Laura On the Go

Twenty years ago this month I graduated from Juilliard and won a position in the San Francisco Opera Orchestra. This weekend I played two final shows with my orchestra. Never would I have imagined that leading a deconstructed Barber of Seville from a tent, performing for a car audience could feel so meaningful. We were 19 musicians who bonded over the chilly evening temperatures, the discomfort of playing for 100 minutes straight wearing masks, and the general absurdity of our situation, while fully appreciating what this return to opera meant to us, personally, and our art form, as a whole.

Final Barber in the tent

With the support of my friends in the orchestra, and two packs of Kleenex supplied by my violin section, I coasted through my final performance. The finale of Barber of Seville is uplifting and felt like such an appropriate way to conclude my tenure with the San Francisco Opera. Luckily I’ve also got it memorized, because by the end the tears were streaming down my face and I couldn’t see my music.

Our 1st violin section

Typically our orchestra celebrations take place in the Opera House lounge or after-hours at a Hayes Valley bar, but since neither was convenient last night, we drank in the gravel parking lot under the Marin stars.

Orchestra party after the final show

My crew presented me with a scrumptious chocolate cake inscribed with “Arrivederci Cara Laura” in blue (which, coincidentally, matched my nail color perfectly). I was told the word “arrivederci” was chosen so as to imply it’s not a final goodbye but just a “see you later”. I received hugs from everyone (how amazing was that after so many months???) and couldn’t have imagined a more perfect evening.

Arrivederci Cara Laura

I am leaving the Opera to embark on a new career path. On September 1st I’ll begin school at NYU, working toward an MA in Music Therapy. My interest in Music Therapy began 26 years ago during my undergraduate studies in Cleveland. As my work study, I assisted in the music therapy department at the Cleveland University Hospitals. I am finally coming back to it. This past year gave my family a chance to reevaluate our lives and me the space to prepare college application essays and auditions. I taught myself to play guitar, and though I’m still too shy to sing in front of others, I can accompany myself on guitar and piano. For my auditions, I produced a 30 minute video speaking about my background and aspirations as a music therapist, and surviving several strenuous recording attempts on violin, my “primary instrument”. I chose to perform the Danse Rustique movement of a difficult Ysaye solo sonata in front of the wood fire (which I stoked every few minutes so my background would be appropriately rustic). That was the easy part. I also arranged and taught myself to play the guitar parts of Halo and Happy Together (singing while accompanying myself was my biggest challenge), recorded an improvisation based on a short fiddle tune, and got my piano hands working steadily enough together to accompany myself singing You Are My Sunshine. My audition video was an enormous undertaking and I’m immensely proud of the final product.

The past several weeks have been full of emotional moments, as we pack up our home, visit with friends and make the most of our remaining time in San Francisco. We feel we’ve lived the best lives we can here and are excited for the next chapter. To my San Francisco friends, I love you dearly and will miss you all … arrivederci!

wattage and a different perspective

Last night the Ballet opened and closed a beautiful production of Midsummer Night’s Dream. The company was called to the stage immediately following the performance and a tearful announcement was made that public performances, events and gatherings in the War Memorial buildings have been cancelled through March 20th. This was already all over social media so it came as no surprise but was still extremely disappointing to all who’d worked tirelessly toward our 10-performance run.

I’ve been all over the emotional map this past week and violin has been one of few calming sources. I particularly loved sitting in the pit and playing two hours of Mendelson, so I’m sad that I won’t have the opportunity to complete the run. What came as a surprise to me, however, was that as soon as this announcement was made I felt an immediate sense of relief. Whether shutting down big meeting spaces is an over-reaction or a necessary precaution to help prevent the spread of the virus, I welcome the concrete decision.

Currently I’m the parent who is obsessively spritzing her kids with hand sanitizer (natural, of course, which probably doesn’t work anyway) and I hate to admit it but I actually wiped down all of the door knobs and handles in the house with antibacterial wipes yesterday. I wash my hands so often I’m going to run out of soap soon. To be perfectly honest, worrying about germs and cleanliness is exhausting so I’ve decided to attempt to move on with my life and all its uncertainty. I’m setting new guidelines for staying healthy. Still keeping an ear open to the news, I’m going to continue my gym workouts, spend time laughing with friends, cuddling with my boys and eat plenty of chocolate. 

Here’s the rundown of today’s gym visit.

The workout:

30 minutes TRX – twice through each set, 10 reps of each exercise

set 1: Squat row, single leg push-ups, triceps extension, bicep curl, single leg lunge alternating with curtsy

set 2: single leg hamstring curl, hip press to hamstring curl, side plank pike, side plank hip drop, sit-ups with medicine ball, medicine ball side twists, standing oblique crunch, full plank alternating pike & crunch, single leg lunge to atomic push-up, hand stand push-ups (the world looks different upside down!)

25 minutes spin – here’s my playlist

1. Warm up

2. Speed it up and hold steady pace, still light wattage

3. Tempo work, choose heavy and medium wattage that can be sustained (130 & 150 today), chorus gets lower wattage, verses higher

4. Fast and steady rpm, lighter wheel

5. More tempo work, same as 3

6. Steady rpm and wattage

7. Cool it down

Don’t forget to stretch! Now, it’s time to get on with my day and engage a couple little helpers to bake me birthday cake. 43 years young today!

when the car battery dies

This morning when we arrived at school I found our household’s spare scooter waiting for me in the courtyard. Yesterday I’d raced to school on it when I was late getting home from my violin lesson in the Mission and had only five minutes till I was due for Eitan pickup. My violin lesson had run over because I’d arrived late, sprinting across the city on my bike, after hauling groceries home on the bus. All this because on Mondays I always use the car, but this week the car was unexpectedly in the shop having its battery replaced. Mondays are technically my free day but that doesn’t translate to leisure time. I grocery shop, take Cuban music lessons and bring Eitan to swim class. The irony of the entire situation was on Sunday night when a friend asked me about my planned Monday workout I’d shrugged and said that on Monday mornings I don’t have time for anything extra. I’d unwittingly found a solution to my day without a workout – transport myself (and groceries, a violin, two kids, two scooters and three bags) all over the city using my own energy.

I turned the day without driving into a personal challenge, choosing to make the most out of the beautiful weather, accessibility of public transport and my knee being healthy enough to ride! I cheated once and took a Lyft. Sometimes the buses don’t come in a timely fashion and when you spend a fortune on a four year old’s half hour swim lesson you don’t want to miss a minute. I also rode two different scooters, my bike, two city buses, a government Presidio bus and walked. My biggest challenge of the day was after swim class when Eitan was tired but we need to scoot the length of Crissy Field to get back into the Presidio to take the bus out of the Presidio to meet Aviv’s school bus. When Eitan sets his mind to something (be it a complicated task or refusing to move because he’s tired) he holds firm on his position. Everyone who’s seen me in action knows that I’m not overly coordinated. My only solution was pulling him on his scooter while balancing myself and bag on my single-front-wheel scooter, and it took every ounce of strength and balance. Generally in this type of situation I’d dump bags all over the sidewalk, knock over my kid and end up with a bruised shin. Yesterday we arrived at the bus completely unscathed and made it to Aviv’s school bus drop-off with a few minutes to spare. Whew!

By the time I’d hauled the boys and their belongings to the Toyota dealership and driven home I was thoroughly exhausted and could do nothing but sprawl on my bed faced down for several minutes. I think I’ll go back to my regular workouts today!

The workout: Do a day without a car! Walk to the bus, borrow your kid’s scooter (you’ll only feel a little silly), bike somewhere instead of driving (parking is free and easy to find!)

to Dad

Twenty years ago you took your last breath on earth and passed on to whatever is next. I think you were at peace with letting go of your body, which was no longer working as it always had. The rest of us tried to be at peace also. I don’t think of you every day but certain things bring you to mind.

Though memories and impressions of a child are not always reality, I choose to believe you were happiest in the mountains because high up in the blue sky with clear thin air, I feel closest to you.

Away from the mountains in my daily life I try to conjure up images of you and they come mostly through my boys. Though they never met you, they know about Grandpa Chuck and Aviv knows he’s named after you. Bits of your personality and humor shine in them. They occasionally ask questions and I do my best to answer. Twenty years is a long time to know a person only in memories.

I remember going running with you very occasionally. Somehow you ran with me, even though I was small and your long legs on that 6’5″ frame must have been barely moving. I remember visiting the local YMCA and doing weights with you. I remember sledding on snow days and your long legs getting tangled with dogs during cross country ski “adventures”.

I spent my high school years arriving late for Spanish class because you didn’t teach first hour and I could never get you out the door on time. I remember how every vocal jazz class began with a shoulder massage circle (that would certainly never fly today!) but everyone wanted to be next to you because you gave the best massages. There was one choir festival our class traveled to and there was a swimming pool involved. I remember being horribly embarrassed about you wearing a speedo. Mom never could get you to quit wearing that thing!

You were in charge of shuffling us around to after school activities and I remember being left at the dance studio when you’d drop Julie off and forget to pick me up at the same time (or vice versa).

I remember younger years in your Dalcroze Eurhythmics classes at Suzuki workshops. So many smiles, rhythms, fun. You were always wearing those (extremely short) cut-off jean shorts and acting goofy. Everyone loved you. Family fun nights at those same Suzuki workshops were a blast. You dressed as a bee and buzzed your way through the crowd while Julie played Flight of the Bumblebee.

You were unapologetically your own person. You had your own style (wearing stripes and plaid the day you met Mom!) and dressed in what made you feel good. You loved living and playing and dancing (the first time I saw you dance it was so ridiculous I thought you were joking, but you weren’t).

There’s no workout in this blog post, just a simple reminder to myself about living an active, generous life and appreciating what I have. Thanks for showing me the way.

If you would indeed behold the spirit of death, open your heart wide unto the body of life. For life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one.

For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun? And what is it to cease breathing, but to free the breath from its restless tide, that it may rises and expand and seek God unencumbered?

Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing. And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb. And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.

The Prophet by Kahil Gibran

quick and easy

In theory, riding a Jump bike with an electric assist should have been my fastest route downtown yesterday morning. In theory, an hour and a half should have been plenty of time for me to walk to my reserved bike, ride around the top of the city to the Ferry Building in order to purchase my overpriced (but fantastic-smelling) deodorant, then arrive at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in time for a noon event. Theories don’t always hold true.

What actually happened yesterday was this. I practiced longer than planned (the Act II finale of Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro is 20 minutes long, after all) then I changed my outfit twice (I need something appropriate for both biking and museum). I left the house with barely over an hour to spare then walked several blocks to the nearest bike. The electric assist wasn’t working and neither were the gears but I hopped on and decided to give it my best shot. By the time I’d pushed my 70 lb bike up the Arguello hill I’d decided that I needed a replacement. I flew down the Arguello hill (fun fact: broken assist means there’s no downhill speed regulation) and found a slew of bikes at the bottom. I attempted to terminate my ride but the app wasn’t working, which meant I also couldn’t pick another bike, which meant my time for shopping was dwindling. I finally reached someone on the phone for assistance and after taking all of my information short of social security number she asked “and you’re in New York City, right?”

Eventually I managed to return one bike and find another that was fully functioning but by this point I was out of extra time and just hoped to make it to the museum by noon.

As I zipped by the marina green and saw the parents and babies out for SoccerTots, I remembered how my kids loved soccer. Aviv spent classes picking flowers and singing into the orange cones. Eitan was perfectly coordinated and did everything the teacher asked, if and when he felt like it.

Further on, as I climbed the hill above Fort Mason I thought of the time Mom and I rented a tandem bike at Fisherman’s wharf with the intention of riding across the bridge and taking the ferry back. Between the steep incline, the seat heights being slightly too tall for both of us and the challenge of coordinating the bike mount while simultaneously beginning to pedal, the hill nearly beat us. In the end, we accomplished our goal but agreed that next time we’d ride our own bikes.

I passed Aquatic Park, where three crazy people were swimming in the bay without wetsuits. I thought fondly back to my Team in Training days and one of my first groggy early morning Wildflower training swims with the crew. I’d intended to wet my hair down pre-swim so my cap would go on easier but instead of water, I doused myself with sticky sports drink. After that I was fully awake.

The Ferry Building appeared on my left with the beautiful Bay Bridge panorama beside it. As I pedaled the final blocks down Howard I texted Ariel my location while holding a bike glove in my teeth and navigating between cars. I parked in front of the CJM as the Tuesday noon emergency sirens sounded.

My ride home was less eventful but more challenging because I was stuffed full of Wise Son’s kale and pastrami caesar, carrying my new gorgeous Sababa cookbook, and riding into the headwind. I did manage to stock up on deodorant first and my bike was noisy but delivered me to Eitan’s school right on time.

While I prefer using my own muscles to power a bike (my knee is finally healthy enough to ride!), I love the speed of an electric assist and the peace of mind knowing my bike won’t get stolen off a rack downtown. I don’t plan on using Jump very often but it beats the bus on any sunny day.

the workout: 16 mile ride, 1,194 ft climbing, pushing 70 lb bike up steep hill

around Scotland without a plan

I arrived in Glasgow a week ago and asked my sisters the question friends had been asking me. Why are we in Scotland? I was a late addition to the trip and had no idea why anyone would want to spend a week in Scotland. Turns out the Outlander series had piqued interest in Scotland so Becca and Maiya booked accommodations, talked Julie into the trip and texted me until they caught me at the right moment – over cocktails on a ski trip when both boys were behaving beautifully. Ariel, being my encouraging and supportive husband (as usual), asked me why I was even considering not going. So the plan was formed for our sisters getaway.

Our first three days were spent in Edinburgh, our base a small modern flat on a quiet cobblestone street in Stockbridge. Quiet, except early mornings when the workers doing the historical renovation across the street arrived and started up the power tools. No matter. Early mornings are meant for exercise, right? Julie (impressively over-packed) brought three sets of workout clothes. My suitcase fit one plus my TRX straps, a tennis ball and The Stick. (The two bits of research I did for this trip involved booking a dinner reservation and searching for playgrounds near our flat where I could hang the TRX.)

The walk to Inverleith Park was peaceful in the early morning and there were no kids to scare away from the swings as I set us up. We alternated using the TRX and attempting to find appropriate playground replacements for each exercise. We were able to take single handles and stabilize each other for a few of the one arm and single leg exercises. Coordinating our timing exactly and not knocking each other off balance was a challenge but when you’ve been working out with someone for so many years, you find a rhythm easily. After TRX we took to the field and did a run-walk until I decided I was bored and my knee had had enough pounding. We wandered toward the cute MILK coffee kiosk where we received both tips on what to see in Edinburgh and the tastiest flat white coffee of the trip.


The following days were filled with walking the city, exploring Edinburgh castle and climbing Arthur’s Seat. I video-chatted with my boys from the castle and Aviv asked if the King and Queen were still there.

We had no plans other than a single dinner reservation at Timberyard, where we indulged in six-course veggie and fish tasting menus. A couple of us began with perfectly crafted cocktails followed by wine pairings. It was a delicious and entertaining meal for all. Especially after I walked mistakenly into the men’s bathroom and came back to share my story. Julie wasn’t quite under the table laughing.

Each morning in Edinburgh we picked up pastries, cheese and eggs for breakfast. Two of three evenings we ate Indian food at Dishoom. I’ve never tasted Indian food like it before. I didn’t expect this trip to be memorable for food but Edinburgh most certainly was.

On the final morning Julie and I wandered along the water of Leith. I was excited to find a dirt path near the river for our run-walk. We alternated minutes of each until we reached Inverleith Park and my favorite coffee kiosk again.

These run-walks can be frustrating and barely feel like exercise but I’m taking baby steps toward a healthy knee and am not about to slow recovery just to sweat more. Fortunately, for a few days I had a sister to keep me company!

Becca bravely offered to be the wrong-side-of-the-road driver for our journey north. She also found us a challenging hike along the way. The same day as our river run we climbed Ben A’an. I found the hike to be enjoyable, though mostly treeless and the lighting quite flat. The view of the surrounding lakes from the top peak made the climb worthwhile and my knee ached only minimally on the steep walk down. I’d been very consistent with stretching and roll-outs throughout the trip so this helped.

We eventually arrived in Ballachulish and found the Craiglinnhe House, where its charming proprietor, Lawrence, greeted us as if we were old friends. We took a post-dinner sunset walk near the lake then settled into the lounge with whiskeys in hand.

The next morning, over a tasty breakfast, Lawrence helped us plan a day to the Isle of Mull and Iona. With five ferry crossings it would’ve been a dream day for my boys. We spent a good portion of the day on scenic single lane roads, at one point cruising behind a pack of cyclists who all braked suddenly as a sheep sprinted across the road. There were frequent pullouts to allow cars coming from the opposite direction to pass. Becca was soon expertly pulling to the side and swerving around other cars, politely waving a hand every single time. The constant waving was a source of entertainment to us all, as we diagnosed each passing driver’s personality and mood through his or her wave. The few that didn’t wave we labeled either stressed out tourist drivers or locals totally fed up with the whole tourist traffic situation.

We eventually floated into Iona’s deep blue waters and saw the white sand beach Lawrence had spoken of. We hadn’t seen or imagined we’d find anything like it in Scotland. The island is a special, spiritual place. I felt this strongly as I stepped inside the grass-covered stone remains of Iona’s nunnery. The convent was founded in 1200 and for 400 years the area was known as “hillside of the nuns”.

Yesterday was our final day in the Highlands and once we eventually left the house we made our way to another trailhead. We managed to walk completely the wrong direction and miss a turn-off but when there aren’t any firm plans, this isn’t really a problem. We did eventually find the waterfall we were looking for and the second loop of the hike. Each portion of our hike allowed us different scenery, from the refreshing cold waterfall, to the moss-covered trees (how we assumed Scotland would look), to an ancient military road with mountains in the distance, to completely cleared logging spaces.

After a (surprisingly delicious) vegan lunch in a nearby town we drove out to the Harry Potter Viaduct, actually know as the Glenfinnan Viaduct. In 1745 the Jacobite rising took place here and since then it has appeared in four Harry Potter movies.

Last night Lawrence made us a reservation at a waterfront seafood restaurant. My fish and vegetables (yay for vegetables!) were perfectly prepared and I tasted sticky toffee pudding for the first time. Now I need to figure out how to make it. My view in one direction was the sunset over the mountains. In the other, an older gentleman wearing a kilt, sitting with his legs wide open. Nothing obscene, but still completely unnecessary.

We finished the evening with more whiskey, drunk in the company of our new German and Scottish friends, also guests at the Craiglinnhe House. Lawrence popped in to say goodbye, tell us the history of the house and mention that mine and Julie’s room possibly has a friendly resident ghost. Luckily he didn’t mention this until after we’d slept in the room a couple of nights, or Julie might have slept in the car.

That wraps up our amazing journey, though I can’t possibly leave out today’s true “training on the go”.

This morning we arrived at the airport three hours early (this has never happened to me before, nor will it ever again) so I made the most of it. I figured, since I’ve worked up the nerve to do my squats and lunges on a pool deck in my swimsuit (chiropractor’s orders) I could probably survive a couple sets in an airport. I did several and decided to film it just as my flight was called for boarding. I began a quick set then found the whole thing too entertaining and had to quit. Laughing makes balance difficult!


As I board my flight back to the states, I’m realizing how having a full week of unplanned time with my sisters in a country I now love was truly a once in a lifetime experience.

no trouble with Egypt

A year ago today I raced (okay, just barely finished) a half Ironman in Israel on a rental bike. Ariel and our boys cheered me on throughout the very long day and there were awe-inspiring moments as I marvelled at my surroundings, but mostly it was a really difficult race and I’ve never been so relieved to cross a finish line! Fast-forward to today: I’m still on the road to recovery from a May knee injury (see previous post) but feeling stronger by the day. I haven’t ridden my bike in months but I see it in my near future. I’m thinking happily back to my Israman experience and finally sat down to write about it.  Here’s how it went down.   israman finish 2018

Last January I convinced Ariel we should buy our plane tickets home from Israel a little later than planned in case I decided to do the Israman. Our cousin was training for it and I didn’t want to be left out of the party. Three months before the race (just after the price had risen one final time) I registered, briefly glancing at the course first. Never mind that I would be in Israel for the month prior without a bike and hadn’t raced a half Ironman distance since long before children. I saw those as mildly irritating, but surmountable obstacles.

I freaked out a little when I realized the bike course was known for its difficultly but I prepared the best I could with double headlands loops and longer rides through the Marin headlands until Nutcrackers took over my life in December. Once in Tel Aviv, I found a bike shop that rented bikes to be picked up at the race expo, then joined a nearby Tel Aviv gym for the month of January so I could take a few spin classes and use Gordon Pool. I’d made a pact with myself that training would not get in the way of family time in Israel and for the most part it didn’t. My training was underwhelming, to say the least and come race weekend I was prepared only for the swim (not having ridden a bike all month or done a long run since late-November when an old foot injury flared up). img_20180125_154434Nevertheless, when I arrived with my family in Eilat I was swept up in the pulsating energy and comforted by the predictable down-to-business vibe of a town inhabited by triathletes and their very expensive bikes. The day before race day I tried and adjusted my rental bike (loving it instantly) then attended the English race briefing. “Blah blah blah… there should be enough shelters for everyone if they’re needed…” (I absentmindedly thought how it had been raining a lot. Good to know I had protection if it poured.) “But things are stable with Egypt right now so you should be fine.”  (Ohhhh… those kind of shelters.) The entire ride through the Eilat mountains was next to Egypt, separated by a high fence. I heard from our cousin later that in the Hebrew race briefing the athletes had been told, in case of trouble with Egypt, they should click their bikes into lower gear and pedal harder.

In the darkness of race morning I pulled on my sweats and plugged in headphones to enjoy my usual pre-race Beastie boys album then set up my bike in T1 and dropped my running gear bag into a truck. It would be waiting for me at the top of the mountain in T2 when I came off the bike. I went back to the hotel room to prepare and wake my boys then we followed the mob down to the swim start.img_20180126_062332

Through most of the swim I was purely focused on avoiding flailing limbs and preventing a kick in the face. Unlike most races, this one doesn’t have separate swim starts for all age groups so the entire swim was slow and unpleasant. I tried to appreciate that I was swimming in the red sea and even noticed a jellyfish glide by beneath me. The boys yelled as I exited the water and started up the long path toward the transition finish israman

I dressed for the bike and pulled on the required long sleeves as quickly as my cold hands would allow then jumped on my rental bike. As the climbing began, I felt fairly confident and my race bib labelled me USA so people were yelling words of encouragement in English. (There were only a handful of Americans racing, one of whom I randomly met last summer swimming in the Steamboat Springs Hot Springs pool in Colorado!) As our cousin pulled past me and yelled something about a California girl I grunted, then smiled as I recognized his voice. I made it my mission to keep him in sight until the end of the long climb so I could yell back before he reached the summit and flew out of sight. Then the ride got tough. Really tough. The climbing had been predictably difficult but every time the road flattened the crosswinds nearly knocked me off my bike. The downhills were worse because where I could have been gaining momentum for the next uphill I was instead fighting to stay on my bike. The course was beautiful and bare and lonely. I wanted to quit so many times but if I’d quit I would’ve just been sitting on the highway, freezing and alone, next to the high fence of the Egyptian border. So I pushed on. And I sang at the top of my lungs. It was a song Aviv learned for his Pre-K graduation and all I could think of. The words (which escape me now) were poignant at the time.When I finally rolled into T2 at the top of the mountain my boys greeted me. They’d taken a spectator shuttle up to cheer for me and had been waiting in the cold wind for a few hours. I received hugs and kisses, all the while keeping my legs moving because I knew if I stopped moving, that would be the end.aviv kisses israman

Running 6 miles downhill was brutal, though the views were spectacular. I forced myself  to notice the mountain and the sea and also to cheer other runners on as we passed one another (an old habit from my Team in Training days). My goal was to keep my pace under 10 minute miles. The downhill momentum helped and I would have succeeded had I not needed a pit stop in the middle. My homemade energy gels and bites did well for me though I needed the added boost of the race’s sports drink and some real food (dates! bananas! pretzels! oh my!). marina run isramanMy boys met me in the Marina as I followed the never ending trail of orange cones which would eventually lead me to the finish. Aviv was allowed to run the finish chute with me and we held up our Israman flag as I dragged him (or was it the other way around?) across the finish line, crying and laughing. I was given a metal and wrapped in a silver heat sheet. Finisher food was lentil soup and beer. Best ever! To top it all off, one of my favorite Hadag Nahash songs was playing.

I survived the race and did all the right things for my recovery but felt horrible for a few days. It honestly never occurred to me that the aftermath of a undertrained half Ironman could be so bad. Interestingly enough, as I sit and write this I’m envisioning myself racing in Israman 2020. Some things are best remembered for their highs, not lows!



the knee saga

Dr. Bean walked into the room today wearing a silver Tiffany bean pendant. I commented on how I’d received the same necklace from an awkward date in college after we’d had a conversation about eating beans. She shared that she has a collection of them given as gifts because of her name. First appointment off to a good start.

Finally, after three months of hoping my knee would heal itself, I made an appointment so a doctor could tell me exactly what I already knew. If I want my knee to heal I actually need to stop doing the stuff that’s making it worse. That includes but is not limited to bike commuting to work, sprinting to catch Aviv’s school bus, breaststroke and flip turns in the pool, burpees in baby boot camp, anything involving lunges or squats in TRX and all spin classes. And that leaves me with what exactly?

Note to self: when something hurts, stop doing it! The knee saga began on a Sunday morning in May when I needed to get to work but also really wanted to swim and really wanted to pick up some farmers market produce. In my usual way, I opted “in” to everything. My knee had been bugging me for a few days but I didn’t have the car that particular morning. I did have two hours till rehearsal began so I hopped on my bike and pedaled to the market. Beautiful, fresh produce in hand (actually in pannier bags) I rode up the Arguello hill and down to the Presidio Y pool. I raced through a short swim workout then me and my several pounds of produce sped up and over the city toward the Opera. After rehearsal I added a violin to my back and started toward home with the usual headwind. Climbing the Hayes hill my knee was in pain but once home I forgot about it until my Monday night spin class, when it hurt badly enough I decided to quit.

I took it (sort of) easy for a few weeks during the Ring Cycle then I did (almost) nothing besides swim while we were out of town this summer. It’s easy to choose a daily half mile in the water when you’re swimming in warm lakes and a gorgeous outdoor hot springs pool. (Side note: I was pretty pleased by my ability to swim half mile easily at altitude and commented on this to a local athlete in Steamboat Springs, CO. He smiled and informed me that the Elevation 10,568 printed on my Steamboat t-shirt is the elevation at the top of the ski mountain, not the pool in town).

Anyway… my knee felt fine swimming all summer but since we’ve been home and I gotten back to my usual activities it’s been worse. So alas, I need to stop doing everything that is causing the patellofemoral pain symptom (inflamed tissues underneath my kneecap, in regular words). Try as she might this morning, Dr. Bean couldn’t find any muscle weakness or imbalances (yay!) but it turns out my hamstrings are tight (no kidding) and I also need to ice the knee for 20 minutes at least 3 times a day to get rid of the inflamation. Weirdly, I think making time to sit and ice for a hour a day presents my biggest challenge but Aviv has already been suggesting ice every time I mention pain so he’ll help me remember.

IMG_7751After my appointment, I figured the best way to celebrate nothing really being wrong with my knee would be swimming (since freestyle without flip turns is still on my “okay” list). I was a few blocks from the newly renovated Chinatown Y saltwater pool and curious. The locker room has not been recently renovated and is carpeted so I was pleased I’d remembered my flip flops. The pool water, actually chlorinated saltwater, is slightly warmer than the Presidio Y pool. It was perfect for my speed and distance today but would be too warm for an intense workout. Unlike the Presidio, there’s no space for a warm pool or hot tub, just 5 lanes, split between lap and recreation. The length is “just under 25 yards” in the lifeguard’s words and my expensive smartwatch wasn’t smart enough to catch this deviation from the usual 25 yards. Good thing I bought the watch for its looks, not functionality.


After dim sum and wandering through the Chinatown markets I eventually made it home for my first 20 minute icing. Turns out, though our freezer is bursting with jars of Ariel’s delicious homemade pesto it does not contain a bag of frozen peas or any sort of flexible ice pack. I rigged up an icey knee swaddle using two lunchbox ice packs and a kitchen towel then sat down to practice.

So, here’s the plan moving forward: Only participate in activities that don’t aggravate the knee, ice it at least 3 times a day, continue applying arnica oil or cbd topical lotion and boost my turmeric intake. Check back with me in a couple of weeks.




boot camp burn

We prepared to leave the house yesterday morning at 9am, Aviv disguised as Superman and Eitan screaming at me. The yelling had something to do with chocolate chip vs blueberry pancakes and not wanting to get dressed. I finally packed up Eitan’s breakfast and calmly told my naked, noisy three-year-old that he could get in the car naked if he wished. As we drove down the street (Eitan fully clothed and munching contentedly on the chocolate chip-decorated blueberry pancakes) I mentioned to Aviv that tomorrow morning he’d be starting school at the same hour he’d woken up this morning. He groaned and slouched behind his superman mask. I silently calculated how much earlier I’d be setting my alarm and realized only the prospect of a really great workout could have motivated me to pack the kids up and drive across the city instead of lounging at home on our final morning of summer break.

When my friend invited me to Baby Boot Camp a few weeks ago my obvious question was, “Am I allowed to attend?” I mean, my kids aren’t exactly babies any more. Turns out several of the moms have older kids and since the class is held in a park, they roam in a pack while we do hill repeats and Tabata sets. IMG_7678I love high intensity interval training (HIIT) but had never heard the word Tabata before so looked it up. This Self article defines it clearly and calls it “a fat-torching, sweat-pouring, hard-as-hell workout”.  It turns out a Tabata is a type of HIIT but is distinguished by shorter intervals with higher work to rest ratio than usual HIIT, resulting in a higher heart rate.

After the workout I felt energized despite the San Francisco gloom and my glutes were burning. I suspect this was a combined result of Baby Boot camp and Sunday morning’s YouTube BeFit Better Booty Camp Butt Workout. (great 10 minute blast at home!)

Today’s school drop-offs went relatively smoothly compared to last year’s first day when Eitan threw his shoe out the window into four lanes of traffic. I’m pleasantly sore everywhere and craving a swim but the washing machine has stopped draining so I’m waiting for the electrician.

the workout: Attend boot camp with a friend! Research shows that working out with friends is one of the best ways to keep you accountable, work harder and even burn extra calories.

hotel training

Laura’s Training On theGo has strayed from its original theme of travel and workout but this past week I was thinking about this as I spent nights in two different hotels. Here are my reviews, from an athlete (and mom) perspective.

#1.  The Standard in NYC on the High Line

Basically an awesome location in general but for athletes, you can’t do better. Why? A couple blocks away you’ll find the 11 mile Hudson River Greenway path, perfect for running or riding a Citi Bike. If you do choose to rent one of those bikes, you’ll feel like you rode 4 times the mileage you actually did. Bonus!  If you’re there during the cold winter months and don’t feel like freezing outdoors, choose a Peloton Bike and join a live streaming class from the exercise room on the 14th floor. From your perch high above the Hudson, you can laugh at the crazy suckers running in the snow. Aside from the state of the art exercise room, the hotel offers a fantastic service. They’ll wash four items of workout clothing and return them to your room by 6pm. No (extra) charge.

And in no way connected to working out but my favourite feature of this hotel, here’s the video from the elevator, set to Prokofiev’s Cinderella ballet.

#2.  limelight in Apen, CO

I’m not going to lie. I didn’t even set foot into the workout room in this hotel. Though, I did peek through the window and noticed it’s small but equipped with a lifestyle spin bike and a few other machines. The reason I think this is a great hotel for athletes is the breakfast spread. Don’t laugh, I’m serious. It’s included with the room price and it’s enormous. There are the usual cereal, eggs, bagels and pancakes but also a salad bar with several varieties of greens, black beans, seeds and nut butters. Delicious oatmeal, granola and several varieties of yogurt are just begging to be topped with fresh or dried fruits. On Saturday there was smoked salmon.  Every day there were pre-made smoothies. My favourite treat though was doughnuts and coffee by the fire. Speaking of keeping warm, the outdoor pool and hot tubs are open year round. Nothing better after a long day on the slopes than a soak until you can’t stand the heat then a cold plunge. Mine was inspired by several tipsy Europeans who seemed to think it would be great fun.  I jumped in and hopped around like a lunatic while my body acclimated then convinced my boys it wasn’t really that cold. Aviv joined me and swam a few laps. Eitan began shrieking immediately and was passed back into the hot tub. Despite the slushy ski conditions (hard work for the legs) I wasn’t even slightly sore by the end of our trip. I attribute this to my hot-cold therapy.

The final thing worth mentioning about this hotel is the shuttle services from the airport and to Snowmass Mountain, where our kids loved the ski school. Little details make a big difference.