Clicking into place.

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Standing on the Cog mid Presidential Traverse – July 4, 2018

Life never stops evolving right?  Generally, obstacles get tossed in our way and we are able to navigate around them.  Some are more major than others, but one can usually push right through.  Sometimes, you get thrown a problem that simply just doesn’t ease up and you find yourself begging for it to end.  You’ve tried every solution to no avail.  Every step of progress made usually results in two steps back.  It’s like climbing a mountain in the rain with slick, muddy conditions.  You are soaked, you can feel the hot spots in your feet, you have snots running down your face (even though it’s July) and every step is earned.  At times you stop, throw your poles and let out a cry… was that laughter? Rage? Sadness?

That was how my life has felt since last February.

I worked for every fucking step I took last year.  Sleep didn’t come easy.  I found out what a panic attack feels like at 5000 ft. during a Presidential Traverse.  It cost me a lot of money to stay afloat.  I will forever be thankful for those people who stood by my side on some of the worst days of my life.  I kept running because in realty, my soul felt like it would wither up and die if I didn’t.  Those runs were hard.  Harder than they should have been.  Even easy terrain often felt like that muddy mountain.  Fucking stress.

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Finding solace in running… we had nearly lost our house a few days prior to this shot – August 2018

I took the fall to reset.  I started lifting heavy in my own gym.  I rode my spin bike to no where.  I stopped watching the news in the morning and often embrace the silence in my home.  Much of my winter was spent listening to the pellet stove and reading.  I needed to slow my brain down.  Find a way to control the stress.  At times, that stress continued to beat on me even when I was begging for mercy.

Then it started to click into place.  Suddenly, my brain has quieted down. I am feeling comfortable alone again.  I am eager to train and race… a feeling I haven’t had in a very long time.  And to be honest with you, I don’t know that I have ever felt this level of calm.  I also started to give some things up.  No more second job.  No more overbooking myself.  No more letting myself be someone else’s bitch.

I had a run yesterday in the pouring rain in a little bit of woods close to home.  I was alone.  I was listening to some music.  I wasn’t stressed.  I was dreaming of the big things to come.  I splashed in the puddles like a kid… I truly hope this feeling is here to stay for a little bit.

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Solo rainy runs for the win!

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My tan is gone.

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Winter roads!

Where has the last few months gone???  I have had so much going on that writing hasn’t come easily.  I recognize that is acceptable and don’t choose to beat myself up over it.  If the urge is there, great… if not… it will come back.

As I tap along on the keyboard, sitting in the comfortable leather recliner I fell in love with last fall, I looked down at my arms and realized my tan is gone.  The evidence of all those sunny adventures has faded away and the slate is clean, ready for more sun and new adventures.  Part of this new year, and turning 40, is a goal to live in the moment but not wish it away for the future.  That’s easy to do when life is “good”, but harder when the current day is rough.  I have been spending a bit more time in silence, accepting my thoughts and embracing the quiet.  This is new for me and my very busy brain!

I am very eager about where my training and adventures will take me in 2019! I chose my A race, as well as some other fun along the way.  I am once again a member of the Altra Red Team for this year (yay!) and have already worked one event for the company, sharing my love of this brand and their shoe technology.  This is a big year for Altra, as they are releasing more new shoes and expanding their line.  I legitimately want them all.

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Working the Altra Booth at the Six03 Kickoff Event in February.  SO happy to be working with this company again in 2019!

Here is the race and pacing schedule:

April 6-7: Umstead 100 pacing and crewing duties (Raleigh here we come!)

May 11: Wapack and Back (21.5 miles)

May 26: Pineland 50k

June 15: Mt. Washington Road Race (7.6 miles, 4650′ gain, Just One Hill!)

July 19-20: Vermont 100 pacing and crewing

August 9-11: Ragged 75 Stage Race (My A Race and first stage race! 75+ miles and 15,500 ft. of gain!)

I set a great base this fall and early winter and just came off my first three week training cycle.  I promptly developed a head cold during rest week, which was nicely timed because I needed to do some pre-hab on an old ankle injury.  No more slushy, icy trails for me this winter.  It isn’t worth the ankle roll risk.

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The spin bike is still the BEST piece of cross training equipment for me!  I adore the Les Mills RPM and Sprint classes.

All in all, my desire to train is back to 100% and my desire for adventures is as strong as it’s ever been!  Bring on the warm temps!

Last Week’s Workouts – 11/26/18

Now that I am setting a base and have chosen some goals for next year, I want to make an effort to post my weekly workouts.

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I am a Training Peaks and Strava user.  I love the social aspect of Strava, but find Training Peaks does a better job of showing efforts, fatigue levels and “growth.”  I have gotten used to looking at my TP and knowing when to push and when to rest.

Monday 11/26: 45 minute RPM cycling class at home.  Have a mentioned I ADORE my Schwinn IC3?  It’s basic, but well built and rock solid.  I use spin shoes and clips, which I believe allows me to get the most out of my legs during these sessions.

Tuesday 11/27:  I started my day with a 30 minute ab session using CXWORX.  This programming incorporates bands and plates, making ab work hard.  I finished my day with friends at Kingman Farm, running in the slop.  The snow, mud and water make efforts hard and fun!  Lise had four hill repeats on her plan for the day, so we did that!

Wednesday 11/28: Easy run with the jailer at lunch.  Lunch runs help reset my brain and make me more productive in the afternoon.

Thursday 11/29: Strength session using a Bodypump class.  The point of these classes is low weight, high reps.  I am pleased with the weight of my bar right now.  I can tell my legs are getting stronger by the week.  These classes test my endurance, which translates to the trail!

Friday 11/30:  I felt like spinning again, so I did.  I bought the bike to give me the option between cold morning runs or spinning.  As someone with fairly severe Raynaud’s Syndrome, it’s nice to have the option.  The tough part about short runs and Raynaud’s is my hands often never warm up, even with mittens and warmers.  It’s just misery.  During long runs, the heat eventually makes it to my hands and I do just fine.  So yeah… I chose to spin with the hot Australians instead.

Saturday 12/1:  I am still sore from defensive tactics class at work…

Sunday 12/2:  I tried out the Les Mills Grit session.  Woof!  It reminded me of HIIT classes at the gym.  Thirty minutes of work using a bar, 10 lb plate or body weight depending on the circuit.  I loved it and it went by quick.  My abs and lats feel it this AM.  I joined Lise and Tony for a VERY wet run in Northwood after this gym session.  The water was raging down the trail and it poured for the whole 5.75 miles!  We laughed the whole way.  My new Altra RSM Lone Peaks are amazing.  Paired with a pair of water proof socks, but feet did great in standing water.

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Overall, I am pleased with the work I put in last week and feel the good “sore” as a result of throwing new work at my body.  My knee and ankles are holding up well (crossing fingers, knocking on wood) and I’m doing balancing work plus targeted strength work to keep them healthy.

Unconventional Training

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Barn workouts!

I am no stranger to running training plans… especially those that incorporate strength work.  In fact, those with strength specific days tend to be what I gravitate towards.  As a not so fast runner, I have learned the art of building muscle and being capable of long pushes.  I can typically drop a trail marathon in training like it’s no big deal.  I make a great late mile pacer in ultras because of my strong march.  I have learned my areas of strength and have worked to perfect them in recent years.

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As we wind down 2018, a year I focused on being a pacer, and enter 2019 I have finally found that spark to train.  I am so excited to “race” next year and chose the Ragged 75 Stage Race as my A goal!  I have crewed for this race when it was the Emerald and volunteered the last two years.  This year, I swept the last 24 miles of Day 3 (also the course the 50k entrants run).  I was planning on running the 50k, since I did not get a chance to run the Pineland 50k in May.  The house fire 12 days earlier took away my will to race, so sweeping was an excellent way to get out on the trail and get miles in.

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Scenes from the Ragged 75 and 50K

This race plays into my strengths… I can climb and hike day after day.  I enjoy camping out and recovering.  I also love the camaraderie of group challenges.  I am very excited about stage racing the entire thing next year!  I also figure its an excellent way to train in the Whites and get some redlining done at the same time.

So now that I have thrown down the gauntlet for my A goal, I am spending the next two months base building.  I am pumped to finally have a home gym after all these years (a creation hubby and I talked about earlier this summer when I was actively working out in the barn) and came to fruition during the unplanned basement remodel.  I went out and bought a spin bike, a Schwinn IC3, and after a few weeks have decided I love it!  We matted my floor, installed a pull up bar and added some mobility and band products to my repertoire.  I was also fortunate to acquire equipment (squat rack, more weights, box jump, etc) from a friend who was moving away and dismantling her home gym!  It was finished off with a Sonos speaker (check it out!) and a Roku streaming TV for content.

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Home gym!

Cue the cheesy here… as a sucker for Les Mills group classes back in the early days of my athletic education, I now have the ability to stream their classes via the Roku.  I say cheesy…. but there is some good stuff to use!  Beyond Bodypump (guided lifting class) and Combat (kickboxing style HIIT class), I have access to two types of spin classes as well as mobility and yoga classes.  They even offer strength and core classes that utilize bands.  This is a great way for me to mix up my workouts and continue to apply to my education!

Finally, I continue to use the Keelo app too.  I paid for a one year subscription when I stopped going to my long time gym and still wanted the convenience of someone else programming my strength and conditioning workouts. Keelo is awesome!  You tell the app what you have for equipment and it compiles workouts for you.  You can even use it without equipment for just body weight workouts too.  Each workout includes a timer or rep count, plus demo videos to ensure you are doing the movement correctly.  It is no joke!  Here is a sample of the conditioning workouts:

Right now, I am doing whatever inspires me 5-6 days a week.  Lately it’s been a combination of cycling, running, snowshoeing and lifting.  I have chosen a stage race plan, which starts in mid February and will allow me to continue to lift and cycle.  I adore variety and can’t wait to crew, pace, hike and stage race in 2018!

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Pacing and crewing VT100 with Goldman 

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VT100 Camp antics!

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!

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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