Why February is the cruelest month: The Salt Project

Somebody please get me a margarita. Quick. But hold the salt.

According to a new federal report, people like me–over 51, with high blood pressure–should limit their salt consumption to 1500 milligrams a day.  That’s about half a teaspoon.

In dietary guidelines jointly released yesterday, the U. S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services said that that older adults, African-Americans, and those with high blood pressure, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease should consume half as much salt as that recommended for the general population.

I’m gobsmacked, as my friend Jo would say. My blood pressure is too damn high–even with medication–and I’ve been toying with the idea for a few months that, well, maybe I ought to drastically reduce my sodium intake, or at least find out how much salt I’m really getting. I had even mentioned this to Jo last week over a burger and fries (after a rigorous day of ice climbing, of course. And no, I didn’t salt the fries!)

Her dad had high blood pressure, and he died prematurely of a heart attack. She didn’t want the same thing to happen to me. Thanks, Jo, me neither!

It’s not that I’m unaware or totally careless in my consumption.  I order my margaritas “without salt” and I buy lower sodium foods–soups and crackers–when I can.  The trouble is the prepared/snack/convenience/fast foods I eat in great quantity, which have tons of hidden sodium. That government report has a handy multi-colored pie chart detailing the major dietary sources of sodium, and it reads like my weekly food log: yeast breads, pizza, chicken dishes, pasta dishes, cold cuts, condiments (hello soy sauce!), cheese, beef dishes, rice dishes, burgers, and something called “grain based desserts”–pies, cakes and cookies. In other words, my basic diet.

Clearly, this is a mandate for a nutrition overhaul.  I need to get a handle on my salt consumption, and then cut it. So here’s the plan: Starting February 1, I’m going to track my blood pressure for one month, and the sodium content of everything I eat. The first week I’ll eat “normally,”  without making any dramatic changes, so I can get a baseline. Starting with Week 2, I’ll start dialing down the sodium, and see if my blood pressure changes.

I don’t need a crystal ball to tell me I’m going to have to eat more fresh foods and do more home-cooking to get this to work. That’s why February is going to be the cruelest month–especially with all of the travel on my calendar. But I figure my heart is worth it. Besides, I’m kind of tired of those icky sock marks on my ankles.

Now, about that margarita. It’s 5 p.m. somewhere, right?

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The Ice Season Cometh

While the rest of Consumer America is gearing up for the holiday mall siege, a bunch of us crazies are getting ready for Ice Season.

Slides and falls and flows are coming in from the San Juans to the Whites, and it won’t be long (we Tri-staters  hope) ’till the Catskills are in shape, too. This year, I’m going to be ready.

First time out, Johnston Canyon, Alberta. The awkward figure on the upper right is me.

It will be my third “real” ice season–I’m not counting the winters from 2005-2008 when I got out once or twice at best–and this one is going to be different. Since I’ve shelved triathlon as my main pursuit, I can now focus on climbing. It’s probably time to set some goals and actually (gasp!) do some training.

All those years I spent worshiping at the multisport altar (and memorizing the sacred tracts from The Triathlete’s Bible, by Joe Friel) taught me that goals need to be specific, concrete, and articulable. Not “Be a better climber,” but “Cleanly follow the Black Dike.”  Not “Learn to lead,” but “Lead Pegasus.” Instead of “Gain strength and aerobic endurance,” it’s “Send all seven pitches of Buttermilk Falls (and complete the heinous approach and walk-out) before noon.”

Not that those are necessarily MY goals. But you get the idea.

Those are what I would call “macro” goals–bigger objectives to be trained for and accomplished, eventually, over time. But it helps to have “micro” goals, too. Alpine sage/Chick Almighty/sponsored athlete Kitty Calhoun taught me this at a Chicks Rock clinic this fall:  Before you start a line, pick one thing you need to work on, and focus on that.  On ice, that might mean the swing, the kick,  breathing, balance, fluid movement, looking at your feet, using your core, maintaining the triangle, or resting. Or a dozen other things that I don’t know about yet. Every time you hear “you’re on belay” but before you say “climbing,” set an intention for that climb: What are you going to work on?

A Chicks crew from 2007, New Hampshire

A Chicks crew from 2007, New Hampshire--Jo, Dale, Inga, Caroline & Dara

Setting goals, big or  little, doesn’t occur in a vacuum. You have to identify your limitations in order to target areas that need to be improved. I’m going to spend some time over the next few days thinking about the things that gave me trouble last year so I can work on changing them this year. Like sketching out when I get more than 30′ up a vertical piece. Or flailing about when I’m sketched, instead of moving calmly, with purpose. Or letting negative thoughts intrude when I’m tired or sore. Or just getting tired or sore–training will surely help fix that, right?

It’s going to be a great season. Bring on the ice!

Posted in adventure, badass old chicks, climbing, Kitty Calhoun | 2 Comments

Transit follies of my own making

I thought I had the NYC subway system figured out by now.

I’ve been a regular–if not daily–MTA underground customer for five years. If my destination is too far to walk or my load too heavy or awkward, I take the subway. Taxis (expensive) and buses (slow) can’t compare for getting from point A to point B on time, especially when surface traffic is ridiculous.

Most of my subway travel is within the borough of Manhattan, where I know intimately the stops and stations of my ‘hood lines, the 1 and the 2, as well as the 4, 5, 6, B, D, N, R, and S. I am no longer confused by uptown vs. downtown, local vs. express. From station to station, I know whether get on the back of the train or the front of the train so that when I get off, the exit turnstiles are only steps away. It’s automatic now–mere muscle memory–to take the right train and get off at the right stop. At least, in Manhattan.

But what the hell is wrong with me when I try to go to Brooklyn? Like last night, when I set off for a session at Brooklyn Boulders, my climbing gym.

It’s a pretty simple 40-minute trip–on paper. Start out on the 1 (a local), change to the 2 (express), get off at Atlantic in Brooklyn, get on the R southbound and exit one stop later at Union Street.

I’ve done it before, about 15 times. I’ve screwed up more than my fair share of those “simple” trips. But last night was the topper.

It started out just fine: I took the 1 , changed to the 2, and crossed into Brooklyn. Then things went haywire. Without going into detail as to the series of trains I took and why, let’s just say that I effed it up in almost every way possible. Wrong train, wrong station, wrong direction–over and over again. Every bad decision led to another. Every stab at a “fix” was just another screwup.

By the time I had it figured out, I had been floundering around under Brooklyn for two hours. But there was still time left to climb, the gym was just four short stops away, and a train would be along any moment.

That’s when I dug into my bag for my iPhone, to resume a game of spider solitaire. Uh-oh. No phone. In a panic, I pulled out my harness, then my chalk bag,  shoes, water bottle, granola bar, lip balm and a handful of change. The platform looked like a yard sale, and I looked like a crazy lady. I could feel the scorn in the furtive glances from the waiting commuters. They didn’t want to get too close.

Still no phone, I was near tears. As the train that would drop me at Union Street pulled in, all I could think was “Idiot! Your iPhone is on it’s way to Coney Island!”

Beaten, I boarded a Manhattan-bound express instead. I pouted, berating myself for letting an iPhone card game distract me enough to trigger a classic transit folly.

I moped only until I crossed back over into into Manhattan. That’s when I found my iPhone, stuck under a panel in the bottom of my bag. I played solitaire the rest of the way home.

Posted in Brooklyn, Brooklyn Boulders, climbing, iPhone, MTA, oops!, rock climbing, spider solitaire, subway, transit follies | Leave a comment

Don’t let this guy belay you

Good thing he’s only a mannikin–or would that be “dummy?”

This dude is part of the window display for The North Face store at 74th and Broadway in New York, N.Y.  If you look closely, you’ll see he’s not quite got his Reverso3 rigged right.

I’m pretty sure his ‘biner is unlocked, too.

TNF’s visual merchandiser for this particular store is clearly not a climber….at least, not a climber we ever want to see at the Gunks.

But wait, there’s more. Here’s the second mannikin, the guy on the sharp end of the rope:

What’s wrong with this tie-in?

On reflection, this presentation is not so surprising given its location.  In NYC,  North Face stuff is worn not so much by climbers and mountaineers as it is by every would-be gangsta and Upper East Side prep school kid.

Still, would it hurt to try to appear just a little more authentic?

Posted in blunders, climbing, oops!, safety, The North Face | 1 Comment

A Badass Not-so-old Chick

Angie working a slab--eyes optional.

Angie’s still a young sprout, relatively speaking, but here’s the kind of moxie I’m talking about:  She’s doing this pitch blindfolded.  As in: Can’t See Shit. Our esteemed guide Kitty Calhoun of Chicks with Picks suggested this as a way to improve her technique. And it worked!

IPhoto by DLM, Devil’s Lake Chick’s Rock September 2010

Posted in Angie Wagner, Chicks Rock, Devil's Lake, Kitty Calhoun, rock climbing | Leave a comment

In Celebration of Badass Old Chicks

“It’s not like the old days.”

I used to hear that a lot from one of my old bosses, back when I was practicing law. Richard was a master of the side-step, so it was a suitably vague phrase, but his intent was usually pretty clear.  “Move along,” he meant. “Get with the program. No use bitchin’ about the way things used to be.” An admonition with a dollop of lament on the side.

But in a different context, “it’s not like the old days” is an affirmation and a challenge.

Back in MY old days–at least where I grew up–middle-aged women didn’t climb icefalls, run marathons, shoot rapids, ski glaciers, bomb down rocky cliffs on tricked-out mountain bikes or rocket around banked tracks on bicycles with fixed gears and NO BRAKES. They didn’t bloody their hands working crack-intensive toprope problems or shred the glades at Breckenridge. They sure as hell didn’t surf. Or base jump.

Not that the middle-aged ladies of the last century didn’t have fun. My grandmother loved a good canasta game. My mom played bridge and, on rare occasions, a round of golf. The Altar Society meetings were good for a laugh and a bit of gossip. And who could forget that Friday night sexy/cool Man From U.N.C.L.E.? Ahhh, it was a quieter time.

Not now. A generation of women are unselfconsciously kicking ass as (peri)menopausal adventurers and athletes. All the more amazing when you realize that a lot of us (especially the pre-Title IX crowd) didn’t discover “sports” until later in life.

If you’re one of those women, tell me what you’re doing. Send me a link, a photo, a video. I want to share your awesomeness.

If you’re in the demographic–or even just tiptoeing up to it–and you haven’t even TRIED anything terrifying yet, ask yourself:  Why not? Maybe you don’t have the money, maybe you don’t have the time, maybe you’re raising your grandchildren instead of enjoying reproductive retirement. These are legit roadblocks, but they can be nudged in the name of adventure, IF you want it badly enough.

I count myself one of the lucky ones because I found the fun before it was too late. So what if I’m 55 and my knees are falling apart and every sixth hair is coming in gray and I wake up five times a night hot/wet/freezing and I can’t read a map or a menu in low light or remember much of anything? That just means I’m old enough to appreciate what I can still do. Every run, every ride, every pitch is another little miracle.

Not like the old days, indeed.

Posted in adventure, badass old chicks, dinosaurs, menopause | 1 Comment

This could be the start of something……weird

Welcome to my blog.  There, I said it.

This is not what I had in mind when I signed up for that expensive ivy league graduate degree in journalism. I was thinking more along the lines of “beat reporter” or “contributing editor”–something old school for an old chick. But that’s a dinosaur’s fantasy, doused in printer’s ink and mummified in parchment. To hell with that dream. It’s time to take up the digital torch and run with it, no matter how much my knees hurt.

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