Race Recap: HFHM Part II

Wet. Puddles. Rain. Mud. Hiiiiiiillllls. Fun.

I suppose I’ve waited too long to give this race a proper recap. It was hard, but silly. The environment was stellar. My husband was with me to push me — and I didn’t get TOO mad at him for it. The river was rising to scare me, and for the first time ever at a race, I knew several of the volunteers. Can’t express how much more fun it is when your kids’ rock climbing guru is there to give you a hearty high-five and a cheer when you’re halfway up only just ONE of the hills that seem to go on for miles. Or how fun it is to sprint down them.

I’ve had writer’s block since this race. In the days leading up to and after it, I had some personal stuff going on that made my mind foggy and challenged me in many ways. The race was an accomplishment, it was fun and I want to do it again. But I had other stuff that trumped that and made me question everything. When it comes to running, that meant finding the clarity to be able to say, “You know what, I don’t want to spend the rest of this summer doing hours-long training runs in the heat!”

So, I have slacked way off on running, spent more time contemplating the future. We backed out of the Miner’s Lady race, which is coming up on Saturday. I’ve never quit a race before it started. The name pulled me in immediately, but I can’t fool myself into thinking I’m an endurance runner … yet. Not sure I want to be.

So … this turned into not much of a race recap, but now that I’ve broken the dam, hopefully I can get back to sharing our adventures more regularly. We’ve had some great ones this summer!

Coolest medal ever, right?! I want to wear it as a necklace!

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Great Greenbrier River Race 2018

So it’s been a full week since this year’s GGRR – a run, paddle, bike triathlon held in Marlinton, W.Va., on the Greenbrier River Trail and Greenbrier River. It’s hard to believe that just one year ago this race seemed like such a big new challenge and now it feels like a staple of our family calendar. Last year my husband and I trained for this race by running and biking as much as we could – weather doesn’t really permit us to paddle before the date of the race! On the day of the race last year our parents took the kids downtown to watch al the festivities and cheer us on. Something struck a chord with our oldest son right away. He’d had his own kayak already for a season or two and takes naturally to the water. He REALLY wanted in on this race.

We talked about being a family team this year from that point on, but the rules are a little funny and as a team we can’t do the race together. So we decided to all sign up as solo competitors and each complete the entire race. We would stay together and help him through at his pace.Tucker is 8 1/2 and this was the first race he’s ever signed up for. We did some couch to 5k runs, but really only just a few times, so he didn’t do much training at all.

But he finished the entire thing! Running was super hard for him, he got side stitches almost immediately and struggled but was determined and ran as much as he could. By Craig’s watch we finished the run portion in roughly 40 minutes – running across that mat to our boats I got really emotional because my son was being so brave and tough – just that part was a huge accomplishment. On our boats we faced the wind and moved slow, but Tucker was having an awesome time. We finally made it to our bikes and by that point I think we were behind all the other racers. We got on our bikes and made it a few easy miles before Tucker really started to wear out. He started breathing fast and losing his composure, saying he was too tired and he couldn’t do it several times. Craig cheered him on, and he continued to struggle. Finally I made him stop his bike for a pep talk – we had I think 4 miles left of the 10, and I explained that he would be so proud if he just kept going but it would feel awful to give up now – he was almost there! He looked straight ahead and started peddling his heart out. I turned a Fall Out Boy playlist on on my phone and rode beside him, and we finally rounded the corner back into town a little while later. I don’t think he could believe his eyes! And once again I was all tears. He’d never done a 5K before but managed to do one (in close to the same time as when I ran my first 5 years ago!), then paddle for 4 miles, then ride his bike for 10 more!

Just last year I took this challenge super seriously and now he had conquered it. We were the last finishers, but he was the only 8 year old to complete the entire race. Tucker sat down right away, and we got him some food and lemonade and he bounced back to life almost immediately – and said he would do it again next year!

I later found the race director to confirm that he was the youngest finisher, which she did, and she gave me a 1st place coffee mug for him and said the were proud and expect him back next year. You should’ve seen him when I awarded him with that cup back at our truck in front of all our family. The whole thing was such an emotional experience, and I’m so glad we went for it.

Notes about the race: they have the best atmosphere of any race I’ve done. The whole town participates, they do a fun warm up pre-race, the food is amazing. Love this event so much. One weird thing I don’t understand is the timing. The men start, followed 5 minutes later by teams and then 5 more minutes later by women, and your timing chip doesn’t account for the different start times really. Each year we’ve started with the teams wave so we could run together and our times have been incorrect. A plus, is this year we didn’t even show in the results at all, but when I emailed an inquiry they fixed it within maybe an hour and emailed me back right away.

That evening we celebrated our littlest boy’s 4th birthday to round out the weekend. We love this little getaway, and I think it’s officially a family tradition.

Conley Cabin – Spring Break 2018

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We’d heard of people renting PATC (Potomac Appalachian Trail Club) cabins for years, but it wasn’t until last year, when I was in the throes of planning my first backpacking trip with friends and buying up all the necessary gear, that we decided to finally try it for ourselves. As I was planning my trip we made the decision to join the PATC as well as the ATC (Appalachian Trail Conservancy). My hike was going to be on the Appalachian Trail in Southern Virginia beginning in June. By Easter, I had a water filter, backpack, bear canister and other gear that we were eager to try out. We booked Argow cabin in Shenandoah National Park, and it was one of my favorite things we’ve ever done as a family.

We all agreed this needed to be a tradition, so this year we planned another trip, this time to Conley Cabin in the PATC’s “Vining Tract” of property that contains several cabins and borders the park. The way it works, is that some of the PATC’s cabins are available to the public and some only to members, and if you book less than 60 days in advance they’re half price! This makes a PATC cabin trip super affordable, but to find a place that suits you can be tricky. We decided to go in the middle of the week to have more cabins to choose from – some are modern, some aren’t, some require a hike and some don’t. We wanted a primitive cabin, and the half-mile hike to Conley was ideal for our family of three boys and two labs!

As expected, our trip was another memory maker for our family! It was our puppy Banjo’s first trip with us, and he did GREAT! We loved the hiking available right outside our door – it was a pretty easy climb to Andy’s Overlook and past several of the other cabins. The hike to the nearest running spring at Wineberry Cabin was a tough but beautiful one. As usual, the boys loved helping out with the chores of chopping wood, filtering water, building fires and cooking. A swing on a tree just outside the cabin provided a nice fun break, and the yard was perfect for lots of running and playing and hide and seek.

Conley is perfect for its views, lawn, and pretty short and easy hike in. The spring was a little far, but doable. Only thing we could’ve used was warmer weather – it hasn’t been truly warm YET this spring! But the stoves inside kept us more than toasty at night.

So far we haven’t done another cabin trip outside of these two spring break trips but I want to make it a priority because it is such a nice escape. It always strikes me how peaceful it feels to set technology aside and get busy with the simple work of getting by without electricity and plumbing. I truly love it! And watching the boys play wizards with sticks they found and whittled themselves, play hide and seek and set up a  fort inside a bush … nothing better!

I have to thank my husband because he is great at cutting wood and building fires! We couldn’t have done this without him! I am so thankful to see him teaching these things to our boys, too. I want them to know that there’s nothing they can’t do and they are off to a great start.