Scary shit. Part 2… and time to move on.

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I initially wrote this post in late August but wasn’t ready to post it.  Now is the time.  It is the morning of the day we move back into our home.  I am ready to move on.

I have done a lot of scary shit in my lifetime.  I would venture to say I am an adrenaline junkie who doesn’t mind pushing the boundaries and feeling that “edge.”  House fire…. that takes the cake.

On July 31st, our smoke detectors went off at 11:00pm, about two hours after we climbed into bed.  As soon as we woke, we could smell and taste the smoke.  Something was burning.  Eric fled to the source, putting it out with our well placed fire extinguishers.  I was able to get both our house cats out safely once the smoke subsided.  We were safe.  For that I will forever be thankful.  I will never forget sitting outside the house in front of my garage, hugging my legs and listening for the sound of the sirens.  As someone who works in emergency services, I knew the sound of sirens would mean they were close.  I sat and watched the firefighters work…. knowing I wouldn’t find the cats yet.  I had no shoes, just the shorts and the tank top I was wearing.  I couldn’t even come up with a single thing to take from the house when I got out.  That night is still burned in my brain, as is the smell of the smoke and the horror of it all.

All things considered, we are so lucky.  No structural damage, but the smoke damage was devastating.  Our dehumidifier failed, caught on fire and the the burned plastic and rubber coated our home in the form of smoke and soot.  The cleanup is substantial and sad.  We had just finished renovated our home in its entirety and now there is a large dumpster in my front yard.

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If I had to give any advice it would be… know where your fire extinguishers are and have more than one!  It took two to put this fire out.  Have an evacuation plan and a bag stored somewhere away from your home with essentials appropriate for the season, medical issues, pets, etc.  Finally, check those smoke detectors.  They truly saved our lives and our pets.

We now live in a 350 square foot camper in our backyard.  As far as campers go, this one is pretty classy.  I have a kitchen, laundry and a king sized bed.  Hubby has a large TV and a recliner.  One cat thinks he owns the joint while the other will only come out at night.  Two weeks in hotel rooms before this was soul sucking…. I’ll embrace the camper!

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That being said… this is like an experiment in tiny house living.  The space we are occupying is smaller than one floor of our home.  We have never been in such close quarters in twelve years together.

10/19/18 Update:

We are moving back in!  I have never been as excited to unpack boxes as I am today.  I woke up at 4:00AM and got up, knowing I was too excited to sleep.  It is like being a kid at Christmas.  For nearly three months I have watched the house be deconstructed, cleaned and reconstructed.  It’s now ready.  The process was brutal, most things did not go right and I am still working through the struggle with insurance.  None of that matters today…. today our home is clean and ready for us and the cats!

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I am looking forward to recapping the adventures of the summer, our trip to Tahoe for the greatest ultra yet and what moving on athletically will look like.  I am seriously in need of some mental peace and outdoor adventures in the coming months!  Thank you to everyone who reached out, continued to check on us, handed out hugs when that was all I needed and stood by while I cried, bitched, raged and cried some more.  This year has been an ass kicker.  Much like bad runs, the bad day make the good days that much sweeter…. I hope I can repay all the favors and kind words I was fortunate enough to soak up this year.  

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Clean and painted basement!

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2018. Part 1.

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You can’t make this shit up (and why 2018 is a Bitch).

Usually my blog is dedicated to running adventures and training experiences.  However, I have been known to stray in order to share some nitty gritty stuff that impacts my running.  This is one of those posts. I haven’t blogged since the beginning of the year because I simply lost my voice.  I adore writing, but I simply haven’t had the words. In an effort to return to blogging and make an effort to heal, I am writing again.  Consider this post Part I in my return to creative writing and running….

Being thirty nine has not been a pleasant experience.  In fact it’s been a year of once in a lifetime experiences that are not the good kind.  Let’s start with the worst one… losing my Dad. My father was one of those types of people who was incredibly reserved, didn’t talk much, was terrible at expressing emotion and communicating but somehow passed on some pretty cool traits.  For instance… he always went “big.” Motorhomes, motorcycles, rental properties… big. I now understand where my all in, 110% mentality came from. It’s a dangerous trait and led to some big financial debts for him. I go the other way, in that I am fiscally conservative but big in experience.

Dad was also a hard worker.  When I was a child, I remember his alarm going off around 4:00 AM everyday and he often wouldn’t get home until after my brother and I finished dinner.  My mother was a classic housewife and Dad was a workaholic. I knew how to work from an early age, because despite given a horse at seven years old, I was warned the horse could be sold if I didn’t want to commit to feeding and mucking stalls each day… as a first grader.  I bought in, dressing to feed each morning, then heading to school. I didn’t play sports like other kids. Instead, I came home to ride, clean the barn and do my homework. My horses were my first job. I love that job to this day…

Dad taught me to drive and haul trailers at sixteen years old so I could take my horses out to whatever event I pleased.  I never understood at the time the gravity of that responsibility. I learned how to back a trailer in empty parking lots and I wasn’t set free on my own until I could get that trailer into any space it would fit in.  

My Dad never missed a milestone over the course of my career.  My police academy graduation, my swearing in at each agency, award ceremonies, agency changes and promotions.  I know he was incredibly uncomfortable in crowds like that but he came anyway. I learned near his death how proud he was of me.  Everytime I met a new doctor or nurse, they referred to me as “the captain” and told me how “proud” my dad was. He never told me that.

Dad was tough to be close to because he didn’t let people “in.”  He never remarried, nor dated to my knowledge. If I didn’t call, I often wouldn’t hear from him.  When I did call, he was happy to hear from me. He wasn’t a talker. It was rare to get him to engage in a conversation.  His life was incredibly predictable… wake up, have coffee, go to work, come home to the dog and TV, go to bed late. Rinse and repeat.  Sure… he lived… boats, motorcycles, RV, race car teams, a year living on the bay… but he also felt incredible financial hardship which I believe broke his soul.

In February, Dad had a heart attack followed by two more cardiac events (which he kept from us).  He suffered from the flu in March, and while doing diagnostics for unexplained pain, they found lung and brain cancer.  In fact, they found bowel cancer too but he didn’t tell us about that. I spent months taking him to appointments, helping him get insurance coverage, sorting through the information.  My brother handled the day to day care. Dad wanted to “do the treatments” but the treatments took away his ability to walk, his will to eat and eventually he succumbed to a massive stroke.  I didn’t get to say goodbye through conversation, but said my peace by his bedside. In fact, I didn’t get to talk to him about a lot of things still on my mind because he wasn’t a talker. I knew he loved me, but I wish he knew how much.  My dad was a kind person, missed by those who understood him, and alive inside of me. I still look for his distinctive truck in the grocery store parking lot. He would go every night for his dinner. I still think I see him out in public, then realize it’s not him.  May 29th was a day that changed me.

It took me exactly two months to stop crying.  I came home from a run a week and a half ago and told Eric “I don’t feel sad anymore”.  I had an incredibly moment of clarity and happiness on that run. I was able to push my physical limits without breaking down in tears.  

Forty eight hours later, our house caught on fire.  The sadness is back. We can no longer live in our home.

 

2018 truly is a bitch.

 

Stay tuned for Part 2.  I have no idea what is next….

Coming back from illness

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Tis’ the season!  That glorious time of year when we spend many of our hours inside, trapped with other human beings who aren’t even aware they are coughing and sneezing all over the place.  You know what I mean… couple that with traveling (airplane for me next week) and public places and you can nearly guarantee at least one major illness a season.

For an athlete, this is particularly torturous.  Let’s face it, we don’t take “laying down” well… at all.

Bearing in mind I DO NOT work as a medical professional, I have simply figured out some things that work for me.  Once you have gotten over the grief of becoming sick, here are my suggestions for cutting yourself some slack and getting back on the self-inflicted pain train as quickly as possible:

  1. Plan to be down and out for a week: if you make a recovery quicker than that, be appreciative.  Generally these bugs take time to work their way through our systems.  As a planner and goal oriented person, simply knowing I’ll be “out” for a week helps me cope.
  2. REST.  Take some time off from work if it’s really bad.  No one wants to listen to you and every hour of sleep gets you back on track quicker.  Besides… no one can ever sleep at 2:00AM, but as soon as the alarm goes off at 5:00AM, the snots subside and all you can think about it sleeping.
  3. Hydrate: Water, protein shakes, BCAAs, electrolytes.  Use the stuff you normally use when you train.  You are recovering after all!  They may just be easier to take in than solid food anyway.
  4. Make a plan for returning to work slowly: Don’t expect to pick up where you left off.  Ease back into training and again, CUT YOURSELF SOME SLACK.  As confirmed by my PCP, if you feel well enough and symptoms are above the neck then go back to training easy.  If you have a sore throat or your lungs are involved, listen to your body and/or see doc for confirmation if alright to start again.  If you try to run with bronchitis, pneumonia or the flu that week I warned you about it going to get a hell of a lot longer.  Ask me how I know…
  5. If you start to feel like crap again, stop and rest.  Don’t worry… the trails, roads and mountains will be there tomorrow.

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Altra Team Red!

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Blue Job Mountain in subzero temps!  Warm and happy with the right gear and shoes!

Sitting here on my recliner… Chromebook on my lap, tissues and water beside me and I am sniffling away.  The plague got me.  Just like it does every January around the same time.  I can’t really complain though, because I squeezed in 11,783 feet of gain and 87 miles since returning from my one month self imposed running break.  My goal was to set my base back in place and I am well on my way of doing that.  Right now, I am resting and staying out of the brutal cold we have been encased in for several weeks!  I am really hoping to be ready to go back to work sometime this coming week once the weather breaks and we see 30s and 40s!  I also want to note that 2017 was my biggest mileage year at 1128 miles with 125,948 ft. of gain!  Not bad for working a full time (often 40+ hours a week), a part time job and juggling a home and husband too.  I’ll take it!  Training Peaks also allowed me to see I spent 17.4% of my total training time doing strength work.  I truly believe the HIIT, barbell/dumbell and other general strength work has made a tremendous difference in my training.

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It’s also been a big week for me, as Altra Running invited me back for a second year!  Last year I was a brand ambassador, but this year I am a member of a Team Red.  I am so excited to continue working with a brand I truly loved, especially since it changed running for me so dramatically!  I also made new friends last year and had the opportunity to product test which was super fun!  I can’t even pick a favorite shoe, but I can tell you the latest version of the Lone Peak Neoshells are AMAZING.  Combined with gaiters and gore-tex socks, I can literally hang outside and my feet stay toasty warm and dry.  

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So looking ahead, bearing in mind I am still sorting through the work I want to get done in 2018, I know I want to do the following:

Run a sub 2 hour road half: for the not so fast chick this is a big goal for me!

Backpacking trips: Would like to do a handful of fastpacking overnights, self-supported in nature

A little more racing than I have in the past few years: Pineland 25K, Inifinitus Marathon… who knows what else.  I want to keep reminding my body what it’s like to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.  This is a perishable skill!

One day Pemi Loop: Yep, I need to do this one again!  Still looking to get a good weather day up there.  Both my bailout day and counterclockwise completion day were HOT!

Why all the big mountain miles?  Because I am pacing at Tahoe for the 200 miler!  I need to be in tiptop shape for that insane event in September.

So there you have it… big mountain dreams in 2018.  For now, I rest up and dream of more base building and work.  Also, stay tuned for the next two interviews in my series!  I can’t wait to share those in coming weeks!

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More fun to come!

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New Year’s Resolutions…. Waste of time.

Goals for 2018… Worth the time!

That’s just my humble opinion for what it’s worth.  I stumbled across an article that resonated with me and decided to rip it off for this blog post.  That being said, check it out for yourself.  You may just find yourself inspired as well!  Here is my version of the article, A Different Kind of Trail-running Goal (Sarah Lavender Smith), first published on Trail Runner Magazine 12/11/17.

1) Learn new wilderness skills:  I laughed when I saw this one because it’s already on the list for 2018.  A small group of us have committed to taking a wilderness first aid course, specifically designed for the conditions we play in… the New Hampshire White Mountains.  I have had a number of first responder courses over the years, but this one excites me because it’s applicable to my playground.  I am already a stickler for carrying first aid supplies, plus catastrophic event supplies like a tourniquet and bivvy sack for warmth.  I want to know what else I can be doing to keep us safe and always enjoy learning new skills.

2) Find and run a trail from Point A to Point B:  Oh where to start? I have lots in mind for this one, mountain ranges I want to string together and new places I need to see without ever leaving my State.  The Kilkenny Range, the Sandwich Range and many others already dot my list.  I have a lot of places I want to see where many others don’t go and I want to make these into epic overnight adventures.

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3) Spend a night solo in the outdoors:  Having been collecting the gear for the last year, I am just about ready to tackle this one.  The only thing that bothers me a little is the bears… so I am learning about how to keep them out of my food.  Literally, it’s not the bear that bothers me, but waking up and having nothing to eat!

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4) Make your trail adventures multisport:  Pack a burro up and bring him along?  Ironically I have that option, albeit Donkey may not agree it’s a good idea!  Maybe try a kayaking adventure?  We shall see if I make this one a reality, but I am open minded.

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5) Become a better runner through a trail running camp, class or retreat: YES is all I can say to this one. Unless a local retreat pops up for 2018, this may have to wait until 2019.  I have always wanted to do the Hut-to-Hut out west or the Transrockies event.  I will continue to dream this coming year and hop into any local opportunities I can find!

6) Run a fast road marathon: I am modifying this one… just because pavement marathons aren’t my thing.  I wouldn’t mind trying for a sub 2 hour half marathon.  Currently, 2:03:22 is my fastest half so I have some room to play with this one.  I have already committed to working some speed targeted workouts into my 2018 plan so I don’t see why I can’t work on this goal!

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7) Volunteer:  Done.  I love volunteering both as crew and as race staff.  I adore helping others, even if that means filling bladders at aid stations or changing nasty runner socks as a crew member.  I already have some plans in 2018…. The most epic being a trip to Tahoe (eeeeekkkk!!!!)

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The best part about using 2018 as a building base year is the world is my oyster.  I have no doubt I will pick out something amazing for 2019, but for now I want to continue to get strong and work on my weaknesses in the coming year.  I also want to get better at using these adventures (such as overnights and solos) as a method of clearing my head and planning for my professional future!

 

Blog Interview #1 – Meet Kate

I was once told “don’t try to run like the boys because you AREN’T one of the boys.”  This was by no means an insult, but simply points out female runners and athletes are different!  That statement literally opened my eyes to the amazing female athletes around me.  These are the women I admire and strive to run and train like!  The idea of interviewing some of the most inspiring female athletes has been bouncing around in my head for awhile and I have finally decided to launch it!  The women you will meet over the coming weeks graciously agreed to share a little about themselves.  Kick back and meet….

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Let’s start with the obligatory “tell us about yourself” since… well… we should!  I am an almost 30 year old runner, skier, hiker living in the White Mountains of NH. I love skiing back country and trail running mostly. Primarily vegetarian (!!) but I hate tofu. Born in MA, I relocated to NH and have loved ever moment of being up here. I hold a bachelors degree in pharmacy and work as a 9-1-1 dispatcher.

Did you play sports as a child or in school?  Tell us about it! I did! Basketball and cross country mainly, and tap, ballet and jazz. Come my senior year of high school, I took a step back from running as I had double shin splints. I played indoor soccer with some old work buddies for a few winter sessions.

What does a typical week of workouts look like?  No need to get specific, simply looking for mileage, number (if any) of strength work, types of workouts. Right now my work outs are all about stretching and PT. Trying to rectify a left knee injury but usually I run around 20ish miles and have recently gotten into CrossFit for my strength training.

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How many physical pursuits do you dabble in?  What are they and which one is your favorite? Running, Skiing, Hiking, CrossFit. I can’t pick!

Tell us something interesting about yourself most people wouldn’t know. If I wasn’t in health care or dispatch, I’d be a railroad engineer. Railways and trains have fascinated me since I was a kid. I’m also sucker for Russian literature.

What is your favorite achievement to date? Running Reach the Beach

If you could one superpower, what would it be and why? Either Teleportation or foresee into the future. I can either get where I want and need to go instantly or determine how something might end up.

Favorite piece of activewear? Hmmm, I have a few key pieces. Under Armour heat gear shorts as they are awesome for running and CrossFit, my WildThings puffy as its easy to layer, especially skiing, and my SheShreds muscle tank.

Favorite pair of shoes (anything is fair game!)? Either my New Balance running sneakers or these boots from Target that are super cute, warm and practical.

Favorite piece of gear? My Volkl Aura skis. They are so much fun in all conditions.

I know you have had to overcome a difficult physical hurdle.  Would you share that with us and tell us how that impacts you today?  What do you do to overcome it? I am a cancer survivor. I had thyroid cancer and had my entire thyroid plus 24 lymph nodes removed in 2014. I also had to have radiation, which nearly killed me. I really need to watch and be mindful of what I eat (hence I’m primarily vegetarian), that I get enough sleep and listen to my body. Not having a thyroid can make being active tough, especially as I can be fatigued easily, have a high cold intolerance so thermoregulation is hard, and staying active and positive can be challenging. I just make sure to get up and get out there and have fun, and show people that nothing can hold you back.

Tell us about Sheshreds.co! SheShredsCo is a female powered team (more of a family) of athletes from all over the world. We get out there, break the boundaries, compete and shred for fun. Skiing, snowboarding, wake surfing, roller skating – you name it the girls do it. We want to inspire girls of all walks of life and ages that if you put your mind to something and work hard, you can do anything the guys do (and then some!).

So what’s next in 2018? Reach the Beach round 2, skiing, hopefully finishing my NH 48, and my first Spartan Race in May. Hoping to also run a half marathon and a bunch of other races.

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Fastpacker in a Runner’s World

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Recognizing our strengths and weaknesses is key to success in any endeavor, whether it’s work or play.  Learning how to overcome those weaknesses is also a very important part of growth.  I recognize I won’t ever run a sub 7:00 mile, much less be able to hold that pace for miles on end.  Kudos to those amazing creatures who can!  I recognize I won’t ever finish a trail ultra in the top half of the field.  That’s alright too!

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Thankfully I don’t do this for the medals!  

To overcome my weakness, I capitalize on both my desire and ability to climb.  Over the years, I have adopted a fastpacker’s mentality.  What is that you ask?  Climb steady (and as hard as you can), run the flats and the downhills and all the while maintain a pace that will carry you for many miles.  Sounds easy right?  I would venture to say most people can do this, as long as you take some time to adopt fitness and technique.  This article on I Run Far says it all.

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Fastpacking is used when you want to travel many miles in a day or over the course of several days.  You carry all your gear with you, in the lightest manner possible, in gear that allows for quick bursts of movement.  In coming articles, I will outline the gear I have gathered over the years.

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My favorite fastpack from 2017 was the Pemi Loop!  I don’t break speed records, but I am capable of maintaining movement.  That beast is 30 miles and nearly 10,000 feet of climb.  I did it in one day, but can’t wait to go back and do it in two, most likely with a stop at Owl’s Head thrown in!  Fastpacking gear is KEY to long adventures for those of us who aren’t elites.  We can all do these crazy climbs, some of us are just slower than others.  I like to think of it as being able to absorb more of the beauty!

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