(Not quite) Last Weekend: Hiking the Gap

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May has been busier than I had anticipated it would be. Weekends were for bike rides and running, except for one crazy weekend when I participated in the Relay for Life and then did a seven-mile hike through Doubling Gap.

I had always wanted to hike in that area, but I am hesitant to hike alone so I have to take any chance I can to go with a group hike. We started out from the church camp, and the first mile or so was on hard roads and stone until we finally reached the trail.

Unfortunately, there had been heavy rain the day before, and rain on and off during that whole week so the trail had become more like a tiny creek that we all tried to negotiate in a way that would mean the least mess on our shoes so early in the hike. I need not have worried about that because there were two messy stream crossings that followed soon after. After that, the trails were relatively drier, but my shoes still squished with every step.

The photos above tell more of the story, and do a much better job of sharing the scenery than I ever could do with words.

Last Weekend: More 5Ks and bike trails

January 2016. Two helicopters crashed off the coast of Hawaii, and its impact was felt here at home. After days of searching, the Marine Corps declared the 12 members of the crews deceased. Among them was Sgt. Adam Schoeller, a 2008 graduate of Boiling Springs High School.

6 May 2017. Adam’s parents, with the help of volunteers and sponsors, put together the inaugural Adam’s Semper fiT Challenge and Semper Fest 2017 to support a memorial fund that raises awareness and support for non-profits that reach out to families in need much as the Schoellers were in the days, weeks and even months following the loss of their son.

I hope it was the first of many.

I never knew Adam, but I shared some adventures with some of his classmates when they were part of the youth group at my church while I was a volunteer youth leader. And there’s this thing around here. It’s kind of similar to a saying the Marines have. Once a Bubbler, always a Bubbler. So, of course, when I heard a 5K was involved I had to sign up.

I was passed early on in the race by what I think was a group of young potential Marines running and chanting in formation. it still amazes me that they all kept the same pace. And the chants!

This was honestly one of the more difficult 5K events I’ve done. The roads at the fairgrounds have a number of short, steep hills, and some were in better shape than others. One downhill, in particular, had quite a few potholes to pick your way through.

All that said, I’d love to do this one again next year. Hopefully, warmer, drier weather would make it an even better experience.

SUNDAY, MAY 7

Another day on the rail trail with alternating clouds and sun. I took the upper end that went over the new section into downtown Shippensburg. The new bridge is pictured at the top of the post. This time I went the whole way down to the Oakville rest stop, and turned around to come back to the car. Now, I have covered the entire west end of the trail. There’s not much to speak of at the east end yet so I don’t know when I will do that end.

What’s great about the rail trail is that there is plenty of space to be alone and soak in the beautiful scenery, but there’s also not a single place on the trail where I felt that I was so far away from other people that I couldn’t get help if I needed it. Of course, it’s fun to pass by the families and other hikers or bikers out on the trail. I never can remember, though, which ones I have already passed so they probably think I’m crazy for saying hello every single time I pass them – which is at least twice on an out and back run.

 

 

Last Weekend/This Weekend: Rain, snakes and service

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Confession.

I have lived around the Appalachian Trail my entire life. I pass the signs regularly as the trail crosses the main state roads in and out of town to the east. I’ve stopped at the AT office in Boiling Springs just to see what was there. Once, I even saw some through hikers give an impromptu concert on a street corner at Foundry Day, collecting tips that – in my imagination – were used to pay for an air-conditioned hotel room and a hot shower sometime later in the trip. Though I suppose it’s entirely more likely the tips bought a couple of beers at the Boiling Springs Tavern a block or so away.

But, I can honestly say I have only hiked the trail one time. It was a crazy rocky patch in Michaux State Forest after a guided tour of the old World War II POW camp. The tour guide gave us the option to go back to our cars on an easy trail or we could hike the AT back. I chose the AT. That ankle-twisting adventure was the last time I had been on the AT until last weekend.

During the First Steps program, I settled into the routine of going on a group run on Saturday mornings, and I hated the idea of breaking the habit I had only just established. So I decided to join up with a group run on the AT north out of Boiling Springs that was billed as “ a relatively flat, easy part of the trail without too much technical terrain.”

Key word? Relatively. There were a few little hills, one fairly rocky downhill, and one swinging branch that my running buddy and I dodged. There was also a little rain, a lot of mud, and a half a dozen hikers who were far more prepared for the conditions than I.

I finished four miles wet and a little chilly with a good bit of mud splashed halfway up my calves.

And I can’t wait to do it again!

Sunday, I took my mountain bike, Blue, out to the Cumberland Valley Rail Trail for the first ride of the season – an easy 10-miler. Last fall, I made the colossal mistake of going on a bike trip without having ridden much over the summer so I’m trying to avoid that disaster this year.

It was a gorgeous day, and the ride went quite well … until the last half-mile or so. I pedaled across the newly installed bridge high above a road below and continued a short distance to the trail’s end. I turned around and started back toward the bridge, and saw a number of people on the bridge. It seemed odd since the bridge had been empty moments before – and even odder when someone else stopped to join the conversation.

When I got to the bridge, a young Mennonite man on a bicycle said, “Did you see the snake?”

THE WHAT??

It is at this moment that I was (one) glad the bridge had high railings (two) annoyed that the only way back to the car was past the snake on the bridge.

As I neared the end of the bridge, staying as close to the opposite side from the snake as I possibly could, one of the people who had gathered helpfully told me it had slithered up through the cracks.

“Great,” I thought, looking down at the crack on which I was standing.

For a moment, the critter looked as perturbed at our presence as I was at his, and it looked like he might take a header off the side down to the street below.

In the end, he went his way. I went mine.

No offense, little dude, but I hope we don’t meet again.

NEXT WEEKEND: On Saturday, I’ll be doing my usual run/walk routine at Adam’s Semper Fit Challenge and Semper Fest 2017  It’s a first time event in memory of a local man, Adam Schoeller, who died in a helicopter crash during a military training exercise off the coast of Hawaii last year.

My group, my people (or how I put fear aside and got turned on to group running)

All those pink shirts! All but two had finished their race, but turned around to walk the others back in. (Photo borrowed from our First Steps Facebook group)

 

Running has always been a loner gig for me.

Alone on training runs. Alone on race days. Alone and loving it.

Maybe it’s because of my Myers-Briggs type (INTJ for those in the know). Maybe it’s because of the way my mind starts to wander once I’ve been out for more than 1o minutes. To be honest, there’s a part of me that loves running alone because it’s one of the few times of the day that I can be alone. There’s a lot of value in that.

My crew – the ladies of Appalachian Running Company’s First Step program. Photo from Appalachian Running Company’s Facebook page.

I could never understand the attraction of a group run. Aside from a CrossFit class that really just turned out to be too intense, my experience in any form of group exercise has been limited to being chosen last in gym class in high school and suffering through an aerobics class in college to fulfill a P.E. requirement. Why would I want to relive that experience while I shuffled along at the back of an otherwise swift pack?

But, here’s the thing.

Sometimes the team doesn’t choose you – you choose the team.

The pack isn’t always swift.

I won’t always shuffle.

Eight weeks ago, I stifled my fear of being last, of not being able to keep up, of meeting new people and signed up for the First Step running program at Appalachian Running Company. It used an interval training plan to prepare us for a 5K race (more on that in a future post). Two times a week, a rather determined group of women gathered at the store or at a nearby trail for a group run. On Monday nights, our awesome crew of coaches  and guests taught us about a variety of topics related to running – nutrition, strength training, hydration, dressing for the weather and more.

The first night I knew I had chosen the right team. There was no sense of competition or pushing ourselves to the point of exhaustion. Instead, there was chatter, laughter and the occasional waves of encouragement.

We all obviously had different foundations on which we were building so the faster women went faster and the slower women went slower … and nobody cared! It only took a few weeks until I found that a few of us were fairly consistently near each other on every run. The pack, I had learned, had speeds as varied as the personalities in it.

But, as we were getting to know each other, encouraging each other and growing in our newfound friendships, the training program was doing its work. I can’t speak for anyone else about any of these things that I have discovered, but I know it is especially true that I can’t speak in terms of pace or speed. What I do know is that my running pace, generally, has improved dramatically over the eight weeks of the class.

Even as the program neared its grand finale in the Logan’s Run for Autism, a 5K in Harrisburg, I still wavered on my thinking about group runs. I had found there was a lot to like about a group run, but I still had an affinity for being alone.

Then something happened on race day. You can see it in the photo above. Most of the group had finished the race, but two of the women were still out on course. Without barely a thought, the entire crew – all of whom had just finished their own 5K – went back out to walk the last two ladies in.

That sense of community – that sense of no woman left behind – helped me learn to love the group run. These are women who would have encouraged me through to the end had I started to falter along the course. They are the ones who stayed near the finish line cheering as each one of us finished.

The run itself is the vehicle to the community that is being created among the people in it.

And now, it’s become a group I can’t imagine running without …

 

 

 

 

 

Finishing last and winning {Capital 10-miler}

The view of the skyline as I crossed the bridge with under two miles to go.

A few months ago, I had an utterly ridiculous idea.

I saw a Facebook post announcing the date of the Capital 10-miler – A Race for the Arts. Now, I’m a pushover for supporting the arts, and I have been making valiant efforts at improving my running and cycling skills – not because of any perceived, yet negligible talent, but because I love the challenges both can provide.

You can see where this is going.

I was ever so happy to see the halfway marker!

Despite having never once run more than six miles or even attempted to do a run/walk combination on anything so long, I signed up for the race and set about training. It was spotty at best in the early days, as I took advantage of the unusually frequent warm days to go outside for a run. I’ve even been training with a program through my local running company (s/o Appalachian Running Company).

When race day dawned – no kidding – on April Fools Day, I had only the thought of finishing the race. Time didn’t matter. The challenge for me was to go the distance.

That doesn’t mean it was easy around mile 4 when the runners who started 45 minutes after me – at the real start of the race – caught up and passed me.

It wasn’t easy when I was running/walking along the Susquehanna River and looked up to see the winners running across the bridge to the finish line at about the same time that I passed the 6-mile sign.

It wasn’t easy when first single runners and then little groups of runners ran past me with seemingly little effort.

It wasn’t easy when the wind nearly whipped my hat off as I crossed the bridge twice in the final miles.

But that’s the stuff stories are made of. That’s the stuff you laugh about when you’re telling your friends about the ridiculous idea you had to sign up for a race.

When the race results sheet shows that you’ve placed dead last among the 200-plus runners, you realize that you’re still a winner. You crossed a finish line in a race that plenty of others dared not start. You realize with some degree of surprise that you can indeed walk the next day, and you aren’t nearly as stiff as you thought you might be.

Then, after a bit of ice cream, a good night’s sleep, and some tea and stretches on a beautiful morning., you make another crazy decision.

And think to yourself, “Maybe next year, I can get to mile six before they catch me.”

 

Republic of Tea’s Biodynamic Tumeric and Cinnamon Tea – perfect for the morning after the race..