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Summer Fun at Big Bend

This year, I was determined to wring every last delicious drop of sunshine, warm weather and outdoorsy fun out of summer. 

A key element of my plan was several camping trips to places we could run and hike trails, go for a swim and relax by a fire.

This past weekend we pitched our tent at Big Bend Campground in West Virginia. Navigating some narrow, winding roads to get here, but well worth the trip.

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Tubing at Big Bend. You start on one side of the campground, then hike back over the hill for another loop.
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View from a tube.

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Rope swing! The river was a bit low overall, but there's a nice deep spot to land if you hit it right.
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Campfire chats with good friends and a symphony of summer insects playing. Bliss.


I hope your summer was full of fun and adventure, too.




Wordless Wednesday: Dragon's Tooth

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Anniversary Selfie


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Looking over the valley on the climb up Dragon's Tooth


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View from the top

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Dragon's Tooth from the back side

Florida Sunshine

Enough talk about winter! I was lucky enough to escape to Florida for a long weekend, so I have something other than pictures of snow to share.

There wasn't a lot of good scenery where we stayed in Kissimmee, but I managed to find a few photo-worthy spots on my morning runs.

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There's water everywhere in Florida. Construction, too, but I spared you those images.

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Armadillo! He must've been out for his (her?) morning run too.


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Little Blue Heron

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Obligatory alligator sign. Found this deep in a park, with no path to or around this big lake. So odd.

We also visited Epcot theme park's World Showcase. There was live music, street performers, little shops and of course all kinds of food and drink. Walking, eating and drinking our way through England, Canada, France, Morocco, Germany, Italy, China, Japan, Norway and Mexico was the perfect way to spend a day.


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We enjoyed a glass of wine in Italy at Epcot's World Showcase.

Finally we got a day in the 80s and we made the trip to Melbourne Beach. The drive seemed long with eight of us squeezed into a minivan but feeling the sand between our toes and the sun on our (mostly) bare skin made it all worth it.


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Taking in the ocean view at Melbourne Beach

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Digging with gusto



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Cheers!


Wherever you are, I hope you are getting outside and making the most of Winter. Soon, Spring will be here!







SnowShoeFest Weekend

I'm not really a Winter person. 

After a succession of cold, dark days, a certain amount of 'girding of the loins' has to be done in order to get out there. The longing for warm sunshine and fewer layers of clothing creeps into my soul.

But give me a snowy winter wonderland to play in and I quickly change my tune.

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Magical winter scene at White Grass in West Virginia

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Snow sports are always more fun with friends

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Stonecoal Ridge trail

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Atop Bald Knob
After a day of snowshoeing, we were game for a little snow running in Dolly Sods. We started off and soon a delightful snowfall began. So pretty! At times we wished for our snowshoes when the drifts got deep but overall it was mostly runnable.



Running in Dolly Sods - photo by Aaron Schwartzbard

Enjoying the snow - photo by Aaron Schwartzbard
Thanks, Aaron and Martha, for the hospitality and adventures.

Dolly Sods - photo by Aaron Schwartzbard


And thank you for a wonderful weekend, Mother Nature. I just might be a Winter person after all.


Running in the Massanuttens

It's been quite awhile since I've run in the Massanuttens, but I wanted to return to my favorite run there.

I've made it no secret that despite my love of technical trails, I'm not enamored of the Massanutten Trail. "Rocky" is the best descriptor of this trail but that doesn't begin to cover what you'll experience.

It starts off innocently enough. Some old leaf-covered fire road followed by some smooth, slightly inclined trail. Big Run, I guess you're not so bad.

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Once you're committed, it starts to show its true character. Yes, that is the trail -- I made sure to get the orange blaze in the picture because I knew you'd be dubious.

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It's not this rocky all the time. There's an excellent long downhill not long after you turn left onto the Scothorn Trail.

I was too busy flying down that stretch to snap any pictures.

After a brief dirt road section, the climb up Jawbone begins. And it never, ever ends. Or so it seems.

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When I finally reach the top of Jawbone I take a left onto Kerns Mountain. Despite my griping about rocks, I have a strange affection for Kerns, which is probably the rockiest section of all.

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In the winter, there's always an impressive display of icicles on the west side of Kerns.

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Pause a moment to take in Q's View. Scenic overlooks are rare along the Massanutten Trail.

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Hubz was really excited to show me this bear claw mark. There were some faint coyote tracks once we popped out on the road, too.

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It was a good day to be out there on trail. Massanuttens, you're starting to grow on me.






January on The Wild Oak Trail

My coach approved some miles at The Wild Oak Trail, though not the whole loop. That was fine by me. Our plan: Hubz would drive to Camp Todd and run to meet us, then I could bail there for 10 miles and he could finish the loop. Perfect.

Saturday morning we rose at 4 a.m. and drove 2+ hours to the trailhead where we met Katie, Bob, new friend Carrie. After a lightning fast selfie we were off!

It's been unusually cold over the past week, but I'm happy to report that I've gotten all of my runs in. Dressing in layers has kept me relatively comfortable and made the snowy trails enjoyable. However, I seriously erred in not wearing my big bulky mittens. Oh, how my hands suffered in my silly thin gloves. My handwarmers just couldn't make enough heat.

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It was 7 degrees when we started at the bottom of the mountain.

The rest of me stayed warm enough, but just barely. Anytime we paused to take in a view at an overlook or adjust something, I cooled down alarmingly quickly.

The lower parts of the trail were snow-free, and there was about a half-inch to an inch at the higher elevations. Just enough to cushion the rocks a little.

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Sunrise view at the first overlook.

The climbing here is serious. I focused on using good form and making sure my glute was doing the work. It was honestly hard to tell because my derriere was totally numb. But it's sore today so I'll take that as a good sign.


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Plenty of climbing and some sweet, sweet descents.
I couldn't help myself. I bombed that final downhill like a madwoman. It was so fantastically exhilarating!

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Mountains in the distance.
My iPhone froze after the photo above. No, the battery didn't die. It actually froze and refused to turn  on again until I sat on it in the warm car for twenty minutes.

I felt really good when I reached Camp Todd and considered doing a little more, but decided to be prudent and call it a day. It only took 30 minutes of blasting the heat and some hot soup to warm up.

Though I'm not really a fan of cold weather, I find that getting out in spite of it makes me happy. I feel accomplished and tough and so glad that I didn't let the frigid temps stop me from enjoying the outdoors.

There's something special about The Wild Oak Trail. I'll be back for more cold miles in February.





Shaking it Up in the New Year

So long, 2014. You were pretty good to me.

Most memorable: I ran my second 100 miler in July. I'm really proud of that accomplishment, because I really had to work to come back after my foot injury. And while I wouldn't recommend it, it's nice to know I could eke out 100 miles on so little training when I  wanted it badly enough.

I'm truly honored and excited that I have been chosen to be a Moderator on The Whole 30 Forum. If you do a Whole30 anytime in the future (and I highly recommend it), make sure you stop in for encouragement, support and answers to your questions. It's a friendly place and always lively.

While I don't usually make formal New Year resolutions, I love this piece on Melissa Joulwan's alternative to setting goals or making a resolution.

This year, I'm going to run some new and different races. West Coast, here I come!

I'm also getting a coach to help me reach my racing potential. I want to see what I'm capable of in ultrarunning with serious, dedicated training. I'm better when I have structure. And I'm ready to try something new. I'm already feeling more motivated.

Have you made any big changes or resolutions? What are you excited about for 2015?

Happy New Year! 









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