Outdoor Adventurer, Explorer, Writer


Groundhog Day Workout: Off the treadmill!

Outside runing on an unseasonably warm day in February! I joined a gym last week, and for three days in a row I couldn’t make myself run any more than two miles, I was so bored. SO glad to get some fresh air. Hopefully the weather holds for a few more days so I can go back to my new gym energized!

Today’s training plan was for speed work, something I’m really not that good at. “For your workout for today you are going to run on a flat course for 40 minutes; 10 minutes easy, 10 minutes strong, 5 minutes easy, 10 minutes strong, 5 minutes easy.”

My speed work went more like this: 10 easy, 7 strong, 5 easy, 5 strong, 5 easy, 5 strong, 3 easy. But that’s okay. I followed it a little bit, stayed with the pattern. I could have stayed in bed, but I got up and moved! I’ll try again tomorrow. Left hip kind of sore today.

Running this weekend with Heather! Doing the Starbucks 10k route, which does not unfortunately allow for a stop at Starbucks….however, if we go four extra blocks we can detour back to the Treehouse Coffee Shop at the end 🙂

My profile, which I have been sorely neglecting, is saying that the Canyonlands Half Marathon is 44 days away. C.R.A.P.


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Freedom Writers

Reading an amazing book on loan from Kristie Wilson called The Freedom Writers Diary. It’s probably a familiar story by now, but it’s a compilation of diary entries from a group of high school students in Long Beach, California in the mid-nineties. A student teacher steps up and challenges the kids to become better people than their rough environment normally produces–gangs, violence, teen pregnancies, absent parents. The kids kept diaries throughout their four years in high school, and although they’re obviously heavily edited, it’s amazing the way they relate teacher Erin Gruwell’s “tolerance” themed curriculum to their own personal lives and try to better themselves through the stories of people who are also suffering.

I really just wanted to make note of/share a quote from one of the students who predicted, mid-semester, what his–or her, the entries are fairly anonymous–final grade in the course would be. He predicted an F, due to a rough home life. “Ms. G” pulled him into the hallway. “Do you know what this ‘F’ means to me? It’s Fuck You, Ms. G, and fuck everyone who’s ever cared about you!”

While I completely love the teacher telling her student this, the best part is what the student took away from it.

“What she showed me today is that a truly self-reliant person takes action, leaving nothing to chance and everything to themselves. She showed me that excuses will not bring about success and that adversity is not something you walk with, but something you leap over. The only obstacles are the ones you allow. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. A truly self-reliant person finds his weak link and strengthens it. I want to be a self-reliant person, now and forever.”

I would love to expand on this, make it relate to my own life….but wow. It already does. I guess I need to figure out my weakest link…although as soon as I strengthen that, there will be another weakest link to take its place. I suppose this is what you call a “work in progress.”


Dickens Impersonator Contest

The Philadelphia Library is hosting a Charles Dickens Impersonation Contest. I think Charles Dickens is one of my favorite authors, so I’m totally interested. Although the contest is on a Monday at 10:30 am, so that kind of counts me out for viewing and participating.

Here’s what contestants have to do:

Part 1: Present a brief monologue as Charles Dickens
To begin the audition, we will ask that each contestant presents to the panel a brief monologue as Charles Dickens. The monologue can be invented or taken directly from his personal commentary and reflections, and should last no more than two minutes.

Part 2: Act out a scene as one of Charles Dickens’s well-known literary characters
An avid performer, Dickens undertook a series of dramatic public readings where he assumed the roles of his characters. Each contestant will be asked to perform a brief scene from one of Dickens’s works as he would have.

Part 3: Q&A from celebrity panel of Judges
Each contestant will go through a fast-paced Q&A session conducted by celebrity judges. Questions will range from general information on Dickens’s life and works, to ways in which he will make literature exciting for new audiences and generations to come. Contestants should come armed with a working knowledge of Dickens facts and information.

Love it! Although on further inspection, the activity is actually called the “Dickens Idol Contest,” inspired by American Idol. Maybe not so cool. But a fun idea anyway.

Here are the details on the Free Library of Philadelphia‘s Blog!

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And it would make a great Halloween Costume too

A sleeping bag with hands and feet!

The Selk Bag. I must try this.



Out & Back Party Run

I’m late, but this is really no surprise. Left work late & got stuck in the usual Friday evening traffic, which was warned about by the race organizer in several of the info emails. This was the 15th annual running of this race, with all proceeds going to the ALS Hope foundation. It’s four miles, starting at the Art Museum, curving back out West River Drive for two miles, then back for two miles, with a party at Lemon Hill afterward–beer and live music included. Terri Erbacher wanted to have a party, so off we went.

Having made it with only about 15 minutes to spare I had to rush to check in. Still a little clueless about the whole check-in thing. But I managed to get my number, t-shirt, and souvenir pilsner glass, find Christine & Terri, check my bag & even made it to the Honey Bucket with time to spare. I’m always amazed at how mobs can organize themselves. Did feel bad for the couple having their wedding photos taken at the Art Museum. Should have tried to photo bomb! I think I’m going to make that one of my goals for this year. Photo bomb everywhere possible.

The run was pretty good. I didn’t have music, having lost my phone (stupid), and Christine & I started out together but I lost her trying not to get trampled in the mass-chaos start. Settled into a rhythm and couldn’t believe the guy cheering at the first mile mark was really a whole mile. Second mile was boring, but pretty. Nice slow view of Boathouse Row & I paced myself with a couple of crew boats.

There were a variety of other runners. It definitely seemed to be a training race for some people, but others were quite fast–the first runners passed me coming back when I’d only hit a mile & a half. (“Don’t drink all the beer!” shouted one guy running my pace to the leader–who, honestly, didn’t look like he ever wasted calories on beer.) And there were some walkers too, even some little kids (I didn’t see any of them at the party afterward.)

I felt good running, not too tired. I’m just not a very fast runner. I realized though, between this race and the Broad Street Run two days later, that it’s not so much I’m pushing myself and getting out of breath. It’s my legs hurting that slows me up!! I did run intervals the last mile though. About 30 seconds on, 30 seconds off (well, storm drain to storm drain, anyway, which were extremely well marked, for some reason.) Still I felt great, and by the time I crossed the finish line at 53 minutes 44 seconds and walked to the water table, I was pretty much back to breathing normally again.

I’m a little confused at the time. That’s what the time was when I crossed the finish line, but I thought this was chip timed, meaning it would be the time when my bib crossed the finish line minus when it crossed the starting line. Maybe not. That was a 13.26 minute pace. I expect to have crossed a half marathon off my list by the time next year’s rolls around, so I’m going to shoot for a 12 minute pace — 48 minutes. Doesn’t sound like much, but after counting and averaging minutes after Broad Street, it’s a whole heck of a lot! 🙂 But there are a lot of races between now & then, so who knows… 🙂

The after party was neat, although it seemed to be the most random collection of post-race food: rolls (like white dinner rolls, just plain, no condiments like butter or peanut butter or anything!), bagels, cold tomato pie, soft pretzels. everything white flour that felt like a brick in my stomach. But we also discovered a few single cheese packs–what a freakin’ awesome idea–and some fruit snack things that were pretty awesome. Apparently we waited too long at the end. Note for next year: go straight to the party!

Next up, second race of the weekend…the Broad Street Run (10 miler! What was I thinking?)

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Literary Graveyard: Which Cemetery is the Most Literary?

Found this on Twitter. What an interesting article.

I have an inexplicable attraction to cemeteries. It’s weird. Spiritually I know they’re useless–the body is only a vessel for the spirit and the soul. And if I’m going to mourn someone, I’m not going to go visit their final “resting place,” because their spirit never spent any time there while it was in the body, so why would I have any connection to a place they have no connection to? Doesn’t make sense.

But there are people out there that are very committed to gravesites. And I suppose that’s why I like them. Not that think that a cemetery is the **most* appropriate memorial, but it is nice that people take so much time to upkeep and decorate. Shows, in a way, how much someone was missed.

Back to the author topic, I think I may have to design a European tour around famous cemeteries. And then an author cemetery tour. Sweet.

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Taos “Up & Over” 10K Trail Race

My alarm goes off at 6 the morning of, even though the race doesn’t start until 9. I don’t want to miss it! Coffee, yoga, rather pitiful breakfast of granola & soy milk—I didn’t feel like buying eggs and then having a ton of dishes to do. Of course a banana.

The one confirmation email I didn’t print out for this trip was the race registration. I’m pretty sure the race is at 9, but the hotel doesn’t have Wi-Fi so I can’t check. Around 7:30 I start to notice a lot of cars going by, and I get a little nervous. The hotel is only a mile from the resort (pure accident–lucked out on that one) so since I’m ready, I get in the Soul and go.

It doesn’t start until 9, so I’m early for once. I check in and wander around for awhile. One of the EMTs at the bottom took my photo for me, and told me about where we run. I went over to the big map and tried to follow what she was talking about—some trail called “Bambi.” Sounds pretty wussy but turns out it’s a Blue that would probably be rated a Black in VT. We would be starting at the bottom with a couple of windy, connecting trails—switchbacks, if you’re a hiker—then take Bambi to the top: straight. up. OK.

Finally the timers call everyone together. No chip time on this race, only 80-some people. And the leader calls roll before the gun goes off! They seem to be having a good time with it, but my legs get cold while we’re standing there waiting. Oof.

The gun goes off and I realized I haven’t set my music. Crap. The sun is blazing and I can’t see a thing on the screen. Oh well. I’m near the back and keeping off to the side like I normally do. Less than half a mile in, my heart is pounding and I’m gasping—the start is at over 9,000 feet and it climbs to 11,800. I’m still running though, and I realize I’m passing people who are walking. Forget that! I walk too and take deep breaths. Soon nearly everyone passes me. Up ahead I see the older lady I had been talking to at the start—Carol—who had run a race in Colorado a few weeks ago. There’s one other lady in front of me with long dark hair, who’s obviously having a tough time of it, hands on her knees and gasping. I trudge up to her and she groans. “Why didn’t I quit smoking last week? Damn my boyfriend for making me do this.” etc. I don’t quite have the heart to pass her—not that I would have been very much faster—so we hike together, trying to breathe.

In a minute she points out a small yellow sign, “1 km.” “And what, exactly, is a killo-meeter?” she says in between gasps. “It means nine more like what we just did.” It took us nearly two hours to get to the top, talking when we could, counting the “Kim” signs and taking a nice long break at the only water station on the uphill climb. Nearly three miles uphill with only one water stop? I had debated on whether or not to bring my own Nalgene—it’s huge, and heavy as crap—but I’m glad I did, the . The organizers said there were five water stations total, but we only saw three. I probably wouldn’t have made it without water, the air was really dry.

The hike was manageable until maybe the last 200 yards to the top. One last steep switchback, and the climb got tough. My guess is that’s where we crossed 11,000 feet. I started seeing little red flashes of light, like blips on a radar screen, and my head started pounding right along with my heart. And right at that moment, it started thundering. Great. Fortunately we were still below the tree line.

We heard a different rumble, and a beat up blue truck with a sign that said “Taos” came over the peak that we were aiming for.  A couple of people piled out and cheered. We had to laugh. We had to have been at least 45 minutes behind everyone else. “Are you ladies okay? Want a ride back down?” Two ladies and two middle school boys, and an adorable young Golden Retriever. We gasped and refilled from their water jug, and I eyed the crest of the hill, only about 50 steps away. “Can you give us a ride to the top?” I laughed.

“No. We can only give you a ride down. No partial rides.” I looked at Brandi, my running buddy. “We didn’t just go through two hours of hell to NOT make it to the top, not when we can finally see it!” I said. “Thanks anyway.” We kept climbing, and just over the crest of the hill was the “5 km” sign…and right before we made the turn to the first downhill switchback, there was a huge boom of thunder and we saw a spike of lightning hit something. Time to run.

But the downhill was treacherous! So steep we kept slipping, and the trail was covered with loose rocks and scree. We both fell a couple of times, fortunately no blood. It was at least another kim before we could even think about running. And once we started we still had to stop a few times in places where there were just too many rocks to get a foothold. More than once we could see our destination straight below, but the trail turned us sideways. (Straight below, down a Black diamond trail at an 80 degree pitch, I should say.) I was tempted to cut them off more than once, but Brandi had a point. “There’s a reason they made us go this way. There might be a bear waiting, or something.” A light rain started, but it wasn’t too bad, and it only lasted about 15 minutes.

Just past the 8 km sign, the truck came back up, same people in it. They cheered and the driver called, “Less than a mile left!” That woke me up. I could run another mile, sure. My hip was pinching like hell and my quads were burning, but I pulled out some energy from somewhere. Maybe it was the Gu that I’d eaten at the first rest stop. (Side note: Not a fan.)

The 9 km sign brought us in view of the bottom, which we hadn’t been able to see since km 3 or so. A few racers were still lingering down below and they cheered as we came into sight. I whooped back, Brandi behind me, and we rounded the last switchback, then crossed the finish line together as they all cheered. I think Brandi was embarrassed but I thought it was hilarious.

And that was my first trail race. Heck, it was my first trail run, even, since I never got to practice. But as tough as it was, it was beautiful. Mountain and valley views at every turn, wildflowers in all colors lining the route. A waterfall and a few streams down near the bottom. Would definitely not recommend as a first time race, but if you’re used to running mountains, I’d say it’s worth the attempt.

A note about acclimatization. I didn’t, at all; I arrived in Albuquerque early Friday morning (6,000 feet), then drove to Taos (9,000 feet). Honestly I’m not sure it would have made a difference whether I had spent another few days at altitude. You’re still climbing as you’re running. Maybe if I’d stayed a few weeks and trained it would have made a difference, but for a weekend runner like me I think an extra day wouldn’t have made much of a difference.

And that’s 3 states down, 48 to go!

Too bad you can't see the mountain in the background

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