Sunday, September 29, 2013

Another Weekend, Another Marathon

I have found my people. 

My clansmen were congregated Saturday at Roosevelt State Park in Georgia.  The North Face Challenge hosted a 50 miler, 50k and a full marathon. 

I ran the marathon as a training run for my upcoming ultra in Utah.  The greatest challenge was to keep my pace.  NO RACING.  I promised my coach that I would behave.  I'm thankful that I didn't know how close I was to placing top 3 or how much money was given out, otherwise, I may have reneged on my promise!

The course is brutal.  3875 ft of elevation changes (mountain goat territory),  bloomin' large and loose rocks all through the course, precarious rock ledges--absolutely a blast.  I only fell twice.  Everyone was sporting blood.  My steady pace attracted a pack and soon I had a gaggle of runners behind me.  Too many people sped off too quickly, only to find themselves walking up hills or upside down after fast descents.  From around mile 5 to 20, we ran steadily.  No walking up hills, sometimes it was a granny shuffle up the steepest ones, but we passed so many other runners with this strategy.
A 25 year old speedster had fallen 4 times when I caught up to her around mile 6.  She was actually stopped, the course had zapped her self-confidence.  She fell in directly behind me and eventually passed me to earn 4th overall female.  I prefer to run alone with my silence. This was my first experience helping out other runners and I feel privileged to have been of service.  I called back encouragements and stopped to check on those who fell.  There was an instant kinship between the 25 year old and I.  I never thought I'd truly enjoy running with someone else...go figure. 
I had to stop around mile 22 because the accumulation of pebbles in my shoes were no longer bearable.  By that time, it was only the two of us and I flagged her on to go kick some butt. 

The first female clocked in at 5hrs 51 minutes, I trotted in at 6:13.  Good enough to be 5th female overall and 1st in my age group.  Won some cool arm warmers!

During the awards ceremony, the race director was called away to help with an extraction of a seriously injured runner on the trail.  Dean Karnazes, an ultra marathon legend,  who had been handing out the awards, was left standing in front of me.  I took the opportunity to go shake his hand.  I have touched greatness!  Here's a partial list of his accomplishments:  running 50 marathons, in 50 states, in 50 days; running marathons in all 7 continents (yup, Antarctica too); running from LA to NYC...a phenom. He's down to earth, friendly and totally devoted to promoting running.  I was concerned about my marathon aroma, but my running buddy noted that he was no fresh daisy after his run and tumble either.

What a glorious day! 

Friends and family have echoed the same concern:  "You'll never meet anyone  nice running through the woods like a banshee".  Allay your fears, I have been united with my tribe!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Fly Fishing

Three weeks of fly fishing classes ended tonight.  5 evenings spent practicing casting on a campus lawn, at a busy intersection, getting jeered by passing motorists--finally we got to try our luck on a real lake.

After many bungled attempts, I got a bite.  I was so excited, mostly surprised. 

My friend had presented with a wonderful gift:  a starter kit of his own hand made flies.  Little dude in the middle right chamber is what I used.  Wiggly legged dragon, or something like that.  I love the names!  One of them in there is apparently called a woolly booger.

I bought an inexpensive rod from Cabela's, but I wasn't about to fork over any more money on a I made my own with a cardboard tube, an old cosmetic case for the reel and leftover party Duck Tape to waterproof the whole thing.  Hey, it won't get lost in the grass, no one will want to steal it, but alas, it doesn't shoot confetti!

The other guys at the class were beginning to have some luck.  The one with the lightest rod caught the biggest bass.  The clown with the confetti shooter was having a wickedly good streak of beginner's luck.  5! 

Here's my instructor, Paul, holding my catfish.  They were a little mystified as to how I managed to catch two catfish.  Beats me, lieutenant!

My first haul of fish caught with a fly rod.

They need to have a class on how to clean fish.  It took me 20 minutes to get one fish done.  It's a gonna be a long night!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013


 Cole was invited to run a trail race in Indiana. 

Saturday morning, I loaded up the car and headed North.

First detour:  Crow Mountain Orchards in Fackler, AL.

Half the fun is getting there.  The orchards produce Alabama's best apples due to their cooler microclimate atop the mountain.  The switchback roads leading up to it are not for the faint at heart!

Unfortunately, they don't offer organic produce, but at least I'm supporting an Alabama family farm.

Permission was granted to run through the peach orchards. Voles and field mice beware:  the Lean Mean Pointing Machine is on patrol.

Ears a flappin':  Cole at full gallop.  Some dogs love to run, for him it's a necessity.

Four bushels of apples later, I aimed the car towards Indiana.

Unplanned pit stop:

Walls of Jericho Trail in Tennessee.  I was the one in need of running.

Hardwood forests shrouded in mist--magical.

At half past dark, I arrived at Lincoln State Park in Indiana.  I'm rather adept at setting up camp by head lantern!

  At 6:30 AM Sunday morning, Cole and I were warming up for the marathon. I'd switched our registration from the 14k (8.75 miler) to the full marathon (26.2 miles).   

The Honest Abe Trail Race is a small event spearheaded by an insanely dedicated man and his entourage of devoted volunteers (wife, family and friends).  The director hand makes all the marathon finisher's awards out of dead fall wood.  He was even out running the course by flashlight at 4 AM to ensure that no one had tampered with all his directional signage.  His main sponsor is an natural food store (right on, dude), no generic Oreos or 2 year old Nekot crackers at his aid station (yeah, I'm talking about you Callaway Gardens Twilight 10k race in Georgia). 
I wholeheartedly endorse this race.  Super organization, friendliest folks, inexpensive to register, beautiful hardwood forests, pretty streams, nice lakes, plenty of roots, rocks and hills to make it a technical run without being a killer. 
In exchange for being the first person allowed to run with a dog, I'd promised to keep Cole out of the way.  We started last, made time for wading in the lakes, sitting down to pick nick on salmon and chicken broth (him) and fruit leather rollups with peanut butter (me). I didn't even notice my time as I crossed the finish line, that's how much fun I was having running my dog.
As it turns out, we finished in the middle of the pack:  5hr 25 min.


So much cooler than a factory made metal medal!

Two runners, two awards.

Cole misunderstood the significance of his award.

He insisted that I chase him to get it back!

Taunting me.  I got it back--eventually.

Cole and I have now completed trail runs in 30 states.  We're on a roll!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Georgia Redo

Cole and I have been hiking/running in Georgia, but I lacked the photographic or Garmin evidence to document it. We took care of that last week.

7 miler at Roosevelt State Park.
And the picture after the run.  We're well over half way on our list of 48 states to run.
A couple days earlier, we went back to the Russell Lands Trails around Lake Martin.  My coach had 20 miles lined up for me.  I could only manage 17.  Healing from injury is a slow and aggravating process.
Cole loved it, he got to go swimming numerous times while he waited for slow poke to catch up.
Crossed paths with a 3' copperhead.  I tried to coax it off the trail, but it remained uncooperative.

True to form, I pulled a Super Grover dive.
Back at the farm, Cole has become quite the swimmer.  From the kid who almost drowned two years ago to a canine Michael Phelps.

You can barely see him in the middle of the lake. (I'd have enlarged the picture, but the editing tool has decided lately to only allow the first two pictures to be edited---this is why I will always hate computers).

Here comes Loch Ness now!

Aqua Dog.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Boston Bound

It's official:

My registration last week has been accepted.  Me and 36,000 of my closest running friends will converge on Boston in April 2014.  Trial by fire.  Demophobia, fear of crowds.  Some people feel energized by being in a melee, I want to find the nearest rabbit hole and jump in.  Don't even ask me about my only experience at an Auburn football game.  79,000 cheering fans, 1 idiot walking 'round and 'round the concourses to get fresh air (in an outdoor stadium!). 
I'm bringing along my security blanket, Cole.
I booked my room months ago in a suburb of Boston, a few blocks away from the doggie spa.
Cole's lodgings are chic. My La Quinta room is dog-friendly, so Cole will only have to endure his swank suite while I pick up my race packet and while I run.  After the race, we'll split town, make our way to visit family in Canada, via Rhode Island, New Hampshire and Maine.
Now, the hard work begins of getting back into marathon shape. 
Next week, I'll be running the North Face Challenge marathon in Georgia.  So soon after my fracture, I'm not ready to race.  So, we'll call it a training run with T-shirt and medal! Plus, I get to meet Dean Karnazes, an elite ultramarathoner.  His book inspired me.
One of his quotes:  "Struggling and suffering are the essence of a life worth living.  If you're not pushing yourself beyond the comfort zone, you're choosing a numb existence. You're denying yourself an extraordinary trip." 

Debauchery on Wednesday

On September 11th, my equine vet, Dr. Brown, came calling.  Twice a year, she graces us with her expertise, vaccinations and dentistry skills.

The horses are sedated before attempting to float their teeth with a power grinder.

One tequila, two tequila...

...three tequila, floor.

Axel was numb to the world for about an hour.

The three of them racked up a $700 bar tab. 

Small price to pay to keep them all in tip top shape.

Here's a picture of my Percheron team a year before they died...both 27 years old.  Ancient by draft horse standards, but healthier than most half their age.  Enough said.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Tuesday Thievery

Tuesday morning I collected one egg from the hens.  As I interrogated the girls on their lack of production, I looked up and noticed this.

I counted five eggs in the snake's belly.  And I thought that I had built the Alcatraz of chicken coops!

Without seeing the head, I was unsure of the species.  I was try to be cautious about pulling it out because water moccasins have patterned bellies. 

Snakes are incredibly strong and this one wasn't about to give up without a fight.  I had a hold of its tail and the little darling squirted out its foul musk all over my hands and hair.  Cute.  Pulling too hard would've damaged its scales and letting go of it would allow it to hide between two layers of tin over the nesting box where I wouldn't be able to reach it.

To add to the excitement, the coop door opened and Ruby hopped out.  An emergency call was placed to Dr. P and he was flew over to catch the chicken and prevent the rest of the flock from springing free.

Finally got a hold of the head and I was able to pull little Miss Elaphe obseleta spiloides (gray rat snake) out of my coop.  I worked for a herpetologist for years, he kept rattlesnakes in his house...a non-venomous snake, therefore, doesn't phase me.
A neighbor, who's been working on the farm, came over to lend me some gloves and he was relatively unimpressed by my catch.
He pulled out an 11 year old Timber Rattlesnake out of his van. Why he carries a dead rattler in his vehicle???
He dispatched it when it was attempting to get into his house. 
I released my catch a mile away, far from roads and my coop!
Not all of God's creatures are cute and fuzzy, but nevertheless deserving of respect.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Taking a Step Back

  After a few conversations and texts today, I realize that a chronological clarification is in order.

  In our early thirties, my former husband and I worked side by side to complete a top to bottom renovation of this house.

  After the divorce, I turned an old rodeo venue into Three Pines Draft Horse Rescue.

  The 14 acres property had a rundown barn, a huge riding arena and a concession building.  The barn was fixed up first, barbed wire was removed and new woven wire fencing erected...I have my priorities!

  Dad came down to help.  Here he is grading the arena.

  Next came my house.

  The old horse trailer I'd been living in was OK, but the roof leaked and without any windows, the bugs were a real nuisance.

  My solar heated outdoor bathtub worked well, but it wasn't going to be near as pleasant when October rolled around.

  Working evenings and weekends, the house was ready in 6 months. 
  I had Hispanics working for me on my janitorial and landscaping crews.  Every night a handful of guys patiently taught 'Pequena Hefa' (Little Chief) how to build a house. 

My house rule:  I work alongside you.

One of the greatest experiences of my life.

Our weekend crew.  I spoke Spanish more than English back then.  The Mexicans' culture parallels my French Canadian roots and made me feel at home.

 Raised in Canada, I arrived in the Deep South culturally disadvantaged.  This square peg still doesn't fit in the round hole!  Being sidelined while the menfolk work is contrary to my upbringing.

  My Dad and uncles encouraged me to participate.

  At 8, I had to keep up with them on my snowmobile on all day excursions.

  In 1985, my Uncle Bob gave me my first pair of Vise Grips (engraved with my name) that I still treasure today.

  At 15, my friend and I spent a weekend rebuilding the transmission of his Massey tractor.  25 years later, he and his wife farm 1200 acres in Quebec with matching his and hers tractors.  My kind of folks.

Thanks to the Patry family, I learned how to operate farm equipment and put myself through college in Canada driving tractors 3 Summers in a row.  They planted in me the love of draft horses that I still nurture.

Four years ago, the tanking economy, health problems and the ensuing enormous medical debts forced the sale of my beloved farm. 

  I took my menagerie and moved on...

  Unfortunately, I took a wrong turn and embroiled myself in a doomed 3 year relationship with an individual who thought my skill sets were limited to holding tools and fetching him a coffee.  A year out and I am not bitter--really.  Where did I put that voodoo doll anyway? 

  Back on track nowadays, playing with sharp tools and building smokers and such. 

Keep putting one foot in front of the other and it will all work out.