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!

 

Vacation Part 2: Utah

Vacation Part 2: Utah

Day 4 (Friday continued): 

The scenery on the eastern side of Utah didn’t look much different than the scenery on the western side of Colorado.  The posted speed limit was 80mph so I was happily driving while Josh took in the surrounding landscape zipping by.

Once we exited Route 70, Moab would be the next town we would come across.  Despite being situated in the middle of a red rock desert, Moab was a bustling place.  Everybody either had bike racks on their cars or was driving a camper.  Despite being visitors, it was a welcoming atmosphere for us because we love spending time outside, exploring, and taking in nature.

We drove to our pre-determined camping area managed by the BLM – the Sandflats Recreation Area.  We paid our $15 at the gate, drove up the road and settled on camping in the Cottontail camping area which had 4-5 other sites available for tents.  After pitching our tent, admiring the place we would get to sleep at later, and changing into mountain bike attire, we headed back into town for our bike rentals.

We rented our mountain bikes from Chile Pepper Bikes – a bike shop well-known to Moab visitors.  They suggested trails for us, hooked a bike rack to our car, loaded up our bikes, and sent us on our way.  We left the confines of Main Street, Moab and headed back out to Moab Brands.

After scoping out the trails on the map we purchased for $2, we decided to start on EZ – an intermediate/easy trail.  We were both getting acquainted with our rental bikes and the varying terrain of Moab so this was a good way to start off.

We connected EZ to Bar-M – an easy trail.  From Bar-M we hopped on Rockin’ A which was considered an intermediate-expert trail.  Rockin’ A was complete rock – not a speck of dirt in sight.  On the east coast, I’m terrified of rocky sections (which are typically paired with a downhill); however, in Moab, I had no choice.  You can look for miles in Moab and find only rock.  To my own surprise, I wasn’t overly frightened.  There were no log overs to worry about or huge rocks to weave through.  We were simply riding ON the rocks – rocks that were relatively smooth and rather nonthreatening.

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Moab Brands

Granted, I was probably going slower than anyone else that rides in Moab but I was still riding.  We passed a group of riders that said they were from Michigan.  A guy told me I was doing awesome.  Quite surprised at his apparent observation, all I managed to say was “thank you” and I just continued riding.

At the end of Rockin’ A we hopped over to Circle-O (also an intermediate-expert trail).  I was truly enjoying myself at my own pokey pace.  Josh was up ahead riding at his own pace and waiting for me every so often.  We were enjoying our ride in a place we’ve only ever seen on Instagram.  We were finally living our Instagram dreams!

I feel that I need to share that our ride in Moab was not guided by trail markers every 100-200 feet.  Trail markers can only be found at the beginning and end of each trail, typically accompanied with a map.  So how do you know you’re still on a trail?  Just follow the faded paint line on the rock – AND DON’T DIVERGE FAR.  I remember concentrating hard on following the paint line and I would get mad at myself when I would lose concentration and move to the right/left of it by 2-3 feet.  I wanted to follow the line!

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Do you see the faded line that I’ve clearly diverged from?

Ok, back to Circle-O.  Circle-O is a 3.2 mile trail of rock.  Half-way through, Josh broke his derailleur.  It was a problem that couldn’t be fixed, so he was forced to walk about 2-3 miles back to our vehicle.  I continued to ride at my own slow pace while he disappointingly walked the line.  Role reversal!  Now I was the one waiting every so often for him to catch up to me.  I would loop back to him and then ride ahead again, trying to find the end of Circle-O so he knew he was getting closer to the car.

After, a good 30-40 minutes of walking, Josh finally got back to the car.  We still had time remaining on our day rental and I wanted to get the most out of it – especially since one bike was broken.  I went back to EZ trail and did a quick loop of Lazy-EZ.  It was flowy, it was fun, and I wish that Josh & I could’ve rode more in Moab together.  But the trail gods clearly had other plans.

With the exception of the broken derailleur, I genuinely enjoyed riding in Moab.  It was unlike anything we ever ride on the east coast.  My only Moab regret is not spending more time there.  We only saw a tiny crumb of what Moab trails offer (12.9 miles to be exact) and I just want to go back to see and experience more.

After we returned our rental bikes, we stopped at the grocery store for cold Gatorades.  Then we decided to eat dinner before heading back to our campsite for the remainder of the afternoon.

Moab Brewery was conveniently next to the bike shop so we opted for that.  We walked in, sat in the pub area, and ordered nachos.  You can never go wrong with nachos!  Josh ordered a beer and I ordered their “Ginerade” – gin and lemonade.  It was alright.  We ordered our entrees (a veggie wrap for me and a burger for Josh) but we were both rather unimpressed by the taste.  I picked through my entire wrap and only ended up eating a small portion of it.  Our review of Moab Brewery?  Nice atmosphere, good brews, ok mixed drinks, and unimpressive entrees.  Would we go back?  I’m just going to say one thing: let’s try someplace different.

After leaving the brewery, we drove back to our campsite and simply relaxed.  Around 9 PM we climbed up a few rocks to watch the sunset.  We observed mountain bikers dropping off of steep rocks and UTV’ers off in the distance.  The sunset was absolutely beautiful.  I am so envious of anyone that lives in that area or has such scenic views everyday.  It is an absolutely beautiful and unique place in our country and words nor pictures could ever do it justice.

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view behind us at our sunset rock

The stars took forever to come out.  I was fighting off falling asleep in our tent and every 10 minutes I would wake up and ask if the stars were out yet.  When they finally did all start to appear, they were EVERYWHERE!  The most stars I’ve ever seen and there was not a speck of light pollution.  I’m sure that Josh observed the stars longer than I did because I just couldn’t stay awake.  At some point in time, we were both asleep.

Day 4 stats:  12.9 miles mtb, 838 ft of elevation gain, max elevation was 4,778 ft

Day 5 (Saturday): 

Let it be known that sleeping in Moab can be a struggle without the proper camping supplies.  We were sleeping on sand and all we had were our pillows, a sheet, and a blanket.  I brought in layers of clothes the night before knowing I might need them as night progressed.  Thank goodness I did because I woke up at an unknown time freezing cold.  However, the moon was super bright and the stars were still out!

I’m pretty sure I only got 3 hours of sleep in Moab between being uncomfortable and being cold.  The sun was already up by 6 AM but I tried to fall back asleep.  That lasted 30 minutes and then I decided to just go for a run.  I ran 2 miles with stiff legs and a stiff back.  It was slow but I got to see more of the Sand Flats area.

Once Josh woke up, I made myself a peanut butter and banana sandwich and we packed up our tent.  Josh stopped at the local coffee shop to get his morning dose of coffee and then we started driving again.  Next stop: Ogden!

The drive to Ogden was pretty uneventful.  We drove through a lot of desert and some canyons.  There were huge windmills too!  We swapped drivers half way through and I drove us the rest of the way to Ogden.

We arrived at 2nd Tracks for our bike rental where we were finally reunited with my brother, Michael!  We received our bikes and put my bike in our car and Josh’s bike in Michael’s car.  He was taking us to Snowbasin for mountain biking!

We drove right through the canyon to get to Snowbasin!  What a road that was!  It twisted and winded all the way through the mountain.  It was quite the scenic road!

Michael toured us around Snowbasin which turned out to be extremely scenic and quite challenging.  The trails were tough in sections, especially the uphills and rocky sections.  Josh and Michael would zip ahead of me so I mostly rode solo; however, they waited at trail intersections to make sure I was still in one piece.  The flowy sections were enjoyable and the switchbacks were nice but I was completely out of my element riding on literal mountains.

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MTB with the men

After riding nearly 9 miles, we packed up our bikes again and headed back into Ogden.  Michael brought us to Slackwater Pizza & Pub.  Pizza sounded so welcoming!  I ordered a mac & cheese pizza, Josh ordered the buffalo chicken pizza, and Michael ordered the Hawaiian pizza.

Let me just say, I am still to this day talking about my mac & cheese pizza.  It was so unique and so delicious that I wish I could order another one right now!  It didn’t have pizza sauce on it, just macaroni noodles, cheese, and a drizzle of balsamic.  The balsamic made it so good!  I am so glad I ordered something outside of my “pizza comfort zone” because I would go back there in a heartbeat – pizza stop #2 of the trip got another A++.

After satisfying our hunger, we were tired from a sleepless night and a day of activity.  Michael returned to Hill AFB and Josh and I drove to our campground for the remainder of our stay – KOA Brigham City/Perry.  We enjoyed some downtime at our cozy little cabin, took showers, and fell asleep comfortably on a mattress – a little luxury!

Day 5 stats:  9 miles mtb, 1,156 ft of elevation gain, max elevation was 7,230 ft

Day 6 (Sunday): 

We slept wonderfully in our cozy cabin and woke up feeling a little less sleepy and a lot less stiff.  We enjoyed a simple breakfast and then met Michael at a trailhead for the Bonneville Shoreline trail system.

[Fun fact!  Bonneville Shoreline does not follow any shore whatsoever.  It’s not near water nowadays….but it used to be!  Way back in the day, the Great Salt Lake was so large and high up that the Shoreline trail was indeed on the shoreline of the lake.  However, now, the Salt Lake has shrunk, a city has been developed, and the shoreline trail is simply amidst the mountains.]

After a brief discussion with a snobby local (true fact) at the trailhead, we started riding.  It was a hot, the trails were narrow and rather hilly and I was just not having a good day on the bike.  After less than 3 miles, I decided I just wanted to run so that the men didn’t have to keep waiting up for me.  We put my bike back in the car and I set out for a run while Michael and Josh rode more miles.

I enjoyed a 6.8 mile run on the Shoreline trail which provided a continuous vista of Ogden and zig-zagged in and out of small mountain valleys.  The trail was lightly trafficked and I enjoyed the serenity of running in a new place.  Michael and Josh mountain biked 11.7 miles together and also enjoyed views of Ogden from above.

 

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Bonneville Shoreline trail

After we were done our excursions, we decided to eat lunch at another place Michael recommended to us called The Angry Goat.  I had a black bean quesadilla, Josh enjoyed a sandwich and fries, and Michael had a breakfast burrito.  It was a quaint and quiet pub and we got to plan our next hike.

We returned our bike rentals and drove to the trailhead for the Hidden Valley Trail.  Turns out I picked a pretty strenuous trail because the trail was sun-exposed and extremely steep.  Josh & I powered ahead after Michael decided to turn back around.  We had views of Ogden from above again.  When we reached the top of the trail we were rewarded with a field of flowers and a vista of a valley…. a hidden valley.

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Vista on Hidden Valley Trail
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view at the top of Hidden Valley

Upon descending, we decided to run sections of the trail back down to the parking lot.  The steep sections got me nervous so I slowed to a crawl, I leaped over a snake that Josh didn’t see, and we decided that, although quite challenging, Hidden Valley Trail was rather anticlimatic.  At least we got to spend more time outside!

Once we were done hiking, Michael gave us a tour of the AFB.  We then went our separate ways as it was getting late.  Josh & I picked up fresh salads at Smith’s grocery store (their equivalent to Shoprite/Acme) and we ate dinner back at our cabin as the sun was setting.

In both Utah & Colorado it seemed that sunsets were so lengthy.  Daylight seemed to last so much longer compared to the east coast.  Still to this day, it boggles my mind and I can’t seem to figure it out.  I digress.  The sun set, we showered, and then went right to sleep.

Day 6 stats:  2.7 miles mtb (me), 11.7 miles mtb (Josh), 6.7 mile run (me), 4.8 mile hike (both), 3,766 ft of elevation gain (me), 3,851 ft of elevation gain (Josh), max elevation was 6,762′

Day 7 (Monday): 

Monday morning we woke up and had nowhere to be!  We decided Monday would be our relaxation day.  Our legs were exhausted and we just needed some time to chill out.  Michael was working all day and we would spend the afternoon with him once he was done.

I enjoyed time reading my book and we discussed our adventures so far.  Then Josh got antsy and started researching nearby trails to our campground.  He discovered the Perry Canyon trailhead that was within a mile of us.  It was the hottest part of the day but I agreed to go with him.

The trailhead wasn’t clearly marked so we questioned our parking choice.  The trail was slightly overgrown and Josh became paranoid about the safety of our car.  My legs were still quite exhausted so I opted to take the car back to the campground, continue relaxing, and Josh would continue hiking/running on the Perry Canyon trail.  We discussed a time limit and potential plans for coming to pick him up.

I don’t have much knowledge on what the Perry Canyon trail was like but Josh said it was kind of overgrown and very much uphill.  He finished a 6 mile run with 985′ of elevation gain.  He showed up to the campground tired yet satisfied that he got to run up another mountain!

Still in need of lunch at 3:30PM, we decided to drive into Brigham City to get food at Kent’s Market.  We picked up two more fresh salads, cold fruit, donuts for the next morning, and a yogurt parfait.  Kent’s Market was a nice surprise and we enjoyed the freshness of their food choices!

We met Michael and his friend, Andy, at the trailhead for Adams Canyon trail around 5:30 PM.  In retrospect, this was probably my favorite trail that we hiked in the Ogden area.  Honestly, I considered it to be epic.  For starters, it was shaded.  Secondly, it followed a stream up to an awesome waterfall.  The trail was rocky and steep and at times I was climbing up rocks using my hands.  A hiker warned us of a rattlesnake he heard and I got nervous.  I don’t like snakes at all so I went into super-awareness mode.  We stopped 3/4 of the way up and the men climbed up a very high rock overlook.  Here is the picture below.

 

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Can you spot Michael, Andy, and Josh?

We continued our way up the trail until we finally reached the waterfall!  We crossed the shallow part of the waterfall’s pool of water and my Altra Superiors drained very well.  I got close enough to the waterfall to feel the mist, but not close enough to touch it.  It was cold water!

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the picturesque waterfall with Michael

While at the top, Michael & Andy climbed more rocks, and we watched a few people climb towards the top of the waterfall (crazy!).  Josh also unexpectedly snapped a picture of me modeling my Altra race top, Altra Superiors, and Ultimate Direction pack.

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We also took a selfie with Michael and Andy behind us climbing the rocks.  They have no fear!

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Group selfie

We started the hike back down to the trailhead.  I’m SUPER slow on descents so the men kept waiting up for me.  We simply got to enjoy more time out on a nice afternoon.  Even though it was closing in on 8 PM, people were still hiking up in the direction of the waterfall.  I envy the outdoorsy-ness of the people in the western states.  People out there don’t miss any opportunity to hike, bike, or run and I truly admire that.

Once again, we were eating dinner at 9 PM.  After our hike we all drove to Rooster’s Brewing Company for dinner.  We enjoyed burgers (mine was black bean), fries, and Josh & Andy had brews.  We closed the place down and then we had to say our goodbyes in the parking lot.  Michael and Andy returned to the AFB and Josh & I returned to the cabin for our final vacation night.

We stayed up until midnight trying to organize and pack all of our things again.  We were both tired but I didn’t want vacation to end.  Eventually we fell asleep, grateful for all of our vacation adventures.

Day 7 stats:  6 mile run & 3.6 mile hike (Josh), 5.1 mile hike (me), 2,498 ft of elevation gain (Josh), 1,691 ft of elevation gain (me), max elevation was 6,202 ft

Day 8 (Tuesday): 

We woke up Tuesday morning feeling tired from lack of sleep.  I became stressed about fitting everything in our bags.  I shoved the blanket we had bought at Target into my carry-on because I was determined to bring it home (and it now sits happily folded on the end of my bed).  I must have packed and repacked my bags at least 6 times in shear determination to fit everything.

Shortly after leaving our lovely mountain cabin, I received a text saying our flight was delayed.  I went into a brief panic because we had to make a connecting flight in Dallas; however, I calculated that we should have just enough time to make it.  Travel stress is the worst stress, especially when you have to end a vacation with it!

We flew over the mountains departing SLC and I was sad to be leaving.  There was so much more for us to explore and see in both Utah and Colorado.  I wanted to see more!

We landed in Dallas and the pilot drove to our terminal for what seemed like 30 minutes – precious time when you have to make a connecting flight!  We took the Skylink from our arrival terminal to the departing terminal which we successfully navigated.  Upon arriving at our departing terminal, they were just starting to board our plane.  I was starving and miserable so I ran over to the closest convenience store and bought a bag of peanuts.  Onwards to home!

Utah Stats:

  • Josh’s mountain bike miles:  28.9 miles
  • Lyndsey’s mountain bike miles:  24.6 miles
  • Josh’s running miles:  6 miles
  • Lyndsey’s running miles:  8.7 miles
  • Josh & Lyndsey’s hiking miles:  8.4 miles
  • Josh’s elevation gain (combo of running, hiking , & biking):  8,118 feet
  • Lyndsey’s elevation gain (combo of running, hiking , & biking):  7,487 feet
  • Max Elevation:  7,230′ above sea level (Snowbasin)

Combined Stats (Utah & Colorado):

  • Running  miles (both): 14 miles (Josh) and 16.7 miles (Lyndsey)
  • Hiking miles (both):  21.1 miles (both of us)
  • Mountain bike miles (just Utah):  28.9 miles (Josh) and 24.6 miles (Lyndsey)
  • Elevation gain:  13,636′ (Josh) and 12,935′ (Lyndsey)
  • Max Elevation:  10,465′ (Frisco)
  • Combined total miles explored: 126.4 miles
  • Combined elevation achieved:  26,571′

In retrospect:

Colorado and Utah are beautiful places.  I am grateful for all that we got to see and do on our one-week vacation in mountain time.  I am grateful that I got to spend time with good friends in Colorado.  I am grateful that I got to spend time with my brother in Utah.  I am grateful that we had safety in all of our travels, hikes, runs, and bike rides.  I am forever grateful that Josh & I got to spend a week together in our happy place – the mountains!

I will always look back on this vacation with fond memories.  I will yearn for the day that I get to go back with Josh by my side to climb more mountains together.  It was an unforgettable week and I will forever cherish the moments we got to spend together & with people we love.

 

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!

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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.

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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!

 

2017 in review

2017 in review

2017 is coming to a close and I’m sitting here trying to figure out how this year went by so fast, how I even survived this year to begin with, and how much I am looking forward to 2018.  2017 has been a year of many things: tumultuous changes, traveling, great trail racing, new ambitions, and faith in God’s plan.  There’s been a lot of good in 2017 and a lot of what-is-going-on bad.  2017 started off decent, went through a wild spiral from March until August, and finished….decent. I’ve cried a lot this year and I’ve been stressed a lot this year, but through it all I’ve grown a lot as a person this year.  Let’s review.

Josh & I started 2017 off with a run at Alapocas State Park.  It was a pleasant day and I remember seeing some people rock climbing.

I became a proud 2017 Altra Ambassador and I’ve done everything I can to promote the perfection of the zero drop and wide toe box that Altra’s offer.

It snowed a decent amount at the beginning of January so Gwin and I did a lot of off-leash snow running together.  She loves the snow and I love seeing her leap through the snow so excited!

We hosted a surprise 50th birthday party for my mom in January (her birthday is in April).  Family & friends brought over balloons that reminded her she was turning 50 soon.

I started training for the Hyner 25k on January 22nd.  I needed to do a lot of hill repeats to prepare so Josh and I did nighttime repeats at Brandywine (our go-to place for elevation).  One night in the beginning of February the weather gods gifted us with shorts weather which made hill repeats slightly more enjoyable.

My brother left for Air Force Basic Training (BMT) the day before Valentine’s Day.  We went out to dinner at The Cheesecake Factory then we went to PetSmart so he could buy an I’m-leaving-you gift for Gwin.  He shipped out to San Antonio, Texas on February 14th.

I won a $25 gift certificate to Starbucks (note: I hate Starbucks) by reaching the most elevation logged on a treadmill within a 5 minute time period (note: I hate treadmills).

I began hating my job more and more.  I was working 4:45 AM shifts which was destroying my social life, causing me excessive anxiety & stress, and making me a miserable person.

On February 27th, Angela & I set out on a 3-day road trip from NJ to Colorado.  We vowed to run one mile in every state we drove through.  We ran 1 mile in my hometown in NJ.  We parked behind a McDonald’s and ran 1 mile in Milesburg, Pennsylvania along a farm road.  We stopped at a rest stop in Middleburg, Ohio and ran 1 mile around the rest stop.  We nearly missed our chance to run in Indiana so we made an impromptu stop at Indiana University Northwest.  In Marseilles, Illinois we parked at a gas station and ran 1 mile through a farmer’s field and on a road where people had strange address numbers.  We parked at a church and ran 1 mile on a dirt road in Earlham, Iowa.  Did you know that Iowa is known as the state with “fields of opportunities“?  We ran 1 mile at sunrise in North Platte, Nebraska before we left the La Quinta we stayed at.  My first ever Colorado run was in Frisco, Colorado which officially completed our goal of running at least one mile in every state we drove in.  Take a moment to watch my GoPro documentary of the entire road trip here!

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Frisco, CO – 9,097″

What did I learn from this roadtrip?  One: switching between 3 time zones within a three day time span is very confusing.  Two: the route from New Jersey to Colorado involves an EXCESSIVE amount of fields.  The landscape doesn’t change too much once you leave the mountainous part of Pennsylvania.  The mountains of Colorado were the best sight in the world after 2.5 days of fields (plus their natural beauty of course).  Three: our country is HUGE!  There’s so much to see, so much to explore, so much to experience!  Four: Colorado is BEAUTIFUL!  I loved Frisco, I loved passing through mountain towns, and I loved Angela’s hometown (even the sloppy mess of the Colorow Trail).

I loved Colorado so much that Colorado didn’t want me to leave.  I was about 15 minutes away from missing my flight from Denver to Philly thanks to a worrisome cop and Denver rush hour.  This was the first of several stressful travel experiences of 2017.  I sat on the plane facing the mountainous landscape (I was at a window seat).  I didn’t want to leave. I didn’t want to return to my stressful, crappy job.  I yearned to stay in the serenity of the mountains.  Ever since that plane took off, I’ve wanted to go back.  In 2018, I will.

I transitioned from the Altra Torins to the Altra Escalantes.  I felt like I was flying in my new purple Escalantes!

At the beginning of March, I started training my first at-home personal training client.

My first race of 2017 was the Xterra Brandywine 12k.  It was 23 degrees at the start of the race and I was feeling sick to my stomach.  I finished as the 2nd overall female.  Josh wrapped me in a blanket and I was walking around as if I was a brittle icicle.  It was so cold that their computers malfunctioned so they couldn’t give out awards.  They promised to mail us our awards.  I went home and slept for a few hours underneath blankets.  They mailed me my award a few weeks later.

I wrote a lot of snail mail to Angela, my brother at BMT, and other airmen who were also at BMT with him.

On the 1st day of spring, Josh & I got free water ice from Rita’s Water Ice.

Josh made me a homemade heart-shaped cookie cake on my birthday.  It was delicious!

I turned 23.  Yay.

I experienced some serious mountain withdrawal.

On April 5th, my family and I travelled to San Antonio, Texas for Michael’s BMT graduation.  It would be the first time we would get to see him since February 13th.  Our flight arrived late to Dallas so we missed our connecting flight.  Round two of 2017 travel stress began.  The airline offered us tickets on another flight but when the plane arrived, there was no pilot scheduled to fly the plane.  We were stuck in Dallas for a few hours at 11 PM.  After a 45 minute flight from Dallas to San Antonio (note: the flight was shorter than the time we spent waiting for a pilot to arrive…), we arrived to our destination city around 1 or 2 AM.  We struggled to figure out how to get our rental car because all the rental car companies were closed.  We finally arrived to our hotel just in time to get 3 hours of sleep.

On April 6th, I started the morning by eating a waffle shaped like Texas at 5 o’clock in the morning. By 6 AM, I stepped foot onto Lackland AFB (the 1st AFB I’ve ever been on).  We attended the Airman’s Run and Airman’s Coin Ceremony – both of which were probably the most “I’m proud to be an American” moments I’ve ever witnessed.  Michael got base liberty so we got to explore the base and see where he’s been living for 7.5 weeks.

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Lackland AFB

On April 7th,  Michael graduated from BMT.  We celebrated with town pass by visiting the Alamo, the Tower of the Americas, and attending a San Antonio Rampage AHL hockey game.  I can officially say I’ve been to a hockey game in Texas now.  I had pizza for dinner the 3rd night in a row.

On April 8th, I ran 3.5 miles in San Antonio with my dad.  The part of San Antonio we ran through was sketchy.  We also saw a few chihuahuas running along the road.  I cannot make these things up.  That day we went to USO to play games and eat lunch.  We also explored River Walk some more.  We went to Dave & Buster’s.  For food, if you’re ever in San Antonio, River Walk is THEE place to visit for food.  There is a lot of variety and authentic food for every desire!  I was determined to eat guacamole while I was in Texas and I finally got some at dinner!

We left to return to NJ on April 9th after our goodbyes.  Highways in Texas are confusing so we got lost driving to return our rental car.  We had a connecting flight home but we didn’t miss our connecting flight this time.  I returned home happy for my brother and determined to do something better with my future.  Seeing all the airmen dedicated to our country made me realize that I need to do something good for the world too.  I needed to do something good for me.

My job continued to cause me an immeasurable amount of stress, anxiety, and misery.  My boss wasn’t listening to my concerns and my stress was causing me sleep disturbances and problematic fatigue.  I yearned for change but felt stuck.

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the finish of Hyner 25k

After 3 months of hard training, Hyner 25k arrived.  Josh and I drove my brother’s truck to the mountains because we trusted the reliability of his truck.  We slept in a tent at the base of Humble Hill just like we did in 2016.  I finished the 25k in 3:54:16.  All race details can be found here.

After Hyner, I went through a running hiatus.  My legs were exhausted and my motivation to train was low.  I was feeling physically tired and mentally exhausted.

I started riding my bike more which took the pounding off of my legs while still maintaining my cardio.

I explored many new places with Jess (Josh’s twin) including Menantico Ponds and parts of the Pine Barrens.

I started mountain biking again.

I began trusting the advice of my closest friends and family members who did everything in their power to look out for my well-being when all I could see was a tunnel of misery.

So…..I decided I wanted to become an occupational therapist.

I officially resigned from my job.  Despite my worries about unemployment, my stress levels decreased significantly.  I was focused on my goals of applying for and eventually attending grad school to become an occupational therapist.  I was ready to leave behind what mental health effects that job caused me.  I was ready to set forth on my new ambitions.

I started training three new clients bringing my client count up to four!

I attended my first ever wine festival with Josh and tasted about 50+ different wines.

I started volunteer coaching at youth track again.  I also volunteered with NJ NICA at several NICA races as a course marshall.

My dogs became more and more adorable when they slept.

I became obsessed with watching the sunset along the river.

Josh & I built a garden.  I bought us soil and the guy gave us “special dirt” claiming it was the best dirt around.   We grew tomatoes, green bell peppers, long hots, jalapeños, and cucumbers.  Our summer salads were fresh and delicious!

I started my observation hours for grad school applications.  I observed 6-7 different OTs in multiple settings.  Each OT left a lasting impression on me and made me realize that my ambition to become an OT was the right choice for me.

I learned how to change a flat tire on a bicycle.

On June 11th, Josh & I completed our first ever mountain bike race (Ramsey’s Revenge) at Brandywine.  I did not finish last like I had anticipated.  This would be my first of three mountain bike races in 2017.

I completed my 2nd ever mountain bike race 6 days after Ramsey’s Revenge.  I got frustrated at a 65 year old man for causing me to fall.  I watched my mom complete her first ever mountain bike race.

Sneakers & Spokes hosted a vintage bike ride/throwback run to the local ice cream stand.  I wore my cross country shorts from 2012 and a sweatband.

I downloaded Strava and claimed some QOM’s.

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flying at the Pitman 4 Miler

I ran the Pitman 4 Miler.  I did not PR, but I wasn’t actually trying to PR.  I forget my time.  I remember that I enjoyed it because I didn’t go out too fast for the first mile.  I also wore my Altra Escalantes.

I missed Colorado and I missed Angela a lot.

On July 8th, I started training for my 3rd and final race of 2017 – Green Monster 50k.

Josh & I attended my friend’s wedding in Mifflinburg, PA.  This was 2017’s travel stress moment #3.  Let’s just say this… it was a really long drive to Mifflinburg.  We camped in our tent after the wedding.  The next day we stopped in Duncannon on our way home to hike on the AT.  It was refreshing to stand on a vista again.

I began helping out at Sneakers & Spokes more frequently.

Wanting less stack height, I made the transition from Altra Lone Peaks to Altra Superiors.  I began to love having more ground feel in the Superiors.  The Superiors are now my go-to trail running shoe.

Josh & I attended our first concert together – Philip Philips & The Goo Goo Dolls!  It was a perfect summer night with great music and good company (as always!)

About one week later, my mom & I went to a John Mayer concert.  We made it into the venue with minutes to spare before a huge summer storm rolled through.  I’ve lost count but I believe this was the 6th time I saw John Mayer.  He performed fantastically!

I completed my 3rd and final mountain bike race of 2017 at Fair Hills.  I didn’t come in last place but a lot of young kids passed me.  I have no shame and I’m proud of myself for stepping outside of my comfort zone to even try mountain bike racing this year!

I attempted to train for my 50k with hiking poles.  This lasted about three long runs but eventually I opted to leave them behind so that I could fuel properly and depend on my legs for power.

I completed and submitted my grad school applications.  Application stress was over but now acceptance stress loomed over my head.

The country went crazy about the eclipse.  I wore homemade eclipse glasses that my dad made so I could also stare at the sun.

My family & Josh & I biked on the Michael Castle Trail on a lovely late-August day.  Then we ate at Grain H2O.  Yum!

I got a job as an assistant cross country coach at the community college I once ran for.  It’s weird how things came full circle.

I finalized a name & logo for my health coaching/running coach services.  I called it Better Strides Fitness and officially made the logo.  I created an Instagram, Facebook page, and Twitter for Better Strides Fitness too!

I was a participant in a 9/11 memorial run.   That was another patriotic moment of 2017.

I got stung by a bee on the back of my ankle during a long run with the women’s cross country team.  It itched for days!

Family visited us from California.  We talked about the Philadelphia Eagles a lot.  It was a pleasant morning.

I continued to crave returning to the mountains.

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Oktoberfest in Delaware

Josh & I attended Oktoberfest for the 2nd year in a row.

I worried a lot about getting accepted to grad school.

2017 travel stress moment #4:  driving to Wellsboro, PA for my 50k race.  Josh & I didn’t leave for Wellsboro until about 4:30 PM. It was a 5 hour drive to our campsite at Leonard Harrison State Park.  Once off the highway, we had to start driving on winding, pitch dark, mountainous roads.  It was terrifying, but we made it.

I sprinted down a mountain and ended up finishing Green Monster 50k in 7:58.  I achieved my goal of running under 8 hours.  I finished in the top 10 female finishers.  Three months of training were once again successful.  Check out the race recap here!

The night after my race we slept in our tent while a tropical storm passed over the mountain.  The next morning we stood at the top of the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon and took a picture in the rain.

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PA Grand Canyon

Josh & I dressed up as lumberjacks and won a Halloween costume contest.  This was our 1st costume contest we ever entered together.  We won a gift certificate to a local pizza shop.

I started working with two new health coaching clients – one of which is now 82 years old!  I realized how much I love helping others work towards their goals.  Helping others is my true passion in life and I can’t wait to see what the future holds.

I got more and more excited about watching the Philadelphia Eagles games with Josh & I even learned the chant!  Fly, Eagles, Fly!

After districts in Rhode Island, the women’s cross country team won Regionals in Delaware.  I was a proud coach!

I got accepted to one of the grad schools I applied to.  A weight was lifted off my shoulders.  I am still waiting to hear back from two more schools (one of which is my first choice) but I am relieved and EXCITED knowing that I have the opportunity to begin my education to become an OT.

Gwin got bit by a dog on a 1.5 mile run we went on together.  This was an extremely stressful afternoon for me because I felt guilty she got bit.  We took her to the vet who assured us she would be ok.  Gwin wasn’t allowed to run with me for 1-2 weeks which made me sad.  I carry my pepper spray with me on every run we go on together now.

The cross country team traveled to Massachusetts for Nationals.  We played Cards Against Humanity for hours and came home with two new NJCAA All-Americans.  My first season as a cross country season had come to an end and I was proud of how the team had improved over the course of the season.  The season was nothing like I expected it to be but also everything that I knew I signed up to experience – the highs, the lows, and everything in between!

I got a new job working retail.  I HATE working retail but I needed a source of income to start saving up for grad school.  I remind myself daily that this job is temporary.  I remind myself daily that this is a necessary step in reaching my goal of becoming an OT.  Retail is not ideal.  Retail is not what I went to school for.  Retail is not somewhere I want to stay for longer than I need to.  This job is temporary aid in my ambition to achieve a bigger goal, a more meaningful future, & a lifelong career.

I celebrated my four year anniversary of vegetarianism.

I worked with Sparkly Soul at the Philadelphia Marathon Weekend expo.  It was a fun (and exhausting) two days but I came home with a Thanksgiving Sparkly Soul and Christmas Sparkly Soul so I was excited!

All of my clients ran PRs at their races and accomplished their goals.  I was once again a very proud coach!

I worked Thanksgiving night and I was very miserable.

My family hosted the annual Thanksgiving weekend nighttime trail run.

Josh & I built a snowman.  We had a perfect snow weekend that included homemade crockpot vegetarian chili, hot chocolate from the local coffee/donut shop, a snow run, a late night walk around town to look at Christmas lights, and a Christmas movie!

Two of my clients gifted Josh & I tickets to a Flyers game in club box seats.  I’ve never sat in club box seats before and I felt like I was being spoiled!  I had the biggest slice of pizza I’ve ever consumed in my life and the most expensive glass of overpriced wine.  Regardless, between the luxury of the club box and the Flyers winning the game, it was a perfect date night for Josh and I!

Angela came back to NJ!  We went for a 2 mile run to celebrate our reunion!  It was FANTASTIC!

On Christmas Eve, I went for a run with Gwin down our local trail.  I attached two bells to her collar so she sounded festive running down the trail.  I wore a Santa hat.  We would’ve easily won an award for being most festive on the trail if there had been a contest.

Holiday festivities were fun!  I was grateful, happy, and amazed of how much love there is in my life.

I began feeling excited for what 2018 has in store for me, for my family, and for my friends.  There’s a lot to look forward to!

Running Stats of 2017:

  • Total Miles:  1,505.0 miles
  • Highest monthly mileage: September (189.2 miles)
  • Three trail races – Brandywine 12k, Hyner 25k, Green Monster 50k
  • One road race – Pitman 4 Miler
  • Shoes worn:  Altra Torins, Altra Escalantes, Altra Lone Peaks, Altra Superiors
  • States I ran in (13 total) – New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, Texas, Rhode Island, Massachusetts

Biking Stats of 2017:

  • Total Miles:  1,103.4 miles
  • Highest monthly mileage: June (262 miles)
  • June, July, August – three consecutive months with 200+ miles
  • Total Road Bike Miles: 767.1 miles
  • Total Mountain Bike Miles:  336.3 miles
  • 3 races – Ramsey’s Revenge, The Challenger, Big Elk

After proofreading this blog post, I’ve come to realize that it lacks flow; however, this year hasn’t flowed smoothly either.  It’s been a challenging year for many reasons.  Both good and bad changes have tested me.  Running has tested me.  My body has felt exhilaration, exhaustion, and adrenaline throughout the year.  I’ve found enjoyment out of cycling and seeking new QOMs.  I’ve established a new goal for my future that will surely challenge me in new ways in 2018.

I’ve become a more resilient woman who learned how to stick up for herself.  I’ve become a more determined individual who is focused on goals for a better future.  I’ve become a more experienced trail runner who learned to push beyond comfort zones, to believe in herself, to race towards any finish line with a determined heart.

This 3700 word blog post doesn’t justify all the memories, experiences, and moments of the year but it does put it into words to reflect on in later years.

2017, it’s been a year.

2018, I’m ready.

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Training for October’s Ultra

Training for October’s Ultra

Training for an ultra is not easy.  As a matter of fact, training for any race that you set a goal for (of any distance, short or long) is not easy.  Training requires discipline, resiliency, and mental determination.  Training can be extremely rewarding but it can also be exhausting.  Runner’s highs are just as common as mornings when you force yourself to stop hitting the snooze button on the alarm.  The physical training is just as tedious as the mental training.  Doubts, fears, and confidence levels are constantly fluctuating.  But if the goal is significant enough to you, you’ll find a way to overcome the obstacles you are bound to face.

This morning, the first of September, with a cool, crisp air that signals fall is coming soon, I was planning on doing hill repeats.  I had everything ready to drive over to Delaware and run up and down Rocky Run and Bicycle Trail for 7 miles.  But my body had different plans for me last night.  I was awake for at least two hours feeling sick to my stomach.  *(prepare for unnecessary details)* I threw up twice and just couldn’t seem to settle back in to a slumber.  I knew even before the sun started to rise that I wasn’t going to be able to get my workout in.  When the alarm went off early this morning, I just stayed in bed.  I still had a weird feeling in my stomach.  I was tired from being awake at 2 AM. My body was drained of fuel & liquids.  Those hills would have to wait for another day.

It would’ve been ideal weather for a morning out on the trails.  Disappointment still lingers in my head and mentally I know I need to get out and run those hills. Yet, I’ve learned through the years that listening to my body is imperative.  If I were to force myself through the workout, my body would’ve fought back.  I would be miserable.  I would be weak.  I would be hindering my goal rather than facilitating it.  So here I sit, writing a “confessional” about a workout I couldn’t do.

Training for October’s 50k has met its fair share of challenges in the last 7-8 weeks.  I’ve been overwhelmed with other life stressors – applying to grad school, applying to jobs, helping the family business, working with my clients, the list goes on.  I’m not upset that all these things have accumulated over the past few months.  Life happens.  I constantly preach to my clients and other runners that flexibility is essential when it comes to training.  You must be willing to be flexible with the training plan in order to achieve success.  Sometimes we cannot control what life throws at us.  However, we can control how we react to what life throws at us.  I try my best to react by “going with the flow”.  Be flexible with yourself.  Life is rarely a smooth ride but the destination is always worth a bumpy journey.

I have exactly one month and 8 days until my race.  The next month and 8 days will include new beginnings – happy beginnings – , new challenges, and new ambitions.  When I wrote up my training plan, I didn’t seem to schedule in life’s non-running plans.  Even though the schedule has been and will continue to be altered, the end goal has remained the same.  I want to finish this 50k.  I want to embrace its challenges and learn from whatever the course throws at me.  At the end of the training when I reach that finish line, I want to be a more humbled, grateful, and motivated person.  I want to proudly say “I ran my best and I am a better person because of it”.

 

My Running Hiatus

My Running Hiatus

The Hyner 25k was just over one month ago and ever since then my running has been off. My weekly mileage hasn’t exceeded 17 miles. Actually, it’s been a struggle for me to reach a total of 17 miles.  I took off my normal amount of time for post-race recovery and, instead of running, I started cycling more both on and off the trails to maintain some fitness.  The runs I did complete were typically 3-4 mile runs at a sluggishly slow pace. On my runs, my mind would often wander to a desire to stop running and just walk or find a bicycle to ride back to my house instead (both of which I never actually did).  As much as I wanted to take off from running and try to maintain my fitness through cross-training instead, I kept trying to go out and run in hopes that during one of these runs I would feel less sluggish. That feeling never came.  Despite the short distance of my runs, 3 miles started to feel like an eternity. I would get to my half-way turn-a-round point and think “I really have to go all the way back now??“. A few weeks before I’d completed 16 miles up and down mountains and now a 3 mile run on a flat trail became a challenge unlike Hyner View Challenge itself.  Maybe I was physically broken down from the 25k.  I know I felt unmotivated because I didn’t have anything to train; I didn’t have a race to look forward to.  I know I felt lonely on my runs because my running partners either weren’t able to run because of injury or had moved 2,000 miles away (you know who you are).  Maybe I was going through race withdrawal.  Actually…maybe I was going through mountain withdrawal.  Regardless of this list of retrospective excuses, I tried to get over these boundaries.  People told me to take more time off. I felt like I was indeed taking time off by running low and slow mileage but my body ultimately won the battle. I needed more time. I needed to stop running completely.  So this is my running hiatus.  I will probably run a few miles at tonight’s group run because I am obligated to as the shop owner’s daughter. I assure you that it won’t be fast and it won’t be strenuous in any capacity. I will ease back in to running as I prepare to start training for my fall ultra. I hope that I’ve given my body an appropriate amount of time to recoup itself. I hope that I return to running with some new found motivation. What ever the case may be, I now understand the importance of ample race recovery. Even though I didn’t run a marathon or ultra, my body was so strained by the race and the three months of training leading up to the race that it needed a break.   It needed a hiatus.
Race Recap: XTERRA Brandywine Creek Trail 12k

Race Recap: XTERRA Brandywine Creek Trail 12k

This past Sunday, I ran my first race of 2017.  I hadn’t specifically trained for this race, I just integrated it into my training for the Hyner 25k – my real focus of 2017.  Here is my race recap of a greatly organized, fun, and challenging trail race I recommend to all my trail running friends!

The alarm clock woke me up at 5:30 AM on Sunday morning.  The instant the alarm started beeping, I became mentally unprepared.  It was the morning of Daylight Savings so I had lost an hour of sleep despite going to bed relatively early the night before.  I was lying in bed, underneath a warm blanket, with my face smashed into a pillow wondering why anyone in the entire world would want to schedule a race for the morning of daylight savings.  I also wondered why anyone in the entire world would want to sign up for a race on the morning of daylight savings.  What was I thinking back in December when I had signed up for this?!?!  Nevertheless, I grumpily forced myself out of bed.

The morning’s temperature was a brisk 19 degrees when I woke up.  By 8 AM, at race start, it was predicted to be a much “warmer” 23 degrees.  This is also probably a factor that played in to the fact that I was completely mentally checked out of the race.  My brain was telling me to stay inside, to stay warm, and to go back to bed.  I was not in a mood to race on that morning.  I wanted sleep and warmth.

But instead, thanks to Josh, I got myself ready.  I had my normal toast with peanut butter and banana for breakfast.  I put on my insulated tights, a high pair of Smart Wool socks, two Under Armour long sleeves, my Sneakers and Spokes long sleeve jersey, my lobster gloves, two ear warmers, and of course, my Altra Lone Peaks.  That would be my race apparel.  I layered up with my Sneakers & Spokes sweatshirt and my ski jacket as well, which I would shed right before the start of the race.

We headed out the door by 6:35 AM.  We made it to the race start by a little after 7 AM.  I picked up my race number and swag bag.  We discussed with the brave volunteers (kudos to you all for willingly standing out there in 20 degree weather!) that Josh needed to transfer his bib to my dad due to an unforeseen injury.  They luckily made that process quite easy!  I was planning on doing a 2 mile warm-up but the freezing temperatures kept me warmly inside Josh’s Jeep instead during the minutes leading up to the race start.  I managed to get in 0.80 miles of a warm-up with my dad wearing my ski jacket.  I was just too cold to shed layers.

Most of the racers remained in their warm cars leading up to the race start.  I only saw a few racers attempting to get in a warm-up.  By 7:55 a lot of the racers began to meander towards the unofficial starting line.  We simply lined up at the top of the hill.  I inched toward the front of the crowd so I didn’t have to spend my energy trying to navigate through people.  We started the race a little after 8 AM since racers were still slowly meandering towards the start.  I just wanted to get running so that I could get warmer.  Josh and my mom stood to the side bundled up in their jackets.  I was grateful for them coming out to stand in the cold to watch us run down the hill and into the woods.  Trail races typically aren’t very spectator friendly.  The race director yelled “ready, set, go” while standing on top of a brick wall.  And before I really had time to process that the race was actually starting, we were all pounding down the hill and running towards the woods.

After the downhill, we made a left into a double-track trail.  I remember seeing one woman in front of me.  I hoped to keep her in my sights the whole time. The first mile was mostly downhill and flat so we all started out very fast.  I eventually caught up to the woman on one of the smaller, more gradual uphills.  I knew I had an advantage on these hills and I knew the hills that were coming up in the race.  Josh and I had done many nights of hill repeats on these hills.  I knew what to expect in the next 7 miles of the race. I passed the woman and I became the lead woman in the race.   I wondered how much longer it would be until another woman came up behind me.

We crossed the Brandywine Creek and started up a climb that Josh and I call “the unknown trail”.  I’ve done this hill many of times and it’s a tough one.  I had promised Josh that I would not walk or powerhike any of the hills during the race.  Not only was I racing for myself, I was also racing for him.  I tried my best to “speedily” get up the hill but my “speedy” on hills can sometimes be slower than a powerhike.  But nevertheless, I kept my running form the entire way up the hill.  A woman came up behind me (that didn’t take long) and asked to pass me on the left.  I willingly allowed her to.  We began our descent down “the unknown trail”.  Next, we would be ascending Rocky Run.

After about another half mile, we crossed a stream which lead us directly into the uphill of Rocky Run.  They had kindly strung a rope across the stream to make crossing easier, but I had stupid-ly crossed on the wrong side of the rope which then required me to step over the rope when I got to the other side of the stream.  Stupid me.  We then immediately began our ascent of Rocky Run.  I had run up this hill many of times before too so I knew exactly what kind of pain my legs and lungs would be feeling.  A lot of racers around me broke their running form and started power hiking but  I tried my best to keep powering up the hill.  When I finally got to the top, I took one big deep breath.  The trail would flatten out a little bit until we descended the other side of Rocky Run.

This is where Josh and my mom randomly appeared in the woods!  They were hiking towards me in attempt to see my ascend Rocky Run but I had beat them to it (I guess I was just running too fast for them to make it there in time!).  They cheered me on and Josh told me that Rocky Run was “just a little hill”.  Little was an understatement at that point.

Shortly after seeing them, we started the descent of Rocky Run.  I’ve been told by Josh that I am a strong downhill runner.  In that moment of time, I felt invincible going down that hill.  I passed a gentlemen that was being much more cautious than I was.  I was weaving from left to right on the trail in hopes of finding the best (and smoothest) line down the trail.  I was leaping from point to point.  I felt like I was flying!  I wasted no time going down Rocky Run and running that hill so many times in the past gave me a huge confidence boost during the race.

We crossed Brandywine Creek again and ran on singletrack for about another mile before being led to a fielded area.  On the singletrack, I tried my best to hold a faster-than-normal trail pace for me.  There were muddy spots on the trail and I tried my best to avoid getting my feet wet – my toes would’ve froze! – but I also didn’t slow down in the muddy parts; after all, I was in a race.

When we turned out of the singletrack and into the woods, we were instantly greeted by the sights of a very large hill.  I commented aloud, “oh my goodness”. The man behind me commented back but I don’t remember what he said exactly.  We ascended the hill.  The course leveled off, went downhill, then uphill again.  The last mile of the race became a gradual uphill that went on, and on, and on.  I had no idea where the finish line was or how much further I had to go – I refused to look at my watch the entire race.  I tried my best to just keep moving forward.  My body hurt and I felt exhausted.  We ascended one last final hill and were gifted a downhill to the finish.  I was so relieved!  I crossed the finish line as fast as I could and as strong as I could.  The clock read 1:06.  This, I was content with.

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When I finished, I was handed a medal but I was too cold and too sore to process it all.  I tried my best to walk past the pavilion so that I could find Josh and my parents.  Josh was holding my ski jacket (best boyfriend ever!) which I instantly put on.  My body hurt so bad.  They told me that they thought I might have finished as the 2nd female finisher – I agreed with them since I only remembered seeing the one woman pass me near the top of “the unknown trail”.  This made me happy!

After a brief talk with my parents and Josh, I told them I needed to go get on dry clothes so I wouldn’t freeze in my own sweat (sorry for the gross image of that happening).  I slowly walked towards Josh’s Jeep while clinging to his arm, hoping to steal some of his body heat.  I got in the Jeep and exchanged my race shirts for dry shirts and a sweatshirt.

We walked back the finish area hoping they might have the awards ceremony soon.  The race director eventually announced that due to the frigid temperatures their computer systems had basically froze so they weren’t able to host the awards ceremony without seeing the official results. I was bummed that I wouldn’t get to be announced as the 2nd place female finisher, but I also was content because I wanted to go get a hot shower and just lie in bed.  The race director announced that awards would be mailed instead.

When we got back to Josh’s I took a hot shower.  I had no appetite, my body ached, and I was still cold.  I turned down scrambled eggs that Josh had cooked as a 2nd breakfast.  I just wanted to take a nap.  So by 11 AM, I was laying in bed wrapped in a blanket.  I didn’t move a single muscle.  I eventually fell asleep for about 2 hours.  Josh continued with his day and did things around the house but I was so ache-y that I just needed to stay still.

Eventually I forced myself to eat a piece of toast and real food later on. Due to losing an hour of sleep, being freezing cold for 2-3 hours in the morning and racing a challenging course, my body felt broken.

It took me some time to recover that day, but I looked back on it and was very happy with my race. It was a great course – about 100 feet of gain per mile which is pretty challenging for a trail race in Delaware – with some great ascents and descents.  It’s exciting to see my name in the top 3 female finishers.  This is the first time I’ve ever seen that.  My average pace (8:53/mile) was the fastest I’ve ever averaged at a run through the trails of Brandywine.  All of these factors combined have boosted my confidence a little bit for Hyner in a little over a month.  I know I’m not the fastest trail runner, but I know my strengths and weaknesses on the trail.  I feel strong, I feel more confident, and I feel like I’m getting more and more prepared for all the trail races ahead of me.

Huge shoutout to the race director of such a great race and all the volunteers who stood out in the freezing temps on a Sunday morning.  Shoutout to my dad for placing 15th overall and 2nd in his age group.  Shoutout to my mom for supporting me and my dad always in our races – no matter the temperature. And lastly, shoutout to Josh:  for pushing me to do hill repeats to make me a stronger runner, for supporting me always despite my complaints, fears, and doubts, and for bringing my jacket to the finish of the race knowing that I would be shivering uncontrollably without it – thanks for being my best friend!

Onward and upward to Hyner!

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I’m setting goals, not resolutions.

I’m setting goals, not resolutions.

As defined by trusty ‘ol Google, a resolution is defined as “a firm decision to do or not to do something”.

On the other hand, a goal is defined as “the object of a person’s ambition or effort; an aim or a desired result”.

We’re only four days into 2017 and I’ve heard the word “resolution” too many times.  Four days into 2017 and I’ve heard that people’s new year’s resolutions have already been put on the back burner.  I’ve never been someone who set a new year’s resolutions and I’ll tell you why now.  To me, resolutions are simply attempts to achieve a short or long term goal.  There seems to be no backboard for holding you to your resolutions.

I personally believe that goals have firmer foundations for achieved success compared to resolutions.  The definition above states it simply:  goals are ambitions, efforts, and a desire for results.  Goals provide you something to work towards, something to strive for, and something to hold you accountable for your actions.  Goals provide a deadline for your actions to be completed. Goals are continuous efforts that can be extended and grown upon.  Goals teach you to work hard for something you want to do.  Goals help you reach limits you never thought possible.  And once you reach one “limit”, a new limit can be set until you realize limits truly don’t exist.

So what are my goals for 2017?  I’ve set a goal to race the Hyner Trail Challenge 25k for the first time ever (I’m already registered in this sold-out race).  I’ve set a goal to thru-hike the Loyalsock Trail with Josh.  I’ve set a goal to race another ultramarathon in the fall (specific race is TBD, but most likely I’ll be registering for the Green Monster 50k once registration opens).

These three goals aren’t merely resolutions because I have ever intention of achieving these goals.  I won’t change my mind in a week and throw in the towel like most resolution-ers do.  These goals are set, published to the Internet, and have been shared with running partners.  Not only will I hold myself accountable to my goals but now I have my blog readers and my training partners to hold me accountable too.

Will you resolve to take action this year?  Or will you take action to achieve goals?  

The choice is yours.

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view along the Loyalsock Trail
2016

2016

1 year…

12 months…

52 weeks…

366 days (it was a leap year)…

8784 hours…

527, 040 minutes…

31,622,400 seconds…

All those numbers, just little moments of time, helped shaped one big number: 2016.

A year I will always remember.  A year that will always hold a special place in my heart filled with joy, fear, new beginnings, bigger aspirations, exciting adventures, friendship, family, and love.

To me, 2016 was many things.  There’s many moments of this year that will always mean a lot to me.  Those moments have added up to one unforgettable year and I’m writing this blogpost, my 20th blog post of the year, to tell you about it.

I started 2016 as an intern for a medical fitness facility 20 minutes from my house.  I needed an internship to fulfill my undergraduate requirements so on January 19th, I became known as “the intern”.

In early January I registered for two races – my first ultramarathon scheduled for May 15th and a half-marathon scheduled for October 16th.  I was drawn to a 50k race distance because I wanted to try a race distance longer than a marathon.  My intentions for signing up for the half-marathon in October were to potentially PR and to set a mid-point race for the Philadelphia Marathon in November which I planned on signing up for as well.  Not even a month in to 2016 and my race schedule was set for the year.

I started a new part-time job at an assisted living community in the activities department.  I really enjoyed creating bonds with the residents and my co-workers were really nice!

With a combination of working at my internship (unpaid) and my part-time job I was extremely busy all the time.  Life became crazy, but I was learning a lot and still tried to make time for things I enjoyed doing.

On February 14th, I went for a 13 mile trail run with four crazy trail runners in 10 degree weather.  I probably wore six shirts on that brisk Sunday morning.  We even crossed a frozen stream where I was wished a happy valentine’s day by the man that would become my boyfriend three months later.

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Altra Lone Peaks

I fell in love with Altra.  My toes adore the wide toebox and the zero drop is perfect for my feet!  The Altra Lonepeaks are my favorite, but on road group runs I always wear my Torins!  I also really like their slogan: “Zero Limits”. [Fast forward to December 28th and I was chosen as an Altra Ambassador for 2017!  YAYY!!]

On February 28th, I ran 19 miles with my dad in the Pine Barrens.  My love for trail running continued to grow.

I visited my best friend from Bloomsburg in the beginning of March in Bethlehem, PA.

I discovered a new park down the street from my internship because I was organizing a 5k for a group of employees from the corporation I was interning with.  Discovering new places is always a lot of fun!

On Easter day, I started to learn how to mountain bike with my brother.  I got off my bike a lot to walk across logs but I enjoyed finding a new way to spend time outside on the trails.  I remember being scared to death about crashing but for some reason I wanted to keep trying so that I could go out and ride whenever I wanted.

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White Clay with Josh

I began training with the man who wished me a happy valentines day on that frigid February morning.  He (Josh) led me around trails I’d never been on as I tried to keep up with him.  We learned a lot about each other on these runs and found a lot of similarities between our personalities.

I worked my first of four expos with Sparkly Soul with Angela on April 1st.  These expos were always an adventure.  During our first expo together (Hot Chocolate 15k), we lugged heavy suitcases up and down staircases because we couldn’t figure out where to go.  We also received a huge box of mini Apple Pie LaraBars that lasted me for the next 4 months.  Then we ran at 9 PM and I fell and scraped my knee on the sidewalk.  Blood was dripping down my leg.

I trained hard for my ultramarathon coming up on May 15th.  High mileage, long runs, and lots of mental preparation!  I even started teaching my dog how to run off-leash.

I ran a one mile race on a track in 6:24.  I was VERY happy with that time, although I was completely out of breath!

I organized and directed my first 5k walk/run in late April.  I concluded my internship and was given positive feedback about my work ethic and knowledge about the fitness world.  I was told I would’ve been offered a job if they had a position available, but unfortunately they didn’t have a position available at the time.

I travelled to Hyner, PA to spectate the Hyner 25k/50k with my trail running friends.  We camped in an airfield with a bunch of other rugged trailrunners in tents, campers, and big RVs.  We went to a church that provided a free spaghetti dinner to the racers.  I climbed Humble Hill at 7 AM alone in order to reach Hyner View before the racers did.  That hill definitely humbled me.  I waited at the top of a very windy Hyner View for over 2 hours waiting for the racers I was cheering on to get to the top.  I talked with some photographers and other spectators at the top and I rung my cowbell when my fellow trail running friends ran by.  I traversed down Huff’s Run to get back to the bottom.  I toted a beer in my CamelBak to the finish line for Josh as he requested.  We waited patiently for the 50k racers to finish.  I kept ringing my cowbell.  We ate free pizza and cookies and I attempted to drink beer at the finish line. I took one sip and called it a day.  I stargazed with Josh, sat around a campfire with about 15 other trail runners, and shivered in the chilly April mountain air.  But somehow, even shivering, I was perfectly content.

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The view from the top of Humble Hill

I became a Sparkly Soul ambassador in late April at the Broad Street 10 miler expo.  At this expo, the 2nd expo of the year for me, I met the owner of Sparkly Soul!  We also had a thief in our midst at this expo.

Josh made me dinner and asked me to be his girlfriend.  Of course I said yes!

I graduated from Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania with a bachelor’s degree in exercise science.  I was awarded a plaque for earning the highest GPA in BU’s Exercise Science graduating class of 2016.  I was shocked!  I also officially became an adult because now, as a college graduate, I entered what people call “the job world”.

I started looking for a full-time job because I was only being offered about 8 hours per week at my part-time job.  I was applying to anywhere I thought I might have a chance.  I became frustrated with the limited job opportunities so after much thought I decided to pursue my health coach certification to make a future for myself.  I hoped to start my own health coaching services upon becoming certified.

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1st Ultra

I finished my 1st ultramarathon on May 15 side-by-side with Josh.  It was a perfect temperature for race day.  After running the first 25k loop in under 2:30, we knew a sub-5 would be in our reach as long as we didn’t slow down too much more.  We finished in 4:58 in 34th and 35th place.  I was the 3rd overall female finisher in the 29 and under age group.  I was awarded a German weather vane.  We had completed our first ever ultra together and dominated on the trails.  This was the start of our ultra running futures!

Since my legs needed a rest from ultra training, I started mountain biking more often.  Slowly but surely I was getting more confident.

I was offered a full-time job from another assisted living community as the activities director.  I resigned from my part-time job and started my full-time job in full swing.  For two weeks, I worked both jobs since I had submitted two weeks notice of my official resignation.  Life got crazy and hectic again.

I began liking wine more and more.

I explored more trails at Fair Hills with Josh on a steaming hot summer day.  We even decided to take a break and cool off in a stream.

Other than trail running, star gazing became one of my favorite summer activities.

I celebrated Global Running Day and National Trails Day.

I spectated my brother’s first ever road cycling race.  He didn’t win but he did great for a rookie!

I created a chair exercise routine for my residents at work to music from the 40s, 50s and 60s.  It was a lot of fun to apply my exercise knowledge in this setting.

Wanderlust hit me hard, especially on Mondays.

I did a lot of runs and bike rides at 6 AM since that was the only time I could get out and exercise.  It was a great start to my day!

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Patriotic

I ran the traditional 4th of July 4 mile race in a patriotic singlet from Sneakers and Spokes.  I didn’t run a personal best (I ran a 28:40), but I had a lot of fun!  I had to rush home to shower before my shift at work.  I didn’t enjoy having to go to work on a holiday.

Josh and I explored French Creek State Park.  We got lost but eventually found our way back to his Jeep.

I wrote letters to Angela who was spending her summer in California.  Snail mail is the best!

I began attending more and more Sneakers and Spokes group rides.  I only owned a hybrid bike without clip-ins but I tried my best to keep up with the rest of the group.  I learned proper cycling etiquette and how to ride in a pace line. Time on my bike became good cardio for me without the demands of running on my muscles.

Josh and I took our first official camping trip together at Worlds End State Park. We ran up trails that led to beautiful vistas.  We became intrigued by the Loyalsock Trail.  We camped at a campground in a tent.  We ran every trail in the park, crashed a wedding party, and dipped our feet in a stream.  It poured the entire afternoon after our run but we made the most of it.  We made a pizza over the fire.  On our way home we stopped at the boulder field at Hickory Run State Park.  Josh loved the boulder field!

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Worlds End

In early August, I was offered a job by my internship site.  I was struck with anxiety, fear, and worry because if I chose to accept the job, I would transition from my current full time job to a per diem/part-time job requiring me to work every weekend, both Saturday and Sunday.  After talking it over with my parents, Josh, and Angela I decided to accept the job and leave my full time job.  I craved working in a fitness setting and my full-time job was a dead end job with no upward potential.  My new job would provide many options for promotions so I felt it necessary to accept the new job.  I once again submitted my two weeks notice to my current employer and started working two jobs again until my two weeks was up.  Since accepting the new job from my internship site, I’ve been happier and much more satisfied with the type of work I am doing.  I feel empowered.  I feel grateful.  I went from being “the intern” to returning as an employee within four months.

I learned trusting God is the easiest thing I can do.

I played many rounds of mini golf with my younger “cousin”.

I did my first ever road time trial “race”.  I finished a 10 mile practice time trial as the fastest female rider.  I was still on my hybrid without clip-in shoes.  I felt like I was going to puke, but I was happy!

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Appalachian Trail

I showed Josh part of New Jersey’s section of the Appalachian Trail.  We climbed to the top of Mount Tammany which overlooked the Delaware Water Gap.  We explored a lot of trails that day and I began falling in love with the peace of the trails even more than before!

I bought a new road bike since I was becoming more of a “serious” road cyclist.  I love my navy blue and purple Fuji Finest!

I participated in a paint party.  I discovered I’m not much of a painter.

Sneakers and Spokes celebrated it’s one year anniversary.  Also, Sneaker’s and Spokes won “best sporting goods store” in Salem County!

I became overly intrigued by the concept of thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail.

I really liked eating pizza and nachos.

I attended my first ever Oktoberfest with Josh.  I didn’t drink from a stein but I had a lot of fun dancing ridiculously!

At the 3rd expo (Rock ‘N Roll Philadelphia), we were excited to see an Altra booth!  Nothing too overly crazy happened at this expo that I recall.

Josh and I travelled to the Cat Skills Mountains for his Cats Tail Trail Marathon. We camped in the tent for 3 nights and 4 days.  We explored the trail that started in our campground.  We explored the small town of Phoenicia.  It rained a lot.  I was stranded in an elementary school parking lot at 6 AM without cell phone service and then I ran down a highway just to get to our friend’s truck which I then drove up mountains just to cheer the men on with my cowbell.  I waited at the only road-accessible aid station for hours waiting for all our trail friends to come through.  I cheered Josh on and I was a proud girlfriend!  I waited in front of a parish hall for hours waiting for Josh to run down the street. I even witnessed a finisher who had punctured his forehead with a branch run towards the finish with dried blood caked on his face.  Josh finished in 13th overall.  I was so proud!  In celebration, I spent a late night with five grown men who were drinking beer in a mountain cabin.  I was the only female (drinking my Mike’s Hard Lemonade of course).  That weekend was quite the adventure.

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Runner’s World Half

I ran the Runner’s World Half Marathon in Bethlehem, PA in 1:43.  Although it wasn’t a PR, I was content with my time.  It was a hillier course than I expected.  I also got to say hello to Tiffany – our former Altra rep that had moved to Utah!  I felt prepared for my marathon but still knew I needed to put in hard work for the next month before my race.

I started paying my student loans.

I visited Smithville with my mom and my mommom for the first time ever.  I bought special peanut butter.

I visited a winery for the first time as a girl’s night out.  Wine is good!

I carved a pumpkin that simply said “run”.  I’m not that creative.

I handed out candy to eager trick-or-treaters for the first time in my life.  It was so much fun!

I struggled through a 22 mile run which left me feeling physically defeated but mentally humbled.  I knew I had what I needed to complete the marathon, I just needed to ignore the pain for as long as I could in order to race a PR.

I craved trail races and ultra-marathons.

My brother decided to enlist in the Air Force.

I became more and more grateful for my new job despite having to work weekends.  I knew I had made the right decision.

I earned my ACE Health Coach certification in mid-November.  I plan on starting my own health coach services in 2017.

At the 4th expo of the year (Philadelphia Marathon), we moved our booth three times before we were officially settled in and were given about 10 bags of Herrs pretzels!

I ran the Philadelphia Marathon on an extremely windy Sunday morning.  25-30+ MPH winds pushed against me during the last 10 miles of the race but I hung on to all the time I had banked during the first half of the race to finish 1 minute and 17 seconds faster than last year’s finishing time.  I was happy with my time (3:45:08), happy to be done, and happy to look forward to trail races in 2017.

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Last Sparkly Soul Expo
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Phila. Marathon

I celebrated my 3rd year of vegetarianism.

I towed a trailer of canned goods from Sneakers and Spokes to Xfinity Live in Philadelphia with a group of determined road cyclists.  We had collected 234 pounds of donated food for WMMR’s Preston and Steve’s Campout for Hunger for Philabundance.  I was terrified pedaling across the bridge and yelled at a lot of Philadelphia drivers who were threatening my safety.  I completed my longest bike ride to date on that day – 67 miles; half of which I towed canned goods with me!

I took Josh to his first ever Flyers game with my mom and one of my best friends.  I lost my voice within 5 minutes – the Flyers scored 3 goals in less than 90 seconds.

I celebrated an amazing Christmas with my family.  It was also Josh and I’s first Christmas together.  It was perfect.

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My Family

This is my 2016 – a year I will never forget.  2016 was the year I’ve had three different employers.  2016 was the year I ran my first ultra-marathon.  2016 was the year I yearned for trails, adventure, and mountains.  2016 was the year I truly found my best friend.  2016 was the year I pushed my limits and overcame my fears.  2016 was a year I could have never predicted.

There were times in 2016 when I felt weak.  I shed a lot of tears (both happy and sad) this year.  I became anxious and fearful of my unknown future.  I questioned where my life would be leading.  But I also felt strong at times – out on the trails, in the job world, and having day-to-day conversations with my closest family/friends.  It wasn’t an easy year, but in retrospect, it wasn’t a difficult year either.  Yes, I was faced with decisions that left me feeling lost but with the support system I’ve been blessed with, those decisions weren’t lonely. When 2016 ends at 11:59PM, I’ll have no regrets.  2016 was the year I learned to go with life’s flow; after all, fate is real.

Here I am, on the 366th day of the year, publishing my 20th blog post of 2016 about all the adventures, happy moments, and anxious times.  I’ve become a better person than I was on January 1st.  A stronger person.  A (slightly) more confident person.  A loving person.  And most importantly, a person with a purpose and a drive to do more audacious things in 2017.

Happy New Year, everyone!

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