A few weeks ago I completed the Xterra Atlantic trail race series. The series was four races, culminating with a half-marathon. I’m slightly behind on blogging; however, after looking back I did recap the first two races of the series. For brevity’s sake, I’ll just post finishing results for the first two races and recap the final two races of the trail series below.
As the series progressed, I became less and less motivated to race. I had no desire to race a 10k. All I wanted to do was run an ultra. I was craving the mountains, not the swamplands. Yet, there I was on a humid Sunday morning pretending to be happy I was about to race.
It had rained for 4-5 days straight leading up to the race. The local mountain bike team that my dad coaches practices and races at this venue – Camp Edge. I’ve done numerous trail building days on these trails. I had even raced on these trails for the Sasquatch 5k. I knew the trails didn’t drain well. With 4-5 days of rain behind us, I knew that the course was going to be sloppy. This also added to my lack of motivation.
I was happy that Jess was racing too. I warned her about the mud and we both joked that we had signed up for a trail race, not a mud run.
“Sloppy” didn’t even do the trail conditions justice. It was a disaster. I went out hard for two reasons: because I knew these trails inside and out, forwards & backwards AND because I knew the mud would get progressively worse as more racers ran through it.
Two women passed me around the two mile mark. By mile three, I had mentally checked myself out of the race. The trails were crap, I was sliding everywhere, and I did NOT feel like doing a second loop.
We ran through the finish line and turned right to head back out across the field and into the woods. Here we go again. Loop 2. I gave up on running fast through the mud. The mud was worse the second time around because now we were running through mud that 100 other people had already ran through. I was frustrated. I was agitated. I was not having fun.
All I truly remember about loop 2 was focusing on not sliding in the mud and carelessly splashing through the puddles. It was hot so the puddles were a nice relief.
When we exited the woods, my dad, Josh, and Steve were taking pictures. My dad told me to pick it up and my response was an irritated “I don’t feel like it”. I crossed the line as the 3rd overall female and 21st overall of 68, in 56:05.
I was happy that Jess raced hard and finished 3rd in her age group. I was super proud of her for finishing her first ever trail 10k and I hoped that she would attend the next trail race of the series with me! I was also excited because we were all going to a wine festival after the race and I just love wine!
Disclaimer: I won’t be doing this race again. I didn’t enjoy the course conditions, I despise races that are two loops, and I just didn’t like the race atmosphere.
Big Elk Half-Marathon:
I was hoping that I would be in tip-top shape going into the last race of the series; however, my running motivation had dwindled over the course of four months and my cycling motivation had peaked. Due to work schedules, weekend events, and vacation, the training plan I had created for myself was merely a piece of paper hanging on my bulletin board.
My longest run leading up to Big Elk was 8 miles. Despite failing at following the plan, vacation provided me with an opportunity to spend miles and miles on my feet, climbing up mountains. I knew that the hills wouldn’t be a problem. Instead, my endurance might end up being the problem.
On the morning of race day, we arrived to the starting area with 25 minutes until start time. 25 minutes to spare is considered rushing to me so I frantically ran from the parking lot to the bathroom and from the bathroom to the packet pick-up area. I ran back to the parking lot, pinned my bib on crookedly, threw on my Ultimate Direction pack and ran back to the starting line.
The first mile was slightly downhill and I hoped that the crowd would eventually thin out. I found myself leading a pack of 5-6 runners on some single track and I wished that they would just go around me instead of following so closely on my heels. I was familiar with the trails so I knew what sections to be cautious through and what sections to speed up.
We ran past the first water stop and I yelled at a woman trying to pass me that she had missed the turn. It pays to pay attention, people! At the top of the next hill, Josh appeared! I laughed that he was just standing in the middle of the woods.
Finally half of the group of people went around me. A few still remained on my heels and I tried to shake them by speeding up. They stuck close.
I was running faster than my comfort zone trail pace and by mile 6ish, my left knee started bugging me. I couldn’t catch my breath and I just wanted to enjoy my time in the woods. I pulled to the side and let a few runners go around me. Finally, I could run in peace!
I spent most of miles 6-10 by myself. I was content this way. I listened to nature rather than the rapid breathing of myself and those that were once around me. I finally relaxed into the race. I was finally enjoying myself. I even took breaks to walk up some hills. All of this is my trail bliss.
The course went through a field with grass up to my hip. I was frustrated because I knew this wasn’t truly a trail. They just stuck flags in a grassy field to make things “interesting”. The only thoughts going through my head were “ticks, ticks, ticks everywhere!”
When we got back on an actual trail, a few people came up behind me. I let them pass and I just kept at my steady happy-go-lucky pace. Our course eventually met up with the 5k/10k course and there were a lot of runners on the trail now.
I passed a few people who were trudging through their shorter race and I knew we were getting closer to the end. We ran through some streams that felt super refreshing. By this point the top of my left foot was also bothering me so the cold water felt great on my sore foot.
The course exited the woods and brought us toward the finishing area. I ran confidently towards the finish line and Josh yelled at me to smile. I smiled.
I crossed the line and looped back to find Josh, Jess, & Steve. We talked about Jess’s 10k that she CRUSHED! She beat her previous 10k trail time by 14 minutes. We waited patiently for results, I changed out of my race attire, and then we waited for the awards ceremony.
I finished in 2:08:55 as the 4th overall female and 1st in my age-group. The results posted online are incorrect (once again). I knew my time would be around the two hour mark so I was more than content with a 2:08. I had completed the trail series, Jess had crushed her 10k, and then we all celebrated with brunch on Main Street, Newark.
I won the trail series for my age-group, therefore, winning a free entry to Xterra Nationals in Ogden. I will not be attending Nationals because the plane ticket is far too expensive and by September I will be in full grad school mode.
Completing the series was more of a mental challenge for me rather than a physical challenge. I found myself highly unmotivated for most of the races. I enjoyed the Brandywine 12k the most due to the ruggedness of the trails. Big Elk was my second favorite because I got to spend 2+ hours in the woods. Lums Pond 12k was semi-decent because I’ve never been to that trail system before; however, it’s too flat for me and doesn’t benefit my strengths. Wetlands 10k was my absolute least favorite race of the entire series. The mud was annoying and I hate courses that are two loops.
Next year, I probably won’t run any of the races again. It was something different for me to try this year in the interim of training for another ultra; however, my heart is set on ultras in the mountains.
It’s been real, Xterra, but now it’s time for you to crown another Xterra Champion.
The scenery on the eastern side of Utah didn’t look much different than the scenery on the western side of Colorado. The posted speed limit was 80mph so I was happily driving while Josh took in the surrounding landscape zipping by.
Once we exited Route 70, Moab would be the next town we would come across. Despite being situated in the middle of a red rock desert, Moab was a bustling place. Everybody either had bike racks on their cars or was driving a camper. Despite being visitors, it was a welcoming atmosphere for us because we love spending time outside, exploring, and taking in nature.
We drove to our pre-determined camping area managed by the BLM – the Sandflats Recreation Area. We paid our $15 at the gate, drove up the road and settled on camping in the Cottontail camping area which had 4-5 other sites available for tents. After pitching our tent, admiring the place we would get to sleep at later, and changing into mountain bike attire, we headed back into town for our bike rentals.
We rented our mountain bikes from Chile Pepper Bikes – a bike shop well-known to Moab visitors. They suggested trails for us, hooked a bike rack to our car, loaded up our bikes, and sent us on our way. We left the confines of Main Street, Moab and headed back out to Moab Brands.
After scoping out the trails on the map we purchased for $2, we decided to start on EZ – an intermediate/easy trail. We were both getting acquainted with our rental bikes and the varying terrain of Moab so this was a good way to start off.
We connected EZ to Bar-M – an easy trail. From Bar-M we hopped on Rockin’ A which was considered an intermediate-expert trail. Rockin’ A was complete rock – not a speck of dirt in sight. On the east coast, I’m terrified of rocky sections (which are typically paired with a downhill); however, in Moab, I had no choice. You can look for miles in Moab and find only rock. To my own surprise, I wasn’t overly frightened. There were no log overs to worry about or huge rocks to weave through. We were simply riding ON the rocks – rocks that were relatively smooth and rather nonthreatening.
Granted, I was probably going slower than anyone else that rides in Moab but I was still riding. We passed a group of riders that said they were from Michigan. A guy told me I was doing awesome. Quite surprised at his apparent observation, all I managed to say was “thank you” and I just continued riding.
At the end of Rockin’ A we hopped over to Circle-O (also an intermediate-expert trail). I was truly enjoying myself at my own pokey pace. Josh was up ahead riding at his own pace and waiting for me every so often. We were enjoying our ride in a place we’ve only ever seen on Instagram. We were finally living our Instagram dreams!
I feel that I need to share that our ride in Moab was not guided by trail markers every 100-200 feet. Trail markers can only be found at the beginning and end of each trail, typically accompanied with a map. So how do you know you’re still on a trail? Just follow the faded paint line on the rock – AND DON’T DIVERGE FAR. I remember concentrating hard on following the paint line and I would get mad at myself when I would lose concentration and move to the right/left of it by 2-3 feet. I wanted to follow the line!
Ok, back to Circle-O. Circle-O is a 3.2 mile trail of rock. Half-way through, Josh broke his derailleur. It was a problem that couldn’t be fixed, so he was forced to walk about 2-3 miles back to our vehicle. I continued to ride at my own slow pace while he disappointingly walked the line. Role reversal! Now I was the one waiting every so often for him to catch up to me. I would loop back to him and then ride ahead again, trying to find the end of Circle-O so he knew he was getting closer to the car.
After, a good 30-40 minutes of walking, Josh finally got back to the car. We still had time remaining on our day rental and I wanted to get the most out of it – especially since one bike was broken. I went back to EZ trail and did a quick loop of Lazy-EZ. It was flowy, it was fun, and I wish that Josh & I could’ve rode more in Moab together. But the trail gods clearly had other plans.
With the exception of the broken derailleur, I genuinely enjoyed riding in Moab. It was unlike anything we ever ride on the east coast. My only Moab regret is not spending more time there. We only saw a tiny crumb of what Moab trails offer (12.9 miles to be exact) and I just want to go back to see and experience more.
After we returned our rental bikes, we stopped at the grocery store for cold Gatorades. Then we decided to eat dinner before heading back to our campsite for the remainder of the afternoon.
Moab Brewery was conveniently next to the bike shop so we opted for that. We walked in, sat in the pub area, and ordered nachos. You can never go wrong with nachos! Josh ordered a beer and I ordered their “Ginerade” – gin and lemonade. It was alright. We ordered our entrees (a veggie wrap for me and a burger for Josh) but we were both rather unimpressed by the taste. I picked through my entire wrap and only ended up eating a small portion of it. Our review of Moab Brewery? Nice atmosphere, good brews, ok mixed drinks, and unimpressive entrees. Would we go back? I’m just going to say one thing: let’s try someplace different.
After leaving the brewery, we drove back to our campsite and simply relaxed. Around 9 PM we climbed up a few rocks to watch the sunset. We observed mountain bikers dropping off of steep rocks and UTV’ers off in the distance. The sunset was absolutely beautiful. I am so envious of anyone that lives in that area or has such scenic views everyday. It is an absolutely beautiful and unique place in our country and words nor pictures could ever do it justice.
The stars took forever to come out. I was fighting off falling asleep in our tent and every 10 minutes I would wake up and ask if the stars were out yet. When they finally did all start to appear, they were EVERYWHERE! The most stars I’ve ever seen and there was not a speck of light pollution. I’m sure that Josh observed the stars longer than I did because I just couldn’t stay awake. At some point in time, we were both asleep.
Day 4 stats: 12.9 miles mtb, 838 ft of elevation gain, max elevation was 4,778 ft
Day 5 (Saturday):
Let it be known that sleeping in Moab can be a struggle without the proper camping supplies. We were sleeping on sand and all we had were our pillows, a sheet, and a blanket. I brought in layers of clothes the night before knowing I might need them as night progressed. Thank goodness I did because I woke up at an unknown time freezing cold. However, the moon was super bright and the stars were still out!
I’m pretty sure I only got 3 hours of sleep in Moab between being uncomfortable and being cold. The sun was already up by 6 AM but I tried to fall back asleep. That lasted 30 minutes and then I decided to just go for a run. I ran 2 miles with stiff legs and a stiff back. It was slow but I got to see more of the Sand Flats area.
Once Josh woke up, I made myself a peanut butter and banana sandwich and we packed up our tent. Josh stopped at the local coffee shop to get his morning dose of coffee and then we started driving again. Next stop: Ogden!
The drive to Ogden was pretty uneventful. We drove through a lot of desert and some canyons. There were huge windmills too! We swapped drivers half way through and I drove us the rest of the way to Ogden.
We arrived at 2nd Tracks for our bike rental where we were finally reunited with my brother, Michael! We received our bikes and put my bike in our car and Josh’s bike in Michael’s car. He was taking us to Snowbasin for mountain biking!
We drove right through the canyon to get to Snowbasin! What a road that was! It twisted and winded all the way through the mountain. It was quite the scenic road!
Michael toured us around Snowbasin which turned out to be extremely scenic and quite challenging. The trails were tough in sections, especially the uphills and rocky sections. Josh and Michael would zip ahead of me so I mostly rode solo; however, they waited at trail intersections to make sure I was still in one piece. The flowy sections were enjoyable and the switchbacks were nice but I was completely out of my element riding on literal mountains.
After riding nearly 9 miles, we packed up our bikes again and headed back into Ogden. Michael brought us to Slackwater Pizza & Pub. Pizza sounded so welcoming! I ordered a mac & cheese pizza, Josh ordered the buffalo chicken pizza, and Michael ordered the Hawaiian pizza.
Let me just say, I am still to this day talking about my mac & cheese pizza. It was so unique and so delicious that I wish I could order another one right now! It didn’t have pizza sauce on it, just macaroni noodles, cheese, and a drizzle of balsamic. The balsamic made it so good! I am so glad I ordered something outside of my “pizza comfort zone” because I would go back there in a heartbeat – pizza stop #2 of the trip got another A++.
After satisfying our hunger, we were tired from a sleepless night and a day of activity. Michael returned to Hill AFB and Josh and I drove to our campground for the remainder of our stay – KOA Brigham City/Perry. We enjoyed some downtime at our cozy little cabin, took showers, and fell asleep comfortably on a mattress – a little luxury!
Day 5 stats: 9 miles mtb, 1,156 ft of elevation gain, max elevation was 7,230 ft
Day 6 (Sunday):
We slept wonderfully in our cozy cabin and woke up feeling a little less sleepy and a lot less stiff. We enjoyed a simple breakfast and then met Michael at a trailhead for the Bonneville Shoreline trail system.
[Fun fact! Bonneville Shoreline does not follow any shore whatsoever. It’s not near water nowadays….but it used to be! Way back in the day, the Great Salt Lake was so large and high up that the Shoreline trail was indeed on the shoreline of the lake. However, now, the Salt Lake has shrunk, a city has been developed, and the shoreline trail is simply amidst the mountains.]
After a brief discussion with a snobby local (true fact) at the trailhead, we started riding. It was a hot, the trails were narrow and rather hilly and I was just not having a good day on the bike. After less than 3 miles, I decided I just wanted to run so that the men didn’t have to keep waiting up for me. We put my bike back in the car and I set out for a run while Michael and Josh rode more miles.
I enjoyed a 6.8 mile run on the Shoreline trail which provided a continuous vista of Ogden and zig-zagged in and out of small mountain valleys. The trail was lightly trafficked and I enjoyed the serenity of running in a new place. Michael and Josh mountain biked 11.7 miles together and also enjoyed views of Ogden from above.
After we were done our excursions, we decided to eat lunch at another place Michael recommended to us called The Angry Goat. I had a black bean quesadilla, Josh enjoyed a sandwich and fries, and Michael had a breakfast burrito. It was a quaint and quiet pub and we got to plan our next hike.
We returned our bike rentals and drove to the trailhead for the Hidden Valley Trail. Turns out I picked a pretty strenuous trail because the trail was sun-exposed and extremely steep. Josh & I powered ahead after Michael decided to turn back around. We had views of Ogden from above again. When we reached the top of the trail we were rewarded with a field of flowers and a vista of a valley…. a hidden valley.
Upon descending, we decided to run sections of the trail back down to the parking lot. The steep sections got me nervous so I slowed to a crawl, I leaped over a snake that Josh didn’t see, and we decided that, although quite challenging, Hidden Valley Trail was rather anticlimatic. At least we got to spend more time outside!
Once we were done hiking, Michael gave us a tour of the AFB. We then went our separate ways as it was getting late. Josh & I picked up fresh salads at Smith’s grocery store (their equivalent to Shoprite/Acme) and we ate dinner back at our cabin as the sun was setting.
In both Utah & Colorado it seemed that sunsets were so lengthy. Daylight seemed to last so much longer compared to the east coast. Still to this day, it boggles my mind and I can’t seem to figure it out. I digress. The sun set, we showered, and then went right to sleep.
Day 6 stats: 2.7 miles mtb (me), 11.7 miles mtb (Josh), 6.7 mile run (me), 4.8 mile hike (both), 3,766 ft of elevation gain (me), 3,851 ft of elevation gain (Josh), max elevation was 6,762′
Day 7 (Monday):
Monday morning we woke up and had nowhere to be! We decided Monday would be our relaxation day. Our legs were exhausted and we just needed some time to chill out. Michael was working all day and we would spend the afternoon with him once he was done.
I enjoyed time reading my book and we discussed our adventures so far. Then Josh got antsy and started researching nearby trails to our campground. He discovered the Perry Canyon trailhead that was within a mile of us. It was the hottest part of the day but I agreed to go with him.
The trailhead wasn’t clearly marked so we questioned our parking choice. The trail was slightly overgrown and Josh became paranoid about the safety of our car. My legs were still quite exhausted so I opted to take the car back to the campground, continue relaxing, and Josh would continue hiking/running on the Perry Canyon trail. We discussed a time limit and potential plans for coming to pick him up.
I don’t have much knowledge on what the Perry Canyon trail was like but Josh said it was kind of overgrown and very much uphill. He finished a 6 mile run with 985′ of elevation gain. He showed up to the campground tired yet satisfied that he got to run up another mountain!
Still in need of lunch at 3:30PM, we decided to drive into Brigham City to get food at Kent’s Market. We picked up two more fresh salads, cold fruit, donuts for the next morning, and a yogurt parfait. Kent’s Market was a nice surprise and we enjoyed the freshness of their food choices!
We met Michael and his friend, Andy, at the trailhead for Adams Canyon trail around 5:30 PM. In retrospect, this was probably my favorite trail that we hiked in the Ogden area. Honestly, I considered it to be epic. For starters, it was shaded. Secondly, it followed a stream up to an awesome waterfall. The trail was rocky and steep and at times I was climbing up rocks using my hands. A hiker warned us of a rattlesnake he heard and I got nervous. I don’t like snakes at all so I went into super-awareness mode. We stopped 3/4 of the way up and the men climbed up a very high rock overlook. Here is the picture below.
We continued our way up the trail until we finally reached the waterfall! We crossed the shallow part of the waterfall’s pool of water and my Altra Superiors drained very well. I got close enough to the waterfall to feel the mist, but not close enough to touch it. It was cold water!
While at the top, Michael & Andy climbed more rocks, and we watched a few people climb towards the top of the waterfall (crazy!). Josh also unexpectedly snapped a picture of me modeling my Altra race top, Altra Superiors, and Ultimate Direction pack.
We also took a selfie with Michael and Andy behind us climbing the rocks. They have no fear!
We started the hike back down to the trailhead. I’m SUPER slow on descents so the men kept waiting up for me. We simply got to enjoy more time out on a nice afternoon. Even though it was closing in on 8 PM, people were still hiking up in the direction of the waterfall. I envy the outdoorsy-ness of the people in the western states. People out there don’t miss any opportunity to hike, bike, or run and I truly admire that.
Once again, we were eating dinner at 9 PM. After our hike we all drove to Rooster’s Brewing Company for dinner. We enjoyed burgers (mine was black bean), fries, and Josh & Andy had brews. We closed the place down and then we had to say our goodbyes in the parking lot. Michael and Andy returned to the AFB and Josh & I returned to the cabin for our final vacation night.
We stayed up until midnight trying to organize and pack all of our things again. We were both tired but I didn’t want vacation to end. Eventually we fell asleep, grateful for all of our vacation adventures.
Day 7 stats: 6 mile run & 3.6 mile hike (Josh), 5.1 mile hike (me), 2,498 ft of elevation gain (Josh), 1,691 ft of elevation gain (me), max elevation was 6,202 ft
Day 8 (Tuesday):
We woke up Tuesday morning feeling tired from lack of sleep. I became stressed about fitting everything in our bags. I shoved the blanket we had bought at Target into my carry-on because I was determined to bring it home (and it now sits happily folded on the end of my bed). I must have packed and repacked my bags at least 6 times in shear determination to fit everything.
Shortly after leaving our lovely mountain cabin, I received a text saying our flight was delayed. I went into a brief panic because we had to make a connecting flight in Dallas; however, I calculated that we should have just enough time to make it. Travel stress is the worst stress, especially when you have to end a vacation with it!
We flew over the mountains departing SLC and I was sad to be leaving. There was so much more for us to explore and see in both Utah and Colorado. I wanted to see more!
We landed in Dallas and the pilot drove to our terminal for what seemed like 30 minutes – precious time when you have to make a connecting flight! We took the Skylink from our arrival terminal to the departing terminal which we successfully navigated. Upon arriving at our departing terminal, they were just starting to board our plane. I was starving and miserable so I ran over to the closest convenience store and bought a bag of peanuts. Onwards to home!
Josh’s mountain bike miles: 28.9 miles
Lyndsey’s mountain bike miles: 24.6 miles
Josh’s running miles: 6 miles
Lyndsey’s running miles: 8.7 miles
Josh & Lyndsey’s hiking miles: 8.4 miles
Josh’s elevation gain (combo of running, hiking , & biking): 8,118 feet
Lyndsey’s elevation gain (combo of running, hiking , & biking): 7,487 feet
Max Elevation: 7,230′ above sea level (Snowbasin)
Combined Stats (Utah & Colorado):
Running miles (both): 14 miles (Josh) and 16.7 miles (Lyndsey)
Hiking miles (both): 21.1 miles (both of us)
Mountain bike miles (just Utah): 28.9 miles (Josh) and 24.6 miles (Lyndsey)
Elevation gain: 13,636′ (Josh) and 12,935′ (Lyndsey)
Max Elevation: 10,465′ (Frisco)
Combined total miles explored: 126.4 miles
Combined elevation achieved: 26,571′
Colorado and Utah are beautiful places. I am grateful for all that we got to see and do on our one-week vacation in mountain time. I am grateful that I got to spend time with good friends in Colorado. I am grateful that I got to spend time with my brother in Utah. I am grateful that we had safety in all of our travels, hikes, runs, and bike rides. I am forever grateful that Josh & I got to spend a week together in our happy place – the mountains!
I will always look back on this vacation with fond memories. I will yearn for the day that I get to go back with Josh by my side to climb more mountains together. It was an unforgettable week and I will forever cherish the moments we got to spend together & with people we love.
At the end of May, Josh & I embarked on our greatest adventure yet – a trip out west to Colorado and Utah! We packed every day with as many vistas, breaths of fresh air, and places as possible and came home exhausted, sore, and full of wanderlust. Colorado took our breath away – literally. Like most adventures, I will blog about it to reminisce in the future about all the amazing places we visited. Perhaps by doing so, it will keep the wanderlust at bay. Honestly though, I think it will just remind us of how wonderful, beautiful, and “us” these mountain states are. Without further ado….
Day 1 (Tuesday):
Our flight departed Philadelphia in the wee hours of the morning. We were on our first plane to Chicago by 5 AM and after a short layover we would fly from Chicago to Denver. Once in the air, somewhere above Pennsylvania, we were able to see the sun rising behind us and the moon still ahead of us. This was an interesting sight and made the thought of a 5 AM flight a little less bothersome.
We landed in Chicago and tried to patiently wait for our second flight of the morning. Shortly after boarding our flight along with 90% of our fellow passengers, the flight attendant announced there was a hydraulic leak in our plane and we all had to get off and wait for another plane. Annoyed and frustrated, we shuffled off the plane and waited for an alternate plane to arrive. Our flight left nearly an hour later than it should have and I felt shorted for time I was losing. We occupied ourselves with in-flight episodes of Modern Family and rest.
We finally arrived in Denver, successfully navigated the chaos of the airport, hopped on a shuttle to the rental car company, and picked up our rental car. Within less than an hour of landing, we were driving away from the city and towards the mountains.
I persuaded Josh to stop in Frisco which was the first Colorado mountain town I had ever visited in Colorado back in March of 2017. Surrounded by mountains we parked and walked to Butterhorn Bakery & Cafe on Frisco’s Main Street. We were seated immediately and were excited about finally eating a real meal. I was thoroughly impressed and satisfied by the veggie hummus wrap with a side of quinoa that I ordered and Josh enjoyed “The Frisco” – a turkey bacon sandwich. With full stomachs, we planned our 1st vacation adventure – a hike up Mount Royal.
We drove less than a half mile to the trailhead, put on our hydration packs, asked a local which direction to link up to the trail, and we started hiking up… up, up, up. The hike was 1.4 miles to the peak from where we parked. The entire hike is uphill and we were quickly out of breath from the altitude difference. We kept trudging along and a local trail runner passed us with ease. As we approached the peak, the wind picked up. We got to the top and the wind was brisk. We admired our surroundings, wandered around the peak, took PLENTY of pictures, and then decided to descend. The hike down was just as interesting as the hike up. Loose stone required that each step be carefully planned. We each slid a few times but arrived back to the trailhead without injury. Our first Colorado hike was complete!
Our next destination was Angela and Phil’s! We continued our drive until we got to our stay for the next few days! We were welcomed happily by our friends, went on a search party for a missing neighborhood dog, and ate nachos for dinner! Our night ended shortly after dinner and showers. Josh and I had been awake for nearly 22 hours and we knew we needed rest for the next day’s adventures!
Day 1 stats: 2.8 miles, 1,312 ft of elevation gain, max elevation was 10,465 ft
Day 2 (Wednesday):
Thanks to the time difference between the east coast and the mountains, I woke up pretty early Wednesday morning. Luckily when I realized it was still dark out, I was able to force myself back asleep. Josh & I had a relaxing morning before heading out for a hike in New Castle.
We hiked up to the Mount Medaris trail system. We passed cacti, lizards, and plenty of wild flowers. We had a lovely view of the surrounding mountains, the entire town of New Castle, and the river down below. It was calming to be atop such a small town. Part of the trail was steep but we took our time and took plenty of pictures!
For lunch, we walked to Hogback Pizza. It was a cozy pizza shop – perfect for a small mountain town! Interestingly, even though the pizza was round, it was cut into squares. The uncanny shape of our slices didn’t effect the taste in any way! Our cheese pizza was absolutely delicious – pizza stop #1 of the trip got an A++.
Later in the day, we decided to drive to the Hanging Lake trailhead. The hike up was enjoyable and we continued to ascend into land that reminded me of the Grand Canyon (although I have never actually been to the Grand Canyon…). At the top, we scrambled up some rocks protected by a guardrail to our right. The water was so pristine and blue and the waterfalls were peaceful. There were a few other hikers at the top and a kind mom offered to take our picture (see below).
After taking in Hanging Lake for awhile longer, we continued a short hike up to Spouting Rock. We had no idea what Spouting Rock was, but it was quite a sight to see! A waterfall was literally spouting out of the rock face. For no reason visible to our eye, water was just spewing from the huge rock wall in front of us. We walked behind the waterfall for fun and then continued on our way back down the trail.
After we returned from our hike, we went out to dinner with Phil & Angela. They chauffeured us to BrewPub in Glenwood Springs. The restaurant was huge and the staff was friendly. I ordered a spinach salad with walnuts and raspberry vinaigrette and Josh enjoyed a burger and an oatmeal stout. Both of us enjoyed every bite of our meals. Another meal success!
We went to bed that night pretty worn out from hiking in the heat but we were excited for another day of adventures to come with the Dunn’s.
Day 2 stats: 5.8 miles, 1,922 ft of elevation gain, max elevation was 7,306 ft
Day 3 (Thursday):
Thursday morning we woke up pretty early to get a jump start on the heat of the day. Josh drove us all to Snowmass Village. We parked and took a shuttle up to the Rim Trail trailhead. This particular trail was absolutely breathtaking – both literally & figuratively. The singletrack we ran on was so perfect and picturesque. The ascents kicked my butt, but the views throughout the entire run were incredible. We saw snowcapped mountains in the distance, a lake, and the village of Snowmass.
About half-way through the run, we approached another long ascent. Feeling extremely short of breath, I opted to powerhike most of the 2nd climb. Josh joined me as the mountain folk (Phil & Angela) charged ahead. It was a long climb but the view up top was awesome AND we got to enjoy a wonderful downhill lasting at least 2 miles.
Our Snowmass run totaled 8.1 miles with 1,077 feet of gain, averaging 11:40/mile. Our max elevation was 9,178 feet above sea level – quite high for us east coasters. This was probably my favorite adventure in Colorado and my favorite run of our entire trip. I still can’t get over the beauty of the singletrack we ran on.
After leaving the beauty of Snowmass, we made a pitstop at Red Rock Diner in Carbondale for lunch. I ordered a veggie quesadilla with guacamole and Josh had a BLT sandwich with fries. We were both quite satisfied with our meals. Luckily, our next hiking stop was a mere half mile from the diner so when we got done we made the quick drive to the Mushroom Rock trailhead.
The Mushroom Rock trail was copious with red dirt and great views of Mount Sopris in the distance. I felt entranced by Mount Sopris – which was still snowcapped when we were visiting.
Hiking along the ridge was slightly frightening at times and we kept questioning if Mushroom Rock actually existed. We made it to the top and Josh & Phil fearlessly made their way out to Mushroom Rock. Angela & I hung back, afraid to make the commitment to venture out any further. Eventually we mustered up enough courage to crawl out further (key word: “crawl”). We all sat and took in the surrounding views before heading back down to the parking lot below.
After losing Mushroom Rock Trail halfway down the trail, we ended up on Blue Ribbon Trail. Luckily, Blue Ribbon was further away from the ridge so I was slightly more comfortable hiking down. We all made it back to the parking lot quite exhausted from so much activity in our day so far.
We arrived back into town covered in red dirt and sweat. Angela left for a town gathering and Josh and I began planning for adventures in our next state – Utah. We went to visit Angela and met her co-worker. They convinced Josh to visit the Black Dog Saloon so we walked there and Josh ordered some brews. Uniquely, there was money pinned to the ceiling. I was intrigued & Josh continued to enjoy his brews.
Our third and final hike of the day was Prendergrast Hill Trail with Angela. Adopted by New Castle Running Club, we enjoyed a peaceful sunset hike up to the peak. Our legs were tired but more time spent outside in the mountains was time well spent for us. We felt like we had been fully immersed into the mountain town and we loved it!
We enjoyed pasta prepared by Chef Angela and then went to bed shortly after – completely exhausted from such an adventurous day!
Day 3 stats: 12.1 miles, 2,013 ft of elevation gain, max elevation was 9,178ft
Day 4 (Friday):
We departed early Friday morning for Moab. We were sad to be leaving the Dunn’s (and their cats) but we knew we couldn’t stay forever. However, we do indeed know that we will be returning as soon as possible! We left the mountain town at 7:15 and began our drive to Moab, Utah.
As we were driving, Colorado transformed from lush green mountain landscapes to desert. We stopped at the Target in Grand Junction for a sheet, a blanket, two pillows, gas, and donuts – all necessities for our adventures in Utah that will be described in a blog post titled “Vacation Part 2: Utah”.
Colorado was beautiful, memorable, adventurous, awe-inspiring, breathtaking, enchanting, and unforgettable. Even weeks later we are both still dreaming of a day that we come back. We are forever grateful for good friends willing to open their home up to us for a few days. We feel more connected to the Colorado lifestyle after they shared stories of their experiences thus far.
In our 3-day stay in Colorado, we covered 20.7 miles on foot with a total elevation gain of 5,247 feet. Our max elevation was in Frisco, Colorado at 10,465 feet above sea level. Our days were packed with miles and long climbs and rewarded with spectacular views and cautious descents – all of which we are grateful for.
We know we only saw a minuscule amount of what Colorado has to do, see, and experience. This gives us so many reasons to return to such a beautiful fragment of our country and we can’t wait to return.
Nevertheless, as we crossed the Colorado-Utah border we knew that more adventures awaited us.
Running miles: 8 miles
Hiking miles: 12.7 miles
Elevation gain (combo of running & hiking): 5,448 feet
Max Elevation: 10,465′ above sea level (Frisco/Mount Royal)
Everyday I remind myself that in September my life will change. I will have opportunities for a better future. I will be mentored by wise professors. I will be surrounded by individuals all striving for the same professional impact for their communities. I will be working towards an ambition that has restlessly stirred in my heart for over a year now.
These months leading up to the start of grad school have challenged me. I’ve measured my worth by a part-time job that leaves me feeling defeated, degraded, and stuck. I’ve sacrificed time with family, Josh, and clients because my availability for my true passions in life have been limited. I interact with ungrateful, ignorant, impatient customers everyday. I wish they knew that my future is much brighter than me standing behind a cash register. They only see me as a girl who is stuck working at a minimum wage job. If they only knew where I will be in less than 4 months.
I worked at a wine festival a few weekends ago and it was the most fun I’ve had working in a long, long time. It was chaotic, it was stressful, it was exhausting, but it was wonderful compared to the monotony of retail. I felt like I was contributing to society in an enjoyable way (because let’s be honest, who doesn’t enjoy wine?!).
I haven’t logged my runs in my Believe journal in over 2 weeks. I think my mileage has hovered somewhere between 25-30 miles. I’ve only been able to get in one speed workout per week (my goal when I made my training plan had been two); however, I feel like my speed workouts have been strong. Luckily this spring I decided to only compete in shorter races (my longest being a half-marathon next month). I’m giving myself kudos for not signing up for an ultra. It would’ve been stressful trying to squeeze in necessary runs to train for a race of that distance. I run at all times of day – early mornings, mid-day, or late afternoons – whenever I can fit it in.
Josh & I have been counting down the days until our vacation in 17 days. SEVENTEEN DAYS. This vacation will be a reset for both of our lives. It will be the biggest adventure of our relationship thus far. It will be time spent together that we’ve needed for months now. I can’t wait to board a plane with him for his first plane ride ever. I can’t wait until he sets eyes on the mountains of Colorado for the first time. I can’t wait to explore new places with him. Most importantly, I can’t wait to make memories with him that will last us a lifetime.
I’ve been following OTs and OT students on Instagram and blogs and it just makes me so excited for the future. I know grad school will be hard. I know the sacrifices I’ve made these past few months to save up a little extra money will be menial when I get a true career. I know that my life will be better once grad school starts even though it will surely be more stressful.
Life is a challenge but when you surround yourself with supportive, empowering, loving people the challenges are manageable. You find ways to overcome challenges with such people. You learn about yourself. You learn about the people who love you. You learn that life can be made better when you stand by your choices, when you look out for yourself, and when every ounce of your body is determined to turn away from your burdens and strive for your aspirations.
This past Sunday I raced at Lums Pond State Park in Bear, DE for the first time ever. I knew of some people that had ran and mountain biked at Lums Pond so I kind of knew what the terrain was going to be like ahead of time – flat, non-technical, but with a few scattered rooty sections. None of these characteristics of the course played in my favor. Truthfully, I have a better chance excelling on a hilly, technical, rocky course. I wasn’t looking forward to this race at all and, honestly, I regretted even signing up for it. I only signed up for it because it was part of a series of trail races and back in January/February I was desperate for some motivation to get myself out for runs. So here I was on race morning, standing in a state park parking lot trying to find an inkling of trail serenity in a road-runner dominated field of runners (sorry, roadies).
Josh selflessly chauffeured me to Bear, DE so I was thankful to have him there to be my morning company. I picked up my bib number and race swag and got back into Josh’s truck.
The morning was chilly but warmer than usual so I was trying to figure out what I wanted to race in. I went for a warm-up with 3/4 length capris, an Altra sweatshirt, Sneakers & Spokes long sleeve, a base layer long sleeve, gloves, and my Team Altra buff. I warmed up on the road for 10 minutes than discovered a trail that ended up being the last 1/4 mile of the race course. By the end of a 15-minute warm-up, I decided I need to shed my base layer for the race. I also decided I wanted to race in shorts and ditch the gloves. Wardrobe malfunction! My Sneakers & Spokes long sleeve was so long that it covered up my spandex shorts making it appear that I wasn’t wearing shorts. DARNIT! I tried pinning the bottom of the shirt up but it was a lost cause once the race started.
The race started on time and we ran across the parking lot towards the path. We would be running one 6-7 mile clockwise loop around Lums Pond (literally, I giant pond). I navigated around some racers and I could see 2 women in front of me. I hoped to keep them in my sight, but that didn’t last long.
1.5 miles into the race I found myself pancaked on the ground. My memory fails me, but I’m assuming I tripped on a root. I had no chance to catch my fall. One second I was running, the next second I was on the ground, and one second after that I was back to running. The men behind me asked if I was ok. I said bluntly, “yes, I’m fine”, as they sprinted around me. Nothing hurt but I could see some blood on my thigh. Not exactly how I wanted to run the next 5.5 miles of the race but oh well.
The course wasn’t exactly scenic. There were a lot of little turns, some rooty sections, and very small “hills”. The “hills” were basically speed bumps that slowed racers down a little but they took about 3 seconds to get up and 2 seconds to get down. Not impressed. I had lost complete sight of the women by this point, men were passing me left & right, but I just kept chugging along. I was more focused on where I was putting my feet and less focused on catching anyone ahead of me. My elbow started to sting but everything else felt fine.
I remember crossing a 200m mini bridge which was pretty cool. I jumped over a few muddy spots to avoid soaking my Superiors. We passed through a field. Then we reached the part of the course I had ran earlier for my warm-up. I knew I was almost done. I heard Josh to the right and caught a brief glimpse of him with his phone out snapping pictures. I crossed the finish line and they handed me a medal.
I looked down at my knees for the first time since I’d fallen and both were bloody. My thigh looked like a bear scratched it up. My elbow was still stinging. I knew I needed to get my cuts cleaned up so I looped back to find Josh, told him I needed to clean my knees (which is actually when he even noticed my knees were scraped). We walked over to the ambulance parked in the lot. I asked them for some peroxide and they gave me saline water and a towel to clean myself up. I sat haphazardly on the asphalt as I cleaned up. They didn’t have any normal sized bandaids and I could tell that my right knee was still bleeding so the paramedic wrapped me up with gauze and medical wrap. Josh told the paramedics, “she runs 50ks up mountains and doesn’t fall but here she is after a 12k…”. Yes, the irony of it all.
I finished in 57:28 as the 3rd overall female and 25th overall out of 98. The course was shorter than a 12k so technically it’s not a 12k PR. I stayed for the awards ceremony and then left for the 2nd race of the day – spectating the NJ NICA race held in Alloway. It was a busy but great Sunday. I didn’t do a cool-down after the race because I spent my time with the paramedics, but I ran around the NICA course with Josh to cheer on the racers.
Would I race this again? No. The course wasn’t hilly or technical (despite the fact that I tripped on a root). I thrive on challenging trail courses. This was more so a cross country style race and those days of xc racing were over after college. I don’t have the speed to keep up with those xc-type of racers. I would rather go a little slower and be able to bomb some descents. I still have a good story to tell as I take care of my knees.
Would I go to Lums Pond again? Yes. I would like to mountain bike there because I prefer non-technical trails for mountain biking (my mtb skills are lacking). If I’m looking for a flat trail running loop and want to drive all the way there then I would run there again too. But I’m not interested in racing there. One and done!
As I am patiently waiting for grad school to start in September, I have decided to document my occupational therapy (OT) journey. By doing so, I hope to help anyone looking into OT as a career. I am starting “OT Chronicles” in the midst of Occupational Therapy Month (April) to advocate for the field of OT and to share my experiences with potential future OT professionals.
Disclaimer: Let it be known that “OT Chronicles” is meant to enlighten and share my current knowledge of the OT profession. Not every question regarding OT will be answered within these posts; however, I hope to enlighten whomever reads them to advocate for and teach others about this wonderful profession! Let’s begin with the basics!
What is Occupational Therapy?
Without quoting any direct sources, occupational therapy is branch of therapy that aims to assist individuals of all ages engage in activities (occupations) that they both want and need to engage in. Such occupations can be functional-based for successful living (i.e. showering, cooking, working, cleaning, caring for others, medication management, etc) or recreational (engaging in games/sports, age-based socialization skills, gardening, etc). Occupational therapy is a goal-oriented career field that helps individuals adapt to their environments so that they can accomplish what they need to do and what they want to do.
Who do OTs provide therapy to?
OTs work with populations throughout the entire lifespan. Children, adults, and the geriatric population can all benefit from OT when a therapy need arises.
Where do OTs work?
You can find OTs working in early intervention programs (children birth to 3 years old), schools, in-patient and out-patient rehabilitation centers, senior living communities, skilled nursing facilities, or hospitals. OTs can also provide home health services. OTs can also have a career as a traveling therapist which provides an opportunity to continuously work in a variety of environments. The occupational therapy field provides a broad array of settings allowing for a variety of skill sets, environment preferences, and population preferences.
OT through the Lifespan:
Children with developmental disorders, behavioral issues, or cognitives or physical delays oftentimes work with occupational therapists through early intervention or in a school environment. OTs working with children typically focus on fine and gross motor skills, communication skills, self-care, and learning how to play/interact with others.
OTs work with adults who have experienced severe injuries, who are recovering from surgery, and who have chronic diseases, mental or physical disabilities, eating disorders, the list is lengthy. OTs working with adults typically focus on activities of daily living (ADLs) skills, return-to-work skills (when applicable), social skills, engaging in individualized meaningful activities, and the use of adaptive skills for safe and effective occupations.
OTs who work with the geriatric population typically work with individuals who have experienced severe injuries, who are recovering from surgery, who have chronic diseases or physical disabilities, or who are experiencing cognitive/memory loss. OTs working with geriatrics focus on accomplishing ADLS, maintaining or improving levels of independence, engaging in self-care, maintaining cognitive abilities and memory, and engaging in meaningful activities important to the individual.
Why choose OT as a career?
Everyone has a different reason they decided to become an occupational therapist. I’m not going to share all of those different reasons with you today; however, I will share with you my reason for pursuing OT. I hosted a balance workshop during my short stint at a fitness center. I began researching creative exercises for improving balance and I came across several videos involving OTs. BAM! The field of occupational therapy was nearly jumping out of the computer screen at me!
At the time of this balance workshop, I was feeling shorted for a dead-end career path. I knew I needed something more. After researching the field of OT, I discovered how much OT matched with my functional approach to exercises, my desire for a career with endless opportunities for compassion, and my personal ambition to make a difference in the lives of individuals I interact with. Occupational therapy seemed like a perfect match for me.
So, with that being said, I resigned from my job at the fitness center and put all of my energy towards learning more about OT, applying to grad school, and pursuing the field of occupational therapy.
Here I am now, 5 months away from starting grad school. I’ve written my 1st ever blog post for “OT Chronicles” & hopefully I’ve enlightened the people who thought that occupational therapists just help people find jobs. Wrong, very wrong….. stay tuned for more chapters of “OT Chronicles”!
Saturday night at 8 PM, I lined up for a 5k for the first time since 2015. 5ks haven’t been on my race radar for three years out of pure enjoyment of ultras and long distance races. The shortest race I’ve raced in the past three years has been a four mile road race – a 4th of July tradition in my family that is a requirement for an afternoon BBQ invitation. But, I couldn’t pass up a trail 5k…. in the dark…. on hometown trails…. with a bunch of family & friends.
All day Saturday, I was impatiently waiting for the afternoon hours. I’d much rather race in the morning so that I can enjoy the rest of the day, eat whatever I want, and relax. I was less than thrilled when I had to wait all day until I could race. I distracted myself with various errands/chores and I watched the Flyers clinch a playoff spot which was super exciting for obvious reasons. I ate dinner at 4 PM because I wanted my stomach to be fully settled by start time.
I arrived to the course before 7 PM, snagged a convenient parking spot, picked up the race packets with my parents, and set out onto the trails with my dad and uncle to set up feather flags for our family business & local mountain bike team. I was extremely confused where the course would be taking us despite knowing the trails inside & out from mountain biking there so often. I asked my dad a bunch of questions about the direction of the course down certain trails but it didn’t clarify much.
By 7:25, I was wondering where Josh & Jess (Josh’s twin) were as I knew they should both be there by now. I triple checked that my headlamp was actually on my head (my biggest fear was arriving to the starting line without my headlamp on my head and being forced to run the course in the dark – which would’ve been impossible & torturous). My Altra Superiors were on snugly and I was ready to tackle the roots within the woods! Without being able to find neither Josh nor Jess, and with no cell phone service to call them, I set out on a warm-up run with my dad, uncle, mom, and my mom’s cousin.
While out on the course we spotted the Sasquatches arriving to their designated spots on the course. My dad told the mini Sasquatch to scare me but I told mini Sasquatch that I could out sprint him on any given day. After a ten minute warm-up, we arrived back to the infield where I spotted Josh & Jess. I was a ball of energy at this point and just wanted to get the race started. I chauffeured Josh over to my car so he could drop off his race packet in my car & hastily rushed him so that he could get a warm-up in before the race started in less than 10 minutes. We ran through the in-field a little bit more – a short warm-up would have to suffice for him. Josh told me he felt nauseous and had no intention of racing hard (more details on that later).
We got to the starting line and ushered a bunch of Sneakers & Spokes runners together for a team picture. We chit-chatted amongst ourselves, tested out the brightness of our headlamps, and waited for the race directors to announce any last minute instructions. We were told that the reflectors on the trees would guide us through the course and that they should always be on our right – this proved to be extremely helpful knowledge throughout the race.
Before I knew it, they were saying “ready, set, go” through the megaphone and the field of runners surged off. I remember feeling like there were a lot of people surrounding me that I knew all had to funnel into the trail ahead of us. All I could do was keep sprinting across the field, hoping that some of them might just be energetic youths eager to start in a full out sprint.
With our headlamps on, we reached the trail entrance and I knew I was near the front of the race. There was a pack of 6-8 racers ahead of me running three-aside on the trail. In front of me was a lone runner whom I quickly passed through a sandy section. The pack of runners ahead of me kept getting further & further away as I could see the light of their headlamps fading off in front of me. I was running solo with nobody within sight ahead of me and no lights shining from behind me.
Alone, I focused on the reflectors to navigate the way. I came upon the Sasquatch banging against a tin roof trying to scare us runners but I just chuckled as I passed by. “One reflector at a time”, I told myself. I came across someone’s headlamp on the ground and thought that whomever lost that better hope they can keep up with someone who still has a light! Before I could figure out where I was, the course exited the woods back into the field. I surged ahead knowing exactly where I needed to go next (home course advantage at it’s finest). The field was pitch dark and there were just a few spectators out huddling near a small bonfire.
After a steady, low-grade incline on the singletrack, I saw headlamps shining at me. Am I going the wrong way? How did I mess up the course already?! Turns out, the course comes very close to intersecting paths but I took a left in my direction and they turned left in their direction. Crisis everted!
I continued to power ahead and soon saw a runner up ahead of me. They were definitely within my reach so I made sure to surge up to them during the non-technical section of the course. By the time we reached the next hill, I knew that if I could just power through the hill that I could gap them. He didn’t let me get too far away though. We reached the only road section of the course – a quarter mile of road until we dip back into the woods toward the finish. The man got around me on the road but I knew that my strengths on the trail would prove worthy when we got back onto singletrack.
I made a power-move on the final turn into singletrack, nearly running myself into a tree. I sprinted confidently ahead and saw two small silhouettes ahead of me. Let me try to catch up to them. So I kept my foot on the gas trying to catch up to the them. I knew I was running out of course to catch them but I kept trying.
We exited the woods for the final time into the field and I strided as fast as I could toward the finish line. I didn’t want the man behind me to catch me in a final sprint. Race volunteers shined their flashlight towards my bib number so that they could record the finishers. I stopped by watch at 23:33.
My dad and Josh walked up to me while I was still in the finishing chute. “Did you win?”, one of them asked. I said, “I think so!”. They yelled out in excitement. I ripped off the bottom of my bib number for the race volunteer & walked over to my dad & Josh. That’s when they informed that Josh won the race! HE WON! I yelled in excitement so loud and gave him the biggest hug. I couldn’t contain my excitement that we both won!
We walked back along the finishing stretch to wait for our friends & family. I was coughing uncontrollably because my lungs hurt so bad. I was still so so so excited that Josh won! WOW! We cheered on everyone we knew. This proved to be a difficult task during a nighttime race. It’s impossible to see people running towards the finish line when it’s dark!
Once everyone finished and we shared our excitement for such a fun and great race, I changed into warm (and dry) clothes, put on my winter jacket and set out on a cool-down run with my dad & Josh. We talked about our races and shared our excitement for such a cool race on our local trails. We headed back to the lodge for food, water, and the awards ceremony. It was so cozy in the lodge which made me happy!
Team Sneakers & Spokes came home with 8 individual awards, a new 5k PR, and a racer’s 2nd ever 5k. It was a fun & enjoyable night and being surrounded by awesome friends & family made the night extra special!
After the awards, I drove to Josh’s. I reflected on the race and my excitement for Josh’s win. When we got back to Josh’s it was probably almost 10:30 PM. We were both hungry so we impulsively decided to make pasta. I ate icecream sandwich cake in the interim because I was so hungry. By the time we ate pasta and showered, it was nearly midnight. What a late night.
Reflecting back, I am more than satisfied with how my race went. I raced hard, I ran confidently, I didn’t back down from the hills or other competitors. This race boosted my trail confidence in regards to running fast on trails. I know I can cover upwards to 31 miles on trails mountainous trails, but running fast on trails has never been my strong point. Although I coughed for an entire day after the race, I would run this race again next year. The race benefitted Ranch Hope and the leaders & volunteers of Ranch Hope are amazing individuals.
I don’t plan on running more 5ks – I think I’ll stick to one 5k per year & one 4 miler per year. I prefer all other races to be 10k or more and trail races. I just find trails to be my strength and I love the trail running scene/community more than anything.
I am proud of Josh for racing so strong despite having a rough Saturday leading up to the race. I am proud of his confidence on the trails and his innate competitiveness that apparently just took over one mile into the race. I am lucky to have him to stand next to as 1st place male and female of the race.
Thanks to Camp Edge and Ranch Hope for hosting a great trail race. And much appreciation to the Sasquatches who didn’t scare me in the woods mid-race!
Earlier today, I raced the Xterra Brandywine 12k. I finished 2nd overall female by a mere 40 seconds after leading for approximately 6.5 of the 7.3 mile race. Should I be upset? Maybe. Should I be mad at myself? Perhaps. But… I’m not upset. I’m not mad. It’s not a loss to me. I ran 46 seconds faster than last year on the exact same course in similar weather conditions.
I didn’t finish as the 2nd overall female because I ran slower than last year. My solitary goal going into the race was to improve my 01:06:36 finish from last year. Any other accomplishments throughout the race would just be an added bonus. I ran 01:05:50, finishing 16th overall out of a field of 110 (last year I was 44th out of 165). If that’s not something to be happy about then I don’t know what is.
What I’m trying to say is that not all “losses” are actually a loss. The woman that finished the last 3/4 of a mile faster than me might think I didn’t pace myself throughout the race or that I’m just “a young girl still learning how to finish a race in its entirety”. Truth is, that’s not me.
I knew what I was doing throughout that entire race:
I ran the 1st mile in 7:33 because I knew that any time I could gain on the downhill/flat section would be time pocketed for the gruesome climbs to come.
I didn’t power hike the climbs because I knew that the faster I could keep stepping forward, the sooner I would get to the next downhill.
I passed the men in front of me confidently and without hesitation because I was racing against them too.
I didn’t hesitate at the stream crossing because I knew that a moment of hesitation wasn’t going to resolve the issue of crossing the stream without getting my feet wet.
I didn’t flinch bombing down the rockiest downhill of the course because I’ve ran down that hill hundreds of times; I knew the best lines to take.
I didn’t try to navigate carefully around the muddy sections because I knew the quickest line was straight through them.
I ran the fielded, non-technical sections of the course with all the energy I had left because I knew there wasn’t much further to go.
I finished 46 seconds faster than last year because of all of these decisions, all of these moments, all of these intrinsic race instincts.
Races are just like life: if you try your hardest every single day to accomplish your goals, you will achieve success. Nobody can take away your successes. Nobody can diminish your accomplishments because their accomplishments seem “bigger” or “better”.
If you take initiative, if you take your goals into your own hands, if you make decisions to better yourself, than you are on your way to your own personal win – and sometimes that can be the best way to lose.
2017 is coming to a close and I’m sitting here trying to figure out how this year went by so fast, how I even survived this year to begin with, and how much I am looking forward to 2018. 2017 has been a year of many things: tumultuous changes, traveling, great trail racing, new ambitions, and faith in God’s plan. There’s been a lot of good in 2017 and a lot of what-is-going-on bad. 2017 started off decent, went through a wild spiral from March until August, and finished….decent. I’ve cried a lot this year and I’ve been stressed a lot this year, but through it all I’ve grown a lot as a person this year. Let’s review.
Josh & I started 2017 off with a run at Alapocas State Park. It was a pleasant day and I remember seeing some people rock climbing.
I became a proud 2017 Altra Ambassador and I’ve done everything I can to promote the perfection of the zero drop and wide toe box that Altra’s offer.
It snowed a decent amount at the beginning of January so Gwin and I did a lot of off-leash snow running together. She loves the snow and I love seeing her leap through the snow so excited!
We hosted a surprise 50th birthday party for my mom in January (her birthday is in April). Family & friends brought over balloons that reminded her she was turning 50 soon.
I started training for the Hyner 25k on January 22nd. I needed to do a lot of hill repeats to prepare so Josh and I did nighttime repeats at Brandywine (our go-to place for elevation). One night in the beginning of February the weather gods gifted us with shorts weather which made hill repeats slightly more enjoyable.
My brother left for Air Force Basic Training (BMT) the day before Valentine’s Day. We went out to dinner at The Cheesecake Factory then we went to PetSmart so he could buy an I’m-leaving-you gift for Gwin. He shipped out to San Antonio, Texas on February 14th.
I won a $25 gift certificate to Starbucks (note: I hate Starbucks) by reaching the most elevation logged on a treadmill within a 5 minute time period (note: I hate treadmills).
I began hating my job more and more. I was working 4:45 AM shifts which was destroying my social life, causing me excessive anxiety & stress, and making me a miserable person.
On February 27th, Angela & I set out on a 3-day road trip from NJ to Colorado. We vowed to run one mile in every state we drove through. We ran 1 mile in my hometown in NJ. We parked behind a McDonald’s and ran 1 mile in Milesburg, Pennsylvania along a farm road. We stopped at a rest stop in Middleburg, Ohio and ran 1 mile around the rest stop. We nearly missed our chance to run in Indiana so we made an impromptu stop at Indiana University Northwest. In Marseilles, Illinois we parked at a gas station and ran 1 mile through a farmer’s field and on a road where people had strange address numbers. We parked at a church and ran 1 mile on a dirt road in Earlham, Iowa. Did you know that Iowa is known as the state with “fields of opportunities“? We ran 1 mile at sunrise in North Platte, Nebraska before we left the La Quinta we stayed at. My first ever Colorado run was in Frisco, Colorado which officially completed our goal of running at least one mile in every state we drove in. Take a moment to watch my GoPro documentary of the entire road trip here!
What did I learn from this roadtrip? One: switching between 3 time zones within a three day time span is very confusing. Two: the route from New Jersey to Colorado involves an EXCESSIVE amount of fields. The landscape doesn’t change too much once you leave the mountainous part of Pennsylvania. The mountains of Colorado were the best sight in the world after 2.5 days of fields (plus their natural beauty of course). Three: our country is HUGE! There’s so much to see, so much to explore, so much to experience! Four: Colorado is BEAUTIFUL! I loved Frisco, I loved passing through mountain towns, and I loved Angela’s hometown (even the sloppy mess of the Colorow Trail).
I loved Colorado so much that Colorado didn’t want me to leave. I was about 15 minutes away from missing my flight from Denver to Philly thanks to a worrisome cop and Denver rush hour. This was the first of several stressful travel experiences of 2017. I sat on the plane facing the mountainous landscape (I was at a window seat). I didn’t want to leave. I didn’t want to return to my stressful, crappy job. I yearned to stay in the serenity of the mountains. Ever since that plane took off, I’ve wanted to go back. In 2018, I will.
I transitioned from the Altra Torins to the Altra Escalantes. I felt like I was flying in my new purple Escalantes!
At the beginning of March, I started training my first at-home personal training client.
My first race of 2017 was the Xterra Brandywine 12k. It was 23 degrees at the start of the race and I was feeling sick to my stomach. I finished as the 2nd overall female. Josh wrapped me in a blanket and I was walking around as if I was a brittle icicle. It was so cold that their computers malfunctioned so they couldn’t give out awards. They promised to mail us our awards. I went home and slept for a few hours underneath blankets. They mailed me my award a few weeks later.
I wrote a lot of snail mail to Angela, my brother at BMT, and other airmen who were also at BMT with him.
On the 1st day of spring, Josh & I got free water ice from Rita’s Water Ice.
Josh made me a homemade heart-shaped cookie cake on my birthday. It was delicious!
I turned 23. Yay.
I experienced some serious mountain withdrawal.
On April 5th, my family and I travelled to San Antonio, Texas for Michael’s BMT graduation. It would be the first time we would get to see him since February 13th. Our flight arrived late to Dallas so we missed our connecting flight. Round two of 2017 travel stress began. The airline offered us tickets on another flight but when the plane arrived, there was no pilot scheduled to fly the plane. We were stuck in Dallas for a few hours at 11 PM. After a 45 minute flight from Dallas to San Antonio (note: the flight was shorter than the time we spent waiting for a pilot to arrive…), we arrived to our destination city around 1 or 2 AM. We struggled to figure out how to get our rental car because all the rental car companies were closed. We finally arrived to our hotel just in time to get 3 hours of sleep.
On April 6th, I started the morning by eating a waffle shaped like Texas at 5 o’clock in the morning. By 6 AM, I stepped foot onto Lackland AFB (the 1st AFB I’ve ever been on). We attended the Airman’s Run and Airman’s Coin Ceremony – both of which were probably the most “I’m proud to be an American” moments I’ve ever witnessed. Michael got base liberty so we got to explore the base and see where he’s been living for 7.5 weeks.
On April 7th, Michael graduated from BMT. We celebrated with town pass by visiting the Alamo, the Tower of the Americas, and attending a San Antonio Rampage AHL hockey game. I can officially say I’ve been to a hockey game in Texas now. I had pizza for dinner the 3rd night in a row.
On April 8th, I ran 3.5 miles in San Antonio with my dad. The part of San Antonio we ran through was sketchy. We also saw a few chihuahuas running along the road. I cannot make these things up. That day we went to USO to play games and eat lunch. We also explored River Walk some more. We went to Dave & Buster’s. For food, if you’re ever in San Antonio, River Walk is THEE place to visit for food. There is a lot of variety and authentic food for every desire! I was determined to eat guacamole while I was in Texas and I finally got some at dinner!
We left to return to NJ on April 9th after our goodbyes. Highways in Texas are confusing so we got lost driving to return our rental car. We had a connecting flight home but we didn’t miss our connecting flight this time. I returned home happy for my brother and determined to do something better with my future. Seeing all the airmen dedicated to our country made me realize that I need to do something good for the world too. I needed to do something good for me.
My job continued to cause me an immeasurable amount of stress, anxiety, and misery. My boss wasn’t listening to my concerns and my stress was causing me sleep disturbances and problematic fatigue. I yearned for change but felt stuck.
After 3 months of hard training, Hyner 25k arrived. Josh and I drove my brother’s truck to the mountains because we trusted the reliability of his truck. We slept in a tent at the base of Humble Hill just like we did in 2016. I finished the 25k in 3:54:16. All race details can be found here.
After Hyner, I went through a running hiatus. My legs were exhausted and my motivation to train was low. I was feeling physically tired and mentally exhausted.
I started riding my bike more which took the pounding off of my legs while still maintaining my cardio.
I explored many new places with Jess (Josh’s twin) including Menantico Ponds and parts of the Pine Barrens.
I started mountain biking again.
I began trusting the advice of my closest friends and family members who did everything in their power to look out for my well-being when all I could see was a tunnel of misery.
So…..I decided I wanted to become an occupational therapist.
I officially resigned from my job. Despite my worries about unemployment, my stress levels decreased significantly. I was focused on my goals of applying for and eventually attending grad school to become an occupational therapist. I was ready to leave behind what mental health effects that job caused me. I was ready to set forth on my new ambitions.
I started training three new clients bringing my client count up to four!
I attended my first ever wine festival with Josh and tasted about 50+ different wines.
I started volunteer coaching at youth track again. I also volunteered with NJ NICA at several NICA races as a course marshall.
My dogs became more and more adorable when they slept.
I became obsessed with watching the sunset along the river.
Josh & I built a garden. I bought us soil and the guy gave us “special dirt” claiming it was the best dirt around. We grew tomatoes, green bell peppers, long hots, jalapeños, and cucumbers. Our summer salads were fresh and delicious!
I started my observation hours for grad school applications. I observed 6-7 different OTs in multiple settings. Each OT left a lasting impression on me and made me realize that my ambition to become an OT was the right choice for me.
I learned how to change a flat tire on a bicycle.
On June 11th, Josh & I completed our first ever mountain bike race (Ramsey’s Revenge) at Brandywine. I did not finish last like I had anticipated. This would be my first of three mountain bike races in 2017.
I completed my 2nd ever mountain bike race 6 days after Ramsey’s Revenge. I got frustrated at a 65 year old man for causing me to fall. I watched my mom complete her first ever mountain bike race.
Sneakers & Spokes hosted a vintage bike ride/throwback run to the local ice cream stand. I wore my cross country shorts from 2012 and a sweatband.
I downloaded Strava and claimed some QOM’s.
I ran the Pitman 4 Miler. I did not PR, but I wasn’t actually trying to PR. I forget my time. I remember that I enjoyed it because I didn’t go out too fast for the first mile. I also wore my Altra Escalantes.
I missed Colorado and I missed Angela a lot.
On July 8th, I started training for my 3rd and final race of 2017 – Green Monster 50k.
Josh & I attended my friend’s wedding in Mifflinburg, PA. This was 2017’s travel stress moment #3. Let’s just say this… it was a really long drive to Mifflinburg. We camped in our tent after the wedding. The next day we stopped in Duncannon on our way home to hike on the AT. It was refreshing to stand on a vista again.
I began helping out at Sneakers & Spokes more frequently.
Wanting less stack height, I made the transition from Altra Lone Peaks to Altra Superiors. I began to love having more ground feel in the Superiors. The Superiors are now my go-to trail running shoe.
Josh & I attended our first concert together – Philip Philips & The Goo Goo Dolls! It was a perfect summer night with great music and good company (as always!)
About one week later, my mom & I went to a John Mayer concert. We made it into the venue with minutes to spare before a huge summer storm rolled through. I’ve lost count but I believe this was the 6th time I saw John Mayer. He performed fantastically!
I completed my 3rd and final mountain bike race of 2017 at Fair Hills. I didn’t come in last place but a lot of young kids passed me. I have no shame and I’m proud of myself for stepping outside of my comfort zone to even try mountain bike racing this year!
I attempted to train for my 50k with hiking poles. This lasted about three long runs but eventually I opted to leave them behind so that I could fuel properly and depend on my legs for power.
I completed and submitted my grad school applications. Application stress was over but now acceptance stress loomed over my head.
The country went crazy about the eclipse. I wore homemade eclipse glasses that my dad made so I could also stare at the sun.
My family & Josh & I biked on the Michael Castle Trail on a lovely late-August day. Then we ate at Grain H2O. Yum!
I got a job as an assistant cross country coach at the community college I once ran for. It’s weird how things came full circle.
I finalized a name & logo for my health coaching/running coach services. I called it Better Strides Fitness and officially made the logo. I created an Instagram, Facebook page, and Twitter for Better Strides Fitness too!
I was a participant in a 9/11 memorial run. That was another patriotic moment of 2017.
I got stung by a bee on the back of my ankle during a long run with the women’s cross country team. It itched for days!
Family visited us from California. We talked about the Philadelphia Eagles a lot. It was a pleasant morning.
I continued to crave returning to the mountains.
Josh & I attended Oktoberfest for the 2nd year in a row.
I worried a lot about getting accepted to grad school.
2017 travel stress moment #4: driving to Wellsboro, PA for my 50k race. Josh & I didn’t leave for Wellsboro until about 4:30 PM. It was a 5 hour drive to our campsite at Leonard Harrison State Park. Once off the highway, we had to start driving on winding, pitch dark, mountainous roads. It was terrifying, but we made it.
I sprinted down a mountain and ended up finishing Green Monster 50k in 7:58. I achieved my goal of running under 8 hours. I finished in the top 10 female finishers. Three months of training were once again successful. Check out the race recap here!
The night after my race we slept in our tent while a tropical storm passed over the mountain. The next morning we stood at the top of the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon and took a picture in the rain.
Josh & I dressed up as lumberjacks and won a Halloween costume contest. This was our 1st costume contest we ever entered together. We won a gift certificate to a local pizza shop.
I started working with two new health coaching clients – one of which is now 82 years old! I realized how much I love helping others work towards their goals. Helping others is my true passion in life and I can’t wait to see what the future holds.
I got more and more excited about watching the Philadelphia Eagles games with Josh & I even learned the chant! Fly, Eagles, Fly!
After districts in Rhode Island, the women’s cross country team won Regionals in Delaware. I was a proud coach!
I got accepted to one of the grad schools I applied to. A weight was lifted off my shoulders. I am still waiting to hear back from two more schools (one of which is my first choice) but I am relieved and EXCITED knowing that I have the opportunity to begin my education to become an OT.
Gwin got bit by a dog on a 1.5 mile run we went on together. This was an extremely stressful afternoon for me because I felt guilty she got bit. We took her to the vet who assured us she would be ok. Gwin wasn’t allowed to run with me for 1-2 weeks which made me sad. I carry my pepper spray with me on every run we go on together now.
The cross country team traveled to Massachusetts for Nationals. We played Cards Against Humanity for hours and came home with two new NJCAA All-Americans. My first season as a cross country season had come to an end and I was proud of how the team had improved over the course of the season. The season was nothing like I expected it to be but also everything that I knew I signed up to experience – the highs, the lows, and everything in between!
I got a new job working retail. I HATE working retail but I needed a source of income to start saving up for grad school. I remind myself daily that this job is temporary. I remind myself daily that this is a necessary step in reaching my goal of becoming an OT. Retail is not ideal. Retail is not what I went to school for. Retail is not somewhere I want to stay for longer than I need to. This job is temporary aid in my ambition to achieve a bigger goal, a more meaningful future, & a lifelong career.
I celebrated my four year anniversary of vegetarianism.
I worked with Sparkly Soul at the Philadelphia Marathon Weekend expo. It was a fun (and exhausting) two days but I came home with a Thanksgiving Sparkly Soul and Christmas Sparkly Soul so I was excited!
All of my clients ran PRs at their races and accomplished their goals. I was once again a very proud coach!
I worked Thanksgiving night and I was very miserable.
My family hosted the annual Thanksgiving weekend nighttime trail run.
Josh & I built a snowman. We had a perfect snow weekend that included homemade crockpot vegetarian chili, hot chocolate from the local coffee/donut shop, a snow run, a late night walk around town to look at Christmas lights, and a Christmas movie!
Two of my clients gifted Josh & I tickets to a Flyers game in club box seats. I’ve never sat in club box seats before and I felt like I was being spoiled! I had the biggest slice of pizza I’ve ever consumed in my life and the most expensive glass of overpriced wine. Regardless, between the luxury of the club box and the Flyers winning the game, it was a perfect date night for Josh and I!
Angela came back to NJ! We went for a 2 mile run to celebrate our reunion! It was FANTASTIC!
On Christmas Eve, I went for a run with Gwin down our local trail. I attached two bells to her collar so she sounded festive running down the trail. I wore a Santa hat. We would’ve easily won an award for being most festive on the trail if there had been a contest.
Holiday festivities were fun! I was grateful, happy, and amazed of how much love there is in my life.
I began feeling excited for what 2018 has in store for me, for my family, and for my friends. There’s a lot to look forward to!
Running Stats of 2017:
Total Miles: 1,505.0 miles
Highest monthly mileage: September (189.2 miles)
Three trail races – Brandywine 12k, Hyner 25k, Green Monster 50k
One road race – Pitman 4 Miler
Shoes worn: Altra Torins, Altra Escalantes, Altra Lone Peaks, Altra Superiors
States I ran in (13 total) – New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, Texas, Rhode Island, Massachusetts
Biking Stats of 2017:
Total Miles: 1,103.4 miles
Highest monthly mileage: June (262 miles)
June, July, August – three consecutive months with 200+ miles
Total Road Bike Miles: 767.1 miles
Total Mountain Bike Miles: 336.3 miles
3 races – Ramsey’s Revenge, The Challenger, Big Elk
After proofreading this blog post, I’ve come to realize that it lacks flow; however, this year hasn’t flowed smoothly either. It’s been a challenging year for many reasons. Both good and bad changes have tested me. Running has tested me. My body has felt exhilaration, exhaustion, and adrenaline throughout the year. I’ve found enjoyment out of cycling and seeking new QOMs. I’ve established a new goal for my future that will surely challenge me in new ways in 2018.
I’ve become a more resilient woman who learned how to stick up for herself. I’ve become a more determined individual who is focused on goals for a better future. I’ve become a more experienced trail runner who learned to push beyond comfort zones, to believe in herself, to race towards any finish line with a determined heart.
This 3700 word blog post doesn’t justify all the memories, experiences, and moments of the year but it does put it into words to reflect on in later years.