Bridge of Flowers 10K – 2016

Bridge of Flowers (BOF) 10K in Shelburne Falls, MA is my favorite race. It’s challenging, but forgiving as well. The spectators along the way are cheerful and encouraging. It’s an extremely organized and well managed race. The water stations are plentiful and the offerings at the end of the race are generous for runners and family members.

The race stands as my 10K PR although that happened pre-Achilles injury and I’m not quite back to that pace. I am working on it and was feeling pretty good going into this years BOF race. I  wasn’t expecting a PR, but I was hopeful that I would beat last year’s time.

By the time we arrived to Shelburne Falls it was clear that Crittendon Hill was not going to be the only challenge at BOF this year. The race starts at 9AM and it was inching towards 80 degrees. My crazy hair was an accurate barometer of the ridiculous humidity level! The start was delayed by 10 minutes because the family friendly 3K race that takes place first was taking longer than usual due to the weather conditions.While we waited I took a couple of photos from the iron bridge where the race starts.

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Already dripping with sweat  when the gun went off, I knew I had a decision to make about my race goal. I know this course well. This was my 5th time running the race. Despite practical running advice to never go out too quickly in a race, I tend to start this course at a swift pace. I’m slowed a little bit right after passing through the downtown as the course goes up a slight hill. I run hard after the hill. I grabbed a water at mile 1 and kept pushing my pace until I reached Crittendon Hill. Now I run hills all the time, not little rolling hills either, but Crittendon is a beast. It is steep and winds up for the distance of nearly a mile.

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A photo does not do Crittendon Hill justice

I tried so hard to run it the first year only to come to a screeching halt about a minute up. I felt defeated, but now I know better. I power walk it to the best of my ability, drink some water and breathe a sigh of relief at the top, and then I soar down the shady backside until my pace evens out around mile 4.

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Celebrating the top!

By the time I reached the hill this year I made a decision to adjust my goal. It was hotter than it’s ever been at BOF. The humidity made it feel as though I was running through a sea of sweat. It was gross. People were stopping, dry heaving, and vomiting. I made a wise decision to run it conservatively without worrying about my time. After careening down the hill the race opens up to a long stretch on open road with zero shade cover. Unlike years past I did not try to make up for lost time walking the hill on this flat road. Instead I stuck to a nice comfortable pace.

The race seemed to fly by. I stopped at each water station and gave lots of thanks to the awesome volunteers standing out in the heat. I ran through every sprinkler kind spectators held out for the runners. I smiled as I reached my favorite sign of the race “last half mile, you’re almost there!” Despite the heat I suddenly felt a surge of energy and I let it all out for the end of the race. I love running over the iron bridge again with spectators cheering as each runner’s name is announced when they near the finish line.

I finished in 1:03:18. I felt great at the end and was excited to cheer for my friends who finished not long after me. One of my friends ran it last year for the first time. She had a horrible experience due to some health issues, but she has been feeling much better and running really well. I was so proud of her for coming back. She ran a much better race this year even in the heat. One of my running partners ran BOF for this first time this year and she did an incredible job. I think the race gave her just the nudge she needed to finally sign up for her first half marathon. She’s been thinking about it and she’s half way there! I’m thrilled for her and looking forward to helping her train for the Hartford Half Marathon this October.

A walk down memory lane…

Bridge of Flowers 2010 (pre-blog) – 1:07:36 (10:52 pace)

Bridge of Flowers 2011 – 1:04:16 (10:21 pace)

Bridge of Flowers 2012 – 1:01:53 (9:58 pace)

Bridge of Flowers 2013 – 56:01 (9:01 pace)

Bridge of Flowers 2014 – I did not run due to Achilles injury.

Bridge of Flowers 2015 – 58:51 (9:29 pace)

After the race I took Carlos and his friend to visit friends who are spending the week on the shore in Milford, CT. It was a perfect beach day. We made it down to their beach house around 3:30 and jammed in a full day’s worth of activities. The kids played and swam. My friend and I took the kayaks out for a ride. It was such a great way to unwind  after the race.

 

Running thoughts 

I just finished an awesome six mile run with hill repeats at the end. I went after lunch. It’s really hot and humid. My legs weren’t feeling great at first but I pushed through it and ran faster than I have in a while. I went up that hill with a vengeance. 

No sooner did I finished the run did I suddenly I felt tears in my eyes and a huge rush of emotion. I have no idea what that was all about. I think about so many things when I’m running. I usually forget most of them by the end of the run and even if I don’t really work out what’s bothering me or what kind of heavy and weighing on me for the day I generally feel 1000 times better. Today that wasn’t the case and when the tears came rolling down my cheeks they just blended with the sweat. I must’ve needed it. I am feeling much better now I must’ve needed it. I am feeling much better now and as always I never regret a run.

Stratton 2016

I’m determined to get this post up before August. This summer is flying by. We spent a wonderful 4th of July weekend in Stratton, VT. We don’t usually go anywhere or do anything exciting for 4th of July. For most of my life we celebrated my aunt’s birthday, but now my aunt and uncle spend the holiday in Florida visiting their grandson. An added perk of not working at the hospital full time is that I get all holidays off now along with my husband.

Stratton is a little less than 2 hours away from us. It’s an easy drive with no traffic. Stratton is better known as a ski resort. A little perk of going to a ski resort during the summer is affordable accommodations. We stayed in a Vantage Point 2 bedroom condo. We invited Carlos’ friend Tyler to come along. He’s the little guy that came to Gettysburg with us. Carlos and Tyler are both very easy to travel with and it’s fun for Carlos to have someone his own age.

I had no itinerary other than fireworks and Bromley Mountain Park on Sunday. The boys enjoyed nerf gun battles in the woods behind the condo. I enjoyed sitting on the balcony overlooking the woods. Orlando joined in the nerf battle when he wasn’t catching up on the Euro Cup 2016.

We walked to the village and took a hay ride around the lower part of the mountain. The boys had a chance to do some paint ball target practice. Then we took the gondola up the mountain. The views were stunning.

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I love staying in condos or places where you have the ability to cook. We ate dinner at the condo. The boys played outside until it was nearly dark. They made friends with some of the kids staying in the next building and had an epic nerf battle.

We watched the fireworks from the base of the mountain. It was a beautiful clear night, but we were freezing by the end.

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The next morning I was itching to go out for a run. It was a chilly sunny morning, ideal for running. I left the condo at 6:30 with the intention of just going out for about an hour. I ran up to the village and past it. I took a left and began heading up a side street. It was clear I was running parallel to the mountain especially when the road became too steep to run. I came across this covered bridge and of course followed the road.

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I found myself on a trail up the mountain. Truth be told I knew I was going to climb up the mountain that morning. I could see the top and from where I stood just past the covered bridge it didn’t look that far. It was a gorgeous day, a tranquil hike, and when I got to the top nearly 90 minutes later I pushed on for another mile to the fire tower. The 360 degree views from the top of the fire tower were well worth the trek.

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That was fun! Seriously, not hard at all.

The day before when we were on the gondola (seen behind my head) I noticed people walking down the mountain so I figured I would do the same instead of following the trail I took up. Oh my lord was that a disaster! It was much steeper down than it appeared standing up at the top. The grass was so long which made it difficult to walk and to see the small streams of water below. I was slipping and sliding all over the place. My entire backside was wet and dirty before I even got halfway down. I was cracking up all by myself. I had no cell service at all and at this point I had been gone for nearly three hours. When I finally got down to the bottom I went through the village and came out at the finish line of a 5K that was in progress. I exited the area as quickly as possible and jogged back to the condo.

The rest of the day was spent at Bromley. This place was so much fun. The boys went on water slides, rode the alpine slide, jumped on a giant trampoline, climbed the rock wall, and spent 2 hours on the tree ropes course. Then we all went down the alpine slide.

I have to give praise to Bromley Mountain Park. I’ve been to many amusement parks and we live 20 minutes from Six Flags New England. This is the first park that I’ve been to that didn’t require the adults to purchase tickets to go in and watch the kids. Orlando and I only bought tickets for the alpine slide at the end. The park had picnic benches and plenty of chairs throughout for people to sit and watch their children. There were numerous large coolers of cold water and paper cups out for people to enjoy FOR FREE! On the same table as the water were bottles of sunscreen. Thoughtful and much appreciated in my opinion. The park was clean, well staffed with friendly people, and included ample free parking. We all had a great time.

Sunday evening we decided to go to nearby Manchester, VT to watch their fireworks. I am of the belief that if you’ve seen one fireworks display you’ve seen them all. I think the kids were even a bit indifferent by the time we got there. The fireworks started after the national anthem played over a loud speaker. The announcer said they would be coordinated with music from popular movies over the years. After each song the kids would say, “I think that was the grand finale,” but it kept going. It was undoubtedly the most spectacular fireworks display I have ever seen.

We drove home on Monday, July 4th. We decided to make a pit stop in Bennington, VT and stumbled upon the Bennington Monument. It commemorates the Revolutionary War Battle of Bennington. They had some Independence Day festivities set up and we were able to take the elevator to the top of the monument. It is the tallest structure in Vermont and you are able to see into New York, Massachusetts, and Vermont from the top.

We stopped for lunch in Williamstown, MA which was a buzz with the Williamstown Theatre Festival. Orlando does some masonry restoration work at Williams College from time to time. It was great to see some of his stone work on such a beautiful campus.

Two nights away in Vermont always recharges my batteries. Perfect timing too…marathon training began on July 5th!

Why?

5 police officers killed in Dallas

3 police officers killed – in St. Louis, Tennessee, and Georgia

the killing of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile

My thoughts and prayers go out to all the people affected by the loss of these lives. I have no eloquent way of expressing my thoughts on these issues so much of this may seem like I’m rambling. I feel a deep sense of sadness right now.

My son enjoys watching the news with my husband most nights. I generally have a good sense of what’s going on in the world even though I rarely sit down with them. My husband and I encourage Carlos to ask questions. He’s interested and inquisitive. As much as the mom in me wants to shelter him from all the bad in the world, I cannot. So I want to make him aware, knowledgeable, and in tune to his surroundings. On Thursday night when he went in the living room to watch the news, I joined him because Orlando was working. Lester Holt began the news with the top stories of the two men killed by police officers. I watched and worried about how to explain these stories to Carlos. I am not going to lie, I felt a sense of relief when I looked over for Carlos’ reaction after the report was finished and realized he was sound asleep. I sat and watched him so peaceful and sweet. Then a rather abrupt realization washed over me as I noted his beautiful dark skin and hair that resembles his father. My son is one day going to be a black man despite being half white. I shook the thought because I didn’t really no what it meant or how to justify my fear as the thought came into my mind.

Have you ever watched little children play with one another? They are so unaware of other kids’ differences particularly as long as everyone is interested in playing. My son has never been concerned with the color of another child’s skin or the clothing a kid wears or a hair do or the gender of a class mate’s parents. None of that is of interest to him. He just wants to play, run, goof around, and laugh with other children. His friends all seem pretty much the same. He still plays with boys and girls. He has friends of various ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds. My friend and I often talk about this as we watch our boys make friends almost instantaneously when we go to a playground. We ponder the question when does it all change and why?

At home we have never had a reason to discuss the interracial dynamics of our family. It’s just not something we consider to be a part of our identity. It sounds ridiculous to some, but we simply don’t see the difference.

I put Carlos to bed Thursday night and I went to bed myself at 8pm. I had watched enough and read enough throughout the day about the shootings. I have my own thoughts and opinions which I won’t get into, but essentially they probably go against the grain and I’m not looking for an argument. I was mentally drained. I slept deeply and for many hours until I woke early to go for a run. On my way to the reservoir I heard the news about the police who were shot in Dallas. I instantly thought of a friend whose husband is a policeman in Dallas. I can’t even imagine how she feels day in and day out when her husband is at work. I was relieved hours later when I heard that he was fine, however, I thought about them both throughout the day worried that more violence would erupt. I was brought up to respect a police officer with reverence and a little bit of healthy trepidation for the consequences of breaking the law. Therefore I can honestly say I don’t participate in unlawful activities. The mere thought of being arrested scares me.

Where am I going with all of this? I haven’t a clue. I’m as confused today as I was on Thursday. I’m not taking a stand on any “side” because I truly believe that we all matter. It’s all of the grey areas in the arguments that concern me the most. There is no easy solution, no simple answer, and no outcome to please everyone. We will never live in a world without guns or violence. I’m no idealistic fool. That won’t stop me from praying that maybe one day people will stop hating each other and stop reacting with violence. All I can do is live my life in a way that is meaningful to me and my family, keep them as safe as possible, and do no harm to others.

Because one is not enough

This just happened! I’ll be running the Chicago Marathon on October 9th and the Manchester Marathon in New Hampshire on November 6th. After years of running solo I have finally found two wonderful running friends. One of them has decided that Manchester will be her first full marathon (with just a little encouragement from me!). I usually sink into a little post marathon funk so I thought this would be a great motivation and challenge to remain active and focused on a goal after Chicago.

I’m not at all the same runner I was a few years ago. I love it just the same, but I have really developed a new outlook on running. I used to be so goal focused. Now I’m more thrilled to run with others and I am much less crazed about my times. That’s not to say I don’t have goals. I definitely do, but I am also enjoying the variety of runs and the companionship. The two women I’ve been running with are willing to meet me for early morning runs some days, they both love to try out new routes, and we are often able to enjoy a coffee afterwards. It’s really brought the fun back into running for me.

Training begins next week, and I am looking forward to getting back to a schedule. I am looking forward to having company on some of my long runs this year.

Poconos 2016

Do you have one of those friends that months, even years might pass and then you see each other and it’s as though no time has gone by at all? Well last year Carlos and I visited my nursing school study partner and her husband in the Poconos. Despite my best intentions I hadn’t texted or emailed since her birthday in January. In May I got a message from my friend, D, inviting us back to the Poconos, this time to join her, her husband, their daughter, son-in-law, 2 grandchildren, and two very close friends of theirs who I have met a number of times. For about a second I almost let work stand in my way, and then I reminded myself of what a great time we had last year. Summer time is here so it was just Carlos and me. Orlando is working steadily now. He was laid off all winter and does not get any paid time off when he works. This is why we do long trips to Mozambique in the winter.

So Carlos and I hit the road to Pennsylvania. I love to travel any way I can, road trips, plane trips, train, you name it! We took our time, stopping whenever we felt like it. I took the longer route toward Albany rather than deal with I84 traffic through Connecticut. We were not pressed for time and it was a beautiful day.

Upon arriving my friend’s daughter showed us to our condo. It was a beautiful two bedroom condo with a screened in porch, open kitchen/living area, nice size bedrooms, and two huge bathrooms.

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Enjoying the cool morning with a cup of coffee on the screened in porch.

While waiting for D and the others I spent time with her daughter Ashley, her husband, their 2 year old son, and 5 month old baby girl. Ashley had just found out she was pregnant right before we saw her in the Poconos last year. I was so happy to finally meet and hold her beautiful daughter.

Soon D and her husband, and their friends arrived and instantly we just fell right back to where we left off almost a year ago. We gabbed and gabbed until we were all too tired to talk anymore.

Each morning Carlos and I would go for walks around Shawnee Village Resort. I didn’t do any running, but I really enjoyed the quality time in the morning with Carlos. I begin marathon training next week so there’s plenty of running to come. We walked and talked, saw deer, turkeys, and bunnies. Then we would pop over to D’s condo where the coffee was always brewing in the morning.

The first day we went on a 10 mile kayak trip down the Delaware River with D’s husband, Ashley, and her husband. It was a gorgeous sunny day perfect for kayaking. The trip took us about 4 hours. I have a sizable blister between my thumb and pointer finger from rowing and sunburned lower legs from the ride, but it was worth it. It was such a spectacular experience. The river was calm and peaceful. We only saw a few people out on the river and two bald eagles. Carlos and I took a double kayak. He jumped out more than a few times to swim. Towards the end our arms were exhausted, but we worked together and made it to the docking area after our friends. Carlos has done a week at a local kayak camp the last two summers. It was really awesome to see his confidence and ability in the kayak and on the river.

The next day we returned to Tree Ventures because D’s friends had not been before and Carlos was dying to climb in the trees. D, her husband, and I decided to offer moral support with our feet firmly planted on the ground. I barely made it through the beginners course last year. Quite honestly I really enjoyed watching all the climbers, mostly my own little daredevil. Because he was on his own he was technically not allowed to go on the more difficult courses. The employee assigned to the yellow course Carlos was on began chatting with me about how well Carlos was moving through the course. I let him know how disappointed Carlos was that he couldn’t tackle the blue or black course. Well it was a quiet day at the place, and the guy arranged for another employee to follow Carlos on the blue course. Carlos was ecstatic! He was patient and thoughtful as he worked he way along the course high in the sky. My legs were wobbly watching him, but he did an incredible job.

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At the end everyone but D’s husband and me zip lined. I had actually been walking around harnessed up with all intentions to zip line, but I left my sneakers in the car. There was a little mix up about who had the keys, and rather than wait for D’s friend to come down from the zip line I offered my zip to Carlos. He was thrilled to get two zips. I zip lined last year and while it wasn’t nearly as terrifying as the tree ropes course there is that moment when you have to jump off the platform that makes my heart sink into my stomach and my legs go all weak. I was just as happy to watch Carlos’ enormous smile as he flew in towards the platform.
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After Tree Ventures we had an afternoon reservation at Escape Poconos. Remember the game Clue? Well this is kind of like a life size version of the game only rather than solving a murder mystery you have to locate the key to get you out of the room by finding a series of clues planted throughout the scenario. We did the Poconos Room which looked like the living room of an old fishing cabin. After the woman gave us all of the instructions we tore up that room in search of clues. We found the key and made it out of the room in 49 minutes. It was such a blast! Teamwork, intelligence, and creativity were all required for success. These Escape rooms are popping up everywhere apparently. I discovered that there is actually one in a nearby town from where I live. I can’t wait to do it again. I highly recommend trying it if there is one nearby.

Carlos and I went out to find an ATM and along the way we couldn’t help but pull over when we saw this rather conspicuous chair on the side of the road overlooking a beautiful view of the area.
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Our last day in PA was a bit grey and overcast. After lounging about all morning, packing, and relaxing, we all decided to head up to Camelback Resort Mountain Adventures for a ride on the mountain coaster. Then we drove up the mountain to watch the crazy adventurous people start their ride on the 4000 ft Soaring Camel Twin Zip Flyers. We all agreed we will definitely maybe do it next year!

 

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View from where the Zip Flyers take off. They end beyond the water park you can see in the distance.

 

We said our goodbyes and hit the road. Since we would be driving through Connecticut during rush hour I opted for lesser traveled back roads. As a result we drove through some really scenic areas including the Barkhamstead Reservoir and the Saville Dam. I swerved right into the parking lot so we could enjoy the beautiful sight. I’m such a sucker for this aspect of road trips. I would rather go slowly home and keep moving along than to sit at a dead stop in traffic on the highway. This was definitely worth the detour!

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Lighten up challenge – Day 6 and 7

Sunday, 6/5/16

Up at 5:30. Paid the bills. Had some coffee and almond milk. Then Carlos and I met friends for the Girls on the Run 5K. I was signed up as a running buddy for my friend’s 13 year old daughter. It was such a fun event. Carlos was going to run with me, but decided to hang with his friend and kick the soccer ball around.
I ate a quarter of an apple before the run. I had a half of a banana and a small piece of a cinnamon raisin bagel after the race.

11:30 grapes

12 smoothie with banana, strawberries, frozen blueberries and spinach

2 birthday party for my friend’s son. I ate tossed salad with Italian dressing, the black bean/corn salad I brought, and berries

5:30 birthday party for my stepfather. I ate more salad, hummus, 3 crackers, 5 tortilla chips, salsa, and fruit salad

8:30 toast with sunbutter

Monday, 6/6/16

Woke up early at 4:30. Went for a run at 5:15 with a friend.

7 coffee with almond milk

Lots of water this morning.

Two home visits from 9 to 10.

10:30 two carrots with hummus and an apple

12 spinach with steamed broccoli, carrots, kidney beans, and lemon juice, a serving of pretzels on the side.

Seltzer with lemon juice so refreshing on this hot day

Dinner – veggie burger, sweet potato, kale salad

Today is the last day of my lighten up challenge. I am not quite sure why this simple experiment made such an impact on my life this week, but it did and I plan to continue. Every time I was tempted to eat something I actually stopped and thought is this going to make me feel good after I eat it. If the answer was no then I really didn’t eat it. I measured out certain foods that I have a tendency to overdo. I had no binge eating episodes at all. I ate fewer snacks and smaller meals.

I am late in posting the last two days of the challenge because with my son’s last day of school on Wednesday the early part of the week was insanely busy. He gets out really early compared to most schools in this area. While I’m sure not the most interesting thing to read this challenge really helped me to find some peace with eating, something that has been incredibly difficult in the last few years. All of the posts were done via talk to text on my phone to make it easy and accessible. I entered food as I ate it so I wouldn’t forget to document it later. For the first time in ages I didn’t track calories or Weight Watcher points, and surprisingly I lost 3 pounds, my clothes feels a little better, my skin seems brighter, and I feel lighter!