Out of Bed.

My headlight bounces in the dark and I suddenly notice some glowing eyes on the concrete path in front of me. The deer seem as shocked as I am to see someone running down the path in the chill October night. My breath puffs a steamy cloud in front of my face and I trundle down the path.

I’m not sure what propelled me out of my warm bed with Sprocket curled up against me. I felt required to put down my excellent book, don shorts and headlamp and run. The relatable prose had somehow pulled me in so far it has pushed me out and demanded I live, right now at this minute. Life has impeded these moments of clarity and running—or rather, I’ve let my excuses get in the way of exercising. No one blames you for not working up a sweat when you lack shower facilities. No one gives it a second thought when you say, “But I work seven days a week.” No one, that is but the yourself as you feel continually less fit, less confident, less whole.

I reach the old railroad bridge and hear rustling in the bushes near the river. It could be a bear or a skunk, it is likely more deer, and in a worst case, could be a mountain lion. There is nothing to be done about the creature minding their own business out of sight and I run on. The bridge looks like the set of a Halloween movie and I attempt to capture it in a photo because I find it so ridiculous. I fail, as I knew I would.

A mile from my house, I force myself to turn around. I haven’t been running and I didn’t warm up and it’s cold. There is no need to risk injury more than I already have and I really should get to sleep. As I cross the bridge again on the return trip, I can feel my mood rise a little bit like the mist off the Uncompahgre. “I need to do this everyday,” I tell myself.

The impossibility of that looms before me; even just this week I have evening work commitments and I question how realistic it is that I’ll sort out how not to smell at work. Part of me, a big part of me, doesn’t care though. I want to feel strong again. I’ve started rediscovering social parts of myself but this, the part of me that can agree to any hike and is ready for new challenges has been in hiding. Perhaps I’ll try to reclaim that part in the dark where no one can see a bit longer; I know that’s better than not reclaiming it at all.

Running past my appliances in my yard, I glance at the house before I go into the shed. That’s mine. That’s why I’ve sacrificed the feeling of the chill on my legs and the hours for words to enter my eyes and also to exit my fingers onto the screen.

I’ve been feeling like there’s some moral to my story, the larger story, not just this run or the house or processing of lots of old feelings I’ve ignored but I can’t put my finger on it. I need to write about it more, both publicly and privately. I need to move my feet to ruminate on it more. Back in the shed, I pulled off my clothes before I could really start sweating in the warmth of my tiny home. Baby wipe basics done, I crawled in bed, pulled my pup to my chest, finished the page I’d been reading and wondered if this is what it feels like to have the pieces come together.

#Joyrunning (and Hiking) Spring 2017

After Spring Break, all I wanted to do was hang out with my Sprocket. The first thing we did when we were reunited was hike/jog (aka #joyrun) the Perimeter Trail in Ouray. It was just a little muddy but almost totally snow free!

We’ve explored Mailbox Park near Norwood:

We’ve taken some runs near Dallas Divide that turned into snow trudges (it all gets the heart rate up!):

Had wonderfully warm sunny runs on and between mesas above Norwood in the Uncompaghre National Forest:

We woke up one Saturday morning to 6″ of snow in Ridgway and I was over it so we drove down 1200′ in elevation to run near Olathe:

I’ve gotten to run more in Ridgway:

I even made it up to Miramonte Reservoir one day for a run with this sweet view of Lone Cone:

Lately in #joyrunning: Sanborn Park

I admit it, I let the grind and the darkness take over for November through January. I was trying not to fall behind on school while working all weekend. It was kind of tough. I holed up in front of the woodstove instead of dragging myself out in the waning daylight.

As always, I suffered with that a bit. Sprocket and I are easing ourselves back into action and our February spring weather snap hasn’t hurt. We headed out to run at the top of Sanborn Park road last week and it was glorious. I wore shorts, just because.


Last Week(s) in #Joyrunning

Oh man! I never got around to a Week in #joyrunning post last week so here’s two in one!

Week of September 4:

I started out with a bunch of running around Natural Bridges National Monument on Sunday (more on that this week!) that was AWESOME. Tuesday I toughed it out through an under-fueled 3 miles around town, and Wednesday I headed up to the Thunder Trails for my weekly loop (Thunder Loop). Thunder Loop has a pretty killer uphill on the southern end and Sprocket and I definitely engaged in some power hiking between small running bursts there!

Week of September 11:

The week started out … poorly. I worked a bit on Sunday and then just relaxed when I got home. Monday, I was in a terrible mood and convinced myself that I didn’t “need” to run. By Tuesday the “I don’t wanna” had magnified itself to a point where I was in a terrible mood and I rationally knew that getting out and doing something was the fix. I convinced myself to get dressed and tackle two miles and that I could quit then if I wanted to. At just over a mile, I realized I felt human again and threw down five…

Back in the groove, I reeled off 6 road miles Wednesday and about 4 miles on Thunder Trails’s Goshorn Loop Thursday. I kept things rolling with a fun ridge hike on Saturday!

Running & Maintaining My Sanity

Every week a new article about how exercise and the outdoors help us feel happier. We retweet the articles, share them on our Facebook pages, and think to ourselves “I didn’t really need a study to tell me that.”

But the minute life gets busy, exercise and adventures are the first thing to get set aside. When there are deadlines looming and to-do lists a mile long “I’ll do it later” turns into “I’m too tired, maybe there will be time tomorrow” and then tomorrow fills up and before you know it, weeks have gone by.

In the midst of my blitz to the end of my teaching program and the end of the school year I’ve let my fitness regimen lag a little bit but I haven’t let things go entirely—and the fact is that I can’t. I feel a little bit strange about this (re)realization. It’s nothing new to me that my mood is immensely better, that I’m more efficient at home and at work and just  a generally happier person to be around when I take the time to workout but I haven’t quite made peace with that yet.

I require exercise to be a functional adult.

Sitting at my desk last week towards the end of the day, I could feel this unspecified dread bubbling up within me. I was caught up on my teaching program requirements, only a normal amount behind on my grading, and my belongings were well on their way to being packed and moved to Ridgway. And yet: this weird, depressed, anxious, sad sort of feeling permeated around me and I didn’t want to teach or accomplish anything. I debated whether I could just spend the evening in bed cuddling with Sprocket.

At home, knowing the answer to “Can I really just be lazy tonight?” was a resounding NO, I changed into my running clothes. “Just do two miles,” I told myself. “You’ll feel better.” Just shy of two miles in the damp spring air, it all clicked and I changed my route to add another three. My mental clarity returned and the run felt good.

I have accepted rationally that I need the run, the yoga, the strength and core work. I need it to be the happy friend, teacher, daughter, co-worker, granddaughter, sister, aunt, and stranger that I want to be. Can I function without exercise? Sure, but not at the level I want to. Mentally, I feel almost defeated by this realization. Knowing is power, yes, but I’m not sure that I feel okay knowing that my grasp on happiness is as tenuous as that.

“At least it’s not drugs!” I think. I ponder the intersection of endorphins and the self-confidence that has grown in my body’s abilities (and, if I’m being honest, at least a little in its appearance). There is no sweeping epiphany though, no “This is how you live your best life.” Instead, there is a quiet knowing that I need that time for myself to be me and a searching for acceptance of that fact.

February 2015: Keepin’ On Keepin’ On

It feels like I’m talking about running a lot but it’s something that I’ve been doing a significant amount of in the last month. Conditions in the hills are totally drying out and snow in the high peaks is consolidating so hopefully there will be less in between season frustrating hiking and more summiting in March. Even so, I didn’t sit idle in February!

Consistency wasn’t quite as on point in February as it was in January but I’m still pretty pleased with my efforts. My runs continued to grow in length and my weekly mileage was pretty solid other than one week (I don’t even remember what happened there…).

Running: 14 runs, 60 miles, 10.4 hours. This is about the same number of miles as January but in fewer runs and in less time! I think I’m making progress!

Hiking/snowshoeing: 7 sessions, 20.2 miles, 12 hours. Killed it here. 🙂

Cross-country skiing: Yikes! I didn’t get out to do this at all in February. I let a bit of summit fever get in the way. I’ve set a goal to go at least twice more before the snow is gone and I’m also reminding myself that my investment in the skis was long term not just for this year.

Yoga: 11 Yoga Camp sessions, 4.8 hours. This was a little lower than last month and I’d like to remedy it in March but when I find myself in a time crunch I’m going to side with cardio to get ready for mountains so we’ll see.

I’m so excited for #summitsummer 2016 to start. I think I’m ready this time.

Joy Running: Mud Season

In the past year, I’ve found myself in this weird place of not knowing how to describe myself as an outdoor blogger. I hike but my hiking is more than just hiking. I’m not a mountaineer, I’m not a climber, I’m not a runner but my hiking has elements of all of those things. When I decided to get my butt in gear for 2016, I realized that I wanted to grow each of those elements within myself. I really wanted to be a Jill of All Trades in the outdoors. So, one of the easiest (and cheapest) things to get better at is running.

I’m not fast and I’m sure my form is terrible but I’ve been loving my runs. Why? Because they’re joyful. I look down and see Sprocket loping along, pausing for sniffs, and then sprinting to catch me. I find myself smiling ear to ear because it’s sunny. Clearly, I prefer running on either less traveled gravel roads or on trails where I can let Sprocket be himself (although we won’t shy away from a road run, especially in the gorgeous sunset light).

It’s mud season though, which presents its own host of issues. I don’t have a lot of actual trails to run around here but there are a ton of small spur roads and ATV trails and we’re trying to work around the mud as best as possible trying to stay off of muddy trails until they dry but sometimes, this time of year, you unexpectedly find yourself in the middle of it. Considering that I’m joyful running though, I usually wind up giggling through it.

And then, there are the views that just make me smile. I’ve felt a little weird sharing some of my paces on Twitter lately because they’re slow. They’re slow because I’m slow. They’re slow because I’m taking photos. They’re slow because I’m battling mud. But ultimately, I don’t care. I’m outside, I’m active. My mood is better every day because of it.

I seriously think “joy running” to myself because no matter what problems I’m facing in the “real world” (money, relationships, job, etc.) it doesn’t matter when I’m running. It can just be me and the pup loping along enjoying the world.


January Fitness: New Years Resolutions

2015 was a pretty great year for my hiking goals. It wasn’t perfect and there were some mountains I wanted to climb that remained unattempted but I made peakbagging a priority and it turned out well. I did, however, climb some mountains out of pure grit and determination as I felt tired and exhausted a lot of the way up. Outside of reaching summits, I was lazy and didn’t do the work to be ready and make long hikes more enjoyable.

In the fall, I kept thinking I was going to fix things. And I procrastinated. And procrastinated some more. By the time December rolled around though, I was starting to lay the groundwork for kicking things up after the holidays. As cliche as it is, I resolved to do the work in 2016. I was going to save towards a house (as far in the future as it may be). I decided to be in summit shape and to drop the pounds that had crept onto my frame.

I dove into Training For the New Alpinism and within the first section, I realized that before I could dream any huge mountain dreams that I needed to combat my severe lack of aerobic capacity that had crept in on me over the past year and change. And guys? I’m impressed with myself.

I’d started to lay the ground work for running more in December by carefully (ever so carefully) building up the mileage on my neglected legs. I said yes to “Yoga Camp“; a perfect companion to keep flexibility going when running. I, kinda impulsively, bought a cross-country ski setup right after the New Year. I’ve found myself running at 9pm because I needed to get it in, 10 degree temperatures be damned.

And everything has gone exactly as I would have hoped. I’m feeling so much better when being active and the magical effect of exercise that makes you only want to exercise more has kicked in.

By The Numbers:

Running: 16 runs, 53.25 miles, 11 hrs (um. This is more mileage than all of 2015..)

Hiking/Snowshoeing: 5 hikes/snowshoes, 14.8 miles, 10.8 hrs

Cross Country Skiing: 2 sessions, 11.3 miles, 3hr 40min

Yoga: 20 Yoga Camp sessions, 10hrs 20min

Yup, it’s on 2016

Sometimes I dress like a Muppet when I run.

New Adventure!: Cross Country Skiing!

A few weeks ago, I somewhat impulsively bought a cross country ski package on eBay. I had no idea if it was a really good deal but $230 to my door for the whole package seemed tough to pass up, especially when my other winter wishlist purchases came with a much bigger price tag (AT ski gear, mountaineering boots and crampons for ice climbing). They shipped out right away and I waited anxiously all week for them to arrive.

Unfortunately life intervened (Sprocket had surgery, I had some Saturday teacher duties, and a friend and I went snowshoeing) and I had to put off trying it for a week.

I found myself kind of nervous as I put my boots on at the car. Why? I have no clue…

Last Saturday it was finally time to give them a spin. I headed to Ironton, just south of Ouray on US 550 where there is a groomed Nordic area that I know to be fairly flat. I put on my boots, patted a very sad activity restricted dog, and set out on the main loop having nary a clue what I was doing.

It didn’t really matter. Although I don’t think I ever found a really good rhythm and the downhills were tricky, I couldn’t complain. It was the first time I’d ever stopped to see Ironton townsite, I was surrounded by 13,000′ mountains, and the late afternoon sun was shining. I made two big loops and one repetition of an out and back for almost 5 miles of awkward shuffling around.

My words can’t do the scene justice but I know that this is going to become a regular part of my winter fitness regimen! And continue me down the path of Jill of all trades, master of none, hehe.

Anna: Getting Fit and #tryingstuff

Today’s post in #tryingstuff comes from Anna. Anna lives in London and has recently embarked upon a journey to improve her fitness. I asked her to chime in with some thoughts and she’s made some simple and wise observations about what has worked for her in making steps towards becoming a runner! (And if you missed yesterday’s post on #tryingstuff from Susan be sure to check it out!)

*Disclaimer: I know nothing. Particularly about fitness.

When Beth first asked me to write something for whilst she is away (squee how exciting!) I was a “little,” read very nervous, about what I could possibly offer. She is so deliciously clever and active and wonderful and then there is me.

My second disclaimer: I am an overweight completely unfit behemoth of an Englishwoman. Seriously. There is no reason you should listen to a word I’m about to say.

But, (and obviously with me it is rather large),if I can get outside and actually get my heart racing then so can you!

I used to be relatively sporty, I loved to play hockey (of the field variety) and I was quite a “spirited,” read violent player! Playing 4 times a week was probably the reason I didn’t balloon quite so much until my university years. Playing once a week and doing little else was pretty damning for my body.

Anyhoo, enough beating myself up, time for change.

Time for me to talk about those first steps towards starting to move and perhaps inspire you to do the same.

There are 5 things which helped me get of my sofa and into my almost stride.

  1. Walking everywhere for a month. I found a short 2km route (basically around the block) and tried to do this as often as possible for a month to try and speed up every time. Even if I shaved a second off the previous day I was happy. (Even if I didn’t I’d walked briskly for 20mins and that was still impressive for me!)
  2. My Nike Fuel band. I’m sure it’s just a pricey inaccurate bracelet but this pricey inaccurate bracelet has pushed me more than I ever thought possible. It’s made me want to get off the train a stop early and walk the extra distance home. It’s made me walk short distances instead of getting the bus. It’s made me giggle that I walked an extra 4km around an industrial estate because I got lost. It’s made me jog around the house to collect those few extra points before midnight. It’s made me get up a 5am, go for a walk and actually be happy I did it! Seriously, find what makes you want to do more. If that’s as simple as a pedometer or even mapmyrun, make it happen. I’m not going to lie; the pretty graphics and app do make me want to go further!
  3. C25k. (The name of this app scares me each time I look for it on my phone. There’s no way I can run 25k. Yes, I am an idiot!) But it’s great. Couch to 5km. I’m only at week 4 but it feels nice. (Well it did but more on that in a moment!) It starts off slow, one minute of running. Sounds easy, right? But at the end of the one minute I wanted to curl up and die. Oh the deep breaths. Yet for a strange reason I continued and continued and continued. My promise to you. After than teeny tiny first run of one minute, everything seems so much simpler. You just keep going. I mouth my little heart out to the cheesiest of songs as I run/walk and it feels good.
  4. Trainers. Conventional wisdom states not to spend lots of money when you first start out. However, I am prone to blisters and one of the reasons I think I am still trying is because I bought a pair of Vibrams and my feet love them. Not even a whisper of a blister. Find the trainers. I actually enjoy moving in these. They are light and tactile. I don’t really understand gait analysis but I’ve always had a penchant for a toe-heel style even when I wore “normal trainers” so they are perfect in my mind! (It helps that people have compared me to Maura Isles and that I completely agree!)
  5. SPORTS BRA – Oh crumbs, please protect the girls. As one relatively busty girl (who’s seen many boobs – I’m a doctor not a pervert) to every other lady. Please wear one. Spaniel’s ears are for spaniels only.

There are also a few things not to do

  1. Fancy gear. Yes ignore what I said about trainers. I started my little runs in the dark (which may not have been the best idea) but no-one cares what you look like. Well if they do, they should probably make fun of my daytime style choices instead. Oh yes, I be a power clasher. All the fancy gear is expensive and probably a little too small (as you bought it optimistically..ahem). Wear your favourite old shirt and some cheap leggings.
  2. Don’t be tempted to do too much. I don’t know if rest days are really important when you are doing as little as I am but my body sure likes me when I do rest so it can’t be a bad thing.
  3. Don’t try to work out sporadically. Have a routine. I like Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. No particular reason but I have those days in my head and I have to do stuff on those days. Obviously it’s no big deal if I don’t I am not going to punish myself but if you have your 3 days everything else is a bonus!

And now to that moment I mentioned earlier. 3 weeks ago, I was on my second run of week 4 and enjoying it muchly—actual running for 3 minutes! Sounds ridiculous and almost nothing but I was doing it. Doing it so well I was flying, literally. I tripped over something, myself or tree root. I flew through the air and crashed to the ground, so impressively cars stopped (in London!!). I was a few hundred metres from home and flushed with embarrassment that I told everyone I was fine. I hobbled home. I did almost finish my last run but not quite as quickly as I imagined.

I was helped into the bath by my husband, who tended to my bloody wounds. Impressive still! The next day I realised my wrist was more painful than it ought and since then I’ve had 15 x-rays and I’m lined up for an MRI. I’ve got no obvious break but perhaps ligament damage hence the MRI. All I know is that I’m taking many, many (prescribed) drugs, typing with my non-dominant hand and wearing an old lady brace.

Then struck by flu as my end of term beckoned I’ve been in bed for a week. However last night in exchange for dinner fun the husband suggested I go for a walk with him. Getting back on the horse is a little scary. I’m a faller. I fall a lot usually without much to complain about but the fear was there. (Incidentally it was 13 years since my house burnt down on Easter Monday and when we left the house the husband informed me he’d just put the washing machine on. Cue extra panic and a desire to get home quickly!)

We went a different route. I wore my glasses and it was daylight and there was warmth in the air. But it was good. I ran for a minute at a time, 3 times. (Almost coughed up my lungs after the first but I still did it!) It hurt. Oh crumbs, it hurt a lot but that was just my wrist. The wrist will heal and it will heal as I try to get back to week 4.

There is no after, yet. Although is there ever an after? But here is my now and I do hope it not be my after. Thank you for listening!