Making Some Changes

As followers of this feed know, Marc and I have been going to CrossFit for almost 8 years. It seems hard to believe that it has been that long, but it has. Over those years, we have had the opportunity to make new friends, challenge ourselves and have much fun. When I was burnt out during endurance training for half-marathons and marathons, CrossFit was a welcome respite. And who knew minions could do box jumps!?!

Honestly, CrossFit was the first place I ever worked out in that had a positive and an inclusive atmosphere. No gym I ever went to prior had anything remotely close to that. I love how it is normal in every local to cheer on the last person finishing the workout. Keep in mind that each location is individually owned so no mandate exists to adhere to a "code".

It was awesome that we would travel to so many places and do a workout, and walk out with a bunch of local recos on how to spend our time in that region. Our family and friends tagged us as part of the "cult", yet a number of them soon followed and become even more "devoted members of the cult". That was entertaining, but it was also fun seeing them challenge themselves to do things they didn't think were possible for themselves. The phenomenon known as 'Harvelicious' is still the stuff of legend.

Over those same years, Marc and I have had some events happen plus, you know, we're getting older. So we recently decided that we needed to change things. Our interests have changed over that time. Marc still swims, but I run less and we do more hiking together. I definitely still run on occasion plus I practice yoga, but little things kind of kept creeping in making us wonder if we needed to change other aspects of our training to meet our goals.

Enter the 'Delaying Decrepitude' room. The 'No Excuses' room is still around, but is definitely used for more stretching, rolling, etc. But the "D Squared" room has some pretty cool things that will allow us to take our high intensity and strength training to the next level that is more inline with our individual goals. Marc has his goals and I have mine, and some of them do not overlap.

We are excited for this next phase and what it will bring. Obviously no change comes without risk. But you can't grow if you're not willing to adapt and adjust. It will require some adjustments to our routine and more planning on our end, but overall we think this will help us achieve our goals. I have no doubt that we will continue to drop in at local CrossFits when we travel, but for now, it's time to focus on 'Delaying Decrepitude'. Stay tuned.

Walk of a Lifetime...

About 2 years ago, I had heard about an area called 'The Enchantments' in central Washington. As we started to hike more and more last year, I became more intrigued with the 20+ mile "thru hike" as I learned more about it. I'm not a camper so I didn't have any concerns about winning the lottery, but figuring out how to day hike different parts of it became an interest of mine.

We wanted to hike to Colchuck Lake for my birthday last year, but unfortunately forest fires engulfed the area so that didn't happen. A couple of weeks after, Marc and I hiked 8 of the 20+ mile trail, and turned around at Upper Snow Lake. The hike was a grind with a ton of switchbacks and not very picturesque until you get to Nada Lake, which is almost 5 miles in. Lower and Upper Snow Lakes followed soon after. 

Then about a month later, some unseasonably warm and sunny weather were on tap. So Marc and I decided to do a day trip to Leavenworth and hike to Colchuck Lake. It lived up to the hype in terms of beauty and views. It was about 5 miles of the 20+ mile trail. It was a steady climb up but lots of nice things to look at along the way. We had such a great day but it was a long day with the 5 hours of driving to go along with the hike. I saw Aasgard Pass from the base of Colchuck and said to Marc that we have to try that next year.

I convinced Marc to do Aasgard Pass as a goal for 2018. Then I talked to one of the coaches at our CrossFit who said that we shouldn't just do Aasgard Pass, see a few of the lakes at the top in the 'Core Enchantments', and then turnaround, which was my plan. The 'thru hike' is a legendary hike here in WA state and if we're fit enough to get up Aasgard, we could and should do the whole thing. Plus Aasgard is supposedly hell to descend. So we did the 1st 5 miles and the last 8 miles of the 'thru hike'. Now we just had to throw in the middle 7'ish miles.

Easy, right? Well I figured we needed some level of training, which involved a fair amount of hiking to get us set with our gear, fitness, etc. Then I figured lots of leg work would be helpful. That same coach came up with a training plan for me, which involved lots of leg cranks (and swearing at this same coach). Yoga helped a great deal. We did some great hikes when we could, while managing avalanche risks throughout the shoulder season. My favorite was getting up to Hurricane Ridge, which is in Olympic National Park and can see from our house. We lucked out with an epic weather day when we decided to head up there.

I was doing a fair amount of stalking of reported trail conditions on the WTA site. Trying to find the optimal week to do this required triangulating amount of daylight, how much snow was on the trail, and decent weather. We also were concerned about the risk of forest fires shutting down the trail, which is a constant threat for this time of year. I booked a few different sets of rooms over July and August so we had options if the snow pack wasn't melting as quickly as expected, etc. But we were hoping to do July to take advantage of as much daylight as possible. 

Things started to align for doing this in the 1st half of July, and we somehow managed to convince one of our friends to come along, which eliminated that whole "how are we going to get the car at the start" problem since it's a point-to-point hike. To say it was great having this person join us is an understatement as Marc and I relied on him quite a bit during the actual hike. 

We had a plan, well because we are planners. Timeline, what to bring, what to wear, maps, etc. I told Marc that we should treat this as I treated race week for when I ran long'ish distances - focus on sleep the week before, hydrate, a little extra salt with meals, etc. The day finally arrived and we started before 4am so we could be on the trail hiking by 5am. It was light enough where we didn't need headlamps. It was pretty warm also for being at a bit of altitude so we were in short sleeves to start. 

Made it to Colchuck on schedule, ate some more, saw some goats who like to hang around humans before we started the climb up Aasgard. So I've been talking about Aasgard without saying why it is such a beast. You go up 1900 feet in about a mile. That is one freaking steep grade to make your way up. We had done some training hikes that would somewhat mimic that, but until you see the real thing.... we knew Aasgard had a couple of false fronts, so we had to keep focused and not get demoralized when we thought we were at the top and were not. 

Aasgard was hard - no doubt about it. It wasn't so much the ascent but the terrain. Loose dirt and loose rocks, which made it hard to get your footing. I kept my poles on my pack so I could use my hands on the boulders. It's a push on whether you should use poles or not. We saw another couple using poles and they were cranking. Others were using their hands. After 2+ hours, we made it to the top and fortunately were able to avoid the sun beating down on us for 80% of the climb, which was a bonus.

We made it to the top and the views were as advertised. Not many people, snow capped mountains, glacial lakes slowly melting, more mountain goats, and blue skies. We had a clear view of Mount Baker in the distance, which was a treat. When you looked down at Colchuck, it was definitely a sense of accomplishment in terms of how far we had climbed. 

It was surprisingly warm once you moved out of the breeze. More bugs than we were expecting up in the "Upper Enchantments". I was a bit wobbly towards the end of the climb so I needed to get some calories in me ASAP. We filled up water bottles in one of the lakes and just soaked in the beauty as we walked through. 

We did have a schedule to keep to because even though we hit the highest point of the hike elevation-wise, we still had 14 miles to go. So we needed to keep moving along. But we were enjoying the views of Dragontail and Colchuck Peaks, as well as Isolation and Tranquil Lakes. It sounds so cliche, but you really did feel isolated from everyone and tranquility was definitely something I was feeling.

My sports medicine doctor had advised of a couple of possible side treks to take but we didn't have a ton of time so we opted to stay on the main trail as much as possible. It still had snow fields to traverse in various places, but the whole time up there, you just knew it was special in the best way possible. We saw the various lakes and the well known Little Annapurna as the trail started to gradually descend. Lots of pics being snapped because it was JUST. SO. DARNED. GORGEOUS. 

We made our way to the 'Middle Enchantments' and saw Inspiration and Perfection Lakes. Plus we had a close-up of Prusik Peak. Sprite Lake was breathtaking. More awesomeness. t was bittersweet because it was so amazing up there, yet I knew our time was limited before we had to head down. Plus the likelihood of doing this hike again is slim.

The descent started to get a bit steeper as we hit the 'Lower Enchantments'. Leprechaun Lake, McClellan Peak and Viviane Lake continued to impress with their beauty. The trail was definitely more muddy at this stage so unlike wiping out in the snow, wiping out here would be less fun. We definitely had some "wet crossings" over rivers to cross that were also unstable for footing. My feet definitely went in the water a few times but it was so warm that my boots and socks dried quickly. 

Oh yes, the weather. The few campers we did see were in tanks and shorts (the Parks Department has a very strict limit on the number of people allowed to camp in the park at any one time and slots are awarded by lottery every year). It was easily 70+ degrees, which is very warm for this elevation (7000-8000 feet) and you were completely exposed in the sun. So we were drinking lots of water and using water filtration tablets/pumps to get fresh water from the lakes along the way. 

The last lake in the 'Lower Enchantments' was Lake Viviane. Somehow we lost the trail as we came upon that lake. That cost us a bit of time and was the start of me using my rear end to get down some pretty steep areas. Side note: Being short is not helpful when hiking and longer legs/arms would be helpful traversing boulders, carrying gear, etc. I was carrying about 25 lbs worth of gear on my frame while Marc who is a foot taller than me had about 35 lbs worth of gear. We made it to the Viviane crossing, which marked the end of being in the 'Core Enchantments' and the start of the true descent down to Upper Snow Lake. Filled up on more water and had about 10 miles to go. 

These next two miles were the ones I was worried about. Not a ton of documentation existed on how you got down from Viviane to Upper Snow, plus going downhill is not my favorite thing due to gravity, having short arms/legs, etc. We had maps, GPS, etc., but in any event, we lost the trail again. These things happen on hikes and fortunately we prepared for this. I have to admit though that I was not in a great place mentally when I heard we had to climb back up some really steep rocks in the blazing sun mid-afternoon and make it across some dicey gaps (thanks, KvT, for saving me on multiple occasions). But I also resolved that when I looked back on this day that I was going to focus on the beauty that we had in the 1st half of the day.

We got back on the trail and I started to think about how similar the roller coaster of emotions I was experiencing were to the ones I had when running half-marathons and marathons. So I channeled that experience and got back to the task at hand since we had about 10 miles to go (if you're a marathon runner, you know about 'the wall' which can strike at any time after mile 16). The descent was as challenging mentally as the Aasgard ascent was physically. It was getting later so then it was just about can we get back before dark. Upper Snow Lake was starting to get closer and closer and we eventually hit the south end of the lake. YAY!

Since we had done that hike previously, we knew that it was a gentle decline to the trailhead except for a boulder field to traverse. Marc and I also knew it was a very boring slog from Upper Snow Lake to the trailhead. After we crossed Upper Snow Lake, Marc changed shoes and the three of us just kept on trekking. The trail had changed since we had been on it with the boulder field, which made it "quicker" but more challenging for me, so I wasn't psyched to say the least. Then we started cranking again. 

With about 4 miles left, I noticed Marc slowing down. He informed me that he rolled his ankle and that he was just battling to to keep walking. His knees hurt from the gradual downhill and his hips were not happy. Ugh. Not good. We just kept moving trying to stay in good spirits as daylight was fading. He was a trooper. We hit the final set of switchbacks (25, in case you are wondering) when some light was still out there. About halfway down, we had to get out our headlamps - thanks, REI, for the "10 Essentials List". We were hoping not to have to use them, but that's why you have those items in your pack.

We finally made it to the trailhead - 17 hours after we started. We were happy and exhausted. Probably more of the latter. It took about 2-3 hours longer than expected. Oh - and we had to go get the other car at the start. YAY! Another 30 minutes. BUT.... as I said earlier, I knew that once we got some sleep, iced Marc's ankle, and ate, that we would look at this day as an epic one. We're not back at full strength, but we're both looking back at the hike as one of our best in terms of pure beauty. I've only attached a small sample of pics from the day. They don't do it justice. Look at more here.

The celebratory dinner may have been delayed, but it is happening this week. Serious food and wine will be had. 

Trust The Plan.

Every year, I set goals for myself - both personal and professional. It generally requires putting together a plan on how I am going to achieve these goals with some interim milestones so I can stay on track. 

One of the goals I set for myself was to be able to execute some basic movements that I have eluded me at CrossFit and at yoga for some time. And while I do have rheumatoid arthritis, which puts some physical limitations on me, I have always tried to figure out a modification for a movement I cannot do. But sometimes that obfuscates other issues. 

As I started thinking about goals for 2018, I wanted to re-visit some of the struggles that I have at CrossFit and not worked through. Then make them goals for 2018. One of those things is around safely executing overhead squats. I can get my rear below parallel on front squats with a decent amount of weight but nada for the overhead ones. Another challenge I have is around my wrists and hands, and being able to stay in plank or 'downward dog' for awhile during yoga practice. 

I went to Dr. Paul Molina and Geneva Bender at Kinetic Sports Rehab in mid-December and told them that I wanted to build towards overhead squats and being able to stay in certain yoga poses for an extended period of time. We started on the latter and I have been doing the assigned exercises for 2+ months on my own focusing on my fingers, wrists, forearms, lats, thoracic spine, and shoulders.

I was getting frustrated because I could not notice any meaningful progress based on one of the exercises I was doing. Truthfully, it's hard to see progress when you are doing it every day. I felt a couple of things getting easier at yoga. I did PR a couple of movements at CrossFit this past month (105# clean and push press and 30# dumbbell snatches), but I was focused on those darned wrist rockers. But c'mon Jill, trust the work you have done!

I went in to see Dr. Paul for a check-in. He performed some quick tests on my hands/wrists and informed me that my extension passive range of motion increased around 25 to 35 degrees and my active range of motion increased by 10 degrees. WOW! I was pretty shocked but very happy that the work I was putting in to this was paying off. Dr. Paul also told me not to use the wrist rockers as a litmus test for my progress as it is just something that is hard for many people even without the issues I have. 

Point taken. I should have just trusted the plan I had in place for doing my exercises and had faith that the work I was doing would pay off. I need to come up with more helpful milestones that truly indicate where I am at. So now we are working on the mobility and flexibility issues related to overhead squats and I hope to progress on that as well. Making progress on that front should help my running and my hiking too. Stay tuned as I continue to work on achieving these goals. 

And I'll start trusting the plans I have in place for other aspects of my life.

[Side note: For my 2013 broken hand rehab from the Australian Walkabout, I found a physical therapist named Andrea Bulat. She spent a fair amount of time educating me on what my range of motion should be and to focus on it during my workouts. Andrea was an immense help to Team Beck on a number of fronts, and we were sorry to see her move to Portland. I made so much progress in understanding how I could be a stronger athlete for the long-term thanks to her. I probably never would have had the awareness to set these goals without her help. Same with our friend, Zack Finer, who moved to Boulder - uh oh, is there a trend here? Hmmmm.]

You Just Never Know.

[NOTE: Originally authored for Modo Yoga Seattle's blog. They were gracious enough to ask me to write about my experience with the recent 30-day challenge.]

If you would have told me 15 months ago that I would be practicing yoga regularly, let alone completing two 30-day challenges, I would have told you that you were crazy. But here I am, and I’m better for it.

Some background. I am a Type A person who has the MO of “getting stuff done”. Make a ToDo list, complete it and create the next one. Repeat cycle. Before yoga, I ran and did CrossFit. I still do those and I enjoy all 3 activities for different reasons. [Sidebar: Yes, you can do CrossFit and practice yoga, and not spontaneously self-combust.]

I figured I would do the 30-day challenge in March because I was in between jobs and I had some extra time. Why not, right? My focus during this challenge was to ‘believe in myself’ after I transitioned out of a company I co-founded. I also wanted to continue to ‘be present’ and not multitask, which was a goal I set earlier in the year.

What I learned in the challenge was that “every day is a different day”. Your body works differently at 6am than it does at 5:30pm. Having the same expectation of your body’s capabilities for every practice is unrealistic. Just like life, right?

That 30-day endeavor inadvertently ended up preparing me for the most challenging period of my life. My husband, Marc, ended up having emergency brain surgery in mid-April and the recovery was stressful for obvious reasons. One person that I became friends with during the challenge helped out in a major way on surgery day with a small and simple act of kindness.

The lesson here is that you just never know where help is going to come from when you need it.

We had some other significant “bumps in the road” surface in that timeframe. Our friends encouraged me to keep exercising and set time for myself while all of this was taking place. So I kept going to yoga as much as I could while mixing in running with friends.

We certainly had our share of things that we couldn’t control, but you can control certain things and ‘gratitude’ was one of those I focused on. Someone always has it worse than you and setting that intention in class was huge in helping me remain focused and composed. Marc’s recovery was progressing in a positive direction, so the regular reminder during a tumultuous period was good.

Rose, one of our beloved instructors, had a great quote in a practice that said, “Don’t think about how far you have to go. Think about how far you have come.” We were at a pretty tenuous phase in Marc’s recovery at that point so those words really resonated with me and they still do many months later.

I also learned to just ‘accept’ what I could and couldn’t do on a given day, whether it was at a practice or in some other facet in life. Lying down and chilling for half of the class was surprisingly liberating and I picked that up doing the bingo in the 30-day challenge. Did I mention I like to get stuff done yet?

The quiet in the room added calm when everything outside felt pretty chaotic. It allowed me to prioritize keeping things simple as much as possible so I could take care of both Marc and myself. I still say to people that yoga was definitely a form of therapy as I was simultaneously dealing with multiple crises.

Fast forward to the 2nd challenge in October, which had a backstory about some “unfinished business” for me (click here). In one of the workshops led by Kylie, she said something to the effect of “if you’re not willing to inspect, you can’t expect”. Another gem of a quote.

In between the 2 challenges, I had done a fair amount of introspection about a number of things going on in my life. I had made some changes, which were starting to yield results on a number of fronts.

By mid-October, Marc was participating in yoga practices 3x/week thanks to Brandon’s help. He had his modifications and the atmosphere at MYS made us feel very comfortable to just do the best we could.

Marc’s determination to stretch, sweat and recover from his multiple surgeries motivated me on days that I didn’t feel like getting out of bed at 5:30am to complete the challenge. But I did. My fellow challengers also motivated me when I was on the fence so we would make a plan to hit a class together. Marc practiced next to me as I finished day 42, which was my goal. 42 sessions in 42 days.

I’ve learned a great deal about myself from when I first walked into MYS in late October, 2014. Participating in the 30-day challenge not knowing what to expect gave me more than I bargained for. I absolutely recommend it and advise going in with an open mind. It’s different for everyone. And jeez, two 30+ day yoga challenges in under a year. Never would have thought that would have been me! But you just never know.

Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life the Universe and Everything

To begin discussing the answer to this question, I must request that those that don't immediately know the answer please go visit Google or Bing and see some immediate results. We'll wait...

Many of you read The Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy and already knew this, but now hopefully everyone is caught up. When I turned 42, I had a great birthday party asking guests to come to the party with a plausible question that gets to this answer. Everyone wrote them down on 3x5 cards and I read them all while laughing hysterically at many of them and we gave out some prizes. Tons of fun and I'll list a few of my favorites here.

  • In 1889, Washington joined the union bringing the total number of states to how many?
  • What is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?
  • 10! (factorial) seconds is exactly how many days?
  • What is the name of space command in Buzz Lightyear?
  • How many eyes in a deck of cards?
  • What is the only jersey number that has been retired by all MLB teams?

Now let us fast forward to 2015. Jill took up yoga (shocking herself) at Modo Yoga Seattle and did the 30 day challenge in March. Then she kept going and realized that she'd get to 42 days straight of yoga the day before our spring flight to New York and that would end the streak perfectly.

Unfortunately for the both of us, on the evening of day 41, I had a seizure followed by MRI and possibility of an operation on day 42 so Jill didn't complete all 42 days. As everyone knows, I recovered quite well from brain surgery but the seizure also tore two of four tendons in my rotator cuff and I ended up with shoulder surgery a few months later.

The shoulder is doing great because I do everything my PT tells me to do with daily exercises and I have already started swimming once a week just 2 weeks ago. I don't go very far yet, but it feels good to be able to use the shoulder in the pool pain free. I've been going to yoga recently too which has been great for stretching and mobility as I slowly gain strength in the shoulder.

In the meantime, yoga had another 30 day challenge in October and Jill was determined to get to 42 this time. She started early (in September) so that she'd hit 42 at the end of Oct as the challenge ended for everyone else getting to 30 straight days. Congrats Jill on making it!

If You're Not Willing To Inspect, You Can't Expect

I heard the quote at a yoga workshop I took today. Sometimes I will hear quotes and truthfully, they won't resonate with me too much. It's probably more of a slight against me than about the quote. This one did strike a chord with me.

Yeah, it can seem hokey to the many cynics in my life but if you think about it - when have you been able to proactively make impactful changes to your life without taking a hard look in the proverbial mirror? 

The past 12 months have been challenging for me on every front. Personally, professionally and everything in between. It's required me to take some time to look within and see how I can be better. Better as a wife, an aunt, a sister, a friend, a professional and any other role that I have. Getting focused on what matters. Yoga and running have helped quite a bit. Our friends have been awesome. Family members have stepped up. But I found another ally in the aim to be more introspective - reading books.

I find that reading books helps with those kinds of efforts because it requires a focus that reading current events, social media, etc. does not. And I am a current events junkie so it takes a fair amount of restraint to not check to see the latest and the greatest happenings locally, domestically and abroad. That said, the events of the past year have required me to focus and look within more than I can ever remember. It wasn't easy and most of it was not fun or enjoyable.

One of the first things I decided as part of this new chapter is that I was going to significantly reduce multitasking. I started this around 11 months ago after an overwhelming amount of evidence started coming out that multitasking actually makes you LESS productive. The focus on reading books more recently has reminded me that I do have the ability to focus and to concentrate on the critical things in my life that need to be done. 

As I was trying to assess what my next professional move was going to be (outside of consulting for small businesses), I was recommended to read Steve Blank's "The Four Steps to Epiphany". Given that I have been a co-founder 2x and have consulted on and off for a number of years, I was stunned that I hadn't read this sooner. I don't know if it made me feel better but it reinforced why certain decisions were flawed from the start in both endeavors. Let's just say that it was a HUGE EYE OPENER for me and if you're thinking about starting your own business, you should read it. 

On a similar theme, I follow a number of entrepreneurs on Twitter including Ben Horowitz of a16z, a venture capital firm in the Bay Area. I enjoy his tweets and blog posts. When I found out he recently wrote a book called "The Hard Thing About Hard Things", I knew I needed to read it. He wrote very candidly about some of his biggest lessons learned and all of the warning signals he missed as he was making critical decisions. And this past year has been about making hard decisions and yes, some collateral damage resulted which is unfortunate.

A recent read included "On The Edge" by Alison Levine, which recounts her experiences climbing Mount Everest and ties in some leadership lessons. It helped that I had read "Into Thin Air" by Jon Krakauer a number of years ago and then saw the recent movie "Everest" which was based on the same events of 1996 but from a different perspective. As far as quick reads go, "Into Thin Air" was one of them but it was good to get a different perspective of events by Beck Weathers, who was with Krakauer on that ill-fated expedition. 

Another fast paced read included "Orange Is The New Black". OK, I am probably one of the last people in the world to read this book but it was enjoyable and more so because a great friend gifted it to me when I broke my hand a couple of years ago and needed some reading material. I am only sorry that it took me so long to get to it. No, I don't watch the TV show and nor do I plan to. But I did find the book entertaining.

Awhile back, one of my running buddies asked if I had read "The Boys In The Boat" by Daniel James Brown. I mistakenly said yes thinking that they were talking about "The Amateurs" by David Halberstam, which I had read 2 or 3 years ago. Both were about rowing and competing for the US Olympic team but in different eras. 

Halberstam's book was very good. His books were very high quality. I particularly enjoyed "The Teammates", which discussed the friendship of 4 teammates from the Boston Red Sox (yes, this New York Yankees fan just wrote that) - Bobby Doerr, Dominic DiMaggio, Johnny Pesky, and Ted Williams, who remained close for 60+ years. I'm fairly confident you wouldn't see professional sports players roadtripping today as these boys did, which is what was documented in the book. 

Speaking of the Red Sox, a couple of years ago I read Terry Francona's "Francona: The Red Sox Years", which he wrote with Dan Shaughnessy of 'The Boston Globe. Why did I read a book on the manager of the Red Sox team that crushed me in 2004? I like Francona and can't believe the amount of BS he put up with when managing those teams. He always seemed gracious and thankful that in spite of the crap that he thought he was the luckiest guy around.

I finally got around to reading the book by Brown while we were in Santa Barbara last weekend. Absolutely loved it. It made me sad following the story of the main character and his upbringing. It made me happy how much he was determined to overcome the many challenges he faced. Pick it up, download it to your e-reader or borrow it from your library when you have time. The research done for "The Boys In The Boat" was impeccable and was hard not to appreciate as the story unfolded in the book.

In different ways, all of these books have reinforced what I heard in my yoga workshop today about basically looking within before having any expectations - whether of myself or of others. Taking the time to bring life's insanity "down a few pips" by reading helps me get more calm and focus on the goals I have set for myself. I know that being a bit more introspective has helped me achieve some of those goals and am hoping that it will continue to be rewarding for me on all fronts.

WWC 2015 vs. 1999 - Differences.

The town where Lisa and I grew up was very soccer crazy. Most kids played in the local league growing up at one time or another. I never even gave it a thought that it would be possible to make a living as a soccer player. Then 1999 changed the game for so many, and it looks like 2015 is the result of all of the hard work of the '99ers.

We recently had the opportunity to attend the Women's World Cup Final in Vancouver, Canada - a quick drive from Seattle. Lisa, my sister, and I have been working on this for just over a year and while good planning always helps, we had some luck along the way. This luck manifested itself with the USWNT making it to the final and then being right above the goal where they would score their 1st 4 goals.

The game was shocking in a good way, given how the 1st 20 minutes or so played out. The crowd was at 95%+ USA fans and it was loud. In short, it was awesome. We rented a house in Kitsilano, just outside of the main downtown core, which made it easy to walk in and out of the city. Marc and I even went to yoga at a sibling studio of the one we go to in Seattle. How times have changed (at least until Marc is back to 100%)!

I thought it was worth discussing the differences between what my viewing experience was in 1999, when Lisa and I attending the opening match for the USWNT in NJ and watched the final in a bar in NYC, and what it was over this past month in 2015.

In 1999, it's safe to say that the players were marketed as "All American girls" in the sense that they were pretty, athletic and feminine. A couple were mothers so they were deemed "the ultimate soccer moms", which was good. Most of the attendees I saw in person or on TV were either people like me (women who played when they were younger or current playing in rec leagues) or young girls who were currently playing soccer in youth leagues. 

The only men you typically saw (outside of the WWC final at the Rose Bowl) were likely fathers taking their daughters to matches. I am pretty sure that no men's clothes were available for sale for the Women's World Cup. The market wasn't there. When Lisa, Keri (a long-time friend of ours) and I watched that final in 1999 at that bar, we had one TV on the match. The other TVs were on MLB and other assorted sports going on that day. By the time the match went into OT, 90% of the TVs had been shifted to watch USA vs. CHN. And it was loud. Unfortunately that momentum did not translate to success in a US professional league for women.

Fast forward to 2015 - 16 years later. If you go to the Nike website, you can buy men's and boy's gear that commemorate the US Women's National Team. This is definitely progress. The other major observation was the demographic of attendees of the USA matches. Many, many more men. Lots of boys. The American Outlaws have had huge showings at USWNT matches and it was no different at the final. They are awesome.

On our current WNT, we have stars who are openly gay and no one seems to care. This is fabulous. We have the Moms, which is great. What is even better is that a new focus is in play that the women are talented players with tremendous athleticism and skill. Yes, we have players who are capitalizing on their looks to snag more endorsement deals. Given the pay disparity between men and women for the World Cup, I have no issue with that. But those players who may not have received endorsement deals in 1999 are starting to receive them now (Abby Wambach). And those players are role models to the youngsters playing on local teams. Everyone is different and it's ok to embrace who you are.

The women's game is growing. Parity is improving. You saw England and Australia make great runs this year, and many of those players have other jobs (READ: non-soccer) that help pay the bills. Here's hoping that the success this past month translates into improved compensation and more opportunities for those ladies.

Oh and we had a great time with the #teamof8 in Vancouver. Many much needed laughs. 

Home Cooking, Neil Gaiman and Some Recent Reading.

Since we returned from our trip, Marc and I have been focusing on home cooking. After eating out constantly for almost a month, it was a welcome change to eat a bit healthier and have some more variety.

That said, we got roped into a 'mac n cheese' competition of sorts with some friends so I tested out some recipes last weekend from "The Modernist Cuisine At Home" cookbook. Plus it was Passover, so I whipped out one of my faves from John Besh - Creole-Matzo Ball Soup

This resulted in about 6 hours of total cooking last Saturday, which I felt the next day at yoga (BTW, I just finished my 38th straight day of yoga today - go figure). The combo of the 2 'mac n cheese' recipes and the soup made for an "interesting me
al" that night but whatever. It was mostly done so I could watch the Final Four with Marc, so I was happy.

Given that it was Passover, I was excited to make a soup from scratch since I had a bunch of bones from when we smoked chicken on the Big Green Egg. Matzo ball soup can tend to be bland, which is why like the one from Besh. Matzo balls are pretty easy to make - chicken fat, matzo meal and some eggs. I didn't have enough chicken fat, so I had duck fat on hand to use - shocking. Hey - give me credit for not using bacon fat since it was Passover, ok?

The 'baked' version (left side of above pic) from the book was more on the traditional side in terms of prep. Grate a bunch of cheese, parboil the macaroni, throw in some milk and a couple of other things. Then throw it in the oven. I worked out a kink or two in the process and look forward to showcasing it with our friends in May.

The 'fat free' version (right side of above pic) was very different in the sense that you used a sous vide to create "cheese water". This is done through putting grated cheese and water together in a vacuum sealed bag and throwing it in a sous vide machine. After cooking, the water from the bag is filtered out and that is what ends up in the dish. The cheese can be used for something else but is no longer needed in the dish (hence 'fat free'). The creaminess was made through pureeing cauliflower and it was actually pretty good.

Marc forwarded me a great interview with Neil Gaiman on "Raising Readers, Fairy Tales & More". Highly recommend it as more kids get engrossed in the digital age and maybe don't read books as much.

I finished the book, "Always Running: La Vida Loca", last week. I was a bit disappointed based on the reviews saying how great it was. I just felt it was a bit light on substance and had much more potential to tell a more compelling story. Oh well, I had a good string of books for awhile so I was bound to come across one that I didn't enjoy as much.

After finishing that book, I started "Shadows in the Vineyard: The True Story of the Plot to Poison the World's Greatest Wine" by Maximillian Potter. Marc and I have travelled to the region that they are talking about in the book so it's good to know where they are talking about and how far places are from each other.

Wait, Jill Is Doing Yoga And Liking It?

Over the summer, I noticed a couple of my friends trying out the new yoga studio in the neighborhood. Now these friends are people that I workout with at CrossFit so I was intrigued. Yoga and CrossFit? Running too?

As a runner, I have always known that yoga could help me because I may be the most inflexible (hey now, I was talking physically!) person on the planet. But the one time I tried it in 2003 just made me feel like a loser with no hope of making progress due to my rheumatoid arthritis.

Last October, I asked my friend, Lissa, about it and stressed that "I wasn't into the whole kumbaya thing. I just wanted to stretch and stuff." As good friends typically do, she agreed to meet me at the studio one morning and she showed me the ropes.

The instructor that morning was one of the owners and was briefed on my very novice status. He was gracious and helpful, but made it easy for me to understand in a full room of participants. I sweated in class. I looked like I went swimming in my workout clothes. Rookie mistake was not bringing a change of clothes because it's hot yoga. But I was intrigued.

What if? What if I gave it a fair shake and tried to use it to get warmed up before a lifting session across the street at CrossFit? What would happen?

Well I started enjoying that I had to totally focus when executing poses. I liked that the instructors would come over & subtly give me a modification to help me get more out of a pose. I am still adjusting to the non-verbal interaction in the practice (aka class) so I need to remember questions to ask afterwards.

Oh, I started to lift more weight. I crushed 6 previous PRs at CrossFit that I had trouble working through in 2014.

And then some of the yoga instructors would talk trash before/after class even though they are Canadian (that's for you, CP).

I never thought I would be a person who would look forward to the silence & focus of yoga, but here I am. I'm one of those people. But I still love running with my friends and I still love lifting weights. It's fitting it all in that is the problem!!!

Next week, Marc and I are off on another adventure. It won't be as long as the Australian Walkabout but we're hoping it will be just as fun! We're fortunate enough to do these things every once in awhile. It's also the reason for dusting off the blog. I'm trying a new tool for blogging from the iPad.

Go try something new & test yourself. You may not love it. That's fine. At least you could say you tried it. Then again, you never know what you can get out of it if you give it a go.