Friday, December 30, 2011

Looking Back on the Week and the Year

This past week has given me some great trail runs. Wonderful winter trail conditions continue here in southern Maine. I hear plenty of trail runners lamenting the lack of snow but I don't get it. What's to complain about when the trails are rock hard and fast? What's not to love about the scritch scratch of screw shoes on icy frozen dirt? Snowshoe running is fun, but for me it's only for when conditions demand it. Then again, if we get a freak storm and it snows a foot tonight, I'll be singing the praises of running in snowshoes in my Blog. I'll also be posting about joyous gliding through the woods on cross country skis. Snow, no snow... it's a win-win situation.

This was my first week back to work and it's been extremely busy. I've had to do my first two evening headlamp trail runs of the winter because of my work schedule. (I enjoyed them immensely). My other runs were a bit rushed and shortened. Scout has only gotten in two trail runs and a jog around the Kezar Falls streets this week. (I think being so well rested has made him a faster runner. He sure made me work hard today). The house is definitely less tidy, we ran out of cream for coffee, the laundry is over-flowing, and I haven't shaved my legs in a week. But I am starting to find balance again. I am settling back into a good routine.

I will be working this New Year weekend, but will make time to reflect on what a happy and wonderful year 2011 has been. Many of us could whine and complain about the economy, injuries, illnesses, personal finances, losses, relationships, injustices, prejudices, and evils. Or we could count our blessings! I have a loving husband, two great kids, a fun puppy, two cool cats, a comfortable house, my health, a job, the woods, the rivers, and the mountains. Also, I have the use of my right arm back. And think of all the good things ahead! Happy New Year! Have fun and be safe. Count your blessings.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Prime Trail Days

I'm still getting in good mileage with lots of medium and long runs at a modest to medium effort. The weather and trail conditions are spectacular! This has been a good base building period for me. Today I ran about 8 miles on the hilly single track in Parsonsfield with Scout. I've had a cold this past week and my runs have fluctuated between wonderful and terrible. I don't know how my energy is going to be until I start running. I set out each day anyway, run when I can, and walk when I have to. I don't let it bring me down, it's just a cold.

Today I was able to run the first (mostly) uphill mile without any problems so I knew we had a good run ahead of us. With a sunny sky and temperatures in the mid 40s, I was surprised to find patches of ice here and there. Scout likes to dash off ahead of me, so I can spot the icy patches whenever I come to them. He slips and falls, then skids across the icy patches on his side or butt at full speed, sweeping all the leaves off the trail so I can see the ice. He's a good trail friend.

My P90X strengthening program is going well. That is to say, I can't take a deep breath without my chest muscles hurting, I can't cough or laugh without my abs killing me, I can't brush my hair without feeling the burn in my triceps, and I can't walk up and down the stairs without my quads throbbing. In a few short weeks I'll be getting into shape and missing those aches and pains. I'll find myself wondering if I'm working out hard enough since it doesn't hurt anymore.

So my endurance training is going well and my strength work is kicking in. But I'm still lacking in the speed department. I keep threatening myself with speed work. I'm just waiting for the mood to hit. If it doesn't come to me on it's own, I'll start the first of January. The very words, repeats, intervals, tempo runs, threshold runs, and progression runs give me a queasy uneasy feeling. I'll probably have nightmares tonight now that I have put them in writing.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Double Workout Days

Since injuring my shoulder in July and then finally having rotator cuff repair surgery on it in September, I haven't been able to do any upper body training in almost six months. This is the first time since college that I haven't worked out. It's starting to show! So I re-started P90X a few days ago. With this program, you do the exercises along with a video of four ridiculously fit and energetic people doing the workouts with you. They make me jealous, so I work harder to prove something to myself. It's a weird concept, but it has worked well for me in the past! Sure, the trainer, Tony Horton, is annoyingly corny. Plus the music on the videos sounds like something out of a porn movie. But the workouts are very effective. I considered shaking things up a little by switching to "P90X 2" or "Insanity", but today I looked online for costumer reviews of the original P90X and found over seven thousand positive reviews and about eleven reviews that claimed they followed the program exactly and it didn't work for them. So I decided to stick with something I know works. My abdominal muscles, upper arms, chest, and shoulder blades are delightfully sore and tender today. It's already working!

In addition to the strength work outs, I have been running trails almost every day. I guess my explorations of the Leavitt Plantation trails are not going un-noticed. Yesterday I found thin string stretched across the trail in various places. It was difficult to see until I ran into it, breaking it each time. This string wasn't there last week. I think the mad trail builder is on to me. He must have suspected someone is using his trails and put the string across to find out for sure. As I mentioned in past posts, the land is open for public use so I really don't think there is any reason I shouldn't be using these awesome trails. If the guy would accept volunteer trail work or even a trail pass fee I would probably be willing, because I know building and maintaining trails is hard and time consuming. But he doesn't operate that way. He only offers guided mountain bike rides for a fee. So I'll keep running around out there until we run into each other and talk things over one of these days.

I've also been out on the Ossipee River Trails regularly. This afternoon I put in a quick four miles with Scout. I did the P90X Plyometric workout earlier in the day, which is a killer. Plus I have a cold. So I had a little trouble getting myself out for the run, but once I got going it was great. I need to start working on picking up the pace of my runs. I am just so darned relaxed and happy out there, I forget to put a little work into it now and then.

I'll be returning to work the day after Christmas and the runs and workouts will be harder to fit in, but I'm hoping I can keep it going through the winter.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Just for the Joy of Running

This morning I woke to icy roads and a cold rain. It took me all morning to get motivated to go out and run. I finally left the house around noon. I ran the Ossipee River Trails with Scout. I've been putting in a lot of miles on the Leavitt Plantation trails lately so it was nice to be back on our own local trails.

Today I found out that I have been getting into good running shape without intending to. All those miles of exploring Parsonsfield over very hilly terrain has done wonders. I never even thought of it as training. That is how running is meant to be for me. It is an opportunity to enjoy the feeling of moving fast through the woods, to see, smell, and hear the Forest, to feel the trail beneath me, and to wonder what's around the next bend. It's the same for me with mountain biking. It sure doesn't feel like a work out or training. It brings me back to the way we all played as children. We played hard and stayed fit, but we never thought of it as exercise!

I know a lot of runners like the rewards of training. They want to see their times improve. They want to race to prove they are working hard enough. I have four big U-haul boxes full of a life time's worth of trophies, so I can't deny that this was what running was for me for a very long time. I might get back to that some day, or I might not. But for me right now, running is a joyous celebration, as is cross country skiing and mountain biking.

Today we ran all the Trails out there for a total of about 6 miles of single track. It was wet and slippery, but we ran fast and smooth. And we had a lot of fun!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Bending the Map

I am still having an incredibly good time running in the Parsonsfield woods! There are rumored to be over thirty miles of single track mountain biking trail in the area and I have found about half of it. The exploration and mapping of the area is becoming an addiction. I am thinking about calling in sick for physical therapy tomorrow so I can check out a new trail head I found today. That's how bad it is.

This kind of trail running is doing wonders for my weekly mileage. I don't ever run for less than two and a half hours out there. I just have to see what's around the next bend. I wore Scout out completely today.

Sadly, my map making skills are a bit limited. I came out of a very long stretch of single track onto a tote road today. I knew just where I was, in my mind. But why was the pond on my right The map showed it on my left?! I ran down the road a ways, turned and went up the road, turned and went back down. I repeated this over and over, trying to figure things out. Scout thought it was a ton of fun, running back and forth like that. When a person tries to make the map work to fit what he thinks things should be like, it's called "bending the map," and this always leads to disaster. The first rule to wilderness navigation is to trust your map. Yet here I was, an hour before dark (sound familiar?), and my map wasn't fitting with what my brain was telling me.

Finally I decided to go with my gut...but for only fifteen minutes. If I wasn't somewhere I recognized within that fifteen minutes I would re-trace my steps back over the twisty turning single track and hope to be out of the deep woods before full dark. Well, my gut was right. Within ten minutes I was out on a recognizable dirt road. For once, bending the map worked. On the drive home, I figured out that I had been mistaken when I drew the map in the first place. The tote road I came out on was on the opposite side of the pond as I had mapped it.

I think the lesson is to stay calm and stay disciplined. The fifteen minute limit I allowed myself to locate my position was reasonable and if it hadn't panned out, I had allowed myself enough time to retrace my steps. Also, as much as I would like to have trusted my "map," I have to admit that it is a home made map and it might not be 100 percent accurate. Was I scared? No, I had a plan and I knew I'd get back home one way or another. Will I be out there again tomorrow? You bet!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Cartography 101

I've been taking advantage of the snowless trails. I have been out in the Parsonsfield woods or the Ossipee River Trails every chance I get. I bring Scout with me every other day. On Wednesday I ran alone and retraced my route from the day before. What do you know, I found Scout's cow bell! I have made myself a fairly good map of the area from my explorations. You might wonder why I don't just track it all on my Garmen and print out a map from that. Well I tried that, but there is so much out there and the trails are so winding and twisting that it didn't work well. Also, for a map like that to be useful at all, there have to be landmarks or roads to use as a reference. So I printed a Google map of the area, which just includes the surrounding roads, and drew in the trails and tote roads myself. After many exploratory runs and several attempts at map making, I feel like I can safely navigate around the area now!

Today I postponed my long run with Mary. First, I've been running long every day this week and I felt like I needed an easy recovery run today. Second, it was Scout's day for a run and suburbia isn't his idea of running, he is a trail dog! And third, I had a few trails left to map out in Parsonsfield and wanted to do it today. So we ran a very easy paced 5 miles. It was cold and windy. Branches were snapping and cracking all around us. I kept thinking I heard someone talking, but finally realized it was the trees squeaking and whining as they rubbed against each other. Wow, was it blustery!

Tomorrow I'll get my long run in with Mary in the North Yarmouth area. I'll be returning to work at the end of the month so my mileage will probably slip back a little at that point. For now I'm going to run like crazy while the trails are still clear and I have all day free to do it!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

More Exploring

Today I spent two and a half hours exploring the labyrinth of unofficial, unmarked, and unmapped trails in the Leavitt Plantation. There is so much more for me to find. I hope I can get out there a lot more before the snow falls. Once the single track and more remote tote roads are covered for the winter, there is no way I will be able to stay on trail. There is always snow shoeing and skiing to look forward to, but right now this rambling through the woods is a blast!

It felt like the temperature was probably in the mid fifties when I set out with Scout at about 1:30 this afternoon. It was cloudy and we got showered on a few times, but it felt great. The trails and roads we ran today were extremely hilly and fun. There were a few wet areas, but nothing bad. I did manage to get a little misplaced near the end of our run. We had already been out over two hours and Scout was tired. We were within a mile of the car when I spotted a single track trail off to my right. There was no resisting, I had to see where it went. It was very long and winding and hilly. It just kept going and going and turning and twisting. I became totally disoriented, but had to see it through to the end.

Finally I came out on a narrow tote road, but I didn't know which way to head down the road. Just then I noticed that Scout had lost his cow bell and his orange vest. I have a hard time keeping track of him without both of those things. He is hard to see in the woods because of his color and the vest makes him very easy to spot. The bell let's me run on ahead when he stops to explore, and still be able to know he is nearby. We back tracked a short way back on the trail we had just come off of and I did find his vest, but no bell.

By now I was starting to worry a little that it would get dark before I could find my way out. Scout seemed to feel we should turn right on the tote road. His guess was as good as mine so I went with it. In a few miles we were back on familiar trail! Scout amazes me with the way he can find his way around in the woods. Maybe he can teach me a few things! Scout was exhausted during the home stretch, and I felt a little guilty about taking him on such a long outing, but we made it back to the car right at dusk. He napped all the way home and will sleep good tonight. I'll leave him home tomorrow when I go back out there. It's addictive!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Weekend Ramblings

Saturday, Kevin and I drove down to Merrimack, New Hampshire for a mountain bike ride and pot luck dinner holiday celebration hosted by Kevin's friend, John. Sixteen of us showed up to ride the nice single track of Horse Hill. I had been on the trails a few times in the past, once for for a snow shoe race and a few times for trail runs, but I didn't remember much about them. Kevin had ridden there a couple of times in the past. He tells me that John and Matt have made enormous improvements and the riding is much better now than it was last time he rode there. All I know is that it was a lot of fun and great riding!

John, who is an incredibly speedy mountain bike racer, had his girlfriend, Kathy (just as speedy as John) take him out for a six mile run before the ride so he would be able to restrain himself to ride with some of his slower friends. It must have worked, because John rode sweep all afternoon. Before this, all I had ever seen of John on the trail is the back of his shirt in the first few seconds of a ride. I settled near the back of the pack and was quite happy there. Honestly, it was a little difficult for me to keep up with even the rear of the pack so I had to work pretty hard. That made it very fun for me. We had a nice little party afterwards with great food and a few cold beers. It was a really nice day.

Sunday found both Kevin and I feeling a little under the weather from too much holiday cheer. We shouldn't have continued the day's celebration when we got back home. So we weren't up to mountain biking, but went for a long meandering walk on the Parsonsfield trails. Even walking, I managed to fall and bang up my knee. Good thing I didn't try to bike! I got in a few miles of running near the end of our walk. Kevin and Scout returned on the road and I ran the winding single track, thinking we'd all get back around the same time. As I was running down the last steep slope toward the road, I could see Kevin driving the truck up the road to meet me at the trail head. I arrived at the passenger door at the exact moment Kevin brought the truck to a halt. Talk about perfect timing!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Lions and Coyotes and Bears, Oh My!

Yesterday, I pulled the car into the little remote pull off where I have been parking to gain access to the tote roads and trails of the Leavitt Plantation. Scout was sitting in the passenger seat beside me. Normally, he would be ready to get out to run the minute I stopped the car. This time he just sat with his head forward, snout against the windshield, staring down the trail intently. His body was shaking all over. He was letting out a long low growl with every exhalation. I'd never heard him growl like that before and never seen him scared of anything. I looked where Scout was looking, but saw nothing. I left the key in the ignition and the doors locked, and sat waiting for whatever had him so upset to come into view. We sat there for perhaps five minutes. I didn't see anything. Scout continued shaking, growling, and staring throughout this wait.

He likely smelled a coyote or black bear. I have seen lots of sign from both in the area. There are also moose. Whatever it was, I wasn't about to get out of the car! You couldn't have forced me to get out. I am not afraid of wildlife. I've seen plenty of bears, coyotes, and moose in the woods. But there was something about Scout's behavior that sent a shiver up my spine. I always listen to my intuition, and my intuition said to get out of there. I backed out and drove away. I parked at another access about a mile down the road. As soon as I pulled in, Scout started wagging his tail and ringing his cowbell. He was ready to go! We had a wonderful two hour run over the trails.

I woke up at about two o'clock this morning from a nightmare about a greasy haired mountain man with fangs and a big bloody knife. He had been hiding and waiting for me on the tote road where I had originally parked. In my dream, Scout opted to wait in the car (coward) and I had gone down the trail alone despite his warnings. After awakening, I lay for a long time thinking about how much I enjoy the woods and wondering why I would risk mountain man attack, bear mauling, and moose trampling to pursue this passion. All I could come up with is that it's in my blood. I can't help it.

I know a lot of women who are afraid to venture into the woods alone. I also know a lot of men and women who think I am crazy to do so. Not in an admirable sort of way, like "you must be crazy to run ultra marathons!" It is more of a "you are an irresponsible idiot for venturing out into the woods alone, you crazy bitch" sort of way. All I can say is that being alone in the woods feels right and makes me happy. I haven't met a single greasy haired mountain man with fangs in the woods, but I did meet a weirdo in leisure clothes who spooked me on the Jewel Trail once. I kept my distance and warned women heading up the trail that he seemed weird and out of place. He was probably harmless. I have been leery of a couple of black bears who seemed too comfortable around me (one on the Lower Nanamocomuck and another in Virginia,) and I had a bull moose make a bluff charge at me once (there was no incontinence, so I think the whole thing about sh*ting yourself is a myth.) Those were three times out of hundreds of wildlife encounters, and I reacted correctly each time and was unharmed. So after spending thousands of days in the woods alone, I can name four incidents in which I felt a little threatened. I've had many many more close calls running on the roads!

My friend, Mary has an unreasonable fear of meeting a mountain lion on the New England trails. I tease her about it and she teases back, saying I will change my tune if I ever get attacked by one while I'm out running. I promise her that if it ever happens I will use my last dying moment to scratch into the dirt with my finger, "Mary was right." Laying awake this morning I decided that I would add to that if I had time, "...but it was worth it!"

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Good P.T. and Run Today

I had a pretty good physical therapy session for my left shoulder this morning! You may remember I posted a few weeks back about how poor I felt the quality of my physical therapy was. Well, after discussing it, my therapist has agreed to cut back to only once a week visits with daily exercises at home. He has also stepped back and is allowing the sports trainer to work with me instead of doing it himself. This is a much more effective strategy for me. It is not what my surgeon ordered. He wants me at P.T. 3-4 times a week, so I imagine I have been reported as a non-compliant patient. I am gaining strength and mobility like crazy now that I am not wasting all my time being babied at the physical therapy center, so I wear the label proudly.

Today there was a small woman at PT who was probably about eighty. She is being treated for lower back pain. The PT joked with her that if she did what he asked, she'd be ready for the Olympics in no time. She replied that she was already ready. She went on to describe a life of participating in and coaching basketball, softball, equestrian, and swimming. She had been to the Senior Games at the national level many times. "So tell me what to do and I'll do it. I'm an athlete." She demanded respect from the young therapists and she got it. This was her first session there and she wasted no time setting things straight. It made me wonder what had taken me so long to take charge of my therapy!

After PT I drove the short distance to the Route 35 parking area in Standish for access to the Sebago to the Sea Trail . This area between Otter Pond and Sebago Lake is about 5 miles, mostly dirt. There are numerous options for more double track, snowmobile trails, and single track in this stretch. It all depends on how adventurous you are feeling and how much you mind getting lost. (If that's not your thing, just stick to the trails on the map, which you can find on the above link.)

The temperature was right around 50 with a heavy over cast and an occasional drizzle. In other words, it was great running weather! I ran out to the lake on the main trail, working in my three miles of tempo. The point where the trail comes out to the lake is a beautiful secluded beach. I swam there a few times in the summer. It is very close to the Portland Water District boundary, but not within it so swimming is allowed. I skipped the swim today. I did some exploring on the way back and ended up with about a twelve mile run.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Fall Running Fun and Unsolicited Health Advice

Running at this time of year can be challenging. Many runners have been racing frequently through the past 6 or 7 months and are just feeling tired and burnt out. Many are nursing injuries from months of intense training. Add cold weather, slippery trails, short daylight hours, hunters in the woods, and holiday and family obligations, and we can begin to see why so many of us have trouble keeping our weekly mileage up in the Fall.

I haven't raced since April. I have just had an entire month of very easy running followed by another month of gradual build up back to normal mileage following shoulder surgery. I'm still not working due to mobility and strength restrictions my surgeon has imposed on me. So here I am at a time of year when I am normally emotionally and physically worn out on running, feeling excited and energetic and raring to go! I am still not convinced I need to return to racing to fully enjoy my running and get the most out of it, but that might come. Either way, it's all good.

I have been spending a lot of time on the local Ossipee River trails, both in running shoes and on snow shoes. I have also been out exploring a new-to-me network of trails in Parsonsfield. This is the kind of running that originally lured me away from road racing and into the woods. Put me out on the trail alone (or with my dog) with a vague idea about where I am going and I find myself smiling and happy and at peace.


I am going to have to work hard over the Winter to regain my upper body strength. I will start as soon as I am physically able. Now for a bit of unsolicited health advice. (It's my Blog and I can write what I want). Upper body and core strength is extremely important for peri-menopausal women, especially for runners as we tend to be of lighter build. Bone density loss and muscle mass loss are natural effects of hormonal changes that occur in women in their mid forties and beyond. Being of a light build to begin with intensifies these effects. These changes can lead to osteoporosis and arthritis. I know, every pound adds so many seconds to your 5K time and muscle adds pounds, but good health is so much more important than age group wins! There are a few skinny fifty-ish running women I know who are already showing postural changes. I have seen running photos posted on Facebook that are down right alarming. I would advise all light framed women runners in their forties and beyond to ask about bone density testing at their annual physicals and to regularly participate in strength workouts.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Parsonsfield Woods

We got some great mountain biking in over the weekend. Saturday we rode the FOMBA trails for about two and a half hours. This took some leg work and I was pooped by the end of the day. Sunday we rode easy on the ATV trails in Parsonsfield to give Scout some exercise and some practice running with the bikes. He was a little excitable and unpredictable for the first few minutes, but he settled down and did great.

There are nice single track mountain bike trails in the Parsonsfield area very close to where we live. But things are a little complicated there. The land, the Leavitt Plantation , is conservation land, open to public recreational use. Before this became public, a local man started building mountain bike trails (with land owners permission) and running a business offering guided mountain bike rides. When the land became open for public use, things got a little weird. The man still doesn't want anyone using his trails unless they pay him for guided rides. I understand this, he has been making a living with this business for several years and doesn't want to start giving it away for free! But at the same time, if I'm out running and exploring on land open for public use and I happen to stumble upon some nice single track, I'm not able to resist. I think mountain biking on the trails would give me more pause, but foot travel seems okay. Still, I feel sneaky running there. Jeepers, I don't want to get involved in some political battle over trail rights!

Anyway, today I dressed up in my crazy blazy orange and ran for two and a half hours of double and single track trails. It's not easy to keep a low profile when you are glowing orange, but I hoped I wouldn't run into the trail builder. At first I wasn't feeling completely comfortable with the woods full of hunters and the possessive trail builder on the loose, but pretty soon I got lost in my own thoughts and started enjoying myself. I never saw or heard a soul. There are so many tote roads, single track trails, and ATV trails out there that I ran out of time before I ran out of trail. I hope to go back tomorrow to explore further.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Physical Therapy Rant

Physical therapy is currently a big part of my life, and it is pure torture. Not in the sense that I am made to work incredibly hard with copious amounts of sweat and tears involved, but in the sense that it is the most boring and non-productive part of my day. I had been to this particular physical therapy center in the past and had a therapist who was creative and dynamic. He kept things interesting and challenging. All the clients in the gym were kept working hard and there was constant interaction between the Physical Therapists/PT assistants and the clients. The staff were all athletic and fit. I left there each day, feeling that I had made progress.

So when I had to chose some place to go for rehabilitation of my shoulder, I chose the same place. But times have changed there. The old staff has moved on and there is now a staff of young men in their twenties. Like their predecessors, they are also athletes...but of the arm chair variety. They talk (to each other) about professional sports teams, high school sports, statistics, coaches, sports products, and the TV sports schedule. They do this while hunched over their lap tops documenting on their client's progress. I understand electronic documentation. I'm a health care professional myself and have to spend a lot of time documenting on my lap top. Yet, I am able to do this in a manner that shows my patients that they are the center of my attention while I am with them. Documentation can be caught up on between patients.

How well has my therapist gotten to know me over the past month and a half? Well, he knows I mountain bike, since that was the cause of my injury. He doesn't know that I run or hike or work out with weights or cross country ski. This is important stuff to know if you are trying to help a person return to their baseline level of activity. He knows I am almost fifty (gasp) and he treats me like an old woman. He'll say (or send his assistant over to say), "bicep curls with two pound weights, 3 sets of 10." I have progressed to 10 pound weights at home and was easily doing thirty pound weights before the injury, but he won't listen to me about that. He'll say something like, "we all lose muscle mass as we age." Granted, almost all of their patients these days are elderly, mostly hip and knee replacements it appears, and most of them seem content to sit around waiting for their next exercise to be prescribed. It is the most sedentary, desolate, morgue-like "gym" I have ever been in! This is supposed to be a sports physical therapy center, and it used to be one! What the heck happened?

Yesterday I spoke up on my way out. I spoke loud enough that the row of boyish heads bent over laptops all looked up briefly. I said, "this is a big waste of my time. You people are not doing anything to help me. I can do all this at home by myself." This emboldened an elderly man lying on an exam table to speak up, "and I've been laying here with this ice pack on my knee for almost an hour!" I was hoping others would join in the protest and the gym would finally see some excitement. But the others kept shuffling around with their walkers or pulling on their resistance bands or squeezing their tennis balls between their knees. They didn't even seem to take notice. Most of them were probably sleeping through their therapy.

One of the staff responded. It wasn't my therapist, it was the young guy who strolls around picking up dirty towels and rounding up escaped exercise balls. He said, "You'll be able to do more as you get stronger. It will get better." He didn't sound very convincing. Nobody has checked my strength since the first visit, so how are they ever going to know when I "get stronger"? Heads bent back down to laptops. Nobody made a move to relieve the old guy of his ice pack.

So why do I continue to go? Because my surgeon insists that I complete 10 weeks of physical therapy before I can return to work. Maybe I should switch to a different PT center. My insurance is restrictive about where I can go, but there are other options. I hate to switch horses mid-stream, but it might be necessary. I will definitely give my input about the center to their parent company. I don't like to criticize any one's work in this day of job insecurity, but insurance, medicare, and patient's money is being spent in abundance on inferior services, and this isn't acceptable. Worse, my time is being wasted!

Enough of this, I have a physical therapy appointment to get to. I think I'll bring along a book today.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Bradbury Mountain Biking

Bradbury mountain biking was a lot of fun yesterday! It was the first time I have ridden my bike on single track trail since my rotator cuff repair surgery. I still have almost no strength in my left arm and limited range of motion, which is normal for 7 weeks post op. I can't lift or pull at all.I wasn't sure how I'd do on the rocky, rooty Bradbury trails, but I was willing to give it a try. I brought along my running shoes, just in case I found the riding to be too difficult.

I was nervous and overly cautious for the first few miles. It isn't much fun riding without confidence and feeling fearful! But after those few warm up miles I began to figure out what I could and couldn't do, and began to find ways to maneuver the bike over small obstacles without pulling up with my left arm (basically by crashing and bulling my way through). We stayed away from the few areas which would require me to do big "step ups", like the technical portion of Bat Cave. Most of the other trails were very ridable for me, with a few places where I stepped off the bike rather than try something I might not have the arm strength to pull off. Within a half hour after starting, I had a huge smile on my face and was loving it! Boy, have I missed riding single track on the mountain bike with Kevin!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Back in the Saddle and Running the Green Hills Preserve

I got back on the mountain bike this past weekend! It has taken this long just to get to this point where I can lift my left arm high enough to keep it on the handlebars comfortably. We started out by cautiously cruising the streets of Kezar Falls on Saturday. Then on Sunday we took the bikes and Scout out on the ATV trails in Parsonsfield. This isn't the same as riding single track, but the ATV trails are wide enough for me to go around obstacles instead of over. My shoulder still can't lift the front wheel or tolerate jolting, so technical riding is out of the question for now. Even so, I was thrilled to be back on the bike in the woods. What a beautiful and happy day that was!

Monday I wanted to do a long trail run. Lately, I have been sticking to the trails near the Ossipee River for hunting season. This is a relatively narrow strip of land that abuts school property for a good portion of it. Hunting is illegal within 500 feet of a school, which leaves an even narrower strip for anyone wishing to hunt there. So hunters just don't go in there. I can run about 6 miles of single track and snowmobile trails in there, but for anything longer I have to start repeating trails. I wanted to go somewhere where I could travel!

With three accidental hunting shootings in three days here in Maine, I thought New Hampshire might be a better choice for my long run. I looked in my old battered White Mountain Guide to see what the authors might have to say regarding traveling through the woods during deer season. They advise that "hunters tend to avoid areas where it would be difficult to haul a deer out of." My own philosophy has always been that "hunters tend to avoid areas where it would be difficult to haul themselves into." With those thoughts in mind, I decided on the Green Hills Preserve of North Conway.

I started from the Chatham end of Hurricane Mountain Road and entered the single track at the high point of the road. I ran toward Pudding Pond, climbing all the peaks except Cranmore, which I forgot. This run took me up Hurricane Mountain Road from both ends, once at the start of my run and again at the end. I don't know what the grade of this road is, I would guess it's something between plenty and excessive. It's about 2 1/2 miles to the highest point from either end. I was out for about 4 and a half hours, and the only somewhat level running was in the Pudding Pond area. It was a very enjoyable run on a beautiful sunny warm day. I only saw three solo hikers and one mountain biker throughout the run, not a single hunter.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Stone Mountain

Saturday, Kevin and I hiked up Stone Mountain, elevation 1620 feet. Over the years I have hiked and run over and around neighboring Burnt Meadow Mountain countless times and was always curious about the interesting peaks to the South. The first time Kevin hiked up Burnt Meadow Mt with me a few years ago, he spotted the beginnings of a new trail and pointed it out to me saying, "That's going to take us over to those other peaks when it's done." Now thanks to the work of the Friends of the Burnt Meadow Mountains and the Maine AMC, Stone Mountain is easily accessable to anyone with a little leg and lung power. It is a steep hike in places with interesting terrain along the way. There is a wonderful view from just over the summit.

The Friends of the Burnt Meadow Mountains will soon have its own web site. They have big plans as seen in this article in the Conway Daily Sun . Kevin and I are very excited about having a network of new trails nearby. We would gladly volunteer our time and efforts to help with this project.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Mt Cutler, A Rugged Little Hill

Mount Cutler is a little mountain in Hiram Maine with an elevation of 1234 feet. I explored this area before and enjoyed the rugged terrain and beautiful views. Yesterday I drove the 10 miles or so to Hiram Village and headed out with Scout. The direct route up is extremely steep with drop offs and ledges, and I didn't want to take Scout over that as I don't know how good his puppy judgement is. Instead we ran down the snowmobile trail for a good long out and back, then started up the Saco Ridge Trail. This trail is blazed in red and leaves the snowmobile trail about a mile or so from the trail head parking. In the Spring I had trouble staying on this trail, but now it has been freshly blazed and appears to have been well traveled over the summer.

The mountain is small, only a hill really, but it is steep and rugged. I alternated running and walking up to the ridge. Along the way there is a little spur that cuts over to the Old Saco Ridge Trail that offers a very nice view of the Saco Valley and Hiram Village. I accidently continued on the Old Saco Trail and found myself going down a slippery slope that was so steep that Scout just wouldn't or couldn't stop! When we got down where it was a little more level I thought things out and realized we shouldn't be heading down already and the blazes had turned to blue. Oh well, we turned around and scrambled back up and found our turn.

Continueing over the red blazed trail we enjoyed views of the Hiram Hills, Baldwin, and the White Mountains. Snow covered Mount Washington was as clear as could be from several overlooks. The Saco Valley still has some nice folliage, very golden and yellow and glowing. All of the ridge is very runnable, but one must be careful because there are a few places where it is easy to loose the trail. One can easily find himself on a different hiking trail, an ATV trail, or in the middle of a bush whack and have to back track. I did this several times last time I was here.
Yesterday I did better.

Instead of completing the loop down the direct steep ledgy trail that we had avoided to begin with, I took the White Flag trail through a gentler, more wooded and longer route down. Strangely, the blazes abruptly changed from white to blue half way down, which caused me to stop and back track to where they changed, just to be sure i was still on the trail. I was, so I continued down.

This trail comes out on Hiram Hill Road, a little distance from the village where the trail head parking is. If you do this loop, and I highly reccomend it, turn right when you hit the paved Hiram Hill Rd and run about 1/4 mile down the road, looking for the rail road tracks on your right. Follow the tracks and they'll complete the loop taking you directly to your car.

The loop isn't longer than 4 or 5 miles at most, but you can easily get 10 or more miles in on the nicely groomed snowmobile trails that circle the mountain. Be prepared for some walking on the climb, no matter which trail you use. This mountain is known for its rugged steepness. And bring a camera (I left my new camera in the car), the views are incredible!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Mud, Sweat, and Gears at the KT

Yesterday, Kevin and I had to make the 2 1/2 hour drive back up to East Burke, Vermont to meet with the guy selling us his cabin. We went early so we could spend some time on the Kingdom Trails (KT) first. I expected Kevin to take off on his bike while I ran the trails and we would meet up later. But when I told Kevin I wanted to run the trails nearer the mountain to see what they were like, he decided to escort me on the bike. These trails aren't as well maintained nor as well used as the other single track. They were very slippery due to wet leaves and mud. I was glad to be running and not riding!

We started out with about 5 miles of pretty steady climbing over greasy trails. With these types of conditions, I had an easy time keeping up with Kevin on his bike. It was good hard steady work for both of us and my legs were feeling it at the top. Honestly, if it wasn't for Kevin's company I would have walked some of the climb. After the steady climb, there were a lot of rolling hills. Mcgills fields were flatter and less muddy, but then we entered the woods again. We hit a lot of mud on the Frost Hill Trail. We later learned that this trail isn't maintained for biking any more. That would explain why it was completely churned up with moose prints and the bridges were rotted and dangerous for the bike. I was very careful with my footing, but managed to fall once anyway.

Since starting to run against the advise of my surgeon, I have continuously drilled into myself that "if I slip or trip I absolutely will not put out my left arm to catch myself!" And I guess this self brain washing worked, because when I went down I let my left arm dangle and flop wherever it wanted to go and I tried to stop myself with my right arm only. I landed mostly on my chest and abdomen, but my right arm did prevent my face from going into the mud. My left arm was sprawled comfortably at my side with my left hand under my hip. I knocked the wind out of myself, which always feels like Hell. I also bruised my left pinky finger. But that was it! I was pretty amazed that conditioning myself to protect my left shoulder worked even though I hadn't had time to give it any thought as I fell.

By the time we crossed the road and started the easier and flatter White School Trail to head back to town, we had already covered about 8 or 9 miles of mud and hills. I was supposed to incorporate 30 minutes at tempo pace on this run, but I started reasoning with myself. "Heck, all that mud and all that climbing has to equal more than thirty minutes of tempo." But now that the trail was not muddy and not technical and not steady climbing, Kevin was starting to ride out ahead and then stop and wait for me to catch up. I didn't want to make his ride completely void of fun, so I picked up the pace and soon found myself running my thirty (plus) minutes of tempo after all.

It really was a great work out. Misery loves company, but with Kevin's company there really wasn't much misery. Despite the messy conditions, hills, and a fall, I enjoyed it!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Cabin Fever

Kevin and I spent the past week in Acadia National Park. We had planned the trip before I knew I needed surgery on my shoulder. We had originally hoped to do a lot of biking and hiking there. I am making excellent progress and hope to return to work this week or next, but biking and strenuous hiking are still out of the question. We camped at the Black Woods Campground and enjoyed wonderful Fall weather until Wednesday night and Thursday, when we had heavy rain. Our tent kept us perfectly dry and happy. We did some hiking, some sight seeing, and I ran the carriage trails while Kevin biked beside me. We also over-ate and over-drank in Bar Harbor a few times. It was a nice get away. I've been suffering from a terrible case of cabin fever since being on leave from work, so this was just what I needed!

Speaking of cabin fever, we are very happy to be in the process of purchasing a cabin in Burke, Vermont! We spend a lot of time there in North East Vermont. We love the mountain biking, Nordic skiing, snow boarding, snow shoeing, and trail running in the area. The cabin will make things much easier and nicer for us. We'll be driving there tomorrow to meet with the seller and take another look around. I'm trying not to get my heart set on it until the actual closing occurs, but I'm pretty darned excited. Hopefully Kevin will get a chance to mountain bike and I can run the trails while we are there tomorrow.

Yesterday I ran the local trails with Scout and Kevin. Kevin walks while I run, so we split up and re-join and criss-cross paths while we are out there. Scout gets a little confused and worried when we seperate. He wants us all to stick together in one happy dog pack, but he is getting used to it. I had him run a couple of miles with me and then handed him off to Kevin. Scout is doing really well on the trails and is a joy to run with. He still likes to throw in some good fast puppy sprints here and there. I do my best to go with him on these, but it's hard work.

While I love running the trails, I am really missing mountain biking. Whatever trail I am running on I find myself looking for the best line for the bike, picturing my wheels lifting over obstacles, and jumping off stumps and rocks while holding imaginary handlebars. It's been too long! I am starting to look at things in the trail and think to myself, "did I really used to ride my bike over that?" I sure hope that my skills and confidence come back to me fast when I can start riding again. And I sure hope I can get back on the bike before the snow falls!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Getting Back At It

This past week I was permitted to start physical therapy on my left arm. This is the first time I have been allowed to actually move it since surgery, and it feels great (in a painful sort of way.) I will follow up with my surgeon next Monday, and ask about going back to work in some sort of limited capacity. I'm starting to go stir crazy at home.

My running is going well. I wrote up a little training plan to get me back to baseline and have been having no problem following it. I have been out on the trails every single day this past week. I'm starting to allow my left arm to swing, just a tiny bit, while I run. This seems to be helping to loosen up the bicep and forearm, which have both been having frequent painful spasms since the original injury. Yesterday I did some hill repeats, which was not as easy as usual with only one arm pumping and the other doing its tiny little whimpy swings. I managed three 100 meter repeats up the steep loose gravel hill. I have a lot of trouble getting my mountain bike up this hill, so running didn't feel so bad.

Scout is doing great with his trail running skills! We had a close call a few days ago when he met up with a leashed Pit Bull on the trail. Scout thinks every dog and every child wants to play with him, so when he sees one of them he charges over with his tail wagging. When he did this to the Pit Bull, the Pit Bull yanked the leash out of its owners hand and took off after Scout, snarling and growling. I though Scout was a goner! But Scout has been training with me, remember? So he was able to change directions and sprint for his life. He dashed past me, knocking my shin with his cowbell hard enough to draw blood, and spun around me in a tight circle. This slowed the pit bull down enough for its owner to catch up and grab her. I told you Scout was turning into a good runner!

Today, we leave for our vacation in Bar Harbor. We planned this trip before I knew I was going to need surgery. There won't be any cycling for me this year, but I can do some hikes and some runs on the carriage trails! We love Bar Harbor after the tourist season is over.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Cedar Mountain

Well, now that I am officially not training for anything (thanks to my shoulder injury) I have gotten back to the basics, joyous tromping through the woods for the sake of having fun. Today Scout and I explored a little unmaintained Jeep road off of Merrill Hill Road that I've been eyeing for a while. It turned out to be a nice trail up to Cedar Mountain in North Parsonsfield. I lived in North Parsonsfield and ran the roads and trails around there for about 20 years, but for some reason, I never noticed this road until this past Summer during a run over Merrill Hill.

The climbing was steady and the footing solid. It really was fun running! I was just sorry that it ended after only 2 miles. The good thing was that instead of ending in a log yard, back lawn, or beaver bog (like many of my exploratory runs do) it ended at the ledgy top of Cedar Mountain, elevation 1223 feet. The top provided beautiful views to the Southeast. Scout and I turned around and ran back the same way. This is when I discovered that Scout is a downhill running fiend! He was sprinting and jumping and chasing his tail and crashing into trees and bushes all the way down the hill, all the while letting out his little growls and grumbles that he makes when he is happy. I only have the one functioning arm right now, so I had to be cautious and slow, but he never left me for long. He wears a cow bell in the woods and he never got so far ahead that I couldn't hear him.

When we got back to the car we crossed the road and ran up Merrill Hill and down again. All in all, a great hill work day. After checking the Google map, I think I should be able to find a way to connect this trail to one of the little jeep roads that come up the other side of Cedar Mountain from Middle Rd. I'll save that for another day.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Numbers Are In!

Anyone who knows me or follows my Blog knows that I'm not a "numbers person". I usually don't know exactly how far I've run or how long it took. I usually don't know what place I've come in for a race or my finish time. I can't reel off my PR's at various distances without looking them up. I don't know weekly mileage totals, my resting heart rate, or my exact weight. I don't even know my husband's cell phone number! But...the numbers are in for my second week post-op! Last week I ran 33 miles and walked 10 miles. This is better progress than I expected and I'm excited about it.

I did several 3-4 mile trail runs with Scout and a mid-week 6 mile road run with Mary. Friday, I met Brian and Tom for a preview of the new recreational trail from Biddeford to Kennebunk. Coincidentally, Brian's arm is in a plastic splint from a tennis injury. With my arm in a sling and strapped tightly to my side and Brian in his splint, walkers on the trail probably wondered when running became a contact sport. Both men had signed up for the out and back half marathon to be held on this trail next weekend. Neither was in top shape for various reasons so this was a trial run for them. The trail is very nice, both scenic and flat. The surface is packed crushed stone. I enjoyed the leisurely pace and good conversation. I think both Tom and Brian proved to themselves that fit or not, they can both finish the half marathon in good form. I'll be checking the results, so they'd better!

Saturday, Kevin and I drove to East Burke. It was a very busy mountain biking weekend there. They close the trails November first, so riders are taking advantage of the prime trail conditions while they can. I strapped my arm down, put my Nathan pack on, and started out. I ran the familiar trails in the opposite direction we usually ride. Most riders familiar with the trails ride the same direction we usually do, so I didn't meet many cyclists on the trail during the morning portion of my run. When I got to Heaven's Bench I looked for Kevin. I just figured he'd be near there around that time, I reached him by cell phone and he joined me within five minutes. Kevin biked with me and showed me some trails that I usually don't bike due to their very skinny and long bridges! It was fun to run them.

We parted ways and I crossed Darling Hill Road and started back toward the vehicle. These trails were a little congested with mountain bikers, but it is so easy to hear them coming and just step off the trail so they can pass. Not one of them seemed out of control or unable to avoid me if they had to. Throughout the day, many of them gave me praise and encouragement, "Now that's dedication!" "Way to get up that hill!" "Didn't we see you over on East Branch? I can't believe you're still running!" It kept me feeling strong.

With another mile or two to go, I met a Grandma on her commuter bike on the easy Bemis Trail. She had lost her grand kids and her way. We studied the map together and I showed her that she had to turn around and go the direction I was headed, the way she had just come. She came close to tears, "I'm not riding up and down all those hills again! I am not riding over those little bridges again and through all that mud!" I suggested an alternate plan, cut through a hay field and ride back on the road. I was happy to see her riding up the road and reaching the parking area at the exact same time I arrived on foot from the woods. She had a big smile on her face and waved to me. I felt glad that her day was getting better. The grand kids probably got Hell from her later.

Sunday, I was toast. I laced up and tried to do a short trail run, but it turned into a walk. That's OK. Sometimes I just need a walk in the woods. Kevin took his bike out and we worked on training the puppy to run with the bike. Scout did great! He doesn't have any fear of the bike and does a good job staying out of the way... for the most part. There was one scary moment when Kevin was riding over the narrow Clencher behind Scout and Scout suddenly stopped. I wasn't sure which one of them was going to tumble down the steep slope into the river. Luckily, Kevin was able to keep the trail and Scout rolled and slid a very short way down the slope before merrily trotting back up to the trail. No harm done.

After we got home, Scout reminded us that although he is big, he is still just a puppy. He grabbed my camera off my desk and chewed it into pieces when we weren't looking. Enjoy the photos on this post, they are the last ones from the camera!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

North Yarmouth "Flats"

I really hate to draw attention from the general public. I'm not loud, I don't dress with a lot of flare, I don't tell people at work what I do for fun, and I don't need compliments or flattery from anyone but my husband. I'd rather stand back and take it all in. OK, I admit it, I once got a lot of attention when I drank too much at the Tamarack Grill and got way too involved with a name-that-tune competition, at one point almost standing on my bar stool shouting incorrect answers, but that was a rare exception.

Today I took to the streets of North Yarmouth with my running friend, Mary. She has recently relocated there from North Conway. We could have headed over to nearby Bradbury Mountain or even closer, Pineland Farms, but she wanted to show me her new neighborhood. Plus, she's more of a road runner than a trail runner. So I willingly (reluctantly) strapped on my big black Velcro strap over my bulky sling and set out to run for the first time in public with my sling. People out running or walking their dogs or pushing baby strollers looked at me and shook their heads as if to say, "what an idiot." They were the same kind of looks I give people who I see out running in the middle of busy roads in heavy snow storms. Oh well, let them think I'm some kind of running fanatic, Mary and I know better.

At the start of our run, Mary announced, "we are not slow! We just have been running hilly and mountainous routes all this time! You'll be amazed how fast and how far we can run today on the flats of North Yarmouth!" I was not all that amazed and we didn't run all that fast or all that far. But we had a lot of fun.

Mary (a former Maine Marathon winner more than once) has a new scheme. She says, and I quote, "you and I are going to train like we used to and show up at the Maine Marathon next year and blow everyone away!" I looked at her skeptically and she continued, "we just have to find some desire... and some motivation... and some discipline...OK, so maybe we won't blow everyone away, but we can probably finish it." You know, I haven't run a marathon in a long time. Maybe I'm due!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Bear Brook Fun

I did a walk/jog at Bradbury with Scout on Monday, while Kevin enjoyed some good, slippery mountain biking there. During this outing, I worked out some of the kinks involved with running trails with a painful and immobilized left arm. By Tuesday, I was ready for some serious trail running so we drove over to Bear Brook State Park.

Before starting out, I attached my upper arm, just below the shoulder, to my torso with a wide, padded, Velcro strap. Along with the big complicated sling that I have to wear all the time, this kept my left arm completely immobile. I tried jumping up and down in the parking area to be sure. It was as if my arm and torso were fused together. And what if I tripped? No way could I reach out with that left arm, I'd have to save myself with one arm or land on my face in the dirt. The shoulder was completely safe! Look, I do not want to have to go through this again, I'm being careful.

The published map of Bear Brook State Park that the park service hands out has been around since the seventies. It is obviously inaccurate and incomplete. I have heard from a very reliable source that a current and accurate map has been made and submitted, but for some reason never published and put into circulation. I guess that's government bureaucracy at work. Anyway, I've been on these trails lots of times on the bike and a few times on foot, but always as a follower. This day I was setting out on my own. I had Kevin go over the turns and land marks of the loop I wanted to make, then I had him draw up a crude map, just to play it safe. I was off!

Although my surgery was only on my shoulder, it has effected my overall well being to an unbelievable extent. I blame this on all the medications (toxins) that were introduced to my body... powerful IV antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, anti-histamines, anesthesia, amnesiacs, pain medications (including Fentanyl, Dilaudid, and Oxycodone), anti-emetics (I puked anyway)...all before even leaving the hospital. My head has been fuzzy ever since! I urinated every hour for about 36 hours after getting home as my body tried to rid itself of all that stuff. My sweat still smells like medicine 4 days later! Anyway, the point is that I can run fine, but still have to take walk breaks frequently in order to keep my vision focused and my head clear. But I found myself having a lot of fun and feeling extremely happy to be out in such a beautiful area on such a gorgeous day.

I ran down Little Bear, up part of Salt Lick to the sand pit, and onto Hemlock. Hemlock is a beauty of a trail, with lots of little climbs and descents. Just after crossing a little bridge at the bottom of a hill, I heard the whirring sound of a mountain biker coming downhill behind me at a fast pace. I recognized the sound of the bike before I could even see it through the trees and called out to Kevin, "hey, I know that bike." Kevin and I stopped for a minute to say hi, but then moved on at our own paces. I crossed the paved park road onto Pitch Pine, then Broken Boulder. I paused to look for the Bobcat Trail. Again I heard the familiar sound of Kevin's bike and asked without looking, "excuse me sir, is this Bobcat?" And he replied as he rode by, "what'd you say? You lost your bobcat?" and kept going. We met up several times throughout our journeys, although I was only running about 6 or 8 miles and Kevin was riding about three times as far.

I found my turn for Bobcat and had a nice long cruise back to Haye's Field. There, I set up my camp chair and sat in the shade waiting for Kevin for another hour or so, completely contented. I don't have to be one hundred percent fit and healthy to be happy. I just have to get outdoors and expend a little energy. I think I'm going to get through this recovery process just fine!

I commented on a fellow runner-mountain biker's Blog that a good way to learn the biking trails at Bear Brook is to attend NembaFest. I didn't want to plug on someone else's Blog so I'll do it here in case any of you mountain biking runners are interested. Nemba Fest is a completely non-competitive event so leave your race attitudes at home and go have some fun.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Full Circle?

Instead of running the Virgil Crest 100 this weekend, I walked 3 miles on trails with several rest breaks. I had surgery on my left rotator cuff Friday and have been reduced to a vomiting, light-headed gimp with my left arm immobilized at my side. Does this upset me? No. I'm spending my down time thinking up fitness goals and adventure plans. The future is looking bright!

I plan to start a new round of P90X in November to build this left spaghetti arm back into shape (along with the rest of my skinny, hundred miler trained body.) I plan to get plenty of late Autumn/early Winter mountain biking in with Kevin this year. I plan to be back to 100% for cross country skiing this Winter. Winter trail running is some of my favorite running. Snow shoe running and winter hiking are wonderful. Also, Kevin and I are planning a Spring time mountain biking trip to the Fruita Trails in Colorado. And...I've been thinking about 5K's for next year!

Yes, 5K's. Thirty-something years ago I started out running track, then cross country, then 5K's, then 10K's, half marathons, and finally marathons. Next came a 50 miler, and finally a hundred miler. About 10 years ago I got stuck on Ultras. I haven't really raced any shorter distances since then. Ultras have been fun and I've enjoyed a modest amount of success at them over the years. But everyone is doing them now. They have become main stream, expensive, and (cringe) cool. They are the new Triathlon. The last thing I ever hope to be is cool. I'm all for disappearing into the woods and running for hours and hours. I just don't want to have to put my name in a lottery to do it, spend a small fortune if I do get picked, and then squeeze down the trail with hoards of other runners. I'll stick to my solo adventure runs and do a few long runs with small groups of friends. That's still fun.

The more I think back on the modest fees, same day sign-ups, small fields, low key events, and non-existent bragging rights I remember from small local 5K races, the more appealing they are to me. If I still have an 18 minute 5K in me, (OK, I'm a lot older, let's say a 22 minute 5K) I can finish running with plenty of time for a good long mountain bike ride or hike with Kevin. I can run 40 mile training weeks instead of 80. I can run and race, but be a lot more than just "a runner." 5K's, what a novel idea. I think I've come full circle.

Fast Twitch muscles, wake up, I know you're in there! I'm gonna need your help with this.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Little Feet on the Trail

When Kevin and I first met, we talked a lot about all the time we both spent on the trails. I had a love for running, skiing, and hiking in the woods, and Kevin enjoyed mountain biking, snowshoeing, and hiking the trails. These conversations almost always evolved into talking about the trail, not the activity. Kevin was doing a lot of trail building and maintenance in the Southern New Hampshire area at the time. He told me, "trail work has become a passion all its own." For me the trails and the woods were often a bigger draw than the activity itself, but trail work? Hmmm, I guess I hadn't actually done a whole lot of that. Well, now after helping Kevin with his Ossipee River Trail project and seeing local people enjoy the trails and praise them and wonder who has done all the work there, I understand!

After Hurricane Irene went through, there was a lot of work that needed to be done on these trails. With a few re-routes, some chain saw work, and a lot of raking and clearing, Kevin had every single one of the trails in perfect condition within a week. I never even got a chance to get out there to lend a hand. He was driven to get the work done. It's his passion, remember?

On today's late morning trail run on the Ossipee River Trails, I was surprised to hear the excited chattering of young children as I ran down Black Forest. Unlike the popular River Run Trail, not many people have discovered Black Forest. We've seen a few mountain bike tire tracks that weren't ours, evidence that Horsey Sue has tried riding her horse through Black Forest (not a good trail for equestrians, by the way,) and the very occasional teen aged couple looking for a place for romance (again, not a good choice, it's pretty soggy out there.) People sightings on Black Forest remain a rare thing. Today, as I rounded a bend I came face to face with a single file line of second graders led by their school teacher. They were out on a nature hike, enjoying the beautiful Fall day. They enthusiastically pointed out mushrooms, chipmunks, and mud to each other. I stepped off the trail with a happy heart and let them pass.

I had a spring in my step and a smile on my face for the rest of my run. I loved the little sneaker prints in the damp soil. As I jumped over a big stump in the middle of the trail, I imagined the line of kids having fun hopping up onto it and then down off the other side, one by one. As I crossed the little plank bridge over a pretty babbling brook, I imagined the kids probably liked the sound of the water gurgling below. I wondered if they had been too noisy to hear the Spring water bubbling just below the soil and roots they were walking on for a good portion of the trail. As I came to the end of the trail I turned and looked back at the little sign, high up in an Oak Tree that reads "Black Forest." If any of them had noticed that, I'm sure they were intrigued. I can't wait to share all this with Kevin. I know it will make him happy.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Puppy Sprints, Trail Conditions, and Awesome Biking

I haven't been just sitting around icing my shoulder while I wait for surgery, I've been running and riding the trails every chance I get! I can run 5 miles or so before my arm starts throbbing and it seems I can mountain bike all day without a problem... as long as I don't fall doing either one of those things.

The local Ossipee River Trails are seeing a lot of use these days! They are perfect for 5-6 mile runs. I've been running in the evenings, while Kevin walks our puppy, Scout on the trails. I catch up to them at the end and finish my work out with "puppy sprints." Growing pups aren't supposed to do long slow distance, it's not good for their bones and joints, but sprints are just what they need and crave. Scout and I run wildly down the trail for 20 or 50 or 100 yards, over and over again. He decides when to start running and doesn't give me much warning, then he decides when to stop and gives me even less warning. When the session is over, after 3 or 10 or 25 sprints (pups are unpredictable) he slows to walk and blocks the trail in front of me to signal that we're done.

The Ossipee River Trails were hit hard by Tropical Storm Irene. Kevin spent a lot of time and has River Run completely cleared. He has also removed all the big stuff with his chain saw from all the other trails. I'll get out there on my day off this week and start throwing branches and debris out of the trail. It seems funny to me, but "Horsey Sue" has been riding her horse up and down River Run over and over again since it is the only trail that is completely cleared. Wouldn't you think she'd leave the horse at home one day and get out on the trails and do a little work so she could get back onto the other trails quicker?

This past weekend Kevin and I rode both days on the Kingdom Trails in East Burke, Vermont. It was a little challenging getting there with parts 302 and parts of the Kanc closed, but we managed. The trails had seen a lot of flooding, but only a few were still closed and the ones that were open were in great shape. They really have a good thing going there. If you've never been, picture a quaint little town that revolves around mountain biking. On the weekends, the parking lots are full, people are riding mountain bikes up and down the streets, sprawled in the grass beside their bikes, changing clothes, loading and unloading bikes from car carriers... I was over whelmed when I first went there. But, once you get onto the beautiful flowing trails, you don't see many riders at all. With over a hundred miles of trails, there is plenty of elbow room. This past weekend, we talked about doing some of the lift assisted downhill riding at Burke Mountain, but ended up staying on the cross country trails. We just have so much fun on them!

Toward the end of our ride Sunday, the sky started getting dark and we could hear thunder in the distance. We started seeing lightening zig-zagging down onto the nearby mountains and the wind started picking up. We rode out of the woods and started heading up Darling Hill Road toward out vehicle...and so did everyone else. It was strange to see all these mountain bikers emerging from the woods and fields and dirt roads and head up the hill. I looked ahead and saw a line of bikes as far as the eye could see, and more and more were joining the line as we went. Kevin and i started picking up the pace a little because the storm was coming. We were merciless as we passed rider after rider. Kevin took off on me half way there. With an approaching storm, it's every man for himself! We made it back and got the bikes loaded just as the torrential down pour started. I jumped into the truck, but then decided I might as well wash off some of the mud. I got out and stood in the icy rain. It was coming down sideways because if the wind and it scrubbed me clean in no time. I didn't last long out there, but it felt great!

I have two more weeks before I have my surgery and will be out of commission for a while. I'll get all the biking and running in that I can in that time!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Pain in the A#!

Arm, that is.

I've put in a few less-than-fascinating long runs since my last post, but they weren't the sort of runs that make for great blogging. My left upper chest hurt when I ran, which made for some unpleasant running. I'm a nurse, I couldn't help thinking, "left chest? It must be my heart!" I remember feeling that I couldn't get a good deep breath while doing the steeper climbs at MMD. Afterwards I noticed I felt "winded" and sore just running uphill easy or mountain biking up small hills. I went so far as to get my stethoscope out of my bag on one occasion, and attempt to listen to my own heart and lungs after a run. I felt kind of silly when I realized the guy in the next car was watching me. But everything sounded fine, so I correctly attributed it to my injuries from my mountain bike accident on July 10th. My left arm had also remained painful since then and was keeping me awake at night and making me cry out when I moved it in certain ways. Throughout the day and night I had been frequently shouting out, "OW-OW-OW." People were beginning to think I had Torrett's Syndrome.

After my thumb and forefinger became painful and tingling on the effected side during a long run, and stayed that way, I finally decided I needed to go see a doctor. The sports medicine people still had my record on file after almost ten years of no injuries worthy of medical attention (other than the broken neck...and they don't know about that one.) Dr. Bean looked through the record...stress fractures, plantar facciitis, muscle sprains and tears, herniated discs, tendinitis, etc...and mused that I must have given up running about ten years ago. I countered, "no, I'm just not that hard on myself anymore." Overuse injuries haven't been an issue for me in years, it's these darned traumatic injuries from biking. Sometimes I think my bike doesn't like me, what with the way it keeps throwing me off. Kevin's bike doesn't do that to him.

The diagnosis is a rotator cuff tear as seen by X-ray. I'll have an MRI on Monday to determine how extensive it is. I thought for sure the chest and the arm were two different injuries, but it seems the pain all comes from the same spot. Surgery will likely be necessary, but I will try to put it off until I can get some good Fall mountain biking in and attempt to run the Virgel Crest 100 at the end of September. I mentioned to Kevin that whether I had to have surgery before Virgel Crest or not, maybe I could run it with my arm in a sling. He said, "what if you trip?" Oh. I hadn't thought of that. I'd have to figure something out, maybe ace bandage my upper arm to my chest leaving the forearm free? I'll be sure to take photos if it comes to that.

Well, I've had a really great Summer and done a lot of fun stuff. Kevin and I both love the Fall, and no matter what I'm sure we'll have a great one. This weekend we are going back to the scene of the accident, The Kingdom Trails in East Burke, Vermont! I'll be careful. I promise!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Bradbury Mountain Biking

Kevin and I had a wonderful mountain bike ride at Bradbury State Park yesterday. We started our ride around eleven o'clock, which is perfect for riding there during the weekend. The trail runners are all done and the sun has dried out the worse of the wet spots by then. There are always lots of mountain bikers in the parking lot, but once we get out on the single track, we don't see many. Most of the time we feel like we have the whole place to ourselves!

My left arm is still giving me problems from my crash on Kitchel 3 weeks ago. There is some sort of nerve involvement, I have pain and weakness in the bicep with numbness and pain going all the way down to my thumb and first finger. It seems to be getting better slowly on it's own. This made it a little more difficult for me to get my front wheel up and over things on the bike, but I managed!

We weren't all that blown away by the Bradbury trails the first time we rode there, they were wet and slippery and we didn't know the best directions to ride in or how to smoothly connect trails to make a nice long ride. But we absolutely love riding there now that we know our way around. There are a few tricky places that make me concentrate a little, ascending to bat cave, getting over the stone walls on Island Trail, navigating narrow curvy bridges, and powering up a few rooty rocky ascents. But it is all ridable and fun. I really enjoy trying things that are just a little too difficult for me to ride comfortably. Maybe that's why I keep getting hurt!

We hoped to ride at the Moat Single Track today, but it looks like it's going to be too wet out. We'll probably end up out on the local trails for some work on Kevin's latest project... Bootlegger Island Trail.

Monday, August 1, 2011

MMD Adventure 2011

Friday evening Kevin and I met Bob N., Bob D., and Rich at Bob N's camp in Jackson for a delicious lasagna dinner and a brief nap before heading over to Barne's Field for the midnight start of the 2011 edition of the More and More Difficult Fun Run through the mountains of New Hampshire. The temperature for the start was comfortable with just a light drizzle. High sustained winds were forecast for the higher elevations starting in the morning, but it looked like we had smooth sailing ahead for the first nighttime portion of our journey. I figured I would just take it one section at a time and deal with what Mother Nature threw my way the best I could.

I ran and fast hiked through the night over the Imp Face, Middle Carter, South Carter, Mt Hight, Carter Dome, and down into Carter Notch in dense fog over extremely slippery rocks and roots. There was a couple running together that I would catch up to now and then, but mostly I was alone. I could only see a foot or two ahead of me through the fog and that was only if I held my headlight in my hand down as low as I could reach. It was sprinkling lightly at times, but it didn't matter because the fog alone was thick enough to soak me through anyway. Luckily the temperature was very mild. I was completely comfortable and content and moving well. I was very happy to be so alone and feel so at peace running through the night time fog. I felt like I was in a little envelope. It was completely still and quiet, except for the sound of my feet on the ground... and the occasional thump when I slipped and hit the ground hard.

I climbed steeply up to Wildcat Ridge and traveled the slippery trail over Wildcat A, B, C, and D as the sun came up. This stretch is always longer than I think it will be. I was happy to reach the ski trails and start down. At the bottom I met up with Patty and Sara and together, we ran to the event's only aid station. I gave Kevin a kiss, had a piece of ham and cheese and a piece of French Toast, refilled my Camelback and started up the Crew Cut Trail with the two women. Unfortunately, we missed the first turn and ended up doing a few extra miles here. With that little off course adventure and an official re-route this year to avoid the slippery Huntington's Ravine, both women came up with just under forty miles on their Garmens by the time all was said and done. So that's what I ended up running this year...a forty mile 50K. These things happen.

The climb up Tuckerman's was annoying as usual, with all the touristy hikers climbing up from the Visitor Center in their inappropriate footwear and chatty demeanors. I can't help it, I'm a bit of a trail snob. Anyway, it was an uneventful climb until we started up the Lion Head and hit the heavy fog again and the first of the strong winds. I've read enough accounts of Himalayan expeditions to know that wind can blow a person off a mountain. OK, maybe it's not so likely in the White Mountains, but I stayed low and hung on! It was brutal. I was still more or less with the other two women and we all reached the summit building together. They said they were going in to sit down and regroup. I stopped just inside the door and told them I was going to refill my water and continue alone. The last thing I wanted to do was sit down in a heated comfortable building. I would never be able to get myself back out into the icy cold Gale. I later learned that all the runners who had arrived before us were still hunkered down in the warm building. Some of them had been there for hours, hemming and hawing about continuing!

Sara and Patty stood here trying to tell me I couldn't or shouldn't go on alone, I wasn't thinking clearly, it wasn't safe, ... when suddenly my good friend Craig came out of nowhere, gave me a big hug, and said, "ready to go?" Craig, with his long white beard, pony tail, bruised and battered legs, and lean mean build is a man who knows the mountains, and it shows. Patty and Sara seemed to feel better about me moving on. I gave them a cheerful "See you down the trail," and headed out the door with Craig. He paused and said "hold on a minute. All the guys in front of you are still here worrying about the weather. I'm going back to tell them you're continuing." Crag had hiked up to participate in the Northern Presidential portion of the run, as his knees won't allow him to do the entire thing anymore. He had found all the front runners hunkered down and had been working on them for a while, but no one was budging. Well, as soon as they heard this little 48 year old woman was going to continue, three of them immediately got up and resumed their journey.

The wind was so strong that it seemed to be trying to rip my contact lenses out of my eyes. I had to cling to rocks in the strongest gusts, just to stay on my feet. We could only see from one cairn to the next through the fog. But through all this Craig and I bantered back and forth and forged ahead. Slowly and steadily we fought the wind over Mt Clay, Mt Jefferson, and Mt Adams. Mt Adams was the worse. The wind was scary strong at the summit. We didn't even pause at the top. I hunkered as low as I could, hugging the rocks, and practically crawled over the top.

Just over the top we came upon a young man with a red beard sitting serenely on a straw mat on the side of the mountain. He had a book beside him and a joint in his hand. He looked at Craig, with his long white beard billowing in the wind, and realized that his Guru had arrived. "I have a question for you," he began. Craig politely stopped and turned his attention to Red Beard. "I've been reading and thinking and trying to figure something out," he said, choosing his words carefully. The wind roared and the fog swirled around us. Red Beard continued,"If the Galaxy is spinning in an ever widening vortex of matter, does it get thinner and thinner towards the outer reaches? And does the size of the stars effect the velocity in which they move?...That is the question." Craig answered him in a philosophical voice, "And that shall remain the question until you discover the answer." Red Beard nodded his head and said, "Ahhhh." As if that was the exact answer he was hoping for. Craig and I looked at each other, shrugged, and moved on.

At Madison Hut, I sat down for the first time in 15 hours. Craig timed us for 10 minutes of blissful sitting and eating. All too soon he gave the two minute warning and it was time to pull ourselves together and head back out into the wind. Up and over Mount Madison we went.

Then it was time for the crazy rock scrambling down Daniel Webster Scout Trail. In case you have never been on this trail, let me describe it for you. Picture sharp edged rock upon sharp edged rock, ranging in size from that of a microwave to that of a refrigerator. All these are perched precariously on an extremely steep slope. To descend this trail, one must carefully hop from rock to rock, avoiding the loose ones and avoiding the cracks between the rocks. I actually enjoyed this part last year. This year my body was stiff and sore from too many slips and falls and stumbles. It was slow and painful work.

I was traveling about ten or fifteen feet behind Craig, looking down at the rocks ahead of me and picking my route, when I heard a strange sound come from Craig. It was kind of a soft, "Oh". I looked up in time to see him launch head first down the mountain. I froze in my tracks and watched helplessly. Craig tumbled head over heels, slid almost to a stop, launched off a big rock, tumbled violently head over heels again, slid quickly a little way further down the slope, almost came to a stop again, bounced off another rock violently, did a third somersault, and landed sideways across the slope with his back against a rock about 30 yards below me.

I yelled, "Don't move! Don't move!" as I did a crazy semi-controlled careen down the slope. I grabbed one of Craig's trekking poles on the way down, thinking I might need it for a splint. When I stopped in front of him, he held up one finger and calmly said, "I'm going to pass out." His eyes rolled up in his head and he twitched for about 5 seconds, long enough for me to think, "head injury! How long will it take rescuers to get here? How will they ever get him off this rocky slope?" I yelled his name and Craig said, without opening his eyes, "I hear a voice." Then he opened his eyes and looked me in the face and said, "Hey it's Laurel!" as if he hadn't seen me in a year.

It took a while before Craig could get up. He had bumps and bruises and lacerations, maybe a few broken fingers, probably a concussion, but nothing all that serious. It was miraculous he wasn't hurt worse! Together, we hiked very slowly down the trail. Craig walked in front and I followed in his footsteps. When I finally got a cell signal, I called and talked to Kevin at camp so everyone would know we were going to take a long time getting there, but we were OK. Once in a while Craig would put his arms out and sway a little and I'd reach forward to grab his pack. Little by little, slowly and carefully, we descended this way. After what seemed like an eternity, we heard people coming up behind us on the trail. This made us both happy. I think we needed a little moral support, we were pretty shook up. It was Patty and Sara. I asked them to hike with us for a bit, explaining about Craig's fall. It felt reassuring to have other people with us, although I'm not sure how that would have helped if Craig collapsed.

Craig seemed better and better as we walked, so I told the women to go on ahead and finish. So they did. When we got close to the trail head I called camp and asked for a vehicle to come pick Craig up. He had said he only thought he had enough left to get out of the woods. There were another two miles of dirt road back to the campground. Kevin was waiting in his truck when Craig and I emerged from the woods. Believe me, I was ready to crawl into the truck with Kevin and Craig and call it a day. But Craig wanted me to run it in for an official finish, so I did.

This makes four MMD finishes out of five attempts. It was a difficult one for me, but I'll be back next year for the tenth running of MMD. Right now I'm going to relax on the front porch with a nice glass of wine and rest my weary bones! Next up, Maine Huts 50 Miler.

Friday, July 15, 2011

MMD Reconnaissance Run

After last year's struggle to stay on course through the night at MMD, I decided to go on a scouting mission in the daylight a few days ago. The night time segment of MMD is run up the Imp Trail, continuing up the North Carter Trail, and then crossing the Carters and Mt Hight by way of the Carter-Moriah Trail. Next comes the steep climb up Wildcat, by which point the darkness has usually begun to lift. I have run this section of trail in the dark for the past two years at MMD, (we had run different courses for MMD each year until a few years ago). It went fine the first time I ran this route because I was traveling with a group of runners and between us we had plenty of lights and plenty of good sense. Last year I was alone through this section and had some difficulties staying on trail, poor night vision and not such good sense I guess.

I started out my recon run feeling great, but smelling a very bad odor coming from my Camelback. I finally stopped to check and found a left over piece of Ham and cheese sandwich that had been in there for about a week, ripening in the 90 degree weather. I consider myself lucky that I wasn't jumped on by a Black Bear while carrying this bear bait. I hate throwing anything on the ground, but I tossed it off the trail figuring something would eat it pretty quickly.

Once free of that foul odor, the run improved immensely. I am always surprised how steep the climb is up the Northern arm of the Imp Trail. And it just keeps going and going! I found the spot where I first wandered off course in the dark last year. It is a stream crossing where hikers have worn paths up and down the stream looking for better crossings in high water, (note to self, go straight across when I come to this point.)

The turn off for the North Carter Trail is easy to see, even in the dark. I remembered this trail leveling off, but I remembered wrong. It continues to climb steeply upwards. It was after turning onto the Carter-Moriah Trail that the running gets easy and a lot of time can be made up. This trail is runnable in the dark for sections, but it is almost entirely runnable until Zeta Pass in the daylight, (note to self, run more/walk less of this section).

Shortly after Zeta Pass, which you can't miss, comes the left turn to climb Mt Hight, which I learned last year, you can miss, (note to self, start looking for this turn as soon as I go through Zeta Pass).

The climb up Mt Hight isn't easy, but it goes quick. At the top it is difficult to see where the trail goes, even in the daylight. People have wandered all over this ledgy peak looking for views so there are paths everywhere. The trail turns sharply to the right just after it reaches the open ledge. I wandered around in the dark up there for a long time last year, (note to self, sharp right!).

There is some good running after the scramble down Mt Hight, followed by a steep rocky descent to Carter Notch. At the pond, you can turn left and go to the hut or turn right onto 19 Mile Brook for a short distance and then left onto Wildcat Ridge Trail, (note to self, turn right then left!)

I would have liked to continue on to the ski slopes so I could chose the best route down. This varies from year to year, depending on if anything has been mowed or traveled recently. But this day I decided I would run down the 19 Mile Brook Trail so I would only have a mile or two to run on rte 16 back to my car. If I had come out at the ski area, it would be 5 or 6 miles of rte 16 running. My run down 19 Mile Brook was delightful. This is very good running, but unfortunately not part of the MMD course. It showered lightly during my run down, although the sun never stopped shining. It was just beautiful!

Chances are I won't remember any of my notes to self as I am jogging merrily through the woods in the pitch black night in a few weeks, but this recon run was still well worth it! I had a wonderfully joyous romp through the mountains and discovered that I am pretty darned fit for mountain running right now! MMD, watch out, here I come!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Painful, Yet Fun, Summer Weekend!

Saturday Kevin and I drove over to the Kingdom Trails in East Burke, Vermont to mountain bike on their awesome trails. We have developed the habit of riding the same convoluted long loop each time we go. It works well for us. It is probably about 20 miles of hilly single track, challenging for me in a few spots, but mostly just fun! Saturday, the trails were in great condition. Many improvements have been made. Problem spots that we had noticed last time we were there had all been fixed with slight re-routes, new bridges, and ground work. They get a ton of riders there and this does cause some wear and tear on the trails. It takes work to keep them in good shape for fun riding! As Kevin noted, "it's nice to see our trail fees be put to good use."

After about 3 and a half hours of steady riding we were both starting to feel it in our legs a little, but we were getting to the end of our loop so this was OK. We end our loop with a wonderful downhill roller coaster ride down Kitchel, then have the long climb up Herb's back to where we park the truck. Kitchel is a machine made trail built for fast fun downhill riding. It has big swooping jumps at the top and tight banked curves at the bottom. Each jump and each curve causes the bike to accelerate even more, if I ride it right. I love this trail and usually surprise myself with how much speed I build and how much air I get on some of the jumps. Once over the initial approach, the trail becomes smooth dirt, with no obstacles to worry about. I started down first with Kevin giving me some room before following.

I flew over the first few jumps, feeling brave and confident and riding fast! This is the kind of stuff that makes me yell out little "whoop" noises here and there, whether I want to or not. I think it was on the third or fourth big jump that I messed up. I really felt like I was in complete control, but I wasn't ready for the unexpected. I landed the jump and as soon as both wheels were on the ground, I noticed a single, loose, cannon ball sized rock laying smack in the middle of the trail. Someone must have veered off course a little and kicked it onto the trail with their bike tire. I think I got my front wheel around it, but my back wheel went right up onto it. The rock rolled out, sending my bike off into the bushes to the right of the trail. I continued straight on down, landing on my left side in the middle of the trail. I knew Kevin was right behind me and there were another six riders right behind him. I couldn't move my left arm at all, but believe me, I crawled off that trail in a fraction of a second.

Kevin stopped, of course, and everyone else who rode by slowed down and asked if I was OK. The last rider through happened to be with the Trail Patrol. He stopped and waited to see if I was going to be OK. It took a few minutes (I thought my arm was broken at first,) but finally I announced, "I can ride out." Trail Patrol man was happy to hear this, I think. I may have fractured a rib or two and I have bruising and swelling and soreness in the shoulder and elbow, but considering how fast i was going and how hard I hit, it really isn't bad!

Sunday we went over to Bradbury and I ran (slowly and painfully) while Kevin mountain biked with me. It was nice to give Kevin a chance to ride the few difficult trails that I wouldn't want to ride if I was riding with him. I was pretty impressed watching him ride down the Boundary Trail. Two hikers stopped to express their disbelief that someone would actually ride a bike down that rough stuff. It looked like Kevin enjoyed himself! When we were almost done, I paused to get a good breath (my chest wasn't allowing me to breath very well.) I put my hand on my hips and drew a big painful breath in. Suddenly something shifted on the left side of my chest, I coughed up a huge amount of sputum, and my chest pain and breathing problems were cured!

We have been looking for a touring Kayak for me. I have a small stubby river kayak that tours over flat water like I'm paddling an inner tube. This is not compatible with Kevin's sleek fast touring kayak. So we went over to LLBeans and I painfully, but excitedly, climbed in and out of kayaks on the showroom floor. I picked out a beauty! I couldn't wait to get it in the water!!!

My left arm wasn't working too well, but we paddled around Stanley Pond at a leisurely pace with lots of rest breaks. I love my "Sweet B", named because of the neat little "B" someone scratched into the side of it before deciding to return it to LLBean (I presume). I can't wait until my arm is healed and I can do some serious paddlin' !!!

Oh, and I'll take this opportunity to show you how good our garden is growing...

I love the summer!