2019 in review

2019 in review

Here we go again! The annual yearly review. I feel like this year has flown by….yet it has also felt like a lifetime. A lot of things happened but because grad school has consumed my life I feel like my life is mundane. Perhaps composing this post will help me reflect on all that HAS happened. If it doesn’t help me this year, I’m sure that in the future I can look back on this post with some appreciation. Let’s begin.

Josh & I kicked off 2019 with a trail run at Brandywine. Typical us!

I was accepted as a member of the Altra Red Team for the 3rd consecutive year! My favorite Altras are still the Superiors and the Escalantes.

I did a chocolate tasting with my mom, granny, and mommom. The chocolate was so so good!

My second semester of grad school started and I faced two pediatric courses, neuroscience, research, a mental health course, and my first Level I fieldwork. Yikes!

Sneakers & Spokes had some great nighttime group trails runs (even in cold temps!)

Michael & Savannah got engaged.

Emily, Megan & I planned a fun Bachelorette weekend for Bridgette! I took the train into Philly, met them at their Airbnb, walked around the city searching for brunch, and then surprised Bridgette with an Escape Room experience! Let it be known that we did indeed escape the Thai prison!

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We escaped the Thai prison!

A week later, Josh got to experience an Escape Room for his 30th birthday. This time around we escaped The Lost City! (pretty sure the guy gave us wayyyy too many clues though)

It snowed frequently in January & February so I got a lot of fun snow runs in solo and with Gwin. Gwin loves running through the snow!

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My favorite running pic with Gwin

I volunteered first to led an adult behavioral health group (to get it done & over with) but it snowed on the day I was supposed to present so my presentation got pushed back 3 months (THREE MONTHS!) which I was extremely unhappy about.

I ran 10 trail miles on the first Saturday in March and woke up feeling horrible on Sunday.

On Monday, the doctor told me I had the flu after sticking something up my nose (thanks, classmate). The doctor advised me not to go to school for a week to prevent spreading the flu to my classmates. Despite knowing I would miss an entire week of class and lose an excessive amount of points on a research quiz, I obliged because I myself am considerate towards others.

Josh also got the flu a few days later because I spent the majority of the weekend with him. (forever guilty)

I quarantined myself in my room for six days because my parents were flying out to Utah the following week for Michael’s wedding. I would only leave my room to walk 3 steps into the bathroom. My mom would hand me food when I cracked open the door. Tamiflu is the WORST medicine – my stomach hurt every time I had to take it and I had no appetite. Flu week was the worst week!

Flu week was followed up with mid-terms week. My parents were in Utah with Michael  for the wedding so Josh stayed over a few days to keep me company.

Michael & Savannah got married.

Spring break came along. I hosted an Altra demo day with NJ’s awesome tech rep, Luke.

Just like last year, I craved ultramarathons.

Bridgette & Bryce got married! Josh & I got to celebrate at her wedding with Emily and Megan and their men. After the wedding we went to a bar in town and just hung out for a while. It was so much fun and so refreshing to be back with lifelong friends!

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Celebrating Bridgette & Bryce!

Level I fieldwork in the school-based setting went smoothly. My FW educator was nice and I enjoyed getting to know the kids she worked with. I don’t envision myself working in a school-based setting though.

My birthday landed on the same day as a lab regarding feeding for the pediatric population. Jess fed me a spoonful of pudding on my 25th birthday.

The S&S red, white, and blue van was brought into the world.

Josh took me out on some White Clay mountain bike adventures. I snagged some segment PR’s as my confidence grew.

Josh & I went on many double dates with Brianna & Luke this year. It was always a fun time!

Neuroscience and research was killing my cohort slowly.

We took Mom axe throwing on her birthday. We were pretty good at it even though none of us won the tournament.

Josh & I both finished as the 2nd place male and female, respectively, at the Sasquatch 5k.

I brought Gwin with me to the FACES 4 Autism Walk which was chaotic because the walk ended up being inside instead of outside…. apparently people melt if little raindrops fall on them.

I published blog posts for the “ABCs of OT“. It was tedious but I hope people learned something from it!

My research group “presented” research on the effectiveness of alternative and augmentative communication systems for facilitating functional communication in children with autism. I feel like nobody but students attended the research symposium so there weren’t really people to present to….. oh well!

I finally led the behavioral health group I was supposed to lead three months prior. I stressed so so much after I failed to conclude my group as instructed. I felt so angry and frustrated after this and cried to Josh on my way home…… plot twist: I still got an A.

Instead of studying for exams, I went for a run during a tornado watch and severe thunderstorm warning. YOLO.

I finished my second semester of grad school with four A’s and an A-.

Josh & I celebrated three years together by going for a mountain bike ride at Fair Hill. Josh cracked open a beer at a stream stop. It truly was the best way for us to celebrate together!

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Three years!

Josh and I planted our garden for the third summer in a row. We hoped for lots of cucumbers, crispy bell peppers, tolerable long hots & jalapeños, tasty tomatoes, and refreshing watermelons!

I worked wine festivals again. Drunk people are…. interesting.

We also attended a wine festival with Josh’s family. Wine is good!

Our two-week summer class was basically a waste of time but my groupmates made a pretty cool story spinner for our project. Unfortunately, the attendees of the fair weren’t as impressed. Oh well.

Josh & I raced the Race to Save the World 10k at White Clay. I finished as the 4th overall female and Josh finished as the 1st overall male. After, we got brunch on Main St and then went mountain biking with a group of S&S folks! What a day!

I accompanied Josh to many mountain bike races as his crew member. I perfected water bottle hand-offs and cheered loud for him as frequently as possible! Pride filled my heart every time he stepped up on the podium (which was frequently because he’s amazing).

I ran to the Elmer Memorial Day parade to see my parents driving in the S&S van. Then I hustled off to work at the winery.

Uncle Eddie passed away. He was remembered through a beautiful military ceremony with the Fraser’s remembering him as a strong, resilient, and caring human.

Josh & I camped at Lums Pond for a night. We mountain biked and went to Grain for lunch. This was the only time we camped this year but it was fantastic!

Gabriele Grunewald passed away and the running community grieved. I did mile repeats for Gabriele and Justin (#BraveLikeGabe) a few days later using their strength to push me along.

I decided to register for a duathlon – my first duathlon ever – so that I would be motivated to train for something.

Michael & Savannah came to NJ to celebrate 4th of July! We went blueberry picking at Mood’s. We went to the boardwalk and played mini golf. We went to a mountain bike race (where 95% of Team S&S got lost – it was not a good day). And we celebrated 4th of July with fireworks.

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OC Boardwalk with the fam

I raced the Pitman 4 Miler as usual. It was tough but I didn’t throw up. Afterwards, Josh & I got to the Woodstown Parade to ride along the route with the Reactors and the S&S van. It was so so so hot out (cars were overheating) and everyone was drenched in sweat.

I started working as a classroom aide during extended school year at a special services school nearby. You can read more about that here.

Josh & I made friends with a neighborhood cat he decided to call Milford. Milford is a lovebug!

I tried racing a mountain bike race at Granogue – I walked my bike for most of it….

The morning of one of Josh’s mountain bike races, I spotted a dog abandoned and tied up to the gate of an animal shelter (which wasn’t open yet) which made me both extremely sad and angry. We tried calling the county police (who weren’t helpful) and then left a message with the animal shelter (who had opened 30ish minutes later & had taken the dog in). That same morning my mommom’s dog passed away sending me into even more devastated tears. Josh had a rough race that morning and ended up breaking something on his bike. It was just a really rough day.

Our garden produced great cucumbers, iffy bell peppers, lots of long hots & jalapeños, and…. no ripened watermelons.

I logged several 50+ mile bike rides throughout the summer which was AWESOME!

Josh & I had date night at Auburn Winery while Lauren Hart performed. It was a perfect night of pizza, wine, and great music!

I made it my mission to strengthen the running community in Salem County and initiated group runs/walks and 2nd Saturday trail runs.

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Our first ever 2nd Saturday trail run was a success!

Training was going great for the duathlon I signed up for. I was feeling strong both running and biking and was practicing transitions weekly.

I stopped using Twitter. I started unfollowing accounts on Instagram and defriended some folks on Facebook. It just felt like it was time to simplify and declutter my social media accounts. Living in the present, not attached to the phone, is so much more enjoyable anyways.

Sneakers & Spokes celebrated its four year anniversary!

Hope passed away on August 23rd after 15 loving and playful years. This was by far the hardest day of 2019 and I miss her everyday.

Josh & I started making rice bowls together which are so delicious and (relatively) healthy!

I started my last year of grad school and had to tackle adult classes, clinical research, foundations of OT, an assistive technology course, and my second Level I fieldwork (in hand therapy…)

I ran the 9/11 Memorial Run with runners from Sneakers & Spokes and other runners from the south jersey running community.

 

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Never forget.

Josh & I continued our tradition of attending Oktoberfest together. It was fun as usual!

I completed my first ever duathlon finishing as the 3rd overall female. Team S&S also won 2nd overall team. It was a lot of fun and I enjoyed the challenge! I am grateful for the team I got to do the duathlon with. I hope we conquer more dus together in 2020!

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Team S&S with all the hardware

I organized a Ride & Wine with Monroeville Winery. It was successful but improvements can definitely be made.

I volunteered at the “calf-way” stop at the Cow Run 10 Miler with S&S. Two skunks decided to cross through our water stop just as the first few runners were passing through. It was terrifying.

I raced (and volunteered) at the Shred the Edge MTB race for the second consecutive year. This year I bumped myself down to the novice race and finished as the 2nd overall female following a sprint finish. Grad school legs and lungs did me in. I helped with registration and timing too – it was a fun day!

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Shred the Edge volunteers

My mom started fostering animals from South Jersey Regional Animal Shelter. The first dog we fostered, named Cookie, we ended up adopting (#fosterfail). My mom renamed her Zoey and she has been with us since the end of October. We have also fostered one kitten and two dogs (Sheepy & Douglas). All of them have since been adopted!

 

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Gwin & Zoey love snuggling!
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Running with Sheepy
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Douglas, Zoey, & Gwin

In my assistive technology course, we got to work with 3D printers. My group designed a bottle cap opener with a built up handle for individuals who have difficulty pronating.

Patti, Colin, & Tammy visited from California. We went out to eat and a magician (who will be on AGT this summer) visited our table. I hate magicians yet somehow I ended up being the person chosen for all the tricks.

I miserably raced the Ghosts of Granogue 5k. That’s all I have to say about that.

My assistive technology group also designed “The Mailman’s Basket” for an individual with a C6 SCI who worked as a mailman at a university. We designed the basket to swing to the side from behind the wheelchair for him to easily deliver mail. We presented our assistive device to students in Colombia, South America who also designed assistive devices from the same case studies. This project was a lot of fun!

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Assistive Technology course!

I did not enjoy my fieldwork in hand therapy and I don’t foresee myself ever working in this setting. It’s just far too redundant and unexciting.

Josh & I began planning for The Ultimate Woodstown Scavenger Hunt which we are directing in January 2020. This will be our first time as race directors and I am beyond excited!

Josh & I made tater tot nachos for the first time ever and they were DELICIOUS.

Gwin & Zoey really loved snuggling together. They’re so precious!

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I celebrated my 6th year of being a vegetarian.

I submitted both my case studies before Thanksgiving break. The first case study was 29 pages which I spent 21 hours on. The second case study was 31 pages which I spent just over 10 hours on. These case studies challenged me beyond belief but all the determination paid off as I got 100s on both of them. HOOZAH.

We had our annual Thanksgiving weekend nighttime trail run. It was freezing that night.

My research group presented on ayurveda and chronic pain. I hate ayurveda and don’t want to say anything more about it.

I finished my 3rd semester of grad school (THANK GOODNESS THE END IS GETTING NEAR) with four As and one A-. It was a tough semester. Practicals stressed me out. Research stressed me out. But there’s only one more academic semester to go. The light at the end of the tunnel is getting slightly brighter. I can’t wait to be done!

Josh & I ran our 2nd annual Christmas lights run through his town. We saw a lot of greatly decorated houses!

Angela came back to visit NJ and we got in a lot of good runs together! I am extremely grateful for the miles we got to share!

My parents took Granny & Mommom on a Christmas lights tour. We visited the Griswold house in Mickleton which was awesome!

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with Cousin Eddie

I directed the S&S Santa Run with a mission in mind – to collect as much dog/cat food and litter as possible to donate to SJRAS in memory of Hope. This was my way of paying it back to the shelter that gave me Hope for 15 wonderful years. This was my way of paying it forward to the animals still looking for their forever homes. We collected 1,426 pounds of food to donate. My heart is still so so grateful for the generosity of the running community.

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Santa Run 2019
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1,426lbs of food & litter

For the second consecutive year, my family cut down our Christmas tree from the front yard.

Christmas Eve and Christmas day traditions remained the same. The Palmieri’s tricked my family into believing we were calling NORAD when in reality it was Micheal pretending to be NORAD.

Mommom adopted a dog from Salem County Humane Society. His name is Bashee and he’s a chocolate lab!

I got to reunite with Bridgette, Bryce, and Megan during Christmastime. It was so nice to catch up with them!

I ran 6 miles in under 50min to close off the 2019 running year. Four of those miles were with Zoey (Gwin wouldn’t get out of bed), averaging 8:30/mile. Zoey loves to run!

Running Stats of 2019:

  • Total miles: 1,025.1 miles
  • Highest monthly mileage: May (103.5 miles)
  • Three trail races: Sasquatch 5k, Race to Save the World 10k, Ghosts of Granogue 5k
  • One road race: Pitman Freedom 4 Miler
  • One duathlon: Parvin Anniversary Duathlon
  • Shoes worn: Altra Superiors & Altra Escalantes
  • States I ran in: New Jersey, Maryland, & Delaware

Cycling Stats of 2019:

  • Total miles: 1,111.7 miles
  • Highest monthly mountain bike mileage: May (93.5 miles)
  • Highest monthly road bike mileage: August (287.9 miles)
  • Highest monthly combined mileage: August (325.4 miles)
  • Total Road Bike Miles: 739 miles
  • Total MTB Miles: 372.7 miles
  • Mountain Bike Races: Fair Hill Classic, Escape Granogue, & Shred the Edge
  • One duathlon: Parvin Anniversary Duathlon

Total woman-powered miles: 2,136.8 miles

2019 brought fewer running and cycling miles; however, I am proud of what I was able to accomplish while balancing the demands of grad school. Squeezing in runs mid-semester has been challenging but I’ve learned to adapt in order to overcome.

Because running is such an integral part of my overall physical and mental health, I have come to recognize its importance in keeping my stress levels in check.

I learned that I am more likely to run if I run before the demands of the day begin. Throughout the fall semester I would head out the door at 6 AM with my headlight on and log 3 miles. I hated doing this but the rest of my day tended to be better because my run was done and my stress was manageable.

The races I did weren’t at optimal fitness. My grad school lungs often limited how fast I could go or how much I could push myself. I still miss ultramarathons like mad and I hope that in the coming year or so I can make my ultra comeback.

A year from now, my yearly review should say “finished grad school” somewhere in it. I can’t wait to start the next chapter of my life in 2020 when school is officially done done done and I can start working towards an established career.

Another year has come and gone. It’s been a year of highs and lows. It’s been a year of new and old running friends. It’s been a year of academic stress. It’s been a year of falling in love with so many dogs. It’s been a year of learning to simplify and balance all that life throws at me.

I hope everyone can find joy in the coming year. Reflect on what you have accomplished.

Set goals that scare you. Set goals that will make you stronger.

Wishing you a happy and healthy new year (and decade).

Much love,

-L

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Race to Save the World 10k Race Recap

Race to Save the World 10k Race Recap

A few Saturdays ago Josh and I raced the Enoch Lee Race to Save the World 10k at Middle Run Valley Park in Newark, DE. A week before the race, while on our way to go mountain biking, Josh and I saw one of those yard signs (the ones politicians usually use) advertising for the race so we quickly Googled it to gather more information. A few days later, Josh convinced me to pre-register for the race as a way to celebrate the official start of my summer break. Although I knew I was no where near in race shape after a stressful semester of grad school, I figured it would be fun. After all, the course looped through some of our favorite trail running trails.

Saturday morning arrived and I ate my typical pre-race meal – peanut butter and banana on toast. The race began at 10 AM so we were able to sleep in a little bit and prepare for the day ahead of us (which we planned out to be a 10k race, followed by brunch, followed by a group mountain bike ride through the same trail system). We departed Josh’s around 8:30AM with race attire, mountain bike gear, and two mountain bikes.

My stomach was a bundle of nerves on our drive to the race. Multiple times I told Josh I felt like I was going to throw up (disclaimer: I never did). We arrived an hour early to the race, picked up our bibs, and waited anxiously for 10 AM to arrive. The morning was chilly and I felt unprepared with the clothing I had packed – shorts and a tank top. I scavenged up Josh’s arm sleeves and swapped out my tank top for a short-sleeve racing jersey. Josh paced around the truck and opened and closed his truck doors 5000 times.

Around 9:30 we decided to do a 1 mile warm-up. I was still a little chilly and my legs felt unprepared but by the time we ended our warm-up, I had decided to leave the arm sleeves in the truck. Better to start the race a little chilly, knowing I was going to warm up eventually.

Before the race started, the cadets from the University of Delaware (UD) did a flag ceremony and a group of women from a local church sang the National Anthem. It was Memorial Day Weekend so this was a nice touch to the morning. A family member of Enoch Lee, whom the race is memorialized for, made a brief speech explaining that race profits contribute to a scholarship for a biology major at UD. As a broke college student myself, I know how important scholarships can be!

The race started with a small loop around a grassy field before diving into single track. I started comfortably, not wanting to overexert early but also knowing that I needed to beat some of the crowd to the single track. I could see Josh up ahead at the front of the pack – go, Josh, go!

A lot of the race itself was a blur because the trails just kind of blend together. I knew that two women were ahead of me but didn’t have any intention to work to go catch them. The course terrain varied from smooth twists and turns to longer uphills to rewarding downhills. The trails were in great condition!

A local Delaware bike shop was stationed at the approximate half-way point with water and encouragement. It was nice to have people cheering out on the course as most of the course was isolated from spectator view. Trail runs are rarely spectator-friendly. After the water stop, there was a long uphill. It felt soooo long and I could feel myself progressively slowing as the climb continued. I probably could have walked faster, but I trudged along, my breathing becoming increasingly labored.

At the top, we were rewarded with flat, twisty single track. At this point, I was completely alone on the course and I couldn’t see anyone ahead of me and couldn’t hear any footsteps or breathing behind me. I just continued trudging along.

I didn’t recognize where we were in the trail system at this point in time even though Josh and I frequently mountain bike on these trails. The course followed trails we hadn’t looped through in over a year so I was completely disoriented.

Eventually the course landed us on my favorite downhill in the whole trail system. I was familiar with the downhill from mountain biking it and I knew exactly where the course was taking us!

After the downhill we made a left onto a long bridge and one of the race volunteers said “there’s a women not too far ahead of you”. That literally meant NOTHING to me. I was completely gassed. I hadn’t seen anyone ahead of me since about mile 2 and I definitely didn’t have the legs to go catch someone. So, I dismissed the comment and kept trudging.

I heard footsteps behind me and my gut told me it was probably a woman (note: I don’t look back ever during a race so I never know who might be closing in on me). The course crossed a stream (which I ran straight through, soaking my feet – no problem though, I wear the Altra Superiors which have optimal draining capabilities!). The person behind me, confirmed to be a woman once she asked me a question, asked “how much further?”. To this I said, “I have no idea”. Because 1) honestly, I had no idea where the finish line was in relation to where we were currently and 2) I don’t ever look at my watch during a race so I never know what mileage I’m at.

She ran right on my heels for 3/4 of the final uphill. For a second, I tried brainstorming ways I could get her off my heels (i.e. by sprinting up the hill) but I had no energy whatsoever to run faster than I was. I was simply in survival mode. My endurance meter had reached a big fat zero.

She eventually passed me and I felt bummed, knowing I had held 3rd overall female for 85% of the race. But I had nothing in me to try to physically react. So she trotted off, gapping me almost instantaneously. My only intrinsic goal was to keep running, no walking. And that’s what I did. Kept running until I crossed the finish line.

Once I got the finish, Josh offered me a cup of water. I stared at him and said “I’m at zero”. My endurance had expired around mile 5. The last mile was a slugfest. I probably could have walked faster but my own pride kept me running. We replenished with Gatorade we had brought and recapped our races.

Josh finished as the 1st overall male, 2nd place overall (figure that one out for yourself). He also had ran out of endurance which is to be expected considering he had only been running once or twice per week, not exceeding 3-4 mile runs (#naturaltalent). Regardless, I was proud of him. His natural ability to run fast amazes me time and time again.

I finished in 55:38, 18th/58 overall, 4th overall female, and 1/1 in my age group. Josh won a sweet travel coffee mug and a wooden phone holder (which he promises me to video chat with so he doesn’t have to prop his phone up awkwardly). I won a medal and some great S&S exposure.

I am glad that I did this race. Grad school had left me craving trail runs and races and, in a way, starting off summer break with a trail race was symbolic. Grad school requires endurance just like running. This race reaffirmed that I can be a grad student and a runner and be happy. I might not have as much endurance as I did last summer and the trails may challenge me even more so, but they will always be there for me to enjoy and for me to find bliss, serenity, and a welcoming running community.

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2018 in review

2018 in review

Every year I start my yearly recap with intentions of making it flowy and descript. As I try to recall everything that has happened this year, it’s quite a blur. However, I can testify that 2018 has offered me travel experiences, running memories, cycling achievements, and new beginnings (GRAD SCHOOL!) that have continuously shaped me into who I will be starting off as in 2019. This year has gifted me new friendships and strengthened existing ones. I’ve become a more grateful, more mindful, more persistent, and stronger person because of my experiences and support systems. Without further ado, let’s review…

Within the first week of January, southern NJ was hit with something they call a “bomb cyclone”. I still don’t know what this weather term defines, but I do know that I went out for a run in it. Classic me.

Being a Philadelphia Eagles fan in January became a very exciting time. Nick Foles became our hero.

I was picked as an Altra Ambassador for the 2nd year in a row. Altras are my favorite!

Josh got a new bike – the Rocky Mountain Element in smoke-on-the-water black. I’ve yet to be able to compete with the affection he shows for this bike.

I was offered an interview to my top choice for grad school which I scheduled immediately and as soon as possible. One step closer to following my dream.

On February 4th (everything good happens on the fourth day of each month & I have a whole list to prove it), the Philadelphia Eagles won the Super Bowl for the 1st time in team history. Completely shocked because these championships are few and very far between in Philly, I cried, I screamed, I banged pots & pans outside of Josh’s front door. What a time to be alive!

Four days later, I called out “sick” from work to go to the Super Bowl parade with millions of other Eagles fans. We parked haphazardly in some random grassy area we discovered. We went into a Dunkin Donuts that was sold out of 75% of their stock. We stood along Broad Street and watched people climb trees, drink beer, and wait anxiously for the team caravan to pass by. It was the best morning ever for Eagles fans! Later we went home and watched Jason Kelce’s historical speech on the art museum steps from the comfort of our couch. Still to this day, I believe that his speech was the most relatable speech ever for Philadelphia sports fans.

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Eagles Super Bowl parade!

I attended my interview for grad school and prayed that they would accept me.

Josh & I passed the time by going for trail runs in the cold.

I also took Gwin on a hike with Jess & McGee. Gwin prefers running, not hiking.

I decided not to train for an ultramarathon this year because I felt that my life schedule was too busy and unpredictable to fully dedicate to a long race. Instead, I opted for a nearby trail series in hopes of becoming a Regional champion for my age group.

By the end of February, I received my acceptance letter to my top choice for grad school! This was the best day ever because I was finally on the path of my dreams! I remember calling Josh to tell him first. Then I called my mom, who shared the news with my dad. I called my grandparents. I called Angela. And then I went for a celebratory run. Classic me.

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The day I got accepted to grad school

Josh & I attended more Flyers games together and ate big slices of stadium pizza.

As usual, I celebrated the first day of spring with a free Rita’s Water Ice.

On the second day of spring (my birthday), we had a huge snowstorm so Josh couldn’t come over. I made the most of the snowy birthday inside by playing board games. Once the snow slowed, I convinced my parents & Gwin to come out for a snowy trail run. We made it 1.5 miles from home, posed excitedly for a snow selfie, and 5 seconds later a snow-covered tree branch snapped, hit my back, and slammed me to the ground. Hello, 24th birthday! We spent the 1.5 mile run back towards home in fear of more falling branches/trees. The welt on my shoulder blade stayed for a few days. Nothing out of the ordinary for my life. Perhaps even an exaggerated metaphor.

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Infamous selfie before the branch hit me

I competed in the Xterra Brandywine 12k for the 2nd year in a row and defended my 2nd place finish on the podium.

I missed training for ultras.

I started a new blog section called “OT Chronicles” to document my experiences through grad school and beyond!

I raced a 5k for the first time in 3+ years and shared the #1 podium spot with Josh as the male & female winners of the race.

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Our 5k winnings

I really missed going to Hyner for race weekend.

Desiree Linden won the Boston Marathon in epic weather conditions. Sara Sellers came in 2nd and everyone in the running world was wondering who she was. Now she’s a sponsored Altra athlete!

I raced the Xterra Lums Pond 12k and finished 3rd overall female. I also fell ½ mile into the race and ran the remaining 6+ miles with bloody knees and an achy elbow. The paramedics took care of me at the finish line (infection prevention, people!). Josh & I then hustled to the NICA race the local mountain bike team was hosting and I hobbled around for the rest of the day while cheering the kids on.

I worked a race expo for Sparkly Soul all by myself for the first time ever. I even got interviewed by NBC 10 because they loved the unicorn headbands (which I absolutely hate so it was ironic). My interview was shown on TV and Josh came to the realization that he was dating someone famous.

I started working at wine festivals with a local winery. They were very fun but very exhausting to work. My right arm hurt after my first ever wine festival day from pouring so many tastings repetitively for 5 hours straight.

I attended the wine festival in Josh’s town with his family. Good company and good wine indeed!

Josh and I mountain biked together as much as possible. Trail therapy is the best therapy.

I continued to miss training for and racing ultras.

I ran the Xterra Wetlands 10k. It was muddy and I finished as the 3rd female. This was my least favorite race of the trail series.

Sneakers & Spokes hosted an Altra demo day and we had 15 people attend! It was great and my Altra heart was happy!

I stopped working in retail.

Josh & I flew out west and explored! We visited Angela & Phil in Colorado, explored Moab on mountain bikes, and visited Michael in Utah. I could go on and on about everything that we saw and did because it was truly the greatest six day adventure ever! But I won’t go on and on because I have two separate, lengthy blog posts about it on my blog already. Go check ‘em out!

I am still eternally grateful that Josh & I got to go on our Colorado-Utah adventure together. I am so glad that we got to see so many beautiful mountains with our hosts – the Dunn’s and Michael. We got to run and hike in places that were absolutely breathtaking. We got to mountain bike on trails that were challenging yet had rewarding vistas. I will also remember our trip together and the experiences we shared!

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Running in Colorado
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Mtb in Moab
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hiking in Utah

With altitude training on my side, I snagged some QOMs on my bike.

I started working at the winery’s tasting room once a week for the remainder of the summer. I worked one of the more quiet days of the week but I enjoyed the atmosphere and my responsibilities.

Josh & I planted our garden together for the 2nd year in a row. It was a sad garden this year because the wind destroyed half of our plants during a summer storm and nothing grew too well. I guess we needed to replenish the “special dirt” we got in 2017. Maybe next year.

I continued to coach runners and do personal training sessions with clients.

Lance, Josh’s dog, who was 15 years young passed away. His snuggles, prances, and love of human food will be cherished forever.

I also finished the 4th and final race of the Xterra series. I finished the Big Elk 1/2-marathon as the 4th overall female and 1st in my age group. I had achieved my goal of becoming regional champion and the long-sleeve they sent me a few months later was totally worth it! However, I’m going to give this series a rest for some time because 1) grad school and 2) I want ultras back in my life.

After the race, Josh & I ate brunch with Jess & Steve on Main Street. Those breakfast tater tots were the best!

Within less than two months, I started to miss Colorado and Utah.

I organized a road bike ride to a local Alex’s Lemonade Stand. We enjoyed water ice at 10 AM and got to enjoy a long bike ride on a perfect Saturday morning!

On July 4th, I ran the annual Pitman 4 Miler as a family tradition. My Altra Escalantes helped me run my 3rd fastest course time, finish 3rd in my age group, and finish in the top 7 female finishers. I also didn’t feel overly nauseous after I finished which is always a good thing.

After racing the 4 miler, Josh & I drove to the Woodstown 4th of July parade to ride in the parade with the Salem County Reactors. I felt sort of out of place but it was fun nonetheless!

Less than one week later, I raced my first mountain bike race of the 2018 and finished on the podium for THE FIRST TIME EVER! This was the highlight of my cycling year because I had never been on the podium at a mountain bike race before! Finishing 2nd was an awesome feeling, especially since I started in the back of the pack. I hope that in 2019 I can improve on my 2nd place and step up on the podium again!

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My 1st mtb podium!

I cheered Josh on at many mountain bike races and I took my job as his crew very seriously.

Josh & I attended a local food truck festival. We ate delicious tater tots!

I biked to a winery with the Sneakers & Spokes crew, did yoga in the vineyard, enjoyed a glass of wine, and then biked back to town.

I got really pissed off at township workers for talking down to me when I questioned what they were doing to a local trail. Idiots!

The Altra Superiors became my go-to shoe for trail running. I love them!

My dad hosted a women’s mountain bike clinic and it was so awesome! Fourteen ladies shredding the trail together?! It doesn’t get any better than that!

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Girl power!

I started riding in the faster group for group rides. The first time I attempted I only was able to hang on for half of the ride. The second time I attempted, I was able to hang on for all but the last 3 miles of the ride. I was so happy that I could keep up with “the fast guys”; this was an accomplishment for me!

Josh & I biked to a food truck festival at Fort Mott. Typical us.

I attended grad school orientation where I got to meet some of my classmates and professors. It made me very excited to start the semester!

Josh & I went for an after work trail run and got stuck in a torrential downpour and thunderstorm. No worries, we took shelter at The Loufa Hut.

Sneakers & Spokes celebrated its 3rd anniversary!

I ordered a total of 10 textbooks for my 1st semester of grad school. TEN!

I was offered a position as a graduate assistant to offset tuition costs. Thank goodness for financial aid!

I volunteered Angela to be a guest on a podcast and somehow then got persuaded to be on the podcast myself. It was fun and I really enjoyed talking about running and cycling with Diz Runs Radio!

I raced my 2nd mountain bike race of the year. My bike wasn’t shifting right but I got to crew Josh’s first endurance race which was more fun than racing myself!

Josh & I spent a staycation weekend together. We went mountain biking, had a lovely night out in Chesapeake City, and went trail running/hiking at a state park we had never been to before – Susquehanna State Park! It was a great way to end the summer!

I still think that my dogs are the most adorable dogs in the world.

On September 5th, I started grad school. My parents were in Utah visiting Michael so Josh stayed over the night before and took my 1st day of school picture! We also took a selfie together before he left for work. I was officially “a first year”.

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1st day of grad school!

After a very long Twitter hiatus, I decided to tweet once per day until I graduate from grad school. Some days I forget though but I always make it up by combining two days into one tweet….

I participated in a local 9/11 run for the 2nd year in a row. I wore my purple Altra Escalantes and red, white, and blue socks – a colorful combo.

School took over my life and I spent less and less time running and riding and a lot more time sitting and studying.

The Flyers hired Gritty. I still have mixed feelings about him….

Josh & I attended Oktoberfest in Delaware for the 3rd year in a row. I am always the DD.

I became more and more grateful for the time that I did get to spend running or biking, even if it was only for 30 minutes every other day.

I raced Shred the Edge – my 3rd and final mountain bike race of 2018. I crashed really hard within the first 1.5 miles. I spent the next 11ish miles in pain and I came in last; however, I did have fun! It was a good day for the local mountain bike race!

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Shred the Edge

The next weekend, I raced my first ever cyclocross race. I finished as the 3rd female and had a lot of fun! I hope that I can do one or two cyclocross races in 2019!

I made two new friends while writing a 26-page group paper on obesity with them! We promised each other brunch for a job well done on our paper.

My car surpassed 300,000 miles.

My family celebrated my cousin’s marriage. There was good wine and good dancing!

My car got flooded out on my commute to school after I drove through a very deep puddle in a jug handle. Classic me. That was an extremely stressful morning but luckily my dad was able to fix it. I only got to class an hour and 15 minutes late…

I attended the AOTA Student Conclave conference in Atlantic City in November. I learned a lot about occupational therapy practice in a variety of settings and with a variety of populations. I really really enjoyed learning about travel therapy! I also got to reconnect with a classmate I attended undergrad with who is also in OT school in Delaware! We got to meet Amy Lamb, the AOTA president, and attend sessions together. The Student Conclave was an awesome experience and I am so grateful that I got to attend both days because I learned so much and fell more in love with the profession.

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Student Conclave

Josh & I attended a Flyers game and tailgated beforehand with good drinks and frisbee. The Flyers lost that game but we had a great date day nonetheless!

I analyzed a video of my dad clicking a computer mouse for far too many hours. That project was the worst!

I celebrated my 5th year of vegetarianism.

On Thanksgiving day, I bundled up in 5 layers and ran 6 miles. Then Josh and I went to dinner at Jess’s with his family and then had dessert at my house with my family. I played Bananagrams with my cousin.

Classes got very stressful, but by one project at a time, assignments were being crossed off the list.

I made more OT friends.

I twisted my ankle trail running at night. I was very unhappy and my ankle was very swollen.

My mom and I volunteered at a Flyers charity event for military families. We got to meet a lot of Flyers and we helped military families celebrate Christmas together!

I was given my Level I Fieldwork placement for the spring semester. I will be in a school-based setting.

I survived finals week without becoming too sleep-deprived. Study groups kept me sane and I made more friends in the process!

Part of my class celebrated the end of our first semester by having brunch (the promised brunch from the obesity paper group) at IHOP. It was nice to bond with classmates outside of the classroom and to celebrate surviving our first semester of grad school together!

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IHOP with friends

School ended and I felt free to run and bike whenever I desired! It has been the best feeling ever to run guilt-free!

Josh & I went on a Christmas light run together through his town.

I organized a Santa run through Sneakers & Spokes. It was a success because 58 people went running festively through Woodstown and everyone had a fun time!

I supported local businesses while shopping for Christmas gifts. 85% of my gifts came from local businesses which I am super proud of!

My family cut down our Christmas tree from the front yard.

I got a new bike for Christmas and I love it!

I got to reunite with friends from high school while they were back in NJ for Christmas.

Angela came back to NJ from Colorado so we got to run together!

I initiated a shoe recycling program for retired shoes as a fundraiser for the local mountain bike team. I’m excited about this because I feel guilty throwing my retired running shoes out. I’m glad that my collection of shoes can have a second home now.

I got to ride my new bike at Fair Hill with Josh!

Running Stats of 2018:

  • Total Miles: 1,064 miles
  • Highest monthly mileage: March (136.1 miles)
  • Five trail races – Brandywine 12k, Sasquatch 5k, Lums Pond 12k, Wetlands 10k, Big Elk Half-Marathon
  • One road race – Pitman 4 Miler
  • Shoes worn: Altra Escalantes, Altra Superiors
  • States I ran in (5 total) – New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Colorado, Utah

Biking Stats of 2018:

  • Total Miles: 1,257.9 miles
  • Highest monthly mountain bike mileage: August (76.3 miles)
  • Highest monthly road bike mileage: June (248.4 miles)
  • Highest monthly combined mileage: June (324.1 miles)
  • Highest weekly cycling mileage: 105.2 miles
  • Total Road Bike Miles: 832.7 miles
  • Total Mountain Bike Miles: 425.2 miles
  • Mountain bike races (3) – Fair Hill Classic, Big Elk, Shred the Edge
  • 1 cyclocross race – Salem County Witching Hour

2018 brought fewer running miles but more cycling miles. All these woman-powered miles make me excited for 2019’s miles. Running & cycling were not prioritized once grad school began, but I am determined to integrate running/cycling into my daily & weekly routine once my spring semester begins because these activities are important to me.

These statistics are merely numbers. These numbers were oftentimes accumulated side-by-side or stride-for-stride with others. For that, I am grateful. The running & cycling community I am a part of has grown immensely in 2018 and I hope that it continues to expand in 2019.

I am proud of my race performances this year and I hope that I can compete in both running and mountain bike (and cyclocross?) races in the upcoming new year. With my dependable Altras, my loyal Fuji Finest, and my new Rocky Mountain Thunderbolt I am motivated to put forth solid training and determined racing.

This year has been full of amazing experiences and fresh starts. I am grateful for all the opportunities that have been given to me this year which makes it somewhat difficult to put 2018 to rest.

However, I know that 2019 brings me one year closer to achieving my goal of becoming an OT. I know that 2019 will bring me stronger friendships. I know that 2019 will bring me adventures on my own two feet and while balanced on two wheels. I know that 2019 will be a year of great challenge yet great victories. I am excited to see what 2019 will bring and how I will become a stronger, more determined person.

I am thankful for all of what 2018 has given me. I am excited for what 2019 will become.

In good health….happy new year, everyone!

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Diz Runs Radio Podcast

Diz Runs Radio Podcast

I had the opportunity to be a guest on Denny Krahe’s Diz Run Radio podcast last week and I’m here to share my experience with you!  The podcast is available at www.dizruns.com/612

The podcast aired yesterday and I am thrilled with the final product!  I was nervous agreeing to the opportunity because I thought my life wasn’t interesting enough to be broadcasted on a podcast.  I procrastinated for a week or so before committing to a date and time to record the podcast.  Turns out, just like everyone always says, when it comes to conversations about running, you can talk for hours!

So there I was, mid-Thursday morning recording a podcast with Denny Krahe.  We talked about how I fell in love with trail running, cycling, the importance of progressive training, goal setting, and cross-training, and even my ambitions in occupational therapy!  Forty-five minutes flew by and before I knew it we were wrapping things up.

In retrospect, before the podcast aired, I was analyzing how much I thought I rambled or how my sentences seemed unstructured.  In reality, after listening to the podcast in its entirety, I’m proud of myself for trying something outside of my comfort zone.  I’m still definitely not the most interesting person in the world but, nevertheless, I enjoy sharing stories about running.

I am looking forward to doing another podcast in the future about running, cycling, goal setting, etc, because I feel like I have so much more to share!  We only graced the countless running experiences I’ve had.  Luckily, I have a blog where I can share stories whenever I feel like it.

If you or anyone you know loves to talk running and would like to share their stories, comment below!  I would love to continue to connect with the running community so we can all support and share our experiences!

For now, Diz Runs Radio Episode #612 is available for listening.  Check it out and let me know what you think!  I’m just proud of myself for doing something so outside of my comfort zone!

 

Xterra Trail Race Series recap

Xterra Trail Race Series recap

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.

Brandywine 12k:  1:05, 2nd overall female, 16th overall of 110

Lums Pond 12k:  57:28, 3rd overall female, 25th overall of 98

Wetlands 10k at Camp Edge: 

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.

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This was one of the least muddy sections of the course

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.

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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.

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smiling

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.

Conclusion:

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.

 

Vacation Part 1: Colorado

Vacation Part 1: Colorado

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):

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3 AM at the airport

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.

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Frisco, CO

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!

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windy hair on top of Mount Royal

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!

 

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coming down Mount Medaris

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).

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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.

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views from Hanging Lake 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.

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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.

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peak of Mushroom Rock trail with Mount Sopris in the background

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.

Colorado Stats:

  • 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)
Race Recap: Xterra Lums Pond 12k

Race Recap: Xterra Lums Pond 12k

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.

31234945_2028515467407407_1324880377252151296_oI 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!

Race Recap: Sasquatch Nighttime Trail 5k

Race Recap: Sasquatch Nighttime Trail 5k

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).

S&S sasquatch groupWe 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!

20180407_212219
Jess, me, & Josh with Sasquatch, Mini Sasquatch, & Yeti

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.

sasquatch winners
Just a “couple” of winners

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!

 

You win some… & all others aren’t losses.

You win some… & all others aren’t losses.

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.

Race Recap: Green Monster Trail Challenge 50k

Race Recap: Green Monster Trail Challenge 50k

This past weekend was the Green Monster Trail Challenge 50k/25k/15k.  As my previous blog posts have summarized, I had signed up for the 50k.  Training went as well as it could have leading up to October 8th and I felt decently prepared to tackle the mountainous course despite being one of three people from New Jersey signed up for the race.  Pennsylvanians had an obvious advantage if they lived and trained in the mountains, but I knew what I was signing up for going into the race and I willingly accepted the challenge.  After all, I know I’m a mountain girl at heart.

Saturday – the day before the race

Because Wellsboro, PA was 4.5 hours from southern New Jersey, Josh & I planned to camp at Leonard Harrison State Park for the weekend.  I coached a cross country meet at Desales University Saturday morning/early afternoon, drove home, packed up my car, and then drove to Josh’s to pack up his Jeep.  We didn’t leave New Jersey until about 4:45 PM because of this hectic day.  This was not ideal by any means, but it was what it was.

Our ETA was 9:30 PM.  I knew I was in for a late pre-race night and navigating the twisty-turny roads of Wellsboro, PA in the dark made us both uneasy.  After a few wrong turns, we made it safely to the campground.  We set up our tent and canopy tent knowing that the weather forecast was predicting overnight rain.  I was asleep on our air mattress by 10:45 PM with the alarm set for 5:00 AM.

Sunday – Race Morning

After a restless night sleep that felt like only three hours, the alarm sounded.  Rain drops were hitting our rain fly and I exhaled numerous sighs of frustration.  A rainy 50k would make for an extremely long day in the woods.  I forced down a bagel with peanut butter and banana on it.  We left for the race at 6:00 AM.  The starting area was a 20 minute drive away and once again we found ourselves sketchily driving down dark, windy mountain roads – some of which were dirt.

We arrived to the USGS parking lot by 6:25 AM.  Josh and I walked the 1/4 mile to the check-in tent with our headlights on.  The rain had stopped but I kept my rain jacket on.  I picked up my race bib, swag bag, and directions to aid stations for Josh.  I also dropped off my drop bag in the designated spot.  Having the option of a drop bag is always very welcomed and I appreciated the idea of having additional fuel available to me at the aid station of mile 20.5 – thank you Tioga Running Company (TRC)!

By the time we walked back to the Jeep, daylight was starting to peek past the surrounding mountains.  I waited in line to use a port-a-potty (yuck!), then shed some of my layers.  The humidity of the day lingered so I opted for a tank top and spandex shorts.  I kept arm sleeves in my Ultimate Direction Ultra Vesta just in case temperatures dropped on top of some of the mountains.  All previous racers I had spoke to about the race had told me that historically the race always started in freezing temperatures.  2017 was the exception as the majority of the racers opted for shorts and short sleeves.

The race director conducted a pre-race briefing around 7:15 which was followed by the national anthem.  My stomach was in knots.  I was beyond nervous about what the day had in store for me and I felt nauseous.  Josh tried calming me down and told me to run smart.  I mentally stored his advice in my head as I approached the starting area.

Sunday – the important race recap stuff

For the remainder of the race recap, I am going to break down the race through aid station to aid station recaps.  Instead of running the race as a 50k race, throughout the day I broke the race into 8 parts (there were 8 aid stations).  This made the 50k distance seem less daunting.  This allowed me to focus on one small goal at a time rather than one huge goal.  The farthest stretch between aid stations was 5 miles so with my mental strategy, the farthest “race” I would be running would only be 5 miles.  Be warned, this strategy might not work for everyone, but on race day, this was the best strategy I think I could have ever adopted.

Start to Aid Station #1 (Canada Run) – miles 0.0-5.0

By 7:25, all of us racers lined up at the starting line.  After a countdown, we were sent off to the trails.  I started the race conservatively and a lot of people were ahead of me.  But I wasn’t too concerned.  I didn’t let my adrenaline get the best of me.  The first 1/2 – 3/4 mile or so was on a wide dirt road.  Eventually we made a slight left at a trail head.  Here stood a man in a T-rex costume cheering us on.  I thought this was peculiar but I enjoyed the humor of the situation so early in the morning.

As the racers ducked into the single track, the trail wasn’t too technical but I needed to stay alert.  Everybody at this point in the race was still pretty close together so keeping an appropriate distance from the racer in front of me was necessary to plan my footing.

After some nice, flowy single track, we began our first climb.  I believe this climb started out gradual.  I was brought down to a power-hiking pace and made a few moves around racers that were hiking a bit too slow for my desire.  I politely scooted around them and continued the ascent.  The climb felt like it was at least 2 miles long.  If I recall correctly, I believe it got steeper as the climb continued.  My calf muscles and my lungs burned but with every step, I knew I was getting myself closer to the top.

The race course was designed to have climbs followed immediately by descents.  Once I reached the top of the first climb, I was rewarded with an enjoyable, flowy downhill.  I was cautious on the downhill as my glasses were fogged over from the ungodly humidity of the morning.  I was frustrated that I wasn’t able to see all that well and I felt like it was going to be a long, long day if I was running half blind the entire race.

We reached aid station #1 at the bottom of the descent.  I chugged a half cup of Gatorade then continued on my way to the next trail head.  Three miles until the next aid station.

Aid Station #1 (Canada Run) to Aid Station #2 (Baldwin Run) – miles 5.0-8.0

We were immediately gifted with another long uphill.  This uphill hurt worse.  It was steep, it was long and I felt like it was never going to end.  Honestly, I don’t remember too much from this ascent.  The downhill was a relief but my glasses were still fogged over so I was still running cautious (the struggle was real!).

I belief we ascended and descended a second climb during this stretch.  I remember feeling like I had just ascended two of Hyner’s SOBs that were actually longer in length.  Little did I know that the SOB-like climbs would continue.

During one of these climbs the man up ahead of me warned me that the trail was steep simultaneously as shale tumbled down towards me.  Steep?!  Yeah, I could tell.  I was reaching for rocks that were intact to the trail just to give myself a little extra stability.  I reached for a few trees that lined the trail just to pull myself up.  I was using both my feet and my hands to keep myself from sliding down.  One…step…at a time.

My legs were burning up these climbs but I kept telling myself that every step forward was a step in the right direction.

The field of runners was more spread out at this point as the three climbs had separated a lot of people.  After power-hiking at the top of the ascent to recover my legs and lungs, I happily started running with one or two runners who were keeping a steady pace.

At the Baldwin Run aid station, I picked up another cup of Gatorade and drank the whole thing.  I wasn’t ready for food/snacks yet but the aid station was fully stocked.  Three miles until the next aid station.

Aid Station #2 (Baldwin Run) to Aid Station #3 (Stone Road) – miles 8.0-11.0

The runners I had been running with departed the aid station at the same time as me so I knew I would be running with people for hopefully another three miles to the next aid station.

We reached yet another climb that was steep.  I peeked upwards a few times just to see that a few racers up ahead of me were still climbing.  So…many…steep…ascents.  Once we finally got to the top, I power-hiked to recover.  I ran for about 400 feet than started power-hiking again.  The woman behind me stayed in step with my tactic of run-hiking.  After a relatively “flat” section of the course, we were rewarded with aid station #3!

22281924_10210859858678015_2635698085745054548_nSpectators lined this aid station as it was one of the first aid stations that were safely accessible by car.  I spotted Josh immediately.  Everyone was cheering and their energy was contagious.  Josh ran stride by stride with me to the aid station tent.  He asked me how things were going and I told him “I feel like I just climbed up SOB three times in a row”.  He offered some words of encouragement.  I grabbed another cup of Gatorade and then continued on my way.  Two and a half miles until the next aid station.

Aid Station #3 (Stone Road) to Aid Station #4 (Broad Ridge)- miles 11.0-13.5

This was the shortest stretch between aid stations and it flew by!  The two runners I had the pleasure of running with stayed comfortably behind me throughout most of this stretch.  The man politely complimented me and my fellow trail chick on picking good lines to run down the technical trail.  I appreciated this uplifting compliment!

Before I knew it we were approaching the next aid station.  I heard this aid station way off in the distance as a local girl scout troop’s cheering echoed throughout the woods.  Their energy was perfect for this point in the race.

I wanted to fill up my pack with more water because I knew I was drinking a lot.  The humidity and heat required a lot of extra hydration.  I filled up the bladder at the water cooler and grabbed a Fig Newton.  That Fig Newton hit the spot!  Josh told me it was all down hill from here….ha!  Funny joke, Josh!

I spent a little more time than my fellow running buddies did at this aid station so I ended up departing back onto the trail alone.  Four miles until the next aid station.

Aid Station #4 (Broad Ridge) to Aid Station #5 (Apple Orchard) – miles 13.5-17.5

Although I could see my running buddies up ahead, they weren’t within distance of me catching them.

After about 1/4 mile away from the aid station, we hit Frankenstein’s Forehead…..the infamous Frankenstein’s Forehead.  According to my Garmin upload to Strava, Frankenstein’s Forehead is a 0.2 mile descent at -31.6% grade.  Although I didn’t have these statistics during the race, it was obvious that this was a steep descent.  The trail was made up of mostly loose shale which made it interesting.  I managed to only slightly slip once (thank you, Altra Superiors for your extra grippy lugs!!)

I am not that fast at descents so my previous running buddies continued to gap me.  I was cautious going down Frankenstein’s Forehead.  It probably would have been quicker to slide down on my butt, but I wasn’t in the mood to have dirt and rocks plastered to my spandex for the rest of the day.

The trail reached another climb.  There was nobody within eyesight ahead of me or behind me.  I was all alone simply moving forward from pink ribbon to pink ribbon.  I began to talk aloud to myself at this point.  First, during the climb, I created a song about going uphill and how with every step I took up the hill I wouldn’t have to take that step again during the race.  Then, when the climb became more gradual but still required a power-hike, I made a song up about the yellow leaves on the trees.  It sounds crazy, but the songs distracted me from the soreness of my muscles.

Finally at the top of the climb, the trail exited the woods into a pipeline opening on the mountain.  I spotted another racer trekking up the mountain and called out to him saying “are you in the 50k?!”.  He said yes and asked me where I came from.  I proceeded to point to the opening in the woods.  He seemed to be following the pink survey flags up the mountain which I knew was wrong.  He continued to explain to me that he was in 3rd place overall and that nobody had passed him all day.  My gaze drifted to the woods on the other side of the open pipeline field where I spotted pink ribbons and a yellow blazed tree.  During the pre-race briefing, the race director had told us to follow the yellow blazed trees when in doubt of the course direction so I proceeded to the woods and justified my decision to the apparent 3rd place racer.   He agreed that this was probably the right direction and he sped off down the trail.

Paranoia started pacing through my head.  What if I had somehow gotten off course, missed the next aid station in which Josh was probably waiting for me, and then somehow gotten back onto course to the point where I was now near the 3rd place guy?  I feared I had somehow cut the course.  There was still nobody within eye sight ahead of me or behind me (with the exception of the “3rd place guy” who had just sped down the trail).  Every possible horrible situation was going through my head.  Was I the lost one?  Was I going the wrong way?  Why was I so close to the guy in 3rd place all of a sudden?

As paranoid thoughts continued to race through my head, I heard a loud “F@#!”.  Uh oh.  Before I could process what might have happened, the guy comes storming back up the trail yelling “I already went this way and now I’m lost and I need to find my way back to where I need to be”…….oh shoot.  All I knew is that I was going to continue on my way following the pink ribbons and the yellow blazed trees.  I hoped and prayed that I would catch up to someone in front of me soon so that I could figure out if I was still on the right part of the course.

After about another 1-1.5 miles, I finally spotted someone ahead of me power hiking.  I kindly asked him what his mileage was and he said about 16.5 miles.  THANK GOODNESS!  This matched the mileage on my watch and a huge feeling of relief overtook me.  I explained to the runner that I had come across a guy that was lost who was apparently in third.  I thanked him for easing my paranoia and continued on my way.

After about another mile, I reached the next aid station.  Although this aid station was supposed to be unmanned, a volunteer was there with water, Gatorade and a few snacks.  I grabbed another cup of Gatorade.  The woman who I had been running with back through the last two aid stations was stretching out her calf muscles.  I continued back onto the trail.  Three miles until the next aid station.

Aid Station #5 (Apple Orchard) to Aid Station #6 (Hessel Gessel) – miles 17.5-20.5

I continued to run this section of the course alone.  It wasn’t nearly as hilly as the first half of the race and my legs felt relieved.  I knew that my drop bag would be waiting at the next aid station.  I also knew that Josh would be at this aid station along with several other spectators.

During the ascent in this section I attempted to eat part of my peanut butter and raisin wrap that had been effective in my previous 50k in 2016.  I took about four bites but I couldn’t quite stomach the rest.  It was too dry and it was taking me forever to chew.  I concluded that my race would be fueled off of Shot Bloks.

This section of the course wasn’t overly technical.  I was still focused on staying alert to keep my footing precise and efficient.  Towards the end of this three mile stretch, we were rewarded with a wide open fire road type area that was grassy.  This lead us right into the Hessel Gessel aid station.

22310643_10210859859438034_3305799624498574142_nI spotted Josh and he was taking pictures/video.  I was relieved to have reached this point.  It felt like the psychological half way point because I could re-stash my pack with fuel.  This aid station was manned with local cross country runners.  I added some more water to my hydration bladder.  Josh handed me another sleeve of Shot Bloks and I picked up two more Fig Newtons (thank goodness for Fig Newtons!) from the aid station.  I meandered back into the woods after receiving some more words of encouragement from Josh.  Five miles until the next aid station.

Aid Station #6 (Hessel Gessel) to Aid Station #7 (Frying Pan)- miles 20.5-25.5

Immediately after leaving the aid station, I started off this stretch of the course with 3-4 men.  We navigated down about five huge boulders.  I settled in behind a man wearing Altra Timps and proceeded to have a conversation with him about the Timps.  After 50 feet later, the group of men and I realized we had just ran in a circle as we had returned back to the boulders.  We had made a right at the bottom of the boulders instead of a left.  I discovered this mistake, navigated back down the huge boulders for the second time within 3 minutes and made a left to follow the pink ribbons.  Oops.

The group of men followed me down the trail back to another wide dirt road.  We crossed the road onto another single track trailhead.  I let them go ahead of me knowing that if it was a descent that I would be slower than them.  We settled back into a nice pace.  I heard Josh drive by on the dirt road ahead honking his horn and cheering for me – it made me smile.

Eventually we reached another climb and I politely scooted by the group of men as they were power-hiking slower than my normal power-hiking speed.  I continued to power through the gradual uphill.

All the previous race recaps I read of the Green Monster 50k stated that the 2nd half of the course is more runnable than the 1st half.  I can affirm that this is the truth.  I did A LOT of running throughout mile 17 to the finish.  I still conserved energy by power-hiking the climbs but there were a lot of runnable, non-technical sections of this part of the course.  It was a relief!

This section of the course navigated through some muddy sections – probably from the rain from the previous night mixed with all the runners who had already came down the trail that day.  It was sloppy and my shoes were covered in mud but I continued moving in the forward direction.

The trail wandered through 3-4 stream crossings before the next road crossing.  I originally planned to keep my feet dry but there was no safe way to cross via rocks so I decided to splash through the streams instead.  It was more fun to do that anyway!

Josh met me at this aid station too and told me that I only had two more big climbs to go.  Uuuuggggggh, two more climbs?!!? My legs were shot at this point.  I crossed another wide but shallow creek and started on my second to last climb.  Three miles until the next aid station.

Aid Station #7 (Frying Pan) to final aid station #8 (Scotch Pine) – miles 25.5-28.5

I ascended the second to last climb.  My legs were exhausted.  It felt like it went on for at least 2 miles.  Up, up, up.  Eventually when I got to the top, I was rewarded with a lovely downhill which I took full advantage of.

This section of the course was simple:  go up the mountain, come back down the mountain.  I don’t remember too much about this section.  I just remember that the final 400-500 feet of this section was on a ridge of single track trail.  I could see the aid station down below but I had to follow the trail to get there.  I crossed another wide, shallow creek and Josh asked me how I felt.

My response was short and simple:  “I feel like I have 54 minutes to run the last 3.75 miles to the finish.”

My goal going into the race was 1) to finish and 2) to finish between 7 and 8 hours.  I knew I was going to be extremely close to the 8 hour mark.  I had 54 minutes to ascend another long climb, descend the mountain, and run the 1/2 mile of flat road to the finish.

22310128_10210859858878020_9133001567192680943_nI think I spent a total of 45 seconds at that last aid station.  I chugged one final cup of Gatorade and started up, once again, another climb.  3.75 miles until the finish line.

Final aid station #8 (Scotch Pine) to the finish line – miles 28.5-32.2ish

I left the aid station saying to Josh, “I need to book it”.  I needed to book it all the way up this final climb.  Then I needed to book it all the way back down to the finish.  54 minutes.

I power-hiked for at least one mile up the final climb.  I felt like I was a woman on a mission.  Actually, I know I was a woman on a mission.  Even when the trail continued upwards, I got to a point where it was a runnable uphill.  I wasn’t moving fast but I was moving faster than I would have been power-hiking it.

I passed the man that had been lost way back at mile 15 as he was power-hiking.  I kept pushing myself to keep up a “brisk” pace up this final climb.  I was slightly panick-y knowing that I was going to be extremely close to that 8 hour mark.

I finally made it the top of the final climb and I expended all of my remaining energy on that final descent down the mountain.  I was hyper-focused on making it safely down the mountain in a fast and efficient manner.  I made sure I was putting my feet in the right places to avoid any unneeded ankle twisting.  I kept my eyes peeled for pink ribbons.  Now was not the time to get off course.  I have never ran so fast down a mountain ever before in my life.  Pure adrenaline is what made me forget how sore I was being 31 and 32 miles into the race.  I needed to keep running and I needed to keep running fast.

After what felt like 5 miles, I finally made it the end of the trail head.  The trail put me out onto the side yard of a Wellsboro resident.  As he sat on his porch, I quickly asked him where to go.  He told me to go down the road.

I made that final turn onto the road and I could see the finishing area.  I was running so fast down this road and I was terrified to look at my watch.  I hadn’t looked at my watch since leaving the final aid station because I was too fearful to see how much time I had remaining.

I was getting closer and closer to the finishing area and spectators were sporadically spread out along the dirt road cheering, clapping, and ringing cow bells. I finally got within eyesight of the finishing clock and I could read that it said 7:57.  I knew I was going to be under 8 hours and a huge smile came across my face.  I heard Josh cheering me on!  It was such a great feeling knowing I had accomplished my goal of finishing under 8 hours.

22308946_10210859860118051_2116784813890531647_nI officially crossed the line in 7:58:08.  I was handed a medal by a friendly race volunteer.  Josh walked over to me and offered me a congratulations.  All I could muster up was “I have never ran so fast down a mountain before ever in my life”.  I made it!

Sunday – Post-Race Happenings

Josh guided me over to a table and chairs underneath a pavilion.  He handed me a Gatorade and proceeded to exchange stories about our day.  We eventually walked back into the open area to sit in the warmth of the sunshine.  Josh had a beer from the local brewery that was offering beers.  I just wanted to sit and not move another muscle.

22279679_10210859858318006_5612210570519066878_nWhat. A. Day.

After slowing hobbling back to the Jeep, I changed out of my sweat-drenched clothes and soaked shoes.  I shared a few brownies with Josh.  I craved pizza so we researched local pizza places we could pick up a pizza from.  None of Wellsboro’s local pizza shops were open on a Sunday afternoon so we opted for a medium cheese Pizza Hut pizza.  We drove back to the campground and immediately opened the box of pizza.  I devoured four slices.  Yum!

I was asleep by 9:30 PM that night.  My legs were exhausted.  My body was tired.  I was ready for sleep, the sleep that I earned!

My Race Review:

Would I race this again?:  Maybe.  The 4.5 hour drive to the race makes for a long weekend of driving but the course is beautiful, the race atmosphere is perfect, the course is well-marked, and aid stations are fully stocked with ultra runner favorites.

How would you review Green Monster Trail Challenge as a challenge?:  Yes, the 50k is a challenge.  For those of you who have done Hyner, I warn you that Green Monster is by far a lot more technical.  The trails are rocky, rooty, and steep.  The course hits you with ascent-descent, ascent-descent, so there’s really not many flat sections of the course.  If you’re looking for a well-groomed race, do Hyner.  If you want more of a challenge in the technical area of ultra races, do Green Monster.

How would you review the post-race celebration?:  There’s free beer, free BBQ, and a table of snacks/drinks.  Although I am not a beer drinker and I’m a vegetarian, I thought the post-race celebration was perfect as it was low-key and relaxing after a long day in the mountains.  There were plenty of places to sit and enjoy the afternoon as other racers were finishing.

My Race Statistics:

Official Time:  7:58:08

10th overall female finisher

39th overall finisher of 79 (I’m a middle-of-the-pack kinda girl!)

1st place age group 20-29

Garmin distance:  32.4 miles

Average pace: 14:46/mile

Garmin elevation:  7,000 feet of gain/loss (advertised as 7800 feet, but at that point, what’s another +/- 800 feet?)

Mile split for mile 31:  9:50

Mile split for mile 32:  8:55

Total Steps:  72,175

Fuel:  8 shotbloks, 3 Fig Newtons, 8 small cups of Gatorade, and A LOT of water

Thank you, Josh, for supporting me through three months of training.  Thank you for being my chauffeur to and from the race.  Thank you for meeting me at so many aid stations when you knew I would only be there for a few minutes before disappearing back into the woods.  Thank you for buying me a pizza – my favorite post-long-run food.  Thank you for being the best supporter I could ever ask for.

And, Green Monster, thank you for a challenge.  Thank you for a wonderful day in the mountains, on these trails, and through the woods.  Thank you for forcing me to run down the mountain at sub-10 minute pace when I’ve already ran 30 miles.  Thank you for pushing me and making me a stronger runner.

For now I will rest and recover and relive the race through the stories I can tell and the lessons I can share.

What a race.

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