Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Am I crazy?

Am I crazy? Don't answer that. I might not like the answer.

What makes me think that I can run/hike/trek/waddle/or crawl 560 miles in 14 days, with a warmup of 8 miles the day before the real adventure begins? But actually, the new data says the mileage is really 597. That's not the kind of news flash I was looking for. I just had a friend ask, "Do you think you'll have to walk at all?" Seriously? Can you tell they aren't a trail runner? No matter the style or speed of pedestrianizing, that's a long, long way in a relatively short period of time.

There are five of us, one other girl and three guys, who are planning on traversing all the miles of the Appalachian Trail that reside within Virginia's borders. If you aren't familiar with the area, that means mountains, a lot of big, tough mountains. The Trail has a habit of going up and down, up and down, over and over again. Sure, there are great views along the way, but each one has to be earned by innumerable foot plants.

Why? Why not choose to flit away the summer in the refreshing waters of my backyard pool? To be honest, I'm not sure. I love doing that! But each of us probably has a different answer. For me, my longest adventures have been about 300 trail miles in a week. When this opportunity came up, I jumped at the chance to push the boundaries of what is possible for me. But now that it is two days and counting, the reality of what I signed up for is hitting me like a brick dropped from the Empire State building.

I've probably trained more consistently for this adventure than any other. Still, I'm not a poster-child for the high-mileage club--and never will be. I'm a 55-year old woman, not that I want to use age or gender as an excuse. It always seems like I have an ache or pain of some sort. The temperatures are supposed to be hovering around the 100 degree mark with high humidity to boot. Heat eats me alive. Water sources may be slim, making the task of being self-sufficient over 32 - 46 miles challenging, to say the least. From experience, I expect tendons to get crunchy and feet to swell after a few days. My eyes will droop more than normal from lack of sleep and good old-fashioned fatigue. But. . .

There's always a but. My "but" is simply that I thrive on learning lessons about pain and perseverance, joy in the midst of suffering, and tackling what most think is impossible. Is failure possible? Sure. A rattlesnake could strike, a bone could break, or the body could refuse to participate any longer. Still, I can't explain the quiet confidence I have in covering the distance. It doesn't make sense but I believe it to be true.

After Friday, June 29, I will take a sabbatical from blogging until I return home in mid-July. I don't dare take on any more pressure to find the means to do so after a long, hard day. I will need every ounce of physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual strength to make it through. I will try to post on Facebook from my phone as coverage (and batteries) allow. My husband, Gary, will also post updates after speaking with me on what we hope to be daily check-ins.

If you care to see where we will be, check out our itinerary. If we are passing through your area, feel free to come join us for a spell. And it almost goes without saying that an ice-cold soda or raspberry tea would be a fabulous treat!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Just one more day: Days 170 - 176

Day 170 – June 18, 2012

Track camp. 45 kids ages 8 - 14. Interesting experience. But it was one of those days that some work-related issues popped up, distracting me from dusk to dawn. I convinced myself that since I was tapering for my big upcoming run, I would settle for the measly 2.5 miles I ran with the kids.

Total – 2.5 miles

Day 171 – June 19, 2012

I was proud of about 15 of my XC kids who showed up for a team run at 7:30 this morning. Shrouded in heavy fog, we ran trails before some of us headed off to track camp for another three hours.

Total – 5 trail and road miles

Day 172 – June 20, 2012

More track camp today. Managed to get all 45 kids up the mountain to the LU gazebo. Then ran with the distance kids for several more miles. They were troopers in the 90 plus degree heat!

Total – 5 trail miles

Day 173 – June 21, 2012

There’s nothing like a run with the team before three hours of track camp. I am excited to have some new cross country kids come out for these informal practices.

Total- 5 trail miles

Day 174 – June 22, 2012

With the end of track camp, I gathered two of my favorite young runners, Sarah (aka UltraBaby) and her sister, Abby. Off we headed for a hot an huid jaunt in the mountains. With my big 568-mile adventure looming in a short week, the number of miles were not important. Besides, since we didn’t start until almost 2 pm and had plans for the evening, we lacked time. So this was a run more for my head. Plus, I love chatting it up with these girls and those we saw on the trail. A great run was punctuated with the superb Big Island extra-crispy French fries. Hum!

Total – 11 trail miles

Day 175 – June 23, 2012

This particular Saturday was scheduled for work. 80 + people were expected at a swim party and cookout for our little church fellowship on Sunday. Hence, my run started at about 9:30 pm. I ran a little more than I anticipated; the night was warm and inviting and I was feeling able. This was a great way to end the day.

Total – 6 road miles

Day 176 – June 24, 2012

Pool party! People! Food! That meant a lot of work but fun as well. I settled for a quick 8:30 pm run down the road.

Total - 2 road miles
Year-to-date: 1155 miles

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Just one more day: Days 163-169

Day 163 – June 11, 2012

This was a light day as I had to squeeze in a short one before my dinner guests arrived. Still, miles are miles. I didn’t feel quite as quick as last night but the pace was decent despite the high humidity.

Total – 4 road miles

Day 164 – June 12, 2012

Ah. A trail run with newbie cross country wanna-be runners. It was fun and I am so pleased to have a number of new faces come out for our summer training runs. They all got their feet wet – literally- on this first of many trail runs.

Total – 4 trail miles

Day 165 – June 13, 2012

The run today was very different from yesterday’s. A trip to my son’s new (to him) boat in Hampton gave rise to running along marinas and old, cobbled-stoned streets lined with quaint houses more than a century old. The sweet smell of salty air and gentle breezes made the evening run quite pleasant. More to come for the next several days.
Caleb hoisting the jib sail

Total – 4.5 road miles

Day 166 – June 14, 2012

Still in Hampton at our son’s boat, it was a see-what-I-can-see kind of run. Not bad, even if was a sidewalk run. But, at least there was new stuff to look at. Felt good and stronger as I went. Then, it was a full day of work.

Total – 8 road miles

Day 167 – June 15, 2012

It was another day of non-stop work on the boat followed by mowing my father-in-law’s grass and getting his front flower beds under control. I finally head out the door to run at 9 pm. But that was OK. I love the dark and the false illusion of speed.

Total – 5 road miles

Day 168 – June 16, 2012

Another day on the boat meant lot’s more work and an evening run along streets lined with Victorian houses from centuries past. Of course, there were also the not-so Victorian areas that were no centuries old. They looked a lot worse than the old ones!

Total – 6 road miles

Day 169 – June 17, 2012

After battening up the hatches on Caleb’s boat and making the drive back from Hampton, a pile of mail, laundry, and getting organized again awaited. But the arrival of my INOV-8 shoes (233 for road and 268 and 308 for trail) made me relish my evening run. I really liked the minimalist feel of the 233s, feeling light and moving along A-OK. Good thing, too. On my return trip from the out-and-back run, I passed a band of country bubbas playing horseshoes in the backyard of their trailer home. Bare-bellied and footed, they kindly offered me to join their party. I politely waved and replied, “No thanks,” and kept on going despite repeated invitations. One of the fellas came running after me, making it all the way down the 40-yard driveway before retreating. Not exactly worrisome. They were just a little drunk.

Total – 7 road miles
Year-to-date: 1119

Monday, June 11, 2012

The legacy

The morning was cool and inviting. Drawing in the air, still damp from an overnight rain, I stepped out the door for a run. In the early dawn, I had the streets of this quaint village to myself. Trees eighty feet tall rimmed the perfectly manicured yards. Flowers cascaded over stone walls like water rushing down the falls. In the middle of town stood a granite tribute to the fallen soldiers of the Civil War, approximately one hundred-eighty names strong.

Still running down one hill and up another, I turned onto a particularly steep street. There at the top, an old cemetery stood guard over the hillside. With the mist rising into the first rays of dawn, it was breathtaking. The straight rows summoned me to run amongst the graves. The dates on the stones indicated the long history of this town. There were simple graves marked by small, flat stones, the etchings worn and barely legible. Tall monuments stood nearby in contrast, perhaps indicating the social standing of the family. Some plots bore multiple graves; fathers, mothers, children all buried side by side.

But tucked into a corner and away from the hundreds of other graves stood three headstones. I noted one stone held a bronzed plaque with the standard information; name, military rank, date of birth and death. Oddly, the other two headstones were plain granite slabs. There were no names, no personal information, no way to connect to the past. Perhaps the tombstones were intended for those who yet lived. But I was confused. Remnants of flower arrangements and plastic bouquets surrounded the markers as if out of respect for the dead. If the remains of the deceased did share that hillside, it was not much of a legacy for either one.

Then I thought of another cemetery far away. My Father died before my sons were born. They never got to know his character. They never heard him play that dented E flat horn. They never heard him laugh or see him weep. They never got to play wiffle ball in the backyard or ice skate with him on frozen creeks. They never heard him pray or teach a lesson. They only know what they have been told and what they have read. Even so, if they visit Dad’s gravesite, the legacy my Father most wanted to leave can be seen. Into his tombstone is etched, “Only a sinner saved by grace”.

It is a fitting synopsis of a life fulfilled. Nothing else really counts. Nothing else really matters. Not money. Not fame. Not position. Not accomplishments. For without that work of grace in our lives, we are as stone cold as the granite marking the site.

For by grace are we saved by faith, and that not of ourselves, it is a gift of God, not of works, lest any man can boast. (Ephesians 2:8, 9) 

(Excerpt from Pace Yourself: 366 Devotions from the Daily Grind, CrossHouse Publishing, 2012

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Just one more day: Days 156-162

Day 156 – June 4, 2012

I tried to run more, I really did. But alas, I just wanted to get in the car and start driving to my mom’s house in PA. It was going to be along drive and I wanted be on the road headed north. So when I got down to the big turn in the road, I turned right around and headed back. I guess this is the lead off to a relative rest week with a long run on Sat. when I get back.

Total – 2 road miles

Day 157 – June 5, 2012

The first run back home is always a treat. It’s a spin around my old stomping grounds that prompts memories. It’s a juxta-position of old verses new. The old stone houses still stand but farmers’ fields have given way to packed-in housing developments. My old high school has been bulldozed and a new one stands in its place. New playground and parks are in place but in a little-used section stands an ancient, tall slide that liability policies would never allow to be built today. Of course, I had to have a slide on my way by. It’s good to be home.

Total – 6 road miles

Day 158 – June 6, 2012

Another day of running down memory lane. Despite the growth of way-too-expensive housing developments that have sprung up in the fields I remembered as a kid, the little towns of Perkasie and Sellersville, PA are still quaint and lovely. I love the old stone houses, manicured lawns, flower boxes, the town’s baseball field and thick wooden bleachers beneath a green roof, standing since the early 1900s. Even the streets are quiet and empty at ten in the morning. The high school football stadium looks the same as always. Even the seats by the press box where my Dad and Mom used to sit remain. This was a wonderful place to grow up!

Total – 8 road miles

Day 159 – June 7, 2012

I love running in my home town. Every corner, every street holds special memories. I loved every step today!

Total – 8 road miles

Day 160 – June 8, 2012

I ran by dawn’s early light. Well, not really. The sun was already up at 6:30 a.m. but so was I. It was a quick 4.5 miles before an eight hour drive back home to Bedford.

Total – 4.5 miles

Day 161 – June 9, 2012

After a week of being away from home, I couldn’t really stick Gary with all the weekend chores. So with limited time, I chose a section of the AT I had never run before and was able to squeeze in a decent run before picking up groceries and finishing off the mowing, baking brownies, bread, and preparing food for company tomorrow. It feels good to put in a full, productive day!

Total – 20 miles

Day 162 – June 10, 2012

Running at dusk and into the dark, I was so excited. After a 20-miler yesterday, I ran lighter and faster than I have for a long time! No soreness, nothing hurt, and I could feel like I could run forever. Perhaps this is why I run: the every-once-in-a-blue-moon feeling of freedom and swiftness.

Total – 6 road miles
Year-to-date: 1074 miles

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Just one more day: Days 149-155

Day 149 – May 28, 2012

Memorial Day! After entertaining about fifteen guests last night, we enjoyed some down time today with Gary’s sister and husband who came for a short overnight visit. I got in some miles before the temps warmed up hotter than the first cup of coffee.

Total – 6 road miles

Day 150 – May 29, 2012

I think I am stuck in a 6-mile rut but that’s what I could handle (and not well) on a hot (90) and humid day. Ugh. I really don’t do heat all that well. Thank goodness for a pool to jump into!

Total – 6 road miles

Day 151 – May 30, 2012

It was well worth the six-mile drive to Bedford’s Falling Creek Park. I am really tired of running the same road routes and opted for the narrow, quiet trails in the park. It was peaceful and shaded, a gentle wind blowing. Lovely “me” time after sending off my final manuscripts to my publisher.

Total – 7.5 trail miles

Day 152 – May 31, 2012

What a great way to end May. I ran 16 miles of the MMTR to Hog Camp Gap and then jumped on the AT going south to make a big loop back to my car. 33 miles in all. I was very pleased with the run/hike expect for the last 4.1 miles…which were almost all up a big, ‘ol mountain! But I took care of the calories deficit on the way home with extra crispy fries and a BLT in Big Island.

Total – 33 gravel, forest road, and trail miles

Day 153 – June 1, 2012

Wow. June already. Time flies. After 33 in the mountains yesterday, I was pleasantly surprised with my little road run. I even made it up the two big hills without having to take a break. My quads are a little sore but not bad (Garmin said I had 11,000 of descent and 10,000+ of climb. I think that’s too much.) Still, everything worked fine once I started running.

Total – 6 road miles

Day 154 – June 2, 2012

It sure was a beautiful Saturday. So beautiful, in fact, that all the outside, heavy-duty, manual labor was calling my name all morning and into the afternoon. I should have known I wouldn’t feel much like running after that. I feel a little guilty running but four miles when I probably could have gotten in another long run…if I had been willing to not get any work done. Decisions. Decisions. Decisions. It’s all about balance and the work side on out today.

Total – 4 road miles

Day 155 – June 3, 2012

Another beautiful day begged to be enjoyed in so many ways: A great time at church, a nap in my hammock swaying beneath the fruit-laden grape-vined trellis, and a run along country roads. Ahh….

Total – 7 road miles
Year-to-date – 1027 miles

A walk in the park and a pink finish line

By the time I finish most races, I've figured out at least the first paragraph of my post-race story. This was one of the few where the ...