Monthly Archives: October 2014


A punch-list helps you organize the season ahead and make sure you miss nothing. Create your own and see what rises to the top.

  1. Be safe on HalloweenJ AND have fun! Take lots of photos.  Text some to your mom.  (If you can’t, you might not want them out there ………..)
  2. Don’t forget to set your clocks back on Saturday 11-1 before dawn 11-2.
  3. Then there’s Election Day.  Hard to complain when we don’t make it to the polls.  Your vote may be but a drop in the bucket on the National front, but individual votes DO make a difference here in Vermont.
  4. Skiers – don’t get caught with your dull skis in storage and your gloves heavens-knows-where. Remember that broken buckle on your ski boot? Then there’s that lower body strength training you were going to do … Snow is already in the forecast.  There’s just enough time to get it together.
  5. Then there are snow tires to consider – but probably not yet.
  6. Cyclists, hikers and summer sports enthusiasts – have you been easing back in October ready to play in November, and start base building over the winter for a spring ramp that will have you on the road or up the trail as soon as the mud clears? Surely you did not put your gear away muddy or leave it strewn in the back of the car.
  7. Most everyone can agree on Thanksgiving as a holiday to celebrate. If you are local to Central Vermont, go to to register for this year’s 5k Gobble Wobble – 9:30 a.m. on Thanksgiving – perfect way to start the day before you start on the turkey!
  8. I know, I know, we all like to buy local.  But, check out  Wonderfully fresh and beautifully hand-constructed wreaths by an amazing woman who lives near my summer hangout in Maine and runs her beloved wreath business out of her home with lots of help from family and neighbors.
  9. As the temps drop and we kick into high gear for the Vermont winter, it’s a good idea to look back over the months behind and carry forward that which sustains us. It is also the time to look around us and be good neighbors. If you have ever lived in a big city, you know what I mean when I say that city dwellers learn the fine art of avoiding eye-contact when walking down the street, have the fingers of one hand wrapped around a pepper spray as they approach the entrance to their apartment building, and rarely know the person who lives down the hall much less at the next block over. Here in Vermont we wave to passing drivers on our way to jobs and work to help supply those in need with everything from tires to warm coats to fuel and food.                                                                                                             10. As we segue into November, it is time to get real about shorter days and adapt accordingly with as little whining as possible.  Don’t negate the beauties of a quiet hour in front of the fire with a book.  (If you are saying, “yeah, right, in your dreams” – perhaps you should join me in reassessing what is busy about our lives and prioritizing that which is most important, yes, but also that which fills us with the satisfaction of sharing and living our moments meaningfully with family and friends. I love what I once read. Paraphrased – “Lose the word BUSY.  It is a four-letter word.  Instead say BLESSED or RICH WITH OPPORTUNITIES or POSSIBILITIES. And, if that doesn’t work, you are probably spinning wheels inappropriately.”  Good idea anyway.

What can you add to this list? Or how can you adapt it for yourself?

I know that one thing I hope to do in the days, weeks and months ahead is to remain open to possibilities as well as to others. I have always believed that peoples’ paths cross for a reason.  How often have you connected with another and some time later, probably within a different context, that person reenters your life?

Let me share with you a photo I recently received from someone who has become dear to me. It is a shot of the sunrise taken recently from the deck on which I sat for hours each morning last August.

It is a reminder that seasons change, kids grow up, parents age;                                                      but some things are always the same.



OLDER FASTER STRONGER, Athletes Compete into their 70s, 80s and 90s.

Older athletes smash theories of the unavoidable degeneration and debilitation of aging. Are fit and even competitive seniors freaks or the answer to the growing health care crisis?

Who is an older athlete? According to research, the body begins to decline after the age of 35. Theories abound about the impact of genetics, (“I’ve just got good genes”), attitude, body type and socioeconomic level. Most theories are just that and fail to test conclusively. There are increasing exceptions.

With contemporary medical advances, if you are over 50, barring disabling disease or accident, you probably anticipate living longer than your ancestors. Living longer is fine if those latter years are years of physical, mental and emotional functional capability.

Perhaps Baby Boomers continue to challenge traditional expectations. As Baby Boomers age, they want to thrive. Furthermore, many are taking deliberate and educated steps in that direction. Though Kathleen Norris was not writing about physical fitness, her one-liner in “The Cloister Walk” is on the mark: “…the place of the very old is to teach about possibility.”

Given a clean bill of health and the time to dedicate to fitness, even competitive performance, with education, guidance, goals and plans to reach those goals, seniors are creating their own level playing field and working towards excellence previously unthought-of.

Often strength, speed and endurance gains are made relative to the age appropriate conditioning of the individual. But just as often masters’ performance challenges younger athletes.

Common knowledge has long been that as you age, mental and physical abilities decline: muscle mass is lost, bones thin and weaken, body fat increases. Muscle atrophy in seniors over age 75 may reach as much as 15% per decade. Not good news.

Much of that research, however, has been done on sedentary seniors. For example, in a recent study of highly functioning athletes from 40-81 years, individuals who ran, biked or swam four to five times weekly, it was determined that it is not aging, in and of itself, that causes the decline in strength and performance, but lack of use. The authors suggest that if more individuals stress their muscles and remain active as they age, the loss of physical capabilities and independence could be thwarted. (Wroblewski, A., et. al. “Chronic Exercise Preserves Lean Muscle Mass in MastersAthletes”, The Physician and Sportsmedicine.

While some experts warn that “pushing” to reach higher levels of performance is not only inappropriate but harmful, many others urge the inclusion of exercise in daily life. But it’s more than that. Yes, choosing to walk whenever possible, joining fitness classes, practicing flexibility and balance exercises and doing so on a regular basis are recognized as integral to protecting one’s health.

Take this a step beyond adequate activity into excellence it may be because of, rather than in spite of, maturity that the older athlete achieves. Is it because masters are those who have logged more miles or gained more competitive experience, are mature in their sport? Are older athletes those whose children are grown leaving them with more time and more resources? Looking hard and fast at the second half of one’s life may act as a wake-up call that summons the executive, retiree, or couch potato to a new enthusiasm for mobility or sports. Taking seriously the threat of a reduction in lifestyle and enjoyment puts teeth into the desire to move.

We know, or have watched, seniors outwit and outperform their younger competitors with skill and tactics that trump youth’s raw energy.

To achieve success in the areas of fitness and performance, as in all other aspects of life, there needs to be a plan, a means, education and training. Diligence is required as well as effort. Here one must think in terms of hours of exercise or training, not minutes; days and weeks and months, not just once in awhile; regular not random.

OLGA KOTELKO. June 25, 2014.  “During her long, remarkable life, Olga Kotelko lived through a rugged farm childhood, an unhappy marriage, single parenthood and a long career as a beloved school teacher. Then, the Vancouver resident gained world fame as a track and field athlete, competing well into her 80s and 90s. Ms. Kotelko, who was hailed as one of Canada’s most accomplished athletes and held 26 world records in her age category, died Tuesday. She was 95.”

Think about that. Here was a woman who grew up on a family farm with physical work as normal daily existence. Later a school teacher and single parent, at a time where single parents were unusual, Kotelko attracted attention by her seemingly unlimited energy.

Later as an unassuming athlete who couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about, she was tested and studied to see what was working for her. Just weeks before her death she was still competing.

Her sports were: long jump, triple jump, shot put, discus, javelin, weight throw and various sprint distances all with multiple victories and records. In her 80s and 90s these were her sports. Think about that. Yes, endurance sports are understandable: putting one foot in front of another, one pedal stroke after another, one sweep of the oar after another; but power and speed? Kotelko’s athletic career, one begun late in life, demonstrates her modest claim that it is all about “moderation, exercise and a positive attitude… DNA, choices and exploration of opportunities.” “What Makes Olga Run?: The Mystery of the 90-Something Track Star and What She Can Teach Us About Living Longer, Happier Lives,” by Bruce Grierson, (January 14, 2014, Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.)



MARGARET WEBB. Webb’s story has universal appeal. It is not gender specific nor is it about those singularly athletic or sedentary. Older, Faster, Stronger, What Women Runners Can Teach Us All About Living Younger, Longer, By Margaret Webb, (Rodale, 2014) is a story of hope, an offering of optimism. Webb presents the reader with the bad and the ugly: aging means more injuries, less lung and cardiovascular capability, loss of balance, coordination and flexibility, the nasty stuff about bone density, lean muscle mass and stored body fat. But then she debunks these as inevitable consequences of advancing years and chases her thesis that you can become even stronger and faster with advancing years.

With the help of her partner, sister, mom and a stable full of mentors and teachers, Webb employs every tool she can find from VO2Max testing to nutrition, heart rate training zones to yoga, strength to sports psychology. She loses weight, gives up cigarettes and booze, subjects herself to uncomfortable assessments and diligently follows her training plans.

Webb seeks advice, then takes it, practicing goal-setting, self-monitoring and celebration. She urges the reader to “find joy” in the pursuit. “Whatever limit you encounter, keep pushing against it,” Webb writes. “By doing this, you will have found, like many masters athletes have, a way to reach deep inside yourself, grasp the hands of your biological clock, and slow it’s forward rush.”

Webb suggests that those who did not participate in sports in their younger years may come to them with fresh legs, patience, a willingness to practice recovery as they strive to compete and then surprise themselves by the motivation that competition ignites. She tests, proves and further develops her findings.

There is much to be said about growing older with health and strength, stability and balance, grace and power, adaptation and potential, faith and optimism. What happens next, when the talking is done? Will identity be defined by the doing? That remains to be seen.


Jacinto Bonilla age 74, CrossFit competitor

Sister Madonna (“Iron Nun”) age 83, Ironman

Paul Tetrick age 83, Time Trial competitor, Cycling

Pat Gallant-Charette age 63, distance swimmer (a newbie having begun only 15 years ago), plans 2015 Great Brittain to Ireland and 2016 a repeat of the Cook Strait to right her failed attempt.

Louis Self age 73, Kiteboarding competitor

Steve Rounds age 85, 2014 World Indoor Rowoing Championship, “won his age group” but also set a world record

Tao Porchon-Lynch age 95, Yoga

Yuichiro Miura age 80, Mountaineering. May 2013 oldest climber to summit Mt. Everest

Arthur Webb age 72, Ultramarathoner, Finished Badwater 15 times since he turned 58

Jaring Timmerman, swimmer, only person ever o compete in 105-109 age group

Chuck Norris age 74, Martial Arts


 Whose name can you add to this list? Your own? A relative, neighbor, friend?

Trekking or Hiking Poles Come of Age

photo Jeb Wallace Brodeur

photo Jeb Wallace Brodeur

For some reason I have failed to acknowledge the existence of hiking poles. Until now. It seems that everywhere I look this year, hiking poles pop onto my radar. As I speak with friends, expert hikers on unimaginably difficult terrain, I find that they are enthusiastic about their poles.

So, I went to work to see what I could learn and share the news with you. Of course, you may be way ahead of me, but if not, perhaps you will join me as I try hiking this fall using poles.

We will not be the first to do so. Consider this list of individuals often pictured with their walking sticks: Moses, King Tutankhamen, Louis XIV, Charlie Chaplin, Father Time, Old Man Winter and Dr. Gregory House (Hugh Laurie), to name but a few.

Hiking poles, two of them, look much like ski poles, usually collapsible, with a rubber or carbide tip, (sometimes baskets, but more on that later), and wrist straps on the handles. They are skinny and offer support but not the kind that invites leaning one’s entire weight on them.

Trekking poles, or hiking poles, seem to be most useful on irregular terrain where they offer stability and, by further engaging the upper body, help to alleviate fatigue to the lower body. Poles help the hiker to find a rhythm and to move forward and upward maintaining that rhythm. Once “in stride,” the hiker can touch the trail on either side and maintain an efficient, centered movement pattern that covers the trail with apparently less effort.

Poles increase confidence especially on tricky downhill segments, crossing streams and maneuvering among and around obstacles. Poles can be used to probe mud or water, help with balance across a log and, in some cases, even double as tent poles.

The learning curve for hiking with poles is short and easy.

Hiking with poles gets you outdoors and helps with balance and mobility. Poles protect your knees, ankles, hips and spine especially on downhills. Note that at the same time, being able to accomplish such descending safely acts as conditioning to strengthen muscles, tendons and even ligaments that support the important joints of the body.

Balance on the trails can be troublesome. Poles give that added touch that benefits equilibrium and creates the confidence to try for more.

Photo Jeb Wallace Brodeur

Photo Jeb Wallace Brodeur

It is one thing to walk forward and backward, up and down, but lateral movements often tip the scale of balance. It is here that poles are especially helpful.

Hiking is a repetitive motion and executing each stride with correct form and technique is imperative to improve strength and coordination, speed and balance, and to prevent injury. Hiking poles help to execute steps with the pace and alignment of a good gait. Poles may keep the hiker focused and motion fluid.

Perhaps one of the best things to be said about using hiking poles is that they expand opportunities for all types of hikers encouraging the advanced to reach higher goals and those with physical limitations to explore the outdoors with security.

There is little said in opposition. While some environmental concerns are raised such as the scratching of rock by the pole tips, holes left in the ground or baskets damaging fragile vegetation (thus basket removal is recommended unless hiking in snow or snowshoeing), adherence to the principles of “Leave No Trace” means that users can find ways to avoid leaving behind any type of damage. Awareness is usually the simple solution.

Adjusting poles to the proper height, slipping the hand up through the loop and easily wrapping the hand around the pole’s handle while resting weight on the loop, and picking up the alternating coordination of swinging arms with leg strides, are about the only training points.

In summary, it is interesting to see that the “Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) estimates that pole usage rates on the Appalachian Trail vary from 90% among thru-hikers to 10-15% among day hikers.” (Saunders, Hipp, Wenos and Deaton, 2008). From what I have learned, I’ll just bet that 10-15% is much higher now, six years later. Shall we help to raise that percentage and join the trek?


Hiking is an activity that benefits from prior conditioning. On the other hand, hiking itself builds muscular strength and endurance while delivering impressive scenery.

Fall hiking is often preferred to summer.  Some hikers find heat oppressive and like the cooler temperatures. Bug nuisances are on the decline and falling leaves are not only colorful, but open views that remain unseen in summer’s dense foliage.

Vermont and neighboring states offer well-marked hiking trails for adventurers of any age and fitness level. Necessary skills range from new to novice, intermediate and finally advanced.

Casual and dedicated hikers agree to a list of benefits: fitness, stress relief, shared time with family and friends and fresh air. Trails with steep pitch and exposure provide excitement and technical challenge. While some speed-hike for training purposes, others take time to enjoy natural beauty or delve more deeply into the concept of journey.

Aside from the obvious “relax, just do it,” perhaps the most important piece of advice for anyone planning a hike is to do just that. Plan. Choose a designated trail that is suitable for your fitness level. Returning home stiff, sore, blistered, soaked or exhausted is a deal-breaker for more trail adventures.

Furthermore, lack of proper planning combined with basic commonsense could result in injury or misadventure initiating expensive search and rescue.

A significant piece of the planning component is time. If you are accustomed to walking, riding, paddling or running for extended periods of time, even though hiking taxes the body in different ways, you have probably built a good aerobic base and are ready to begin with a multi-hour hike. If not, by all means begin with something short and manageable that leaves you wanting more.

Once an appropriate distance is chosen, the next aspect is time of day. Never forget that temperatures and wind conditions vary and change dramatically at the top. Failure to dress in layers and carry along extra gloves, dry socks and perhaps a windbreaker, rain jacket or fleece, could ruin an otherwise happy hike.

Town forests provide excellent opportunities to practice walking on trails. Practice always pays off. Moving from sidewalks and even dirt roads into the woods requires alert attention to where you put each foot. Roots, stones, sand, washouts, up, down, wide and narrow complicate the process and, without due awareness, could easily cause one to trip or slip.

Walking or hiking mindfully means avoiding low-hanging branches that poke and jab, but at the same time listening and watching for interesting sounds and sights. Human voices travel through the woods, but when they are silenced, so do birdsong and the sound of animals moving about. Hearing often rewards with sighting.

Practice also means breaking in new trail or hiking shoes and experimenting with combinations of clothing that might keep you comfortable all day on a longer trek. Beginning with a trail that keeps you within easy reach of your car can save unexpectedly uncomfortable equipment or unanticipated fatigue. And, of course, as always practice carrying water and a snack and try them out along the way.

When comfortable with the easier stuff, it’s time to head for a destination hike. Traveling to the top of anything clearly challenges the cardiovascular system and makes demands on muscles and joints. Again, proper footwear and attire is a must as is good hiking and walking form. The addition of a daypack is not to be underestimated in importance or as resistance of even a little added weight.

Going up is one thing; traveling down is another. Watch your step, rest occasionally and listen to your body. Sometimes you will be on dirt, sometimes crossing streams or scrambling up rocks. Take your time and get the job done safely.

Above all, plan to be safe. Use the internet, your favorite sporting goods store, the Green Mountain Club (or any of their excellent guides and publications), books, maps and experienced friends for help selecting and planning for your hike. Anyone who has been there before is usually happy to give you hints and let you know what to expect.

Safety basics apply to hiking whether you think you’ll be out for an hour or all day. Hike with another. Carry a cell phone as reception is improving. Wear identification that includes medical information, if any, and emergency contacts. Let those at home know where you will be as well as your estimated finish time. Check the weather forecast. In the event of weather warnings, for heavens sake stay home and go another day. Beware of shorter days and earlier sunsets. Stay on the trail.

Even bright people do stupid things. Have you ever passed a silly person on a trail wearing flip-flops? Do you read of search and rescue teams spending the night scouring the backwoods for someone who has wandered off the trail to find an imaginary shortcut down? Stories abound of hikers who call for help because they are tired or cold or got lost because they didn’t have a flashlight. Search and rescue experts are eager to help those in legitimate need.

Moving beyond day hikes to multi-day trips is a quantum move up the hiking ladder and requires research and extensive preparation. Once you begin putting one foot in front of another through the woods, once you feel the exhilaration of scaling some ledge and reaching the top to see miles and miles of the surrounding countryside, once you have listened to the speedy brook splashing downhill or the sound of partridge that you have surprised, you may be hooked and want more.

Each time you hike, you have the opportunity to see different things, to grow stronger, more skillful and more confident. It is a sport that bears repeating and certainly improves with repetition. Are you ready to hike this autumn? Plan and prepare well. Avoid hunting season. Have fun.

photo 3-2

Mt. Abraham.

Hiking with family on a perfect day in Vermont, 9-28-2014. The views were well worth the vertical challenge.