North Face 50k: Just Jump

When I was out to sea on the USCGC Mellon we were lucky enough to have a couple of swim calls.  That is when the ship stops and they let everyone jump overboard to have a good romp.  (It’s also a great way to get everyone smelling better when your water gets contaminated and you’re waiting for the tanks to refill, but that’s another story.) By the last swim call all of the girls in my berthing had jumped off the O-1 deck.  It’s higher than jumping off of the main deck and depending on when you catch the swell of the ocean it can be a LONG way down.

I was terrified of jumping, but all the other girls had done it, I knew it was safe and there was nothing holding me back but fear.  As I stood with my back against the O-1 bulkhead hatch staring at the open abyss to the ocean, my knees were shaking, my insides had an entire rugby team of dragons (not butterflies), and I was seriously considering just chickening out and facing the wrath of being the only girl who didn’t jump and the only Navy person who didn’t jump.  Instead, took a deep breath, and ran off the edge before I could talk myself out of it.  The Senior Chief who was standing shark duty said, “I knew it was you jumping.  You screamed, you ran out of air, you took another breath, and kept right on screaming until you hit the water.”  Well, duh, I mean holy crap balls that was scary.

I’m currently sitting on an airplane making my way west to Park City, Utah to (theoretically) run the North Face 50k.  I say theoretically because, well, Summit County has already gotten snow this year and they are predicting 4-7 inches more of the white powdery stuff tonight.  Yet, as I sit on this airplane watching the ground go by while waiting for biostatistics code to get spat out of SAS all I can think about is how I am feeling the exact same feeling as I did that particular day, scared.

Why? Why am I so terrified of this race?  Well, let’s start with the physical stuff.  I came home from my summer in Utah a little beaten up and it’s taken a couple of months of physical therapy to get me strong.  I’ve made leaps and bounds and the witchy one says that I will be fine, but there’s that shadow that lingers there.

Then let’s talk about the weather.  The last time I attempted to run in the cold and snow I got hypothermia.  So, yes, I’m terrified that that will happen again and this time I don’t have ShooterGirl close by to come and rescue me.

Finally, let’s talk about the mental aspect.  I crawled all over this particular mountain this summer, on purpose.  I spent multiple days a week learning her quirks.  All that said, I haven’t been at altitude for 6 weeks.  My boss didn’t help any when he said, “Oh man, you’re going to fry your lungs.”

So, yeah, I’m terrified.  I’m hopeful that there will BE a race to run.  I need to run this race.  I need to treat this like that jump off of the USCGC Mellon only without all the screaming.  I’m just afraid if I chicken out and don’t run I may never sign up for another 50k again.

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VHRTC Women’s Half Marathon: If you give a mouse a cookie the BK edition

You know it’s weird you know random people in the middle of the woods, right?-ShooterGirl

It’s no secret I find all of my emotions in the woods. Whether it be joy, anger, sorrow, they all come out when you are in the middle of the woods.  It’s a place of raw beauty and emotion.

Back in March I dragged my friend Granite Ginger onto the trails of Fountainhead for her first trail run.  She is a veteran road runner, having completed two Marine Corps Marathons.  She knows how to run road.  I think I threw her for a loop running on dirt.  I knew, though, deep down she was a dirt girl like me.  The more time we spent on the dirt the more I knew it.  So for her birthday I bought her an entry to the VHRTC Women’s Half Marathon.  Why?  A. It’s with my VHRTC family so I knew the race experience would be a positive one.  Then there’s B.  I really wanted to drag her permanently over to the dark side with me.

Running dirt requires a certain amount of gumption, stubbornness, and determination, something I know that G has in spades.  I had ZERO doubt in my mind that she was going to knock it out of the park.  Her on the other hand……

What’s funny is that I know she’s an ultrarunner. Why?  She doesn’t get happy until like mile 15.  I mean COME ON if that isn’t the definition of an ultra runner I don’t know what is.  On Saturday the joke became that trail running is like the children’s book “If you give a mouse a cookie” only the BK edition.

First it was, hey, let’s go run 4 miles of trail.  Then it was, well since you did 4 let’s do 10. Once we did 10  we might as well do 20, for MCM training, of course.  Once we did 20, well, then there was NO reason not to do the trail half marathon, I mean, the hills will be good training……Oh and since you’re already doing MCM in October, why don’t we do MGM in December I mean it’s ONLY 6 more miles…..

G did amazing.  Just like I knew she would.  She had a rough bad for a few miles, but then there was Juanitas Cantina and that made everything better.  Although, I think all the extra hugs from Bob didn’t hurt either.  By the time we got back to the finish line her husband and little one were there cheering her in.

I knew she could do it.  Now she does too.  Wonder if it’s too soon to talk about that 50k…..

 

Persistence and expectations

“Do not sit still; start moving now. In the beginning, you may not go in the direction you want, but as long as you are moving, you are creating alternatives and possibilities.”

-R. Costa

I am not a fast runner.  Nor am I an agile runner.  I put one foot in front of the other.  Some days it may be faster than others, but all days it is about the meditative act of putting one foot in front of the other.  As an asthmatic runner who is subject to the whims of Mother Nature I don’t run for time.  I don’t run for PRs. If they happen, great, if they don’t, great.   Every run I go out with no expectations other than to finish.  I am a persistent runner.

Before I even left for Utah I was experiencing pain in my left adductor.  I saw Magic Man in May when I was in Montana and that seemed to take care of it.  Flash forward into June and I was running/hiking my tush off.  The pain started getting to be too much so I went and saw an acupuncturist in Park City who treated my back because they said that is where the pain was coming from (they weren’t necessarily wrong).

Then during the Kings Peak trip the pain in my leg on the way back out to the campsite was so bad it took my breath away.  Luckily WindChime brought Motrin with her otherwise I don’t know if I would have made it back in any decent amount of time.  The pain persisted for the rest of the time I was out in Park City.  Granted most folks would have stopped running, but my time in the mountains was coming to an end and I was not about the give up that time.  I thought it was just sore from all the miles, not actually something wrong.

When I returned I decided something had to change.  Obviously there was something bigger going on that wasn’t getting fixed.  I decided to see a PT instead.  We went through all my old injuries (which were extensive when you add in the number of times I was ejected off a horse) and we started doing mobility testing.  I could tell you all the things not working properly, but I’ll sum it up as this; train wreck.  Basically I have tendons acting like muscles because my physical structure is so twisted that the muscles can’t move the way they are suppose to.  When I told her of all of my exploits she was stunned that I was even able to do half of it.

“Persistence”, I said.

It’s amazing how when you receive small tweaks how all of a sudden things get really freaking hard. My tush has never hurt so much.  Even my abs hurt from one of the deceptively simple exercises she has me doing to active the deep pelvic muscles that stabilize my pelvis.  I may never do another crunch again.

“You’re a witch!” I proclaimed during our third session.  She laughed.

“I’ve been called many things, but I don’t think I’ve ever been called that.  I’ll take it!” she replied laughing as she moved my leg around in the socket.

We started talking about my goals and plans for the fall.  I told her about the 50k monkey I want to get off my back.  “Totally within the realm of possible”, she said.

She asked me about the training run I have planned this weekend  We spoke about the 20 mile loop I wanted to do.  She looked at the elevation profile and quickly nixed that.  “Too much right now.  I’m ok with the miles, but not the elevation change.  We need to get you stabilized first. When you do go out I don’t want you to have any expectations.”

I hung my head.  Dammit.  I said, “I always run with no expectations so that’s nothing new.  What about the C&O?”

“That’s perfect.”

Sigh.  I know she’s right.  I know I have to listen to her.  I want to be fixed for the long haul because oh my how much I enjoy the up and surprisingly, now, the down.

Seeing my sadness of loosing my mountain running this weekend she offered this; “Just think, if you were able to do everything you’ve done with only half of you working with all of you working it should be a piece of cake!”  Make mine gluten free, please.

 

Kings Peak: The summit that wasn’t

For weeks I had been waiting excitedly for WindChime to join me in Utah.  She was coming out to do Kings Peak with me.  Not only is it the highest point in the Uintas, but it’s also the highest point in Summit County AND in Utah a trifecta.  For a geographic point nerd like myself that’s always an incentive.

We headed up there after work on Thursday and stopped at the USFS Ranger Station on our way out and the Ranger said, “Be off the summit no later than 1300.”  Got it.  We thought we had a good plan going in: set alarm at 0400, on trail no later than 0600, summit by 1200, and then back to camp.  Our plan included a mixture of running and hiking.  In my life things rarely go according to plan and this was no exception.

0400 alarm, indeed, went off.  We lay in the tent trying to figure out what we were going to wear as the weather decided to throw us our first hiccup.  It was cold now, we knew it was going to get hot, but when/if the rain moved in we were going to get cold.  Ah, Mother Nature she is such a fickle Queen.

We actually were on the trail by 0545 which was great, except the trail very quickly turned to mud that was as slick as a bar of soap in the shower.  So much for any thoughts of running.   We were pushing a really fast pace considering the distance that we had to cover taking few breaks.

As we went up and over Gunsight Pass we got excited thinking that we were almost there.  Then we dropped and dropped and dropped.  What the heck??  We checked the map twice.  Nope, we were on the right trail.  We crossed a snow patch and started heading up towards Anderson Pass.  The sky was turning an ominous shade.  We still had another 3-3.5 miles to the summit and we were going to start getting into the gnarly climbing.   We looked at each other and both said, “Well, what do you want to do?”

Neither one of us wanted to quit, but collectively we had enough miles (easily >10k) under our belts to recognize the danger.  Not only were we already above treeline, but we were going to be heading up and not a gentle up either.  We calculated that with the 3-3.5 miles left we’d most likely be on the summit by 1230 at the earliest.  That was cutting it a little too close.  Then not only would we have to beeline down the mountain, but we would have to go up and over Gunsight Pass again.  Oof.  With a heavy heart we made the decision to turn around.

As we crossed the snow field again we ran into a teenager and a chaperone who had decided not to make the summit.    The teenager looked rough.  We stopped and very quickly assessed his electrolytes were way out of whack.  WindChime gave him both Nuun and Tailwind in his bladder and I asked the chaperone if he had anything salty to eat.  There wasn’t much more we could do for them except hope that they made it to their campsite at Dollar Lake.

We started to pick our way back up Gunsight Pass when suddenly rocks started raining down from the pass itself.  Standing on top was a whole group of teenage boys who were chucking rocks down.  Every time a rock came careening over the edge Baby Trail Dog wanted to chase it.  “HEY! STOP THROWING ROCKS!!!”  we shouted up.  The other boys pointed at the offending boy, “Yeah, Carson, stop throwing rocks.”  When we crested the pass there was a group of about 10 boys with 4 adults sitting on the pass.  WindChime and I both highly recommended that they not summit.  We relayed what the ranger had said and the distance they have left to go. The adults in the group looked at us with disdain.  I mean, how could it be possible that two girls could actually know what they were talking about.   We shrugged and moved forward.  What they did was up to them.

Further down the valley trail we crossed paths with two guys that we had seen leaving the night before.  They had a wild dog that was not on leash.  We were surprised to see them heading up the valley so late in the day since they had hiked in the night before.  We passed along the same information that we had passed to the group on Gunsight.  The only difference was these guys had 3 additional miles before they even got to Gunsight. They brushed us off.  OK……

Back down the valley we went, through the muck, and over the river.  We debated back and forth.  Was that the right call?  Could we have made it?  Behind us the sky got darker and darker.  We caught up to group of three Rangers also heading for the trailhead.  When we exchanged our story with them and our decision not to summit they looked relieved.  “Good decision,” they said.  Well that answers that.

With approximately 5 miles left to the trailhead we began to hear the thunder.  We picked up our pace.  At least at this point we were semi-covered by trees.  The closer we got to camp the closer the storm got.  We decided to grab what food we could out of the cooler and dove into the tent just as the skies opened up.

Fourteen hours of sleep later we got up and made breakfast.  Just as we were packing up our campsite we saw the father/son duo that we had seen packing in on Thursday night come back to their truck.  We walked over to them.

“Did you summit?” Windchime inquired.

“Yeah, but boy were we glad we made it off the mountain. We thought about you guys as we were coming down.  Did you guys make it up?”

“No, we made it just shy of Anderson pass, but saw the storm and made the call not to go as we saw the storm rolling in.”

“Good choice!  There were some guys up on the summit when the storm rolled in and they got the crap scared out of them.”

She and I exchanged sideways smirks.  Huh, imagine that.

Even without summiting  we logged over 20 miles and we saw some gorgeous back country.  WindChime had two necklaces made one for her and one for me.  Mine has the latitude and her has the longitude of the peak.  While we may not have made it to the summit, we had an amazing time with tons of memories.

 

The perfect day: Unitas Lake Running

“I’m a tourist in my own state!” -MountainGoat

Some days everything just comes together. You wake up in the morning and make a snap decision to head to the mountains to run.  You reach out to friends at the last minute and they are remarkably free.  You get there and the weather and the trail are just perfect.  Today, was one of those days.

I’ve been incredibly lucky while I’ve been out here.  I’ve gotten to meet some really amazing, awesome, badass trail running women. They’ve welcomed me into their fold and have been incredibly warm.  I texted two of them this morning last minute and asked if they were interested in heading to the mountains to escape the heat.  It didn’t take much arm twisting, merely promises of a relatively flat trail and a milkshake, and MountainGoat was game.  After she had agreed she asked if it was ok if she brought a friend with her.  Hey, the more the merrier!

Neither MountainGoat nor Ibex had ever been up to this part of the Uintas so I was playing tour guide, which is funny if you think about it.  MountainGoat grew up here, but has only recently gotten into trail running.  I’ve been spending a lot of time for both work and pleasure up in these mountains and they have become comforting to me.  
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The trail that I had laid out was simple enough an out and back to Lake Seymour (or Meadow Lake depending on what map you were looking at) with only 1700 feet of elevation gain for the whole trip. One tiny caveat we were starting at over 9000′ and at one point in the course we were over 10k’.  We headed down the trail and it was SUPER runnable probably one of the most runnable trails I’ve been on in the Uintas.  MountainGoat and Ibex scampered off in front of me with Charlotte and I representing #teamcaboose for the day.  (Oh and in case you were wondering what that notch is I’ll get to that…)

IMG_3757The miles clicked by and we saw lake after lake after lake. The further away from the trailhead we got the fewer people we saw.  Up through Notch Mountain and over to the other side. The views were just amazing and the lakes just kept coming.

We arrived at Seymour Lake/Meadow Lake where we saw a wok hanging in a tree to which I said, “There is the endangered Wok tree, it’s the last of it’s kind.” Which of course elicited groans all the way around.  Hey I thought it was funny.  The mosquitos were thick so we didn’t stay too long.  I filtered some water out of the lake, filled my bladder, and we were off.

On our way back some of the campers had started a fire and, of course, the smoked followed me.  I wound up having to stop to dig for my inhaler, which turns out was in an accessible pocket all along.  Oops.  MountainGoat and Ibex were super sweet that they would occasionally stop and wait for Charlotte and I to catch up.  Where I would then apologize for being slow.  They were both super sweet about it.  Maybe some day I will be a fast kid….

IMG_3790As we came around the bend for the last lake they were waiting for us and I kidded in the typical whiny kid voice, “Mom….I wanna go swimming….” MountainGoat looked at me and said, “I’m game!”  We peeled off the trail and made a beeline for the shoreline.  Stripping our shoes and socks we waded into the ice cold water and it felt amazing.  (Hence the notch in the elevation profile.) By the time we got out to do the last mile to the trailhead none of us had any feeling in our legs!  Makes for some interesting running.

Today was one of those days that I will always remember.  I like days like today.  I hold on to days like today when I’m in dark places for days like today will always bring a smile to my heart.

Red Castle Lake: Eat you moron!

Do you know what happens when you pack food for your long training run but you don’t actually eat said food?  This….

https://giphy.com/embed/26FPy3QZQqGtDcrja

Friday afternoon I drove up to East Marsh Lake and snagged a campsite. I realized after I was settled that the actual trailhead was 2.6 miles to the south of where AllTrails said it was.  So my choices were to: move my campsite, drive to the trailhead, or suck up the extra 5 miles.  What kind of runner would I be if I didn’t suck up the extra 5 miles?  Plus. with the snow I was going to run in to I figured that by adding on the extra 5 I’d still be able to get the 20 in that I wanted to.

Saturday morning rolled around and the temperatures were in the teens.  Yes, you read that correctly teens.  In July.  I knew it was going to warm up as soon as the sun came up so baby trail dog and I snuggled up under every warm thing we had for another hour.   We got up and had some breakfast.  She managed to score a couple of sausages too.  Hey, she was going to run all the miles too.

I got my pack ready and I put all sorts of food in there.  I had Tailwind in my bag (with extra powder for my refill), M&Ms and dried bananas, and Picky Bars.  I tend to flavor my Tailwind light because mentally I need to actually chew something when I’m out there fora while.  So, I had 100 oz of water that should have had approximately eight scoops, instead I put four.  I packed the variety because I never know what I’m going to actually want.

As we started down the Forest Service Road I was in good spirits.  There was no time requirement I just wanted to get the 20 in.  We hit the trailhead and the trail was glorious.  No repeat of last weekend‘s rockfest!  Charlotte and I started clicking off the miles.  I’d stop for her to get a drink out of the creek at every opportunity.  Around mile 11 I realized something was wrong.  I was rapidly running out of gas, and that is definitely not a good thing when you are in the middle of no where.  That’s when I realized, hey moron you haven’t had anything to eat. I think the only reason why I didn’t crash and burn earlier is the little bit of Tailwind I had.

I reached into my pack and started shoving food down my face.  When I got to the creek right before Lower Red Castle Lake I stopped to use my filter to fill my water (which was almost gone) and add 4 scoops of Tailwind. I looked at the swollen creek and had to make a decision: push forward or turn around.  If I pushed forward I had to get my brain to function well enough to cross the creek without injuring myself and plan on a 26 mile day.  If I turned around I wouldn’t see the lake, but I’d get a 24 mile day in.  I opted for the turn around.

Going back was a struggle.  I was getting a hot spot in my foot from some sand I had picked up at some point.  I was ready for some shade.  Most of all, though, I just wanted to stop. My watch died after 6 hours.  I knew I still had another 5 miles to go.  When I reached the trailhead I was cursing my poor decision making skills.  As I trudged up the road to the campground all I kept thinking about is the food I was going to eat.  Irony, I didn’t think about food all morning and now all I could think about was food.

When we finally hit the campground (24.22 miles), I tied Charlotte to the picnic table, got her food out of the trunk and just as I started to get food out of the cooler I saw two notes on my windshield.  “This campsite has been previously rented 7/1-7/4 you must leave.”  ARE YOU KIDDING ME???  I burst into tears right there on the spot.  The whole reason why I decided to camp was to avoid being on my feet all day and then get in the car.  So, I threw everything in the car with no rhyme or reason and started making my way back to Park City.

Lessons learned: 2

-Drive to the trailhead.

-EAT!!!

Miles completed: 24.22

Total run time: 8 hours

Blisters: 1

Sunburns: 1

All in all, despite the challenges I’m very proud of my day.  Longest run in almost a year.  I’m still in one piece, my lungs felt ok(ish), and I live to run another day.

Week 2: Sprint to the Summit 12k

My second week at elevation can pretty much be summarized by this number: 5,062′. That is the amount of up I have climbed in the last seven days.  No wonder why my ass is sore!   I’ve managed to meet this awesome group of runners: the Wasatch Mountain Wranglers. Between the runs during the week and the Sunday runs out of the Park City Running Company I’m starting to meet some really amazing folks.

Earlier this week I went out water testing with Nate one the guys from work.  We went up into the Summit Park neighborhood.  He brought me by the trailhead and said he’d never done it, but had always been curious about it.  Little did I know I’d be running it TWICE this week on Thursday and once on Sunday.

IMG_3420Thursday I met the Wranglers at the same trailhead Nate had pointed out two days earlier.  I have to say this, despite my absolute slowness there is always at least one person waiting at the intersections.  I try to keep one of them in view, but sometimes I just can’t go any faster.  Charlotte on the other hand, I think, would much rather be with the fast kids especially now that I bought her a cooling coat.  However, sometimes letting the fast kids go has its perks. Like when I run up on them and ask them why they are stopped.  They all pointed. “SNAKE!”  Yep, sometimes it pays to be slow.

After being tortured with overhead squats at CrossFit on Friday and going out to the mountains on Saturday (which will be it’s own post), Sunday I was back at the same trail head only this time for a “race”.  It’s more of a potluck fun run, but the course was IMG_3471marked and we get times and bibs so I guess you could call it a race.  Having been out there on Thursday I knew that some of the sections of up were going to be brutal.  I tucked myself and Charlotte into the back and watched the fast kids scamper off.   Man are they fast!  I saw one of their splits just above mine on Strava.  His per mile time? 11 minutes.  Mine?  16:45.  Sigh.  Charlotte and I managed to hang with a couple of the Wranglers until the 12k/5k course split.

I had given a ride over to a bunch of folks from the Running Co. and Linda was one of IMG_3474them.  She is an experienced road runner who has just come over to the dark side to trail running.  This was her 5th trail run.  She and I stuck together for the rest of the course encouraging each other along the way.   Team Caboose!  It was nice having someone to chat with along the way.  She’s a super interesting human with lots of stories to tell.  I hope I get to spend more time with her out on the trails.

We chugged long on the trail going only as fast as the other could go.  We joked that maybe we should have pulled the course markings as we went along to save them a trip.  When we hit the road to the finish line we finished it together.   She even managed to win an award for her age category!  Granted, almost everyone else was gone, but I’m damn proud of that 7 miles.  Probably the hardest 7 miles I’ve ever put in.

Each run is slowly getting better.  I won’t say easier, but better.  My lungs don’t necessarily want to explode any more.  I will take that as progress.

 

 

 

 

My 1st week at Elevation

I survived my first week at elevation granted with battle wounds, but the same could not necessarily be said for baby trail dog, Charlotte.  She and I rolled into Park City on Tuesday both of us thrilled to be out of the car.  She immediately got dropped off at dog day care for her temperament test.  What better way to see her true colors than after being cooped up in a car for a week?  I had a couple of days before I had to start work which was good.  I think after a week in the car and the constant go just sitting still for a little while was nice.  Oh wait, that’s right I don’t sit still very well.  While I was waiting for the apartment to open up I took the mountain bike off the back of the car and went for a short ride.  I thought my lungs were going to explode out of my chest.  Ah, yes, 6800′ in elevation…

Tuesday after I got everything unpacked and picked her up from doggie daycare I thought it would be good for us to go on a short (flat) walk.  Charlotte had other ideas in mind and shot straight up a trail.  Nearly 500′ in straight up later she had enough.  Note to self don’t let her pick the trails.

Wednesday morning I showed up at CrossFit.  Not only have I not been going to CF at home due to my school schedule, but sure let’s add on the elevation.  Nothing says pain like your first day back in the gym.  Wednesday night at Park City Running Company a running group met.  Charlotte and I showed up knowing full well we were going to struggle.  While the “big kids” threw down a 7+ mile run she and I did the truncated course of 4 miles.  Both of us huffing and puffing on the uphills.

Thursday was CF again.

Friday after work she and I headed out on a trail run.  We wound up missing a trail, had to bushwhack for a while, and then I wound up eating dirt.  My elbow and hand are black and blue while my leg looks like I got into a fight with a cheeseIMG_3361 grater.

Saturday she and I headed up the mountain.  I wanted to hike up until we couldn’t go up any more due to snow.  She had other ideas in mind.  3 miles into the up she laid down in the grass and said “I’m done.”  I’m going to have to get a cooling coat for her.  I wound up carrying her 1/2 mile downhill until she caught sight of a ground squirrel she couldn’t live without and promptly used me as a launching pad.  We found a patch of dirty snow on our way back down the mountain and the promptly threw herself in it.

IMG_3370Sunday we went out with the Sunday Run group from Park City Running.  My plan was to do the 10k route.  We were slow, but there was a sweeper behind us who had to keep her heartrate down so I didn’t feel awful about myself.  (I lie, I felt awful that she had to wait for me.)  When we got to one point in the course there were two chairs and what a view!  Wow.  A bit into that route the woman I was running with realized that she needed to get back so we truncated our course.  On our way down the mountain Charlotte decided to cut a switchback while I went around.  Yep, you guess it, I ate it again.  We wound up doing a little over 5 miles though.

Totals: 6 days

CrossFit: 2

Runs: 5

Total miles 15.2

Total up:  3,596 ft

 

Sonofabitch

**Disclaimer: Yeah, yeah, yeah I know I shouldn’t have hiked/run the mountain.  However, some things in life are worth it and this is one of them.  I wound up coming home, taking a shower, taking extra asthma meds, and crashing for 2 plus hours.  I will pay for this, but totally worth it.**

0400 this morning my alarm went off and I bounded out of bed.  I can hear you now, why in the hell would you bound out of bed at 0400?? I was going to go climb mountains.  More importantly I was finally going to get to show Sainted Mary Shenandoah!

0500 I was on the road making the two hour trek out to the mountains.

IMG_58150650 We both pull into the parking lot having basically followed each other the last 15 miles to the park.  As she got out of the car my jaw hit the floor.  She was in shorts.   It was 40 degrees at the base of the mountain and the top is always at least 10 degrees cooler.  I relayed this to her.  Thus started the “Sonofabitch” hike.  As she attempted to call her husband to let her know we got there I let her know that we probably weren’t going to have signal until we got up the mountain a bit.  We took a proof of life selfie, though, that I promised her we’d send him later.  This btw is why I normally hike with my spot device it let’s my loved ones know I’m ok.  However, it only seems to work when you turn it on (oops).

0700 We rolled out of the parking lot.  We were within the first 5 cars in the parking lot.  This is why we were starting early.  I joked with her that we should enjoy the quiet because in a few hours the mountain was going to be crawling with a two types of people: 1.) The “let’s take Mom for a hike” people even though Mom never hikes and would much rather be at home taking a nap or 2.) The “I’m taking the kids out to the mountains” also known as “Dad has no idea what he’s doing” with all the Dad’s who brought the kids out to the mountains, alone, so that Mom could have some peace.

We hit the rock scramble and ran into a couple of 20 something guys who were obviously struggling a bit. “They don’t have mountains where we are from.”

“Oh yeah, where’s that?”

“Florida.”

I snickered.  They followed us for a little while, but in the end I think the combination of a heavy nights drinking and the elevation just slowed them way down because they didn’t keep up.

Mary popped into the lead and immediately headed off course.  “Um, where are you going the course goes that way.” (points to blue blaze going in opposite direction and straight up)

“Sonofabitch.”

We laughed.

IMG_3983As we ascended the mountain the clothes that we had taken off at lower levels came back on.  I think I must have taken on and taken off my layers at least 7 times as we traversed different climate zones.  As we neared the top the temperature bottomed out.  Then we came around the corner and got pushed forcefully back onto the rocks.  The wind was hollowing.

SONOFABITCH!

There was definitely no lingering at the top to enjoy the view today.  As we headed back down to the trail split to take the fire road back Florida boys were finally summiting.

IMG_3003Mary and I headed jogging down the trail that leads to the fire road.  The creeks were raging due to all the rain we’ve had in the last couple of days.  We stopped at one of them and washed the salt off of our faces.  As the trail widened, ultimately turning into the actual fire road only then did we start to see any people.  First it was a trickle but by the time we crossed the last bridge before the pavement to the parking lot a deluge.  As we jogged past them in my head I was sorting them by type.  Mary turns to me and says, “You were so right.”

IMG_43141100 Parking lot.  We were both rungry.  After a quick change of clothes and shoes for me (and a “I need to plan better.” comment from Mary) we were off to lunch.  Yeah it was a good day.

Just like Pooh

Knowing that the trails were going to be stupid sloppy and wanting to get some time in with Pinup Ginger we arranged a meeting spot half way between her house and mine.  Ten minutes before my alarm was set to go off I got a text message that said, “My son was up twice with accidents in the night.  I’ve gotten no sleep and I’m exhaaaaaaasted.”  Poor thing.  I was not about to drag a tired mama out on a run she would be miserable on.  However, I had been dreaming all night about running along the river so I was going no matter what the GD pollen count was.

As I drove towards Old Town I realized that I forgot my watch.  I wear it religiously as it keeps me honest about the calories I earn.  I didn’t even consider turning around and getting it.  The pollen has been awful and I wasn’t even sure how the run today was going to go.  All I knew is that I needed this run, badly.

I wanted to get at least 6, if not 8 miles in today so I parked in front of M.E. Swings.  That way I would have incentive to run both directions, down towards Jones Point (my favorite spot in all of the DMV) and back to coffee and Rise Bakery gluten free baked goods.  I set Strava to record and started off.

As my feet started to move my brain began to be like Pooh.

I thought about all of the school work I had yet to do.  I thought about everything that I need to get done before my internship.  I thought about how I probably shouldn’t be running and hoped that I wasn’t going to give myself hives.  I thought about one more thing and then with that thought my brain went quiet.  I like it when that happens.  It’s rare, but it’s so peaceful.

As I headed towards Jones Point the river was bulging out of its banks with the rain and the high tide.  The trail was awash with debris, natural and man made, from the river.  I like Old Town early in the morning, the only other people I encountered were other runners.  We waved at each other as we passed.  As I hit Jones point there is always this wave of quiet that washes over me. I don’t know why that spot, tucked almost right under the Woodrow Wilson bridge carrying 8 lanes of traffic is always so spiritually peaceful.  I stopped, took a couple of photos and headed back towards food!

img_2907I had completely forgot that on Saturday mornings Old Town does their farmers market. The flowers drew me in.  There was no way any produce was going to survive a 3 mile run back to the car, but I stopped and smelled the peonies.  Glorious!  So many flowers have had the smell bred out of them for looks.  Maybe that’s why I like them so much.  They are flamingos in a flock of pigeons.

The last mile or so more people were on the streets.  It wasn’t me and my fellow runners any more.  As I reached M.E. Swings I smiled because I knew that there was going to be gluten free deliciousness in my future.  I stopped Strava and didn’t give it another thought after I saw my mile count as all I was focused on was coffee (and food).  One blueberry muffin and a latte later I opened it up just to see how I did.  I wasn’t running for any other reason than to run.  I saw not one but two sub 8 minute miles.  Wha???  How is that possible?  Even stopping to take pictures and enjoy my time on Jones point I still averaged a 9 something mile.  Huh.  Must be the shoes I think they have rocket boosters.

Oh, PS, I did learn a very valuable lesson today, do not look down at herringbone brick work when you run, it makes you nauseous.