It is Sunday afternoon and I can't walk up a full flight of stairs. Well, I can, it just hurts. A lot. And I don't feel like I can complain about the pain much because I knowingly inflicted it upon myself.
As anyone who knows me has come to realize, I do not enjoy physical exertion. I do not enjoy working out, practicing for sports, aerobics classes, or anything else remotely similar. I enjoy a kickboxing class once in a while so I can feel like a badass, and a good racquetball game because I am so busy trying to win that I don't realize how out of breath and sweaty I am. And I do get sweaty. There is no ladylike glistening or some such nonsense. Oh, and my face turns bright red, like I have been in the sun for three days straight without any sunscreen. See Exhibit A below:
See? Tomato red. And when I am in this state, people constantly ask if I am ok, if I need some water, do I need to sit down, do I feel faint. No, I'm good, thanks. I just have work-out-and-get-a-red-face-itis. Bug off.
So, last year when I began my adventure of losing weight, I did start off with a personal trainer and three days a week at the gym. I knew I would need to see some serious results if I was going to stick to my new lifestyle. My trainer asked if I had any bad feelings about the gym or working out. I told her, "Yes. I do not like to sweat and I do not like my work-out-and-get-a-red-face-itis." Unfortunately, she dismissively told me these things were normal and I would have to get over them (I think she may have rolled her eyes, but since her back was to me I cannot confirm that.) Fine. I will work out but I am not going to like it. Not because I don't want to, but because I have tried to like it for years and it ranks up there with OB/GYN appointments in my opinion. An un-fun necessary evil. I'd rather be cleaning the toilet or paying bills.
So, I worked out faithfully for four months. In January, I had a sledding accident and injured my knee, requiring six weeks of "light duty." In March I injured my shoulder during power yoga, which required another eight weeks of "light duty." Then summer came and I had an unexpectedly extended vacation in the States, which royally screwed any workout routine I had remaining. So, I have been red-face-free for a few months now. And, aside from not losing more weight, I have been happy as a clam... assuming clams are happy and red-face free.
But since I have lost 55 pounds, but still have 25 more to go, I knew I needed to get back in to the red-face zone and, in the phraseology used by those in the movie Knocked Up, "tighten." So, I decided to go a High Intensity Interval Training boot camp for ladies offered here on base. Basically, I am paying $150 to be tortured and red-faced for the month of October. In return, I hope to look amazing in a ball dress I bought 10 years ago (it was a buy one gown and get another free sale, I wore the first gown) but have never worn because it did not fit. It fits right now, but there are a few bulges I hope to "tighten" in the next month or so. So, my goal is to look great for the USMC Birthday Ball Nov. 7.
The actual HIIT boot camp does not start until Tuesday. But, I knew that I was going to hate life if I didn't do something to start getting my body used to torture. I have been doing the suggested "mini workouts" the HIIT trainers gave us. My friend, Rachel, is also in the HIIT class and had an epiphany: She and her friend Jessica (a different one than me... actually I have never lived in close proximity to so many Jessicas than I do here in Iwakuni. There are at least nine that I know personally... seriously, I have had two people yell "Jessica!" and I said "Hi!" only to find out they were not talking to me. So, if you forgot a woman's name here in Iwakuni, if you call her Jessica, there is probably a 17.3 percent chance of you being right) were going to hike up Mt. Misen in Miyajima.
I found out about the Furlough Friday trip Thursday afternoon. When Rachel first invited me along, I said "No" with an expletive or two thrown in. But then Rachel gave me her "getting ready for HIIT torture" justification and I grudgingly agreed. I would go hiking. Uphill. Both ways. Just kidding. It was downhill one way, but that sucked, too.
I have been to Miyajima a handful of times, and have plenty of the standard touristy pictures in early fall, winter and summer. But here are a few I took for those of you who like stuff like that:
Just for the record, I walked... I did not run a little. I had to pace myself. I was going with a whole other purpose in mind... to torture myself with physical exercise so I would feel less tortured later. As you can see from the sign below, the top of Mt. Misen was 2.5 km up. Not straight up, but close. There were a lot of stair steps on the climb. For those not familiar with the metric system, here is how I came to the milage estimate: A 5k run is 3.1 miles. So, 2.5k must be a little over 1.5 miles. So we stair stepped a mile on a half up and then another mile and a half down.
Rachel was the only one who "run a little." She ran for two steps.
This should have been a sign of the torture in my future: This little garter-like snake crossed paths with us and was trying to get away as fast as we were. While Americans have negative imagery about snakes, the Japanese have no such imagery about the "serpent." So, I figured since I was in Japan, no omen could be taken from a snake crossing our path. Technically, I made it up and down the mountain in one piece.
The photo below was about .3 km in to the climb. I felt like Rachel looks. Jessica maintained a positive attitude throughout the climb. It was very annoying. (This is said with a smirk... Jessica is a lovely person and I would hike with her again. If I ever chose to hike again.)
It took about 2 hours to climb to the top. It was the never-ending stairway to heaven, we said. Every time we turned a corner, thinking we were close, there were more stairs. Even when we got to the collection of halls and shrines at the top of the mountain, that was not the top of the mountain. We still had .3 km to go. Up those stairs on the left in the picture below. The building in the center was the Fire Hall and had some interesting designs in its roof
These cute little buddah-like guys were tucked in all over the place... some of them dressed up in hats.
As we climbed, we could see across the way to the ropeway station. Even if you take the ropeway up the mountain, you still have to walk/climb for 1 km. But there were plenty of Japanese senior citizens doing it.
After prematurely celebrating at the collection of halls and shrines, we trudged up the remaining .3 km for the real thing. And celebrated by drinking water and eating fruit and nuts. That is where this photo of my red face was taken.
A few Japanese had looked at me strangely, and now I know why. They probably thought I was going to pass out and fall off the mountain. I did not know how to translate "I have work-out-and-get-a-red-face-itis, please bug off," in Japanese so I just smiled and continued on my way.
It was a hazy day, and it was about 1 p.m. by the time we got to the top of the Mt. Misen, so the lighting wasn't the best for photos. But here are some of the views. The one below is taken of Iwakuni in the distance.
I zoomed in, and if you look closely to the left, you can see the MCAS Iwakuni's air traffic control tower almost directly above the boat motoring through the photo. I think this photo is facing northwest-ish.
The view toward the north(-ish).
The view to the northeast (-ish).
Jessica, Jessica and Rachel... proof we made it to the top of Mt. Misen.
The Jessicas and Iwakuni.
So, yes, we made it to the top, but then we had to climb down all of those steps. This was faster, yes, but much harder on the knees and hips. It took about half the time, but my legs were not wanting to work any more after about a kilometer down, so we still had to stop to rest a few times, at which point my knees kept trying to buckle.
At the bottom of the hill, in Momijidani Park, was a noodle place with outdoor seating. The weather was a sunny and gorgeous 79 degrees, so we sat down and ate our lunch. It was the best beef udon noodles I have ever had... probably because I was tired, hungry and in desperate need of some protein and a chair.
After doing some shopping and wandering, with my knees still wobbling and threatening to give out, we made it home to Iwakuni at about 5:30 p.m., when I promptly told my family that I was heading to the shower and definitely not going to cook supper. It's been about 48 hours, and my legs are still protesting. Like I said, I can't walk a flight of stairs without grimacing, and my kids think I walk "like an old person." Again, I torture myself now in the hopes that the torture will be less later. Hopefully my preemptive strike will be a success. I wish it could cure work-out-and-get-a-red-face-itis, but I doubt I'll be that lucky.