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!