Sunday, December 27, 2015

Let the training begin?--An update of sorts.

Graduation is over, Christmas has passed and the New Year approaches.

It is time to get back on track to realizing my goals, and I have no idea where to start!

We don't have snow (yet) this winter, just a ton of rain. Thank goodness I have waterproof hiking boots to get out in the wet, muddy weather to start my training! Now, to just find a buddy who can train with me during the week when the hubby is working.

Still on the hunt for properly fitting workout wear, which as I posted previously is not easy because it seems like stores an manufacturers prefer to ignore the size 14/16 girls and concentrate on the svelte size 4s of the world. Sports bras are impossible in my band & cup size (I have to order my bras from Poland and even then they are custom made to my size) so my only choices include a regular bra under 3 "sport bras" least until I can hire someone to custom make a sport bra for me as well.

I've been diving into my AllTrails app, which I installed on my phone, to find new hiking places around me so that I can start challenging myself to do  more difficult and longer treks.

I'm into the exciting part of setting a large goal. That euphoria that overwhelms you when you finally are able to make the time to focus on the goal and set real plans to achieve it. I don't want to be unprepared, but I'm afraid that I'll focus on a small piece and miss something huge.

And still......I make lists, plot maps and drool over gear I don't own....yet.

Monday, August 24, 2015

I want to what?

It is exciting when you first set a massive goal. Deciding I want to thru-hike the three major trails in the USA brought some giddy excitement for me, like a kid on Christmas morning. I started pouring over websites on gear, creating "wish lists" and reading all sorts of "tips and tricks". I created countless boards on "Pinterest" and started squirreling away things I *needed* for hiking and camping the trails. I could fill a bookcase with books on Hiking and Backpacking that I want to read. Tips, tricks, "What I learned" and ideas that are geared to just women (or men for my husband, Ben).

I know that my goal is huge and right now it might seem impossible. Just a year and a half ago I was not able to dress, shower or cook for myself.

It is good to I dream big! One thing I have taken from all the "tips and tricks" I have been gathering is  you have to "Plan, plan plan". But you have to find your starting step at a time...right? So I'll start feet.

The first piece of gear I worried about was my shoes. I LOVE shoes. I own far more than any one person needs, that is for sure.  When I moved to Ohio in 2009, I only brought 2 pairs with me, leaving the rest of my beloved collection of heels, wedges and boots in a box in California. The joy I felt when my Mother shipped that box to me was so great that I unpacked my little gems and lined them up, took a photo and posted it to Facebook. However, my daily go to shoes consist of "flip flops" or Converse low tops. I exercise in my "chucks", take walks in them, spend all day at school in them and take short day hikes in them. I knew that they weren't going to cut it for what I was setting out to do, so the research began.

There are a lot of factors to consider when looking for proper hiking shoes.
High Ankle, Mid or Low?
Leather or Synthetic?
What about snow? Insulated or Vented?

Now I have a small but wide food with a high arch. Shoes are hard to find, which is why I treasure every pair I have. A lot of work has gone into selecting comfortable shoes that I like. A lot of people will tell you that in selecting a hiking boot/shoe that you need to go for function, not fashion. While that is true, I can't get past the fact that I care what my shoes look like. I have to feel like they are cute (to me not everyone else), that they "go" with outfits I might wear on the trail and they cannot make my feet look huge. That might sound silly to some people, but I'm not exactly tall (5'2") and I don't like feeling like I have clown feet. I usually wear 6.5-7 (US Women).

After an exhaustive search, reading countless reviews I found two pairs of Mid-Ankle boots I liked.

The first pair I got were the Danner Mountain Light Cascade (size 7). The website and customer service suggested sizing down to the 6.5 however my fears of toe pinching kept me in the 7. Everyone has one foot that is larger than the other, and mine is also slightly wider. There were a few a "hot spots" as I broke in the boots last winter, but my feet were warm (we have sub-zero weather in Ohio), dry and I was able to remain stable on the icy walkways.

This Danner  boot is leather, so it will form to your foot. They are adorable (I think) and remind me of the boots I wore as a kid. So when I heard Danner was bringing them back in honor of the movie Wild (which I have not yet seen) I just had to check the reviews of the new and "improved" boot! They do run a bit on the narrow side, even though the website says that they are made on a wide form. So if you have wide feet, I suggest going up that half size, just to be sure. They are not waterproof, but leather boots can be waterproofed at home. (When I do that, I will create a "how to" post.)

The second set of boots I bought were the Keen Targhee II Mid-Ankle hiking boot (size 7). These boots run wide and were a great comfortable fit pretty much from the very first moment I had them on. They didn't slide, create any friction on my heel or pinch my feet in the breaking in process. I had one "hot spot" on the side of the ball of my right foot, but I get that in every single pair of new shoes due to the arthritis being more advanced in that foot.

They recommend sizing a half size up, and I ended up doing so, but I went to my local REI store and tried these on in a 6.5, 7 and 7.5. While the 6.5 fit my feet fine, my toes on my "big" foot were touching the end and in the 7.5 my heels were slipping, which would cause blisters for sure. Ultimately I went with the 7 because they allowed my one foot to have room to swell (let's be honest, long distance hiking means your feet might swell) and my heels didn't slip or pinch.

The Keen boots didn't need any significant "breaking in" time. A few day hikes and I found them comfortable in mud and water, on pavement or gravel. I plan to get a pair of the Keen Targhee II Shoes so that I have a pair of low-top shoes as well.

So there you have it! My little review of my chosen shoes. The best advice I can offer is to do tons of research, try them on and know what you need your gear to do for you on the trail before making your choice.

Happy Hiking!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

A Passion for Change

Change isn't easy. It isn't always good at first. Sometimes we are dragged into it, kicking and screaming. Sometimes it comes slowly and softly, creeping in like a heavy fog. Sometimes it gets ugly before we are able to see the beauty in it.

But it always requires passion.

I've encountered many junctures of change throughout my life, and the last 2 years have forced change on me at what seems every single turn. Some changes were painful, heartbreaking even. I've healed and moved on from things, and others still linger in the back of my  mind and on my heart, but change is a process that can take time.

Which is why this little blog has changed, grown and refocused over time.

I have a passion for change. The ruffling of the feathers of the "old", the closing of a chapter of life and placing the book upon the shelf to discover a new adventure in the next one brings on emtions like nothing else. The pounding of the heart and giddy anticipation of choosing the next road and journey is both terrifying and exciting. Choices and change are crucial to our growth.

Some things remain the same, "get healthy and lose weight" are probably forever on my list. As is "rediscover me", at least for now. But some have changed, like what I see myself doing as a career, the types of friends I'm willing to keep, and the "me" I'm trying to be.

The truth is, I don't know the destination...but I'm on a road of change nonetheless. I find that I'm both nervous and excited about that unknown. I only know that when I get there, I'll know that I'm there.

If you aren't passionate about the life you live, the friends you have or the friend you are, your career, body or health, then it is time to find the passion to change it!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Wait....fat girls hike? (Part Two)

Yesterday was my birthday. I turned 37, for those who care. So I have just three years to train my body and prepare for this huge goal of mine. Over the weekend Ben and I went to the store to spend some of the money I got for my birthday and start to prepare for my training.

As we walked around the shop I realized that I was an oddity. A fat girl in a fit girl's world. I hate that people look at me like that. Judging me for being in a sport store. How dare I venture out of my house and into the world of outdoor activities.  It isn't the employees of these places who look at me like that, it is only other shoppers.

The truth is, I love the outdoors. Over the years though, the more weight I gained, the less I felt welcome outside of my cage. It is tough to be a fat person who likes to be active and to be outside. People are often patronizing and belittling. They often whisper to their companions or give you a funny look to make sure you know you don't belong. You are not one of them. Why is it that any time someone overweight tries to participate in life that doesn't involve food or sitting on the couch, someone is always quick to make sure they know their place?

While hurtful, these people can't actually STOP me from participating. They can make me uncomfortable, they can hurt my feelings, they can avoid me and laugh at me, but they cannot physically stop me from being outside. They cannot ban me from the outside world and the nature I love to experience. It isn't just the haters that frustrate me or make me feel unwelcome and sized out.

Even manufacturers size me out.

It seems that if you are a larger person, either in build or in weight, the manufacturers of outdoor gear and clothing don't think you matter. It is as if fat people and outdoor sports simply don't go together. They do not make clothing beyond a size 12 in most cases for hiking. They do not make jackets for snow sports or the various types of weather we get when ding outdoor sports that accommodate a larger chest. Even thin I had a hard time finding things that fit my chest, and with the extra weight it makes it harder. You would think that the huge selection offered to women who are under a size 12 (USA) would also be offered to those of us who are over that size. Instead, if you are lucky enough to find a handful of items that DO size over a 12, they are frumpy, homely and plain, with nearly no selection. 2-3 top options (which are just a large square) and maybe 2 bottoms options (in 2 colors and only long enough to hide the parts of your body the rest of the world has deemed "repulsive").

It just doesn't make any sense! Why do manufacturers seem to believe that people who wear larger than a size 12 have no interest or need for clothing that fits outdoor activities? It boggles my mind. As I look through stores like REI, North Face, Dick's and Cabela's I'm rudely reminded of my size and the fact that "my kind" are not a welcome addition to the community. The lack of options for clothing, the limited measurements built into gear for women, often leads me right out the door and back to my couch, safe within my cage where my body offends no one but me.

Manufacturers and stores are still posing that hurtful question "Wait....fat girls hike?" Yes, we hike. We cycle. We swim. We climb. We camp. We kayak. We run. And we need more than a handful of ugly tent-like options for clothing and gear to do it. Maybe if we were not constantly sized out and treated like unwelcome invaders, more of us would want to be outside and be part of a community of health.

Wait.....fat girls hike? (Part one)

I have this dream. A goal that I am determined to accomplish. I mostly likely won't complete the goal by the time I'm 40, but I am aiming to have begun by the time I turn 40. Anytime I tell people what my "dream goal" is, I'm met with a polite but skeptical sliver of a smile. It seems impossible for someone at my current size, with  health issues and a decent amount of metal in my lower spine. But nonetheless here it is:

The Triple Crown of Hikes.

It has been a long time fantasy of mine to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail...all 2,180 miles of it. As I began to move from dreaming about this feat to actually thinking I just might be able to do it, I mentioned it to a few people. While my darling husband was supportive and more than willing to train with me once I was physically able, most people just looked at me through glassed over gazes and stifled their laughter. I could see it written on their faces, the words they wouldn't dare say to my face "Wait....fat girls hike?"

At first I was a bit discouraged. Was I kidding myself into thinking I could do this? And then that discouragement turned into determination. I don't have to wait until I look like the fit women in the magazines. I don't have to put it off until others won't laugh at me for trying. It is ok to be that fat girl on the trail, out of breath and slowly chugging along, gravel and dirt crunching beneath my feet as my body drips with sweat. I know I'll get those looks...disgust, pity and even jokes about me...but I don't have to care. What I'm seeing at the end of my trek is that I'm one hike closer to my goal.

The more I thought about the 6 month journey of hiking the Appalachian Trail in on go, the more I thought about how much I don't think I would want to stop there. Not only do I want to prove to myself that I can do it, I wanted to prove to the world that a former athlete, who gained 100 pounds, had major spine surgery and had to relearn how to do the simplest of tasks on her own, could strap on a pair of hiking boots, load up a heavy backpack and hike until her lungs burned, high into the mountains, down into valleys and reach a physical goal. My body is not dead. My body is not broken. My body has been altered, but it is still far more capable than even I tend to give credit for.

But why stop at the AT? So I decided it wouldn't be just the Appalachian Trail. I want to hike the Continental Divide Trail (3100 miles) and the Pacific Crest Trail (2,650 miles) as well. Together these three long-distance trails make up that Triple Crown. It might seem impossible, but I'm going to do it. One day I will have completed them all and I will prove to myself that my body is capable of more than I ever imagined it could be again. I will no longer be a "former athlete" I will be a Long-distance Hiker, a Tru-hiker, a Triple Crown Hiker.