Saturday, June 23, 2018
with Savage River Lodge & LPS Strength & Meditation
When I finish a trail run or bike ride, I seek efficient, effective yoga poses to decompress. To accomplish this, I do poses that stretch each part of the hips - the back of the hips, fronts and sides. The following four poses do just that. Hold each pose for 10 long, slow deep breaths or for one to three minutes.
1. Anjaneyasana Variation (Low Lunge)
2. Malasana (Buddha Squat)
3. Parivrtta Trikonasana (Revolved Triangle)
For detailed descriptions of each pose, refer to the Yoga Journal pose guide.
Yoga Trail Running Excursion
Saturday, June 23, 2018
with Savage River Lodge & LPS Strength & Meditation
Trail Run Tribe members Shane, Rachel and I traveled to Grayson Highlands State Park in southern Virginia to run the Grayson Highlands Half Marathon, the state's highest race, situated at 5,089 feet above sea level, on Sunday, May 6.
We chose this course because of these highlights, listed on the race website:
Yes, it was as spectacular and scenic as it sounds. Here I give you seven of my personal favorite, fun and surprising things from the race weekend.
1. After a night of torrential downpours, the weather gods turned in our favor and gave us a sunny, clear high 50-degree morning.
2. We saw LOTS of tiny, adorable wild ponies, in all colors, and even this wee baby.
3. Being at high elevation GOT TO ME. The total elevation gain was about 1,800 feet, similar to, the runs I do at home in southwestern Pennsylvania, but the actual elevation (feet above sea level) was more than twice as high as the mountains I run at home. At mile nine, I wanted to vomit. At mile nine and a half, I wanted to surrender and lie down as I attempted to trudge uphill with heavy legs. At mile 10, I fought against the feeling of passing out. At mile 11, nausea took hold. For two hours after finishing, these feelings lingered... but I was too ecstatic to let it get me down... keep reading to see why ;)
4. The downhills became my strength. Typically I love climbing hills, but with the effect of the elevation, I had to make up for lost time by throwing caution to the wind and running as fast as I could down the rocky, technical, wet trail. And guess what? I LOVED it!
5. I made two race buddies! It is rare that I stay with the same person or persons during an entire race. This time, to my delight, it happened. A young Spanish-speaking man by the name of Erick Martinez and a weight-lifting gentleman named Ray Mullins and I ran together for 2/3 of the course, laughing, chatting and encouraging one another. We bombed the downhills, smiled at the ponies and shared the agony of the hills. They finished just ahead of me - keeping them in view and hearing their hoots and hollers pulled me along. Thank you, guys!
6. I won second overall female out of 83 women and eighth overall out of 147 total racers (men and women). Placing high hurts so good (see number three) yet always humbles and surprises me. My time was 1:59:42.
7. My youngest son, Grey, took his first steps, at 13 months old, after the race in the hotel room while we were packing to go home. Maybe watching so many runners inspired him :) Go, Grey!
That's all for now. Here's to making memories and friends in another race. Until next time,
Before the 2018 Coopers Rock Trail Half Marathon results posted, this blog post was going to be an elaboration on how the banana and fair trade sea salt dark chocolate I ate 90 minutes before the race was a good choice, how much I enjoyed the warm yerba mate tea that filled the bladder of my hydration pack during the race, how the Scott Run section of the course was my favorite, how the beautiful finish line location surprised me (it ended six feet before the railing of the overlook, making you feel as if you were going to run right off the cliff!), how I could have shaved at least 60 seconds off my second-place time if I had not had to stop, remove my long-sleeve shirt and pack and figure out how to carry the shirt that would not fit in an unnecessarily overly-full pack... and more race-oriented details.
But my race angel, my dad, provided me with a better story.
Connection - link, bond, association, relationship
Running remained the singular connection that bonded me to my dad as a teenage girl.
When high school track season rolled around each spring, so did my dad (my parents were divorced, and I lived with my mom).
Track, running and racing gave us something to talk about and something to do together. A little part of me resented the fact that once the season ended, our connection thinned... Yet, I looked forward to each season and cherished these moments whilst still giving him attitude and eye rolls as he gave me advice that I always heeded.
Wear a weight vest and ankle weights during trail hill repeats? Absolutely, dad! Eat a spoonful of honey before my sprints? Yes, father! Run without regret? Done. Never look back? I never did.
It was his encouragement, our tightening bond and a shared passion that led to my obsession with breaking the 400-meter dash record as a senior at Uniontown Area High School in 2001.
He stood at the finish at every race. We had the same goal nestled in our hearts.
Then it happened. The energy rang high, the cheers blistered my ears, and my legs and lungs burnt. I crushed the record with a time of 61.3 seconds, and it remained unbroken from 2001-2016, for 15 long years.
Today, two things struck me. The first was that 61.3 is the exact age at which my father died - he was 61 years and three months old as his soul drifted to heaven on June 1, 2013. The second was that my record remained for 15 years. 15 was his birth date (February 15, 1952).
Sometimes our deceased loved ones come to us through dreams, apparitions, symbols, songs or nature. As many of you know, my deceased father comes to me via races in the form of numbers representing his birth digits (2-15-52).
When it began happening, it was obvious, such as in my bib numbers.
Then it became less obvious yet still radiant, such as via song or race time.
Eventually these incidences added up to equal 11 amazing, miraculous events where my father graced me at races.
After each occurrence, I always wonder, "can he possibly show up next time?"
Sometimes he reveals himself prior to a race. Sometimes it takes days for me to realize that he was, in fact, present, as was the case for the 2018 Coopers Rock Trail Half Marathon that seven of the women from my trail running group, my husband and I ran on Saturday, April 28, in West Virginia.
Feeling good and with a full night's sleep, I made a goal when I awoke: to race without regret. That is, to run fast and finish without feeling as if I could have run faster. I did (not counting the waste of time of the shirt removal mentioned in the first paragraph, lol!), and it earned my second overall female with a time of 1:58:11.
Soon after, my friend Rachel came across the finish with a time of 2:00:40 to cinch third overall female.
We cheered our group and Eric. All the women wore their running watches and knew their times. But Eric, my husband, did not look at the clock as he finished, and he does not wear a watch. Thus, he did not know his time.
Then, three days later, the results posted.
Eric ran it in 2:15:02. My dad's birthday, 2-15-52! Ah, dad, you did it again :)
The first time my dad linked me to my husband during a race was just last week, in the 2018 Mount Summit Challenge. Read about it in Dad, I Ran the Mount Summit Challenge For You, and You Showed Up in Three New Ways!
What began, three years ago, with me and my dad, has now become something more beautiful as it includes Eric, my companion, my love, as we bond over something that, like my dad, we had in common when we first met - running.
To sum up, Coopers Rock was the 12th incidence involving race angel dad and the second time he's reached out to Eric, to us. I race to meet him. Winning is just a bonus.
I'll leave you with this thought - some, mostly people who have never experienced a race before, view racing as "competitive," and that all who do so are highly competitive individuals. Yet, I beg to differ. Most runners race for the connection, a bond with other runners, the innate desire to be part of something bigger than oneself, the inner need for belonging, the love of spending time with a group who shares the same passion, to socialize, to cheer for others, to feel good together, as one.
It's all about the connection, with our friends on earth and our angels above.
"Do you think you'll win this year?" is one of many similarly phrased questions I have received in the past month about the 2018 Mount Summit Challenge.
My response? Head shaking, laughing, shrugging, smiling a "yikes no way!" type of smile or replying that I was not really sure how I would do, and that I was not focused on the win like years past.
Here are how my past two goals looked:
2015 Mount Summit Challenge Goal: To win Top Three Females. I wrote this on my dry erase board and practiced for the win. I won second female.
2016 Mount Summit Challenge Goal: To win first female. I wrote this in a visible place, became obsessed with it, did speed work, tempos, hill repeats, ran the course once a week for two months leading up to the race and visualized the win on a daily basis. I won first female. Why? For my dad, because he said that I could.
Here was this year's goal: To run my best under the circumstances and enjoy the day with friends, the Trail Run Tribe ladies who were running, family who came to support and my husband, Eric, who would be running it for his first time. One might even say I had zero goals and that these were more like soft intentions :)
Go, Trail Run Tribe!
Clockwise, from the top: Me, Brynn, 5th overall female with a time of 32:39 and first in my age group; Colleen, 4th overall female with a time of 32:26 and first in her age group; Keli, second in her age group; Andrea; Shane; June, first in her age group; and Ashley. Thank you, Rachel, for being our cheerleader and photographer! <3
But I had a variety of emotions.
You may think that these are rather intense feelings for an amateur, local 3.5-mile uphill road race traveling along a highway with 1200-foot elevation gain.
Yet, please understand - my relationship with the Mount Summit Challenge began with my dying father.
In October 2012, as he lie in a hospital bed and told me about the Mount Summit Challenge, my thought was this: "Dad will recuperate, I will run in the 2013 race, and he will be there at the top screaming his lungs out, cheering as he does best!"
He had just missed my 27-mile ultra trail marathon the day before, a 5K in my hometown the week prior and was not going to make it to the Seven Springs Mud on the Mountain the following week, all due to his hospitalization. We were both saddened by the fact that he had to miss three races. He enjoyed watching me race as much as I enjoyed racing.
Even sadder still was the fact that he did not make it to the 2013 Mount Summit Challenge as I had wished... but neither did I. Because soon I found out that Eric and I would be having our first child!
Now, let's fast-forward.
In 2014, when our new baby, Avie, was 10 months old, I longed to race in my first Mount Summit Challenge in honor of my now deceased father, who died four weeks before Avie's birth, but plantar fasciitis and a heel spur squashed that dream.
In 2015, while wearing my randomly selected bib number of 52, my dad's birth year, I won second overall female with a time and personal record of 30:31. Read about it in Spring Race Recap: How Injury, Death & Childbirth Made Me a Stronger Runner.
The miraculous story began on that day, at my very first Mount Summit Challenge, when my dad showed up in a divine way via my bib. Since then, he has graced me with his spirit at nearly all my races (read the miracle list here!). In fact, it happened for the 11th time on April 22, 2018, at my third Mount Summit Challenge. Keep reading to see how, but first, I'll continue with the year recaps...
In 2016, while wearing my randomly selected bib number of 152, my dad's birth date and birth year, I won first overall female with a time of 31:04. Read about it in Dad, I Won the Mount Summit Challenge For You. (warning: grab a box of tissues!)
In 2017, our second son, Grey, was four weeks old. We took him to the finish line to cheer on the racers, particularly the women. Read about it in Running Up That Hill: It All Started With You, Dad.
Thus, on the days leading up to this year's race, I pondered how he would show up, and if he even would. Would it be possible to get another bib reflecting his birthday? Even more, what if he didn't give me any signs of his presence? If he did not, I prepared to deal with a sure feeling of emptiness. Although I had carpooled to the race with Eric and friends, Colleen, Andrea and Shane and had met Keli, Ashley and June at the start line, and had hugged and been eager to see two dozen other fellow runners and friends... still... this is where my dad first met me after his death... and my bib number of 62 did not quite do it.
Off we went! I ran my best under the circumstances, with just 90 minutes of sleep the night before, as Grey cried nearly all night (he sleeps well 99.9 percent of the time lol!) combined with a dry cough and sore throat that suddenly crept up and worsened as the night progressed.
(Read the research on how sleep impacts athletic performance here)
The age of the first overall female was 52, my dad's birth year.
I placed 5th female and 20th overall runner (5/20).
And here's my favorite: Eric placed 50th runner. I placed 20th. 50/20. He connected us!!! What love.
Three times in one race. Impressive, dad.
Thank you for always finding your way to my races, whether my goal is to win or my intention is to simply run my best and enjoy the company of loved ones.
Upcoming Yoga for Runners Events:
Happy First Birthday, Grey! Big Brother Avie Tells Us the Seven Things He Remembers Most About Your Natural Home Birth.
Flashback to Sunday, April 2, 2017
1:30 a.m. A strong contraction awoke me.
2 a.m. Contractions became stronger and closer together. I could no longer lie in bed. I woke up and began walking laps around the house.
2:30 a.m. "Eric," I said between breaths. "This (inhale)....is (exhale) ...labor," and I left the bedroom to continue walking, squatting, lunging, walking... Over the past two months, since week 26, I had been waking up with intense Braxton Hicks contractions. But this time I knew. These were the real thing.
3 a.m. Vomiting began. I vomited one time at around hour 10 out of a 20-hour labor with my first son, Avie, but this was different. This time, I threw up over and over, in between and during contractions. The intensity paired with multiple bodily reactions overwhelmed me to tears and nearly to fear. Luckily, the principles of one-pointed concentration, focused breath, positive thinking, mantra and prayer derived from my disciplined yoga practice and Catholic faith overcame the terror and transformed it to functional movement and a sense of presence and trust in the process.
4:28 a.m. The first midwife arrived to me in the birthing tub, which was set up in our living room. "Vocalizing. Lots of good movement (hip swaying, etc.)," she wrote in our birth notes. The following times and notes are from the pen of our two midwives. My thoughts are in italics.
5:13 a.m. Fetal heart rate = 125-132. Lots of position changes. Set up for birth.
5:42 a.m. Deep lunges through contractions.
6:16 a.m. Fetal heart rate = 120s to 130s.
6:48 a.m. Mother shaking. Trembling is a good sign that labor is progressing, they told me. It felt anything but good!
6:54 a.m. Vernix. My water broke as I was standing up in the tub. The audible pop and sudden gush of water splashing into the pool made me laugh... ahhh, some comic relief! The midwives noted that the water contained vernix from baby's body. Oh, closer to meeting my sweet one! And how very different from Avie's labor, when the breaking of the water began the onset of his labor.
7:07 a.m. Pushing on the floor. I found solace perched upon my number one comfort object, my Prana Revolution yoga mat. It was around this time that Avie woke up. Eric carried him around for the remainder of the birth.
7:18 a.m. In pool. At this point, the midwives urged me to choose to stay in or out of the pool. In other words, the baby was near, and I needed to choose a location for it's final arrival. Like Avie's birth, I got out of the water.
7:36 a.m. Head. This is when the pain felt different. I was back on my yoga mat, and baby's cord was wrapped around it's shoulders, which kept the chest broad and unable to collapse for the exit. One of the midwives had to manually unwrap the cord. With baby and hands stretching me to my limits, I let out a blood-curdling scream. Baby was stuck this way for four minutes. The thought sends shivers throughout my entire body.
7:40 a.m. Baby.
7:41 a.m. First breath.
7:53 a.m. Latched. IT'S A BOY!!!! More crying.
8 a.m. Placenta.
Fast forward to now, Monday, April 2, 2018
Happy first birthday, Grey Gibbons Harder!
"Avie," I said to my oldest son, "what do you remember most about the day Grey was born?"
1. "You in the pool."
I was in and out of the pool, which was a wonderful birthing tool. Yet, like Avie, I had both of my sons out of the water.
2. "Hearing Grey cry. It was a very noisy living room, because so many people were there."
Our two home birth midwives were like cheerleaders. For each contraction, they expressed enthusiastic encouragements such as, "Good one!" Between their cheers, my birth sounds and then Grey's first cry, it was indeed noisy.
3. "Seeing him and saying, 'I love my baby brother!'"
The baby's gender was a surprise... the greatest of surprises. Avie's bright face as he said these words and ran to me and Grey melted my soul.
4. "Holding Grey's hand."
As I held our newborn for the first time, Avie climbed on the couch behind me and took his hand. It was brotherly love at first sight. I did not know this was happening, but luckily a midwife captured the moment for us.
5. "Cutting the umbilical cord."
Avie, ever the focused, self-aware, observant child, eagerly took on his duty of cutting the cord.
6. "Weighing Grey."
8 lbs, 13 oz.!!! The midwives were laughing and gleeful, saying, "we love when the tiny moms have huge babies!" and, "usually pushing out the second child is easier but not when it's three pounds bigger than the first!" Avie had weighed 5 lbs, 12 oz. at birth. We all laughed in amazement. Yet, like Avie, Grey was 21 and 1/4 inches long.
7. "How red he was."
Grey, we hope you enjoyed your birth story. We love you with all our hearts.
Mom (Brynn) and Avie
In my most recent post, Five Things I Learned By Running with My Four-Year-Old Son, I listed the instinctual inclinations that Avie expresses as a runner.
Here is part two of the story. Below is a list of the life lessons that my husband Eric and I share with Avie, age four, as well as his 11-month-old brother, Grey, during our runs together. They can be applied to any age of children and even adults!
1. Truly happy humans are untouched by weather conditions.
Dale Carnegie said it best:
"Happiness doesn't depend on any external conditions - it is governed by our mental attitude."
It is of utmost importance that I raise two boys to become men who do not complain about the weather. Why? Because happiness lies within, and external factors such as weather cannot touch true contentment. Besides, hearing moans and groans about weather tires my spirit. So, when Avie looks outside and says something like, "mom, I think it's too cold to run," I respond with something like, "running will warm us up!" or "it's never too cold to run!" With that, we gather and clothe with proper apparel and gear and bolt outside!
2. It's not about being the fastest or the best.
"Let's go running!" I announce to the boys. "I'm going to be the fastest!" Avie replies. While he may be fast, and I do encourage his speed, I also explain that running is not about being the fastest or the best. It's about enjoying the company you keep on the run, the sun shining through the trees, the wind kissing the face, the lungs expanding, the muscles working, the heart pumping, the sweat forming, the smile that physical movement brings to the soul and the satisfaction of a true and genuine effort. That's what running is about, no matter how fast one can go.
3. Excellent leaders come into position subtly, softly, with compassion and grace and by example.
It used to happen all the time. We would set forth on a run, and immediately Avie would shout, "I'm the leader!!!" if anyone passed him by. Anger would rise in his voice, and soon he'd be demanding that we all get behind him. Eventually I began describing how true leaders encourage others to follow - by hardly needing to say anything at all, by having a positive attitude and, most of all, by being kind to all beings, which means no bossing. It took months of leadership talk, but we have succeeded! Avie no longer panics if I or his dad passes him by. Rather, we all rotate and move along at various paces, taking turns leading, running back to one another, bringing up the rear and always finishing together.
4. Exercise paired with fresh air uplifts, refreshes and transforms.
When mid-afternoon slumps bring down the energy of the household or tantrums begin to escalate, a change of scenery is needed. Irritability, negative attitudes and poor listening (on Avie's part) and fussiness (on Grey's part) almost immediately resolve themselves upon stepping outside. Furthermore, channeling yucky energy into a simple, focused physical activity such as running transforms Avie's behavior as well as my own, and Grey maintains a focused calm as he watches us both in action. Avie has heard me say often, "I need to go for a run" and has witnessed me return with a calmer demeanor and clearer head. Now Avie has begun to say, "Mom, I need to put on my running shoes and run laps around the yard." He, too, comes back with more sense and peace about him. A win-win for all!
5."I can't" is counterproductive.
I'm an advocate of positive psychology, optimistic attitudes and a can-do attitude. So when Avie first uttered the phrase, "I can't" as we began running up a steep hill, my heart sunk (also because hill running is my personal favorite!). I countered his discouragement by sharing the story of "The Little Engine That Could." What we say we can do, we can do. And what we say we can't do, well, we can't. Our thoughts determine our words which determine our actions. These days I hear this phrase less and less often.
Fit families, runners and outdoor parents, this one is for you! I hope you find inspiration, wisdom and teachable moments on your family adventures.
P.S. Read part one of the story for more inspiration: Five Things I Learned By Running with My Four-Year-Old Son.
My oldest son, Avie, took his first run with me when he was two years and 11 months old on May 24, 2016 (see the video below of this very first run). We ran for 1.5 miles on a single-track dirt path for about 30 minutes. "A rocky path is a good place to run," he kept calling out, smiling ear to ear.
Now, at age four and a half (he turns five June 28 this year), he can run two miles at a 13-minute pace, which is what we did yesterday, along with my husband who pushed our 11-month-old son in the jogging stroller. Can I say PROUD? Yep, I am one proud mama!
Here are five things Avie has taught me about running.
1. The run/walk method and interval training stand the test of time.
Avie walks when he feels like walking, sprints, slows to a jog and still finishes in an impressive time for a tiny tot. The point is, runners need to do what the body feels is right. If the legs need a walk break, walk (psst... walk breaks do not strip you of the title 'runner.')
2. Taking yoga breaks is acceptable.
"Mom, I need to do a pose," Avie often tells me on our runs. "Down dog!" or "Plank!" he announces, then busts his selected move. Does something feel tight, or do you feel like strengthening mid-run with push-ups? Then do it!
3.Sipping water frequently prevents dehydration and fatigue.
Avie learned this the hard way. When he first began running, he refused water. Then his energy would plummet, tears flew and the run was no longer fun. He was, after all, only three years old. As time passed, he began asking for his water bottle often and taking tiny sips. Ahhh, the wisdom of a seasoned runner... Now he knows that sipping keeps the belly feeling good and the energy levels steady.
4. Running downhill with wild abandon is the way to go.
Does anyone else fear running at top speed downhill? I do, or I did, especially on technical single track trail, my (and Avie's) terrain of choice. Avie rejoices when we approach a descent and, heart pulling him forward, smile wide, he runs as fast as he can, giggling the whole way. So I follow suit. And I never, never tell him to slow down. Instead, I cheer and join in the fun. Now, on my solo runs, I channel Avie's approach and let my heart lead me down, down, down!
5. New shoes motivate you to get out the door.
Buying special running shoes for my toddler son might seem crazy, but, as all runners know, new shoes can motivate like nothing else. The same is true for Avie. I make a big deal out of giving him his new running shoes, and he cherishes them. Plus, saying something such as, "Let's put on your new shoes and go for a run," really gets him moving.
As you can see, Avie's natural inclinations as a runner are what experts have been telling us for years. Thus, follow your instincts and trust your inner child.
One day in late November 2017 I decided that I wanted to run the 70-mile Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail before the start of 2018. Why? Because I had never done it before, it seemed doable, and I wanted to plant my feet upon terrain I have never covered and see sights I have never seen... plus it seemed like fun! Most of it was fun. Some was not.
Join me as I tell you about my experience of running this beautiful single track, point-to-point trail system from Ohiopyle, my hometown, to Johnstown, Pa. Before embarking, I had only ever run three miles there and back, making for a six-mile run.
First, let me thank my compassionate, uplifting, loving, understanding husband, Eric. He supported me in my efforts by dropping me off with our two young boys (Grey, ages seven to nine months during this adventure and Avie, age four) strapped in their car seats. I'd hug and kiss them all, quickly run off, and he would find fun things to do with our sons for one to three hours until pickup time. At the end of the runs, he had fresh, warm food, hot tea and lots of water. These runs typically took up half of a day and sometimes an entire day with driving, run time and recovery. Between both of our work schedules, breastfeeding, sometimes lack of sleep and unpredictable weather, we managed to make this little dream of mine come true. Often, I was exhausted, and often, I wanted to quit, but he cheered me on and continues to tell me time and time again that ultrarunning remains my destiny, that I can accomplish any running fantasy I have and that he's here for me.
THANK YOU, ERIC! <3 And thank you, Avie and Grey. I write these stories for you as much as I write them for my fellow runners.
Now, enjoy the story!
Milepost 1 to 11: Ohiopyle to Maple Summit
Saturday, Nov. 25
Garmin Stats: 10.75 miles/ 16:01 pace/ 2:53:57
Conditions: 32 degrees, sunny, calm
In June 2018, I formed an all-female trail running group. On the first day, 13 women ran through the woods together. Ecstatic and humbled (because I did not think anyone would want to join me), I came home beaming and talking non-stop about how fun and awesome it was to bring these wonderful women together.
Soon we were calling each other the Trail Tribe, and in that same month, I made it our goal to run the first 11 miles of the LHHT. At two months postpartum, I set the date for November. Each week we built up our mileage on the trails around Ohiopyle. We became stronger and were SO ready for this run. We prepared food for an after-party. Five of us showed up: Amanda (front runner crossing the bridge on he photo on the left), then June, Rachel J. and Shane.
The sun was shining through the tress, and we shed the layers we had put on at the start of the morning. The view of the Yough enlivened me as much as the bridge crossings and hill climbing (yea, even that major hill that makes up mile six!).
Amanda, Rachel and I finished a minute or so in front of June and Shane. Cheering and yelling, I crouched down to take a photo of June and Shane as they made their final steps to the end of the trail. About 20 feet before the finish, June tripped, let out a horrific scream, and the celebration ended.
She had tumbled to the ground, hit her head on a rock and blood poured from a gash across the top of her forehead. A flap of skin revealed her skull. Shane wrapped her head in a sweatshirt. A van drove by, and I chased it down so that it could take June to Ohiopyle, where help could meet us more easily. We called 911. I said F%$! about 20 times. Eric picked me up, and we all met June and our new friends of the van.
After assessing June, they transported her to the hospital, where four of us gathered to continue the celebration of our big run! As 24 stitches were sewn into June's head, we thanked God that the situation wasn't worse and that we had each other. And we ate!
The first run of the LHHT taught us all some lessons. One, that we need to carry first aid kits in our hydration packs (now we do). Two, that we need to have charged cell phones in our packs at all times (now we do). Three, that life's obstacles don't feel so bad when you experience them with friends.
Milepost 11 to 19: Maple Summit to Laurel Ridge State Park
Saturday, Dec. 2
Garmin Stats: 7.03 miles/ 12:25 pace/ 1:27:17
Conditions: 40 degrees and cloudy
Running a new trail was all I wanted to do on this day, my 35th birthday. It was also hunting season. In the first mile, I came across a man popping a squat over a log and doing his business. Hey, we've all done it, but it's still HILARIOUS to see!
Milepost 19 to 28: Laurel Ridge State Park to County Line Road
Thursday, Dec. 7
Garmin Stats: 9.68 miles/ 12:28 pace/ 2:00:50
Conditions: 35 degrees and mild
I enjoyed this section except for crossing through Seven Springs Resort and the ski slopes. As I navigated my way through the top of the slopes, the snow-making machines blasted out fresh powder It was loud, and snow rapidly covered the ground. I ran as quickly as I could but had to slow down to watch for the signs directing me along the LHHT. I was glad to be back in the woods!
Milepost 28 to 31: County Line Road to Route 31 (Jones Mill State Park)
Sunday, Dec. 17
Garmin Stats: 3.13 miles/ 13:44 pace/ 43:00.8
Conditions: Zero degrees with deep snowpack (i.e., no dirt, grass or rocks exposed) plus above ankle powder on top, windy
My intention was to run farther, but with the deep snowpack and feeling more tired than usual, I called my husband and asked him to pick me up at a closer parking lot. We took our sons bowling and out for lunch.
My thought at the end of the day: "Hmm, maybe I should wait until summer to run the entire LHHT..."
Milepost 31 to 45: Route 31 (Jones Mill State Park) to Route 30 (Jennerstown)
Friday, Dec. 22
Garmin Stats: 15.05 miles (one wrong turn added on one extra mile)/ 13:26 pace/ 3:22:25
Conditions: 48 degrees, calm, sunny
This was my favorite section of trail, particularly around Beam Rocks. Plus I met an ultrarunner, who recommended the TrailRunProject app, which I use frequently now. That was after passing him, making a wrong turn, then passing him again! I wish I could remember his name... Keith, maybe? It's always a joy to meet another runner who shares such a great love the sport.
Milepost 45 to 56/ Jennerstown to Route 271
Wednesday, Dec. 27
Garmin Stats: 12.13 miles/ 15:58 pace/ 3:13:40
Conditions: Negative four degrees with wind chill with one foot of snow pack and seven inches of powder on top; extremely deep, thick snow
"Should I do this today?" was the question that I asked my husband, Eric, all morning as we stared out the window at the thick blanket of snow covering our yard. Finally, we decided to do it. We loaded up the vehicle and our sons, ages four and at that time, eight months, and we drove to the drop-off point.
Within the first mile, my hydration bite valve froze, and it was clear that perhaps I should have waited for better conditions. But with the Frozen Sasquatch 25K approaching, I looked at this run as the ultimate test. To keep high kneeing and trudging through nearly knee-high drifts and mid-shin pack in merely running shoes challenged my mental fortitude.
Near the end of the trail, the blazes changed color, and at this time I attempted to turn on my cell phone to call Eric. The sun dropped below the horizon, and the temperature dropped with it.
Mistake number one: removing my glove in now negative eight degrees. Mistake number two: stopping my physical body, thus lowering my core temperature. My hands were now not functioning, and my eyes were blurring from the cold. Retinal damage crossed my mind, but I had to focus on getting out of the woods! Mistake number three: questioning my intuition. Of course I was on the right path, but the snow made it difficult to navigate, and I couldn't understand why the blazes were no loner yellow when they had been for the first 55 miles of the LHHT.
Finally, I made the decision to keep running down the parking lot trail, which was also much longer than the other parking lot trails. Seeing Eric and my sons overwhelmed me. I cried. My body shook. My hands curled and cramped, non-responsive. Grey cried. Avie yelled. YIKES! This was not fun, but in the end, I was grateful for the day and the wisdom I gained from it. And I vowed to never put myself in such a situation again.
Milepost 56 to 70: Route 271 to Route 56 (Johnstown)
Saturday, Jan. 28
Garmin Stats: 13.4 miles/ 12:41 pace/ 2:50:04
Conditions: 40 degrees, mild, no snow
After the previous run, we spent the rest of that weekend skiing. I had wanted to complete all 70 miles before 2018, but Mother Nature had other things in mind. So, I waited until the perfect day. One month later, it came.
The day before finishing the final miles of the LHHT, the Trail Tribe and I had run 10.8 miles up Sugarloaf Trail, around Kim Trail and down Baughman Trail, a favorite loop of mine in Ohiopyle. This weekend became the first time I had ever completed two back-to-back double digit runs. One step closer toward my dream of completing a 50K (31 miles) ultra race!
Feeling it in my energy level and knees, my pace slowed, and I walked on most of the final downhill. Yet, it felt great to push myself to this new edge, this new place I had never been before, both in my body and the actual land where I was treading. The post-run picnic that Eric, Avie and Grey had set up tasted as heavenly as the post-run shower from a gallon jug felt!
LHHT, I look forward to more adventures with you! Next time, maybe Eric can join me. Next time, maybe I can run, camp, run, camp... Next time...
The word elicits many intense emotions and thoughts. It is a different experience for each woman, but one thing remains true for nearly everyone who experiences it - afterward, complete exhaustion overtakes the body, soul and mind. Sleep is what we mothers crave once our new, sweet little baby enters the world.
Yoga alleviates the overwhelm of motherhood by reminding us to breathe and pause. The poses simply act as a conduit to the breath - to slow it down, to inhale deeply, to exhale extensively and to take each moment one breath at a time. Yoga postures offer a place of comfort and connection to ourselves, something that we struggle to remember upon becoming a mother.
After birthing my second son, Grey, on April 2, 2017, I returned to yoga one pose at a time. When Grey was one day old, I fell into Child's Pose (I probably cried there, too). I couldn't wait to place my belly upon my thighs, which did not happen as I grew rounder and rounder during pregnancy. On Grey's second day of life, my husband helped me hug my knees into my chest - the soreness from pushing prevented me from doing this alone. On the third day, once again, my husband helped me lift my legs to form Eye of the Needle. And so it went... for the first week of Grey's life, the still, quiet, Yin Yoga poses helped me surrender and work out the tightness and fatigue from labor, holding Grey and prolonged nursing sessions.
The first nine poses I did after giving birth are listed in order, from day two of Grey's life to day six. They are all supine, prostrate hip openers. I performed them in my comfiest, biggest clothes with cozy, warm socks upon the softest surface I could find - my bed!
The Sanskrit name is listed first, then the Yin Yoga name and finally the common English name. I hope this list serves as a guide for new moms so that they can find rest to restore their bodies and souls.
About the photos: these were taken by my husband nine months after Grey was born. He was napping during the photo session, and our four-year-old was happily enjoying performing yoga poses for the camera :)
1. Balasana/ Child's Pose
2. Apanasana/ Knees-to-Chest
3. Eye of the Needle/ Dead Pigeon Pose
4. Paschimottanasana/ Caterpillar/ Seated Forward Bend
5. Baddha Konasana/ Butterfly/ Cobbler's Pose
6. Agnistambhasana/ Fire Log Pose
7. Upavishta Konasana/ Dragonfly/ Wide-Angle Seated Forward Bend
8. Eka Pada Rajakapotasana/ Sleeping Swan/ Pigeon
9. Viparita Karani/ Legs-Up-the-Wall
"Motherhood has taught me the meaning of living in the moment and being at peace. Children don't think about yesterday, and they don't think about tomorrow. They just exist in the moment." - Jessalyn Gilsig
Yoga Instructor, RYT 200