October 26, 2011

Fall: Long Slow Runs

(Trespas, "Dusk" watercolor & gouache, en plein air 2011)

Well, I've been very busy this fall spending a lot of time outside, this alleviates the urge to hibernate a bit and makes the shortening of the daylight more bearable.

After my 40 mile effort at the TARC 12- hour (mid-August) I took a few weeks off  from blogging, power-walking and running and instead I painted, gardened and helped my folks move. By the beginning of September my feet were fidgety and I met up with Kevin Z at the Wapack Race for a fast hike along the Wapack Trail from Windblown to Watatic parking lot. It was clear this was going to be the last opportunity I would have to spend any extended time with KZ before he relocated. We talked and joked and had a grand old time along that seasoned trail. After 9 hot and humid miles, I was cooked and we hitched a ride back to the start. We saw many folks finishing their 18+ mile race and met Julie O and Bill H for an intimate fete.

The Wapack power-hike showed me that if I am "going to get going I best get going." I am registered for the Stone Cat Trail Marathon, I figured that mid-September might be a good time to start longer runs. End-of-September brought 12 miles of wogging through local conservation lands (AVIS and the BCT) the day before my Seacoast Century Ride (100k). This proved to be a complementary endurance pairing! Weather, work and health permitting— Sat. and Sun. back-to-backs would be the theme for weekend training.

Next weekend it was onto the TARC half-marathon; that course was more difficult than I anticipated but good slower to medium effort training regardless! The best part was I got to see many of my TUG pals and catch up with them as I've been out-of-da-loop! 
The following day I chaperoned a student trip with a fellow colleague Mika L-K to the UNO Boulderdash Orienteering Event in Bear Brook State Park. What a sunny beautiful day! I completed a recreational course and had a blast running through the woods like a bobcat. Improving my orienteering skills is a goal of mine for 2012! After talking to Clint M. and his family (who basically owned the results through multiple age groups!) encouraged me, "A little training can go a long way."   I have the trail and woods running down not I just need to refine my map-reading and compass skills. (Photo: Clint and I at the UNO Boulderdash)

The following weekend I could not couple Saturday and Sunday long events because Saturday morning I was possessed by a food poisoning devil. Yuck. I thought I was going to die. I was too weak to move off the bathroom floor for a few hours. So when I am whimpering because my hips hurt climbing over rocks  I will remember that morning un-fondly and know it could be a lot worse.  After exorcising the demons I drove north and warmed by the wood stove while Dave nursed me back to health. On Sunday I was better-than-butter and went out to the Harris Center in Hancock and explored all of their trails and some Tree Farms. I (accidentally and without confrontation) lived up to my surname and trespassed a little, too. Woopsy-doodle. 

 (Trespas, cloud study, oil on canvas, plein air painting, 2011)

Getting Sort of Lost. That  trail was supposed to be well-marked with white circles but was not. Bummerrrr. I'd already been out a few hours so I cursed the mountain, thanked the cairns and determined I was done and heading back to the car as soon as I knew where the knuckle-sandwich I was. When I reached the top I found a young mom and her two toddlers —dressed in playful polka-dot parkas—Letterboxing. One curious little pink-gloved hand began to wave her stamp around as she asked, "Are you sweating?" and the other girl with more motor skills (certainly more than me at that point) stated, "you ran up that? woah." Yay, happy Letterboxers! And I was on my way; all was well again. It's amazing how the universe can present happy things just in time. 

 (Trespas,  Edward MacDowell Lake, oil on canvas, plein air 2011)

After a long week at work and running many hours at a time, I needed a new and relatively flattish terrain on which to run.  On Sunday I enjoyed the crisp air and fast course of the Ghost Trail Rail Trail Race, in Brookline, NH. I opted for "the shorty" and was glad I did as I got to meet some new running folks— Jeff R and his car mates: Jen and the iron man in his mid-60s. I enjoyed catching up with Jen F (thanks for wearing the Gator-Bait Gaiters!) and Melanie. I missed being out there with my ultra pals (Steve L, Norm S.  Officer D and Lil Royster) but knew they had a cold spooky night and were off repairing their garlic garlands.  I snapped this composed photo of Jeff Lane after he finished his 100 miles! Seeing him and Greg  (40+ miles) out on the course several times made the lonely long haunted passages plagued by ghosts and talking Jack-O-Lanterns less foreboding. (Photo: Greg E and Jeff L after the Ghost 100)

Monday I went for a walk to free the dead from my legs and extensively explored the woods by Dave's.  What's an outing for this Trail Pixie if I don't get lost? I found myself bushwhacking up the side of the mountain using a stone wall and a stream to find the Class A road that led back to the farm. Home, Sweet Home.

(Trespas, Just Over There, oil on canvas, plein air painting 2011) 

Thanks to Jeff R for the motivation to post again!

August 10, 2011

Everything But...

I recently opened an e-mail from a running friend who asked, "HOW are you and WHERE have you been?!" It prompted me to post;  I am touched he noticed my absence from that "scene."
 While landscape painting, 
I spotted this frog resting on a hydrangea leaf. 

This summer's been filled with nearly everything BUT regular running. Exercise-wise I've biked, hiked, power-wogged, paddled, swam, and run a tad (despite a bum hip).  I volunteered at the June MS Cape Cod Getaway, camped, gardened, visited friends and relatives, and painted (ceilings and canvases). My days are full.
Pine trees are difficult to paint, so many needles.
(Conifer, alla prima en plein air o/c, 5 x 7, 8/11)
Jolly Green Giants.
 After VT 100, Steve L asked me if I was done (or something like that) with the ultra distance. No, I'm not done—just taking a break. There's a difference between quitting, stopping and even pausing. My "pause" started with a Doctor's "required time-out" and is now more of a spiritual choice to seek balance and foster renewal. Trail running —at any distance (but the longer the better)—brings me joy and I will return to it soon, very soon. I needed a break from its many facets, so I took one. Meanwhile I am cultivating other interests—and responsibilities. One of which is cleaning out my folks' attic and helping them relocate after 35 years.
The pull-down ladder in the garage ceiling that I used to EMPTY the attic, box-by-box. If it wasn't nailed down, I took it down.
Thirty-five years of accumulation in three days.
No, we can't take it with us.
I enjoy the 50k distance, especially when there is no time-cut-off stress. While I believe my body and mind could finish a 50 mile (still smiling) and perhaps a 100k (more poker-faced), I will "pick races my own size" for the time-being. For the longer stuff I'm delighted to help pace/crew/volunteer. Helping others achieve their goal(s), any way I can, brings me joy.
 My Cucumbkles. 
How did we all end up here? 

When I see someone running (or racing), I am reminded of how fortunate they are to be out there and capable of doing whatever they are doing—at any distance or speed. I am refreshed to know I am a part of something larger than my purview. I try to be present, have grace, and not take anything for granted. An instant can change everything.
 Blueberries picked by kayak!
This Saturday are Trail Animals Running Club's summer 6- and 12-hour events. I originally signed up for the 6 hour but switched to the 12 hour; I will need that extra time to enjoy what I hope is a long, slow and happy walk. My plan is to "carry on" for as long as my hip and ankle hold strong. If I feel like running a little or some, I will honor that, too. This event is about follow through, respect, sharing time with friends, and basically rekindling a love for "the scene."

July 21, 2011

Vermont 100 2011

I took this photo of Steve last year at the finish of his first VT 100. 
I don't have a 2011 photo. But the only difference would be that when I saw him this year well-rested at the finishing area, he had a huge grin versus that "sun-in-the-eyes," a.k.a., "ITBS" cringe as illustrated above.

Going to VT100  was a healthy choice;  just what I needed to perk up my running enthusiasm by reuniting with old and new friends and lending a helping hand and upbeat energy. The long time that passed since I saw (or trained with) my TUG pals felt like a decade. To start, my time-off to heal various body parts was called out of hibernation when Steve reminded me of my offer to help pace him in his 2nd VT 100.  I started to train again with some regularity, which felt good, to see if I could help versus hinder him with his run. Several hot, hilly and horse-fly filled runs in the woods later, I knew I could be there and be a positive presence for him. 

We left the pacing very open and the first time I saw Steve was at mile 47 (Camp 10 Bear).  Lucid and chipper, he reported he felt better than he did last year. I think he added something to his Vermont Maple Syrup fueling system that made a difference the first 50 miles. I asked him if he'd like me to pace later and he said, "yes." I promised to be at Bill's by 12 midnight and would wait. What I didn't know (until later) was that Steve was sick the week prior and perhaps started his 100 dehydrated. He wisely decided to drop at 100k distance, at about 8:30 pm.  concerned for his kidneys (there's a long wait list to get new ones; why risk it!!!).   100K is NOT TOO SHABBY! I didn't know he'd dropped until a radio official at Bill's called and checked at around 2 a.m. A lot can happen in this distance, especially slowing down after sundown. I figured Steve's pace dropped, especially in those sneakers with no fewer than approx. 4, 220.349 miles on them ... (and they're still good).  Steve made the right choice for his health and future running/racing. Too, bad I didn't get to light his way through the woods until dawn but there will be other miles to keep.

Damon and Cheryl Lease gave me a ride to Bill's from Camp 10 Bear and I got to see so many folks come through—too many to mention. I headed into the barn as Mark Kruger and his pacer, Paul Y, were making their way into the darkness. Mark looked fresher at mile 88 than anyone else up to that point (except for maybe Norm Sheppard, who seems more alive as the miles build).  Mark was on pace for a sub-22, which blew me away! I'm glad I encouraged that dynamic duo to connect for VT and that it worked out positively.  I settled in and volunteered a bit, rested less and hopefully made the runners feel "good to go." Kevin and Michelle darted into the room and were off like race horses; they paced two speedy women (Patty and Sara) who appeared all business and finished sub-24!  I think they spent less than one minute at Bill's for their weigh-ins and fueling. 
Up to a certain point in the night, many runners I observed were hanging out perhaps longer than usual. These were the (experienced?) folks who were certain "to buckle."  They had time to spare. 
 NO, not that kind of buckling.

The atmosphere was light-hearted, no morbid zombie faces and only one medical cot occupied.  After the possibility of a sub-24 hour, the energy at Bill's shifts into what one person referred to as, "the Morgue." I didn't sense that because I was too giddy and silly with greeting running friends and acquaintances. While I didn't shuffle with Steve, I feel good about being a smiling and familiar face for folks, when they possibly need it most.

Ginger arrived and we waited for her husband, Michael Menard and his pacer Julie O'Mara. I waited for Steve (still didn't know yet). While we waited I was able to see many running friends like Dave McDermott who was having a blast with his first 100. His pacer, Suzie was full of laughs. Here we are sporting some animal prints:
 Suzie in Moeben Sleeves  (l)
Me in my City Cat Running Dress by Nuu-Muu (r)
(photo by VT 100 finisher, Dave McDermott)

When Micheal and Julie came in they were alert and full of life! Yippee! Micheal was relaxed and made his first 100 appear as if he were born to run this. They both wore Hoka's! One One with the Trail! Ginger and I headed back to start/finish and I watched the sub 24's finish (woot Dave M!) and then hit the bag for a few ZZZZZZ. During my slumber I missed Christine Matthieu, Jeff Lane and Micheal Menard finish! Steve and I caught up, he was smiling and apologetic about my having to wait. NO worries! And after some R & R with Julie and Steve and other friends and acquaintances, I was back in NH by noon! 
It was a so great to spend time with Theresa R and to meet her friends Meghan and Aliza, to cheer on Amy Lane and her pacer Jen G Fields, and to share some conversation Jack Pilla and Joe Carrara. Jack informed me know that the video I captured of him winning the VT 100 in 2009 was getting a lot of air time on a local station, . Thanks for letting me know, Jack!  Here's the LINK.
Happy healing and training to all! 

May 15, 2011

Biking, Birding Before the Rain

Late morning I hopped on my bike and headed towards Boxford. The weather was cool, overcast and rain free—at least at the start. I was not out for a "hammer fest" but a chance to move my legs, enjoy the outdoors, and  try out some new cycling gear. Happily, I managed to average 15.6 mph without trying.

Initially, I was in search of a cider donut from Smolak Farms Bakery but I realized that was just the initial bait I told myself for motivation before I switched to another goal. As soon as I was warmed up by Old North Andover Center I decided to find the road that touts one beautiful field, farm and  barn after another. I found it and a whole lot more...
 Looking toward Hovey's Pond along Main Street in West Boxford

I stopped to take this photo and was on my way. Until I saw an arrow and what appeared to be a trail head. Insatiably curious, I circled back, dismounted and walked down the pebbled path. A bunch of birders were clustered by the water's edge while one tall man in a navy wide-brimmed rain hat pointed towards the cat tails. The others raised and lowered binoculars before passing them with slight hesitation like a tray of delectable appetizers at a garden party.

The Millbrook Area by Hovey's Pond was alive with wild chirping bird activity—songs, courting rituals, and sky acrobatics.  I spotted several chatty Red-Winged Blackbirds, a sparrow, a bright yellow fellow (Oriole? Warbler?), and a Killdeer that was in some sort of a twirling tizzy. So much excitement in just a few moments time.
The birding group was about to disband when I arrived but a few die-hard birders perched around to try and spot the Bittern who was camouflaged (as usual) amidst the tall grass. Of course, we could hear the unusual call but not see this master of disguise. 

A really nice man, a member of the Merrimack Valley Bird Club, offered me some of his home-baked "flax seed, oats and etc., squares." It was the best thing like it that I'd ever tasted. I want that recipe! He also offered me a rain poncho because the sky decided it was time for the deluge.  I had my cycling jacket but many thanks, sir. I'm sorry I didn't get your name.

I learned that earlier one of the men, climbed a tree to band some baby owls, called "owlets." I wonder if these were the infamous Great Horned Owls of Brooks School? Was it Jack Holt? 

Curiouser and curiouser...

I need to get into the woods more.
I heart owlets.
(owlet image source:

May 14, 2011

Bay Circuit Trail: Favorite Local Single-Track

 An open field with blooming trees
(Ward Reservation, Andover, Mass.)

After teaching this morning, I laced up, filled up my Nathan hydration pack and headed out along the Bay Circuit Trail to meet up with Dan and Bill who'd started (Leg #3) in Boxford earlier. 

I am fortunate to live within walking/running distance of the inviting white rectangular blazes so all I had to do was gear up and go.  As I headed out, I confirmed Dan and Bill's approximate location to estimate where I might intercept them running in my direction. I hoped to meet them at or after the Mary French Reservation so I could run the beautiful boardwalk twice. Success! I intercepted the duo in the Hammond Reservation and we headed back over the Mary French boardwalk. The memorial bench looked as though it had been recently restored. We admired it and were off like cat and mouse through the cat tails. Dan put away the map because their local guide was leading the way!
The field by my favorite home in Andover (Ward Reservation) 
The stretch of Conservation Commission trail that connects Grey and Tucker Roads has some new board walk over the muddier areas. Then into Ward.  I feel so great when I run in Ward Reservation. This Trustees of the Reservation land is my main "stomping" ground. I don't actually "stomp;" my gait is more of a scooting and skipping combination.

Stomping in Hokas must be next to impossible;
they are light and poofy like cumulus clouds.
Gator-Bait Gaiters hug Hoka Bondi Bs 

After Ward, our trio trekked through the Phillips Academy playing fields and down Phillips Street before ducking into the Purdon Reservation.  Bill parked at the Lupine Trail head, which is less than a mile from Purdon. In a jiffy we were off to chit chat with Al French and Burt Batchelder at Moor & Mountain! What great local resources—these men  and the outdoor gear!

Dan and Bill logged about 17.5 miles, estimating re-routed trail (due to avoid beaver-flooding) added the extra 3-4 miles difference from the BCT written route map. With my out (to meet them) and back (to Bill's car at Lupine) I logged 9.5 miles, feeling fine.  

Great Company!!! I am eager accompany Dan, et al., along the next leg. Section #4 shares trails through a handful of my  favorite A.V.I.S. Reservations: Indian Ridge and West Parish.

A talented photographer, Jordan Yaruss, captured how much I love running long boardwalks, especially the newly patched one through ATC's  Mary French Reservation.  
Summer, 2009

April 24, 2011

TARC Spring Classic 2011

 Before the Rain...
Running Rob, Breakheart Dan, 
Trail Pixie and the Bard LaTour

The TARC Spring Classic 2011 was held this April 23 on the beautiful trails in Jericho Woods, Weston, Mass. The pouring rain didn't stop many folks from running multiple loops. This Spring Classic consisted of several running events in one: a 10k, half-marathon, marathon and 50k. Each loop was 6.55 miles, except for a special 10k variation for those folks. The rain...and down pours held off until the second loop and then grew increasingly heavier as the day muddied on.
RD, Bob Crowly, me and Kevin Z
Yay, I'm Done! Alas, the rain is not.
(Street-, trail- and photo-cred: kZ, A+ volunteer!)

The best part of this day on the trails was being able to connect with many TUGger folks and friends.

TARC Spring Classic 2011
I felt good with two loops and enjoyed running loop two with Rob, who helped me sprinkle trail pixie dust along the path for all those that followed. My splits were just about even with the second loop about two minutes faster than the first (1:47). I was pleased with the near-even splits! For all the walking I did in the first loop, I am not surprised I felt challenged by the increased pace of my second loop. I am undertrained for distance and speed but there's only one way to get back into it...getting back out in it! When I finished RD Bob declared, "YOU are back!" That felt great! Howl n Hoot!
BigFoot runs through Jericho...

When I finished I felt so invigorated that I thought I might go back out for a third loop sans bib # and take some photos.  But after changing into some dry clothes I quickly recognized I'd have more fun in the aid area catching up with and cheering on friends. I tested my newly sewn light-weight running skirt and it wasn't heavy even from the deluge.The pocket designs worked well and kept essentials dry and in safe. 

I can't wait until The TARC Summer Classic this August!

April 22, 2011

Gearing up for TARC Spring Classic

From NOAA weather in Weston, Mass., for April 23, 2011:
"Saturday: Rain. Patchy fog after 2pm. High near 52. South wind between 10 and 18 mph, with gusts as high as 37 mph. Chance of precipitation is 100%. New rainfall amounts between a quarter and half of an inch possible."


Well, To keep my mind off of the April showers, I'm sewing some gear for tomorrow's trail fun! I'll be testing out two different style pockets —one with hook & loop closure and the other a fold-over flap style—on my running skirt.
In progress skirt in the fabric flavors
of Techno Trail and Black.
If I have the time I'll make some arm warmers, too.

April 19, 2011

Unrequited Love

Last month I met with a neurologist who told me, “You love your [sports] activities more than they love you.” She was responding to my confession that I “binge exercise.” In other words, I do not enter endurance events over trained. She continued, “Well, you are not 20 anymore.”

I unintentionally violated the “10% “rule,” yet again. That rule to not increase one’s mileage over 10% in a given week, etc. Hmmm: On March 5th  I did the SS half. I ran 3.2 miles and 4 miles the week before the 10 mile Merrimack River Race. Sure, I was good for 18.5 miles this Saturday.
The trail loves me, 
The trail loves me not...

I met Breakheart Dan and RunninRob for a fun jaunt along the Bay Circuit Trail 4/16/11.  This marked Dan’s second leg of his BCT 200-Mile Journey. I would love to join him on as many BCT legs as possible —so long as I don’t slow him down, and as long as he can enjoy my goofy jokes, extended walk breaks and overt fashion declarations. If he doesn’t watch out his BCT journey might turn into a Forest Gump-like situation:

We met off Middleton Road in Boxford, Mass., and his wife shuttled us to Prospect Hill (THANK YOU) where we met Rob and started our planned 18.5-mile adventure.  By 8:40 a.m. we were up Prospect, fully engaged in our a power-hike/walk break.   

I was so happy to be out in the woods with friends, sporting my running sneaks and new gator-bait gaiters, my Nathan pack bulging, and Cupid's trail running arrow through my heart.  It didn't matter that the trail was a mess and washed out in places. It didn't matter that I'd slept like a feather all week. It didn't matter that it was 20 degrees cooler outside than it appeared from indoors. We found ourselves doing some extra miles with laughs. It's spring and we had all morning...
The blazes were easy to follow throughout— (well, almost easy in most places...sometimes they were behind us on a tree we passed). Yes, with good company and conversation the miles pass quickly, even if running in circles.
Rob disappears into the woods
So in a nutty shell we got our feet wet (several times), ate, ran, jokes, ate, walked, took photos, told stories, ate some more.  I was no worse for the wear after five and a half hours.   

I feel 20 years-old when in the woods with friends, moving along pine needle trails and wading through cool running water.   If I can't BE 20 again, at least I can run 20. I'll keep asking for the "Trail's Hand."

April 15, 2011

Bit by the Needle Bug

This spring I've been bitten by the needle bug. 
It looks like this: 

I bought a serger last spring and it sat in the box for months as I was wonderfully distracted by meeting someone special. Now spring is here and I have all sorts of fresh vim and vigor. I am ready to serge, baby.

 This machine is not my serger but a photo of my "work horse." It has multiple bells and whistles. Still, my first love will always be my grandmother's Singer Featherweight
The other night I was inspired to make an article of clothing and take a break from  Gator-Bait Gaiters. So I created my own pattern with inspiration from my collection of running skirts; I kept what I believe to be the "best of" features and added improvements. As I was skeptical of how it would all come together, I chose an inexpensive 100% Polyester Fabric (black and red) with so-so stretch. For the pockets I found a decent square of my circa 2000 Malden Mills Powder Dry. 
 When I start another, with higher quality fabrics, I will improve as either a flap or a zipper to keep my "nuts and berries" secure while I run. 
Photo by Gilles Gonthier
 Surprisingly I didn't need to alter anything AND it fits! I still need to finish the bottom hem so later today I'll explore the various feet attachments (to the machine ;0) so I can finish it beautifully.

April 09, 2011

20th Merrimack River Trail Race

 RD, Petey raffles more Fluorescent Shwag and Sour Patch Kids
Today marked the 20th birthday of the Merrimack River Trail Race! The conditions were absolutely incredible—little wind, sun, cool (t-shirt weather), and nearly dry trails. Some great folks spent time laying lots of new boardwalk material to help with erosion, as well.
This morning I was going to go and pick up my t-shirt, which is awesome this year, and then go for a few miles as not part of the race (even though I pre-registered). Then I saw Richard who encouraged me to run and walk it! Okay, Okay twist my arm.  I don’t like signing up for things and not doing them and I was afraid I wasn’t ready for the distance. I’ve run a total of 7.2 miles in the last two weeks…and before that, a snowshoe half in early March. I needed to take it slowly… it’s a no-brainer.

Starting out in the rear, I took it out with walking often and averaging about 12 minutes per mile. I felt great. It was wonderful to be outside along the water. With lots of alone time along the trail, I thought about how tree bands reveal information about a given year’s weather and the effects of environment on its health.  I pictured my last year (of limited running and more health cruddiness) as separate but connected bands —a thin dark band of blight cushioned with a porous and strengthened ring of positive spirit and an expanding circle of hope.
Not winded (really, I was taking it perhaps, too, comfortably) I made it out to the turn around in 1:04. Feeling fine, decided I would try to break 2 hours total. I wasn’t sure how I’d hold up with no mileage in the logbook but mind over matter. I got slopping a bit foggy footed and one near fall really shook me up a few moments as I thought I might’ve hurt my calf catching myself (Jury is out.)  I had one good down- to-earth fall around the large bridge at the Deer Jump. Miraculously, I sort of rolled out of it unscathed. Go Pixie Powers.

So with many walk breaks on the way out, I took the return more seriously with power-hiking the inclines and lots of steady running on the descents and flats. I only wore a watch (no GPS) so the mile markers allowed me to calculate my pace in the last four miles. With four miles remaining I hoped to hang on and run as evenly as possible. Miles 6 through 9 were dead on even and then the last mile I whittled the pace down to finish in 1:57:33. 
The stats are in: Out for five miles in 64 minutes (12:48 pace/mile) and back five miles to finish line in 53:33 (10:42 pace/mile). Cool!

Trail Runners can be a surprisingly
orderly and well-behaved group. ;)
Not too shabby for no training. It was a delight to see so many trail-running friends. I am reminded of what a great community trail runners create.

TARC, here I come.