Roan Mountain Adventure 09/30/16

Roan Mountain Adventure 09/30/16

On Friday, September 30th, Hope and I drove up to Roan Mountain, TN, to run/hike the Roan Highlands section of the Appalachian Trail. I had been on that section once before, and it is probably the most breathtaking stretch of trail I’ve been on. I hadn’t been up there in 2 years, and I was itching to get on the trail there before it got too chilly up on the mountain. This stretch of trail is a series of “balds,” meaning mountain peaks without trees. This makes it possible to see 360-degree views in some areas, but it can also be very windy up on top since there are no trees to shelter you from the wind. So this is a great stretch of trail to run/hike in the warmer months.

The last time I ran this stretch of trail it was June, and the rhododendrons and flame azaleas were in full bloom. I can’t tell you how breathtaking that was, but June is also a time when the trail is the most crowded. The last time I was up there Craig and I camped at Roan Mountain State Park for the weekend and had a wonderful relaxing stay there. I kind of didn’t feel like camping this time, and I knew about Mountain Harbour Bed and Breakfast from my prior visit and also from my friend, Tim Moe’s, blog. Tim has been section hiking the AT for several years and writes an excellent blog about his experiences on the trail. (See Tim’s blog here: http://tbmmoe.blogspot.com/). Mountain Harbour has a hiker hostel in addition to their B&B rooms. I had never stayed in a hiker hostel, but I was willing to try it out and see how it went.

When I started planning this little trip, I knew I had a select few friends who would be willing and able to enjoy an overnight trip like this. My friend, Hope, and I have enjoyed many trail adventures together, but we haven’t been able to do so in recent years. I was busy with all my medical issues, and Hope has been joyfully raising 2 precious little boys. I was missing our time together, and so she was the first person I reached out to. I had a few backups I planned to call if she couldn’t make it, but thankfully she said YES immediately when I asked her! I think she was craving being out on the trail in the mountains, and we were only gone for 1 night, so she didn’t have to be gone from her sweet family for too long.

We drove up on Friday afternoon after Hope got out of school, stopped in Morganton, and picked up a bag dinner we could eat at the hostel later. We then drove up the mountain on Hwy 181 and stopped at the Brown Mountain Overlook for just a few minutes to take pictures.

We arrived at Mountain Harbour B&B before 7 P.M. and checked in with Shannon and Dave, the owners/innkeepers. I had scheduled a shuttle for us on Saturday morning to Carvers Gap, where we were going to begin our run/hike. Total cost for each of us for hostel bed and shuttle was $35 each. Bargain!

After checking in, we went back to the hostel, found our room, and parked our stuff there. The hostel was full for the night, and we met the other hikers who were staying there. Gas Can from Pennsylvania was in the middle of a 2-week section hike. There were also 4 ladies from Columbia, SC, who were staying the night before heading out on a 2-day hike from Hughes Gap back to 19E. We went out on the nice porch of the hostel to eat our bag dinner and enjoy a few beers. We were joined by the 2 hostel kitties, whose job was to keep the mice out the of the hostel, I presume. They did a pretty good job as I saw nary a mouse while I was there!

When it got too cool to stay on the porch, we came inside and sat on the sofa with Gas Can for a while. The hostel had a TV with only videos (no cable), and he was watching Meet the Parents. We talked for a while with him, and he was a really nice guy!

We went to bed and slept great in our cozy little room. It got a little chilly during the night, 46 degrees in the morning. We had declined the breakfast Shannon and Dave offered and opted to eat bagels and bananas we had brought with us in the hostel as we felt like something lighter before the day of running/hiking. (Later we heard how good the breakfast was, so on our next visit we are going to make time to enjoy the breakfast at Mountain Harbour!) At 9 a.m. we met Shannon for our shuttle to Carvers Gap, and we were joined by 2 other women from the Concord, NC, area who had driven up that morning and were going to do the same hike we were doing in 2 days instead of 1.

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Our room in the Hiker Hostel.

Shannon dropped us off at Carvers Gap, and we knew already it was going to be a beautiful day. We posed for pictures out by the big Carvers Gap sign, taking pics of each other. As we were doing so, this very nice young couple came off the trail and walked right over to us, offering to take our pic together. We talked with them for a few minutes, and they had been backpacking for a few nights on the trail together and were just coming off the trail to go home. It was obvious they were experienced backpackers, and they were so friendly to talk to. This set the tone for the rest of our day, as we spent a lot of time talking to people on the trail all day long.

When you start a run/hike at Carvers Gap, the payoff is pretty immediate there. Before you get to the 1-mile mark you reach Round Bald, and the views are already phenomenal. Keep going to Jane Bald, and the views are at least 180-degree if not more. We were blessed with a beautiful clear sunny day, and we could see for miles and miles. Around Jane Bald, we ran into a group of guys who had camped the night before in a beautiful spot. They were cooking on a campfire. I can’t remember who called out to who first, but I remember asking if they had coffee, and one of the guys said, “Sure! Come on and have some!” We went over and talked to all 4 of them and enjoyed visiting for a while. One of the guys offered me his coffee, and, yes, I drank right out of his camp cup! They introduced themselves: Jesus, Doc Holliday, Zeke, and Gadget. They were so friendly and invited us to join them at the Overmountain Shelter that night as there was a party going on there! We had to decline the party invitation, but they told us about how beautiful the area around the shelter was, so we decided then that we would take the spur trail in order to see the shelter on our way through.

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We ran on and then stopped to talk to Mike and Ashley, who were out doing an out-and-back run/hike together. They were from Greenville, SC, and were missing their little baby daughter but thankful to have some time together also. We took the spur trail over to Grassy Ridge and enjoyed the view there. Hope scouted out some potential camping sites for her and Jose in the future!

We headed back to the AT and then began a section of trail that came off the balds and went back into the woods. I had already noticed a lot of flowers and berries growing along the trail and had taken pics along the way, but when we went into the woods we saw so many things blooming. It’s always amazing to see the different wildflowers that bloom practically all year long. I’m glad that I can now slow down and enjoy them!

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We reached the trail intersection with the Overmountain Victory Trail and the spur trail to Overmountain Shelter. Since the guys had told us earlier about how nice the Overmountain Shelter was, we took the spur trail down there to check it out. It is nice, as far as shelters go, and there was a very nice grassy meadow next to it where hikers could set up their tents. There was a beautiful view off the front of the shelter. I can see why there is a hiker party there every Saturday night!

We headed back up to the trail and then headed on to Little Hump Mountain. Here we stopped and sat on a rock while we had a snack and enjoyed the view. We then had an even greater climb up to Hump Mountain, and, boy, my legs were on fire by this time! Hope was a trooper and stuck by me the whole way. By this time I wasn’t doing much running, mostly hiking with a little jog mixed in from time to time.

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Hiking up Hump Mountain.

There is a nice memorial to Stan Murray at the top of Hump Mountain, and we tried to soak in the views all the way down the backside until we hit the forest. We then had about a 5-mile run/hike through woods to get back to 19E, which would take us back to the hostel. This was a very pleasant trail through the woods, and it was downhill the whole way, which proved to be a challenge for me with my sore legs and knees. We stopped at Doll Flats, sat on a log for a few minutes, and had a snack. I then “sucked it up, buttercup” and got my butt back to 19E! Hope was sweet and stuck with me the whole way. We ended up with 17 miles total, 14 miles on the AT plus an additional 3 miles on the spur trails and the hike up 19E back to the hostel.

Once we were back at my car at the hostel, we changed into some dry clothes, had something to eat and drink, got back in the car, and drove back down the mountain to Morganton! We stopped in Morganton at Jake’s Burgers and got a burger and fries, boy were they good. We took a little stroll through downtown Morganton looking for a bakery to get something sweet, no luck. By the way, I always think downtown Morganton is so cute, I would like to check out more of the restaurants and breweries there!

We were back home about 8 P.M. It’s amazing the wonderful things I can do in just an overnight trip from my house!

Hope and I are already planning a return trip, and we are thinking we want to invite some girlfriends and rent out the whole hostel for a weekend. We could do the same hike/run we did on Saturday, enjoy the breakfast at Mountain Harbour on Sunday morning, and then plan a shorter hike for Sunday on the way back home. I can’t wait!

I am very blessed in my life with wonderful friends, and Hope is one of those wonderful people. We haven’t been able to spend much time together recently since we’ve both had different things going on in our lives, but I was glad to reconnect with her. She is a kindred spirit, and I love the way she thinks. She very much marches to her own drum, and I like to think that I do the same, so it’s great to spend time and talk with her about staying true to ourselves, doing what we think is right for us and our families regardless of what people around us are doing, and disregarding the crap the world tries to tell us to do or be.

Looking forward to the next adventure!

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Big milestone weekend…..

Two years ago on July 12, 2014, I ran Grandfather Mountain Marathon for the 4th time. I had a wonderful weekend with my running friends at the race and the post-race festivities. I stayed with my friend Paige at her wonderful mountain house for the weekend, and Don and I hiked Snake Mountain the day after the marathon.

I had spent the previous 6 months running a bunch of marathons and 50Ks, 7 in all since the first of the year. I was having a lot of fun and felt really strong and healthy.

The week after GMM I had a mammogram scheduled. A few days later I had a biopsy, and 2 days after that they called me to tell me I had breast cancer.

My life then came to a complete stop for about 16 months while I went through surgeries, chemotherapy, and more drug therapy. I had surgery and recovered. Had 2 more surgeries and recovered. Went through 4 months of chemo, all my hair fell out, and got progressively weaker and weaker and recovered again. Had another surgery and recovered again. Then I had to complete 6 more months of IV drug therapy.

This past weekend I went back to Grandfather to run the marathon once again. Since it was the last marathon I ran before my cancer diagnosis, I thought it was fitting that I should make it the first one I ran now that the cancer craziness has settled down and I’ve been able to run enough miles to make training for a marathon possible again.

I’ve been running a good many total miles in recent months but not very many long runs. My body does not seem to do those as easily as it used to, and quite frankly they’re just not as much fun as they used to be. I did manage to get in a couple of 18- to 20-mile runs, and each one had a lot of climbing, so I figured I was minimally prepared for the marathon. At least to finish in survival mode.

It was tough, and I was pretty wrung out the last 6 miles or so, but I finished my 5th Grandfather Mountain Marathon in 4:44 and some change. It was by far my slowest GMM ever, but I was glad to conquer the mountain and finish once again. This finish makes 37 total marathons/ultras that I have completed.

That makes 5 GMMs for me. I thought maybe I might hang up the hat after this one since the training was no fun. But I had so much fun at the race I feel sure I will return next year, God willing, for the 50th running of the Grandfather Mountain Marathon. I’m sure there will be some special activities of some sort to commemorate the 50 years, and I wouldn’t miss that for anything. It’s my favorite marathon of all the ones I’ve run, and I’ve run it more times than any other marathon. I love the challenge of the mountains, the beauty of the course, the laid-back atmosphere, the small field, the ease of parking and logistics before the race at the ASU track, all my friends who run the race year after year, and just all the other people that this race attracts. It tends to draw a different kind of runner, as you can imagine, and I dig the crowd.

I don’t think I will ever get back to running as many marathons/ultras as I was before my cancer adventure, but I think I enjoy the challenge enough that I will probably run 1 or 2 a year anyway. At least as long as I am physically able and I enjoy it. If it stops being fun, then I’ll move on to something new! There are always new things to do.

For now I thank God for a body that is healthy enough to run and enjoy being active. A healthy body is a huge blessing never to be taken for granted.

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Richmond Recap: America’s Friendliest Marathon? Yup…

This past weekend I traveled to Richmond with Deb to run the half marathon at the Richmond Marathon. This was my third time running at Richmond after running the full marathon there twice before in 2007 and 2010. I had great experiences there before and was looking forward to running it again. In recent years I have focused more on trail running and have done very little road running, so it was fun to get back to the road again.

Deb and I were originally supposed to go with a group of other friends, and, as so often happens, everyone else backed out of our group except for us. I knew I could count on Deb to go with me no matter what, so it ended up just being the two of us. Since we were supposed to go with this other group of people, I didn’t get bossy like I normally do and take charge of the hotel accommodations. There was some talk among the group about renting a house, so I was waiting to see what would happen with that. As it turned out, by the time everybody backed out it was too late to get any good hotel rooms in the downtown area near the start/finish. So we ended up with hotel reservations about 10 minutes out of town.

But Deb, being the resourceful person she is, happened to call Marriott to cancel another reservation the week of the race and asked if there had been any cancellations; low and behold, she was able to snag us a cancellation at the downtown Marriott. This turned out to be the icing on the cake of a wonderful weekend.

After three runs at Richmond, I must say it’s one of the best organized running events I have ever done. Everything always seems to go off without a hitch at this race, and things just glide along, even with 20,000 participants.

First and foremost, I love the marathon course. It is a very scenic course, starting in downtown Richmond, taking you down historic Monument Avenue, along a beautiful stretch on the James River, over the Robert E. Lee Bridge, and then another loop through some beautiful neighborhoods north of town before finishing at Brown’s Island Park on the James River. The new finish festival area at Brown’s Island is new since I ran the race last, and it adds tremendously to the race as it is a beautiful area for a big event.

I’m not in marathon shape since I’ve been kind of busy this past 18 months with some other “issues,” as you guys know, so I ran the half marathon. When I looked at the map of the half course I was immediately disappointed because so many of the wonderful parts of the marathon course are not included in the half. Alas, this seems to be true of so many races, but I understand that you just can’t logistically include everything in half the distance. This makes me feel a little bit like I “missed out,” and I really did, but I was glad to have the option to run the half and to be healthy enough to run it and run it well.

Deb and I walked right out the front door of our hotel and only had a couple blocks to the start line. And even though there were 20,000 participants in the 3 races, the timing and set up were such that the sidewalks were never too crowded to get where you wanted to go with ease. I have run so many road marathons where they have those gates up all along the street with very few entrance points into the corals. This makes the sidewalks so crowded you can’t maneuver around people to get where you need to go, and then you have to find a way into your coral. Richmond doesn’t have any of these problems. For one thing, they have very few of those gates in the start area. The corals are all wide open. They are clearly marked but no gates, and they don’t police the corals before the race. But the problem of slower people trying to start in a faster wave is not a problem, and they handle this effortlessly by monitoring each wave as it steps up to the start line. As people stepped up they looked at your bib to see what wave you were. If you were not starting with the correct wave, they very quietly with no drama turned people back. I started seeing people passing me as we were moving forward and I wondered why they were doing that. Then I figured out they were being turned away by the “security” guys. There was no drama, no raised voices. It was the best way I’ve ever seen a race actually enforce the wave start.

I don’t run races for the shirt or for medals, but both are nice for this race, which is just icing on the cake. And the finisher’s swag being passed out in the finish chute included fleece blankets with race logo instead of the space sheets, and we also got technical hats with the race logo on them. There was plenty of aid on the course with water stops and gels and even a “junk food” stop. They encourage spectator support through “fan zones” dispersed throughout the city, and these are well attended by the locals.

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I like to do races that are put on by local organizations as opposed to a big national company, and the Richmond Marathon is a product of SportsBackers, a local Richmond non-profit sports organization that coordinates several running events and other sports opportunities in the area. The main charity of the marathon is their Kids Run RVA program, which is a school-based running and fitness program for kids in the entire Richmond area with a focus on Title I and low-income area schools.

The only negative about this race for me is that instead of having the expo downtown near the host hotel and the start/finish, the expo is located in an arena about 20 minutes from downtown. They run shuttles every 20 minutes from the host hotel to take you to the expo, or you can drive out there if you want as there is plenty of parking. Even this works perfectly smoothly as Deb and I were easily able to catch the shuttle to get out to the expo and back.

We have a tradition of doing a “hike” on Sunday morning after a big race, and I always find the hike really helps my tired legs recover. I knew I wanted to see more of the city of Richmond than I had seen in previous visits, and Richmond has a lot of history, so Deb and I took a little History Hike on Sunday morning to stretch our tired legs. I found an app for my phone called GPSMyCity and downloaded several walking tours of Richmond. We selected a Civil War History tour and strolled the Virginia State House grounds, saw the White House of the Confederacy, and walked down to the area known as Shockoe Slip.

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This race has earned it’s tagline of “America’s Friendliest Race.” The local support of the race is evidenced by the 8-page separate section in the Sunday edition of the Richmond Times-Dispatch dedicated to the race with 5 articles, complete marathon results, half marathon and 8K results up to 20 deep in each age group, and many photos.

Once again I had a great experience at Richmond and look forward to going back again one year soon.

Back to running and racing: Springmaid Splash, Iron Mountain, Run for Green, and Wild Vine

Since chemo was finished for me the second week of March, I’ve been gradually increasing my running mileage. By the time of my last chemo treatment I had been reduced to pretty much just walking. I understand why they only give you a 6-treatment cycle of that stuff. My body had about had all it could take by the time I got to the last treatment.

About a month after chemo was finished I started feeling better and gradually returned to running, mixing in a lot of walking and just walking/running until I could run more and more. Now I’m running almost as much as I was pre-cancer. I’m running a little less total mileage, and my longest run is usually about 10 miles or so. I’m still taking it very easy on my runs and walking when necessary. I’m still on Herceptin, and I know my body is still recovering from chemo even though I feel pretty well. So I’m not pushing it and am just enjoying getting out and moving.

I never stopped lifting some weights and doing strength work all during chemo, but, again, by the time I got to the end my muscles were achy and weak. All that chest surgery messed with my pectoralis muscles, and they feel kinda weird still, but I’m getting my strength back with pushups, pullups, etc. I’m not pushing it really, just doing what I can, and I feel stronger. A lot of women have trouble with flexibility in their arms after mastectomy, and I definitely had some difficulty with this. But once I had healed up well and starting gently stretching things a bit, my flexibility started to return, and I would say I have about 95% of my flexibility back, and that’s pretty good.

I ran a few races in recent weeks, and it was good to get back to participating in some events again. I ran the Springmaid Splash 10K back in August and really enjoyed it. This was a challenging course that took you through the Toe River 4 times. Craig and I enjoyed camping at Springmaid Mountain the night before.

I ran the 16-mile race at the Iron Mountain Trail Run in Damascus, VA, on Labor Day weekend. I knew 16 miles was going to be a bit of a stretch for me with my current level of fitness, but I figured I could hike out of the woods if I got really tired. There was also a 30-mile and 50-mile race going on, so I wouldn’t have to worry about a time limit. As it turned out, I had a good day and felt good the whole race. I did hike a lot and just went on feel, hiking/walking when needed. I enjoyed this race and would go back again. It was a nice mix of surfaces with the first 5 miles being totally flat and smooth on the Virginia Creeper Trail. We then took a rocky single track up the mountain about a mile to connect with the Iron Mountain Trail, running this trail to the turnaround point. On the Iron Mountain Trail we ran along the ridge with some more gentle ups and downs. You could get some nice running in along the ridge. On the return we continued on Iron Mountain Trail as it drops a couple miles back into Damascus. I’m not a good downhill runner and was somewhat careful on this stretch as it was rocky and steep downhill in some sections. All in all, it was a nice mix of trail that didn’t allow for boredom or that tired feeling when you are on some tedious trail for too long.

Don and I stayed with our friends, Beth and Dan, for the weekend, and we were so glad that Phyllis got to drive over from DC to spend a couple of nights with us. It was so good to see her. The day after Iron Mountain, Beth took us up to hike at The Channels. This was a great 7-mile recovery hike with a good view at the top and some interesting huge rock formations with “channels” between. Click here for more information on The Channels.

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A couple of weeks later I drove up to Davidson and ran in the Run for Green Half Marathon. I enjoyed this road half. The course was nice with a nice mix of some paved greenway and very nice neighborhood roads. I had not run a half marathon in ages, and I really had no idea what kind of time I could run. I sort of had it in the back of my mind that maybe I would aim for about a 2:00 half and just see how it goes, and about halfway through the race I realized that time was going to be completely attainable. I ended up finished about 1:57 and some change, and I was completely happy with that effort. Praise the Lord that my body can run like that despite everything I’ve been through! I’m so blessed.

I had never been to Davidson before. What a neat little town! I enjoyed walking around the town area looking at the shops, drinking some Summit Coffee, and checking out the Saturday Farmer’s Market that was going on. I also enjoyed a stroll through Davidson College on my way back to the car.

This weekend I ran in the Wild Vine Trail Half Marathon at the Whitewater Center. I haven’t participated in any races at the WWC in recent years since I ran a trail series there back a few years ago that was a fundraiser for Outward Bound. I enjoy the trails out there, but I thought these races were pretty expensive for what you got in return. So I have been hesitant in recent years to do events out there. This event wasn’t cheap, but I thought it was fair for what I got. The course was great, very challenging and well marked. The finisher’s medal was very nice, and I really liked the design of the shirt. Whoever is doing their graphic design for these events is doing a good job, because I really liked the logo design. There was plenty of aid on the course with 5 water stops and plenty of the usual post-race food. They were having a wine tasting festival afterward, so that would be a nice draw for some folks. I think I was a little overconfident after my good performance last weekend at the road race, so I went out a little too fast at the first of this race. I paid for that later as the last 2 miles were a death march. But I made it!

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In recent years I haven’t participated in a lot of the local races in the Charlotte area very much, and I really haven’t done much road racing at all since I’ve focused more on trails. It’s been fun to participate in a few local events and also get back to a road race. Reminds me how great it is that there are so many events and different types of events available to participate in right in our own backyard. Sometimes I think it’s crazy how many events there are, but I guess it’s a nice problem to have from the participant’s perspective. Maybe not so much for all the race directors out there who are competing for the runners!

Although I may try to squeeze something in in October, the next definite on my calendar is Richmond Half Marathon in November. I’ve run the marathon there twice and really enjoyed the event and the course. I’m looking forward to enjoying the weekend with some friends who are going up with me. Once again, I’m glad that I’m feeling well enough to get back to running and racing again. I have a lot to be thankful for!

More on perspective, branching out, and bare faces….

Despite having to go the oncologist every 3 weeks for my Herceptin infusion, life is pretty normal for me right now. I was telling Don the other day during our run that life is so normal it’s almost hard for me to remember that I went through everything that I did. It seemed like a long time at the time, but now that it’s done it seems short.

I have moments when I can feel my old ways creeping back in, but when they do I remind myself of my new perspective. I’m sure as time goes by this will be harder and harder to do, but keeping things in perspective is helping me live life a little richer and fuller.

I just finished a book called How To Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran, a British journalist. It’s a humorous memoir similar to Tina Fey’s Bossypants. In it she humorously writes about how her experience with childbirth caused her to have a completely new perspective on life. She says, “Fairly early on in the event, you will have the most dazzlingly simple revelation of your life:  that the only thing that really matters, in this whole goddamn crazy, mixed-up world, is whether or not there’s something the size of a cat stuck in your cervix, and that any day when you do not have a cat stuck in your cervix will be, by default, wholly perfect in every way.”

That’s a pretty extreme example, and pretty funny, but I feel the same way about my cancer adventure. Any day that I don’t have to go the hospital and have a surgery or that I don’t have to go get a chemo treatment is a pretty darn good day.

I am an introvert by nature, and as I’ve gotten older I have tended to be more and more isolative. Before my cancer adventure I had gotten pretty comfortable with my small circle of friends and staying home a lot as I am sort of a homebody. And then, of course, during my treatment I was really home a lot as I certainly didn’t feel like doing much. Now that I’m feeling well I’m trying to branch out a little and expand my circle a little bit. One of the things I’ve done along that line is to start running with the Run the Rock group. They run super early on the weekday mornings, and I’ve been running with them once or twice a week to beat the heat during the summer, get an early start, and also meet some new people. I’ve really enjoyed this group and the diversity of the people who participate. I also plan to participate in the weekly brewery runs at the new Legal Remedy Brewing in Rock Hill, and I figure that will be a good place to meet some new folks as well.

I’ve put off doing a lot of things around my house that need to be done, and I keep putting them off some more because I’m too busy doing other things I love on the weekends, mostly running different places and reading a lot. Every now and then I start feeling a little stress come into play when I start thinking about how much I really need to do around here. But I figure all those household tasks will always be there. It can wait. I’ve never been one of those people who enjoys home improvement projects anyway. My house is kind of bare bones, and I don’t really mind it that way. I don’t imagine that I will get to the end of my life and say something like, “Wow, I wish I had taken time to clean out that storage room.” No. So I’m not gonna worry about it. I’ll get around to it eventually. In the meantime, I’m going to enjoy some weekend field trips with Craig and being outside and running again.

A few weeks ago I wrote about how I don’t recognize myself when I see pictures of myself anymore. Being bald and now having very little hair makes me look pretty different. I tend to be pretty minimal when it comes to makeup, and before my cancer diagnosis I was very minimal both in makeup and clothes. I tended to go around in my running pretty clothes pretty often. When I was going through all my surgeries and treatment, I got a little more motivated to take some time with my appearance. My motivation was mainly that I didn’t want people to think I looked “sick.” Now that I’m feeling better, I am still enjoying dressing up a little more than I used to, and now that I actually have eyelashes to put mascara on I am trying to put a little makeup on most days. However, I still spend plenty of time going around with a bare face. Because I run and exercise pretty much daily, you will find me out and about with no makeup on if I’m exercising or running errands on the way to and from exercising. I know there are a lot of women out there who wouldn’t be caught dead going out with no makeup on, and sometimes I find myself feeling pressure that I need to do a better job with this.  But on the other hand, I wonder why we women have sold ourselves on the idea that we have to be made up all the time. Why can’t a bare face be beautiful, too? I’m enjoying makeup again somewhat now, especially since I have eyelashes again, but at the same time I don’t feel like I’m a slave to having my face made up. I don’t ever want to feel like I can’t leave my house without makeup on. I think makeup is great and can be a lot of fun, but I’m not going to be a slave to it. And I think we women have to start finding our bare face beautiful and get out of this mindset that only a made-up face is beautiful.

I’m looking forward to some more running/hiking trips with Craig this fall and maybe a little camping. Since our youngest child graduated from high school this year, we won’t have our usual cross country team responsibilities and will have more weekends free. We are going to try to get up to Appalachian State to visit our middle son more as we didn’t make it up there hardly at all last year with all I had going on. This is his senior year, hard to believe, and we want to enjoy visiting Boone while he’s there and since we love that area.

Enjoy life, friends, and don’t sweat the small stuff! Have a great week!

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New experiences and feeling beautiful……..

I just got home from another awesome weekend in the mountains. Grandfather Mountain Marathon was this past weekend up in Boone, and I wanted to go up and see all my friends there despite the fact that I am not in marathon shape and did not want to run the marathon. I decided I would run the last 10 miles of the course, and Paige agreed to run with me since she just ran a full marathon 2 weeks ago and is still recovering from that. We ended up running a little bit with Dennis and a little bit with Don and most of the last 10 miles with Doug. This was such a fun time for me because I got to spend some extended time with Doug, one of my favorite people in the whole world. Doug and his wife, Martha, have been a huge support for me throughout my cancer adventure. They were always willing to talk about what I was going through and weren’t afraid to ask hard questions. They had also both read Emperor of All Maladies, and we could talk about that. I don’t know too many people who would tackle that book if they didn’t have cancer themselves. Once when I was in between surgeries I drove up to Blowing Rock and met both of them at Moses Cone, and Doug and I had a long 15-mile run in the rain together and did a lot of talking. Afterward we had coffee at Stick Boy and talked some more. Long story short, these two are special friends to me and I value and treasure their friendship. 

I was disappointed that I couldn’t run the marathon this year. I have run it the last 4 years in a row, and it’s probably my favorite marathon. However, I had just as much fun running those last 10 miles with my friends and participating in all the before and after festivities. It goes to show you that even when you can’t do the things you love there are other new things to do.

Along this same sentiment, I had a few discussions with friends this weekend about burnout and getting tired of doing the same things all the time and the desire to branch out and do new things. A lot of us in this group have been doing some hard-core stuff for a long time, ultra runs, marathons, Ironmans, etc. When I was diagnosed with cancer I had spent the previous six months running seven marathons or ultras. I was having a blast at the time, but now that I’m recovering from my cancer treatment I feel no desire to rush back into doing all that really long-distance stuff. In fact, I’m enjoying not having all that running and training time take up so much of my life. I still have to get some exercise almost every day. I just feel better if I do. But an hour or so a day is plenty. And I don’t have to get out there on Saturday and spend most of the day doing a long run. I’ll run a little longer, maybe a few hours, but that is enough. Mentally I just don’t have the desire right now to do more.

And you know, that’s okay.

On Sunday we carried on our postrace tradition of hiking after a marathon, and Don organized a hike of some of the peaks at Grandfather Mountain for us. This was a 5-mile strenuous hike, the most difficult hike I’ve done. We started at the Profile Trailhead and hiked up the mountain over Attic Window and McRae’s Peak and on to the Swinging Bridge. Don arranged a taxi to pick us up so we would not have to hike back to our cars. We had an awesome time and spent some great time with friends.

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Several of us took some great pics of the hike, and as I was looking at the pics I found myself thinking the same thoughts I’ve had for a while now when I see pics of myself. I wonder who that person is in the pic. I don’t look like myself to me. I’ve been bald, and now I have very little hair. What hair I do have is totally gray unless I color it. I’ve had a hard time keeping any makeup on during and after cancer treatment because of the dry eye I’ve had as a side effect of chemo, not that I wore that much makeup before anyway. But I just look older and different than I did before. I have more wrinkles. I think things like, wow, I bet when my old friends from high school and college see these pics they will think, “Terri looks old!” And I feel myself getting a little self conscious about that.

And then I think about how well I feel now that chemo is over. I really do feel physically well and healthy, and I feel great when running even though I can’t run as fast as I could before. I think about the fact that I can run as much as I do at all, and the fact that my body is healthy and strong enough despite cancer treatment that I could hike up that mountain yesterday.

And I look at that face with the wrinkles and no makeup, and I think that is a beautiful face. I am beautiful. Life is good. Yes, I’m 52 and I’ve had cancer and I look older than I used to, but I’m happy. I have a wonderful family who loves me. My husband loves me and takes good care of me. I have given birth to three wonderful kids, who make me proud every day. They are so grown up and mature and are just great kids. I have family who love and care about me, and I have wonderful friends with whom I’m able to spend time doing great things like that mountain hike.

So that 52-year-old wrinkled face is a beautiful face. It’s a happy face. I refuse to let the world dictate to me what is beautiful. We women have to get comfortable in our own skin and quit letting the world tell us what is beautiful.

When I start feeling those worldly thoughts creep in about how old and wrinkled I look, I think about the fact that I’ve had cancer, and that life needs to be enjoyed, wherever you are in the process. The world’s viewpoint a lot of the time is not fact and not truth. I don’t need to waste a single moment worrying about the fact that maybe I don’t match up to what the world thinks is beautiful. I am beautiful and my life is beautiful, and I’m grateful. I really don’t care what the world thinks.

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Thanks to all my friends and family for reading and listening! 🙂 And many thanks once again to my friend, Dr. Beth Frye, professor at App State, for encouraging me to write. She’s the one who really encouraged me to bite the bullet and start this blog, and she took a few moments this past weekend to encourage me to continue. I appreciate you and all your love and support, Beth!