Not To Be Trusted With Knives

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I jumped out of a f&^*ing plane!

So yesterday I jumped out of a plane. Because that seems like a reasonable thing for a person who is afraid of heights to do, right?

Long time readers may recall that time that I hung off the side of the CN Tower. It was terrifying and I was sure I was going to die and I’ve been pretty afraid of heights ever since then. Walking across the Harbour Bridge is Sydney terrified me. Walking across the Patullo Bridge terrified me1. Even walking across the bridge that people were bungee jumping from to get to the viewing area to watch my friends bungee jump was terrifying. And yet I had a strong desire to jump out of plane and plummet rapidly towards the ground.

In part this was because Dr. Dan told me that the CN Tower Edgewalk was way scarier than skydiving because when you are on the CN Tower, your brain can perceive the distance and it’s thinking “if I fall off of here, I’m going to splatter”. But when you are at 10,000 ft, you are so high up, your brain just cannot process that kind of distance, so you don’t feel that fear. I took those words to heart and decided that skydiving was something that I really wanted to try. And I’m really, really glad I did!

Since Dr. Dan is in town, we decided that yesterday would be a good day to jump out of a plane. Two of his students – Nic and Marshall – were also up for the adventure. We didn’t book the excursion in advance because the not insubstantial fee is nonrefundable and whether or not you can skydive at a given date and time is very weather dependent. If you book in advance and then the weather is not conducive to jumping, you have to reschedule for another day and since Dan is only in town for the week that didn’t really work for us.

So we called yesterday morning to see if the weather would allow us to jump and they said things weren’t looking great but we should call back at about 1:30 pm to see if the situation had improved. We did and they said the weather still wasn’t right, but to call back at 4 pm to check again. When we called back at 4 pm, I think we were prepared for them to say “today is just not a good day to jump “and we would try again the next day2, but much to our surprise they said “Yeah, it looks good now. How soon can you get here?” We were at my place New West and we had to get to Abbotsford, which is where the skydiving placs is, and we had to pick up Marhsall, who was in Maple Ridge, on the way. And since my wee Smart Car can’t fit four brave, soon-to-be skydivers, we had to grab a Modo car share for the trip. So we jumped into action, booking the car, running around trying to find the car after I misinterpreted the description of where the car was, and then off we went!

We arrived a bit later than we’d hoped and skydiving people were waiting for us, so it was a whirlwind of activity: signing the waiver, getting on our jumpsuits, people were strapping us into our harnesses as an instructor explained the procedure of what we need to do. We all got a chance to demonstrate that we listened to the procedure we needed to follow: cross your hands across your chest, and cross your feet when you jump out of the plane, then when your instructor (who you are attached to during the jump) taps your shoulder, you raise your arms up. That’s really all you need to do, because in a tandem jump, the instructor does all the actual work. Then we each met our respective instructors to whom we were going to be attached to – mine was a friendly guy named Jess – and they did the double check to make sure all the straps and hooks were strapped and hooked so that we would not plummet to our deaths. After that we walked toward the plane feeling like something out of Top Gun. Well, I would have felt more Top Gun if they hadn’t given me a pink jumpsuit (*barf*). Dr. Dan got the cool army green one, so he looked the most Top Gun-ish, imho.

Dan, Marshall, me, and Nic after skydiving
Dr. Dan, Marshall, Dr. Beth, Nic (from left to right)

And then it was into the plane and we took off – it all happened so fast I barely had time to think, let alone be scared. I set my Fitbit to record my heart rate for the trip, because at all times I’m a nerd and I was dying to see how my heart would react to all of this.

The plane climbed and climbed and I honestly could not wipe the smile off my face. I was so happy to be doing this and when I realized that I had such a big smile on my face, I was even more happy that I was genuinely happy and not scared!

I looked out the window as the beautiful scenery – the lush green farmland and river below us, the mountains off in the distance, a few pretty clouds, and amazing sunshine – and all I felt was excitement. At one point Jess said “We are halfway up” and I felt my stomach leap a little bit as a thought “omg, we are going twice this high?”, but as quickly as I thought that, it was replaced with “omg, it’s so beautiful”.

My heart took another leap when the plane levelled off because I knew that meant it was go time. Marshall was up first and I was after him. Both our instructors, who has tightened our harasses and attached us to themselves, got up to open up the door on the side of the plane and in an instant, Marshall and his instructor vanished out the door. Jess moved us to the door and, being attached to him and all, before I knew it, I was standing at the edge of the plane looking at the 10,000 ft to the ground. I think I said something like “oh my god, this is really happening” and then he jumped. I remembered to cross my hands over my chest but honestly do not know if I crossed my feet like instructed.

I feel one second of sheer terror and screamed, and then instantly I felt completely at peace. My brain was just like “we are totally fine. We are totally safe.” We were head down, free falling towards the earth3, but because you are so far up, you can’t actually tell that you are moving – the ground doesn’t look like it’s getting any closer. So it actually just feels like you are sitting still in the sky but with a great wind coming up at you. It was exhilarating. According to the skydiving log they gave me afterwards, we were in free fall for 40 seconds, but it felt like 10 seconds – just like your brain can’t make sense of the height you are at, I don’t think it can comprehend time properly while trying to process this completely surreal experience.

Skydiving
Free fall!

My instructor tapped me on the shoulder, and I put my arms up like we’d been told me – we were now free falling in the belly down position and then it felt like we were being pulled back up into the sky. I knew that this meant he’d pulled the parachute and we’d slowed down a lot – and now we were heads up and it honestly felt like I was just sitting on a swing and floating in the sky. It was an unbelievable feeling.

And only then did I get a chance to look around and take in the incredible sights. We spun around and got to see the world from a vantage point like no other. You know how when you look out the window of a plane and it’s so cool to see the world from up so high? Imagine that you aren’t looking at that through a tiny window while sitting in a uncomfortable plane seat – but you are getting a 360 view of that while freely floating in the sky. The fields were so green. The river was kind of brown, but I marvelled at the fact that if I could follow that river, I’d end up back at my home in New West. The mountains were amazing off in the distance, and there were a few fluffy clouds in the same sky as I now sat.

Skydiving
The hat they make you wear is not very flattering and my face is squished by the googles, but don’t I look so happy?

As I looked around, I saw two other parachutes off in the distance, but both below me and I remember being a bit confused because I was sure that I was the second person to jump, so how could there be two people below me? But my brain wasn’t able to process it, so I just continued to look around and enjoy the surreal experience. As it turned out, Dr. Dan’s instructor seemed to have be a bit speedier than the other instructors in getting to the ground, so he actually was below me despite having jumped after I did.

We floated around for a bit, going here and there over the land, and I was chattering about the experience the whole time. I am an external processor, so when I thought about it later, I realized that I was talking as a way of comprehending what was happening. It was a very interesting experience to see my brain trying to understand what was going on – the experience is so unlike anything else I’ve ever experienced.

Coming in for a landing
Coming in for a landing!

And all too soon, the jump was over. We came to a gentle landing on the grass and I reunited with my friends to excitedly talk about our jumps. We had all chosen to get the video package where the instructor wears a video camera on their wrist – for me, Nic, and Marshall, it was our first times and we needed to have it documented. We had to wait for a bit while they edited our videos, which was OK because I think we also needed a bit of time to come down from the adrenaline rush.

While we were waiting, I decided to check out my heart rate from the jump. This is what my heart rate was from the time we got on the plane until the time I landed:

Heart rate while skydiving

I was delighted to see that my heart rate mirrored my subjective experience – you can my heart rate actually lowering as we sat on the plane, a small jump which I think was when the plane levelled off and and I realized it was go time, a spike which I’m sure was the moment we stood up and then jumped, resulting in my one second of terror, and then an immediate drop as my brain said “actually, this isn’t scary. It’s amazing!)

As we waited for our videos, Jess came over and said “I’ve got good news and bad news. When we jumped, the camera malfunctioned – the screen just went blank – so while we were in free fall, I had to reboot it. I only got the last few seconds of free fall and then the rest of the time. So we are going to refund your money, but we will give you the footage we did get.” My reply: “If anything was going to go wrong during the jump, I’m glad it was just the camera.”

As it turned out, I think the video is just fine. I don’t mind that it missed the jumping part – that is the part where I was freaking out and screaming anyway! And I got it for free, which makes this cheap, cheap woman happy.

I can’t upload the video to YouTube because it’s set to music (which YouTube would flag as a copyright violation). And the file is too big for me to upload directly to my blog4. So if you want to see it, you’ll just have to ask me to show it to you the next time I see you!

In conclusion, skydiving was amazing and I want to do it again. I want to skydiving over all sorts of different scenery. Imagine skydiving over the desert! Or a lush tropical landscape! Or the Arctic! Anyone up for skydiving on every continent with me?

  1. In fairness, the Patullo Bridge does seem like it’s about to collapse at any moment, so that fear is somewhat justified. []
  2. Although the price is more expensive on weekends and I’m a cheap, cheap woman. []
  3. I looked it up and in the head down position, terminal velocity is about 200 mph! and when you switch to belly down, it’s about 120 mph! []
  4. I tried. []

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Summertime!

OK, so it’s not technically summer until Friday, but you’d never know it from the weather we’ve been having. It’s sunny and warm and the sun is up until nearly 9:30 pm.

Things I’m excited about for the summer, in no particular order:

  • The New West Grand Prix – watching professional cyclists ride around and around and around and around my home is actually a lot more exciting than one might expect. Plus my gym will have beer and snacks
  • playing tennis – Scott and I bought some tennis rackets that were on super duper sale at a sports store that was closing down, right before I sprained my MCL. And while the MCL healing has been going slower than I would like, it’s definitely getting better. So much so that I’ve been able to play hockey with a knee brace – so I think I’ll give tennis with a knee brace a try too!
  • the New West Farmers market – while the Farmers Market in New West runs all year, the winter market is uptown on Saturdays and somehow I never manage to get all the way uptown! But the summer market is at City Hall, which is just a short walk (up a very steep hill) from me on Thursday afternoons/evenings. I haven’t gotten out there for the first few weeks, but I’m planning to go soon.
  • canning/jamming more stuff – my friend Patricia has some pear trees near here that have those most amazing tasting pears EVER. I can’t wait until they are ready because I’m going to pick some and can them!
  • tackling stuff from my 2019 goals list – I am VERY behind on my goals for this year (I blame teaching too much in the January semester), but now that that is behind me (along with all my work travel for May), I can actually do some of that stuff
  • Fridays on Front Street and the New West StrEAT Food Truck festival – two New West traditions. I have a couple of friends who are moving/have moved to New West this year, so I’m excited to indoctrinate them into our New West ways
  • hiking – every summer I say I’m going to do more hiking. Hope springs eternal!

I also have a bunch of vacay that I need to book, but I don’t really want to go away when it’s so nice out and there’s so many fun things going on. Perhaps I’ll take some days off to do stuff around here (especially if a certain friend of mine comes to visit and wants to jump out of a plane with me, as we may or may not have previously discussed).

And maybe I’ll look at the fall for a trip somewhere…

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It’s Not Fun to Have a Sprained M-C-L. It’s Not Fun to Have a Sprained M-C-L.

Yes, the title of this blog posting should be sung to the tune of YMCA.

An image of the ligaments of the knee. There are many ligaments that attach the various bones of the upper and lower leg together.On Wednesday night at hockey, I twisted my knee. I’d like to say that it was in some heroic act, like scoring the game winning goal in overtime, but alas it was by running into my own defencewomen in a playoff game that we would ultimately go on to lose, thus being eliminated from the playoffs. I went flying one way and my knee went flying the other way and now I’m pretty sure I have a grade 1 sprain of the medial collateral ligament (MCL). 

As far as knee injuries go, this is one of the better ones to have. If you twist your knee and hear a popping sound and if your knee can’t bear weight after that, you’ve likely damaged your anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and that can require surgery. A torn meniscus, or an actual tear in the MCL or its partner from the other side of the knee, the lateral collateral ligament (LCL), or a tear in the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL), or a fractured patella (a.k.a., knee cap) are all other ways one could injure their knee in worse ways than this.

I happened to already have a massage appointment booked yesterday, and I also talked to one of the trainers at my gym, and both agreed with my self-diagnosis that a grade 1 sprain of the MCL is likely what I have. It’s a A diagram showing muscles in the hip and thigh, including a number of adductor muscles in the inner thigh.stiff knee and some pain on the medial (inside) of the knee, most bothersome when going down stairs (as you load the weight onto the knee in such a way that that ligament bears a lot of your weight). The recommendation for a sprained MCL is to keep the knee moving, but take it easy1. And it should get better in a week or two2. The massage therapist also worked on the muscles around that knee that are working overtime to compensate for the MCL, especially this one muscle in the back of the knee (the popliteus) and my adductor muscles that were insanely tight. So once the knee feels better, adductor stretches are going to be added into my workout warm ups and cool downs for sure!

Image credits:

  1. And to be careful to avoid limping. And since I’m well aware of the dangers of limping around on an injury I am being very deliberate in planting my foot with every step and walking as normally as I can. []
  2. So the silver lining to both of my teams getting knocked out of the playoffs on Wednesday night is that I know have a few weeks off from hockey so that my knee can heal before the start of summer season. []

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And then I did two!

So I decided that I needed videographic evidence to prove that I can, in fact, do an unassisted chin up, so I asked one of the trainers at the gym to take a video of me doing a chin up. And much to my own surprise, I did two!

Next goals: do five chin ups in a row and do an unassisted pull up!

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I Did A Chin Up!

The other day, my gym posted on Facebook that one of the trainers, Cindy Lou, had achieved her goal of doing an unassisted chin up. As you may recall, doing an unassisted chin up or pull up1 is also one of my goals and I’ve been working a lot on building up the muscles one needs to do an unassisted chin up2. So the next time I was at the gym, I told Cindy Lou that she was my hero as I was working towards that goal too. And she said, “Give it a try. You’ve been working hard, you might be able to do it now. The trick is not to think. Don’t hang. Just grab on and pull up right away.”

And so I decided to give it a try after the first set of my workout (so that my muscles would have a chance to be activated). I went over to one of the cages, climbed up on a box to reach the bar… and then I thought about it for too long and could barely lift myself two inches. Cindy Lou and I started chatting about it – basically me saying, “I was thinking too much!” and then right in the middle of chatting, I just reached up, grabbed on to the bar, and pulled myself up! The last little bit was a struggle, but I did it! I did a full on chin up, all with my own strength! No assistance3 whatsoever! I have to say, I was pretty chuffed! And there may have been a few high fives in celebration.

The trainer who writes my program, Dee, sent me a congratulatory email when she heard about it the next day. Because that’s the kind of trainers we have at my gym – they are genuinely excited and so proud of you when they’ve seen you work hard and finally achieve that goal you’ve been striving for for so long! She suggested that I now add in a chin up every day that I go to the gym. And when I get used to that, add one before every super set4. And then make it two. And it grows from there!

The next day when I went into the gym, I got lots of high fives from the trainers – like I said, the trainers at my gym are genuinely excited for us when we make progress. And I did another chin up and it felt so much easier than the day before. My first one was a bit shaky, especially at the top, but this one was smooth and I felt so strong! Now I feel like it’s not just that “I did an unassisted chin up”, but “I’m a person who does unassisted chin ups!”

Footnotes:

  1. Chin ups are where you grip the bar with your palms facing you (or you can do a neutral grip with your palms facing together, which requires a chin up bar that has grips facing this way), and a pull up is done with your palms facing away from you. The pull up is harder than the chin up. For the record, the one I did was a neutral grip chin up. []
  2. Chin ups are especially challenging for women, who tend to have less upper body strength compared to men. They have also been increasingly challenging for me as I’ve put on a fair amount of muscle since I started lifting, which means that I have to lift more weight! []
  3. In my training towards getting to this point, I have been doing, among other things, chin ups and pull ups where you tie a resistance band to the bar and you stand in it while you do your chin up or pull up – it takes away a bit of your weight so that you can practice the movement but without having to lift your entire body weight. When I started training, I used several bands and as my training progressed, I used fewer bands, and lighter bands, so that I was lifting more and more of my weight. []
  4. The way our programs are designed, we often have two or three exercises groups together. So say you are doing 3 sets each of exercises A1 and A2 – you’d do A1, A2, A1, A2, A1, A2 – and all that together is called a “super set”). Then you move on to your B exercises, then C, and sometimes also D. []

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We are three weeks into my hockey season…

… and I’m leading my division in points. For reals. Here’s proof:Division Leader for Points, Sept 22, 2018

I’m really just recording this here because I know it won’t last for long1! I mean, last year I only had three points in the entire SEASON in this division, and right now I’m leading the division with four points in four games – and two of them have been goals! And one of those goals was a really nice goal, too! Like, my first goal was me firing it hard, but just right along the ice (like I didn’t even manage to lift it like 1 mm off the ice), towards the net as I crossed the blue line, just to try to get the puck in deep as two defence were coming at me – thinking maybe if I were lucky, I’d get a rebound for my linemate. But instead it just slid through the 5-hole! But my second goal was a beaut – I was standing at the back door and my linemate passed it from the corner, right through the crease and I actually managed to (a) receive the puck (can’t say that I always manage to take a pass well), (b) paused long enough to look at what my options were (instead of my usual move, which is to panic, and shoot the puck right at the goalie), (c) notice that there was some available net just over the goalie’s right shoulder, and (d) actually lift the puck right in that spot. Lifting the puck is somewhat new to me – it’s probably thanks to the combination of taking a hockey camp a couple of summers ago, getting a better stick, and actually working out so I have some power – so I was pretty chuffed. Also, it ended up being the game winning goal, so that made it all the more sweet!

Anyhoo, as I said, I don’t expect to be on the top of this list for very long, so I’m basking in the glory of leading the second from the bottom division in beer league hockey while I can!

  1. Probably by the end of tonight it will have changed. []

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Stuff I Learned This Year: Surfing, Snorkeling, and Sewing Zippers Edition

Since I have quite a backlog of things I want to blog about1, I decided to combine a bunch of things into one blog posting. You may recall that one of my 2018 goals is to learn 12 new things, but thus far I’ve only written about one of them. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t been learning new things – I’ve been learning lots and lots of things! Here is a quick summary of 3 of them.

Surfing

I have mentioned this previously, in my very long posting about my trip to Hawaii, but I wanted to officially count it in my list of things that I learned this year! The most important things that I learned about surfing were that it’s really important to paddle like hell once you see the wave you want to go for to get up enough speed that when you jump up, your board is going fast enough, that you jump up at just the right time (too late or too soon and you are going to go for a swim!), and that jumping up to standing actually isn’t that hard.

Snorkeling

Same goes for snorkeling, Prior to my trip to Hawaii, I’d never snorkeled before. Turns out, snorkeling is pretty easy (made even easier by the fact that we bought snorkels that have a value that prevents you from breathing in water when you dive down so that your snorkel is below the surface), but it’s still something that I learned.

Sewing Zippers

Last year I took a couple of sewing classes, making a tote bag and some fabric buckets. This year, my friends and I decided to kick it up a notch and sew zipper pouches – which meant we had to learn how to sew a zipper!

Zipper pouches - sewing class

Zipper pouches - sewing class

I made them with the leftover fabric from my tote bag, which is cool because (a) they match my tote bags, and (b) I managed to not lose the leftover fabric from my tote bag, which I made nearly a year before!

  1. Mostly because my blog is my outsourced memory – if it’s not on the blog, I’ll never remember that it happened! []

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Gymiversary

Another thing I’m behind on blogging about is my gymiversary! March 3 was my one year anniversary of having joined Strong Side. I’ve blogged a few times about my gym experience and it’s mostly for lack of time to blog that you haven’t been subjected to me talking about how much I love my gym.1 I remember thinking when I signed up “am I really going to be able to do this gym thing on the regular for six whole months??” (I signed up for the 6 month commitment to start because it gets you a better monthly rate than if you just sign up for a three month commitment). And now here is it more than a year later and not only have I regularly gone to the gym three times a week for an entire year, but I actually really love it.

As I’ve mentioned before, part of what I love about it, in addition to the more obvious I-am-getting-stronger reason, is that it’s an easy way for me to be mindful. It really helps me disconnect from my work and all the other things that one has to deal with in life as I focus intently on my form and my breathing. In fact, Friday evenings are one of my favourite times to work out – I find it really helps me to separate from my busy workweek and get ready for my weekend! I love to hit the weights on Friday after work and just work out all the stress of the politics, emails, and deadlines.

Another part of what I like is the social nature of the gym. I’ve gotten to know a fair number of people there – and there are people that I knew before I started going that I’ve discovered go there too (or have joined since I joined) – and everyone is really down-to-earth and supportive of each other. You’ll regularly hear people catching up and joking around and cheering each other on when someone is doing something really tough. It’s a nice feeling to walk in and see friendly faces and people who know your name.

The other day I was there and a person I didn’t recognize came up to me and said, “I don’t want to sound creepy, but I just wanted to tell you that you look really strong! I saw you lifting and I thought “I want to look like that!” Honestly, it was so out-of-the-blue and such a lovely compliment! We chatted for a bit – she’s relatively new to the gym and I told her that I’d been coming there for a year and that it really does work! If you’d told me when I started that I’d be able to lift what I can now, I’d have said you were crazy. But it’s amazing what you can do with consistent work and a program tailored by people who know what they are doing!

When I started going to the gym, I was just getting past my year of injuries and I’d put on some weight from not having been able to run (which was how I’d been keeping somewhat in shape for the past decade) and I wasn’t feeling too great about that. But now, despite the fact that I weigh more than I’ve ever weighed in my life, I’m actually a lot happier with how I look and feel, because the weight gain has been muscle. I’m slowly coming to grips with the fact that I have to get rid of some of the clothes that I haven’t been able to fit into for quite some time but had been hanging on to because I was sure I’d someday get back down to my pre-MBA weight, because even I manage to bring down my body fat % a bit, my quads won’t let me get into those pants and my shoulders and back mean those shirts won’t comfortably fit – and I don’t have any intention of losing these muscles, so I’m OK with that.

As you may recall, one of my goals for this year was to deadlift my own body weight, and I actually managed to do that on January 30. I decided on wanted to capture it on video and since in my current program I’m doing deadlifts where I do 6 reps, then up the weight and do 5 reps, and so on until I’m down to just 1 rep. So I got this on video the other day where I deadlifted 68.5 kg (or 151 lbs), which is more than my body weight for 2 reps2

Deadlifting 68.5 kg. That’s more than my own body weight!

A post shared by Beth Snow (@drbethsnow) on


For good measure, I’ve also managed to back squat more than my weight. Here’s me back squatting 70kg (or 154 lbs).

Squatting 70 kg – more than my own body weight!

A post shared by Beth Snow (@drbethsnow) on


My other goal for this year is to do a full pull up or chin up without the assistance of any resistance bands (basically, you hang a resistance band off the bar you are hanging from and step into it and the band takes off some of your weight so you do the pull up or chin up motion, but without having to lift your entire body weight). When I first started going to the gym, I needed three different bands to do pull ups, but I’m slowly but surely working my way towards fewer bands. Like with the deadlifts, my current program has me doing 6 pull ups with a couple of bands, then 5 with fewer/smaller bands, and so on until I reach 1 rep. I tried to do my last rep with the second smallest resistance band, but couldn’t quite manage it, so had to do it with a slightly bigger band, but I was still pretty happy to be able to do that. Definitely made progress, but still have a ways to go. Hopefully by the end of the year I’ll have done one on my own!

  1. If you’ve had the misfortune of seeing me in person in the past 12 months, you’ve likely been subjected to me waxing poetic about this at length. My apologies. []
  2. I decided not to video my 1 rep, because I wanted to see how heavy I could go and I knew there was a good chance I’d fail. I tried to do 70 kg, but I couldn’t, so I was glad I didn’t try to video that one. I backed it off to 69 kg and did that for 1 rep. Maybe I’ll be able to do 70 kg this week! []

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Hawaii

You know that thing where you go on vacation and then you come back and not only did all the work that you didn’t do while you were away not get done, but it seems to have made some new friends while you were gone so you now have about eleventy billion emails to deal with and decisions to make and meetings to present at and assignments to grade? That is officially my excuse for why this blog posting about my trip to Hawaii is coming 25 days after we arrived back how!

Anyhoo, I’ve managed to mostly catch up so now I’m just back to my baseline level of crazy busy, plus it is a 4 day weekend, so I have found some time to sit down and tell you all about our trip to Hawaii.  Spoiler alert: it’s amazing and I didn’t want to come home.

Sunday

We arrived in the afternoon on Sunday, after an uneventful flight from YVR to Seattle and another uneventful flight from Seattle to Honolulu. We’d booked our trip through Costco1, as it was the best deal we found, and the package came with transportation to and from the airport. The person greeting us also had leis for all, so here’s a selfie of us at the airport”

Scott and I upon our arrival in Hawaii

In what would become a theme for the trip, after a day of flying, my hair looks like crap.

The rest of Sunday was basically just getting checked into the hotel (the Aston Waikiki Beach hotel) and then wandering around to get the lay of the land. Since we got in around 2pm, which meant we didn’t have much time to see stuff before the sunset because omg, the sun sets early. I knew that Hawaii was near the equator, but I hadn’t really thought about the implications of that in terms of sunrise and sunset – it’s pretty much sun from 6:30 am to 6:30 pm every day, all year long. I’m used to living quite far north of the equator and so my brain thinks summer weather = suns sets at 9 pm, so it was kind of trippy for it to be 27°C and have the sun set at dinner time! Fortunately, it stays warm even after the sunset, so it’s still nice to wander around even after the sun goes down. If you’ve never been to Honolulu, it’s basically just all beach and open air malls, with an ABC store every 12 feet.

Monday

We decided to start the holiday off with a bang by taking a surfing lesson. As long time readers may recall, I have been surfing only two times in my life and had only managed to get to a standing position for about half a second on one of those two surfing days. And that was more than a decade ago. So I figured that an actual surfing lesson, which I didn’t do the last time, was in order. We found a Groupon for lessons through Moku Hawaii Surf Shop, which was close to our hotel, so we decided to take our lessons with them. And I’m happy to report that having a surfing lesson resulted in a much more success in the amount of standing on the surfboard! We had a fantastic instructor named Jennifer, who was the only female instructor we saw in Waikiki. She went over the safety basics and the basics of how to surf, and told us that the hardest part of surfing isn’t getting up on your feet – it’s all about timing – picking the right wave and then figuring out when to start paddling and when to jump up. We headed out to the beach and then Scott and I basically took turns getting some help from Jennifer – she helped us pick a good wave, helped us with timing when to start paddling, gave us a little push to get going, and yelled “up” to let us know when to pop up. Once we got the hang of that, she helped us with timing but without the push (which made me realize how much the push helped!). She also had a GoPro camera that was on my surfboard for the first half of the lesson and on Scott’s surfboard for the second half. She also remembered part way through my time with the Go-Pro to tell me to turn the camera off when I was just walking/paddling back out to the waves, which meant that there were a million photos of me walking/paddling back out from before she told me that, but no photos of Scott like that. We got footage of a few of our runs each, but of course none of my really good runs were captured on video!

Waiting for a good wave:

Beth surfing in Honolulu

Starting to paddle – you have to make sure you get up enough speed before the wave gets there so you can catch the wave:
Beth surfing in Honolulu

Then you have to pop up:

Beth surfing in Honolulu

First up on your knees:

Beth surfing in Honolulu

Then pop up to your feet:

Beth surfing in Honolulu

Then you are surfing like a pro:

Beth surfing in Honolulu

Until you fall off:
Beth surfing in Honolulu

We had an absolute blast! Jennifer said that most people don’t last the full two hours, but Scott and I did. I credit all the hard workouts we did leading up to our trip2.

The water was pretty shallow and the reef was very sharp and what with all the falling off and getting knocked about by the waves, I managed to rip up my foot pretty badly:

My foot got wrecked by the reef when we surfed

It looked worse in person than that photo, if you can believe that.

Also, this picture is awesome:

Beth surfing in Honolulu

After our lesson ended, we spent the rest of the day lounging on the beach. It was at some point on this day that I said “Let’s send for the cats! I want to stay here forever!” Sadly, the reality of not having jobs there or a place to live there or the necessary citizenship to do that quickly quashed my dream, so I had to just make do with 6 more days.

Here’s a video of me surfing (you really only need to watch the first couple of minutes – after that it’s just me sloooooowly walking back out to sea as I didn’t know I was supposed to turn off the camera!):

And here’s Scott – this video actually includes him surfing twice:

Tuesday

We had so much fun surfing that we decided to do it again the next day. Since we’d taken lessons from Moku, we were able to get a discount on renting boards the next day. We were just going to rent for a few hours, but they gave us the whole day, so we spent the day surfing, then lounging on the beach, then surfing, and repeat.

We also tested ou snorkelling gear3 in the hotel pool.

Wednesday

We rented a car for a couple of days because we knew we wanted to check out more of the island – and because I wanted to go swimming with sharks and you have to go to the North Shore to do that. So Wednesday we drove around the island, including stopping by the beach at the Turtle Bay resort to do some snorkelling. The water was pretty murky, but we still managed to see some cool looking fish. Sadly, there were no turtles!

We also managed to find Ted’s Bakery, which my friend Heather had recommended that we check out. They make some pretty fantastic pie:

Ted's Bakery - pies

Thursday

Thursday was the day I’d been waiting for since we’d decided to go to Hawaii – swimming with sharks! When my sister went to Hawaii ages ago, she did this and it sounded so cool that I wanted to do it too! We found a Groupon4 for a trip with North Shore Shark Adventures, but then I discovered that if you book directly with them online, you get the same price as the Groupon, so I just booked directly. The concept is simple – you get on a boat, go out to a place where there are sharks, and then jump in a cage that’s floating off the side of the boat and snorkel while you watch the sharks swim all around you. Apparently the sharks are attracted by the sound of the boat because they go out to an area where people fish for crabs and the sharks have become accustomed to the crab fishers dumping their used bait out of the crab traps there, so the sharks hear a boat and think “dinner time!”5. The sharks in the area are mostly Galapagos sharks, with some sandbar sharks. I totally thought that Great White sharks were common in Hawaii, but the crew told us they are not.

We were supposed to be on a 10 am trip, but we got a call from the company a day before saying that forecast was for really choppy water so they were going to cancel the 10 am trip, but we could go on the 7 am one instead. Despite this meaning we had to get up at like 5 am to make the drive from Waikiki to the North Shore, we decided to do it ‘cuz we really wanted to swim with the sharks!

Here I am on the boat:View from the shark boat

Here’s the cage:

Shark diving cage

And here are some of the freaking sharks, as seen from the deck of the boat:

Sharks!

There were 12 people on the boat who wanted to go in the cage, along with some crew members, and a few people who were just along for the ride. So one group of six went first while the rest of us watched and then the second group of six took a turn after. Here’s the other group after the ropes had been loosened to allow the cage to float a bit away from the boat:

Shark diving cage

While the other group was in the cage, one of the women popped her head up and asked the crew “What’s the little shiny silver shark?” One of the crew members said “Is it about this big [holding his hands about a foot apart] and kind of pointy?” When she replied “Yes”, he said “That’s a barracuda. You should watch out for that. It can get inside cage and it will bite”.

After the first group’s turn was up, we got to go into the cage. I was the first one in our group to get in the cage. It was such a cool experience! The sharks were so beautiful – so graceful swimming by, all around and beneath us. Some of the Galapagos sharks were quite big – the biggest one we saw was probably 10 ft long. I really, really wished I had a Go Pro camera of my own as  it would have been amazing to capture it! I wasn’t scared of the sharks at all – there was no way they could have gotten into our cage and they really seemed pretty docile. I mean, I wouldn’t have wanted to stick my hand in their mouth or anything, but being in the cage felt totally safe. The barracuda showed up while we were in there and honestly, I was more afraid of him, because he could totally have swam into the cage and taken a bite! And he just sat their next to the cage, staring at us with his cold dead eye. I found this photo of a barracuda on Wikipedia and this is just what he looked like:

Great Barracuda close-up, western Puerto Rico

Scary barracuda is scary!

As I mentioned, the water was pretty choppy and eventually it got the better of me and I totally puked from sea sickness right in the cage! So gross! But I did feel better after losing my breakfast, so at least there’s that. (I also found out that several other people also got sea sick while we were in the cage – they were just puking off the side of the boat!) As much as I hate puking, it was totally worth it to see those sharks!

Also, while I didn’t have a Go Pro to capture this, some other random people who did the same dive as us on a different day did and put it up on Youtube. So check out this video and imagine that Scott and I are in that cage, because this is exactly what it was like:

After we finished with the sharks, we decided to head back to Turtle Bay for more snorkelling and lounging on the beach. Still no turtles!

Later that day, we hit the Dole plantation. We decided to go on the aptly named “Pineapple Express” train that goes around the plantation and features a narration that tells you about how the Dole Food Company is the most successful and generous company on the planet, pineapples are the greatest food ever to have existed and probably can cure cancer, and James Drummond Dole could walk on water6.

Tickets fo the Pineapple Express

 

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We did get to see some cool stuff, like how pineapples actually grow on bushes on the ground – I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit that I’d kind of assumed they grew in trees, like coconuts!

IMG_8396

I also didn’t know that pineapples aren’t native to Hawaii – they were brought there from South America in the 1500s.

IMG_8395

In addition to pineapple, the Dole plantation had a bunch of other stuff – sugar cane, lemons, limes, avocados, cocoa, coffee, coconuts, bananas, etc.

IMG_8382

After we finished our Pineapple Express trip, featuring the musical stylings of a band that was willing to record a song called “Pineapple Express”, we checked out the shop to get some delicious Dole whip, which is basically like ice cream except that it’s made of pineapple instead of cream. I have to admit, it was pretty delicious. We also stayed for a pineapple cutting demonstration, during which the demonstrator took about 20 minutes using a special pineapple cutting knife while repeating “So easy!” over and over and over again. I will admit that it looked pretty cool when she was done, but I don’t think I’ll be adjusting my pineapple cutting ways.

How to cut pineapple

Scott as a pineapple

Scott is a pineapple

After we were full of Dole whip and indoctrinated into the cult of Dole, we decided to try to find a waterfall that you can hike to at the Waimano Public Hunting Area. I was a wee bit concerned to start a hike that starts with a sign that says I might be hunted with a rifle, a shotgun, a handgun, a knife, a spear, and/or a bow and arrow (should I be mistaken for a pig or goat of either sex).

Waimano Public Hunting Area

Also concerning were the angry looking clouds in the sky and, not fancying the idea of driving all the way back to Waikiki in soaking wet clothing, we decided to just snap this pic of us with the scenic background and head back to the car without getting to our destination. I guess this is why they say don’t go chasing waterfalls.

As usual on this trip, my hair is a mess. But I had to fight off sharks and a barracuda earlier that day, so I guess it is to be expected.

Friday

On Friday we jumped on the city bus and headed to hike Diamond Head, which is a 300,000 year old crater.

Diamond Head hike

It’s not a super tough hike, thought these stairs at the top were not my favourite:

Diamond Head hike

but they get you to pretty cool views;

Diamond Head hike

Diamond Head hike

I don’t know what that lighthouse is called, but I’m totally adding it to my upcoming blog posting “Dr. Beth’s Worldwide Lighthouse Tour”7

Diamond Head hike

Since we’d already paid for a day pass for the bus8, we decided to head to the other side of town after our hike and checked out what was going on over there. Highlights included, this turtle who was hanging out in a fake pond by a restaurant:

In a fake pond by a restaurant

these beautiful birds that live at the Hilton:

and possibly the best ice cream I’ve ever eaten:

Possibly the best ice cream I've ever eaten

It was surprisingly difficult to find ice cream in Waikiki. You’d think there would be an ice cream shop on every street corner. But you’d be wrong. We had to go all the way to the other side of Waikiki to find it.

waikiki map

Another reason we had decided to go to that side of town was that every Friday night the Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort has a fireworks show. So after strolling around to see the various sights and eat the various ice cream that was on the side of town, we strolled over to the beach to watch the fireworks.

Yet again, my hair is craptacular! Given how much time we’d spent in the ocean on this trip, I’d pretty much given up hope that I could do anything with my hair by this point.

We followed up the fireworks display with a meal at Morton’s steakhouse, which was super freaking delicious. We were also somewhat amazed that we could walk into a restaurant on a Friday night without a reservation9.

Saturday

On the advice of my uncle Harry and my friend Sarah, neither of whom have actually been10, we visited the USS Arizona Memorial. The USS Arizona is one of the ships that was sunk in the attack on Pearl Harbour and it still sits where it sank, with the 1,177 who died that day still on the ship. In addition, some of the survivors of the USS Arizona have decided to have the ship as the final resting place of their remains when they subsequently died, making it both a memorial to those who died in the attack and an active military cemetery. When you visit, you first watch a movie about the attack on Pearl Harbour, complete with footage of the attack and some explanation of how and why the attack happened. Then you go on a navy boat to the memorial, which is basically a platform that sits astride the remains of the ship.

USS Arizona

The white structure in the background is the memorial, as seen from our boat as we headed towards the memorial.

 

USS Arizona

Parts of the remains of the ship.

 

Oil still leaks from the USS Arizona

Oil still leaks from the ship, more than 75 years later.

 

USS Arizona

There were some divers going into the water near the ship. I’m not sure what they were doing.

 

Divers at the USS Arizona

Divers in the water near the oil leaks.

 

USS Arizona

Names of the men who died on the USS Arizona are written instead the memorial

It was very sobering to see so many names – 1,177 men died just on this ship, let alone all the others who died in various other parts of Pearl Harbor that day – and to think about how young they all were – just boys, really, and their ship was sinking, and then exploding, before they even knew what happened. Today, there are only five remaining survivors, ranging in age from 94-96 years old.

After the navy boat brought us back, we wandered around a bit to see the other things that were around, like this nuclear torpedo:

Pearl Harbor

Pearl Harbor

And read the various signs with more information about the event:

Pearl Harbor

After that, we headed back to Waikiki to do more wandering around, eventually hitting Duke’s for dinner:

Drinks

Delicious drinks at Duke’s

and then stumbling upon a hula show that was going on at the beach:Hulu show on Waikiki Beach

Sunday

Sunday was our last full day on Oahu and we decided to spent it at Hanauma Bay, a beach on a bay that was formed by volcanic activity about 32,000 years ago, It became a very popular tourist destination because of its beautiful beach and amazing marine life, with about 400 different species of fish living there. They state has turned it into a nature preserve and when you first get there you have to watch a movie that basically just says “Don’t touch any of the living creatures, including the coral. Hey, did you know coral is alive? Well, you do now, so don’t touch it!” Then you are allowed to head down the hill to enjoy the beach.

Hanumba Bay was definitely one of the highlights of the trip, which is saying something because I loved pretty much everything about this trip. But the snorkelling here was amazing! The water was so clear and there were so many different kinds of beautiful fish! I was really regretting not having a GoPro while snorkeling here. You can see some of the types of fish that we saw on this Hanauma Bay Education Program Fish Identification Card – ones we saw included Bluespine Unicornfish, Bird Wrasse, Hawaiian Sergeant, female Spotted Boxfish, male Christmas Wrasse, Moorish Idol, many types of Parrotfish and tonnes of Reef Triggerfish and Convict Tang. There was also a giant purple fish that I think was a type of Parrotfish and it was so big that you could actual hear it eating when you were underwater with it!

I found this video on Youtube from someone who had a similar experience – it’s a different colour of fish, but you can see what I mean about hearing the fish eating:

Apparently there are sometimes reef sharks in the bay, but we didn’t see any. I would kind of loved to have seen one because sharks are awesome, but even knowing that there has never been a shark attack in the bay and reef sharks don’t feed on humans, I may have freaked out if I’d actually seen one because OMG SHARK!

We basically spent the whole day there, alternating between snorkelling and lounging on the beach. On one of our later times out snorkelling that day we finally saw the second thing (other than sharks) that I wanted to see in the wild: a turtle! We were just snorkelling around on the opposite side of the bay than we’d been before and Scott called me over to where he was and pointed down into the reef. And there was a beautiful green sea turtle, just swimming around and eating from the reef! Again, I was kicking myself for not having a GoPro! I did find this photo on Flickr of a turtle that looks just like the one we saw:

Sea Turtle @ Hanauma Bay

I spent a bunch of time just swimming around following the turtle – he was just so cute11!

Here’s a video from someone who was smart enough to bring a GoPro with them while snorkelling there (this is pretty much exactly what my day was like, except for the soundtrack):

Also at the beach were a whole bunch of cats, who apparently live, feasting on garbage and having somewhat of an uneasy truce with a bunch of mongooses.

At one point, Scott was petting the kitties and a little kid who was probably three or four years old and had clearly paid attention in the “don’t touch the wildlife” video admonished him “Don’t touch them!!!!!” Of course, not touching the feral cats is probably more of a safety rule for you rather than the cats, but he didn’t end up getting bitten or scratched, so I suppose we’ll call that a win for all.

Monday

And just like that, the trip was over! We got one last morning in Honolulu, where I snapped what is probably the nicest photo I took on the whole trip, and from the restaurant in our hotel, of all places!

View from the restaurant in our hotel

On top of being a super amazing awesome fun time, my trip also allowed me to knock two items off my 101 list: #1 – Cage dive with sharks and #91 – Go to Hawaii. And as soon as I hit publish on this posting, it will put me 1/6th of the way towards achieving my 2018 goal of having “published at least six [blog postings] that are long form  (minimum of 3000 words).”

In conclusion: A++, would Hawaii again.

Image and Video Credits: The barracuda photo is from Wikipedia and the Green Sea Turtle photo posted by FHKE on Flickr with a Creative Commons license. All the other photos are mine or Scott’s. The two surfing videos are mine and Scott’s and for sources of the other videos, follow the links to YouTube.

  1. I’m reasonably sure that I’m slowly drifting towards an entirely Costco-based life. First it was just for food… then clothing… and now travel! []
  2. I told my trainer for January & February to give me a training program that would help me with surfing and/or looking good on the beach. So she gave me some crazy tough workouts and I think it really helped! []
  3. Which we bought at Costco (of course) before we left Vancouver. []
  4. Are you sensing my cheapness? []
  5. Apparently some companies will chum the water to attack sharks, but it’s controversial as it can affect shark behaviour and even lead to sharks equating humans with food, which is not a good thing. []
  6. Honestly, the whole time I kept thinking that the narration should have been done by Troy McClure. []
  7. Note to self: write that blog posting that you’ve been meaning to write since forever called “Dr. Beth’s Worldwide Lighthouse Tour”. []
  8. As a day pass is the same price as going somewhere on the bus and then returning, we decided just to get the pass to get to the hike and back, and then use it to travel around town some more. Because frugality. []
  9. Not something you can really do in Vancouver. []
  10. Though Sarah did plan a visit for her parents when they were in Hawaii and thus was able to give me detailed instructions of how to get there, get tickets, etc. []
  11. I’d also stalked some fish throughout the day – I’d find an interesting looking fish and then just follow it around to see where it would go. It got me wondering what the fish and turtle think about all these snorkelers – do they just think we are some weird looking fish? []

By

Mindfulness and the Gym

Dumbells at Strong Side Conditioning

So remember like eleventy billion years ago when I did that mindfulness course? I haven’t really done any mindfulness practice since then, but it’s always been in the back of my mind that I probably should1.

Well, it sort of hit me one day when I was at the gym that doing strength training is a mindful practice. Being mindful is all about being present in the moment and being aware of your sensations, thoughts, and emotions. When you are doing strength training – if you are doing it right, that is – you are paying very careful attention to your body in the moment. You are setting your stance just so – maybe it’s shoulders packed down, abs and gluts engaged, knees slightly bent, and then you are doing a very deliberate action – lifting in a certain way, focusing on feeling it in a particular muscle(s), focusing on breathing out as you do a particular movement. Sometimes as you go through your sets, you start to get a little lazy with your form – in my case, it’s often that my shoulders start to creep up and/or that I forget to breath. But then you’ll notice that you’ve slipped away and bring yourself back into the right form (or start breathing again!) and it’s much like when you are doing a meditation and notice your mind start to wander, so you come back to your focus on the present.

Dumbells at Strong Side ConditioningI’d been going to the gym for a few months when I realized how mindful this practice was. My focus was very squarely in the present moment – very aware of my body and not really thinking of anything else. I wasn’t worried about the future or dwelling on this past. I was just there, just being, just breathing, just lifting. And I wasn’t even trying to be mindful – it just happened. I remembered the times that I’ve done meditation and how extremely difficult it is some days to quite the mind and just pay attention. I still think it would be useful for me to do some other forms of meditation as well, as there is benefit to the act of being still and observing your thoughts as they arrive, but I think that becoming aware of the mindful nature of my strength training has not only been beneficial in and of itself, but also because it’s reminded me about being mindful. It’s made me more mindful of mindfulness.

There is a link between physical activity and mental health. Mindfulness practice has also been shown to be beneficial to mental health. While there are likely many mechanisms for how physical activity improves mental health, I wonder if any of the benefits of physical activity on mental health are linked to it being an easy way to become more mindful?

  1. Which is quite possibly the least mindful thing a person has ever said! It’s in the back of my mind that I should do that at some point in the future! []