It’s a beautiful day and I am on my back deck surrounded by yellow butterflies, blooming apple trees, peeping chicks and turkeys, three piggies romping around in their wooded pasture and our soon to be massive vegetable garden. The sun is shining and the mountain is watching over my home which is a work in progress but starting to morph into our homesteading oasis. Our homemade Kombucha is finally ready for consumption and fresh rhubarb jam sits in the refrigerator after our first attempt at canning! Mulch beds have been created, flowers planted, hummingbird feeders hung around the front yard and wildflower seeds tossed throughout the front yard are beginning to sprout. Our home hadn’t been maintained in quite some time and we really want to add our own personal touches to the home, inside and out. Slowly we are making changes and one day will have it tidy and well kept but for now I am learning to be patient while living in an ongoing project. The last time I put this much effort into a home was when I bought my first house right before I graduated from college and instead of rushing through it, I am enjoying taking my time to discuss our dreams and goals and then slowly making it happen.
Of course this takes a lot of time, so does raising 8 turkeys, 6 guinnea hens, 51 New Hampshire Red Chickens, about 25 exotic show chickens and three pigs. Toss in two kids, two dogs and two cats and we have our own little farm! Taking care of these animals is incredible and I am really enjoying my new life! The last few months have not been good and with some therapy and working hard to find peace again I feel like I am no longer at rock bottom and instead on a path to a new beginning.
I have been adventuring in the mountains again and loving the feeling of getting back my mountain legs. I was a bit bummed out about having to cancel my Mount Hood trip due to terrible weather out west and getting an awful chest cold but the mountain will still be there and the money lost is only money which I can make again. Ryan, the pups and I have been really doing some big days in the hills and one that really stands out as a new favorite is what I will call the Beautiful Loop. This loop is 20 miles of ridiculous scenery, views and the longest waterfall I have ever seen! The climbs are brutal and there was still some ice up high. We started on the Bald Faces and finished on the Royces. It was a great way to exhaust myself before flying down to North Carolina for a grand adventure with my friend Elizabeth.
Friday night I got to Elizabeths house around 8:45pm after work and we got up at 3am to catch our flight from Boston. We landed and got right off the plane and picked up the rental car. I had talked Elizabeth into doing some more US Highpointing with me and she agreed to do South and North Carolina during our trip. When we got the map at the rental car counter I saw that Geaorgia’s high point was not far and that we could maybe tag that too. Then Elizabeth grabbed the map and said that we might as well hit Tennesse. At that moment I knew I was on vacation with the right person! We stocked up on food from Whole Foods and drove to the high point of South Carolina and snagged the summit of Mount Sassafrass! We laughed as we drove to North Carolina to tag Mount Mitchell and check in for the race. We got our room key and drove up the mountain and took the paved path to the top! High point number two was under our belts. It was time to check in for the race and to our surprise the meeting was actually right off the back deck of where we were staying! I ate a massive pasta meal and went to bed around 10pm.
We woke up at 3am and got to the race shuttle. As soon as the sun gave us enough light to see the race began and we headed straight up a massive White Mountain style climb! I was totally in my element!! There were some really fast looking girls there and I just focused on staying steady. I had been so focused on leg speed this winter that my mountain fitness was not quite where I wanted it to be. I stood on top of the first climb happy and feeling at home in the rime ice and blustery conditions! I felt so happy and took in the amazing views from the ridge as I ran back down off the mountain and to the bottom of a very fast descent. My crappy memory bit me, I forgot they said we had to run up that climb and my heart sank! It was over 5 miles back up to the top and there was a flock of fast girls hot on my tail. I jogged, walked and focused on just having fun. As I got up higher and back into the ice I was happy again and forgot that I was racing. The ridge was incredible and I felt like I was in the White Mountains again. I ran with various people along the way and focused on being steady.
The next descent was a hoot and when I hit the bottom I knew there was a really long climb ahead that the race director said was runnable. I did not want to hear those words! I ran the first part, and then it got slippery with leaves and I walked, and then ran and walked for miles. By the time I got to the top I was rather tired of climbing and my calf started to seize up on me! I saw the volunteers at mile 26 and grabbed some water for my pack and a few cookies for the last 8 miles. I struggled on the flat field section but then my body came around and the descent was incredible! I flew down the rocks laughing and smiling! It was so beautiful and so much like home! The course crossed a road and took us on a dirt and gravel path for a bit and then there was the finish line! I was thrilled to run 7:33 on a course that was longer and had more elevation than last year! And the bonus, I took first woman and 2nd overall! I always question my fitness and it was nice to see that I am in a good place and this race confirmed that I need to stick with mountain running because when I run happy I have fun! Elizabeth did incredible and we both were nicknamed “New Hampshire”. People apparently thought our rock running was rather impressive and our ability to run in the icy trees was interesting. We could only respond by saying that all we have to run on here is rocks and it’s always cold up high!
We got to bed nice and late and after doing some math discovered that we had to leave at 3am if we wanted to tag the high points of Tennesse and Georgia. So, we got up early and got to Clingmans Dome just as the sun rose! We only had 30 minutes to hike and take pictures of both high points so on tired legs we had to hustle! After a quick tag of Clingmans we hopped in the car for another long drive to Georgia! We got to Brasstown Bald and took the short hike up to the summit, took in the views and got back down to the car with barely enough time to get to the airport without missing our flight. Luckily there was no traffic and we got there on time even though our flight was delayed. It was just what I needed to feel renewed and to smile again! I would like to call that trip the US Highpointing 50k sandwich! It was absolutely delicious!!!
I came home and back to reality. Luckily reality isn’t all that bad! I have the best job in the world and although tired I was thrilled to see my coworkers and my patients and have my weekly lunch with my friend Roberta!
My weeks have been busy and getting used to the waking up really early to take care of the critters and making sure they are all set at night is becoming easier. Watching these animals grow and seeing our seeds sprouting is the coolest thing in the world! When I retire from dental hygiene in about 13 years my goal is to focus on farming and helping communities establish farming programs that allow small farms to provide food for the communities and educate people on why supporting your local farmer is important and encourage people to shop locally as well as try their hand at gardening or raising animals. I am very passionate about supporting locals and finding ways to make clean and healthy living available to everyone regardless of their income. Maybe community bases programs where families in need can spend time helping to raise animals and crops on community farms in exchange for food is a start? Maybe establishing agricultural programs within the school systems is a way to teach our children that food should be raised ethically and with kindness and that farms do matter.
I have also realized that I absolutely love running but need more to keep me smiling. Taking on new challenges is so much fun! Ryan and I entered a canoe race on a whim after I bought a large fishing canoe and managed to win our division! We both enjoyed doing something different and something that we had to work together as a team to do! I am taking sailing lessons this summer with my friend Kristin with hopes of sailing the Carribean in a few years. I have found a new fiddle teacher that has taught me how to play 4 songs already and it’s so much fun learning from her! Best of all I am back to running my mountains after work and on the weekends with my Ryan, Jack puppy, Bennett and friends. If feels good and it makes me happy!
Racing is going to be tricky this year with the new farm. Unless one of us stays behind it is really hard to get away, especially when the critters are so small. We can’t leave the baby chicks and turkeys yet because they require so much care. I am going to be focusing on FKT’s this summer that are local and racing locally during the farming season and after the slaughtering I plan to be able to do some travel races. I am okay with that, I need balance in my life and variety. I plan to be around for a very long time and I don’t plan to walk away from running but I do plan to venture out and try new things.
I want to thank my sponsors La Sportiva, JULBO USA and Choucas Hats for their support. They make awesome gear that makes me happy and keeps me rubber side down in the mountains! Thank you to my Ryan for working on our lives both individually and together. We both have a lot on our plates right now and both realize that we are always a work in progress. Thank you my Jack puppy and Bennett for being my fun little trail buddies and snuggle buddies at home! Thank you to my friends for always listening to me, playing with me, giving me hugs when I need one and going on wild adventures with me! Thank you to Jack Pilla for coaching me the best he can when I am a total mess and can barely get in my miles. I have a long way to go but every day that passes brings me new joy and closer to feeling truly happy again.
Life isn’t easy, it’s work. We are all a work in progress, we all have had something traumatic happen to us at some point along the way, we all have good days, bad days and days where you want to throw in the towel. Thanks to my amazing friends who never give up on me, I tossed the bottle of pills I was going to take on a solo run in the woods and instead have been dealing with my stress head on. When life punches me in the face I take a few breaths and focus on feeling my feet on the ground, my hands, feeling my breath coming in and out of my body, the air on my skin, my hair in my face. Somehow something so simple brings me back into the moment and I can see that life really isn’t all that bad and I do have control over my happiness.