No One Tells You The Truth About What It’s Really Like After You Have a Baby…

So this is one thing I’ve learned. No one tells you the truth about what it’s really like after you have a baby- sure, everyone says it’s hard, it’s wonderful, you will be so tired, but no one tells you the juicy details about the insane emotional rollercoaster you are about to go on, without the option to get off. Maybe the people I talked to had a different experience than I am having, or maybe no one wants to scare you that bad.

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Laurel, 10 days old. Me? Sleep deprived and emotional.

 

I’m sure everyone has heard (or experienced) the lovely side of having a baby, so I will keep this short. It really is the most amazing thing I’ve ever done. I get the science, the biology, behind how a baby is made, but come on, there has got to be some magic in there somewhere! My life was instantly changed the second my little girl came into this world (after 27 hours of labor- 3.5 hours of pushing…) My identity changed (I’m a mom!) and the way I look at the world changed. Here’s a good example, while I was pregnant, I though I would go back to work as soon as school started in the fall (I’m a teacher). As soon as that baby came out I starting trying to figure out a way that I could take the whole next year off….

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Hadn’t showered in who knows how many days, and baby decided she only likes to sleep on the couch, so I’m stuck.

Everyday I am amazed at the things she does, like smile, or coo, or blow spit bubbles. I was never into babies, especially newborns. Quite honestly, they scared me. They are so fragile and..well…fragile! I never understood what was so cool about them. I get it now. Your own baby is basically the coolest baby in the world. The cutest, the smartest, most amazingly interesting creature you have ever laid eyes on. I fall more in love with this tiny human every single day.

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11 weeks old/cutest baby I’ve ever seen…

 

So here is the other side. I’m going to attempt to be very honest here, even if it is slightly uncomfortable for me. I cried everyday (mostly in the evening) for the first 2 weeks after we got home from the hospital. After that, I felt like maybe I was getting things down, figuring it out, and feeling better. NOPE. After a 4-5 day grace period, the crying started again. pretty much everyday…for weeks. Ok, maybe a month and a half. So here’s the deal with the crying. “They” say it’s completely normal. What the hell does that even mean?? Does “normal” mean it’s ok? Does “normal” mean it happens to everyone? Does “normal” mean it’s not a big deal? What about the other feelings I was having? I had hours of intense longing to just be able to do something they way I used to- to just leave the house and go for a really long run, or go out to dinner with Joe and have a beer and just do whatever for 3 hours. These feelings were followed immediately by guilt. What kind of mom was I to wish to not be with my baby 24/7? I started to feel blah. Flat. Stuck. I worried…a lot.  Was I doing anything right? Was the baby getting enough to eat? Enough sleep? Was I talking to her enough? Doing enough to encourage her development? Was she healthy? Why couldn’t I sleep, even though I was beyond exhausted? Was I being a good wife? What if something happened to her? Or to me, or to Joe? I desperately wanted to leave the house, and yet at the same time, fear, guilt and worry kept me home, stuck on that same spot on the couch.

 

Then all of a sudden, I had 2 good days. I felt semi ok. I smiled, even laughed. Baby napped well. I made dinner. I went for a run. I thought to myself- “wow, I was thinking I might have some postpartum depression going on here, but that can’t be true, I had 2 good days!” I was so, so wrong. When the third day sucked, it felt 10 times worse. Joe and I had a minor argument (about the best way to get the baby to go back to sleep, of course) and I had a minor (ok MAJOR) breakdown.

 

I’ll skip forward a bit here. I called a trusted therapist, because I knew that was a good place to start. Even after just one session I was able to come away with a few things that would make the next weeks start to feel better. Since having the baby, I had been waiting for this untouchable feeling- the feeling of being back to my old self, which, in hindsight, was quite naive- I was never going to be my old self! Having a baby has instantly added a new dimension to my reality, and in order to feel good, I needed to reconcile the differences between the “old” me and the “mom” me. Once I figured this out, I was able to get myself on the path to feeling good again.

Something else I should add here- It doesn’t matter how easy or how hard your pregnancy/delivery/baby are/were. You can still feel awful. I have to say that I’ve been pretty lucky, my little person has been quite laid back (Kristy, if you are reading this, I know I’ve had it way easier than you!) I felt a little like an a hole for feeling the way I did when I knew my sister (who gave birth to her 2nd a day before me) had a baby that cried…loudly…every time she put her down. This is part of the issue though. We all try to qualify and compare our feelings. We try to tell ourselves we shouldn’t feel the way we do, tell ourselves we should feel happy because someone has it worse. This does NOTHING to make you feel better. Ignoring your feelings or trying to tell yourself they are invalid in anyway just makes things worse, and very likely can cause someone (…me) to have a major meltdown over a minor thing. So I suppose what I am saying is forget what everyone else thinks and just be honest with yourself. For real honest though, not just part of the way. 100% honest, even if it feels a little (or a lot) scary.

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Running has been helpful. I was able to start again 6 weeks postpartum. I was physically ready, but probably not mentally. Recently I’ve gotten back to it- being on trails has made it 1000 times more enjoyable.

I’m finding it difficult to know how to sum this all up, mostly because this whole feeling better thing is a work in progress for me right now. In the past week I’ve had more good days than bad days. This is because I reached out, told people how I felt, and sought help. I like to do things on my own. I don’t like to ask for help. Sometimes though, everyone needs a little help, and this is nothing to be ashamed of.

As I continue on my journey as a person, who is now a mother in this world, I’d like anyone who is reading this to know that if you have any questions about my experience so far, please reach out, ask anything. Maybe it will be helpful to you, and surely it will be helpful to me.

 

 

 

Expectations

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Contemplating the word “expectation” and what it means to me brings up a rush of different feelings. I can think of the word in terms of what I expect of myself, and I can also think of it in terms of what other people expect of me. There is also this idea of appropriateness of expectations, and how that relates to goals and aspirations. Expectation(s) is a very loaded word, and the thoughts and ideas it brings up deserve more than a once over in terms of my own thinking and how the word is integrated into my being.

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Moving on one of my favorite local trails

Lets start by talking about the expectations of other people. Family, friends, coworker, whatever. How do the perceived expectations of others affect you? For me, thinking about this particular topic can produce positive and negative feelings. What it really gets down to is that fact that I have a tendency to “be” who I think others want me to be and often times don’t give as much weight to who I really want to be. I don’t know if this comes from a place of worrying I’ll disappoint, or if it comes from a bad habit I’ve picked up as an adult- people pleasing. It’s most likely a combination of the two, both of which serve no positive place in my life. Looking at these two things -people pleasing and worrying about disappointing people- I don’t see much room for being completely honest with myself, or even being completely honest with others. It’s time for a bit of change in thinking here. If I’m going to be really honest, the “fear” here is in thinking I’ll do something that causes others to not like me or be upset with me. I don’t think that this is uncommon, but if I stop and use my head for a second, I can see that it’s a little silly. I’m not going to make any terrible decisions (they might not all be great) and if I happen to do something that makes someone else really upset, I can be mature enough to take responsibility for my actions, but at the same time, be open enough to say that maybe this person doesn’t belong in my close circle, and maybe I shouldn’t place any weight on their judgements of me.

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Finish line: Mixed feelings about the time here- super slow for me, but based on the circumstances, I *should* feel pretty good about it!

On to personal expectations. Having expectations is a good thing, the higher, the better, right? Maybe. It’s important to believe in yourself enough to set the bar high, but it’s important to consider just how realistic those high expectations are. Training for and completing an ultra marathon is a good thing to look at. Not everyone wants to do this, but for those of you who do, how realistic is this? Do you have the time? What type of physical shape are you in? Why do you even want to do it? For me, I felt it was a realistic challenge. It was at that place that was just almost out of reach, but not quite. Sometimes its good to have really big, intimidating goals. The pay off is huge. I put in months of work, mental and physical, and the end result was completing a feat I never would have thought possible just a few years earlier. When you set your expectations high, you have the chance to learn a lot about yourself as you work to accomplish a goal, as well as the opportunity to grow as a person and experience a bit confidence boost when you meet those high expectations.

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Such a challenging run, but so worth it!

What happens when you need to change your expectations for yourself though? What happens if you are injured while training? Is is smart or realistic to expect you can still complete an ultra marathon? Probably not. I have found it very difficult to readjust my expectations for myself when life happens. When you get used to having high expectations and big goals, it’s hard to allow yourself to lower the bar. Is it really lowering the bar though, when you readjust your expectations to your current circumstances? I think not. Even as I type this, and I know that respecting your current situation is the most health thing to do, it’s still hard for me to accept that I have had to readjust my expectations for running recently. For months, I’ve had it in my mind that I would run a faster 5k, and also complete another ultra before winter. My current life situation makes this pretty much impossible, but I am still finding it difficult to allow for the readjustment. I think my advice to anyone in this situation is that  you’ve just got to remember to be in the moment. If you are living in the moment, you aren’t stuck in the past, thinking about what you used to be able to do, and you aren’t worrying about the future, thinking about how you might make a come back. You are respecting your current self, and finding new ways to challenge yourself, in a kind and safe way. Even when you have to readjust your expectations, you can still find a way to place the bar high, while still respecting who you are at this very moment. High expectations can always be had, you’ve just got to respect and realize that a high expectation is not a stagnant line, just like us as people, expectations needs room to shift and grow, based on who we are at this exact moment.

 

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Downtime

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Currently, I’m taking some downtime. Not by choice. My feelings are all over the place about this too, and I considered not sharing, but have now decided that in order to be honest, and to show a complete picture of  a) what running entails and b) the way my mind works, I was obligated to share.

 

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My feet miss these shoes.

In a nutshell, I’ve not really been able to run since my 50k. 3 days after the race, I went out on a short trail run, and my right knee was really hurting, but I figured I just needed to get warmed up, and the pain would go away. It did not. I did not run again until Sunday, thinking I just needed a little more rest. I planned to do 10 miles. I started out feeling ok, but slowly, as miles went on, my knee hurt worse. I had to stop completely at mile 8. I’m now on my second week of not running.

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Seen on my last attempt at a long run…

 

My first feeling is “shit” and lots of other swears. As the days have gone by, I’ve had a chance to really pinpoint some of the reason I LOVE running. Not running sucks. BAD.

I’m not a sit around at home on the weekend type of person, and running is one of the things that helps occupy my time. When I’m done with my run, I’m settled, and at that point, find it easy to relax.

I also just love the feeling of running. I like moving fast, and I like how my legs feel when they hit the ground and shove off for that next stride. I love getting sweaty, too.

I love being outside, in the woods, moving. I feel very free, energized, alive, clean and relaxed when it’s just me and the trail. I need it.

I’ve also struggled with feelings of guilt- I’ve got plenty of friends who have experienced major injuries this year, and have not been able to run in months. Here I am complaining because it’s going on 2 weeks. I should appreciate that I haven’t been injured all spring, and that I was healthy through all of my training. I DO appreciate that. I’ve decided that I’m still allowed to say that this sucks. The weather has been beautiful, everything is green, and all I want to do is run in the woods, and I can’t. I mean, I suppose I could, but I’d be potentially sidelining myself for the rest of the summer.

I miss this…….

So here is my deal. I suck at resting. I like to be active. I like to run and hike. I can’t do those things right now. If I want to do those things again soon, I have to rest. So shit, I guess I have to rest. I’ve got big goals for this summer and fall, and right now it looks like I’ve just got to practice some patience and acceptance, and hope that good behavior (resting!) for a bit will allow me run strong, maybe stronger, in the (near, very near!) future!

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Tikaani is feeling the pain too, if we don’t run, he doesn’t run 😦

50k Race Ramblings From The Salomon Trail Running Festival at Pineland Farms

 

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Ready to go!

Well, I did it. I finished my first 50k! Yesterday, mid-race, I told myself that 1 ultra distance race would most likely be enough for me. Today I’ve changed my mind a bit, but I’ll get into that later. Let me tell you how this one went first!

 

I’ll start out by saying I felt very prepared. I trained appropriately and smart. I felt strong and healthy. No matter how much training I do, I still can’t seem to get over the pre-race nervous stomach! The morning of the race, I got up, planned to eat my typical long run breakfast, but was only able to take down a little coffee and half of a bagel.

We left the house with plenty of time to spare, I had everything I needed laid out the night before, so getting ready was a breeze. About half way there, Joe realized he forgot his running shoes! No big deal, he wasn’t racing, but was planning on pacing me for the last 5 miles. He decided he’d run barefoot if he had to.

When we got to Pineland, we easily found a parking space, and walked to the starting line. It was cool and cloudy- perfect racing weather. Time before the race seemed to go quickly, and before I knew it, I was standing at the starting line, ready to run. I started off a little fast, as the beginning of the course seemed to be mostly downhill. Not long after that I started to get a taste of the “relentless rolling hills” I read about on the course description. None of them were long, but they were honestly never ending. If you weren’t going up, you were going down. The trail itself was smooth, wide and not technical. It was nice to not have to worry about footing. Visually, it was a beautiful course, through woods and fields, and although the rolling hills just kept coming, they kept it interesting.

 

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The fields: beautiful looking back, but my least favorite part during the race.

Somewhere around mile 5 or 6 I caught up with Jasmine, an IG friend, and ran with her and her friend for a bit. It was nice to have someone to talk to for awhile!  They were hiking most of the hills, which I hadn’t thought to do, so I joined them for a bit.After a few miles, I went on with out them. Not long after this I started experiencing some serious nausea. I had taken in one Huma, and around mile 10 I got one more down. As I continued to feel sick to my stomach, I was a little worried about how I’d be able to finish if I couldn’t eat. Thank god I had my hydration pack filled with Tailwind.

I’m not going to go into all of the lovely detail about how I dealt with the continuous nausea, because no one wants to hear that!

I will say that despite this issue, I experienced many great things at this race. Later in the race, as an answer to my prayers, Jasmine and her friend were coming into an aid station just as I was leaving. My positive self talk was helping (You feel fine! you can do this!) but I was really needing some extra help. I ran with them until mile 25ish, and it was just what I needed! I also loved the encouragement and positivity of all the other runners. People who passed me always had kind words and smiles. The volunteers at the aid stations were helpful and positive, filling my water bottle up for me when I needed it. I’ve never encountered such a welcoming, positive vibe at a race before!

 

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I bet I’m telling Joe something like “I feel great except I want to puke everywhere”.

When I knew I only had 5 miles to go, I felt my second wind kick in. I knew that I could do anything for 5 miles, and I knew Joe was planning on joining me. He was waiting when I came by, and we were off. I maintained a better pace in those final miles than I had for quite some time. I was sure I was going to cry (and puke) at the finish line, but I did neither. I sprinted it out, and honestly, was just slightly in awe of the day. I was out on that course for 6 hours and 17 minutes, experienced a roller coaster of emotions, and finished strong, smiling!

 

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No doubt, the support of others was crucial for me in this race, but equally important were the pep talks I gave myself. I remembered a quote, “if it hurts to run and it hurts to walk, then run”. When I thought about stopping at one point, I very quickly realized just how much more horrible it would feel to not finish. I’ve learned that my body is strong, and so is my mind. I can do hard things. Physically and mentally. I ran an ultra marathon!

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The most comfortable grass ever.

 

Looking forward, I’ve got my sights set on the Big Brad Ultra (50k). Same distance, more challenge. Technical trails, and instead of 1,800 feet of total elevation gain, I’ll be dealing with about 4,500. I think this sounds like a lovely challenge!

 

Thank you to my mom and David for taking photos and cheering me on. Thanks to all of my friends and family who were not able to be at the race, but were encouraging and supportive during training. Thank you Rebecca for telling me to just keep going, and for sticking around after rocking your 25k! Thank you Jasmine (and your friend!) for running with me and listening to me complain. Thank you guy after the race who asked me if I had everything I needed, and delivered two pieces of pizza to me so I didn’t need to get up off my lovely spot of grass. Thanks to  Laurie for pumping me up pre race and cheering me on. Thank you Amber for cheering me on from the start and for congratulating me at the end, all the while supporting your awesome man who ran the 50 miles! Thank you to the volunteers, runners and everyone else who made this race such a positive experience for me! Finally, Thank you Joe, the man of my dreams, for putting up with my training schedule, for rubbing my feet, listening to me talk about running, and for running the last 5 miles with me, in a pair of borrowed shoes.

My first experience running an ultra was a great one, and I highly recommend that anyone who is interested in checking out trail running and/or ultra running give it a try!

 

Ultra Training Week??? Pre-Race Thoughts

 

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Yay for shorts and tank tops!

 

Honestly? My thoughts? I have none….

 

 

Ok, just kidding! It’s just that I have so many, I’d break the internets if I posted them all. I’ve got 11 days until race day, and I’ve started checking the long range forecast. I’m mentally preparing for any type of weather, and I’m secretly ( ok not so secretly) hoping for partly sunny, low of 50, high of 60 and a light breeze. That’s not asking too much, is it? I am excited, but surprisingly not nervous. I’m looking forward to testing myself. I also want to cover my whole body in KT tape and run in a padded hallway. The only thing I’m truly nervous about is somehow hurting myself in some stupid way before race day.

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It’s been warm finally, and Tikaani loves taking advantage of *every* body of water

My run’s have been great lately, I’ve divided them quite evenly between roads and trails. Even had a close encounter with coyote’s on Sunday while we were checking out a new trail in Searsmont. I’m still not loving the decreased miles- a break is nice, but….well, I want my miles back!

I’ve got plenty of thoughts about this time before the race, but they aren’t really coming together in a coherent way, so I’ll just leave you with some photos!

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I’ve got some pretty great trails to run close to home!

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Joe and Tikaani running along the Georges River
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View going up Appleton Ridge

Coaching!!!

Well, it’s time for something new! I’m offering up my services as a life/wellness coach! This is something that has been in the works for me for a while now, and I’m really excited to get started. My skills as a teacher, and my background in psychology, along with my life experiences make me the perfect person to help YOU accomplish your goals in life, health and fitness. Please check out the coaching tab for more information and for 2 free weeks of coaching!

 

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constant forward momentum!

Running, Just to Run

 

Right now, I am exactly halfway through training week 16/taper week 2. The bulk of my training has been wonderful. I’ve followed my plan, my endurance has increased to a place it’s never been before, and I feel like I am stronger than I have ever been. I’ve rested when I should, and I’ve pushed hard when I’ve needed to.

This whole taper thing has me feeling a little odd though. First, the sight of decreasing milage on my plan makes me worry, even though I know I should not. Second, I am sick, third, I’ve become super paranoid that I’m going to get injured!

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So, my response to these things, some I can change, some I can’t, has been to reconnect with the joy of running, and the easiest way for me to do that is to get off the road and get on the trail! I’ve kept a rough expectation of how many miles I’d like to cover, but I’m not tracking pace. I’m running, just to run.

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Running trails, to me, is the most freeing experience. It’s a  pure physical expression of uninhibited joy . Moving between the trees, over rocks and through mud, running up and down hills, jumping  over streams- it’s all just so amazingly invigorating, yet settling at the same time. It feels like freely flying, and all at once, also rooting down into the earth. I smile, and sometimes even laugh as I glide though the forest, wet feet, muddy legs, heart full.

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When I run like this, I connect with that other part of myself. Not the goal oriented, plan following part, which running also fulfills, but that other part, that wants to throw the plans out the window, explore, and just be- with out expectations. The part that just wants to experience all parts of this life, the grit, the understated beauty, the breath taking moments.

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When I return from these runs, I feel satisfied and calmed. I also look forward to the next time I’m able to return to that child like feeling of being without a care in the world that can only be produced by stomping through mud and jumping over rocks on winding forest trails.

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*Sometimes you run trails with mud and rocks, sometimes, when you go out in search of new trails to run, you find yourself knee deep in a never ending bog, but you smile just the same, because nature, in all of it’s ways, feels good.

Ultra Training Week 14

Week 14 was a big week for me. It went as well as I could have hoped for. I am now officially 4 weeks from my first 50k, and I am starting to feel super excited! This also marks the beginning of my taper, and I am already feeling a big anxious about that. Here’s how the week went…

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Monday: Rest day. In addition to the routine I do every morning, I added some yoga in the afternoon, outside. I needed to get my head in the right space, and my legs needed a good stretch.

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Tuesday: 4 miles, average pace: 7:55. It was technically a speed work day, but instead of doing strides or intervals, I just decided to aim for getting faster each mile. My splits were: 8:26, 7:43, 7:53 and 7:38. Close enough! I felt good about this run, I’ve had a really hard time consistently breaking an 8 minute mile, and I’m hoping I’ll be able to do so in a 5k this year.

 

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Oh yeah, it snowed Tuesday!

Wednesday: Massage!! I scheduled monthly massages for this training cycle, and it’s been great. I know this has helped me stay healthy and injury free. Thanks Carrie!

Thursday: 5 miles, average pace: 8:00 per mile, finishing with a 7:22 mile! Again, another strong run. The first 3 miles had some nice hills, the last 2 were mostly flat on the rail trail. When I reached the rail trail, I saw another runner about a half mile ahead of me. I decided I might as well try to catch him/her (couldn’t tell from the distance I was away!) I finally passed her with about 2 tenths of a mile left in my run. Yay!

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Friday: Yoga/date night. I hadn’t been to a yoga class for awhile, and decided Joe and I really needed it. The class was taught by a teacher I had never met before, and it was great! The class was very grounding and centering, and I am really looking forward to attending another class with this teacher! After class, we went out to eat, I needed to do some serious fueling for my Saturday run!

 

Saturday: 26.2 miles. Yes, a marathon. No, not a race. My schedule called for 25, but I really wanted that extra 1.2, so I went for it. I could not have asked for it to go better. I felt strong and relaxed throughout the whole run, I took it slow and easy, and really enjoyed the miles. I worked on being present, and not looking ahead to the miles to come, and that was really helpful. It didn’t hurt that the weather was absolutely perfect! I completed the run in 4 hours, 36 minutes, which is almost a full 20 minutes faster than I ran the Maine Marathon this past October

 

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Enjoying a post long run snack

Sunday: 6 miles on trails. Typically, Sunday is a slower recovery run, but I wanted to really push it today to give myself an idea of how I might feel at the end of my race. I averaged 9 minute miles. I was a little stiff, and it was a bit of a challenge, but I got it done!

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Love my trails!

32 miles for the weekend/41 for the week/ 158 miles for the month of April!

More April stats: 25 hours, 8 minutes 54 seconds spent running and  11,819.9 feet of elevation climbed during runs

 

Is anyone else training for a big run at the end of May? Anyone training for an Ultra?

How did your training go last week?

Be Here Now

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Low phlox is blooming!

I’ve written posts about staying positive, acknowledging pain, being present and staying in the moment. Just because I write about these things, doesn’t mean I always do them! I started this year out feeling more grounded and connected than I had in a long time, but recently I have found myself living everywhere else besides the present moment. My attention has been divided between intangible things, the past and the future and some wonderful, yet presently unrealistic dreams. I’ve allowed myself to escape to all of these places, and in doing so, have partially vacated the wonderful life I have right here, right now.

 

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Sunrise through the tree line

 

“Mindfulness helps you go home to the present. And every time you go there and recognize a condition of happiness that you have, happiness comes.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

 

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Magic on the back lawn

 

While I’ve been escaping the present moment, I’ve missed some of the subtleties of spring. Each day, the buds on the trees swell, moving closer towards the explosion of green I’ve been waiting for all winter. I’ve noticed the birds returning, but I haven’t taken the time to sit and watch, and really listen to the new varieties that arrive each week. As the sun has moved closer to my little piece of earth, I’ve not allowed myself to appreciate it’s growing warmth on my skin.

 

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Trillium are starting to open!

I’m revisiting my goals at this moment. In order to accomplish what I’d like, I’ve got to be fully present in each moment. I’ve got to tap back  into the habit of being mindful, not just everyday, but every moment. My life is beautiful- I’m safe, I’m loved and healthy, and I have a world of endless opportunity outside my front door. As much as I am aware of the countless opportunities for growth, I need also to be aware that in reality, things are simply pretty great right here, right now.

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Enjoying each other, and the view

 

As I commit to step back into the moment on a second by second basis, I will not push my dreams aside. I will accept where I am in the present tense, and I will enjoy my journey. My  dreams are a driving force, but they are not yet here. I will allow them to unfold, naturally, and in their own time. I will savor my days, drink up the joy that surrounds me, and be mindful that right now,  I’ve got it good, real good.

 

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A good laugh after a good trail run 🙂

Ultra Training Week 12 and First Backpacking Trip of 2016

I am in disbelief that my 50k is now just under 6 weeks away. The majority of my training is done, I’ve really only got 2 big long runs left, and then it’s taper time! I am very excited about this race, and I feel really good about the training I have completed so far. This week, I’m just going to post a quick recap of last week’s runs and then I’ll get into the backpacking trip!

Monday: Late night at work/rest day

Tuesday: Late night at work again/postponed my run

Wednesday: One more late night at work/ 4 mile trail run

 

Thursday: 6 miles at 8:37 pace with hills

Friday: Rest and a little yoga

Saturday: 20 miles. I was scheduled to run 23, and felt tired from mile one. By mile 7 I wasn’t feeling it, and around mile 12 I had to talk myself into continuing. I made a deal with myself that I needed to get 20 done, and then it would be ok to stop. There happened to be a store at 20.1, so I stopped, bought a chocolate milk and had Joe come get me.

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Totally kicked myself in the ankle

Sunday: Hiking! A bit over 6 miles on some strenuous trails.

 

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Looking at Barren from Bodfish Valley. Tikaaki excited to get hiking.

 

Now on to the backpacking trip! We had been checking out the weather for April vacation week for a bit, and had decided if we got 2 nice (not too far below freezing at night) days in a row, we should do a trip. Joe really wanted to do Barren Mountain, part of the 100 mile wilderness section of the Appallacian Trail. We’ve both done this mountain plenty of times, and picked it because of a few reasons. One, there are great views. Two, it’s a butt kicker! It’s always nice to pick a more difficult hike for the first one of the year, because everything else feels a little easier after that. The third reason was for the shelter. There is a lean-to .4 miles off  of the AT at Cloud Pond.

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Let’s go!

 

I was hoping we would be able to take the trip Tuesday-Wednesday, but the weather was not looking great on those days, so we decided we would hike up Sunday. It was going to be 60 degrees and sunny. It was also the day after I had run 20 miles. I figured it would be some good active recovery!

Sunday Morning we packed the truck up and headed north. We reached Bodfish Valley, and found a gate across the access road to the trail, which we were expecting, but hoping not to find. This added about a mile and a half of walking on dirt roads, which was a great warm up. When we reached the trail head of the fire wardens trail, we encountered some serious mud for about a quarter mile, and then the trail started to climb, until we reached the AT. The trail was rocky and steep, but our spirits were high. We started to encounter some ice, but nothing that was too concerning. We stopped and had lunch at the Barren slide and took in the amazing views.

 

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Warm weather and beautiful views from the slide!

 

As we continued on towards the summit of the mountain, conditions got worse. The weather was still perfect, but the ice on the trail became almost impassable. Of course it had to be on the parts of the trail that were the most steep, and also where it was nearly impossible to go any other way besides the trail. At one point, after somehow getting myself part way up an icy ledge, I just stopped and sat on the one dry spot and thought that it was possible that we might have to turn around. I couldn’t see a way to safely navigate over the ice, and from where I was sitting, there was no way to go around. As I decided I needed to climb back down a ways to look for an alternate route, I found that it was also nearly impossible to climb down from this spot. I had a moment of panic, but got my shit together and did what I needed to do. I found a spot that I could basically crawl through some thick nasty mountain brush, and I yanked myself and my pack through the barely big enough space up, around and over this nasty ice patch.

 

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A little bit of ice. No photos of the real serious ice because I was too busy trying not to die.

 

Thankfully, the summit of the mountain was only abut 50 feet away. We both stopped there, and prepared to hike on. From the summit, the next part of the trail is not difficult, a trail winds through the wooded north side of the ridge, and typically makes for some nice easy walking to the shelter. As soon as we stepped into the woods, we encountered some snow, nothing major, just a foot or two. We were able to walk on top of it fairly easily at this point. Not much time had gone by before the snow started to get deeper, and we started to break though. At first, just up to our knees, but by the end, we were going in up to our hips in some spots. This was the longest, most miserable almost 2 miles I have ever walked. My shins were cut up and raw from the crusty snow. My boots and socks were soaked, and my legs were beat from constantly pulling them out of deep holes. At one point, when we first started the hike, we wondered if a few other people might be staying at Cloud Pond for the night. By this point, we knew we would be the only ones. No one else would be crazy enough to hike in through these conditions for the night!

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UGH. The snow. Neither one of us had on long pants because it was so warm. Legs took a beating!

 

Reaching the Pond was amazing. The pond was still covered in more than 6 inches of ice, but the sun was shining, it was warm, and the Lean-to was clean and empty. We built a fire to dry out our boots, made some dinner, and then hunkered down in our sleeping bags for the night.

 

 

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Cloud Pond

Sleeping in lean-to in Maine can be tough, and it’s not the cold that causes the big problems, it’s the bugs. One of the major advantages to all of the snow was that there was not one black fly in sight!

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Upon waking the next morning, we found the sky to be bright, but gray. We had a leisurely breakfast, filtered some water and packed our bags. Just as we were ready to hike out, it started to spit snow. As we walked, the snow stopped. It had been cold enough over night so the snow had hardened just a bit, plus we could see the massive holes we had created the day before. When we got to the ice, we had to take it very slow, you know, so as not to slip and die, but we still made better time than the day before. By the time we were back at the ledges, the sun was out and it was warm! We stopped here to have a few handfuls of trail mix, and then were on our way again. My one big physical complaint was my toes. My soaking wet socks and boots from the day before caused some serious blisters, not enough to slow me down at this point, just enough to complain about!

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More snow…

 

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More ice.

 

When we finally got off the mountain, and back to the truck, the first thing we did after setting the packs down was to rip of our shoes and get our feet in the ice cold stream we were parked near.

This trip, although short, goes down in my book as one of the most mentally and physically challenging trips I’ve ever done. While climbing on the first day I questioned why I was even choosing to do something like this. Before we were even back to the truck on the second day I was already thinking ahead to our next backpacking trip of the year!

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Lake Onawa and Borestone Mountain.