100 Days of Difference – Day 14

If you missed my post two weeks ago explaining my summer project, check it out here before you continue reading this post.

Now that you’ve done that, you should know that today (June 7th) is National Cancer Survivors Day. So if you know anyone that has beaten any of the numerous varieties of cancer that currently plague our world, take a minute before continuing to reach out and let them know you’re glad they won! Life after a cancer diagnosis and even after a remission or “all-clear” declaration is never the same as it was pre-cancer. I feel so thankful for each of my family and friends that doesn’t have to fight anymore, at least not right now. And as silly as most “holidays” are these days, I support this one because it recognizes those among us that have been to hell and back.

But this special day also brings up the question of what can I/we do for those still in the trenches, fighting for survivor status? The answer for me was in this #100daysofdifference challenge. I can RAISE MONEY for an amazing organization, Hope for Young Adults with Cancer, that helps 18-40 year olds across the nation that have been diagnosed with cancer. No donation is too big or too small and my goal is to raise at least $1,000 this summer, which would be enough to fully pay for a scholarship for one deserving cancer warrior. These scholarships allow recipients the opportunity to not only pay for their treatments, but also to continue living throughout their often long and difficult cancer journey. Check out my donation page on Crowdrise or contact me about other ways to donate financially.

As someone who has worked with charities for a long time, I am fully aware that not everyone is comfortable or able to give money. That’s 100% fine with me! You can share my blog link or my Crowdrise page and help me spread the word. I appreciate any efforts, no matter how big or small.

I also created an Amazon wish list this week to give potential donors even more ways to help support young adults with cancer. So one of my #100daysofdifference goals is to put together 100 “cancer care kits” to take to the North County Oncology Medical Clinic. The idea behind this is that chemotherapy and radiation and blood transfusion are all long, scary processes that cancer patients have to endure. While I can’t change that, I can provide bags of goodies to help entertain or increase the comfort level of patients. The medical center plans to give our bags to new patients during their first day of treatment, just to welcome them to the cancer family and let them know that there are people who care, even during this difficult time.

The way the Amazon wish list works, is kind of like a wedding or baby registry. You click the link I just gave you, decide which items you are willing to purchase, check out, and then they will be shipped directly to my house. I will collect items all summer and hope to distribute the 100 finished bags the last week of August. For those of you that live in San Diego and see me on a regular basis, please feel free to pick up any of the listed items on your own and give them to me when we see each other. Also, if anyone wishes to donate other items I am happy to accept those as well, just send me a message!

Thank you, thank you, thank you for supporting me in the huge summer project. I literally cannot do it without each and every one of you that reads this blog and please know that I appreciate every donation, every encouraging comment, and every spreading of the word. Below is a chart of my progress so far, I’m getting there!!

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La Jolla Half Marathon 2015

I will be the first to admit that I was not at all prepared for this race. I decided to run about a month ago since I had been training for my Tinkerbell Half Marathon anyway. This race is the second of the triple crown series of half marathons in San Diego, which I completed in 2013. Carlsbad in the January race, then La Jolla in April, and America’s Finest City in August. So I’ve run the course before and I knew what to expect… lots and lots of hills! The run starts in the Del Mar racetrack and follows the coast up and over the hills of Torrey Pines before ending in La Jolla Cove. It’s brutal. But it’s also beautiful!


Sunday morning, Sean and I drove down to La Jolla to stash our car by the finish before hopping on the shuttle with Kelly. My goal here was to NOT rip my contact while getting off the bus (click the La Jolla link above to read that story). I was successful and we spent the hour or so before the start stretching, staying warm, and discussing our race strategies. Even though Sean and I had done many of our training runs together, we concluded that to avoid injury it would probably be best if we ran our own races and started in our own corrals. I was wave three and he was wave four. Kelly decided to jump up to wave four with Sean to get started earlier. Our friends Vanessa and Dahlia found us in the parking lot and were both in wave three with me (pre-race photo below).


Starting off, my plan was to run comfortably and stay at whatever pace felt fairly easy. This ended up being about 9:30 pace, which was right at what I expected. I didn’t want to push too hard for the first five miles because of the big hill into Torrey Pines around mile six. It was perfect weather for the race and the sun came out just as we started, which made it a little warmer but also quite pleasant. The wind coming off the ocean wasn’t too strong, so I felt good turning up the hill (see first photo). Historically, I run hills well and I wasn’t expecting Sunday to be any different. I drove my arms and passed a TON of people of this section of the course. The photo below is a screenshot of an official photo so excuse the watermarks, but look past me at the rest of the runners and you’ll see what I mean. I got up without much problem and my legs were still feeling strong(ish).

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The next three miles are my least favorite because they are rolling hills through the top of Torrey Pines. It’s when I knew my legs would start to tire from lack of training and when I couldn’t see the finish line yet. I was expecting Sean to pass me at some point during this stretch so that gave me something to think about. He did end up passing me just before mile ten and our huge downhill. That gave me a bit of a boost because he said his shin and legs were feeling good as he passed me (he’s on the right in the photo below). I won’t lie, it was a bit humbling for me to be passed but I knew he was the more prepared runner between us. I was also really excited because I knew time-wise he was on pace to run a PR and possibly even break two hours!


After the big downhill, the top of my right foot started to tighten up and my left knee was a bit wonky. Both of these were things I expected with the lack of hill and distance training I’d put in. I was enjoying the race though and got to take in the scenery around me while I ran. Nothing was too painful to continue so I kept on cruising. The part of the course that winds through La Jolla Village was kind of annoying due to construction and the sun was starting to feel hotter. But I knew there was just one more section of hills before the downhill turn to the finish line. I did a quick assessment and confirmed that I couldn’t go any faster, so I just enjoyed the run as much as I could. I tried to encourage the runners around me who were starting to really struggle and who were less familiar with the course. Ultimately, I made it to the finish line without too much difficulty!


My official time was 2:07:03, which was about seven minutes slower than when I ran this course in 2013. But I felt VERY happy with those results given my preparation. Sean finished in an impressive 2:00:25, but was a bit frustrated at being so close to that two-hour barrier. He shaved about five minutes off his time from Carlsbad, which is a much easier course, so I was proud of him! Kelly, Vanessa, and Dahlia all finished within fifteen minutes of us, so we were able to meet up at the finish line. It was really fun seeing people I knew all day, either on the course or at the start and finish lines. I love the little group of runners I’ve come to know here and I think most of us are planning to run AFC in August as well. My goal for that race is to properly train and make a push to break the two-hour barrier again, if not PR. I’m quite confident that Sean will and you know I can’t be left behind!



Living Life in Leucadia

It has been SO long since I last posted about settling into California, oops? I’m excited to get back to posts about crazy adventures on the “Best Coast”. Jury is still out there, but for right now I’m leaning West. Anyway, so I told you that I bought a new car (SUV) and it’s still amazing. I have not picked out a name yet, but I’m sure that will come. For now, I’m just excited that I’ve driven over 1,000 miles so the engine is broken in and I can use cruise control. Work at Halstrom is going well, my hours are continuing to build and for right now it looks like I’ll be teaching a lot of AP World History and Algebra II, both of which are fine by me! I’m getting to know the new staff members and students and everyone seems really nice so far, so that’s great!


After a lot of searching that really began back in North Carolina, I finally found an apartment and have moved in. I wanted to be in the Encinitas area again, since living this close to the beach is amazing and I like to walk to restaurants and stores when I can. My top priorities were two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a dishwasher, and parking of some sort… and obviously proximity to the Pacific Ocean. Several places fell through or changed at the last-minute or I was the second applicant and it was starting to look like April 1st was my new move-in goal. But then I found a posting 23 minutes after it went live that looked great! I called the property manager, went over the next morning at 9am, applied on the spot, and signed the lease the next day. It was a bit crazy but it was the first place I’d seen with everything I wanted. And it was the cheapest place I’d looked at too! It’s a two-story “townhouse-style apartment” with the bedrooms and bathrooms upstairs and the living, dining, and kitchen downstairs. There’s a great under-the-stairs closet for all of my athletic and camping equipment and I have an assigned parking space. There are only ten units in the complex and we have an adorable courtyard with a make-shift fire pit, ping-pong table, and outdoor shower. I’m still getting to know my neighbors but they seem really chill without being obnoxious. Yay!


Enough about the business side of life, now onto the fun side of things. I can’t believe that I haven’t even been back a month because (in true Karen fashion) I’ve hit the ground running! I’ve already taken a weekend trip to La Quinta in the desert with an incredible group of new and old friends (pictured above). Less than 24 hours after landing, kickball started back up for the season and I have a fantastic team this time around! We may not be at the top of the leader board, but I’d argue that we have the most fun. In addition to playing together on Sundays, a bunch of us have fallen into trivia on Tuesday nights. We won the first week, which got us hooked, and were third this week. Our prize for winning was a bar tab and we got an Easter basket of candy this week for third (even better!). Last night nine of us stayed out after midnight to see Furious 7 on opening night. For those of you on the fence, it’s 100% worth going to see. The Paul Walker tribute at the end was a bit drawn out for me, but the movie itself was just what you expect, lots of fast cars and hot girls with some street fighting mixed in.


I’ve also spent a good bit of time reconnecting with my core group of girls out here. I hit up a Dan + Shay concert downtown one night (pictured below), I hiked Cowles Mountain in Mission Valley one day (picture at top of post), I went on a training run along the coast, and I celebrated the first birthday of a very special little girl another night. It’s so good to be back with my support network and catch up on what’s been going on in their lives the last four months. Don’t get me wrong, I love my guys and I miss my East Coast people… but my girlfriends here are pretty incredible. We are starting our book club back up too, so I look forward to reading some new novels and having crazy discussions once a month going forward.


I also like to check in on my fitness/nutrition in these type of posts too. I have been struggling with workouts these last few weeks because I dropped a DVD player on my toe, which prohibited me from wearing shoes for a while. I also cracked a big toe while jumping on a trampoline with my favorite fifth graders. And my left upper-calf/knee are giving me some struggles. But I’ve registered for the La Jolla Half Marathon on April 26th in addition to the Tinkerbell Half in LA on May 10th, so we shall see. I am just excited to get back into racing and finish these two events with my friends that are running with me. Time won’t be so much of a factor this time around, but I do plan to have both of my contacts in for LJ 😉 Oh! And I ran the Wellness 5k with Sean a few weekends ago. It was a smaller race, which was nice for a change. Sean ran his personal best 5k time and I won my age group, so we were both pleased with that! Immediately after the race, SK donated platelets and two days later I donated whole blood. It makes my heart happy to think about the lives we helped to save with those donations and I encourage all of you to sign up to donate blood this month, if you can!


I’ve gotten some new Beachbody DVD’s to mix things up and they seem to be keeping me interested for now, but I’m craving getting back on the bike and in the pool. My road bike is being put back together on Monday and I need to figure out my plan for pool access so I can start triathlon training. Nutrition right now is taking a back burner just with the chaos of life. I’m re-adjusting to packing lunches and getting workouts/smoothies done before work, but it takes time and I’m trying to set realistic goals for myself. Finally, I have gotten actively involved in Girls on the Run again this season. My teaching schedule doesn’t allow me to coach, but I am a shoe fairy and am on the 5k planning committee. As a shoe fairy, I size girls on our scholarship teams for brand new shoes and then get to deliver them the following week. It’s like Christmas in April for these girls! If anyone in SD wants to help me cheer on our amazing girls at the 5k on May 17th, let me know! I’m in charge of coordinating the cheer stations, so any/all help that morning would be amazing… you get to dress up and be as crazy as you want… just saying.

Alright, that’s all for now but I promise not to wait another three weeks to post and happy Easter!!

Big Sky and Yellowstone Ski Trip

As many of you have probably seen on Facebook, I went on my annual ski trip last week! My two best friends from California and I have gone to Mammoth and Whistler in past years, but this year it was time for Montana 🙂 We planned this trip before I moved and I was SO looking forward to spending time with the boys and getting out on the slopes! Traveling from Greensboro, NC to Bozeman, MT was an adventure. Especially going through Chicago (ORD). In the snow. We had to use de-icing spray on the plane to take-off. This California girl was thinking “WTF. Just get me to Bozeman”, lol. I landed before the guys and enjoyed sitting by the fireplace while I waited. Once they arrived we got our (free upgrade) Expedition, which was WAY too big for three people, but it turned out to be great for our equipment!

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We got groceries, picked up our condo keys, grabbed our equipment for the week, and had some mediocre barbecue for dinner. Our place was super close to the slopes, which was the point, but it was also fairly small. We settled into our studio (with a murphy bed and sofa bed for sleeping, lol) and headed to bed fairly early? Morning one we were all (especially me) quite pleased that the weather was in the mid to upper 30s. After bundling up, we skied ALL DAY. From 9:30am to 4:15pm. Snow was in pretty good condition, great for me! I’m not an icy skier, it’s harder on your legs and edges. Especially since I hadn’t skied any yet this season. But we all held up well and had a blast. At lunchtime we paused at the Lone Peak Cafe at the base of the mountain. One disappointment that continued throughout the week was the lack of on-slope amenities. But I guess it added to the rustic, Montana charm 🙂 For dinner after showers, we cooked up a delicious pasta-beef-salad dinner before playing games long into the night.

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Day two we set out with the goal to explore the right side of the map. One minor snag was that we didn’t really know how to get there… and we ended up essentially cross-country skiing on downhill skis for a bit. Other than that, day two was another amazing day of skiing and we even got some sunshine in the afternoon! For lunch we checked out Whiskey Jack’s bar and grill, which was better than the cafe and the tacos really hit the spot. We skied harder this day, tackling some un-groomed blues and even escaping into the trees! Everyone was skiing really well and we did another full day on the slopes with no injuries (yay!).

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That evening… I think by now we are at Friday… X had some work to do so Sean and I decided to seek out hot tub options around town. We learned that the Huntley Lodge right across the street had a spa with a heated outdoor pool and hot tubs. After wandering through the underground tunnel, we acted like we knew what we were doing and walked right in unnoticed. It was a great facility and we enjoyed relaxing after a second long day on the slopes. Then it was back home for another amazing dinner (these guys spoil me, but I’m a really good sous chef) of chicken curry. Poor X had more work, so Sean and I hit the town to check out one of the free concerts going on as part of the weekend’s blue grass festival. The band was really chill and it was nice to see what happens in Big Sky after the slopes close (bonfires, music, food… the usual ski bum life).

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Saturday was our last day of downhill in Big Sky, so we set out to cover as many new slopes as possible, which was easy since that place is HUGE. And it had snowed overnight so there was fresh powder to be had! Unfortunately, with the snow came gusting wind and several of the lifts were closed. Boo. We managed to get over to a new part of the mountain and made first tracks on a huge section of slope. But visibility was almost zero, between the wind and the snow and the low light. We pulled up at one point above a drop, and determined that we needed to keep speed to then cross the flats below. The line I chose was not the right one, and I didn’t see a steeper drop followed by an abrupt rise. Basically, my body folded in half into the far slope and I crumbled to the ground… losing all speed and one ski. My elbow hurt and my body was shaken but, with help from X, I got re-situated and skied down to meet Sean at the base. I was in pain. But nothing like my knee last year in Whistler!

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After the crash, we quickly learned that we were trapped on a small number of warm, almost slushy slopes. Luckily, a cowboy (bellhop) from the Huntley Lodge was dropping some people off and offered us a ride back to the main part of the mountain. We cruised tons of perfectly groomed slopes and even experimented with some moguls and blacks. My elbow was only painful when I fully straightened it, or put too much pole pressure on it. So I was good to go for the most part! We did make reservations for a fancy, slope-side meal at Everett’s (located at 8800 ft). The meal was over the top, but probably the second-best meal of the trip. I had an open-faced grilled cheese sandwich with an egg, apples, and some fancy kind of cheese on a sourdough-like bread. It was awesome! At the end of the ski day, we turned in our downhill equipment then drove straight to the other rental place in lower village to pick up our nordic skis for Sunday.

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We had booked a snow coach trip with See Yellowstone from West Yellowstone (an hour south of Big Sky) into Yellowstone National Park and added on a short cross-country ski section. After a late night out Saturday at another blue grass concert (this time with X!), we were all a bit tired when our 6am alarm went off. Admittedly, I was the slowest moving because my arm and back/shoulder muscles were on fire from my fall the day before. I was so stiff and I think the guys had coffee brewed before I was even out of bed. But we made it to West Yellowstone in time to hop in the snow coach and drive into the park. We were SO fortunate on this trip to see a ton of animals. Elk, coyote, bobcats, bald eagles, and of course bison. It was a long day with the tour lasting from 8:30 to 5:30, but I think it was absolutely worth it! Especially since we hopped out a few miles shy of Old Faithful to cross-country ski through the geyser fields. Not only did we get to stretch our legs, but we got to see more of the thermal features!

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We made it in to Old Faithful with a few minutes to spare before the eruption, which was just as amazing as it was decades ago when my family visited. We met back up with the group, loaded our equipment, grabbed a quick bison brat for lunch and headed back out. We didn’t get very far before we had issues though. The road had melted through to mud in several sections because of the unusually warm winter weather. This jacked up the tread on our snow coach and we were soon stuck. As we waited for help to arrive, we hung out with the nearby bison herd and cat-napped. We were picked up by Andy in another (bigger) snow coach and made it back to West Yellowstone fairly on time. Then we had to get our equipment back to Big Sky before closing, which wasn’t a problem. We rewarded ourselves with an AMAZING barbecue dinner “for two” at the Riverhouse restaurant. It was a sample platter with brisket, pork, chicken, sausage, and I don’t even know what else. Oh, and sides of beans, cornbread, coleslaw, and a corn mixture. So good. So, so good.

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Big Sky Trip 371Post-dinner we cruised the rest of the way up to Belgrade (where Bozeman Airport is) and checked into our Quality Inn for the night. The boys had a ridiculously early flight, so we wanted to be close. Monday morning we all got up, I dropped them at the airport, and then went back to the hotel to sleep for four more hours. Then I checked out, dropped the rental car and checked in for my flight. By this time they had already had a layover in Seattle and were well on their way to San Diego. Lucky them! I had a connection in Chicago again, but it was warmer this time so no icing issues. I finally landed in Greensboro about 10pm and drove the hour and half home to Wake Forest. I was exhausted but I was happy. This trip was great on so many levels and I can’t wait to see where we end up going next year (Colorado? Utah? The Alps?).

Settling in to North Carolina

This is going to be a quick post because I’m just not feeling very motivated to write. But I know some of you are itching to know how things are going in North Carolina. This post might be all over the place and I apologize for that. In fact, I’m going to break it up into critical pieces of my life right now so it will focus me a bit while I type.

1. House

On January 9th I got the keys to my apartment in Wake Forest, NC. It is awesome! I wanted somewhere that was quiet and relaxing, not in the center of downtown but not in the sticks either. I’m 18 miles north of the center of Raleigh and right along Capital Boulevard which leads straight north out-of-town. It’s an awesome location because I can be to almost anywhere in Raleigh or Durham in 30 minutes. I got a two-bedroom place that faces the small lake in the complex, which is just one of the many things I liked about this community. There are 288 units but broken up into buildings of just eight, four on the top floor and four on the bottom. I’m on the bottom, which I prefer so I don’t have to worry about my workouts waiting up my neighbors. I have a full kitchen, a washer/dryer, and a screened-in patio with a storage closet. AMAZING! I can’t wait to sit out there and watch the ducks float around once it gets a little warmer (although it’s 50 degrees outside today, so that isn’t bad!).

I’m still working on furniture (as I write this while sitting on the floor)… I’ve ordered a dining table and server, as well as a sleeper couch for the second room. My thought is that down the road I will buy a new bedroom set for myself (mine is still a full) and then I can shift my bed into the guest room. I also bought a few lamps and a tv stand, since I got rid of a ton of stuff in California. The next big thing on my list is a living room couch and/or chairs. Ugh. Such grown-up things to have to buy! The community here also has a pool, 24-hour fitness center, free DVD rentals, a car-wash station, a business center with free printing, and valet trash. Like I said, I love it here so far!

2. Job

This paragraph will be short, so I’ll rip the band-aid quickly and get it over it. I don’t have one yet. I’m applying like crazy, but nothing yet. I have taken a few placement tests this week for curriculum developer or content editing positions, so that’s promising! I’m considering looking into a job placement agency to help break me into mid-career jobs. It seems like everything I’m finding is either entry-level, hourly tutoring or non-profit CEO/Director positions I don’t quite qualify for. But it’s only been a week, so I’m still hopeful that the right opportunity will present itself!

3. Church

This has probably been the most exciting part of moving here so far. I have reconnected with friends from The Community Church back in Ashburn, VA who recently moved to Knightdale (an eastern suburb of Raleigh) to plant a new church. I’ve been to a few interest and membership meetings and am really looking forward to getting involved as the church launches. In the past, I have found great churches but never gotten fully “plugged in” because I always felt like leadership or volunteer groups were already well-established with people who had been together for years. The Edge Church will launch on February 22nd and I am already so excited! If you’re curious about the church, check out the website linked here. And get ready for updates on this as time goes on and I figure out where God decides to use me in the church.

4. Volunteer

In addition to work with the church, I have already reached out to the Girls on the Run chapter here in Raleigh. Because my job situation is up in the air, I didn’t commit to coach this season. But I will be helping plan and run the end-of-semester 5k race! I love this organization and how positive and supportive it is to young girls trying to figure out life. And it’s been awesome how welcoming this leadership has been in such a short time. I’ll let those of you in the area know more details soon, but for now if anyone wants to come support 800 elementary school girls and their running buddies on April 11th… let me know!

5. Friends

It’s been cool to see who is coming out of my past to reconnect with me now that I’m in a new place. Karen and Pete have been great to see and I look forward to joining them at church. But also, some friends from college have been in touch and we have plans for future dinners and UVA sporting events. Additionally, some high school friends are in the area and want to get together soon. And I have extended family scattered throughout the region! If any of you are nearby and want to get together, let me know! In an effort not to overdo things, I have not been to any meet-up events or UVA alumni functions that would introduce me to entirely new groups of people yet. I have a few penciled in over the next few weeks, and I’m excited to make new friends… but I’m also excited to be in my own space with my things unpacked and my schedule completely open 🙂

6. Fitness

This will just be a quick teaser, but I started a new fitness program this past week in an attempt to get back in shape after a fairly exercise-free fall. My good friend, and former teammate, Holly has become a Beachbody coach recently and asked me about joining one of her challenge groups. I put it off until now so I could have a TV and DVD player set up to run the program. But I’m excited about it and haven’t hated the home workouts like I thought I might. There is a nutritional piece to the Beachbody program as well, so I am getting back to healthier eating again too. If you want to know more, Holly posts on her blog all the time about her workouts and nutritional habits! Oh, and my half marathon training starts next week which will begin a long few months of running in the cold… Yikes!

Okay, okay… I said this was going to be short. That’s all for now but I’ll try to write again sooner than later!

NE Escapade 2: Zealand Loop in the White Mountains

Picking up where I left off in my last post about New England, Saturday morning X and I woke up early and left Manchester, NH before 8am. We were traveling north again but this time we stayed inland instead of going over to the coast. Our first stop was breakfast and groceries for our projected two days in the woods, but as we merged back on the highway we quickly realized that we would be stopping again. This time at a rest area, home of New Hampshire’s alcohol store and outlet! We grabbed the cheapest bottle of twist-cap wine they had ($7) and off we went. Our goal was to get into the White Mountains by lunchtime so we could hike a while before finding a place to camp for the night. My little bit of research the day before had found a loop hike that was 12 miles long in an area known as Zealand. It boasted a mountain summit, stream crossings, beaver dams, waterfalls, ponds, and plenty of luscious woods… we were in!

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To get to Zealand, we worked our way through numerous small towns which just added to the charm of NH for me. We found an adventure store in Lincoln that had the propane we needed for our camp burner and then enjoyed a simple lunch in Bethlehem after walking through their local farmer’s market. We got to the trailhead about 12:30pm, loaded up for the trek, paid the $6 to leave our car in its spot overnight (see green Start dot on the map above), and headed up the Hale Brook Trail. I say up because it was UP. I knew the first three miles or so of our hike would be the hardest as we climbed to the peak of Hale Mountain. But we didn’t quite realize how steep it would be. The trail was well-marked but not just a simple path and we frequently found ourselves looking up at a slope of damp boulders to scramble over. There was no rush, so we just took breaks when we needed to and enjoyed the scenery as we went.

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The trail wasn’t very crowded, in fact we only passed a handful of other hikers the entire time, which was nice. It wasn’t raining, but the trees were dripping, it was cloudy, and the ground was fairly wet around us. If the sun had been out, we would’ve been uncomfortably hot due to the incline of the slope so it wasn’t all bad. There were not many animals either, just a few birds here and there. Bears and moose are native to the White Mountains, but we never saw any on our trek. The one item we did forget was bug spray, but we’d made the executive decision at the car to push on without it. Turns out that was the right decision as neither one of us got bit on the trail. When we (finally) reached the summit of Mt. Hale we were a bit disappointed with the view, but we had figured it wouldn’t be outstanding due to the tree cover. We never got above the tree line so we could see mountains in the distance, but not any stunning panoramas.

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Crossing over the summit, we followed the Lend-A-Hand Trail back down the other side of the mountain. We were a little concerned that the descent would be just as steep and rocky as the ascent had been, but luckily that was not the case. Our path was frequently packed pine needles and we dropped gradually into the forest below. Our next destination was Zealand Hut, where hikers could reserve bunks and get a hot meal. We didn’t plan to do either, but were going to ask about campsites and planned to use their facilities to refill our water bladders. The closer we got, the more the climate changed and we were soon hiking through a bog of sorts, often on wooden planks. There were less trees and more ferns and underbrush on this section of the trail, but we were still enclosed on the mountain side. We finally arrived at the hut, dropped our packs, and walked out to the nearby waterfall to see if we could see Zeacliff Pond below. We could! After snapping some pictures and chatting with our fellow hikers (several of whom were through-hiking the Appalachian Trail) we learned where we could camp for the night. Our original plan had been to complete the 3.9 mile loop past the Zeacliff Pond and Outlook, but our energy was zapped after 6.0 miles of wet, strenuous hiking for the day. So we walked off toward Ethan Pond Trail, found the side path down to some sites in the woods and called it a day.

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There was only one other tent set up in the campsites and we were far enough from them that we never heard each other. After setting up our tent, we worked on dinner. On the menu for the night was bear-shaped mac ‘n cheese, tuna or salmon provided by Chicken of the Sea, and salt water taffy from Friday’s escapade. All of this was topped off with our bottle of Moscato from the rest area! Neither X or I had any trouble passing out that night, in fact I think we were both asleep by 9pm. We didn’t set an alarm, as we assumed the daylight would wake us. We didn’t think about the rain and the darkness of the forest though, and it was almost 9am before anyone stirred inside the tent (oops?). Luckily, we only had about 2.5 miles to hike out along Zealand Trail that morning so we passed on a hot breakfast and hit the trail after shaking out our belongings.

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Most hikers going to the Zealand Hut just hike in this 2.5 mile trail and then turn around and hike back out it, avoiding Mt. Hale altogether. Because of this, we assumed it would be a less strenuous affair and we were right. This didn’t mean that there were not dozens of stream crossings on wet rocks or that they terrain was completely flat, it wasn’t. But we managed a much faster pace, even with stopping to check out Zealand Pond and the marshes that flanked us on this section of the hike. We did pass a few more day hikers coming in while we were going out, but the trail was certainly not crowded by any standards. Once we got back to the car, we threw out wet packs in the trunk and headed east towards the Kancamagus Highway… But that’s where I’ll pick up next post so stay tuned and thanks for reading!

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Operation RAM: Judgement Day is Almost Here

This is going to be a quick post because I still haven’t packed and I leave tonight for San Francisco. I think I’ve been avoiding packing because it means this weekend is really here. I won’t lie, I’m nervous! But who wouldn’t be? I’ve been training for 24 weeks, which is almost six months. I’ve written two additional posts updating y’all, one five weeks ago and one after I ran a mountain.

So what’s left? Well, my training for the next three days is extremely light. I’m supposed to rest my legs today and tomorrow and then do an easy “shake-out” run on Saturday. The second half of my training plan is below… there are so many crossed out days! I’ll be the first to say that this hasn’t always been easy and sure, I skipped a workout here or there due to exhaustion, lack of motivation, or no time in my schedule. But for the most part, I’ve stayed right on track and I know I just have to trust my training on Sunday.

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As you can see, my goal is to finish in 4 hours and 30 minutes. That’s a pace of 10:20/mile. Yikes! The longest run I’ve done is 20 miles, and I’ve heard the last 6.2 are the hardest mentally. So bleh about that. You know I’m running with one of my best friends from high school, Katie. But I should clarify that we won’t actually be running together. She is way faster me and will be starting in Wave 2, with the hope to finish in around 3 hours and 30 minutes. She will start with her wave around 5:30 am, which means she’ll hope to finish by around 9:00 am. Since I’m in Wave 6, I don’t start until just after 6:00 am. That makes my goal to finish by 10:30 am. And it means I’ll (hopefully) be at mile 18 by 9:00 am when Katie will be FINISHING. I already told her not to hold me accountable for any nasty thoughts I might have about her for that last hour and a half of my race.

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The map above shows the course with mile markers so you all can see where we will be going. Also, if you want to track us I believe you can online or I know you can on the SF Marathon App. My bib number is 60529 and Katie’s is 21097. I’ll also post to at least let you all know that I’m not dead 😉 And you can expect a full report on the weekend and the race after I return on Tuesday. But for now, just keep me in your thoughts and prayers on Sunday… I can use all the help I can get!

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