Monday, January 2, 2017

Quad Rock 50 and Never Summer 100K

Recent lessons learned (the hard way):

Don't overdo the stair workout. I jumped stairs for 25 minutes 3 days ago -- My abs still hurt!

Do sign up for Spring and Summer races to get pumped for training (Quad Rock 50 in May and Never Summer 100K in July).



Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Hike up Flattop, Hallett, Otis, and Taylor

I hiked this weekend with a meetup group in Rocky Mountain N.P. I can't remember when I realized it was an incredible hike, whether it was while hiking into the clouds or sliding down a glacier on my butt or jumping into a frigid glacial lake. The meetup members were great hiking partners. We stuck together as a group, and made decisions together. Our decision process went like this:
Hike one more peak?
Yes!
It's getting late. Hike one more peak?
Hell yeah!
The highlight of climbing up Flattop, Hallett, Otis, and Taylor Mountain was actually getting down. Not to escape Altitude sickness, but because the fastest way down was sliding down Andrews Glacier on my butt. The sign atop the glacier says to use extreme caution when traveling down because of deep crevasses. The glacier went from steep to steeper, and peaked in the middle with boulders and crevasses lining the slick sides. What I thought was ice at the bottom was actually slush, thankfully. I used a garbage bag to slide on. My butt is still sore from all the bumps. At the bottom was a beautiful tarn that ached to be swam in. There's nothing so invigorating as all your body heat being sucked into a pristine body of water. The taste of the water reminded me of sucking on ice cubes, yet with more grit.
On the 5 mile hike back, just when we thought the adventure was over, we missed the last park shuttle back to our car. We were stranded 4 road miles from the car. Luckily, a nice couple from Kentucky stopped for us and gave us a ride in their rental car - the trip leader, Adam, and I crammed into the hatchback trunk.

Someday soon, I'll hike my first 14'er. Not this hike.

Also, I'm running the Blue Sky Trail Marathon on Sunday, Oct. 4. Basically, I'm trying to jump start my running routine again after an exhausting start in my first year teaching Fourth Grade.

Hike totals:

15 mile trip.
4 Peaks.
Flattop Mountain: 12,361'
Hallett Peak: 12,713'
Otis Peak: 12,486'
Taylor Peak: 13,158'

Friday, February 12, 2016

Winter Break

Hi World,

As I journey through the forest, across the icy gurgling streams, I notice there's so many more rocks than usual to trip over. So much crusty ground. Each freeze and thaw pushes rocks up through the earth, and the ground bursts anew. The cycles of life don't stop over the winter, but they sure do slow down. Have you ever thought of the slow yet powerful changes in the rocks, the plants, the trees -- they will outlast most human lives. Maybe they carry more wisdom about the art of slow living and strength. Have you asked yourself, "What impact on the world will I have in my life? Is there something I can do every day that, over my entire life, will accumulate into a legacy?"

Worries come to mind on my rare runs these days. Will I be a proficient teacher some day? Will I be satisfied to teach indoors all the time? Do I always have to agree with my boss? Will I ever be able to find and afford love during grad school? I quicken my pace, trying to outrun my worries.

Today we celebrated Valentine's Day in third grade. A student, fresh from emigrating from Egypt, gave me a note. "You're the best student teacher in this school." The note and then the hug, that's the love that will inspire my next teaching moments.

No races in the future yet. I'm still recovering from runner's knee.

Happy trails,
Steve

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Injury and Recovery

Hi world,

My routines for the past year and a half have adhered to my graduate school's academic calendar. In rare times, I get released from this schedule and get to align with the changes of the day. The sunrise, high noon, and sunset. In these times, I get to experience what nature feels like, hot and cold, wet and dry, windy and calm, and always fresh. These escapes, you might have guessed, are my camping experiences. But they are also my extended running experiences and my hikes. I like to be in the spaces that we don't control as humans, spaces allowed to grow and be wild.
Last week, my parents and I flew to Arizona to tour around. We rented an RV in Phoenix and visited Sedona and the Superstition Mountains. I didn't know the cacti were as huge as trees!

Injury: I've been dealing with knee pain since last Spring. I've gone to a doctor, 2 physical therapists, and a chiropractor. I've gotten and done X-rays, pain meds, adjustments, strengthening exercises, yoga, expensive orthotics, and more. I've gone through a transformation from looking for the panacea to realizing I need to change my lifestyle. Gone are the 12 years where I usually went for a run without stretching. Now, my daily routines are yoga for my hips and hamstrings, strengthening exercises, and wearing orthotics all day. It's about maintaining good posture, and listening to your body.
Another big change I've made is going vegetarian. I've met other runners that are vegetarian, vegan, or keto (and eating humanely raised meat jerky) and it's changed my ideas about what I want to put in my body and what effect that has on the environment. I totally recommend everyone to see the documentary, Food Inc., and read the popular book, The Omnivore's Dilemma, by Michael Pollan. They will open up your world to the inhuman ways our country treats animals and the environment on factory farms, feedlots, and in industrial agriculture. I rarely eat meat now, and sometimes eat fish. And I stay away from gluten. It clogs my system. Like I said, listen to your body. I eat a lot of rice and beans, veggies, and other grains and pulses. I'm hungrier when I can't figure out what to eat, but I know I have a lesser carbon footprint, and more compassion for animals' lives. I'll eat an animal if I know it was raised humanely. Hell, I love the taste of meat and eggs and cheese, yet I avoid the cheap stuff and can't afford the humanely raised products. I'm more like a compassionate omnivore now.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Super Summer Stills.

So I've had an amazing past few weeks and wanted to share some golden moments with everyone. Here's the recap:

Pennsylvania: I spent one week at Journey's End Farm Camp as a family camp counselor. This is my 6th year consecutively working there! It feels like a lovely second home these days. I go back this weekend for Folk Song Weekend.

Maine: My dad and I sea kayaked out of Portland, Maine and camped out on islands on a three day trip at sea!

New Jersey: I celebrated my golden birthday (turning 27 on Aug. 27) by attempting a 27-mile trail run, eating a meal with family, and going out with a hot date!

Vermont: My beloved friends Ryan and Kara got hitched, and they invited me to celebrate with them.

I'll start with pictures, since descriptions would take FOREVER from all these trips. Sadly, I don't have pictures to share from camp or in Vermont yet.

Maine Islands Trip! Includes a view from WWII Tower on Jewell Island. A picture of a Jewell Island campground, with my dad sleeping in the foreground - paddling is exhausting!




Birthday trail run. Lenape Trail, from South Mountain to Montclair. My new friend Tim joined me for part of the run and helped me rally to finish. Pictures are from South Mountain.


Fairy house in South Mountain. Rare species :)

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Vermont 100: The Start

The race started at 4 AM on a cold rainy summer morning in a hayfield in central Vermont. I had never been with so many 100 miler racers before, and all 300 of us made quite a buzz for so early in the morning. The race organization couldn’t be beat. For the start, they had coffee and bagels under the main football field - sized tent, but I was full from my banana, peanut butter, and granola bar hastily scarped up in the car. In the crowd, people wore headlamps, water bottles, backpacks, tights, t-shirts, running shoes, compression socks and sleeves, and more. The field included elite athletes that were attempting the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning — running four of the oldest 100 mile races, all in one summer. The first race of the summer, Western States Endurance Run, was only 3 weeks prior to today, and runners I passed said they still felt the fatigue from it. One older thin man near me wore a yellow shirt with signatures all over. I asked who signed his shirt. He said all the elementary school girls from the Girls on the Run program he coached, as well as family and friends. What a great idea, I thought, to wear a shirt signed by so many loved ones and young runners. I put that in my hat of tricks for when I became a running coach and educator some day soon. What I didn’t know then was, the man’s name was Rolly, short for Roland, and he would be my running partner for the first 30 miles.

There wasn’t a starting gun that was fired, on account of it being 4 AM on a Saturday in rural Vermont. We had heard from the race director, Amy Rusiecki, many times to be kind, respectful, and unobtrusive with the private landowners whose land we would run through on the course. Drive slow, park only where directed, and, most importantly she said, don’t poop on their lawns. The fact that this needed to be asked of us was proof that, yes, people had pooped on lawns, in gardens, driveways, you name it. I also later learned in the race from returning racers that they had shot off July 4th- intensity fireworks at 4:30 AM a few years back, and that really pissed off the landowners.
After we counted down from 10 to 0, we all sleepily started jogging down a gravel and dirt road. I felt like we were falling over from sleep rather than bounding towards the finish line. When I looked behind me, I saw a sea of dancing white lights and heard countless footsteps and gear rustling. A truly unique sight in all my 27 years. I was so giddy to finally be at the pinnacle of my training, a 100 mile race. I was so grateful and happy that I was healthy, depression-free, and had direction in life. I was living the dream! I wanted to qualify for the Western States 100 through completing this race, though, so I had to ensure I finished. Slow and steady, I repeated. Slow and steady.

To be continued…

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Vermont 100: Mental Strategies

Hi all,
So my experience at the Vermont 100 last Saturday was so deep, spiritual, emotional, and memorable, it's hard to decide where to begin and where to end. Here's my first attempt:

When people hear I ran 100 miles last weekend in one day, they ask how I could do something like that. To start with, I've been running for 13 years now and this was my 4th 100 mile run. I've also trained all year for this race. So I was well-prepared. Included in my mental preparation was visualization and mantras. For a few nights before the race, I visualized the course as vividly as I could, and imagined in great detail completing my run perfectly with all the challenges and strategies that might come up. The mantras helped me on race day to stay focused and spiritually and emotionally grounded the whole day.

My mantras for the race were many, but simple. I have a tendency to start a race too fast, so one mantra that kept me well-paced was: The race starts at mile 50. I know, it's a strange statement to light and non-runners. My next mantra helped me during the second half of the race: Open up your stride. After running a few marathons, my legs and back tightened up so much that I had to constantly remind myself to take longer strides as opposed to the stiff shuffle my body wanted to do. And the course was all hills, so I had plenty of down hills to take advantage of and run faster. Now, in my first 100 mile race, I mentioned I used the mantra "right here, right now" to stay present and not worry about the impending pain and miles. In this second 100 mile race, I used that mantra but I also broke down the race into tens. I just worried about the 60s, or the 70s, and so on. That helped a lot to break up the race into achievable intermediate goals. I had on my person a list of Marshall Ulrich's Ten Commandments of Endurance. He taught these lessons to the Navy Seals before their Hell Week training and he wrote them into his book, Running on Empty. The ones that stuck with me were, "Suffering is okay", "Expect a journey and a battle", and "Don't dwell on the negative." Lastly, when I bonked during the 70s miles, I used a lesson from mindfulness that, "This too shall pass," --and it did.

To be continued!