Showing posts from 2010

Topping Terrapin

LCA runners atop Terrapin Mountain After my first season as a high school head cross country coach, my finger felt the beat of adventure running through my runners' veins. They got used to following me anywhere and everywhere on local trails, putting in miles on our distance days. Sarah even decided she never wanted to run a 5K again. She named herself "UltraGirl", helped me sweep a 100-miler, and accompanied me on a 20-mile training run a few weeks back. But for now, my most serious runners transitioned to the indoor track season. I came along as their coach. For distance runners, "indoor track" is an oxymoron. Seldom do we stay indoors. Rather, it's out into the windy, cold days of winter. While our speedy counterparts come toting shorts and t-shirts to the temperature-controlled track, my kids show up with tights, hats and gloves, and jackets. It's up the mountain, around campus, through the fields. Our faces go numb, lips unable to form intelli

Whiter than snow

To the door I marched, flipping on the outside spotlight just like when I was a little kid. A smile spread across my face, erasing all the fatigue of Christmas preparations. Filtering down from above, small white flakes fell toward the earth, turning a green yard into a landscape awash in white. It was beautiful. The snow-lined trees were now silhouetted against the dark sky. I lingered a while, watching. And then, opening the door, I stepped into the chill, spread my arms wide and lifted my chin to the sky. I took a deep, cleansing breath as the heavy, wet snow landed on my eyelids. Leaving the noise of chatter inside, I reveled in the tranquil and silent snowfall. The world seemed to slow a bit, as if wanting to silence the frenzy of Christmas day. But alas, I reluctantly returned to the climate-controlled indoors and participated once more in post-dinner conversation. We awoke on this Christmas morn to a dusting of snow. It wasn't much but the ground was covered. It was fittin

The Ugly Truth

I just discovered something the other night as I was adding Hellgate stories and stats to the website.  After being delighted to report a 14 minute PR for myself, I must recant. Sad, indeed.  Here is what happened. When I looked up prior results, I stopped short when I saw a previous time for me at 15:54 since I did not remember running under 16 hours three times. Guess what?  2004 was the 15:54 but in 2007, I ran 15:40:22.  My time this year? 15:40:31. Shoot.  9 measly seconds away from a PR.  In the context of nearly 67 miles, that really isn't much.  UGH!!! Sorry for the misinformation. Somehow, I'm not quite as excited anymore. I was loving the idea of a PR.

Hellgate: Take 8

How odd that a 67 mile race matched to the name of the parking lot at the start would be so descriptive. And who, pray tell, thought of naming that piece of land "Hellgate" in the first place? Who does that? Images conjured up by the name "Hellgate" leap to mind. Quotes from sources such as Dante's Inferno ("Abandon hope all ye who enter here") to country crooner Rodney Atkins ("...If you're going through hell, keep on moving. Don't slow down...”) grace t-shirts handed out at check-in. And with runners arriving in the cold and ominous darkness for a midnight start, comrades instinctively join together against the waiting, sinister course. It's just not your normal race. But a race it is. A race with such growing popularity that many are turned away not simply because of limited race slots. They are turned away because the race director regards them incapable of such an undertaking. It is a not a race for the faint-hearted or inexperi

Standing in the storm

The wind buffeted us as we ran along, making the 25 degree temps feel all the more frigid. It was hard running into the wind, heads bowed forward to protect our faces and keep our eyes from tearing up. I much prefer a balmy, calm day when I need to get in some miles. But alas, we had no choice. With another windy day on tap, I just read a friend's blog describing a recent marathon. It was a six mile loop that when running west, was directly into a stiff wind. Two pacers ran in front of her in an attempt to block the air currents making progress a bit more pleasant. But still, it was hard going. I'm sure she wished for the gale to cease. As I began to work in the office this morning I clicked on the morning news and was captivated by a special piece on Elizabeth Edwards, presumably in her last hours. At the end of a long struggle with cancer, the story highlighted her life with all of it's ups and downs; the political scene, the pressure of being the perfect wife, the gu

Time trials

OK. I did it. I said "yes" to being the distance coach for indoor track just when I was eagerly anticipating free afternoons at the conclusion of the cross country season. But alas, I could not turn down the kids' pleas. We started practice a few days ago. At least fifty kids showed up in the classroom for the first meeting. There was standing room only. I knew the cross country kids but everyone else was a stranger. The head coach addressed the anxious athletes, laying out the rigors and rules for the season. Then he dropped the bomb. "We will be having time trials on Thursday. You'll have to run the minimum times to make the team." This was the first time he had decided to take this approach. In other years, all-comers were welcomed. But not now. With  dwindling access to the indoor track and sprinters who don't fancy running out in the elements, he decided that stampeding the hallways of the school in large herds was not a good idea. Hence, the tr


It was funny...the first couple of times. After that, not so much. I was with my cross country team at a big regional race down in Charlotte, NC. The kids were excited. This trip had become a tradition for many. Although it was not a required event, about fifteen of them chose to give up a full day of Black Friday shopping, opting instead for a bumpy and boisterous bus ride and an overnight stay. I have to admit; I was not fully committed to the adventure. I was exhausted from having out-of-town guests for over a week and had given up highly anticipated plans to attend my 35th high school reunion and visit my mom in Pennsylvania. But the kids begged and I relented, not wanting them to miss an opportunity to end the season in style. The trip went well on the way down, arriving at our hotel without difficulty. We also successfully managed to find the race headquarters to pick up race numbers as well as directions to the event site. Our next goal was to visit the course before nightfa


Hum. Maybe he has a point, I thought to myself. Time for a little introspection. I know I shouldn't judge a book by its cover. Many a rich word has been written between the pages of old, crusty and dusty covers. But I do not speak of a literal book. I think you know what I mean. I see a dirty, homeless-looking guy holding a sign in the median by Wal-Mart and immediately have thoughts of drunkenness and lack of motivation. A morbidly obese overweight woman in stretch polyester pants walks by speaking harshly to a young child and I assume she's not much of a mother. Or, I see a tattooed teenage boy trying to keep his pants up and figure he has little to offer the world. Am I right or wrong thinking these thoughts? This is not a phenomena peculiar to my generation. My parents were suspect of boys with long hair and girls wearing bell bottom pants and leather fringe back in the day. In their minds, no self-respecting Christian young person should dress that way since there was

The Good Race

It could not have been a more beautiful day. The sky was bright, air clear, temperatures crisp. The brilliant colors of fall covered the mountainside, leaves refusing to lose their grip on the trees at the lower elevations. And there I was, running through woods just as happy as could be. That was a nice change. In recent years, I haven't always been happy. Races had become a chore. An obligation. Sure, there was some satisfaction in getting the job done but there were many more moments of pain and suffering, both mental and physical. I suppose there were a lot of reasons for that; insufficient training, poor time management, getting pulled in a hundred directions, burnout after nearly two decades of hard running, and the prevailing thought that I would rather have a power tool or shovel in my hand to work on a big project. Hence, not a lot of smiles. Photo courtesy of Seth Trittipoe But this year was different. The start of the Mountain Masochist 50 Mile Trail run in the pr

Say it outloud. Write it down.

Goodness. Best of intentions have gotten me again. I really, really wanted to post at least one a week. But from the looks of it, I have fallen off the wagon since September. It's not that I haven't thought about it. In fact, I had these thoughts rolling around inside my head for quite a while. But life gets busy and my energy run out at the end of the day. However, I must pen some ideas now lest they dissipate with the wind rustling the leaves outside my window. A week ago Thursday, my cross country team was facing conference championships on Saturday. It has been a good year but a few things were yet to be accomplished. In a "fireside chat" before we set out on our run I asked the kids-all of them-to publicly state their goal for the race. After the initial panic subsided, the kids started talking. Most took the task quite seriously. Some had a time goal to beat. Others wanted to place. A friendly but mutual "I want to beat her" dual even emerged. Two ru

Ten Miles

Ducking into some bushes down from the track, I dropped low to answer the call of my churning insides. "Ah, that feels better," I thought after a few awkward minutes of hoping no one was watching. Continuing the short walk to the growing crowd, my mind picked up on the churning action. The first of two times I made this walk was in 1996. I was 39 years old. The last time was 1997. The race was a big deal to locals and many from afar. Back then, I was running strong. Not so much anymore. But, the Virginia Ten-Miler, now in its 37th running, pulled in nearly 3,000 runners this year to run the hilly course. So, what in the world was I doing toeing the line? I am not a road runner. I am an ultrarunner, much preferring the rocky ribbons of trail traversing mountainsides. But I am also a coach; a middle and high school cross country coach. Many of my kids had signed up for this race or the companion 4-Miler. And my assistant coach, Mr. Speedy Gonzales himself, was shooting for an

The Rocky Ridge

Rebekah, Joy, Sue I really wasn't counting on the rocky route across the ridge.  But there we were; three woman in their fifties ambling along. We were three-fifths of the girl contingent that converged in the mountains of Virginia. Joy, my sister-in-law, discovering she had an open week at her timeshare, had her sister, Jackie, fly in from California for the occasion. Joy's friend from childhood, Sue, flew up from Florida along with her sister, Jackie's best buddy from yesteryear. A full week of lounging, reminiscing, watching movies, cooking dinner, and other stuff one only does on vacation was planned. I was invited but could manage only a single-night sleepover and one day of fun. Still, it was better than nothing. But I digress. The three of us more adventurous types decided on a little hike. The trail descriptions were read over and over again, trying to decipher what we were getting into. We didn't want a paved path through the woods but Joy and flat-lander

Pushed to new limits

"To the line, Group 1. Ready? Go. Keep it steady. Hold that pace!" Group 1 took off on their appointed task, leaving Group 2 on deck and Group 3 in the hole. I held stop watches in both hands, trying to time laps and rest periods for the twenty-some teenagers making their way around the track. Lap after lap, they started, stopped, and sucked down gallons of water on command. Their faces told the story. After casual running throughout the summer, this practice was the first true test of so many things: fitness, speed, endurance, motivation, discipline, and of course, attitude. I tried to prepare them mentally for this difficult workout: a ladder run at tempo for 400, 800, 1200, 1600, 1600, 1200, 800, and 400 meter distances. The rest periods were slim at 1, 2, 3, or 4 minutes between the various rungs. It was tough; I proved that in the surreal fog of the early morning hours prior to practice when I ran the workout alone. I had told the kids I would never ask them to do wh


"Lord," I prayed this evening before supper, "thank you for this beautiful day and safety as we went about our separate ways. Thank you for my run in the mountains and the jobs that the boys both have and now for this food that you provided. Help us to have a great evening together and . . .Well, OK. Bye." "Ok. Bye." WHAT did I just say?!? Did I just say bye-bye, adios, Ta-Ta, Auf Wiedersehen, farewell to God? Yes. Without a doubt, I did. Seth told me so. There was a moment of silence before Caleb tried to suppress a laugh. Seth joined in and before I knew it, my eyes misted over as I clutched my side in raucous laughter. The more I thought about it, the more I laughed. And the more I laughed, the more the boys did the same. It was ridiculous. But, I bet God laughed, or at least snickered, as well. Was I irreverent to say "bye" rather than a hearty "amen" at the end of my prayer? If I was, I certainly didn't intend to be. I k

Answered prayer

I should have written this over a week ago. Why didn't I?  Am I not happy, delighted even? Is my relief almost palpable? Then why wait?  I guess life got in the way and inspiring words went missing. So now, I must write. I can wait no longer. If you have followed this blog over the last several months, you will remember the unique set of circumstances the our oldest son, Caleb, found himself in. After an unfortunate and completely unanticipated medical discharge from the Navy, his plans were turned topsy-turvy, his future uncertain. Since then he has been biding his time at home, deciding that a job at Liberty University might be a good alternate flight path: a steady income, benefits, and free tuition. Only problem is, those jobs are hard to come by. Like all huge organizations, it seems like you have to know someone to get a foot in the door. We knew a few people in the IT department, Caleb's field of choice. Still, it was a long shot. But Caleb took the advise given him,

Keep on keeping on

Don't you just hate it when you think you're making progress but have nothing to show for it? It's like when you are trying to lose a few pounds but the scale just won't cooperate. You even go out to buy a new scale. Surely, the calibration in the old one is wayyyyyy off. Or, how about this? A long road trip is required and you are eager to arrive at the destination. The signs all point north and display decreasing miles to the city's border. Decreasing that is, until a detour routes you in the opposite direction. Ugh! Though you continue to move, it hardly seems like forward progress. I've been feeling that way as of late. This new-fangled Garmin GPS watch is both a blessing and a curse. I feel compelled to strap on the heart rate monitor and hook the watch to my wrist every time I step out the door. With anticipation, I head down the road after pushing the right buttons. Knowing that is is measuring out my time and distance, I don't feel too relaxed si

Book signing is scheduled

On September 16, 2010 from noon until 2 p.m., I will be doing a book signing at the Barnes and Noble Bookstore on the campus of Liberty University.  If you're in the area, stop by, chat, and pick up a copy of the book. These make great everyday reading gifts for friends, family...and yourself.  It's the book that lasts all year long!

Friend, Friendly, Friendliest (a.k.a. Good, Better, Best)

For years and years, I looked forward to the Sears catalog arriving at our house. In particular, the Christmas catalog was the best. Hundreds of pages filled with images conjured up visions of what it would be like to have that "Easy Bake Oven" and "Creepy-Crawler" maker. But somewhere in between those pages holding my highest interest was the section on home goods and appliances; something slightly irrelevant to a young girl. But even the eyes of a youngster could see a pattern. The catalog writers promoted their goods as a continuum of value. Hence, good, better, best. I got to thinking about that tonight. On the way out the door, one of our sons (who shall remain nameless) said, "Just because you don't have any friends to go hang with...." Somewhere between taking offense and laughing raucously at such a statement, my brain lit up when millions of synapses connected all at once--and trust me, that doesn't happen too often these days. Though

Update on Caleb

Just thought I would let everyone know what is happening with Caleb.  If you have been a blog reader, you know that he was medically discharged from the Navy for a dime-sized spot near his belly button.  They said it was psoriasis which is a deal-breaker for being in the military.  After three horrendous weeks in the discharge unit, he came home two weeks ago today. With hopes that he could turn around and go right back in with a diagnosis other than psoriasis, he visited a local dermatologist.  She said she saw no evidence of psoriasis.  Good news, right?  Not really. Since everything was clear, she could not make a definitive diagnosis.  So, the  rapid re-entry is off the table. The plan is to stop using any ointment and see if it comes back.  If it does, he will have it biopsied with hopes of a more definitive diagnosis since it could be a simple dermatitis.  If that were the case, he could wait a year and then reapply and start all over.  It's along shot but... In the mea

Every little step

Yes! What a score!!! I was excited. Really excited. I had wanted a GPS watch for quite a while. But now that I am a cross country coach with miles of trails at my fingertips, I want to be able to send the kids out on runs of known length. So, on the way home from an appointment I stopped in at a local sporting goods store to look at their selection of devices. I had no intention of buying since I was confident I could get a better internet deal. I wandered the store and found nothing. A simple question to a sales associate, however, sent me to a disheveled sales table. "I think there was one of those green Garmin 'thingees' in here somewhere," she said as we began rifling through the disorganized bins. I found bits and pieces of a cheap tin camping cook set, fishing lures and countless other items, most sans their original packaging. But suddenly, I spotted it: the allusive green Garmin Forerunner 405. I tried to control my excitement, my pulse quickening with an

Golf ball run

The air was hot and thick. I was covered with sweat, my arms and legs brown and dirty. I had just finished shoving downed branches and limbs through my chipper. It was a filthy job but I needed mulch; it was worth the effort. But now, with daylight promising to fade, I simply took off down the road to get in a short run. I should have changed shoes but didn't take the time. I noticed my heel was hurting and any spring in those worn-out shoes was long gone miles ago. I felt sluggish, running merely out of obligation and guilt. I didn't feel very inspired. When I got to my pre-determined turn-around point at the top of a hill, I started back down. Off in the weeds I noticed something white and round. "Ah, a golf ball," I thought to myself. "I should pick it up." But why? I don't play golf nor does anyone else in my family. Still, it's hard not to pick up a found item no matter what it is. I feel a sense of pride every time I return home with some ran

Birthday mishap: A tribute to my now 19-year old son

 (Taken from the July 14th story from Pace Yourself: 366 Devotions From the Daily Grind. ) Five years ago to the day we were sitting in our lawn chairs at “church.” At the time, our start-up fellowship was meeting in a three-car garage, worshiping without the trappings of a formal sanctuary. Our church had just suffered a split and I was preoccupied with a bad work situation. I didn’t have it together. Sitting in that hot garage, I glanced over at Seth. To my surprise, tears streamed down his face. To coin a phrase, “Oh dear, what could the matter be?” The matter was this: we had forgotten Seth’s 11th birthday. The young boy was distraught. He could not be consoled regardless of heart-felt apologies. No “Happy Birthday” upon rising, no special breakfast, no unique gifts. It was just a lot of nothing. Seth eventually got over his disappointment and to this day, it is one of our long-standing family jokes. So, as the sun set last night, I made sure to get in the first birthday gre


Gary steered the car along the exit ramp and turned left into a gas station. "Recalculating," she said. "She" is the tiny little woman who resides inside our GPS unit. I shall call her Gertrude. Gertrude can be a great help. This past weekend we traveled to a family reunion in Pennsylvania. I carefully plugged in the address of my aunt's house. Sure enough, zipping along the interstate, over hill and dale and through the rolling countryside, we successfully pulled into the driveway at our destination. Gertrude had been good to us. However, she was not always happy with us. Several times we ran into construction and re-routing along a detour. Gertrude did not approve. She clearly took issue when we took an unexpected turn. She annoyed us with her constant "Recalculating. Recalculating." When the detour took us in a big circle, she cried out even more. We didn't want to hear it. In fact, we even unplugged her when we thought we knew better.  Appa

Still waiting

It is so hard to wait. . .just ask Caleb. It is now one day shy of three weeks when Caleb was told that his dime-sized red spot on his belly button was a deal breaker to stay in the Navy. That decision sent him immediately to a holding division, so grief stricken that he could only sit in stunned silence on the cold, hard tile floor, his back against the unforgiving wall.  He bore the pain alone until he was able to call Gary the next day. He was distraught, nearly destroyed. It was then that we plunged into the depths of disappointment and angst, waiting along with him, wanting to reach out and hold him, wanting to ease his hurt. And we wait still. The occasional phone call tells us that despite the conditions, his wait for discharge has moved from a full-blown knock-out punch to incomprehensibility to a glimmer of hope to an ultimate acceptance of what he cannot change. It has been a hard process. The holding division is a place where bureaucracy meets inefficiency. The result

Father knows best

Who could have imagined the events the last week have brought? We were living high on the continuing stream of good news trickling out from Great Lakes, Illinois. Caleb had entered Navy basic training and excelled in every way. We were shocked (pleasantly so) to see him transform from a laid-back, somewhat unmotivated kid to a man with a passion for excellence. He was at the top of his division. He scored perfectly on the tests. He did everything right. Then last Friday, one dime-sized red spot on his belly button turned the world upside down. A referral to a dermatologist and a less than 30 second assessment ended it all for Caleb. When the word "psoriasis" was written on the record, this disqualifying condition rendered him unfit for military service. That's it. End of story. No exceptions. He was removed from his division and placed, like a leper, in a holding compartment (barracks) to wait out his discharge. Despite valiant efforts from my Navy captain brother and t

Anatomy of a DNF

I had been worried.  Worried that I had been working on a fibular stress fracture in my right leg. I hadn't told anyone about it but had done the research. I had all the symptoms supporting the diagnosis. I decided to head to Ohio anyway and hope for the best. This was to be a special run with my brother. It was to be his first 100-mile finish. I need not have worried about the leg. I left early Friday morning for the long drive to the Mohican State Forest where the race was being held. It was a glorious day, even cool enough to wear a jacket for a time as I sped through the countryside in my little Miata convertible. As the day wore on, I thought about putting the top up to get out of the sun. But, since I had on sunscreen and drank lots of fluid, I figured I'd enjoy the wind-blown look for a little longer. Upon arriving at the busy campground, host to the start and finish, I found my quite, wooded campsite and happily set up camp. My brother, John, had not yet arrived wit