April 11, 2010

A kayaking goal accomplished! One more step toward badass status. LOL

Filed under: kayaking,sports,technology,transportation,travel — origamifreak @ 4:58 pm

Back in September I took a whitewater kayaking class so I could learn how to roll for my lake boating.

It was all well and good while we practiced in the pool, and even on the one day outing.

But everything changed when we did the overnight trip to the Middle Moose river in the Adirondacks.

We went down that section twice; once on Saturday when the river was running at 3.5, and once on Sunday when it was running at 4ft.

Saturday was a blast, although frustrating. I was in a giant RPM Max boat that was so big I couldn’t maneuver it at all, but so buoyant that it basically floated me upright through everything no matter what I did.

Sunday was a mess. I traded down to a Jackson 4Fun play boat with much less volume (its original paddler got so beat up on Saturday he decided not to go at all on Sunday), the river was higher, and I swam at every rapid, as most of us did. One student even lost her paddle. The instructors decided halfway through to cut the trip short and we walked up the hill to the road.

That day I was cold, tired, and yet still wanted to keep going. And that day it became personal. Between me and the river. I vowed that I’d lose the rest of the weight, get my rolls solid, build up my core and upper body strength and return in time for spring to do that same section at the same water level, with finesse.

I decided I’d become the baddest 40-something ass on the river who used to weigh over 300 lbs. And if that pool of competition was too small, I’d open it up to ANY paddler on the river who used to weigh over 300 lbs. LOL

Today, 7 months later, the first time out in my new boat on moving water, I did it. No swimming, no rolling, AND we added a rapid at the end that was much bigger than anything I’d done in September. According to the gauge the water level was somewhere between 3.93 and 3.9ft, which is close enough to 4 ft, in my book.

In one way I feel really good about this; I set out to show the Middle Moose who was boss, and I’ve done that. On the other hand, as so often with achievements, it was a bit anti-climactic.

I kept waiting for those big scary waves and holes I’d remembered. And we got to the point where the class finished in September and one of the guys said, “gee, that was tame” and I found myself thinking, “but it hasn’t begun, yet. what happened?” And now that I’ve actually done it, on my first day out of the 2010 season, holy heck what am I supposed to AIM for between now and September?! LOL

According to one of my companions the last rapid we added was supposedly a low class IV. One of the guys did come out of his boat (it’s hard to roll that boat – it’s a weird Italian play boat). Another who’d gone down before me said he’d come through the rapid all which-way. Somehow I got lucky on that one and missed most of the big holes and punched through the ones I didn’t miss.

Part of the credit I think is due to my boat. It’s a Pyranha M3 233 creek boat, designed for big water – and I bought it because I figured it would be forgiving of my mistakes more than a river runner or a play boat. And I was right, I think. Today demonstrated that.

Unlike the RPM Max, it actually fits me, so there is lots of ability to edge and maneuver it. It spins on a dime. I can see that I’m going to find this boat very comfortable for a long time, unless I start getting into playboating.

Amusingly, on the way back to the cars we ran into the guy I’d bought the boat from. He now paddles a Pyranha burn, which is the next generation after the M3 and he loves it.

September 15, 2009

Back in the Saddle

Filed under: health,sports,transportation — origamifreak @ 3:35 pm
Tags: , ,

I used to be a long-distance cyclist.

I bought my first (and only) bicycle, a Peugeot U-O9, around 1981 with babysitting money.  I earned $1.50/hour.  The bike cost $250.

Over the years with the help of my brother and later a boyfriend I modified things – Saturae rims from Wheelsmith in Palo Alto, side-pull brakes, various incarnations of seats and pedals, and most notably – a custom repaint and braze-add-on job by JP Weigle when I lived in CT.

In high school the bike represented freedom.  Freedom from the restricted city weekend bus schedules, freedom from asking for rides from people with cars.  I even commuted to school on my bike a few times – a very hilly 7-mile round trip on busy streets, leapfrogging with buses, etc.

In college I rode with the team on their easy days (and with the boyfriend with whom breaking down and rebuilding things on our bikes became a hobby).  I learned how to ride in a pace line.  I learned to pedal even when going downhill.  I learned how to tuck myself into an aerodynamic shape when descending.  In those days I used to sign up for 100-mile club rides, called Centuries.  My first was the Pajaro Valley Century, noted for a 2000 ft climb within the first 25 miles.

In grad school I continued to ride my trusty Peugeot with a friend, until life got the better of me, I was spending too many days in the lab and the library, and started gaining weight.  At one point I pushed it down to 144, but then gained it all back plus some.  That was in the 1990s.

Fast forward to four months ago. I’d been losing weight steadily since December and doing water aerobics 4x/week.  Eventually I noticed that one of my classes was not challenging me very much.  So I decided to investigate other arthritis-friendly options.

On April 23 I tried a spinning class for the first time.  I thought I was just about going to DIE.  At times my heart rate monitor was spiking so high I wondered if I might be at risk for a heart attack.  I deliberately slowed down, just in case – I didn’t want to keel over right there!

The  class lasted 45 minutes.  They were jumping up and down, sprinting, and standing out of the saddle in simulated hill climbs.  All to music.  And using resistance bands for upper body strength “as a break.”  The instructor seemed more like a machine than a human.  And that tiny little seat was KILLING my rear.  By the time 45 minutes were up and it was time to stretch, I begged the instructor in a small voice, to get off and stand next to the bike for the stretching.

It took me a week to recover.  Working at my desk while NOT sitting down was a challenge.  During that 45 minutes of pain I’d had ample opportunity to observe the other people in the class (I was in the back).  They all looked really really fit.  I decided that I would try and stick with it, because maybe the REASON they were fit was that they were in there doing this thing.  I figured, even if I couldn’t keep UP, at least I could keep GOING.

So a week later I went back.  By then I’d purchased a gel seat cover, and that helped a lot.  I considered it a victory to simply stay ON THE BIKE for the whole 45 minutes.  A week later I went back again.  By then my rear was recovering pretty quickly – within days rather than weeks.  By the fourth week I decided I was ready to try doing this twice a week.  So I did.

And eventually I started to get better.  I hatched a plan.  I’d supplement with road riding.  If I had improved to the point that I could keep up with the class by the end of the summer, I’d one day ride to work (14 miles one way), go to spinning class afterward, and then ride home.  My instructor said I was crazy.  So did the other students.

Last week I went to see Lisa and Steve in the UK.  I rented a bike and we went on lots of nice rides.  Outside.  On the road.  On the LEFT (but nevermind that).  I discovered that all the spinning had translated into very strong legs and cardiovascular system.  Once I got my balance and my road habits back, I was good to go.

So today, four months after starting spinning and 70 lbs lighter, I’m DOING it.  I rode this morning 13.73 miles in less than an hour on a bike that weights 30 lbs (still my trusty Peugeot), carrying 20 lbs of gear.  In a few minutes I’ll change back into my jersey and shorts and ride over to the spinning class and ride in there (on my bike on a trainer, for a fun change of pace) for 45 minutes followed by 15 minutes of crunches.  And then I’ll ride the 13.73 miles home.

By God, I think I’m back!

Edit: I’m home now.  Here are my final numbers:

To work

  • 13.73 miles
  • 57 minutes
  • 13.7 mph average
  • 535 cal
  • 142 bpm average
  • 155 bpm max


  • 19.47 miles
  • 61 minutes
  • 18.5 mph average
  • 642 cal
  • 126 bpm average
  • 153 bpm max

Note: I discovered that the bike + trainer does not provide enough resistance to satisfactorily support jumping and standing at tempo.  So spinning is best done on a real spinning bike, at least in my limited experience.


  • 13.03 miles
  • 55 minutes
  • 14.2 mph average
  • 402 cal
  • 125 bpm average
  • 141 bpm max

September 6, 2009

Ride to the Western Hemisphere

Filed under: sports,transportation,travel — origamifreak @ 5:42 pm
Tags: , ,

Given that the weather forecast was rain for all day tomorrow, we scrapped the camping plans and spent 2.5 hrs biking to the Prime Meridian and back.  Here’s the route (28 miles).

The bike I rented really IS a sweet, light ride…

Here are Lisa and Steve after they recovered from thinking I was going to get run over by the cars on the road where you had to stand to take the pictures…

More pictures here.

July 26, 2009

Whitewater kayaking

Filed under: sports,transportation — origamifreak @ 1:22 am
Tags: , ,

Was intrigued with the idea of trying moving water.  Went to a whitewater park at a spillway in Rochester today with my summer intern and a friend of his.   It was loads of fun.


More pictures and even some videos, here.

July 12, 2009

Yak expeditions

Filed under: transportation,travel — origamifreak @ 6:46 pm
Tags: , , ,

My neighbor Ron and I took our kayaks to the link that connects Cayuga Lake to the Erie Canal.  It’s near a bird refuge and we paddled around there for an hour and a half.

Cruise 1 (3.3 miles)
209 cal
1:30:14 min
79 bpm avg
110 bpm max
60% fat cal


Then he had to get back to have dinner with some neighbors and I took my kayak alone for half an hour on seneca lake which had pretty lively waves due to the wind.  It was challenging and sometimes the waves broke into the boat, but it was fun all the same.

Cruise 2
(1.65 miles)
108 cal
29:22 min
93 bpm avg
120 bpm max
60% fat cal

I was pleased to see that the straps I’d bought yesterday worked well and transporting both boats was successful after we worked out some of the kinks.  It’s neat to have a rack and be able to drive these boats to other places for exploring.  You know, once you pay the initial $$, kayaking is actually a pretty inexpensive hobby…


June 26, 2009

New Yak

Filed under: sports,technology,transportation — origamifreak @ 11:25 pm
Tags: , ,

Well, I went today to test kayaks and buy a new heavy-duty cart for the Outback – the current cart just can’t handle the trips down and up the hill to the water and back.  I also got a rack put on my car.

They had 32-lb kevlar kayaks.  Which handle up to 300 lbs capacity.  Which I am now well under.  So…

I got one!


I also got a PFD, and a paddle at the same time.  I don’t even want to THINK about how much $$ I spent.  The good news is that this yak is so light I can lift it onto my car by myself and carry it easily.  So I’ll be able to just carry it on my shoulders 0.7 miles down the hill to the water in the evenings after work and just GO, without it being a big production.

My summer MS student came along and while they were installing the rack we went on a nice 3-hour paddle (from points 3 to 6) down some moving water and some flat water.  I ended up christening the boat by falling out pretty soon after putting in.  But after that got better at avoiding the slipstreams of rocks, etc.  This is definitely a lake boat.  It tracks great, but isn’t so maneuverable in a creek.

The picture above is from Ron, who obligingly went out for an hour with me in the evening when I got home.  We paddled down to the state park beach, swapped kayaks so he could try the new one, and then paddled home in each other’s boat.  Then I swam and he went home to change and brought back wine and we sat on the shore and gossiped about our neighbors and solved the world’s problems until both the sun AND moon set.  It was beautiful out.  A really good way to end the week.  🙂


June 22, 2009

New BMI = 37.49

Filed under: health,sports,transportation,travel — origamifreak @ 7:01 am
Tags: , , , ,

Two milestones today:

  1. I’ve removed over 95 lbs – heading down the home stretch toward 100 off
  2. The scale number now starts with “23,” which it hasn’t in years

Next milestone in 3.7 when the BMI will drop below 37.

Yesterday my neighbor Ron and I kayaked 8.14 miles round trip down the lake along the state park and back.  It was beautiful!  I pedaled most of the way because it was choppy and I couldn’t keep up, paddling.   I could pass him easily pedaling.  (probably due to all the spinning I’ve been doing)

We had so much fun we’re planning to build up to longer treks, possibly even a one-way trip to Watkins Glen at the end of the summer (25 miles).

June 1, 2009

new gear

Filed under: health,sports,technology,transportation — origamifreak @ 12:51 pm
Tags: , ,

Well, before/during/after my 10 mile ride yesterday I discovered some things:

  1. The handlebars need to be re-wrapped
  2. The Vetta helmet has pads missing and the foam is probably defunct
  3. The valve on my rear tube is broken off
  4. My bike computer no longer works
  5. I can’t find my glasses
  6. The floor pump has been compromised by contractor children

So I went to the local bike store at lunch today and remedied this:

  1. New cloth handlebar tape
  2. A Louis Garneau Diva 444
  3. A new tube (I’ll order more spares from Nashbar)
  4. A new bike computer – wireless!
  5. New glasses
  6. New floor pump (I gave the compromised one to Ron so I don’t have to look at it and be annoyed.)

My gloves, shoes, and other things are fine.  I wish I could find my water bottles.  They’re in the garage somewhere under all the contractor crap.  So are my panniers.  I’ll just buy some small bottles from a store.

November 18, 2008

Slip-sliding away (Baby’s got a new set of shoes)*

Filed under: technology,transportation — origamifreak @ 10:41 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Winter has finally arrived, and I had my first opportunity this morning to see how the new car handles snow. The answer is, “not very well,” at least not with the Dunlop SP31s that came with it. Turns out I’m not the only one who found this out.

A trip to the local tire store resulted in the purchase and installation of a set of Kumho I’zen WX KW17s, which I was told would be much better. So far so good, and according to the weather forecast I’ll have plenty of opportunity to test them out the rest of the week.

*I guess this means I have to call the car “Baby.” It’s a stupid name, but that’s how this sort of thing goes… You use some silly phrase offhand and the sudden sinking feeling tells you that you’ve accidentally named your car, and it’s going to stick. *sigh*

November 2, 2008

Asolo to Venice to New York

Filed under: language,transportation,travel — origamifreak @ 6:18 pm
Tags: , , , ,

On Sunday afternoon I drove back to Venice.

The irritating GPS Lady didn’t know about some intersections that had been changed to roundabouts and vice versa, and she couldn’t find the hotel, so that is why there’s a lot of driving around at the end. Also, there wasn’t anyone in the rental lot to give the Budget car back to, and no Budget slots left, so I ended up just finding an empty slot on the side and parking there. I had to lug my suitcase back into the airport to give them back the car keys, and they wouldn’t give me a receipt because “they hadn’t checked the car yet.” I extracted a promise to email me the receipt, and I still haven’t received it.

Then I had to figure out how to get to the hotel (the Budget lady wouldn’t help me call them for the shuttle, but sent me to the information counter). The information counter was 6 people deep with exactly one person working it, so I went to figure out the pay phone, swiped my travel card, and called the hotel, to find out that the shuttle was off from 2-4pm. My watch said “4pm,” and when I pointed this out to them, they informed me that daylight saving time had ended that morning. Which explains why neither the museum nor the information office in Asolo had been open. OK, well, now I know.

So I asked how to get the hotel, and the woman on the phone told me to take the bus. This was not an appealing option with a large heavy suitcase (now I had all the papers and stuff from work in it), so I opted for a taxi, where the taxi guy was mean and nasty.

Eventually I got to the hotel, and when I rolled up to the counter, the guy there was on the phone, apparently to someone at the airport, and he said “the shuttle is not running right now, so how about I send my colleague to come get you?” I blew my stack, at this point. I mean, how come I had to go through all the hassle I just went through, if other people were being offered rides?

The restaurant at the hotel was closed, so I had to walk down the busy street to a local pizza place, where I had a gloppy pasta carbonara next to a couple of guys from the US (South Carolina and Tenessee), who epitomized the stereotype of “Ugly American.” Their idea of trying to speak Italian was to add “o” to the end of every English word. No wonder the waitress was frustrated – even I couldn’t understand them!

They were there for work, both in the retail sporting goods business, checking out the Asolo boot factories in Romania and Treviso. It didn’t help that they couldn’t even pronounce “Asolo.” South Carolina called it “Oslo.” No, I said, it’s “AS-o-lo.” I was just there this past weekend. That’s what I said, he replied, “Oslo.”

There were two women on the other side of us they were trying to chat up, and one of them said she was from Malta. The other was a chemical blonde Italian, who was clearly horrified and yet fascinated by these aliens. She was doing her best at trying to flirt with them. The Maltese could tell what she was dealing with and wasn’t going to bother.

“Where is Molto?” Tenessee asked.

After hearing the reply, he said, “What country is it in?”

“It’s in Malta,” she replied. “It’s a country.”

He received this with a puzzled pause, then asked, “Are there many mountains there, for hiking?”

*sigh* It’s people like this that make me wish I were Canadian.

I recounted this story on the airplane to the woman next to me who was from New Jersey, and she agreed that he must be pretty ignorant to have never heard of Malta. Then later the guy in the aisle seat in front of us got up to use the facility. It was Tenessee. At first I regretted having said what I did (I’m sure he heard me), but then I decided that if he was going to be travelling around in Europe without the faintest interest in language or geography, then he had only gotten what he deserved.

Anyway, here are some pictures from that flight.

Marco Polo airport in Venice:

The inevitable swampy wetland next to a coastal airport:

The dolomites (I think); the alps came later.

Another Delta plane that flew alongside us over France:

We went right over the English Channel, the part between Dover and Calais, and could see the hovercrafts buzzing back and forth. I apologise for not taking a picture of it.

New York:

See earlier comment about coastal airports and wetlands:

The leaves were probably at their peak in NYC (they’d already finished in the Finger lakes before I’d left, almost two weeks before).

Next Page »

Create a free website or blog at