Archive for the “exercise” Category

It was a slog to get through, but I finished the Rambouillet project one day before the Tour de Fleece began! This project has been languishing for five years; I spun the singles for the 2010 TdF and then let them sit and sit and sit. My plan had been to chain-ply, and then I realized that the singles didn't have enough twist for that. I moved on to thinking I would just finish them as-is, as a lightly fulled laceweight. Then I realized that I'd never actually knit anything with that yarn, and that what I really needed to do was add some more twist and go back to the original plan. That's what I did, and it's come out to 268 yards of light fingering weight... though I still don't know what I'll make with it.

20150630_rambouillet_chainply

And then on Saturday, the Tour de France/Fleece began! My main project this year will be spinning for a sweater on the new Schacht-Reeves and plying on the Sonata's jumbo bobbins, using several pounds of mystery wool roving that I got from my friend Josh a few years ago. I have four different natural colours, and I started with the lighter gray. I'm starting to get the hang of the longdraw, though some parts of the roving aren't drafting as smoothly as others.

I had friends visiting for the long holiday weekend. On Sunday morning we watched part of Stage Two of the Tour with breakfast, then went out for a 12.5 mile bike ride in the hills. After everyone had gone home, I settled down to spin while watching 1776, one of my July 4th traditions (I was a day late, but that's okay) and by the time I called it a night I was well into the third bobbin. I'm absolutely loving how the Woolee Winder just lets me spin and spin without fussing with hook changes, and the thicker yarn sure does spin up fast.

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I've been riding my bikes more than I've been knitting. Alternating between short, hard mountain bike rides...

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...and easier, long road bike rides. This is a nothing town halfway between The Plains and Middleburg, appropriately named Halfway, VA. Also appropriately, I was about halfway into my 30 mile loop when I stopped to take the picture.

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This might be my new favourite picture of myself.

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The weather is just too nice to stay indoors!

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Still life with cat and wineglasses. Floyd has been getting more affectionate lately, snuggling up to us on the couch and asking for ear-scritching. This welcome change might be due to his getting used to life with Kipling, or it might be because he had the snot scared out of him by going outside and he knows that we're big and protective. We didn't mean to scare him with the outdoors, but it might just be a little too big for him to process. We'll keep taking him out for little visits and giving him treats on the porch. Hopefully he'll get used to it soon.

Last week I mentioned wanting a pink harness for Floyd. Yes, he's named for Pink Floyd - but also for several other Floyds, including Floyd the Muppet, Floyd from True Romance (one of my favourite movies), Pretty Boy Floyd, Hurricane Floyd, Heywood Floyd, and Floyd Rose.

On my almost-sixteen mile (!) bike ride the other day I passed a committee of vultures. They let me get close enough to take pictures, but when I crossed an invisible vulture comfort line they reluctantly lifted their gigantic wings and flapped away into the field. When I came down the same road on my way home, three of them were sitting in the middle of the street glaring at me. For a moment I thought I'd be involved in some kind of bizarre vulture incident, but when I yelled "I'm not dead yet!" at them they flapped off again. They're such graceful birds when they're gliding around in the sky, but much more ungainly when they're attempting liftoff.

Kipling is not exactly a lapcat - actually, he is very hesitant to step onto a person - but he's very much a next-to-lap cat. I've never met a cat who's so enthusiastic about being petted. He throws his whole body into it and purrs louder and louder. The more I scritch him the happier he is, and as he gets happier the probability that he will invert gets greater until he's wriggling on his back, paddling his paws in the air, and scrubbing his face against my hand. (And drooling. Why must the cat drool on me? Does he think he's a dog?)

He watches movies just like I do, gradually slouching farther and farther down and then falling asleep before all the storylines are tied up. We watched an entire movie like this last night, with him flat on his back next to my leg on the couch, and he didn't even move when I got up to take his picture. He doesn't seem to have any dignity at all! I think he's ridiculously adorable and I keep pointing his cuteness out to Pirate-Husband. "Look at this cat! He's upside-down again!"

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Last weekend, Pirate-Husband and I volunteered to pour wine at Vintage Virginia, a local wine festival. We were working in the Top Five Tasting Tent, so we were in the shade all day. I put on my extrovert face and ended up having lots of fun, much more than I'd expected! We split the sixteen tables between the volunteers, and one of my patrons took this picture of me. (They also gave me a completely unexpected tip!) As thanks for our service we were given free entrance to the festival on Sunday, but I think I actually had a better time working than I did waiting on line to taste wines.

I've been keeping up with Operation: Badass. It's definitely made easier by the beautiful scenery. Farms with horses and cows, the mountain rising up in the background, old buildings with boards over the windows being reclaimed by nature. The way the trees arch over this driveway make it seem almost like a magical place. I don't like thinking that it's "just" a driveway; I couldn't see the house from the road so I imagined what it must look like, and I'm sure my imagination did it justice.

Most of the time I stop to take photos when I'm recovering from speeding up a hill, but other times I stop just because something is so pretty that I need to have a picture of it. This driveway was one of those times, and I'm glad to have stopped for it.


The flower season is almost at its end, as we're turning the corner into summer's oppressive heat. The mountain laurels are starting to look sad and wilted. But these two were still going strong, hiding in the shade next to a cow field. It occurred to me after I'd leaned in to take the pictures that I was likely to be bitten by a tick, but fortunately that didn't happen. Anyway, does anyone know what kind of flowers these are? I especially like the ruffled petals of the pink ones.

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Ah, I had such plans for yesterday afternoon! After the allergist, I was going to go out for a bike ride, then come home, clean up, make dinner, bake bread, and knit. Alas, the best laid plans of pirates...

Well, I did get the bike ride in, at least (also, cleaning up and dinner). I started from my usual spot at the base of the mountain and set off with the vague idea that I was going to aim for my longest ride yet. The first hill seemed steeper than usual. More than once I thought of turning around. But I persevered and took many breaks, and after some time I made it to my first biking goal - the end of New Mountain Road.

My total ride distance was just over twelve and a half miles, and I did it (including breaks) in about 90 minutes. Here you can see the ups and downs of my route. Cruising down the hills at top speed is lots of fun, but I'm getting a lot better at the uphills too. I am quite a bit stronger than when I started; I didn't even have to use the lowest gear on some of the hills this time!

I took some pictures here and there when I stopped to rest my legs.

First I passed this abandoned building. It looks like it might have once been a church. I'd love to go there with a better camera and get some shots of the structure and the grounds. It's amazing that the stone wall is still in such good shape. There were some beautiful trees in full flower on the property that I took some time to admire; I've always thought it fortunate that the flowering trees aren't the ones that cause allergic reactions!

I took a breather at the top of a hill to watch these horses grazing. The brown one in front snorted a friendly greeting to me. I couldn't get a good picture through the fence, so I got off the bike and went closer to take a better picture. The gray horse came right over to see what was going on.

He hung his head over the fence and was happy to let me scritch his nose for a while. Maybe next time I will bring along some sugar cubes or baby carrots for them. People in passing cars (and a few motorcyclists) stopped to wave at me when they went by. I was so glad to be on a bike and not in a car so I could just stop on a whim to pet the horses - I haven't ridden a horse in many years, so it was a real treat.

The roof on this building was falling in and vines were beginning to take over the walls... yet there was a newer-looking "no parking" sign nailed to the wall of the second structure. I wonder who lived here, and how long ago. What were they like? What did they do, and why did they leave their house to fall down? I would have stayed longer to look around, but it was getting late.

The last uphill was a real struggle; I had to stop twice to rest but eventually I made it to my car and sat there for a couple of minutes with the air conditioning blowing full blast. I don't know if the ride was harder because I wasn't in top form or because it was 85 degrees out and a million percent humidity, but either way I'm proud of myself for reaching this goal. It was the ambitious route that I mapped out for myself before I even started riding, the one about which I said "when I can ride this, I'll feel really good about my biking!"

Now I can. Yeah! Time to set the next goal! How does fifteen miles sound?

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Still hanging out with the cats. It's a lot easier for me to sit on the couch and take pictures of them than to hide out in my room and knit while they cry at the door. That's what I tried to do yesterday - I came home from work, stretched and took the bike out for an almost-ten mile ride (woo!), showered and made dinner (fried egg on a waffle, peanut butter cookie, glass of scotch), and then shut myself in my room and felt guilty about it, so I kept going out to pet them and got only a few rows of knitting in. I have a hard time resisting their pleas for attention:

*scratch scratch scratch*

*paw thrust under the door*

Floyd: Mrow? Now? Mrrrt-owwwow. Mew-ew?

*scratch scratch*

Kipling: Roo? Rr rr ook ook. Rrroo?

Floyd really hates having his picture taken for some reason. Either that, or he just likes to be a jerk. He'll hold still while I get the camera up and in focus, and turn his head at just the right moment. I've even turned off the shutter sounds, so I have no idea how he knows exactly when to turn away. Three dozen attempts or more, and I only ended up with a few usable pictures. Perhaps a faster camera would help... but I was able to catch this shot of him when he came out of hiding to see what was going on.

Kipling, on the other hand, is getting more and more lovey. Here he's wedged himself in between my leg and the couch pillow, and when I reached down to pet him he squirmed around until he was on his back, paddling his paws in the air, wriggling in purrful delight at the attention. This is how we manage to keep his claws trimmed - when he gets in a bellyrub kind of mood, one of us will keep scritching and the other will catch a paw and do the trimming. He barely notices! Floyd is resigned to letting us do whatever we want to him, but Kipling isn't nearly as malleable.

They are both talkative cats, Floyd more so than Kipling, but at least Floyd knows how to meow. Kipling sounds a lot like a little monkey sometimes. "Ook ook, roo?" The closest he seems to get to "meow" is a demanding raspy bark for his food dish...

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When I came home from February's vacation, I decided it was time to start a new exercise program. Friends were uploading pictures of our trip and what I saw of myself didn't make me very happy. Winter coats may hide a multitude of sins but I knew what was under that parka, and I didn't like it.

So I started thinking: I needed to come up with a way of making exercise into a fun project instead of a sweaty chore. I needed definable goals, for starters. I needed a reason past a simple "get in shape" to keep myself interested in working out day after day.

And thus, Operation: Badass was brought into being. I'm not just "trying to get in shape" - I've been in training to become badass for almost two months already! What are my goals? I do have a weight and bodyfat percentage in mind, but more significantly I'm aiming for accomplishments:

  • Sign up for a 5K and cross the finish line in under half an hour.
  • Ride the W&OD Trail from one end to the other and back again, almost 90 miles. (This is a much longer-term goal; I don't even have a road bike yet!)
  • A shorter-term bike goal is to ride the ~13 miles up to Route 50 and back, on the mountain bike. That route has some wacky hills.
  • Twenty pushups in a row!
  • Chop firewood without hurting myself. I live in a log house on top of a mountain; this is a skill I really ought to have, and I'm not yet strong enough to swing the maul more than a couple of times.
  • Not be the first one to have to stop, out of breath, asking other people to slow down and wait for me.
  • Build up enough cardiovascular strength and endurance to not need Singulair anymore, which will save me $30 a month.
  • Just basically be able to do what needs to be done without killing myself!

At first glance, this may seem to be a picture of the cats, sacked out at the foot of the bed. But if you look into the background, you'll see a Concept2 rowing machine - a significant part of Operation: Badass. At this point I'm going more for cardio and fat-burning than for muscle-building, so I have the resistance set pretty low - 2/10 - and I row steadily for at least twenty minutes, twice a week. If it gets to be too easy, I'll raise it to Level 3, which approximates the resistance of calm water.

I try to get outside exercise as often as the weather will allow. I'm not yet Badass enough to work out in the rain! I have mapped out an eight mile bike route on the hills at the base of the mountain, and a four mile walking route - I'm working on building up strength in my legs before I begin the Couch to 5K program. Last year I went into it too fast, hurt my ankles, and wound up in physiotherapy instead of at the race's starting line, so this year I'm starting more slowly and gradually - if you can call a four mile hill walk in an hour "slow". I also have a core strength routine that I learned when I was in physio for the first time. I alternate all of these things and aim to work out four or five days a week - although I stretch daily (at least, I try to).

Of course, the old saying holds true: "You get fit in the gym, but you lose weight in the kitchen." Exercise isn't enough! I've been tracking what I eat on SparkPeople and counting calories, fat, protein and carbs. Since we can't get food delivered up to the house, Pirate-Husband and I cook most of our meals at home. We already eat quite well, but now we're making a conscious effort to cut back a little on some of the less healthy dishes and to add in more vegetables and other good stuff. It's not too difficult to make healthy, low-fat foods that also taste good!

After seven weeks of Operation: Badass, I have to say that I'm feeling great. I haven't lost much weight but I've certainly gained quite a bit of muscle. My clothing fits better (actually, some of my jeans are too loose now), I'm sleeping more soundly, and I have more energy. Why didn't I start this project sooner?

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