Through the month of February, I’m studying (celebrating) all things Celtic (mostly, Scottish) and have been watching films related to Scotland (sort of).
My second film was “Rob Roy” with Qui-Gon Ginn and that lady who escaped from off the set of “American Horror Story.”
Released in 1995 (near the same time as “Braveheart”), the film was more mining of Scottish history, this time about Rob Roy MacGregor, who gets tangled up in debt over some cows and Tim Roth in drag, which was totally cool in the 1700s.
It even wastes the usually very decent John Hurt (Still awesome in “Alien” and as Caligula in “I, Claudius”), who tends to elevate whatever crap thing he’s signed on for (Does anyone remember “King Ralph?”)
Ugh…I hated this movie.
To me, it was like the worst parts of “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves” and something the BBC abandoned to spend on “Dr. Who” episodes instead.
Lord, this thing dragged and within 30 minutes, I wasn’t particularly interested in what happened to the MacGregors, Lord Montrose, Archibald Cunningham or the whole of Scotland –though I did see the point of those weird sashes that come with some kilts (SPOILER: They can be used as a kind of snuggie).
Based on material gleaned from Wikipedia, “Rob Roy” was a much more true-to-history tale than “Braveheart,” but that’s not saying much. Episodes of “Quantum Leap” were more truthful to history, even if you forgot about the invisible guy in the bad suits wandering around.
For me, the only bright spot was the hope that after Roth and Eric Stolz, a few more actors from “Pulp Fiction” to show up, waving swords and promising to go medieval and someone’s butt, but alas no John Travolta and no Samuel L. Jackson.
Anyway, I muscled through “Rob Roy” for another hour, but realized it wasn’t getting any better. So, I quit and watched an episode of “A Series of Unfortunate Events,” which has nothing to do with Scotland, though I suspect Neil Patrick Harris has probably vacationed there.
I did my first bit of running in preparation for the Spartan Race this week. On the advise of my father, a retired cross country and track coach, I decided to run on gentle terrain as opposed to pavement.
I’m currently around 235 pounds, which is heavy for any runner on two legs.
The weight is going to have to come way down if I want to survive even just the training –and the sooner, the better, really.
I’m adjusting my diet as best I can –for me, this mostly means laying off the bread, veggie burgers and Fritos.
For my first day of training, I opted to run on the soccer field at the YMCA in Charleston. With it being winter and a Sunday, no one was using it. The sky was bright, but it was was a little cold. Even the clutch of surly teenagers I saw blowing off their afternoon by swearing at each other and making out with their girlfriends stayed close to the building rather than sneak off to the relative seclusion of the practice field.
This suited me fine. I didn’t really want a lot of company and I expected my first outing to be kind of sad. The last thing my ego needed was a group of 15-year-olds laughing at me.
I got enough of that when I was 15.
While dodging deer poop (the Y has the same problem I have at my house), I managed to put in 12 laps or around 30 minutes of exercise. I ran the first two laps then alternated between walking and running laps.
I’m not a hundred percent sure how long all of that was, but at a guess, probably somewhere between a mile and a mile and a half.
I wheezed like a two pack a day smoker and threw up at my car when I finished for the day, but it happened. I started.
I came back for a second run Monday morning, after my usual workout inside the Y. I did about eight laps on the practice field, but ran about 2/3. I’d have done more, but I was starting to feel weak.
Breakfast had been a vegan protein shake and some coffee a couple of hours before.
My plan is to just do this over and over for a while –run laps around the soccer field and then eventually work up to another course. Maybe in a few weeks, I’ll try running along the river.
Some friends have suggested I should find a trainer or join Crossfit, but there really isn’t a budget for that and it’s probably too soon.
What I can do now is get my running up to speed –shoot for steady gains. There’s no point really thinking about how I’m going to jump over fiery pits, dodge vampire bats or crawl under barbed wire if I can’t physically handle 12 to 14 miles of just running.
Besides, the hope is that the years of strength training will count for something. It’s a hope. I have a long way to go.
It’s been a while since I posted anything on the blog. There are a million reasons why I stopped, but the biggest reason was that I just needed a break.
“One Month at a Time” has been an amazing experience. Even when I haven’t enjoyed a particular thing I’ve done, I’ve enjoyed being a part of it, but it’s a lot.
Through October, it always felt like I was running somewhere or trying to cram one more thing into my day. It didn’t really slow down through the holidays either -and it felt good to just stop for a minute, slack off a little bit.
I might have come back sooner, but I forgot the password for this thing and finally had to ask somebody what it was.
Aa couple of months seems like a long enough time to take a break. I’m already back to work with “One Month at a Time.” January finished up Sunday. I completed my month of self-defense classes with maybe a broader understanding of what it means to choose to learn something like that.
I may write a little more about that on the blog since I’m currently still taking classes at Butch Hiles Brazillian Jujitsu and Mixed Martial Arts.
I’m also about five days into my next topic. More about that this weekend. I also have the following month locked down and a thumbnail sketch of things I might take on over the remainder of the year.
Basically, emails have been sent and I’m waiting to see if anybody bites –but it’s not all settled.
My wish list of stuff to do is long, but I’m always glad to hear a better idea. If you have an idea that sounds workable, let me know.
I will consider just about anything.
As far as updates –am I still a vegan?
Sort of. The working term I use is “veganish,” which I totally stole from the cover of a cookbook.
In the month since I finished up my year with being a vegan, I’ve had a few things outside of a vegan diet, but a lot less than I would have imagined a year ago.
I had some chocolate, which contains dairy. I’ve eaten two chocolate chip cookies and five pancakes, which were awesome.
I didn’t worry about the tablespoon of cheese on a mound of refried beans at a Mexican restaurant and had the vegetarian option at Bluegrass Kitchen, which wasn’t vegan.
There are probably a couple of other instances, but I don’t buy meat or meat products to take home.
I’m perfectly fine.
With other projects -I’m still reading about self-sufficiency and planning a big garden in the spring. It seems like a good time to do that.
I also got an Eton American Red Cross weather radio –found it on clearance for 9 bucks. It goes with the rest of my “prepper-lite” gear, along with the camp stove and a solar lantern.
I’m hoping to get into a half-triathlon in 2017, which means some training.
I’m also planning on returning to the Charleston Ballet next fall to be part of their production of “The Nutcracker” again. I didn’t even delete the video of the dance steps from my phone.
So, here we go again. More blogging. It’s good to be back.
With the upcoming race, the subject of eating has come up.
While my race isn’t all that long compared to an Iron Man, it’s long enough. It’s been suggested that it wouldn’t hurt to have something between the bicycle portion and the running race (only a dork eats in the pool).
The problem is: I can’t eat and run.
I’ve tried, but even a piece of toast is too heavy for my stomach. It becomes something that restricts my breathing and makes running longer than 200 yards next to impossible.
So, I don’t eat, but with the swimming, biking and running, there’s a good chance I could “bonk,” become light-headed and groggy, which isn’t good either.
Probably, if I was a lighter American and not wildly overweight, I could handle a short sprint triathlon with nothing more than a mineral water and a stick of gum, but I’m an ox.
So, I began looking into things I could take along –and discovered GU.
GU is basically a flavored sugar gel that also contains amino acids and probably caffeine.
I hit up the Cycle Shop in Kanawha City and bought three different types to try out. The idea was that I could give them each a shot and then hopefully have one or two to choose from on race day.
First, the good news: They’re all vegan, including the maple bacon.
Second, the bad news: There’s a reason they come in opaque packages. You don’t want to look at this stuff.
On the charitable side, it looks a little like shampoo. On the uncharitable side, just don’t look at it.
Of the three, the peanut butter tasted the best. It tasted a little like some kind of peanut candy, but it contains no caffeine.
Also, I couldn’t tell if it improved or assisted my performance since I wasn’t actually training, but typing in the newsroom. I did like the flavor, however. It was yummy.
The maple bacon was a novelty. I haven’t actually tasted bacon since December, and Andrew at the bicycle shop sort of warned me about this one. He said, “If you can think of it as like wine tasting. It’s very up front with the maple and then the bacon is at the end.”
I didn’t taste a lot of bacon.
And after a short while, I felt vaguely angry. That could have been the 20 mg of caffeine talking, but that’s barely half a cup of coffee.
I wasn’t overly impressed.
The Tri-Berry was highly recommended. My triathlon mentors seemed to like it, but it tasted like candy with a vague chemical aftertaste –sort of like Runts, maybe.
Unlike the maple bacon, it didn’t fill me with hate.
That was a bonus.
So, I figure I’ll bring along the peanut butter and the Tri-Berry, in case I need a bigger pick me up than just some sugar and peanut goodness.
If I do something like this again, I’ll look into some of the other flavors –you know, after I get a better bike.
I was sorting through my options at the grille at Tamarack and not finding much when an attendant approached.
“If you need any help, let me know,” she said, cheerfully.
I raised my hand slowly, indicating that I had questions.
“I’m a vegan,” I told her.
She laughed. I was hilarious, but when I didn’t laugh with her, she asked, “Are you serious?”
“Yep,” I told her. “I’m a vegan, and I’m having some trouble figuring out what to get here.”
She stared at the menu, started looking, too, and began asking me the usual questions: Do you eat cheese? Do you eat eggs? Do you drink milk? What about fish?
I shook my head.
On its face, stopping at Tamarack for lunch sounded like such a good idea. I wanted to check for something that might be Virginia Diner peanuts (the best peanuts ever), take a look at the art (always, I’m looking for a story), and get a bite to eat. I was coming back from Virginia, hadn’t really had the heart to wade into a chain restaurant and try to find something that wasn’t a handful of iceberg lettuce sprinkled with Styrofoam-like carrot slivers.
Bon Apetit, loser. Want a plain baked potato and an ice water to go with that?
Dining out as a vegan can be rough, but Tamarack seemed promising.
With the artsy, tourist-y nature of the facility getting a reasonable vegan meal seemed like a pretty safe bet. While vegans probably don’t roll through every day, they’re bound to happen along occasionally. Surely, they had a black bean burger tucked away in the freezer, maybe a festive citrus salad with nuts or even grilled eggplant?
That would have been great, but nope.
What they had was a collection of sides, most of which looked like they were probably cooked with butter or pork or deep-fried. While I’m not overly fussy about meat contamination, I worked in restaurants enough to know that cross pollination between fryers is pretty common. I didn’t want cheese or chicken in my French fries –and also, I can get French fries at your better gas stations.
Dining out is supposed to be a little special. At least, dining out at someplace like Tamarack, I thought, was supposed to be special.
Finally, I said, “You know, I’m just going to go with the peanut butter and jelly sandwich on the Kids’ menu and maybe get a salad.”
Helpfully, she added that the vinaigrette was safe.
It wasn’t bad. The peanut butter was room temperature instead of ice cold and clotted. I got the sandwich on my choice of bread, which was wheat. The salad, while nothing to write home about, was at least a step up from the bagged and tagged stuff you see at your lower tier fast food places.
On the plus side, the fountain drinks came with free refills (I had two cokes), and the little restaurant was located just across the way for The Greenbrier store. I got some peanuts there. They weren’t as good as the Virginia Diner peanuts, but they were pretty good. I had a couple of handfuls of those with lunch, too, and found two artists I kind of want to write about.
So, not exactly a rousing success.
Meanwhile, I’ve heard great things about Sheetz. More later.
The Elk Community and Education Center is a re-purposed elementary school, nestled away from the main road, and hidden back behind a bank and a Dairy Queen. It acts as the local senior activity center. They serve breakfast, offer a few classes, and a group of old men meet most days to shoot pool, which is probably as good a thing for them to do, and cheaper than sucking down bitter, lukewarm coffee at a burger joint.
Tuesday nights, they have a yoga class. Some nights, the class is oversaw, unofficially, by a man named Bruce, who isn’t licensed to teach yoga, but has practiced it for years.
Terry, who helps run the center, explained, “He’s been everywhere. He’s been to the ashrams in India. He knows his stuff.”
Bruce was in California this week, however.
So, what we had was a television, a VCR, and an old beginners yoga tape that looked like it came from the waning days of the Clinton administration.
Terry apologized for the low-tech, low-rent situation. They would love to have an actual instructor.
“But there’s no money.”
We did the best we could with what we had. A half dozen of us practiced poses while standing on mats and bathroom towels, but without the benefit of props like straps, blocks, or bolsters.
I had a little bit of an advantage. While I haven’t learned enough to be useful to anybody else, I did know how to adjust into most of the poses, and felt fairly confident I was getting them right. I understood what the television guru was talking about when he started explaining about the breath and controlling it.
I don’t know about anybody else.
What was a little heartbreaking was the people who came out were earnest. It was a humble community program in a center that caters to older people, the kind of people who might really benefit from the stretches, the strength training, and even the mental exercises that yoga offers.
There’s just no money to hire someone to teach, and not much of an incentive to get someone to take the center on. Building a class of even low or non-paying students wouldn’t be instant. It would take time and a lot of patience.
To me, it seems like their problems with their community center and yoga seem like a metaphor for the entire state of West Virginia. There’s some decent space to work with, some people interested in doing some kind of work, but little means to attract the investment or energy to try to make it work.
I’m working on some meaningful things to write about yoga. The trick with this is that there are few pictures. I keep bringing a camera, but it’s hard to take photos when you’re doing downward facing dog. Basically, you’re not shooting anything anyone wants to see in a family friendly newspaper. I could let the instructor shoot photos, but imagine that might interfere with teaching the class.
Also, I’m pretty sure the paper wouldn’t pay them for the pictures.
In any case, what I can talk about is where we are with classes. At this point, at The Folded Leaf, I’ve taken Basic Hatha, Yin, Gentle Yoga, Basic Vinyasa, Saturday Early Bird and the potluck community yoga class, which varies according to the instructor I think, but is probably generally sort of gentle.
The goal is by the end of this month to give hot Vinyasa and Hot yoga a shot, but I’ve also got to fit in some classes at the YMCA and at the Elkview Community Center –that’s my neighborhood yoga.
I actually meant to go to Elkview Community Center last week, which, according to the web, is about six minutes from my house.
It’s also conveniently located near a Dairy Queen, which would have mattered a lot more a few months ago, but I didn’t know this when I went out looking for the community center last Tuesday. Nope, I just glanced at the screen on my laptop, grabbed my purple mat, and dragged my 10 year-old to try some local yoga.
If things went well, we could stop and get the boy a cone. I might try one of the Orange Julius things. I’ve read some of them are vegan, which is probably mostly wishful thinking. The only place less vegan sounding than a Dairy Queen is a Lonestar Steakhouse.
Luckily, things went very badly.
Ten minutes into the drive, I started swearing and openly wondering where I’d missed my turn.
The kid, meanwhile, stared out the window at the passing landscape wistfully while I ranted about the $#@%* internet and then Elkview.
This is not the first time I’ve gotten turned around while looking for something in the vicinity of Elkview. For me, the place is like the Bermuda Triangle. I’ve lived near Elkview for years, but have no idea where anything is. At Christmas, we missed making cards with the Cub Scouts because I drove us around for half an hour before finally giving up and going home. Holiday team and craft building exercises would be damned, I said.
Afterwards, there was quite a bit of grumbling then, along with eventual apologies for once again screwing up Scout night.
The kid just sighed and said, “It’s OK.”
So, we drove around until, fed up, I plugged in the GPS and the preceded to guesstimate the address.
That went not-so-well, too, and took me halfway to Clendenin until I drove back toward Elkview and looked the address up on my phone. From there, it only took a minute to find the place, but we were half an hour late.
So, no local yoga. We went home, where I sulked while he watched cartoons.
But tonight, I’m going. I got my directions. I know how to get there. I’m bringing the kid. There may be a frozen treat afterwards, if not for me, then for him.