Long Walk in the Rain

I thought about going for a bike ride today, but with rain in the forecast I decided to walk instead. As I started from home it wasn’t raining and was a bit warmer than yesterday.  I headed east on North Street and picked up the Railroad Trail to Whatcom Falls Park. There were a lot of people out on the trail — walkers with dogs or kids in strollers, joggers, and a few cyclists. I took off my rain jacket before I’d gone too far and rolled it up in the hood for easy carrying. I was traveling light, with just a Clif bar in my pocket for a snack.  I counted on water fountains working in the parks.

Whatcom Falls was running full, but not at flood stage. I headed toward Woburn Street on the Water Line Trail, which has been designated as an off-leash dog area.  There were a few dogs and their owners out enjoying themselves, all well behaved. When I got to the back side of Bayview Cemetery I headed south toward the corner of Yew St. and Lakeway. From there it was a long climb up to the top of Yew Street hill.  There were three cyclists ahead of me riding up the steep hill, but even riding slowly they were much faster than my walking pace.

Somewhere along the road I saw my first flowers in bloom.  Nothing interesting, just the weedy Senecio vulgaris. It’s not too unusual to see it blooming during the winter. About the time I got to the top of the hill it started to rain and I put my raincoat back on.  It also seemed to be quite a bit colder and a little windy. I passed the new elementary school under construction near the fire hall.  I hadn’t realized the school was going to be right next to the road.  There’s no shoulder at that point and some of the cars seemed to be going a bit faster than I thought they should.  I had to watch out for them.

When I got down to Lake Padden I entered the park and followed the trail around the near side of the lake to Padden Creek gorge.  I headed down the gorge trail, enjoying the sound of the creek cascading over rocks beside me and noting the trees that had come crashing down in one of our winter windstorms. I took the loop trail, which follows closer to the creek, for the first time.  It’s not much farther, but more interesting than the main trail. The gorge trail ends at 36th Street, which I followed until I came to the street that descends the hill and passes under I-5 to become Old Fairhaven Parkway.

There’s a fairly new trail and bridge that crosses Connelly Creek and then passes by the newish Bellingham co-housing development on Donovan Ave.  I hadn’t been down that way for a while and had never seen what the co-housing group had built.  It’s attractive, with the houses clustered together and all the auto-oriented stuff around the edge of the site. I followed Donovan to 16th and headed up the hill.  There’s a trail where the hill is too steep for a street, and then the street continues.

There are a lot of nice front yard gardens on 16th Street, as well as on Garden Street which I followed next as I worked my way back north. There was a hazelnut (Corylus sp.) just starting to bloom along the sidewalk, probably not our native species since it was in someone’s garden. I stopped briefly to examine the catkins. When I came to WWU there was a sign pointing to the trail down to the Boulevard, so I took it and then followed the South Bay Trail into downtown and then home on city streets.

Overall, the route was a bit over 15 miles and I walked it in 4 hours 20 minutes, averaging about 3.5 mph. An online calorie calculator said I burned about 1100 calories along the way.  I mapped the route using my TOPO software, which reported about 1145 feet of elevation gain and loss, with the high point at the top of Yew Street hill.  There was enough water available at Whatcom Falls and Lake Padden to satisfy me, and my Clif bar was enough of a snack to hold me until I got home for a modest lunch.

1001 Bicycling Miles

I set a rough goal to bicycle 1000 miles since I started logging my distance in mid-August and this afternoon I made it! It’s definitely harder to find nice days to ride during the winter months than during the warm and sunny days of August and September, but I’ve managed to get out. This afternoon’s ride was one of my regular routes, about 17 miles with a sustained 5 miles of uphill cranking. There was slushy snow at the side of the road at higher elevations around North Lake Samish and on the hill heading toward Lake Padden, but the main road surface was merely wet.

For the statistically inclined:

Since I can’t predict how much I’ll be home in 2008 I’m not ready to set a cycling goal for next year, but I should definitely be able to do more than this year since I won’t wait until August to get started.

Sunshine on Mt. Baker

The low winter light on Mt. Baker this afternoon was as nice as I’ve ever seen it as I bicycled east on Slater Road. There’s lots of fresh snow on the mountain, and the Black Buttes cast long shadows on the side of the peak, accentuating the volcano’s shape and texture. It would have been picture perfect except for the uninteresting strip of clouds hanging over the summit.

I wasn’t in a position to do any photography anyway. I’d been working furiously preparing high-res files for a stock agency and just had to get out of the office and burn off some energy, so I went for a brisk but relatively short bike ride in the afternoon sun. I only rode a little under 17 miles today, cruising along the flatlands near the Nooksack in a loop that took me out Marine Drive, up Ferndale Road, east on Slater, and then back to town on Northwest.

Wednesday afternoon I also took off for a ride, but with more hills and an inevitably slower pace. It’s nice to be able to get out and ride during the winter months to keep my blood circulating and general fitness level up. I recently purchased a waist trainer from TrainingYourWaist, its great for tightening your abdominal muscles.

I’ve also put in a couple of days of kayaking since Thanksgiving. The first was about 10 miles on Lake Shannon near Concrete, with glorious views of both Mt. Baker and Mt. Shuksan. It was a gloriously sunny day with heavy frost on the ground when we launched. The second kayak outing was on Saturday on the Samish River, paddling upstream from the mouth at Edison. It was a cold and snowy day, although we didn’t get snowed on as heavily as we thought we would. There were numerous bald eagles and other raptors perched in the bare trees along the river and several blue herons at the water’s edge. We also saw lots of coots and smaller numbers of other waterfowl. Upstream of the tidal influence the current was about 1 mph, just enough to notice but not enough to cause a lot of extra work.

The Mt. Baker ski area opened on November 27 and I went up for opening day. The snow was cold, the sky blue, and the skiing great. I ran out of legs before I ran out of daylight.

We’ve got so many recreational opportunities around here that it’s sometime hard to decide just how to go out and play. That’s a blessing.

Great Day for a Bike Ride

We don’t get a lot of nice sunny days in November around here, but today was glorious with temps in the low 40s.  So I took off early afternoon for a 31-mile bike ride around Lummi Peninsula.  It’s a nice loop on roads that mostly have a good shoulder and not too much traffic mid-day.

One of the challenges of biking this time of year is figuring out how to dress.  I’ve decided that long underwear under my bike shorts on the bottom, and a long underwear shirt under a lightweight cycling jacket on top works fine. I think I want to invest in a pair of bike tights, but haven’t found any I like at a price I’m willing to pay. My fingers get a little cool in regular fingerless bike gloves, and my feet got a bit chilly in lightweight bike shoes and cotton socks.

I started out strong, averaging about 17.8 mph for the first 1o miles.  At 17 miles I was up to 18.3 mph. Then I started to tire as I rode along the gently undulating Lummi Shore road, enjoying the view across Bellingham Bay to Bellingham, Mt. Baker, and the near-full moon a few degrees above the mountain. By the time I got to Marine Drive, about 27 miles in, my energy level was really sagging. I kept going, but riding slower and slower, and made it home. My overall speed was 16.7 mph, about one mph and 7 minutes slower than the last time I’d done the same ride.

I’m wondering if I just ride slower when it’s cold.  I decided I hadn’t eaten enough for breakfast and lunch today, so simply running out of fuel was part of the problem.  I tanked up on a cup of hot chocolate, an energy bar, and a bowl of raisins and nuts when I got home. Proper nutrition will fuel you better and longer than if you just “go with the flow” I suggest you visit website here regularly, as I will be giving vital advice for keeping your energy level high.

In any case, vigorous exercise for a couple of hours is a great antidote for sitting at the computer captioning photos.

Back in the Swim

I may have written this before, but I’m a sporadic exerciser.  I like to swim and do it more during the winter months in an indoor pool. Last week, after not swimming for perhaps a year or more, I decided it was time to get back in the water.  I go to the Arne Hanna Aquatic Center in Bellingham for the discounted noon lap swim. It’s a good mid-day break from working with images on the computer and its cheaper then.

The first day back in the water I was only able to swim 100 yards at a time (4 lengths of the pool), with a 60-second rest between. I swam 8 sets that day.  A couple of days later I could do 250 yards (10 lengths) with a 60-second rest. The next time in the water I was back up to swimming a mile (74 lengths) of crawl without resting. My time of 40.5 minutes won’t set any records, but I’m still amazed at how quickly I get back to the distance I’ve swam in the past.

Hopefully I’ll keep myself motivated to get to the pool two or three times a week during the winter months. I also want to keep bicycling, although I may not make the 100 miles per week I was doing in late August and September. Short daylight hours make it harder to get out and ride. I bought a new bright yellow cycling jacket so I’ll be more visible, but riding distances at night just doesn’t seem either safe or fun.

Bicycling for Weight Loss

My exercise plan seems to be working.  I’ve been bicycling a bit over 100 miles a week for the past five weeks at a brisk pace and in the process have dropped 10 pounds. As I wrote some days ago, it’s a LOT of work, but it’s also a fun way to get exercise and enjoy the countryside around Whatcom County. I vary my route, vary my mileage, and try to ride long distances only every other day to give my body time to rest. I’m not sure what I’ll do for exercise when I go back on the road to shoot fall gardens and attend the Garden Writers Association symposium in Oklahoma City later this month.  In reality, probably not much. The most I’ll be able to hope for is to maintain what I’ve lost by watching what I eat.

Diet is definitely the other part of the weight loss como perder barriga equation. I’ve been able to keep the ice cream out, cut the beer and wine down from daily to once or twice a week, and eat much more fruit and vegetables in relation to meats and grains. It’s actually cheaper to eat that way, as well as being tasty and healthy.

I’m not sure that I feel any different or that I can pinch less fat around my middle, but that’s pretty subjective.  My legs are definitely stronger from all the riding.  Hills that required first gear a month ago can now be climbed in a slightly higher gear at a higher cadence. My average speed is increasing, too.  Yesterday I rode 53.5 miles with a couple of hills and 7 miles of rollers and averaged 17.9 mph. My bike is 28 years old and considerably heavier than modern aluminum frames. I think I’m doing OK in the speed department, especially since I had a headwind on the homebound leg of my loop when I was getting tired.

Losing Weight is Hard

There’s been a tremendous amount of press lately about how overweight we Americans are. Much medical research touts the benefits of maintaining a “normal” weight, as indicated by a body mass index (BMI) under 25. Regular exercise and a good diet high in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables with modest amounts of protein and low in fats and sugars are the keys to maintaining a trim figure and healthy weight. Over the years I think I’ve done pretty well at eating and exercising.

Unfortunately, when I’m on the road photographing it’s much harder to eat well and get enough exercise. I may be on my feet all day and lugging 25 or so pounds of metal and glass around, but I don’t generally walk very far. My tiredness at the end of the day is more from mental concentration than physical exertion. Couple that with restaurant meals and it’s nearly inevitable that I gain weight. So is location photography bad for my health? Not necessarily, but there are definitely issues to deal with.

Most people look at me and see a fairly trim person and wonder why I’d want to lose weight. I’m certainly not in the obese group, but when I got home from my last road trip and stepped on the scales I weighed 158 pounds, the heaviest I’ve ever been. I top out at 5′ 6″ when I stand up straight, so that weight gave a BMI of 25.5 on the National Institute of Health BMI calculator. That put me slightly into the overweight category. I only weighed 120 when I graduated from high school and was definitely a skinny kid. That’s still my body image, but 120 is unrealistically low and probably unhealthy at age 53. I’ve got a bit of love handles around my trimmed waist I’d like to get rid of so there’s no fat to pinch. I figured that if I could drop 10% to 140 that would be a reasonable goal.

We live in a society that encourages instant gratification in nearly everything. I’ve never bought into that in a big way, but it would sure be nice to wave a magic wand and drop weight without doing anything serious. There’s no way for that to happen. To lose weight, one must burn about 3500 more calories than consumed to lose a single pound of fat. Eating less and exercising more are both important factors. I’m not big on counting calories — it’s just too much hassle. I find it easier to think in broader terms about what I eat and drink. Three regular meals daily, with little or no snacking in between, has been part of my lifestyle forever. So where could I cut down? I’ve actually increased the quantity of fresh fruit and vegetables. They’re in season, tasty, and have a lower caloric density than many other foods. I’ve reduced the amount of meat, cut back on pasta, and go easy on the olive oil when cooking. The big sacrifices have been avoiding a daily bottle of beer (about 150 calories) and a daily bowl of ice cream (about 150 calories per half cup, and my servings are definitely bigger than that). There’s never been much snack food like chips or sugary drinks in my diet. Smaller amounts of dense food and larger amounts of low-density food makes sense and satisfies my need to eat until I feel full.

The other side of the equation is increased exercise. I tend to be a sporadic exerciser. I’ve never been an athlete, but have tried to stay in good shape. I never want my body to limit what I can do, particularly when it comes to outdoor activities like hiking, backpacking, cycling, or skiing. When I had a day job I commuted to work by bicycle about 2 miles each way. That modest amount of exercise did a lot to keep me fit and I didn’t have to go out of my way to do it. It also saved money with no gas, parking expenses, or bus fare required to get to work. Now that I’m self-employed I work from home. When I’m out shooting I drive because the distances are too great and the amount of gear required is too heavy. It also probably wouldn’t look very professional to show up on a bicycle all sweaty.

Since I like to bicycle, it’s a low-impact sport, and riding burns a lot of calories I decided to return to riding lots of miles to increase my exercise level. I got back in the routine of regular riding on August 12 with a 20-mile loop with a couple of hills, averaging 15.4 mph. I felt like someone had put molasses on my chain. Following the exercise recommendation of every other day to allow recovery, I aimed for alternate riding and rest days with a goal of about 100 miles per week. Bellingham and Whatcom County have many roads that are bicycle-friendly so I could vary my route and not get bored. I’m in my fourth week of this exercise program and have ridden more than 415 miles with nearly 25 hours in the saddle. The molasses is gone from my chain, but hills still have me huffing and cursing. On Labor Day I rode nearly 46 miles, averaging 17.2 mph. The last two hills hurt and I would have been happy to be home 10 miles sooner, but with a day of rest I’ll be back on my bike this afternoon. I definitely push myself when I’m riding, trying to maintain as high a speed as I can. The hills may hurt, but they’re the key to the fun of going down the other side.

What are the results so far? I’m down to about 150 pounds and have burned over 12,700 extra calories. I use a Java applet to do the calorie calculation. It’s harder to judge how much of the love handles are disappearing. It’s been a lot of work. I feel good. I’m riding faster. I can ride 50 miles and not feel exhausted when I get home. I fantasize about bicycling to California and Florida while I’m out pedaling around the county.

Will I be able to keep it up? I hope so, but I’ll be going back on the road again soon to photograph fall gardens. I’ve also got a trip to the Garden Writers Association annual symposium coming up. That means there’s certainly going to be a break in my exercise routine and probably a decrease in the quality of my diet. When the shooting season ends the dark and rainy season will have begun so long bike rides will be less attractive and more dangerous. Maybe I’ll get back to swimming a mile three times a week for the winter.