Choose your attitude

It’s been a while and there were a lot of bumps in my road, let’s just call it confetti.  The old saying that sometimes something that seems really bad is a blessing is disguise turned out to be true!  I had been feeling weak since last summer when climbing hills and that continued to turn into hip pain on and off and then pain on my hikes and run, then it was killing me at the snowshoe race in Canada and finally on a run of Mount Waumbek I was reduced to tears as I finished the run.  I was in so much pain that I swore I had a stress fracture in my hip.   I was able to squeeze in a fun photo shoot with Philbrick Photography but was in pain the whole time and it was ridiculously cold too!  It is always a pleasure to work with Jay and Vickie, they are incredible at what they do!

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Me and Jack Puppy on Franconia Ridge!

 

Trying to get an appointment with the doctor was a nightmare and I had to wait 3 weeks.  So, I turned to my chiropractor who kind of helped but could not make it better and finally a massage therapist who happened to also be the woman that ran across the country last year self supported.  I was so excited to meet this total badass and see if she could help me feel better.  I hadn’t been able to sleep because of the pain, had to halt my training and could barely get through a work day or a drive in the car, but…somehow I could skate ski.  So, out of desperation to maintain fitness I took a positive approach to my injury and skied every chance I got and hit the gym consistently. Those two activities did not hurt.

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Winter camping in the yard with the kids, it was -5 degrees and cramped in the two person tent but they had fun so that made it all worth while!

I took lessons, I totally sucked but there was something so fun about learning to skate ski!  I went during lunch, I went after work, I went on the weekends and was racking up 30+ miles a week on the skis!  I was getting strong!  The kids had a hard time understanding why I couldn’t give them the rowdy horsey rides they usually get when they are over (they hop on my back and I thrash and jump around, they love it!)  We did convince them to sleep in the tent in the yard one night when it was -5 degrees and they had so much fun and Ryan and I were a bit squished but it was still fun!

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12 mile Evans mountain run on snowmobile trails

 

I felt like the world was against me.  I have spent the last two years suffering from my concussion which I am feeling about 90-95% better from and then this.  I cried at night and wondered if I would ever be able to even walk in the mountains again.  Mountains have been my serenity, my escape, my passion for so many years.  I don’t really care how I get up them, I just need to be in them.  I wanted to go to sleep and never wake up again, totally not my style but it is sometimes part of the process of accepting things not going your way.  I had severe sciatica and constant pain all the way down into my feet, but somehow I could still ski without pain.

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I needed a change, something different to make me smile again so I had my hair colored orange.

I had my hair colored, I rocked pretty flowers in my hair and focused on my skiing and the challenge of learning how to do it.   I skied at so many different places and it was really fun to slowly start getting the hang of it and then one day while at Waterville Valley it finally clicked and I didn’t want winter to end!  I could glide, my pace got faster and I was no longer a beginner.  I was able to get my heart pounding and my breathing labored, skiing was finally a workout!

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Having fun skiing!

I stayed happy and overcame my sadness.  I missed running but I had a lot to be happy for.  I have great friends, the most amazing job in the world with the best coworkers and boss ever, I was still able to get outside and have fun, I had a supportive husband and my sweet little Jack puppy!  I was so sad that he could not join me on my skiing adventures and that I didn’t have anyone to ski with so I was solo for 4 weeks.  I went to a painting class and painted a cool picture and I got caught up on some reading.  I also finally got to see Jessica for a massage.

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Ryan and Nate and Me on a Tom, Field, Willey, Avalon and Willard snowshoe run. My hip was quite sore on this one.

In horrible pain and praying she would give me some relief I met her at the massage studio.  She had a huge smile and the room was full of relaxing smells and some fractal therapy on the ceiling to help relax me.  She started by feeling my muscles and found a few areas that seemed to be locked up.  In between asking her about her running she also educated me on my body and what was going on.  I had a spasm in my upper back that pulled my hip out of alignment which in turn caused me to completely stop using some of my muscles (explained the weakness on hills) that caused others to tighten up and finally put pressure on my sciatic nerve..essentially paralyzing me in pain.  I left with zero pain and a follow up appointment the next week.

 

Photo property of Philbrick Photography
Photo property of Philbrick Photography

Completely thrilled and skeptical I emailed my coach Jack to tell him to start training me slowly.  He gave me some treadmill runs and the day I ran one mile I cried tears of joy.  For the first time in weeks I felt like my mountains weren’t taken from me anymore and that there was a chance my running season could still happen!  A week passed by and I was running 4 miles a day on the treadmill and skiing about 30 miles a week.  I started feeling so strong, stronger than ever before!  I cancelled my doctor appointment and scheduled three massages.

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Red Newt Racing Team and Mountain Peak Fitness Crew got a nice shot of our Franconia Ridge Traverse adventure!

Well, March 7 came and I decided to give a hike of the Franconia Ridge a try.  Ryans racing team would be coming up and I was hoping to be well enough to join them.  My plan was to bail at the halfway mark.  They were strong and a lot of fun to be with!  I really enjoyed spending time with everyone!  We got a nice dinner together and then the next day I went for an awesome skate ski adventure!  I felt so strong and so happy!  My body was working the way it should be!

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I went to one of those painting nights and really enjoyed painting the northern lights!

I went for my next massage and Jessica just kept making me better!  She is incredible!  I think I am going to see her for maintenance just like I see the chiropractor.  I beat the crap out of my body with the amount of exercising I do and it is really important for me to keep everything working right.  So, the excellent news is that I am running again and moving better than I ever have!  I can’t wait to see how this season ends up!  I am choosing to run happy and train even happier!

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Nate enjoying a beautiful day of snowshoe running in the mountains!

With a new outlook and attitude I have been running again and making sure I am  happy!  It has been so wonderful getting back out on the trails and sharing adventures with friends and my little Jack puppy!  I have some seriously lofty plans for this year and speed isn’t my goal, but instead being as strong as I possibly can.

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My violin, I love learning to play this thing! Rumor has it I may be performing this December!

Ryan and I have been  having fun with the kids and sharing our love of the outdoors with them.  It is so much fun to watch them learn and grow!  It has been a brutally cold winter so hiking didn’t happen like we hoped but now that the days will be warmer we are planning to get them back out on the trails!  We had the opportunity to watch some maple syrup being made and the girls played with the goats and bunnies at our friends house.  I never saw syrup being made but I will never forget that amazing smell coming from the vats of sap being boiled down!

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Dion snowshoes are the best!

Now that I am running again I am focused on my training.  Balance is the key to this year.  Working full time, being a step mom, having two hours of commuting a day and finding time to train, eat and shower…oh and sleep becomes a juggling act.  Some days the sleep doesn’t happen for as many hours as I hoped and some days the runs are split up or shortened but I am trying my best.  Ryan and I have been taking turns running when we have the kids, one of us runs in the morning, the other in the afternoon.  They get upset and don’t understand why we run on the weekends, Ryan put it perfectly and told them that adults need to play too.  They seemed to understand that.   We are hoping to move closer to my job within the next year which will save me 6+ hours a week of driving and land us a home IN the White Mountains!  We will be able to run the mountains right from our house!  Talk about a dream come true!

 

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My nephew Jarek! He is my sisters baby.

I had a great visit with my mom and sister in CT and was so excited to see my baby nephew Jarek!  The kid is really cute!  He makes so many funny faces and I wanted to just take him home with me!  I wish my family all lived in New Hampshire, I miss them so much.

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Jack puppy likes winter and he likes the Wildcats! He ran 20 miles this day!

This past weekend was incredible!  I had a great week of running, skiing and hitting the gym.  I was able to join Nate and Ryan on their man run Saturday which was an absolute blast!  We ran up the 19 mile brook trail, ran all the WIldcats and then turned around and did all the Carters before turning around and coming down the Carter Dome trail and back to the 19 mile brook trail.  It was 20 fabulous miles in snowshoes on a beautiful day in the mountains!  We enjoyed a great dinner at the Gypsy Cafe where I ate to my hearts content!  The forecast was pretty aggressive for today so we slept in.  I slept 12 hours and then had a lazy morning of making pancakes and doing some house chores.  Then Ryan ran with me on snowmobile trails to Evans Mountain. It was cold, windy and perfect running conditions!  It was such a blast!  We wore screw shoes and fueled on Maple Syrup.  In my quest to eliminate performance enhancing supplements and chemical from my diet I am seeking natural ways to fuel.  I eat too much candy on the trail and question the chemicals in gels.  I have been using whole milk yogurt for recovery and making my breakfast, lunch and snacks from scratch.  Ryan usually makes dinner and it is full of flavor and variety as well as really healthy!

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Jack puppy likes snoozing after runs

I think life is always about learning, trial and error and change.  As I always felt, happiness needs to come first.  As part of my employment at the dental office we were given a book to read that really was fun and reminded me that I may not always be able to control what is happening in my life but what I do have control over is choosing my attitude.  If you have time pick up a copy of the book FISH and read it.  I think my two favorite parts are about Playing and Choosing your attitude.  My boss strives to follow the list of ideas in the book which explains why my job is the best in the world!  When someone treats me so well it makes me want to put 150% into my day at work.  What is even cooler is the ideas in this book can be used in any situation, so the next time you are starting to feel like you don’t have a choice remember this:

YOU CAN ALWAYS CHOOSE YOUR ATTITUDE!
A huge Thank You to my amazing and supportive sponsors: La Sportiva, UltrAspire, Choucas Hats, JULBO USA and Dion Snowshoes.  Thank you to my coach Jack, my husband Ryan who loves me, my Jack puppy for making me smile so much on my runs and to all my friends for always being there for me!  Sparkle on!  :)

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A trip to remember!

I love adventure and I love being active!  From my first time hopping on a plane with my mountain bike and going on a solo adventure in Arizona I knew I needed to fill my life with wild memories.  I had no idea where these crazy adventures would take me but I did know that seeing new places was what made me happy and feel alive!

I am pretty darn lucky.  I have raced my bike all over the country, taken trips to run, hike, dirtbike and mountain bike in some of the most beautiful places in the US and have stood on top of some pretty incredible mountains along with spending up to a month in the wilderness simply surviving.  Glaciers and remote mountain locations are still my favorite and I will climb again but for now running non technical mountains suits my current lifestyle and fitness level.

crazy canoe race!
crazy canoe race!

This past weekend I got to travel to another country, although it wasn’t one of the far away places across the world it was still my first time doing something in a different country.  I was fortunate enough to be a part of the US Snowshoe team where we competed in Quebec City, Canada during winter carnival.

Of course I had doubts and thoughts of not going.  I was not in the shape I hoped to be in and was not able to follow the training plan I designed for myself.  Between tearing my achilles, residual depression, a terrible virus that stopped me in my tracks for 8 days with another week of feeling run down I was lacking confidence.  Aside from that we have been lacking in the snow department (until the last two weeks) and none of us here in NH got to spend a lot of time preparing for a snowshoe race.

Racing happy! Photo from the ISSF facebook page
Racing happy! Photo from the ISSF facebook page

Ryan drove myself, his dad and dads girlfriend up to Quebec City in a snowstorm.  We got to the hotel and spent the afternoon figuring out where things were.  I was a mess, nervous and totally freaked out.  I caught the tail end of the team meeting and got to see my teammates!  It was nice to chat with everyone and see that I wasn’t the only one feeling nervous and out of practice.  I was able to eat a solid dinner and get to bed after watching a wonderful fireworks display from our room.

I woke up around 4am to banging and scraping noises.  I looked out my window and saw dump trucks and tractors putting snow on the roads.  OMG, they were turning the streets into a race course!  They marked the course in the morning and it was so crazy!  Part of it was on the roads through town and the other part in a park on very loose snow with some wild ups and downs!

I was a mess all morning, spending time going to the bathroom a ton and choking down food.  I don’t deal with high pressure races very well and honestly just wanted to get it over with.  I spent a lot of time just thinking about staying calm and preparing myself for not being able to hang with everyone.  The four laps really worried me because I knew the guys would certainly lap me and possibly some of the girls.  Well, either way I was there and sticking to my plan of simply having fun and enjoying the moment!

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It was cold and windy but the sun was shining!  Ryan joined me for a lap on the course to preview what I was in for.  It was the wackiest course I have ever run on!  There was even a massive cliff we ran very close to the edge of!  I slapped on my shiny pink lip gloss and lined up with the women as we all froze waiting to take off two minutes after the men.  We giggled and laughed and wished each other luck!  It was so much fun to feel like a part of a team and for the first time racing felt like a team effort instead of an individual competition.  Seeing everyone on the team in matching uniforms was really special and one of those adventures I will never forget!

Soon we were off, and I was cold!  My hands were completely frozen and felt like blocks of wood.  My thighs were struggling to move as they were frozen too.  There were so many people lined up along the course and I kept telling myself to not blow up.  I kept a solid pace but it was slow, I was pretty far back in the group.  I had one negative thought pop into my head and then I looked around at the awesome situation I was in and was proud to even be there!  My smile grew and my nerves calmed down!  I kept seeing Ryan and Sam all over the course and Ryans dad and Pat at the beginning of each loop!  On lap two I got the screaming barfies (a climbing term, google it)  as my hands started to come back to life and it was nuts!  Random strangers were yelling out “GO USA!” and I got choked up!  This was the real deal, I was here representing our country and no matter how out of practice I felt people were making me feel so happy to be there!

Me and Jack puppy!
Me and Jack puppy!

I don’t think I ever got faster but I also never got slower.  As we got into our third lap I started to pass people and also got passed by some of the lead men.  I didn’t know what they were saying until I was shoulder checked and then realized it meant” get out of my way!”  I stayed focused and was really thrilled with how strong and steady I felt!  I think that meant more to me than being fast!  On my last lap I asked Ryan how Amber and Abbey were (they were ahead of me) and he said awesome!!!  I was so darn happy for them!  I laughed and told them I needed 20 more miles to make this my kind of race!  At that moment I realized I really am an endurance runner and I am trained for longer distance racing!  I was thrilled!

Team podium!
Team podium!

I was able to move up one more spot into tenth place and could not have been happier!  Of course I would have like to be able to place higher or run faster but when I got a high five at the finish line that didn’t matter!  I had an incredible race and ran the absolute best I could on that day!  Our team did awesome and we scored enough points to get a third place team award!  Amber scored a solid 4th place finish and Abbey a solid 8th, myself 10th, Jen 13th and Ashley 14th!

It was fun to see friends at the race and share in experience together! Ryan and I had a great dinner with his dad and Pat where I indulged in a fabulous desert after a tasty fish and chips meal! We all hung out at the awards and then Ryan and I headed out to experience winter carnival in below zero temperatures!  It was a hoot!  We rode in the ice luge, drank from a glass made out of ice, went inside an ice castle, saw some incredible ice sculptures and just checked out the sights before going to bed.  We drove back to New Hampshire and did the Osceola.  I had a really sore muscle in my hip from the loose snow at the race and struggled to run much but hiked the best I could and ended up sliding on my ass most of the way down laughing and having fun!  We also had ran into Jeff and Kathrine on the way up and saw some guys climbing some ice up there too!

The ice bar!
The ice bar!

We drove home where Tony had gotten Jack puppy from Pet-A-Gree and took him to the house and was nice enough to get our pellet stove going so we didn’t have to come home to a 50 degree house!  It was surely an experience that will last a lifetime!  I am also going to keep remembering to run happy and keep it fun!  I’m going to train the best I can and spend as much time as possible in the mountains!

Thank you to my sponsors La Sportiva, Julbo USA, Choucas Hats and UltrAspire for being there for me!  I am super lucky and proud to represent you!  Thank you to my friends, family and Jack puppy for making me so happy!

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It’s time to start over!

Liberty and Flume with Sarah!
Liberty and Flume with Sarah!

The last few weeks have been fun!  I have been back into training again and luckily got my 8 day cold out of the way before this weekend!  I had a 101 degree fever for three days, a super sore throat and was laid up for 8 days!  I got tested and it wasn’t the flu, but whatever it was hit hard!  A lot of people here in NH are getting this insane virus that leaves you with a lovely cough for weeks after!  I finally stopped hacking my guts out this week (my patients, coworkers and Ryan are thrilled!)

20 mile road run in a blizzard!
20 mile road run in a blizzard!

Training has been nothing short of interesting, I am afraid of the dark so if I don’t have a running partner my runs either don’t happen or I go for a short one on the road and go fast to get it over quicker.  Luckily I have a great husband and a lot of friends to keep me company on these cold and dark days of winter!  I think that is the only part of my job that I don’t like is not having time to run during the daylight hours in the winter!  Aside from that it is literally the best job I ever had, right up there with being a greens keeper at Amherst Country Club, yes, Steve you were a great boss too!!!!!  :)  Dr Neal is truly the best boss and most caring dentist, he goes above and beyond to make sure his staff and patients are well taken care of and happy.  He even respects my life outside of work, I didn’t know there were still bosses like that!  So, I have no intentions of leaving this gem of a job anytime soon.

Top of Garfield!  Fun snowshoe run!
Top of Garfield! Fun snowshoe run!

My weekends have been fun, a nice mix of running, playing in the mountains, doing stuff with friends and experiencing life with my step daughters!  Ryan and I are working really hard on finding balance in our lives and it feels like we are making some awesome progress!  Being parents is feeling normal and we are even able to now sneak out on long runs while the other watches the girls.  The kids have been enjoying the outdoors and it’s awesome to share the things we love with them!  We are hoping to get them out on some nice winter hikes in the Whites this winter!

The kids love doing hair!
The kids love doing hair!

 

I have been enjoying my violin lessons and it’s becoming more fun as I slowly improve my skills!  My teacher is fabulous and patient!  Unfortunately Ryan, the kids and the animals have to deal with me practicing my skills……Seriously though I am getting much better!  I think learning to play has been helping me recover from my concussion in 2013.  Unless you have been through a head injury you have no idea how much it takes away from who and what you are.  I could not even begin to explain to someone every detail of what the last year of my life was like except I felt like I was going crazy.  Between health issues both physically and emotionally I felt like I would never feel like myself again.  It feels like a miracle and a gift that the last few weeks have given me noticeable improvements in my well being.  I am starting to run like I remember and am hopeful I can run like I used to, if I decide that is what makes me happy.

 

Our road in the winter
Our road in the winter

I have Snowshoe Worlds coming up this weekend in Quebec City, Canada.  I really haven’t had a lot of time practicing for the race and have trained the best I could in the little time I had to get ready.  The lack of snow made for tough training opportunities as well.  No matter where I place I am going to show up proud and ready to represent the United States with a huge smile!  I may not podium but I am going to have fun!  Besides, it’s winter carnival up there and that in itself will be sweet to see!  I think we have a really strong team heading up there and think the United States will do really well.  I wish I were able to be healthy enough to have trained as I planned but sometimes life has other plans for us.  I tried and in the end that is what really matters.  I put way too much pressure on myself when I race and the bigger the event the more nervous I get.  The rest of this years races will be mostly low key and fun!

 

My nephew in CT!
My nephew in CT!

This summer I am spending most of my days in the hills, running up and down mountains.  That is what makes me happy!  I can’t wait for longer days because I work so close to some really sweet mountains to run on!  After work mountain runs are going to be so much fun!

 

Jack puppy likes winter!
Jack puppy likes winter!

Of course my favorite event of the summer will be happening again, the Bear Brook Trail “Marathon” and half marathon.  Okay, it is longer than a marathon but that is part of the fun!  The half marathon is a half so the faint of heart should choose that one.  Ryan and I love to put on this wacky event and it is truly a highlight of the summer!  From marking the course while getting attacked by deerflies and covered in ticks to consuming more blueberries than anyone should eat the two days of hanging ribbons and placing flags are so fun!  Then of course setup, coordination with the park manager, porto potty guys and just getting it all happen makes for such an exhausting week!  But…on race morning when the parking lot fills up with smiling runners, incredible volunteers and so many friends it makes it all worth while!  We are on ultrasignup now so register before the price increases on March 1!  Where else can you run a marathon with fully stocked and fun aid stations and get cool finisher awards and a sweet barbeque for only $35!!!!???  We also need volunteers and you can sign up to volunteer on ultrasignup as well!

The girls love the woods!
The girls love the woods!

So, send positive thoughts to the US Snowshoe team this weekend!  It is going to be a hoot!  And a huge thank you to Julbo for taking me back this year!

Breaking trail!  The snow was taller than  Jack puppy!
Breaking trail! The snow was taller than Jack puppy!

Never give up hope, sometimes when we feel like we can’t take another block in the road something happens and suddenly good things start to happen.  Be patient with yourself and with the people in your life you love.  Even when you don’t feel like you can smile, try.  One day you will smile again and so will your heart.  :)

breaking trail in the winter!
breaking trail in the winter!

 

super jack!
super jack!
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A new year brings new goals!

New Years Resolutions are always interesting to me.  They are full of hopes, dreams, aspirations and sometimes goals we quickly forget about.  I generally don’t have big resolutions for the new year and try to live each day in a way where I make little changes and move closer to my ever changing vision of where I want to be.  The last few years have been quite the adventure, I got to experience competing in a sport at a very high level and it was fun but sadly also took away from the quality of my life which I measure by happiness.  It sounds ridiculous but racing at a high level made me feel lonely, affected my self esteem and allowed me to put so much pressure on myself as an athlete that I forgot who I was as a person.  It took a year of reflection, injury and shying away from social media to return to who I was and who I want to be.

me and Jack on Carrigan
me and Jack on Carrigan

I am a happy person full of adventure.  I love to climb mountains, see new places, spend face to face time with real friends, play outdoors with my husband, be a step mom, coach runners to help them achieve new goals, help people keep their mouths healthy, read and so much more!  I can’t focus on only one thing in my life and I need socialization.  The last year has been lonely and after finally leaving Facebook I am beyond thrilled that so many people have reached out to actually spend time with me!

Eisenhower winter fun!
Eisenhower winter fun!

I do plan to continue racing and training but will be focusing on the races that are tough to finish, full of rocks and mountains and really allow me to spend time in places that make my heart smile!  I also have personal goals of climbing all the US Highpoints and eventually start trying my skills on mountains outside of the United States!  I have been busy training for the US Snowshoe World Championship race in Canada this month and with the lack of snow I have no idea what to expect, but I know in my heart I am training for it the best I can.  I may not represent our country on the podium but I will represent our country with a smile!

being goofy with Carolyn and Kelsey!
being goofy with Carolyn and Kelsey!

The mountains have been calling and I have been rallying up there every chance I get!  I have been running and hiking in the Whites with friends, with Ryan and of course with my little Jack Puppy!  I missed spending so much time romping through the mountains and it feels like home to be back up there!  With our careers being focused in the White Mountains and Lakes Regions we are even looking to move north within the next few years and make the White Mountains our forever home.  It would be a great place for us all to find peace, solitude and adventure.  The girls will be able to begin to appreciate the mountains we love so much and Jack Puppy will have so many new adventures waiting for him each day!

Me and Jacko going up Wildcat!
Me and Jacko going up Wildcat!

Carolyn and Kelsey did some awesome hikes with me so far this winter on days where the forecast was terrible and we were treated to incredible views, low winds and comfortable temperatures combined with perfect snow conditions!  It has been so much fun to get out with some girls and play in the mountains!

Awesome Shoe!!!  Crossover GTX
Awesome Shoe!!! Crossover GTXR

Winter has been interesting this year, so much ice and changing temperatures and not a ton of snow yet!  I have been thoroughly enjoying my La Sportiva Crosslite GTX shoes!  They keep my feet dry even in streams that are as high as my ankle!  It is the perfect shoe for fall, winter and spring!  I love to use the hobnails with them for awesome traction!

Adam, Nate and Ryan sighting on the way up Kinsman!
Adam, Nate and Ryan sighting on the way up Kinsman!

Jack puppy has been having a blast playing outside and tagging peaks!  He loves the winter and gets so upset when we have to give him a rest day.  He still has 4 more peaks to get his 48 high points and hopefully this winter we can get Jacko his 48 finish!  He has Cabot, Waumbek, Madison and Adams.  He hopes that when he goes for his finish some friends will join him for the celebration!

Jack puppy!
Jack puppy!

We never know what our futures hold but I am wishing for a wonderful 2015!  My goals are to focus on happiness, staying fit, having fun and financial freedom.  Balance is something I lost in my life and it has been coming back!  It feels so good to have figured out what I want and where I want my life to go.  I also want to thank La Sportiva and Choucas Hats for taking me on again this year, I will have a fun year of racing and adventure!  I am happy again and excited to have a blast this year!  :)

 

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The eight mile hamster wheel!

Since my last post life has been good and also the usual crazy!  I have found regularity in my training again and have adjusted to my work schedule.  I am starting to run with friends after work and learning new areas in Wolfboro.

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getting the tree

I had registered for the Middlesex Fells 40 mile trail race and was trying to get into shape to break 8 hours.  This race has been a very wacky part of my life.  The first time I registered I showed up on crutches to volunteer because I broke my pubic bone.  The second time I registered I was two minutes shy of breaking 8 hours. Hellbent on breaking 8 hours I trained hard for the race last year only to fracture my skull and get a concussion about a week prior to the race and had to sit it out.  This year I had been in an emotional and physical funk but decided no matter what I would give it my best and see if I could break the stout cut-off this race has.  My peak mileage was only 60 miles and most weeks were 35-42 miles a week and I was only cleared to start training again in mid-October.  I had no clue as to how it would go but with my new attitude and goals with my running/racing I didn’t care.  I was going to run with a smile, just like I did when I first started racing.

More sledding fun!
More sledding fun!

Ryan and I have been having fun with the girls and we had quite the wild Thanksgiving!  I got up around 4am Wednesday morning to bake pies and then went to work.  It started snowing and Ryan had to go from his FedEx job right to his snow plowing job and Ryans dad and dad’s girlfriend were bringing the kids over for Thanksgiving.  I got home that evening and made dinner and baked the rest of the baked items for Thanksgiving.  The storm was getting crazy and the power would come and go.  I called Ryan and he was able to pick up a small generator that would run the pellet stove.  He had it in his truck and would bring it home when he was done plowing.

I made a wreath!
I made a wreath!

We lost power around midnight and Ryan was able to come home for two hours to sleep and drop off the generator while the storm went crazy.  He got up and left to go back to plowing.  I got the generator assembled and ready to go and then realized we didn’t have any gas or oil for it.  Our driveway was an absolute nightmare and the snowblower was broken.  The gas stations were not open until 6am so I fixed the snowblower, cleared the driveway and shoveled.  I drove down our class VI road, driving over down trees and some wires.  Luckily my car is like a tank in the snow and I got to the gas station and waited in line for gas and a huge cup of coffee.  It was fun shooting the shit with the plow guys as we chugged our coffees and filled our gas cans as we were treated to an amazing post storm sunrise!

Sunrise after the storm!
Sunrise after the storm!

I got home and the house was now 49 degrees.  I got that generator going and cranked the pellet stove.  Luckily we own a grill and we have a gas stovetop.  Ryan called to check on me an suggested I cook the turkey on the grill, what a fabulous idea!  I got the meal going on the grill and the stovetop and smiled.  Years ago my parents taught me how to take care of myself.  My dad taught me how to work on engines, fix cars, fix houses, do plumbing, electrical, etc.  My mom taught me how to be a nice and caring person and to be strong.  Even though they were in CT on Thanksgiving I had to call them and thank them for teaching me how to take care of myself.  It felt good to be able to provide for my inlaws and step daughters and for Ryan to feel comfortable at work without having to worry about his family.  My parents always told me that I shouldn’t need a man in my life, I should want one.

Ryans dads car stuck in the driveway
Ryans dads car stuck in the driveway

Ryan made it home in time to carve the turkey and enjoy dinner together as a family!  That meal never tasted so good and turkeys on the grill are so yummy!  We enjoyed time together and then Ryans family went home.  We put the dirty dishes in tupperware bins and settled in for an early night without power.

Saturday we had the kids again and we still didn’t have power but made the best of it.  On Sunday, still no power but we did get a Christmas tree!  We wanted a 6 footer and somehow ended up with an 11 foot tree!  Luckily we have cathedral ceilings!  It was a bear to get it in and up but the tree was beautiful!

We then went sledding with the kids and Hannah managed to get stuck knee deep in a pile of cow manure.  Ryan had to rescue her and pull her boots out of the poop.  At the end of the debacle the four of us were covered in cow poop and Jack puppy was eating it.  We decided to carry on and go sledding, maybe the snow would wash off some of the poo.

We came home and finally on Sunday got power back!  We were so thrilled and made sure everyone got showered after the cow poop sledding adventure!

Jack puppy loves sledding!
Jack puppy loves sledding!

The next week was restful.  I had bronchitis and was on medication for several days and the prednisone part was tough.  It made me feel sick, cranky and I was unable to sleep.  I was on four medications and an inhaler but after a week I felt better and was thrilled because I could now race the Fells!

I went to the festival of trees gala preview with the office on Thursday and it was a really nice time!  It was fun to get dressed up too!  I took an easy rest day Friday and then woke up super early to go to the Fells race on Saturday.  Ryan had to go into snowplow around 1am and would not be able to make the race and I was so sad.  I almost didn’t go because I felt bad and when I saw what a disaster the roads were I almost turned back but instead kept driving.  I made it to the race 20 minutes before the start and was so happy to see friends there smiling.

Driving home from work Wednesday
Driving home from work Wednesday

Jack puppy joined me and my friend Carolyn had offered to get him out while I was racing.  That little dog is just way too cute!  We started the race in 34 degrees and slight drizzle.  The forecast was ugly but it was going to be fun!  Seriously, New Englanders are tough.  There were a bunch of people standing at the start, smiling and ready to run!  We don’t care about cold, rain, sleet, snow, mud, rocks, hills and roots!  Suddenly we were off!

Photo by ultrasmartrunner Jumping for joy at the Fells!
Photo by ultrasmartrunner Jumping for joy at the Fells!

I chose my favorite direction on the course and a couple of guys followed me.  We chatted for a while before separating.  I spent most of the first two loops solo.  It was wet, cold and slick.  Sometimes it rained.  I was having a blast and feeling really good and steady!  I had no idea if I would even be able to finish but I kept on going ahead with a smile!  Everytime I saw someone on the course they would be smiling too!  It was so much fun!

Lap two I took two diggers and was a bit bloodied up.  I almost passed out when I saw blood dripping down my hand.  I was really out of practice on the trails and the skyline loop is extremely rugged!  I just kept tripping on roots and rocks!  Traction was not in issue because I had on my La Sportiva Bushido’s, my favorite shoe for slick places!

The tree!
The tree!

On lap 3 I ran with Dima and took a couple more diggers, one was so bad it took my breath away.  I wailed my arms, hip and knees on the rocks in a rock garden.  I thought I broke my arm.  I looked at my arm and it looked like a golfball where I hit the rock.  I almost passed out and Dima told me not to look and to keep going.  I smiled and carried on in pain.  We had fun running together!  I was in pain and tried to drop at mile 24 and nobody let me drop so I went back out for more madness!  At that moment I knew I would finish.

On lap 4 I was solo again as Dima went in a different direction.  My knees started hurting from the fall and I could no longer descend well.  I was losing time and motivation.  I was really lonely and wanted some company.  It was a struggle but seeing  a smiling face every so often on the trail kept me going.  I thought about why I run and reminded myself that I am tough, I could do this and that I would finish for Ryan.  He trained so hard for the race and was not able to go.  Then I saw Carolyn with Jack puppy!  They were pacing Danielle and I gave my pup a smooch and smiled.  I ran the rest of the loop happy.

To my surprise my friend Tony showed up to pace me for my last loop!  I was in desperate need of a pacer, I lost about 13 minutes on loop 4 and had 1 hour 56 minutes to break 8 hours when I rolled into the aid station.  I grabbed food and told Tony to get me back in under  hours.  We took off and having company was like having a second wind!  I felt like shit, every muscle ached, every bruise throbbed and every scrape burned from the rain and sweat.  My breathing was erratic and I was totally exhausted but somehow I kept going.

Blackie being blackie!
Blackie being blackie!

I was steady, didn’t fall and had fun conversations with Tony that distracted me from how I was feeling.  I was so out of it and so tired but just wanted to finish strong.  When I got on top of the hill with the tower Tony said there should be a bell to ring.  I started laughing told him I needed a punching bag to punch when I got to the top!  My legs were SCREAMING at me and somehow I was laughing!  Once we hit the dog park I knew we were home free.

Photo by ultrasmartrunner.  The tower at the fells
Photo by ultrasmartrunner. The tower at the fells

 

I had to stop and tie my shoelace twice and then once we got on the last descent I picked up the pace.  I saw a guy coming from the other direction and told him I was racing him to the finish!  It was hilarious!  We were sprinting each other and he out kicked me by 14 seconds!!!!  We hugged after and laughed at how it was a great race!  I was thrilled!  As I began cramping violently I smiled knowing I just PR’d by 20 minutes!  I finished in 7:42 and was beyond happy!  What a way to end the season!  I was surrounded by friends and smiles.  Carolyn made sure I didn’t forget to put dry clothes on and after some puppy kisses from Jacko I hung out for a while to enjoy chatting with friends.  We laughed about the weather and that crazy race I love so much.  Ryan called and congratulated me on my PR, I felt so sad he wasn’t there.

Jack puppy being cute!
Jack puppy being cute!

I have a lot of people to thank for helping me figure out so many things this year.  I think changing my racing and running goals to solely being having fun and great experiences is going to be good for me.  This also means lower profile races and being a bit mysterious with where and when I will be racing.  Life is too short to not be having fun and I never want my running to feel like a job.  Running needs to be a way to keep my soul smiling!  Oh, and a way to stay fit enough to tag those US highpoints!  I am still always looking for running partners so please email me!  kristina@dangergirldh.com

Zoe made this for me on Thanksgiving.  Made the madness worth while!
Zoe made this for me on Thanksgiving. Made the madness worth while!

Happiness comes first and sometimes you really have to be honest with yourself and what makes you happy.  I am so thankful that I seemed to have found my happy place again!  :)

Another sunrise!
Another sunrise!

 

 

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Finding peace within my soul

The year is almost over and as I see the pages turning on my calendar I have taken the last few weeks to reflect on how things played out, what was good, what was not good and where I hope to go next.  I have spent a lot of time away from social media and more time with friends.  I did end up getting that job that I applied for and it has become my dream job and I hope it stays that way.  For anyone who knows me, you understand that I don’t like the traditional work week and that I was so done with dental hygiene after working in a terrible office, but, this job is different.  It is in the beautiful town of Wolfboro, New Hampshire and I work with some of the nicest people and have the best patients!  It is an absolute joy to go to my job and help my patients each day, I have fallen back in love with dental hygiene!  Having oodles of sweet trail nearby helps make it that much better!

View from near my new job!
View from near my new job!

As for my running I am giving it another go.  My achilles has healed, the doctor gave me the thumbs up and I am so out of shape I can’t help but laugh at it!  I have decided to accept the challenge of getting back in shape and have very new and different goals than the last few years.  This year has literally chewed me up and spit me out, but along the way taught me a lot of lessons.  After spending the year being broke, injured, sick, feeling awesome and feeling terrible I am tired.  I had lost my love of running and eventually my desire to wake up in the morning.  I didn’t care if I ever woke up, but I knew this wasn’t me and that I needed to find my smile again.  It was hard at first but slowly it happened, things turned around and each day I found myself closer to who I am and who I want to be.  I am even back in therapy to get my head in a good place.

Mount Rogers, Virginia high point!
Mount Rogers, Virginia high point!

I stopped racing, I started running for fun and even mountain biking again.  I put the watch down for a while and stopped looking at my pace.  I ran with friends, ran with Ryan, ran with Jack puppy.  I ran in New Hampshire and had some incredible runs in Utah while visiting my brother and his wife and finally meeting my baby nephew Alexander.  While in Utah I tagged Kings Peak with Ryan and got peak #13 in my  US Highpointing adventure!  It was snowy, cold, sunny, beautiful, scary and icy on the narrow ridge (3k foot drop on one side and 2k drop on the other!) and of course there was altitude which gave us splitting headaches and nausea.  It was the most incredible 30 miles of my life!

Kings Peak Summit!  Utahs high point!
Kings Peak Summit! Utahs high point!

I am in a good place today, I am happy!  I love being a step mom and sharing our love of the outdoors with Ryans daughters Zoe and Hannah.  They girls recently earned their NH firetower patches with the most recent ascent being a windy but awesome Cardigan climb!  These kids have given me a new reason to smile and are the center of my world!  I want to be a good role model for them and show them that it is okay to be themselves and how important it is to be happy.  Watching them enjoy new things and to experience life through the eyes of a child is something I am beyond grateful for.  I never imagined being a step mom could be so amazing!

Mount Cardigan summit!
Mount Cardigan summit with the girls!

As for my goals, it is simply to be happy.  I also plan to continue to work on being healthy, fit and having fun!  I am not done racing but do need a break.  I need to spend some time getting my head in the right place, spending time with my family creating wonderful memories together, hanging out with friends and getting healthy before I can run like I used to.  Oh, and I am taking fiddle lessons just for fun!  An evening watching Old Crow Medicine show performed made it look so fun I had to learn how to play!  2015 is going to be a year of peace, happiness, health and fun!

Cardigan hike with the kiddos!
Cardigan hike with the kiddos!

I also plan to stay removed from most social media and keep my life happenings limited to my blog.  When people seemed to start liking me only because I was running fast it really played games with my head.  I spent most of the year trying to figure out if people wanted to talk to me because I was fast or if because I was a nice person.  I am far from shallow and sometimes too brutally honest.  It means a lot to me for people to like me because they met me and being around me makes them feel good.  It was also hard to find out that people didn’t want to run with me because they were afraid of slowing me down,  New Hampshire can be a lonely place for an active girl and I run slow and fast!  Running is a social sport for me and without friends to share it with I would rather find something else social to do.

Ryan looking off the summit of Timp!
Ryan looking off the summit of Timp!

 

I also am quite shy (although it may not seem like it) and prefer to stay out of the spotlight.  I am proud of my accomplishments and like to help encourage others to chase their dreams but I don’t want to be treated any differently than anyone else simply living their lives.

Having fun in Utah!
Having fun in Utah!

If you want to contact me or Ryan (We are no longer on facebook) my email is kristina@dangergirldh.com .  We are always looking  to run and hang out with people!  I would also like to thank my sponsors for being so good to me this year, it really meant a lot to me!  :)

Jack puppy was a dragon
Jack puppy was a dragon

I don’t know when I will post again but I do know I will be having fun!  It feels good to smile again  and whatever life hands me I will continue to focus on being the best person I can be and remember that being happy is what really matters to me.  :)

 

My nephew Alexander!
My nephew Alexander!
My other nephew Jarek!
My other nephew Jarek!
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An incredible week and a feeling that things are finally turning around!

Philbrick Photography captured a 26 year long dream of mine on film!
Philbrick Photography captured a 26 year long dream of mine on film!

What an incredible week this has been!  Ryan and I found some closure from our friends passing when we hiked up Moosilauke with friends.  It had been a very rough few days and we just didn’t know how to deal with such sad emotions.  Each day it became a bit easier and celebrating his life on a nice hike with others who were friends with Chad somehow gave us some peace.  The clouds were amazing and we came down under the light of our headlamps.

Remembering Chad on Moosilauke
Remembering Chad on Moosilauke

I had a great run with my friend Carolyn and it was nice to share some time on the trail with a friend.  I don’t have a lot of people to run with and it was really nice to finally run with someone!!!

Then last Friday Ryan and I caught wind of a rumor that the Northern Lights would be bright and spectacular around 8pm.  I started doing a ton of research and bugging people I knew who are experts in finding these lights.  We planned to do an evening ascent and look for the aurora.  This has been something I have wanted to see since I was around 10, that was 26 years ago!

The milky way! Philbrick Photography
The milky way! Philbrick Photography

I received a call on Thursday from Jay Philbrick.  He was looking to photograph a bride in front of the lights.  I mentioned Ryan would be with me and he asked if Ryan would mind being a groom.  Ryan agreed and Jay seemed pretty excited!  So, we packed up my wedding dress, Ryans suit and our running clothes.  We scooped up Jack puppy and headed to the mountains!

Black cap!
Black cap!

I was worried about my achilles but as the doctor suggested I would walk as soon as there was pain.  I have a few weeks to go before I can run like I used to but for now I am just happy I can run at all!

We got up to the trail head and started running up in perfect weather!  I felt amazing!  I ran at an effort that my achilles could handle and was smiling the whole way!  We got to the top and the views were spectacular!  After a couple of minutes on the summit we ran down laughing and having fun!

Jerimoth Hill!
Jerimoth Hill!

I think that was the most fun I have had on a run in quite a while!  We snagged a quick thai dinner and met up with Jay and Vickie.  Jack puppy snoozed in the car as I curled my hair on the way to the shoot.  We arrived and I tossed on my wedding gown and Ryan got into his suit.  We set up the shot and Jay started taking pictures as soon as the lights were happening!

Jack puppy and Jackson!
Jack puppy and Jackson!

Well, if you have never seen the northern lights I am going to spoil it for you.  It is kind of like finding out the Easter bunny isn’t real.  Your eye can’t see color in the lights.  Ryan and I kept looking around at them and saw a band of white light that moved, large white pillars in the sky.  It was cool but not the overwhelming blast of color that looks like a crazy hallucination!  There were photographers there as well and everyone was flipping out about the colors, Ryan and I kept looking and laughed because it was just a pale white with maybe a hint of green.

Ya, crazy!!!
Ya, crazy!!!

What we learned that night from the photographers and later confirmed by researching online is that you can see some color if you are way up north and they are overhead, but they are pretty much white to the naked eye.  Throw a camera in front of them and you get to see the colors!  It was like some sort of a magic trick!  When Jay showed us the pictures we flipped out!  OMG, it didn’t even seem real!

Jack puppy loves mountains!
Jack puppy loves mountains!

After an amazing night of seeing the lights Ryan and I drove home for a few hours of sleep.  We woke up and drove to CT and met up with Mike and Sue.  We drove to Rhode Island and we tagged the highpoint Jerimoth Hill.  It was hilarious!  You basically drive to the summit!  We had a few good laughs, dropped off Jack puppy at the house and went out for Hibachi.  We had so much fun at dinner and then finished the night by heading to a Tom Petty concert!

Maturity at its best at Tom Petty
Maturity at its best at Tom Petty

That show was incredible and they played for almost 3 hours!  We had a really good time and then drove back to their house.  The next morning we took our time getting up and said our goodbyes before driving out to attempt to climb Mount Frissell which is the high point in CT.

Summit of Jerimoth Hill!
Summit of Jerimoth Hill!

We ran up Bear Mountain and had fun!  When we got to the summit we were shocked to see Todd and Kim Brown with Jackson and Lacy!  We chatted for a bit while the doggies looked at each other (Jack puppy is afraid of his own kind!)  Jack puppy found something to roll in that smelled like fish.  It was nasty but later in the day he found poop to roll in and that is even nastier!

That was hard!
That was hard!

We continued down the Appalacian trail and found ourselves on top of a mountain…..OOOPPPPSSS!!!  We were too busy chatting and forgot to turn onto the trail for Mount Frissell!  It was getting late in the day and we would already have 14 miles in our legs and to hit Frissell would have added almost 8 more miles.  My achilles was starting to talk to me so we called it a day.  Twice this silly mountain has gotten me!  I will get this high point someday!  :)

Me and Sue and Jacko!
Me and Sue and Jacko!

We didn’t get home until midnight so this week has been exhausting!  I have a job interview today and hope that it works out.  The dental field is crazy, it’s so important to make sure you are a good match for the office, that your ethics are similar, that the patients are nice, that the doctor and staff are nice and that the drive isn’t awful.  There is a lot involved in finding the perfect dental home, I am hoping this one is it!

Todd and Jack puppy!
Todd and Jack puppy!

I think that life is starting to turn around for us!  We are having a lot of fun with Ryans kids and it seems to get easier and more comfortable every time we see them.  We miss having them during the week and the house is so quiet.  I sometimes go into their bedroom and just sit and stare.  When they are gone something just feels like it is missing.

Mount Race
Mount Race

I have been running again!  I am not running fast but I am running and I am back in the gym!  I have also come up for a plan with my running goals.  Next year will bring huge changes to my running, a much more low key but still intense year.  I have learned that I have horrible stage fright and just struggle with performing when people have such high expectations of me.

I have lost my joy of running but slowing down with social media and living my life in a quieter fashion has brought back the happiness I lost.  I don’t want to be fast if it means people don’t want to run with me or if it means people only like me because I can run fast.  I want people to do stuff with, I want to spend time with friends-new and old.  I want to run for myself, no, I need to run for myself!

Bear Mountain!
Bear Mountain!

I love to blog and share my experiences but I am a very shy person.  What makes me happy is being able to give people hope and inspiration through sharing my triumphs and struggles.  I don’t want to be treated any differently because I am not different and I also want everyone to know that you can all live your dreams.  If your dream is to be fast, you can do that too.  The sacrifices that you have to make to be fast are huge, but I fully believe that if you are willing to make those changes you can do it.

An out take from the photo shoot with Philbrick photography
An out take from the photo shoot with Philbrick photography

My dream is to simply do what makes me happy and this weekend was the start of some wonderful changes for Ryan and I.  We are working together toward a goal that we created together.  So, here we go!  I’m ready for a change, an awesome one that I get to share with my best friend who is also my husband, my jack puppy and two beautiful step daughters Zoe and Hannah!

For you non believers Jim Salge Photography, we photo bombed their shoot!
For you non believers Jim Salge Photography, we photo bombed their shoot!

 

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A celebration of adventure

This morning Ryan and I received news of a friend who passed away yesterday suddenly while out trail running with friends.  It’s easy to say that at least he died doing what he loved, but I can’t say those words.  He loved so many things including his family, friends, adventure and giving back to the community.  Chad was a fellow race director, a loving father and husband, a large part of his local running community, an avid adventurer, a friend to so many, an inspiration to even more, a walking bundle of smiles and enthusiasm, and one of New Englands best trail runners and adventure racers.

Chad has touched so many lives with his enthusiasm and encouragement.  He always had great advice and was a great listener.  When I was struggling this winter he offered wonderful advice and a hug.  He would help anyone, he put on one heck of a show at the Winter Wild races and he genuinely cared about people.  He may be gone but he left behind a legacy.

Today has been filled with tears and so much sadness.  Sadness for the loss of a friend, sadness for his family and sadness for his friends who tried for so long to bring him back to life on the trail by performing CPR.  There have been so many times where I remember seeing his smile whether it be racing or race directing.  I don’t think he had a mean bone in his body and when he spoke of his wife and children he glowed, you could feel the love he had for his family.

A month ago I had asked Emily to write a reflection of the Presidential Traverse we did together in August with Amy and Tony.  Today I received an email with an attachment to her story.  I didn’t want to read it, I didn’t want to post it.  It was horrible timing, but something told me to read it.

I was outside with my little Jack puppy  and looked at a beautiful sunflower in our garden which was just about the only thing that grew in it this year.  I smiled, thought of the incredible life of adventure and love that Chad lived and opened up that attachment.

Emilys story had me smiling on a very sad day.  She is a woman who has four children, could barely run a mile last spring, took on the mountain series this summer to achieve mountain goat status, punched her ticket to run up Mount Washington next summer and completed a one day Pressie Traverse.  She is living a life as a loving mom, wife, friend and adventurer.  I want to share her story, it brought me a smile today when nothing else could.  Enjoy and remember to fill your life with love and adventure.  You never know when you will take your last breath.

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The decision to do a one day Presidential Traverse can only be explained by the toxic combination of the unwavering faith and encouragement of my friend and running coach Kristina, the euphoric feeling of running downhill towards the car at the end of a fun run with friends, and having no idea what I was agreeing to.  One month later, having since been filled in on exactly what kind of undertaking this would be, my sister and I stood at EMS debating which pack would be most comfortable to die in.  I gravitated towards a backpack since it was similar to the hydration packs I am accustomed to carrying and had a home for my 2L bladder.  Amy tried on a large version of a fanny pack and immediately knew she had come home.  Did I mention she is my older sister?  

Two days later, with clothes and shoes laid out and aforementioned pack filled to the brim, I kissed my children either goodnight or goodbye forever and cuddled up to get some good rest by staring at a dark ceiling all night.  Finally at 3am the apparently unnecessary alarm I had set told me I could now end my futile attempt at getting any sleep.  In the dark I stumbled out of bed and into my clothes, choked down a fruit smoothie, looked over my gear checklist one last time and prayed my car would break down on the way to meet my sister.  No such luck.  I made it to our appointed meeting place safely and transferred all my crap to her car.  At least now we could suffer together. 

Through the dark and the fog and some weird shmootz that was all over her windshield we made our way towards our meeting place, Highland Center.  Despite the fact that the fog and the shmootz made it difficult to see where we were going for most of the time, we made it there safely and ahead of Kristina.  We huddled in the car shivering from cold and sheer panic wondering if the man next to us in the parking lot was the man that would be joining us today.  We did not know what he looked like and as we only knew him by the name of Fish Stick we were a little reluctant to just holler his name out the window and see what happened.  It was indeed Fish Stick and for those that are as curious as I was, the story of his name really is, as he promised, unremarkable.  He on the other hand is remarkably friendly, patient and kind. 

When Kristina arrived we all loaded into her car to drive it to the base of Madison where the adventure would really begin.  As we drove, the sun came up and the air started to warm so any remaining shivers as we piled out of the car must have been from nerves.  The way up Madison would be the longest sustained climb of the day since the Valley Way trail gets you to 4000 feet in just over 3 miles.  However initially the terrain was pretty much what I expected being heavily wooded with rocks, roots and leaves.  As we made our way closer to the top the way got steeper and the forest floor became more rock than roots and leaves, and eventually was just grouped boulders that formed a steep stair case with water trickling down.  Between my La Sportive Bushidos and my trekking poles I had no problems with slipping and was able to stay upright.  Kristina was letting me lead so I felt the pressure to keep a good pace.  I chose something that was strong and steady but something I could keep up for a long time, what I call my listening pace.  I was breathing heavy but not so loudly that I could not hear conversation around me and even sometimes interject here and there myself.  However, Fish Stick and Kristina, having a far better fitness level, carried the conversation as Amy and I worked at keeping a good pace. 

As the trees became smaller and the sky became bigger we made it above tree line and to the official welcome mat of the White Mountains-a sign promising death if you do not turn back now.  Apparently the contents of our pack, spare pants and a few band-aids, qualified us to continue since we cruised right past.  After a quick trip to the bathroom and water refill at the Madison hut it was time to tag the first summit.  Here is where the terrain became less typical and less of what I had expected.  Between where we stood and the summit of Madison there was a steep pile of large, craggy rocks.  I have tripped my way through the roots and rocks of the forest floor, slogged my way through a mess of mud and wet grass and even slipped my way over the loose rock and shale of Franconia Ridge; but this was new territory.  I often refer to running uphill as “climbing” but what we did to reach the top of Madison was more the literal interpretation of a climb, often times having to use my hands to steady myself and move myself forward.  A month later I still have a small cut on the palm of my hands since this would be the way we moved through most of the remaining summits as well.

By the time we reached the top of Madison the wind was whipping all around and despite the hot sun it had cooled considerably.  Standing on our first summit we looked ahead at the many miles and summits we were going to tackle that day.  I would love to tell you that I was awestruck by the beauty and was filled with wonder, but it would not be true.  Rest assured those feelings would come, but at that moment I was consumed by the whipping wind, wide open sky and self doubt.  It was hard to enjoy summit number one while thinking about numbers two through eight. 

Surprisingly, the way down Madison was harder for me than the going up.  This would unfortunately be the theme of the day for at least the northern section of the traverse.  The terrain at these summits is hard to even describe.  Each summit is just a jumble of jagged rocks of varying sizes all messily thrown together.  Few if any of the rocks have a flat surface so you are not stepping so much as precariously balancing on top of them as you move forward.  Choosing where to step next becomes even more perilous when you consider that no matter how safely nestled these rocks appear to be within the pile, only two out of three actually are.  Each step is like a grab bag surprise and sometimes what looked like a stalwart friend is actually a spineless traitor.  Coming down for me was a slow, frustrating game of hot potato.    

The next few hours were rather repetitive.  We moved forward through the northern Presidentails one summit at a time-Adams, Jefferson, and Clay.  We were making our way to the point where the summits completed would outnumber those to be completed, our halfway point-Mt. Washington.  Climbing, sometimes on all fours, up steep summits and then picking, sometimes crab walking, down again my body fell into a rhythm and I began to relax.  I found that my mind was well prepared for this day after spending the summer becoming a Mountain Goat.  The terrain and distance were certainly different, but 80 percent of any run or hike is mental and I have become very comfortable with the feeling of going up and up and up before reaching the top of a hill.  Each summit was just like a little Mountain Goat race.

It seems strange to say it but in a lot of ways the traverse was easier for me than the Mountain Goat series.  Each race in that series was a short distance so I would push myself as hard as possible up each mountain working constantly at or close to my maximum capacity.  A one day traverse meant that we had to keep a strong and steady pace without a lot of time at the top of each summit, but the distance and terrain also required that we move at far less than race pace.  Coming down was hard, but climbing up sometimes hand over hand felt a little like being a kid again.   Choosing which rocks to step on was like an adventure and squeezing through or staying low and scrambling up large rocks was exciting.  Once I decided that I could really do this I was able to embrace where I was and really enjoy being surrounded by the indescribable beauty of being above tree line in the White Mountains. 

I will not try to describe what I saw because I cannot, but I can try to describe how I felt.  I felt small and insignificant, but in the very best way.  I thought before the traverse that I might have felt frightened or overwhelmed in all that openness, that bigness.  To my surprise I felt completely at peace.  The God who with just His Word could make all of this majesty also chose to make and love me, and He put me here to enjoy it.  It just felt like a gift.  I am so grateful. 

When we stood at the top of Mt. Clay and I knew we were standing on the last summit before Washington I felt downright giddy.  We looked back at how far we had come and I knew from what I had been told and read that after Mt. Washington we were in the southern section of the traverse and the terrain would become much easier.  This was a huge confidence boost.  Also, despite a snack at the top of each summit I was getting hungry and I knew that at Washington we would get lunch and what I was really craving-a very large, very cold Coke. 

From where we stood Washington seemed right around the corner.  Looks would prove to be deceiving and by the time we were walking along waving at the people riding up on the cog railway I was fairly singing about how good that Coke was going to be.  I was very thirsty and the way was longer than I would have imagined but, knowing we were approaching the halfway point, I was in good spirits.  Sadly I cannot say the same for Amy.  She is a strong hiker and in comparison to me at least, a fast runner.  However, she had not done the Mountain Goat series over the summer and was not as mentally prepared for the frustrating, sometimes soul crushing feeling, of climbing up in what seems like an endless pursuit of a finish.  Somewhere between Clay and Washington she was done.  Physically she was moving along fine, but mentally she wanted to be somewhere else.  I know this feeling well.  It was how I felt last year when we did Franconia Ridge.  It is such a hard place to be so my heart went out to her.  I did my best to remind her of what we knew; that we were almost to the halfway point and at that point the hardest part would be over.  All we had to do was get to Washington.

Hitting the summit of Mt. Washington after spending hours hiking through the northern Presidentials is very strange.  When you are hiking in the Whites you come across plenty of other people.  Sometimes you nod hello or even share a few words and there is a quiet camaraderie built of love for the hike as well as the view.  The huts scattered around are small and quiet and unobtrusive.  They almost look like part of the landscape; like they sprung up from the ground like the bushes and boulders around them.  Washington is not like that.  When you hike up the rock garden toward the summit you are greeted by a large concrete building that in another place would probably seem perfectly normal but here in these surroundings seems more like a random space station.  As you arrive at the summit all sweat covered and exhausted, blisters on your feet and bugs in your teeth, you feel very out of place as you hike up past a full parking lot and through throngs of people wearing flip flops and sundresses.  It was crowded and noisy and completely discordant with the last few hours of my life, but it did have the greatest thing known to man at that point in my life-ice cold Coke!  It was delicious and one of the highlights of my day.  I bought two. 

This is where things got interesting.  It was later than when we hoped to reach the summit of Washington.  We had gotten a late start that morning and our pace, probably due to my slow descents, was a little behind what we had hoped.  That combined with the fact that Amy was not happy made Kristina nervous about how the rest of the day would play out.  As I drank in cold Coke and the happiness of the halfway point Kristina burst my bubble and gave it to us straight.  The weather was holding up but she was not sure we should continue.  At our current pace she did not feel confident that we would get out of the woods before dark and the only rescue past this point was by helicopter.  We had three choices take the cog railway down, hike down Washington or finish the traverse without the summits.  I desperately wanted to finish with all the summits but I trust Kristina and wanted to be smart.  We decided the best compromise was to let the much speedier Tony (that is Fish Stick) go on ahead while we finished without the summits, reserving the right to see how we felt at each one and try to fit them in.    

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In the midst of her “come to Jesus” talk with us, we could see Kristina and Tony having little whispering side bar conversations and an attempt at a subtle transfer of emergency equipment from his bag to hers.  Unbeknownst to us he had handed her what I call the death blanket, a sleeping bag type thing that rolls up to the size of a soda can, and had made a plan that not only would he go ahead and enjoy the summits but that he would get Kristina’s husband Ryan and hike back up to us with food and medical supplies once it got dark.  Apparently Kristina’s faith in us is shakeable after all. 

With a revised plan in mind and an extra coke in my pack we headed back outside and pushed past tourists to get a picture at the Washington Summit sign, Kristina says hikers earn the right to push drivers out of the way here.  We hiked down the still rocky but less steep descent to the Lake of the Clouds hut where we took a final bathroom break and made sure our headlamps were in working order and in an easy to reach pocket of our packs.  With that we headed out to finish the traverse. 

Now we had been told that the southern section of the Presidentials-Monroe, Eisenhower and Pierce-was easier but easy is a relative term, particularly for the crazies that run in the Whites, so you never really know what to expect.  For once I have to agree with the crazies.  It was so much easier, even the descents.  We picked up the pace significantly and were even able to run some sections of it.  Much to my delight we hit all three of the remaining summits and the sun was still up as we headed down Crawford Path to get to the car. 

As we traveled down further and further below tree line the forest floor returned and we left behind the open sky and craggy rocks of the mountains.  The sun continued to get lower as we did but we were able to make it out of the woods without headlamps and before any of the wild animals tried to eat us or mate with us.  As we got closer to the parking lot and Kristina’s faith in us was renewed she shared the plan that she and Tony had made to save us in the dark wilderness and we had a good laugh.  Who knew we had been so close to disaster? 

With no finish line or cheering crowd, no fanfare other than a proud coach beaming from ear to ear, we posed for a picture before crossing the road to where the car was waiting for us.  After big hugs and a quick change into dry clothes we left Kristina snuggling her Jack Puppy and hit the road for the long drive home.  We had pulled into that parking lot with the headlights on and were pulling out just shy of having to turn them back on.  Still unidentified shmootz all over the windshield, dirty shoes and clothes in the back and one more Coke for the road we drove home with mountains towering beside, behind and before us.  It was a long, hard and wonderful day that had us covering 21.5 miles tough miles and 9000 feet of elevation.  It was done.  We made it.

My one day Presi Traverse was such a gift and I am so glad that I did it.  My only regret is not being able to move faster so that I could spend more time at each summit taking it all in.  Having done it and loved it I would do it again in a heartbeat if I could either spread it out over two days or if I was in a place with my fitness that I could cover the distance more quickly allowing me more time throughout the day to just sit and absorb.   For now I will settle for what I have done and see what other adventures are in store for me up there. 

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A pressie, a pemi, great runs with friends and then I found the fiddler!

Wow, the last few weeks have been quite representative of how this year has been playing out.  The highs are really high and the lows are really low!  It must be the year of Kristina’s roller coaster ride, maybe I should sell tickets!  At this point I am riding the wave and not fighting back anymore.  It is what it is and I will take whatever life throws at me and smile.  No need to be grumpy, it is way more enjoyable to just laugh at it all!  So, while I sit here icing my swollen achilles I will share the last few weeks of my life!

Aside from Jack puppy is there anything cuter than a porcupine!
Aside from Jack puppy is there anything cuter than a porcupine!

After Escarpment I took my intermediate runners on a presidential traverse.  It would be longer than a couple of them have ever gone and it would be a challenge different from anything they have experienced on foot.  We got an early start with Tony, Amy and Emily.  The forecast was a bit interesting but looked promising.  We had a plan, 7 hours to Washington or we bail.

Look how bright we are!
Look how bright we are!

We stood on top of Madison, our first peak of the day and to see the looks on everyones face when they got on the ridge made me smile.  Tony was stronger than the girls and we had planned on some other people coming who would be going at his pace but instead he stuck with us and had fun!

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As the day progressed we hit our time goal for Washington but we were not on Washington.  I began to struggle with how I would break the news to the girls that we would be bailing and not finishing the day.  We bagged all the summits to Washington and sat inside eating food and chatting.  It had been almost 9 hours since we started and although the weather was holding that would mean several hours in the dark.

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I tried to talk them out of going forward, I looked at each of the girls with a deep look of sadness in their eyes.  They told me they could do it, that they were starting to feel better after they ate.  I know summit fever, I know what they were going through.  I was one person and had two to keep safe.  I looked at Tony, took his emergency gear and told him to call Ryan (who was headed up that afternoon) and to have him run in to meet us on the trail with food, water and extra clothes.

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Tony ran off toward the hut with a smile, he has mountain experience and I was comfortable with him going and I felt good knowing that even if it took us until midnight to get out of there Ryan would be making his way up the trail to help us.

Jack puppy likes pemi loops
Jack puppy likes pemi loops

We hiked down to the hut and I told the girls we would try for the summits but if they couldn’t hold their pace we were bypassing the rest.  Well, to my surprise and delight they moved quickly!  They were smiling and my worries began to disappear!  We stood on top of Monroe and I think all three of us were proud!  At that moment I realized they just needed to eat more to stay strong!  Having some food on Washington made it all better!

As we tagged more summits we soon realized that we were not going to need headlamps!  By the time we got onto Pierce I was starting to tear up, Proud isn’t even close to describing what I was feeling for these two girls!   We looked back at how far we came and hopped on Crawford path and stood at 302 in 13.5 hours, in it’s usual pressie traverse fashion-no fan fare, no finish line, nobody knowing what you just did.  It’s a good feeling, one that only you know and one that the three of us shared together.

Last summit of the day!
Last summit of the day!

Ryan never needed to get us, Tony went and got my car and we parted ways, happy and proud!  Ryan and I got a quick dinner and then went to the campground to find Amy and Brian who we would be running with the next day.

We got up early and Amy and I chose to do a Pemi Loop with Jack puppy.  It started out with us chatting and laughing all the way up to Bond Cliff, when I looked at my watch I was in shock!  We were on the FKT pace!  I told Amy and we decided there must be some sort of magic when we run together because we had a run like that at Bear Mountain this spring!

So, we stopped getting too excited and ran up to Bond.  Jack puppy enjoyed a summit cookie and we were off!  The running was great even though the trails were soaking wet and slick.  It was so much fun being up on the ridge!  Jack puppy was having a blast too!  By the time we got to Galehead hut we were almost 15 minutes ahead of FKT pace!  Now we were excited!

Philbrick photo of me and Sue, I wish Sue lived closer!
Philbrick photo of me and Sue, I wish Sue lived closer!

We tried to move quickly but the trails were soaked.  We ran by Garfield and then ran back up to tag the summit and take a picture because at that point my watch was dying.  The battery was not going to last the whole time!  By the time we got on Lafayette we were toast.  It was hot out and we were losing steam.  We had lost our 15 minute buffer and were starting to slow up.  The hordes of people on Franconia ridge made it even tougher to move through.

Jack puppy was starting to slow down as well.  We ran out of water and as we descended into the heat we started to start feeling the effects of becoming dehydrated.  Jack puppy tried to drink up from the shallow streams but he wasn’t getting enough either.  We stayed focused and stayed smiling.  By the time we got to Lincoln Woods we were really craving a cold soda.  Our stomachs had turned and we had to stop to let Jack puppy have a swim in the stream.  We hammered it out to the bridge and finished in 8:16!  A personal best for me and a first for Amy!  We were thrilled, especially because we both had a full day of mountain miles in our legs from the day before.  (She did a run with her husband the day before and I did the pressie traverse)

My new favorite place in the whites!
My new favorite place in the whites!

Then there was day 3!  Kelsey joined Amy and I on an 18 mile run over the Twins and Hale.  I woke up so sore, my calves screaming and completely exhausted.  I tried to come up with every excuse to bail on the run but the girls would not let me so I went.  It was not too bad on the flat stuff but on the hills Amy was kicking my arse!  Kelsey was getting in more miles so she did a different trail and met up with us on the Twins.

On top of the first mountain I started to come around and was blown away because I was able to keep up with the girls!  We had fun and eventually our husbands came down the trail from their loop and passed us.  We all met up at Zealand hut before the boys took off and the girls stayed back for some social running.  We got back to the car and I felt so strong!  It was absolutely incredible for me because I have never done 3 long and hard days like that before!  I was pretty darn proud and I had so much fun running in the mountains with girls!!!!

Amy having fun on the pemi loop!
Amy having fun on the pemi loop!

The weekend was great and of course the weekdays were filled with the daily madness of work!  I did have a day off and took Ryans daughters to Hampton Beach which was so much fun!  Those little girls have completely stolen my heart!

The next weekend was taper week so Ryan and I did an 18 mile run in the whites.  It was absolutely beautiful and the views were my new favorite view in the Whites.  Jack puppy came with us and had fun but the wet trails were not kind to his little paws.  He got a couple of small blisters toward the end so we walked it out with him and gave him a pig ear and a few days to let his little paws recover.

The kids on Major
The kids on Major

The next day we picked up Ryans girls and took them to hike Mount Major with our friends.  Mindy has two kids the same ages and it was so cute to watch them running down the trail together!!!  They had so much fun that we went over Mindys house for dinner and the kids had an absolute blast!

We officially made it one year as a married couple!  We will celebrate our anniversary maybe next week!  Between work, race directing and preparing to run races it was not the best timing to celebrate!

Mount Major!
Mount Major!

This weekend Ryan raced in the Eastern States 100 and our friend Tony crewed him.  I would be racing at the Hampshire 100k so I stayed here in NH while the boys drove to Pennsylvania.

I ran with Keri on Friday and we took it easy. About a mile in my achilles started to hurt, by the end of the run I was in some pretty bad pain.  I was a bit worried about what had happened.   We got some sushi and then I went home and could not sleep because my achilles was throbbing all night long.

Zoe with my pack!
Zoe with my pack!

I hoped it would heal and drove to Sarahs house to hang out before getting ready to camp for the race.  It seemed to be getting better and I was feeling optimistic.  Ryan was also in his race all day and I was following the tracking and Tony would text me when he saw him.  Ryan had a rough patch around mile 40 but then pulled through.

By the time I went to bed Ryan was at mile 78 and in 2nd place, 20 minutes behind the leader.  When I ever woke up and saw that he caught the leader at mile 97 and then took the win by 20 minutes it was awesome!!!  I was so happy for him and we had a few minutes to chat on the phone before my race.

We made it a year!
We made it a year!

It was such a great way to start my race, knowing that Ryan finally had his race, that one race that changes your running.  The one that shocks you and leaves you feeling proud and confused all at the same time.  There is nothing better than that run that played out better than you could have ever dreamed!  I have had my moments and this one was Ryans.  It made me so happy!

I wore my La Sportiva Helios, Choucas floral headband, Julbo Groovy sunglasses, UltrAspire surge and carried First Endurance Gel.  Our race started out at a nice pace and the course was muddier than last year.  I had fun chatting with the other runners and we were treated to some pretty spectacular views in the morning!  Sunlit mountains peeking through a clearing in the trees while running through a field of lovely wildflowers.  It was so incredible!  We stopped to take in that view and then carried on down the trail.

We made it!
We made it!

I was feeling amazing!  My body felt strong, my legs felt great and no GI issues!  Most of all I was just plain happy!  We rolled along having fun intertwining with the bikes.  Well, then it happened, my achilles started to burn.  It then progressed to a dull ache and after a while a sharp pain.  The guy I was running with had a similar thing happen to him and it had put him out of commission for a year because he did not stop.  We stopped and took my shoe off.  I had a grape sized lump on the back of my ankle and it was not fitting in my shoe.  It was red.  I decided that I needed to stop.  I had also been getting knee pain from adjusting my gait to compensate for the achilles and things were just not good.

I found the fiddler at around mile 28 and called it a day.  The sound of that fiddle brought back sweet memories of running that race with Ryan last year and sadness as I watched the second woman pass through 12 minutes after I dropped.  I had led the entire race, I felt strong and happy but I was not willing to risk making this injury any worse than it was.  The people in the house hooked me up with ice and a beer.  I did not cry, I did not feel ashamed, I felt at peace with my decision.  This year has been crazy, if the trend continues my next run will be amazing!

Our mountain wedding!  Photos by Philbrick Photography!
Our mountain wedding! Photos by Philbrick Photography!

I had a freezing cold ride in the back of a pickup truck to get back to the finish area and then had some food, chatted with Tom and then headed home.  There weren’t many people at the finish yet and the finishers were hours out so I figured it made more sense to drive home and rest my leg.

I feel a variety of emotions right now.  I feel like this entire year has been a struggle, it feels like 2011 all over again.  Of course the evil negative creepies try to force their way into my head.  I cry sometimes, I wonder why I can’t just have 2013 all over again.  But then I take a deep breath and remind myself that there will be rough times but there will also be amazing times!  It hasn’t just been my running that has been challenging this year, it has been my health, my emotional well being and personal challenges that have come my way.  So, I practice what I believe in and that is being positive.  Even in tough times it feels so much better to smile.

I feel like as an athlete I have let down my sponsors, coach and friends.  I feel like as a person I have become a better and even more compassionate than ever.  I think that I lost touch with who I really was last year and got too wrapped up in trying to prove to the world that I can be fast, I let the pressure get to me.  I have nothing to prove and although this year has been tough, it has taught me to be nothing other than myself.  I don’t care if I am fast, I just want to be able to play in the mountains and do the best that I can each day. I am a mountain climber and being able to run well allows me to see more of them in a shorter period of time.  I am a wife, a dental hygienist, a step mom, a friend, a daughter, an athlete and a person whose heart is full of dreams, love and adventure!  What makes me happy is hearing that one of my wacky adventures inspired somebody to try something new, to live the life they dream of or to help them find happiness!

Philbrick photo!
Philbrick photo!

So, a huge thank you to my sponsors La Sportiva, Choucas Hats, UltrAspire, Flora Health, JULBO USA, First Endurance and Hypoxico.  Thank you to my coach for good advice today on how far to push that achilles and to the guy who helped me out on the trail.   Thank you to Ryan and Jack puppy for some great mountain adventure together!  Thank you to my friends for hanging out with me, since I backed of on Facebook I am enjoying see you in person.  I think that Facebook has taken more from my life than it has given me!  I am a lucky girl and am looking forward to recovering from this injury and getting back out on the trails!  For now I am looking forward to getting pedicures with my friends on Wednesday!

When life tries to blow away your glitter cover yourself in glue and never let go of your sparkle!  The wind will stop, the dust will settle and you will shine again!  Sparkle on!  :)

 

I will shine again, and even brighter than before!  :)
I will shine again, and even brighter than before! :)
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Chasing mountains and chasing dreams!

Since my pressie Traverse life has been nothing short of crazy, fun, busy and full of the stress of living the traditional life while trying to still chase that ultimate dream of living that life full of adventure and fun!  I’m not going to lie, that work thing can get in the way of being the best runner I can be and brings on the challenge of finding balance.  Since almost all of us have to work to live the lives we crave I take comfort in knowing I am not alone and also know and understand how hard it is to come home after an exhausting day of work only to stare at pending miles looming over me, one last thing to do before showers, dinner and bed.  Some days I get my miles in and others I do what I can and accept that this year may not be my fastest year but it is a year of doing what makes me happy and so far I have been accomplishing that goal!

Found four of these in two days, I think I am a very lucky girl!
Found four of these in two days, I think I am a very lucky girl!

I finally got the rest of the pictures from the Philbrick Photo shoot a few weeks back, it was so much fun to go from trail runner to fairy princess!  I tossed in some pictures at the end of the blog post!  It is really cool to be able to be athletic and feel beautiful.  Something that took me a long time to learn was that you can be both, you don’t have to choose.  Embrace being beautiful and strong.  :)

Three of us bright ladies before loon!
Three of us bright ladies before loon!

So, the week after the Pressie Traverse I decided to attempt to race at Loon in the US Mountain Running Qualifier, big dreams but also knowing the reality that I had just done an extremely hard effort a week earlier would make for a tough race.  I threw on a smile and embraced the pain and the fact that I had to walk most of the race!  I ran about 2 minutes faster last year on a longer course!  Hey, that pressie traverse was incredible, so it was totally worth sacrificing my race!

Sportiva team mates!
Sportiva team mates!

Wednesdays have been fun with the Harmony Hill Summer XC Series and it has become exactly what I had envisioned!  There are families there together doing something fun and healthy, people making new running friends and so many smiles each week!  There is nothing more fun than giving people a memory, one that I hope they hold onto for years to come.

Me and Deb!!
Me and Deb!!

Being on a mission to become the best mountain runner I can be I dragged Ryan out to the Adirondaks to join me on a test run of the Great Range Traverse and without any existing womens FKT on the route plans of establishing one.  We got a really late start (12:30ish) and it was hot and humid.  I don’t do very well in hot weather and was concerned with the heat, but once we started out on the trail I quickly learned that would not be my only challenge of the day.

Jack puppy sniffed a porcupine
Jack puppy sniffed a porcupine

My legs were fried from the last two weeks, I have not been able to recover as quickly as last year due to reduced mileage and honestly, I am just happy to be able to go out and do as well as I can considering the year I have had!  I smiled and just embraced the pain!  Ryan and I had a blast and as the terrain got more challenging I became more exhausted!  This traverse is insane!  The climbs are steep and very washed out, the descents are just as crazy and of course there are Gothics and Saddleback which scare the crap out of me!  It took me forever to suck it up and get down those two mountains!  Thank goodness my La Sportiva Bushido’s are so amazing, they have transformed my running this year and have made me less wimpy on rocks!

Great Range Traverse!
Great Range Traverse!

We stopped before Haystack to fill our packs with water and the cold stream water was amazing!  It felt so good and really helped to cool me down.  Before long we were on Haystack and I was so happy to be running toward Marcy which would be our final peak of the day!  We tagged Marcy and made our way down to the Garden on completely exhausted legs (well, mine..not Ryans!)  My final time was 7:15 and I knew I was capable of much better, on a cooler day and stronger legs.  No matter what, I had a great day and was proud to push through so well with how tired my body was!

Great Range Traverse!
Great Range Traverse!
Jack puppy likes the Adirondaks!
Jack puppy likes the Adirondaks!

We took Jack puppy for a nice 10 mile hike the next day and then drove home to return to the daily grind.  The next week was preparation for the Bear Brook Trail Marathon which is our first race and our favorite to direct!  With the race going into it’s third year we have worked out many of the kinks and have managed to put together a fun and affordable event and this year our finishers award was local honey!  We always recruit the best volunteers and without them our races would not happen.

Adirondaks!
Adirondaks!

 

Ryan and I marked the marathon course on Thursday and the Half Marathon course on Friday.  For two people, that is a ton of work but we also strive to have the course marked very well and being obsessive about it the only way to mark it is to do it ourselves!  Thank goodness we have some awesome people who help us remove the markings!  That is a lot of running!

Adirondak fun!
Adirondak fun!

The race was an absolute blast and went very smoothly!  We cannot wait until next year!  We will be keeping the half marathon distance which is exciting!

Jack puppy in the wind!
Jack puppy in the wind!

After the marathon we picked up Ryans daughters and had a nice day at the beach and just enjoyed hanging out.  The girls are so cute and his oldest is really taking a liking to running!  She is really getting good with her technical trail skills and endurance!  His youngest is liking mountain biking so we take turns with each activity!

Great Range Traverse!
Great Range Traverse!

After Bear Brook my legs were just shot from the previous 4 weeks and every easy run I did the week after was so exhausting!  My legs were toast on every hill and my breathing erratic!  I got out for a moderate paced trail run with my friend Tony and the La Sportiva rep who was in town and that run just whooped me!  I took the next several days off from running with hopes of feeling good for Escarpment.

Joe Viger took pictures of us that ended up in the September Trail Runner Magazine!
Joe Viger took pictures of us that ended up in the September Trail Runner Magazine!

Ryan and I had the girls Thursday and Friday and dropped them off with their mom on Friday morning and came home to leave for New York.  We started packing and then found out the race was actually Sunday instead of Saturday!  OOOPPPSSS!!!  So, we took the day to get caught up on sleep we hadn’t gotten in months.  It was really hard for me to pull away from working constantly and to not do chores but once I let go of the worries of being lazy I dozed off and had a lovely nap!

Jack puppy is so cute!
Jack puppy is so cute!

We woke up Saturday and had an uneventful drive to the Catskills.  We met up with the other runners at the pre race gathering at Dicks house.  It was so nice to meet some new friends and see some old ones!  Of course I was thrilled to see the woman who taught me how to run ultras, Sheryl Wheeler!  I just admire her so much, this woman is so talented and so nice!  Her list of accomplishments is long and she has such a beautiful energy that she brings with her everywhere she goes!  Seeing her and her husband Dan always make me feel comfortable and I always learn something new from her!

Philbrick photography Photo shoot!
Philbrick photography Photo shoot!

We got dinner with Ian Golden who directs Cayuga and Virgil Crest (two races I absolutely love!) and then set up camp and got a good night of sleep.  After a cup of coffee and a trip to the bathroom I was ready to race!  I didn’t know what to expect but there were some talented ladies that I would be sharing the trail with and I was so excited!  My nerves got the best of me and I wanted to vomit at the start.  To make it even more spicy the lightning and downpours began as the race started!  Nothing like running up a mountain in the pouring rain, trails so dark you almost needed a headlamp and thunder and lightning cracking all around you.

Philbrick photography Photo shoot!
Philbrick photography Photo shoot!

Sheryl and I ran up the hill laughing about the storm and she started having some issues with her contacts coming out from the rain.  The trails were a muddy mess and I started to embrace the madness!  I focused on getting up the first of what I thought were only two big hills.  I would pay for my lack of course knowledge later in the day.

Philbrick photography Photo shoot!
Philbrick photography Photo shoot!

I felt strong and steady up the first climb, my calves screaming in pain all the way to the top.  I had to stop to pee once and tie my shoelace another time.  Once I got on the summit I knew it was time to put my faith in the Bushido’s and let it rip down the hill!  I was flying and giggling like a kid!  This course was the true definition of a trail race, nothing I have ever run has even come close to this race!  I started to gain confidence and speed as I tore down the wet trail as fast as my legs would allow!  I lept off a rock and into a corner of grass only to realize I jumped off a small cliff and found myself rolling down the side of a steep hill.  Luckily there were trees to stop me.  A few cuts and scrapes, a sore knee and a scramble back up onto the trail got me back on track.  I slowed up a bit and paid a bit more attention to the trail and stopped goofing off so much!

Philbrick photography Photo shoot!
Philbrick photography Photo shoot!

I couldn’t help but embrace the day and every footstep I took!  I charged up the next climb laughing and having a blast, thinking it was the last one of the day.  A couple of guys passed me and I passed a couple of guys.  The trail got steeper and slicker and after what seemed like eternity I stood on top of Black head with smiling volunteers who shouted out “Congratulations, you are the Queen of the Mountain!”  Silly, but I got all choked up because I want to be a great mountain runner and it really made me feel good to hear those words!  I took some water and charged down the trail laughing and smiling the whole way.

Philbrick photography Photo shoot!
Philbrick photography Photo shoot!

I got to the next climb and thought it would be small and runnable so I pushed hard, running up the switchbacks and manageable grade until I soon realized this climb was bigger than I hoped.  I blew it!  I charged too early and totally blew up hard.  I walked the best I could with shaking legs and screaming calves.  My whole body started to come undone at that point and I just prayed for strength.  I smiled and embraced every bit of suffering, knowing that this was more than just a race, it was a training run and a part of my journey to becoming a true mountain runner.  I pushed so hard, panting and wondering when I would get to the top.  I saw some hikers and then…THE PLANE!  I knew that the plane wreck meant a summit was around the corner.  I took a deep breath and rolled into the aid station on top of the hill where I was cheered on by some awesome volunteers!

Philbrick photography Photo shoot!
Philbrick photography Photo shoot!

I knew I was fading and I knew there were a few very strong and fast women not far behind me.  I pushed on down the trail running the best I could with my body completely obliterated.  I was still having the time of my life and still moving forward!  I was becoming clumsy and missed a few turns and made sure I paid attention to the trail after one moment of running straight into the forest!  Then I started to struggle on even the easy climbs and had to walk them.

Philbrick photography Photo shoot!
Philbrick photography Photo shoot!

The trails were slick and the shoes were doing awesome!  I smiled, knowing every step I took was one more toward that finish line.  With two miles to go I jumped off a rock and landed wrong.  I rolled my ankle so bad and felt a sharp pain in my ankle and along the top of my foot.  I wanted to cry as I limped away as fast as I could.  I didn’t want to get caught, I wanted to cross that finish line.

Philbrick photography Photo shoot!
Philbrick photography Photo shoot!

With one more deep breath I sucked it up, put on my big girl skirt and charged to the finish feeling like a drunken pirate with a peg leg.  I had nothing left to give and was running on purely my love of running!  I saw Dan near a ledge and he smiled, I cried at that moment.  Dan is always so kind to me and hearing his words of encouragement made that pain disappear just long enough to cross that finish line with a time of 3:37 and being the first woman!  I was thrilled with my race and a bit bummed about my time.  I was really hoping to run under 3:30, but with the slick conditions, lack of course knowledge and lack of consistent training this year I am happy with what I did!  Minutes later Raina and Sheryl came rolling through looking a lot better than I felt!  These women are so strong!!!!!  We were thrilled to all come in under 4 hours!

Philbrick photography Photo shoot!
Philbrick photography Photo shoot!

Ryan was at the finish line after a great race and some big crashes!  It was awesome seeing our friends at the end of the race and a huge congrats to Sarah who got 4th at Bear Brook marathon last weekend and 5th at Escarpment this weekend!  What a badass girl!  (well, Karine and Jeff also ran Bear Brook last weekend and did awesome this weekend too!!!) So many of our other friends were there and we got to see some new ones too!

Philbrick photography Photo shoot!
Philbrick photography Photo shoot!

If you have not run Escarpment, put it on your list.  This race embraces true trail running.  No frills, all singletrack, great vibe at the finish, amazing volunteers, stout and friendly competition and an overall good time!  Plus, to be in the presence of some incredible bad-asses who have run this race over 20 times was incredible!  I will be back, and someday might be one of those old-time bad-asses that the kids look at and wonder how I am still out there.

Philbrick photography Photo shoot!
Philbrick photography Photo shoot!

A huge thank you to my sponsors La Sportiva, Choucas Hats, UltrAspire, JULBOUSA, Flora Health, First Endurance and Hypoxico for your support!  Thank you to my coach Jack and my husband for guiding me on my journey to being a mountain runner!  Thank you to my Jack puppy for being the cutest running partner ever!  Thank you to my friends for always being there with a smile and a hug.  Thank you to everyone who believes in me, this year has been such a roller coaster ride with so many ups and downs.  I am learning a lot about life this year and what matters most.  :)

Philbrick photography Photo shoot!
Philbrick photography Photo shoot!

I don’t know what the rest of the year will bring, this year is about being spontaneous and following my heart.  Happiness should always come first, we live in a society that is so stressful and so focused on work.  I miss the days of no computers, the days of having an answering machine and the days of keeping in touch with people by hanging out instead of text messaging and social media.  Take a day to unplug once in a while.  I am trying to decrease my time spent online.  Not taking my phone to dinner, turning it off at night, maybe not responding right away to a message,…..whatever it takes to make me feel more free!  :)

Philbrick photography Photo shoot!
Philbrick photography Photo shoot!

 

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An ordinary girl living a not so ordinary life