Thru hike on Old Loggers Path

OLP Thru Hike July 15-17

 

We intended to do this hike in four days, clockwise,  allowing for a half day at the Yellow Dog Run/Rock Run confluence.  We changed plans on Day 1 since we were making good time and having a good hike.

Hiking Boots

My new Salomons…love the look of them but they caused me some grief on this trip.

 

Day 1:  Trail Head to Pleasant Stream 10.43 miles

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Arrived at the trail at noon.  Immediately noticed a huge difference between this trail and the Loyalsock, my only real comparison.  This trail felt easy.  Even having a backpack didn’t seem to make it much worse.  The first part is all uphill but it is so gradual, I hardly noticed it.  We first came to Sprout Point Vista, which was very nice.  I felt great from the start until Mile 7.  At that point, we had to stop at the water source there or continue to Pleasant Stream at Mile 10.  I felt that it was too early to stop and we might as well press through.  I also felt with the good and easy time we were making, it would be better to cut our trip down to three days, giving us one day afterwards to recover.  Mile 7 to mile 8.2 was the most difficult climb of the trail.  I had to pause several times to catch my breath and it was a rather long climb.  Sharp Top Vista was well worth the climb, however,  Very beautiful spot.  From there the trail mainly went along the ridge for a bit then descended to Pleasant Creek.  The first campsite was already occupied by a Boy Scout troop, so we crossed the creek (which was very low…we just hopped across rocks), to set up camp on the other side.  We set up at 6:45 pm.

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On my own note, with my new boots, my heels, especially my left, started rubbing within 2 miles of the start of the trail.  I hadn’t broken them in, and to be honest, I feel they were a half size too small.  My feet would continue to be a problem for me on the rest of the trail.   I was very glad to soak them in the stream and put on flip flops to take the pressure off, then doctor them for night.

 

Day 2:  Pleasant Stream to Yellow Dog Run 9.47 miles

 

We had intended to try to reach the confluence of Yellow Dog and Rock Run this day by early afternoon.  We were quickly passed by both the Boy Scout group and another larger group of college students.  We didn’t have much desire to group camp with strangers, so we thought perhaps we’d camp a bit before the confluence and hit the swimming hole early Sunday instead.  This day started with a climb, rather steep but not as bad as the climb to Sharp Top Vista.  This was the climb up Sullivan Mountain, with a few steep spots but mostly a gradual climb with many switchbacks.  All the water sources listed in the guide were just about dry at this date, including Long Run, Buck Run, and Doe Run (I believe Doe Run had some water but was not flowing well, although we still did restock some at this point by necessity).  I was hiking alone for part of this section, with my 18 year old son ahead and my husband and 14 year old somewhere behind, when I made a wrong turn.  Instead of turning into the woods, I turned onto an old logging road or something.  Since it seemed cleared, I honestly did not watch for blazes (bad mistake!).  I just hiked on until I felt it was time for a break then stopped and had a quick lunch, figuring my husband and son would catch up with me any minute.  When they didn’t arrive, I was a little concerned.  I continued along the same road but it started to get overgrown and basically disappeared into ferns.  I finally started looking for blazes and realized I couldn’t see any in either direction.  Realizing I was likely off course, I turned back.  Sure enough, I found the correct turn and made my way up to the top of Sullivan Mountain, where my three fellow backpackers were anxiously waiting for me, ready to send out a search party.  (I was never in real danger as I was probably less than a half mile off the trail and was able to follow it back quite easily).  Sullivan Mountain had a few nice vistas out on rock ledges, one which was loaded with rattlesnakes.  I personally saw at least 5, and we met a man from some official sounding organization (Reptile and Amphibian something or other) who said he had counted 10.  We met a couple more thru hikers who were hiking counterclockwise in that spot.  We made slow time this day, not really sure why except we just weren’t feeling it.  Second day soreness and tiredness I guess.  We had no choice but to push on to Yellow Dog Run as we needed the water.  The college group actually spotted us some water as they were still loaded up and making better time than we were; perhaps we looked worn and dehydrated.  We made camp at the start of Yellow Dog run at 3:45.  It rained overnight, starting around 8 pm and seeming to continue through the night.  We stayed dry as we were all set up for camp long before that time.

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My own note: Nicholas wasn’t feeling good at the start of the hike, and I wasn’t feeling it all day.  I hadn’t slept well the night before, for one thing.  For another, my feet were really bugging me all day, although it was manageable.  The energy I felt on Day 1 had dissipated.  I find I struggle to eat enough on a backpacking trip as I am just not very hungry, possibly from drinking so much.  I had to force myself to eat, particularly carbs, to get my energy up. Despite that, by the time we made camp at 3:45 pm, I was worn out.  We all just ate cold food from our packs rather than cooking, and I headed in to read in the tent by 7 pm.  By the time the rain started around 8 pm, I was near sleep, and slept fitfully but mostly straight through until 7:30 am.

 

Day 3 – Yellow Dog Run to End  7.94 miles

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We started to get up sometime around 7:30 am, and I was really concerned I wasn’t going to make the rest of the trip.  My ankles looked very bad from the blistering and rubbing, and I had blisters on a couple of my toes as well.  Of course, I was also just overall sore, but that I could deal with.  I doctored up my feet with the first aid kit as best as I could, but I didn’t have much faith that the bandages would hold.  Once I had my boots on, though, I actually felt a bit better.  My husband gave me his walking stick (as a crutch, he said).  We set off by 9 am, hoping that the campers up ahead at the confluence were gone.  We reached the confluence in good time, but the college group was still there.  We still sat, ate, and my husband and older son swam a bit in the gorgeous swimming hole.  My son also hiked downstream a bit and found several other campsites, along with other swimming holes.  We will know better next time, that we can hike up there if the closer campsites are taken and still have an enjoyable time.  We really had wanted to relax for a half day or so and enjoy the area, but it was honestly too early (and cool) for me to want to swim.  I also didn’t want to unbandage my feet and have to go through that process again.  If we do this trail again, I would definitely plan the timing differently and allow for more time at this spot.  At 11 am, we started back on the trail, ready for our last climb.  The climb up to Ellenton Ridge road was not very difficult at all, with only one steep, short section.  I didn’t feel bad on this portion of the trip, although I was glad we were nearing the end.  This was a beautiful section of the trail, going through varied terrain, a lot of it nicely shaded by the tree canopy.  The last downhill was difficult on my toes, as I was still having trouble with my boots.  We arrived back at our car at 2:45 pm, which was a good time for us.

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What I look like after 28 miles lol.

Personal note: I am a very slow backpacker on the best of days, but I felt that my pace was fairly good this entire trip.  I will note that I am 20 lbs lighter than when I did the Loyalsock two years’ ago, and also probably a little more fit as I do cardio 3-4 days per week.  That, combined with the different terrain of the Loyalsock, made this a much more enjoyable experience than the LT for me.  At 47 years of age, I am blessed to have the health and strength to be able to do these things with my teenage sons, and hope to continue as long as I can.

 

Other notes:

I brought too many clothes on this trip, but the weight was probably negligible compared to the risk of needing them if we had gotten rained on and wet.  There is nothing worse than being wet and cold, and I like having a dry change of clothing.  I honestly never changed on this three days (sounds gross, but those of you who backpack probably understand).  I had carried a pair of (lightweight) long pants and an underarmour shirt, in case it got chilly, but I did not need them at all.  Again, the weight would have been worth it had the temperature dropped a bit.  I used a “pee rag” with success throughout the entire trip (if you don’t know what that is, look it up).

 

We brought WAY too much food.  We carried excess weight that we did not need in the food area.  We had planned to stay an extra day, but we still ended up bringing home three dinners, all fairly heavy.  Our “personal” snack/breakfast/lunch food was also too much, although had we stayed an extra day, we might have appreciated that.  I myself feel that a 3-4 day hike doesn’t even require a stove or hot food, at least not in the summer.  If it had been fall/winter, I may have wanted a hot drink in the AM and a hot meal at night, but for summer, I was content with cold, easy food.  I myself would prefer to bring some fresh fruit or something, despite the weight, as I craved that over the Swedish fish and trail mix that we did have.  Otherwise, I feel my packing was sufficient.

Lastly, my biggest error was in my boots.  I bought them at the last minute, and the only breaking in they had was me wearing them around the house for a couple hours.  Also, I bought a size 10, as that was the largest size they had, when I really probably needed a 10.5 or even 11.  I definitely need to break in boots ahead of time, and make sure they are suitable after a long day of hiking.  Now, after three days of hiking, my feet will likely need a week to recover.

On the OLP:  perhaps one of the best weekend backpacking areas in the state.  It can be done in 2 days by faster, fitter hikers, and fairly easily in three days.  It has varied terrain and views.  There are vistas and swimming holes and most of it is in the woods so you are out of the sun.  It is a beautiful trail.  I guess it used to be standard to hike it counterclockwise, but I followed the Gantz guide and did it clockwise, and I feel that is the better way for sure.  If you go counterclockwise, you have a major climb right at the start, where clockwise, you have an easy first seven miles, then a hard climb before the end of your first day.  You get to enjoy the beautiful Rock Run on day 2 (or 3 in our case), so it is like a reward for making it to 21 miles.  Counterclockwise, you would arrive there on the first day.  It’s just preference, but I think I’d prefer to stick to clockwise.  Another note: the water sources listed in the guide are unreliable.  Nothing against Gantz at all, as it was particularly dry, but there are sections where water is rather scarce.  Just be sure to plan for that and load up anytime you see a viable source of water.  One last thing about the guide.  There just aren’t a lot of landmarks, so we spent a lot of time not really sure where we were in relation to the guide and the map.  Especially since a lot of the landmarks listed are “seasonal streams”, all of which were dry on our trip.  Finally, the trail is in need of maintenance.  There are many downed trees over the trail, some of which required me to remove my pack to crawl under or over.  The blazes are a little too spaced out.  I have always been taught that you should be able to see a blaze from wherever you are on the trail; and this just wasn’t the case.  Instead of a double blaze indicating turns, many had arrows, which actually were more deceiving (note that I went the wrong way partially due to an arrow blaze).  There was a lot of overgrowth in areas also, which I understand is very difficult for upkeep.  This is not a putdown of the KTA or any of the volunteers who work so hard to maintain the trails, in fact, THANK YOU to anyone who participates in that activity.  I’m just noting that it could use a little work.

 

All in all, great experience, and I hope to do it again soon!

 

Our Debt Free Journey–Part 3–Living Like No One Else

At some point in time, I had heard about Dave Ramsey; I don’t recall exactly when, where, or how.  But it happened.  I was typing from home as a job at the time, and I listened to his podcast every day.  At some point, I got a couple of his books.  All the stuff that Larry Burkett taught, but somehow simplified into the “Baby Steps”.

THIS was exactly what I was looking for.  Focusing on one step at a time was what really made it “click” for me.  We started working on Baby Step 1 ($1000 Baby Emergency Fund).  We had probably never had $1000 in the bank at one time before this.  Mind you, my husband was still laid off, working for his brother here and there and collecting unemployment (which being in the heart of the recession, unemployment compensation had been extended several times), and I was still only working from home part time.

We buckled down, and started to cut back and do without.  I’d always been frugal in certain ways, but I got intense.  I did the coupon rounds every day as I drove to my job to pick up my work.  I got loads of things like toothpaste for extremely cheap or free.  We didn’t eat out or go on vacations, other than some camping trips.

After my husband had been laid off for nearly 18 months, he finally got called back to work.  This time, it was at a higher salary, but sometimes travel was involved.  Around the same time, I also went back to work, originally only per diem, then part time, and within 6 months I was working full time and had been made shift supervisor.

So now things were looking up.  Instead of continuing on our Dave Ramsey plan, we fell off the wagon…HARD.  We were tired of living broke.  We had money now!  We ate out, we went shopping, we went on vacation.  We went to Disney and remodeled our back porch.     We bought an (almost) new car (on credit).  We went on a big trip to North Carolina.  During this time, the only time we actually added to our debt was the car purchase.  We were OK with living on cash, but we weren’t making any headway on our existing debt.  We had just increased our spending to keep up with our increased income.

Fast forward three years.  One day, I was doing the bills, and I added up our debts.  They ended up totally a whopping $90,222.14! (not counting the first mortgage) Yikes!!!  Finally, I had my big time wake up call. We made wayyy too much money to be this broke!  We had made ZERO headway in the three years (paying only minimums) that we had both been working and making a decent salary.   I already knew Dave’s plan.  I drew up a budget.  This was in October 2013.    We started to actually follow it.  We already had Baby Step 1 completed, so we immediately started aggressively paying down debt to the tune of a $3000/month.  We cut way back on Christmases and vacations and birthdays….AGAIN.

We fell off the wagon quite a few times again along the way.  We continued to keep paying on debt, but sometimes we weren’t quite as gazelle intense.  We did at least start to make progress.  We continued working on Baby Step 2, following the plan of paying down debts in order, smallest to largest.  We paid off two in 2013, then a bunch in 2014.  Then we started to hit the larger ones.  I did do a credit card refinance at this time, as our Chase (remember that?  The one we’d had for a decade by now?) was at a whopping 26% interest rate.

Anyway, we did the plan, with a few modifications.  We could have been debt free a bit sooner had we been more gazelle.  We might have burned out though….who knows.

Our last debt to pay off was the car loan, which we paid off, without much fanfare, on July 2, 2016—Debt Free Day!  We had planned for three years, and did it in a bit less.  We are planning our celebratory vacation for the end of August (and it’s already paid for, with cash of course!).  I’d still love to call in on Dave’s show and do a debt free scream also (although going to Tennessee to the studio would be even better!)

We are officially on Baby step 3 (fully funded emergency fund).  Our goal for that is February 2017, but always with the possibility of completing it earlier.  I hope we can significantly help our sons with their schooling and help change our family tree.

I have to pause here and remember that all this is only by God’s infinite grace and blessings.  I know that my hope and trust can never be in riches or wealth.  If we lose everything we have today, we will still be rich beyond measure, because we have God.

I hope this (wordy) blog helps some of you who may be struggling.  The plan does work.  It works even if you don’t follow it perfectly.  There probably will be bumps in the road and hindrances to your goals.  Don’t give up!  It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it!

 

Our Debt Free Journey Part 2–Moving into Adulthood

I graduated college in 1990 with my B.S. in Medical Technology.  Before I  graduated, I had already been offered a job in my field at a local hospital.  I was starting at $10.00/hr, not a bad wage back in those days.  I felt rich!!  I did do two smart things immediately.  First, I signed up for a retirement plan right from the start, on the encouragement of a fellow employee and friend.  So before I ever received a paycheck, I had retirement withdrawn from my account.  Second, I paid off my only student loan within a couple months of graduation.  At this point in my life, I do believe I was debt free, if I remember correctly.

 

That, unfortunately, would be the last time in my life that I could say that.  I was engaged at this time.  A wedding, even a fairly modest one that we planned, is an expensive affair.  Again, I was pretty much on my own as my parents did not help me much.  We also planned a fairly expensive (to us) honeymoon to Grand Cayman.  My fiance and I were both very inexperienced with money.  Neither one of us had had very good guidance from our families, and we didn’t make great decisions.  I ran up that college Discover card (which now had a higher limit) to fund wedding purchases.  My husband also had a credit card, and he used his for expenses.

 

So we began our married life in debt.  We kept trying to pay it off, but I don’t think we ever achieved it.  I know we used a lot of our wedding gift money to pay some of it, but we also used some of that money on our honeymoon to party it up.

 

Next up: car trouble.  My cheap 1979 Buick died one day.  I tried to get a car loan but was not approved.  I went crawling to my father and asked him to co-sign for me.  He did it rather reluctantly.  Now we had credit card and car loan debt.

 

After we had been married a couple years, we decided it was time to look for a house.  Now mind you, we had basically NO money in savings, and owed money on cars and credit cards.  But it is the American dream, right?  We DESERVED a house.  We worked hard and renting is just throwing away money.  These are the things we say to ourselves to justify stupidity.  We did find a very modest house after a couple months.  During that time, we managed to save up a little, enough for a 5% down payment on a cheap, run-down, “starter” home (flash forward—we are still in that starter home 22 years and four children later!).  We actually had to get a “gift letter” from Jim’s parents, saying that they were gifting us money, because we didn’t have any money left in the bank at all after paying the down payment.  They wouldn’t give us a mortgage without the gift letter.  We should have understood that buying a house while completely broke was probably not the best idea!

 

The problem with owning a home is that Murphy will always visit.  We didn’t have any emergency fund at all.  We could barely make our (very low) mortgage payments some months.  Then, something would happen.  The well pump would go out.  That costs $2000, and we didn’t have $2000.  Since we needed water, out came the plastic.  This started a very long cycle of living on credit.  Car broke down?  We have to have a car!  Use the credit card.  Want to go out to eat?  Use the credit card.  Whatever the question, credit was our answer.

 

A year later, I had our first child.  I continued to work, as I had family for child care.  However, again, credit was our crutch whenever we didn’t have the money for something we “needed”.  I perpetuated my parents’ ways of overspending on gifts, even for an infant.  Christmas and birthdays were huge affairs with piles of gifts.  (My “love language” is gift giving, and boy did I like to show my love!).

 

Three years later, I had a set of twins.  Now at three children, one of whom was ill at birth, I needed to cut back my hours.  I cut down to part time and started a second job working from home.  Things got even tighter.  My husband got regular raises but they were minimal.

 

At some point in this period of time, I was introduced to Larry Burkett’s financial system through my church.  I was completely gung ho about this.  We were going to get on a budget!  Pay off bills!  Save for college!  Pay down on the house!  Save for retirement!  Put money in savings!  I was really inspired, but also very overwhelmed.  It seemed impossible to do all those things that are smart financial things and still find money to eat.  (I am not putting down Larry Burkett in any way….he was a great financial teacher…I just wasn’t quite ready to “get” it at this point).

 

One year after the twins’ birth, my husband decided (with my blessing!) to switch gears and start an apprenticeship program to become an electrician.  The problem was that he would be losing money to start, and also would have no insurance for 6 months.  So, I went back to work full time at the hospital, to cover the insurance and help out while he did schooling.

 

The next five years were difficult, to say the least.  Jim made very little money the first year, although his salary did go up very quickly after that.  He also was able to get insurance after the six months.  Three years after starting his apprenticeship, I had our fourth child.  At this point, we felt his job was stable and sustainable, and I didn’t go back to work, but stayed home with the children.  I did work from home doing typing, babysitting, mystery shopping, couponing; anything I could to help balance out.  We were still deeply in debt and not making any headway at all.  I had also started a direct sales home based business.  As often happens, I didn’t actually make a profit at this.  I had gotten yet another credit card, “for the business”.  To try to get promotions and specials, I would order excess inventory (on credit).  Now I was also running up debt on the “business”.

At some point in time, we received an offer for a credit card with a $26000 limit.  That’s right, $26,000 (that’s three zeros).  Seriously?  We actually took them up on it and consolidated a bunch of other cards.  Now we had one big card with a lower interest rate.  Smart right?  Well, only if you pay it off I suppose.  That Chase card was like a weight dragging us down for at least a decade.

 

Later, we did a house refinance, as we were, once again, feeling desperate to make some headway.  We ended up with a first AND a second mortgage, and it still didn’t pay off all the credit cards (that Chase was still hanging around like a pet!).  I also cashed in my retirement because our roof was leaking terribly and causing all sorts of damage, and of course, we didn’t have any money to fix it.  We financed cars.  Nothing was extravagant in and of itself, but combined, it was devastating.

 

I stayed home with the kids for eight years.  Once my husband’s apprenticeship was up, he became a journeyman.  The salary was great.  However, the economy was beginning to decline, and as a journeyman, he started to get laid off when things got slow.  We were always able to collect unemployment, but that was always less than his salary.  We limped along like this for several years.  Eventually, he became laid off long term.

 

 

It was during this time that we first came to hear Dave Ramsey.  I’m not sure at all where I first heard him.  I know I got his books, Financial Peace and The Total Money Makeover, and devoured them.   The next stage of our financial journey was about to begin.

Our Debt Free Journey Part 1–Childhood through College Years

I decided to blog our debt free journey, although we aren’t finished with it yet.  I mainly decided to do this because reading posts and blogs by others who have been on this journey encourage and motivate me, so I hope this can encourage and motivate someone else.

 

Backtracking all the way back to my childhood, I grew up poor.  Now I understand that by the world’s definitions, hardly anyone is America is truly “poor” in the global sense, but relative to the US population, we were poor.  My parents had divorced when I was eight. Up until that time, I imagine we weren’t in bad financial shape, as my father was pretty good with money.  After the divorce and my mother’s subsequent remarriage, however, financially, things definitely took a turn for the worse.

 

As I analyze the reasons, two of them stick out.  One was that my mother and stepfather were just not any good with money.  As far as I could tell, they were impulse spenders, never had a budget, paid bills late, and basically did all the things that poor people do.  My stepfather was not a very good provider, and went from one job or business scheme to another in rapid succession.  Also, my mother and stepfather had four children in about six years, bringing the total number of children in the household to six, a challenge in itself.  We were often on food stamps, WIC, free cheese programs, and other government assistance.  I never knew any other way to live.

 

I remember one year we had bought an old fixer-upper house.  It had no hot water heater.  Due to money issues, we went an entire winter without hot water.  I remember boiling water in large pots on the stove, carrying it upstairs to the tub, and filling with cold water to make baths for all of us.  I remember washing my own hair in freezing cold water from the sink every morning (I was in high school by this time).

House

All the above is meant to do is set the stage for my financial journey.  I started off pretty poor, used to hand me down clothes and budget meals.  I didn’t have a horrible childhood despite that, and I never remember anything close to going hungry, and we still got lots of gifts at Christmas (that impulse spending thing), but we were definitely not well off.

 

Just after graduation, my stepfather told me he had found a car for me.  Of course, I didn’t have any money (and neither did he), so I took out my very first loan and my very first debt, in 1986.  (I believe it was probably in my stepfather’s name, as I was only 17 at the time).  I now had a job at KMart and a car loan.

 

As I was preparing to go to college, it never occurred to me to question how I was going to pay for it. My mother and stepfather didn’t have any money to help me, and my father only offered to pay for books for my first semester.  I was basically on my own.  I had been a very good student in high school, and planned to possibly go to medical school.    My parents didn’t give me any guidance, so I randomly applied to three colleges, without ever visiting any of them.  I also applied for a Naval ROTC scholarship.  I was actually awarded the ROTC scholarship, so at this point I had at least one option.  Shortly after that, I received an award letter for a full tuition scholarship at the University of Scranton, which had been my last choice of schools.  Not being stupid, however, I took the scholarship despite that, since free money with no strings attached is better than money WITH strings attached (like a Navy service requirement).

 

I attended college for three years and worked my butt off during every summer and intercession in order to make enough money to pay for my books and lab fees, which were not covered by the scholarship.  I also moved out into a cheap apartment with a friend, so I had that to pay for as well. I worked during the school year as well, but would take a second temp job in the summers to build up extra money.  So far, so good.

 

Junior year, I decided that medical school wasn’t for me.  I had a friend who was in a program for medical technology, and it sounded interesting, so I switched my major to that.  That involved a full year internship for my senior year, which had costs associated with it.  I was informed that my scholarship would not pay for the internship, since the scholarship was only for University bills.

 

Hence my very first (and only) student loan.  I didn’t make enough money working before the internship started in July to pay the bill, so I incurred my second debt.   I can’t recall the exact amount but it was small, less than $3000.

 

While I was in college, I had also been offered the deal of a lifetime!  An application for a Discover Card, especially for college students!  I happily filled out the application and was thrilled to receive my very first card.  I think it had a $300 limit on it, but I was a real grown up now!

 

So before my college graduation, my experience with debt was a car loan, a student loan, and credit card debt.  It was only going to go downhill from there, for a very long time.

 

To be continued…..

Frustration, Confusion, Indecision, and Irony

Back in February, I signed up for a Half Marathon in September.  I have always wanted to do one, and I figured I’d sign up early and that would help keep me honest and motivated.

Weirdly, for me, it’s had the opposite effect.

I have found I highly dislike running long distances.  I switched training plans in the middle over to the Galloway training, which uses walk/run intervals for an entire race.  It made training runs much easier.  But is easier always better?  Probably not, not when you need to build endurance.  Also, Galloway has only two short runs per week and one long one.  The long one jumps up in mileage fairly quickly.  I find it hard to fit in the time, and I find it hard to find the motivation to run for 2-3 hours under the best of circumstances, and in the summer heat, it’s NOT the best of circumstances.

I find myself dreading running.

To be honest, I’ve never “loved” running.  I’ve had the occasional experience of the “runner’s high” but I mostly run just because it’s simple and quick and can be done almost anywhere, at anytime, with minimal equipment.  Running fits into my life better than other fitness activities.  The last time I ran regularly (somewhere around 2008-2010), I lost about 40 lbs with diet and running.  Then I went back to work and my fitness dropped off my radar and I gained back about 25 of those pounds.

Fast forward four years.  I decided I had to make fitness part of my life, even with my busy schedule.  It’s not like I’m busier than anyone else, I just had to set priorities.  I ran sporadically from last summer until January 2015.  In January, I started running fairly regularly using training plans, mostly at the gym on the treadmill, then transferring over to outdoors once the weather got better and daylight got longer.

A few weeks’ ago, on sort of a whim and a push from a friend, I signed up for a quarter marathon.    It was on the same course as the half, so I figured it would be a good training run.  I did my intervals but it still felt like it was very hard.  I finished, although I finished dead last.  I hated that, although the people at the race were all very encouraging and cheered me in just as though I were first.

The “dead last” finish made me rethink my plans to do the half.  I really don’t want to be last.  I want to be ready.  I put in the time, did the training.  I don’t know why I’m not faster or better.  Partly my weight and nutrition I’m sure.  I considered dropping out.  After all, I can run 30-45 minutes for fitness alone and not feel like death but still get in fitness.  So why put myself through these long runs that I hate and dread with a passion?

After thinking it through overnight one insomniac night, I decided I was just going to do it.  I was already signed up, it’s a bucket list item, get through it, then I can be done with distance running forever.  I set up a training plan.  A bit more aggressive than the Galloway plan, only because I felt I wasn’t improving and needed to increase weekly mileage more to build up more endurance.  Well the best laid plans….

My next run on the schedule was a  “long” run that was supposed  to be 11.3 miles, over 3 miles more than I had ever run at one time.    It was a hot day, not ideal at all, but I wanted to get it done.  I did about four miles when the back pain started.  By mile 6, I was limping, not really able to run at all.   I called my husband to  pick me up and ended up bailing at around 8 miles, in quite a bit of pain.

I’ve never had much pain during runs.  Some minor muscle aches but the main limiting factor for me has always been cardio.  I’ve had some knee and plantar’s fasciitis issues in the past, but they seem to have resolved.  A running injury was never even on my radar.  So this was a surprise and a definitely wrench in my plans.

I took three days off and felt pretty good.  I did the elliptical at the gym and counted those miles to “finish” my long run.  I thought I was ready to hit the pavement again.

Went back out and the pain IMMEDIATELY started right back up.  It was only a 36 minute  training run, and I finished, but barely, and I’m not hurting too badly, but don’t feel I can run for a few days.

So what to do?  This is my “out” if I want to take it for the half marathon.  I’m not a quitter though!  I have only four weeks left, and at least this first week  has to be recovery/healing from this sciatica or whatever it is.

It’s nearly 4 am, and I’m sitting her obsessing over a race that I don’t really want to do, stressing over something that is supposed to relieve stress, and losing sleep when I’m supposed to be in training.  Frustration, confusion, indecision, and irony all at once, and not a good combo at 4 am.

I guess the only left to do is to sleep on it.

You Can’t have it all

I’ve been reflecting on some things in my life.  I’ve always had high aspirations to do …well something.  I want to learn to crochet, knit, and quilt, I want all my scrapbooks to be beautiful and completely up to date, I want to learn piano so I can play at church and take back up violin (which I haven’t played since high school) and be in a local orchestra, I want to spend loads of quality, loving time with my husband and kids, I want to have regular time out with my sisters, I want to make new friends, I want to volunteer to be a foster parent, serve at a soup kitchen, go on a mission’s trip, I want to serve at my church, be hospitable and have people over, all the while, keeping a clean, neat organized house, and did I mention?  Doing fabulous at my job, turning everything around to run like clockwork and honoring my boss and God in the process.  And don’t forget exercise and cook healthy meals, read my Bible and pray, and never miss church.  Keep my finances in order and work hard to sacrifice and pay off debt.  When that’s done, I want to travel everywhere and see everything, hike every trail, run races, take loads of great photos from that photography class I want to take.  I want to read loads of good fiction and non-fiction books, and grow my mind and knowledge.   Whew! I’m exhausted just writing it, and I’m sure I’m missing a lot of “things I want to do”.

My title says my conclusion.  You CAN’T have it all.  Everything is about balance and priorities.  I’ve learned and (somewhat) accepted that I cannot take a bunch of classes to learn all the things I want to learn and still have enough time (after work) to take care of my family and house, exercise, and spend time at church and with extended family.  I have priorities.  My life isn’t enough to fit everything in.  I’m not any busier than anyone else, please don’t think I’m trying to say that; I’m not.  I just have come to an acceptance of my limits; knowing that to do a couple things in a most excellent way is better than doing a lot of things rather poorly.

Someday this may change.  As my children get older and perhaps, leave my home, I may find myself with some “extra” time on my hands.  Then I will have the opportunity to find good ways to fill that time.  Maybe some of these hobbies I aspire to may be some of them.  Maybe not.

I hope to always keep in the front of my mind, “Redeeming the time, for the days are evil”–Eph. 5:16.  It is important to choose carefully how I spend my time.  I know my biggest time waster by far, is the computer.  It was gaming;  now that I’ve given that up, it’s facebook and just surfing.  Even reading (most) fiction, by far my favorite leisure activity, is a waste of valuable time.

It’s been a huge leap for me to come to the conclusion that I can’t have it all.  Contentment is a difficult thing to grasp.  Something I have to keep working on.  In the meantime, maybe I CAN squeeze in that photography class next year…..

Noob backpacker advice for other noobs planning a backpacking trip

This section is just for those interested in any hints or tips I have, in my vast experience of thru hiking 59.2 miles in 6 days (sarcasm intended!).

  • Spam is the most delicious thing imaginable on the trail.  Seriously, it is.
  • I thought that my “fat stores” would be enough to sustain me for five days, but I found myself seriously lagging in energy if I didn’t keep eating, especially carbs.  I was a bit surprised at this, but I definitely noticed a difference before and after eating.
  • Cliff bars are vile.  They just are, nothing can make them any better.  But they are a good energy boost after a hard uphill climb.
  • After we returned from our first trip (to the 46 mile mark), my feet kept hurting, and swelling, for several days.  I finally had an xray and saw a podiatrist who diagnosed me with tendonitis and prescribed steroids, ice, rest, and orthotic inserts.  Although on the trail I was very happy with the combination of my lightweight Merrell Hikers and Smartwool Socks, I know now that I need more support and will go with a heavier support boot in the future.
  • I would have liked a good pair of sandals for creek crossings and nighttime.  I had a pair of sandals with me but they were not sturdy enough for stream crossings.
  • I really didn’t regret any of the gear or supplies I brought as I used pretty much all of it.  I didn’t use the dental floss but I would still pack it as the weight is negligible and it could be useful.
  • One thing I would like for future use is a good pair of hiking shorts.  I had very comfortable shorts for hiking but they had no real pockets and I would like a pair with some deep pockets to hold the trail guide and maybe some snacks, as it was a major pain to have to drop pack everytime I wanted to eat something.
  • Pooping in the woods isn’t as bad as you think.  It really isn’t.  Once you do it once, it’s just part of backpacking.
  • I personally could have done without any cooked food on this summer hike.  I might have a different tune in the other three seasons, but in the heat, I was fine with easy food and didn’t need anything hot to drink either. My kids and husband insisted on cooked food however, but I felt it was a waste of weight to carry in stoves and fuel.
  • I like having three changes of underwear, shorts, shirt, bras, and socks.  One on, one drying out, and one dry.  I like going to bed in dry clothing.  I think that is a good amount without being too much weight.
  • Accept the fact that you will be smelly.  You just will, you can’t help it, no amount of deodorant will help it anyway.  I didn’t even pack deodorant.  As my son said, “If everyone stinks, then no one stinks.”.  Wise words from a 16 year old.
  • I had brought underarmour and figured it was a waste until the last night when I was FREEZING in my sleeping bag. .  I put on the underarmour and it was much better.  Always better to be prepared for cool weather.
  • I did fine with my extended wear contacts for the duration, but I’m not sure what I would have done on a longer hike.  I guess I’d have to go with glasses, or change contacts out when I had a chance to wash up well.

FOR WOMEN ONLY: (I mean it, men, you don’t want to read this)

  • I actually had my period on the trail; however, I get a very very light period at this point in my life and it wasn’t really any hassle.  I used panty liners and wet wipes and that kept me fairly clean.  I did find that panty liners don’t stick to wet, sweaty underwear however.  If I had it to do again, I’d probably just use a tampon during the day and be done with it.  Of course, packing out all that stuff stinks, but it has to be done.
  • For general wiping, I again used wet wipes, until I ran out.  I did eventually go to the infamous “pee rag”, on the last day.  If you don’t know of what I speak, I will direct you here: http://backpackerchicksrock.wordpress.com/2014/08/16/the-pee-ragbandana/
  • Note on that: when I read about it (kind of in the horror you are probably feeling now if you have just read it for the first time), I told my boys about it.  Very matter of factly, the one said, “oh pretty much everyone does that”.  So apparently it’s well known in backpacking literature, even by boys lol.