprise. Rather than finding the river and Pickeroon landing, they were met with a sharp turn as the rode plummeted further down into another valley, unseen from above. After running for what seemed like an eternity the tell tale rush of water finally greeted their ears. Glancing at his Polar RS400 watch, Ben grimaced. " "It's been almost 45 minuets" he said glancing at Sierra. "all downhill". Shrugging, Sierra turned, matter-of-factly replying, "It'I’ll be longer than that carrying the boats back up".  With a dry chuckle Ben turned the corner and was met with the sight of the river. Loping up to the sandy boat landing he peered out across the iron-tinted water scanning the far shore for any sign of a trail. "Doesn't look like much" He said. "I guess we cross and see what we can see". Ben and Sierra forded across the foam crested rapids of river and came upon a campsite with a well traveled gravel road leading away from it. Not seeing any sort of foot trail, the two began to run up the road looking for anything that might betray the presence of the mysterious trail they sought. After making several unsuccessful attempts to follow trails only to have them dead end, the two struck out into the woods. Bushwhacking a short distance through thick foliage near the river's edge, they soon emerged onto a great swath of prairie and began to bound up river. Leaping over scrub and sagebrush like gazelles our two adventurers soon happened upon a slender footpath wending it's way over the sage speckled hillside. The trail, for indeed this was the trail they were looking for, paralleled the river, but became less and less well traveled the farther they progressed. After fighting through more and more frequent walls of vegetation, Sierra and Ben rounded a corner and were met with the sight of their trail tapering off directly into the roaring water of the Platte. Having no choice but to cross, our heroes bravely soldiered through the rushing water and up the steep muddy embankment of the opposite shore. With fingers crossed Ben scrambled atop the embankment. hoping against hope he would emerge onto the trail, he stood and peered into the maze of towering pines surrounding him. "Hells Ya"! He exclaimed, "I think I've got it"! Sure enough, a thin path making its way up river was worn into the forest floor. Sierra and Ben continued their run, muscular legs relentlessly pounding the hard-packed earth as they drew ever closer to their destination. As the miles passed the trail became noticeably more established and they were greeted    increasingly often by the sight of lone fly fisherman standing in the dancing waters; patiently flicking long lines of yellow in lazy arks through the sparkling air.
Several GU's and a cliff bar or two later our adventurers burst out of the woods and into the Six Mile Gap Landing. After many long hours of running (3:00 precisely) they had finally conquered stage 2.

--Stage 3
Indescribably pleased that the food remained where they had hidden it, Sierra and Ben set about completing the most important stage of their journey; Stage 3: Refill and Refuel. Scarfing down PB&J at a rate approaching the speed of light the two lazed along the lush riverbank and soaked up warm rays of sun as they ate. Upon finishing their feast, they once again made the hike up the long dirt hill with tragically misplaced steps to restore their water supply. "Were going to need it", said Sierra. "We still have the hardest stage ahead of us".

-- Stage 4
 Stage 4 finds our dynamic duo set to float down the mighty Platte river. Armed with inflatable ducky boats stashed during stage 1, Ben and Sierra Boldly embarked on the second half of their "really skinny squiggly loop". A short time into their voyage it became clear to the travelers that the level of the river was a tad too low for optimal floating conditions. To compensate for this minor inconvenience, the technique of "distribution" was implemented. By lying down in a ducky and dangling ones legs over the side, it was discovered that a minimum clearance between river bed and boat could be achieved. utilizing this technique Sierra and Ben were able to traverse even the shallowest sections of the river with ease.
     Time during this stage seemed to slow, and our adventurers found themselves at deep peace with both themselves and the world around them. Wandering down the river under the sweet summer sun they closed their eyes and breathed in the rustling of the trees and the sighing of the wind. They listened to the sparkling water whisper secrets to lazy water striders and learned to be swift and silent from wise brook trout lurking in its deep dark pools. Lost in that place somewhere between thought and seen they dipped their toes into the cool creek and smiled back at the sun as slowly stage 4 slipped away.

-- Stage 5
 An abrupt area of rapids marked Pickeroon Landing and thus the take out point for our amicable adventurers. Squealing into the eddy, Ben and Sierra stumbled out of their boats and shook themselves to clear the lazy float from their leaden limbs. They had almost made it. Only stage 5 remained; the last and most challenging. Deflating their duckies and rolling their equipment up in them they hoisted the soaking sandy boats above their heads. Shoulders rippling with muscle the two powerful athletes squared their load and glanced at one another. "ready?"  asked Sierra. "Damn right I am" replied Ben. "Lets do this". At that the two turned and powered up the the trail towards their penultimate purpose and headlong into stage 5.
     streaked in dirt, sweat and grime our heroes carrying their herculean load marched step by step up the great hill. Each step a struggle they heaved great gulping gasps of air as with every footfall they ascended higher into the waning evening sun. After what seemed like an eternity the pair looked up and found themselves confronted by the hill. That precipitous piece of insanity to which the trail grimly clung to was all that remained between them and the end of their journey. Resituating his load Ben squared his shoulders and with wild cry broke into a run. Legs pumping and heart pounding he focused every once of his will into slaying the great beast. nearing the final precipice and glancing up he could see the red rays of the dying sun silhouetting the figure of their car--it's looming shadow like that of some great primordial giant. With a final burst of speed he surged over the top and onto the steppe. Raising his burning arms to the heavens  he held his boat aloft and proclaimed to all the world that he had conquered what from that point on should be known as Bitch Hill. Collapsing in a heap Ben was presently joined by Sierra. "We did it" he gasped. "Stage 5 is done". "Were done"!  "I can't believe it" exclaimed Sierra. "We really made it"
After savoring their victory for a moment the two adventurers packed away their gear and climbed into Sierra's trusty Ford Explorer."Where shall we adventure now"? asked Ben. "Oh, I don't know" replied Sierra with a smile. "Wherever the wind takes us I suppose".

And with that, they drove off into the sunset.


- The End (until next weekend;)

Monday, July 21, 2014

1% - it may not be as small as it sounds!

Over the past few weeks I have been trying to send out weekly emails regarding training. While these emails began as 'threshold Thursdays', last week we focused on meditation. When I began sending these, I was sending them only to the summer training group and I have since realized that this was silly and that I should SPAM the entire team. So, if you missed some of the earlier messages please know that you can find them on our AWESOME new blog.
On Wednesday, Christi and I met with a reporter from UWYO Magazine (watch for the story to come) and we found ourselves repeatedly returning to the holistic nature of our team. We kept reiterating that our athletes are 'superheroes' in all arenas: academic and athletic. This is a nice segue into this week's training topic: marginal gains. That is, in a February 2014 blog by a man named James Clear, the subject of improving everything by a tiny percent is broached. [*Disclaimer - yes, this is a .com site and we can assess this article for commercial interests whenever any of you have sexy minded urge to do so. However, I like what he is saying.]blog.bufferapp.com/what-would-happen-if-you-improved-everything-by-1-the-science-of-marginal-gains

Clear simply argues that if we break our sport down into every little aspect: nutrition, sleep, pole weight, ski quality, training quality, quality of massage oil (my favorite), fitness level .... and we try to improve each one of these by 1% than eventually the 1%s start to add up to give something big (i.e. lots of little 1%s = winning:)
I actually think that this is something that our team is really good at but I am super stoked to take this lovely friday to overtly call your attention to the benefits of lots of little percents!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Here is Sarah paddling in the Sea caves. We met up to go for a paddle on the 4th!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

At last! I had been anticipating this day for many weeks, the drive home from Laramie was long, but I had managed to make it in time for a Tuesday evening paddle. Even though I had just barely stepped foot in my house, I ran back into my car and headed for one of my favorite places on earth, Lake Superior!

A long, cold winter had left BEAUTIFUL ice burgs that managed to stay into the middle of June. Here is a picture of my dad and I paddling amongst them.

What a beaut!

Here is some more amazing water, only its the Mediterranean coast of Turkey. 

Here I am on top of an Ottoman castle. It is only accessible via boat! The Island behind me is home of the Sunken City. Over time it has sunk two meters under the sea. We were able to kayak right over it!

Here are some wild poppies growing amongst some ancient tombs.

The white bank may look like snow but it is actually a GIGANTIC calcium deposit! Yay for calcium and family photos! 

The city of Istanbul taken from under a bridge.


Monday, July 14, 2014

One Summer Adventure After Another

As I sit here listening to Italian pop music, I am reflecting on the past experiences that I have been bless to have had this last year and particularly the most recent of my activities. Many of which have come from skiing, racing, and training. From The high mountains in the heat of the summer sitting in my kayak looking at my own reflection in the water, to the Italian Alps overlooking the most breathtaking mountains I have ever laid my eyes on, I have had an amazing year. Most recently, I have been fortunate enough to be able to spend a week and a half in the Jackson/Pinedale area.


As many of you may already know, we had our Jackson camp over the weekend of the fourth, and there was also the trail race that a few of us raced in this last Saturday. In planning for the two events, Pat and I realized that we could take the week between the ski camp and the trail race to embark on some epic adventures, needless to say it was not a very difficult decision to make. First I will cover the events of the ski camp, after which I will tell you about Pat and I's adventures in Pinedale, and to wrap up I will tell you a bit about my last few experiences in Jackson during the trail race before returning back to Laradise.

JACKSON CAMP:

Jackson camp in a nutshell was unforgettable. Pat, Kyle, and I stayed with the Thomas family throughout the duration of the camp, our gratitude for this cannot be put into words. Getting to know the Yara and her family more was one of the best parts of the camp. Unfortunately this did separate us from the rest of the team, but we were still able to spend good quality time with all of the team. 
The first day of the camp, the 4th of July, we went on an epic trail run. The trail run was accompanied with sights overlooking Jackson from thousands of feet above the valley, secluded single-track through dense forest's, cascading streams under little pine bridges, birds harmoniously singing, and companionship from teammates.The run, though tiring, stated the camp off on the right.
From there we all prepped to go floating the snake river. Like a herd of turtles in a snow storm, we were off. Floating the river was quite the experience on many different levels. Between the vast crowds of people lining beaches and other groups of people occupying entire islands, the tremendous quantity of people created a spectacular atmosphere that is second to none. our group of a dozen (more or less) was only a spec of sand in the group that populated the waterway. Our group had a few minor snafu's that could have easily brought agitation to any number of people but we were having far too much fun to let being capsized, rolled, and submerged by numerous rapids get us down. After all the laughs and all the fun, the rest of the day was spent recovering from an exciting and long day. In the evening, the Wiswell's hosted our team and many others' 4th of July dinner. Between the brats, grilled chicken, hamburgers and countless other sides and desserts we were all stuffed to the brim. Happy and full, we all dispersed for what was surely going to be a good-night's sleep. 
The next day we were able to rollerski the bike pathway that runs from the park entrance across to the jenny lake turnout. Rollerskiing directly below the Grant Tetons will never get old. In the evening we were guided by both Sam and Yara (our Jackson local experts) to a lake where we swam, jumped off rocks, and had an all-round great time. After our mountain lake adventure, we headed back down to Yara's where her family hosted the team for yet another spectacular meal enjoyed by all. 
On Sunday, Pat and I decided to go to mass instead of going for the morning hike, which we heard was also a "grand" time. By a little after noon, we had said our goodbyes and everyone on the team had left while Pat, Yara and I were off the flat creek for yet another float with some of Pat's old work buddies from the area. 


 PINEDALE:

Monday rolled around and it was time to head off to Pinedale to meet up with Pat's cousin Blane. As we arrived, we met Blane up at the Nordic/Alpine area to check out the next day's venue for mountain biking. After checking out the area, Pat and I headed to what would be our camping spot for that night which is nestled in the foothills of the wind river mountain range right off the edges of a small lake. After a bite to eat, we decided to take the kayaks out to do some fishing until the sun went down. As we paddled across the lake, we noticed the fish were slowing begining to rise, which can only mean good things to a fishermen. after catching a few rainbows and watching the sun dip behind the silhouette of the surrounding pines, we headed back to camp. (On a side-note, sleeping in a tent will never get old)
The next day we packed up our temporary home and headed to meet up with Blaine, his Fiance, and her parents for a mountain bike ride. After a bit of climbing, the view of the mountain range was better than I had anticipated, but not too long of a break to enjoy the scenery and we began the rest if the ride which was filled with jumps, single track, open meadows, tight turns between trees and a few bumps and bruises. After the thrill of catching air and countless mouth-fulls of dust and dirt, we headed back to Blaine's for what would be yet another wonderful meal (aside from getting eaten alive by mosquitoes).
The next day, Wednesday, was our "big adventure" day. Pat and I woke up early to get a good start on the day and have as much time as possible to get as much packed in the day as we could. We started the day off with a few hours of kayaking on and around the green river lakes about an hour outside of Pinedale. I could have paddled that lake all day, between the mountains shooting straight up on the other side of the lake and the pristine water untouched by wind or wave, I was never going to be ready to get off of the water. My stomach however, was ready for lunch and so was pats. Once we had loaded up the boats, we headed downstream to a nice little sport next to a small tributary where we ate freeze-dried mac-and-cheese provided by my very thoughtful sister. At the point of realizing that he fishing was not optimal at that time of day, we decided to take a little siesta. Rough life, I know. Once we woke up it was time to hit the water once again, but this time in a different fashion; with our fishing rods. I can honestly say I have never seen a river quite this unique. Green river is fed by the lake that we had paddles earlier that day. It also loses several vertical feet very rapidly in multiple sections. In the short runs there are boulders the size of small trucks and treacherous white water. In between these sections of chaos, there are flat, slow moving section perfect for fishing with dry flies that sit on top of the water. Pat and I fished for a solid 6 hours if I am recalling correctly. Fighting of mosquitoes from hell, sandal-eating marshes, willows and other various obstacles, the fishing seemed like we were in a movie. Now I will note, the fishing was amazing as I just mentioned, but the catching however, was not so great, not for a lack of trying of course. Pat and I often times can be sometimes a little poor at picking out the correct flies and patterns to match what the fish are eating, however we tried everything. Eventually we caught a few but only right before it had gotten dark. After watching the fish rise time and time again only for us to be frustrated trying new things to figure out what they were biting, in our frustration, we decided to come back the next day to redeem ourselves.
After a night of sleeping, it was time to tie what we predicted the fish would be biting. We spent a good majority of the day getting our fly boxes stuffed full of said flies. Later that evening we were no more successful than the previous night. Unfortunately we were unable to catch more than a few, but we still had one hell of an experience. 
On Friday we re-packed our things and headed back to Jackson where we met with Yara to hang out and enjoy resting before Saturday's trail race.


JACKSON TRAIL RACE:

Now I'm not much of a runner, never have been. Growing up I hated running with a burning passion. I ran cross-country in high school for one season, getting my 5K time under 20 minutes only once. Over the past few years I have grown to like running, in fact, I truly do enjoy it now. But aside from racing triathlons, I hadn't raced a running event since Junior year in high school so preparing for this trail race was a little intimidating. I knew I could finish the race but cramping has always been an issue in my racing experiences in the past and I had a feeling this might be pushing my limits. Fortunately I am good about not worrying too much about something for too long if I don't want to. So going into the race I decided to not worry about cramping, fitness, or other potential problems. Instead of worrying about what might happen, I instead focused on the awesome people around me (Sam, Yara, Pat, and Sawyer). Laughing and making jokes at the start of the race was the best start to a race. After setting into a pace I watched Pat, Sam, and Sawyer take off in the first few of the lead packs. Wishing I could keep up with them, I held back and worked on pacing myself. Having a few other pass me and passing a handful of people my pace was set and I really started to enjoy the race. Having the cache creek running fast next to the trail was a good distraction from the pain in path quads as we climbed more and more. Coming to the final hill-climb, I surged over the top and felt a rush of adrenalin and speed. Catching and passing a group of people I felt rejuvenated heading into the last few sections of open fields of willows, more winding single-track, and down into the finish where the guys were cheering me on. enjoying the feeling of accomplishment, I talked with a few racing that I had gotten passed by and re-passed to congratulate them on their races. Heading back to the start I found the rest of the group and talked with them inquiring about how their races had gone. The only thing that could have made the rest of the day any better would have been food and a Nap, which is exactly what we did. 

All in all it was the best week of summer that I've had yet. Being able to share my experiences with so many wonderful people is something that I do not take for granted. I know this is only just the start of many more good experiences with many more good people. Until next time, stay active, stay positive, and as always, stay classy ;)


(Here are a few pictures from the above stories, I hope you enjoy!) 


























Sunday, July 13, 2014

Meditation


Last Thursday, rather than focusing on lactate threshold, we changed gears substantially and had a session dedicated to meditation. As we were all struggling through a much needed but difficult rest week, meditation seemed a more fitting topic. We began our Thursday night session by reviewing a recent journal article in Molecular Neurobiology (2013, vol. 48: 808-811). This article, by Jindal et al. is a review article  succinctly, yet eloquently overviewing the neuro-physiological, neuro-endocrine and neurochemical substrates underpinning the process of meditation. 

Perhaps we all expected the article’s summary regarding the ability of meditation to decrease stress and improve attention. And, after so many phenomenal yoga sessions with Vicky, I do not think that the article’s conclusions about decreased respiratory and heart rate with meditation came as a surprise. However, Jindal et al. also eloquently described the positive impacts of meditation on the executive functions (attention / memory retrieval) of our prefrontal cortex as well as our limbic functions of motivation. In these neural regions, stress promotes apoptosis (a.k.a. programmed cell death or I prefer ‘cell suicide’). This cell death can lead to memory impairment and meditation decreases such stress.

But perhaps even more interesting are the impacts of meditation on neurotransmitters / neuroendocrinology. Melatonin is the neurotransmitter that regulates the sleep-wake cycle. During meditation, melatonin decreases and this likely helps to balance sleep. The feel-good neurotransmitter, serotonin is increased in meditators.  Finally, (and always a buzzword to athletes), nitric oxide (the superhero healer) is enhanced!

After we talked about this article, we did lunar flow yoga on our back porch while the sun was setting. We ended with a focused attention meditation. And as we allowed passing thoughts to float in and gently back out, I think we all wondered why we did not do this more often. For me, as I pictured my breath, in bright yellow, I could sense those around me and perhaps that did just as much as the meditation to bring me peace. 


Saturday, July 12, 2014

Witness the Fitness: Cashe Game Trail Race

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Today I had the pleasure or running The Cashe Game Trail Race with Pat, Taylor, and Yara. The course is 18k of epic terrain climbing over 1,300 feet in Cashe Creek Canyon before dropping 1,500 feet down in adjacent Game Creek Canyon. It is by far my favorite running race and is pure bliss for me. I wasn’t able to get any pictures as we were running like bats out of hell the entire time but instead I am going to link the songs that were stuck in my head through out the race.

The first is Witness the Fitness by Roots Manuva https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y94oPOE-Ro0. This songs chorus seems very appropriate for how I have changed my philosophy towards ski training since joining the UW team. I am entering my 5th year of full time ski training and for the fist time ever I have done no interval or speed training during the early summer months. After 4 seasons of varying results in interval focused programs I am very interested to see what an over distance focus does for me as a skier. Today was the first real barometer to see how it is going. I have come to know quite a few people in the trail racing scene here in Jackson over the years (this was my third consecutive year doing this race alone). As I went to the start line teammates and friends old and new surrounded me. Even a former ski coach of mine was racing. As the gun went off, I was all smiles. This was a change from the more serious approach I had taken the last 2 years.  During the fist few miles of hill climb I settled into the zone. I get to run with a former cross country team mate, Sawer Thomas (Yara’s little bro), who was great to pace off of.  I have never had such a bast hill climbing before. We passed a few people and came to the steepest part of the course. We power walked up the steep trail littered in loose rocks aiming to catch the group of five in front of us which I later found out was the second pack.  Sawer dropped me there but the group was still in my sights and I powered on. Upon cresting the hill and and the course high point the world seemed to slow.

The song in my head changed to the epic electronic remix “Help Me loose My Mind” originally by: Disclosure and remixed by: Mazde. Enjoy! (Free Legal Download) https://soundcloud.com/mazde/disclosure-help-me-loose-my-mind-mazde-remix  I have always struggled with the downhill section of this course. It is steep and treacherous and it has been known to trip up people sometimes throwing them violently off the trail. Today was different and I made up my mind that I was going to slay this dragon! A few seconds into the downhill I experienced one of the coolest things in all of endurance sports: the second wind. The suddenly I was sprinting as fast I could and the thought crossed my mind I am a mother f*****g stallion! I started eating up terrain like none other and caught the group in front of me and passed them. We ran though the most gorgeous field of chest high wild flowers. In that moment nothing could stop me. There is nothing quite like the feeling of bone jarring flight that comes with steep downhill trail racing. It’s not smooth as skiing downhill. Knowing a single misplaced step could send you careening into the bushes is exhilaration and the amount of focus you have to put in is tremendous. I could feel the energy of the racers around me and the air was almost electric. The last part of the race enters a down flat that is brutal with legs that feel like lead but a good test of your endurance and I still felt like I was flying. Crossing the finish like I looked at my time. It was 20 seconds faster than last year. Heart rate stats were just as impressive with a in race max of 213 bpm and an average of 202 bpm sustained over an hour and twenty minutes. To put it in perspective I had done over 20 speed sessions prior to this race last year.

After the race we went to Nora’s and got huevos rancheros and biscuits and gravy, yum :). It was a perfect summer morning spent with awesome people. No complaints here in Jackson.