Picking up some miles

After dealing with more physical therapy for my back, of which I threw out in the beginning of January, I’m noticing just how weak my whole right side is. Knee, glute, hip, core. I know that training and building proper strength takes time. I want to properly support my body to prevent injury, and to ensure I can hike for longer distances with safe form.

With all that said, I still pulled a fairly big weekend. The weather was spectacular. It was easy enough to wear a t-shirt or a sweatshirt when lounging, the perfect temperature. No bugs yet, and the sun has given my skin a wondrous glow, albeit I now have some watch tan lines on either wrist.

The first order of business was to hike in the Ossipee Range. It’s only a few minutes from where I grew up in Moultonborough. I stayed at my Mom’s place, where I have lived for the majority of my life, the night before and started in the late morning, embarking on a task to cover the rest of the trails which I hadn’t trekked upon before.

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The trails not marked in black sharpie were all I needed to cover to get my LRCT completion patch.

I didn’t actually look at the mileage. I told my Mom “Yeah, 6 miles maybe?” Well it took me 6 and a half to reach the point where I finished where the Black Snout Trail meets the Mt. Shaw Trail (not part of the LRCT system).

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100% redline!

I even thought before I hiked how great it would be to have someone take my picture, if only I would meet them the very moment I finished. Right before I reached the sign I gave out a loud hoot, only to find someone coming down the trail! This nice man took my picture. He and his cohorts congratulated me and went on their way down the Mt. Shaw Trail.

12.5 miles total. Now it’s time for me to get that patch! This is the second completion patch I’ve gotten, along with the one for hiking the 12 major peaks in the Belknap Range.

 

On Sunday I hiked Gunstock and Belknap, with a friend who hasn’t hiked before. Belknap was a perfect introduction. It was a few firsts for the both of us. It was his first mountain summit and first fire tower. It was my first time going up inside the tower. I had never visited when someone was on duty. For the both of us, it was the first time we saw someone in a banana hammock on the trails. We waited until he vacated the tower before we went up. I couldn’t help but laugh multiple times.

We stopped at a few viewpoints which I’ve come to discover and took in some sun. Following up a 17 mile weekend with a plate of pulled pork nachos and a pint of 603 Winni Ale made for a highly enjoyable weekend. My ankle and knee don’t feel completely healed, but I’m doing a lot better than even a month ago! I’m looking forward to playing in the mountains more often.

To learn more about the LRCT Hiker Achievement Patch Program visit this link

To learn more about the Belknap Range Hiking Program visit this link

PiYo Challenge

Laura Paquette, the kickass runner and coach from Canada, is holding a Beach Body challenge group. I’ve wanted to do PiYo for AGES. It combines pilates and yoga. It’s low impact, doesn’t require weights, and strengthens the core (along with basically everything else) which is exactly what I need. I think it will compliment my physical therapy well.

PiYo

I am looking to lose about 15 pounds, 20 at most. No, I am not unhappy with my weight. I have some jell-o jiggling about, and that’s okay. My butt has more cellulite than it used to. Fine by me. I am 5′ 8″ and weigh about 165. I used to weigh 132 when I was at my sickest. I ate about 3,000 calories a day and was losing weight. At this point, I am elated to have 250 times the energy I used to and have put on weight.

However, due to spraining my ankle at a race in October, and throwing out my back at the beginning of January, I am recovering from these injuries as well as from losing fitness and muscle tone. Due to these injuries I was incapacitated for stretches of time, and I gave into cookie and ice cream binges. I tend towards emotional eating, and I’ve also dealt with Orthorexia Nervosa, the opposite side of the coin. I am reevaluating my relationship with food, and it has greatly improved this past year. I am not ashamed of my body by no means, but I’d like to be more efficient at running, hiking, everyday life, and I aim to prevent future injury.

Laura’s challenge starts Monday, and the PiYo program runs for 2 months. I will do the workouts in the morning, go to work, and do physical therapy exercises at lunch and in the evenings. I am also doing a daily drawing, so this will challenge my time management  and prioritizing abilities, of which I know I need to work on.

These pictures are the day before I threw out my back on January 3rd, so I’ve gone even farther from where I want to be since then. I was incapacitated for a couple of weeks. I am looking forward to gaining back my strength and getting back to the mountains where I belong!

Bear Hill – Bear Brook State Park

This was a hike post winter storm. I broke quite a bit of trail in my MSR Lightning Ascents, which I used for the first time! My husband Dan and our trail running friend Rick went at a faster clip, so they racked up a few more miles than me. They did about 7, I did 4.3, my longest hike since December! And unlike the December hike, my legs did better. For sake of said legs, which started to bother me now and then especially on the downhills, I will stay with shorter, not as steep, and less technical terrain for some time, while I do physical therapy. Today was perfect. The weather was fantastic. No wind, in the 30’s, it even felt good breaking trail in about a foot of powder. I brought Little Bean along, of course. I look forward to exploring more of the Bear Brook Trails on future weekends. Bear Hill is fire tower number 28 of 91 for me!

Still on the Up

On January 3rd I threw out my back. I developed inflammation in a disc in my lumbar spine. With my physically demanding job with poor ergonomics, which we are working on fixing, I have exacerbated issues in my back and IT bands. I took 2 weeks off from work, and started physical therapy. It’s a bummer that this is the one month I don’t have health insurance, but the new physical therapy place I am going to, Willem Verweij & Associates Physical Therapy, in Rochester has been flexible with my needs. They have given me exercises to improve my core strength, and have met with me twice this month to do manual work. I’m combining these new core exercises with the stretching and glute strength exercises I learned at Action Sports & Physical Therapy last summer. I have basically hit a big reset button on hiking and running, and am building a proper strength base to support my running and hiking muscles.

I had a snowboard accident 12 years ago. I partially dislocated my pelvis, raising my right hip. I had a chiropractor reset it, and I developed what I thought until recently was sciatic pain. Come to find that sciatic pain runs down the back of the leg. My pain was tight and painful, running along the side of my thigh. I’ve had IT band syndrome for years! Luke at Willem Verweij & Associates has determined that my right hip is very weak. Hip imbalance has been the source of many ails. I am reminding myself to have patience, do exercises every day, and remain positive that this will point me in the direction I need to be heading to get back to the mountains.

A big boost to my confidence recently was visiting Rock Rimmon in Manchester yesterday. My husband Dan is a Merrell ambassador, and his representative Julia was holding a demo. I got to try the All Out Peak shoes, which are a 6 mm drop shoe with great grip and ample toe box space. I am definitely getting a pair, they worked great! We did a run/walk/hike/bushwhack on rocks/snow/ice/dirt for about 2 and a half miles. It felt so great to be active and outside! Despite hacking and nearly wheezing, especially on the uphills, due to an incredible lack of fitness, I had a wonderful time being in the company of friends on a chilly but beautiful day. The views at the top were amazing, for such a short hike. We saw the entirety of Manchester. It’s a true gem of a spot to explore. Julia is on an initiative to clean up Rock Rimmon from litter, mainly in the form of beer bottles and cans, to make it safer for those hiking and rock climbing. We are on board with helping the clean up effort. She aims to bring more people to enjoy the park.

Merrell recently partnered up with Tough Mudder, and Dan has free entry into a race! He will represent Merrell in all its muddy glory. I have wanted to do Tough Mudder at least once in my life. Obstacle course racing is highly intriguing to me. That is, of course, fairly far into the future, as I am in the state of healing. Recovering from my disc injury, in conjunction with healing IT band syndrome, is giving me hope that things can only get better from here.

Another venture I am working on is trying PiYo. Laura Paquette, the badass Canadian vegan runner, is holding challenge groups for Beach Body exercise programs. PiYo is low impact and a total sweat inducer of a program! I aim to lose some weight. It has not been high on my priority list. There was a time about a year ago when I was classified almost underweight and incapable of putting on weight. With diet and medication changes my health is great and I have put on about 40 pounds! However, I have lost my leanness and am on the other end of normal, being nearly overweight! Again, it hasn’t been a big concern, but in regards to athleticism I feel most optimal around a weight which is 20 pounds lighter than where I am. I’m happy to be healthier, and I feel it is time to gain fitness and tone up again! I look forward to more outdoorsy adventures, the Mount Washington Auto Road Race in June included.

2015 in Review

I am grateful that January 1st, 2016 is drastically better than January 1st, 2015 in regards to my health. I honestly didn’t know if I was going to be alive much longer. I do not say that to be melodramatic or to gain extra sympathy. It honestly felt like my heart would stop beating and my lungs would stop breathing at any moment. I felt like I was going to pass out every few minutes. To an extent it still stresses me to this day that nothing was 100% conclusive. I still get bouts of neurological problems, possibly blood sugar as well, but through doing my best to keep my stress down, both physically by not exerting myself too much and emotionally by taking what happens in life lightly, not taking prescription medications anymore, and properly taking care of my body through sleep and nourishing food, I am feeling much better.

I am thankful to everyone who has helped me in any aspect through my darkest times.

Let’s focus on the positives, with both health and life! I have put on weight (about 25 pounds!) back to a healthy level. I found a few things which have helped me keep a sense of calm and to sleep better, like strong probiotics and lots of carbs. This is the first Winter since 2010 that I haven’t broken out in patches of eczema on my shoulders! I find that to be a good indicator of my immune system health. Last Winter was the absolute worst I’ve had it! Although I still have problems with my knees and IT bands, I’m back to exercising, which helps me keep stress down and makes me feel alive. I may not be able to hike as much as I’d like to yet, but I’m working on rehabilitating my legs. I did some trail and mountain races, which I missed immensely while sick. I am still part of the amazing team acidotic RACING, and I got to cheer on my teammates at the last 24 Hours of Great Glen. I met Scott Jurek on his record breaking Appalachian Trail trek! I discovered the wonderful place that is The Notch Hostel, where I met so many great people, and did the supermoon lunar eclipse hike on North Sugarloaf. I have a job which isn’t mold damaged, unlike my last job, and I work with great people who not only pull their weight in the workplace (and then some) but they are a wonderful set of people who make it feel like I’m part of a family. Despite driving him crazy with my health problems, research, diet changes, ER visits, making sure he doesn’t overdo it with his ultra running training, and pretending I’m a cat when I’m bored, Dan has miraculously stayed with me, and we’ve helped each other grow. I’ve met a bunch of great people through the hiking community, and the hike up Owl’s Head was one of the best highlights of 2015! I am also definitely doing Flags on the 48 in 2016. I headed the group up Mt. Cabot in 2015.

 

I am starting a new, fun, and challenging endeavor for 2016. I’m doing a drawing a day for an entire year. Follow the posts and progression on my art page. I will post the one for today later tonight!

https://www.facebook.com/AshleyLaderArtDesign

The Notch Hostel and its Many Adventures

A couple of weeks ago I went on a five day vacation. It was at the tail end of my job as a screen printer and graphic designer at Calico Graphics, where I had worked for 5 years. I only had to work two days after my vacation ended. I saved up a few vacation days during the year, and with the spectacular weather and foliage starting to bristle into the leaves, I knew it was finally time to go up north.

Flags on the 48 Cabot

Flags on the 48 on Mt. Cabot

The first time I stayed at The Notch Hostel was after I did Flags on the 48 on Mt. Cabot on September 12th. It’s a day where people organize groups to bring up an American flag to fly on each of the 48 4,000 footers in New Hampshire. I never (completely) hiked Cabot before, and it’s the northernmost 4,000 footer, so I picked this one. Plus, no one chose it until I became group leader. A full group of 10 quickly filled up after I posted about it on Facebook in some hiking groups. I met a bunch of great fellow hikers! I will definitely do this event again.

Since it’s such a long haul up to the Kilkenny Range, and Mt. Waumbek is also on the list, I wanted to stay overnight to bag it on Sunday. At first I planned to find a safe and legal place to park overnight, and camp in my car. However, after most of the Cabot crew had dinner at Mountain Fire Pizza in Gorham, I was given the suggestion to stay at The Notch Hostel in North Woodstock, NH. I liked their Facebook page back when they started it in the Summer, but didn’t put much more thought into it. I called and asked if they had room, and they said yes, I’d be a late arrival.

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On Mt. Starr King, before summiting Mt. Waumbek

I got there a little after 9 PM. I was greeted by Anne, a caretaker helping the co-owners Justin and Serena. She gave me a tour, starting up the stairs into the living room and dining room, where a group of people were jovially talking and finishing dinner. I went past, through the kitchen, then upstairs, where I laid my dirty clothes and clean sleep clothes alike on the cozy bed. I brought sleep gear, but didn’t need it after all! It all stayed in my car untouched. I slept very soundly, and left fairly early in the morning. Justin handled my payment in the morning, we chatted for a bit, but I was on my way to hike Mt. Waumbek with Casey and his wife and two kids, all of whom hiked Cabot with me the night before. Like me, they wanted to get Waumbek as well, since they had to drive all the way from Massachusetts.

I arrived late, and left early, so I didn’t get much of a feel for the place. However, I definitely knew I wanted to come back. It had such a warm and inviting aura that was undeniable.

I returned a couple weeks later. As before I was brought in as if on a warm and inviting wave. I settled into a different bedroom, and I took my time. I explored the yard, checked out the games and books, and talked to everyone willing to talk back, which was everyone!

I befriended a man named Justin, a different one than the co-owner. He was an AT thru-hiker who started on July 31st up Mt. Katahdin, in not-so-great physical shape, and after leaving a mediocre job. He wasn’t in it for beating a certain time, or even reaching Georgia. The trail name most suited for him was “Just-in for Fun” as he sought all the adventures he could. Zip lining, white water rafting, fishing, swimming, volunteering, beer drinking… you name it, he probably sought it and did it. One of his adventures was joining Hostel owner Justin, Anne, and myself on the supermoon lunar eclipse night hike. We decided to hike the Sugarloafs, up by the Zealand Wilderness. The peak faced perfectly towards the moon, and there was no light pollution. We saw the Milky Way in all its glory, and shooting stars. We drank beer and ate dark chocolate, and snuggled in blankets and sleeping bags. It was my first night hike, and something that I will look back on the rest of my life with joy.

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Anne captures the magnificent meal!

Justin also felt compelled on a rainy day to cook. With me as his sidekick, he pulled out a recipe book, found a garbanzo bean soup, and with my car we drove to Price Chopper and got the ingredients. I made garlic bread and a salad, and when the other Justin and Serena caught wind of this, they jumped on board and made pasta and meatballs. There was wine and beer, a multi-course meal, and a lot of boisterous conversation with people from all over the world with different life directions.

I did quite a few hikes during my stay. Before checking into the Hostel for my 3 night stay (which turned into 4 nights) I hiked Owl’s Head, by 34th 4,000 footer, with a group of people I met on Facebook and was finally able to meet in person. What a grand group of hikers! I hiked Table Mountain, which has great views, and I also attempted Big Attitash Mountain, but had to turn back due to running out of water. I lost my map. I jogged the Discovery Trail on the Kancamagus Highway. I’ve been compelled to do it for a long time. I went up the Cannon Tram and hiked to the observation tower. Okay, not much of a hike, but it was the best weather I’ve ever experienced on Cannon. I also did my first rain hike up to Peaked Hill Pond, which is an ATV type trial, so it was perfect for rain due to lack of slick rocks. This is now one of my new favorite places in the Whites. It’s secluded and peaceful. The trail also happens to be very runnable, which is another perk.

After having such a fun time at the Hostel, I knew I wanted to come back, and I shared my enthusiasm with my husband Dan. We recently shared our 3 year wedding anniversary, so with the continuing wonderful weather, and despite the Columbus Day Weekend traffic, we stayed at the Hostel last night. The place was booked, so Dan had to sleep in the tent. It actually worked out just fine, because we met a highly interesting fellow named Jay. He is a healer who uses singing bowls. With a group of people in the big “party tent” with bedding strewn about, we meditated with the bowls, Jay singing and directing. It was a unique experience, one which I didn’t expect! Dan got so relaxed, probably due to biking 100 miles earlier that day on his mountain bike on the Northern Rail Trail, but also because the bowls are mesmerizing and comforting. He was completely zonked out. I also slept very deeply that night, and my ankle, which I badly rolled at the Bretton Woods Fell Race last weekend, loosened and lightened in pain! It’s not totally gone, but it was an improvement. Jay taught us to find balance in our energies, to realign what is out of place so that we can thrive and heal.

The Notch Hostel

We even had hot dogs and s’mores around a fire pit before the bowl party!

I have definitely gotten to meet some interesting characters at The Notch Hostel, and I plan on coming back to meet even more!

The co-owners Justin and Serena Walsh got married in June of 2015, and opened The Notch Hostel the following month. It was a work in progress for a long time, so it’s not like they decided to do it on a whim. Okay, sort of, but that’s another story. I can tell this is their special, love-filled project and they are both very kind and down to earth. They care deeply about their home with which they share, and the nature which surrounds it, hiking and learning as many mountains and trails in the area as they can. They brought in a free flowing spirit named Anne, who jumps from here to there, wherever the world may take her. She is sweet and helpful, coming to the Notch on a whim, seeking a place to stay and work until the world called upon her for another chapter in her life, in which she is going to Wyoming at the end of October. I admire her fluidity in adapting to changes and new places.

This place is a magnet for a genuinely kind type of person. People who seek adventure on cross-country bike rides, day hikers, nature lovers, and AT thru-hikers. People with high paying jobs, hopping between jobs, or working the job of living itself. Healers, spirits, thinkers, and people simply looking for a place to rejuvenate themselves from the daily grind, or to find comfortable refuge on their long journey in life.

Give them a “like” on their Facebook page at this link and be sure to book your reservation through their website and go play in the mountains!

Recap of the last few weeks

Greetings, all! It has been some time since my last post. I’ve been laying off social media more than usual. Although I am finding the perks to not being constantly glued to my computer or phone, it mostly comes back to being busy with work, more run training (woo!), still moving into the apartment, art jobs on the side, and going on adventures…. which I will write about here, in nifty little recaps! Because not all run adventures need a grand moral to the tale… or do they?

Mt. Washington Auto Road Race – June 20th

badassDue to Mountain Goating last year, I got a lottery bypass into the Auto Road Race. What’s great is a sure-fire spot in the race. The downside is you pay so far in advance, that you haven’t a clue how your body will be on race day. I’m getting more in the habit of waiting until day of the race to register, or for the very last minute before the price goes up online. This is due to recurring injuries, which I only started to tackle when the Road Race came by. Good news is my IT band didn’t want to jump out of my body until mile 6 of 7.6, and my ankle only got swollen well after the race ended. I call that a victory.

The downside of the race was the unexpected. I forgot my socks. Of all things to forget, it was the damn socks. I remembered my snazzy compression sleeves, so all was mostly well. I always use Injinjis, and I convinced my husband to fork over his extra pair. Come to find these little suckers were worn out and rough. I developed raging blisters on the back of my heels a mile into the race. I was even feeling really good with my pace, up until I had to take off my shoes due to it being unbearable at mile 2.5. Shoes went off, bandaid went on, shoes went on, then off, then new bandaid… lather, rinse, repeat.

The mantra of the day was “calm within the storm.” It wasn’t so much of a storm in my muscles (although that was still very apparent) it was the storm on these penny-sized blobs of fire and brimstone on my heels. Yes, I finished the race 15 minutes slower than last year. However, it was one of those rare, gloriously warm and sunny days on Mt. Washington. Despite the anguish in my shoes, my heart sang with the wondrous day, the friends who were glad to see me, and a delicious turkey dinner. Oh, also the cheering of teammates! Wait, where’s Captain Chris? Why isn’t he yelling (cheering) at me?

Moral of the story: Make sure you race past your biggest cheerleader when he’s not on bathroom break. Bring walkie-talkies if need be, because this is unacceptable!

Exeter Trail Race – June 27th

I wasn’t racing this day, nor was Dan. However, we still wanted to be involved in the racing community this weekend, since it was pretty lackluster otherwise, so we both decided to volunteer. Dan swept the course, I helped with registration. After starting my immune system booster natural supplements (I have a compromised immune system) I started my kill phase supplements a few days prior. Kill phase sounds awful, and it is! For the fungus in my gut and sinuses. Screw you, fungus. Although, on this day it was fairly awful for me as well. I expected it to happen, this thing called “brain fog.” Basically, a bunch of fungal and bacterial toxins are floating about in my system, causing me to get drowsy, lightheaded, confused, and perhaps a bit tipsy. Basically I feel like I’m buzzed on whiskey. There are some similarities and some differences between the buzzes. Both damage your liver, but one is more fun to taste, and the other is allowed in public because the container doesn’t need to be covered in brown paper. I’d rather have whiskey.

The height of this happened while I was attempting to multitask during bib pick up. It’s a miracle everyone got their correct bibs. Perhaps I was moving in super slow motion and I wasn’t aware of it whatsoever. Like a good buzz, in hindsight, I was both hilarious AND perfectly functioning. On the super positive side, it was a lovely day, I saw many friendly faces, and even saw Jamie Staton from WMUR News 9 finish the long course. All of us at the timing tent were all “Is that… Jamie Staton?”

Moral of the story: Jamie Staton is not a mythical creature who only lives in Narnia.

Meeting Scott Jurek – July 3rd

1512335_10153233480904230_415079332958227774_nI have mentioned the book “Eat and Run” on my blog before, by ultrarunner Scott Jurek. He is currently attempting to break the speed record on the Appalachian Trail. He’s going south to north, while most who go for speed go north to south to get the hardest of the peaks done early on. On July 3rd, my day off from work, Scott was on day 39. The day and night prior I was strategizing the best way to cross paths with my running hero. His last stint was for 48 miles and 22 hours, all the way from before Mt. Moosilauke to Galehead Hut, a seriously impressive bout. However, this was the beginning of the worst parts of the trip for him.

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Kim and Jonathan as we trail Scott and crew

Our plan was to go to the Ethan Pond Trail trailhead in Crawford Notch. Lo and behold, Paul Kirsch was there, and I wasn’t surprised. Dan and I met up with our friends Kim, who drove all the way up from North Carolina the night before, and Jonathan, who drove up with her from Massachusetts. Kim and I went out leisurely, while Dan and Jonathan ran out to meet Scott and crew earlier on. 5 miles in Kim and I found Dan and Jonathan in a group, and wondered what was going on. We actually just passed Scott, and didn’t even know it! He needed a buffer zone, since he was feeling quite unwell. We stayed back in a group led by climbing legend Tim O’Neill, who was funny and delightfully chatty. He was asking people on the trail for jokes. Thank goodness he didn’t ask me, because I didn’t think of one worthy of sharing until a few days later. Tim quoted Scott as saying at Galehead Hut “I have done 1,800 miles, and nothing compares to what I just did.” Yeah, the White Mountains are tough, hence why most who go for speed start in the north.

We eventually met up with Scott, quickly introduced ourselves all at once, and ran the last 2 miles to his support van with him and his crew. It was such a beautiful day, and it was a once in a lifetime type of experience. Scott was very kind. He was told to sleep, but he said “These people have been waiting for me all day, I’ll do photos first.” He even apologized for making us wait, and not being very sociable! The running / ultrarunning / trail / hiking / mountain community is just so kind and open hearted that it makes me very happy to be part of it all. I was very shy and didn’t say much to him, except that I said what he was doing is amazing. I feel very honored to have been part of his epic journey, even in a small way.

Moral of the story: Scott Jurek is frickin’ awesome.

Loon Mountain Race – July 5th

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Photo by Gianina Lindsey SNAPacidotic

I recently completed the Loon Mountain Race, the second time I have done this one. It is part of the mountain circuit in order to “Goat.” Despite being forced to do it for Goat status, I still wouldn’t miss this even if it was optional. The views are spectacular, the terrain is varied and fun, and of course it’s all about seeing all my aR friends again! They added on the nordic track for the women this year, so there isn’t a time for me to compare. I did do Upper Walking Boss a couple of minutes slower than last year, but this time there were no switchbacks, so it was shorter but steeper, and I had to cover 2 more miles by this point than last year. I was basically crawling up that kilometer of anguish and despair. I’ll do it again of course.

Things seemed to go just right. Sugary foods to fuel my body before and during the race are being handled by my gut much better than they used to (kill phase is working!), my IT band and ankle gave little grief even on the steep downhills, and with strength through physical therapy it seems like my body is starting to work the way it’s supposed to. What a wonderful feeling to have my body not betray me! I loved how so many people said they were glad to see me in the mountains again. I feel so appreciated, that my presence has been missed. I love to be friendly and chat away with friends old and new. I even hung out down in the river and met some interesting new characters.

Progress is being made for my digestive and injury health. I know it will take time, and I am very happy with any progress that has been made. I have no set place to be in regards to speed or training. I simply want to be on the mountains and trails enjoying myself amongst good company.

Moral of the story: It’s not all about being the fastest, having only perfect days, or meeting high expectations. It’s about being active, experiencing fun things, and being happy for where you are.