Friday, August 31, 2007

OH, NO.....

We're going to be in Austin for the winter.
Including February 17, 2008, the date for the Austin Marathon.
Oh, crap.
I need Texas. I need to get back in shape. It's 24 weeks away.... right for getting back to running and training for a marathon.
Austin is flat and fast and a classic Boston-Qualifier. They say, "If you want to run Boston, run Austin."
I just ran the 5-mile, 13-hill Sandown 5-miler at my BQ pace after practically NO RUNNING all summer.
Oh, crap.
I swore I was done with marathons. All I wanted to do was hike.
But Austin is flat, and fast, and a classic BQ, and I haven't done a marathon in Texas, and think what good shape I'll be in to start the Appalachian Trail in March if I've just done a marathon in February. Especially if I lose the 20 pounds I want to lose between now and then. (Down from 25.)
Registration costs 2/3 the retail price of a new ultra-light backpack.
Austin Marathon is going down Feb. 17, and we'll be there, and I don't have a Texas marathon yet, and I still harbor delusions about qualifying for Boston, and it's flat and fast, and think what good shape I'll be in for the Trail after running a marathon, and think what good shape I'll be in for marathons after hiking the trail, and we're going to be in Austin, and.....
Oh, crap. I think I'm had.
I think I'm going to run Austin.


Well, the picture's kind of dark, but it's dark in here anyway. It's raining, it's under trees, it's getting towards dusk. I feel dark when I think about being ready to move on.... coming up on Wednesday.

Yup, our sojourn at Chocorua Camping Village in Chocorua, NH is drawing to an end. I have really loved it here. I thoroughly enjoy my co-housekeeper and boss, Nancy (who is slightly younger than my youngest child), my manager Janet (maybe slightly older than my oldest child?), my hiking buddy Sue, and all of the other work-campers (I avoid the cutesy "official" coined word "workamper.") The work has been sometimes physically demanding, but has required relatively little brainwork, and the company has been congenial.

The geographic location has been phenomenal. With a block of 3 days a week off, I've been able to hike and backpack in the White Mountains, including rather large chunks of the Appalachian Trail, which I'll be happy to recognize next summer as I approach the end of my thru-hike. I'll be happy to know that I was able to hike them this summer as a neophyte, next year by the time I'm way more experienced.

But I am happy to move on. We're going to spend about 3 weeks going to various spots in New England, including Bar Harbor, ME, Cape Cod, Rhode Island (because we need Rhode Island to fill in the spot on our map on the side of our RV.... kind of like my "50-State Marathon Quest" map in my sidebar; states we've visited at least overnight -- just driving across doesn't count), the Boston area (I have a half-sister there whom I haven't seen for a very, very long time), finally getting back to Garrett County, MD about Sept. 24. Then after about a month (to catch up on doctor's appointments, lab work, etc., to say nothing of spending time with family) we're off to the Columbus, OH area (to see more family, our 2 daughters and our Ohio grandkids Collin and Gracie), then to Michigan to see more family (Steve's parents, his sister and her husband, their daughter and her husband and two little girls) and finally on to the Austin, TX area where we have a winter gig lined up (they promise us it's out in the countryside, not in downtown Austin. But there should be plenty of outfitters where I can get my final gear for my AT hike.)

All of this means....

I have to clean up our mess. We've been here 4 months and the difference between this and a short stay is like the difference between pulling an unrooted cutting out of a flower pot, and removing a potbound plant whose roots have practically grown to the pot.

I have to sort. And toss. And organize. And batten down. What to do with stuff that goes in the closet? The closet is pre-empted by my backpack now.

I think we need a bigger boat. But that's not gonna happen unless we win the lottery.

So instead of doing something about it, I'm blogging about it....


Wednesday, August 29, 2007


I've just realized I need to get in shape, a new kind of shape. Walking shape. If, 6 or so months from now, I'm going to embark on a trip that will entail walking 7-20 miles a day, I'd better start walking. No doubt I'd get used to it by doing it out there on the trail, but the first couple weeks will be a lot more comfortable if I'm already a walker. Later on, I'll start doing stairs or a stair-climber, or a treadmill set on a steep incline. And then add the backpack.

It's going to feel different, emphasizing walking over running. I've done day hikes of up to 10 miles but only once a week or so; I haven't walked day in, day out, or even every other day or a few days a week. I need to start on this. It's enough different from running that, when I've needed to walk more than a mile or so of a marathon, my feet have started to hurt from the unaccustomed mechanics. I'd better learn them.

Well, I need to mail something and the P.O. is a couple miles away. No time like the present. Up and at 'em.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007


.... but on Sunday Steve and I celebrated (sort of) our 35th wedding anniversary.

I should say "observed" rather than "celebrated," maybe, because in the morning we observed that it was our anniversary, kissed briefly, and headed out the door for our day's work at the campground. We did spend a couple enjoyable hours together in the afternoon as we were both assigned to restroom-cleaning.

And in a way, that was a relevant way to observe it. Not restroom-cleaning, specifically, but just doing what we do every day, since being married is what we do every day, and what we do every day is the stuff being married for 35 years is made of.

As I cleaned rental cabins with my campground manager, she congratulated me on our long marriage, and she asked me what advice I had for other couples. I hadn't really thought about that, and had no particular pearls of wisdom to dispense. She asked, "Well, how have you stayed married for so long? There must be some secret you can share."

All I could think of was.... just keep putting one foot in front of the other. So I said that, along with, "I guess a variation of that is -- take one day at a time."

"After 35 years that's all you can say?" she exclaimed. "Put one foot in front of the other? One day at a time?"

Yup, that's about it. All those steps and all those days add up to a long, long journey. All those steps and all those days are what keep us on the trail.


From author Adrienne Hall in her book A Journey North:

"After three months on the Appalachian Trail...I learned to hear a single leaf twist and rustle its neighbor...I learned to hear stillness and tried to find that stillness in myself. Tenderly I nurtured it, hoping that the peace and calm of the woods would grow inside me too."

Yes, that stillness.... let it be; let it be in me.

Thursday, August 23, 2007


For readers who never encountered MacGyver (and, given a look at him, who wouldn't want to, or at least what female wouldn't want to?!) here's a site full his jury-rigging.

And a point to ponder, for people who either frequent porta-pots or wish there were one (e.g. runners, triathletes) or who do it where bears do (e.g. hikers):

Wednesday, August 22, 2007


I returned today from another overnight backpacking trip, during which I met some hikers walking from Georgia to Maine, as I had hoped to. My readers may or may not realize that long-distance trail hikers, especially AT thru-hikers, often go by a "trail name," sort of like a CB handle. Some people make up their own, or even use their real name, but fellow hikers often replace these "temporary" names with something else, generally representative of a characteristic of the person, or spawned by some memorable event, and you just hope it's not too embarrassing because it's likely to stick and be the name by which all other hikers know you.

I went into the woods Against the Wind, and came out....
Begin "Hallelujah Chorus" here....


This came about at an Appalachian Mountain Commission-maintained campsite/shelter where I spent the night. With 5 guys :-) (There are 5 tent platforms, so we each had our own.)

We were all eating our suppers together, and one of the guys, trail-named "Spock," was intrigued, or impressed, or amused, by my homemade cooking equipment. My cooking pot is a practically-weightless, no-cost, 1-lb coffee can, with a tight-fitting pot lid made from aluminum foil reinforced with foil tape, supported over my soda-can stove with tent stakes, and.... this was the final straw for Spock.... a pot-lifter/handle that is, in fact, a dog-grooming tool, a shedding blade.

It's a flexible metal blade with a sawtooth edge, a leather handle at each end, and a fastener to hold these together so that the blade forms a loop. I had been using it for Journey one day and suddenly looked at it and wondered, "I'll bet that would fit my coffee can." I tried it. It did. It's perfect. No more carrying potholders or trying to use a bandana for one. I roll it into a tight circle and store it in my coffee-can pot. So Spock saw me pull all this stuff out of my pot, and gaped at the shedding blade, and said,

"Please tell me that's not a pot handle."

"It's a pot handle," I said, fastening it around my pot to show him.

"What is it made to be?" he asked.

"A dog-grooming tool," I explained. "See this sawtooth edge? You pull it along the dog's coat and it pulls out the dead undercoat. I was using it on my dog and had a lightbulb moment. I figured I can use it as a saw, too."
He threw back his head and laughed, "Your name's gotta be MacGyver!!"
I love it!! I'm crazy about it! Especially since Spock has made a lot of his gear, too, including his backpack (which is awesome), and his calling me MacGyver showed appreciation for my ingenuity.

"Against the Wind" has been great for marathoning, and triathlon, and Ironman. It sounds like pressing on through challenge and even adversity. But it's kind of long to use for a name I'll actually be called by, and it's maybe a little pessimistic, always struggling a little.
MacGyver... the secret agent who sees a new use for something, rigs up something improbable from something ordinary, rises to the occasion, gets out of scrapes by being inventive.

A Trail Name that I love, bestowed like an award by a thru-hiker on his way to Maine, a seasoned hiker of many trails.... how good can it get?
I love it.

Monday, August 20, 2007


Hurricane Dean ended up going just south of Jamaica's southern coast. Jon and Jamie were in Ocho Rios on the north coast, 50+ miles from the eyewall, and got rain, and wind around 100mph for a while, but there was no major damage; they were out of the shelter and back in their villa by 9pm, able to put in a phone call Jamie's mother, and have a flight booked to head home tomorrow.

It wasn't nearly as serious as it could have been. Thank goodness for everyone on the island it veered south. What a mess if it had gone right smack through the middle, as it had looked as thought it might. Big disaster averted there.


Saturday, August 18, 2007



Our son Jon and his wife Jamie decided last week on a spur-of-the-moment, "whirlwind" trip to Jamaica to celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary, which was day before yesterday. They planned to stay until tomorrow.

At least, until Hurricane Dean got tough and then picked Jamaica as a target. See that little spot right smack in the middle of the "cone of probability" which is the projected path the storm is most likely to take? Yeah, that's Jamaica. Yesterday they tried to get a flight out, but they haven't been able even to get a call through to the panic-packed airlines, let alone get a flight.

So they're going to have to stay and ride it out.

Dean is just a few mph short of becoming a Cagetory 5 hurricane.

We've got the Weather Channel on; apparently plans for evacuation to shelters are in place and functional, with Jamaica getting hit about every 3 years. Jon and Jamie will have an adventure they'd rather not have, but will most likely be OK. And in the aftermath, well, Jon's a firefighter-paramedic and Jamie's a nurse. Both have disaster-response training and are the take-charge sort. Jon has water-rescue training. They might rather not be there but it may be good for others that they are.

What a bummer. Head for the South Seas for a leave-it-all-behind anniversary getaway and land in the middle of a friggin' hurricane, one as strong as they get.

Kind of like a marriage. You get married surrounded by light and lace, dreaming of happily-ever-after. But sometimes you get a hurricane. And at least you're together.

Friday, August 17, 2007


"You Can See Yourself In It," continued.

Today's lesson:

Of the 1,000-2000 hopefuls who set out on the Appalachian Trail every spring, about 10% actually make it to the other end.

I want to be one of those 10%.

Some leave the trail for physical reasons, injury or illness.

However, barring injury or illness, most people who have the nerve or craziness to start have the physical ability to put one foot in front of the other until they get to Maine (or Georgia, if they start in Maine.)

It's the mental stick-to-it-iveness that nails you.

Hikers get tired of the walking, or the loneliness, or the mosquitoes, or the mice in the shelters, or the grunginess and sweat and dirty clothes (opportunities for a shower and washing clothes come maybe once a week, if you hike several miles off the trail to a town), or the rain (or snow, which falls in spring on the southern end of the Trail and every month of the year in the White Mountains), or the terrain (it is not a smooth gravel path), or of living in a tent, or living on Ramen and Snickers bars, or of lack of any number of accoutrements to which they have become accustomed prior to setting out on the Trail.

Someone on a backpacking forum told me, if I can finish the Ironman, I can finish the AT.

Hmph. Ironman took me 16 hours. The AT will take more than 16 WEEKS, 5-6 months of walking 10-20 miles per day over boulders and mountains carrying a 25# pack in all kinds of weather day after day after day after day after day.

This thought came to me in startling clarity when I was stranded on Mt. Jefferson in NH having clearly bitten off more than I could chew in one day, face with the decision to try to complete my day's planned itinerary or do the obvious and set up camp where I was and increase my chances of survival as a backpacking newbie.

OK, back to the life lesson.

10 years ago, we hosted this exchange student from France. Cecile. She was 16. (Talk about nerve, 16 years old and taking off on a plane to spend a whole year in America with a family she'd never met in a school where the only French spoken was in French class.) So that was 10 years ago. This summer, Cecile got married. In May, I started crocheting a bedspread for her and her husband. I got bogged down because it is a huge project. I have let it go for weeks at a time, thinking, "It's a wedding, not a birthday... it doesn't have to be exactly on time." The thing is big, and heavy, and I get hot holding it on my lap and over my legs and feet while I work on it. I procrastinate. I read email and my special-interest forums (fora?) and books on hiking the AT, while the bedspread rests in its plastic bag under our dining table.

I have got to get this thing finished. She got married almost a month ago.

How can I keep at it on my way to Maine, when I'm tired and cold (or hot) and bug-bitten and hungry and dirty and discouraged.... when I couldn't even finish crocheting a bedspread in the comfort of my own RV with its two TV's, air conditioning, and microwave oven?

Personal commitment: No more reading about the AT until Cecile and Joachim's bedspread is done. It will probably only take me about 10 or 12 more hours.... a day's AT hike.

I'll take a picture and post it when it's done.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Lightening My Pack

This is today's "You Can See Yourself In It" lesson. "You Can See Yourself In It" is my title for the life lessons offered by mountain hiking. I think I'm so in love with hiking and backpacking because.... I can see myself in it.

About an hour into my intended 3-day, 16-mile backpacking trip in the White Mountains a few weeks ago, I realized that not only was my backpack quite heavy, but I was carrying very nearly the same amount of extra body weight, effectively doubling my pack weight.

I got far more fatigued than I expected, got into a risky situation due to not being able to cover the distance, and had a few revelations.

I lost 5 pounds in those 2 days, a combination of mild dehydration and not eating enough (which added to my fatigue.) I refueled and rehydrated for a few days. Then I made a chart and started "lightening my pack" -- my body -- aiming for a pound a week, 25 pounds. (My pack weighed 30, which is probably what my AT thru-hike pack will weigh, including food and water.)

Rather than a specific food plan or eating schedule, when I eat or think about eating, I'm just asking myself the same question I ask when I select items for my backpack: Do I need or want this enough to justify the weight?

This mindset seems to be hitting the spot. Since July 8, I'm down 6 pounds. It hasn't gone evenly, exactly a pound a week (I plateaued for a couple weeks), but I'm more or less on schedule.

When I hit the trail 25 pounds lighter next spring, it will be like carrying just one backpack instead of two. Who wouldn't rather carry just one backpack?! Or a 30-pound pack instead of a 55-pound pack?

I'm on my way.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

10-mile Mt. Jackson Hike

Mt. Jackson is one of New Hampshire's 48 4,000+ foot mountains, and the next target in my peak-bagging quest (there's no way I'll do all 48 this summer, though.)
It's been, I guess, 3 weeks since I've hiked, and I felt that a little: more winded going up, more discomfort in quads and toes going down. However, I'm happy with today. The sign at the trailhead said Mt. Jackson's 4,054-foot peak was a 4-mile hike, but the guidebook and website called it 4.7. In addition, the parking lot I used was 0.3 mile away, so I am giving myself credit for 10 miles, my longest mountain hike to date.
And yes, yes, yea, I was on the Appalachian Trail, the Webster Cliff Trail section. I timed my hike to start when I thought thru-hikers might be going along that stretch, guessing from where they would have been likely to spend the night. I armed myself with double-size muffins and whoopie pies for them, assuming it was a while since they'd had anything like that. I hoped to hike with them and get input on trail-running shoes vs. hiking boots, tarp vs. tent, Gore-tex vs. $1-ponchos from the 7/11, and most of all, how it's all going. But I saw nary a one, until my return trip, when I crossed brief paths with a northbound middle-aged man who was bent on making tracks. He'd left Georgia April 19, a month later than most, and at that rate would be making Mt. Katahdin a month ahead of the earlier starters. He didn't want a muffin.
It was a tough hike. Steep. Rocky and rooty. At one point, I met people coming down, and warned them that the trail ahead of them, where I had come up, was going to be tricky going down. They thanked me politely, graciously keeping to themselves that I hadn't seen tricky yet.
Here are a couple of views from a ledge about halfway up.
That's NH 302 at the bottom, and the Willey House, part of Crawford Notch State Park. The road above it, I think, is a railroad.
From a different angle, same ledge. Although I took this shot myself, I found the exact same shot afterwards on a website. Apparently I'm not the only one who liked that view!
About 3/4 of the way up, I encountered the near-vertical rock climbs. I'd stand and wonder, "How in the hell am I going to get up that? And how in the hell am I going to get back down?" The answers: Question #1: Hand-over-hand and on my knees. Question #2: On my butt, reaching to the next foothold with my feet.
I had Journey along, and although I worried about how she would negotiate the rocky climbs, I needn't have. She's as sure-footed as a goat. I'd let go of her leash, have her sit-stay at the bottom (or top) of a climb, clambor over it myself, then give her the OK to follow. She skipped up or down like we were running on the shoulder of a flat road. It worked out well.
Here we are at the summit:
Lichen-covered boulders at the summit (above treeline) with a far view of the White Mountains in the distance:
Another thing about Journey: she can always find the trail. Yes, it's marked, but sometimes it's still not exactly clear to me which way to go. However, Journey goes to the right spot unerringly, even when she's never been there before. Maybe she's sniffing out the trail where others have been.
Although she wanted to chase every chipmunk and squirrel, she shied back when a garter snake peacefully crossed the trail. My son has told me that all mammals share an instinctive fear of snakes. Except, I guess, for mutants like me.
Today's "You Can See Yourself In It" metaphor-for-life lesson:
Sometimes I'm so intent on watching my footing that I forget to look where I'm going, and miss scenery as well.
An earlier one, conceived on a different steep rocky trail:
It's good that when it's all uphill there are rocks and roots. We may curse them as stumbling blocks but they give substance for a foothold.
I left the muffins and whoopie pies in a cooler someone had deposited near the trailhead of a nearby AT section. It had ice in it, and a watermelon (or what was left of it; many had partaken, by the looks of the rinds in the garbage bag the donor had provided. My cakes were individually-wrapped so I'm hoping the melting ice didn't soak them.

Sunday, August 12, 2007


It's been a summer of not really running, and I've re-invented myself as a hiker and backpacker, but I believe I just ran a race.

Saturday I took my mom (who's been visiting us) down to Sandown, NH, where her family had had a summer cabin when she was a kid. Sandown was having its annual "Old Home Days" festival, which included a 5-mile race, so I thought, she'd love the Old Home Days and if we were going I might as well run the race.

You might remember I've hardly run all summer. After the Vermont City Marathon I thought I might just quit running.

About 3 weeks ago, with a "possible" race coming up, I started running/walking for half an hour 2 or 3 days a week, starting with run 1 minute, walk 1. Worked up little by little till, Tuesday of last week, I ran/walked for a whole hour run 7/walk 3, then Thursday (2 days before the race) I did half an hour of run 10, walk 1. I don't know if any of these runs added up to as much as 5 miles, didn't measure.

So I went to the race and registered and that's when I saw the t-shirt, whose design featured the course elevation map. Oh, great!

I figured to start slow and then ease up. It did turn out to be hilly, but only one was one of those long slow killers. Most were very substantial rollers, with the elevation changing a couple hundred feet in between. Well, I haven't been running, but I've been hiking in the White Mountains....

Ask me my time. Go on, ask me. You know you're dying to.

48:42!!! For 5 miles!! On hills!! When I haven't run all summer!! Gol-durn! Averages out to 9:44/mile. Gol-DURN!!!

Mile 1: 9:44
Mile 2: 9:07
Mile 3: 9:37
Mile 4: 10:45 (obviously the mile with the bad hill)
Mile 5: 9:27

I am astonished. Looks like I run my best when I don't run for weeks :-)

P.S. As I saw my splits add up (at least till mile 4,) I began to hope I might win something. But I was 4th out of 4 women 50-59. Sandown has some FAST WOMEN!! First in my AG ran 41:xx. Third was about 40 seconds ahead of me.