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.

IMG_20141130_111935168
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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The days of summer

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

Pressie Traverse with Ryan
pressie traverse with ryan

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

Our pressie traverse
our pressie traverse

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

washington
washington

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

Ryan
Ryan

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

jack puppy!
jack puppy!

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

crawford path

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

My finish smile!
My finish smile!

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

crawford path
crawford path

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

My finish!

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

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

hiking down!
hiking down!

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

hiking down
hiking down

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

jack puppy!
jack puppy!

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

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

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

Photo by philbrick photography
Photo by philbrick photography

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

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

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

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

six husbands trail 2010
six husbands trail 2010

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

Let me leave you with this:

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

10380594_10204242025436703_2845417714979841510_o

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let me leave you with this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

cruising down the pavement!
cruising down the pavement!

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

post race yum yums!
post race yum yums!

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

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

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

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

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

Ralph Waldo Trail Race!
Ralph Waldo Trail Race!

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

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

Let me leave you with this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The brutal pavement section!
The brutal pavement section!

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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An ordinary girl living a not so ordinary life