50 Crazy Things in my 50th Year #44 – Ski a Half Marathon

20160220_132659On the same day I put a new hole in my head I decided to complete another crazy thing. I had been trying to schedule it for a while but it just never worked out. That Saturday afternoon I decided I had to make it work out.

The idea for this year long project, if you recall, came when I was drinking wine and surfing Pinterest. I started seeing Disney running costumes and suddenly came up with the idea of doing the Disney Princess Half Marathon, in costume, in Florida, two days before my 49th birthday. That was crazy thing #1. Since then I ran the Disney Tinkerbell Half Marathon in California, I hiked 21K (the distance for a half marathon) out on the Berg Lake Trail wearing a heavy pack (and nearly died), and I ran a half marathon without training with Jody. I figured the only way to complete the set was to ski a half marathon.

In the past, the longest I’ve skied in one day was 17K (I think) with two friends a couple of years ago. I remember being completely dead after. I expected the same this time. I am a very slow skier. Senior citizens still kick snow in my face, politely of course… most of the time!

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I don’t like skiing when the guys aren’t in the ticket booth – it just makes me feel a bit insecure, but I knew Lee would be there until about 4 pm and I knew my crazy thing would take me over three hours. Instead of heading out on a long trail and being far away from the ticket booth and a way to bail out if it wasn’t going well, I decided to do a shorter route near the parking area and just do laps. Lee and Leah were there for the first three laps and the last lap was a short one so I knew I’d be fine.

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I didn’t take as many pictures as I usually do because I wanted to get this done before it got dark. I did four laps, two were longer and two were shorter, and it worked out almost exactly to 21K. I ended up helping some lost snowshoers get turned around… how they got lost in that area baffles me! I had to reassure them that I knew what I was talking about and they were not where they thought they were. I did lots of thinking about the year and everything I’d done. I even tried to put what I learned in my cross country ski lesson with Lisa into play – for the first three laps. For the last lap I was just going and not thinking too much. I’m proud to say that I finished, it was still light, and I had a great time. I now know I can do longer distances without completely collapsing. And as a bonus, I could still walk the next morning! How cool is that!

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Note the bandaid on my nose – I didn’t want to get sweat in the new hole in my head!

Why was this crazy?

It was the longest I’d skied by quite a bit in one day. This year the longest I’ve done is 14K at once.

Would I do it again?

Now that I know I can do it – sure! There is something ultimately satisfying about setting a goal and reaching it.

 

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50 Crazy Things in my 50th Year #35 – Cross Country Ski Lesson

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Me, Jody, Gerry, and Lisa (front) – all survived my first official ski lesson.

I have been skiing for a few years but I would never say I’m a good skier. Senior citizens regularly pass me and kick snow in my face when I’m skiing. They’re always very polite about it of course, but none the less, I see them shaking their heads sadly at me. It’s really quite pathetic!

A few years ago I was a bit more daring on skis but then I had a couple of epic falls and it’s like my body has a memory that associates going faster with crashing. When it fell we were night skiing and it was about -20C – way too cold. My glasses weren’t just fogged up, they were frozen and I couldn’t see. Since then I have become a very fearful skier when it comes to speed and my technique is pretty much self taught. I’d wanted to do lessons for a few years – to improve my skills and techniques, maybe speed up a little bit so seniors didn’t kick snow in my face any more. I also wanted to get better, and feel safer, doing hills (see crazy thing #28). Each year, though, the timing doesn’t work, etc. I didn’t make the effort. This year Jody and Gerry wanted to do it too. I figured a private lesson for the three of us would be as good as 4 lessons in a large group and way easier to schedule.

We enlisted the services of Lisa Pahelchuk – the outstanding instructor with the Overlander Ski Club. I had no idea how great this was going to be. The first thing she did was teach us about hills as we slowly made our way out to Hoss – one of the trails I do all the time. Almost the first thing we did was a slow gentle downhill. It’s one I almost always put my foot out of the track to use as a brake on. I was determined. A lot of the going downhill instruction focused on balance, centre of gravity, and body position. I was stiff as a board but I made it down the hill… already I had progress! We worked on glide as well – she took away our poles, made us ski with one ski at a time and we went back and forth on a tiny stretch of flat trail for quite awhile. It was super hard work but it was amazing. Then we tackled more hills – my biggest fear, and I concentrated on body position. Mentally and physically the whole lesson was very tiring. As we made our way along the trail and back to the day lodge we kept working on footing, glide, and balance and the entire lesson ended up taking two hours. It was amazing and I can’t believe I didn’t do it before. Jody and I agree we’re going to work on the stuff Lisa taught us and then take another lesson next year to keep improving.

Why was this crazy?

I’ve wanted to do it for years but never got around to joining a class. This time I said what I wanted and made it happen in a way that worked for me instead of trying to fit in with someone else’s schedule. In the past I let things like this stop me all the time. The whole time I was fighting the memory of falling when I started going fast. It’s a gradual process, letting go of a memory like that, which seems unfair since the memory itself was made in almost a single moment.

Would I do it again?

I would definitely put out the effort to get better at something, particularly if it is important to me.  Skiing is very important to me and I don’t want to be tense or scared when I’m doing it. I am definitely having more lessons. I think it’s a good thing to do in just about any endeavor.

 

50 Crazy Things in my 50th Year #34 – Snowshoe race

20160131_101053 1Because this is the way I roll I got up early after being out at a passion party the night before and did a 5K (actually 4K… thank God!) snowshoe race. I’ve only been on snowshoes a few times but I enjoy it and find it relaxing. It works different muscles than my usual activities and I have a shorter stature which makes it pretty tiring, but I do love it. I’ve heard about the North Face Dirty Feet Snowshoe races before and, when in a crazy year, one must do these types of things.

The race was at Stake Lake and a bunch of friends and I were all going to do it. Originally we were going to do it in costume but we didn’t get that organized. Hopefully next year we can make that happen.

 

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Crazy things are always better when shared with friends!

The course was a lot more difficult than I expected it would be. The trails at Stake are pretty packed down so shorter snowshoes are fine. The shorter the snowshoe the better they are on packed snow and the worse they are on deep fluffy snow. I chose to wear mom’s snowshoes that are about 4” shorter than mine. After all, the trails are packed… right? Wrong! The course veered off the packed trails and into the deep, two feet in some places, untouched powder. The track was narrow and Jody and I found ourselves in the middle of a pack of about 20 women we didn’t know.

I don’t know one person who didn’t fall at least once on that course. I fell a bunch of times. I would put my foot down and it would slide sideways and down I would go. One woman behind me fell and I turned around to help her up. She was going uphill and her friend was holding her from behind. It was a major effort to get up again.

Lee and Matt, who work in the ticket booth for the ski club cheered us on when we got close to the parking lot – that was sweet. I had already brought them a thermos of coffee so they were probably celebrating how warm and dry they were while I was lamenting how cold and wet I was becoming.

The guys who came in the top three for the 10K race lapped us right near the finish line. One of them, we noticed, wasn’t wearing socks. My boots were drenched from getting so much snow in them when I fell. Trying to get over so they could pass was an obstacle course in itself. For Jody and I, I wouldn’t actually call this racing. It was more like a really fast walk. We were stuck in the middle of the group and the people behind us didn’t want to pass so we were stuck with this pace that was a bit quicker than I was comfortable with.

Towards the end I could smell hot apple cider from the finish area. I think that propelled me forward. When we got to the finish line we weren’t even last (I was shocked!) and they had the best banana bread ever. They also jelly beans. I don’t often eat them but when I do they are heaven! I had been worried about this being super competitive and me coming in last. I realized quickly that it wasn’t like that at all. Everyone was in a partying mood and Jody and I, and all of our friends, agreed that it was awesome. We had a great time.

Why was this crazy?

I was “racing” in a sport I was an extreme beginner at.

Would I do it again?

Oh yeah, next year I might do a couple of them. It was a tremendous workout and a lot of fun. It was a challenge to keep someone else’s pace for that long and still finish with a smile.

 

50 Crazy Things in my 50th Year #25 – Make a Snow Angel

20160103_134905 1Sometimes my crazy things are just reminders that it’s important to be young and remember the joy that can be found in doing things that children do – swinging on swings, hopscotch… the list is endless. If we only did adult things then we get stuck in an adult world and that can be boring, limiting, and it likely means closing the door on joy.

Early in the ski season I saw a snow angel on the side of a ski trail. Just out in the middle of nowhere particularly special. It made me smile, and I tried to remember when the last time I made one was. I couldn’t remember actually ever making one. I must have made them when I was a kid, bundled up in a snowsuit, but I had lost it. That door to childhood was closing. I knew then that a snow angel had to be a crazy thing.

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Jody Lenarcic and I went for a challenging but awesome snowshoe up to the bluffs at Stake Lake on January 3rd. While were out enjoying the sunshine and sparkly white snow (my favourite days) I mentioned it. She looked at me… she has a look… it says “let’s make this happen!”… kinda scary sometimes! As we progressed up toward the bluffs the snow was deep, powdery, and bright white. It was perfect. The bluffs rose above us, basking in the sunshine. The snow was at least two feet deep and it was pristine – completely untouched. We both knew this was the spot!

Setting this up to get good pictures was actually trickier than we first thought it would be. We wanted to get video and photos. The first problem was having me pass her on snowshoes on the deep narrow trail – not a lot of room and it was almost a game of twister but we managed to survive. Next, I had to figure out how to fall backward on snowshoes. They are long in the back so it’s actually kind of difficult to fall backwards. I have no problem falling sideways – I’m a pro at that.

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Basalt Bluffs

Once we got that organized I fell backward into the deep, fluffy snow and flapped my arms and legs. It’s hard to flap in deep, pristine snow, and I learned that snowshoes don’t really flap very well – this had a high degree of difficulty. Once I’d done enough flapping to make a decent angel we realized Jody would need to pull me up so we didn’t disturb the pattern. We spent a lot of time thinking about how we would manage this feat and all the while my butt, back, and legs were freezing and starting to get pretty wet – should have thought of that sooner! Where was the snowsuit of my childhood???

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When Jody finally got me vertical, and we could breathe again after laughing so hard, we looked down and saw the most perfect snow angel ever. It was awesome! The deep snow really did the trick.

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We made our way back to the parking lot – it was a long snowshoe and we were pretty tired at the end of it, but I noticed I felt just a little bit lighter – not in body, but in spirit. Every once in awhile I picture that angel and I wonder how many people went by on the trail and smiled at the angel beaming up at them. It makes me smile more.

Why was this crazy?

I propped open the door to that childhood energy that dictates we do things purely because they are fun, make us laugh, and just feel good.

Would I do it again?

Any chance I get!

 

50 Crazy Things in my 50th Year #22 – Follow intuition and rediscover magic

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Hello gorgeous! One goal accomplished but it was so much more than just taking pictures of a moose.

At the beginning of each ski season I set some goals – how many km I want to ski, how many times I want to ski, and what wildlife I wanted to see and photograph. I usually reach the km and visit goals, but never the wildlife ones. This year my goals are to ski 700 Km, go skiing 55 times, and photograph the front end of a moose, a lynx, and an owl.

Christmas Eve, 2015 – Like many of my other crazy things, this just started as a normal day.

First, some background. After I graduated from university I moved to Dublin for six months of doing nothing. I had already spent two months backpacking around Britain and Ireland.  It seemed like a stupid and frivolous thing to do, go back with no plan, but it was easily one of the most important things I’ve ever done.

I was exhausted from school. After graduating with a science degree all I wanted to do was be a writer. I felt, at times, like I had wasted four years of my life. I hadn’t it turns out. That science degree is always valuable when I least expect it. More importantly I felt like I had lost my way. The strong, intuitive part of me had been ignored and devalued. Moving to Dublin gave me an opportunity to reclaim that part of myself. I didn’t know how I was going to do it but I knew I would. It took me a few months to figure it out, but eventually I was able to let go of lists of things to do, obligations to others, and expectations of others. It’s probably the only time I’ve lived completely for myself.

I was alone, intentionally, and it was an incredibly important time in my life. I learned that when I followed my instincts I could create magic. Amazing things happened. Coming home, and in the years since, the challenge has always been to find a way to live that honestly with myself, and at the same time live in a world where I had lists of things to do, obligations outside of myself, and people I loved who had expectations of me.

This year on Christmas Eve I had to work a half day in Logan Lake at the Library. It was a good day – fun and festive. Two friends brought me pizza for lunch because I had complained that staff who worked Christmas Eve at the bigger branches in town were given pizza. In the smaller branches we got nothing. My homemade pizza and a can of coke arrived and it was delivered by two people I adore. It was yummy! Pretty awesome day so far. In the past few years I have surrounded myself with amazing people and they even bring snacks!

I planned to go for a long ski at Stake Lake after work and then get into the festive spirit when I got home. When I got to Stake it was almost 2 pm and I realized I didn’t have as much time as I thought and a long ski was out of the question. I’m a creature of habit so I thought I’d just do one of my other regular routes, a shorter one that would only take me an hour or so. As I was setting out, I realized that for some reason I wasn’t going to take that route and I really didn’t know where I was going. I felt that instinct sensation, a homing device in my spine, and I knew I just had to follow along and go wherever I felt like I should. I ended up in an area I don’t usually gravitate to because it’s full of steep trails that are often icy.

I believe that wildlife, or any kind of wonder in the world, allows you to find it, and you can only find it when you’re ready to receive it. You can’t go chasing it. You have to be open to it and it will let you in. It’s like riding a wave – if you catch the wave it’s amazing and you have that mythical feeling of being one with it. Sounds corny, but I think it’s true. If you try and force it – well that’s just painful and rarely gets you the results you’re looking for. I usually know when I follow my instincts and ride that wave, something special will happen. This time I wasn’t disappointed. I came around the corner and found myself face to face with a moose calf – one of the moose that regularly hang out around the ski trails. This wasn’t the first time I’ve seen a moose, or her in particular, but it was the first time I’ve been this close (and not in a car), and the first time I’ve had the time and the space to get some really good pictures.

As I came around the corner she looked up at me from where she was standing and eating. She acknowledged me, and then continued looking for food. We had at least 20 minutes where I slowly moved closer and took more pictures. I didn’t see one skier, and it was a busy day at the trails, the whole time I was with her. I was about 20 ft from her and I’m pretty sure I took over 100 pictures. Finally I knew I was done. I skied past her, maybe 10 ft away. She looked up at me, and then walked off into the bush. It was like she was waiting for me. It was the best Christmas present ever.

Why was this a crazy thing?

I had to slow down, and remember to follow a feeling that used to be so familiar to me. It used to be second nature. Now I have to remember it and relearn how to access and sustain it. Instinct is powerful and it’s like a muscle – it has to be worked and trained.

Would I do it again?

Absolutely. I have to keep working that instinct muscle and I’m committed to stopping and taking the time to appreciate beauty when I see it. I have to be prepared to catch the wave and enjoy the bounty at the end. I still have the owl and lynx to go this winter and I may or may not get lucky, but that’s OK. I had the moment and that is better than anything. I’ve seen this lady a couple of times since, never in good enough conditions to get good pictures. I always smile at her, nod in acknowledgement. Maybe she’s smiling too.

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My moose selfie! I wasn’t brave enough to turn my back on her when I was really close so I waited till was further away.