Getting Inspired

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Last week’s running, post VT100 volunteering, were some of the best runs I’ve had. I felt strong, relaxed and capable. I’m not sure what changed, but I feel more determined than ever. Watching so many strong athletes do what needing doing, convinced me to stop navel gazing. It’s time to clear your head, pokey trail runner. Just go. No excuses. Run this gift.
Friday was the return of ‘Long Run Friday’. I ran a solid 24 miles. No bonking, no boo-hooing, no complaining. Best of all, no injury. Nothing hurt, beyond the usual next day soreness. Thank you, God, for clearing the path. New shoes helped, too. Thank you, Hoka, for making awesome shoes. (My Stinson had 550 miles, it was time for their retirement and replacement with the Mafate 3).
This weekend, hubby and I are volunteering at the Moosalamoo ultra in Goshen, VT. We’re sweeping the course, with the hopes of getting in 20-22 miles. Pretty psyched for new trails. Yay, more miles and more runner peeps. My favorite kinda weekend. I promise a better photo session than my Vermont 100 post.

And now, for something completely different….
I’ve been struggling with my writing here. Instead of slogging through self reflection, I’m going to share something else. Here’s a sampling of my favorite thoughts on running. Some you may have already seen. Others, well, I hope you enjoy them, too.

Run if you can, walk if you must, crawl if you have to, but never stop. ~Dean Karnazes

There are as many reasons for running as there are days in the year, years in my life. But mostly I run because I am an animal and a child, an artist and a saint. So, too, are you. Find your own play, your own self-renewing compulsion, and you will become the person you are meant to be. ~George Sheehan

Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the
world needs is people who have come alive. ~Howard Thurman

Describing his Naked Wrist philosophy, Ben Horne wrote:
But speed is not the only point. Racing is about pushing yourself — and to do so psychologically, having a watch may even be a distraction. Going fast is nice. But a time is not the goal, rather the best experience is what we strive for.
I kept that thought in my head every time I looked at where my watch was supposed to be and reminded myself that time wasn’t the goal. The enjoyment of the experience, and all that goes with that…the pain of the climbs, the triumph of the summit and the freedom of the descent is what is most important.

We need these wild places…. Even if we do nothing more than drive to the edge and look in…. For they are the Geography of Hope. ~Wallace Stegner

Learn to remain comfortable and confident when the mountains are throwing challenge after challenge your way, and while everyone else is slowing down out of fear and inexperience you’ll just keep plugging along comfortable, confident, and passing runners you have no business keeping up with. ~ irunfar.com

“The miracle isn’t that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start.” ~ John Bingham

Those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” ~Isaiah 40:30-31

Sometimes it’s better to experience than to understand. ~ Running and Rambling blog.

Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. ~Helen Keller

A special series of events has been planned for me today. I shall not miss it. ~ Each Day A New Beginning

Own your convictions and have the courage to sign your name to them. ~ Running Is Mental blog

I also realized that it made no difference how I looked when I started, just that I started. …..
I guess, because it helps to see that you can start from just about anywhere. That it’s not too late. That it is worth it! ~Moore on Running blog

Well, most days, the answer to that question is oblique at best and downright pathetic at worst, but if I have succeeded in getting in a run that day, the mundane, superficial, sometimes-hard-to-define stuff is a little easier to justify and that is why the long solo run is a place of such solace. When I am running, alone, on the trail, with only the sound of my breathing and my foot plants in my head I have no choice but to unitask. Nobody can call me, interrupt me, or usurp my moment. Is this selfish? Perhaps. Is this my way of detaching myself from the Real World? Certainly. Is this some sort of an “escape” for someone who can’t handle the demands of 21st Century society? I’ll let others be the judge of that.
What I do know is that my run allows me to find some sense of balance. It allows me to address the good and the bad on my terms and in my time. It gives me the opportunity to slow down and breathe and it allows me to do one thing and one thing only. In an age when doing one thing at a time is generally frowned upon, I like to think it gives me joy. And, at the end of that run, that’s all I need. ~Bryon Powell irunfar.com

my feet flew like eagles
my heart knew no boundaries
my spirit dreamed that the trail would never end ~ UltrarunnerGirl blog

If you want to take the island, burn the boats….Whatever your boat is, burn it. Instead of protecting yourself so that failing won’t hurt, use that fear of failing as one more reason not to fail.
And if you fail — and make no mistake, you might — I promise it’ll be good for you. While everyone was sitting on the couch watching Dancing with the Stars, you were out there trying. Making progress towards something. Doing instead of watching.
If it doesn’t work out, is that really something to be ashamed of? ~No Meat Athlete blog

Today’s run was indicative and emblematic of what I love about running. No matter who you are, no matter how fast or slow you are, no matter how much you care and no matter who is looking, running, the sheer act of getting out there, makes us better. Running makes us better at who we are and running makes us better at who we want to be. In fact, for those of us who truly embrace it, running is who we are. And that, for me, is enough to get me out there again tomorrow. ~Andy Wilkins-Jones on irunfar.com

I’m not stranger to suffering in life, but this is the first time I have been in completely control of how much I suffer. I can pull the plug at any time, or I can challenge myself physically and push my body to new levels. That is so rare, and I should be grateful for it. I choose my poison. I can drink it gladly. ~Vanessa Runs

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You guys continue to inspire me, too. Please keep telling me all about it.

Thanks for running with me,
Astrid

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A Blogoversary!

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Amazing! One year ago today, I posted my first vttrailgirl blog post!
I’m currently celebrating by icing my sliced leggies and reading a gift copy of Trail Runner.

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Sorry, I’m guessing you don’t care what my legs look like. But, Saw Grass is no joke. Here’s the proof! I actually celebrated by doing an easy 8 miler. I hadn’t planned on another run this weekend after Friday’s 14’er. I was pretty jazzed, though, for a celebratory run. It was so worth the near-ninety degrees and full humidity.
It was an awesome sweat fest. I loved it.
Some portions of the trails are completely overgrown. Hence, the grass fight. I lost. I covered my calves, but not the thighs. They look tough now. Oww.
I hardly get in two great runs back-to-back. Mostly ’cause I’m cooked for the week, except for smallish morning runs before work. When I have the right attitude, however, it doesn’t matter if my body is tired, running feels like pure bliss. Sometimes, running is truly 90% heart and 10% fitness.

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What a year it’s been. I spent a little time flipping through my posts for some perspective. I’m incredibly grateful to be running injury-free, have a supportive family and at having lost about 40 pounds. Not to mention the friends I’ve made, the new things I’ve tried via running (say, tackle a 50K) and adventures ive gone on. And I keep shaking my head at the audacity I had, at running a mere three miles, declaring to my husband “I’m gonna run a 100 miler someday”. I haven’t lost that dream a year later. It’s what caused me to document my adventures here, that crazy statement.
I definitely feel blessed and humbled. I’m looking forward to another year of trail running and blogging.
Here are some of my favorite shots from the past year.

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Any blogs I should check out?
Thanks for running & celebrating with this grateful girl,
Astrid

Not Much. You?

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As an email, this photo is probably larger than life. sorry.
This is me about 20ish miles in. Merrell provided FREE photos for the race. Thank you, Merrell. I will try to buy your stuff. Pretty awesome. AND it was as much fun as I look like I’m having. Truly.

I haven’t run once since Pineland. 10 days without running. Can I tell you how much I want to run? All last week I basked in the post-race glow of running my first ultra. Since then, I’ve continued with the usual routine of day-to-day. I’ve also gone for countless walks, lifted weights and paced around the house. But, it’s not running. In the meantime, I’m planning my next ultra. You know, the bug has truly set in.
So, in an effort to get healthy, I have to miss the first race of the Western NH Trail Running Series this Saturday. Argh. But, for those of you in the area, please go and support them. You can hang out with me in the photographer’s concession box, eating all the bagels and Nutella.
I went for x-rays last week. No breaks or fractures. The swelling is mostly gone. It’s mostly likely a tendon strain on the top of my foot. But, that’s what Dr. google says. I won’t know for sure until the end of June when I see an orthopedist. So, I’m going by feel. I’ll try running when I stop gimping. Whenever that is.
Having an injury reminds me I need to cross train. Whatever. I’ll let you know how that goes. Anybody wanna swim some boring laps with me? While you’re at it, can you run my dog? She’s going bonkers. Just like her mom.

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Thanks for (not) running with me,
Astrid

Living My Dreams

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8:51:16. I’m not winning any medals for speed. But I went further and longer than I’ve ever been before.
I didn’t fall off the face of the earth. The world continues to turn. I survived. I made it. I didn’t DNF. Mission accomplished. I brought home a finishers smile, a sense of wonder and two lbs. of Maine mud. Oh, man. Too cool.
This weekend was the amazing Pineland Farms Trail Running Festival. This girl ran her first ultra Sunday. I am living out my dreams. Unreal. I am truly still in shock. This is the shittest post I’ve written to date. Please bare with me while I find my voice.
I don’t know where to start. I couldn’t sleep for two nights prior to the race. I had the attention span of my using former self. I got to Maine Friday to start my mini running vacation. Friday I wore grooves in the wood floor pacing. Hubby and I went to the Saturday festivities to pick up our bibs and see the Canicross and barefoot races. It was pissing down rain. It was cold and miserable for spectators. I lasted about 20 minutes before I let my nerves get the best of me. I was standing in six inches of water at the finish line, wondering if it would be this wet tomorrow. Yup.
We stayed with our gracious hosts Matt, Crystal and Sadie about an hour from Pineland. On race morning, with about 4 1/2 hours of sleep, we dragged our hides to New Gloucester. It poured rain. I fretted, nervously slugged a 24 ounce coffee and talked incessantly. Poor husband. Probably wondering what this strange hell he agreed to be a part of is.
We parked, glided, layered. The rain stopped and my eyes searched out a friendly face to nurse my nerves with. Way too early to be torturing my honey with my yammering. Way too early for most of the folks around me, as well. I must have looked like I was on crack, nobody wanted to chat. Go figure. So I prayed for some serenity and some help to make it to the finish line happy. Funny how I have to be a shit show before I remember to ask for help. Oh, well.
At line up, I spied fellow bloggers Heather at Learning To Run and Tony at Tony Runs To A 100. We had four seconds to meet and the gun was off. So psyched to meet them. Their presence at my start time felt like a BIG bonus to an already exciting day. They’ve been bearing witness to my dream. I didn’t realize how important something like that would be as incentive to follow through.
Within minutes, I was running with a few folks at my pokey pace. Just run your own race, Astrid. Without delay, it was a mud extravaganza. My Hokas felt like like ankle weights. Okay, I’m running. Here goes. I made it this far. No turning back. I’d briefly thought about how I could get out of running by some freakish accident. Like, say, getting a rock through our car windshield on the way to the race. Jon joked upon seeing a cop that we should flag him down and beg him to arrest us. Sorry, we got thrown in jail. Oops, no race. It’d make a pretty good excuse.
During the first mile, my angel of help appeared. Beautiful, experienced ultra runner Sherry and I got talking. And I never let her out of my sight. I was running comfortably at her side. I feel as though I latched on, letting her dictate the pace. Happily. I felt like I was just born on that course. And I appreciated her knowing what worked. I love being alone, but not today. Her knowledge and energy was like a carrot in front of this newbie. I keep thanking her for her company.
I’m not sure what happened. Time continued out on the course, despite me. I didn’t hurt for the first seven hours. I talked, walked the hills and totted around large amounts of mud and grass on my legs. I nervously waited to hit the wall. I never did. Miracle of miracles. Thank you, God.
I laughed constantly at the slipping and sliding I did. I could hear the Looney Tunes music in my head as I tried not to wipe out skating uphill in three inches of mud. It was a blast. My abs are utterly sore from laughing and all the lateral movement in the mud. It was agreed this was an ultra combined with a Tough Mudder. It seemed almost criminal to be having this much fun. Yips, hoots and hollers were heard everywhere from happy runners.
Some things that worked: Lots of bananas, water and Gatorade, salted potatoes, gummy bears, chocolate chip cookies, Belvita cookies (might be a cracker, not sure). A Tums and an S-Cap every hour. It was loving pointed out by Sherry I could eat a lot at aid stations. I took it as a compliment. I’ve been practicing eating during long runs. It used to cramp me up. Now, viola! I’m an eating machine. It served me well. Go figure.
Ifinished the first 15 mile loop in under four hours. Not bad. It took a bit longer to complete the second. Almost five hours. Oh, well. I almost missed the finish line. I started to go left, recovered right. I crossed the soupy threshold. And started bawling. I reached through tears for my cowbell and water bottle. It was kind of funny. The young woman passing out goodies probably thought I was hurt. It was the most incredible feeling crossing that finish line. Nothing but joy.
What a beautiful course. It is all farm land and some incredibly well maintained trails. I think there were three roots on the entire course. The course is well marked, the aide stations are really well stocked, and the rolling hills are merciful. Anyone thinking of trying an ultra should consider this an excellent option. I’m blessed it was in my (nearly) backyard.
As I write this, I’m icing my right foot, which is still lacking definition two days later. Tomorrow I head to the doctor to have it looked at. I can’t put any weight on. I don’t think it’s broken. I’m not worried. I’ll let you know what they say. Aggie is grateful for an extra day with her folks. And I’ll be catching up on some Netflix.
I didn’t take a single photo. So strange. I usually love snapping pics. Really, I was terrified to stop and lose my forward momentum. So, no pretty images to accompany this post. Just some muddy shoes and my finisher’s cowbell. Oh, hubs ran it in 7:15:00. Jerk.
What’s next? Not sure. You can bet I’m looking already. I’m ready for more. Lets run. Any suggestions?

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More than ever, thanks for running with this grateful girl,
Astrid

Waiting, Celebrating and Sushi

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Nine days ’til my first ultra!
I’ve been in taper mode this week, with some easy short runs. I even missed a few scheduled runs cause I was downright lazy. I’m trying, on the whole, to not worry too much about it. At this point, I don’t think there’s much I can do to improve my running. It’s gonna be what it’s gonna be. It’ll probably take me a wretched 8 hours to finish it, and I’m going to keep reminding myself that it’s supposed to be an adventure, not a race. Okay?
I did do a 7 miler today. But that’s the longest I’ll go til after the 50k. I’m told I should simply ‘shake my legs out next week’. Go easy. Okay. Shouldn’t be a problem, til I start having panic attacks from lack of exercise.
I want to play it cool, but my closest friends know better. All I’ve talked about lately is all things trail running. My co workers hate me. Even they’re ready for this damn race to be over.
Hubs is shaking his head. He has the patience of a saint. Sorry guys, I can be a little obsessive.

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Any ho, I did my first race of the season last weekend. Meh. It was great to see folks I hadn’t seen since last fall. I had been hoping to be faster. I’ll blame it on my distance training since it was only a 5k. And I pretty much loathe trying to go fast. As the gun went off, I visualized myself toeing the line at the fifty and my heart beat wildly! I guess it was good to get a short race in before hand to get reacquainted with that feeling.

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This is an amazing time to be tapering. I have lots to celebrate these 10 days. Aggie became our girl two years ago this past Monday. I’ve been lavishing her with treats and extra snuggling all week. She is one of the lights of my life. Also, I’m celebrating 5 years sober today, my 40th is next Wednesday (which means an eagerly awaited sushi dinner), and a long weekend in Maine. Hubby and I will be flitting about nightly in honor of each occasion. I wish I was rich enough to have hamachi and maguro every night this week.
I will probably over pack for Pineland, since I’m not 100% sure what to bring or what the weather will be like for the run.
Anybody have some last minute advice for me? I would really appreciate feedback, mantras, google links, food favorites, songs, whatever you got. What are you long run favorites?

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Finally, I leave you with what I believe is some awesome poison ivy. It is everywhere here. It is truly spring.

Thanks for running with me,
Astrid

Practice Practicing

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Well, it wasn’t pretty. But I made it. Six hour run done.
This was my first six hour run AND my first time running 24 miles.
I feel pleased I did it. I feel confused because I struggled so much the second half of the run. More on that later.
Firstly, it’s taken two friggin weeks to write about this run. WTF? I’ve read and re-read your blogs, looking for the words to describe where I’m at. Some part of me is afraid I’m not supposed to be running this long. That I’m not cut out for ultra running. That just last year, when I thought I’d start running long, it was just an immature notion.
The first half of the run was beautiful. 12 miles in 2 1/2 hours. That’s fast for me. It was 70, our first summery day, I had everything I needed fuel wise and was super excited to hit the trails. The plan was two 12 mile loops and done. More importantly, I planned on six hours on my feet, whatever the mileage.
Hubby and I chatted and joked. I felt light and ran with surprising ease. He help push me on the downhills, which I need LOTS of practice on. I’m hoping to learn to make up time on those blessed rests. We ran familiar trails practicing race pace (mine, not his). I saw my first blue bird, a few Peregrine falcons and, my favorite, the first red eft of the season.
After the first lap, I dropped off Aggie and the hubs (who’s rocking the high mileage lately). Changed my socks, chugged a cup of coffee, and took off. Are you sure you’re okay? I feel great. It’ll be awesome.
Only two or three miles into the second lap, my stomach cramped up. Running became an afterthought as i tried to breathe through the pain. Meanwhile, my mood took a big dive trying to push up the long, 1100′ four mile climb. I’d been so psyched to keep as good a pace as the first lap. Yeah, not so much. I made an uneasy truce with myself. That whatever I did, I would just move forward. Whatever that looked like.
I breathed slowly, puffing up my cheeks on the exhalations. The pain subsided and I pressed on. I was starting to gain the upper hand with my inner pessimist.
I’ve been working on keeping positive when the real work begins. Which is easier when things are going well. Of course. This is new for me. I’m used to my mood dictating my behavior. In the past, my M.O. has been to cut my losses when things get hard. Around mile 17, I felt like quitting. Hubby and I had been texting a few times at this point. He knew I wanted to barf. A lot. Want me to pick you up? No, not yet. Maybe in another hour. I guess I had something left in the tank.
And then I reached the downhill point. And things got funny. At least not painful.
The last 4 miles I cracked myself up. I sang out loud, danced, whimpered and performed tired, little dances along the trail. I’m glad no one was there to film me. I probably looked like a crazy, dirty, homeless person in pink technical clothes. I walked some, I ran when I could. And tripped a lot. And laughed and whimpered some more. My mood was all over the map. I felt hormonal. It wasn’t entirely unpleasant. More like taking drugs than I thought possible. And I’m sober. You can see Irony. But I was ready to be done ‘tripping’.
At mile 23, hubby and Aggie appear like a mirage. I truly thought I was hallucinating. My last mile was through our town park. He knew about where I’d be, and came to meet me at my ‘finish line’. I dropped to my knees as Aggie ran to me, not believing her real. I wrapped my arms around her and buried my face in her fur. I laughed and cried simultaneously. I was so touched they came for me. And glad it was over. For today. Thank you, God.

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I guess I wasn’t prepared for how hard this run would be. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. Duh. But THAT hard. Tears, hallucinations. The drama. Haha. Well, a little drama. I didn’t picture myself falling apart. I still have two weeks to back out of the race if I really wuss out. I keep thinking the 50K is 7 more miles than I’ve ever gone. But I also know it will be different hard on race day. And that I can’t write the day. Maybe some God moments will outshine the hard stuff. It’ll be memorable whatever it looks like. And probably better than that. Right? Alright, enough musing.
This is my last week with any substantial mileage. And a 5K trail race this weekend.
Then, dun-dun-dunt, my first taper.

Thanks for running with me,
Astrid

Signs of Spring

We interrupt this ultra training to bring you spring. Finally. Sorry, Colorado. Your time will come.

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Today was a super pokey, super beautiful three hour run. It was great to not rush and simply enjoy the trails. There’s always tomorrow to continue race training. 22 days left til the Pineland 50K.

Thanks for running with me,
Astrid