Monday, December 31, 2012

Good-bye 2012, Hello 2013!

Looking back, I think all I have done this past year is work...long days, exhausting shifts, hours in the car, poor diet on the road, insomnia, chronically sore back and neck. But then I think a little harder and realize that it's been a heck of a year despite all that! 

For 2012 I made a commitment to get out on the trails and run for the sheer joy of it and remove the word "training" from my vocabulary forever. So I ran the Ossipee River Trails so often that I think I could now run them blind folded without tripping over a single rock or root. I ran the Big A 50K and MMD just for the sake of seeing friends.  I learned the top-secret single track system out in the Leavitt Plantation. I ran the Moats Single Track and the single track of the Green Hills Preserve. I explored logging roads and snow mobile trails in north east Vermont with my trusty side-kick, Scout. Kevin and I put in a thousand or so extra trail miles walking.

Mountain biking was wonderful. We really had some awesome trail conditions in New England this past year. I worked on developing my technical skills on the cross country trails, mastered those small uphill step-ups that have been the challenge of my mountain biking existence, and tried lift-assisted downhill riding a few times...What a blast!!! We biked Bear Brook, FOMBA, Ossipee River, Leavitt Plantation, Green Hills Preserve, Moat Area Single Track, and Kingdom Trails...a lot. I got up the courage to try Sidewinder and it was a piece of cake! I didn't break any bones or require any surgery from biking this year, so it was a good season.

We did a lot of snowshoeing late season last winter. For a winter with very little snow in New England, it's amazing how often Kevin and I got out on the snowshoes. We started learning our way around the miles and miles of woods behind our camp in Vermont. We've resumed that exploration this past month. I am determined to find my way to the mountain we call "Frost Mountain" that we can see in the distance from our camp window. We're getting close!

The cross country skiing sucked last winter so I tried Alpine skiing again for the first time in over 25 years. It was so much fun that I purchased my own equipment. I look forward to gaining skills and confidence this winter and eventually, joining Kevin on the more difficult slopes.

We got out in the kayaks a few times. The most memorable and fun outing was out of Bar Harbour, exploring the little island chain and watching the wild life. We also had a nice paddle up the river into Ossipee Lake.

We did trail work. We cleared the lot a little at camp. We had a big productive vegetable garden. I finished two quilts. I celebrated two years of being married to the most wonderful man on the planet.

Next year will be even better. I am working on making a big career change. Frankly, I am tired of working weekends, holidays, and evenings. I am tired of being on call. I am tired of never being able to let my work go, even on my days off. I am fifty years old and I need to start putting my mental and physical health first. I'm excited about moving forward and retaking control of my life!

I'm feeling very positive about 2013. Bring it on! 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Shakin' It Up

I have stuck with the "insanity" workout program for over two weeks now. It's tough. It involves a little strength building and a lot of cardio work.  These workouts get my heart rate way up near my max, and keep it there for various intervals of time, depending on the particular workout scheduled for that day. The two week fit test showed improvements in 7 out of 8 exercises. The one I didn't improve on was a push up move, and I blame that on the fact that I had just finished shovelling snow. Also, I have to say, I felt pretty darned strong and fit on our first ski outing of the year last week. So, although my work is still causing me to spend way too much time working and not leaving me enough time for my health and fitness, I am still working out and staying fit.  And I'm loving it!

I am enjoying downhill skiing because I'm new at it and have a lot of room for improvement. It's a challenge! It's the same way with mountain biking for me. I can see and feel myself progressing. I've been running steady for 35 years and have been doing ultras for about 15. I'm at a point where there's not much left to learn about running (its a very simple thing really) and not much personal progression . Years ago, I realized that I had already read all the articles in Runner's World, just the authors and the names in the stories had changed over time. I had even lived through the whole barefoot thing before. My running is like that, at one point or another I've already done it all with my running. It is time to shake things up a little. So while I still love running on a trail in the woods as much as I always have, mountain biking and skiing have added a nice twist to the theme. 

Speaking of shaking things up a little, I have a long term goal of returning to my roots of short fast running. 5K races are great; Cheap to enter, no lottery, very little time commitment on the day of the race, fast recovery, not a lot of ego or attention involved, nothing popular or trendy about it, and very healthy and  non-harmful to a person's body as long as the correct training has been done. Well, these insanity workouts are a start toward that goal. My heart is starting to remember what its like to hit 180!

Monday, December 10, 2012


We spent a nice weekend in Northeast Vermont. We were lazy on Saturday and then drank too much beer at the Tamarack. So Sunday I was determined to get out there and do something! I did Insanity's  "Pure Cardio" first thing in the morning. This is the worse Insanity workout so far and includes a solid 30 minutes that keeps my heart rate over 170, about equal to a thirty minute tempo run. Following this, Kevin and I headed out into the woods behind camp with Scout. I showed Kevin the area I have been exploring on my own. I love rambling through the woods trying to figure out where trails and old roads go.

Exploring old tote roads alone in southern Maine is one thing, but Northeast Vermont is a totally different thing. In most of Southern Maine, if you know how to walk in a straight line in the woods, you will almost always come to a road within 5 to 10 miles. Then again, all bets are off after dark without a light  Lost . But in Northeast Vermont, a person could walk in a straight line for days and not find a road. So I have been a little cautious exploring out there on my own. It was nice to have Kevin along Sunday. His sense of direction in the woods is pretty remarkable.

We enjoyed some nice tote roads and snowmobile trails and finally came to a point where I had once, on snow covered ground following a single set of snow mobile tracks through the woods, found a short cut back to Camp Road. We could see the mountain our camp sits upon from that point, but not much of a trail. We decided to go for it, rather than coming out on Victory Road and having to walk 3 miles uphill on packed gravel road. This "not much of a trail" soon ended and we were on our own.

We started up. It was a steep and rough bush whack, but we knew we were going the right way because we could see the mountain top from where we walked. Plus Scout was running out in front with a sense of purpose, he definitely knew which way was back to camp. Ugh, what a climb! It was about a mile of steep climbing. My legs were aching from the Pure Cardio workout and I was suddenly starving. But eventually we came out exactly where we wanted to be.

The minute we got inside I had a glass of orange juice, two chicken legs, a bowl of cereal and a pickle. Then I laid down and slept for an hour. Ahhhh, just the way Sundays are meant to be.

Monday, December 3, 2012

A New Leaf

I'm not waiting for the new year to turn over a new leaf, I'm already doing it. Late summer and early Fall brought changes to my job. These work stressors caused me to lose track of my priorities. It took me a while to realize this. You'd think the fact that I was laying awake in bed all night, working on my laptop at 2AM at times, popping antacids all day long, and missing most of the runs I planned would have clued me in that something had gone awry. Maybe those 5 pounds I put on from eating deli sandwiches while driving between appointments should have told me something. Maybe the fact that I had no time for this Blog anymore should have given me a hint. Missing all those clues, I should have noticed that late in the evenings when I was relaxing with my husband in the hot tub with a glass of wine, I was usually talking about work. This stuff is fine if you are a Workaholic, Type A, Company Guy or Gal...but I'm not and I don't want to be. Holy Hell, I'm a smiling, happy, fun-loving, forest frolicker. How could I have forgotten this?!

So early in October I decided to take control of my life back and make some changes. It is still a work in progress.  But I'm getting there.  

I've been running in the woods with my dog every chance I get. I don't have time for anything long or adventurous, mosty local trails late in the day, but what a simple pleasure this is. Running on dirt grounds me. It only makes sense, really. I've also been walking in the woods with Kevin, listening to the river, moving blow downs off the trail, looking at animal tracks, and throwing sticks for Scout. This gives me peace. I love the trees. There is a reason my first stint at college was studying Foresrty.

I started P90X again, then switched over to Insanity. I am truly having fun with this! Insanity is fast paced circuit training. Jumping, lunging, running, push ups... Kevin is afraid I might come through the ceiling one of these evenings since the gym is on the second floor and the house is almost 200 years old. But I think it will hold me. I have been hitting heart rates in the mid 170's. It has been a long time since I have worked hard enough to get my heart rate up that high. I worked out to the point of nausea last evening and enjoyed the fact that I did!

I worked all weekend and enjoyed a challenging night of "on-call" Saturday night, so I have the day off today. I'm heading out for a run with Scout.

Monday, November 12, 2012

It's Even Worse than it Appears

But it's alright.

Week two of my return to fitness started with a 4 mile time trial in Standish this evening. This loop was where I used to test my race readiness on my way home from work when I worked at Maine Medical Center a decade ago. I would park at the gravel pit and make the loop in a counter clockwise direction aiming for 26 minutes for the loop. The first three miles are flat and fast, then it gets ugly. Starting out tonight, I couldn't remember exactly how the hills would come at me in that last mile, but I remembered they were there.

Just as I recalled, the early miles were flat, and (I liked to imagine) fast. I felt smooth. My stride was stretched out and my turnover was quick. I was landing on my toes and pushing off effortlessly. I was really moving... or so I liked to think.

It was getting dark as I turned the corner at the three mile point, marking the start of the hills. Luckily, it was too dark to read my watch without trying to find that little button that lights up the face, and I can never find that so I didn't try. I started up a gradual long climb, thinking "this isn't as bad as I remembered." Then I went down a little hill and up another. It almost leveled off for a moment and I started thinking I was home free. Suddenly I saw it looming ahead of me in the dark, the big hill. The one that always tried to push me back from that 6:30 pace I would be trying so hard to maintain.  It looked like a gray wall extending to the skyline. Oh yes, now I remembered.

My breathing felt worse than I ever remember it feeling. My heart threatened to explode in my chest. Boy, did I miss being fit at that moment. But I pushed through it and made it back to my car. I checked my watch. It was very disappointing. 34:12. How could this be? On a few good days, I have broken 25 minutes on this loop. Now I am barely under 35. All I could think to say was, "ugh." and I meant it from the bottom of my heart.

But I'm over it. Now I have a point to build from. I didn't get out of shape in a few weeks, it took a year and a half of working too much and not working out enough. It's going to take some time to get back in shape. So yes, it's even worse than it appears, but it's alright.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Just Checking In

I got in a few good runs and some strength workouts this past week. It remains a challenge to fit running and working out in my life right now because of severe work overload, but I'm doing what I can. I definitely am not the only one at work being stretched to the limit. A lot of us have had to give up doing the things we like to do because of long work days. We all know it's a problem, including upper management, so I think changes will be made and things are going to get better. In the mean time I am trying to stay positive and stay active!

Tuesday, I met Mary and Jordie at Pineland in the late afternoon for 1 hour and 45 minutes of easy trail running. It seems like it has been ages since I have had time to meet someone for a run! So the company was very much enjoyed. We just wandered around without any plan and got in some good miles. The trails were wet and the skies were heavy, but we didn't get any real rain while we ran. This was one of those runs that felt effortless. I felt like I could have kept running all night.

I fit in a mid day run one day this past week and two short evening runs. I also did 3 evening strength workouts. The fitness is coming back, slowly but surely.

Today I had a wonderful hour long run with Scout on the Ossipee River Trails. I have to work this afternoon, but it sure felt great to get out on the trails this morning. We took Hurricane damage inventory on all the trails except Bootlegger, which we couldn't get to because the river is still too high to cross. The damage was mostly small blow downs and branches that I was able to move by myself. There are three spots that need a chainsaw to clear and Kevin will be heading out this afternoon.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Done Whining

and moving on. Work sucks and that's too bad. There's no time left at the end of the day for anything...or so I thought. Since my last post I have turned over a new leaf. I am doing something, every night no matter how late I get done with work.

This past 4 days I have run twice and done good long quality strength workouts three times. It's late when I get started and even later when I get done. But it is becoming a habit and becoming easier to commit to each night. Mornings aren't possible. I wake up to so many emails and "tasks" that I can't even begin to take time for myself with a clear conscience. But I can make this work.

So on to The Facts:

Tuesday: 4 miles on the trails at an easy, yet uncomfortable pace just as it was getting dark, chest and back strength workout afterwards,

Wednesday: 4 miles of technical trail running just around dusk. Durgintown Woods clockwise in 37:52.

Thursday: P90X Plyometrics in the late evening. 1 hour of pain and suffering.

Friday: 2 miles uphill on the treadmill followed by P90X shoulders and arms. Surprisingly, repaired left rotator cuff still hurts when I lift. I'm going to lift anyway.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A Little Whining

I'm still alive and well in Kezar Falls, but all I have done for the past few months is work, work, and more work...with mountain biking and running pretty much confined to the weekends I have off from work. I never imagined I'd ever have a job that was this consuming. I loved my job a few short months ago. Holy Heck, how did this happen? Anyway, it can't continue for much longer. I have a life to live.

These changes at work have caused a brand new onset of nightmares, insomnia, gastric reflux, estrangement with friends and family, moodiness, and flabby thighs.

I was supposed to run a mountainous trail race next weekend, but after testing my legs on a very hilly 12 miler yesterday I realize it isn't going to happen. 2 days of training a week just doesn't cut it.

So change is in the works. I just hope it happens before the flabbiness moves from the thighs to the hips and belly.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Birthday Weekend!

We had a fun, action filled weekend this past weekend in Northeast, Vermont. Saturday we rode the trails until our legs gave out on us. Here's a photo of Kevin on one of our favorite trails, the West Branch Switchback climb.  He's one switchback above me.

Saturday night we went out to the Tamarack and enjoyed great food, beverages, and a pretty good live band, Wayland Speed.  It just so happened that Kevin and the lead singer were both from Waldo County Maine and knew a lot of the same people. So it made for some interesting bar conversation before the show started. We always have a good time at the Tamarack, but this time of year is best because the summer folks are gone and the skiers haven't arrived yet.
Sunday we headed to the mountain for some fast and fun lift-assisted mountain biking to celebrate my fiftieth birthday. I'm not sure what the average woman does to celebrate turning fifty, but this was a perfect celebration for me! After a dozen runs, I had to withdraw my opinion that downhill riders are just too lazy to pedal uphill. It is hard work and every muscle in my body was feeling it by the end of our day.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Plodder

I first saw her early last January, shuffling along the worse stretch of road in the area for running. The South Hiram Road has no shoulder, the cars travel much too fast on it, and there is always a cold wind coming off the river in the cooler months. It is boringly flat and straight. The day I first saw her was the worse drizzly icy day we had had so far that Winter.  She wore baggy snow pants, like the ones you'd buy at Walmart for your kids to go out and build snowmen in. She had a loose fitting quilted jacket with the hood pulled up and yellow work gloves on. This woman was big, probably 5 foot 10 and well over 200 pounds. And she was running.

She was grimacing into the wind. I could see that she was experiencing something far removed from the fabled runner's high. Her gait was awkward and slow, with short, low to the ground strides. Her arms moved stiffly in too many layers of clothes. I couldn't see exactly what she was wearing on her feet, but  it didn't look like running shoes. I thought to myself, "New Year's resolution," and continued my drive home from work.

I'd had no intention of going out to run on that cold, icy, wet afternoon, but something about seeing that women struggling along step by step motivated me to get out the door and put in a few miles.

Throughout the Winter I would see her often, always on that same miserable stretch of road and always with too much clothing on. Over time, her shuffle turned into something just short of a jog. It never started to look easier or more fun for her, but it became more efficient and a little faster. By Spring she had shed a few layers of clothing and started to run in a big cotton sweatshirt and baggy cotton sweat pants.  I began to notice she was loosing weight. She was still carrying a lot of extra pounds, but they were slowly coming off.

Day after day, she plodded on. Her eyes never strayed from the patch of road directly in front of her. When I gave her a little honk and a wave one day, she never looked up and her pace never varied. She was a woman on a mission.

In the hot, humid days of June and July she stripped down to a loose long sleeved cotton T-shirt and some loose cotton pants.  I began to think her "comfort zone" involved keeping her body covered and hidden under loose layers of clothing and sticking to a familiar route.  I thought, with time she may gain more confidence.

By mid August I started noticing that the stretch of road she ran out and back on was getting longer. Sometimes I would see her way out at the Cornish end and other times 4 miles down the road at the Kezar Falls end. Sometimes I'd see her at both ends on the same afternoon, meaning she was covering eight miles those days! Her upper body had thinned down to a fit, healthy woman's build but she still carried a  lot of extra weight in her hips, butt, and thighs. Running still looked like an unpleasant job for her. Still, she plodded on.

Yesterday I had a very long day visiting patients. It had rained on and off all day and I was cold and soggy. I was also tired and in a bad mood. All I wanted to do was get home, put my feet up, and sip on a glass of wine. As I neared home I saw her plodding along. It was pouring rain at this point. She wore a wind breaker, orange hunting cap, yellow work gloves, and gray baggy sweat pants. All these were soaked through and hanging from her body. She had that familiar grimace on her face. The car in front of me drove through a big puddle and splashed water on her. She stared straight ahead and plodded on.

Suddenly I realized that she was way outside her comfort zone. It had nothing to do with clothing or route.  Truthfully, it has been years since I pushed myself as hard as this woman pushes herself daily! This realization made me smile. When I got home I changed my clothes and headed out into the rain. I ran a very hilly four mile loop that I had been avoiding for months. I ran it faster than I had run it in years. It hurt and I was probably grimacing a little, but at the same time it felt good! I wonder how many other people in the community have been inspired by the Plodder. I'll bet lots.

Her stride may never turn into a comfortable relaxed gait, even if she looses the rest of her excess body weight. She may never experience that endorphin induced "runner's high." She might not ever shed those loose baggy clothes or buy a pair of real running shoes. She might not ever venture from that crappy stretch of straight, flat road. She may never loose the remainder of those extra pounds. But she has certainly graduated from plodder to runner in my eyes.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Scout's Point of View

For our run tonight, Mom took me to a spot I'd never been to. I could smell the swamp mud as soon as we got out of the car and I got so excited that Mom had to use her stern voice with me, "out of the road, now! " Of course I know I can't step on the black hard ground without a leash, but sometimes I forget. Mom took me by the collar, which I find humiliating, and escorted me to the trail head. I was off in a flash as soon as she let go. Glorious dirt, mud, rocks, and roots! Hooray!

Mom followed. She tries to keep up, but she only has two legs. Plus she isn't exactly a puppy anymore. That's Okay. When I get too far ahead I stop and fool around until she catches up. I roll in stuff, chew on sticks, or practice lifting my leg. This leg lifting thing is new for me. I've been watching my neighbor, Apollo do it and decided to try it myself. Apollo can lift his leg straight out to the side and squirt urine on objects 3 feet off the ground. He's amazing. I can only get my leg up in the air for a few seconds, then I loose my balance and end up squatting. Also, sometimes when I lift my leg nothing comes out. So until I get this leg lifting thing down, I only do it out in the woods where Apollo and the other neighbors can't see. Tonight I lifted my leg at least 30 times and got it right about three times.

The trail we took tonight was awesome. It was long and straight and wider than what we usually run on. Dad calls it "double track" and he says it like it's a bad word. But I like it, this stuff is built for sprinting! Even Mom can get up a little speed on this sort of trail.  After a while, we hit a stretch of mud holes. This was the stuff I was smelling when we got out of the car. Mom tried to keep her colorful foot coverings out of the mud but wasn't successful. I just plowed right through. A few times I stopped right in the middle of deep smelly mud and laid down. I did this just to get a rise out of Mom.

After about an hour of steady running, we came to a river. It wasn't wide and shallow and fast like the river we usually run beside. This was narrow and deep and slow. The banks leading down to the water's edge were steep. This river's bottom was sandy instead of the rocky kind of bottom I'm used to.  I went barreling down the steep bank and ended up in the river with a big splash. I found that I couldn't touch the bottom so I started paddling around. I paddled up the river and then down the river. I paddled across. I paddled around under the bridge. I got out and climbed the steep bank, then ran back down and splashed into the river again. I started doing this over and over again, up, down, splash, up, down, splash... I got out of the water and picked up a big stick and started running in circles. Then I carried the big stick into the river and tried swimming with it in my mouth. I got out and rolled in some moose turds. I tasted one, but it wasn't fresh so I spit it out. I lifted my leg and peed on my own foot. I shook the water and mud off my coat onto Mom and I was ready to go.

The run back seemed tougher. Mom was ahead of me instead of behind. She had to wait for me . I walked up the big hill. I squatted instead of lifting leg when I felt like peeing. I jogged past a perfectly good pile of deer poop without even giving it a sniff. I edged past Mom and tried to slow her down by blocking her way. But on that Damned double track, she had plenty of room to go around me.  Mom joked, "you simply must learn to pace yourself better!" I fell asleep in the car on the way home and dreamed about running and swimming. I can hardly wait for our next run!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Getting Technical

I think I have been getting spoiled by the smooth, flowing trails of Northeast Vermont. Yesterday we mountain biked at Bradbury State Park in Pownal, Maine. Early on, Kevin looked back to ask how I was doing and I answered, "I have butterflies in my stomach."  Sure, there are some tough trails at the Kingdom Trails, but we know those trails so well it's easy to ride the correct lines to set up for whatever obstacle is coming. And tough sections at the Kingdom Trails are broken up by long stretches of smooth, fast, riding. Bradbury is alternating twisting, rocky, rooty, steep, loose, muddy, log hop, step up, drop down, high narrow bridge, stone wall... you get the picture.

After my initial shaky 5 or 10 minutes, I got into my groove and couldn't stop smiling.  It is exhilarating to get over a big rock that I wasn't sure I could make, Ride to the top of a rooty rocky steep climb without coming off the bike, and find the nerve to finally ride over the high bridge (which has been shortened and lowered a little, I must admit). It's even fun to try  to make it up or over something and come up a little short. 

By the time we got back to the parking area my legs were wobbly. What a fun ride! And what a beautiful day! Today looks like another gorgeous late summer day. we are off for a paddle on Ossipee Lake.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Running, Riding, and Trail Building

Last week I made it through my planned training exactly to the letter, except for Thursday which I took off due to craziness at work which kept me sitting at my laptop far later into the evening than it should have.

Thanks to near perfect weather and fantastic trail conditions, Kevin and I had one of our best mountain bike rides ever on Saturday on the Kingdom Trails. It helped that we were both well rested and feeling energetic and strong, for me this was because I took Thursday off from running! See, things always work out for the best. We did our favorite long loop in three hours. This loop usually takes us three and a half to four hours. Leg fatigue didn't set in until the last few uphill climbs on Beat Bog, which is exactly how I like it. I'd hate to finish a good long ride feeling like I wanted to keep going!

Sunday we started laying out a trail loop around our camp. This is more difficult than you'd think. It is hard for me to tell if a climb or turn is going to feel fun and smooth on the bike or awkward and clumsy. It is also difficult to see where I am going and where I have been through the dense trees and brush. Luckily, Kevin has some experience in this and a good feel for it. This took us several hours, but now the loop is all marked. It will be a lot of fun to ride...eventually. We have a lot of work ahead of us.

Work promises to be even more chaotic and crazy this week. We are going through some "transitions" which are going to require us all to put in extra time. I can only take it one day at a time. So for today, I have to fit in eight miles at some point. Should be simple enough.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Getting (Semi) Serious

After those fun long runs at Vermont and MMD, I am fully recovered and ready to get serious... or at least, semi-serious...about my training. There, I said it, training, as opposed to running, romping, and joyously frolicking through the woods.  Believe me, there was nothing joyous about yesterdays fast paced five miler on a paved exercise path in 85 degrees of high humidity while sucking frantically at the air trying to get enough oxygen to my brain to stay conscious and moving. The only joy I had was near the end when two elderly women on bicycles came up from behind and chatted away the last mile with me. They were very sweet. I especially liked the one that said, "your gait is just beautiful! You look like you could run in the Olympics!"  I probably should have answered, "and you two look like you're ready for the Tour De France!" But all I could do was muster up a weak smile.

Today will be 4 miles of Fartlek after work. It promises to be just as hot, humid, and painful as yesterday's experience. I should have set up a run/ride date with those two old gals for today. I need all the help I can get.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

MMD Photos and Results

From left, Laurel, Rich, Patrick, Craig, and Bob
Rich and Patrick early on, before the sweating started
Craig, Frank(?), and Fred on Baldface Circle Trail
Michelle ran the first 11 miles , then hiked another 3 or 4 tough miles with 50 pounds of much appreciated water to leave on the trail for the participants.

Bob and Bode

Results below (I hope)

Monday, August 6, 2012

MMD 2012

The 2012 edition of the More and More Difficult Run (MMD) was held this past Saturday in Evan's Notch. Event founder, Jonathon gave up his role as director this year as he is busy with other things. There was some talk that the event wouldn't be held, but thanks to Bob N, and volunteers Robin N, Jeff L's wife Kelly, and good old Kevin, the event went off without a hitch. Bob N put everything together before the event, then handed the reins to the above mentioned volunteers so he could run. Many of the usual cast of characters showed up to participate as well as several new faces. The course was a beauty with plenty of climbs and descents, lots of great views, nice runnable stretches, some sections of challenging footing, and good support with two aid stations and a cache of water in the exact spot where it was needed most. This water was hiked in by Michelle R after she ran the first ten mile section of the course. I have to say, we were all VERY happy that Michelle lugged all that water in. The day was extremely hot and humid and that water was a life saver!

The course was a big figure eight, more or less. Link to the map below.

I found myself running the Baldface section with Craig, Bob, Rich, Fred, Patrick, Michelle, and a few guys whose names I don't remember. The open ledges were already hot when we passed through in the morning. It was just a taste of things to come. Despite my best efforts to keep up with water and electrolytes, my feet were already cramping when we came into the first aid station at about mile ten. After passing through this station manned by Robin, we crossed 113 and started up toward Speckled Mountain. This is where the temperature and humidity became brutal. Rich, Patrick, and I gained a little distance on the rest of our travelling companions in this stretch. It was much too hot to wait at the summit to re-group, so the three of us went on. Rich was moving extremely well, and Patrick and I let him pull us along for the ride. My cramps were spreading from my feet to my calves and shins. At one point, my right calf cramped so badly that my leg stretched out against my will and my foot dragged on the ground causing me to fall. I was still laying there, rolling around and pounding on my calf when Patrick caught up from behind.  It was not one of my most graceful moments.

Back down at Rte 113 we found the next aid station manned by Kevin and Kelly. The watermelon and iced tea were so good there and the chairs so comfortable, Patrick decided to stay. I gave Kevin a big smooch since I had forgotten to when we set off at the start, then Rich and I moved on up toward the Royces. There was a short half mile spur trail to the summit of East Royce that was much tougher than I expected. It had looked so insignificant on the map! After a brief rest at the summit, we started back down the same half mile stretch. We ran into Fred heading up. He grinned broadly and said, "This climb is wonderfully terrible!"  I think he meant it. This guy is 61 years old and looks and moves like he's about 45.  This would be the last time Rich and I saw any of the MMD participants until the finish.

My cramps remained irksome, but after a point I just had to accept them and concentrate on all the things that were going well. I had plenty of energy. Other than the cramps, nothing hurt. My stomach felt good and I was able to take food and fluids well. Rich was kind enough to wait each time he started gaining ground on me even though I urged him to go on without me, so I had good company. And clouds were rolling in and thunder was booming in the distance! I was silently praying for the rain to reach us to cool things off.  Finally as we started down off the summit of Mt Meader, we felt the first smattering of rain drops. It wasn't much, but it gave us a brief respite from the heat and humidity. By the time we got down to the road, the sun was back out and it was more humid than ever. We alternated walking and jogging back to the campground where we were greeted by the early finishers and volunteers standing and clapping for us.

After having Kevin dump a jug of ice cold water over me to clean off some of the grime, I enjoyed sitting and sipping a few beers while we watched the rest of the field come in. Everyone made it back by dark, no one was seriously injured or lost, and everyone seemed to have enjoyed themselves. All in all it was another great MMD!  I'll post photos in a day or two.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Still Recovering


 68 miles of the Vermont 100 took more of a toll on my legs than the full hundred usually does. It's mostly my right quad. I think I was under trained and did not do nearly enough running on hard surfaces in preparation. On race day, I ran the early hard packed downhills much too aggressively for the training I had done. Looking back, I was already feeling twinges in my quads while I was running the paved re-route through Woodstock early in the day. My right quad is still angry about it.

So this past week I rode my road bike and walked. After a full week of not running or mountain biking, I was ready to go! Saturday, Kevin and I mountain biked a four hour long hilly loop around the Kingdom Trails. I was happy my legs felt as good as they did. I was picturing myself walking the bike up all the hills and that wasn't the case. I was moving a little slower than usual, judging from the fact that Kevin had to keep waiting for me and a few groups of riders passed us, but it felt great to be out there. Kevin pointed out that it is unusual for riders to pass me these days, which sure wasn't the case a year ago.  It's really fun to take up something new at this age. Where I see myself slowly declining in some of the things I like to do, mountain biking is something I am still improving at.

Sunday I decided to run. The problem was that it is extremely hilly where our camp is. To start from camp, I have to run straight downhill for about a mile, loosing around 1400 feet of elevation. From there I can either turn right to continue down, or turn the other direction and climb. Flat isn't an option. I did OK, but ended up walking the entire last mile back up to camp. Monday I tried to run a flat 4 on the local trails, but my quads made me cut it short. Yesterday I got back on the mountain bike and that went very well. I have to be patient. Right now I just have a little muscle strain, I don't want to turn it into a real injury.

This weekend I am planning to run an annual 30+ miles through the White Mountain National Forest with friends. I'll go anyway but if my legs aren't willing, I won't run. Kevin is working the aid stations, so I could always help him instead of running. I've still got 3 days left to recover, so you never know.

By the way, I've been eating plenty of greens. That's gotta help with the recovery!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Donna Rides Again!

Bianchi Eros Donna rides again! I haven't had her out of the upstairs gym in over a year. The only action the poor girl has seen lately, is a little spinning on the bike trainer now and then.  I felt a little nervous about sitting atop those skinny little tires on such a flimsy bike frame, going at such fast speeds (compared to mountain biking), but that is exactly what my quads needed.

My left quad recovered pretty well within 24 hours after my aborted Vermont 100 attempt. The right one continues to bother. It cramps up when I squat (which I do a lot of at work), climb up or down stairs, or go from sit to stand. Monday, I dragged the bike down the narrow back stairway, almost falling down the stairs in the process, and went about checking her over to see if she was in ride-able shape. I found 4 dollars in the pack under the seat! I also found two flat tires and a very messy, greasy chain. Otherwise, she was in mint condition. After changing the front tube, I was ready to go!

Kevin happened to be outdoors as I set out so I tried to look strong and powerful, but the little whimpers I let out with the first few pedal strokes gave me away, "ouch-ouch-ouch-ouch..."   He called, "just spin easy." I figured he should know since he was married to someone who followed all the training rules to a T, before he married me, (I know all the rules but can't seem to follow them).

He was right. I put it in an easy gear, stayed on the flats, and spun my legs around like pinwheels. The pain eased up almost immediately. I swear, I could feel the lactic acid pumping out of my muscles with each pedal stroke.  I looked ridiculous. I had put on the fancy Spandex shorts and special glasses to make the experience complete, but  was tottering around like a 5-year-old on training wheels.

It was fun! I'm about to set out for another road ride this morning before work. I have to get my legs back into mountain biking shape by Saturday and I think this spinning thing will do it.  Today, not only will I wear my fancy Spandex shorts and flashy looking glasses, I will also dig out a Spandex roadie jersey with some kind of crazy printed words all over it and stuff the back pocket full of GUs and Power Bars. I'm getting into it. I love experiencing different cultures!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Vermont 100 in a Nut Shell

Somewhere around 30 miles into the Vermont 100 I was running with and enjoying the company of a fifty-five-year-old woman, Sue from New Jersey. We were both behind schedule and not feeling we would make it in under 24 hours. But why, I asked. My energy was good, I was well hydrated, I was keeping up with my electrolytes, I had no foot issues and no chafing, my stomach felt great.   She hit the nail on the head, saying "we expect to be able to run like we used to without training like we used to."  How true.

After letting go of any time goals the miles became a lot more fun. I didn't care who was ahead of me and who was behind me. I took in the scenary. I talked to people on the trail. I talked to volunteers and spectators along the way. At the crew stations I took my time to get what I needed and check in with Kevin. I actually started feeling better and better as I went. I left Margaritaville and started up the long steep climb. I was feeling great and passing runner after runner. Then we came to a slight downhill. I took a few running steps and both quads literally froze up on me. I've heard people talk about this happening from running too hard on the downhills, but never experienced it myself before. 

Eventually I staggered/tip-toed/shuffled into Brownsville, at around the 65 mile point. I plunked down into a chair and told the aid station workers, "My quads are shot. I think I have to stop." A British woman held her beer out to me and said, "A few sips of bitters will cure you."  I didn't take her up on it. I sat and thought for a while. It was only 5 more miles to Ten Bear, where Kevin and Bob N. were waiting for me. Might as well shuffle on in that far. I checked and saw I still had a light in my pack. It was still early, but I could barely walk so I knew it would take a while. I thanked the kind volunteers and told them I could make it to Ten Bear. They looked doubtful, but cheered me on.

Baby step after baby step I traveled on. People I had passed earlier started streaming by, then people I had never seen all day started passing. They all slowed down for a few steps to make sure I was going to be OK. There came a point where I just didn't think I would be able to keep walking, it hurt too bad. I found a little clearing on the side of the trail and was trying to figure out how to lower myself into a sitting position, when I heard a vehicle coming up the trail. Very unlikely, as this was a washed out ATV trail, but there it was, a pick up truck! It was manned by two young guys, one driving and one standing in the back hanging glow sticks. I really didn't even have to ask, they just pulled up beside me and the driver pushed open the passenger side door. The kid in the back asked if I needed help getting in. I declined and somehow slithered onto the seat. The driver explained that they normally used an ATV for this section, but it had broken down. This was followed by a wild ride through the woods and gravel roads, 50 miles per hour for 200 - 400 yards, skid to a stop, guy in the back yells, "all set" and on to the next likely branch. We bottomed out a few times, I think we got a little air coming off rocks a couple of times, but we made it back to Ten Bear in one piece.

We found someone else for Bob to pace. I'm glad he got a chance to run! Kevin and I hung out at Ten Bear for a while. I couldn't get out of the chair if I wanted to, so it was good to just sit for a while. Then we went back to the tents and slept a while. We watched some of the late finishers come in and attended the Brunch. I didn't feel bad or sad or disappointed. I had fun and learned something from the experience. So that's it for hundred milers for me. I don't and won't train like I need to, so I have no right trying to run them. I think I would like to go back and run the 100K next year, or just volunteer or pace. I love the event and don't want to miss it.

Yesterday I had trouble walking and my quads were quite swollen. Today I am out mowing the lawn and hardly limping. I spent some time this morning writing up a training plan for the Circum Burke Challenge (running division, not biking). I told Kevin, "Look I have a training plan for Circum Burke!" He just raised an eye brow and said, "really?"  Well, I'll try to stick to it. The race is only twenty miles and is very close to our Camp. I think Kevin is going to enter the mountain bike division. It should be fun!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Last Long One Before Vermont 100

My last long run before Vermont 100 went just as I hoped it would. I felt smooth and strong the whole way. I ran at a decent pace for 4 hours of hills. The only walking I did was part way up the very steepest hill. Kevin kept me company on his bike as we traveled over the single and double track trails of Northeast Vermont. I'm sure it was agonizingly slow riding for him, but it was very nice of him to give up a good mountain biking day to accompany me.  The trails were surprisingly uncrowded for such a beautiful weekend. We saw a few mountain bikers, but not as many as usual. I really enjoyed seeing things at a slower pace than we travel on the bikes. I noticed much more of the sights, sounds, and smells of the trail. Kevin mentioned noticing the same things.

We rode a counter clockwise loop and hit some of the trails we don't usually ride. It was warm and humid, but I felt good the whole way. It was very nice to get an ice cold orange Gatorade at the snack stand at the bottom of Old Webb's. We normally pedal right past this, but this time we stopped and took a brief break before moving on out of the woods and across Darling Hill Rd to the trails on the other side.

When we had almost completed our big loop, I sent Kevin up to the truck on Herb's while I continued on over the White School Trail toward home.  Before we parted I thought I might run all the way home, but cringed at the thought of the last three dusty, gravelly, full sun, uphill road miles at the end. So instead, we decided Kevin would meet me at the end of the trail, which is where he took this photo.  I'm ready! Bring on Vermont 100!

Friday, June 29, 2012

A Rare Look at My Non-running, Non-biking Life

I spend a lot of time with old people. I don't mean old like me, I mean old like 80's and 90's and on a rare occasion, 100's. And most of the ones I see are in their right minds and living at home. I like old folks. I like the way they say what they mean and after they say it, they don't make apologies or take anything back.

Last week I forgot to bring a birthday card to a woman who was turning 90. When she realized I didn't have a card for her, she gave me Hell. She didn't pretend she didn't notice or didn't care, because she did notice and she did care. She plunked down into her kitchen chair with her arms crossed over her chest and said, "Well Good Night!" making it sound like a swear word, "I thought you were a nicer person than this. Everybody else remembered my birthday." So I stopped by later with a card and she was thrilled. "Well Good Night!" this time as an exclaimation of joy,"Aren't you sweet!"

A few days ago, a woman misunderstood the statement from her insurance company and believed I was pocketing an extraordinary amount of money each time I visited her. "No wonder you always seem happy to see me," she said, waving the statement in my face, "I'd be happy too if I was making that kind of money!" When I explained that our visits supported an entire agency, not just the clinician who made the visit, she put the paper away and offered me a cookie.

Old men in this part of the country are very practical. Yesterday an elderly gentleman proposed to me saying, "I need me a young one with a good back so she can mow the lawn and weed the garden." When I pointed out that I was already married, he said in a flat, serious tone, "well, ask around. Tell your friends I have nice eyes, or something like that."

One of my favorite things about working with old folks is the compliments I get. It is very common for me to be mistaken for a teenager several times in the course of my work day. "What?! You have grown children? I thought you were just a kid yourself!" or, "Aren't you a little young to be a nurse?" These comments are wonderful to hear...even if a little later in the conversation the flatterer will usually admit, "My vision is terrible. I can't see a thing!"

Many of them, on first meeting, will exclaim, "My, you're a wiry one, aren't you!" as they squeeze and poke my arms and ribs like I'm some sort of farm animal. This is followed by something like, "You need to eat more." or "Tell your husband to stop working you so hard so you can put some meat on your bones." I normally don't tell people I run, but admit to it if they ask. The ones that ask are usually ones that ran themselves when they were younger. Believe it or not, running is nothing new!

One old gentleman I visit on occasion still runs the streets of Portland. He does it in Dickies work pants and a tucked in white dress shirt. He wears Walmart running shoes. I've seen him running, he can move! He likes to stop the young runners on the Back Bay path and talk running with them, so some of you may have met him. He always has a big smile on his face when he brings up the subject of running. "It's like a drug for me," he says.

I once visited an older man in downtown Portland who claims to have won one of the early Portland Patriot's Day Races. The way he described that race made me believe it. It went something like this, "yes, Joe was ahead and Jimmy was right behind me. I knew Joe always went out too fast, so I wasn't worried about him, but Jimmy had a kick. So we rounded that last corner and started up that little incline..."  He gave a stride for stride description, including what color shorts he was wearing. He probably relives that race in his head all the time. I wondered how often his children and grandchildren have heard the story.

There is a 90-something woman I see regularly who has taught me a lot about happiness. She gets a thrill about every little thing that happens. One time she excitedly showed me a new bottle of laxatives her neice bought for her, "Look at the gift my neice gave me! Isn't this great?" and she meant it. She often shows me uplifting stories or pictures she likes from newspapers or magazines, and chuckles with glee as she explains them or reads them to me.  She got a piece of corn bread with her Meals-on-Wheels once, and you'd have thought it was Christmas!  She once watched a stump in her backyard with binoculars all morning, thinking it was a deer. She was so excited, I hated to tell her it was a stump. When she finally realized she'd been watching a stump for hours, she was even more tickled than she had been about the deer.  If you ask her what the secret to happiness is she'll tell you, "Just choose to be be happy. It's a choice."

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Camp, Biking, Running, and Gardening

Kevin and I spent a three day weekend mountain biking the Kingdom Trails and painting the camp. We both hate the "Old Caboose Red" that so many camps and barns wear, so it was a priority to change the color of our camp as soon as possible. Without much discussion, we agreed on what we like to call, "National Forest Brown." This is the color that all state and national forest buildings seem to be painted. We easily found the color in Lowes paint department, but for some reason they call it "Mulch."  The paint job is coming along very nicely. Camp is starting to look like a little ranger station. Soon people will be stopping by asking for maps and directions and to use the rest room.

This past weekend was NEMBAfest at the Kingdom Trails. Kingdom Trails had a big turn out and the entire town got into the action with "Welcome NEMBA" signs and banners at businesses and homes. I heard that over 800 mountain bikers registered for the event (which gives them access to the expo, events, camping, shuttles, trails and lifts) and many, many more just bought trail passes and lift passes. Most of the event was centered at the Mountain, with shuttles out to the Darling Hill trails. Kevin and I avoided the mountain and enjoyed the event by riding the Darling Hill trails. When we attended NEMBAfest at Bear Brook, we always missed all the events and expos because we were out riding the trails. We never did make it back in time for the food even once at Bear Brook! So this year we didn't even try, we just rode. The weather was great and the trails were in good shape. We rode ourselves into complete uselessness by the end of the weekend. We had to quit our ride early Sunday when we both realized that our legs had turned to quivering blobs of Jello.

Kevin's mountain biking friends from New Hampshire joined us at the campfire on Saturday night. They were staying up at the mountain and volunteering at the event. We never did run into them on the trails. We had to use every piece of furniture we had when they came to visit and some still had to stand. We aren't quite set up for entertaining yet. We had a nice visit and Kevin got a chance to catch up on all things New Hampshire mountain biking related.

Back at the home front in Kezar Falls, we have been having good success with our gardens. Fresh vegetables are on the way! Mother Nature has been very good to our gardens this year.

Vermont 100 still looms in the near future. My original pacer, Bob D had to withdraw as the race he helps direct happens to fall on the same weekend this year. He apparently has been busy recruiting another pacer for me because I have been getting offers left and right. Bob N is going to be the man for the job, I believe.

Training is going well (on a low key kind of level). On Friday Kevin dropped me off on the way to camp so I could run the rest of the way on hard packed uphill gravel road in the hot sun with deer flies buzzing in my hair, which is as close to Vermont 100 race day conditions as I can get. I have been running Green Mountain and the Ossipee River Trails regularly and will get at least one more long run in on the Leavitt Plantation Trails before my taper. As long as I don't get too ambitious, I should do fine. It would be nice to have a new buckle to add to my collection, but as I run the race I will try to keep in mind the famous words of my friend Joe, "AFF beats a DNF."

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Week in Review

 Last week I ran up and down Green Mountain on two occasions and ran lots of easy trail miles on local trails. Yet, I still don't feel like I am actually  training, I'm just running and riding and having fun. While everyone else is racing every weekend, I'm off in the woods meandering. Sometimes I feel a little guilty about this. Should I be racing more? Am I no longer a real runner since I am doing more of the Forest Gump sort of thing than the Steve Prefontaine thing? Then I come to my senses and I wonder, why is everyone I know racing all the time? Do they actually enjoy it?  Where do they find time for hiking and mountain biking and kayaking and trail work and gardening? I have to do what's right for me. I'm loving life so I'm doing something right.

I have the Vermont 100 coming up and it is going to be my first "race" in a very long time. I know the fitness is there, but will I be able to find my race mode?  Probably not, but I think I will be fine. Feeling competitive will get you nowhere in a hundred miler.

I am finishing up my working weekend. It's been busy, but I fit in an awesome 12 mile run Saturday after work. I had noticed, while driving between patients' homes in the Standish/Windham area, that there is only a surprisingly short stretch of road between accesses to two of the trails I run frequently. For a couple of months I have been waiting for the opportunity to connect them into a nice loop. Saturday, all the pieces came together. I was seeing patients in the area, the weather was perfect, and I still had a few hours of daylight left at the end of my work day. It really was a great loop! The first 5 miles was single and double track dirt. Then came the three mile road connection, over big hills through beautiful farmland. Next was 3 miles of flat paved bike path followed by a last mile of traffic free dirt road. Wow, was that a nice loop! I can't wait to get out there again.

Kevin and I mountain biked for two and a half hours before work on Sunday. Scout came along and had a lot of fun. We finally got brave enough to ride the Leavitt Plantation single track. I've been running these trails for many months, but riding seemed like a terrible Taboo. I have explained this before, but I'll briefly tell you again. The single track mountain bike trails were built on private land (with permission) by a man who makes a living doing guided trips on his trails. Then the land became property of the town and was opened to the public. The man continues to run his business and does not welcome mountain bikers to use his trails without permission. It's a bit of a sticky situation.

I run there all the time and never see anyone. Wouldn't you know it, on Sunday about a half hour into our ride we met up with a man and a woman walking the trail. Once we got past, I whispered to Kevin, "was that him?!" in a paranoid sort of way. It wasn't, and we moved on. Just as we were getting ready to start uphill on the next trail, we saw mountain bikers coming down from the trail, so we stopped to let them by. The first three went by and I whispered again, "Was that him?!"  Kevin said, "no, but that is him, coming down next." And Kevin casually rode down the fire road out of sight and I followed. We hid in the bushes (not really, we just hid around a curve in the road) for a few minutes and then continued our ride. What a crazy situation! We have the right to be out there, yet we hid.

The trails were fun and challenging. I have been riding them in my mind every time I have run out there. I would think "could I get my wheel over that?" and "I would have to swing wide here to approach the bridge at the correct angle." and "This loose dirt on this steep long hill could be a problem." and "I'm definitely walking my bike around this."  So it was great to actually get out there on the bike. Most of the spots I thought would be difficult were do-able. Some spots I never imagined would be a problem on the bike, were.  We enjoyed ourselves and never did get into trouble. It was a great way to set myself up for a good work evening.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Lone Wolf or Wolf Pack on the Trails?

I ran alone for 5 hours of hilly Leavitt Plantation Trails on Friday without seeing another person for the entire time. I kept thinking how lucky I am to live in an area where I can get out into the woods alone and enjoy complete solitude and tranquility. This led me to thinking about how different many of my running friends feel about being alone on the trails. There are some who, when shown a beautiful network of trails, immediately say, "someone has to put on a race here! Why is there no race held here?!" as if showing three hundred runners a single track trail system is going to make it a better place to run. These are the types that can tell you their exact pace and distance and elevation change thanks to GPS, but admit that they didn't notice the Red Fox in the field, the newly felled beaver tree, or  the call of the Raven up in the pines above. As long as they are enjoying what they are doing, it's all good.

There are many who want to run the trails in groups, maybe to help pass the time or distract them from the task at hand. For them trail running is social. Their Blogs and Facebook posts read something like this, "Susan and I talked about the benefits of minimalist shoes for the entire run and it was over before I knew it. I didn't even notice which trails we ran on." And it's competitive for some. They write stuff like "Me and Mark ran stride for stride up the first rise, but Tony caught us on the slight down. Luckily, I had something left at the end and took them both before we got to the summit."  I enjoy reading  and hearing about other people's take on the trail experience.

 Then there is the "safety in numbers" philosophy that a lot of female (and probably a few male) runners and hikers go by. On many occasions in the White Mountains, I have been asked by other hikers on the trail if I was scared to be out there all alone. Two women hiking together on the ever popular Hedgehog Mountain even admitted that they were a little worried with just the two of them together. How sad, they are missing out on something special!  And some people just don't like to do anything alone. How many times have I been out with a group and one woman decides to visit the restroom and one or two others feel they need to keep her company?

I carried those thoughts over to the weekend of mountain biking at the Kingdom Trails. I don't have that same love-to-be-alone feeling on the bike as I do on foot. For one thing, I have a history of getting hurt on the bike, so it's nice to have someone with me. I have ridden alone and enjoyed it, but not as much as I enjoy riding with Kevin. I have also done a few group rides on the trails and found them to be quite fun. But mostly I just like to ride with Kevin. There is no need to discuss or debate which trails to ride, we are both flexible and open minded about things like that. There is no competition between us whatsoever. Technical stuff? Kevin might gain quite a bit on me and have to wait at some point down the trail. Crazy fast downhill? He lets it rip, and I tap my brakes the whole way down.  Long up hill near the end of a ride? I might finally have to wait for him. But mostly, we just move along together with a smile.  If there is a rider coming up from behind at a faster speed, we pull over. If we come up from behind on someone who is moving too slow for us, we stop and take a break if there is no easy way to get around. We're pretty relaxed about that stuff, even though we're working pretty hard on some of our rides.

There are a lot of mountain bikers on the Kingdom Trails on the weekends, but there is plenty of room to spread out and find your own space. Strangely, some riders instead chose to chase us down and pass, only to stop for a rest as soon as they get by. Or a group of riders will jump on their bikes and start pedalling as fast as they can when we go by, when they had been taking a break until they saw us coming. Others will crank up their speed (complete with grunts and panting) to avoid being passed. One guy in a flashy roadie jersey chased me down after we passed him on Sunday. I swear he was setting himself up to fight me for first dibs on a narrow long bridge! Crazy stuff, and dangerous. I stopped just before the bridge when I heard him huffing and puffing behind me.  Kevin stopped and let him and his two slower friends go by after he got over the bridge. And guess what? We passed them right back again about a hundred yards down the trail without ever changing our speed or effort. It can be annoying, but I don't think any of those riders are being malicious, they are just having fun in their own ways.

I ran trails for many years before I ever raced trails. I ran tons of road races at all distances and my first Ultras were road Ultras. I still remember when, many years ago, Ultra legend KW asked me why I didn't do trail races. My answer without giving it a thought was, "I don't want to ruin trail running for myself." Well, I've done plenty of trail races since that time and enjoyed them for the most part, but I think on some level I still feel like I did back then. Let's face it, I'm a bit of a lone wolf  on foot(although I don't mind running with the pack on occasion.)  And on the bike I prefer to run alone with my partner. Hoooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooowl!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Running in the Rain

It was a cold and rainy weekend in Maine and in Vermont, so we decided to stay home for a change.I had a very nice run in the rain at the Leavitt Plantation single track on Sunday. Scout had run into something and bruised his shoulder a few weeks back, so we had him on anti-inflamatories with no running for several days, and then light running for a few more days. Kevin took him out with the mountain bike Friday evening and reported that he did fine, so I took him with me Sunday. He ran the trails with great enthusiasm and no limping afterwards, so I think he's back to one hundred percent.

We stayed on the more solid, higher trails for Sunday's run. Running in mud is fun, but since Kevin got me started doing trail work with him, I have a new appreciation for staying off the trails when they are muddy. Funny how a little manual labor can change a person's habits! The trails we ran on Sunday had some standing water in spots, but the ground beneath it was solid. I was soaked through to the skin within about a minute. But as long as I kept moving, I stayed warm. It is nice to feel my legs getting stronger and faster each time out there. There are some good hard climbs, but I don't have to walk any of them at this point. I also try to get a little time in on the gravel roads, as there are plenty of them on the Vermont 100 course.

After I went home and dried off, I headed back out into the woods to help Kevin clean up the Woodchuck and White Tail Trails on the Ossipee River. I was already exhausted when I got there, but managed to help out some. It was fun seeing and hearing the river so high and so fast. I wouldn't be surprised if we saw some flooding around here in the next few days.

I have Friday off from work and will head back out for a six hour run without Scout. Most participants in a hundred miler lead up to their race with other shorter Ultras. I just don't like to race! Hopefully I am doing enough training to make up for the lack of racing. Time will tell.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Runnin' and Ridin'

 My Blog has been pretty quiet lately, but that doesn't mean I haven't been doing anything! The weather has been great so we've been up to camp in East Burke almost every weekend for mountain biking. We've been out on the local trails in the evening after work for runs, walks, and rides. I've also been running my long runs in the hilly Leavitt Plantation. 

The Leavitt Plantation is great fun. Just when I think I've found everything there is out there, I stumble upon another trail or tote road. Four or six hours of running goes by in a flash. The hills out there are killers, but they feel a little easier each time. I definitely feel fit with two days of mountain biking and five days of running each week, but I don't know if I am hundred miler fit. I only get two long runs in each month due to time constraints. I've been consistent with this for many months so maybe that will be enough.

Local mountain biking and running just got a little better. Kevin finished the Bootlegger Trail a few weekends ago. It is a beautiful loop trail on an island in the river. All together, we have about 5 miles of  single track out there now, plus the ski road and snowmobile trails. It's funny how fast the local people find the single track trails. We saw evidence that people were out on Bootlegger long before it was finished. And then on the day Kevin was out there finishing clearing the last piece, he met up with a female runner who told him she had been running the trail since early Spring.
Buying the camp in East Burke was a great decision. We love spending time there. Northeast Vermont trail conditions are as good as they get right now. Most weekends we get two good rides in. The Kingdom Trails are such fun to ride! We'll ride and ride until one or both of us suddenly announces, "I've got nothing left." Then we'll wobble back home and relax at camp or go out to the pub. I sure could get used to that kind of life every day! We dream out loud about quitting work, selling everything we own, and moving up to our one room cabin in the woods. Then one of us will remember that we'd still have to be able to afford good wine and nice steaks, so it couldn't work out.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Vermont Mountain Biking

We had another wonderful weekend in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. I ran from camp with Scout Saturday morning for about an hour and a half. We explored the tote roads and snowmobile trails in the woods behind the camp. Just when I thought I didn't know where I was and would have to back track for another hour and a half of running to get back home, Scout went ahead about twenty feet and turned to look back at me. He waited there until I caught up and then he showed me a little deer path that cut right across to the trail we had started out on, about fifty yards from camp. Sometimes I wish I had a dog's sense of smell!

We followed that with about three hours of mountain biking on the East Branch side of Darling Hill, fitting in as many trails as we could. Sunday was a hilly three and a half hour ride on the West Branch side. Holy cow, were my quads aching! Something that hurts that bad has to be good for me!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Fun in the Woods

Saturday's Big A 50K at Mount Aggie was my first "race" in over a year. I needed a long run and I wanted to see my Ultra friends, so the Big A was a good fit. Bob D ran the first loop with me. He has a marathon coming up and only wanted to run one loop. The 7.8 mile loop was rough and tough and lots of fun. I was told after the race, that the 50K included 12400 feet of climb and decent. I believe it! Twenty-eight runners started and I landed somewhere in the middle of the pack on that first loop, and stayed there throughout the run. I felt relaxed and ran well within my limits. I wasn't sure if I could run the entire 50K or would have to stop after three loops. I knew twenty four miles was well within my reach, but I wasn't sure about 31. I'm still building up the length of my long runs in my Vermont 100 training, so this was a good test to see how that was going. I ran the second loop alone, but could see Lori and her friends up ahead now and then.

Third and fourth loops, I was completely on my own. I had no idea where I was in the field and didn't care at all. I was really enjoying myself. I am totally happy when I am by myself in the woods. Still, it was nice to come through the aid station and see Rich at the end of each loop, just to assure me I wasn't the only one left out there. I started to notice that there were less and less cars in the parking area each time around. I ran steady for three loops as planned. About three quarters of the way around for the third time, a fast young guy went shooting past me on a very rocky downhill stretch. I wondered if I was being lapped by the leader. It turns out that I was. After finishing three loops I thought, what the heck, might as well do the whole thing since I was feeling fine.  It turns out that all but 7 runners dropped out before the full 50K. I ended up finishing fourth over all.  My quads were sore and tired, but all things considered, I was pretty pleased with my effort.

Sunday, Kevin and I mountain biked at the Moat single track. I just puttered along on tired legs. Any climb whatsoever, felt like Mount Washington. Still, it was very fun to be out with Kevin and Scout on the trails. There's nothing like playing in the woods! It was definitely a weekend of fun and smiles!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Recent Stuff

     On Sunday I set out from camp in East Burke to run the same nice ten mile loop of dirt road and trail that Kevin and I had mountain biked a few weeks earlier. Running from camp always involves a steep downhill mile to start and a steep uphill mile to finish. In between those beginning and ending miles, there is nothing but more hills. This is tough stuff, and awesome training for Vermont 100. At the height of land, I could look across from the ridge I was running and see our neighbor's house near the top of our little mountain. In all directions there was field, forest, and mountain. What a beautiful part of the country Northeast Vermont is. The ten miles really flew by, despite my burning quads. I ended the trail portion down the beautiful winding single track of Moose Alley. This, unfortunately, was followed by a two mile climb on hard packed dirt road followed by that one mile of STEEP uphill I mentioned earlier. I ended up having to walk two brief stretches on the final climb, but I was pretty pleased that was all the walking I had to do. This run gave me a good butt kicking. But that was only part one of Sunday's fun.
     Part two was a mountain bike ride on the single track on Darling Hill. When we got out of the truck at Mountain View Farm at the top of Darling Hill, we realized how windy and cold it really was. I layered up with two fleeces over my long sleeved jersey, but that still didn't feel like enough. I threw fashion to the wind and put my winter coat on over those other layers. Half way down Pound Cake two guys passed me on their bikes. The second guy looked at me and chuckled and shook his head. I warmed up by the end of the first trail and stowed my wadded up jacket in Kevin's Camel back. OK, maybe I was more embarrassed than warm, but I went without the jacket for the rest of the ride. We covered a lot of ground and rode a lot of hills. I work a lot harder than Kevin does on the technical stuff. Where he lifts and lightens the bike, I power over things with pure grit. It takes a lot out of me!
     Monday and Tuesday were easy runs on the Ossipee River Trails with Scout. Monday, my legs felt like cement blocks. Tuesday I felt light and fast! I was happy to only have one feel-like-crap day after my hard effort Sunday.
     I will be running some, or all of the Big A 50K on Saturday. I haven't built my long runs up to that kind of distance yet, but if I run easy enough I can probably finish. Either way, it will be a fun long run with friends.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Taking the Bad With the Good

Just when I have made my peace with being old and slow, Meghan Arbogast had to go and prove that 50 isn't too old to run well at Ultra distances. Her performance at the World 100K Championship race was quite inspiring. Still I struggle on, heavy legged and...slow. I am putting a good effort in and covering the miles. I'm enjoying myself out in the woods. I just don't have the speed, spring, or flexability that I used to. Some days are so bad that I think to myself, "that's it, it's time to move on to something else. No more running for me." I had one of those days Tuesday this week. Then I'll have a day where running feels effortless and natural. I'll find myself thinking, "Wow, I'm so strong I didn't even feel that huge hill I just ran up!" I had a day like that yesterday. I won't even talk about Tuesday's bad run. Yesterady, on the other hand, is worth talking about. I ran with Scout on old unmaintained town roads in Porter. These are hilly and rocky and fun. We did about 8 miles and loved every minute of it. I used these roads to train for Massanutten in the past, but hadn't been on them for a while. I forgot what excellent training trails they are! I ran out and back to avoid taking Scout out on the roads. This worked well because we climbed all the way out and then cruised downhill all the way home. On the way back I forgot all about being old and slow. I was feeling that old spring and speed. And it felt GOOD!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Runnin' in Style on the Moat Single Track

I hate running with my Garmen Forerunner. I don't like the way it teases me with a painfully slow increase in the mileage count. I don't like the way it makes me compete with myself to keep the average pace up where I think it should be, and then makes me watch as the average creeps to an unacceptably slow number as I run up a huge hill or over rugged terrain. I can't stand it when I think I am virtually flying down an easy stretch of trail and the average pace should be getting back where it belongs, only to notice I have lost the satellite signal and the numbers aren't changing at all. I hate it when I forget to hit the stop button for a pee break or forget to hit the start button after a pee break. It's upsetting that the smallest setting on the band is still big enough to strap around my thigh and the watch face itself is bigger than my palm. I loathe that when I download the data from my run onto my PC, the speed, distance, and elevation graph comes out all choppy and unreadable. When I trouble shoot this online I am told I need to purchase and download all sorts of stuff to correct my device's errors. The only time I love my Garmen is when I take it off and throw it into one of my desk drawers for a few months.

Today I ran 20.3 miles on the Moat area single track in just under 4 hours and I could have figured that out pretty accurately by checking my car clock before I left and after I got back. I don't care about my max speed (4.8 minute mile pace! -probably when I was sliding on my ass down that steep gravel hill) or my average pace (10.6 minute miles). I don't want to know my slowest pace (20.2 minute mile) or what my elevation gain was (8313 feet). I don't want to slide the data over to Google Maps and create a nifty picture of my loop (my device makes a choppy blocky zig zag line instead of the nice smooth loops everyone else seems to get). And I don't want to post all the charts, graphs, and maps on facebook. Honestly, I just like to run in the woods.

Not only did I wear my Garmen Forerunner 305, I also wore a running skirt and a snazzy lime green cami. And I haven't admitted it to anyone before now, but I've been running in shoes that are classified as minimalist for all my runs for over a year now. What is this world coming to? I normally have a style all my own which does not include fancy running clothes, trendy shoes, bright colors, or matching outfits, especially not in the woods! The shoes, Saucony Peregrines, work for me because they are light, flexible, and comfortable. They can't help it if they are a minimalist shoe, so I don't hold it against them. And I have to admit, the skirt worked out pretty well. It didn't cause any rubbing or chafing. Maybe I will become one of those stylish trail divas yet! But I draw the line at animal prints. If you ever see me in pink zebra stripes or lavender leopard spots, just shoot me.

I really hoped to run longer today, but I took Scout with me and he reached his limit about 3 and a half hours into the run. I will have to start leaving him at home on long run days now that my mileage is getting up above his comfort zone. He'll still get plenty of trail runs in on my other days. My next long run will be next Tuesday and I hope to get back to the Moats for it. I am only fitting in two really long runs a month on my two weekdays off from work that I have each month. I am also getting in one speed work day, one hill work day, and several moderately long trail runs each week. It feels like plenty. I think I'll be fine for Vermont. Instead of running the traditional weekend long run, I'd rather spend my weekends doing things with Kevin that we both enjoy like mountain biking, trail work, hiking, and kayaking. I have struggled with the "weekend long run" for my entire life. It never felt right. My kids probably still hold those weekend runs and races against me! This new balance makes me feel very well rounded and happy.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Trail Miles

Yesterday, Mary and I ran ten trail miles from the ball field on Route 35 in Standish to Sebago Lake and back. We were quite a bit slower than last week. we blame this on dirt and hills verses pavement and flat. We only managed two pickups, but they were longer and hillier than last week's pick ups. I admit, neither of us felt too peppy yesterday, but we got it done.

Today I will be back on the Ossipee River Trails after work. Running there is always fun and effortless. I love my home turf!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

We've Still Got It!

Mary and I met for a ten miler on the rail trail between Standish to Windham after work today. A while ago, she and I had made some sort of vow to start speed work and get back into racing shape starting this April. I don't know what I was thinking agreeing to something like this. I may have been drinking at the time.

As we set out this evening, I was hoping Mary had forgotten all about the speed work idea. I decided to just not mention it. But after about three miles, Mary stopped in the middle of a story about her family life and said, "See that sign up ahead? Let's go!" So I went. I was able to run fast enough, but I felt very clumsy and awkward. It just didn't feel smooth or natural. About a half mile later we fell back into our easy pace. Apparently Mary didn't feel all that graceful with her fast pace either. She told me she felt like comedian, Jerry Lewis flopping down the trail with her arms flailing. On one of our later pick-ups, a couple walking their dog actually backed up off the bridge they were starting out on and shoed their dog and themselves off the trail when they saw us barrelling down on them. We'll have to work on our style and grace.

We did a total of four pick-ups of about a half mile. It didn't kill us so we decided to meet for more of the same next Tuesday evening. Hey, we might be middle aged has-beens, but we like to think we've still got it!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Trail Work on the Ossipee

Yesterday was a great day to be out on the trails. The sky was blue and the temperature was pleasantly cool. The river gurgled and splashed beside me while the birds chirped in the trees. Kevin went up ahead to finish the initial clearing of the new loop, using loppers and boots to push dead fall and loose rocks aside. I started at the beginning of the loop doing what I like best, working down to the dirt with my rake. There is something strangely satisfying about watching a flagged route through the woods become a trail. After Kevin completed the loop, he joined me for the ground work. He uses the McCloud for this. That tool is too heavy for me since I've had my shoulder surgery, but it does an excellent job of removing the top organic layer and getting down to the dirt. Anyone can drag a rake through the woods, but to make a trail sustainable and flowing takes some work and some know-how. Luckily Kevin has the know-how. He has designed a narrow meandering single track that works perfectly with the terrain and the setting of the island.

The island we are working on has a lot of debris left behind from what we believe was a log drivers camp, probably in the nineteen forties judging by the bottles we have found. Some might call it litter, but Kevin and I both find this stuff fascinating.

We missed the trail work at Bear Brook Saturday, as we just couldn't get out of bed early enough. But we did get out there for a nice mountain bike ride later in the morning. Kevin and I started our ride on the steady uphill of Hemlock, hoping to find the trail crew still working. Starting a ride with a climb just about kills me, ugh. We found that the crew had already come and gone. The NEMBA folks had already cleaned up the logged section of Hemlock. This made Kevin happy. He had built this trail himself and was a little sorry to see it logged so heavily. Now it is completely ridable again! We owe NEMBA a trail work day for that, and we'll be sure to get out of bed in time for the next one.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

I ran the wonderful single track of the Leavitt Plantation for four hours this morning. It was a beautiful sunny warm day and I felt like I had the entire forest to myself. Much of the enjoyment for me is exploring the area and trying to figure out how all the trails and roads fit together. I am also always on the look out for trails I haven't found yet. I could easily spend an entire day out there and never get bored. I feel so fortunate to have so much of the woods and trails in this part of Maine open for public use, yet not advertised or formalized. I never saw a soul, except for a bunch of turkeys and a few deer.

But... there was someone out there with me. This track was not there on my first pass through. Barefoot mountain man perhaps?

This is typical of the footing out there. But it is a lot hillier than this photo shows!

Sunday, March 11, 2012


Cross country ski conditions in East Burke are terrible right now. They had sled dog races on the trails last week and a big organized mountain bike ride on the trails yesterday. Imagine all this on a light base to begin with. So what was a cross country skier to do while in East Burke this weekend? How about downhill skiing for the first time in 25 years? Somehow, the idea seemed like a good one while sitting in the Tamarack after several beers last night. This morning I wasn't feeling quite as bold.

Kevin told me, "it's simple. When you want to go faster, think french fries, skis parraellel and straight ahead. When you want to go slow, think pizza, ski tips together making a wedge like a slice of pizza." I spent all day on the mountain thinking pizzaaaaaaa!!!!!.

With temperatures in the fifties, very few people on the slopes, and a beautiful veiw of Willoughby Gap, I fell in love with Alpine Skiing in a matter of minutes. I had sworn it off because of crowds, lift lines, clear cut swatches down mountains, condos, and designer clothes. Well, I never skied Burke Mountain before! There were mostly locals on the mountain. Nobody seemed to have an attitude and the slopes weren't crowded at all. It doesn't hurt that when we walked into the Tamarack at the end of our skiing, Tamara knew what we wanted to drink before our butts hit the bar stools, and the French Onion Soup was the best I've ever had. What a fun day! I can't wait for next time. I hope to be able to think, French Friiiiiiiiies!!!! instead of pizza next time out.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Fun Day in the Woods

Scout, dog tired after his longest run ever.

Late this morning I set off in my car heading South and East in search of runnable trails. For the past week, I've been killing myself running in the soft six to eight inches of wet snow that is covering the local trails. It has been very hard work, kind of like running through sand. Today, I felt I needed a break from it. Scout rode shot gun, peering out the windshield, nose up and sniffing, tail wagging. He knew what we were after and was willing to travel for a chance at fast trails before tonight's storm. My plan was to check out the trails along my southeast route in this order; Massebesic Experimental Forest, Vaugn Woods, then Mt Aggie. If I still hadn't found runnable trails I was going to continue on into New Hampshire and veer back to the West a bit with FOMBA and Bear Brook in mind. It might turn out to be a long drive, but my trusty side kick and I were on a mission.

We hit the jack pot at our very first stop in Waterboro at The Massebesic Experimental Forest. A short recognisance jog revealed a fifty-fifty mix of frozen mud and crunchy ice. I jogged back to the car to text Kevin about where I was running, something he likes me to do so he'll know where to send the search parties. I put on my Yacktrax while Scout ate some old wet newspapers in the parking area, his idea of carbo loading. Off we went.

I hadn't run in this forest in over a year because my work doesn't take me out to the area anymore. It felt good to be back! At some of the trickier intersections I laid out branches making an arrow so I could remember how to get back to the car if I had to back track. It took a while, but I finally realized that the sticks Scout kept running past me with, were my arrows. So much for that idea.

We ran for almost three hours, hitting every ATV trail, Conservation Corps Road, and snowmobile trail we could find. The snow mobile trails were in rough shape because of the lack of snow cover but other than scratching me up with brambles, they were OK. The ATV trails were in awesome shape. For much of my run I followed tire tracks from a lone mountain biker. Some areas had seen heavy foot traffic and a few ATV trails had seen motorized winter traffic, but a lot of our route had only animal tracks and the tracks of our mountain biker guide.

Things had warmed up a bit toward the end of the run and the mud was getting pretty soft in spots. As we approached the car, we passed some guys target shooting beside the dirt road. I found it a bit un-nerving to see that they were shooting at cut outs of humans with big red Xes to mark their hearts. Scout wasn't disturbed by the gun shots, but he didn't like the looks of those guys any more than I did. We made a wide berth around them.

This was Scout's longest run ever and he did great. He's almost a year old now and he has turned into a great running friend. We've built up to this gradually and carefully. He's a bit stocky for a distance man, but don't tell him I said so. We both had great energy today and wore smiles on our faces through the entire run. What a great day!