Walking in the woods at Winant Park on Sunday I hear all kinds of sounds. As we enter the trails near the church on Pleasant Street there is a loud ripping sound. I look up and see the top of a tree come crashing to the ground. I half expect to see some sort of bobcat or mountain lion run away, like it is high up on a tree limb and its weight causes the tree to crumble. Winnie runs toward the sound, not a great thing in case there is a wild animal but no animal runs away and we continue on our hike.
Black flies are still hovering which is obnoxious for this time of year. Geez. Go away. I swat the flies as I hobble over the thousands of acorns that litter the trail this year. I don’t remember so many on the trails and roads compared to last year at this time. We hiked as much last year as this year and I simple don’t remember them. And I definitely don’t remember the sounds from them falling in the woods.
The sound of the acorns falling is so loud for such a small nut.
When you live in the same place for several seasons you start to see patterns such as the sun rising in a different spot or the trail start to be less socked in when the trees lose their leaves. When I lived in Killington, Vermont I watched and recorded how spring changed into summer and then later into fall. I noticed everything, wrote about every detail from hiking the same trail, Trail 17, every day with my yellow lab Abbey. Later when I lived in Granby, Colorado I watched the seasons change from hiking the same mountain trail behind my house for seven years with Abbey and Daisy. All the details never seemed changed from year to year.
The only reason I can guess that I didn’t notice the acorns last year is age; I’m getting older and don’t remember as much.
That’s why I will now take my journal with me on every hike and take detailed notes again. I don’t want to miss a thing.
The best mornings start out with reading and then writing.
I’m re-reading West of 98, Living and Writing the New American West.
The best part of reading this book again is that it reminds of all the amazing places I’ve lived and explored in Colorado and Arizona. It gives me fodder for all the stories I want to write.
“Truly belonging to this place would mean embracing it as vastly layered and infinitely complex. Wilderness as primal blessing, forever being born and forever dying.” – Gary Ferguson, from the essay in West of 98: Wolf and Coyote and Kumbaya
I’m in Colorado, and today I meet with my Pacers and Crew to discuss race day planning. But first a short run at 5,500 feet in Littleton. The picture above is me stretching after a run, looking into that gorgeous blue Colorado sky.
Here’s my hope for pacing on August 17:
Today, Mary and I head to Manitou Springs to check out Garden on the Gods and Cliff Dwellings. A little more acclimation training for me and tomorrow – Pikes Peak to bag a 14’er.
I had great flights all day Friday and arrived on time at the Denver Airport. Whitney and Kathleen picked me up and we headed west on I-70 to our lunch plan – Tommyknocker Brewery is my Colorado tradition coming into the mountain from the city, since 2010.
Once in Leadville we waited at our hotel for Mary to arrive and then headed to packet pick up. We walked through the expo and then into the packet pick up for our shirt and bib. I spotted the Leadman booth and knew that one day, one day, I would be registering at that booth.
Weather was a concern for days leading up to race and Friday the weather forecast for Saturday was looking like cold temps and rain. Mary and I were panicking a bit because we both get so cold, so easily.
Dinner was at Treeline and we met Bob and Vicky for the pre-race day meal. I met Bob and Vicky at the Blood Root Ultra in Vermont. We chatted a bit during that race and learned that we were both racing the marathon AND the 100 in Leadville.
At the race start the weather was perfect : 39 degrees and sunny. The weather still showed clouds and rain in the forecast so we carried rain gear.
I started with Bob, Mary and Whitney. Mary and Whitney were running the Heavy Half
The first three miles introduced me to Zombie brain – a phenomena that caused me to stare at the ground, rendered me speechless and my brain couldn’t function except to keep moving forward running/hiking. I didn’t even look at my heart rate. I just moved with the crowd.
The climbs seemed endless and the scenery spectacular. I have to say I’m pretty used to the beautiful high mountain scenery after living in Grand County so many years but being so high up at 11,000 feet, seeing all the snow, it was strikingly beautiful. I walked so much it wasn’t a big deal to take out my phone and take photos.
Leadman and Leadwoman racers wear a special race bib to identify themself. They get extra cheers from the runners since this is just one race in five that they compete in during the summer. If everything goes according to plan, I hope to enter the Leadwoman races series next year. But first, the 100 Run.
Whitney and Bob saw the big black bear that ran across the trail and I missed it by a few minutes. Bob said that seeing the bear made it worth the registration price.
At about mile 13 I felt a little dizzy and thought I should look at my heart rate – 180 at that moment. It scared me so I walked and tried to monitor it better. Then after the turn around point, my stomach started to hurt. Right in the middle, not the side, the middle. I hoped it was gas. Nope.
I told Mary yesterday that I needed to have a tough race. I need to throw up and feel sick. I didn’t even think about GI issues.
I’ve never had issues before. Never pooped or even needed to poop on a run, much less diarrhea.
NOTE: ultra runners talk about pooping all the time. It’s regular conversation for us, for the record.
So there it is – pooping in the woods and then no more pain.
I still have to figure how how to throw up and maybe pass out (okay, not pass out) on a trail run prior to the 100 just so I have the experience and can get used to it. I want to know that I can react to it and not just stop.
Then, it was all about the downhill and finishing. I was surprised that I wanted to walk so much on the downhill. I thought it would be easy to run downhill but it was hard on my heart and lungs still. My legs were fine, really. Kind of cool.
I caught up to Bob a few times during the race and we reconnected after my two stops in the woods at mile 20. We ended up running the last 5K together. The finish line and red carpet were absolutely amazing and I had to stop myself from getting choked up with emotion on finishing this race. After I finished George wandered into the area and we hugged. He drove down from Hot Sulphur just for a 30 minute visit.
Step 4 of 5 in Dream Year 2019 – done!
I signed up for this race so I would know what my body would do at 10,000 after coming from sea level. My heart and lungs exploded from my chest for the first half of the run. I seemed to settle in and feel somewhat better after three hours. Running downhill was still hard on my heart and lungs. My legs held up, though and that is good – very good. I wasn’t sore during the run but post-race I just wanted to sit.
I learned so much about myself and my body during this race and to be honest, I’m scared to death about the 100 mile race. I want to finish this 100 and cross that finish line more than anything in the world. I have a lot of training to do and need to spend more hours on my feet and get to the mountains for long mountain runs to get ready for the 100.
Here’s what I learned and what I have to do: • Write and follow a nutrition plan for 5 days leading up to race • Do not drink electrolytes from an aid station unless I know what it is and I’ve tried it before • Write and send to pacers and crew a detailed Project Plan for the 100 • No more bourbon days before a race (this seems like common sense but then again adventure)
Even after years of living in Colorado and Arizona, I always think of my home as New Hampshire and my home airport Boston.
From 2004 to 2012 my home airport was Denver and often confused it by saying Boston when I began traveling frequently.
Today I’m on my first trip back to Colorado for the Leadville Marathon and to spend time with Mary, Whitney and George; three, true forever friends.
It’s been over two years since I left and I feel like I’m coming home.
But Colorado wasn’t my original western place despite Denver being the first city I moved to at 17 with a plan to live there permanently. I came home after a few days. My first western dream-place was originally Montana, a place with far fewer people and more wildlife; or so I had heard and experienced with frequent trips in my 20s.
I dreamed of the west for a decade and tried to figure out a way to get there; I was too scared to go without a job. In 2004 I finagled a way to move to Steamboat for my job – so Colorado was chosen for me. Almost every year while living in Steamboat or Granby, I thought of moving home but never acted upon it. Then I had a chance to move to Tucson and escape cold, mountain town living, essentially running away from a place that I thought would be my forever-place. I took the Tucson job and moved to the southwest knowing noone.
Colorado had its grasp on me and three years later I moved back to the place I left, for a job that is my favorite occupation to date: editor of a newspaper. Denver was my home airport again.
Just under two years later I moved back to New Hampshire; for many reasons. In reality, running away, running back. I’m a runner; a self inflicted label I want to change.
I run in two-to-three year increments; a pattern I’ve followed all my life. The thing is – I’m not afraid of endings and I’m not scared of beginnings; it’s the quiet times of staying still and stagnant that frighten me the most. It’s two years into this stint back in New Hampshire and finally feel like I’m getting my footing back; and being the person that is joyful, engaged in outdoor pursuits and reaching athletic goals.
This feeling started with a bike, a mountain bike. Well, it started, really, when I got into the Leadville 100 Run. To finish this race would be the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I wanted that feeling to cross that finish line. I started with so many baby steps and here I am two month before the race prepared for the next cycle of training. I’m so ready and feeling confident. But it was the mountain bike that reminded me of joy – the joy of downhill riding and laughing. You don’t really get that joy from running, or at least I don’t. Mountain biking teaches you about living in the moment. Running is more mental, calculating.
Of all the races I could’ve entered or been excited about, why Leadville? Why did the sequence of events happen that led me on this journey back to Colorado? Why did Colorado get chosen for me again? I think it comes back to going away west, coming home east. It was the opposite for Wallace Stegner who wrote that he was born a westerner and had been coming home west his entire life. Maybe Leadville is my coming home west – the fulfillment of the hero’s journey where you go out on adventures and then try to find your way home.
My favorite thing to hear on my phone when mapping a destination: Arrived