Amish Half Marathon – November 6, 2010

•November 11, 2010 • Leave a Comment

I really had good intentions of training and keeping up the training for the Amish Country Half Marathon.  Funny how races always seem to sneak up on me.  Before I knew it, the race was only a couple of weeks away and I was beginning to panic at the thought of dragging my body around the roads of Lancaster County.  The week leading up to the race, my pinky toe was still swollen from the mishap I had while running with Cooper 2 weeks ago.  I managed to get out and run a couple of nights the week of the race, but 3 miles may have been the longest run I had that week.

Friday came regardless of my wishes for it to hold off a little longer, we made plans to meet to pick up our packets containing goodies, our timing chip, bib number and our tech shirts.  Going home that night, all I could think of was how much I was going to be hurting 24 hours from now.  Got home, checked the forecast for the 8 am start and selected my wardrobe, pinning the bib number on and checking out the timing chip and debated about putting it on now or wait till the morning and then attach it to my Bikila’s.   I’ve had a habit of misplacing things, so I put everything I needed for the next day in one bag so I could grab it and go the next morning.

Woke at 3:30 am, stressed a little about not being able to get back to sleep and woke again to the alarm at 5:30 am.  Threw back the covers, dressed and took Cooper out for his morning routine.  Double and triple checked my bag and drove off to meet my running companions.  Twenty minutes later, we’re on the road minus one runner.  Mickey and I headed down to the race leaving a very disappointed Cassie in Annville.  We reached the start of the race after sitting in traffic for 20 minutes – I think we found the shortest red light in the USA.  Only two cars were able to get through at a time before the light was glowing red.  We arrived 15 minutes before the race start and decided to use the porta potties one last time.  As we were waiting in line, they announced that the race was delayed due to the heavy traffic coming into the race start.  We headed back for the mustang and waited in the car until they made the announcement that they would be starting the race in 5 minutes.

With one last “are we really going to do this?” slipping out of my mouth, we opened the doors to the car and proceeded to the runners congregating near the announcer.  The National Anthem was sung, the runners were off.  Our plan for the run was to walk/run the half marathon.  Emphasis on walk.  We hadn’t trained as well as we should have, Mickey was still recovering from her knee injury earlier this year and I was still favoring the toe.  Combine those facts with the lack of mileage, we decided that neither of us were willing to pay the price the next couple days.  We ran with the back of the crowd at a nice, easy pace.  We weren’t very far into the run when the “fresh country air” began to make its presence known.  Woo! Gotta love that fresh air!  I quickly announced “it wasn’t me” and grinned as I pointed to Mickey and asked “WAS THAT YOU?”.  Our mood was set for the day.  We were just going to enjoy the views and the company for the next couple hours.  Throughout the run/walk we found various ways to entertain ourselves.  We saw several gloves that ended up as roadkill – poor little things tried to cross the road but never made it.  We saw Amish Snakes (earth worms), road apples, miniature horses, deer and a turkey.  We revised one of our warnings that we call as a car approached from “car back” to “buggy back”.

Temps were in the 40’s that morning, little breezy but the sun was up and it was beautiful.  One mile fell away after another, we took advantage of the water stops and were very impressed at how the water stations were hosted by the local Amish and Mennonites of Lancaster.  What a joy it was to see the crowds of Amish and Mennonites and see them smile and greet each of the runners.  Water stops were placed every 2 miles throughout the course, each stop was fully manned and at times it was difficult to decide which little boy or girl you would take the cup from – they all had such hope on their faces.

Most of the race was gently rolling hills mixed in with nice windy curves.  Each curve and hill revealed another beautiful view.  I think by far this was one of the most enjoyable half marathons.   I asked Mickey to set the pace and would follow her instructions on when to walk, when to run.  I found that by giving the control over, I was able to focus on my stride and foot strike.  Before we realized it, we were making a turn and were told by the local fire police there were 2 miles to go, 1/2 a mile to the bake shop.  He wasn’t kidding, by this point in the race the granola bars I had eaten and the toast Mickey had made for herself were long gone.  I had $2 in my pocket and asked Mickey if she thought we could find a sticky bun for $2.

We took another walk break and eagle eyes Mickey said we’d walk to the 12 mile marker and then run the last mile.  I agreed.  We trotted off and at times it felt like the last mile was never going to end.  We made the turn onto the next road I saw the field where the race began.    At this point Mickey said I picked up the pace… I have no pace, I just wanted to be done.  We ran up the final leg of the road and as we turned to run the remaining couple hundred feet, Mickey picked out a guy in front of us and said “let’s beat him!”  Why, oh why do I let her do this?  Off we go really picking up the pace and gaining on the guy.  A couple of spectators noticed and began yelling at the guy to hurry up that two women were trying to beat him.  Unfortunately for Mickey and I, the guy had a little more energy left than we did.  He picked up the pace and we finished right behind him.  Mickey and I crossed the finish line at 2:51:10 – not a PR (Personal Record) for either of us, possibly a WR (Worst Record) for both, but it was a great day and the company couldn’t have been better.

We received our medals, returned the timing chips and grabbed some post race grub.  What a wonderful day for a walk/run half marathon!

It’s raining.

•November 4, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Woke up at 4:30 this morning and heard the spray of rain coming off the passing cars.  <sigh> What’s going to happen to my November Resolution!  So far the rain has been fairly light, hope it continues to be light or even better stop for tonight’s run.    My faithful companion Cooper never seems to mind running in the rain, I need to borrow his attitude.  We’re still adjusting to the new Gentle Leader Head Collar, he’s cooperating much better when we’re out there running.   Occasionally he will suddenly turn into a mule and we have a tug of war battle until he decides to keep going with me.   He’s also got to learn to shorten his stride.  I can’t keep up with him and the last time I ran with him I was tiring but kept running and as we were running down a hill I uttered a grunt trying to pull his weight back so that I wasn’t doing another Superwoman dive and sticking the landing face first into the street.

The new Bikila Five Fingers are working out nicely.  Still looks odd to glance down and see those things on my feet.  I felt a sore spot on my left foot and stopped briefly so I could make an adjustment.  The stitching inside the shoe irritated my foot and rubbed, giving me a blister which popped and bled a little.  Nothing that will stop me from slipping my toes in, wiggling them around (my toes need trained to go into the proper slots) and adjusting the straps (and the pinky toe is getting better but still a little swollen).  Adjustment made and back running.

As Mickey and I were running with our dogs, we both observed the reactions of people as we jogged by.  Most people smiled, a couple of guys stood watching and as we got within ear shot asked, “Who’s winning?”.  I replied that the dogs were but it wasn’t a fair race because they used 4 legs and we only had 2.   Mickey and I continued on and made a turn up one of the streets of Annville that had a hill for us to run up.  As we were running up the hill, I saw an older man standing at the top of the hill.  He watched us run and as we got within earshot commented, “You should run somewhere flat, that hill is too much for the dogs.”, I refrained from commenting but couldn’t help but wonder if he had a dog and if he did, did the dog have a beer belly like him?

If you could see Cooper’s excitement when I change into running clothes and pick up the Gentle Leader Head Collar you’d see he loves it.   I’ve seen Cooper run up the mountains in Colorado and I’ve seen the excitement and joy he has when he can run free.  The little hill in Annville was nothing compared to those.  I think I’ll be hanging out with Mr. C a lot more than the older man on the street corner, he might drool on me, drop a gross, wet tennis ball in my lap, wake me up in the middle of the night when he has gas, but he’s a positive running companion.  I have yet to hear it’s too windy, too cold, to hot come from him.  I’m learning a lot from my dog.

The rain won today, I could have run on the treadmill but somehow the desire to run disappeared.  NO, I’m not giving up, just waiting for the return of dry weather to get back on the asphalt with my dog and running friends.

November Resolution

•November 2, 2010 • Leave a Comment

You’d think I wouldn’t have to do this anymore, but my earlier proclamation to lose weight and get in shape has somehow faltered, tripped and splatted all over the place.

So here we go again, yep yet another determined effort to shed those pounds, and get my feet back out on the streets and trails.  I’ve been running off and on, trying to run with minimalist shoes or Vibram’s Five Finger shoes – I love the Vibram’s, the first time I ran the difference was amazing.  My stride changed, the way my foot hit the ground changed.  The next 3 days after the first run with the Vibram’s was agony.  I used muscles in the lower legs and feet that had not been used that hard – EVER!  I got past the pain and was starting to get back in shape when I discovered that running with a Golden Retriever and kicking his leg while running would lead to a broken pinky toe.  It’s two weeks later and I still hobble when I wear dress shoes and the toe is still swollen.  So I’m giving up dress shoes for sneakers and taking ibuprofen to eliminate the discomfort and swelling.  I tried switching to the minimalist shoes, but developed shin splints and went right back into my old running stride.  I tried the Vibram’s but the little toe was still swollen and had to be stuffed into the shoe and then run on it.  So off to the internet to order a pair in the next size.  My internet let me down!  All the sources on the internet were sold out of the size and style that I wanted.  I went out to the Vibram website and looked up the local running stores in the area and called Schuylkill Valley Sports, who to my amazement had the shoes I wanted and in the size I needed.  I left the store smiling like a kid, remembering a time when I was little and had just gotten a new pair of Ked’s sneakers.  I thought I could run faster and farther than I ever had…

Today is November 2nd and I’m 2 for 2.  Not time to get excited and celebrate but I want to stick with it, I want to be able to fit back in the clothes hanging in the closet and to run with a lot less weight to drag around.

I can do it,  I will do it.

I’ve got my faithful companion Cooper to run along my side as well as my running buddies.  Cooper has also gotten some new running equipment – a new LARGE Gentle Leader head harness.  The last one was too small around his nose and led to some quick stops and frustration.  The new harness gives him more freedom and so far – no sudden stops, no arms getting jerked backward and we are focusing on where Cooper is in relation to my right foot.  I really don’t want to deal with any more broken toes!

So tomorrow is another day and I’m going to work, come home change and go for a run.  Distance is irrelevant – for now.  I’m going to track my runs but not set a mileage goal.  That will come later.  For now I’m working on slowing down the pace and working on the mechanics of running.  Smaller strides, running hills (UGH!) and speedwork (it’s called that in the running books, for me it will be running a little faster than slow).

Let’s Do It!

•September 24, 2010 • Leave a Comment

That’s how this challenge began… unfortunately I have to admit that I started it.  I saw an ad on Facebook.  “Are you a Warrior?” I clicked the link and read “Welcome to America’s most insane race.”  Hah!  I’ve got her now… post the link to Mickey’s facebook page and snicker, thinking that she would never go for this one – not in a million years!  Guaranteed win for me…  Then I noticed her comment back on FB “Let’s Do It!”… uh oh, now what’d I get myself into.  Mickey registered, I had no choice – I HAD TO!  I already lost the leg shaving contest, I wasn’t going to lose the race challenge contest. 

So back to the Warrior Dash website.  Look at the regions listed – hmm, Northeast or Mid-Atlantic…. the following e-mail chat followed:

Me: “Hey – wich one did you register for, Northeast or Mid-Atlantic?”

Mickey: “Northeast, why?”

Me: “Mid-Atlantic would have been closer.” Then I complete my registration to the Northeast race.

Mickey: “Oops.  Sorry, just registered for the Mid-Atlantic Race.”

Me: “NO!!!”

Mickey: “What?”

Me: “I just registered for Northeast!” 

My dilema – Mickey had registered for 2 races.  Now I had to register for 2 or face the agony of defeat.  Back to the website, registered for Mid-Atlantic.  After that was done, we both promptly put these two races out of our minds for the next 8 months. 

Time flies.  Our marathon training and race were over as well as the Lehigh Valley Half Marathon.  I ran the Broad Street Run with my daughter Kristy.  I ran a few 5K’s.  Then the passion for running somehow slipped.  Summer came.  Summer went. 

The Windham, NY date was suddenly here.  We planned on leaving Saturday morning, drive to NY, run and come home that evening.  Then I looked at the drive time.  4 hours, 45 minutes with traffick.  OK, do the math in my head… guessing we would be done the race and after race festivities by around 5 pm.  Look closer at the details of the race. 

“Warrior Dash is the ultimate event for thrill-seeking athletes. This running series is held on some of the nation’s most demanding and unique terrain. Participants will conquer extreme obstacles and celebrate their feat with music, beer, warrior helmets and muddy shorts.”

I read on…
“There’s certainly risk involved in Warrior Dash, but we take every precaution possible to get you to the finish line safely.  There will be paramedics and an ambulance on site in case of an emergency.  You enter Warrior Dash at your own risk.”

…and on:

How do I train for Warrior Dash?

1.   Day one: run as far as you can. Go home. Day two: do the same thing. (Not a problem as I wasn’t running too seriously for the last couple months.)

2.  Find the dirtiest pond in your neighborhood and snorkel in it – in your slippers, without goggles.

3.  Practice your climbing and crawling skills at your local jungle gym.  Ignore the small children and parental glares.

4.  Do not shower or shave for weeks in order to obtain a true Warrior look. (The shaving part was Mickey’s specialty.)

OK, so then I started thinking that maybe we better find someplace to stay overnight and take Mickey’s 2 dogs along or have Mickey face up to 2 dogs that exploded because their bladders just couldn’t take anymore.  Made the suggestion to Mickey, looked around for a hotel in the area that accepted dogs (so glad they don’t have standards for cleanliness) and made the reservation. 

10 PM Friday, September 17, 2010 

Climbed in bed for the night and set the alarm to wake up at 5:30, shower, dress, gas up the car, purchased and filled windshield washer fluid, went to McD’s and picked up breakfast and pick up Mickey at 7:00 a.m.  Slept for about 3 hours, tossed turned, watched a movie and repeated “what am I doing” 6,245,890 times.  Never figured out an answer.  Gave up trying to sleep at 5:15 and began packing and gathering some food, drink for the drive to and from the race.

Friday, September 18, 2010 

Picked up Mickey and proceeded to drive the 4:45 to Windham NY.  We had just got off route 287 when I asked “are those mountains?”.  They appeared out of nowhere.  Mickey looked and confirmed my suspicion, then said “this race isn’t on a hill is it?”  After I stopped laughing, I responded with “it’s on a ski resort, there BETTER be a hill!”  Priceless – the expression on Mickey’s face was priceless.  (I believe Mickey will be taking a closer look at the details of the next Warrior Dash we will be running in October.) 

We found the Windham Resort and found a nice shady place to park so the dogs wouldn’t be too hot while waiting for us to finish the race.  We decided to eat  lunch, then go up to the registration.   We walked up to the registration area passing a few soggy, somewhat dirty people on the way.  Then we saw a growing pile of sneakers and the registration tents.  Found the table to fill out the waver and proceeded to pick up our packets.  We headed back down to the car to return the dogs and make the final wardrobe adjustments.  Put the dogs in the car and headed back to wait for our wave to start.  Talk about a festive race!  People in every kind of costume, men wearing skirts, music playing, tents to purchase Warrior apparel and food.  Mickey and I scoped the area and waited for the 2:00 wave to begin forming.  This had to be one of the most jovial group of runners that I have ever seen at the starting line.  The announcer did a great job raising the enthusiasm level of the runners and the crowd.  Time after time the “Warrior Wave” went down the row of participants, then our wave was off.  As we approached the start, a blast of heat hit us as we crossed the line.  Two 10 foot flames shot out above our heads to send us off…. and UP a mountain.  The first half of the race was straight up the mountain.  Fortunately for us it was the Bunny Slope.  Unfortunately, the Bunny Slope at Ski Windham is nothing close to the “advanced” slopes of any of the hills in or around our hometown.  For approximately 20 minutes we walked, huffed and puffed to the top of the Bunny Slope.  Finally we saw the sign “Obsticle Ahead”.   Woot – this is what we were here for!!!  Our first obticle was Knee High Hell.  Tires.  Tires that you needed to strategically determine where you were going to place feet.  I went first, they nearly brought me to my knees.  I completed the tires and turned to film Mickey’s process.  I heard a slight yell and watched Mickey go down to her knees and quickly pop back up to her feet.  So far, both of us survived. 

Laughing we jogged off and saw the sign “Obsticle Ahead”.  Warrior Wall, as with most obticles, there was a slight wait as we waited for runners ahead of us to navigate the hurdle.  This time Mickey went first and turned to wait for me to vault over the triple hurdle.  Two down, two runners still going.  the next section of the course was pretty level, jogging across the mountain and to the next “Obsticle Ahead” sign.  Next obsticle “Tunnels of Terror” – which were a series of black PVC pipes that you needed to get down on your hands and knees to crawl through to continue.  I chose to go second and watched as Mickey quickly popped up at the other end.  I entered the tunnel and quickly stopped, needing to adjust my hat so the brim would stop banging on the roof of the tunnel.  About halfway through, my knees were voicing their opinions – loudly objecting to being put to such use.  I finally emerged from the tunnel and popped out and began running to the next “Obsticle Ahead” sign.  Black Forrest was the next challenge that really wasn’t much of one.  The next “Obsticle Ahead” sign came up quickly.  We submerged to the chest high icy cold waters of the Slithering Swamp.  COLD!!!! This was the funniest part of the race in my opinion.  My legs quickly went numb.  Mickey commented on various girl parts that had shrunk.  As we were climbing out of the swamp, “My testicles just retracted” was called out sending several of us into fits of laughter.   Jogging alongside a fellow participant I was still smiling and laughing and he told me that “his testicles were now in his chest”.  OK, thanks for sharing and off to the next “Obsticle Ahead”.  We traversed the PLANK – a 2 x 8 board across a dip in the woods.  Nothing exciting going on here and on to my favorite thing “STEEP HILL AHEAD”!!!  Woo-hoo!!! I love the downhill and started galloping downward hearing “there she goes” from Mickey as I went. 

At the bottom of the hill I waited for my cohort and we looked for the next “Obsticle Ahead”  Rip Van Winkle Way was a steep climb up a series of boards to the next “Obsticle Ahead” – Rio Run was more barely a trickle!  What was supposed to be a run through a creek was a step over a bit of water.  Down over the next section of mountain and came upon Tutu Girl – one of the participants dressed with a pink tutu and a t-shirt with “Ballerina from Hell” printed on the back.  As I caught up to her she had just begun climbing the next “Obsticle Ahead” – Cargo nets about 20 feet up, across the top and down the other side.  I scaled the first part, slung my legs over the top rolled onto my stomach and pushed myself off to turn and descend the other side.  I looked at Tutu girl who had just made it to the top and looked like she was barely hanging on.  I went over, held out my hands and anchored myself to help her over.  She made it, I went back to where I could climb down and wait for Mickey to take her turn, Mickey was up and over – climbing up and down as quick as any monkey I’ve ever seen.  As she left the net, she nailed her dismount and we turned and headed for the next “Obsticle Ahead” Flagstone Stack, which was just a path through the woods over some nice sized boulders.  We rounded the corner and stopped dead when we arrived at the “Obsticle Ahead” Castskill Skid.  Mickey said “Cooooool!!! A water slide!!!!” we impatiently waited our turn.  Not wanting to do injury to others we waited till the bodies cleared from our path.  I went first, did my best softball slide down the slide.  WHAM!!!  My head slammed into the plastic slide and I felt my hat, my favorite hat come off.  Knowing there was nothing I could do to retreive it I picked myself up and turn to watch Mickey.  “WHOA!!!” and then “UH!!” were the only sounds I heard coming from Mickey.  The woman following her didn’t leave enough time and went knees first into Mickey’s back. 

Back on our way down to the final 2 “Obsticle Ahead”.  We had both seen in the ads and pictures of the Warrior Dash that you got to run over fire.  Neither of us were prepared for this “Warrior Roast”!!!! From the pictures I thought the flames were 2, maybe 3 inches high.  NOT EVEN CLOSE!  There were two rows of fire laying across the path to the final obsticle.  These rows of fire were about 2 feet high.  Now we understood why they soaked you down on the Catskill Slide – that way you wouldn’t catch fire if you didn’t jump high enough.  I leaped over the 2 rows and turned and waited for Mickey.  She navigated the fire safely and we stopped – here it was.  The final one.  The Finish Line.  A 20 feet long by 2 feet deep Muddy Mayhem.  Mickey dropped to her knees and began her crawl under barbed wire and through thick grainy mud.  She got about 6 feet into her journey and stopped raising her arm into the air.  In her hand she had something – our best guess was that someone lost their underwear.  Laughing, I dropped down and began crawling on my knees, trying to keep the upper half of my body out of the mud so that Mickey’s video camera and mine wouldn’t get ruined.  We crossed the finish line dripping in mud and accepted our Finisher’s Medals. 

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We both grabbed a couple cups of water and started making our way over to pick up our “Free Beer” and watch more of the particpants as they dove, jumped and swam through the Muddy Mayhem.  What an adventure!  Can’t wait for the next Warrior Dash – now we just need to figure out what costumes we are going to wear….

My Hike UP!

•August 12, 2010 • 1 Comment

Sometimes I’m surprised that I can have an experience that mimics an experience portrayed in a movie.  My latest experience is so similar to my favorite movie – UP!   My latest adventure started as a thought, built up to a conversation then actually ended up happening on an overnight hiking/camping trip. 

Last summer, one of my running buddies did a Marathon in Colorado.  Mickey posted some gorgeous photos of the Rockies and some of the trails she hiked while trying to acclimate to the altitude before the race. Then this past June, she made another journey out to Colorado and posted more pictures that further fed the desire of wanting to experience the beauty of Colorado and the Rockies in person. 

We’ve had a lot of laughs running together, challenging each other to various contests, entering races that no sane person should, dragging a few other buddies into the mix so why not make it happen? Beginning August 20th, Mickey and I will be loading up her SUV with 3 dogs, 2 bikes, camping supplies and various food items for a week of hiking, camping and other miscellaneous adventures we can find along the way. Think I’m crazy? Let’s see… 

Camping Experience– think most was when I was 14, I was in girl scouts. Plus two times with the kids – once when we went to Creation for a 3 day Christian Music Festival 

The last time I slept in a sleeping bag – um, that would have been when I was 14 and in the scouts and at Creation. 

The last time I set up a tent -yep, couple times at Creation and the rest was in scouts. 

The last time I hiked – hmmmm does walking from the car to my office count? 

The last time I carried my gear in a backpack – why would people do that??? Just pull the car up next to the place your going to camp – duh! 


Yep… I’m crazy! As the date of our adventure neared, the nerves started to take control.  I began asking questions about the what, the where, the how… sensing my lack of confidence, Mickey suggested a trial run for our Colorado Adventure.  Nothing cures a set of the jitters better than a dry run, so we made quick plans to do an overnight hike, set up a tent for the night then hike out again the next day. 

Saturday morning came, we loaded up the car and headed to Northern PA.  We parked the car about 10 miles down Route 144 near Renovo PA.  There was a porta potty there so figuring that would be the last opportunity for a “comfort station”, both Mickey and I took advantage of it before unloading the gear and heading out into our hike.  We had 3 – 4 legged companions with us, Mr. C. (Cooper), Mid C. (Cassie) and Lil C (Charlie a.k.a. GOM – Grouchy Old Man).  Mr. C. carried the grub for the 3 of them, plus the leashes and food dishes.  Mr. C. was looking quite handsome and happy trotting down the trail. 

Mr. C proudly carrying the gear for his buddies.

Mickey put her pack on (she had the bigger of the two packs and was carrying the tent and most of our food). I put mine on, slightly confused by all the buckles and straps on the pack.  Mickey assisted me in getting the correct buckle snapped, checked to make sure the straps were set and we were off to the Chuck Keiper Trail East Loop.  It was about this point that I began to notice some of the similarities to the movie UP! 

Yeah... You see the similarity too don't you?



The trail began fairly simple, we started out with a treat – Wild Blueberries!   YUM!!  Blueberries are wonderful, but wild bluberries – WOW… so sweet but tiny.  I immediately wished that we had some pancake mix along, I was seeing wild blueberry pancakes for breakfast.  We walked and picked for a while, then the trail emptied out to an access road.  Cassie was in the lead, followed by Mr. C.  Lil C had taken up his position – right at the heels of Mickey.  Watching the dogs run and explore when they were off the leash was great – their eyes light up and it looks like they have the biggest smile on their face.  Didn’t take long for Cassie and Cooper to find some water to trot through.  We were walking and saw the first sign to really enter into the Chuck Keiper Trail.  So far so good.  The trail began a descent and I Mickey informed me that she would probably be finding some hiking sticks.  She found a pair and we continued down the side of the mountain.  About an hour into the hike I began to feel something itching on my skin, glanced down – did a bug check – no bugs.  Continued walking.  Still felt something itching so I bent down and gave a scratch.  Continuing down, I stopped and scratched again – this time Mickey asked if I got against the Stinging Nettles.  Since I had no idea what they looked like and had only just heard of them when I read through the trail book I shrugged.  I kept walking through some leafy green plants with a simple small flower near the top of the plant – THOSE were stinging nettles.  OH MY WORD!!! They looked to innocent, so gentle – but they are evil! EVIL!!!  We had to walk through Stinging Nettles for what seemed like miles (more like a couple hundred feet) but the sting, itch and burn of those things made it seem like miles!  We finally neared the bottom of the mountain and took a much needed break – both for us and the dogs.  We took off the packs, sipped some water and snacked on some trail mix.  Cooper and Cassie were off exploring the creek and Lil C was at Mickey’s feet, begging for a snack.  

After the break, we approached some mud on the trail.  Mr. C decided it was a good time for a mud bath.  Why do dogs like to roll in stuff that smells and turns you an unattractive color?  Mr. C coated himself in mud – Mickey took one look at him and told him he was definitely NOT sleeping inside the tent.  I’m sure you’ll understand… 


Fortunately there was another creek not far from the mud pit.

Once we crossed the creek, my faithful guide told me we didn’t have much furhter to go until we reached the campsite where we would set up tent.  Then we started walking up the mountain.  This thing was freaking huge!  What made it even worse was more Stinging Nettles.  I attempted without success to navigate my way up the mountain and avoid the stinging nettles, I tried using my walking sticks to push them back, tried walking up a dried up rocky creek bed and even stepping over them – none of those ideas were successful.  I was ready to beg for pants.  One of the things that I noticed about these tiny plants – they seem to only like to grow at a certain elevation and need to be near a creek.  I am so grateful that the trail soon veered away from both!  We treked up the mountain for what seemed like hours but was more like 45 minutes.  We stopped twice to catch our breath and take a break.  Poor Lil C – he was really getting tired.  Each time Mickey found a place to sit, Lil C was curled up in her lap before she had time to say no.  Cooper took the opportunity to rest but Cassie – she was all over the mountain.  If we hiked 8 miles – that dog did 16!  We reached the top of the mountain and came upon another access road, crossed the road and began making another descent.  About an hour later we decided to call it a day and set up camp for the night.  

Mickey began snickering and told me that I could take my pick – set up the tent or start the camp fire.  I may be crazy but I’m not dumb!  Since I had just watched UP! the night before and visions of Russell setting up the tent were fresh in my mind… 

Setting up the tent...

I opted for the camp fire.  There was a fire ring at the site, so it was merely a matter of collecting wood and sticks to start the fire.  Here’s when the girl scout experience came in handy – we were camped near white birch trees.  White Birch bark is a great source to use when starting a fire.  Within minutes I had the fire going and went in search of more wood while Mickey set up the tent.  After I had sufficient wood gathered, Mickey then instructed that I could make dinner or filter water.  OK – dinner was tuna in pouches and bread – no brainer I decided to let her have the easier of the two and asked her to show me how to filter the water.  Water filtered, Mickey then handed me two bags to get water for our “showers”.  Nothing like some cold fresh mountain streams to take the days soil and sweat off you!  

After dinner we roasted some marshmallows.  Mickey had found Chocolate Swirl Marshmallows…. I found a stick and the roasting began.  I thoroughly enjoyed every morsel of tuna, the bread and the peaches we had brought along.  I don’t remember the last time I felt so tired!  At first the sleeping bag felt good.  Then I realized the “mattress” was misnamed – I might as well have slept on the ground.  A half inch of foam takes none of the hardness out of the ground.  After a while, I fell asleep, woke sometime during the night and decided to use the ladies room and get some Advil that I had brought along to help ease the aches from the hike.  Back in the tent, into the sleeping bag and waited for slumber to come again – just about that time the dog alarms went off.  Mr. C and Cassie heard something while on duty and quickly let us know something was up. 


They finally settled down and we fell back asleep.   I remember waking several times during the night trying to find a softer spot on the ground – didn’t happen.  Finally exhuastion just took over and we woke up sometime during the morning and got up to use the ladies room again and to eat breakfast – two chocolate fudge poptarts.  We ate like royalty!  Somehow eating breakfast was exhausting and we both dozed off again.  When we woke and looked at the time we decided to hike back the way we came instead of continuing on to finish the 25 mile loop.   I was disappointed, I wanted to be able to say my first hike was 25 miles but we would have gotten home way to late and  the next day was a workday.  Then Mickey told me that the Stinging Nettles were worse for that section of the trail – I quickly got over the disappointment.   Going down the mountain was much easier but also more dangerous – I managed to save myself from most of the falls.. One did occur and I have the bruise to prove it – though I won’t be showing anyone where!   After we crossed the creek and 144 we were near the stream again and we took a break.  Dropped the packs and let Middle C and Mr. C. go for a little run.  As we sat eating the trail mix and drinking water, I saw Cassie and Cooper wrestling at least I thought so.  Mickey thought they were rolling in something.  She was right!  They came back smelling like skunk.  UGH!  Wonderful – a 3 hour car ride ahead of us and 2 dogs smell like skunk.  I hoped the rest of the walk would help wear the essence of skunk off the 2 of them.  Hiking up the mountains is never as much fun as hiking down.  We also had to hike back through the nettles – I swear that stuff grew overnight!  They were up to my waist – once again I found myself rubbing and scratching trying to ease the stinging and burning sensation.  We again made it above the area of the nettles – I hate them by the way – and to the top of the next mountain.  The hike back was good, but sad in a way.  I enjoyed the peace and tranquility of the mountain, the time went way too fast but it gave me a sense that I’ll be able to survive the upcoming adventure to Colorado. 

Thanks for the adventure Mick – looking forward to Colorado and having more stories to tell!






Marathon Training – Week 10

•March 29, 2010 • 1 Comment

Monday – 4:30 and the alarm is sounding.  Didn’t hit the snooze, just pushed back the covers and crawled out of bed – it’s  a new week.  Brushed my teeth, dressed then proceeded to do laps around the  bedroom trying to find my hat.  Gave up, grabbed another hat and headed out to the kitchen.  Began searching for the keys to the Mustang.  Gave up, grabbed the keys to the Buick and headed out the door. 

Arrived at Annvile, saw KJ and Jen waiting, circled around and pulled in.  Mickey pulled in, jumped out of her car and into mine.  Jen and KJ and Janelle got out of their cars as Mickey and I continued to sit watching them.  Misty rain was falling – yuck!  We decided to play a waiting game with KJ, Jen & Janelle to see how long they would let us sit in the car before dragging us out.  After a short wait, Mickey and I were getting the “Mom” look from Jen – hands on hips, scowl on face and foot tapping on the ground.  She is really good at it!  Mickey and I were scrambling out of the car in no time!

4 mile run scheduled so we began running down Maple to do the “West End” run.  We were going at a nice easy pace and started doing the 9/1 program to help KJ ease back into running after a 2 week break to allow her leg to heal.  9 minutes jogging, 1 minute walking.  9 minutes seemed long, but then I heard the tone and “begin walking” coming out of my ear piece.  Began the walk for a minute, then back into the jog.  We had started falling slightly behind Jen & Janelle but had them in sight.  We turned through Parma Pizza parking lot and turned up the alley to continue our run.  As we got to the next turn, Jen and Janelle were waiting at the corner.  They had just spoken with one of Annville’s police who asked them if they had seen anyone lying in the road.   They replied they hadn’t and informed the 3 of us of the conversation with the police.  We shrugged it off and continued through the alley and on to Stuart and began running down the hill.  We were about 3/4th the way down when I heard, “there he is!”.  My first thought was that it was a garbage bag laying on the road.  Then I thought it was someone’s prank and had layed clothing on the road to make it look like a human.  Curiosity got the better of me and I ran closer, hearing “Sandy, be careful!”, I slowly approached and saw that it was indeed a person.  I walked back over to the rest of the group, and began dialing 911.  I informed dispatch of our find and relayed the street names that Jen gave as I spoke with him. 

Jen prompted me to ask the dispatch if we should walk over to the person, I relayed the question to the dispatcher and he informed me if I was comfortable doing that to go ahead.  I replied “OK, but if you hear me screaming, please expedite the police – FAST!”  Comfort was not any emotion that I was aware of at the moment.  I got closer.  I was able to tell that it was an elderly man and reported that to the dispatcher.  He informed me that the police had been relayed the information and were on their way.  Within a few minutes the cruiser was coming down Locust to where we were waiting.  The police took over and tried talking to the man, he was able to respond but didn’t remember what happened, who he was or how he came to be lying in the road.  As we waited, a few of the neighbors came out of their homes and were able to identify who it was.  We waited around until the police took down my information and watched the EMT’s arrive and begin caring for him.

We decided our part was done and continued our run.  At one point I managed to find a puddle – tried going right, water got deeper.  Moved left, still in water up over the top of my shoes.  I started to laugh, feeling like a kid playing n a puddle, heard KJ say – “she’s laughing, I’d be swearing”.  With all the emotions that I had experienced that morning, laughter was the best way I had to cope with the comical vision of me high-stepping through a puddle. 

We finished up the run and re-established our morning coffee routine at Sunoco.  It was great having KJ back, missed BE and the rest of the crew but considering my attendance lately – don’t blame them for hanging on to the covers this morning – but what an adventure they missed!

Hoping tomorrow’s run is a lot less exciting…

Tuesday – 7 Mile Run on the calendar.  Alarm rings, listened quietly – not raining.   Check the phone – no texts.  Guess I’m getting up. ..

Decided against running with the early birds at 4:45, arranged to meet Mickey at 5 and foolishly let her pick the route.  You’d think I would learn.  The run?  Her 2nd favorite.  Cedar Run.  I liked the way it started out – down Maple.   Then the rest wasn’t much fun – I’m not complaining, I still remember my vow to not complain about hills since our run up at Eagle Rock.  I huffed and puffed my way up Weaber, got about half way when the wind took my breath and I felt like I was running backwards.

Arrived at the top and turned right on Hill Church to Long Lane, Long Lane to Russel Road.  Did I mention how windy it was this morning?  I fought to breath and move.  The last time I ran down Russel, it wasn’t this hard and the majority of this road was downhill.  I questioned Mickey if we were ever going to get to Cedar.  Luck was with me and we finally saw Cedar approach.  Left on Cedar and finally Thompson.  I forced the thoughts of my last run out this way – I still have the scar from my superwoman dive! 

Ran and walked the rest of the way in Thompson – did I mention Mickey likes hills?  Mickey informed me that she was running up the last hill of Thompson.  I encouraged her and told her that I would see her back at the church.  I again walked up Thompson and saw Mickey trotting back toward me as I approached the crest of the hill.  Guess doing that hill once wasn’t enough for her!  We got to the end of Thompson and Mickey suggested running down through the cemetary.  Up over the bank and just happened to see the grave in front of me was new and quickly hopped across to avoid stomping down into mud.  Yet again memories of another run flashed through my head of another tumble – I really didn’t want to add another one to my list of embarrassing moments so I chose the places to place my feet carefully.  Survived the cemetary and then ran across the parking lot at the college and used the walking bridge to cross the railroad tracks. 

We ran up behind the college, Mickey found a leftover puddle and stomped down in it.  I really appreciated the cool feel of the water running down my face but I think I could have done without tasting it.  (Thanks again Mickey!)  I saw a speed bump coming up so I slowed down as directed – then when Mickey yelled, I began to run again.  We finished the run heading up the alleys leading to the church parking lot.  Arrived back at our cars and grinned as we noticed the wipers on both vehicles standing straight out from the windshields.  I was grateful they didn’t bend them – Mickey wanted to know why they didn’t clean the bird poop off her hood while they were messing around with the wipers…

7.1 miles done, not nearly as adventurous as yesterday’s run – but I’m OK with that.

2 runs scheduled, 2 runs completed – I’m on a roll!

Marathon Training – Week 9

•March 29, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Well, I went to bed Sunday night with every intention of getting up to run.  I promised myself this week I would run each day that was on the schedule.  Didn’t happen Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday I started feeling ill in the afternoon and went to bed feeling the same.  Sent out texts to BE & Mickey bailing on yet another run Thursday morning.  Mickey offered to run with me after work if I drove up to Enola.  Still wasn’t feeling 100% so I told her I would let her know.

The decision to run or not to run went back and forth the entire day.  I knew I needed it, but the mental part of me was really fighting all desire to go out and run.  I knew I’d be totally miserable if I didn’t run.  I was tired and dragging from the busy week of work and the stresses of daily life.  I think I wavered, told Mickey at one point I wasn’t going to make it to Enola for a run.  Then after part of a conversation, I found the words coming from my fingers – “I’ll run home, change and be up to run.”

Left work, went home, took Mr. C out and was on my way up to Enola within 30 minutes.  Pulled into the parking lot right around 5:30, informed Mickey I was there and waited for the run to begin.  We headed out the same road of our last run, but this time we were running in shorts and didn’t have to navigate around piles of snow.  The scheduled run was 4 miles and we ran the course, only this time it was warmer, the breathing easier and I was able to respond in half sentences instead of my normal yes or no responses.  We made it up to the park where we had to turn around the last time because of the paths being covered by a foot of snow.  We ran around the park and began heading back down the way we came and back toward Mickey’s office.  At one point Mickey gave me a couple options – less hilly but longer or bigger hill but shorter.

Remembering my vow about not complaining about hills ever again, I left the choice up to her.  I honestly don’t know which it was, it was different from the last time we ran together, I noticed more hills which caused my walking program to kick in.  Finally we got back to an area that looked familiar and made our way up the last couple of roads leading back to the end of our run.  Ran up through the parking lot – without stopping and just before raindrops began to fall.  4.13 miles done!

Not much running for this week and I am disappointed in myself feeling like I’ve let myself down and caved in to laziness when I need to dig in and push.  Guess marathon training is like that.  I could have pushed harder, I could have made myself go out – but would that have been better?

If I survive this marathon and lose my senses and agree to do another one, at least I will have these reflections to compare the training.  Sometimes I feel like the mental preparation to run this marathon needs more focus.  How do you toughen yourself and train knowing that there are 26.2 miles ahead of you?

Then I think about the fact that I’m running a half marathon in the next month – that seems so easy when I compare that against the marathon we’ll be running.

It hasn’t been that long since I started running – then I couldn’t run a block, now I look at 4 miles as an “easy run”.

It’s not about the time it will take me to run 26.2 miles, it’s not about the physical demands, it’s not about the cost of training or the hours invested.

It is about the fact that I CAN run miles when walking used to be a struggle.

It is about the friendships that I’ve gained through running with HARD.

It is about the laughter, the memories and the joy that I find when I’m running with my friends.

It’s not one single thing – it is the total picture.  Maybe I’m starting to see that my focus needs to expand and not dwell on one thing, rather take a component of each – the physical and the mental – to enjoy the struggle as much as the laughter.  It’s not all or nothing, it’s taking things as they come and waiting expectantly for the next opportunity.

Let the week 10 training begin!