Monday, November 25, 2013

Simple Joys

Ah the wonderment of a new trail, exploring a new area, trying something new...isn't that what life is all about? 
Staunton State Park
Saturday Dan and I got our first real babysitter and obviously took off to the trails. We wanted to stay within cell range and close enough that we could be home quickly if something happened...I know typical first time parents leaving their kids with a 17 year old babysitter. So we went to Staunton for a good run. First off about 2 minutes into the run Dan turned and asked if I had my small pepper spray that he makes me carry. I of course had forgotten it. "You know its always when you end up needing it that you forget it right?" Oh great I though he had to say it out loud...

Now that I was substantially less worried about James we continued down the snow covered trail. We started talking about how just a couple inches of snow on the trail made it seem like a whole new place. Every season seems like that. You think you know every twist and turn of a trail and then the leaves change and you're busy looking skyward, snow falls and the trail becomes this quite peaceful place where all you hear is your own breath and the snow crunching beneath your feet. The smell of spring on the trails is amazing and you just get lost enjoying the feeling of actual dirt beneath your feet and smelling all the fresh scents. Then summer hits and everything is green and you're running awesome so it just feels amazing to be out there. 

Staunton State Park
Well sometimes that's short lived. We got to the top of the big climb easily and cruised down to the old mill. After a debate we put down some fresh tracks on the Border Line trail. Quietly running along after about 1/2 mile we heard something. We both stopped in our tracks scrambling around. It was growling and huffing and stomping. My first thought was bear. I've had enough bear encounters to know one when I hear one. I think Dan was trying not to freak me out and had me almost convinced it was an elk or a moose. We still couldn't see it, which was what worried me the most.  We were right at a switchback so going back along the trail took us right to the noise, continuing along the trail would take us back that way too. So we armed ourselves with sticks and rocks and plotted our next move. Dan didn't much like my idea of bushwhacking along back until we hit our trail, but with no other options that's what we did. I figure I've been lost a million times if we couldn't find the trail I was confident I could get us back to the car. I had of course told Dan it was silly to carry a map, I knew the trails like the back of my hand!

Like all of my other bear encounters we managed back to the trail safely and were on our way. We decided to run back down Mason Creek, something we had both tossed around doing on many runs this summer and never actually did. Totally different trail in the other direction and also and awesome long downhill to just cruise. After we got back and were safe and James was safe (okay more than safe, he was having a blast with the sitter) Dan then said he was pretty sure it was a bear as well. 

With a light snow falling at Mt Pritchard and the Notre Dame game on in the background James and I were working on cruising around the coffee table. Last Christmas I saw countless photos of friends' kids standing at a window and watching the snow fall. I looked at those photos hoping one day James would be able to pull up to a window to watch the snow fall. I know it seems like such a small thing, but sometimes those are the things we hold on to. Watching the joy and fascination on the face of a child watching the snow. It may have taken a year to get there, but Saturday James stood at the window watching the snow fall. 

Week November 18 - 25

Miles Running: 48.5
Hours Hiking and Running: 9

Monday, November 18, 2013

The State of the Trails

Reforestation Camp Trails, Green Bay
Now there's a question for a geologist and environmental trail races result in unnecessary damage to the environment? People get pretty wound up about this, as it has been noticed in some recent discussions about qualifying races.

So what's the answer? No trail races? Should everyone just run on treadmills? Oh wait that uses electricity powered by coal plants. And likely the treadmill is in some concrete structure changing earth's albedo. So that doesn't help. Running on the roads presents many of the same issues with the concrete jungle. Then there are all the people that drive to trailheads. Now its not even just the trails that are damaged. These people, myself included, are just really out to get Mother Earth I guess. You could literally go in circles for months discussing which form of running creates the least amount of environmental impact.

Imogene Pass, Imogene Trail Run...seriously everyone
should experience this at some point in their life!
There are always going to be a few people who can't be bothered to throw out their gel packets at aid stations, who prefer to shortcut trails and in general don't respect trails. You're never going to completely solve this problem. But I think in general when you get someone in their first trail race and they see how unbelievably beautiful it is this person gains a new respect for trails and their environment. You can show pictures and talk a big game all you want, but the best way to get someone to understand is to show it to them. I'll never forget my first trail run. Now I didn't immediately run home and volunteer to help rebuild trails or make any sort of conscious effort to protect the trails. But it gave me a new appreciation for trails and I knew I wanted to run trails for a long time to come. I knew I always wanted there to be places like the Reforestation Camp trails we ran in college. I remember in one of my first trail races crested the top of Blue Sky basin and literally having to stop for a moment to take in how amazingly beautiful the view was. I had run a load of races in some pretty cool areas, but nothing captured my heart like trails.

This is my view of environmental impact - cleanup of a pipeline release
As someone who spends the majority of their weeks working on cleaning up petroleum hydrocarbon leaks from above ground and underground storage tanks I think there are bigger battles to fight than the environmental impact from trail races. I try to pick up pieces of gel wrappers I see on the ground when I'm out running. I throw out all my wrappers at aid stations, carry my own water bottle, I try to avoid muddy trails, don't shortcut trails...all the typical respect the trails things. But I'm also not going to start boycotting races with too large of fields (I may focus on smaller races just from personal preference) and I'm not going to start getting on races to reduce their impact. I've got bigger battles of my own to fight so I'll continue to do my small part and call it good. In my humble opinion the benefits of trail races outweigh the downfalls. 

Long live trail races!

Week November 11 - 17
Miles Running: 48.5
Hours Hiking and Running: 7.0


Another amazing trail view!


Monday, November 11, 2013

Let It Roll

We're working on choices...he ALWAYS picks cheese!
Yes that's cheese in his flashcard.
"Don't sweat the small stuff" I think I've heard that saying a million times. I don't know if it was James, just getting old or having seen too many moments being missed in life, but I think I've really learned to appreciate this saying finally. Of course each of us have our own small stuff and big stuff. Last week for me the big stuff was fighting Sephora to stop selling 'Celebutard'. I knew there would be people out there making horrible comments about our kids. Its just part of what happens when you put yourself out there like that. You just have to decide what's worth it. So for obvious reasons I stayed off the Sephora FB page, didn't read the comments on any of the news articles, it just wasn't worth it. Its not that I don't want to fight for acceptance and to end the use of the r-word, but you gotta pick your battles. I knew getting riled up over these comments wasn't going to help James so I left that one alone. All I can do is focus on what I can change. Someday somewhere someone will be mean to James. Its inevitable. Worrying about it now and how we're going to keep James from all these people is not the most productive way to handle the situation. Teaching James to stand up for himself and to be the better person, those are the lessons I want him to learn.

Its funny how this not sweating the small stuff has translated to my racing and really become an important part in being relatively successful. There were so many times I was worried my training run was a mile short from my plan and how that would affect my race. If I stressed out about every little thing during Leadville, or really any other race for that matter, I may very well still be sitting on a rock somewhere in Leadville. There are times when you feet are wet, but stressing out about getting a blister when you're halfway between aid stations isn't going to help. Stressing out because you can't find your perfectly flavored gel in your drop bag, your good gloves have gone missing or your headlamp batteries are almost deal isn't going to change your race. But if you focus on how you can solve the issue that is what will make it a good race. Lets face it over 100 miles something will go wrong. You can either let it destroy your race or deal with it, fix it and move on.

The beginning of the week my running was just off. I felt great, but my times were slow and my legs sluggish. I was beginning to get frustrated that I wasn't running better. Last fall almost every run was a PR. This fall I feel like I haven't had many solid runs. Of course last year my training peaked in the fall and this year my goal was to peak in August, which I was much more successful at doing. But then Friday I went out for my Friday 10 mile loop, as it has become known and I felt good like I had all week. I didn't look at my watch, but as I was turning onto my street I noticed I was actually breathing pretty heavy. Seriously hoping it didn't mean I was coming down with a cold I took it a bit easy heading down my street. Clicked stop on my Garmin and when I glanced down I realized I was indeed breathing heavy because I had just PRd that loop. Saturday the same thing. So maybe I just needed the mental break of not focusing on times and pace and to just have fun. Everything always seems to fall into place when I do that.

So time to stop sweating these damn invoices and go run up Green Mountain!

Week November 4 - 10

Miles Running: 47.5
Hours Hiking and Running: 8.5

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Sticks and Stones

Words...the very thing that keeps you going at a low point in a race can also be the very thing that tears you down.  There have been so many races where the only thing keeping me going is the crowd cheering, or your pacer telling you to keep going that you're doing great. I have quotes posted all over the wall of my office that serve as an inspiration to get me out to the trail every day, that I repeat over and over to keep taking one more step. Running at Staunton on Sunday one lady burst out cheering as I climbed up one big hill and another muttered "impressive" as I went by. They may be little things, but when your legs hurt and you're tired they mean everything to you.

Unfortunately we live in a society where often times words are used to bring people down. Sometimes intentionally and sometimes not. I was rudely reminded of the poor use of words this weekend. A friend of mine was out buying blush when she was offered a free gift with her purchase that contained a lipstick called "Celebutard". I almost fell over when I read what had happened. As the story ramped up I couldn't believe people were actually defending the name. Now I know this was partly because they were hired by Sephora to troll their pages and put issues like this to rest, but it still stings. I know "retarded" is commonly used and most of the time its not meant in a derogatory way. But people need to realize that its always derogatory. 

I know its very likely that one day someone will use the r-word in a derogatory way against James and I can't stand the thought of it. Its not because I'm over sensitive, its because its a cruel word. I can't think of a single instance where there isn't another word choice that would convey the meaning equally as well. And I certainly can't believe that "celebutard" is the only way to describe that particular lipstick. I really hope Sephora and Kat Von D decide to rename the lipstick or pull it from the shelves. But I also hope that someone who hears about this realizes that maybe they've used the r-word and are more cognizant about not using it in the future. The other thing that has amazed me is that what started out as a group of rockin' moms were discussing how disgusting it was that this lipstick was named as such and started posting to Sephora's Facebook page. Within 3 days the movement has really gained strength. Comments are popping up on Facebook, Twitter, Huffington Post, and various blogs. It has been a great reminder that we may all only have one voice, but when we come together all those individual voices can make up one powerful voice. 

Runningwise I was a bit off my game this week. Instead of my usual steady moderate runs all week I ended up with several short treadmill runs. So by Sunday I was really ready to stretch my legs out. I did my first long run since Bear Chase, 18 miles. I could definitely feel I hadn't been doing longs runs. I wasn't really sore, but just overall fatigued. Definitely felt good to get some good mileage in and especially a long run. I used to not feel right if I logged less than 30 miles in a week, now its up to 40...

Don't ever sit on the side of the trail, get up, take your one step and let that one step become mile after mile; and before you know it you will have achieved something great. Spread the word to end the word.

Week October 28 - November 3

Miles Running: 47.5
Hours Hiking and Running: 7.5