Archive for category Adventure

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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The Get Out Girl is FINALLY getting out again

I’m kind of surprised at myself this summer. I really haven’t done….much of anything. Meaning, I’ve been staying home most weekends, not camping. I guess I’ve been saving money. But I had the idea to go visit Andrea Weatherby in Albuquerque. She moved out there about five years ago and I haven’t seen her since. Had plans to go last year, but ended up starting a new job right around the time I was planning to go. So, there went that. Good thing I stuck with it too, because that temp position led to another which led to a promotion and now I’m full time with that company!

At any rate, I finally got things together for this trip. I found a race in Taos, which is another place I’ve wanted to go, so it became one of my “Race the World” tour stops this year. (Have three more planned, hoping I make it to all of them!) Unfortunately, this race looks pretty tough. It’s called the “Up and Over” 10K, because you pretty much run straight up a ski slope for three miles, then down the other side for three miles. I didn’t really read the description too well, just saw “New Mexico race” and jumped on it. (More about the description of the race, my thoughts about what I’ve gotten myself into, and training for the race on my new blog, Elephants in the Closet.)

My trip is going to be a loop of the northeastern corner of New Mexico. I’m going pretty far off the beaten path, as it turns out. Also crossing at least four, maybe five National Parks off my list too, which is even more exciting. I’m renting a car, which I have some financial reservations about, but it’s really the only option. Staying in a hotel for my race so I’m not too stiff & sore before and after I run, but then I’ll be camping and hiking as I go sightseeing.

I can’t WAIT. I had some initial reservations about traveling by myself, but I’ve been a bit stressed the past few weeks so it will be nice to be on my own for awhile. Then I’ll be spending a few days with Andrea and her family in Albuquerque. I am hoping to blog the whole time, but we’ll see how that goes. I’m pretty sure I won’t have much Wi-Fi access out here, but my goal is to keep writing and post at least once per day! I do a lot of writing for work and my novel is coming along pretty well (link to original story about how it came together), and I feel like I have other life journeys I want to think about, so I’ve created a few new blogs. Hoping to get them all started, more details soon.

Finalizing the itinerary for my trip, so I’ll put that up tomorrow. I change my mind daily. This is good too. I need to be a little more spontaneous! More on that in a future post.

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Getting lazy on the National Parks goal.

Re-discovered my 43 Things today. Fortunately I was able to cross a few things off my list! And there are a few that I really need to revise a bit. Backpacking around Australia is kind of out of the question now, although I’d love to go & visit for a few weeks. And while watching The Wizard of Oz while listening to Dark Side of the Moon is a great goal, I really need to just get that one over with and out of the way. (And another 43 Things user made this infinitely easier by revealing that already-synched videos are on YouTube. Fab0.)

The thing that inspired me to come back here was Visit All the National Parks. I’m doing this but very slow about writing. And since I just started reading a book about writing,* I’m inspired to get the parks I’ve already visited blogged and scrapped and out of the way. Have been working on a post about the trip to Assateague Island for a few weeks,  just not had the time to finalize!

So the new goal to do at least part of one trip report each week. Each trip report has 5 parts:

  1. First draft—handwrite on bus (until I get computer!!)
  2. First draft—type
  3. Revise first draft, tag
  4. Pick a few photos, post blog, update National Parks Quest page’
  5. Format & print out a copy for the National Park Passport.

Ok this is on!!! Going to finish all the parks I’ve visited by the end of the year!!! Will still have a bunch more to go but it’s a start.

* YES, I know that reading a book about writing is really just procrastinating from writing, but I’m not equipped to write on the bus exactly. See “Into the Woods with Computer and Coffee.” Working on it.

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Into the woods with computer and coffee

Spent the weekend at French Creek State Park with the South Jersey Writers’ Group on a retreat. We had our first one in November, during the National Novel Writing Month Challenge, and it was awesome to not have internet (specifically, not to have Facebook sucking the life out of me) or any other distractions.

The idea for this retreat was to participate in NaNoEdMo, where participants spend 50 hours in the month of March editing one of their projects. I was on a roll through December, but in early January I lost my laptop. Along with it the notes on the major epiphany I had three days before the end of the month.  (Last backup was November 26. Lesson learned.) Fortunately, half of my novel was written in composition notebooks, so I didn’t lose EVERYTHING. Although I didn’t have much hope for anything useful being able to be found; after I changed the story I had regulated my notebooks to merely backstory. But I brought the two notebooks along anyway, hoping that maybe I’d find or recall some of the inspiration.

I haven’t gotten a new laptop yet, but I lugged along my desktop computer. Yes, I did. Me and my Desktop on vacation

I had just downloaded Scrivener, since NaNoWriMo winners got a 50% off coupon. It’s still in Beta stage, but I wanted to get started and I figured it was a good time to demo. I like it. A lot like yWriter, by Spacejock Software, which I also like, but a few more features (and you can color code, which is how I roll)

After paging through my notebooks to see where I had left off, I discovered that I had the new story summary handwritten in one of the notebooks!! Made my weekend! Uploaded and rearranged it, then spent a good two hours developing the backstory more later on that afternoon. Typed in a few more scenes from the notebooks and wrote one new one, for a really productive weekend overall. Yay.

I never get to work on my fiction, but now I finally have enough direction and setup in a story that I can’t wait to continue. I also wrote out a list of goals and plans for accomplishing the story. Going to try to alternate a blog post with transcribing a scene to writing a new one. We’ll see how long this takes me. But at a previous writers’ group meeting, I set an overall goal to pitch to an agent at the 2012 Philadelphia Writers’ Conference. Have a long way to go….

Thanks to Christine for the organizing and the coffee pot, Dawn for the meals, Emily for the inspiration, and Jerri for the chocolate! Hoping to plan another one of these for the summer time, at Atsion by the lake! Although I really hope to have a laptop again by then. The desktop worked fine but it was way too much work! 🙂

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Other races I’m trying to keep track of

So it seems every other month is a little ambitious for traveling distances. New yearly goal will be to cross off three more states: one a weekend’s distance, one a little farther (east coast), and one out west. Still hoping for Vicksburg MS in a few weeks, and then found the “finish for a guinness” race in Rhode Island, near Horseneck beach in MA, which happens to be a place I wanted to go for Labor Day last year! May not get out west due to the Africa trip, but setting the goal for a half-marathon next March (Snake River or Red Rocks, I think!)

AND, I didn’t get into the Broad Street Run this year. WTF. I didn’t even know it opened and it was closed!! haha. Will have to go and cheer, I guess!

Mount Snow Triathlon — Sprint distance, early August

Finish For a Guiness — Labor Day Weekend, 2011? Rhode Island

Saguaro National Park 8 mile run, Labor Day Weekend

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5K Down….50 to go?

Finished my first full 5K last night, spurred on by “Thriller” (as I’m running in the dark, in the woods….it was creepy and hilarious) And so I’m ready for the Hero to Heroes run on October 9. As I was looking for other races, I came across a thing on Running in the USA for a “50 states gadget.” It’s meant for marathoners, but I thought why not? So my new goal is a 5K or 10K in every state, at least once per month in the next year! Let’s see….

October 9: Heroes to Hero — NJ
November 14: Alex’s Lemonade Stand Lemon Run — PA
December 18: Lookout Mountain 10k (First 10k!) — TN
January 1: Lowell 1st Run New Year’s Day! — MA
February 12: Cupid’s Chase — NY (Manhattan!)
March 5: Run Through History, Vicksburg National Military Park — MS
April 30: Trail Triple Crown at White Clay Creek (trail run! only doing the 5k though, not the triple crown!) — DE
May: Broad Street?? Will I really be ready to run 10 miles?
September: ING Half Marathon??

Have to find a few more, but that’s a good start. Anybody want to go with me? 🙂

Ideas for TN Run
Cabins to rent:
Hike Trail of Tears
Also near Great Smoky Mountains NP

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Antietam, Memorial Day 2010

Last day of Get Out Philly’s Memorial Day Weekend Bash near Harpers Ferry. After rafting, hiking & campfire, on Monday we headed to Antietam for our American Citizen duty on Memorial Day. My third visit to a National Battlefield. Got my pin! Im always amazed at the dedication & thoroughness of the records kept and detail of these places. Plaques by every field with lists of battles and commanders, and where they went and who they fought and how they did it and who one. I suppose it’s good that someone remembers.

90 degrees at midday. Adrienne reminded us that as hot as we were, the soldiers during the Cvil War summers wore long sleeved woolen uniforms and had to march for days in the heat. I certainly couldn’t imagine it!

I walked with the dog around the back of the Visitor’s Center. Up a small rise to a battleground and the West Virginia Appalachian mountains and valleys were breathtaking. Antietam was the last battle of the War, and right afterward Robert E. Lee surrendered. Twenty-three thousand soldiers died. Sad to think that so many people killed each other under these beautiful mountains, in the name of freedom. War is still the same thing, death in the name of freedom, murder under glorious blue skies, destruction of national treasures. Not American maybe, but treasures to someone. I don’t quite understand it today either.

As we drove through the rolling hills on the tour, down to Burnsides’ Bridge where the Union held off the Confederates, past the standard monuments from each state, naming and honoring the dead, the song our guide taught us on the ghost tour last night about John Brown was echoing through my head, with the chorus “Glory, Glory Hallelujah….” Prayers for the soldiers past and present, thanks for your sacrifice.

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