10k of awesome

Yesterday, mum and I ran the 43rd Boston 10k for women – currently sponsored by Reebok but originally the Bonne Bell race circa 1977.

When it started all those years ago, it was one of the only all-women races in the country, and today it still holds the title of the longest running one on the east coast. Last year we saw a woman with a “42 years” sticker and were impressed – then we discovered that she started the race and was its first organizer! Yesterday we found and thanked her again – you rock, Dusty Rhodes!

This was my 4th year running it and mom’s 8th – we missed 7 years because my work retreat at my last job was always on this weekend, but now we are BACK and were ready to rock. We trained this summer and especially this fall, as our hiking season waned – exploring new parts of the rail trail, doing interval workouts, and running more days a week than I have in a long time. I also learned how much I need a warmup to really do my best – 10 mins is enough and makes such a difference in terms of how easy that first mile is!

Race day was beautiful – the sky was clear blue during our warm-up yoga, the temps were rising, and the puddles from last week had all evaporated.

We were so happy to be out on the course – we weren’t even worried about mom’s cell phone which was lost, because we had convinced ourselves it was just forgotten in the car (mega thanks to Kat for coordinating its safe return and being so helpful when we did realize it was missing hours later!). We ran with a similar pack for most of the race, and had hundreds of people behind us (reducing the risk that a cop would dare ask us to move to the sidewalk like last year, though we had our enthusiastic “no thank you”s planned again). The water stops were plentiful (1 per mile!) and operated by very enthusiastic college and high school students. On the bridge, we passed the winners and wheelchair racer coming back the other way – such amazing athletes! Molly Huddle, who won, is 35 to second place’s 22. So impressive!

Also impressive: our pace! Our goal was to beat last year’s time and we were pacing way ahead of that (no splits – see phone issue…). We knew if we kept it up we would crush our goal and that powered us through the last .2 miles.

In the end, we cut 4 minutes off our 2018 time – down to 1:28:41! Such a great ending to such a solid training season and fall in general.

Bonus points for good food from the tents, finding mom’s phone, and my first-year roommate Jill finding ME while stretching. 15 years after we first moved into North Rocky together and we’re still friends!

Mom and I were so happy to be in the sunshine together and fit enough for this and whatever other challenge may come our way.

In summary – get back on that course, set a goal for yourself, and run until your heart sings!

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Packing for a 4,000 footer

When life gives you sunshine… go climb a mountain!

My mom and I have made this a new annual tradition, to hike a new path and stay in a new hut each summer. It started with Mizpah and Mount Pierce a few years ago (somewhat on a whim), and then continued in earnest last summer with Lakes of the Clouds on our way to the summit of Mount Washington. This year, we wanted to hit yet another new peak, so we headed over to Greenleaf Hut, on Mount Lafayette.

Our hike was in the first week of the 2019 season, June 3-5. And our destination was Lafayette via Greenleaf (an Appalachian Mountain Club hut) with the idea that we would hike up, get to the hut early and chill for dinner and sleep there, then go to the summit and back the next day, sleep at the hut again, and head down.

This was plan A.

What actually happened was plan… D? E? Something later than C, because everything conspired against us to change the safe, fun, and comfortable options we could choose between.

We had packed well for hiking in the White Mountains in the summer. But we forgot that June isn’t actually summer up there. Before we got to the hut, it was snowing. By the time we sat down for snacks (delicious pumpkin curry soup and apple bread), the summit was obscured in clouds and a snow squall. People were coming in with a chilly blast and their buffs pulled over their faces to keep save even a fraction of warmth. When we went to bed that night, it was 38 degrees Fahrenheit inside, and we wore every single layer we had brought with us, plus our requisite 3 wool blankets, plus sleeping bags that the hut staff loaned us, which truly made it possible to rest. (Our back up plan here was to steal a million more blankets from other bunks because there were only 7 guests and 5 staffers in a cabin that can sleep 48 in the high season!).

Backpacks and bunk beds

All our gear in the room we delightfully had to ourselves at Greenleaf

So instead of hiking up and down the same day, or hiking over and down, or hiking over and over another mountain, we worked with the awesome hut croo to rebook ourselves into Lonesome Lake for night #2, and we trekked down and then up to the Appalachian Trail on a totally different path.

The result was actually delightful – we loved seeing a new place, we got to finish a full 15 feet of the AT, and we met many people who had really interesting stories from their longer (or in some cases, shorter) hikes there.

I highly recommend checking out some of the AMC huts in New Hampshire. And when you do go, you can see what we packed and consider what you might need for your own trek!

We’ll start with the least important but most unique to the Jane-and-Sally-go-hiking experience:

“HUT LIFE”
We kept this in a separate packing cube / plastic bag since we only needed it at night, and it was SO nice to pull out a little, clean gift to yourself when you arrived at your bunk, and not have this get caught up in all your other gear.

  • Flip flops – for when you’ve arrived and get to finally let your feet breathe
  • Washcloth or some other sort of towel (most huts have running water in the sink, though no showers)
  • Lounge clothes – often the clothes you’re going to wear the next day, though sometimes it’s nice to have one soft shirt / bra / pair of shorts just for a change
  • Power bank – in case there’s no option to use a common plug and you need to recharge your devices for photos the next day
  • Earplugs – in these big shared rooms, there is ALWAYS someone snoring. Sometimes it’s even your mom.
  • Headphones – for the same purpose, blocking out some noise in common rooms when you’re trying to force yourself to sleep at 9 PM.
  • Entertainment – a book (or if you’re basic like us, a Kindle), playing cards, drawing supplies, etc. One person told us his indulgent item was a collapsible fishing pole!
  • Sleeping bag liner with built-in pillowcase – we have this one and LOVE it. Having a liner means you can stack wool blankets on top of you without having them on your skin, and it was perfect when we borrowed a sleeping bag in sudden winter weather. They have an orange one available now, which I would have gotten if it was an option – whenever possible, having something bright with you on a mountain is a good idea for being visible to rescuers in a pinch.
  • Mini-wallet with your ID, some cash, and credit card – technically you need this for any hike, but I keep mine in this part of my bag since I mostly use it to buy souvenirs at the huts!
  • Travel clothesline – so anything that is wet or even damp can dry overnight
  • Snacks, including your favorite teabags
  • Evening bathroom essentials – medicine, toothbrush, etc.

OVERALL HIKING AND SAFETY GEAR
For this one, we go to the AMC – their list of the 10 essentials is… essential. Summarized here, but don’t skimp on this category – make sure you’re preparing for every outcome.

  1. Map and compass/GPS
  2. Extra water and a way to purify it – this may seem extreme but just get some purification tablets, keep them in your bag, and if you toss them every few years because you never had an emergency, you’re doing pretty well!
  3. Extra food
  4. Lighter / matches / fire starter
  5. Flashlight / headlamp – your phone does NOT count, this needs to be able to last for hours and have extra batteries.
  6. First aid kit
  7. Knife or multi-purpose tool
  8. Waterproof / wind gear and extra clothing
  9. Sun screen, sunglasses, lip balm, maybe even ski goggles
  10. Tarp, bivy sack, or emergency blanket – again, don’t cut corners here, just buy an emergency kit, tuck it in your bag, and hope you never have to use it.

In addition, I pack the following:

  • Hiking backpack – with a raincover (that should really never come off / out of your bag – make it live there!)
  • Hiking poles – bring 2 even if you think you only need 1, it’s helpful on some downhills or if one breaks
  • Extra tips for hiking poles
  • Water bladder AND water bottle
  • Gatorade or other sports drink to get varying liquids
  • Sport beans – I love these for when I need just a pop of sugar but don’t want to drink more
  • Lots of food of varying types – jerky, granola bars, sandwiches, apples, etc.
  • Bathroom kit (see REI’s tips for how to use the bathroom in the woods – including hand sanitizer and a small shovel)
  • First aid kit – and make sure it contains things that are in good shape (bandages that still stick, Advil that’s not expired)
  • Hike Safe Card or similar – this is basically disaster / rescue insurance!
  • Bug net and insect repellent – to cover your face when the black flies start swarming
  • Trip itinerary – and make sure to leave one with a friend and ideally also put one copy in your car (at the trailhead) where it’s out of site. Mom has been making us mini-maps that show specifically where we’re hiking and they’re a great addition so we don’t need to unfold something each time (though we also had the full versions). Plus, it’s nice to have a copy of the narrative description of the trails!
  • Whistle
  • Gaiters, YakTrax, etc depending on your terrain
  • Fitbit or other tracker or watch
  • Foam pad, for safety and comfort – Mom used hers as protection against losing all her body heat on the cold benches at dinner
  • Tick removal tool
  • Poncho

CLOTHING
Rule #1-100 – NO COTTON

  • Buff – I can’t live without this and take my Survivor one on every trip, even a simple sleepover at my cousin’s house
  • Gloves or mittens
  • Hiking boots
  • Hat with a visor, to protect your face from the sun
  • Wool socks or similar
  • Wicking underwear
  • Wicking t-shirt
  • Wicking long underwear (something you can layer under other pants)
  • Synthetic long pants – I like the kind that zip off into shorts. They may not be styling but they are great for the shifting weather of the mountains
  • Rain jacket / rain pants – even if you already have a poncho!
  • Puffy vest that packs down into something small – we ended up wearing these to sleep! Super important to not lose heat even when you’re done hiking

CAR PACK
To have handy for when you’re done your hike!

  • Bathing suit
  • Towel
  • Quarters for any shower you may be near (this is 100000% our favorite part of hiking – sorry to every other part!)
  • Other shower essentials – body wash, shampoo, etc.

What else do you pack on a hike, or wish you had? I’ll keep this list updated as we inevitably learn more lessons!

Being a good neighbor

This week, I went to my first-ever community meeting. You would have thought that as a Leslie Knope fan, this would be a weekly occurrence for me / I would be running these by now, but in fact my progressive city usually operates in such a solid way that I’ve been able to focus my energy on local nonprofit work.

The big, dramatic thing that finally made me change my mind?

Traffic safety

In the year since I moved closer to Tufts, I have been a part of or close to such traffic danger that I never knew was happening down the road. I’ve called 911 for witnessing car accidents in the rotary twice. I’ve had countless cars almost hit me on a crosswalk (usually because drivers were texting). After being on crutches, I realized the terrible weight we put on pedestrians at the benefit of cars (with blocked crosswalks and bus lanes and so much more, which is more than an annoyance when you’re struggling just to stand).

And I now run with a reflective vest in honor and awareness of Allison Donovan, a woman who was mowed down in a crosswalk by a drunk driver right outside the elementary school where this meeting was being held.

For all these reasons – and the tragedies we can prevent – I sat on a hard metal folding chair, wearing said reflective vest, on this Wednesday night. And you better believe that before the night was done, I also put in my name to join the city’s (soon-to-be) pedestrian safety committee.

Being there really showed me why this matters – even if I don’t have kids in the schools or a permanent residence here. Our city belongs to all of us, but we have to show up to really make sure our voices are being heard.

Go to your own local government’s meetings and tell me how it goes! Then maybe let’s run for something together?

A trail deferred

When I was a kid in 1998, bald and in the middle of cancer treatments, all I wanted was to be NORMAL. Not the sixth grader with bruises and scars, not the one who was allowed to miss all the classes, not the one who people had to treat gently. I wanted to have the same 12-year-old adventures as everyone else, and that included walking the Freedom Trail on our class field trip.

I was so excited for that spring day – on top of the adventure of BOSTON my dad was chaperoning, something that never happened (my parents always coached our teams and shuttled us Girl Scouts around, but we had our own family trips instead of them chaperoning).

But as we were getting ready to board the buses, I got called down to the front office – and it was my mom on the phone, saying that my counts had come back and we needed to go to the hospital for a blood transfusion. We were all crushed – she had argued with my doctor but there was no wiggle room (unless we were already on the bus, which my classmates were now boarding).

For the past 21 years, I’ve thought often of that trail. In fact, most of my Boston jobs have been ON it. But I’ve never done the whole thing… until now!

Yesterday dad and I finally did the whole trail. 6+ miles of walking over 6 hours, starting at the Common and ending at the top of Bunker Hill.

Along the way, we saw the Sacred Cod, compared cemeteries (and found Copp’s Hill to be the most favorable burying place), and made extensive lists of historical facts to research when back home.

We saved most of the indoor attractions for a less sunny day so we would have time for the final leg, but did make time for Old Ironsides!

We met fellow explorers along the way – a young boy and his mom who wanted to find the trail in order to play Pokémon Go, a family from Scotland, many people in historical garb who looked even hotter than we felt.

Honestly, I’ve been to some of the great cities of the world, and I’ve lived in Boston for a decade. And yet I was shocked at how powerful I found the trail – not just because we were slightly delirious in the blazing sun, not just because I had been dreaming of this for 21 years, but because of the story the trail tells about a scrappy group of people believing in fighting for something bigger than themselves.

This kind of quest – with decision points along the way and a trusty fellow traveler at your side – is my favorite way to spend a day and remember what matters in this world. I am so grateful that I am still alive today to live and learn something new… and get the pressed penny to prove it.

Choose your challenge

If you’ve ever met me, you know I love a challenge. This whole blog was built on the idea of challenging myself to try new things before I turned 30.

So it should be no surprise that I try to find a new challenge for basically every month. Whether it’s my no sugar challenge or the 30 day shred I just completed as my broken foot healed (more on that later…) or a promise to send more snail mail, I like to have something new to aim for.

January’s challenge is something I’m sharing with a hundred thousand plus other folks in the form of a 30 day yoga quest à la Yoga With Adriene.

My goal is to keep myself moving in these darker winter months, gain some flexibility, and see what it would be like to really have a yoga practice vs my usual drop-in mode. I’m going to try to complete all 30 sessions, though I might push back the days slightly like if it’s really nice running weather and I don’t have time to do both. I’ll just pick it up tomorrow (a skill I learned and loved from the Shred – finishing is much more important than streaking for me!).

Today was day 3 and I’m starting to see how this might feel – and loving it. It helps that my mom and sis and even a few coworkers are doing it too, and we chat about our favorite parts (and where we think her dog goes when he leaves the screen).

Are you one of the many in this challenge too? Have you set up your own goals for January and 2019? Share and let’s support each other in this bright new year!

Alis grave nil

I just got back from DC (on a 6 am flight because Meg and I are ridiculous) – highlights of my trip including snuggling a friend’s new baby (Ollie!), seeing the Burning Man exhibit at the Renwick (fascinating even if I’m not totally shipping it), and eating breakfast – ok, and then also wine – with Meg at the all-women DC social club, The Wing.

This place is a pastel Instagram dream. I’ve never been into one of the “good old boys” social club but I’ve read about them in many Victorian novels – if they channel a theme as well as this place does, I can completely understand why the chaps would never leave.

From velvety easy chairs to a wicker and pink cafe to phone booths named after feminist badasses, The Wing is a remote workspace, common room, spa, and lecture hall.

It’s a millennial’s paradise – from the avocado toast to the rosé happy hour to the signs everywhere reminding you to register to vote. Plus the “powder room” features luxury hair and body products (for free) and has robes and slippers in addition to usual shower offerings.

My personal favorite: THE LIBRARY. Thousands of books (color coordinated, one of my favorite nonsensical design choices) all by and about women, that you can browse in person or check out for a month at a time. Be still my nerdy heart!

In theory there are plans for a Wing in Boston in the not too distant future. Given how awesomely powerful this space was, I’ll definitely be checking it out when the time comes. And for now I’ll just pop in when I visit Meg and make her borrow #allthebooks on her account.

(There’s a lot more to this idea beyond how beautiful this place is – check it out on The Wing’s website. Their slogan – and this blog title – roughly translates into “Nothing is heavy for those who have wings.”)