Monthly Archives: August 2016

Spartan Sprint – Washington DC

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Feeling like a winner at Washington DC Spartan Sprint

Two down, one to go. I have completed a Spartan Sprint and a Spartan Super. I only have the Spartan Beast to complete so I can earn my Trifecta for 2016. I remember the moment I decided to embark on this journey. It came from a dark place but gave me hope. It encouraged me that I was something more…something special.

 

I don’t want to say that the Sprint was easy but it was certainly easy compared to the Super. It was 4.75 miles and I completed it in 2:35. That was slower than I had in my mind. However, I stayed with some members of our gym to encourage and help if needed. In the beginning they looked out for me. I was anticipating problems with breathing due to the heat but as we progressed through the first mile I realized I was fine. Strong and fine.

I think if I had just ran the race on my own I would have finished quite a bit faster. I would have ran a few more hills and I wouldn’t have had to wait for anyone to finish burpees. I guess it is in my nature to want to be encouraging and helpful. And so I am. I am not very selfish in races but I definitely will be next year. I will want to see if I can shatter that 2:35 time and really shine. Or at least come in the top 10% in my age group.

I am still a work in progress. I will need to improve heavily in my upper-body strength. I have come a long ways but will feel successful when I can climb a rope or do the monkey bars.

Still – I’m pretty proud of myself. I had been feeling pretty dejected about my fitness and my progress. I had been second-thinking my training and wondering, daily, if I had been doing enough. I guess I have been and that makes me feel pretty good.

Happy 100th Birthday National Parks!

My first memory of a National Park is climbing around Rocky Mountain National Park with my father and brother. I was maybe 10-11 or so. However, before that time, I had visited a few. In addition to Rocky Mountain National Park we had also gone to Yosemite National Park, Grand Teton National Park, Badlands National Park, Glacier National Park, Great Smokey Mountains National Park, Yellow Stone National Park and Shenandoah National Park. Camping and visiting these parks was our summer vacations and I’ll always be thankful to my parents for introducing me to nature and the beauty that the USA has to offer.

Today is the National Parks 100th birthday! Hooray! The National Parks are a diverse and amazing view into this place we call Earth. From wetlands to canyons to mountains to trees to rivers to lakes to caves – you can see it all!  I am blessed to have two very close to me:  Shenandoah National Park and Great Falls National Park. I have been to Great Falls numerous times and it is always a wonderful visit. There are great trails on both sides of the Potomac but I prefer the Virginia side.

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Time lapse of Great Falls National Park

Shenandoah National Park is a magical place. It is about 1.5 hours from my house and is very doable for a day hike. I have visited three times just this summer and can’t get enough. Just a couple of weeks ago I drove out there just to watch the sunset and it was amazing. I hadn’t seen a sunset from a mountain before and I can’t wait to do it again. I am planning to go next weekend and watch the sunrise.

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Sunset at Shenandoah National Park

The National Parks do not get enough funding. I’m sure that is common knowledge. There is a backlog of fixes and repairs needed throughout the parks and we all know rangers do not get paid enough. It is unfortunate but that seems to be the state of our country these days. I am all for them raising the prices to get into the parks. Shenandoah is $20 for a 1-day entry. I am glad to pay it each time I go. I’m sure it would behoove me to get an annual pass – something I’ll probably do in 2017 – but I honestly don’t mind paying. Some parks cost less of course. I think the day pass for Great Falls is $10. If they raised it to $15 I would certainly still go.

I am itching to get back to places like Yosemite and Glacier National Park with my kids. I would love nothing more than to take 2 weeks and drive out there and camp and have them experience the parks like I did so many years ago. I don’t know if we’ll ever get that chance but I am going to try.

Happy Birthday National Parks! Here is to 100 more years of beauty, excitement and experiencing nature to its fullest!

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Dream Lake at Rocky Mountain National Park

Smokers and Nature

Let me get this out of the way right now: I hate smoking. I hate the smell. I hate it when I have to walk through it. I hate how someone smells after they smoke. I could go on but you get the drift. I understand it is everyone’s right to ruin their lungs and pass secondhand smoke on to everyone else. I used to teach salsa dancing every week in a club with smoking. I truly believe that the smoke was one of the factors in the asthma I suffer from today.

I love nature. Mountains. Streams. Trees. Animals and birds. All of it. I can’t get enough of it. And I don’t understand why smokers don’t. I see the remains of them in nature all of the time. Just last week when I hiked to Raven Rocks Overlook there on the ground was a cigarette butt. My first thought was how hard was it for them to hike to that point because it had to have been taxing on the lungs. It isn’t an easy hike. My second thought was, “JERK!” Ok. So you feel the need to sit and view nature’s beauty by having a cigarette. It relaxes you? It calms you? But then you have to leave your trash there? I don’t get it.

Earlier this summer my son and I went tubing at Shenandoah River State Park. There were only 5 of us who went on the trip. There were No Smoking signs everywhere in the park. It is a “Carry In – Carry Out” park. That means no trash. Yet one of the men going tubing was smoking. He had to smoke on the way to the transport vehicle which meant my son and I had to walk through it. I found it very rude. I was also annoyed that the guy that was going to drive us didn’t speak up and ask him to 1) put it out and 2) take his cigarette trash with him. He didn’t. He threw it on the ground. My son didn’t want me to make a fuss so I didn’t. But I was annoyed.

I have family members that smoke. I have friends who smoke. I don’t hate them. I hate the habit. I hate that it makes people leave trash everywhere because they are either too lazy or too inconvenienced to put their butts in the appropriate places. Go ahead. Smoke in your car. Do not throw your butt out the window. I have seen many land and still be lit. I’m sure this practice has been the cause of more than one forest fire.

I don’t see many speaking up against this. But I am. Even though not one soul reads this blog I am still saying something in case it gets found via Google. Stop smoking in nature! Or if you do, take your cigarette trash with you OUT of the park, trail, hike, rocks, etc.

There is no purpose to going out and enjoying nature just to trash it with cigarettes. Be responsible, please! And don’t even get me started on beer bottles….

Raven Rocks Overlook Hike on Appalachian Trail

After experiencing a very difficult Spartan Super I decided I needed to incorporate far more elevation hiking and running into my workouts. I hadn’t done enough to get through the Super with sort of confidence. I had read that Raven Rocks had a good amount of elevation gain so I set out this past weekend to hike to the overlook.

The start of this particular hike is just 25 mins from my house which was great. I feel very blessed to live so close to the Appalachian Trail. The portion that runs near my house is very rocky. I highly recommend sturdy hiking shoes or boots for this trail (and any portion between this point and Harper’s Ferry). The trail is rarely smooth and even and you will step on, over, around, rock after rock. And in some cases you’ll scurry over trees as well.  A group of boys and their leader passed me on the trail and I noticed a couple were wearing tennis shoes and I wondered if their feet hurt. Mine were tired and I was in wearing sturdy hiking shoes (although perhaps a bit too small because my toes hurt bad afterwards).

 

The hike begins by taking you up some steps. It doesn’t last too long before you start heading down quite a ways. I opened my phone and reviewed the trail because I had thought I’d be going up almost the whole time. Nope! The trail is very up and down although there is more going up than down on the way to the Overlook. The GPS reviews I’ve read has the mileage at 2.5 to the Overlook. My phone read 3 miles so just be prepared for something around that length.

After you hike about 5-10 mins you’ll finally leave the buzzing of the cars on Route 7 behind you. I spent the next hour with the singing of the cicadas. Sometimes a plane would fly overhead but otherwise it is just you and nature. Although the path is well-hiked, it wasn’t overly busy. I encountered a couple of groups, some through-hikers, and quite a few other solo female hikers. Many have questioned whether women should hike alone. I find that to be a ridiculous query. Yes. Yes we should and do. I have never felt as if I was in danger and have never happened upon any sketchy individuals.  Some people aren’t friendly and that is ok but I find that the majority of hikers are happy to say hello or talk about the hike. I met two gentlemen at the Overlook who were preparing to hike the Inca Trail. They shared. I wished them well and off they continued leaving me alone.

There aren’t many “views” to behold on this hike. You get one, small glimpse of the valley at about .5 miles in (there is a rock to stand on). And then just trees and rocks for the next 2-2.5 miles. If you aren’t pressed for time you may find a rock or two to climb on or use for a lunch break. There are many.

As I continued I kept wondering, “How much longer?” I’m embarrassed to say I was getting tired. The elevation was great for my legs and I attempted to keep pushing along even when breathing hard. I knew I was capable of it. I finally did stop and take a small break to get some water. Alas, I had forgotten the tip to my hydration bladder. I opened it and held it up to force the water out and a bunch spilled on the ground. Ugh! I held the bladder down, placed the tip in my mouth, and then raised it up again. Success!  That water tasted amazing because it was hot!

I kept checking my phone for mileage. I was at 2.5 and felt like I had a long ways to go. Finally, I saw some sunlight ahead. I always have this memory in my head of driving to a beach in Michigan. It had been a long trip and we were cresting over a hill. I was riding in the top part of our mini-Motorhome and looking out of the window hoping for a view of the water. Eventually the trees parted and we hit the top of the hill and there was the water. In my head, it was a beautiful sight. The view I had reminded me of that. It was beautiful.

 

That light at the end of the trail is the Overlook. And it is a beautiful Overlook. I was so happy to set my backpack down and just take in the beauty of the valley. The two men preparing for the Inca Trail were there but left shortly after I arrived. I had the whole Overlook to myself. I sat there and bathed in the peace and quiet. I looked down and wondered what was below me. I didn’t have to wonder long as I heard a bear cry out a few times. The sun was beating down on me so I didn’t stay too long.

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Rock Climbing Rocks

 

You can see the large rocks that are visible from the Overlook. Apparently this is a very popular rock climbing area in the spring and fall. No one was climbing that day. I would imagine the rocks would have been very hot (plus that bear below). I grabbed my pack, drank a little more water and took off for the return trip to my car. I made good time going back. There were moments of hiking upwards on the way back and I welcomed it. I felt as if I was getting in a good grove and remembered it had just been a week since I had climbed much higher while doing obstacles. I was, however, very happy to get back to my car. I was very thirsty (from wasting so much water) and craved watermelon.

My hike took me about three hours. I had no one to chit chat with and didn’t stop for many photos. My goal was to climb the elevation as quickly as I could for a workout. If you decide to do this hike, it may take you up to four hours.