Sunday, August 4, 2013

Running, Swimming, and Biking, Just Like a Triathlete (sort of)

Yipee, I'm finally back in good enough shape for running to be enjoyable again! Scout and I did back to back Saturday and Sunday hill workouts from our cabin in Vermont. The route consists of an out and back on remote dirt roads starting with a steep down hill mile followed by a flattish half mile then a steady uphill mile to the turn around, then back home. I have never been able to run the entire thing without walking some of the steeper sections, but this weekend I was able to run it all both days! My favorite thing about this route is that the steady uphill mile is on a rough double track with grass growing in the middle with no houses or vehicle traffic on it and its called Town Highway 23. Who knew running on a highway could be so enjoyable?

On Saturday's run, Scout and I had a little mishap. Northeast Vermont has had a lot of severe summer storms and the rivers are high and the roads are washed out in places. The route Scout and I run takes us across the (usually) peaceful and calm Flower Brook twice. On our second crossing Saturday, Scout stepped onto what he believed was solid ground but was actually washed out road with a thin covering of Juniper branches. He fell headfirst about 4 feet down into the brook, which was about 5 or 6 feet deep in that spot with a strong current. Scout didn't come up into view for a few moments, so I jumped in after him. He came bobbing up beside me and tried to crawl back up where he had fallen in, which was impossible because the banking was very steep there. I shoved him downstream toward shallow water and he found his way out and back up to the road. I fumbled around a bit and dragged myself out. Somehow, he blamed me for the entire ordeal and refused to go near me for the rest of the day. By Sunday he had forgotten all about it...except for when we approached the washout on our Sunday run. He made a very wide birth around the spot and sprinted a bit to get away from it.

Friday, Kevin and I had an epic Kingdom Trails ride. We covered 25 hilly miles of single track. We started on the trails that are a little technically and physically challenging for me (Pound Cake, Fenceline, Pasture Point, and Coronary). They get easier and easier each time as my skills and stamina get better, but those trails still keep me on my toes. Coronary isn't technically difficult, but it's a killer climb. Once those were over with, I just relaxed and enjoyed myself for the rest of the ride. A few places were a little slick, but all in all the trails were in great condition. It felt good finishing on exhausted legs. We really earned that evening's steak and beer!

Next week I will run my 7th MMD, looking for my 6th finish. I'm not really physically prepared for a run of that distance over that amount of elevation gain, but I can do it if I put my mind to it.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Mini Vacation

Today is the last day of my mini-vacation from work. The weather was hot and humid or threatening rain for the first several days, but we enjoyed ourselves.

Friday evening, after a wonderful mountain bike ride on the Kingdom Trails, we had dinner at our favorite Pub... or almost did. We had just finished our salads and were eagerly awaiting our locally raised hanger steaks, when an incredibly violent thunderstorm rolled in and took out the power. At least Rodger was willing to serve us one more beer before they closed down. We drove under, over, and around at least a dozen trees lying across power lines on the way back to the cabin. Once back safely, Kevin and I had to make do with hot dogs eaten in the dim light of propane.

We kayaked Willoughby Lake on Saturday. After we had paddled away from our vehicle for about an hour and a half, I noticed dark clouds creeping over the mountains to the west of us. We turned back, and got within a hundred yards of shore before the storm hit. The rain came down in sheets. All the beach-goers and other boaters ran for their cars, while we calmly pulled the kayaks up onto the sand. I mean, you can only get so wet, right? I jumped in the lake since I was wet already. It felt wonderful!

We rode bikes at the Kingdom Trails again on Sunday and stopped to ride from Pudding Pond in North Conway on the way home on Monday. Pudding Pond was fun because Scout could run with us since there aren't many bikers and hikers out there. I love the fact that this area is slightly more technical and challenging than what we ride in Vermont. It was a blast. Scout completely wore himself out and refused to play on any of the stunts on Sticks and Stones on the way out.

Tuesday dawned with steady rain. What's a mini-vacationer to do on a rainy Maine day? "Let's go to the beach!" was Kevin's suggestion. We get to the touristy Maine  coast about once a summer. Both Kevin and I tend to avoid going anywhere that everyone else wants to be. With the cool temoperature and the steady rain, it was an absolutely perfect day to spend in Ogunquit. We walked for miles, had lobster rolls and chowder for lunch, waded in the ocean, walked the sidewalks looking at shop windows and people, had a few beers overlooking the ocean, and had a fantastic dinner at The Front Porch, not to be missed if you want to experience fine Ogunquit dining a stone's throw from the beach!

Today we plan to hit the local trails at the Leavitt Plantation. Tomorrow its back to work...for two days before we head north to Kevin's XXth class reunion (I won't give your age away, Kevin). Summers are busy, but we'll have all winter to rest up and recover...between skiing and snow shoeing. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Getting There!

Saturday, kevin and I mountain biked at Bear Brook State Park in Allenstown, NH. Trail conditions were great. We rode steady for three and a half hours and felt good doing it. That made me feel more confident about our up-coming Fruita mt bike trip. We have some high mileage days planned for that trip.

I've been out early every morning for a run. I'm only doing 4 miles each morning, but I feel great! I leave my house at 5AM and run the same loop on auto pilot each day. By the time I get to the trail head about 1 1/2 miles into the run, I am awake and enjoying it. The only time I feel the month I took off from running, is on the hills. I just don't have mye strength back yet. But it's coming.

I will try to do a 10 miler this coming weekend and see how that goes. Also, I need to work on hill clmibing if I plan to run MMD in a few weeks.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Back at it!

Hooray, Scout and I ran 4 fun and energetic miles this evening! Scout was very happy to finally see me moving along the trail at a pace that was more than a walk for him. I have withdrawn from Vermont as there is no way in hell that I am going to be able to run that far that soon, but MMD, my favorite event of the year, is timed just right and I will no doubt see my 6th finish out of 7 attempts in 2013.

I am definitely feeling at 100% normal right now. Of course, I will finish the full 30 days worth of antibiotics no matter how good I feel, but I am so happy to be normal again.

Tomorrow... 5 faster miles with Scout. He'll be thrilled.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Ticked Off!

Well, I've been missing from Blogland for a while. My new job has me writing reports every day. I love it, but it doesn't leave me with a lot of desire to do more writing when I'm off work. In fact, I hardly ever even use the computer outside of work these days. But here I am, so let's catch up!

Training for Vermont was going great. My long runs had increased nicely to 35 painless and relaxed miles and I was feeling strong... and then I got very sick starting on June 11th. Right away I sensed it was from ticks or mosquitoes, since it hit me so hard and fast and I hadn't been around anyone with similar symptoms. Plus I had been spending a lot of time running on old overgrown logging roads and had seen a ton of ticks on me. After a full week of feeling absolutely terrible with a relentless cough, body aches, fever, chills, sweats, headache, sleepiness, and no appetite I developed severe pain and swelling in both lower legs. 

Labs and symptoms point to Anaplasmosis, a tick borne bacterial infection. I was started on specific antibiotics and within a week I started feeling more like myself. So of course, I tried to run!  I tried to run twice last week, but made it less than a half mile each time due to lower leg pain and weakness. Riding the bike didn't hurt, but I was pathetically slow and weak and had to walk a lot of the hills. But, this past weekend I rode the mountain bike like my old self for the first time in a month and tonight I ran three miles. I'm back!

Most tick borne infections will not result in lasting effects if treated correctly, but the key is they have to be treated. Below is a link to tick borne diseases seen in Maine. Don't let it turn you into a hypochondriac, but read it so you'll know what to look for.
Tick Diseases in Maine

I will do my best to keep up with this blog from now on. Heck, I will probably be able to build up to an awe-inspiring 5 mile run by next week, which should make for some fascinating reading.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Becoming a Morning Person

My peak time of day for physical activity is between 10AM and 6PM. This is when I have the most energy. But, as I mentioned in an earlier post, I decided to start a new running routine with the start of my new job. I decided to become one of those dedicated early morning runners.

 I haven't owned an alarm clock in a very long time and it was a big deal for me to purchase one. I felt like it was a sign that I was giving up my happy-go-lucky lifestyle. But the alternative was to use my loud, annoying and obnoxious cell phone alarm, which launches me into a cardiac arrhythmia when it goes off. So I bought an alarm clock.

I get out of bed at 5 and dress in my running clothes as quietly as possible so as not to set the cats and dog into making premature morning demands. Coffee goes into a travel mug, I grab my gym bag full of work clothes, lap top, lunch bag and cheap imitation over sized hand bag. (I already conformed with the alarm clock thing, I'm not about to give in to hand bag pressure!) In that hand bag is everything I might need for my day in the office... coffee creamers, mints, glasses, used tissues, chewing gum, lip stick, crossword puzzles, dental floss and  a spoon. Like a good Boy Scout, I am prepared.

I'm out of the driveway by 5:15. I am the picture of efficiency! I drink coffe and sing at the top of my lungs all the way to Portland.

I pull into the parking lot at the Planet Filth-ness and take off for my run. I run between 4 and 7 miles depending on how much wine I had with dinner the night before. I vary my route from day to day to prove that I am still a free spirit at heart. I usually meet up with the two homeless men and their homeless dog at some point and often the double amputee in his wheelchair who likes to play chicken with me on the exercise path.

Back at the gym I check my watch to determine how much attention I can put into shower, hair, and makeup that morning. I refuse to touch anything in the locker room except for the shower control and I refuse to talk to anyone because the last thing I need is a gym buddy.

Between 10 and 20 minutes later I am pulling into the parking garage at work with dirty wet running clothes draped to dry all around the interior of the car. I sprint down the street with my giant hand bag, laptop, and lunch bag and always make it to my desk before 8:00.

This routine requires preparation. I spend about a half hour after work each day getting things set up for the next morning.  In return for this small sacrifice I have lost about 5 pounds, I feel energetic all day, I sleep great, and I have time and energy to take a brisk evening walk with kevin and Scout most nights. Also I am getting good mileage in and regaining my fitness.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Loving Pre-Dawn Urban Running

Starting my fantastic new job two weeks ago has inspired me to get back into a routine with my day to day life, something that just hasn't been possible in recent years due to relentless and unpredictable work days. The last time I was able to have any sort of routine with running, fitness, diet, household responsibilities,  and maintaining my personal relationships with family and Friends was about 7 years ago when I stopped working regular hours in a hospital setting. I am very happy to be working a regular schedule again with a real start and finish to each day's work!

I thought it might be difficult adjusting to early morning runs through the streets of Portland. I imagined I would have to gradually ease into the routine, getting used to earlier awakenings, adjusting my meal times accordingly, adjusting to the bitter early morning cold and darkness, re-learning to navigate the streets of Portland, and slowly building my mileage back up from the pathetic level it had slipped to. But instead it has been incredible easy. I haven't missed a single morning yet! The only glitch was that my workplace has no shower facilities. I must have asked the building administrator six times, "are you sure there isn't a shower somewhere in this building?"  I ended up joining the closest cheapest dirtiest smelliest gym around and can now shower before work for only ten bucks a month. I guess I can live with that.

I don't run the same route each morning because I like variety. I've been parking in the gym's lot and running 40-50 minutes each morning on roads, sidewalks, and paved and dirt exercise paths. I often run right through what are normally the busiest streets of the Old Port, but I am early enough that I see very little traffic. I often run the paved path from the ferry terminal, timing it so I can watch the sunrise over Portland Harbor. I've also hit the Deering neighborhoods, Back Bay, Stroudwater, Eastern and Western Proms ...there is so much to see. Once the ice melts I will get out onto  dirt single track trails. There isn't much of that in Portland, but enough to get me off the streets a little.

There will come a point in the future when I will be able to work from home (but its going to take a while before I'm confident enough in my new role to fly solo) and when that time comes I will be very happy to get back to my country roads and trails. For now, urban road running is fine. I still get my woods runs in on the weekends, often in Vermont. I feel very fortunate to have so much control over my day to day life. I can plan ahead and commit. Holy Hell, I even have a few dates set to meet friends for runs before and after work next week! Life is good.