Friday, October 21, 2011

Directions to Fun In The Forest

The best directions to the Silvermine Campground are:
- Route 198 (via Route 6)
- Sharp right on Morey Road (after traveling about 4.5 miles on Route 198)
- 3rd left after the bridge is the road to the horse camp (the second dirt road) I will be putting up signs too!

Registration is at 9, Riders on the trail at 10. See you in the morning!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

More Trail Notes

Its been great trail riding weather lately (in between rainy days!) and we have made the most of that.

John and I had a great ride at the Maine 25 mile Competitive Trail Ride in North Waterford, Maine on October 9th. I'll blog about that later.

My cousin and I took our horses to Mansfield Hollow on Sunday, and it was a perfect riding day. Look for pictures soon.

In the meantime, check out these two photos I snapped with my cell phone on the short woods trail at home. All of the yellow leaves are the Sassafrass trees. None of their leaves are any other color. Also note John's happy ears in one picture, and in the next picture he has radar ears. Thats because he noticed a 6 ounce bird in a bush - he did not run away, but I did not attempt to take any more pictures either!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Trail Woes Part 2

As I arrived at my parents’ house, I saw a man standing at the side door of the house, talking to my panicked looking brother. The NAPA Auto Parts guy found John standing on the yellow line at the bend in the road (YIKES!!!), contentedly chewing on a mouthful of grass and thought he should bring him home. John was 50 feet from the driveway, whey he just didn’t go home himself baffles me, but I sent the NAPA guy a thank you card.

I carefully checked John over – he seemed fine. I fixed my tack up – nothing was broken, just slightly askew, and headed back over the hill to do the trail ride correctly. It went fine. What I noticed that worried me was that John had not come through the gap in the stonewall, instead he had jumped the stone wall ten feet farther down and knocked some really large stones off the wall – four or five of them weighing at least 50 pounds each.

Two days later, on Thursday, John was lame. Really lame. My dad said he didn’t seem himself when he put him out in the morning. I tossed him on the lunge line to see what was going on. John was lame with a really swollen left hind fetlock and pastern. I cold hosed him twice a day and kept him in standing wraps the rest of the time. I kept him in the small square to keep his movement restricted and put him on bute. On Sunday, the swelling finally went down, but the damage was done. I had to scratch our entry from the Warren Tessier 30 mile competitive trail ride (September 24th in Hartland, Vermont). That was the hardest (and most fun) ride on our circuit last year and John’s tender leg would be no match for the 30 miles of tough trail that Tessier offers, not to mention the fact that he had bute and couldn’t compete with that in his system anyway.

Of course I was disappointed, but mostly frustrated with myself. This incident proved that the behavioral issues were not fixed and we still had a lot of work to do on learning “medium.” So back to the drawing board we went.

Trail Woes

A couple of weeks ago, I had a disastrous trail ride on John. After a good ride on Remi, I had a bit of time left before heading back to work. I decided to take John on a quick trail ride.

Before I went, I took the Mylar combination bit that had been working so well out of his bridle and put a D-ring snaffle back in. He had been reluctant to take the bit lately. If you have never met John, you need to know he is a mouthy horse, and while he doesn’t bite people, he loves to put things in his mouth. The fact that he did not want to take his bit confirmed my suspicion that I could not fit the Mylar bit properly in any of my bridles. I took the Mylar out at the hold of the NEATO 25 mile CTR for this reason and used the snaffle. A new bridle was coming, and I decided to use the snaffle until it arrived.

The other important thing to note is that I was overtired, which is not a surprising revelation, but proved to be a problem on this day.

We rode up over the top of the hill and as we were trotting in a field along the corn, a six-ounce sparrow flew out of the corn. John hates these sparrows, even though I keep telling him that he could kill the sparrow by swishing his tail. John did his normal spook – leap to the side, spin and run the other way. I was overtired so he caught me unaware and I was leaning to the wrong side. When I tried to stop him with my hands as a last ditch effort, it was as if I had no bit in his mouth at all. I was in the dirt and John was gone. I watched him gallop across the field toward home.

We have ridden this trail so many times; I just assumed he would go home. We weren’t farm from home when I fell. My biggest fear, as I walked back to the barn, was that he would get hit crossing the street.

Continued tomorrow...

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Funny Trail Story

Last week I was riding Secret on the short woods trail. We were picking our way along through the brush when a squirrel noticed us. He was about five feet in front of us and ran to the nearest tree. He climbed about four feet up, but then he must have lost his grip on the tree.

He fell down and landed with a small splat in a bush below the tree.

The bush has already lost its leaves and I could see him perfectly, he wasn't moving.

I felt really bad and worried that Secret and I had given him a heart attack. We had been standing still, but I asked Secret to walk forward so we could check the squirrel.

As we got closer to him, he looked up, and saw us. He let out a small shriek and scampered off. We went in the opposite direction.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Summer Reading List

One benefit to my crazy August of travel; was the chance to catch up on my reading while flying or sitting in an airport. Here is a quick summary of the books I read.

It’s Not About The Bike
By Lance Armstrong

Honestly, I started reading this book with mixed feelings. You can’t help but have high expectations for a book like this. Seven-time Tour De France winner, cancer survivor and founder of an impressive cancer foundation lead to high expectations. But, Lance’s honesty and character have also been severely called into question over the years in the cycling communities endless doping scandal and I have read a bunch of those articles as well.

The book is well written and a compelling read – I had a hard time putting it down. His cancer was tough and aggressive, and now knowing the details of his cancer journey, I admire him more for surviving. Having read the book though, I like him less as a person and a professional athlete. He came across as tough, mean, and extremely competitive. I often found myself feeling sorry for his wife, although knowing the ultimate outcome of their marriage may not have helped. I was already on her side. Bottom line, it is worth reading, but I am glad I borrowed a copy!

Ice Bound
By Dr. Jerri Nielsen

This is another book that I borrowed while at my sister Katie’s house. Dr. Nielsen is the doctor who diagnosed and treated her own breast cancer while at the South Pole.

Again, this is a very good book and interesting to learn about the South Pole and the entire community down there and the work being done. It boggles my mind that people signed up to go there and live there, knowing that once the station closed for the winter they would not be able to leave for nine months. I could not do that, yet they thrived in that situation.

One interesting side note about this book is that Dr. Nielsen chose to consult (via video) with an oncologist at the University of Indiana about her chemo treatments. They were connected during each treatment, and Dr. Nielsen had the same chemo nurse as Lance Armstrong. After she was rescued from the ice, she went there to finish treatments.

The sad ending to this book (although only if you run a Google search after reading) is that although Dr. Nielsen beat the cancer and the book ended on a positive enough note, her cancer eventually returned and she passed away in 2009.

Into Thin Air
By Jon Krauker

This book is about the disastrous 1996 climbing season on Mount Everest. I had read another book a few years ago about climbing Everest in 1996 that touched on the disasters. Touching My Father’s Soul was a great read and totally engrossed me. It went into a lot of detail about the deaths on Everest that year, but none of the people that died were in the Expedition of the author.

Jon Krauker was in the expedition that lost the most people on Everest that year, five people from his group died. I really enjoyed his book Into the Wild and the article about climbing Everest he wrote for Outside magazine (the article grew into the book).

Reading the book was very hard though. First, you cannot help but be heartsick for the people who died on the mountain, and in some cases, the stupid decisions that led to these deaths. Having struggled through a seven mile run at 9,000 feet, I cannot begin to comprehend how hard it is to make smart decisions at 29,000 feet, but the amount of tragedy in this book still hit me really hard.

I put the book down several times, switching to lighter reads and then would go back to it. Similar to reading Lance Armstrong’s book, I now like Jon Krauker less as a person, having read this book. Bottom line, this is worth reading, but if you are only going to read one book about the 1996 climbing season, read Touching My Father’s Soul by Jamling Tenzing Norgay.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Surftown Half Marathon

My summer of running prompted me to enter the Surftown Half Marathon on September 18th. My sister Heidi was already registered, so the thought of running a half marathon was less daunting having a successful Colorado Relay behind me, and a sister running the same race.

The course wound through Misquamicut and Watch Hill (i.e. flat course with beautiful views). But it gets even better, the finisher’s medals are surfboards and the post race meal was clam chowder. I couldn’t pass all of that up, and neither could Tim, all three of us registered.

Race day came and it was cold. I bundled up with yoga pants and a jacket over my running clothes. I was slightly disappointed that I had taken my knit cap out of my backpack. Tim had his knit cap and proudly sported it. We joined the thousand other runners bouncing around at the starting line, trying to stay warm.

We shed our extra layers and began running. For the first eight miles, we mostly ran together, three siblings out for a long run. After getting elbowed by Tim a few times, I decided not to run in the middle. We would loose each other at aid stations, but quickly regroup (usually we lost Tim, who then sprinted to catch back up with us).

As promised, we got some great views – salt marshes, streams heading down to the ocean, beautiful houses and of course the ocean itself.

At about mile eight, we started running on a road that also had traffic. This necessitated running single file. I was running behind Heidi and Tim and found two problems. One, if you are anywhere behind Tim, the only view you get is of his back – I had no idea what was ahead of us – he is too tall. I was also having trouble finding my stride, since we were running so close together and I was at the back, I kept shortening my stride to stay behind them.

Heidi had run a half marathon just six days before this one, so I knew she was tired. I decided to head off on my own. Tim did the same thing and quickly passed me. Every once in awhile, I caught glimpses of him, three or four minutes ahead (I told you it was a flat course!) I could see Heidi just behind me. We all stayed in close proximity for the rest of the race.

Somewhere around mile 10 I began to question my sanity. I had signed up to do this, and paid money to do this? I wondered what on earth was wrong with me. But I kept running. When mile marker 12 came into view, I felt a whole lot better. I could manage 1.1 more miles.

I heard the finish line long before I saw it. People were cheering, there was music and the festive air that goes with any race. I finished strong, a few minutes after Tim with Heidi coming in a minute behind me. We all got our medals and headed over for clam chowder. When awards were announced we found out that Tim placed third in his division. Pretty impressive for his first half marathon!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Colorado Relay - Part 5

Van 2 at the finish line
Our team running to the finish line together

Knowing how hard the second half of my leg had been on me, I worried about Baby Guac. She was already tired (we all were!) and had a long leg too. We met her I think four times on her leg, to refill her water bottle and offer encouragement. She did awesome.

We were going to meet Marvel once on her leg (only four miles - but mostly climbing miles), but she ran so fast we missed her!

Mateo had the last leg. It was one of the hardest legs of the race - the last climb into Snowmass, on single track. Basically he ran up one mountain, back down (where the whole team, his parents and girlfriend met him to refill his water bottle) and then up another mountain, back down and then up into Snowmass village where we ran across the finish line as a team. He killed the last leg.

The sense of accomplishment and comraderie we had running through Snowmass as a team and across the finish line was incredible. Running 200 miles as a team, (it took us a little over 35 hours) is an incredible achievement. And we were a team of cancer survivors - running for a camp that means a lot to all of us. We were also proud that we did not skip any legs or cheat (drive runners) at all - we legitimately ran all 200 miles. And we didn't place last - we finished ahead of 7 other teams (including the team of Marines who got me back on course).

While I am not sure I will be running any relay races soon, I still marvel at the team and individual achievement of all of us. I started off 2011 as a non-runner. By the end of the summer, I had run 22.7 miles of the Colorado Relay, and I have a really cool belt buckle (and some awesome new friends!) to prove it.

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Colorado Relay - Part 4

Again, I had a long time to wait before my last leg. At Exchange Point 19, I got out and wandered through the dark night to find the volunteer checking in runners.

It was Jens Bishop, a friend that had gone to pre-school through high school with me and now lives in Breckinridge. First Descents was helping man exchange points and had been short on volunteers. When I found out they needed more volunteers, I emailed everyone I knew in Colorado. Jens signed up to help. I visited with him for a few minutes, and then, cold and tired hopped back into the van for some more unsuccessful attempts at sleep.

As dawn crept in, we met up with van 1 to shuttle all of the night pacers back to Papa Smurfs car so that he could take them back to their cars. We went out to breakfast, but before we could go into the restaurant, I had to run over to some nearby bushes and puke again. I was really starting to get concerned about how much I was puking. For one reason, I hated to puke, and considering that I had not puked at all on chemo (sometimes I wanted to, but I was always able to work through it), this was kind of concerning. My second concern was that I still had 10 miles to run at an altitude of 6,000 feet.

We ordered breakfast and I picked at my food, simultaneously sipping water and soda. The other issue that concerned me was a cramp in my right ribs that I had since my first leg. After breakfast, we went to my final exchange point and I walked around the parking lot for a long time stretching, trying to work the cramp out of my ribs. It was not successful.

Lemondrop came into view and I headed out on my final leg.

The first part of the leg was really nice, I was running on a trail, had great views of the mountains and ranches, and it was very peaceful. The sun was shining and it was hot, but really it was pretty nice.

At the halfway mark, my van met me to refill my water bottle. I hadn't really drank anything since I had started running it. I stood with them for a couple minutes, drank some, they topped it off and then I was off again. At this point, my route switched completely to roads. There had been a mudslide and the rest of the trail was not usable. To sum it up, the last five miles were awful. The sun beat down on me, cars sped by and I was getting tired. I kept running (very slowly!), never seeing any other runners, and wondering when on earth I would find the exchange point.

I was at a busy intersection, the last race sign I had seen said to stay straight and not to turn. The sign at the intersection said to go right. I went right for a little, but then got worried and turned around to go straight. I heard shouting and looked around to see someone sprinting towards me. It was another runner from the Relay - the team of Marines, who was waiting at a gas station to refill his teammates water bottle. He got me back on the right course (I was supposed to go right). He also told me I was about a mile from the exchange point (best news I heard all day). Later on I went and found him at an exchange point and thanked him for saving me who knows how many unnecessary miles.

I kept running. I was really hot, so decided since it was only another mile, I would finish off my water bottle. I drank twice as much water on the second half as the first of this leg. I was beginning to think it was the longest mile of my life when Smurfette and Papa Smurf (her husband) showed up in their car. Smurfette refilled my water bottle and told me I was really close. She said the reason I hadn't seen any other runners was that the other teams (not all teams, but ones near us) had been picking up their runners and driving them in because it was so hot. What?!? Not cool.

I finished my leg. The ten miles took me 2 hours and 26 minutes, but I finished, and ran a total of 22.7 miles for my team. Marvel met me at the exchange point with a soda (thank you - no more puking) and I could finally relax a little.

Continued tomorrow...

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Colorado Relay - Part 3

I now had a really long stretch of time before I had to run again. According to our team predictions, my next leg would happen at about 12:30 am.

I cheered on my fellow van mates, hung out with teammates from Van 1 when our vans met up at exchange points, and tried to eat some and drink as much water as possible.

As the evening wore on, my next leg was approaching. Sleep was impossible, but we all tried to rest some while we waited for our next round.

And then the skies opened up again. We had a serious thunderstorm with lightning and heavy rains. Smurfette got hailed on while she ran her leg. When it was time for Buttons to run her 10 mile leg, it was raining so hard that many teams skipped the leg. Buttons had Brooks (her boyfriend and night pacer) with her, and ran the leg anyway.

The night finally cleared and it was quiet and peaceful as I waited for Lemondrop. My night pacer, John and I were joined by one other runner, a marine, as we waited at the exchange point. Everyone else was either that far ahead of us legitimately or had skipped legs and were now that far ahead of us.

Lemondrop came into view, and John and I cheered her into the finish, grabbed the number and started running. This leg was only 5.5 miles, and at 7000 feet. The night was beautiful with the stars shining brightly. We ran on the road the whole time and it was very dark, in some places there were no street lights, the only light coming from John and I's headlamps. When cars came along, he dropped back behind me, my only fear that they were drunk drivers behind the wheel. We ran the 5.5 miles at a pretty good pace, saw a couple of shooting stars and got to the next exchange point at 1:30 in the morning (having left the last exchange point at 12:40 am).

Baby Guac and Marvel asked how it went (the three sea level people were all in van 2 and we all struggled with the altitude on our first leg). I told them, "You are going to love this leg, there is so much oxygen out there!"

We hopped into the van and drove to the next exchange point. I tried to sleep a little in the back of the van. After awhile I got a little queasy. The feeling kept getting worse and worse. I hopped out of the parked van and puked into the bushes. ENC came back, Baby Guac went out and we headed to the next exchange point.

Continued tomorrow...

Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Colorado Relay - Part 2

I arrived at Denver airport and took the train to baggage claim, where I met Baby Guac, my teammate from Portland, Oregon. We then went to Enterprise and met Bruiser to pick up the two 15 passenger vans for the team.

We picked up a few more teammates (Fridge, Mateo and Buttons) in Golden, Colorado and then drove up to Breckinridge. My initiation to Colorado was driving the 15 passenger van on a dark and rainy night, up the twisty highway to Breckinridge. We met up with a few more of our teammates at a hotel. The others were staying with friends. We went to bed around midnight. Van 1 got up at 5 am (I think, I was still sleeping) and headed out to the starting line. Van 2 (my van) had a slower start to the morning, shuttled a couple cars to the necessary parking lots and then headed out to our first exchange point.

I was the first person to run in Van 2 (I had legs 6, 16 and 26). I was starting to feel very nervous as we waited at the exchange point for Lemondrop, who was running legs 5, 15, and 25. Lemondrop came into view, and we cheered her to the finish. ENC (one of my teammates) grabbed the team number from her and we all ran to...the van. My first exchange point was not a safe place to run from, so they drove me a ways up the road (as did all of the other teams - race rule) and I hopped back out of the van and started running.

My first leg was 7.7 miles of dirt road, climbing from 9,700 feet to 10,000 feet. The amount of climbing didn't scare me - I climb 300 feet when I am running Crane Hill, it was the altitude that scared me. Looking at the leg book, I knew that if I could make it through my first leg, the others would be easier, this would by far be the hardest one.

They were probably the longest 7 miles I have ever run, the altitude had a definite effect, but I kept running. Vans passed on their way to and from the next exchange point, I saw a lot of other runners (when they passed me - but at least I wasn't alone out there) and got chased by three different dogs as I ran along a dirt road with huge ranches on it. In between all of this, I had stunning views of the mountains, beautiful horses out in their pastures and a sunny day. Towards the end of the run (mile 5), the altitude really started effecting me some, and I started taking walk breaks. Then, as it does in the mountains, the weather quickly changed. Thunder was rumbling, a few shots of lighting could be seen off in the distance, and then the skies opened up. The last mile in was pretty wet.

I finally made it to the exchange point, gave the team number (which goes on a belt around your waist) to ENC and he was off in the pouring rain to run the Georgia Pass (by far one of the toughest legs of the relay - 6 miles straight up and then 6 miles straight down).

Since it was pouring, I hopped straight into the van and Mojito (Van 2 driver and another First Descents camper) drove us to the next exchange point. It was a 45 minute drive. As we were driving down a switchback, Mojito looked in the rearview mirror at me and said, "Can you get me a bottle of water out of the cooler?"

I replied, "Can you pull over?"

She slowed the van, and I jumped out as we were coming to a stop and puked all over the side of the road. When there was nothing left in my system, I cleaned up with a couple wet ones (the vans are extremely well stocked), hopped back in, handed Mojito a bottle of water and said, "Okay, I'm ready to re-hydrate now."

We finished driving to the next exchange point. But it worried me a bit, I never once threw up on chemo. Was it altitude sickness, exhaustion (I arrived in Colorado pretty tired), being a passenger in a van going down switchbacks, or some combination of the three?

To be continued tomorrow...