Saturday, November 27, 2010

Vermonters

A sampling of Vermont's offerings: Skiing in Stowe, Ben & Jerry's Factory, Vermont Teddy Bear Factory, Magic Hat Brewery, Shelburne Museum, Lake Champlain, Antiques, the "big" city of Burlington and so much more! Realistically all great attractions, but what do we the local (802) folks do for fun?

Friday night we found ourselves stuck in transition from fall to winter and in the midst of hunting season.  Running or mountain biking in the woods is currently a gamble and there isn't enough snow to even make a snowball, let alone ski.  How to kill time, keep warm and enjoy each others company?  Ask my husband and his friend Marc that question and the answer is....FIRE.  When Geo told me we were going to have a bonfire I giggled. We had absolutely no wood, unless he planned on burning the chicken coop and then roasting the chickens.  Not to worry though, apparently the boys had gone wood hunting earlier in the day at a local construction site.  I didn't know if I should be mad or be happy that they were resourceful?  After I had them promise the wood was all scraps, they got all dressed in their Carhartt overalls and boots and headed out to start the party.


The Bonfire

Robert Frost

“Oh, let’s go up the hill and scare ourselves,
As reckless as the best of them to-night,
By setting fire to all the brush we piled
With pitchy hands to wait for rain or snow.
Oh, let’s not wait for rain to make it safe.
The pile is ours: we dragged it bough on bough
Down dark converging paths between the pines.
Let’s not care what we do with it to-night.
Divide it? No! But burn it as one pile
The way we piled it. And let’s be the talk
Of people brought to windows by a light
Thrown from somewhere against their wall-paper.
Rouse them all, both the free and not so free
With saying what they’d like to do to us
For what they’d better wait till we have done.
Let’s all but bring to life this old volcano,
If that is what the mountain ever was—
And scare ourselves. Let wild fire loose we will…”





Whole wheat homemade pizza, local pie, beer and now warmth we all seemed content, but as the fire grew in size my worry grew along with it.  No fire permit and not exactly winter yet, which opens us up to fines.  Most people would say 'who cares', and the Williston fire chief that lives two houses down from us would say 'I do'.

All said and done, a calm, starry night with warmth from good friends and fire.  Hopefully we are one day closer to moving out of our transition from fall into winter.  Stay tuned for my next story on how we entertain ourselves during "transition time" playing our own version of home run derby on the golf course.

Sidebar - 34 days till training commences!  

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

"You're A Mean One..."

We all know the cartoon character created by Dr. Seuss known as the Grinch.  He stars in the book, holiday special, movie and now musical How the Grinch Stole Christmas.  The Grinch heads to Whoville with a purpose.  His intent is to cause mischief and sabotage the holiday for the Whos that are joyful.  The Grinch’s only “friend” is his pet dog Max, who is a big-eyed dog that is semi-loyal to his owner.  Max wants no part in the Grinch’s foul play, although is forced to wear makeshift antlers and pull a sleigh as he and his owner masquerade as Santa and his reindeer. 

  
Ah yes “You’re a mean one Mr. Grinch," and the word “Grinch” is synonymous with the word “grouch,” someone who shows disdain for something wholesome.  As I go on with my day-to-day business during the holiday season, which seems to grow in length every year, I feel like the grouchy Grinch because I am not seeing much wholesomeness within the holiday. Simple tasks can turn into holiday insanity; traffic, parking, packed stores, rude people, sales that run from 3AM-5AM, the ungodly amount of outdoor decorations, fa...la, la, la, la, la ,la, la...LAAAA.  Have many really lost the true meanings of the holidays or am I just bitter? 

Grinch: That's what it's all about, isn't it? That's what it's always been ABOUT! Gifts, gifts ...gifts, gifts, gifts, gifts, gifts! You wanna know what happens to your gifts? They all come to me. In your garbage. You see what I'm saying? In your GARBAGE! I could hang myself with all the bad Christmas neckties I found at the dump. And the avarice ... THE AVARICE NEVER ENDS! “I want golf clubs. I want diamonds. I want a pony so I can ride it twice, get bored and sell it to make glue!” Look, I don't wanna make waves, but this whole Christmas season is STUPID, STUPID, STUPID!

As a child I never really caught that the Grinch was saying all of this despite watching the holiday special year after year.  Now I am more aware that Dr. Seuss helps illustrate how the media markets the holidays as a time for hyper consumption.  I am not as old or “wise” as the Grinch, but I find myself with a dose of Christmas doubt.  I am not complaining about the holiday music, the joy or the merriment, nor do I want to stop Christmas.  I would like to see a Christmas that celebrates the gifts of life, family and friends and not the gifts of money.  I am not deneying that I have been lead astray and wrapped up in unwrapping present after present, although I am feeling like is time for a change.  


Narrator: Every Who down in Who-ville, the tall and the small, was singing! Without any presents at all! He hadn’t stopped Christmas from coming! It Came! Somehow or other, it came just the same! It came without ribbons!  It came without tags! It came without packages, boxes or bags! Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before!  ‘Maybe Christmas,’ he thought, ‘doesn’t come from a store.’ Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.


After removing all signs of the holiday from Whoville the Grinch waits, watches and listens.  The Grinch learns that Christmas transcends the presents.  He believed that if the Whos situation worsened then joy would be absent and to his surprise the Whos gather and sing with glee anyway.  The true holiday spirit lives within their hearts and continues to regardless of the circumstances.  Joy isn't a season and it isn't only for those that have everything, but rather for all the people.  We all have our "Grinches" inside of us or in our lives, but in reality they cannot snatch the true joy that the angel told the shepherds about.  Not to go all religious on you, but Christmas is not about keeping up with the Joneses, rather it is about the celebration of the birth of Christ.  I hope to keep all this in the forefront of my mind as I navigate not only this holiday season, but all the days that follow.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Getting Ticked!

It's almost December and I am getting ticked, seriously I have had enough.  No I am not ticked that balloon boy was a hoax or that my employer blocks Facebook.  I would attribute my negative experiences with the warmer temperatures that we have been experiencing in New England as we move from fall to winter.  Yes herein lies my problem, but just please leave me alone.  I do understand that everything has its role in nature, although I still don't care for you and never invited you to hang out with me or my dogs.  Stick with me or my family and I will have to kill you!  You make me as enraged as Dwight Schrute from The Office when Jim puts his stuff inside Jello molds. 

You gross me out and can pass on more diseases to humans than any other creepy crawly besides another enemy of mine known as the mosquito.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Running On Slow Mo

As I mentioned in a previous post this year I have decided to have what I am deeming an "off season".  My body has been begging for a break since Transrockies.  With little thought my initial goal was to not run for a few weeks.  Not even two days into this attempt I found myself pacing back and forth in my kitchen feeling like I was going through withdrawal.   I was grumpy, felt like I was trapped and even went so far to compare it to being being tarred and feathered.  Yes that is a bit extreme, but important used to illustrate how hard it felt mentally, physically and emotionally. Running is a huge part of my life and my routine so it felt very difficult and I panicked. I ran that day, those following, and realized it was time to reevaluate.   I knew removing running completely would be difficult unless I was involuntarily forced to that extreme due to illness or injury.  I decided that cutting my miles and intensity was the new plan of action while placing more emphasis on cross training, adventure, and plain old fun.

SATURDAY
The plan for Nick and I on Saturday was to do a fast pack on Mount Mansfield.  We would start on the Underhill side, work our way to the forehead, then to the chin, and then do a loop on the Stowe side before heading back up and over to the car.  When Nick and I left Williston the temperatures were in the mid 20's, at the trail head we were in the mid 30's, by the top of the forehead it was easily in the 50's!  We moved from icy conditions to soft snow, to extreme mud to slippery rock and then finally dry rock.  Talk about temperature inversion.


We ran, hiked, walked, climbed and even stopped all movement and simply enjoyed the sunshine. It actually felt empowering to stop and walk rather than try and run every section.  It felt good to not be worried about what speed we were traveling at and how many miles we had ticked off.

SUNDAY
After having a taste of some bouldering on Saturday it was time to strike out with Geo, Marc, Andrea and my father for some climbing in West Bolton.  I am afraid of heights, but was interested in doing some rappelling.  When Geo and I arrived at the top of the cliff so he could set the anchors and rope he offered to let me rappel first.  No such luck, I was too fearful to be a crash test dummy.  Of course he and Marc did a great job of setting ropes.  On my first climb quickly learned that I don't use my "climbing muscles" when I run.  Within minutes, ok lets be honest, within seconds my fingers, arms and shoulders were shot.


It was a great way to spend a beautiful fall day in the woods with friends and family.  Just 47 days until my off season is over and I hope to make the best of each moment that remains.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Long Trail South - Bamforth



If I had to pick the most daunting section of Long Trail I have every encountered it would be the Bamforth section that climbs from Duxbury Road to the clearing just before the summit of Camels Hump.  I had managed to avoid it all summer, although now for some reason it was time to venture out on this trail.  This section is a 6 mile stretch that even when ran usually takes me just under 2 hours.  The trail starts of with some nice climbs and is extremely runnable, but then a few miles you in encounter steep root sections and sheer rock.  Sheer rock and I are not friends.  Sheer wet rock and I are enemies.  Sheer wet and icy rock is my arch-nemesis.

As Nick and I pulled into the parking area a State Trooper greeted us and to be honest I was hoping he was going to tell us the trail was closed. The man informed us that there was a suspected lost day hiker who had wondered off the trail and been missing overnight.  How did the Trooper know this?  The 23-year-old male had called his mother in Alaska as his cell phone battery was dying and told her he had lost his way.  She then called
the Vermont State Police to report that her son maybe in trouble.  A search party was being formed, but we were told to call if we were to locate him.  

With temperatures in the 20's during the night I was hoping that the young man was adequately dressed.  I also prayed to God that he was found as another night in lost in those conditions wouldn't bode well for anyone who was just out for a day hike.  I packed an additional layer in my pack and we were off running. We were able to make quick, although comfortable use of the early on terrain and hiked the steeper more technical sections.  I always have a hard time keeping up with Nick on this trail, as his long legs seem to power up the big step-ups and make long leaps over large bogs.  


Approximately 2.3 miles up we came across the lost hiker who was being escorted out by a volunteer rescue personnel.  Nick called 911 as instructed and they informed the State Trooper who was stationed at the trail head that they were on their way down.  A sense of relief came over me especially after seeing that the lost hiker had on khaki cargo pants, tennis shoes and a cotton sweat shirt.  When I asked him what he did over night to keep warm he showed me by marching in place.  Once again we were off and running and now the conditions were starting to get more interesting as we moved from a dusting of snow to a winter wonderland.  After reaching the clearing we stopped at spoke to a friendly hiker who was interested to know what the heck we were training for.  Of course I replied "um nothing as it's my off season," although Nick was sure to fill him in on our summer endeavors.  Standing around and chatting before heading down the Monroe trail took a toll on my comfort level. At one point I was so cold I felt like I was going to vomit, but knew movement was what I needed.  I gingerly made my way down the icy rocks and then it happened, the sun came out!  If felt like summer and made the 9 miles that still lay ahead more appreciated.  

A great day of what Nick and I deemed "fast packing" and lessons learned.  I do my best to be prepared for the good and bad moments on the trail.  In the summer you have to be careful, but in the winter things can turn ugly really fast.  It can be a hard balance to know what to carry when you are trying to do a mountain run.  I always want to go light without sacrificing safety. Here is what I typically bring: an extra warm layer, dry hat and gloves, an emergency blanket, food/water and even a cell phone.  I do believe the most important thing to do is have at least one other person with you and let someone know where you are going and when you should return.  Sounds silly and easy to say "it won't happen to me," but are you sure of that?  


Thursday, November 4, 2010

Living Life One Breath At a Time

"Breathing in, I calm body and mind. Breathing out, I smile. Dwelling in the present moment, I know that this is the only moment." -Thich Nhat Hanh
How many moments just pass you by without notice? Can you live life and not really be present?  Time continues to move at a consistent pace so why do I feel the need to go fast or force myself to go slow? Living life is an open-ended process with really no final destination; it is all an expedition. Surely some would argue death is an end point, but no need for me to get sidetracked. When I focus purely on the concept of destination I miss the journey, in other words I miss life. Each moment is unique and I should live each without judgment and without haste. Being present in the moment I become more aware and begin to experience the pleasant and the unpleasant more deeply rather than hiding form it. Yes reality can be scary, but to really live it and experience it means I am alive. It all seems so simple, yet so complex.


Being mindful is certainly a process for me and the meaning for me is evolving. I am working on being mindful and present not only during my runs, but also at other times rather than being on autopilot. Running has become a form of meditation for me; it is an escape and a release, yet sometimes a stress. My running has a particular rhythm to it and if it has to be changed more energy is required. How my pace and flow are determined at this point is mindless. I often run in beautiful places and the run is over before I know it not because I was taking in all the sights and sounds but because I was tuned out.  If my attention is in the present I can allow myself to actually be where I am.  I can be aware without trying to change anything, I can hear, breathe, smell, feel and even think in that moment.  I have found that if I can find this place where I am present I have soft, quick feet and feel nimble.

On the other hand while running if I dwell and perpetually over think, then things become complicated. If my mind drifts and I start to process life's stressors from the past or those I may encounter in the future my speed may increase, my footfall becomes more pronounced, my body becomes tense, and my breathing actually becomes what I would deem breathing. I am working on being cautious in that if I need to process a stressor in my life I do so, without allowing it to control/dictate my entire run. It is all a balance, and I am discovering that if I accept the moment and work with it then good things can arise for this action.

It all does seem to get confusing as I write and think. It seems like a difficult concept to put into words. Now I might be over thinking as my thoughts move to the negative and nervousness arrives. I think about this moment, this one right now, I stop, listen, feel sensations and a sense of calm settles back in. I realize that worrying about what people might think of my rambles isn't living in the now.