The days of summer

I have had an incredible few days in the Mountains!  I have had the opportunity to stand on top of Mount Washington 3 times in 4 days!  Each time was via a different path!  The first was on foot, the second by cog and third by car!  How lucky am I!?  I’m lucky and yet I am still struggling to be happy on a regular basis.  Since November when I was introduced to depression when my head collided with a rock.  There are happy moments but most days I cry, longing to be the person I once was.  There are days where getting out of bed will be my biggest battle.  The hard part is knowing I am not this person, I am a good person, I live a good life and I am capable of anything I put my heart into.  I want my old self back and will not stop until I find it.  Until then I will accept the tears for no reason and fight that battle deep within my soul.  For now my only peace comes from hammering myself in the mountains and doing nice things for others!  So, enough of my whining and onto four days that made me feel like myself again!

Pressie Traverse with Ryan
pressie traverse with ryan

On Wednesday the Harmony Hill Summer XC series kicked off and it was a huge success!  I love bringing a fun family friendly series to Northwood in the summers!  We do a popsicle dash for toddlers, one mile short course and 3.6 mile long course!  It brings people together for a fun night together doing something healthy!

Our pressie traverse
our pressie traverse

On Friday I had a day off from working and the weather was perfect!  I had run a practice Presidential Traverse with Ryan a few weeks ago in 6:48 and had an absolute blast!  It was a PR for me and I was thrilled!  I miss climbing mountains and decided I need to get back out there and find myself again!  The mountains are the perfect place for me to forget everything that is going on and simply be happy!  I have always found peace in the mountains and right now that is where I need to be!  So, with a perfect weather forecast, slightly tired legs and a smile on my face I got up early and headed north.

washington
washington

The Presidential Traverse is so dear to me because it is where my love of mountains began.  I have done a two day winter traverse where I still wonder how I am alive to share my tale, a 12 and 14 hour summer traverse with friends and a one day winter traverse.  Many wonderful memories have been given to me on that range, some of my best being a winter six husbands trail ascent, a winter castle trail ascent and a summer caps ridge trail ascent, among ice climbing in the ravines and some pretty intense winter Washington summits.  That place is very special.

Ryan
Ryan

I met another guy who was going to be taking the shuttle as well and he planned on a traverse too.  My goal time was 6 hours and I was quite confident I could possibly hit 5:50.  I was ready!  This would be my second solo adventure in the Whites and I was terrified and excited to make this happen!  So, I put on my big girl pants, stood in line for the shuttle and the group of us waiting for the shuttle watched it drive away without us!  WTF!  Well, the woman on the phone had given us the wrong location to stand.  We all tried to figure out ways to shuttle each other to Appalachia and walked toward the Highland Center to voice our frustration with their shuttle operator.

jack puppy!
jack puppy!

On the way over to the center I saw an Acidotic Racing sticker on a car window and a guy bent over in his trunk.  He looked like he was doing a traverse so I yelled out “Hey AR guy!! Are you doing a traverse?”  He responded with a “yes” and it was Josh Fields.  Along with him was Ashley Lader who would be giving him a ride to the trail head.  I asked in desperation if they could give myself and one of the guys a ride and soon we were back on track.  What a way to start the morning!

crawford path

By 10:00 am three of us were on the trail, laughing and chatting about our exciting day that lied ahead of us!  Josh held back a bit and the other guy tagged along behind me breathing as loud as I do!  We chatted a bit and I was actually quite thrilled to have company below treeline because I always think a lion, tiger or bear is going to come out and eat me.  Luckily all I saw were a bunch of snakes.  We got above treeline and stood on top of Madison in 1:25!  I was thrilled and felt like I was off to a great start!  I took a pee break and water break at Madison Hut before continuing on to Adams.  Mount Adams is always an ass kicker for me on a traverse and I focused on staying steady and strong.  I tagged the summit (I don’t remember when) and made my way over to the beehive cairn on Jefferson!  I hopped up to the summit smiling and honestly wanting to be alone at that point.  The guy with me was nice but I wanted to be solo so I started to push hard with hopes of dropping him.  I kept asking if he wanted to pass me but he wouldn’t.  The terrain on the northern pressies is hard and I wanted to be able to focus.

My finish smile!
My finish smile!

By the time I stood on top of Clay he was a few minutes back and I figured I would hammer it out to Washington.  I tagged the summit (and photo bombed someones photo-)  they laughed!  I made it to Washington in 3:40 and ran down to Lakes giggling the whole way!  I love that descent!  I took another pee break and filled my pack with water for the last part of the day.

crawford path
crawford path

I motored up Monroe alone and happy.  I quickly found myself on the summit and managed to take a wrong turn and stood on top of Franklin!  Oh well, a bit more elevation and distance never hurt me!  I needed it!  I laughed at my mistake and stood on top of Eisenhower in 4:40!  I was feeling so good and running very comfortably!  I began to wonder if I could get on top of Pierce in 5 hours and if I could I figured I could finish in 5:47!  My heart started racing with excitement as I plugged away at my final climb of the day!  I got choked up when I tagged the summit of Pierce in 5:02!!!  I giggled and had so much fun running down Crawford Path!  I had my Bushido’s on and those shoes are the perfect White Mountain shoe!!!  The traction and protection are absolutely amazing!  I found my legs going faster and faster while my mind slowed down and instead of obstacles I saw foot placements.  I was so focused and could see so clearly!  Hikers cheered me on as I charged down the trail laughing!  I got to the last turn before route 302 and peeked at my watch, I was at 5:30!  I yelled out “holy #*^*!”  and pushed hard to the road.  As soon as my foot hit the road I hit my stop button and looked at my watch.  It read 5:32.  There was no fanfare, no finish line, no medal.  It was me and some cars wizzing by me as I stood there crying like a baby.  They were tears of pride, tears of joy!  Never before have I been able to motivate myself without being at a race.  I also never thought I could run mountains like I just did.  Ryan taught me well and I smiled because I knew I was well on my way of becoming a true mountain runner!

My finish!

The next day Ryan and I picked up his daughters and drove up north to camp with my parents.  We had a nice visit and spent some time roasting massive marshmallows and making smores!  They were so messy and Hannah and I were covered in marshmallow!  After a nice walk to the river we settled into bed for the night.

We woke up and hung out with my parents for a bit before leaving to catch the Cog.  Ryan and Jack puppy ran up Mount Washington while I rode the cog with Zoe and Hannah.  They had so much fun riding up and when Zoe saw the Jewell trail and was so excited to walk on a big mountain I started to tear up!  How special to be able to share their first steps on Mount Washington, the place where my climbing passion began.

hiking down!
hiking down!

We stood on the summit and watched some of the rally cars tearing up the hill!  It was rally car day and I was thrilled to see Travis Pastrana’s car there!  That guy was the reason I started dirt biking!  We shared some snacks on the summit and Hannah lost her wiggly front tooth in typical Hannah fashion!  She cried and made a scene while she bled all over the place.  She even got blood all over my arm.  Ryan took her inside to get cleaned up while strangers cheered for her losing her tooth on the summit of Mount Washington!  How many kids can add that to their memory bank!

hiking down
hiking down

So we hiked down and the girls did so well!  They were having an absolute blast hopping on the rocks and learning how to read signs and navigate their way back to the car!  They are only 6 and 8, we were shocked that they did so well!  There was minimal whining and we made sure they ate and drank enough.  We got down to the bottom about 3:20 after we left the summit and were so proud of the girls!  We got dinner and Ryan took them back to their mom’s house while I stayed north for one more adventure.

jack puppy!
jack puppy!

My friend Sue was up north so I met her at the Moat and we had a great time laughing about life!  I miss that girl so much.  She is so much fun and I have shared so many incredible memories with her!

After a nice visit I got a few hours of sleep and a nice alpine start to Jay and Vickie Philbricks house!  That’s right, 4am start……I had a rippin cup of coffee and was ready to go!  My legs were fried from Friday and I knew he would have me running a TON to get some good shots.  We started out on top of Thin Air taking sunrise photos and then once the light changed we drove to a farm and took some cool shots there.

The weather was perfect so we drove up the auto road to get some pictures up on the trails I took on my Presidential Traverse womens FKT on Friday!  I got to meet the Mount Washington Park manager as well, it was really cool!  After some awesome shots and a good wreck we were ready to head to Diana’s bath for one last shot.  Some of the stuff I was running on took some concentration and smiling was a bit tough but for the most part I was laughing!  I had so much fun!

Photo by philbrick photography
Photo by philbrick photography

We got to Diana’s bath and I saw Sue’s car in the parking lot.  They got me set up in a section of River and Sue was there smiling.  We finished the shoot and while Jay and Vickie packed Sue and I slid on our asses on the rocks and into the pool of water below (Sue’s idea)!  I cut my butt up a bit on the second trip down but had so much fun!  She and I are like little kids when we get together!!!  Who else would do that with me!!!  We hugged goodbye and I went back to Jay and Vickies for lunch and a short nap.

Photo on the presi traverse trail (running in the opposite direction of the fkt route I did) Philbrick Photography
Photo on the presi traverse trail (running in the opposite direction of the fkt route I did) Philbrick Photography

Then it was time for round two!  We did a fun “Fairy in the woods” shoot where Rodyan made me a super cool outfit and did my hair and makeup!  I love the couple times a year that I get to pretend to be a girly girl!  We put on my wings and headed out into the forest to battle black flies, prickers and ever changing sunlight!  The three of them got me into cool poses and took some incredible photos!

It’s funny seeing the pictures because they don’t even look like me!  I love being able to play pretend sometimes!  For the second to last shot I had to tromp up a loose river bank that kept collapsing, trudge through prickers and shimmy across a huge log where my dress kept getting caught on the bark.  Then I cut my leg and started getting chowed by black flies.  In the end, it was so worth it!  We got a killer shot!  I would love to make a living being a model that does crazy stuff!  Ha!  A girl can dream!  Hmmmm……my dream career- a runner, a running coach, a model that does crazy stuff and a race director!  Hey, dreams do come true if you believe, but for now I am dreaming of finding my happiness again, that inner peace I once had.  Maybe it is time to seek help.  :)

six husbands trail 2010
six husbands trail 2010

I want to give a huge thank you to my sponsors La Sportiva, Choucas Hats, UltrAspire, Julbo USA, Flora Health, Hypoxico, and First Endurance.  Thank  you to my coach Jack for being so awesome and training me so well!  Thank you to my husband for teaching me how to run on mountains!  Thank you to my Jack puppy for being so much fun and so cute!  Thank you to my friends, clients and inspirations for helping me be the best person I can be!  I am an extremely lucky girl and have nothing to be sad about.

Let me leave you with this:

Life is so precious.  You need to find what makes you happy and surround yourself with whatever that is.  Be a good person, be a good friend.  Appreciate every moment, good and bad.  Find a way to ignite your inner flame and make that flame burn bright.  Don’t let others extinguish it and don’t let your inner demons put out that flame.  If you are feeling the same way I am join me in my mission to find my inner peace and happiness and light that inner fire we all have deep within our souls!

 

photo courtesy of philbrick photography www.philbrickphoto.com
photo courtesy of philbrick photography www.philbrickphoto.com
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Sometimes the biggest victories are not a place on the podium

The last few weeks have been a whirlwind.  Ryan and I directed the Wapack and Back trail races and had a lot of things to get done around the house and have been working a ton!  We had a blast putting smiles on runners faces and will be taking over the race again next year!  Wapack is a very special race to us, it is where we got engaged in 2012!  There was a great turnout and even though it was a ton of work it was worth it when we saw each runner come through smiling after finishing a rugged course!

Race directing!  My job is usually running the aid stations.  :)
Race directing! My job is usually running the aid stations. :) Photo by Scott Livingston

Last year I had a very fast and incredible race at Cayuga.  I stayed strong and held on to a win that had me shocked and proud!  I was running high miles, racing a lot and feeling ready for Cayuga.  I had several long runs and races under my belt and had all the kinks worked out of my racing.  I called my mom after the race to tell her the incredible news of how I won a big race and how proud I was.  Fast forward a year and I was calling my mom to tell her about the race.  She asked me if I won.  I told her I didn’t even make the podium but I finished and I had fun.  Before I could tell her how proud I was of even being able to finish the race she said “what, you didn’t win, that sucks”.  I started crying because she just didn’t get it, most people don’t.  I was calling her with happy news and a story of a day that defined who I am as a runner and all she cared about was whether I won or not.  Most people ask me if I “won” or “killed it” and I wish that instead they would ask me if I “had fun” or “enjoyed my race”.  Maybe I am just strange, maybe I just run for the right reasons.  This weekend Cayuga was going to prove to be a race that would determine whether I toe the line again and keep racing or if I just find a new hobby or sport.

Coming into the race I was more unprepared than ever.  Since November my world came crashing down on me.  I had an injury, had to start working  a ton of hours, (and a beautiful thing but also something that cut into my training hours was becoming a step mom), then months of illness that was the result of stress and about half the mileage I was running a year ago and only two 50k races for a tune up.  In fact 50k was the longest run I had since last fall.  My back to back runs were not long and my motivation was lacking.  A girl can only have so much poop thrown at her before she starts getting buried in it.  I could not dig myself out of the shit pile fast enough and with Cayuga looming over me I was so stressed out.  I already had to bail on two big races this year and was not about to bail on another, even if it meant suffering through 50 miles completely unprepared I was going to race with a smile and enjoy every minute of it!

Ryan and I pre race!
Ryan and I pre race!

Ryan and I drove out late Friday night after work and had to stop to sleep for a few hours before continuing to Ithica the next morning.  We got some yummy gluten free waffles while we waited for bib pickup to open.  I got my race number and then crewed Ryan as he ran the course as a training run.  We set up camp and I was so nervous I was unable to choke down my dinner.  I did manage to eat some Ben and Jerries ice cream that afternoon.  I got a few hours of sleep and woke up unable to eat much and knew it was not good to go into the race food deprived.  At least I had a successful trip to the bathroom.

We chatted with our friends before the race and after what seemed like eternity we were off!  I felt awesome!  My legs moved comfortably, my breathing was under control and I was able to have a conversation.  I was right where I wanted to be.  I watched the miles tick away and was so thrilled to be sitting in 4th place.  The temperature was perfect but I was struggling with being able to eat or drink for the first 7 miles.  I had no idea how crucial those first 7 miles would be.

Ryan scolded me at the second aid station for not eating or drinking and I started to try and play catch-up.  I was having an absolute blast, I didn’t want to know how far ahead or behind I was and I just wanted to focus on the moment!  I smiled and enjoyed the incredible views and course.  I saw a huge snapping turtle in a pond, giant waterfalls, geese, flowers and so much more!  I also saw so many happy runners out on the course!  I even found 4 of the apple pie signs on the course and kept one for myself and gave the other three to people I ran by on the trail.  It made them smile!  The course was much harder than last year and I had to throw my time goal of 8 hours out the window and just focus on my race.

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When I got to mile 23 I started to feel the chills creep in and a slight headache.  I knew I was probably dehydrated and started drinking more and paying attention to my electrolyte intake.  I passed 3rd place and she was walking and not feeling well.  It was getting really hot and there was a lot of carnage on the trail.   By the time I got to the turnaround I was feeling a bit off.  I saw 4th and 5th place seconds behind me and ran up the hill knowing they were in a better place than I was.  I was okay with being passed, I just wanted to recover from this low spot and finish strong.  The field was deep and I couldn’t expect anything other than focusing on a good race.

When I got to the next aid station I had not sweat in about an hour and my head was pounding.  Ian was there and Ryan felt my skin and clothes and they were dry.  He made me stop and drink as one girl moved through the aid station.  I was not feeling well and was worried about the next 4 miles.  I was becoming a bit forgetful and having some trouble staying on top of my basic needs and staying on the trail.  By the time I saw Ryan again it was over 2 hours since I sweat and I was honestly worried about becoming a medical emergency.  I did not want to need medical attention on the trail and was going to drop.  It was pretty black and white-I was ill and continuing was not safe.  Ryan looked a bit disapointed but told me it was my choice.  I felt terrible, it was expensive and time consuming to drive out there and I wasn’t even going to finish.  Suddenly Cassie Scallon overheard what was going on and she told me I was not dropping.  She got out of her chair and made me sit.

She smiled and told me she would get me back out there.  As she and Ryan worked to get me watermelon, salt, ginger ale, Ultragen and water I watched about a dozen women roll through the aid station.  I had stopped for about 20 minutes and it was so hard to watch them move through as I just sat there.  Amy came through and told me to run with her and Cassie said I wasn’t ready yet.  My stomach felt like it was going to explode from all the food and drink but I started to feel human again.  I even saw a glisten of sweat on my skin.  I was then worried I wouldn’t make the cutoff and Cassie laughed and told me I  had time to go get dinner, come back and finish.  I smiled, she was right.  I looked at Ryan and asked him if he was okay with me possibly having a 12 hour finish because he was working in the morning and it was a 6 hour drive home.  He smiled and said yes.

Now I was faced with a decision I always wondered about, have very strong beliefs with and hoped I would never have to face.  I was embarrassed and felt like if I continued on and finished further back my sponsors and friends would be disappointed in me.  It was no longer black and white.  I was well enough to continue but I could have chosen to pretend I wasn’t well and share some bullshit story with the world about how I couldn’t finish just to make myself look better, when the results are posted they don’t come with a story, they are simply a time and a place.  But, the truth is would it make me feel better?  My answer is no because I am a brutally honest person.  I felt ashamed of even having that thought.  I also had promised myself that if I chose a fake story over sucking it up and toughing it out I would stop racing.  Here I was, fighting an internal battle with my own beliefs and values and making a decision that would define who I was as a runner and who I was as a person.

I took a deep breath, remembered what Amy and I had talked about on the trail at Bear Mountain and chose to continue.  If anyone gave me a hard time about not winning or placing higher up then I was not going to allow them to bring me down.  If my sponsors were upset with me for placing down the list I didn’t care.  I was going to finish that race with a genuine smile.  Instead of swallowing my pride I was proud of the decision I just made!  I looked at Ryan and Cassie standing there smiling and knew I made a good decision, one that I will not regret.  I jogged out of that aid station with a very heavy and full pack of water and food just in case it took me a long time to get to the next aid station 6 miles away.  I moved slow with all that food and liquid sloshing in my stomach.  I took a dip in the stream and would walk/jog the next six miles smiling and having fun!  I was honestly having a blast!  Did I mention that I found 4 of the 7  pies on the course!?  I gave away three of them and kept one for myself.  :)

USATF members podium (there were more women in front of me, they just weren't members) Photo from the USATF fb page.
USATF members podium (there were more women in front of me, they just weren’t members) Photo from the USATF fb page.

Kelsey caught up to me on a sunny hill after my second poo and we chatted all the way to the next aid station.  It was her first 50 mile race and to share some miles with her smiling and feeling tired but having fun was awesome!  As we neared the turn around I started to feel good again and was able to start running more!  Now I was thrilled!  I focused on getting back to the next aid station strong and after another dip in the stream with a group of other runners I felt refreshed and knew that I was going to finish the race!

I did the best I could and smiled and laughed the whole way back to the finish.  When I saw that finish line I could not have been happier!  That finish line meant something much deeper this year than it did last year.  I think I had more people cheering me on this year than last year.  I was smiling again this year because I was victorious again, just in a different way.  Last year I crossed the finish line with a podium finish.  This year I crossed the finish line knowing that I race and run because I love it, not because I need to win.  I don’t even know what place I finished in, it is okay because I had so much fun!  (and I ate almost an entire apple pie on the way home!)  :)

A huge thank you to my sponsors La Sportiva, Julbo USA, UltrAspire, Choucas Hats, Flora Health, First Endurance and Hypoxico for being a part of my running and being so supportive of me!  Thank you to my coach Jack who has dealt with my struggles this year with kindness and compassion.  A HUGE thank you to Ryan, Cassie and Amy for understanding that racing isn’t always about the podium, it is about achieving goals and crossing that finish line.  You have no idea how grateful I am for what you helped me through yesterday.  Thank you to my friends for cheering me on yesterday, even at my weakest moments.  I was so happy and had so much fun!  Thank you for my Jack puppy who gave me puppy kisses when I started coming apart.  His fluffy little beard always makes me smile.  Thank you to Ian for another incredible race, I  will be back next year!

BTW, when photos start making their way out and about I will post race photos. :)

Let me leave you with this:

Sometimes the biggest victories in our lives are sticking to our values even when it means you may be picked on, looked down on or shunned.  Taking that chance to prove that you stay strong and not take the “easy” way out of a situation defines who you are.  You can make up a story for the world to hear but no matter what you have to live with the truth every day.  The truth always sets you free.  :)

Jack puppy!!!
Jack puppy!!!
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The most enjoyable 50k I have ever run!

I struggle with racing more than a few times a year and was so nervous when my coach wanted me to run two 50k races within two weeks of one another!  I trashed myself at Traprock and my body was not happy with racing again in 2 weeks.  Well, reluctantly I was talked into racing an unplanned 10 mile trail race AFTER a 10 mile warmup run to help fix the course markings that were vandalized the night before.  I wish these vandals who like to do this realized it can get a runner off course and potentially cause health issues or even death.  

I really had to dig deep to find my smile that day and wanted to cry at the thought of signing that darn waiver.  Luckily a lot of friends were there to make me smile!  I surprisingly pulled off a win!  I have issues, I am not competitive BUT if I am in a race I want to RACE!  With everything in my life I put in 150% and don’t accept anything less from myself.  I hold myself accountable for always trying my best.  My dad drilled this into my head when I was young and when I used to work for him at his construction/plumbing business he didn’t cut me any slack.  I had to work hard, like one of his guys.  That just became normal for me.  He always told me to take pride in everything I do, even if nobody is looking.  I have held those words close to my heart from the moment I heard them.  Whether it is a job, relationship, friendship, race, training, etc I do my best and I don’t cut corners.  I strive to be honest, genuine and an overall good person.  Do I make mistakes sometimes, you bet!  I am not perfect!  I make an effort to not say things about people I wouldn’t say to their faces, I try to be honest with myself, bosses, husband, friends and everyone I meet.  I have nothing to hide because opening up my heart can sometimes allow me to be hurt but it also allows me to be genuine.  I avoid situations and people who make me feel bad about myself, people who put down others and who make me become a person I don’t want to be.  This year has been a test of staying positive and true to who I am.  I have been in survival mode, trying to work together with Ryan to make up for being without work this winter while being parents to his children and competing at an elite level.  Finding balance in our lives has never been more challenging and I believe we will walk away from this as better people.  We have dreams and we will make them happen but right now the dream is to work hard towards financial freedom.

Ryan and I at Ralph Waldo race!  Photo by Gianina Lindsey
Ryan and I at Ralph Waldo race! Photo by Gianina Lindsey

Back to running!!!  It’s been mostly recovering for Bear Mountain which I did not want to run.  My first key race is Cayuga and I am so underprepared for it!  By this time last year I was rocking out high mileage weeks and feeling like I could run forever!  I am almost 10lbs heavier than this time last year and feeling incredible!  Last year I was about 110 and am 120 this year and I am 5’2″.  I was not designed to be lean, it gave me a thyroid disorder which will remind me every day for the rest of my life to eat plenty.  I thank God for bringing Amy into my life to treat my thyroid herbally and to be treating my GI issues herbally.  She is my angel.  I would rather be a bit heavier and slower and be able to still run well into my 80′s than find myself riddled with health issues and poor bone density by the time I am 50.  (I did say running in my 80′s, my ultimate life goal is to be the crazy old lady that has stories of all the crazy stuff I did and have nobody believe me!)  I like to call my small jiggly areas my ultra fuel!  My theory this year is that it is okay to be heavier, I just need to make sure I compensate by building muscle so that my strength to weight ratio stays where I need it to be.  I lost 8 weeks this winter then had to play catch up.  Talk about a confidence crush!  So, it is what it is!  I hope to finish Cayuga in under 8 hours but I will be thrilled to just be out on the course with so many incredible women!  The field is beyond talented and I can’t wait to meet some of these superstars of running!  I hope they are all nice!  :)  No matter what I am in it for my own personal goals and will finish with a smile, even if it is dead last!  For me racing is about the journey, crossing that finish line and not just winning.  If I place it is just a bonus!  My plan is to be the happiest person out there on June 1st!

Me and my Jack puppy in the Level Renner singlet!
Me and my Jack puppy in the Level Renner singlet!

After leaving two hours later than planned we dropped off Ryans sweet girls and made our way to Bear Mountain where we ran into Amy and Brian Rusecki.  I was thrilled to see them, they are such nice people and Amy is one of the girls I always admired for her strength and kindness.  Amy and Deb are the girls I first looked up to at the races!  They are some of New Englands best female runners!  We chatted and then got a few hours of sleep before Ryan woke up at 2:30am for his race.  Jack puppy was actually good and snoozed the whole night which was awesome!  I gave Ryan a quick kiss and then got ready for my race.  I hopped back in my sleeping bag for 30 minutes before jumping on the bus to get to my race.  Before catching the bus I was able to see Ryan come through the first aid station surrounded by a ridiculously talented field!  I cheered him on, took his headlamp and proceeded to the bus.

Amy and I in sync!
Amy and I in sync!

It was chilly that morning and the leaves were just starting to show buds on the trees.  Spring was in the air!  My legs felt a bit tired but mostly I just had wicked nerves!  I pinned my number to my shirt shaking and wondering how the day would go.  I thought of my girls running their races this weekend and knew they had the same nerves.  I smiled and decided that I was just happy to be there and it would be a fun adventure!  I hit the portopotty for hopefully my only bathroom break until after the race and started chatting with other runners to clear my mind and as usual make new friends!  I love people and I love to hear their stories!!!!!!

cruising down the pavement!
cruising down the pavement!

Amy found me and we started to chat.  She is running Massanutten in a couple of weeks and I shared my rookie knowledge of the course and smiled when I remembered the sweet smell of the wild azaleas, the sound of the whiporwhills at 2am, the kindness of a complete stranger who ran 85 miles with and waited for me at the end when I was  having serious GI issues, willing to sacrifice her PR on the course to run with me (she did get her PR!), the man with the salmon underwear on his head, the older gentleman who carried his amputee wife across the finish line, the blisters on my feet and the sweet taste of crossing the finish line of my first 100 mile race! I don’t run many 100 mile races because of my GI problems and fear of the dark.  I don’t want to inconvenience people because I need a pacer and having 50 miles of GI issues is far from enjoyable, but there is something very surreal about a 100 mile race!

post race yum yums!
post race yum yums!

Anyway, Amy needed a training run and so did I.  I told her I have issues and have to hammer everything when I am racing and she responded by saying: “If you don’t mind taking it easy you can run with me for the whole race, it would actually be nice to have some company”.  My first thought was if I could hang with her on a training pace and my second was how cool would it be to run 31 miles with Amy!  Of course I was thrilled!!!!!  We took off and were instantly greeted by mud, lots of mud!  I wanted to surge but strangely wanted even more to try running a race with someone!  Amy figured with the conditions we would finish in about 5:44.  Her best time on the course was 5:15 in better conditions.  We yapped the whole way, laughing at the deep mud, wet conditions and how much fun it was to have someone to run with!  It felt like a long training run with a friend and I got to spend it with a woman I admired for years!  I kept feeling shocked that we were bonding on the trail, sharing stories, laughing and just enjoying the day!  I couldn’t be any happier!  We rolled through the aid stations laughing and smiling, seeing friends there crewing and cheering on runners!  We wondered when the boys would catch us after we re-joined the course with the 50 milers.

Jack puppy loves trail running!
Jack puppy loves trail running!

Shortly after the course merged Dylan came blowing by us up the singletrack climb.  A while later came Mike and then Jordan.  We got up the longest and steepest hill of the day being devoured by black flies in the bright sun!  It was a beautiful day to be on the trail!  Before we knew it we were coming down the last hill passing by the marathon relay teams and we saw the finish line lit up by the sun and surrounded by smiling spectators!  We crossed in 5:15 holding our hands together, up high!  Not only did we just tie for the womens win we were less than a minute off the womens course record!  We were floored!  Seriously, we could have made up a minute somewhere if we knew we would finish that quickly!  What felt like a social pace was actually close to course record in very challenging conditions!  We laughed about how staying calm and having fun can make such a difference in racing!  I didn’t have any stomach issues and never felt like I was going to fall apart!  We hugged and waited for our boys to finish.  It was an amazing day and a run I will hold close to my heart forever.  Few runs stand out as being special, but this is one of the few.

Amy and I enjoying our tie for first women!!!!
Amy and I enjoying our tie for first women!!!!

Brian finished in a strong 5th and Ryan came through in a strong 11th!  We enjoyed socializing after the race and met a lot of new people and saw a lot of friends!  It was an awesome day and one I will not soon forget!  Ryan and I packed up and camped in our friends driveway before picking up is daughters Sunday to take them fishing for the first time!  What an incredible experience it was to see the look on Zoe’s face when she pulled in her first fish!  Now that is something I will never forget!  We then took them to see the movie Bears and brought them home to their mommy.  We got home completely exhausted and happy and ready to prepare for the Wapack and back trail races we are hosting this weekend!  As usual, putting on a race always has some pretty intense behind the scenes moments but we are going to pull through and make this happen, hopefully I don’t pull out all my hair before it is done!  All that matters is that the runners and volunteers have a fun and memorable day.  Seeing people come through the finish line smiling makes it all worth doing!  :)

Ralph Waldo Trail Race!
Ralph Waldo Trail Race!

I want to thank my sponsors for being so supportive of my running and patient with me this season!  La Sportiva, Choucas Hats, Julbo USA, UltrAspire, Flora Health, First Endurance and Hypoxico you are making my dream a reality!  Thank you to the runners I coach for simply making my Mondays and Fridays the best days of the week!  My ultimate career goal is to become a full time running coach and keep giving people a new outlook on life!  If you want to read a real tear jerker visit Far North to read about one of my runners Emily who started with me last year as a beginner.  If she doesn’t inspire you I don’t know what will. READ EMILYS STORY.  Thank you to my husband Ryan and my Jack puppy for being a part of my life and my running!  Thank you to my friends for being fun, kind and genuine.  You are all awesome!  Thank you to Kerri for getting a nice pedicure with me the other day, boy runners feet sure are nasty!  Thank you to my coach Jack for believing in me and training me well, you have a gift!  Thank you to everyone who inspires me, believes in me and is there for me no matter what.  Without you my life would suck.  Friendship is something that should be treasured.

Jack puppy loves to swim and get his beard wet!
Jack puppy loves to swim and get his beard wet!

Let me leave you with this:

Be strong.  Strength comes in many forms.  It is not about how much you can lift, how far you can run or how physically fit you are.  Strength is the ability to smile when life throws rocks at you, it is the ability to say no when it is what is best for you, it is the ability to be a true friend and the ability to be honest with yourself.  Sometimes the good things in life are more challenging than the bad.  It can be so easy to focus on what is going wrong in your life, the negative things.  Pick your chin up, look at the positive side of life.  Be strong, Be happy and never stop chasing your dreams!

Yoga at High camp on Denali before the trek to the summit in 2010!
Yoga at High camp on Denali before the trek to the summit in 2010!
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A great start to the trail racing season!

This weekend has been on my mind for a while now.  Since I had to bail on Lake Sonoma and Miwok Jack and I decided Traprock 50k would be a great way to test my legs and work out the kinks in preparation for my first key race of the year-Cayuga Trails 50 miler in June.   After struggling with getting back in shape after my time off to recover from the concussion I was able to do snowshoe racing but also knew I was capable of running better than I was.  I got sick after ever race and struggled with hitting my weekly mileage.  I still had headaches and was getting tired of spending hours in the bathroom after a race or having to dive off into the woods multiple times to “go” on my long runs.  I have also gone from 112lbs to 121lbs, but strangely feel better than ever at my heavier weight!  I really wanted to just give it all up and not race anymore, maybe take up a different sport….then there was the DION Snowshoe Nationals where somehow I pulled off a second place finish and was completely re-inspired and motivated to run again.  I had to do things differently though.  I knew in my heart I was capable of more than I had in me during nationals but I was still struggling with depression and lack of interest in running all the time.  Jack gave me some cross training days and I started lifting weights a few times a week.  I have reached a point in my running where I need to do more than just run.  I get bored easily and found that I need constant change and variety, but also that I love to run and race.  Slowly I fell in love with running again and in March started training my ass off.

The last few weeks have been full of doctor appointments and procedures trying to figure out what is wrong with me.  I have a wheat allergy, a gluten sensitivity and am now trying an elimination diet to see what is going on.  The next test is to check my gallbladder.  Maybe my body just revolts when I am under physical or mental stress, maybe something is physically wrong.  I refuse to accept that whatever is going on cannot be figured out or fixed.  My next step is to work with my favorite “witch doctor”.  Amy has cured my thyroid with a simple brew of tea I take each morning and I am confident she can help me fix this issue too.  Coming into Traprock my biggest worry was if my stomach would revolt or hold up fine.  My training runs have been a battle with my stomach issues and it really took away my confidence for any racing over 10 miles.  I have been training much faster than ever and feeling stronger than ever.  Jack has even mixed up my workouts to make it more fun.  I have the best coach ever, he knows me well enough to keep me having fun with my training!

My girls on our Wed run!
My girls on our Wed run!

We took Ryans girls mountain biking last weekend and they did awesome!  So far the biking and rock climbing are the favorite sports for the girls so we are looking forward to mountain biking and climbing more this summer!  The girls are so silly and so cute!  I absolutely love being a step-mom, it is so much fun!  Watching these girls grow and learn is awesome and each time we see them it gets more comfortable and we enjoy each others company more.  They absolutely adore Ryan and there is nothing cooler than seeing his daughters crawl all over him, hug him and constantly tell him how much they love him.  It makes me melt every time.  :)

Ryan and I were lucky enough to find some snow free trail last weekend at Bear Brook and got in 20 miles.  We were quite rusty on trail after a long winter of pounding pavement.  The miles felt so slow!  We decided to do the rest of the runs for the week on trail to get used to running on rocks and roots again!  We both only got a mini taper from Jack and were a bit curious to see how the weekend went.  Ryan, Jack puppy and I drove to CT on Friday night after work and stayed with Mike and Sue.  Jack puppy decided to growl and bark all night so we got about 4 hours of sleep.  Strangely I didn’t feel as bad as I thought I would from the lack of sleep.  I could not get my breakfast down because I was so nervous.  I really wanted to break 5 hours but being the first trail race since last November I had no way of gauging where I was fitness-wise.  I knew Serena and Deb would be there and figured I would just try to hang with them.  My biggest concern was messing up my pacing and having GI issues.

Had hair and makeup done for a photo shoot, I really like the hair!  Selfies are silly!
Had hair and makeup done for a photo shoot, I really like the hair! Selfies are silly!

We arrived at the race and saw so many friends!  Traprock is an awesome race and the Striders are always there with a huge showing and the race directors are just fun and always put on a perfect show!  We found Scott and Deb who were suffering from the Flu and decided to give the race a go.  Spring is a tough time of year because there are so many different sicknesses floating around.  It would end up being a tough race for both of them.  I missed seeing their kids who are so cute but they were spending time with their grandparents.  It’s funny because when I think of trail running Scott and Deb are the first people who come to my mind!  They are great people and great ambassadors of the sport!  I wish they lived closer because it would be fun to run together!  Serena, Nick and the VT crew were there as well and she said they are still buried in snow out there and this was her first trail run of the season!  I would love to go on a run with her sometime, I had so much fun at Sawtooth when she paced me in 2012!  We got to see so many people we know, all with big smiles and everyone nervous about being out on the trail for the first time after a very long winter!  Most of the runners had only been out on trail for a week or so, we were all out of practice.  Ryan and I did a short warmup run and I got the stomach pains on the downhill which was very frustrating.  It only added to my race day nerves.

For the race I wore my La Sportiva Helios, La Sportiva skirt and singlet, JULBO Groovy sunglasses, Choucas Orange tropical headband, had two UltrAspire Surge packs that I swapped at the start finish on each loop, and carried First Endurance EFS gel mocha flavor.  I have been using my Udo’s Oil every day along with the Flora Health liquid multivitamin.  We have been sleeping in the Hypoxico which seems to be working great for both of us after we worked out the kinks!

Pre race fashion!  Photo by Scott Livingston
Pre race fashion! Photo by Scott Livingston

The race started and I ran off of feel.  I kept the pace at moderate and made sure I could chat during the race.  My legs felt really heavy on the climbs but I pushed on through trying to be steady and strong.  The descents made my stomach ache so I had to back off on the descents and the flats felt awesome!  I would pick up the pace on the flats and try to make up my time there.  Scott Livingston was my flip-flop buddy for the first lap and a half and he would pass me on the climbs and I would pass him on the descents.  It was fun!  The first lap felt really good and my stomach was behaving until the start of the second loop.  I prayed for strength to get through the race without GI issues.  The cramps would get more intense on each downhill section but then I would get on the climb or flat and the pain would subside.  I just focused on getting the descents over with quickly and recovering on the climbs.  It worked, I made it through the second lap without any issues and although my legs were totally fried on the climbs I still felt strong!

It was so fun seeing everyone on the out and backs!  Ryan was in the lead and looking really good, when I saw him on the last lap he said he was going to make that lap hurt.  The temperatures were quickly rising and I think it made everyone start hurting on their last laps!  I had a couple of issues with cramping but was able to keep them at bay.  The top three guys looked super strong and it was fun to see them charging down the trail!  I started to catch some people and chatted with them which helped distract me from my stomach.  Then at the top of the staircase my stomach decided it was time to revolt.  My heart sank.   I got up the trail and tried to think it away. It didn’t work, I ate it hard and wailed my knee on a rock so hard that I actually dislodged it.  It was a miracle that there was no blood and minimal pain, just a bruise.  I had to run off into the woods and “go”.  It hurt, it was awful but the whole thing only took 2 minutes.  I felt a lot better and was able to carry on the trail comfortably.  I refilled my bladder in my pack at the aid station before the lollipop.  I looked at my watch and was so determined to break 5 hours.  It was possible but I didn’t have time to diddle around.  I pushed on down the trail, with only one thought on my mind-breaking 5 hours and getting that course record for women!

Coming to the finish, Photo by Northeast Race Photo
Coming to the finish, Photo by Northeast Race Photo

I passed the next aid station and started up the hill and had to stop for poo #2.  I was really upset but again, only cost me 2 minutes.  I have gotten quite efficient at these emergency stops over the years.  I pray for the day I don’t have to stop for this anymore.  The cramps are just horrible.  I wanted to walk that hill but I looked at my watch and decided I had a goal to achieve and walking would not get me there on time.  As I ran up the hill I caught another guy in front of me and we chatted for a bit which really lifted my spirits.  That last section felt like forever on my last loop!  Finally I was at the last aid station which was about 3 miles from the finish.  I had a coke and an orange and was on my way. I had ridiculous orange cravings during the race and grabbed one at a bunch of the aid stations.  They seemed to settle my stomach.  I had 35 minutes to break 5 hours.   I had faded by about 45 seconds per mile on that loop and really needed to pick it up.  I figured I could pull off 10′s and get it but there was no time for any more stops.  I was prepared to not stop for anything from that point until the finish.

I ran up that broken pavement as hard as I could and it felt so slow!  I was breathing hard and I was on a mission.  I crested the top of the hill and ran down fast, fighting off the cramps in my gut.  I was finally at the last section of trail to the finish which was mostly uphill.  I looked at my watch and seriously had no time to waste.  I ran up the hill in so much pain, my legs were killing me!  There was a woman walking up the hill who gave me a great boost of encouragement which helped me get up that hill strong.  I thanked her and wished her a great race too.  Sometimes a kind word can make a difference in the race.  So many of the other runners were cheering me on and I cheered them back on.  I love trail racing because everyone is truly happy for each other!  First or last place we are all there to accomplish the same thing, to cross that finish line!  When I crested the top of the last hill I could see the finish line below me and knew I had my goal in the bag!  I smiled and hoped that Ryan had gotten the win, one of my dreams was to have us both win a trail race together!

The brutal pavement section!
The brutal pavement section!

I ran down that hill smiling, crying and thanking God for giving me the strength to get through that race strong and with minimal pit stops.  I hit the pavement and cranked out the last few feet feeling so strong and so tired.  I looked at the clock and saw 4:51!!!!  It felt amazing and I was thrilled to get the new womens course record!!  What I love about course records is you are racing everyone who has ever raced on that course before.  It is not about who is there that day, what the conditions are like or what the weather does.  You are competing against the clock and everyone in the history of the race!  I love racing the clock, that is what makes me motivated and fired up to do a race and I find it so fun!  I fueled perfectly, ran smart and found my confidence that I had lost last fall.  The best part of the day was hearing that Ryan also won the race!  We have been training so hard this year and it was awesome to share the joy of winning together!

 

Ryan and I with our celebratory waters!  Photo by Charlotte Anderson Davies
Ryan and I with our celebratory waters! Photo by Charlotte Anderson Davies

We hung out for a bit seeing old and new friends before driving to see my mom, dad and sister for a small Easter lunch.  It was nice to see my family, I don’t get to see them much anymore and I miss being able to visit them whenever I want.  We are only 3 hours away but that means 6 hours of driving and is not something easy or simple.  I also miss all of my Connecticut friends, some people never leave your heart.

 

I want to thank my sponsors for making my running comfortable and fun!  Your equipment is awesome and it helps me run my best!  Thank you to La Sportiva, UltrAspire, Choucas Hats, JULBO USA, Flora Health, First Endurance and Hypoxico!  Thank you to my coach Jack  for believing in me and knowing me well enough to keep me motivated and having fun during my training runs.  Thank you to Ryan for running with me and pushing me to run faster this year.  Sometimes we struggle with running together and we have found ways to make it fun and when we have speed work to do we keep the runs solo.  Thank you to my friends for running with me and making it enjoyable and also for hanging out with me, chatting with me and being there for me.  Thank you to my little Jack puppy for being my favorite trail buddy!  Thank you to everyone who inspires and motivates me!  Thank you to my runners that I coach for being so much fun, so motivated and always making so much progress!  I love working with you all!  I am such a lucky girl and I am so happy to be back to racing again!

I love my Jack puppy!
I love my Jack puppy!

Never give up on yourself and never give up on someone you love.  Believe in dreams, they do come true.  Learn to be patient with yourself and with others.  If you let your heart guide you on your journey through life it will always lead you to a beautiful place!  There is nothing more powerful than love and kindness.  :)

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It’s almost time to race on dirt again!

The snow is finally melting and I have gotten a few runs on dirt!  It has been wonderful but I must admit, I have become quite the roadie!  I feel so slow on the trail and then I hit the road and I feel like I can fly!  I will get my trail speed back and plan to do half of my training on the roads this year to maintain that leg speed!  I want to focus on this year being my year of balance and confidence.  They have both been tough challenges with my health constantly getting in the way, but I am keeping my chin up and smiling my way through it.  There is always a light at the end of that tunnel.  I have been in low places before and pulled through stronger than ever and I believe that I will pull through this just fine!

Jack as a puppy!
Jack as a puppy!

Part of me is sad that I am not able to be at Lake Sonoma this weekend, the other part is relieved.  I think the sadness is a good thing because it means that I am starting to get my confidence back and my health.  I have been having some serious GI issues that are worse than ever this year.  My doctor has performed multiple tests including a colonoscopy to try to help me figure out what is going on.  Skip the next few sentences if you have a weak stomach……I have had horrible diarrhea and cramps on almost every run that last for hours after my runs.  Even worse it resulted in bleeding and burned flesh.  This has always been a part of racing for me but now it has been affecting my training runs and my life.  I am praying to figure out what is wrong.  The only thing that changed this year was I started eating a ton of sugar in December and carried it through until a few weeks ago.  I am feeling much better since giving up sugar.  I already have walked away from gluten and soy because of how sick they make me.  I honestly believe that there is something wrong with the food we eat.  I have so many friends going through similar GI issues and my thought is that our food is causing problems.  In an effort to know where my food comes from Ryan and I have started an organic/NON-GMO garden with all the vegetables we love to eat.  We are also going to focus on getting meat that comes from organic sources and if I ever feel brave enough I hope to raise chickens organically.  I just fear that I will get attached to them and cry when “that” day comes.

Our garden has started!
Our garden has started!

 So, back to happy stuff!!!!!  Traprock 50k is just over a week away and I am excited to have my first ultra of the year!  My racing has taken a very different path this year.  I am racing less and focusing on just a few key races.  I find that my body recovers slowly and I can’t stack races too close together.  I also need that mental break between races to keep running fun.  We have been having a blast getting muddy and Jack puppy is thrilled to hit the trails again and romp around in the mud!  A black dog is a happy dog!

I have had an opportunity to try out my La Sportiva Bushido’s and they are awesome!  The traction is unbelievable and the shoe is comfortable!  The Helios is certainly a better choice for me on non technical trail but for rocks and roots the Bushido is the only way to go!  I also have the UltrAspire Solace headed my way and I cannot wait to use it!  The Hypoxico seems to be working for me this time and I think it will help a lot this year with my running!

Jack puppy in the mud last fall
Jack puppy in the mud last fall

We have been having a blast hosting the Thursday night spring madness workouts!  We go all out for an hour of full on  torture   fun!  You know it was a good workout when your whole body quivers in pain afterward!  A few fun and brave souls have joined us each week for the workouts and we laugh the whole time in between gasping for air!  My girls have been doing an incredible job running through these spring conditions and I make sure we get good and muddy on the runs!  I am so proud of the accomplishments these girls have achieved and look forward to our runs each week!  They will be running in the Muddy Moose race at the end of the month, right now it is looking to be the snowy moose if this snow doesn’t melt!  :)

I am going to have some guest blog posts from now on.  The plan is to highlight a different person every few weeks to share their story of how they changed their life through exercise.  It may be walking, cycling, running, swimming or any other physical activity.  I think that it will be fun to share a bit of inspiration from people who inspire me to not only run the best I can but to also be  the best person I can be.  I have a lot of people in my life who I admire because they have enhanced the quality of their lives and the lives of the people around them.  Most of them started by simply walking.  Stay tuned for some stories that will warm your heart and motivate you.  If you have a story to share and would like to be considered for the blog post feel free to contact me kristina@dangergirldh.com.

1988, Yes, that is me!
1988, Yes, that is me!

Let me leave you with this:

You life will change, just as the seasons change.  Some things you don’t have control over.  You have to choose how you want to live with these changes.  You can choose to be grumpy and feel sorry for yourself or you can choose to accept happiness and knowing that things will get better.  If you are injured and have to wait it out, be patient.  Find other things to do, stay close to your friends and smile.  Maybe you just need a break.  Surround yourself with people who make you happy and let their energy fill your heart with love!  There is nothing worse than feeling miserable or unhappy.  We all deserve happiness!!!!!

 

Jack Puppy!!!
Jack Puppy!!!
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My quest for dirt!

Spring is here and in New Hampshire we are buried in snow!  I love snowshoe racing and running on the snow but I am also ready for winter to make its way into hibernation and for spring to finally come out and play!  I have been spending way too much time pounding the pavement and running in below zero temperatures this winter!  I feel like my road speed is improving as I slowly see some of my training runs that feel are easy surprising me with a pace that was a moderate effort last year!  I am also having fun again with my running once I started to let go of being competitive and feeling pressured and only focus on doing this because it is fun!  I am having a blast with my runners and feel so bad when they tell me they are tired of snow and cold, I try to tell them it will melt but deep down inside I feel like New Hampshire may turn into a glacier this year!  My beginners from last year experienced one of the hottest summers I can remember and they still kept running!  Then they got to experience one of the coldest and snowiest winters I can remember and they still show up each week to run with the group!  These are some tough ladies!

Summit of Isolation
Summit of Isolation with Ryan!

My first trail race is coming up in April and it has been difficult wondering if I will be ready to dance with the roots and rocks again in a few weeks!  A couple of weeks ago Ryan and I hosted the Granite State Snowshoe series Championship race at Bear Brook State Park.  It was the last race of the season where the Acidotic crew would gather at the last race in the series.  The course was brutal, Ryan designed it so it had to be brutal!  We were hoping for great weather and a fun crowd!  We got the fun crowd but temperatures dropped, made the snow hard as a rock and created an even more challenging course than was planned.  Everyone who showed up for this one is a beast in my book!

Me and Jack Puppy on the summit of Isolation!
Me and Jack Puppy on the summit of Isolation!

We got there early and Chris and his crew started to set up the timing, tents, etc.  Ryan headed out to make sure the course markings were still in place while I got the food and prize table set up.  Putting on a race takes a lot of work from both race directors and volunteers.  We were lucky enough to find volunteers to help with timing so that we could both run our race as well.  Ryan and I were both in contention for a top three series finish and we wanted to try to snag a podium spot!

A collection of photos from the womens podium at Granite State Snowshoe series Championship
A collection of photos from the womens podium at Granite State Snowshoe series Championship

The runners started to show up and soon we were with friends, teammates and fellow runners!  After a busy morning we were off and my legs were dead!  I hammered myself at the nationals and had a rough week of running leading up to the finals!  I pushed hard and fell back as I slowly got passed by boys that I can usually hang with!  I just smiled and carried on, knowing this was the last race of the season and I just had to finish.  Each hill burned more and each descent made my quads feel like they were going to explode!  Eric from LEVEL RENNER passed me on the last climb and I never saw him again!  I held on and ran my best to the finish and took the womens win and secured my first place in the series!  

 

Me and Ryan on Mount Major!
Me and Ryan on Fort Mountain

I was thrilled because I really wanted that Axe we were giving out as a prize!  (Is it wrong for an RD to win their own race?! )  It may be, but I had fun and it seemed like everyone else did too!  Ryan secured a 3rd place series finish and was thrilled to be on the podium!  We were lucky to have friends sweep the course for us as we had to head down to Hollis to pick up Ryans daughters for the rest of the weekend.

Me and My girls on Mount Major!
Me and My girls on Mount Major!

The next couple of weeks flew by!  We took the girls to the climbing gym for their first time and they did incredible!  We also took them on hikes which they enjoyed, but I think that if it were warmer they would have enjoyed them more!  We did more sledding and lots of crafts with them at home.  One of the easiest ways to get them to go hiking is to bring small sleds.  We hike up the hills and sled down them, we told them it is called extreme sledding!  Who knows, maybe it will become a new winter sport!….

My running has been getting much better, in fact I was having so much fun that the other week I accidentally ran an extra 30 miles than what I had on my schedule!  Yes, I really didn’t know I ran an extra 30 miles.  I was wondering why my legs were so tired at the end of the week, can I blame it on my short term memory issues?  Well, running an extra 30 didn’t make the next week of running easy.  My legs were screaming at me but it felt so good to be able to run again!  The days are longer and the sun is warmer, signs that the trails will soon be brown and muddy which means that the green leaves and grass are on their way!  Just the thought of spring brings a smile to my face!

My girls on Mount Major!

I have been back in the Hypoxico and after a long conversation with the company I think I was using it right, then wrong and now am going to be using it right again!  I think sometimes we have a tendency to think that we need to be super hero’s and use the more is better attitude.  I am working on trying to find my balance point in the tent and might actually benefit more from using the tent at a lower altitude rather than the recommended altitude.  What is really cool about being athletic is how tuned in you become to your body!  I started to notice severe fatigue, trouble recovering from training runs and bloating after getting over 8k feet in the tent.  We backed me up to 4000 feet and are slowly working forward to figure out where my O2 saturation level is and how I feel.  What I do know is that before I got up to 7000 feet I felt that the tent was helping me tremendously!  So, I am excited to figure out how to make this system benefit my body and my training load.

Another new aspect to my training this year is weight training!  I usually weight train for a few months in the winter and then resort to only running during the spring and summer months.  I am finding that I have lost a lot of strength since my mountain climbing days and am working to fine tune my training to help me get back to my old level of strength but also maintain my speed.  I am incorporating various strength training workouts into my routine.  My body is fighting the increase in training but I know that once I push through this barrier my running will benefit from it greatly!

Jack puppy loves mountains!
Jack puppy loves mountains!

Last week Ryan and I set out on a mission to find some dirt to run on!  We did a short run in the Blue Hills outside of Boston and enjoyed running on the frozen dirt.  I also had an opportunity to take my La Sportiva Bushido’s out on a test run on the trail!  There were a ton of rocks to really put them to the test.  What I found was that these shoes will be incredible White Mountain Shoes!  My favorite is still the Helios.  That shoe is super lightweight, gives you that “naked” foot feeling, has great cushion (there is one spot that I can feel sharp rocks but that is it), it feels like 95% of the force I put to the ground gets returned to me, has great traction, and the shoe drains almost instantly!  The Bushido has more of a muffled feeling than the Helios.  There are no spots where I felt sharp rocks, the shoe has a comfortable upper, I can tell I have a shoe on my foot but it does not feel restricted in any way.  The traction is unbelievable and it feels like about 85-90% of the force I put to the ground is returned to me.  The shoe still bends nicely and I can feel the terrain beneath my feet but it does not hurt.  So, on fast and non-technical trails the Helios will still be my shoe.  For technical, rocky and slippery trails the Bushido will be the shoe I choose.  I feel that the Bushido will allow me to move quicker and more confidently on challenging terrain than the Helios will.  I also have to mention that the Crossovers are my favorite winter and spring shoe because they keep my feet dry and warm.  If I were only going to use one shoe year round I would go for the Bushido.  I prefer to have all three to help me perform my best on snow/slush, easy terrain , and super technical terrain!

Jack puppy has been enjoying some time out in the snow and he has even gotten up north for some fun runs in the mountains!  With the weather still so cold and the ground so snowy it is hard to get on the trails as much as we like.  It has been a long winter for Jack puppy, but I take him out with me on some of my shorter road runs and he comes on the trail runs with us.  He is so much fun to run with and can’t wait until he can go swimming again and find some mud to roll in!

Our wedding made the NH Bride Magazine!
Our wedding made the NH Bride Magazine!

I have been having some fun runs with my girls and we tackled Mount Major today!  These girls show improvements each week and it has been really fun to see them seek out new adventures and journeys!  Right now a couple of them have chosen to run the Emerald Necklace stage race and two others are looking at achieving mountain goat status this year at the mountain races!  I would love to see them take on that challenge.  I think they would not only have fun but they will learn things about themselves that they never knew.  We run weekly and if you are looking for a fun group of girls to enjoy time on the trail with visit www.whitemountainrunningcompany.com for more information!

Our wedding made the NH Bride Magazine!
Our wedding made the NH Bride Magazine!

I am enjoying getting back into my high mileage training and incorporating strength into my routine.  With the increase in exercise comes an increase in appetite!  I am trying to find that perfect diet to help me keep my GI issues under control, to keep my muscles fed properly, and to decrease my sugar intake!  I eat so much candy and am going to challenge myself to give up almost all of my sugar.  I may try to keep the occasional dark chocolate in my diet but that is it.  This is not going to be easy for me!  I find that the Udo’s oil helps keep my energy more stable and helps with the sugar cravings but the hard part is seeing the sugar and not just throwing it in my mouth out of habit!  Ryan and I are also in the process of completely transitioning to organic foods.  I have eliminated Soy and Gluten for health purposes.  We are even going to start our own garden this year!  We bought Non-GMO heirloom seeds and plan to raise our garden organically.  It will be fun to get the kids involved and hopefully it encourages them to eat some vegetables!

My next race is in 4 weeks and it seems so far away!  I am excited to get started with the ultra running season and have a fun list of races and events I want to do!  I had a solid plan for the year and now I am just winging it, picking a variety of races and events to keep it fun and honestly not putting anything in stone.  I need to be flexible this year with my race schedule and pick just a few races that I want to focus fully on.  Cayuga 50 miler and Loon are two races that I am really excited about!  Then Ryan and I plan to set out on our second attempt at the Direttissema.  Last time I hardly trained for it and had foot issues.  I feel like I am emotionally ready this time to take on the challenge and have already started training for it!  After that I am trying to decide what the fall will look like!  Maybe Sawtooth again, Maybe JFK 50, Nipmuck marathon, a fast road marathon?  I don’t know and I love it!  I need to feel free and spontaneous because that is what makes me happy.  When I am happy, I run better.  :)

Jack puppy all groomed and ready for mud season!  Grooming by the Laughing Dog in Northwood, NH
Jack puppy all groomed and ready for mud season! Grooming by the Laughing Dog in Northwood, NH

I want to thank my wonderful sponsors La Sportiva, Choucas Hats, UltrAspire (check out their new caps for their bottles!!!!), Julbo USA, Flora Health, Hypoxico and First Endurance.  These companies make incredible products that help me run my best!  Thank you to my husband Ryan for being so supportive!  Thank you to my Jack puppy for showing me that every run should be fun!  Thank you to my coach Jack for tolerating my lack of commitment to any particular plan for the year and looking for ways to simply have fun with my running while achieving time goals.  Thank you to my friends for always being there!  I had a blast with a few of you last week painting pottery!  Thank you to everyone who inspires me, including the runners I coach and the walking group I belong to!  I am a very lucky girl and am so happy to feel like myself again!

Do what makes your heart sing.  Do what makes you smile.  Surround yourself with people who make you laugh and always allow love to be your guide.  Life is only as good or as bad as you make it.  Your happiness is dependent on how you choose to see the world!  I am putting on my shiny pink lip gloss and a pair of my happy glasses!  What are you going to do?  :)

 

Where will your running take you? Photo by Gianina Lindsey
Where will your running take you? Photo by Gianina Lindsey

 

 

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Color Me Crazy

 I want to voice my thoughts on those crazy un-timed races where you get blasted in the face with colored corn starch, run through bubbles, get chased by care bears, run through a 5k rave party or wear some sort of crazy costume. I think they are absolutely crazy and for a while I looked at these overpriced events as just plain confusing. Why would I pay that much to do a 5k and not receive a time or a race number? Well, within the last year that has changed.

I belong to an online walking group (most have started running!) who participates in these events, I coach beginner runners who are terrified of an actual timed race and I also see these people not only having an absolute blast, but also changing their lifestyle.  I also live my life in a way where I try to not only say nice things about people but also think them.  To truly be compassionate you need to learn how to clean your dark thoughts, the ones that poke fun at others or say mean things that are very hurtful.  You can always find something positive in each person you meet and each situation you encounter.  It may be something very generic and small but there is always a positive.

I must admit, when I see my racing friends bashing these events I am honestly offended.  People who inspire me, people who I mentor and people I consider friends have put down the cigarettes, gotten their asses off the couch, changed their diets for the better, have become confident and comfortable with who they are, and have completely enhanced the quality of their lives.  Maybe we should all take a step back and remember our first race, our first failed attempt at a PR or the first time we didn’t make a cutoff at a race.  Take away all that stress and add a playful theme and you are left with these crazy races!

So,  if these races are making people happy, helping them become fit and encouraging them to make a complete lifestyle change why bash these races?  I like the start line of a race, the butterflies in my stomach and the pre-race stress.  That feeling is not for everyone.  Please be compassionate and look at the bigger picture!  The people competing in these un-timed races actually train like we do (maybe not as fast but they use their training runs to PR for distance instead of races).  I have seen some of the people I know who train for these events run sub 10 minute miles!  How is this any different than what we strive for?  Maybe these races are the “gateway drug” and once participants do them enough they will get that drive to try a timed race, maybe not!  Isn’t it better than sitting on the couch hating your life, stuffing your face with crappy food and watching the quality of your life deteriorate more each day?  Think about it.

I challenge you all to try to clean your thoughts, to look at the things in life that really don’t make sense.  Things like smoking, alcohol abuse, drug abuse, neglecting the beautiful life we are all given, etc.  Maybe even try one of these ridiculous races.  You can time yourself and probably go out and cross the finish line first or you can throw on a costume and listen to the laughter from the person next to you who is celebrating her 50lb weight loss, how she just threw out the scale because she doesn’t care about what she weighs anymore-she just went from a size 12 to a size 6 or possibly the guy who just came off his diabetes medication because he has chosen to have something healthy to live for.  :)

me and my beautiful girls!
me and some of my beautiful girls!
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Finding my inner peace

Since last fall I have struggled with finding my inner peace.  I started to focus more on being competitive and less on having fun.  I started to feel like I had to be super fast to keep my sponsors happy and I was losing control of my life.  On a run with a friend in November I took a fall that literally gave me the smack in the head I needed.  There is nothing fun about a concussion and I have a few friends who are also dealing with taking a swift hit to the head this winter.  The recovery sucks.  The headaches were awful and every once in a while one comes back slightly to remind me to appreciate what I have.  The lump still hurts but, I have been able to train like I used too for almost 3 weeks now and that means a lot to me!  My short term memory is shot, so if you ask me to repeat what you just said I probably won’t remember it until tomorrow.  Our winter has been a battle with piecing together jobs and barely being able to pay the bills, but then there is the truth about what is more important- time or money?  So, we have enjoyed having time to spend with Ryans daughters and get to know each other more.  I have had time to recover and reflect on what really matters in  my life and most importantly confide in friends and look deep within my soul to locate the inner peace I carried for so long but lost in the chaos of last fall.

Ryan and his girls on the sledding hill
Ryan and his girls on the sledding hill

What did I learn!?  I love being a step mom!  I am so blessed to be able to be a part of Ryans daughters lives and it is exhausting but so fun doing new and different things with the girls!  We have been hiking with them, sledding, ice skating, tubing at Gunstock, doing crafts, building snow tunnels, snow sculptures, playing games and so much more!  I had no idea what I was missing out on by not being able to have children, it is incredible!  These girls are cute, funny and do sometimes test our patience but Ryan and I focus on always staying calm and explaining things to the girls instead of just saying no or yelling at them.  We don’t know what we are supposed to do so we just focus on having an honest relationship with them and to expose them to fun healthy activities and hope to one day get some vegetables in these girls!  So far pasta and butter are the favorite meal!  Last week we took them on their first winter “mountain” hike up Mount Blue Job and we all had a blast!  Ryan and I agreed that we should expose them to different healthy outdoor activities and let them pick what they like instead of just what we like.  His oldest is taking an interest in running, we think his youngest may be the mountain biker and both seem to enjoy hiking!  Zoe wants to be a professional runner and Hannah wants to climb Mount Everest someday!  Hey, there is nothing wrong with dreaming big!  I told them they can do anything they want as long as they put in the effort and practice.

My runs have become fun again and I look forward to getting out and enjoying the outdoors!  The cold weather has made some runs harder to get through than others but that is a part of winter!  I am not going to lie, spring sounds really good right now!  Ryan and I are hosting the Bear Brook Snowshoe race this weekend which is also the Granite State Snowshoe Series Championships.  Come out and play with us for one last romp in the snow!  Ryan has been working hard on making sure the course is in great condition and myself and some others are helping to make the trails great on Saturday!  The course is awesome and will have you cursing and smiling at the same time, so, are you tough enough to take on this race!?  Come find out!

Exeter Race, photo by Scott Mason
Exeter Race, photo by Scott Mason

Since Kingman Farm time flew by so quickly!  I got in some good runs, some nice time with friends and lots of time with Ryans girls during their school vacation.  They don’t quite understand why we run so much but they don’t have to.  We just tell them that we want to be healthy and exercise is important and fun.  Hopefully when they are older they too will appreciate being active!  There is a lot of snow on the trails and the snowmobile trails are in incredible shape!  I love how they make the trails nice enough to run with only screw shoes!

The next race was Exeter Hullabaloo and it was so much fun!  There was plenty of snow and the course was mashed potatoes from the warm weather but it was so much fun!  I love when the courses are challenging.  The tougher the conditions the better I do!  The conditions were perfect for me that day and I was shocked at how things played out!  For starters I was feeling pretty good and was happy!  The sun was shining, the air was warm and so many friends were there to chat with before the race!  We started on some double track and it was the usually push and grind to the singletrack.  Snowshoe racing is like going into battle.  If you have done one, you understand.

Coming down the hill at the Nationals!  Photo by Gianina Lindsey
Coming down the hill at the Nationals! Photo by Gianina Lindsey

I slipped into my happy place and found a nice rhythm.  Soon I was passing people and I pretended I was a machine just plowing my way through the woods.  I couldn’t believe how good I felt!  I got a glimpse of about 6 runners which included Chris Dunn and locked in on him.  I have wanted to catch him in a race for years and when I found myself right behind him I was thrilled and in shock!  He politely let me by and cheered me on which gave me a bit of a boost!  I then got into a passing dilemma with a few guys who were new to snowshoe racing and didn’t quite understand the etiquette involved with passing.  Yes, you need to earn your pass but when passing means trudging through knee deep snow it is not fair to sprint when someone tries to pass you just to slow down again.  After getting very agitated and literally clicking on a few heels I took a deep breath and charged around the two guys blocking me.  I ran on pure frustration at that point and was not about to let them catch me.  I blew up hard charging to the finish but grabbed a womens win and 5th place overall finish!  It is rare that I have a race that feels that good so I enjoyed the whole experience.  I did have a chat with the two guys after the race and felt that we left the conversation on good terms.  I don’t like conflict but blocking happens more than it should at the snowshoe races and isn’t fair.  I can’t stand someone clicking on my heels, when they catch me I ask them what side they want to pass and I either slow down or hop off the trail for a second and cheer them on.  Good sportsmanship is so important!  Something was once said to me that  is so true, nobody is going to care about your time or where you placed a year from now.  Just go out and enjoy the experience!  There is always someone faster and someone slower than you!

 

Ryan in the pack of speedy boys!  Photo by Gianina Lindsey
Ryan in the pack of speedy boys! Photo by Gianina Lindsey

This past weekend was the US Snowshoe Nationals which drew a pretty stacked field on both the mens and womens side.  I realized this week that I don’t do well with hyped up races, my head takes over and I can’t focus.  I love having competition but don’t like hype or people telling me I am going to win.  I race for the experience and to do my best and if I place, that is just a bonus!  Ryan and I got up at 4am to make the drive to VT for the race.  We spectated the juniors race where Ahna got the junior under 14 national championship title!!!!  She is so cute and has an awesome running career in her future if she continues to love it!  For not doing a lot of snowshoe racing she really held her own!  Connor was really cute and was the youngest competitor at the race at only 7 years old.  He finished along with some other cute little kids and got a second place finish in the little guys class!  I got in a small warmup run and almost died when I lined up with the women in my race!  These girls looked serious and I was terrified!  I tried to calm my nerves by chatting with Amber and Melissa.  These girls are nice and fun!  Joe Viger got a great picture of the womens start where me, Amber and Melissa are laughing and the rest of the competition is looking fierce!  I wore my La Sportiva Crossovers, Choucas blue swirl sparkle hat, Julbo Groovy Sunglasses, and carried a flask of First Endurance EFS gel- vanilla flavor.

Amber is laughing because she knows she is going to demoralize us, Melissa and I are laughing because we don't know what the heck we are doing here!  Everyone else is ready to get the job done.  Ya, I was terrified!  Look at these girls, they look like machines!
Amber is laughing because she knows she is going to demoralize us, Melissa and I are laughing because we don’t know what the heck we are doing here! Everyone else is ready to get the job done. Ya, I was terrified! Look at these girls, they look like machines!  Joe Viger Photography

We took off and I focused on staying steady.  Amber dropped the field within the first few seconds and I hung back in about 10th place.  I wanted to treat this race like an ultra.  I took my time going up the hill and slowly started to pass the other girls on the way up the climb.  This course did not suit my style of running at all, but it was a beautiful course!  It was mostly groomed which meant it was fast.  I am tough on snowshoes, not fast.  After a couple of k’s into the race I was in second place and could see Amber putting us all to shame!  I started to make a bit of ground on the singletrack but then we were back on the groomers and I never saw her again!  I focused on being happy and took in the beautiful trees covered in snow, the light shining into the forest, the sound of my snowshoes hitting the ground and the feeling of snow coming down the back of my shirt.  I listened to my breathing and ran this race just above my comfort zone.  That was a huge risk because I could completely blow up at any moment.

Goofing around before the finish  Photo by Andrea McCusker
Goofing around before the finish Photo by Andrea McCusker

The singletrack section had me laughing and making dirtbike noises around the twists and turns.  I couldn’t help but have a blast!  I opened up the gap between me and third place on the singletrack and then found myself back on those groomers where I felt like a slug!  Finally I stood on the summit and asked Danny what the heck he fed Amber for breakfast!  He just laughed knowing she absolutely destroyed the competition!  I hit the last long descent and that was it.  My quads were trashed.  I wanted to walk so bad and instead prayed for strength, thought of my friends, family and people who have touched my life.  I thought of how cool it would be to stand on that podium and snag a spot on the US Snowshoe team (which I really didn’t know anything about other than it sounds cool).  My body finally gave into my mind.  I was running purely on my mental strength at that point.

Joe Viger captured my playful descent to the bottom of the hill!
Joe Viger captured my playful descent to the bottom of the hill!

I finally got to the top of the last descent to the finish where Amber crossed the finish line just as I crested the hill.  I had never seen so many spectators at a race before!  It was crazy!  I charged down the hill playing on the fun switchbacks!  It was an absolute hoot jumping and laughing down the hill!  I somehow forgot that the finish was not at the bottom of the climb and my heart sank when the course turned left and I still had more racing to do on flat groomers!  I looked back and saw third place just cresting the hill and ran so hard that I got tunnel vision.  Everything started to turn black, my legs were shaking and I just kept praying to not pass out until I crossed the finish line.  I made it!  I finished over 2 minutes behind Amber and about a minute ahead of third.  I had to drop to my knees for a bit after I stopped because my legs didn’t want to work and I was getting dizzy.  I never knew I could be capable of pushing that hard, to the point of almost not functioning but for the second time in my racing career I did just that and it got me on the podium!

2014 US Womens National Snowshoe Team!
2014 US Womens National Snowshoe Team!

The women started pouring in and it was just amazing to watch so many talented women tearing it up out there!  I made the US Snowshoe team and can’t wait to represent our country at the Worlds next year with 4 other speedy ladies!  I have some serious work to do because Amber lit a fire in my heart and totally made me want to be able to run that fast with a smile!  Again, finding that balance!  After the womens race I got to watch the start of the mens race!  They had some insane competition!  That field was ridiculous!  The men took off like rockets!  Kerri and Sarah were with me laughing at how the mens race was like a parade with the large amount of competitors!  It was fun to watch them tear through the start/finish area before heading up the hill for a bit!  Before long the guys were ripping down the hill, one right after the other.  It was so impressive to watch them come down absolutely flying!  Lots of friend started coming through and Ryan was right there in the mix with the New England speedies!  He looked really good ripping down the hill and secured a 33 place finish in a field full of olympic athletes and snowshoe champions!

We hung around for the Awards Ceremony and I proudly stood on that hay bale podium with the 2014 US Womens snowshoe team!  I wanted to cry with pride but held it together and cracked a joke with Amber telling her I was going to stalk her during her training to see what she does and that I was going to get her at Worlds!  She laughed  (does Amber do anything other than laugh!?)  and didn’t tell me her secret!  What I love about Amber is she is not only crazy fast, she is so darn nice and absolutely hilarious!  I am not ever sure I will be able to perform at her level but I am going to try my best!

We had a nice dinner with our Acidotic crew before the long drive home where of course we got pulled over for yet another headlight not working.  Our road destroys bulbs in our cars and it seems every time we drive to a race out of state we get pulled over to find that we have another bulb out!  I went for a 10 mile snowshoe run the next day with Ryan and could barely function!  I hammered myself so hard on Saturday and it was worth every bit of pain I endured!  Next up is the Bear Brook Snowshoe race where I hope to see our racing friends for one last romp through the snow!

Gunstock tubing
Gunstock tubing

With all of the stress and inability to train at full capacity until just a couple of weeks ago I have decided to pull out of Lake Sonoma and focus on racing Traprock this year instead.  It will be fun to run with some New England speedsters Deb and Serena!  I am hoping to poop less during the race (last time it was awful!) and to have fun!  It is a great race because the course is fun and I get to see my Connecticut friends that I miss so much!  Each day takes me to a better place.  I am smiling more each day and almost feeling like my old self again!  My inner truths have shown me that sponsored or not, I need to run for fun and not to win.  I need to run for myself and not for others, and I would rather have people like me because I am a good person and not just because I am a fast runner.

I really want to thank my sponsors for helping me out and being patient with my recovery as well as understanding about missing my first two travel races.  It is never easy to hand in a schedule and bail on my plans a couple of months later.  La Sportiva, Choucas Hats, UltrAspire, JulboUSA, Flora Health, First Endurance and Hypoxico- thank you.  Thank you to my coach Jack for sticking with me no matter what, it really means a lot to me!  Thank you to Ryan for understanding and listening to me.  Thank you to my friends for all of your advice and support this year.  I haven’t been my bubbly self and you didn’t abandon me.  You have no idea what that means to me!  Thank you to my Jack puppy for being my sweet little trail buddy.  He makes running so much fun!  I also want to give a huge thank you to the photographers who come to all the races, sometimes in the freezing cold to capture moments that can only be seen on film.  They capture that look of pain, the thrill of a great race, the emotion that the athlete may not even know they show and a memory that we can see forever.  Thank your photographers the next time you are out at a race! I am such a lucky girl and I am happy to have new goals to focus on this year that aren’t stressful!

My jack puppy, photo by Miriam Wilcox
My jack puppy, photo by Miriam Wilcox

Let me leave you with some advice: Don’t hit your head!  Seriously, concussions are one of the hardest injuries to recover from.  They change your personality, they change your drive, motivation and happiness.  The last two weeks have been the best that I have had since the accident.  I am finding motivation again and happiness!  It was hard to be such a happy person and to lose that feeling for so long.  It really made me appreciate the little things in my life.  Look around, what little things are you missing in your life?  Have you done something fun with your spouse or children?  Have you kept in touch with friends you haven’t seen in a while?  Have you stepped outside and looked up at the trees or the sky?  Slow down for a few minutes a day, it is amazing how much you are missing!  Oh, and leave your phone inside.  Those things are so addictive.  I have decreased my time on facebook, email and internet.  I have been missing out on a lot because my face was always buried in my phone or on my computer.  Ryan and I even started doing a puzzle together and it is fun!

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Let it snow!

This winter has been crazy!  The temperatures have been bitter cold and we have been slammed with snow!  Living in New England, we should all expect this type of weather!  I’m not going to lie, I don’t like running when it is below zero.  My lungs hurt, my body gets sweaty and my clothes freeze, my eyeballs hurt and the drainage from my nose freezes into sexy snotcicles.  I love a few of those bitter cold runs each winter but it’s been more than just a few this year!  Even the fun photo shoots with Jay Philbrick have been freezing!!!!!  They are so much fun though!!

Crazy Photo Shoot with Philbrick Photography!
Crazy Photo Shoot with Philbrick Photography!

The snow has come and has not gone.  It is deep right now, up over my knees!  I love running in the snow but right now the conditions leave me with either running on trails with something heavy strapped to my feet or praying for my life on the road!  I pick my battles depending on my mood and so far have lived to see another day!  Snowshoe, microspike and screw shoe running is a ton of fun but there are days I just want to move fast in the woods!  The roads have even become a slippery battle as they become more narrow with each passing storm.  The other day I got a bit frustrated with how slow running in the snow is and then I looked around.  I think that we are forced to slow down in the winter because what surrounds us is breath-taking!  I noticed the branches covered in a layer of fresh snow, the tops of the trees glistening with ice, the sky looking more blue than ever, a huge owl flying across the trail, animal tracks in the snow and at night a spectacular moon that reflects off the snow, making it shimmer like a field of glitter!  I suddenly found peace with winter running.

Justin Macomber took a picture of Ryan getting set up to belay for the shoot!
Justin Macomber took a picture of Ryan getting set up to belay for the shoot!

 

My life has still been crazy.  Ryan and I are working on a per diem basis and some weeks we have work while others we don’t.  It’s great to have time to run, but stressful to not know how the bills will get paid!  I do believe that we all have highs and lows to teach us lessons and keep us grounded.  For me, I was getting too competitive.  I needed to take a step back and remember that I run for fun, not to be noticed, not to be the best, and not for anyone other than myself.  There are days I truly miss showing up at a race with nobody caring about who I was and my only task being to cross that finish line.  Chasing cut-offs is just as fun as winning!  I have also been struggling with people giving me condolences for not winning a race.  I don’t have to win and honestly am okay with not winning!  There are plenty of women out there who can run circles around me!  I miss the days of my friends thinking I was a badass for simply entering an ultra!  I will ask for your help in this, congratulate me on finishing, don’t send condolences for losing a race and understand that even though I have gotten faster I am still that crazy girl I always was!  I am full of life, lofty goals, crazy dreams and a desire to help people be happy.  If I can change one life through my adventures than I am happy. :)

The master at work, may his knee surgery heal fast!!! Photo by Justin Macomber
The master at work, may his knee surgery heal fast!!! Photo by Justin Macomber

 

I am not sure I will be at the two big races I signed up for this spring.  Lake Sonoma and Miwok may have to wait another year.  I’m not completely writing them off but I may choose to stay local.  With our winter jobs not being as busy as we hoped it would be too much to take off and race.  In a lot of ways I think I need some low key local races to get my head back to where I need it to be!  So, Cayuga might be my next biggie and I love that course so it will be fun!!!!  Traprock looks like it will be fun to try again!  Maybe I can try to break 5 hours?!  Who knows!  I love lofty goals, but don’t like pressure.  What I just said makes no sense to me either!!!!

Me, Miriam and Mindy!
Me, Miriam and Mindy!

So, enough whining and back to racing!  I raced Horse Hill snowshoe race a few weeks ago and my friends Miriam and Mindy ran their first snowshoe race that day!  The conditions were perfectly snowy and challenging!!  I started the race accidentally with my jacket which later turned out to be a blessing!  My memory has been awful since the concussion (my friends will say it was never good but now it is really bad!).  I started out behind Melissa and figured I would hang with her for a bit before trying to pull ahead.  I did pass her at one point and felt amazing!  I charged ahead of a bunch of people and was smiling the whole time!  I was having a blast!  Well, soon I was alone and came to a confusing intersection.  There were flags and an arrow pointing to the right, a right I had already taken.  I remembered the race director said there was backtracking on the course where we double backed and I saw people ahead on the trail so I ran that way.

Ryan looking cute at horsehill!
Ryan looking cute at horsehill! Photo by Gianina Lindsey

I soon came up on some of the people in the back of the pack who told me I was going the wrong way.  I didn’t listen and ran down the hill only to realize, I WENT THE WRONG WAY!  OMG, I ran my heart out and came out of the trail to catch someone going the right way.  I got hungry and remembered there was a gel in my jacket!  I was bonking hard and sucked down that gel like it was a bottle of chocolate syrup! ( I got busted once by the UPS guy drinking from a bottle of Hersheys Syrup like is was a baby bottle).  I ran as hard as I could, passing as many people as possible hoping to at least place top three.  Well, I got my third place and couldn’t believe I ran a MILE OFF COURSE!  Oh well, I was still having a blast and didn’t really care that I ran an extra mile!  It was a great race and Melissa took top honors that day!  Now we have to battle it out over the next 3 races to see who takes the series!  It will be fun!

Getting lost at races is fun!  Photo by Gianina Lindsey
Getting lost at races is fun! Photo by Gianina Lindsey

Mindy and Miriam both finished with smiles and I was thrilled to see them have fun!  Miriam even registered for Kingman Farm which was the next weekend!  What a hoot that race is!  We run at night, with headlamps!  Fun is not even close to being the word to describe that one!  The next week flew by with runs that included all sorts of equipment on my feet!  With a huge dumping and more on the way during the race I was ready for Kingman Farm!  The burlier the conditions, the better I do so I was ready to have a blast!

Nighttime racing!  Photo By Scott Mason
Nighttime racing! Photo By Scott Mason

Miriam had the coolest light up skirt ever!  It was awesome!  I forgot my headlight and Gary Reuter who was recovering from his second shoulder surgery was kind enough to let me borrow his.  He is 73 years young and races trail and snowshoes!  Talk about inspiring!  He is also so darn nice and if you ever get a chance to meet him you will walk away smiling.  That man knows how to light up a room!  May his recovery be speedy!  The guy that wears a moose costume was there racing too and I have no idea how he fits that contraption through the singletrack!

Photo by Scott Mason- strapping on the DIONS!
Photo by Scott Mason- strapping on the DIONS!

Well, the race started and Jim and Nacho were pretty much finished with the race by the time the rest of us mortals were to the first turn (yes I am exaggerating but those two lay down some crazy fast times!)  The highlight of the race was the twirly field section where you can see everyone running with their headlamps!  It was almost magical!  The snow was falling down fast and visibility was interesting but the field was so cool!  We were tossed back into some sweet singletrack and then the HILL!!!!  It cracked me up because James Dunn was at the top telling us it was all downhill to the finish.  I was a bit confused but figured we were just going to run down the hill so I opened it up.  For some reason I kept hearing a woman speaking to me and thought that it was a girl near me so I ran my heart out!  I like the challenge of chasing or being chased and for some reason thought I was being chased down.  As for the downhill, it soon went right back up again before the final descent.  I cruised into the finish line smiling and soaking wet!  I finished first woman and strangely there was no woman near me.  I may never know who or what was talking to me.  I don’t even remember what the voices were saying.  Am I losing my mind, maybe, who knows!  I had a blast and so did everyone else!  It was great to see everyone and hang out after the race!  Ahna who is one tough kid finished the race with one snowshoe and sneaker in her hand due to a  shoe malfunction, talk about one tough kid!  I am waiting for the day she catches me in a race because it will happen, she is speedy!

Me with my girls and Jack puppy!
Me with my girls and Jack puppy!

Ryan and I had a great weekend with his girls and they had their first sleepover which was great fun!  We went sledding with friends and Ryan built them a snow tunnel!  It was a great couple of days with them and it has been so nice to have them in our lives!  I can’t have kids of my own so I feel blessed to have Ryans girls in my life!  They are so much fun and crack me up!  Their mom and Ryan are very lucky to have two awesome girls who are also absolutely beautiful!  I am just so thankful that I am allowed to be a part of their lives.  

The next day I went for a great hike with my friend Miriam.  I cried for most of it because I am struggling with so much in my life right now and it was nice to have her just listen.  Sometimes a girl just needs a good cry!  If she ever needs someone to cry in front of I will be there for her like she was there for me.  I seriously have some of the nicest people in the world in my life and I never want to let them go.  Friends are a precious gift that should never be taken for granted.

Today I had an awesome run with the girls I coach!  There is no better way to start my day than to show up to the trail and see my girls tossing on their snowshoes and smiling ear to ear!  So many people hide from the snow and cold, these girls embrace it!  I don’t even think they realize how strong they really are!  There was a foot of new snow so we didn’t have it easy.  One snowmobile had passed through on part of the trail so we stuck to that route.  It was ridiculously beautiful out!  It was a breathtaking and super fun run!  I love to be a part of helping people smile, find something healthy and have fun!  

My Girls!
My Girls!

I want to thank my sponsors for all of their help and support.  You make my running happen and make it fun!  Please check them out, they make incredible stuff!  La Sportiva, Choucas Hats, UltrAspire, JULBO USA, Flora Health, First Endurance and Hypoxico.  If you have questions about any of their products contact me!  Thank you to my coach Jack for being patient with my recovery and life changes.  I owe you so much!  Thank you to Ryan and Jack puppy for being a part of my incredible journey!  Thank you to my friends for always being awesome and making me smile, I hope you enjoy having me in your life as much as I enjoy having you in my life!  I am a very lucky girl!

Life is a long journey and things can change quickly.  Appreciate each moment, treasure your friends and do things because they make you happy.  If you find yourself in a tough spot, take a moment to slow down and regroup.  Allow yourself to look deep within your soul for answers but also don’t be afraid to reach out to others to help guide you towards your solution.  Sometimes it is hard to face your truths, your inner demons.  The answer isn’t always what you want to hear but the truth will set you free!  Don’t live a lie, always be yourself and do what makes you truly happy!  Most of all, remember that tough times will pass just as quickly as the good times pass!  Embrace it all because that is your wild ride called LIFE.

Me and Jacko!  One of the carters, don't remember which one!
Me and Jacko! One of the carters, don’t remember which one!
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It’s all about being happy!

I live my life to be happy, it’s that simple.  I don’t need much but I do need to be happy.  Since my concussion I have had a lot of stress thrown my way and no matter how positive you are, sometimes it is  hard to see the other side of the mountain tossed in your path.  I always believe that these things are thrown at us to teach a lesson and they don’t go away until that lesson is learned.  Another aspect is that post concussion syndrome can also trigger a bout of depression in people who don’t usually suffer from it.  I have been through this many years ago and know that it will take months to fully recover but it’s still hard to accept.  I most likely fractured my skull in my fall which the doctor was questioning but a small sore spot on my head that feels like a bone chip makes me believe it is true.  The  lump is there, the headaches are gone, the emotional battle is a huge challenge!  There are days I don’t want to move, to get out of bed or to go for my run.  What I am finding is that getting my ass out there and moving always makes me feel better!

Summit of Jefferson
Summit of Jefferson

I am taking a small break from Facebook to allow myself some time to find my inner peace and happiness that makes me who I am!  I am still lurking and keeping up on my friends activities but trying to not post so much about my life and to just lay low for a bit.  I need to focus on me, my training, my new life as a step mom, my marriage, my friends and slowing down the thoughts in my head.  The last few weeks have been a complete roller coaster!

Leslie refusing to pass me!
Leslie refusing to pass me!

Sidehiller was quite the race.  We took Ryans girls to the race with us and it was cold.  They were our first priority and it made it difficult to focus on the race.  Then I accidentally lent out my extra snowshoes without taking my bindings back and with 10 minutes to race time had my snowshoe fall off during my warmup.  Three minutes before the race Karen Dunn let me snag a pair of loaners that I never ran in before and Ryan strapped them on my feet while I cried.  The course did not suit my style of running and it was a complete disaster.  I had a very tough race and watch a bunch of girls keep passing me.  Leslie could have passed me and I begged her to but she refused.  She was the better runner that day and should have run ahead and left me to deal with my own battles!  I did manage to qualify for the Nationals and am happy that I achieved that goal!

An attempt at a fondant doll cake, Zoe was happy, that is all that matters!
An attempt at a fondant doll cake, Zoe was happy, that is all that matters!

We took the girls to Fun Spot before bringing them back home.  We have been doing so much with the girls and they are so fun!  We have been sledding, hiking, ice skating and they are even showing us their trail running skills!  We have fun with them and hope to have them around a bit more in the summer!  Ryan and I spent several hours making a doll cake for Zoe’s 8th birthday and even though it wasn’t perfect she loved it and Ryan got lots of hugs for it!  It’s those little things that they seem to love best and it is so fun to get to know them!

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Jack puppy has been having a good winter but not getting out as much as he likes.  With the below zero temperatures we don’t want him to end up with issues so we keep him occupied with lots of tuggie and indoor play time.  We take him out whenever we can and he is so darn cute!  Jack puppy loves the snow so much and makes us laugh the entire time!  He shoves his head in the snow like an ostrich and pulls his head out with a face and beard full of snow!  He is slowly recovering from Sprite attacking him and we have a long way to go but he is making progress.  Pet A Gree is an awesome place for dog training and they are trying to help us get our happy go luck Jack puppy back!  The poor dog is so traumatized he is even afraid of his best friend Cooper!

Me and Mindy!
Me and Mindy!

The Beaver Brook Snowshoe race came fast and it was quite the course!  Icy, short and fast!  The usual girls weren’t there to kick my ass so I chased the boys.  It was a struggle as I was tired from ramping up my miles that week!  It feels good to be racking up the miles again but tough trying to recover from the multiple long runs!  Each run gets better and I become more optimistic that I will be the runner I was last year!

The Acidotic crew!
The Acidotic crew!

This week Ryan and I went on an adventure!  It wasn’t as snowy as we hoped but it was icy enough to make it tricky and there were plenty of spruce traps to fall into!  The last great adventure I had in the Whites was the Six Husbands Trail in the Winter.  It was one of the best days of my life, yes, in some ways it even topped standing on top of the big mountains I have climbed!  Well, the Castle Trail gave me that adventure I have been craving since 2010.  With all of my focus being on running fast and racing I lost touch with what I love most!  I love adventure in the mountains, snowy adventures!  When Ryan asked me if I wanted to hike the Castle trail I was thrilled!  We brought a rope and ice tools just in case and got a nice late 12:00 pm start.

Ryan on the Castle Trail
Ryan on the Castle Trail

 

This hike was beautiful!
This hike was beautiful!

The hike started out with overcast skies, ankle deep snow and a beautiful forest!  The higher we ascended the icier it got but it also became more silent!  Usually in the mountains you can hear the wind rustling through or above the trees.  It is almost never quiet, but that day was the most silent day I ever experienced.  It was a magical gift that I was going to enjoy every second of.  After a bit we were above treeline navigating our way around the “castles”, falling into spruce traps and looking at the amazing ridge all around us!  We ascended above the clouds and were treated to spectacular undercast conditions!  It was just where I needed to be.

Summit of Jefferson!
Summit of Jefferson!

 

 

Me and my Jack puppy!
Me and my Jack puppy!

We stopped for a snack break on the side of Mount Jefferson and stood there not saying a word to each other.  The silence was deafening!  The sun beat down on us and warmed up our bodies and our souls.  I took in the rays of the sun, the clouds below us, the ridge glowing bright white in the sun, the snow glistening like diamonds.  I could have taken my last breath and been satisfied with the incredible life I have had so far.  I have not felt an inner peace like that in years and the last time I remembered feeling that way was a day on Denali at 14,000 foot camp when I got up before everyone else and stood there looking out at a blanket of fresh snow covering the mountains.  There is no way to describe moments like that, but they are life changing.  For the first time since Denali I lived in the moment and didn’t have a single thought run through my head.  Each breath was so slow and meaningful and I never wanted that moment to end.  That moment reminded me of what really matters in my life; love, adventure, friends and happiness.  I realized that my running was giving me something cool but also taking away from the things that mean the most to me.  So, 2014 will be focused on balance.

The Castle Trail!
The Castle Trail!

We stood on top of Mount Jefferson and took in the sun falling closer to the horizon.  The evening mountain winds started to blow, telling us that the sun was setting and we should make our way back down.  It was a blast gliding down the snow, leaping off of rocks, butt sliding and playing all the way back to the car!  We got out six hours after we started with huge smiles on our faces!  It was a perfect day that I will hold close to my heart for a very long time.  To share that day with Ryan was incredible!

So pretty!!!
So pretty!!!

The next day I went on my first good training run since my injury!  I ran 10 miles with hill repeats about a minute per mile faster than any training run I did last year and it gave me hope!  I felt in control, strong and fast!  It’s funny how stress can affect my training.  I feel like the hike set me free from my inner demons!  The whole week was full of  great training runs that actually felt good!  I’m excited to feel like I am getting my fitness back and to feel that inner peace slowly returning.  I am going to re-arrange my life to include more adventure, more time with friends and more time for my marriage while still training hard to achieve my running goals.  If I can feel inner peace I can do it all!  My friend Deb is also an inspiration to not only be a good runner but to also be a good person.

The ridge!
The ridge!

I am lucky, I have a wonderful husband, incredible friends, an amazing coach and awesome sponsors!  Together they make my life better than I could ever imagine!  I am also starting up a new group to help beginners train for a half marathon this fall!  Visit www.whitemountainrunningcompany.com to learn more about all of the packages/camps/clinics that we offer!  We have an intermediate group that meets weekly for runs and are starting a beginner group!  We have fun and each week work on technique, snow running, track running, etc.  It’s a great group of ladies and they all have wonderful goals for this year!  I love helping people achieve their goals!  I focus on being healthy and happy which I believe makes the running much more fun!

See Food!
See Food!

 

Coming up above treeline!
Coming up above treeline!

Thank you to La Sportiva, Choucas Hats, UltrAspire, Julbo USA, Flora Health, First Endurance and Hypoxico for your support!  We make a great team!!!!!  Thank you to my coach Jack for doing so much for me!  Thank you to my friends for making me smile and being fun to hang out with!  Thank you to my husband for always being there for me no matter how challenging our life may get, we make a hell of a team (And thank you to Ryan for doing the Heimlich on me when I was choking on steak a couple of weeks ago!  You saved my life!) !  Thank you to my little Jack puppy for reminding me everyday that life is about having fun!  I am so grateful for the wonderful and crazy life I have!

Selfie after a perfect moment!
Selfie after a perfect moment!

There comes a time in everyone’s life where you are faced with looking deep within your soul.  To face the truth about what truly makes you happy and what really matters in your life.  Since my injury I have been searching deep within myself for some answers.  I think I found my answers the other day on that silent mountain.  It is so hard to pull away from the noises in our lives, the clutter in our minds and the distractions that technology throws at us.  Take a minute to find a place where you can face your truths and find some answers to who you really are.  I found mine, some I will share and some I will keep to myself.  I am going to use what I learned about myself to make 2014 a beautiful year!  :)

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An ordinary girl living a not so ordinary life