Thursday, January 31, 2013


I have avoided taking Scout running on the roads with me. While I love running the trails with him, I didn't want to run with him on a leash.  Scout tends to think of leash walking as an opporunity to sniff around and see what all the other neighborhood dogs and cats have been up to, causing multiple unplanned and sudden stops. Unpleasant while walking, but dangerous on the run. I am not a particularly graceful runner so it doesn't take much to trip me up.  Another concern I had was that Scout is an overly-enthusiastic runner. For him, running involves sprints, jumping jacks, tail chasing, and hurdling over large obstacles. Since he and I weigh roughly the same, I pictured myself being dragged along through those various antics.

Tonight I decided to bite the bullet and try a road run with him. As soon as he saw that I had changed into running clothes, the above mentioned antics began. He jumped over Kitty twice and chased his tail for three full rotations before we even left the house. I snapped the leash onto his collar and hung on.

We headed down the sidewalk at about 5 minute mile pace. He was pulling for all he was worth and I was just along for the ride. I wasn't even breathing hard, he was doing all the work. I felt like Sandy Pittman being short-roped up Everest by Lopsang. There was a lot of flooding along the sides of the roads but Scout didn't care. He dragged me right through the deepest parts. Just as I decided we needed to stop and re-group he came upon a pile of horse crap and stopped dead in his tracks and dropped to the ground to roll in it. I jumped over him and came to an abrupt stop when the leash ran out of slack.

Once I got him away from the horse crap we had a heart to heart talk. "Go ahead and pull," I told him, "but not hard enough to injure me, please." He seemed to understand because he calmed down. We started up again and he was still pulling but not as hard as before. Now, it was fun because I could move faster than usual while putting in the same effort as I usually do. Now instead of feeling like Sandy Pittman, I felt like a skijorer. While being short-roped up Everest may not be good sportsmanship, Skijoring is perfectly legitimate. We did four very fast miles. Boy, did we fly around the neighborhoods!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Brownfield Bog

I was ready for some different scenary on Friday, so I decided to drive over to Bridgton and run the snowmobile trails. I showed Kevin where I was going on the map, because he likes to know where to look for me if I don't come back when I'm supposed to. I loaded Scout into the car and drove off toward Bridgton. But as we were passing through Brownfield I veered off onto Bog Road and drove to Brownfield Bog instead.

The gate was closed for the winter, but a nice little parking area had been plowed out by the gate. The dirt road from there was packed hard snow. It looks like a snowmobiler went through at some point, and then lots of skiers and snow shoers had been over that. The resulting surface was perefect for screw shoes.

It's only about 2 miles from the gate until you hit water (or ice this time of year), but with a side trip here and there we were able to get about 5 or 6 miles in on our out and back run. The scenary there is very different than the rest of the region. It is flat and open with nice views of the surrounding hills. Pleasant Mountain could be seen very clearly from several points. I really enjoyed myself!

When I got home and told Kevin I hadn't gone to Bridgton after all, he said he knew I wouldn't make it that far without seeing somewhere else where I just had to stop and run. So true.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Little Mac Attack...and Retreat

With another disappointing snow year here in Maine, I feel lucky to have our little camp up in Vermont. There isn't a huge amount of snow up there, but definitely enough to get out on the snowshoes without feeling like its a fake. I really have an issue about using snowshoes on a surface that could be run or walked on without even sinking in a centimeter!

Sunday, Kevin, Scout, and I set out into the woods at the Victory/Burke town line. We were heading for a little mountain our map called "Little Mac." Temperatures were comfortable in the low twenties, but intermittent gusty winds and frequent snow squalls made things interesting. About an hour and a half into our hike, Kevin and I both stopped and looked at each other. It had been getting darker and darker, and now we could hear what sounded like a freight train coming over the ridge line. We were suddenly hit with blinding snow and winds that were strong enough to whip the big trees around above us. Scout, only a short distance ahead, disappeared from view as a gray curtain of snow dropped between us. When we called him he came bounding into view looking thrilled about the exciting weather.

We went on until the next intersection where we decided to turn back due to the unpredictable weather. I wanted to go on, but agreed to turn back after realizing that the area we were in wasn't like the well traveled and packed trails in the Whites. If we got off trail or stranded out in these woods, it would be a while before anyone found us, like maybe next hunting season. Instead of going back the same way we had gone in, we took a little cut off trail that was a screeching steep fast and fun downhill that took us to the North Pasture Ski Trail. The ski trail was packed well enough for me to do some running. I tried to run all the ups, which was exhausting because there were a lot of them and because I haven't been running much lately! As we headed back, the sun came out brightly and the winds died down...until about the last 100 yards which felt like we were in a wind tunnel. When we got close to the truck we saw where a big moose had been walking around just a short time earlier. We were sorry to have missed seeing him.

We sure enjoyed the crazy weather we experienced even if we didn't get to the top of Little Mac. We'll get it next time.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


The trails have become mush due to the warm temperatures over the past week. I ran on the wet slush on Saturday until my legs ached, but I've stuck mostly to the roads since then. I don't take Scout on my road runs and this disappoints him when he sees me head out the door in running clothes. So yesterday, I parked the car before I got home and ran from the rescue complex. I dressed in whatever stray items of clothing I could find in my car and a pair of running shoes that Scout had chewed up when he was a puppy. During the run I took a brief side trip onto the snowmobile trail, but it was wet, slippery, and not much fun so I returned to the pavement.

I stepped out of the woods just in time to see a local runner who passes my house quite frequently. The notable thing about her is how composed she always looks while running. Her outfit is always stylish and well matched, every hair on her head is in place, her running shoes are always spotless and bright and in a complimentary color to the rest of her outfit, and her running form is perfect.  She should do television commercials for running products.

Without her noticing, I fell in behind her and tried to keep up. I made up some distance when she stopped to take a brief walk break (Galloway method?) but the rest of the time I could only hold the same gap between us. Not only does she look good running, she moves pretty fast, too. I could imagine the drivers coming at us from ahead  saying, "look, there's the flawless runner... and today she has a poor tag-along homeless woman chasing her."  They didn't need to worry, I never caught her.

After the run it was time for my Insanity workout. This week Insanity moved up to the next level. So not only was I demoralized on my run, I was also humiliated by Insanity. The workout actually brought me to my hands and knees a few times. My fitness is improving, but I still have a way to go!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Back on Course

I have never been one to shy away from change. I believe, in life and trail running, we must keep moving forward and choosing  the paths that intrigue and call to us. A person can chose to live their life in a rut, which is kind of like running on a treadmill at a comfortable speed and a comfortable incline. You're not really going anywhere, but it's comfortable. Getting off that treadmill, layering up for the cold, and hitting the icy trails takes a bit of effort but it feels good once you are out there. I've found myself on that rutted trail at a few points in my life, and have always been able to muster the strength to climb out and bushwhack through to the right trail.

As I have (more than) hinted at, my current job has been dragging me down the wrong trail. So after over 25 years of providing patient care in one form or another, I am taking my skills and talents elsewhere. Next month I will start work as a consultant for long term disability claims. I am extremely happy and excited about this move. Regular work days that have a beginning and an end are what I crave. Being productive, focusing my energies, and seeing a project through to the end will be a welcome change. Re-claiming my non-working hours so I can regularly get out for a late day run, bike ride, or walk with Kevin and Scout will be a joy!  Not looking at work e-mails or taking work phone calls on my days off will be wonderful. Not working weekends, evenings, holidays, and on-call is going to feel like cheating after all these years.  I have been doing the happy dance non-stop for the past 5 days!

It's amazing what a good change can do for one's mental outlook and physical health. Think about going off course in a race. As soon as we realize we have gone the wrong way our pace slows, our steps become hesitant, we start tripping over things, and our thoughts become negative. This isn't conducive for getting back on track, its just the way we react.  Then after some wasted time and miles, we find the trail again and everything changes. Moments earlier we had been considering dropping out of the race, we were tired and disappointed, we just wanted to go home. Now, back on course, we suddenly feel energetic, positive, and ready to take on the world.

Today, for the first time in months, I have packed up my running gear to take on the road with me. Chances are, it won't happen. The work day promises to be as busy and time consuming as ever. But the fact that I have the incentive to give it a try shows what a boost this upcoming career change has given me. Who knows, I just might be able to sneak off into the woods at some point today.

Monday, January 7, 2013

More Fun in the Snow

I unexpectedly had a three day weekend off from work this past weekend and I made the most of it!  Friday morning, Scout and I ran the local trails while Kevin put in a half day of work at home. I wore my snowshoes and covered all the trails at least once. We were supposed to be back home to leave for camp by noon, but I hardly ever wear a watch and the time got away from me. We were having fun! I'd guess we did about 6 or 7 miles.

Kevin and I were happy to find good snow on the ground at camp, and more falling! It was just beautiful up in East Burke, Vermont. We skied at Burke Mountain on Saturday. This was my first experience skiing on fresh snow and I loved it. Kevin went up to the top of the mountain while I stayed on the easier trails on the lower mountain. I'm getting more comfortable on downhill skis, so its getting more and more fun. We wore ourselves out. We had trouble staying awake for dinner out and called it an early night.

More snow fell over night and was still falling gently through the day Sunday. I almost backed out of my plan to cross country ski solo while Kevin and Scout snowshoed because I wanted to go with them, but I stuck to my plan and I'm glad I did. Conditions were phenomenal! Kevin dropped me off at Kingdom Trails Nordic Center and I started out on the groomed trails. Only one or two skiers had been through before me. It was awesome! I was pleased that I felt strong and fast on the skis. I hardly got out at all last year and this was my first time out this year so I didn't know what to expect. After about 12 kilometers of fast groomed trails, I turned off onto North Pasture to make my way over about 5 kilometers of ungroomed trail back toward camp. I could see that one skier had been through before the last few snowfalls, but that was it.

Breaking trail was slower and more difficult than skiing groomed trails, but well worth the effort. It was so peaceful and still and beautiful. I just skied along by myself, smiling and happy. I have mountain biked and run this stretch of trail many times and I was comfortable about where I was and where I was going. When I came to the point where I had to turn off the trail and ski steeply down hill to Victory Road, I found a set of tracks from someone who had skinned up the hill on his skis, then headed off in a different direction from which I had come. His tracks were beautifully straight and parallel and I hated to do it, but I had to snow plow down the hill at an incredible speed, throwing snow everywhere and wiping out his trail completely.  I looked back up from the bottom and it looked like a tornado had been through. Oh well, I made it down without falling. As luck would have it, Victory Road had gotten enough fresh snow to cover the sand that had been spread on it. I was able to ski all the way back to Camp Road and only had to carry the skis for about a half mile.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Winter Fun and Fitness

Winter is upon us, complete with short days, slippery trails, and cold temperatures.  I love it! I have a feeling that it is going to be a good snow year here in the Northeast. We got jipped last year, so we are owed one.

Kevin, Scout, and I snowshoed the Ossipee River Trails yesterday to celebrate the new year. It is surprising and pleasing to see how much traffic has been out on the trails since the last snow storm.  The most popular trail, River Run, had a rock hard snowshoe packed tread. The more oscure trails had only seen a few tracks. Equestrian Sue and her trusty steed had been through the hard packed trail and fortunately, didn't post hole through in very many spots. The deer have been traveling up and down all of the trails in great numbers. The beaver have been busy gnawing down small trees and dragging them off to their dam. There was evidence that a lone hiker bravely crossed the cold water and found the Boot Legger Trail, no doubt following the snowshoe tracks Kevin and I left behind from previous trips.  I had to wonder out loud what he thought about those rollers Kevin incorporated into the trail for mountain biking fun. We didn't see any signs of fresh activity from the goat herder who has been known to frequent the area with his little herd of friends, but I'm sure he'll be out soon. I've been seeing a lot of posts on Facebook from snowshoe runners about the evil work of post holers. I'm not a snowshoe snob, let the goats and deer and hikers and trail runners and even equestrian Sue enjoy! If the land is open for public use, it's there for all of us.

Kevin and I hiked fast, taking turns leading. Scout ran ahead and circled around over and over again, covering three or four times the distance we did. My original plan was to do a loop with Kevin and Scout, then change into my Dions and run 3 or 4 miles. But our loop was a long one and I'd had enough by the time we were done so I called it a day. I did my Insanity workout when we got back and was surpised I still had enough energy to do those squats, jumps, lunges, and drills. I am on week four of Insanity and feeling fitter, more flexible, and lighter on my feet than when I started. And it's still fun!