Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Smith's Invasion of the DC Area

Maryland's natural beauty, frankly, surprised me.  I had been expecting urban sprawl from Washington DC to the coastlines.  Quite the opposite!  Unspoiled forests and bucolic farmland. 

This arboretum is encompassed in the Tuckahoe State Park.  An hour and a half from DC and a world away!

Dad did an Evil Knievel maneuver and landed upside down off the bike trail.  Check out the back of his shirt.  A little tumble is nothing for this former football team captain--he is tough!

Cole and I ran, Dad kept up on the bike.

5.5 mile run in Maryland

An outdoor lunch at an Irish restaurant in Denton (historic town once part of the underground railroad) followed by homemade ice cream from the Vandewendes dairy farm...grazing our way through the day.

Next stop was at Broadkill Beach, an official sanctuary for horseshoe crabs. 

Cole, unsure what a pointer is supposed to do with a dead one!

Swimming seemed like a good idea until a fisherman told me that he had caught a small shark 10 minutes earlier.  Enough excitement was had trying to avoid stepping on beached jellyfish.

Scout leader and Cole

Later that Friday afternoon, we visited the first town in the first state.  Lewes, Delaware was founded in 1631.  We trotted around town to see all the incredible historic sites.  The 1855 Ryves Holt house is the oldest structure in Delaware.  Another house along the harbor front still has a cannonball embedded in its foundation from the War of 1812. 

My handsome dad!

Magnificent stained glass windows in the Lewes church

Cole thought it appropriate to do some rabbit hunting in a 300 year old cemetery.

A decommissioned lightship (movable lighthouse) has become a museum.

Dad speeding past the lightship 'Overfalls'

During WWII, Fort Miles was built immediately to the south of Lewes, to defend the Delaware Bay/River and Philadelphia.  It was one of the largest and most heavily armed coastal fortifications ever built.  Several massive concrete observations towers still remain.  They have the height of lighthouses, but resemble ominous gun turrets.  Great underground bunkers shielded by massive steel doors can still be seen through the underbrush.  The military post is now part of Cape Henlopen State Park.

Miles of poorly marked trails brought us to a salt water marsh---made it worth the confusion!

Lewes 8.7 mile run

Fine, al fresco dining in Lewes with a dead dog!
 A minor navigational error turned the 3 hour drive back to DC into a 4 hour trip.  We're on vacation, we're supposed to crawl back to the motel at 1 AM!

 Guess who had no problems finding parking in downtown Washington DC on a Sunday morning? 

The Super Car in DC

The two lads by the Jefferson Memorial
 How is it that I am so lucky when I travel?  Great weather, groovy coincidences...
The previous week's temperatures in DC had been oppressively hot, this week, great.  The President was honoring veterans at the Korean War Memorial on the National Mall.  The Secret Service had most of the roads in and accessing the National Mall closed off.  Cole and I ran and Dad was biking in the middle of the road, like we owned the place!

Foreign interlopers

In front of the Lincoln Memorial

Doesn't Cole look smart with the obelisk coming out the top of his noggin?

The beauty of the architecture, the grandeur, the history, the President so close ---all too much for one morning.  I'm still in awe of it all!

National Mall 5.3 run

By happenstance, I found a 10k race being held here on Saturday night.  Afternoon rains cleared in time for the race (did I mention how lucky I've been?).  My coach had emailed me a race strategy plan and I credit it and my local pit crew, Dad and Cole, for my 4th Female place finish.  I missed out on the $100 cash prize given to the 3rd place Female, but I was ecstatic to have raced with fast Kenyans.

Post race was the only way to catch a Kenyan!  She was #2.

However shall I spend my $25 gift card at Road Runner Sports?

Set a personal record for a 10k (6.2 miles):  46 minutes and 23 seconds with the last 2 miles all uphill.

My cheering section, my dog handler, half my genetics, my DAD!
  One more day on holiday--look out Mount Vernon, here we come (and the Whole Foods grocery that has become our home away from home less than 1/2 mile from our motel--lucky, I tell you).

Friday, July 26, 2013

Let the Vacation Begin

With Cole as my backseat driver, we left Auburn at 11PM on Wednesday heading for Washington, DC.  The plan was to do a bit of trail running along the way.  Unfortunately, I ended up taking too many cat nap stops.  After one such nap, I stopped to get gas and found a bat hanging from the pump.

Relocated poor little guy!

200 miles from DC, the construction and traffic was intense.  I made it to Dulles airport to collect my Dad, only 10 minutes late!

Dad and I will have four days to hang out in the DC area.

Our first event was a Gordon Lightfoot concert Thursday night at the Filene Center.  The Wolf Trap and Filene are encompassed in a 117 acre park in Vienna, VA.  It's managed by the US National Parks Service.  It's the only park devoted to the performing arts.  The wooden ampitheatre has phenomenal acoustics.  It seats 3500, plus room for 3000 more on the lawn outside.  Dad and I were only 14 rows from the stage!

inside the Filene Center

Cole, Dad and I went for a run down a rails to trails course in Vienna and that made us late for dropping Cole off at his overnight spa and we had no choice but to go to the concert in our grubby running clothes.  Oh well!

Well, Cole awaits, he spent the night at a resort--gotta go!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013


Stop the insanity!  Day after day of rain.  And no, not a 1/10" here and there inches of rain.  Certain vegetables are rotting away, but the basil, she loves it.

Monday night pesto making extravaganza.  20 gallon bag filled full from the garden, reduced to a mere 12 Ziploc bags.

I got a few questions from the last post asking why Auburn's Men's Cross Country Team was so slow.  They aren't.  They won All-State this year.  Three of the guys, I know, can run 17:00 5ks.  But, the rest of them may be slower than this middle aged woman!  For them, these summer races aren't 'real' and the humidity makes it feel +100'F.  Even in this day of greater gender equality, its still a slap in the face for a runner to get chicked.  This is your word of the day.  It was coined by an ultramarathoner to define the humiliation of having a female runner pass you.  I enjoy ruining their day:  "a woman older than your mom beat you, dude!".

I will be eager to race in the Fall when the temperatures drop into the 60's.  That is the ideal running temperature.  There exists an equation to predict race times at any given temperature, predicting how many seconds you lose by running on either side of the ideal temp.  My 22:30 in 95'F should equal 21:00 at 65'F.  I'll have to wait a few more months to prove that theory.

In the meanwhile, we're still on marathon training duty.  Yes, we--Cole is recuperating from his hip injury and is back at my side for most runs.  I missed that little idiot! 

After many months of debate, I have decided to run the Boston Marathon next year.  I'm uncomfortable in crowds, big cities do not charm me, so I'm compromising.  I'm not staying the average 3 days most runners do and I'm not staying downtown.  Cole, Dad and I will park ourselves off a few miles from the hubbub and only for two days.  While I race, Cloe will be housed in a Club Suite at a dog spa.

Cole's home away from home in Boston.

As soon as the marathon is over, the Smith trio will head Down East before looping back through Ottawa, Ontario and onto Alabama.

Tomorrow, the trio will meet up in DC--if I can make through one more crazy day at work!  All the tiresome work of preparing for an expedition is always rewarded once the trip begins.

Embrace life, my friends--unless I missed the memo, we only get one chance at it!

Proceed boldly,  Jamie and Cole

Thursday, July 18, 2013


Gone are the steady rains and cooler temps--Alabama July weather is back with a vengeance: Humidex in the 100's.  Joy.

Last weekend, my best friend drove from Texas to pick up her son from his father's house here in Auburn.  Despite her harried schedule, she made time for us to catch up since my stop in Texas in May had been too brief.
Saturday morning the two of us were doing chores. I move the chicken coop every day 20', usually in a downhill direction.  It's heavy!

The lazy way to move the chicken coop!
 Gayla grabbed the tongue and before I could get situated around the back to push, she started pulling it uphill.  Hmmm, so this is what the result of her 3X a week 5 AM boot camps!

Later, she returned with Sebastian for a meet and greet with Morel.

My favorite kid and the goat.
 In her 20's, Gayla boarded her horse on the property adjacent to this one.  Small world--she knows more about this farm than I do.
Once a horsewoman, always a horsewoman:

I know what she was thinking:  "Can someone give me a leg up?"

Very sad to see them leave, but October, when I'll be passing through Texas again, isn't too far away.

I love making my own jams, but I hate to drown the fruit in so much sugar.

This one dollop of jam contains this much sugar...gross, isn't it?

Sugar free recipes call for Splenda, but I won't touch artificial sweeteners with a ten foot pole.  Apparently, to make all fruit spreads (like Smuckers) you need high pressure commercial equipment.  So, I opted to make more fruit butters.  The concept is to boil down the fruit until the texture is thick and the natural sugars are concentrated.  So, here's what $50 of peaches and two days of toil look like:

skinned peaches

Peach butter
  I tightened the lid on the last jar at 1:30 AM Wed...we won't be doing that again any time soon.

Around midnight, a huge kamikaze beetle plowed into the screen door.  I have no clue what it was (of all my reference guides, I don't have a bug ID book).  What a beauty!

Tuesday, Cole returned to running after another prolonged recuperation from injury.  OK, three weeks isn't terribly long, but an eternity to his running partner.  We went to Chewacla State Park to run, what I call, the rat's maze.

Talk about maximizing land usage, these trails are nothing BUT switchbacks!
 10 miles and two stops to splash around in the creek, time with my kid in the woods: priceless.

Watching squirrels

By midday Wed, I realized that Chewacla had gifted me with a ton of chigger bites.  Ohh, the itch!  A friend at Wed night's 5k race told me of his remedy.  To suffocate the burrowing mites, he covers his affected ankles and calves with Duck Tape for a couple days.  I don't have his hairy legs, but I still believe I'll pass on that one! 

Last night was the last race in the Summer Series.  It was brutally hot and humid.  My goal had been to run a 5k at a sub 22:00.  Not the brightest idea with the oppressive heat.  But, I'm not the only one to have permanent heat stroke damage to the brain.  All the runners in the series are dedicated to the core.  One seasoned marathoner collapsed a few weeks ago.  Out cold.  But he dropped only after crossing the finish line--my new idol! 

My time yesterday was 22:57 (not official, that's the blur I saw on the chrono).  Not my fastest, but fast enough to stay ahead of the boys cross country team...yes sprinting the last 100 yards in +100' temps is brilliant.  Unfortunately, my average time for all the races wasn't fast enough to beat this one speed demon woman.  She's up for a rematch next year, with the help of my running coach, we'll catch her!

2nd place overall female ain't nothing to sneeze at though!  Three years ago, I had been elated to win my age division in this race.  Who says you're supposed to slow down with age? 

Etched glass awards.

Heading out next week to meet Dad in Washington, DC.  Two Smiths in town can only spell trouble.  I'll keep you posted!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013


Yet another day of pouring rain.  I dare not complain after years of drought, but it is, after all, Cole's birthday today and we haven't been able to go running.

Rain, rain go away...

.Celebrations were in order!

A grand 6 years old today!
 Not that we should be running anyway.  Cole spent yesterday at the vet's office undergoing tests to diagnose his rear leg lameness.  I had a brief, but painful interlude at my chiropractor's office to relieve some of the pain in my hip by relocating the pain into other parts of my body thanks to his manipulations.  My opinion is that the farm has been hexed.  Three of us have bad right legs.  Tommy has been lame for over a week now and he isn't responding to the antibiotic regiment prescribed to him by the vet.  I may need to perform a pagan dance by moonlight around the pecan trees with a concoction of dog hair, ground up beetles and cow mud smeared on my face.  I'm getting desperate.

Incognito nurse
Think it's easy administering an injection to 3000 lbs of untethered steer, think again.  I have not been able to give Tommy full doses of his medicine.  I attack him in silence, ninja-style, while he's laying down in the pasture.  The disguise is to prevent him from associating me with unpleasant experiences.  Woe to the unsuspecting person who next walks up to him wearing a wide brimmed hat!

Due to the restriction on Cole's running, I have been forced to do most of my running off the farm.  It's unspeakably cruel to him seeing me running in the fields while he's penned in the yard and it torments me to see his sad face at the gate each time I make a lap around the farm. 

Two Sundays ago, I ventured out to Russell Lands Trails by Lake Martin in Elmore county, Alabama.  The RL Foundation has begun hosting a 50 mile ultramarathon on their trail system.  Boasting over 100 miles of trails, I had to check it out. My original plan had been to run the 18 miles my trainer has scheduled for me.  Plans change, what can I say!

17 of the first miles
more miles

and more
just a few more

  Each time my Garmin watch chimed that it's battery was low, I'd stop and save the data I had and restarted a new log.  That's why the run is broken up into parts. 
Grand total miles for the run: 26.  2600 feet of elevation gain, plenty of rocks and roots to make it challenging.  Since I was not running tethered to The Dog, I did not case some of you believe me to be the biggest klutz on the planet.  I was unprepared for a technical 18 mile trail run, let alone 26 miles. The RL website portrayed the trails as easy, flat logging trails.  Not representative of the majority, I can assure you. I had no breakfast in my belly, no gels or snacks in my pack, thankfully I did have 2 liters of water.  I think you could drop me in Siberia with only a map and two pairs of running shoes and I'd emerge a week later in the Ukraine 15 lbs fatter.  Not only did I find the best patch of blackberries, so plentiful that it only took me 2 minutes to harvest 2 cups of them, but I also lucked out by stopping at a lake house to beg for water and received an energy bar to boot. 

I owned the trails that day, not a single soul was sighted.  At the end, I passed the Russell Stables.  Three stories tall and absolutely gorgeous!


The scenery was awesome.  I encountered baby turtles migrating towards water, waterfowl of all kinds, deer, snakes, turkey, I even scared a coyote.

The smile of insanity.
 I love long distance running.  I look forward to the start of the pain and fatigue because that's when it gets interesting. I don't fear it anymore, I welcome it.  Running is a mental game.  I strive to master the pain and fatigue, not eliminate it, but not let it control me. 

And then, of course, there's the post run feeding frenzy to always look forward to.

1 liter of milk, tuna and apples, gone in 10 minutes!

The maps fared poorly in their sweaty environment.
 As soon as I finish running the Boston Marathon next year, I'll focus solely on trail ultras.  I belong in the woods, not on streets.  I'll continue to run some local races to maintain some sort of social life.  Currently, the weekly 5k races are occupying my evenings.  I split my guts trying to keep up (often times passing) the high school cross country boys.  This Summer, thanks mostly to my new coach, I've been finishing races 1st or 2nd overall female.  The $40 gift card to Outback is great, smiling as I pass younger men and women is better, but the whole point is to push myself to be my best.  There will always be someone younger and faster out there, but as long as I give 110% every day, I've won.

This Fall, I'm enrolling in high school.  I figure I could get a track scholarship and get to go to college for free.  Considering it took me until I was 40 to pay off my last student loan, I think I'd like to study Medieval History if someone else is going to pay for it!!! 

Run happy, Jamie