December 23, 2010

Gradually: The 2010 Stone Cat Trail Marathon

Merriam-Webster's definition of GRADUAL:
1: proceeding by steps or degrees
2: moving, changing, or developing by fine or often imperceptible degrees
—    grad·u·al·ly adverb

Stone Cat Trail Marathon, 2010:
Memorable. Gradual. TUG reunion (-2), and 1st, 50 finishers. Lots of Cowbell. 

I’m quite pleased that I was able to participate in SC this year because I’ve been all sorts of "not running healthy" since the late summer. To the doctors' offices. Primed for a conservative and non-runner response, I asked my Ortho. in September if running a fall marathon was out of the question. He said, “Well, I really don’t think it’s a good idea.” He added I should hold off all running until he knew more about what was going on (or what wasn’t going on) in my various limbs and spine. I did as I was told (for once) and didn't run or engage in high impact sports, like rugby or touch football. Two weeks before the marathon (after lots of XRays, three MRIs, a trip to Mass General and a mending sprained toe) he cleared me to exercise! “Emily, you can gradually start to exercise. You might even try to run a bit.” Sha-wing! 

Awesome, I told him I would try to walk at least part of the marathon and see what happened. If all felt good,  I’d continue. If I felt pain I would stop, etc. He didn’t protest nor applaud. BUT his eyebrows narrowed, he tipped his head forward as he shifted in his chair,  "Be careful. You have been very hard on your body.”  Prior to that, I met with another doctor who also reviewed my MRIs, to which he responded, “you're as strong as an ox!” Scottish Highland Cattle are cute, so his strange “compliment” inspired me. 
My 6:09 finish was my slowest marathon to date. It was also my happiest (ok, a tie with my first 50k.) No GI issues at all, no lasting damage and an awesome boost for my distance spirits. I needed that. I had no mileage in the log books apart from a 55 mile bike ride in August and a 2+ hour, Halloween Hike in Dave's woods. (photos by Keith Mangus)

I power-walked the first 5 miles — a few of which were with Dan who stayed with me for 25 minutes (twice as long as he set out to do, THANK YOU). I promised myself I would PW to the first aid station/5 miles and see how I felt before either “calling it a day,” or beginning to wog a bit. I felt great and powered onward. I did run in the full last mile, Hoorah!

walk + jog = WOG

I wogged  a bit and walked nearly all of the inclines, declines and flats. If I strung together all the 100-200 foot jogging section, I estimate I wogged 7 to 7.5 miles total. The rest was accomplished by a heart pumping power walk. I was once told that my fast walking pace proved that “leg length has nothing to do with speed.” I wonder if that’s true.

After that I jumped into a down sleeping bag and watched and waited until the TUG peeps come through their 50 mile laps and finishes! Thanks to Dave M. for the photo (me in orange), the cookies, and a refreshing Moxie.
At right, next year's fashion statement?

November 01, 2010

Duct Tape: Six Days to Stone Cat

This Saturday is the Stone Cat Trail Marathon. Hmmm. After about two months of NO cardiovascular exercise at my doctors’ orders (yes, several doctors), last week I was cleared by one doctor to start exercising again. 
 The trail marathon is six days away.  
What do I do? 
Well, I’ll show up and check in, pin on my number and start out with everyone else.  But I will walk versus run/walk or run, that’s what. Sounds like a plan.
My orthopedic doctor said that I could “gradually start exercising again.” So I'm going to try to walk a marathon after two months off? I'm not one to start out too gradually, I guess. He added—more joy to my ears— “You might even run a little, Emily, and see how that feels.” 
Dave's Barn Restoration Project
New bones, added strength, a hopeful and positive metaphor

My big-candy-apple-pie-in-the-sky goal is to finish my marathon pain free and by only WALKING.  Keeping the long-term health picture in mind, I’ll try to complete one lap and assess my “situation.” If that works, I’ll attempt another lap and hope to walk it in before it’s dark. This seems both within and out of reach because my mind is willing but my body is endurance weak (and in pain).
"Who is?"
Taped to a public bathroom paper towel dispenser. 
Another (funny) metaphor for my endurance fitness. 
Obviously, I have no specific time goal; the 13-hour time limit should not pose an issue with the 50-miler folks out there, too.  If I don’t finish at least I tried. No matter what, I can't wait to see, cheer on and high five my T.U.G. peeps in the marathon and the 50! 
I'll bring Windex (and Duct Tape).
Just in case THEY need any fixing.

Curious about what the heck is going on? Me, too.
Unfortunately, I'm not sure and neither are my doctors. After a litany of tests, x-rays and two MRIs, my next stop is Mass. General to a specialist. After reviewing the scans one doctor said, “You are pretty hard on your body.”  Yup.  Time to baby this mortal machine and heal the numbness (left shoulder to toes—knees and toes, head shoulders knees and toes, knees and toes), cervical and lumbar spine macrame, and right calf clicking, ticking, tocking. Of course my old pal PF comes calling, too. To add insult to injury, I sprained my toe slack lining in early October. That ensured my rest for another month. Funny thing is that my spirits are up. I've been down (not running) before and know that in time, I'll be back. Hopefully in time for some snow shoe events.

What have I been doing instead?

Light hiking, some core work, daily stretching, helping Dave restore his barn, hauling fire wood, learning how to heat with a wood stove, baking bread, teaching, art, appreciating basic health and health insurance, and being comfortable with uncertainty.

September 05, 2010

Calf Pain is no Bull

Since a fast run and an epic ride on the Cape about 10 days ago, I’ve felt an ache in my right calf.  Now, when I go up stairs I feel a  “clicking” sensation directly in the back of my calf. It’s deep. I am troubled. Of course, I keep trying to replicate it to see if it's still there, still hurting. Dumb...

At first I thought it might be a small pull or strain but with the recent clicking feature, I’m beginning to believe it might be tendonitis. ??? Next week I’ll go in for a Q & A with my PCP. Hopefully the recommendation will be one week off, a series of weekly messages, more gentle stretching, and second helpings of mint chocolate chip ice cream. 
Waiting by the edge of a field... 
the field to get home.
As I was already about 15 miles from Windblown, I couldn’t resist heading over to cheer on some of the Wapack runners. I was also trying to cross paths with some trail gumbas, like Breakheart Dan. and Kevin Z. I didn’t know if Dan would be there but I took a chance. Success! We shared a short hike and cheered on the lead runners before he left. I missed seeing several other folks finish before I split for my green pasture.

The calf feels okay right now but IF I must take a lot of time off,
that will be a real pain in the you know what.

August 20, 2010

Having a Ball: The Early Girls

Yesterday we canned a batch of Tomatoes!
Why is it called “canning” if glass jars are used?

6+ Ball glass jars with matching lids and caps;
Large Canning Pot with internal jar holder;
Two 4-6 QT pots;
Tongs & rubber gloves;
Clean, dry dish towel.
25-30 ripe tomatoes; and
10-20 large fresh basil leaves.

1. Sterilize Ball Jars, Caps & Lids:
Use pot specific for canning. Place open jars into holder and fill with cool water, Surround the containers with water, cover an inch. Bring water to a boil. Start timer when water is rolling. Boil for 30 minutes. Use a separate pot of water for lids and caps. Boil for 30 minutes, same as bottles.

2. Prepare the Fruit & Herbs:
Meanwhile, use a third pot to boil more water. When boiling, dunk three tomatoes at a time for about 20 seconds or until their skin bursts. Remove with tongs peel away skin and cut away parts you don’t want to eat later, such as tough middle section or stem parts. Place cleaned tomatoes in a bowl until ready to can. Prepare all tomatoes in this fashion. Cut and clean any herbs, such as Basil.

3. Preparing Jars for Fruit:
Depending on size, about three to five tomatoes will fit into a large Ball jar. After jars have boiled for 30 minutes, use rubber gloves and tongs to remove a jar (one-at-a-time) from water (try not to touch jar; it’s hot)! Pour out boiling water from inside of jar. Try to keep rim of jar as clean as possible as you gently drop tomatoes into the container. Alternate tomato with basil as you fill. Do not overfill. Use a knife to cut up the tomatoes a bit so you can pack them in. Do not cover yet. Set jar aside. Repeat until all fruit's been used.

4. Sealing The Jars:

When all jars have been filled, DRY OFF their RIMS with a clean cloth so the cap gets a great seal. Remove the lids and caps from hot (no longer boiling) water with tongs. Place cap onto clean dry jar rim and then add a lid and twist. As Dave puts it, " don’t “REEF” on them" but tighten medium firmly.

5. Back to the Water to Sterilize Again:
Remove about half of the water from the large canning pot. Place the bottles (with lids/caps on) back into their holder and into the hot —BUT NOT BOILING— water (that would break the jars, which have cooled somewhat). When all bottles have been placed, add more warm-hot water to the pot. Cover the Ball jars by about an inch. Bring the entire pot back up to a boil. When the water begins to roll & boil, start the timer FOR 30 MINUTES.

6. Finishing Up—Removing & Cooling:
After 30 minutes of continuous boiling, remove each jar from the water. Tighten the lids down (now you may "REEF"). Dry jars with a cloth & set aside. Repeat. 
As the jars’ contents cool the lid will vacuum seal down and the lids will drop to a concave state. If a lid did not drop concavely, then the canning process was NOT a success and you should use that jar’s contents in the next day or two. 

If the concave seal was successful place them in your canning cupboard— for up to six months—or until ready for use.
For  health benefits of Tomatoes click here.

August 19, 2010

Three Dog Morning: Joy To The World

After a long road ride the other morning, I wanted to see if I had any juice left in my gambe (Italian for "legs"). I explored my Russell Station Road “extended loop,” which cuts over hilly dirt roads before connecting to 2nd NH Highway and back onto the R.S. Road.

There are few houses along these dirt roads but there stands one, which is decorated by hyper-protective dogs. On the way out, I was relieved the barkers weren’t in their yard. I relaxed into my run, a Galloway-style 5:1 (run:walk), felt awesome throughout, and glided up inclines. I was in the zone. Then came the three dogs

"... Just an old-fashioned love song
Comin' down in 3-part harmony

Barking at first. Shitake! Then charging. Crap! I was surrounded. One nipped my skirt while the other “snouted” my privates as a third circled, sniffed & barked. It occurred so quickly, I failed to notice if their tails were up or down. 

Simple Tail Translation:
Up = happy dog;
Down = not so happy dog.

Thankfully, I read the September 2010 dog issue of Runner’s World (pg., 89) and employed all tactics. My four-legged run-in was without ill incident.

What to Remember:
  • Voice: Use a deep firm voice that conveys a sense of calm.... NO squealing in fear or excitement.
  • Eyes: Watch dog out of the corner of your eye. NO direct eye-contact, as it seems aggressive.
  • Position: Stand tall, face dog slowly, while calmly backing away. Do NOT turn & run, which makes you seem like prey or set the course for a chase.
  • Body Language: Stay relaxed & upright. Assume a position of authority. Do NOT shrivel or become combative.

If all else fails and you have a water bottle squirt some water in their face or pick up a stick and keep the dog out of your body territory. Just in case, I ordered some pepper spray ($10-15). (State laws might apply.) I love animals and do not want to hurt them. So this is a last resort. Apparently the spray doesn’t hurt the animal. Plus, I would only use it if I absolutely had to! (Think Cujo…)

Back to this dog story:
A guy came running out and called for his dog, a rather frisky black lab. She didn't respond. Duh-Uh!... She was off leash! I asked him if the dogs were kind and he said, "yeah, except one of them..."  Which one!?  Of course, the one who tasted my garment before high-tailing it into the woods for a chewier, crunchier rodent-style snackypoo.  

The guy scooped up his pup and headed into the house, leaving me with mini-cujo (in the distance) and the "take-me-home-please" pooch. She'd disobeyed all commands and thought it much better to be my NBF. I started to run again but couldn’t shake her.  

I am an animal magnet. Woof.
Take me home with you.
This is not actually my NBF but she looks just as eager.

I ran about a mile with her (she was bounding ahead) before I turned around to try to get send her home. Soon she set her sniffer on some spot of road-side pee-pee. More marking. (Do dogs have an auxiliary bladder for such tasks?) I seized the opportunity to huff it out of her range before she noticed. Hopefully she made her way back home... she wasn't too far.

"...One is the loneliest number...
It's just no good anymore since  

she went away
Now I spend my time just making 

rhymes of yesterday..."

Frankly, it was delightful to share some canine running company. The dog was motivating, curious, and a tireless pacer. I 'm beginning to more fully appreciate and understand the mutual devotion between dog and runner. 

Go Vasco Go Sheba, Go Tucker...

This post is for you!

August 12, 2010

Intentionally Lost

Overcast skies, threatening clouds....this morning I woke up in a bit of a funk. By mid-morning I figured out one of the reasons why: I was sick to my stomach. Let's just say, I have a delicate constitution. Once my body evacuated the ailment, I felt a lot better!

Exercise is a terrific mood lifter and before leaving for work, Dave suggested I go for a ride. In the same breath he gently reminded me that our Tri-State Seacoast Century is in about a month. ULP.  

A few years back, I rode 100k at the Seacoast Century with pretty limited training. With that in mind and my current training, I'm in for at least 100k this September. We have a longer ride planned for the end of August. I'll be ready. This year, I hope we'll skip the section that heads towards Newburyport and opt to start heading north right away. The roads leading up and into Maine are very beautiful.
Before today, my last ride was a month ago! Yikes. By 1 p.m., with a fresh stomach and lifted spirit, I was pumping air in my bike tires, filling a water bottle and packing a PB & J. YUM.
I rode towards Peterborough and decided to just start taking lefts or rights as I pleased.  I blew a kiss to Smokey before heading past EMS.   A sharp left brought me along some rolling back roads into Hancock. Nice views! I was lost by then and quite pleased to roll into the town center, which I recognized. 

Eventually I made my way back to Bennington and stopped at the General Store for a much needed coke. I drained my water bottle well before Hancock. 

Somewhere between Hancock and Bennington, I came across these sheep and had to stop. My toes fall asleep while I ride and it seemed like a great chance to admire their fleece. At that point, I wanted more fleece on my saddle...

All-in-all it was a great ride of about 35 miles at 15.1 mph. I love getting lost to discover new places AND to extend rides. Today reminded me of my "get lost" summer bike rides in high school.

Not all who wander are lost...
Juggling cycling, marathon training and teaching (with the start of school in a month) is going to be interesting.  I'm signed up for the Stone Cat Trail Marathon in November and have my eye on a few events beforehand—some half-marathons and long-distance trail events. I'll play it by earlobe.

August 09, 2010

Instead of Running & Racing...

Trail Pixie gathers no moss....
After pacing at the Vermont 100, I shifted gears 
—away from running & racing—
towards other adventures: 

Water skiing:
Trail Pixie on the waters of Winnisquam

Art New England Workshops:
Bennington, Vermont
My palette one day in the Ultimate Color Workshop.

 Raku with artist, Bob Green, and Anna Witte
 Plein Air Painting 
Southern Vermont College, Bennington, VT

Photography at Flea Markets:
Gathering source material in photo format.
Williamstown, Vermont
Matchbox Grid Lock. Rietta Flea Market.

 Studio Painting:
  Continuing the practice.
Learning Joinery and more...
My Art-Studio-Table "in progress"

Surface Archeology:
Digging in the Back 40 where there once was a hopper.
Discovering lots of old bottles and plates...history.

Cheering at Triathlons:
 Men's swim start at Lowell Sprint Triathlon (8/1/10)

Bike Transition area at Surry Sprint Triathlon (8/7/10)

 Tomatoes and cukes! 

Worm Warfare:
Tomato horn worm!
Ah Ha! This worm is covered with the parasitic larva of the
Braconid Wasp, which eats the worms. 
Everyday I check the tomato plants for these hob-goblins.

Enjoying the Craftsmen's Fair:
(League of NH)
 Garry Kalajian, Blacksmith

Let's lathe!

Life Before Blog
Life Before Blog
 Life Before Blog ...

August 08, 2010

You Gotta Love It

In Robert Manson Myers, “Ars Amatoria” (after Ovid’s poem—The Art of Love), the author starts from the first letter of the English alphabet and stops there. He scripted a 200-page book entirely of words beginning with the letter “A.” This was a first for the English language. (See end of post for my poem about the VT 100, inspired by the letter "S.") 
Kevin Z heads across a Vermont field Saturday morning
(photo: Trail Pixie)
 For four folks of The Ultra Gang (T.U.G.), it was also a first—their first 100 mile run. You gotta love running and being on your feet out there in the woods…to stick this thing through——through the training leading up to the event and through the finish line. At times it must feel like a “love—hate” relationship.
Ultra runners are a quirky bunch.
(photo: Trail Pixie)
For some it might be their one-and-only 100. For those who started at 4 a.m., the gang had a finishing rate of 75% (three out of four peeps), topping the overall 55% finish rate.

At the Vermont 100, all participants start at the beginning: Julie O’Mara, Streph Treadway, Steve LaTour, and Keven Zelechoski took that first step. Others support—crew and pace: Bill H, Kim K, Chris M, Christine M, Mike Menard, Michelle R, and myself.
Steve LaTour icing one tough ITB!
(photo: Trail Pixie)
 Julie ran about half way before bowing out and her intended pacer, Mike M shifted his duties to helping another. Christine and Chris tended to and paced Steve, respectively. Bill and Kim crewed for Kevin while Michelle and I paced him. 
Pacers, crew, support...
Mike M, Trail Pixie, Bill H, Joy & Michelle R in front.
 Streph was our wild card, self-supported and a tug boat steering the TUG lead. As he commented, “we all started at the same time and finished within a half an hour of each other.”
 Streph Treadway catches some shut-eye 
after finishing his first 100.
(photo: Trail Pixie)

Epic Finish for Kevin Z!
Finishing pacer, Trail Pixie, gets a huge hug!
(photo: Michelle Roy)
I'm super proud of these folks 
and will crew/pace for them anytime!
I wrote this poem—inspired by Professors Myer’s style—about the Vermont 100;  It's brought to you by the letter “S.” 

Stellar Saturday Start
by Trail Pixie Trespas

Striding Start Surprises
Superstars strategically situate—seed
Several spread staccato-style
Surge swerve stabilize

Sparkling spots shine sycamores
Shuttling self, spirit soaring
Step step step

Soon sunrise stunning scenery
Sheep shedding shadows
Stop sign, Street sign, Smokey sign

Sections snaking, splitting
Stumbling sticks strewn sidelong
Steady steadily steady

Smelling spring-summer—someone
Songs sound, sparrow speaks
Sirens seep stolen slumber

Soon stuff, supplies, support:
Snacks: salt, sticky-sweet soda
Sustaining S-Caps, serums…smiles.

Sarcastic sentences sounding
Soothsayers stopped short—sayonara !
Stifling stifle stifling

Soaring steam suffocates, signals slowing
Sublimation sabotages swiftness
“Speed sabbatical” surely

Slimming, sweat stinging, smothered:
soft shoe steps
shabby sneakers
stretched straps
soiled shorts
swollen sacks
soaked sleeves
shin splints
soggy socks
something soft shifted

Saturday somehow Sunday
Sunset sundown stars
Solo, sola—so long

Sixty seems strategic
Seventy sounds strenuous

Susceptible sleepless shuffler
Spotty syntax say-something
Sorry —so sorry—Sorry

Surround sound:
seeping spirit
sick stomach
sitting staying
silence screaming!

Stupendous stories supplant sanity
Supposed strange shapes speak
Stirred sanity, sensibility

Sway, swerve, swat
Soon supine stoned stallions
Sah-weet sanguine

Shortly signs, salutations, salutes.
Shedding, sniffing, sobbing
Simultaneously sore—sacrosanct.

A special thanks to Dave McDermott for this creative "S" spark to post. To listen to Robert Manson Myers reading from “Ars Amatoria” go to Here and Now, May 21, 2010. Professor Myers reading "Aprillis" on Here & Now: