Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Turkey and Travel

After a really fun Thanksgiving weekend in New England I’m off to do some sailing again.
I’ve been living and working in Newport for a couple of years now without any big adventures and I got pretty used to having a place to call home. I rented an apartment, unpacked my duffel bag and acquired a whole bunch of stuff. Having a base and a place to store my toys made training and playing a lot easier. Anyone who wandered into my apartment would likely trip over a bike in my kitchen or the surfboard in my bedroom. I love having a place of my own and found it particularly hard to break away from that this winter when a long delivery option popped up. Sail from San Francisco to Charleston via the Panama canal? “Yes, please!” Shouted the world-traveler-duffel-bag-bum Laurel.  “Leave my family, friends and reasonably predictable training schedule?” questioned the home-body-who-likes-her-comfort-zone.  Hesitations or not, work is work so I booked my flight to San Fran and didn’t think about it too much.
This past weekend I was lucky enough to be at home with my family on Thanksgiving Day. I can count on one hand the number of traditional family holidays I’ve spent at my parent’s house since college so I wasn’t disappointed when another delivery was delayed and allowed me to be home for turkey. My family is big and loud and generally agrees on political issues so dinner was fun and delicious without any drama. As always the question of, “what are you doing now?” arose and I found it harder to answer than usual. I have been looking around the marine and yachting industry to try to figure out what I want to do next. I like working with boats but find it harder and harder to sign on for full time, on board jobs. I don’t like yachting enough to give my whole life to it and I’m trying to figure out what else I can do.
 The next day I headed for the mountains in hopes of getting a few runs in on my skis before sailing away. Some friends of mine rent a ski house at Sugarbush Mountain in VT and are generous enough to let me stay with them and attempt to ski with them! They had planned a Friends-giving for Saturday night and as we ate cheese and cooked another turkey questions about my next trip came up. These friends know me and the industry better than most and it’s harder to brush away questions I don’t want to answer.  For the first time I wasn’t very excited about a sailing trip and they could tell. As the dates for this trip got closer I had been waiting for the feelings of excitement and anticipation to sink in and they hadn’t hit me yet. Maybe it’s because I don’t know the boat or the crew particularly well or I’m suffering a bit of FOMO for the upcoming holiday season or maybe I’ve just had too many plans changed and learned not to get excited until I’m on the plane. 
Now I’m on the plane.  And I am getting excited. I’ve sailed a lot of miles but never down the Pacific east coast or through the canal. The first leg of the trip is downwind to Mexico. It’s true that I would do pretty much anything for a good taco and sailing a few thousand miles to get one seems reasonable to me. After that we keep heading south and east to Panama. Hopefully, we are through by Christmas and heading back up towards the eastern tip of Mexico. The rhumb line to Charleston has a few road blocks and will require some wiggling around Cuba and Florida. Roughly 6000 nautical miles, downwind, no wind then upwind. I don’t know where we are stopping, the weather and miles covered dictates that. I don’t generally do a lot of research ahead of time of where I’m going. Some say if you don’t expect too much you can’t be let down but I like to think if you aren’t distracted by expectation you can see what’s around you and appreciate it. I use that idea when I travel and I guess it’s true of my life too. I get caught up when I start to expect it to go a certain way. I’ve never followed the regular path and though the unknown parts of my future are scary and frustrating they are also the parts that make it exciting, random and fun. It’s hard to leave something comfortable for something unknown but at least it gives me something to blog about!

So if you need me I’ll be sailing and looking for tacos and thinking about what to do next. But mostly tacos.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Base layers and (re)Building a Base

On May 31 I ran my fastest marathon yet and on June 1 I stopped running. I had registered for the Burlington marathon knowing that I had an injury to my left heel and that I may not finish the race. I know none of you are shocked that I stubborned my way through it and finished the thing. I knew I had a couple physical injuries to sort through and that taking time off was the best (and probably only) way to address them. I returned to Newport, bought a bike and started Not Running.
Throughout the summer I swam in the ocean, rode miles and miles on my bike, kited whenever the wind cooperated and even learned to surf. I truly enjoy each of these sports but none of them seem to create the same feelings as running, or the same core strength! There is plenty of debate between cyclists and runners about which sport is better for you but are there any scientific reasons that I simply just feel better after running? The strongest argument for cycling is that cycling is low impact. Low impact sports leads to fewer injuries and build sustained stamina by allowing you to go for longer. Leg muscles and stamina get built up over long rides. 
Running’s leading argument is that you simply burn more calories doing it. Holding your body upright and moving it through space requires more muscle groups and more energy. Most of the other benefits of running are really just benefits of exercise in general.
-Exercise boosts serotonin, dopamine and beta endorphins which all help lower stress levels and put you in a happier mood.
-Exercise increases blood flow and the production of white blood cells, strengthening the immune system.
-Exercise increases the body’s production of ATP from glucose in our muscles and blood. This process is like a power boost to our internal batteries.  
Though I couldn't find any concrete evidence that running does magical things to my body I truly missed it and am pretty happy to get back to it. That being said, running after not running for 5 months hurts and I'm trying hard to focus on not doing too many miles too soon. I've been leaving all tracking devices at home and just trying to build a base back. Thankfully, it is fall and the weather has been distractingly beautiful.
Fall is my favorite time of year to run and train. New England pulls out all the stops between September and November in order to convince people that it really is a great place to live, right before burying us in ice, snow and freezing cold temperatures.  The days are crisp and cool, the trees are bursting with colors and the sky is an insane blue. I took the summer off from running but there was no way I was going to be able to sit on the bench as the fall weather came in. When the leaves fall so do the temperatures and lower temps lead to a runner’s other favorite pastime, gear! Summer running is so simple, shorts and tank and you’re out the door. Fall and winter running requires a runner to look at the weather and figure out what to wear. You know the expression “there is no bad weather, just the wrong outfit?” No? Oh. Maybe I made it up. Either way it applies when training outside in the winter. No one likes being cold but being overdressed and sweaty isn’t great either. I use 50°, 30° and single digits as delineations when deciding what to put on. 
When the temperature drops below 50° I put on full length tights and long sleeves.  
Between 30 and 50 I add a base layer top, usually a tank top. The fabric that is touching your skin is the important part. There are all sorts of fancy high tech wicking fabrics out there and they are all good for the job of keeping you warm but also dry(ish). My favorites are more natural wool, merino blends that incorporate the warmth of wool but in a weave or combo that doesn’t itch. A friend of mine is a rep for CRAFT sportswear and recently gave me a couple of base layers to try out. One set is a polyester-polymide blend and the other 50% polymide and 50% wool.  I like the wool blend a little better, it’s a little more breathable but still keeps me really warm. 
If it’s windy or wet outside I add a jacket that keeps the water off or the wind from cutting through. Running jackets are lightweight and designed to do just that, keep warmth in and nature out. Mine is from LLBean, because who knows New England weather better? 
Anytime it’s below 40 I add gloves and something to cover my ears.  I'm pretty obsessed with a pair of Hind gloves/mittens that I found a couple of years ago. They're super thin gloves with a stuff-able pocket that covers over the fingers like a mitten. The mitten/glove combo keeps my hands warm at the start of a run and then lets them breath as things heat up. 
Below 30 is when things start to get exciting and the laundry starts to pile up. Thicker tights, base layer long sleeve top, thick fleece top, hat and Smartwool socks. All that really matters is that I'm comfortable and warm enough to let my body focus on burning energy on the selected sport, not on keeping me warm. So bundle out and get out there! It's a beautiful or cold or windy or rainy or snowy day outside! 

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Change is the only Constant

I must have started running again because the urge to blog has returned. . .

I spent the summer in the water and on the bike trying to ignore the instinct to get up and run every morning. I told myself not to run for a whole marathon training cycle and then reevaluate the foot situation. It has been 16+ weeks and the foot hasn’t changed but the weather has and there was no way I was going to stay inside and watch the leaves fall off the trees. Though the miles are few and slow and my foot is still sore, this fall has been one for the books in regards to foliage, wonderful weather and beautiful days. I don’t think anyone can be in New England in the fall and not fall in love with it.

Since I don’t have my own race to report on I have a few thoughts on the other race that is hogging all of the tv news time.  NYC Marathon you say? I love you for watching it, but no, I mean the election of our next president, senate and representatives.
One of my best friends had a baby boy a couple of years ago and when they moved back to Newport this summer she took a job that required her to find daytime care for her son. No parent likes letting go and she and her husband agonized over the decision for live-in care vs a daycare situation. How would interacting with other children affect their son? What if he was bullied? Would his character change? For the good and the bad the people that we meet change us starting as a child and continuing for the rest of our lives. Traveling and having friends all over the world throughout the past three presidential elections has allowed me to see what some of the rest of the world sees when we go through this process. The people we interact with, the choices we make and the life we choose to live all add up to form the person we become. It is an algorithm that is ever changing and adding variables. The things we do and the choices we make, make us who we are as a person. In that respect the things we do, choose and vote on, make us who we are as a country.

A while ago I asked my Dad why he and mom Mom had decided to have kids. He expressed his belief that if they could raise, in their case, four people with good morals and values that it would do some good in the world. When my sisters started to have their children I was scared for them because of all of the bad things that fill the news everyday.  What kind of world would my nieces and nephews grow up in? Today, however,  when my sister posted a photo of my niece voting with her, it brought tears to my eyes. (On a bus to the airport surrounded by people, of course!). And not because I'm scared for her future but because I'm so excited about it. Not because "I'm with Her" or not, but because there is change happening. There are people who face the big, bad, scary world and say, "We can do better. I'm willing to try, it starts with me." My sisters and friends with children are passing on ideals and values to their children. Ideals that include; all people count and are equal, that doing a little good can go a long way, that we can be the change we wish to see in the world. Change doesn't happen on one day every four years. We can't blame everyone else for the state of the country and world.  Yes, you should go vote today, but it's not just for the President. It's for local leaders and for the people who represent you on a federal stage. All change is made in increments. In running, learning, and most of all thinking, nothing happens all at once. The choices we have on a ballot today are from many, many choices we made or let happen along the way. The political situation right now is intense, confusing, and ridiculous. It might seem like democracy is broken but the thing this country is based on is that the people have a say. These are our candidates because the people that we chose to represent us chose them to represent them. It may be an outcome you didn’t envision or agree with but it is the situation we have created. And that’s ok. This is a process. Our country is young. Learning takes time. This country is an experiment.  Change is a constant. Do try to remember that everything we do has a consequence as per Newton’s 3rd law. The love, hate, judgment, kindness and/or patience you express is equally expressed by someone else. Your child, the person on whom you inflicted it or a passer by. Your vote counts and not just as a hanging chad or an ink filled bubble that tests your dexterity, but in the way you live your life. We “vote” everyday. And when you really can't make up your mind, go for a run. 

"Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, Nothing is going to change, it's not." Maybe Dr. Seuss wrote children's books because he knew they are the only ones who would listen.