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.

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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 area.bike 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.

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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.

 

 

kids, can we please go to the playground?

Said no mom ever when given the choice between a late afternoon playground adventure which would surely end with a meltdown or a free hour of childcare. Except for me yesterday when the hour of childcare was attached to my attendance of Monday night spin class – a class I dearly love and don’t miss except under extenuating circumstances. Yesterday I was exhausted and positive I’d never survive the class.

My boys won, as usual, so I signed them into Y kids and found the energy to get through class. I left the YMCA feeling better than when I’d walked in, which is true 99.9% of the time. Sometimes I just need a little push from my pint-sized coaches.

Today I returned to the Y of my own free will and pushed myself harder in yet another spin class.  I have a nifty little app that connects to the spin bikes so upon comparison I can see that today I was averaging 20 watts higher than yesterday and also burned 40 more calories during my 40 minutes on the bike. Basically boring information but useful to me as self-motivation. Yay! I’m stronger than I was yesterday! Or maybe it was the good music and the cute instructor who walked around stalking our computers. Either way, I worked harder and feel awesome because of it.

the workouts:

If you want to try working with wattage, I suggest reading this article to begin. In both classes we were working with establishing challenging wattages we could hold 2-4 minutes. In Amy’s class yesterday we were sustaining 3 minutes with a comfortably high wattage then 2 minutes at +5-10 watts. 1:00 rest interval between the two. Then 8 x :20 all out with rest interval :10. Rest and repeat the entire thing. Today Luis was working us for 4 minute intervals, high wattage 85-90 rpm broken up with 1 minute very heavy climbing 65-70 rpm.

 

 

noise regulation

Any orchestral player who complains about the volume of their brass section has clearly never taken a spinning class in Tel Aviv. Three trumpets pale in decibel to the stereo system in Gordon Pool’s spin studio. That was my first observation at 7am this morning. My second observation was that our tiny but mighty instructor had an ear splitting whistle, which she sounded throughout the class (through her headset microphone) to cue each position change.  There were eight of us in the studio, including our class cheerleader, a plump middle-aged man with a perm and muscle shirt who spent most of the hour standing on the pedals waving his arms to the music. Two of us wore earplugs. All of us clapped and cheered enthusiastically on cue. The hour flew by and in spite of the noise, I enjoyed my workout.

I spent nearly twice as much for a one month membership here as I pay at my home YMCA and they don’t even supply towels. I forgot to bring a hand towel and had to use my shirt to mop sweat during class. Then I had to wear it to breakfast. Gross. The spin bikes are old and without computers. I’ve grown accustomed to training with wattage and rpm’s so without these numbers it’s tricky to train smart.

The upside: I have a one month membership to Gordon Pool!!! Anyone who’s known me since we’ve been coming to Israel has surely grown sick of hearing me talk about this spectacular 50 meter saltwater pool overlooking the Mediterranean. Usually when we’re here I run outside and buy a swim pass but this year I splurged on the whole shebang, which includes many classes and the use of a Japanese-style bathhouse spa. I was tickled to realize I’m now comfortable enough with my Israeli-ish-ness to walk into a gym, request a tour, then attend a spin class. Of course everyone speaks English, but I can read the signs posted in Hebrew and I’m trying to begin conversations in Hebrew.

The Israman half ironman is in 23 days. While my training hasn’t exactly been thorough, I’m enjoying the process and doing the best I can at this moment in my life.

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new year’s day sunrise run