A First for Roanoke

I got to be a (small) part of a big deal this weekend, as Roanoke hosted the Carilion Ironman 70.3 Blue Ridge triathlon, the very first Ironman event in our area.

The Ironman folks map things out like champs

It’s a big race, with 1,500 competitors who jumped into Carvins Cove and swam for a mile, then rode their bikes about 56 miles on the Blue Ridge Parkway, then changed shoes and ran 13.1 miles on the Roanoke Greenway.

A sea of bikes parked while the athletes were out running

It’s a big deal for our region, too. When the race first announced it would be coming to Roanoke, people were very excited, not just for the athletes and their families who would be hanging out in our coffee shops, but for a chance to show off how nice and outdoorsy this place is.

An unprecedented crowd at BreadCraft

So I knew I wanted to volunteer.

I also didn’t want to start my volunteer gig at 3:00 am, so I found a nice job that started at the very reasonable hour of 1:00 pm. With the environmental team. What does that mean? With a crew of about six other folks and one golf cart, I emptied and re-lined trash cans for about five hours.

These folks are taking care of the gear that the athletes left behind after they swam and got on their bikes 56 miles away

I got a green technical shirt to show for my day’s work, along with the knowledge that if you are dressed like the trash person and are carrying trash bags, you can go anywhere unquestioned.

I got to see my friend John cross the finish line!

Way to go, John!

And I was extremely impressed with one young man who’d finished all that racing and still offered to help me carry a load of discarded boxes. “He’s amazingly nice,” said his young female companion. “He’s so nice he makes up for me.”

I’d say they were both charming and if this is the sort of folks who Ironman attracts, they can come back anytime.

Walking Around with Famous People

I intended to write, write, write through the pandemic about how we “country folk” made our way through the Covid mess. Now that things are opening back up, I’m not that surprised, I suppose, that I just didn’t find the energy for to do it.

But I’ve got notes, y’all, so I’m going to spend a couple of days talking about some of the things that kept us busy when we were supposed to stay away from other people.

I’ve mentioned that one thing I like to do each morning is take a walk. It really is pretty here and getting a little air sets me up nicely for the day. I walk with my neighbor, Jane, a couple of days a week (on many weeks we made sure to walk six feet apart!), but other days, I’m on my own.

When we lived in a suburban neighborhood in busy Northern Virginia, I’d get on the road walking or jogging by 5 am so I could get home in time to bother our kids before they went off to school. The problem with that schedule here is that when it’s dark, it’s dark. We don’t have streetlights.

That’s the moon setting, you know

Our daughter prodded me out the dark door. Now a New Yorker, when she came to visit she appreciated getting out early and seeing the stars. You’re missing out, she told me, so I dusted off my old headlamp and started braving the pre-dawn roads.

Sunrises are pretty good here.

The other problem, though, is critters. We have friendly creatures, like opossum, foxes, and rabbits (squee!). We have some other denizens, though, like coyotes and yes, black bears, whom I did not want to meet. The answer came from my sister and brother-in-law: podcasts.

I started with Smartless, a podcast featuring Jason Bateman, Sean Hayes, Will Arnett, and a mystery guest each week. I chose this one because I walk without my earbuds in (on dark, twisty, roads, I want to be able to hear what’s coming) and I figured that the sound of men’s voices would discourage anything creeping around from coming too close. They talk to some amazing people and what I love is that they’re all really, really kind to each other.

Then Michelle Obama’s Higher Ground came along and I loved that, too. And Brené Brown’s Unlocking Us is good, though her guests tend to be doing their book tours, and I have hit up Amazon a few too many times when I get home. I am now way behind on my reading.

Lately I’m loving Adam Grant’s WorkLife – he is an organizational psychologist and talks about how we get along with each other, mostly at work but also just in general. He has great energy, is really thoughtful, and was sassy enough match wits with Malcom Gladwell when he was a guest on the show. I just saw that WorkLife is one of Apple’s most highly-rated podcasts, so here I was thinking I was discovering something but ahem, I’m just a little late to the party.

Most of all, I highly recommend Every Little Thing, where each episode answers a burning question, like how old is Winnie the Pooh (the character. Old bear? Young bear?), or whether people actually only breathe through one nostril at a time, or how the game Scrabble became so popular. The episode on Pooh had me laughing like a fool and actually crying at the end, and I dare you to listen to the episode on dog shows (are they anti-dachshund?) without cheering for the weenie dogs.

These little drops of wisdom each morning have made the walks a lot of fun, and I’ll tell you what: I haven’t seen a bear yet.

Turkey Trot

Our old suburban neighborhood used to have a turkey trot every year on Thanksgiving morning. We’d all meet at the Haydens’ house and take a route around a little man-made lake, then come back and share some excellent pumpkin bread. Sometimes we would run, other times we would walk. Kids would come out, and older folks, and people in turkey hats, and it was a wonderful way to catch up with neighbors you might not have had a chance to see during a busy fall.

This year, they’re doing it again, responsibly distanced of course. A couple of friends were texting about going and it occurred to me that while I will miss the neighborhood turkey trot (quite a bit), out here in Franklin County I can go for a walk and have a chance to see a real turkey trotting.

Turkeys are pretty majestic and out here they just hang out in people’s yards, like deer. One day I had my own deer-reminiscent experience of seeing a turkey from the corner of my eye as I was driving. He was headed on a collision course with my car, but just as I was thinking, oh, no, I’m about to flatten a turkey, that guy launched into the air and sailed across the road, inches from my windshield.

It was a spectacular sight. I could even see his little eye looking at my thunderstruck face as he flew by. It was a striking (not literally, ha ha) reminder that you never know when you’re going to see something amazing, but also that sometimes, we’re capable of much more than anyone thinks.

Want some fun Thanksgiving facts about turkeys? Here’s an article from National Geographic that will make you the star of dinner table conversation today! I hope you have much to be thankful for, today and every day.

Escape!

Over the next week or so, I thought I’d write about what things are like here in the Virginia countryside with all of this quarantining, and what I’ve been doing during the lockdown.

One of the things I try to do is get out and walk. Where we live, it’s very easy to take a walk and remain socially distanced.

Even when you walk with someone else.

I walk on Tuesdays and Thursdays with a neighbor, Jane, and her dog, Max.

He is not convinced that he wants to walk with me

We usually get on the road around 7, which is now just as the sun is coming up. Our loop is just about two miles. We see all kinds of critters.

That’s a deer I saw this morning, peeking at
me from over the hill

On the other days, I mix it up with different routes or maybe a little jog. But I try to get out there every day because — a true confession — I want my pants to keep fitting.

Here’s a guy who’s been walking for a cause and he’s awesome.

Here’s a news article that was in yesterday’s Roanoke Times about how regular walking might even help you survive a bout with the ‘rona! Yes, please!

I hope that whatever your situation, you’re able to exercise, even in (or especially in) a low-key way. I’m reading a book, Keep Going, by artist Austin Kelon, who sees walking as an antidote to the barrage of information flying at us every day: “you get outside and you start walking and you come to your senses … people smiling, birds chirping, clouds flying overhead … all that stuff. There’s possibility. Walking is a way to find possibility in your life when there doesn’t seem to be any left.”

Santa is Watching Everywhere. And I Mean Everywhere.

I mentioned yesterday that we joined a new gym this summer. We have been very pleased.

Not only did I run into an old friend from Fairfax (at the lake, visiting her parents!) during my first visit, but they are connected with the local health care systems, so there is a helicopter out in the parking lot, in case a workout goes very, very badly.

And they even have an elf on a shelf (or water fountain, as the case may be) to keep you in line during the holiday season.

EOAS: Not just for the Santa crowd

I got on a piece of equipment this morning and almost got popped by that elf.

I mean, yikes, right?

This gym is so nice that some people seem to spend their whole mornings there. This is not how I roll, because I like to be at my computer by 8:30 or so, but it’s nice to know that’s an option. At least until the elf kicks you out.

I Can’t Feel My Legs

It’s Sunday afternoon and for the second week in a row, I’m wiped out. And that’s a good thing and I’ll tell you why.

Last week, I strolled into the gym (there are two gyms in Wirtz; we switched from one to the other this summer) hoping to take a swim. Instead, I ran into Shine Runner Jennifer (one of the folks who can walk faster than I can run), who is also a fitness instructor. Don’t swim, she said. Come join us for a new cycle class starting in half an hour.

Can do! And even though I was so tired afterwards that I found myself involuntarily moaning for the rest of the afternoon (all through the Rocky Mount Walmart with Jim), having a fun cycle class is a joy. It was a class full of fun people and this week, there were even snacks.

So Much Fitness

Shoutout to my friend Kristin who is vacationing with her mother-in-law (including accompanying her to Silver Sneakers exercise class) IN MIAMI!

I imagine that any exercise class in Miami would be pretty intense.But you might be amazed at the fitness opportunities right here around Smith Mountain Lake.

There are a lot of retirees here. These are not folks sitting under quilts.

Aside from the boating and water sports (a very lovely woman I know told me that she’d put off her knee replacement as long as she could because she knew it would end her waterskiing career), you can find all kinds of exercise classes and a whole lot of pickleball between the two fitness centers in the area.

As soon as we moved to the lake, our family joined the Franklin County YMCA. They have cycle classes that are very popular, and for the early part of 2019, I took part in a morning cardio and weights class. But here’s the problem. It was from 6:30 – 8:00 every MWF and getting out the door by 6:15 was stressing me out. So now I just go and use the weight machines on my own and that’s working out okay. And of course I hit that YMCA pool in Rocky Mount once a week.

But some of the folks in that 90-minute class will then stick around for a cycle class after that, spending 2 1/2 hours working out.

If this is “retirement,” they are doing it right.

I happened to be sipping coffee at CJs today when the after-Jazzercise crew came in for their coffee soiree, and Sandra, a friend who understands my current work/leisure tension remarked, “That’s something you have to look forward to.”

Sandra is a smart lady.

Forest Bathing

Getting out in the woods is so good for your soul, there’s even a name for it: forest bathing.

I’ve been doing a little of that myself over the past few weeks, with my renewed outings with the Shine Runners. I found this fun pub-run group last fall, but took a break from joining them during the winter because (it’s cold and) they run on local trails in the dark. I tried that once. I didn’t like it. And they run fast, in all conditions, for really long distances. Like running superheroes.

These folks had done 20 miles the previous weekend. Still faster than me.

But spring is here and with it daylight savings time. Those evening runs are once again taking place in the early twilight. I am by far the slowest of the group, but I’ve kind of designated myself the go-to person in case anyone wants a casual pace. And it’s been great.

No hunters this particular evening

We’ve gone out to Chaos Mountain Brewing, where you can run by a farm and catch a glimpse of a tom turkey (and hear him gobbling) as well as plenty of good-looking cows. Then maybe sit by the fire pit and enjoy their Marg and Rita gose, mmmmm.

We’ve enjoyed the woods around the Brooks Mill Winery, where Cathy and I took a wrong turn, disturbing some goats and dogs in a little barnyard (their owner came out on her porch in her pajamas to assure us that the dogs wouldn’t hurt us, but please, don’t let them follow us). And last night, a small group (okay, two of us) climbed up Grassy Hill in Rocky Mount.

Swiped from Andy D’s post

Grassy Hill was the most running I’d done in my run/walk combo, particularly as we headed downhill. And I noticed something. As you go running through the woods, you get to feeling very Midsummer Night’s Dream (“Check me out, I’m PUCK, y’all! IN THE WOODS!”).

Maybe it was relief at not feeling like my knees were wrecking themselves. Or not wiping out on the rocks (because Grassy Hill is a misnomer. It’s rocky). But it’s exhilarating.

And who needs to be a superhero when you can be a Shakespearean fairy? Seriously, go run in the woods.