I have dabbled in a new medium over at Slideshare. I have a presentation called “The Secret Life of Ramps” please go check it out!
I ran and DNF’d my swan song race, the TUM 62K. Being under trained and overweight and not being in any sort of a running mindset did not help me power through the race. The knee hurting and leg cramps after about 15K didn’t help either. Perhaps I will write a race report sometime. This break helped me come back as “not a runner”. It was more of a clean break.
I was very happy to be away from the vitriol and negativity spewing from the interwebs. We did not use our phones in NZ (we did have internet access in the evenings) and I really did not miss picking up my phone and looking at it too many times in one day!
While I was running the TUM several times my thoughts went to “I used to be able to bomb downhills” ” I used to be able to do that”. That was one of the things I had to put out of my head. I’m no longer that person, no longer that runner. I might WISH to be, but it is not going to happen. It’s time for me to EMBRACE the new Me. As Popeye says “I am what I am”.
The Guidebook for biking the Great Allegheny Passage/C&O Canal Trail was waiting for me when I returned home. I immediately picked it up and got intrigued with starting to plan out this new adventure.
I’m no longer experiencing “guilt” for not being out there running. I have oodles of time back. I’m looking forward to more mini adventures-exploring areas around Ohio, hiking, trail time, volunteering, work on my gardens and my home. I have a small barn that I intend to turn into a writing retreat.
This did not happen in my fiftieth year, but it did occur twenty days into my 51st year! I did spot a bald eagle, there are two of them!
I’ve always wanted to see a bald eagle in Ohio. Growing up, eagles were an endangered species. I don’t recall even seeing the birds in a zoo. They were finally removed from the Endangered Species List in 2007.
I found the nest entirely by random. I was driving to my dental appointment, down “River Road”-which runs along the Tuscarawas River. I knew there was a nest along the road, but River Road is about ten or fifteen miles long, and I had no clue where the nest was. I saw a bunch of people standing beside the road, I assumed they were hunters. Then I saw the tripods and cameras with big telescopic lens-they must be the birders!
The nest is about five miles from my house. I stopped by several times when I was driving in the area. I did not see the eagles until my third trip. The birders-two men-were really helpful. The eagles were perched in trees, and didn’t return to the nest while I watched-about one hour in the cold.
My husband and I were out and about, and I had brought my camera with me on a subsequent outing. There he/she was! On the nest!!
There should be eggs in the springtime and I plan on returning and hopefully getting some good pics of the eagles.
The second eagle was just to the right of the nest. I did not get a very good picture of the pair together.
Have you seen eagles in the wild?
Opt Outside, or #optoutside is REI’s campaign of going inside instead of inside shopping on Black Friday. They announced in 2015 that REI would remain closed on Black Friday, to encourage people to get-opt-outside, into nature.
It was a wildly popular idea. REI got tons of free publicity, and the movement continues in 2016.
More than 275 agencies, organizations and companies have formally joined the #OptOutside movement.
I finally have Black Friday off! I believe it’s been over ten years since I had the Friday after Thanksgiving off.
I had a email that there was a party going on where we built a new section of trail in September. Being that the morning was free, and I was planning on getting outside anyways, I headed over to Piedmont Lake for the meet up.
What’s this? Steve explained it was the S.S.S. Hanna, a boat for the Sea Scouts at the Sea Scout Camp at Lake Piedmont.
I’m always stoked to learn new history bits of an area. S.S.S. stood for Sea Scout Ship Hanna
Here is the mooring pin, the only remaining piece of the ship:
We turned around shortly after the historical site, touching up blazes as we went. I had to bail quickly as I had another Thanksgiving Dinner and Jacob, Karen, and Steve were finishing up with the carsonite markers:
Did you opt outside this Black Friday? What was your adventure?
I get into the parking lot. Sniper is happy to see me and yells to Bradley that I am back.
I slump down against my vehicle and whine out “Bradley I can’t do another lap”.
|Happy days from the past TWOT 2012, Loop One|
I am assessed. Mongold finds out my problem seems to be I haven’t ate or drank for about 8 hours. Sniper and Mongold get water, coffee, soup into me. They let me sit down and warm up. My hands are shaking so badly I can’t get the soup to my mouth. A runner named Josh is there, who is going to run one loop of TWOT on Saturday.
I don’t think Josh was impressed with what one looked like after two Loops of TWOT. He was planning on doing the traditional one loop on Saturday, and here I was, wrecked.
Everything hurt, mostly due I believe, to the calorie deficit, and the tense body contracted against the cold. I was some punch drunk from the sleep deprivation. I felt awful.
But Mongold had taken the day off from work and driven two hours to pace me. I felt obligated to try and do something-not the whole loop!
Mongold said, well, let’s walk over to FDR 96 (we were now going to go clockwise) which was 10 miles, and says “Quatro will be there”. Apparently Q was going to have aid there. What the hell did I know? Okay, I will WALK over to 96, and then I will QUIT. We can use Q’s car, drive back to Camp David, and then return Q’s car to him. I had it all worked out.
It was not a pleasant journey. I was whiny and slow. I told Mongold how unhappy I was to see him.
I think we ran into a few Friday runners through here. When asked how I was, I honestly said I felt awful and I was quitting.
We climb up Hankey, on the more gentle side, and I am looking forward to be done with this stupid nonsense.
And the parking lot at FDR 96 is empty.
I want to wail and cry. I am devastated. I was planning on being done. I snap at Mongold “did you lie to me?”
He says he thought Q would be here, because where is the aid that was supposed to be dropped. We go to my aid, and I whip myself down on the ground. Now that the temperature is a bit warmer, Mongold can bang the water against the tree and get some water to break free from the ice chunks. I remark that didn’t occur to me last night. Now I don’t have a choice. I have to climb Big Bald and PRAY that some one’s vehicle is at Camp Todd.
I eat and drink and start to get chilled and get ready to leave as Bradley tidies up the aid stash.
This is probably the most interesting part of my mental challenge. Maybe this is where unconsciously, I really did not want to quit.
The park rangers pull into the lot. In the back of my head, I hear the little voice saying “ask them for a ride. They will give you a ride back”. But I don’t really address it. I’m so sleep deprived and out of it, I’ve already moved on to thinking about climbing Big Bald. The rangers weren’t part of our “game”. I think if a VHTRC’er had pulled in, I might have been tugging on their car door and getting in, unasked. So I didn’t even say anything. Heck, I didn’t even think about this particular moment until the next day. But I was such a hot mess–er cold mess. I didn’t feel any better during this loop.
The only place I actually broke into a pace faster than a walk was on top of Big Bald. The clockwise direction gave us a gentle little downhill for a bit. All people we ran into, I told them how bad I felt and I was not going on after Loop Three. I had serious ultrabrain.
There was, of course, nobody at Camp Todd. I was forced to go on and finish the whole damn loop.
To start Loop 4, Mongold worked on me for what is seemed like hours. I had told him at some point, IF I went out on a fourth loop, I had to sleep and I was not going to start a loop in the dark. I didn’t care about ending a loop in the darkness, but there was no way I was going to start a loop in the dark and the deep cold again.
Mongold tried everything. He tried humor, shame, guilt, pride. He told me he could stay and do Loop 4, but we would have to start almost immediately. I did not cave. I told him I just needed to sleep. And I really did. There was no way I could have started Loop 4 at midnight and walked fast enough to not become hypothermic again.
I also told him yes, I realized the odds of me starting a fourth loop were very slim after getting into my vehicle. I was aware of that. I honestly did not know if I would do a fourth loop. All I wanted to do was lay down. That was all I cared about. To stop moving, to close my eyes.
It took forever to get off Grindstone Mountain and we were finally back at Camp David. Sniper made me some soup and I told Bradley I was going to sleep and then make a decision. I climbed into my sleeping bag and finally got to stop moving.
When I first lay down I thought, okay, I will do a fourth loop. But as I woke up and moved around in my warm little sleeping bag, I changed that. No way. I’ll sleep and hide out in my vehicle until 10 am, then it will be too late. I knew if I was going to start a fourth loop, it had to be closer to daybreak in order to utilize the daylight hours.
I woke up when runners started arriving. I had a call of nature, so I got some clothes on and stumbled out of the vehicle. I fully expected to be stiff and muscles totally cramped up.
To my utter astonishment, I did not feel..that bad. My quads were a little tight, but really not as bad as I thought.
I walk around the lot a bit, trying out the legs. Quatro says a few comments to me. I’m still mulling things over. I don’t feel that bad. (I don’t feel that GREAT either.) I will never be this close to a TWOT finish again. I have all day. It’s not even 8 o’clock yet. I can just walk the whole loop.
I ask Sniper to make me coffee and soup. I drink an entire serving of my favorite recovery drink, Ultragen. I open my vehicle to get my stuff organized for a fourth and final loop.
I’m taking everything with me, including my down jacket. I am NOT going to get cold out there. I have three lights. I have two Zunes, because I don’t know if either one has a charge. I have my phone.
I type a text message. “Starting Loop 4”. There. It’s done. I am committed.
Meanwhile, it’s almost time for the trad TWOT One Loopers to begin. I start ahead of them, because I am getting cold, and I get some yells of encouragement. Three minutes later, I step off the trail to let them run past me.
Brian McNeil catches up. He is out for one loop, back from rehabbing a hip injury. Brian declares he is going to pace me my 4th loop!!
I tell him that is great, but when he needs to go ahead, to all means go, I will be moving extremely slowly. Brian reiterates that he is going to stay with me, and by golly he does!
I cannot believe how “good” I am feeling on this loop. I am not running, but I have a pretty clear head and a tiny bit of energy. It is amazing what sleep can do for a person. My legs do not feel too bad either. This is the best I feel since Loop One.
Brian is a great pacer. He sets his watch at one hour increments, and we stop and eat and drink. I am usually hungry when we stop! I am now also able to stomach my solid foods-peanuts, candy bars, all the stuff that I couldn’t eat once it got cold out.
The weather is cooperating in my favor also. It’s considerably warmer out today than any of the other days that I have been out here in the woods.
I break the loop down into tiny goals. Brian and I are going clockwise. Get to the road. Then get to the road gate. Climb up Hankey (the easy side again.) Get to FDR 96.
We run into Brian Keefer here. He was on his 3rd loop. Brian and Keith Knipling were the other finishers of the full TWOT this year. Keith has also done this four times over!
We also run into lots of runners. Now, when I say, lots of runners, this is still less than..twenty-five? But that’s alot of runners for a TWOT trot.
Today I am happy to get their encouragement after quitting so many times to them the loop before. I feel “pretty good” on this loop and say so. I am also cognizant that I could crash and burn at any time, but man, Loop 4 is going so much better than Loop 3. I feel sorry for Mongold who had to put up with my whiny self.
Camp Todd. A bunch of kids are out. I don’t spend alot of time looking to see what they are doing in a forest, in February. Brian and I cross the water (via the bridge) and start the LAST climb, up Little Bald. It’s still daylight.
This seems to be going far more quickly than Loop 3.
But THEN, there it is, the Famous Sign, the sharp turn. I always consider this the top of Little Bald. Now it’s going to be more of the descent.
Brian and I keep up with the chatting. We get over the icy spots, now it’s dark, and I am back to the little bubble of light. It’s very hard to know where you are on this section, when it’s dark.
Unexpectedly, before I know it, we are at the LAST SIGN, where it is now less than 2 miles
I warn Brian that the last two miles will take approximately 18 hours to complete, as that is what it felt like on Loop 3. My quads are finally protesting quite loudly, and the downhill is tough to do. l.All I am looking for is the wet section of trail. When we hit that, we are 1/4 mile to the parking lot.
FINALLY! The wet section of trail! Brian and I cross the three wooden bridges. I start to run.
I fall down.
Probably 500 feet from the lot. My second fall in 107 miles. Brian picks me up and we emerge victorious to the crowds of well, David Snipes cheering..
I did it. I freaking did it. 108 miles. About 8000 feet of ascent per loop, so 24,000 feet of gain. I had mentioned to Brian earlier, that “this was the hardest run I’ve ever done” and he rattled off some of the statistics. True, I would still say Hardrock is harder-hey, even going up the dreaded Hankey Mountain, the only positive I could give it was the fact that I still had oxygen to breathe.
I finished in 57.30 hours. This includes the 7 hour nap, 1/2 hour or so stop between Loop 2 and 3, and 1/2 hour stop between Loop One and Two. I am the 17th finisher, and 5th female to finish The Wild Oak Trail.
Driving over to a hotel room I had reserved in Harrisonburg minutes later, two songs came on the satellite radio, and I smiled, because it seemed so randomly appropriate Nazareth “Hair of the Dog” followed by Iron Maiden’s “Run to the Hills”.
I did not do this alone, in fact, left to myself I would have quit and probably been home in Ohio on Saturday, instead of wandering up down beautiful trails in Virginia for another day.
Bradley Mongold for saving my run. David Snipes for assisting Mongold and feeding me. Kathleen Cusick for being my cheerleader and pacer early. Brian McNeil for turning my fourth loop into a rather almost enjoyable loop.
For all the other runners who didn’t take me serious when I said I was quitting!
As I tumbled into my clean hotel sheets on Saturday night, I felt more beat up mentally than physically. Jill mentioned “it was all between my ears” and perhaps, 95% of this event was for me. I’ve had several private mental reviews of the weekend so far. It’s amazing what you can do and what you perceive you CANNOT do.
It’s amazing what can happen when friends believe in you. More than one person told me “they had no doubt I could do it.” Well, I certainly did. For probably a good 24 ( to 48 hr?) hour stretch, until I started out on Loop 4, there was plenty of doubt on my side. It’s good to have people who have more confidence in me than I have in myself. That, is great.
This is my tale of my weekend spent in the mountains of Virginia. It was a long time coming. I had the proverbial “white whale” to kill, previously making 100K of progress on this trail. It had been on my mind all winter long. I spent the month of January out in the cold on training runs, to set myself up for cold conditions in Virginia.
Traditional TWOT is the first Saturday of February. Runners hoping to complete all four loops generally start on Friday. I knew, with my 8 + hour drive each way, I needed to finish on Saturday in order to rest up to drive home on Sunday. I drove to Virginia on Wednesday evening, stopping about half way, with the idea to start my first loop about noon on Thursday.
This is not an easy trail, especially when you repeat the loop four times.
I started up the trail at 1130, a half hour early, but I wanted to utilize as much daylight as possible. It was a great loop. All my pictures come from Loop One. I was snapping pictures and updating my status on FB and texting to let my pacers know where I was.
It was cold. I believe it was 28 F when I started. I make sure I kept my face mask on, to help warm up my breathing passages.
This is on Little Bald Knob. I was relieved to find out there was not much snow. Maybe two or three inches on the top of the Balds, which was firmly frozen down to the ground.
This is the famous sign at the turn, for the three mile descent to Camp Todd. There is also another trail, much wider and more visible, that you could blunder down also!
Uneventful loop. I got to FDR 96, Mile 17 on the Loop, two hours ahead of my planned schedule. I am able to text my pace. Kathleen arranges to come out from the TWOT Lot (renamed Camp David, since David Snipes manned the aid station there all weekend long) backwards to meet up.
Kathleen Cusick has volunteered to pace me on Loop Two. Kathleen is much faster than me (ie, she WON Hellgate) and I have cautioned her to wear warm clothing, she will be going slow.
We start Loop Two, counterclockwise again for me, up Grindstone and then Little Bald Knob. Kathleen keeps going ahead, and then coming back for me, which is fine, we both need to move because it’s that cold out. Kathleen pointed out the half moon and all the stars, and all I could think of was how cold it was going to be with no cloud cover.
My hydration system consisted on bottles, stashed in my old UD Wink pack. I was using the Wink pack because it had the most room to stash items in. (This was my Hardrock pack.) I wasn’t carrying a bottle because I was using my Black Diamond Hiking Poles.
It had already become a hassle and annoyance to stop, take the pack off, and drink. It also chilled me each time that I stopped. On the second loop, I was getting behind on eating and drinking.
Kathleen turned, as planned, right before Camp Todd, and I told her I was going to regroup and get calories and food in.
I had planned calories well. I had many different items to choose. I had items I knew might freeze, like candy bars, but I also had honey-roasted peanuts, cheese crackers, items I knew would not freeze.
What I didn’t count on was trying to eat these items, with a dry mouth, as I moved along. For any ultra runner, it just doesn’t work. So I had been eating more gels.
Boost! I drank a can of Boost, 240 calories, at Camp Todd, and took a can with me. I drank a bunch of water. As I climbed up Big Bald, I felt pretty good. I was giving myself positive self talk-with the climb, I was toasty warm. I even told Antonniette that when I ran into her on the trail.
But 240 calories, into a caloric deficient person, who is now climbing 2000 or 3000 feet, in twenty degree weather, doesn’t go too far. I drink the other can. I am looking forward to more Boost at FDR 96.
I think I got to 96 about 5 am Friday morning.
My water was frozen. My Gatorade was frozen. My sweet tea was frozen. I am well, devastated. How freaking cold is it that my stuff is frozen???
I can get a little dribble out of the water. My 4 oz bottle of cranberry juice is not frozen, so I add that to my bottle.
No food looks good. I stuff more gels under my shirt to keep them warm enough to use. I move on. I am very cold. But climbing up Hankey Mountain, like when I climbed up Big Bald, should make me “toasty warm” again.
I hate Hankey Mountain.I start climbing. But I am not getting warm. There is a little breeze-not much, not like 2012 gusts, but as I need every bit of warmth, this isn’t helping. I can only climb about ten steps and I have to pause. I am panting, out of breath. I can’t really tell if it is my asthma, my heart rate, or my body in that horrible timing of the day, the lowest ebb, right before dawn, but I am moving so slow.
Of course, I am getting colder and colder. I slip chemical handwarmers into my gloves, as I can’t feel my thumbs. But now my thighs are getting cold. My thighs never get cold, I can feel the cold on the outside. I’m getting genuinely concerned for my well being.
But what’s the alternative? There is none. I go on. I’m looking forward to getting back to my vehicle, warming up, and QUITTING.
There is just one flaw in my plan, my pacer named Bradley Mongold.
|Me and Mongold, MMT Finish 2013|
Mongold paced me at MMT 2011 and 2013. When you sign up with Bradley, you know you are going to finish. Mongold agreed to pace me for Loop 3 and “maybe” Loop 4. But I had already quit. Now I just needed to get rid of my pacer.
The phone had died, so I just needed to get back to the vehicle, plug the phone in, and hopefully see that Bradley wasn’t coming. He had warned me that he had some business to conduct on Friday, so he might be later that planned. My best case scenario would be a text from him, saying he couldn’t be there until Friday afternoon, and then I could tell him that was fine, I was hypothermic and stopping after two loops.
I pass the sign that says FDR 95 4 miles, and it seems to take five hours. I cross the suspension bridge. I think about cutting the course and going down the road…but of course, I don’t.
I get into the parking lot-renamed Camp David, for David Snipes handling the aid station there all weekend long-and it’s the worse sight ever. My vehicle is open, and Mongold is there, ready to start Loop 3.
Not a cliff-hanger, but a logical place to break up a long tale. Part Two will be out later today!