Adventures beyond imagining

When the TSA worker asks me why I’m traveling, I’ll answer, “Service.”

This week I’m packing my bags and heading on my first airplane trip since 1999, before the TSA was created.

To be honest, I’m freaking out.

But this is an opportunity that presented itself because I was open to new things.

It combines my favorite things — helping others, exercise and adventuring.

Luckily, most of my days are planned out — do service work, eat, exercise, deliver fruits of our work’s labor. Then celebrate our accomplishments.

I need that structure in the light of doing something this epic. I’ve never been on the West Coast before. I haven’t traveled without my kids in a long time.

I’ve never done the WOD for Warriors that Team RWB is hosting that weekend.

I’m so ready for this. I’m so scared of this too. I’m also crazy excited as well. Can’t you tell?!

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The I in Selection

Selection.

To me, this GORUCK event is the ultimate challenge. Unlike other GORUCK events, this is an individual event, where your mettle is tested again and again for 48 hours.

While watching this year’s Selection coverage on Facebook was exciting, I’m not sure I actually want to participate. I know I’m not physically or mentally where I should be to handle the event.

But Selection gave me a new benchmark — the PT test. This test is given at the beginning of Selection. You still have a little over a day of event after this test. If you can’t do the PT test, you’re done. You just wasted your money.

To pass the PT test, you must meet the following standards:

  • 5 mile run finished in 40 minutes (about 8 minutes miles)
  • A minimum of 55 push ups in 2 minutes
  • A minimum of 65 sit-ups in 2 minutes
  • 12-mile ruck run finished in 3 hours and 30 minutes

The real test is to pace yourself. You can’t put all your effort into the 5-mile run because you’ll be exhausted when it comes time to do the ruck.

You have to train to exceed the PT test goals so you won’t have to worry. Once you know you can conquer that test, you can work on developing the mental and physical stamina needed to complete Selection. Less than 5 percent of the people who sign up for Selection get that finishers patch.

As someone who runs a lot slower than 8-minute miles and can’t do many sit-ups and push ups in a row, being able to pass the PT test will a feat.

But I’m willing to put in the work. Let’s get started.

Story of numbers

3 — The number of kids who have grown in my womb for nine months.

5 — The age gap in years between Mountain Kid 1 and Mountain Kid 3. Also the number of years I’ve been half-heartedly attempting to lose my pregnancy weight.

220 — My heaviest weight when carrying one of my kids (my middle son).

165 — The ideal race weight — according to numerous publications — I starved myself to obtain while training to compete in my first and only triathlon.

185 — My body’s happy weight before I turned 40. It likes 180-185 lb. range the best.

220 — The amount of weight I have successfully leg pressed.

35 — The amount of weight I like to max my arm curls at right now.

15 — The amount of weight I maxed my arm curls at in 2014.

75 — The weight, in pounds — of the biggest kid I have and will carry to safety at a moment’s notice.

26.2 — The longest race I’ve done in miles.

3,153 — Number of miles I’ve logged on a fitness app since 2013.

These numbers are part of my story. They don’t share the sunrises and sunsets I’ve witnessed. They don’t tell how many times I’ve smiles in triumph or cried just because. They don’t share the magical part of my adventure.

Words do though, as do pictures. Part of my goals for this month is to provide content here a bit more. I hope you enjoy it.

Here’s a sneak peak of what’s ahead.

The trips to the fork in the road

Quote of the post: “You were given this life because you are strong enough to live through it.” — Patch received from a GRT (GORUCK Tough)

There are things that mark a certain phase in people’s lives — your first car, your first breakup, the birth of a child, etc.

For me, a recent series of events brought things into view, making them too hard to ignore. Maybe these things were there all along, just waiting for me to say “Aha! That’s it.”

I admit, I was a bit slow, but I hope these things I relearned will spark something in you and get you headed in the right direction.

A Wedding and a Podcast

My brother, 17 years younger than I am but filled with twice as much wisdom, got married earlier this year. He and his wife had a small, beautiful wedding at a friend’s house. Its backyard slopes down to a beautiful lake on a state park. I instantly wanted to run on the trails to escape the thoughts in my head, but I took it all in.

From the vows that invoked Pokémon and Star Wars to the reception of pizza and lounging on the porch, this was so my brother and his wife. It was relaxed, fun, and yet a little, tiny bit serious.

It was there, that I felt the weight of the world. I had been lost for a while, since the move back to the South. I was/am a mountain mama. Things were changing in a way I couldn’t keep up with.

My brother followed me down to the lake and told me about the property. And we talked, as adults, about how exciting yet how scary the world is. And we hugged, and at the moment, the hug … that feeling that I wasn’t alone was enough.

That night, due to family obligations, I drove back home. I listened to a few podcasts, All Day Ruckoff, Mom is in Control. The one that stuck out the most to me was Applebell Radio’s episode on being a Renaissance (Wo)man. I mentioned it before in this blog, but again, this offered a shift in my mindset that just blew things out of the water.

As a child, we are told in school to concentrate on one thing, whatever specific career we want in the future. I wanted (and still do) to be all the things — president, Olympic athlete with her own clothing line who also acted and built her own home. I admired how my dad could fix cars just as much as I admired my Mom’s baking ability.

When I went to college, I told my adviser I wanted to be a Renaissance Woman and was told to get a Bachelor’s of Science in English. I sucked at the math part though. I thought my dream was dead. I tried to hone down on just one career, something I’d do for the rest of my life. And to be honest, I just can’t anymore.

Fast forward to 2017.

In the Applebell podcast, co-hosts Blayne Smith and his wife Jeni Smith talked about how Blayne has all of these talents and how he uses them. Jeni also started learning things because she’s interested in them.

During my drive home from the wedding, I assessed my talents and made it a goal to reclaim my Renaissance Woman status.

The trip to the homestead

By the time this is posted on the Internet, our home on the island in the middle of the Ohio River will have been torn down. The two huge trees have already been removed. The majority of our belongings will be thrown out or picked through by neighbors who asked me if I was throwing out my family’s antique dresser as the neighbor who bought our house helped me pack it into a rental SUV.

This move was hard. Leaving in April was hard. I felt like we had a chance to salvage something from this or rebuild. But then I went into the house a few months after we left.

From what I understand, the box gutter around the front porch collapsed a month after we left. The hole in the top roof wasn’t patched correctly. Since I wasn’t there to clean things up, the hole left the wall under it black with mold. The smell of stale, moist air hung around the clothes racks that were still filled with our clothes. The spiders had taken over a couch that my family lounged on after we came home from school.

This was an instance where my father’s words, learned through many years in the construction business, rang true: “If you go for the quick, cheap job, you’ll pay for it in the end.”

For the past several years, I spun my wheels hoping to turn back some magical clock. It wrecked my outlook, causing me to shun people I loved and care for and break down at the slightest of imperfections.

I was slowing the dam with a tiny bucket.

The fear of letting people see how things were, as least how bad I saw it, overwhelmed my thoughts and actions while we lived in Appalachia. There were happy times to be sure, but there was also finances, a crumbling house and uncertainty always looming.

As I took in what happened once nature took over, I knew we had done the right thing. I know I was doing the right thing as I packed up what I could fit into the SUV. There was no quick fix. Some goals take a lot of work (and in our home’s case investment of finances) in order to be achieved. And you can’t half-ass it — be all in for a week and flake off the next week because you don’t feel like doing it. You gotta keep going until you’re done. And that’s what I’ve been doing for at least five years throughout my fitness journey.

As I said before, I’m a slow learner. I knew what the house was telling me. I let it sit there, quiet and unspoken for a few days while I plotted my course.

I tend to implode on myself, I’m good at self-sabotage. I tend to think of all that can go wrong before ever taking the leap required to do something epic.

But this time, I stuck with it. Each week, I’m working on something new, trying to build on what I’ve been doing in a way that’s fun and challenging for me.

I feel better mentally and physically. This is hard, very hard sometimes, but it feels more authentic. It’s closer to how I’ve wanted to live, and that really makes me want to push to see how far I can take these changes.

I think the most frustrating thing is that I’ve known what needed to be done for a while but I just couldn’t do it. I made excuses and put up barriers that didn’t need to be there. And now, I have to clean up the mess of everything I left undone.

The challenges

Getting to where I want to be requires a leap of faith. I love adventure, but I’m also keenly aware of the dangers. As someone who is a 41-year-old mom of three, I have to tow the line between adventure and jeopardizing my ability to take care of my family. I also have to overcome:

  • The fear of failure: Ever since I was little, failure would set me off into a tear-ladden fit. I have to remember failure is a setback, a lesson if you will, not an absolute.
  • The fear of success: If I do well, what if they find out I’m a fraud? That was a big concern in Appalachia. I wanted to fit in. Honestly, I will never fit in as one thing or another because I’m lots of things. All of which are bad*** by the way.
  • The fear of rocking the boat: Things were good in many aspects, but there were bad thing too. Part of my concern is that if I pushed the norms, they would push back in a negative way. I also worried that changing the status quo would upset things so much that I couldn’t handle it. I can handle it. And more.

The appointments

I think I have to confront at least one of these concerns every day. So I’ve set up appointments with myself to keep my mentally, spiritually and physically on the right path.

  • Take a rest break: For real, don’t run around picking up toys while everyone watches TV. Put down the phone. Just unplug and do nothing. Take a real break to be with yourself and those you love.
  • Take a physical break: For me, exercise is a way to connect with myself and think through things. The hard work leaves me refreshed. I take a break right after the kids go to school to do what I need to do to feel sane. When the kids are home, I get up before they do or do something we can all participate in.
  • Embrace the differences: I don’t think like my husband or my neighbor. And that’s OK. I have different goals, hopes and dreams, so it’s OK to be my version of “normal.” It’s hard to remember that nowadays, but I think being authentic, without the mask of social media, is becoming more critical nowadays.
  • Speak up: Some people tend to think that women who speak up are nagging. They don’t realize that someone is asking for help or is just being genuinely concerned about something. I’ve learned to think and then speak my mind a bit more. I may not be an expert. But I drink (not as much as I used to) and know things, as Tyrion Lannister says in Game of Thrones.

What are you good at? Are there things you want to improve? If you put in the work, you’ll reach your goal. There is no easy way to get there, not magic wands or pills. I knew this, but didn’t really take it to heart until recently.

You can move mountains. Keep looking for the next adventure. Maybe our paths will meet.

Looking ahead

Now that I’m in the final week before my Grand Slam, I can’t help but wonder already …

What’s next?

In February of this year, I did the Hillraiser Endurance Challenge — a grueling 6-mile course that I traveled in twice. It was an epic adventure that taught me a lot about myself, what I’m capable of and how important it is to have someone cheering for you.

I can’t say that I’m in better shape than I was at this time last year. While I have more muscle definition in legs and arms, I’ve gained a lot of weight in my mid-section. It makes athletic activities harder. It’s harder to be enthusiastic about workout out when getting around is much more difficult than it was about five months ago.

*long sigh*

While I have gained weight, something has shifted for me mentally. To be honest, I’m a little slow on some things. I think I finally figured out how to beat back some of the things that have been dragging me down.

I think my kids, who are rather keen observers, were the first to notice that I laugh more. And it’s a full body laugh, not just a golf-clap laugh. I also don’t get mad as often as I did.

Almost 15 years ago, a meditation teacher told me I needed to have kids in order to calm down and destress. He may have been right.

Of course it took 11 years to strip away a big chunk of my Type-A personality, so he doesn’t deserve that much credit.

So, where do I go from here?

The first thing is to go on a trip. When I know more, I’ll share it with you, but it’s something I’ve never done and I’m super excited about. It has to do with this shirt I won from Charity Miles and it’s Care United campaign.

Then there is a race — five miles and a dozen doughnuts — the Krispy Kreme Challenge. I have an hour to finish this race. Right now, I’m not sure that I can do that. With my current pace, I won’t have a lot of time to eat the doughnuts and run to the finish line.

After the grand slam, which will be next weekend, I get to recover for a few days and then start training.

I will make an effort to better chronicle my efforts here and on social media.

P.S. The blog’s anniversary is later this month. I’m in the process of changing the blog and social media presence. Don’t freak out, but if something is wonky and needs improvement, let me know.

Taper weeks: Virtual Grand Slam

“If I can live through this, I can do anything.” — Champions, Fall Out Boy

In a week, I will be running with other members of the Sub 30 Club, a great Facebook group, without leaving my neighborhood.

While many of them will be in Bethlehem, Pa., to participate in the annual Runner’s World Festival, I’ll be running with them in a virtual race.

Put together by the management team at the Sub 30 Club, participants could race the same distances at the festival-goers but do it at home or wherever they want.

I signed up for the grand slam — 26.2 miles stretched over the course of three days. At the Festival this would include running a trail race on day one, a 5k and 10k on day two and a half marathon (13.1 miles) to cap it off.

Part of the fun of a virtual race is that you can hold it on your time and your way. If you want to break up the runs into one mile sections throughout the day, you can. Want to run on the beach instead of the rolling hills of Pennsylvania? You can do that too.

My plan is to cover the trail run and 5k distances the first day, 10k in day two and half marathon (split in half) on day three. I’m splitting up the half marathon because I have stuff to do that day. I don’t want to look like I just got hit in the kneecaps by a baseball bat as I go up stairs.

So it’s now taper week, where I try to keep healthy and fine tune everything before the big event.

Taper week is when an athlete’s mind and body can go crazy. You put in the work. It’s now time to get ready to reward your dedication with an amazing adventure.

I thought I’d go over a few things I’m doing that I’ve learned from past races. I hope these tips can help you too.

  • Hydration — It’s important to start hydrating several days before your race starts. When I did my GORUCK training in 2016, the plan actually incorporated hydration. It saved my butt as I was the only person who couldn’t sip from a camel pack. I had Nalgene bottles and couldn’t access them as readily. I’ve also found that lack of proper hydration makes running suck.
  • Carb loading — After fiddling around with my diet since I started this fitness journey in 2012, I’ve found that eating a high carb meal on the day before my most strenuous workouts has helped my energy levels during those workouts. I eat carbs (usually a sweet potato) usually at lunch and workout the next morning. If I ate the food at dinner, the food would probably still be sitting in my gut giving me GI issues. As a mom and athlete, I don’t have time for that.

  • Fine-tuning my prep — I have a bit more time to fine tune my race-plan during my taper week. For me that’s double-checking my protein ball recipe, which I use a fuel during workouts. I also check my gear for wear and tears and make any necessary changes and/or fixes. I have made changes to my routine on race day and have suffered because of it. Like the one time I left one of my water bottles in my car before running a 16-mile race. There was only one aid station and it was hot. It was a bad move on my part and I struggled throughout the race.
  • Sleep — It’s not the sleep the night before the race that keeps you rejuvenated, but rather the sleep in all the days leading up to the race. Going in fatigues is no fun. I did that for about three years. My legs felt like lead every weekend after getting home around 1 a.m. and then getting up four hours later to get to a race. Once I started getting my needed 8.5 hours of sleep every night, my athletic endeavors felt easier. I didn’t start out with lead legs.
  • Calm the nerves — This is also a time when I turn to meditation and yoga more. Besides giving my muscles a good stretch, I need to calm my mind of pre-race jitters. I get stuck in my head a bit too much. Having the pre-race calmness often carries me through to the race. If I panic, it’s easier to reset my mind and get back into things.

I hope you find this list useful. It works for me but may not work for you. Do you have anything to add to the list of taper activities?

If so, leave a comment or send me an email. I’d love to hear from you.

Recap: Race for Hope

I was a spectator and photographer for the race described below. My account is based on accounts from people who race the race, as well as walking the course myself.

Race: Race for Hope

Distance: 5K (3.1 miles)

When: Last Saturday in September

Where: Perquimans County Recreation Center, Herford, North Carolina

Who hosts/benefits from the race:  The John A. Holmes High School (Edenton, NC) Project Purple hosts the race. It is a group that raises awareness to substance abuse and offers alternatives activities for teens. The race itself is part of Mayday, a festival raising addiction awareness.

Race fee: $30 on race day/ $20 for students

What you get: A tech shirt and bandana, fruit and trail mix and water afterward

Prizes: Trophies for the top three overall male and female winners, medals for the top two in the age groups (goes by five years starting at 6-14).

Course: Race for Hope’s course is mostly asphalt, being held on a path in the park and on the roadway. There are also two portions near the beginning and end of the race that are on gravel trails in the center’s park. Those trails are along the banks of the Perquimans River, so you may need bug spray if you’re worried about bugs.

Description: This course is a mostly flat course that starts on asphalt for 100 feet or so and then heads into a trail. The trail loops around in the forest and then you head back on the asphalt heading out of the park. Once out of the park, you run down the road leading to the park and eventually make a U-turn, heading back into the park. The path is pretty well marked with signs and cones.

There is a sweeper who ran in the beginning of the race and then again later to check for any participants out on the course.

When you finish, you get a card with where you placed in the race — winner gets the card with a 1 on it. They fill out the card with your time and place it on the board that has pegs for each age group. They then collect the cards and then determine the winners. It’s a small race, with the exception of a few age groups, most people who participated got something.

For the second year of the race, I was surprised by how smoothly it ran. Except for a few people getting lost on the trails and at the finish line (some people turned back to the start rather than follow the yellow flags), it was well marked.

It was a small, simple race with everyone cheering everyone else on at the end. As a spectator and family member of a few participants, I enjoyed it. There is a playground nearby for the kids and a skateboard park near the finish line. Since the race was held as part of a bigger event, we were able to check out the event some too. And the view of the Perquimans River at sunrise was something to behold.

If you like a small, no frills race, check out Race for Hope.

Ahoskie Heritage Festival 5K

A race recap

Details

NAME: Ahoskie Heritage Festival 5K

WHERE: Ahoskie, NC

WHEN: Second to last Saturday in September

COST: $25 on race day/ $10 for kids’ race

COURSE: Asphalt, small inclines, one section (about 100 feet) of trail

RACE SWAG: T-Shirt, hand sanitizer and bottle cozzie

AWARDS: Top award for overall male and overall female. Age group awards broken appropriately into groups of 10 years, except 0-14 and 15-19.

WEBSITE: Ahoskie Heritage Festival

Course description

The race starts at the Vidant Health Center, about two miles from the actual finish line. There is a shuttle available at the finish line that takes you to the start. Or you can part at the start and take the shuttle back after the race’s awards ceremony.

The race is mostly on the road, with a quarter mile on sidewalk. You wind your way through some of Ahoskie’s beautiful tree-lined neighborhoods for about two miles before heading into the town’s recreation complex. Then you run in the complex and eventually run on some of the park’s trail. From the trail, you run down the main road heading to the complex’s amphitheater. Since you’re at the Heritage Festival, you see and smell a lot of fair attractions, such as the food vendors, craft makers and possibly some activities to enjoy after the race.

These aren’t blocked roads, so you have to watch for traffic some. Volunteers are at every turn to tell you where to go. There are water stops at mile one and mile two.

There is babysitting available at the health center, but it ends at 10 a.m. If you rely on the shuttle, you’re screwed, as the shuttle doesn’t leave until after the awards ceremony and the kids’ race.

The kids’ race starts at 10 a.m. and is located near the finish line.

My recap

This was my first race since my February two-day trail race. To be honest, my goal was to not walk at all.

The morning started off cool, but as we’re in the South, it got hot quickly. After helping someone through the first mile of the race, I was confronted with something I’ve seen too often as someone who is trying to get fit. Someone said, maybe not in the exact words, that I don’t belong. So I gave into my side-stitch and speed walked, as I argued with myself. I unfortunately was too much in my head at this point and tried to run, testing out my side, but giving in to the pain. Eventually, I let it go of both the physical and emotional pain, and started running with a slight throbbing in my side. This was my race, I could run how I wanted and cross the finish line on my terms — either triumphant or in defeat letting negativity win.

I attempted to make up time, but I’m not sure if I actually did. The speed walking, while it felt like I was making good progress, cost me a lot. So, I aimed for my next goal, running the rest of the way. I also wanted to break the time of my first race in 2012, 36 minutes and change.

I broke that, coming in at 35 minutes, according to the timer. Sweat was in my eyes. I felt accomplished, but ran over by a truck. Emotionally and physically, I left it all on the course. It was a good feeling.

I brushed aside my feelings enough to finish the race on my terms. And I’m happy with that. The other things I experienced on the course were things to learn from and bury with the dead.

Our family ended up running back to the start, as we didn’t know about the shuttles running so late. We had to get to the Mountain Boys before the end of babysitting. Eventually, one of the race volunteers gave us a ride in the back of his truck. The breeze felt great.

The volunteers at the race were awesome. They were friendly and some were dancing at the water stations, cheering us on.

Ahoskie is a pretty town. It was a fun place to explore. I hope to run there again soon.

Lessons from the race

  • It gets hot quickly in the South. Hydrate for several days before the race to help compensate for what you’ll lose in sweat.
  • Enjoy the scenery and company you keep. The race is supposed to be fun and a challenge.
  • Just run. Keep out of your head. Running is a time to put worries, fears, opinions away for a while.
  • Cold water down a shirt is a good thing. I kept cool by dumping water on myself at the water stops.
  • Always check the shuttle schedule for a race. This is especially true in circumstances in which you have to leave a race early.

 

 

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