Farewell to Year of the Slug
It didn’t start with a tweet in my Twitter timeline, but it was finished by one.
If the idea of a New Year’s resolution is cliche, then mine for 2014 is the cliche of all New Year’s resolutions: stop being a slug and get off the couch.
The tweet merely cinched it.
One of those photo accounts whose sole purpose is to distribute breathtaking shots from around the world tweeted a scene that looked like a set from “The Hobbit,” but also had a hint of familiarity.
I don’t recall gamboling about the shire as a kid, but this shale-bracketed gorge with the graceful stone bridge crossing a narrow, misty waterfall into a pool 50 feet below rang a bell.
Sure enough, it was Watkins Glen, site of a few of our family trips from Rochester. It’s not a difficult hike, but it is glorious.
This resolution to not be a slug will incorporate several activities, including hiking.
Others: running, cycling and, for the first time ever, kayaking or canoeing.
I’ve found that having your thoughts published in a newspaper brings the very self-serving benefit of forcing you to follow through when you vow to do stuff.
It’s self-shaming at its finest, and worked wonderfully for me when I ran in the Stockade-athon for the first time, in 2009, a year after promising to do so in a column.
So this New Year’s resolution business perhaps doesn’t sound particularly ambitious or imaginative — you know, get your can in gear — but seems necessary and is conveniently positioned on the calendar.
First, the running part.
I’m 51 and have found, through an expanding body of evidence (take that any way you like), that I’m good for six months of training before the wheels start to fall off.
This is purely a physical thing.
I get in a nice routine, keeping it slow and simple at the start, then gradually building up to a point at which I can jump into a race and know that I won’t embarrass myself.
At the six-month mark, one or both of two things happen: Achilles tendinitis or plantar fasciitis. Then it’s shutdown time. I’ve tried all the preventive measures and all the remedies … it’s just inevitable, and I have to live with it.
In 2012-13, for the first time in my life, I maintained a routine through the winter, which had always been reserved for my foot/ankle recuperation period.
I called it the Three-a-Week Streak and got out for a run, even if it was a lousy two miles, three times a week to establish a routine. Always outdoors. I cut a few short because occasionally I get an asthma-like breathing condition when it’s around 20 degrees or lower. But always outdoors.
Whatever happened to that person?
Made it to 22 weeks before my heel started to hurt.
Just in time for the weather to get really nice.
Then I got lazy.
The plan is to start another streak next Wednesday, and if the six-month threshold kicks in, so be it. At least this schedule should carry me through some fun stuff, like Corporate Team Workforce Challenge or whatever they call it these days.
If I reach the point where I need to take some time off from running, all this other great stuff will be in full gear by then, anyway.
On the hiking front, Plotter Kill is just sitting there in Schenectady County. Just sitting there.
I messed up my Achilles going up Windham High Peak in the Catskills last year, but that will be no impediment to a return.
Other resources closer to home are my old friend the Hudson-Mohawk bike path and what promises to be a new friend, the Aqueduct Boat House. Made a pitstop there during a run this fall to find that the rates are decent.
In the near future, I’d like to make a return engagement to the Polar Plunge into Lake Ontario to benefit Special Olympics on Feb. 9.
As athletic endeavors go, it’s not much of one because you’re out of the water in a matter of minutes, but it keeps with the spirit of pulling some fresh air into your lungs and reminds your heart what double-time feels like. What it does to the rest of your parts, I’ll leave to the imagination for now.
The physical health rewards of this rejuvenated schedule are obvious enough; the mental and spiritual rewards are no less significant. If nothing else, you just become a more alert person. There’s something to be said for that.
That’s why I would encourage everyone to take advantage of all the opportunities that exist in and around the Capital Region to get fit and get away from the computer and the TV on a regular basis.
Who’s with me?
R.I.P. summer BIRD
The Clark Stakes Barn at Saratoga Race Course, which is made available to out-of-towners shipping in for the big stakes, rarely has been a focal point for the media like it was in the summer of 2009.
The Kentucky Derby winner, Mine That Bird, and the Belmont winner, Summer Bird, were both there, and it was a daily ritual to stop by and check on the status of “The Birds” as they prepared for the Travers.
The Derby winner drew more attention because, well, he was the Derby winner, but also because his connections and their story were colorful, so much so that they’ve made a movie, “50 to 1”, about the horse that will be released in theaters on March 21.
You had trainer Chip Woolley in the cowboy hat who personally vanned his horse from New Mexico despite being on crutches from a motorcycle accident, and you had the horse who upset the Derby at 50-1.
Summer Bird and his low-profile trainer, Tim Ice, weren’t overlooked, but were overshadowed by their barnmates.
Then Summer Bird went out and won the Travers on his way to the 3-year-old championship, while Mine That Bird missed the race because of a minor surgical procedure, all that hype and column inches down the drain.
Summer Bird died this week at the age of 7 in Japan, euthanized when efforts to cure a bout of colic failed.
His first foals will be of racing age as 2-year-olds in 2014.
Not only was he a gorgeous creature with a spit-shined chestnut coat, but he had personality.
He seemed to enjoy the attention, always cocking his head toward cameras with his ears locked straight upward.
His offspring will be hard-pressed to produce a season even close to their dad’s as a 3-year-old. I’ll have my eye out for them.