Monday, December 27, 2010

New Year resolutions

When the new year begins is arbitrary - where's the start point of a circle? However, our society selects January 1st as the first day of the new year and, with that, comes a few traditions. Some people start to take down the Christmas lights and even put their Christmas trees at the end of their driveways for recycling. There is also the tradition of making new year's resolutions and I'm far from being exempt from that habit.
Every new year I set out goals for myself, from dietary to fitness to spiritual to the more practical. So, for 2011, my dietary and fitness goals revolve around reducing the amount of bodily inflammation I have. I don't mean such sundry things as scraped knees though I'd like to avoid that, too. By bodily inflammation, I am referring to a more chronic, low grade bodily systemic inflammation.
In their book Ultraprevention Drs. Mark Liponis and Mark Hyman offer sensible advice and well researched information on many of the health problems facing western civilization today. Liponis and Hyman, both medical doctors, address the connection between lifestyle and the development of health problems. There is something intuitive about the idea of mind-body connection but now the research seems to bear this out. As I have MS and as MS involves an inflammatory response to the activation of my already overactive immune system, the issue of strategies was of particular interest to me. Liponis and Hyman state, "...Unfortunately, this protective mechanism of our immune system also has dangerous secondary effects on our bodies. The result of this inflammatory response by the immune system is unfortunately damage to many different organs in our bodies, as well as our circulatory system itself, because our immune system is an integral part of each and every organ in our body as well as being in the bloodstream itself..."(1)Also, "...In the case of chronic inflammation, a safer strategy may be to employ anti-inflammatory nutritional and lifestyle changes that can help to reduce inflammation..." Always one for these kinds of challenges and as January 1st approaches, I thought it best to resolve to include more anti inflammatory foods into my already cautious diet. In fact, I'm currently enjoying a nice cuppa mint green tea (green tea alone is, to me, undrinkable).
As I like to set fitness goals, I resolve this winter season to get 100 kilometres of skiing done. I've already got 19 kilometres so far and I'd be out there right now but for the lack of snow. Oh, and the windchill is a bone numbing 2000watts/m^2, aka TOO BLASTED COLD IN THE WIND. However, the season is still young so I'm not worried...yet. My other fitness goal for 2011 is to trike 100 kilometres in one outing. I did 80 this year and lived to tell the tale.
The role of exercise in keeping chronic inflammation down has been very well researched. Specifically, "...that improvements in glucose metabolism were associated with decreases in cytokine concentrations during weight loss programs..." (3) This conclusion was made from having studied overweight and obese post menopausal women and while I am none of the above need to be just as careful. My new year also promises to be spritually enriching for me as I will be more involved with the Ottawa Buddhist Society. I have found the OBS in particular and Buddhism in general to be so helpful to me, especially when I'm convinced that I will be forever 10 kilometres from home and I'm exhausted and hungry and need to go pee... Buddhism has helped me to put things into perspective a little more easily and you can't go wrong there! Thus, in '11, I resolve to immerse myself into a deeper spirituality; the environment is so supportive and caring that it can only be good for everyone involved.
Finally, even though I'm looking at the crusty layer of snow and ice covering my back yard, I have already got plans for my little garden. Try as we might (and we did), we just cannot grow vegetables in the back yard. The work and care put into the venture just seem to outstrip the fruits of our labours - literally and figuratively. I grew tomatoes last year and, despite the healthy lush green stalks, only got about 10 tomatoes from two plants. I planted two packets of sugar snap peas last year and got mediocre results...
...however, the herbs I grew last year were incredible. We had a really good crop of sweet basil, thyme, marjoram, Egyptian parsley, oregano and chives. So, we will be growing only herbs in '11. What we harvested from '10, we dried and will continue to use in soups and stews. So my practical resolution in '11 is to grow some healthy herbs. I've already got the back yard plotted out and know what is going to go where. We only need for the spring to eventually come.
In the meantime, I am enjoying the day, grateful to be living it and hoping we get some more snow soon. I've only gone skiing three times this season, I'm up for more...May you all have a good new year's holiday and an awesome 2011!

(1) (2)


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Opportunities - it's what you see in 'em.

Well, today is the winter solstice here in Canada - and, indeed, anywhere north of the equator. Last night was also the December Esbat (full moon) and, lo, a total lunar eclipse. Astrologers and even the media made it a point to let us know just how odd it is to have a total lunar eclipse right up against the though those two events coinciding actually means anything significant.

For me and Adam, the eclipse meant an opportunity. He set up the digital camera and the tripod so that at the time of maximum totality, we would be ready to take as many pictures as we comfortably could. Snapping pictures of an eclipsed moon would involve opening the window which, in December, would not have been a cozy prospect. Still, it was an opportunity not to be missed.

We missed it.

It isn't that we couldn't drag our sorry behinds out of bed at 03:something-ghastly in the morning but that the low clouds we had noted before going to bed were still hanging in there. Now, at 07:01, I have the time to consider that our having missed last night's total lunar eclipse wasn't so much a lost opportunity to see this wonderful event but an opportunity to sleep all through the night. This has major implications for me as a both x-c skiier and cyclist.

I have had it expressed to me in the past that my having MS must make it easy for me to get a lot of sleep. MS is an incredibly fatiguing illness and if I had to pick just one symptom that negatively affects me the most I'd have to say it's the fatigue. However, fatigue doesn't necessarily mean sleepy and many are the nights where I toss and turn and wake regularly so getting a good night's sleep is both a gift and quite rare.

For me to be at my best, physically, I need to be well rested just like everyone else does. Think about how you feel when you're not well rested; cranky, muddy-headed, impatient, pain-more-easily-felt, et cetera. If I haven't been able to sleep properly, no matter why that is, then the chances of me being able to cycle, ski or even read a book where I understand it are similarly reduced.

So, while I am certainly disappointed for having missed the opportunity to see last night's total lunar eclipse, even if it was due to the overcast skies, I at least took the opportunity to get that much more rest. Now, today, I can head out on foot and get some exercise. We still don't have much in the way of snow though there is some in the forecast (for now), but at least the skiing conditions haven't deteriorated as far as I can tell. If I can ski, I can stay fit for the trike season. For me, it's a matter of seeing the chance when it shows itself and taking the opportunity to just do it!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

complementary activities in a winter funderland...

The weather outside is...

...snowy, which is awesome. Indeed, the EC radar for here is showing what looks like a snowy streamer making a beeline for Ottawa. It's not like the mountains of snow they're getting in the UK but any amount for our purposes is good.

I'm writing this over a breakfast of rice, my just emptied cup of coffee still sending light waves of hazelnut vanilla through the air. The type of snow that's falling right now is the really lovely kind, too. Great big fluffy potato chip flakes are tumbling through the silence of Sunday morning.

We went cross country skiing yesterday. We gathered our skis and poles and sauntered over to our beloved Sawmill Creek Constructed Wetlands. Ever since the city both expanded the trail network and improved what was there already, I had been chomping at the bit to find out how the skiing would be. Ever since we became aware of this very-close-to-home gem, we had always made it a point to go there as regularly as possible and that included for skiing. Last winter, I only managed to get out twice and that was before Christmas. Afterwards, the weather just wasn't good for skiing. Adam managed to go there a few more times by himself but even he admitted the conditions just weren't the best.

So, we went out yesterday afternoon and did some trail setting as no one else had been there recently. Oh, we did see tire tracks and footprints - some of which weren't human - but as far as we knew, we were the only ones on skis. We wound up skiing from the southern entrance to the SCCW all the way up to the Walkley transit station and back - 5 kilometres. This morning our plan is to do that trip twice. Given the amount of preparation necessary, such as waxing one's skis and the elaborate ritual of layering clothes for the trek, it's really best to do as many kilometres as possible. That's the plan anyway.

Soo...what does this have to do with catriking? Well, I really don't like not being physically active in at least some manner. I get such a big kick out of my catrike that I really prefer to be in as good a physical condition for the season as possible. Since we don't catrike in the winter, neither of us wants to get out of shape for spring. So, we make it a point to have two utterly perfectly complementary activities so that we always stay in a good shape. I use the long catriking season to prepare for the cross-country ski season and the cross-country ski season to prepare for the catriking season.

It's still snowing and I still like it. When I hit the trails again today, I will thoroughly enjoy them knowing that I am in training for catriking season '11.

**********Later, as in, after a good lunch**********
Well, we did 7 kilometres and not the 10 I had originally said. Lots of reasons, mostly to do with me getting tired from the extra duty upper body workout. This is what happens when one waxes too cold!

In the catriking world, there really isn't much of an analogy. If the tires are pumped up properly and one isn't riding on several centimetres of mashed potatoes then conditions shouldn't be too - uh - challenging. Cross country skiing is different...but at least we got good exercise. Gotta keep those arms and legs in good shape for cycling, right?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

When they build it...

...we will be there.

The triking season is certainly done for the year. We have a few centimetres of dry snow that have been whipped about by the really high winds we have had as of late. We have some more snow in the forecast and so my thoughts are now mostly on the hoped for cross country ski conditions.

We do the vast majority of our cross country skiing in the nearby Sawmill Creek Constructed Wetlands, a simple series of pathways located about 400 metres from our house. We often go for walks there throughout the year as well as ski there so it's a useful facility for us year-round. Indeed, this past summer, the City of Ottawa extended the pathways so that users can easily get to the Walkley transit station. That's good news for us as it gives us more places to trike, walk and, at this time of year,
ski. However, the pathway system at the SCCW is still a closed loop. It doesn't allow for easy access from any nearby neighbourhoods...until now, that is.

The Sawmill Creek Constructed Wetlands are located where Hunt Club Road meets with Airport Parkway. It's kind of wedged in between Airport Parkway, a busy road leading into the city from the airport - hence the name - and the South Keys shopping centre. As it's a wetland, bird species like red winged blackbirds, the ubiquitous gulls and a few graceful looking herons are common there. However, it's also a recreational area for joggers, dog walkers and cyclists...and the city is moving to expand its use.

Enter, the bridge. We learned of the city's plan to construct a bridge to join the Hunt Club Community to South Keys and then learned of the public information session held last night - December 7th. City engineers and planners came out to the Hunt Club-Riverside Community Centre, set up a series of information panels in a medium sized gymnasium and were available to answer any questions members of the public may have had.

The information panels consisted, in large part, of descriptions of the project. Such descriptions must have been written by marketing people as promises were made that users of the bridge would feel nothing less than "delighted". Mostly, I just wanted to see what this bridge would look like, who would use it and how it would open the community to cyclists and pedestrians.

The bridge, as yet unnamed, is supposed to start around Cahill West, rise and cross Airport Parkway only to settle back onto the SCCW pathway. Hypothetically, it should both connect residents in the Hunt Club West community to the South Keys shopping centre and provide users a way to get to the shopping centre and transit stations there without having to negotiate the rather busy Hunt Club Road. It should also allow people who live in South Keys and points east (I'm thinking Greenboro) to cycle to Hog's Back for the ever-welcome Alcatel/Lucent Sunday bike days, again, without having to negotiate busy roads like Hunt Club. The bridge won't replace the use of such roads for cyclists but it will provide an alternative, and that's its job.

The bridge should also make it easier for pedestrians and cyclists alike to access the South Keys transit station. The plans include the building of a shiny new tunnel connecting the wetlands to the transitway station's lower level pedestrian underpass. This also means the dismantling of the old, crumbling tunnel that is currently there. Two doors at the west end of the transit station will allow entry of both cycles and wheelchairs. As well, a ramp of no more than 5 degrees and hugging the South Keys station will allow people to gain access to the transit platform itself. The gentle slope will make this both cycle and wheelchair accessible. This is put in place to accommodate the difference in elevation between the South Keys transit station and the wetlands. Right now, hardy walkers need to first hop over a railing, negotiate a fairly steep drop from the transit station to the wetlands, as strewn with rocks, bushes and the odd tree root just to make the whole process interesting. Oh, did I mention the "Keep Out - this means YOU" sign that is both present and thoroughly ignored? Currently, it is not possible to bring a bike through and the new tunnel promises to fix that.

The bridge won't really do much for us. It's just as easy for us to ride the short distance (and it is short) along Hunt Club to reach places like Hog's Back or Colonel By Drive. It will provide an easier way for us to access the Hunt Club community's roads like Cahill West, Plante and McCarthy. Mostly, it'll just be one more cycle friendly route for us and others to explore.

I know the title of this blog entry is a play on the oft-used phrase "If you build it, they will come!" but, according to the city councillor for the area, Maria McRae, it isn't a matter of "if" but "that". The bridge's construction costs (estimated at around $5 million dollars) have been accounted for in the city's budget and the bridge itself is scheduled for completion around this time next year. Unfortunately, that means that we won't be able to try it out for the 2011 cycle season but it should be wide open to the public for the 2012 season.