Taking Time to Feed my Soul…


Some people run to get out of the rain.  Today I purposely ran for almost two hours in it. The temps were in the low 70’s and I was comfortable in a t-shirt, shorts, and hat to keep the rain from running into my face.  The trails provided a shelter at times from the rain, this is true, but half a mile in I was soaked and feeling an amazing connection to the dirt and mud under my feet.

Why I Love to Run in the Rain. . .

  • The glistening rocks and roots on the forest floor that I have to maneuver across, posing a new challenge, and keeping me focused on the moment I am in.
  • The overgrown tree limbs and blueberry bushes that brush against my skin leaving their wet, refreshing marks.
  •  The mossy and slippery footbridges that I have to carefully cross without my feet sliding out from beneath me.
  • All of this set in poetic motion to the sounds of pouring rain hitting the tree tops, the brim of my hat, and the earth around me.
  • The absence of others, as most people don’t tend to venture out on a day like today for a fun little hike. (Although I did see two other people out today!)

I guess in a way you have to be some kind of introvert in order to enjoy spending hours upon hours alone with your own thoughts and feelings as an ultrarunner.  As a Mom of two busy and active boys, and a teacher to about 100 middle school students, you can probably imagine why I crave and look forward to the solitude of my trail running.  Although for me it goes a little deeper.  I enjoy being alone with my thoughts, particularly in nature, moving freely through space and time with no one else to worry about.  No one needs anything from me during these times.  No one is asking me questions.   The due dates and daily demands of parenting and teaching disappear for these hours and it is just me, the earth, the sky, and the flora and fauna of the Pennsylvania trails.   It is rejuvenating and soul-filling in a way that I wish I could express more deeply to those of you who have yet to venture into this sport.

Sure I run to prepare myself for the next big race.  That’s a given.  I mean you don’t want your race to be a total suck-fest, right?   Setting huge, seemingly unattainable goals in the sport of ultrarunning can be scary, empowering, risky, and exhilarating all at the same time.  Working toward those goals, for me, is a gift.  It is a gift I give myself every time I lace up my Lone Peaks and head out to a trail head to log some miles.  It is a little slice of my day that I can look forward to and know that I am doing something to reach my goals, but even more importantly, I am doing something to feed my soul.

We all feed our stomachs, but when is the last time you thought about feeding your soul?

What is it that makes you feel the most like yourself?

 

Pics from today’s run….

Ridge Overlook

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Cameron/Masland Mansion at the top of the mountain in Kings Gap State Park.  I am forever running trails around it, but never stop to go through the grounds of the mansion during a run, so I decided to today because I was having so much fun.

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Built in 1908 by James McCormick Cameron as a summer home.  It has 32 rooms and is designed to look like an Italian Villa.  You can go inside for a tour on Sundays between 1-5:00.  We’ve done that and it’s pretty cool inside.

 

Kings Gap Water Tower

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Kings Gap Garden

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Today’s fuel of choice, which I enjoyed while sitting on a rock in the pouring rain at Scenic Vista Overlook.

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I know it looks like I jumped in a pool, but honestly I was the same amount of wet after my run two Saturday’s ago in sun, upper 80’s and ridiculous humidity.  I’ll take today’s conditions anytime!

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How do you feel about running in the rain?

 

Week #19 of Training and My Absolute Favorite Day of the Year


Mother’s Day!

It was a day for waking up to breakfast in bed, extra hugs, and laughter with my boys.  They truly outdid themselves this year with blueberry pancakes made by Hunter, and “Toad in a Hole” made by Eli.  In case you don’t know what that is (because I didn’t!)….Eli used a glass to cut a circle out of bread slices, then he cooked an egg inside and wrapped bacon around it.  YUM!  They even got me some new trail running crew socks and an Under Armor bag to use to when I go to the gym or take my running clothes to school.

After breakfast we went to the gym where I did some cycling and lifting. Hunter spotted me in bench presses!  Then we had lunch and went to Kings Gap for a family hike up to Scenic Vista.  The boys treated me to ice cream afterwards, and Jeff did all the laundry and cooking today…..EXXX hot chicken barbecue and a chipotle butternut squash and black bean mix.   Now do you see why it’s my favorite day of the year?  I am feeling so lucky to have these boys and my hubby in my life.

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Love my boys!  Being a Mom is the best thing ever.

This Week’s Training

This was my last hard week of training.  I will slowly taper the miles down until race day in less than 3 weeks!

Monday:  REST

Tuesday: 3 miles with the pup

Wednesday:  10 miles

Thursday:  7 miles and final chiro visit!

Friday:  rest

Saturday:  17 HARD miles

Sunday:  3 mile hike with the fam + core + arms and upper body + stretching

Pics from my Runs this Week

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Sunset Rocks on Wednesday.   Ran with a running buddy from work.  We saw a porcupine, amazing views, a man in a hammock taking a nap at the edge of the mountain…and later I saw a deer and ground hog.  Quite an exciting run!
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View from Flat Rock at Colonel Denning on Saturday.  3 mountain repeats, then a longer 6 mile loop on Tuscarora, and Wildcat Run, and Cider Path back to my car made for over 5,000 ft elevation for the day.  Rocky, muddy, high creek crossings, and overall pretty technical.  
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When the rain finally let up 3 hours into my run it started getting humid and I stopped to put my jacket in my pack.  

 

 

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This was a pretty and fun downhill section of my route.  Not too steep (which cannot be said for the rest of my downhills on Saturday), just perfect!
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It only took 4 hours into my run for the sun to try and make an appearance!
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Last mile of Saturday’s run was sunny and flat around this lake.  Perfect ending!

 

It’s Taper Time!

This coming week I’ll start to cut down on my mileage.  Aiming for low 30’s per week.  Then the following week only 20 miles.  How will I stay sane during that 20 mile week, you ask?  I plan to continue cycling, lifting, and working on core….and I’ll probably also be taking the dog for some short walks for the trail time that I just NEED!   After that it will be race week and I will have a lot of preparations to keep me busy, but I’ll get more into that in a later post.

The hard work is done.  Months of training is winding down.  My job now is to get to the start line strong and healthy!

How do you stay sane during taper time?

What is your favorite day of the year?

Ultra Training Week #18


And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul. ~John Muir

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Happy, hungry, tired, and sore.  That pretty much sums up how I am feeling at the end of this week.  I had so much fun spending so many hours on the trails this weekend, admiring the beauty that was all around me.   My training this week has been empowering, captivating, and humbling.  I am proud of how far I have come, but most importantly, my soul is happy.

Monday:  rest

Tuesday:  4 miles on the xc course

Wednesday:  12 trail miles (double run 7, then chiro, then 5 more)

Thursday:  6 trail miles

Friday:  rest

Saturday:  26 miles (rained the entire time)

Ran from Pine Plantation at Kings Gap to Pole Steeple, played around on some other trails at Pine Grove, then ran back.

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A quick stop at Pole Steeple to refill my Nuun and eat a banana.  

 

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It literally stopped raining just for my arrival at Pole Steeple.  When I started back down for the AT, it picked back up again. 

Sunday:  7 miles cycling, upper body, and 10 miles hike/run

I ended up hiking the majority of the first 6 miles because my knees were just not ready to run again.  I was fine hiking but running was a killer.  My legs literally felt exactly like they did in the last 5 miles of Ironmaster’s 50K last year.  By mile 6 they started to feel better and by mile 7 I was 100% running, no hiking at all.  I planned to stop at 8.5 but a huge trail blocked my path when I was 0.1 miles from the parking lot.  I always climb over or through trees to keep going but this one had poison oak all over it so I turned around and went back the other way.  My legs actually felt springy so I ended up getting to 10 miles.  I was even leaping over some of the trees by the end of this run!

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Why do the most beautiful things only last a short time?

 

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They say that color is nature smiling 🙂
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These I could do without though.  Gypsy moths are back.  EWWW!   If they get on me I break out in an itchy red rash.  Good thing they are spraying for them in the park soon.  We had a ton of them in the Poconos.  

The Big Mystery This Week

What happened between Thursday and Friday to all the trees in Kings Gap?  Especially around Pine Plantation.  Thursday night I finished my run and talked with the park ranger who was warning me abut a bear sighting.  I even mentioned to him how nice the park was looking because all the down trees from the winter had been cleared off the trail.  Then by Saturday morning it looked like a war zone!  I counted 5 trees down in the first half mile of my run that day.  We had pouring rain Friday and I guess we must have had some wind too because the damage is crazy!  The pics below are just two of the twelve or more I encountered this weekend.

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One more quote to leave you with. . .

“No man should go through life without once experiencing healthy, even bored solitude in the wilderness, finding himself depending solely on himself and thereby learning his true and hidden strength.”

-Jack Kerouac

 

 

Week # 17 of 50 Mile Training…Back in the Game!


I decided to continue on with my running plan as scheduled for this week despite last week’s unplanned rest, since it was a scheduled cutback anyway.  I’m happy to say things went very well this week and I am so hungry for a good LOOONNNNGG  run in the woods next weekend!  I cannot believe tomorrow is MAY!  Pretty soon it will be one month until Cayuga and that is just insane.

Last Training Week of April

Mon:  chiro appt & 4 trail miles

Tues:  7 trail miles in the pouring rain….BLISS!

Wed:  REST and chiro appt

Thurs:  6 humid miles on trails

Fri:  REST

Sat:  10 humid, steep, and rugged miles @ Colonel Denning (pics below)

Sun:  10 trail miles (7 @ Pine Grove and 3 @ Kings Gap with Boof)

**There was some core work and a day of weights but I can’t remember when!  My magic stretch the chiro showed me is still happening multiple times per day.  I have to do it at least 4 times a day and before/after runs.  It is working like a charm 🙂  **

Pics from Saturday’s Run @ Colonel Denning

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Took Cider Path (steep climb for 0.65 miles to this deer exclusion area at the top of the mountain).  Passed a turkey hunter on the way up who was not happy to see me.  
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This is how you get out of the deer exclusion area.  It’s a pretty run down along the ridge from here where I followed the Warner Loop to Tuscarora.
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Has anyone else run past this creepy cabin?  
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Wildcat Run (I think) which goes along the creek.  Really pretty and calming to listen to.  Who needs music when you have the sounds of nature all around you?
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The route I took made it 5 miles to Flat Rock.  Overcast day but seeing all that green below and looking out over Newville never gets old!

Ran the steep 2 miles down from there to the campground parking lot and took the roads back to my car in order to avoid previously mentioned turkey hunter.  Of course his car was gone by then anyway.  Due to the humidity and maybe from not running last week, this run felt harder than it should but it also had some decent elevation.  I wish I could track the vert gain somehow but it was a great training run.  Quality over quantity in this case!

Volunteering for Ironmaster’s Challenge 50K and 15K

This was my first ultra!  Since it didn’t jive with my Cayuga training, I decided to volunteer in the morning.  I had a great time helping out.  Who doesn’t like being around other runners about to do something amazing!?  I got to see some friends before their races began, the helped with the 50K bag and 15K registration.  Then I was sent out to help at the 4 mile mark of the 50K where some runners were making a wrong turn, except by the time I got there the sweep was already done!

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Finish line area waiting for 15K runners!

When I was done helping out, I decided to get some miles in while I waited for my friend Christy to finish.  (She ended up with a HUGE PR by the way!!!  So excited for her!)  So I ran up Buck Ridge and turned left at a grassy clearing to explore some new territory.  It ended up being an amazing trail with endless switchbacks up the mountain.  I had to turn around before I found out where the trail led, so I’ll definitely be back to check that one out soon!  It’s just a reminder how many trails have been left unexplored (by me) so far.  Even trails I’ve run past probably endless times.   Always something new to discover!

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Check out that awesome single track lined with baby pines, wheat grass, and a few tall pines for good measure 🙂
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A section of switchbacks.
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Then home to get the old Pup for a short train run.  It was SOOOO hot and sunny so I made sure we ran along a creek the entire time and he took FULL advantage of this!
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Water Stop #1.  hahahaha
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Water Stop #4 of 6.  We only did 3 miles, but when you are going on 84 you need to stay cool!
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Maybe we should all try this on our next hot trail run.  LOLOLOL….take a dip in the creek and then rub your body all over the dirt and leaves and grass to stay cool.  

Congrats to all of my friends who ran Ironmaster’s.  It was so great to see all of you at the race!

 

 

Week #8 of 50 Mile Training in the Books!


Wow,  I can’t believe it!   My training for the Cayuga Trail 50 is 35% complete.  The miles are really going to start ramping up now and there is so much work ahead, but it’s going by so fast already.  It’s going to be June before we know it!

To me long runs are the most fun part of training.  This was supposed to be a cutback week, and I treated it as such for the most part, but made some adjustments.  My son wrestled in districts this week, and between that, some doctor appointments, and taking him for his driver’s permit, we were pretty busy and I had some extra rest days.  I figured that since I didn’t get a long, slow run in last week due to our schedule and my choice to do repeats on Flat Rock, I’d get one in today.

I meant to sign up for the Squirrelly Tail Twail Wun which took place today, but I totally missed the deadline and there are no race day sign ups.  That was my first trail race ever, and it’s the race that made me want to never do a road race again.  So, instead, I planned my longest trail training run so far.

So today I started at Pine Plantation in Kings Gap and ran on the trails from there to Buck Ridge, all the way to Pine Grove Furnace, plus an extra mile exploring a logging road…then back.  The first 3 miles kind of sucked.   I felt kind of sluggish, but those first few miles I guess I was warmed up because I felt a lot better.  I fueled with peanut butter crackers, fruit punch Nuun, a Gingersnap Honey Stinger Waffle, and an apple pie mini Larabar.  19 mile long run done!

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Took this pic with 1 mile left to go.  One of my favorite spots at Kings Gap!

 

When I was done, I felt awesome.  I seriously could have gone so much farther.  That’s a great feeling, especially when your race is 31 more miles than your longest training run so far.  Yikes!   Getting mentally prepared for all the ups and downs that come with long trail distances is equally as important as the physical training.  I know there will be times that suck and times that are amazing.   Just keep moving forward!

Also, I love that tired, satisfied feeling when you are dirty, sweaty, and starving.  That’s why long runs are my favorite!  Here’s how I refueled at home (second breakfast!) :

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Can you tell I had an almond butter craving?  Clementine, banana with almond butter and honey, sprouted grain toast with almond butter and honey,  two sunny side up eggs, and chocolate almond milk.

Week #8 Recap

Monday:  core and lifting

Tuesday: 7 trail miles

Wednesday:  4 miles on xc course

Thursday:  rest (Districts!)

Friday:  3 trail miles with the Pup

Saturday:  14 cycle miles @ gym

Sunday:  19 trail miles

 

What is your favorite part of training?

What is your favorite meal to refuel with after a long run?

 

 

 

 

 

I’m the Brightest Thing out Here


 

Those words occurred to me two hours into my run.  Haha!  Gray, white, brown, and green (pine needles) are about the only colors out there right now.  But I won’t complain about the fog.  I even find it calming and beautiful.  It makes you notice things in the forest that you would probably overlook on a sunny spring day.  Like the way the dewdrops cling to bare branches.  Or even the way the branches twist and curl as if trying to find sunlight.

I ate 3 chocolate chip pancakes, packed up my gear, and headed to Kings Gap fully rested from yesterday’s run;  however, sore and tired legs were a given after a total of 4,000 feet elevation gain!  Mid 40’s and sore calves seemed like a great reason to break out my shorts and Zensah calf sleeves.  Turned out to be the perfect combo for today’s run.

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I parked at the first parking lot (Pine Plantation) at the entrance to the park so that I could run the whole mountain.   I knew where I wanted to start and figured I’d explore and take familiar trails as well until I had at least 12 miles or 3 hours of running, whichever came first.  Since my legs were sore, I decided to make myself hike the first mile as a warm up and that proved to be a smart decision.  My running legs came back to me over the 14 total miles I ended up doing and I felt strong and great cardio and strength wise at the end.  I could have done more!

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Scenic Vista lookout.  I know it doesn’t look like the magical, amazing lookout I described when I discovered it the other week, but I’ll go back one day when the sky is clear so I can show you!
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See, I AM the brightest thing!  lol  My hydration vest is a Nathan Vapor Shadow.  Now that I’ve had it for a year I know what I like and don’t like.  That sounds like a post for another day!  Overall though it has served me well and there are only a few things I would change.  I can pack this thing full to the brim and it never feels too heavy on my back.
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All this fog made me feel like I was in Stephen King’s book The Mist.  Have you read it?  

 

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An usually rock-free trail.  This is not the norm, but it’s nice to get a break once in awhile!

 

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Part of a trail I like to do requires about half a mile of running on this construction road.  It is always a surprise to see what conditions you will have.  I never turn around if this route is my plan.  A little mud never hurt anyone!

 

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Ended up running to a new place called Irish Gap Hollow.  A nice surprise and I hope to get back here with my dog Irish!  I nicknamed this trail “Trail of Many Bridges” because …well, there were many bridges.  Some wooden and some rocks like this, but with 5 or more creek crossings it was a fun part of my morning.

 

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Almost back to my car I decided to do this last little loop to get to 14.  Some roots but mostly pine needles and you can’t argue with this view.  They don’t call it Pine Plantation for nothing!

So that was my run in a nutshell.  My fueling plan is going well.  Eating every 40-45 minutes works well.  Today I had 3 leftover Honey Stinger chews, a whole banana, 2 peanut butter crackers, 2 more peanut butter crackers, an 8 oz bottle of fruit punch Nuun, and my water.  After showering and cleaning up, I refueled with 3 sunnyside up eggs, two pieces of sprouted grain toast with almond butter and honey, and a clementine.

The trails were pretty empty today.  I only saw one couple near one of the parking lots, and then when I was about 2 miles from finishing I saw a hiking group up ahead.  (Hi Christy!).

Weekly Mileage

Monday:  Double run to catch up from a non-weekend of running due to wrestling (12 total road miles)

Tuesday:  3.5 miles on roads (pouring rain), 20 minutes lifting and core

Wednesday: rest

Thursday:  3 miles with running club on xs course + 2 miles fast on roads(8:10)

Friday: rest…literally needed it…so exhausted!  (TOM or AF whatever you call it kicked my butt)

Saturday:  10 miles hard on trails

Sunday:  14 miles moderate on trails

Total:  42.5    (That 12 from Monday is spillover from last week, but whatever!)

 

Happy Running to Everyone this Week!

I plan to do a winter running gear post here soon (I do think we’re not out of the woods yet with cold weather).  And also a post on my thoughts about road running vs trail running.  I had some thoughts about that this weekend as I was out on the trails!

Plan for tomorrow is some cycling, stretching, and foam rolling to flush out these legs!  Thankfully it is a cutback week for me 🙂