11/22/2015

Hiking on Lamma Island

I just spent a month in Hong Kong on Lamma Island, which is one of my favorite places. This little island is blissfully clear of cars and has a quaint, relaxed feel. The hiking here doesn't have all the stairs and steep climbs that can be found on Hong Kong Island but you can still get a good workout in. My morning routine consists of walking or jogging ten minutes from our apartment to the Hung Shing Ye beach. If you're coming from Hong Kong Island, you will most likely take the ferry from Central to the Yung Shue Wan ferry pier. From the pier you can get onto the Family Trail which will go right past this beach as well. This was taken mid week but it can get quite crowded. I feel like this is my island during the week but I have to share it on weekends and holidays.


I like to swim at this beach because of the shark nets and because it's close to home. Just past this beach you can continue on the Family Trail. During the summer it wasn't fun to go first thing in the morning because then you would be the one breaking through all the spider webs spun across the path. But in October/November the webs were gone.









After the first bit of climbing you will reach a lookout section with a large map of the island's trails and roads.







Keep going past the lookout/map and you'll get to a place near the top of the mountain where you can curve to the right and continue on the Family Trail toward Suk Kwu Wan. The road from here is mostly downhill and flat so if you want to burn calories you need to start running.




You'll travel across the top of this mountain for a bit and get a good view of the other side. The photo below shows the village Suk Kwu Wan where weekenders like to walk and enjoy a meal at the famous seafood restaurants along the shore. The photos I took on this day are pretty cloudy because a storm was coming in. I waited until my last day to take pictures so poor lighting is the price I paid for procrastination. The first time I saw this view I thought of Kevin Costner in Waterworld.


Just before you reach another tiny village you will come across this message painted on the road:



Don't feel too bad, it's not a comment on your running style or your mental acuity. It's just a warning that the road will take a steep dip and a sharp turn into the village ahead. Where you will be delighted to see the famous Pink and Purple Pig Palace.




It will take you approximately two minutes to walk through this village and then you will reach another fork in the road.  Stay to the left to continue on the Family Trail. Or go up the stairs to the right for Lo So Shing beach, my favorite swimming spot.





As soon as you climb the stairs you will see some public bathrooms. 


I'm not sure where the stairs on the right go. I am saving  these mystery stairs for another day. Just past the bathrooms the road becomes a dirt trail. This used to be my favorite part of the trip but I've seen five snakes in the past two weeks of hiking so I'm more comfortable on the wider concrete roads now.

But it's a very pretty trail that leads to an even prettier beach. Last summer Zoe and I would hike out here in the mornings. She always had to lead because she could see the spider webs better than I could and she would tell me when to duck. Then we would swim out to the floating dock to cool off before we headed home again.



Below is a photo of the village with the Pink and Purple Pig Palace. This is the view coming from the opposite direction (on my way home.) 




If you've gotten this far you can see why I enjoy exploring Lamma Island. It's a beautiful and fascinating place. Don't let the snakes bother you, I'm sure there's plenty of room for all of us.
This is the three-footer who was in the middle of the street right outside my apartment when I left to take these photos. We stared at each other for a moment until I looked away to get my phone ready for a photo. He seized that opportunity to slither across the street and escape in the gutter. 







9/27/2015

Kokopelli triathlon








It was a gorgeous day: perfect to have a triathlon adventure. The Kokopelli was held on September 12th, at Sand Hollow Reservoir in Hurricane, Utah. Which is right outside of St George. I had signed up two months earlier for the olympic distance. When I picked up my packet I thought back on my previous training (pretty much nonexistent) and switched to the sprint triathlon. I probably wouldn't want to struggle through the longer one but I was pretty sure I could have some fun with the shorter one.






Hubby Brandon was there taking photos and got the start of the first wave.







Hubby has a nice camera. In fact, his lens is so impressive that athletes will often pose for him thinking he an official race photographer. This band of brothers competed together.






This is me, getting in the water for a little pre-race warm up. Water is my happy place.





Our neighbor, Rich Bruin, with the full sleeves. Rich won his age group and beat my swim time. I hope he enjoys that moment because it's not going to happen again!













Getting ready to hop in for the start of my wave.







And we're off! It was a 750 meter swim.



I don't know who this inspirational duo is, but I would love to hear their story.







Out of the lake and heading toward the transition area. Although I know that wetsuits are helpful and that triathletes wear them whenever possible, I still believe REAL swimmers don't wear wetsuits!



The 12.4 mile bike course went around the lake and had a few tough hills. But it was an out-and-back so I got to go down the hills as well. 



Don't you wish your girlfriend wore a hat like me?





I mostly jogged the 5K but had a few walking moments. (okay, more than a few.) I'm sure it would have been more comfortable if I was better prepared. 













The Southern Utah Triathlon Club is a great group of athletes who love to race and also seem to love supporting each other when they're not racing.


 Even when injured.






The best part of the 5K was running past the water station manned by Southern Utah Triathlon Club members who had a good time dumping buckets of water on us as we passed. It sure cooled me down. Quite refreshing.






I ended up in third place in my age group with a time of one hour and 45 seconds. I may be 50 years old but it's still fun to get a medal!





It's a great way to spend a Saturday morning.

7/05/2015

90-Day Yoga Challenge

This is me, falling out of dancer's pose on Lamma Island. Balancing is harder on the sand than in the yoga studio!



For my 50th birthday I decided to tackle something I’ve wanted to do for a while: practice yoga consistently. I’ve done yoga home videos and dvds over the years but it’s been pretty hit and miss. I usually enjoyed following along but if the phone rang or someone (anyone) in the house needed anything, yoga was abandoned for more “urgent” matters.

Then last January my son, Colton, told me about the 90-day yoga challenge at his favorite studio, Be Hot Yoga, in St George.  They encouraged participants to attend at least three classes per week and offered a special rate for the 90-days. I joined and ended up averaging six classes per week except when I went out of town for spring break.

The hot yoga was challenging. Holding poses correctly is much more difficult than I thought it would be, especially in a hot, humid room.  Even though class was only 60 minutes long, it usually felt like forever before the wonderful final savasana (corpse pose.)

I remember struggling through most of the classes and then one day, about one month into it, I realized how much progress I’d made. I noticed my arms and legs were stronger and more toned and hard poses weren’t as hard. I know yoga is all about acceptance but I’m a competitive person by nature and I love results. While I did find it easier to be kind and accepting of myself, I was also excited when I was able to do my first chaturanga (like a yoga pushup) without plopping down belly first.  

I also lost a few pounds during the challenge. It wasn’t because I was exercising more. In fact, I probably did fewer cardio workouts while doing a daily yoga class. But I did notice that daily yoga helped make life seem less stressful. I felt more peaceful, more grounded which meant less need for comfort eating.  Perhaps meditation class is just as important as cardio for healthy weight loss.

On Fridays, Matt Fehrenbacker teaches a 75-minute version of the foundation class. Which is wonderful and awful. It’s nice to have a bit of extra time to really get into the poses, unless of course, it’s a pose that you don’t necessarily want to really get into. I remember one day we were in a warrior II pose for what felt like a painfully long time. I kept sending the telepathic message “release the pose” to Matt but he wasn’t receiving and stubbornly refused to say those magic words. I was about to tap out and escape into child’s pose when he said something that really hit me. “This pose will build your determination as well as your strength.”  What???? I could actually use some more of that determination stuff in my life. Could I really get it by holding my body in an uncomfortable, silly shape? It must work a little because it took some determination on my part not to slap Matt’s face as he walked by calmly talking to the class as though we all LOVE hanging out in Warrior II for endless minutes. Let me just say it was an aha! moment for me.

And I must tell you about Matt’s mom, Jane Fehrenbacker. She was the first person I met at Be Hot Yoga. She welcomed me and encouraged me after I struggled through the first class. She’s like the yoga poster child. Who raised a bazillion kids.  And survived to tell the tale.  And is soooooo loving and kind. She is such a bright light.

She is a beautiful, radiant, gray-haired grandma who kicks yoga butt all day long. I was so impressed with her after that first class. And even more so when I walked into a class the next week and she was teaching it! Wow, I think I’m all out of excuses.


I’m not sure if it was the hard work, or the hot room, or all that focused breathing, but lying on my mat after class was surreal. I would breath slowly and deeply for a few minutes while most of the class quietly left the room. By the time the last person left, the room would grow quiet and a peace would descend on me like a fog. I stopped focusing on my breath and just let go. I felt joyful and weightless, as though I was floating. It was a pretty great way to start the day.



Building determination on the beach

Be Hot Yoga hosted a party May 22nd for all the 90-day challenge participants. It was an opportunity for everyone to share their journey while enjoying yoga, food and music. I was sorry to miss it since we had left for Hong Kong the day before and didn't return until mid-June. But I think it's safe to say I am not the only one who found this challenge to be an eye-opening, life-changing experience.

6/28/2015

Why You Should Not Eat Sugar

The sugar I am going to refer to here, is specifically the white sugar that comes as granules or cubes, as well as brown sugar and all the various mixes of glucose, fructose and sucrose, including high fructose corn syrup.
So what is it? Here is the simplest definition I can give you:
Sugar is a drug that has no nutritional value and is an addictive chemical.
Hence, no wonder that today we have a nation that is addicted to sugar! In fact many experts have come forth, comparing sugar to cocaine, when it comes to its effects on our brain.
While some of us know this or are starting to realize it, many more do not. In fact, most people in the population have no idea just how harmful sugar is on our health.
Eating sugar, is not just about putting yourself at a higher risk for diabetes type 2 or weight gain. Sugar affects every single system in your body, and none in a positive way.

Sugar Effects on the BRAIN

One of the most debilitating health problems in our modern, Western world today is depression. According to the World Health Organization, depression is not only sharply on the rise, with suicides alone having risen 60% in the last 45 years, but it is currently the 4th leading contributor to the global burden of disease. And according to a report from CNN, antidepressants are the most prescribed drugs in the US, with their numbers tripling over the last couple of decades.
So what does this have to do with sugar?
Our natural feel-good brain chemical is the neurotransmitter, serotonin. Our bodies naturally make this in balanced amounts.
Sugar raises the serotonin level in our brain. Hence, we can understand why we “feel good” eating sweets. Through this mechanism, sugars cause the body to have a chemical high mentally, which results in a lift in mood.
However, the huge problem with this, is that over time the body cuts back serotonin production, which results in slight to serious depression. Just by not having a “sugary” substance, one can experience mood swings, unhappiness, irritability and other negative symptoms.
Basically put, sugar throws off your natural serotonin balance, and to add to this the brain is now addicted to getting the serotonin high artificially.

Sugar Effects on  the TEETH

We have always been told that sugar causes cavities. However to get the full story, we have to understand that while sugar itself can be slightly corrosive, depending on its concentration and material it comes in contact with, what causes most cavities are bacteria. So where sugar comes into the equation, is that cavity causing bacteria feed on sugar. Hence, the more sugar we eat, the more bacteria we have, to do all sorts of damage to our teeth.
Thus, it has long been known that sugar is the leading cause of dental deterioration, cavities in teeth, bleeding gums, and loss of teeth.

Sugar Effects on the PANCREAS

Although we are told that high sugar diets increase our risk for diabetes type 2, we are not really given the exact mechanism of what is really happening.
Diabetes type 2 is caused by a slew of symptoms, the main ones being the body’s inability to properly use or produce insulin. Insulin is a hormone produced by our pancreas, that our body uses to regulate that amount of sugar in our blood. Too high concentrations of sugar in our blood can kill us, just as too low concentrations of sugar.
Sugar causes our pancreas to overwork in its production of insulin, leading to insulin resistance and other problems, which manifest as the known diabetes type 2.

Sugar Effects on our BONES

When sugar is digested it has an acidic effect on our body. In the understanding of the acid-alkaline balance of the body, an acidic body is prone to various diseases, and our bodies do everything they can to make sure the blood, via which sugar is carried, does not get too acidic, going out of its slightly alkaline range.
To do this, the body needs an alkaline substance to neutralize the effects of the acidic sugar. Calcium is an alkaline mineral, highly abundant in our bones. And so, calcium is used to neutralize the acidic effects of sugar. This results in bones becoming weak, porous and eventually osteoporotic due to the withdrawn calcium. This being a much bigger reason of why we have the osteoporosis rates we do, instead of it being a lack of dairy or calcium. Instead of taking more calcium, whether through dairy or supplements, which can lead to so many other health problems, we need to reduce our sugar intake.

Sugar Effects on our HEART

When most people think of what causes heart disease, fat is normally the answer that follows. However, we have to awaken to the fact that sugar leads to heart disease as well, and today there is a HUGE link between diabetes and heart disease. Diabetics are at a higher risk for atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).
Sugar causes artery damage, inflammation of the arteries and hence weaker arteries. This is due to the biochemistry of what it does as it travels through the blood stream in large, especially poorly regulated amounts, if our pancreas is stressed and having a hard time with the correct production and use of insulin.
This makes one more susceptible to clogged arteries, hypertension (high blood pressure), weak arteries, strokes and heart attacks.

Sugar Effects on DEFICIENCIES

Many people do not think twice when digesting sugary substances, that in doing so, they can be stripping valuable nutrients from their body.
The digestion of sugar requires many vitamins, minerals and enzymes to be stripped from healthy cells. Over time this is taxing on our system, and especially to those who are already eating poor diets based on empty calorie, nutrient deficient, processed foods. This is also not something that can be fixed by taking a synthetic multivitamin, but requires a good, natural, wholesome, nutrient rich diet.

Sugar Effects on OBESITY

Glucose is our body’s number one fuel or energy source, and generally speaking all sugar breaks down into glucose. For most of us, there is a huge discrepancy between how much fuel is needed and how much we provide. Thus, being resourceful, our body never throws away energy, that could be potentially used in the future, and so on average 40% of sugar ingested is stored as fat.
Whenever there is an excess in energy, whether from sugar calories, or protein calories or fat calories, they all get converted to and stored in fat cells. Hence, it is no surprise that high sugar diets, lead to weight problems and obesity.
In fact, if we take those 30 teaspoons the average North American eats daily on average, that accounts to over 400 calories daily just in sugar alone!
And we can fool ourselves all we want, and use the “treat” word as an excuse to ingest sugar foods regularly, but in the end, when the weight comes on, there is no fooling ourselves about that.

Sugar Effects on the IMMUNE SYSTEM

What always boggles my mind, are parents who want their children to be healthy and complain when their kids get sick, and yet they have no issues giving their kids regular sodas, cookies, candies, sugary cereals and you name it. And let us not even get into the whole premise of Halloween or Easter in our society.
Eating sugar makes your immune system slow down to a crawl. In fact, sugar has been found to almost paralyze the white blood cells responsible for engulfing harmful invaders like viruses and bacteria for up to around 5 hours and reduces their ability to work properly by up to 40%. The effects of sugar and the immune system appear to have been first studied by Dr. Linus Pauling in the early-mid 1900's. Today, you can read more about this from natural health experts like Dr. Marcel Hernandez or allopathic health experts like Dr. William Sears.
To add to this, over time, the stress hormone cortisol becomes elevated and causes increases to various infections as well as general organ malfunction, including heart disease.

Conclusion

Most people think sugar is just dangerous if you fear gaining weight, and some even boast about how much sugar they eat, without gaining any weight.
However, with sugar being in most foods today as one of the top five ingredients, it is time we wake up to the bitter truth about sugar, how it harms our body and plays a leading role in almost every disease and health condition out there.
Its harmful effects go way beyond just weight problems. And the worst part is that, it is no longer safe to just avoid “sweets”, as sugar is added to pretty much every processed food, from bread to ketchup!
If you think the list and explanations above are way more than you bargained for when it came to eating sugar, I hate to break it to you but that is just the tip of the iceberg. Sugar causes damage to literally every system or organ in our body, including ones not even mentioned like the liver and kidneys. It is also linked to learning disorders in kids, ADD/ADHD and sugar is directly related to cancer. The higher the sugar consumption, the greater the risk of cancers.
For many, this news comes as a shock, to the point that they are tempted to brush it aside, disbelieve it and pretend they never heard it. After all, our society is saturated in sugar and every major holiday makes sure we get lots of it, so how could this be? Why wouldn’t our doctors and nutritionists and governments protect us from this? For those of you who know the back end of the system, I am sure I do not have to explain.
My personal inspiration to go sugar free took place after my own journey in optimal nutrition, finally made me face the facts about sugar. Following up with Dr. Olson’s book Sugarettes, was the final tipping point. That was exactly 2 years ago. Remember, this does not mean things like fruits and dates, or even some raw honey. I know I can safely consume these as part of my diet, enjoy the delicious sweet taste and health benefits of them.
And what was the effect of this for me? Along with all other aspects of my optimal nutrition, eliminating sugar has made me feel even more amazing, but the biggest area I noticed a huge change in, were cravings. Detoxing from sugar, meant no more cravings of any kind where sweets were concerned. I was no longer a slave to anything “sweet” – true freedom at last!
So in the end, as with everything else, what you do with this information is as always up to you. Will a little hurt you? Probably not, but we no longer have a little when it comes to sugar today, as it is in literally every processed food in large quantities. Thus, I know that I personally would never advise someone to eat any amounts of sugar or give it to them in any foods, especially those I most love and care for. And as crazy as it may sound to some people, like Dr. Olson, I too believe that there will come a time in society, where we will look at sugar, like most today look at cigarettes.

5/10/2015

Tempe Town Lake Open Water Swim 2015




Zoe (younger daughter) and I went to Phoenix for the Easter Weekend. It just so happens that there was a Tempe Town Lake open water swim that Saturday, April 11th.  It was too much of a coincidence to let that one go. Zoe has not been in the water since she became a state champion swimmer last February then promptly retired. I find it rather heartbreaking that she's choosing not to swim in college but to focus on academics instead. I know she's making the right choice for her but I'm not ready to retire from being a swim mom. I want to keep on watching her compete and get stronger and faster. She's young, she started late and she still has a bucketload of untapped potential. But, alas, she can't do everything. She got an academic scholarship to BYU and wants to actually have time to study. It's hard to argue with that. But STILL! It's a little sad to see her swim career end so early.

Anyway, I did beg her to do this open water swim with me. It would be the first time we competed together and I thought it would be fun. She didn't agree and I'm not sure what was said to get her to agree but eventually she did. She may have been bribed with books, or emotionally blackmailed into doing this with me before she goes off to college and deserts me. One or both of those.

This race offered three distances: the 1000, the 2000 or the 4000 meter swim. She wanted the 1000 and I wanted the 4000 so we compromised with the middle distance. We got there before 7am so we could check in and get our official pink cap. It was chilly that time of day and we wondered why we had thought this would be a good idea. I was really regretting the whole idea of jumping into cold water but figured we might as well do it since we were here anyway. We also noticed that 99% of those around us were wearing a wet suit. Oops. I remembered reading that wetsuits were allowed but had no idea that there would only be a handful of us brave swimmers roughing it without one. We didn't even own wetsuits.

They send the 1000 meter swimmers off at 7:30am and then we all made our way into the water for our 7:33am start time. Zoe and I started in the back and on the outside. We did a few minutes of old lady breast stroke while we were getting used to the water. Finally we took the plunge and began swimming freestyle. The visibility was about 6 inches in the murky water and I wondered whether my hepatitis vaccinations were still in effect. 



After a few minutes of swimming together (which was difficult since you had to raise your head to see where the other swimmers were) Zoe decided she'd had enough of waiting for her mom. She took off and swam her own race. She started to catch up with the swimmers ahead of her and then to pass them. She discovered how fun it was to pass people and decided she wanted to do a little more of that.  I just kept plodding along and was finished before I knew it. Zoe swam the 2000 meters in 34 minutes 54 seconds and I finished in 37 minutes 32 seconds.



Zoe got third place in the youth 11-18 year old division. I ended up in second place in the masters 45+ age group. I also did the victory dance on my award's block but Zoe didn't get the picture so you will just have to imagine my best Rocky impersonation. She was too busy talking with our new friend Kepano Ream who won the youth 1000 meter race. We had some pancakes and then headed out. Zoe was excited and said she would like to do another race sometime. An open water swimmer is born!

3/31/2015

Turkey Swim - Hawaii Open Water Swim








I will use just about any excuse to go to Hawaii but I have to say, this was a great one! On Saturday, November 22 I took the bus from our beachfront hotel to the Ala Moana park where the race was held. It was a gorgeous day. (Is there any other kind in Hawaii?) The Turkey Swim is held in a protected bay so it is a great race if you're new to open water swimming. I wasn't worried about sharks and it was much calmer than the Waikiki Rough Water Swim race held on Labor Day.

I noticed quite a few school-aged swimmers and assumed the local club teams had come out for a workout. After the race I talked to some of the youth and they told me it was actually a school PE assignment. How great is that? I wish we had done open water swims in my high schools. It seems a little more challenging/exciting than dodge ball.

I tried a new approach this time and I actually got in and warmed up before the race. The race distance wasn't very far (only 2K) and it was a straight out and back. It felt as smooth as a swimming pool and I had no trouble swimming in a straight line. Since I was all warmed up I worked my way to the front of the pack for the start. When the gun sounded I sprinted out ahead to avoid the chaos. I swam a fast 200 meters or so before I settled down into a nice, smooth pace. The race wasn't too crowded which made it nice. I kept a steady pace and was grateful for the fast start. This race strategy worked and I ended up getting first in my age group in 34:18. I called hubby afterwards and told him I had won my age group which of course means I need to come back next year to defend my title!




Female 45 to 49

PlaceNameCityBib NoAgeOverallTotal Time
1SANDI SMITH241495234:18.5
2BRIDGET VELASCOKAHULUI HI2694810639:06.0
3MARY BEUSTKAILUA HI174516342:45.2
4SHANNON FORTNERHONOLULU HI3764526253:42.6
5J. GARCIA337462861:09:03.9