Of Dunes and Rocks and Rattlesnakes

It seems forever since I’ve sat down to write – it’s been over a month since my last post.  The girls finished school on June 15th, and we pulled up stakes and headed North for three weeks.  It was a vacation that had been planned and plotted for months.  And, like any good trip, we had a bit of relaxation, a lot of fun, some unexpected stresses, and an over-riding sense of adventure.  I won’t bore you with the details.  Since this is primarily a running blog, let’s talk about that, shall we??

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Going into it, I knew it would be a challenge to keep up with my mileage goals.  Five moms, 13 kids, and too much energy & chaos to track.  My friends assured me they’d watch the girls so I could fit in a daily run, but I still felt a bit guilty.  I did a 20-miler the day before we left, and I managed one six mile run that first week, but took the rest of the time as “recovery”.   With the increase in training, by bones and muscles needed some time to rebuild.  I also needed a bit of a mental break.

It was the right decision.  I was able to enjoy the first week at the beach with my girls and have the energy to explore the island with them.  The second week, three of us (with our 8 kiddos in tow) headed to Nantucket.  The kids were in camp five days, and that’s when I got to work.  My plan was to run 10 miles Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. I’d cap off the week with a 20 mile run Friday.

Monday morning, I headed out from our house and headed west along Cliff Road.  I wasn’t familiar with the island, so I just hugged the coastal road until it turned to a rutted, packed sand path.  About 5 miles in, a single-track trail cut South, so I turned and rambled over the moors.  I picked up another road and took that back to Town for a total of 11 miles.  Cloudy and overcast, the day was made for runners.

Tuesday, I left from the kids’ camp.  I ran East this time towards Polpis.  I stayed on the bike path, which rolled nicely but was generally boring.  I’ve started adding runs like this into my schedule – the monotony of a fixed course is what I can expect for the middle portion of JFK.  10 miles even.

Wednesday, I thought I needed to veer off-road, so I planned an out-and-back through conservation land.  It was beautiful, and I was reluctant to turn around.

I decided that it would be fun to come back for my 20 miler a few days later.  My Friday long run started out well, with an overcast sky and the trail running to the southern (surf side) of Nantucket.  I saw a part of the island that few tourists witness and became lost in my own reverie.  Unfortunately, the clouds parted and the sun came out.  With the direct heat, no shade, and touch of stomach distress, miles 10-12 because pretty miserable.  I decided to cut it short, which turned out to be a good call.

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We flew from Nantucket to Baltimore, and the next day headed to my family’s mountain cabin in South-Central PA.  I ran 27 miles on the shale-rock trails and roads there – the best run being my shortest, a seven miler with my cousin Mark.  He’s 18 months older than me, and since childhood I have strived to keep up with him hiking or biking, and now running.  I’d love to talk him into coming to VA for an ultra next year….

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We stayed at the Cabin for a few days, and finished off the week with some time in Frederick, MD.  I hooked up with some local runners to get out on the Catoctin Mountain Trail.  I’ll be running the Catoctin 50K in a few weeks and wanted to get my bearings and a feel for the terrain.  We ran 20 miles on Saturday – the conservative pace and small group made it easy to focus on learning the trail.  However, about 6 miles into our run, we heard a strange rattle noise.  Sure enough, we had hopped right over a HUGE rattlesnake!  Fortunately, it did not want to mess with us (any more than we wanted to mess with it).  When we passed the spot a few hours later, he was long gone!

I swear he was HUGE in real life. However, the photographer was reluctant to go in for a close up!!

I  returned Sunday to run the course in reverse – a total of 16 miles for the day.  Running on tired legs, but finishing strongly, I gained a huge amount of confidence for the actual race.  The Frederick Steeplechasers are a great running club, and I’m so thankful they let me tag along.  I’ll see many of them at Catoctin and JFK and hope that I’ll be able to log a few more training runs with them over the coming months.

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