Thoughts on Boston

The Boston Marathon bombing happened the year I started running. At that point I didn’t really consider myself a runner. I definitely didn’t follow marathons. This year for the first time somehow I found myself googling results and reading profiles of the winners and tracking a few locals who I knew were running.

So many impressive stories came out of that windy, cold, rainy race this year! Des and the other top American women were such awesome examples of perseverance and hard work and dreams coming true. I also followed “Fat Girl Running” author Mirna Valerio as she posted of her own dreams.

All super inspiring! And it’s gotten me to thinking about my own goals. Way back when I started I had pretty simple goals – lose weight, be able to keep up with my kids. I later made a bigger list: run a 5k, run 5 miles, run a 10-minute mile, run for a full hour. I’ve checked off all those goals and more in the past five years. I’ve set new ones. Some have eluded me. I can honestly say the Boston Marathon has never even been a consideration. So what is my goal now? What am I shooting for? I feel like I spend every day trying to figure that out.

Since my “fitness journey” began I have crossed paths with so many other people who are also figuring out their own goals and making progress in many different ways, from getting to the Boston Marathon to raking in major dough selling shakes. I never wanted fitness to take over my life, and it definitely hasn’t. There are many ways I could improve … things I beat myself up about for not doing more successfully. But I also don’t want to quit or drop out of the game simply because I haven’t always given 100 percent. I see a lot of people who don’t ever sign up for the race because they feel like they won’t do it fast enough — and where’s the accomplishment in that?

So I keep making goals. They change and evolve. I don’t always achieve them.

This year at least in part it’s to run more often, consistently and farther: more miles versus faster ones. I am signed up for a half in May and for an endurance run in July. But I feel like the goals closest to my heart don’t necessarily have to do with running at all. I want to say yes to more things, experience all that I can and include my family whenever possible. My boys are now doing rock climbing, which I also tried for the first time. With warmer weather kayak/canoeing and backpacking season is coming I want to get out on the river in new spots and backpack with my family, truly backpack, for the first time. With my youngest of three boys turning 4 next week, I feel like I’m standing at the starting line of countless new possibilities.

I accidentally ran across a book at the library that outlines different trips along the Potomac River. We’d done a few of the chapters with regularity over the past years and my husband and I are very excited about tackling as much as we can of the rest this year. We’ve looked at a few other trails we might be able to do on bikes, too.

Long story short I am not the personality or physique to become a top runner and I know that. I enjoy just the doing, just crossing the finish line, just trying. And after Boston Marathon week, I needed to take a moment to remind myself that I’m actually right where I want to be and with more patience and more work, I can go wherever I want to go from here.

Race recap: Race for the Birds 10K

I’d heard of this race, which is a fundraiser for the Potomac Valley Audubon Society, ever since I started running several years ago, but we’ve always had other plans on the date. I love the idea of contributing to PVAS in any way – it’s an awesome organization with great nature programs and summer camps for kids that all three of my boys have taken advantage of. I was happy that this year I managed to not be booked and could tackle the 10K as a training run for the upcoming Harpers Ferry Half. I heard the course, which was new this year, was hilly, and I need all the practice I can get for the notorious hills on the Harpers Ferry course!

The setting for the race was Broomgrass, which I believe is some type of farmland community/preserve. Aside from a few houses very spaced out, the course was definitely undeveloped and scenic. The drive was nice, and it was one of the first truly hot days of spring.

The course consisted of a 5K loop that went on the gravel roads of the community, on a single-track dirt path through the woods and on a mowed field. All good practice off-pavement!

The start was pretty level with one minor hill before we dipped into the woods, where it was gorgeous running but impossible to pass. This wasn’t as much an issue on the second lap but during the first I felt a little held back. Much of the rest of the course was manageable excepting two major hills that were so steep I didn’t see anyone else running them, and truth be told it was all I could do to even walk them. Between the heat and the hills I had a much slower time than I wanted but it sets realistic expectations for the half, so that’s good.

From the moment I arrived until I left, this was an extremely organized race – parking went smoothly, and it was easy to get in and out, the course was extremely well marked, and there were plenty of cheering volunteers. Tons of post-race snacks and cold water, too!

It was my first race using the Ultimate Direction Scott Jurek running belt, too. I loved having water with me, and I even more loved having my bib pinned to it instead of my shirt! One problem was that it kept twisting sideways on me which made the pockets rub my arms, so I kept having to straighten it – not a huge issue and might be solved by tightening it more.

This was a pretty small race but super well run, challenging and local and for a good cause, so I’m glad I got to be there.

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.