Tag Archives: adventure

Polar Bear Plunge 2016


I am a water person.  I am a water person through and through.  I love teaching swim lessons.  I love teaching aqua yoga.  I love taking a break from the summer heat and running in the pool.  Water simply makes me happy.

That said, one of my mottos is: Life’s too short to swim in cold water.

I am a wimp.  I seriously dislike being cold.  And because I love water so much, being in cold water is especially unpleasant.  I just don’t do it.

Let me put it to you this way: I haven’t swum in the Austin landmark Barton Springs Pool in over ten years because the water is too cold for me.  It’s a cool 64 degrees year-round thanks to the natural spring that fills the pool.  Even when we have out-of-town guests who want to visit this Austin gem, I tell them I’m happy to take them, but there’s no way I’m getting in.

However, I am all about facing my fears.  I am all about teaching my kids that just because you’re a little bit scared of being uncomfortable, you shouldn’t let your limiting thoughts prevent you from having fun.  I’m all about identifying my goals and then going about and smashing them.

In the last days of December, I asked my family if they wanted to join me for the 2016 Polar Bear Plunge at Barton Springs Pool.  The community event supports the Save Our Springs Alliance, a non-profit which works to keep the local ecosystem in balance.  A good cause, right?!

My husband and oldest son had no interest in taking the plunge– “Are you nuts?” they asked.  But they wanted to go along, and they served as our Official Event Photographers.  (Hey, everyone has a role to play in this life.  Find one that makes you happy.)

My middle kid– aka The Monkey– was ALL IN.  This is exactly his kind of thing.

The Stowaway will do anything The Monkey wants to do.

So we packed up and headed to the pool on New Year’s morning.  It was a cool 47 degrees outside.  (That’s cold for us Texans.)  Bring it on!

Once we arrived and The Stowaway felt how cold it was outside, she started having doubts.  “I don’t want to jump in,” she said.

“Let’s just take a picture, and then we’ll see,” I told her.


“I can do it!”


We lined up, toes on the edge, and counted 1-2-3 JUMP!




And we did it!


In the end, it was all smiles:


Here’s my advice for 2016:

When you’re a little scared, hold hands with someone you trust, take a deep breath, and then jump on in.  You’ll love it!

Good health and great happiness to you!






Running the Cape Cod Rail Trail


Last week I took you with me on my favorite everyday run during my summer stay on Cape Cod.  Today I want to take you on a new-to-me run along the Cape Cod Rail Trail.

As the name indicates, this pathway follows the disused Cape Cod rail line.  In total, it is 25 miles long, running from South Dennis (on the bicep of Cape Cod) to Wellfleet (in the forearm).  There is also a spur, the Old Colony Rail Trail, that runs down to Chatham (Cape Cod’s elbow).  It is this spur I’m going to show you today.

The plan was to drop me off along Queen Anne Rd. in Brewster where I would pick up the trail.  My husband and kids would continue on to Chatham, my final destination 5 miles (or so I believed) away.  There is a great playground and train museum there, so it was a good outing for them while I got to do my run.

I started off and ran south the Harwich bike rotary.  That was about 0.75 miles.


From the rotary, I headed east toward Harwich Center.  This was the busiest section of the trail, with cyclists, several families out walking, and locals walking their dogs.

There was a horse farm….


….and a solar farm.


The scenery was classic Cape Cod beautiful.


I loved the silence of the trail.  I could go for a half-mile or more at a time without seeing anyone. (Granted, I was running at 2pm on a weekday.)  I really loved how the trail was marked every quarter-mile, and the signposting was reassuring to me.


There were also maps along the trail every time it crossed a roadway.


At one point 45 minutes in to my run, it was clear that I was a) wrong in my estimation that this route was about 5 miles,  b) nowhere near to my planned end point in Chatham, and c) stupid for not carrying water with me.  Temps were in the mid-80s, but humidity was high enough for a short, blessed rainshower to break out for 2 minutes or so.

I called my husband to let him know that I wouldn’t be rounding the bend at any moment; in fact, I looked at one of the maps and concluded I still had 2.5 miles or so to go.  I told him I’d get there, it would just be a bit longer than planned.

Five minutes later, my phone rang.   It was my husband saying the kids had enough of the playground and it was now raining heavily in Chatham.  He found a place where the trail crossed a roadway a little over a mile away from where I was, and we agreed to meet there.  I just had to get to the other side of the Chatham air field.


While my run didn’t exactly go as planned, I really enjoyed it.  The scenery was lovely, the trail was empty, and my legs appreciated running on a mostly flat route for a change.

I am always grateful to my husband, who supports me when I have a crazy idea like “You can take the kids to Chatham, and I’ll run there to meet y’all.  It’ll be great!”


Good health and great happiness to you!

A Year in Preview

It’s good to have a goal.  The goal in front of me right now is one I first learned about way back in the eighties (yes, the 1980s) when my father spoke about the races he hoped to run “someday”.  Ranging from an indoor mile at an invitational track meet to the 100 mile Western States Endurance Run through the Sierra Nevadas, my dad was able to compete in most of his “must-run” events.  Except for one:  The Comrades Marathon.

First of all, the name is misleading….the marathon, by standards and definition, is 26.2 miles (roughly 42 kilometers).  The Comrades Marathon, however, is technically an ultramarathon, as its distance is longer than a marathon.  The distance of Comrades varies from year to year, but it is always around 90K.  Let me do the math for you: it’s basically two marathons back-to-back, with another 5K tacked on just for fun.  For simplicity’s sake, let’s call it 56 miles.

Still with me?

As if 56 miles isn’t hard enough, check out the race course elevation profile:


The above profile is for the Comrades run in even-numbered years and is known as the “Down Run.”  Yesterday’s 2015 Comrades was run in the opposite direction– an “Up Run.”   My dad thinks that the “Down Run” will be easier, though all accounts on the internet indicated that it is the biggest beat up your body will (hopefully) ever undergo.

Billed as “The Ultimate Human Race”, Comrades isn’t for weenies.  If you’re crazy enough to undertake such a challenging course, you do so knowing that you have to complete it in a very strict 12-hour time limit.  Fail to do so, and you don’t even get billed as a DNF (“Did Not Finish”), your name simply doesn’t appear as an official competitor.  Ouch!

So, why now?  Why Comrades 2016?

The Comrades Marathon is in South Africa.  When my dad was in the prime of his running career– a prime that lasted far longer than anyone has any right to!– it wasn’t advisable for an American to travel to South Africa.  Under the National Party and its rule of apartheid, an American who went to SA for leisure (if you can call running Comrades “leisure”) would be seen as endorsing the policy.  Despite my father’s desire to take part in this legendary race– one that is ironically founded and still run nine decades later as a testimony to comradeship– he did not want to align himself with the tolerance of an unjust society.

“Someday” has arrived.  Now nearing 70 and having faced several years of physical challenges that have affected his ability to run long distances, my dad wants to train hard so he can line up at the start in Pietermaritzberg, tackle the five big downhills (and lots of other fairly significant uphills), and find himself in Durban less than 12-hours later.  And I would like to do it with him.

There are two things (other than my dark brown eyes) I got from my dad: a love for running, and a love for travel. To line up at Comrades with him on May 29, 2016 would be a terrific blessing.

As they say at Comrades: “Bamba Iqhaza!”  Be a part of it!

I’ll be writing more about our journey to Comrades over the next year.  


Longtime onbalance readers may remember my blog post about my family adventure to Cypress Valley Canopy Tours.  This company had some damage in the 2011 wildfires, fortunately, the owners’ home and other buildings were saved.  The canopy course is nearly back to full function.

For Central Texas zipping enthusiasts, there is more good news: Lake Travis Zip Adventures opened in late July 2011.  I’ve been to LTZA three times already, with my most recent visit being last week.  I gave my parents, brother, sister-in-law, and husband gift certificates to LTZA for Christmas last year.  We finally redeemed them, and what a beautiful autumn day we chose to do so.

Our adventure began with a short boat ride from a marina to the zipping location on the opposite shore of Lake Travis.  Central Texas is in an extreme drought right now, and with lake levels continuing to drop, the boat ride may not be necessary much longer!  It was simultaneously depressing and fascinating to see so much of the lake bed exposed.

There are seven zip lines on the property, which is located on the shores of Lake Travis in the Balcones Canyonland Preserve.  Most tour groups do only five zip lines, as one is a training line and one is the equivalent of a bunny slope.  The five lines we did were fantastic, ranging in zipping time from about thirty seconds to over two minutes.  Several of the lines go over inlets of Lake Travis, and it was a thrill to zip through the trees and then pop out over the water.

The final zipline is a tandem (side-by-side), so zippers can race one another.  I think my husband’s 60 pound weight advantage was definitely just that.

The zip lines are only part of the adventure, though.  The owners have taken great care to make very nice cedar trip trails between the zips.  While there isn’t much need for fitness to do the zipping, some of the hiking between zips got some of the folks huffing and puffing pretty well on the crisp, sunny morning of our visit.  Even with the drought, there are some pretty vistas along the way.

Our guides shared information about the history of the area and tidbits about the flora. Even with ten people in our group, the tour was very relaxed and casual—safety was always first, though, and we were very well taken care of.  Michelle and Dave were excellent guides.

There are special Full Moon Zip Tours which sound like great fun—glow sticks, head lamps, and zipping through the trees.  Date night, perhaps?!

Zip on!

Lake Travis Zip Adventures did not compensate me in any way for writing this post.