Sunday, May 27, 2012

How Athletics has played an important role in my life....

One of the most important things in my life (besides my love of music) has been athletics and how it has shaped me as a person. I think of all things that team sports taught me back in the day...individual decision making, working with others, discipline, and leadership skills, and I realize that it made me the into the confident woman I am today. I feel so lucky to have had the skills and strong will to be athletic. Here is how it all started.

I remember the fat baseball bat and ball my dad and mom bought for us when we were probably 3 or 4 years old. We played for hours with that thing! Talk about honing your eye coordination skills at an early age! My parents said I used to WAIL on that thing. When I was old enough, I played in a softball league for 8 year olds (? I forget how old I was). I loved softball. I played first base and loved to swing at that ball. I thought softball was going to be my sport for the rest of my school career. (Side note: my eye hand coordination is uncanny. Seriously, I make myself laugh thinking about it. Example, if I walk into a room and someone throws something at me, I catch it without even missing a beat and flinching and keep on walking. It is super funny. A sixth sense I think).

...and the eye hand coordination begins...

Enter: Field Hockey.
I started playing field hockey in junior high but really did not grasp on to the obstruction/rules right away. It was confusing and frustrating. But, I kept with it and when I entered high school, everything clicked. The coaching was amazing and I was able to watch and learn from an outstanding varsity team. I was hooked. I saved my money from my summer job and went to field hockey camp after my freshman year. I came back to tryouts just before my sophomore year and made the varsity team as a starter. I had found my sport to excel at. I was so excited to put all my energy into it and do well. My position was left halfback and remained so for those 3 years. My junior year, I became captain (as well as my senior year) and learned so much from being a leader...directing the defense and communicating with the team was the job I had. It was amazing! I was voted All State and MVP for both my junior and senior year and was quoted by Maine coaches that I had "the hardest drive in the state". I feel as though those final two years of field hockey taught me how to be a confident leader and woman. Team sports were so important to shaping who I am today.

Enter: My college years at University of New Hampshire. 
I arrived at UNH in 1990 with the hopes of trying out for Division 1 field hockey. I got cold feet. I went to a meeting and freaked out. My college career would have only been field hockey with studying and socializing on the side. I quickly realized I did not want my college experience to be only team sport. I called my high school coach and expressed this and she supported my decision. She agreed it would be the focus of my life and I would have to make that decision. I decided to not try out. I think this was one of the best decisions in my life. I missed field hockey but I dove into the college experience head on. I loved it. I met wonderful people, life long friends. I did not participate in teams sports but I continued to work out and do want I wanted to stay active and in shape. Towards the end of my college career, I became friends with a group of  people who we very involved in outdoor adventures and experiences. All of a sudden I was rock climbing and hiking in the White Mountains. My life was changed forever. I fell in love with the mountains and sense of accomplishment. I felt at home.

I  moved to Vermont after college to take a job in Burlington. I was all by myself...I think back to that and how I uprooted my life and moved away from my friends, alone. Why not? I had nothing to lose and I was fresh out of college. I dove into that experience as well. Burlington in the mid 90s was so sweet. It was not overrun with fancy stores as it is today. It was such an intimate town. What a great place to move to as a single woman fresh out of college. It was not until I became a volunteer for the Green  Mountain Club did I fall into a wonderful group of friends with similar interests. That was a huge pivot point in my life. Vermont then truly became my home and I met Seth.  We hiked tons of mountains together, hiked the Long Trail, backpacked all over the United States. We explored. My athleticism now was no longer team oriented but instead challenging myself. How many of those big White Mountains can I hike? Can I finish them all? 

1998 Canyonlands National Park
Next Up:  My children.
In 2005, my daughter, Faye, died in childbirth because of an umbilical cord accident. This was a fucking reality slap that bad shit can happen to anyone. Somehow, I got the courage to keep on going in life. Again, I turned to something I could physically do to get me through. I processed my grief through several sessions of yoga, both Restorative and Anusara Yoga. It was amazing and I processed, cried and grieved like crazy. I could not have made it through without it. Nine months later, I had a miscarriage. Now I had double grief to deal with. I hiked in the mountains of Vermont and tried to work through it. Again, I was thankful for a strong mind and body to help me grieve.

In 2007, I was blessed with my daughter, Aida Mae. As soon as my c section was healed, we were out in the woods together. I wore that Kelty Kid carrier out! All four seasons, we were outside. Snowshoeing, hiking, checking out the fall leaves. I felt so fortunate to have this kiddo in my life and to be able to show her the things I loved outside.

Now that Aida is getting older (she turns 5 in two weeks!), I have been able to focus more on myself again and my goals. Two years ago, I started running in the woods thanks to being inspired by my friend, Deanna, an ultra marathon runner. I had never run in my life except for when I played team sports. I needed to start getting back into shape after two pregnancies so why not try something new! I fell in love with trail running IMMEDIATELY. Moving fast in the woods is amazing! (or at least moving faster than just hiking...I am not a super fast runner). I ran a 10 mile trail race in June 2011 and then, as most of you know, I ran a 30 mile race a couple weeks ago. I am hooked. My goal for this coming year is to get ready for the 50 miler put on by Peaks Ultra. Oh, and I will also be signing up for a 13 mile snowshoe race by Peaks Ultra for March 2013. It feels so good to be athletic in a different form and to get out there and challenge myself again after a shitload of grieving and putting my body through the process of childbirth, twice. I am back now and I have a lot to accomplish and achieve in the years to come. Hey, I just turned 40, there are so many things to do! Just look at these older women who are still running ultra marathons in their 60s and 70s! I want that to be me when I get to be that age.

So, the question is...will my daughter find athletics as I did to become a confident woman in this world? Not sure. Time will tell. I hope she does, but perhaps she will find her confidence and strength via other avenues in her life. Seth and I will be there for her and support her in whatever path she takes.

Aida Mae with Daddy's ax. Time to clear some hiking trails!

Discipline. Responsibility. Decision making. Leadership. Being Tough. My athletic experiences have meshed so perfectly with who I am today. I feel blessed.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Peaks Ultra Race!

Oh my god. The day of my race finally came. What a long 7 months of waiting, decisions, training...and parenting and working in between.

Here is a quick recap of what got me motivated to do a 30 mile trail run before I give you a run down of the day.

Last November, Peaks Ultra race director, Andy Weinberg, finished a triple iron man race (7.1 mile swim, 340 mile bike, 78.7 mile run. I know! Amazing!) which inspired me to step it up a few notches and sign up for a 50k race that he puts on every year. Last year, I completed a 10 mile fun run that Andy put on. I had just started running a few months before that so I thought it was monumental that I just run up a mountain and down in 2 hours. So, in November, with a long winter approaching, I decided I needed a goal to get me through. Time to train for a long distance trail race.

I started training in early January, but soon realized that the schedule was overwhelming. I had no time to really prep so I got discouraged and stopped for a couple weeks. I decided to just do another 10 miler. Boring. I already knew I could to that so why bother. Then, I decided maybe 15 miles. Boring. Then, I thought 20 miles. Ok, that sounded good. I trained based on that and then in March, I emailed Andy to touch base and BOOM he said he just opened up the 30 miler race! "WHAT? I have 5 weeks until race day...can I do this?" "You can do it and I will help you." I accepted. Game on! So, I had to push it up a few notches. I completed some long runs...15 and 18 miles and that was all the time I had to prepare. Let's do it!

May 11....pre-race dinner and bib pick up at the Amee Farm with my friend Karyn! I got to meet some of the runners and got to meet one of the 500 mile racers, Mark. He was just coming in from his 450th mile, in which he started racing 8 days before. What an inspiration to meet him the night before my race. He shared dinner with us and told us how he was doing and then broke off to get some rest before he had to finish the last 50 miles. Wow. The weather was beautiful, lots of runners were arriving and chatting and I was feeling the groove and excitement!!

All smiles at the pre-race dinner at the Amee Farm.
Mark, 500 miler, just coming from his 45th mile 450.
I stayed at Karyn and Jon's house in Bethel that night so we would only have a 15 minute drive on Saturday morning. Good call, because I would have had to get up at 3am to get down there. Karyn and I got our gear together for the drop bag and our running packs and went to sleep around 8:30pm....morning was going to come quickly!

May 12...Race day!! I woke up at 3:50am, mostly because I was jazzed and also because I knew I needed to eat and start hydrating. The race was in 3 hours! I was so excited and nervous. I could  not wait to get on the road to the Amee Farm. It was 32 degrees out and sunny...just what I had ordered! A nice cold morning to get us going....keep the sweating down to 5 hours instead of 10.

We had a pre-race meeting at 5:30am led by Andy. He told us about the course, the aid stations, etc, and got us even more excited! There was a big bonfire since it was so cold so those of us with shorts headed over to it and huddled.

Pre-race meeting by Andy at 5:30am.
Cold out!
T minus 15 minutes!
Countdown...3...2....1....go! Game on! The first couple miles were on a dirt road and then we hit the Contest Trail, a beautiful mountain bike trail on US Forest Service land. It was nice to finally see this trail since Seth has maintained it over the years as a employee of the USFS. I think this was my favorite part of trail system for the day. Amazing views and beautiful single track. The weather was still very chilly and refreshing and we were in the shade for a couple hours so our energy was not zapped to early.

here we go! 

At the mile 7 aid station (our first of the day), Andy decided to put us through a delightful straight-up-the-mountain bushwack. It was a mile round trip but it was a doozy! At this point the sun was coming out and we started to heat up. After getting back down, we hit the road for a 4 mile jaunt to the Mile 12 aid station where our drop bag was. The Abba Aid Station....lots of disco music and colored wigs and good humor. Karyn and I got some food when we got there and quickly headed out for the next 6 miles of the course....Hayes Brook Mountain Bike loop. We saw Andy along the way...he was driving and he stopped and said "You are almost half way done! Free entry into the 50 miler next year ladies!" Hey, shut up, Andy!! Ha....we laughed. So, this was a tough uphill for me. Karyn is a super hero on the uphills so I just took my time. By the time I got to the top, my stomach was feeling a little off so I rested and ate something and then I was good to go for the downhill! I love running the downhills. I cruised down to the beautiful brook and we were back on to the woods road again, heading back to the Abba Aid Station.

Bush wack!
18 miles done! 13 to go!
When we got there, we had done 18 miles! I was feeling really good! I changed my sneakers and socks since it had been so muddy in hopes to not get gnarly blisters, filled up our water and food and headed out for the final 13 miles. We ran back to the Amee Farm for 3 miles and then headed out for the final 10 mile loop. Karyn and I were psyched because we had been down there training on the course 4 times in the past 5 weeks so we knew what the trails would be. Alright!! This is going to be a piece of cake!!


Andy sent us pretty much straight up the mountain.

Holy shit. I cursed his name a few times (sorry, Andy! Hope your ears weren't burning! I am sure I was not the only one cursing your name!). Then we hit this new trail that Matt Baatz, trail extraordinaire, built. What a beautiful trail! It was my favorite part of the last 10 miles. Beautiful side hilling. We got to the top FINALLY, took a quick break to fill up our water, talked to a woman who was doing the 150 mile race (running that loop 15 times!), took some pictures, and said "ok, 7 or 8 miles to go!"  This will be a piece of cake.


23 miles done! 8 to go!
View at the top of the final mountain. Down to the finish line!

They took us all over the place, down steeps, back around to the top again, down down down down....then as we are approaching the river, which was near the farm and starting line, the trail starts going AWAY from the farm. HEY. What the hell is going on, here! All of a sudden, we are doing this bushwack along the river...walking in the rocky river bed. My right IT band was starting to scream at me when I attempted to run so I walked. More cursing of Andy occurred. Then, we finally saw the makeshift I Beam bridge that crossed the river. YES!! We were almost back at the beginning!! Karyn I decided just to walk through the river. It was so cold and refreshing on our tired legs. After that, we walked back the last 1/4 mile to the starting line. We had done it! 10 hours and 50 minutes! I saw Andy and he gave me a big hug and said "you have a year to get ready for the 50 miler!" I told him to leave me alone! All in good fun, of course. I saw Margaret "Dirt in Your Skirt" Schlachter and she gave me a congrats, as well as Matt Baatz, trail master. I was feeling so good! I chowed on a burger and a bunch of corn on the cob, called Seth and my parents, and  reveled in the euphoria of what I had just accomplished.

We just ran 31 miles! What a day!
Shoes and socks that got me through the day!
Only 1 blister!
Map of the course
Andy and I at the end of the race.
Thanks for a great day, Andy!

Big thanks to Seth and Aida for giving me the space and time to train for this the past several months. And, thanks to Karyn for training with me and sticking with me throughout the day since she could have been so far ahead of me doing her own race. Thanks to Andy, again, for the inspiration!!! And, thanks to my friend Deanna Stoppler for inspiring me to run two years ago. Running has changed my life, Deanna!

50 miler next year? Totes!!!

P.S. This song was in my head ALL DAY. My day was full of using the word fuck so this was appropriate. Beasties!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

My Life-Long Love Affair with Music- A Timeline

This post has nothing to do with running, hiking or parenting.

I could not help but talk about my love for music. Here is a timeline of one of the loves of my life and how it became so.

It all began in my Mom's womb: My French Canadian mother sings a song about EVERYTHING. If you know her, you would agree. So, I can safely say that my love of music started here. I am sure that woman sang to me every second she French or course.

Saturday afternoons as a toddler through whenever (probably until I went to college): There was always music on in my house at all times it seemed. My father is a classical music aficionado. Every Saturday afternoon, he would put in the New York Metropolitan Opera. I can vividly recall listening to opera those afternoons at a very young age, listening and playing with my toys, smelling my father's pipe smoke and my mother's baked beans cooking in the oven.

Buying 45s- When I was very young, probably, 7 or 8, I would pick wild raspberries by the quarts behind our house and sell them at my uncle's restaurant and then head to the store (Kmart,  I think) to by 45s for my record player. I remember being so psyched to buy Jon Jet and Pat Benatar songs! I had this little black and white case that would hold the 45s. I wish I still had that case and all those records. All future allowance money was spent on music.

I wanted this album so bad but I was so scared of the cover I never bought it.
Remember, I was 7 or so when I was buying this stuff. It was scary!

Tape recorder!- I remember being so excited when I got my first tape recorder!!! I remember bringing it on the school bus thinking I was so cool. Or walking to the corner store at the end of our road with it in hand. Dorky but awesome back then!

Walkman!- No need to carry that big tape recorder around any longer!!! At this point, I was buying cassettes and collecting them at mad speed!

Run DMC and The Beastie Boys- I remember when my brother bought these two cassette tapes. Holy crap. The world as we knew it changed. Classic rock was done. I can remember watching him perfectly sing /rap every one of those songs.

 Run DMC "Raising Hell"
Beastie Boys "License to Ill"

College (UNH)- This was the main turning point in my life for music. Acutally, this is when Classic Rock finally left the scene for me. I was a Led Zeppelin freaker up until this point. But, the first couple months at UNH, my world changed. I remember hearing Public Enemy's Fear of A Black Planet being blasted by my friend Jill in my dorm (Hitchcock Hall!). What the heck was that awesomeness? I was introduced to Billy Bragg, The Smiths, Jane's Addiction, and of course the entire grunge scene was just starting to emerge. Nirvana blew my mind. Pearl Jam. Lush. Smashing Pumpkins. My Bloody Valentine. My mind was exploding learning of all this new music in the world. The UNH radio station, WUNH, was top notch. I had friends who were DJs there (B2 rules!) and learned of so many new bands by just turning on the college radio station.

The King and yummiest of all Scrubnuts.

Enter: The Portsmouth Music Scene.  Local music at that time (1990-1994) was insane. The amount of talent, venues and opportunities to see top notch bands was amazing. I saw bands 2-3 times a week those 4 years. I made wonderful friends because of this scene; friends in the bands and friends who attended the gigs. I spent a credit card just on music (who didn't, I guess). I was always at the cd store in downtown Durham or in Portsmouth. So many bands from that time period are still favorites today. A documentary of the music scene from this time period called In Danger of Being Discovered is in the works right now and we were fortunate to see a cut from it in January.

Vermont, 1994-  I found the best little coffeehouse in the world when I moved to Vermont. Why am I forgetting the name!?! I spent a million hours there watching live was walking distance from my apartment. Was it called City Market? Anyway, I saw Peter Mulvey play there several times. He is a genius. You have to take 3 minutes and watch the video below.

Ipod- Ah, my favorite thing. This changed everyone's life. A bazillion songs on a little hand held machine. No more cds flopping around the car. Plain and simple, the best invention for music lovers.

Post-Kid Era- Now, I have a 5 year old. These past 5 years, I have spent all miscellaneous income on diapers, organic food, daycare, preschool, Polly Pocket dolls, and art supplies. I rarely buy new music but I am fortunate to have good friends who keep my up to date and for thankful for Spotify! The music during car rides for these 5 years has been mostly kids music; The Wiggles, Wee Sing, Music Together (which is actually quite good), nursery rhymes, etc. But, I have been able to throw on Morphine (I love you, Mark Sandman!...wish you were still here) and The Flaming Lips and she definitely enjoys it.

Oh, and let's not forget the joy of receiving a mixed tape from someone back in the day. I still have all the tapes people have made me over the years. How much time and thought that took to make one of them and then to receive one...there was no other perfect gift from a friend.

Anyway, here is one of or quite possibly my favorite song ever.

Keep on rockin'!!!