Usually I spend Christmas break stuffing myself with all manner of delicious food from the multiple family parties we attend. This year, I (mostly) avoided the cookies and candy and instead devoured all of the opportunities to get outside and play. My Strava calendar shows 36 hours of training time, 7 more than my next highest month, made possible by a combination of willing friends and the fact that my husband’s vacation schedule mirrored mine and eliminated the need for a babysitter.
Pretty much everything I did is worthy (in my mind) of its own separate blog post. If you know how obsessive-compulsive I am about my blog you’ll understand the level of twitchiness I’ve been feeling as adventure after adventure has been left undocumented. Given the choice between writing about something that just happened or doing something else fun, though, the something else has won out every time. Until now, that is, when the “something else” awaiting me is a driveway full of snow.
Christmas break started December 20, and the fun started the next day.
Dec. 21: Trail run/pavement run I had plans to run with my friends Lindsay and Rhonda, but the 100% chance of rain in the forecast led to some rumblings about moving our “run” to Starbucks. As much as I enjoy hanging out with my friends in a warm, dry room with a hot drink in my hand, I had the little matter of the upcoming Little Woods Ultra to motivate me. Knowing I wasn’t likely to get out in the rain on my own, I hit up Patrick to meet me earlier for a trail run. We lucked out and got very little rain, and it was awesome to get to run together and catch up for 6 miles. I came home, showered, threw on more running clothes, and drove to meet the girls. We ran a couple very chilly, much rainier miles and then warmed up in Starbucks.
December 22: Orienteering practice
|Dave and I at our first CP|
I already wrote about hitting Rockwoods Range with Dave and Mickey. 5 miles on and off-trail, ending with finally starting to get a feel for the map.
December 23: Mountain biking at Lost Valley
|Sun glistening off of icy trees|
I spent a lot of time this summer on my mountain bike, but there’s been very little time on that bike since school started up again. With the MLK ride at the Berryman trail coming up in a few weeks, I really need to get in some time on singletrack. Luckily, Chuck was up for a ride and our cold temperatures have kept the trails in rideable condition. I still walked some things I know I can ride, but it was worlds better than my last (very wimpy) ride there this summer. 12.8 miles on the bike.
December 24: Orienteering (part 2)
|Spoiler alert — we found more CPs|
After I posted about our first orienteering outing, my friend Jim asked if we’d found a couple CPs he and Travis hadn’t been able to locate. We hadn’t been in that part of the park, but with the challenge out there we had to go back to see if we could find them. What neither Mickey nor I realized was how cold it would be that morning; I for one was pretty surprised to wake up to a temperature of 6 degrees, but it was a balmy 8 by the time we got to the park and actually not bad at all. We had a really successful outing, and once again I was excited to have the map make sense to me. I still can’t walk and read a map, but surely that’ll come eventually… 6 miles on- and off-trail.
December 26: 4.1 mile trail run
|Ready to run|
I had two groups of friends hitting this section of trail (part of the loop for the Little Woods Ultra), but I didn’t make it in time to run with any of them. That’s OK, my dog was good company and we had a nice easy run.
December 27: 4.5 mile family hike
|Jeff and Jacob|
I’d tried to get my husband and son to come orienteering with me, but Jeff wasn’t interested in driving all the way out to Rockwoods. Instead, we settled on a hike closer to home on the Little Woods course. I pointed out some good spots to come and take pictures in case they decided to come spectate, and Jacob had a great time climbing on every tree he passed.
December 28: Little Woods Ultra
This free race was a BLAST. The course was a 4.1 mile trail loop. You had an hour to run it. At the top of the hour, the race re-started and you had an hour to run it. This went on until only one person was left. I had initially planned to run 16 miles, but when Mickey mentioned running it as a marathon I thought that sounded pretty cool.
|I was surprised — and delighted — when Jeff and Jacob showed up before the race.|
Around 65 awesome people showed up for the race. I rode with Mike (who had a really good day and you should check out his post about the race), and it was lovely to have a quick drive across town instead of the hour drive I’m usually making to St. Louis. The potluck aid station was a wonder to behold. Strategy was interesting because it really didn’t pay to come in super fast (as if that was an option for me) because that just left you longer to stand around and get stiff, so that made the “race” more of a jog through the woods and talk with a variety of cool people.
|Happy at the end of lap 1|
Lap 1: Nice chill pace following AR superstar Emily. I think my quote here was “If the whole day is like this, the biggest problem will be getting bored.”
|Happy at the beginning of lap 2|
Lap 2: I accidentally started with the fast boys and quickly remembered that I am not a fast boy. Realizing that I couldn’t keep up with them and hope to keep running all day, I dropped off within a mile and ran the rest of the lap in a no man’s land between the front group and everyone else.
Lap 3: Did a run .5 mile/walk 45 sec with Mickey. Much more manageable than the lap 2 pace. Once again we kind of ended up in a no man’s land between the two main groups.
|Sporting my 100 Plus Project hat and Joshua’s Great Things Foundation shirt|
Lap 4: More run/walk. Starting off behind Emily, I took advantage of a few miles of AR girl talk and then chatted for a while with my friend Jim (who eventually won the whole thing in 15 hours and 61.5 miles…he’s a machine!). Still feeling good at the end of this lap, 16.4 miles in.
Mickey had a family Christmas party to go to and had to leave after this lap. I’d planned to run at least one more so that I could get in more miles than he did for like the first time ever, but instead I dropped (well, didn’t start again) after this lap with a total of 24.6 miles. It seems so weak to not have at least finished out the marathon distance and actually hitting ultra territory by running just one more lap. Yes, I was hurting, but it’s not like my leg was broken. I like to think of myself as being tough, and quitting so close to my goal was not tough.
On the other hand, I fought hip issues all through the second half of 2012/first half of 2013, and I think a big reason for that was making big jumps in mileage rather than working up gradually. Since my longest run since 2011 was 18 miles at November’s Skippo, I was definitely pushing it by adding on another 6, and I’m still feeling it in my hip and knee a week later. While I may not have been particularly tough, I just might have been playing it smart, which is slightly soothing to my sore ego.
December 29: CXmas
All I wanted to do Sunday morning was sleep, but I’m ruled by my FOMO and knew that it would kill me to see pictures later on Facebook. With both temperature and wind speed in the 20’s, it was going to be a chilly ride. “It’s really &*%$ cold,” I messaged Bob, who was also on his way.
“Remind me to tell you about this race I did at Castlewood one time…” he responded.
|“We’re freezing our asses off…where’s everybody else?”|
I dropped off my canned goods, met a couple of Facebook friends in person for the first time, and just generally enjoyed visiting until it was time to start riding. Even with the cold and wind, I was pretty comfortable as long as I was moving. Rather than being dead from the previous day, my legs felt pretty good, and the cold against them was kind of soothing. Having taken one look at the map and been clueless, I’d given it to Bob and then quickly gotten separated from him as I rode along talking to friends.
|Stopping partway through for holiday cheer and a dirt crit|
I’ve spent a lot of time at Busch Wildlife over the past year, but I’ve never been the one in charge of getting us where we needed to be. Not wanting to get turned around in the cold, I met back up with Bob and we rode on with friends until we reached the spot where everyone had stopped and was huddled together like penguins against the cold. We watched some racing, talked some more, and eventually made our way back out on the roads.
|My Mrs. Claus outfit was a nice combination of holiday spirit and wind block.|
December 31: Double header!
New Year’s Eve started with another mountain bike ride at Lost Valley, this time with Chuck and Mickey who have surely heard enough about each other that they felt like they knew each other. In contrast to CXmas, this time my legs felt pretty dead, but once we got going I felt pretty good on the trails…or, as I told Chuck, the least un-confident I’ve ever been there. I rode things I haven’t ridden before, including some switchbacks, some rock ledges (though not all of them), and a creek crossing I’ve bailed on for the last three years.
|Not me riding, but you can see the creek crossing|
I wimped out riding the hill back out, though, and after stopping to catch my breath tried to start up again. I clipped in my right foot, almost got going, and then toppled over on my right side. Always a proud moment to have a stupid crash when other people are watching. After riding Lost Valley, we made a quick detour down the quarry trail, stopping to check out one of the old cemeteries from the Graveyard Gravel Grinder and to take a picture gloating about our continued “on vacation” status.
|Work is for suckers|
Ride over, Chuck and his gimpy ankle headed home while Mickey and I drove to Rockwoods to mark the last few CPs off our list. 8.5 miles of hiking later and we were finished. Out of the whole trek, there was really only one time that I felt pretty unsure of where I was; the rest of the time I felt comfortable with the map, and there was one CP in particular (29) where I totally had a handle on exactly where it was. It’s still so exciting when that happens. Of course, for every “on” moment, there’s an equally clueless one, and I had one of those too.
|Re-enactment of exactly what happened. I’m standing looking at my map trying to figure out where the CP should be…and it’s maybe 10 feet to my right.|
All in all, it was another great day, though my hip and knee were definitely aching. It was a great way to end a fantastic year…but it was a lousy way to prepare for New Year’s Eve, since I was literally falling asleep at the table by 10:30 and finally gave in and took a nap at 11. BUT I was back up by 11:30 and hung in there til finally giving in to sleep at 1:30 a.m…even earlier than my 10 yr old went to bed.
January 1: Family hike
A New Year’s Day hike at Pere Marquette State Park has been a family tradition for pretty much all of Jacob’s life.
|3 year old Jacob and me|
|Daniel (who just got engaged), Jacob, Nathan (who just enlisted in the Marines), and Jeff. It doesn’t seem that long ago.|
|Lots of pictures taken here over the years|
|He still fits on my lap for now.|
We only ended up hiking a couple of miles, though with all the stops to climb and play and take pictures we at least equalled our drive time with our hike time, and I love being able to continue that tradition.
So that brings us to today, when I was supposed to be biking in the snow with friends. Instead, Jacob had a snow day, and I have a driveway full of snow waiting to be shoveled and a boy waiting to go sledding. Well, actually he’d be just as happy to keep playing on the Wii, but I don’t want him to miss out on the sledding. Regardless of what I get done today, I’ll go back to work on Monday knowing that I lived this Christmas break to the fullest. If 2014 is anywhere near as good (and busy!) as the end of 2013, it’ll be a good year indeed.