Category Archives: outdoors

Staycation, All I Ever Wanted: Boston February Vacation Ideas

 

By now you may have heard that we in Boston are drowning in snow. There are a million places online to find out about our woes—from blogs to The New York Times to Buzzfeed—so I won’t add more. But we’ve had plenty of together-time so far, with all the million snow days. It all seemed like prep for February vacation, when we’d all be snowed in together yet again, looking out our windows at snowbanks, but at least we’d be getting the mail and cars would be allowed to drive on the roads (not sure why they’d want to; I’m finding the games of chicken, and the pulling-over-into-snowbanks, and all the terrifying blind corners in my neighborhood just a little too much).

Unlike our friends who’ve fled to Florida, California, the Dominican Republic, and elsewhere, we had no plans to go away. So the kids and I brainstormed a list of things to do.

(null)

 

In case you can’t read it with the addition of tonight’s added “Jump Plans” schematic (by the boys), it says:

1. Playdate with Anna. She’s somewhere warm and snow-free for the week, so that’s out.

2. Great Brook Farm. This is a cross-country ski place near here, with groomed trails over fields and through woods, and ski rentals in case your four-year-old doesn’t yet have his own XC ski gear (ahem).

3. Pinocchio. A play being put on at a local family theater. We have tickets for tomorrow.

4. Robbie. (Friend of my older son’s.)

5. Sledding. I don’t know why we don’t go sledding more except the sledding hill is almost a mile away, a touch too far for the younger one to walk to and from, and too close to justify driving.

6. Hotel pool. Doesn’t that sound nice? Going to one of the nice, warm, lovely hotel pools in town and paying a fee and swimming? On Sunday, during the fourth huge snowstorm in a row, I actually priced an overnight at one hotel that has an “atrium-style” pool. Sadly, with the trains not running and an unofficial travel ban in place, it was hard to get there except on skis, and it was just too far for Max to ski there on his own and too tricky to have to tow Ben in the sled the whole way there if sidewalks weren’t clear.

7. (not numbered) Skate at the rink (or “Scate at the ringk“).

So we started off with the weekend, all normal including the blizzard (yeah, at this point that is normal, lots of digging and snowblowing, lots of snowy children stomping into each other’s houses, etc.). Then Monday, another Monday of our homebound family. It was bitterly cold, with a wind chill advisory in place. I agreed to meet a running friend and head out to Lexington, where the bike path is beautifully plowed (they finally plowed the bike path in my town, finally, after the fourth storm). It was 3 degrees (F), with a windchill of -12 or so. Whatever. We ran six miles, then I dropped off and got a cup of coffee while she ran another four. (I’m not lazy; I’m sticking to a gentle training plan.)

I got home, ate, showered, and realized that we all needed to go do something. It wasn’t optimal to just go play outside, but we couldn’t think of any great indoor options. Once I mentioned cross-country skiing, Max was really excited and wouldn’t consider a more frostbite-avoidant trip to Legoland instead (really).

Off we went to our favorite local cross-country ski center. We weren’t worried about the cold, because we have warm stuff to wear (not trying to sound cocky, but seriously, there are places much colder than this where people are outside safely. Don’t fear the cold; dress for it). Also, it had warmed up to the teens, and the windchill was no longer so worrisome.

Ben finally took to cross-country skis and had a great time (until he got tired and then cold and then was done, in the way that four-year-olds who are hungry and fatigued are just done).

(null)

Good thing I put sunscreen on, right?

 

(null)

This kid! He’s awesome. They both are.

 

We were all a little cranky by the end, but at least we were outside, in the great wide world, with a sunset like the one below as we skied back to the barn. (null)

 

Today, we went to the ice rink, where my new little winter sports person had his best day ever on skates (and was happy about it!). “Mom! You go the red line, and I’ll skate to you, OK? Don’t help me!” and “Mom! Did you see? I did a twirl-around fall-down.” “Mom. You go to the blue line and don’t move. Wait for me.” Meanwhile Max was happily skating around the rink. Wait, when and how did he learn to skate?

Then some errands and a trip to the library to go up and down all the stairs and then check out a million books (and one video and one book on CD).

Tomorrow: Something active in the morning, followed by Pinocchio. 

Maybe we’ll get to a pool on Thursday and then skating again on Friday. Or maybe we’ll get to a museum. That might be a good idea, for a change of pace.

So that’s how we’re spending our February vacation. Yes, I wouldn’t mind being somewhere where we don’t need snow pants, staying in a hotel, but that’s not what’s up with us this break. We’re here, having a pretty good time, and eating plenty of unseasonal fruit (because come on, with all this snow, I feel pretty OK about winter strawberries).

 

 

 

The Heart of Darkness Trail Run

I have had some bad runs in my day, but It has been a very long time, if ever, since a run was so rough that I burst into tears at the sight of home.

We spent Memorial Day weekend and Central Missouri, in a cabin at a state park. It’s been a fantastic time with family we rarely get to see (and this was my first time meeting the bride, my niece!). It’s beautiful here, the night thick with lightning bugs, the days rich with butterflies and bright birds we don’t see in the Northeast. Wherever you go, there are turtles.

So of course, in such a lush land, a trail run might be a little bit different than a trail run back home.

The one started out well enough. My nephew and brother-in-law joined me for the first 2 miles, a sun-spotted trail that passed an old stone gazebo and was rocky and dry and at least shoulderwidth wide.

Then, after we’d left my brother-in-law behind, my nephew decided to turn back a mile into the Wilderness Trail. The next 8 miles were mine alone.

The sun spotted rocky trail turned into a very narrow, unused, overgrown trail that ran along the stream bed. It obviously flooded often. I fought my way through webs and brushed off inchworms and caterpillars. I swallowed a bug. Around me, in the thick undergrowth, I heard animals scurrying away, and once I spotted something medium-sized and furry clambering up a tree. A groundhog? A beaver without a paddle tail?

I clambered over yet another fallen tree, brushed more webs off my face, and jogged on.

It was hot. And it had been four days at least since I had had a decent night’s sleep. I was tired.

3 miles in, I came to an abandoned gravel road. I was ready to turn around. And then I felt something crawling on my neck again, and I brushed off another big caterpillar, and I thought about the trail I had just come from.

I couldn’t bear to run on it again. The only thing to do was move forward.

Thankfully, the trail went up a slight rise and seemed like a normal trail instead of a jungley stream bed. It was well blazed, but the thick grass growing on the trail told me it hadn’t been used for a very long time. Nevertheless, I appreciated the light and the space and the feeling that the vegetation was not about to smother me.

This relief was short-lived. In what became a blur of misery, I noticed some toe prints on the trail, at what was probably the furthest point from civilization. And then I saw one bare human footprint. Just one. It was as long as from my knuckles to my elbow, and the toes were enormous.

I decided it was not a good time to take a pee break. It was instead a good time to keep on running. Because, let’s face it, nobody wants to hear another Sasquatch story.

The pretty trail went back into some very very thick stuff that made me wonder why I had thought the first part of the trail was overgrown. I once again found myself wishing I had brought along a pith helmet, a machete, and a shotgun. A deer sprang away above me. I wished I were up there with it.

The trail switchbacked a bit and then put me on a sunny hillside that had had a fire in recent years. I saw a perfect set of coyote footprints. The flowers on that burned hillside were beautiful, but I was exposed to a very hot sun. When I got back, I found out that it was 88°.

I was too hot and tired to run or even jog. I hiked along across that long hillside. And then I was back in some thick stuff—3 miles to go!! You can do it. !!—and I could hear snakes and animals slithering and clambering away into the underbrush, and then the trail cleared and butterflies started crashing into me.

Seriously. 4-inch black butterflies. Crashing into my legs.

I finally made it to the trailhead and back out to the road. Instead of taking a side trail up to the cabins—a trail I knew would be steep and rocky — I decided to take the road. The very hot, very steep road that was at least a mile up to the cabins.

I poured the last of my water over my head and shamelessly trudged. I was not even attempting to jog at this point. Just trudged. I considered sticking out my thumb to hitch a ride on a pickup truck up the hill, but I didn’t have the energy.

Trudge, trudge, trudge.

When I saw the sign for the cabins, I burst into tears and started to run. The cabins were downhill, and I ran, ran into the shade, ran towards a place where I could stop and scrape off all the bugs and the webs and wash off all the weird stains on my body from squashed bugs and crashed butterflies.

My husband was coming out of our cabin as I approached, and he looked at me. He could tell I was in rough shape, and he said he had wondered what had taken me so long. Normally a 10-miler would not take me nearly so long.

I tried to drink some water and eat some stuff and jumped into the shower to cool down, trying to scrub off every insect, every web. He tried to get me to drink more water and told me to take my time, but I knew everyone was waiting to head out to explore some caves, and I didn’t want to hold anyone up. It didn’t matter. I was so happy to be done with that run into that I would’ve gone to the caves as I was, unshowered.

The good thing about that run is that I knew I could do it, all in all, pretty easily. And I knew that if I could get to 5 miles, I could get to 10. And I knew that if I did it to seven, I’d only have 3 miles left after that. I knew I could get through it, and I knew I could do it, and even though it was pretty damn hellish, it was only 10 miles, and I did it.

I don’t know who made that Sasquatch footprint. Some weird hiker who had gone through before me, maybe. And I don’t know why the trail is so little used. I suspect the run was mostly so difficult because I was so tired, and it was so hot, and I was so alone in a strange place.

But I still feel that that trail was very different than the trails I am used to, even though the trails I am used to range from dusty to rocky to muddy to being loaded with roots. This trail was different. This trail felt abandoned and wild.

Am I glad I did it? Yes. Would I want to do that run again? No.

Do you have a particularly hideous run that you would not want to repeat?

TARC Fall Classic Trail Race Recap

The weekend before last I had the joy of running the TARC Fall Classic trail half marathon. I love the TARC runners (TARC stands for Trail Animal Running Club) and the Fall Classic. Imagine running with a bunch of people who are really laid-back and focused on the fun of running and supporting each other.

 

Absolutely gorgeous morning for a race, right? Here, runners amassing behind the barn for the pre-race meeting.

Absolutely gorgeous morning for a race, right? Here, runners amassing behind the barn for the pre-race meeting.

There are several races in the Fall Classic: 10k, half marathon, full marathon, and ultra (50k, or about 31 miles). This year, I’d hoped to run the ultra that day (50k) but realized, about a month before the race, that it wasn’t the best idea for me. So I ran the half instead, with the goal of beating last year’s time. You’d think it wouldn’t be that hard, since last year I ran it as a fun run with some friends, but my training really flagged once I gave up the plan of doing the ultra, and my Achilles is sill a little tender.

 

Beautiful fall woods

Beautiful fall woods + random hound

In my favor, I’d be running with a friend who’d raced a very fast half marathon the previous week. I thought maybe I’d stay ahead of him and feel fast and powerful.

Ha! Have I mentioned my occasional ego smackdowns? As it turned out, I barely kept up with him…and not even for the whole race.

But also in my favor, I was powered with PerfectFuel chocolate (more on this in another post!) I ran the first 11 miles at a pretty lively pace; then I slowed down immensely. My friend left me on a hill, as did a woman I’d been trying (and unable) to pass for three miles, and I slogged along alone for the rest of the race.

happydownhill

I’m not ashamed to admit I limped up that little hill and when I saw the photographer on the other side, I ran down it, smiling. It’s true.

It was nice, actually — I was finally all alone in the early-autumn woods, losing myself in the patterns of the yellow leaves…which covered one particular rock, on which I tripped and sailed, Superman-style, landing face-down on the trail.

Oof.

“Down!” I yelled, to no one in particular. After a moment I got up. “Up!” I shouted, even though there was no one else in sight. I had dirt inside my bellybutton. But I wasn’t injured, and I was, in fact, giggling, because everyone trips at some point on a trail run, and I kept on running, and I finished the race ten minutes faster than I had the previous year….

to finish

Out of the woods, the final stretch around the field toward the finish line. Who’s so happy about that last tenth of a mile?

…which made me first in my age group and fourth woman overall (1:56, if you must know– slower than my road half marathon times, but not terrible). Not bad at all, really. It’s nice when all the faster women run other races, so that I have a chance of placing!

And then there was this:

one of four food tables

one of four food tables

The famous post-race/aid station. Four tables heaping with food (I mean, HEAPING). I went for the boiled potatoes dipped in salt, but there was plenty more to choose from.

I’ll be back next year, if not for the ultra then for the half again.

Thanks for another great Fall Classic, Trail Animals!

Relishing the Last of Summer: Burning the Entire Candle

We’re running out of summer fast, though the final two weeks stretches long ahead of us.

I keep breaking my own rules and policies. It started when we went to Iceland back in July (I swear, I’ll get a post on visiting Iceland with kids out soon!). We were traveling, right? To a different time zone, where the sun didn’t set until around midnight, right? So bedtimes got quite lax.

And it was fine.

Once we returned home, well, it’s summer! The children, I’m sure, stayed up late and did things out of the ordinary plenty in the first part of August, but lately I feel like we’re on high speed toward the end of summer.

We went to the Cape for several days of fun at the beaches (ocean and pond). I took the kids out in a kayak. Back home again, we’ve gone to the local pond nearly every day to swim. We had a flurry of blogger/social media events which included a Hood ice cream party (#MeetHarvey, to introduce their new ice cream bars—yum) at a wonderful playground with a water feature. The kids enjoyed the treats, the water, the other kids, and I enjoyed hanging with some fellow local bloggers and catching up a little (plus, those Hood people treat their social media friends right!!).

Last weekend, we went on a last-minute camping trip. I was concerned about the state forest campground we ended up in, about not being prepared enough, about sleeping together in a tent, etc. I needn’t have worried. The boys had a great time riding their bikes up and down the camp road, having tons of freedom, hiking a “secret” trail to the lake, and then going for a night hike after dinner, headlamps on as they ran down a trail through the forest.

Back at our campsite, we let them eat too many s’mores, perhaps, because you’re only young once. Then everyone slept hard and fast in the tent, waking to enjoy a morning campfire (I mean, why not?). After we struck camp, we drove to Mt. Monadnock, where we hiked to the summit and down again, five often steep miles round trip, with lots of bare granite face to scramble up using hands and feet.

Max did it all on his own, very excited and proud. I was thrilled for him. Ben needed to be carried at times, especially on the way down, where he nearly fell asleep riding on C’s shoulders (note to self: get a hiking carrier). We found a diner for dinner, then (despite my quite Capricorn objections, it already dark and we were more than an hour from home on a Sunday night) we stopped for ice cream. Of course.

The next day, it was a full day at the Museum of Science, including a planetarium show and the butterfly garden. Tuesday, I made a last-minute decision not to catch the last family concert of the season at the lake, because the boys were tired. Wednesday, to the lake to swim, and today, off to a local pool to swim.

On top of this, my work has really picked up, with some heavy deadlines coming up. I’m hoping to pick up some other fall projects as well.

On top of all that, twenty pounds of peaches sit in my kitchen waiting for me to turn them into jam before C and I head to New Hampshire tomorrow for a weekend backpacking trip with some friends.

We’re not at a frantic pace, for sure, though it may sound like it. It’s actually fairly relaxed, just super-spontaneous. The boys are with the sitter for the morning and with me from right after lunch, on. I make sure they’re eating dinner by 5:30 or so. But oh, life is short, and time is short, so we do whatever they want in the afternoons. Errands can wait, for now.

Though I know we need to get back to an earlier bedtime in order to facilitate earlier wake-up times (hello, back-to-school!), for now, we’re just enjoying life and each other. I’m certainly enjoying the rhythm of things, having mornings to work and afternoons with the boys.

And it feels great.

 

 

Winter Running Jacket Decisions

Winter running season is finally upon us, judging from today’s temperatures and the impending nor’easter (the first flakes are starting to fall as I type this).

For this morning’s run, I managed in a short-sleeved shirt and my new arm warmers. They’re brilliant–like socks for my arms. They’re long enough so that there’s no gap between them and my gloves. I can roll them down as my arms get warm. I’m more comfortable in these and a shirt than in a heavy jacket.

But I’ll have a lot of running to do this winter, especially since I’m training for the Boston Marathon in April. And I don’t tolerate cold as well as I used to.

My current running jacket is from REI. It’s lightweight and really well designed, with one breast pocket, light fleece at the collar (for a cozy chin when it is all zipped up), a two-way zipper, and not much else. I bought it in 2004 or 2005. It tore once, on a branch, but I duct-taped it carefully and the duct tape and jacket have held up remarkably well over the years.

However, this jacket is not so good for rain. It is useless, in fact. I’m not slightly protected from the rain in this jacket; instead, I am immediately soaking wet, running in a soaking-wet jacket. I need better rain protection when I run.

Thus began my quest for the perfect running jacket.

Considerations: 

  • Fit: Should be snug but not restrictive. 
  • Weatherproofing: Should be water-resistant but breathable. 
  • Pockets: Chest is best. Hands are optional. 
  • Sleeves: Should be long enough to cover part of hands. 
  • Visibility/Reflective Stuff: I don’t care. I mostly run trails and if I run on the road, it’s not at night. 

Here’s what I tried:

Brooks Nightlife Essential Hi-Viz Run Jacket (City Sports): I tried this in a size small first. Too narrow in the shoulders. I exchanged it for a medium. Still too narrow in the shoulders, and now too boxy on the rest of my body! I wanted to like this jacket. It’s bright and seems well-made and like the right weight. But besides the fit problems, it also lacks a chest pocket. It does have hand pockets, but I like a chest pocket. If you’re the right build, this would be a great jacket for night runs, but it was not the jacket for me.

Bottom Line: Good jacket, poor fit for me.

Brooks Essential Run Jacket II (Running Warehouse): Windproof, water-repellent. Not as glaringly bright as the Hi-Viz jacket, which can probably be seen from 3 miles away. It came in a lovely shade of teal, in fact. But it had the same fit problem as the other Brooks jacket–just too narrow in the shoulders. I like Brooks trail shoes, but their jackets just do not fit me quite right.

Bottom Line: Good jacket, poor fit for me.

The North Face Stormy Trail Jacket (Running Warehouse, $165): This is the most expensive jacket of the bunch. It’s also a really nice jacket. And like my beloved old REI jacket, it has just one pocket, at the chest. The sleeves are a little long, which I love, and the fit is great. It is 100% waterproof and 100% windproof. It boasts something called FlashDry, a fabric additive that aids moisture removal so that I wouldn’t be a big ball of sweat inside the jacket. However, the lining of this jacket feels really cold and clammy against bare skin. Since I’m often in a short-sleeved shirt under my jacket, this is something for me to consider.

Bottom Line: Fantastic jacket.
 

The North Face Apex Lite Jacket (Running Warehouse, $130): Did I mention I love The North Face products? I do. Smart design, great fit. This jacket features a reflective pattern on the front. Like the other North Face jacket, it has one chest pocket, no others. This jacket looks less water repellent and more breathable than the Stormy Trail jacket, and it is a closer fit. It still looks more water repellent than the Brooks jackets.

Bottom Line: Great jacket, though I prefer the fit of the Stormy Trail jacket better.

Pearl Izumi Elite Barrier Convertible Jacket (Road Runner Sports, $98): I like this. Comfortable fit, and it has chest and handwarmer pockets.*  It also has a pocket in the back, which could be good for stashing a hat once my head warms up (though I’m on the fence about pockets on my back; I usually find them uncomfortable with stuff in them). The sleeves zip off so this converts to a vest. One running friend swears by this jacket.

Bottom Line: Very appealing. Perhaps the best all-around running jacket, though I doubt it is as water-repellent as the Stormy Trail.

They’re all good jackets and would all be good on the trail in bad weather, but I think the North Face (either one) wins.

What’s your favorite winter/wet-weather running jacket? 

Taking the Kids to Boston

This weekend I ran another trail race. It was awesome. I froze my ass off until we started running, and then I ran as hard as I could.

My husband, meanwhile, on his own with the boys, took them for haircuts. Both of them. Then he took them shopping for some stuff.* All in all, I’d say he did pretty well, considering he’s really not on his own with them that often.**

Today, after a brunch with my trail-running group (I think mostly I was in the backyard playing football with the kids, somehow, but it was a really nice get-together and my group is not named Team Pancake for nothing), C got ready to go climbing with a friend while I bravely stayed behind with the kids.

This was not unplanned. Ever since his friend had emailed us to climb with him, I’d told C that he should go and I’d stay home, since, after all, I was taking half of Saturday to run a trail race.

Fair, right? I could have hired a sitter so we could both go, but time alone with friends is so important.

I decided to take the kids into Boston. Alone. Max didn’t want to ride the subway (I think it’s too loud for him), so I drove.  No meters on Sunday. I packed lunches for them, and water, and plenty of changes of clothes for Ben, who’s totally dry all day at daycare but accident central at home lately. (Honestly, I blame Halloween. I don’t know why.)

And we were off. We parked at Government Center and the boys ran across the vast expanse of brick. They went down the huge staircase together, me carrying the stroller and trying to keep up. We walked through Faneuil Hall and watched a man standing on another man’s shoulders (and then head) juggle huge knives. We looked at horses harnessed to buggies. I would have paid for a ride, but Max didn’t want to do that.

Stop when you get to the stairs, kids.

We tried to find the carousel (the promised star of today’s trip) but couldn’t, so instead we looked at boats and then went to see the seals at the New England Aquarium. Max asked about going in, but that place is expensive, so I said we’d get discounted library passes and come back another day. The seals themselves were pretty exciting, though.

“I wanna see them!”
 
Brothers, watching.

Then we got explicit directions to the carousel, which still wasn’t there. A shirt vendor told us it had been packed up for winter but that there was a nearby playground. We walked through a “tunnel” as Max described it and found the playground, whose climbing structure was just big and sprawled enough that I was quite on edge trying to keep both kids in sight and Ben in safety. Then we had a picnic lunch, played in the sandbox, and left.

Ben can keep up.

I kept both kids alive and in sight in Quincy Market on a weekend, which felt like a big feat, and we hit the potties there. They’d eaten lunch but I hadn’t, and we were all cold, so I suggested we stay indoors for a snack. We’d nearly walked the length of the building before Max spotted a pretzel vendor. Go, Max!

Tired. Not done, but tired. Also the soft pretzel was saltier than he liked.

And then we sat outside forever in the cold to watch black guys dance (no, I’m serious, that’s how they advertised themselves, repeatedly: “Come watch black guys dance!”). Max really liked the hip-hop music and the breakdancing moves. Ben appeared to be stoically freezing in the stroller. I wrapped my jacket over him, leaving me shivering in a t-shirt.

Finally it was time to run back to the car to warm up and go grocery shopping.

It has been a long time since I actually took the boys on an adventure, especially on my own. It was fun. And they were great. Even grocery shopping after a long cold day, close to dinnertime, they were great. Well-behaved, good listening, funny and fooling around with each other but wanting to do the right thing…it was fantastic.

And Max loved it. Ben probably did, too, but wasn’t as expressive about it. Max thinks that we should have adventures more often. I completely agree. I wish I were the kind of mom who is constantly whisking her kids off to various adventures: pottery painting, the aquarium, horse shows, hockey expos, clown demos, Lego competitions (which he is totally not ready for).

But we’re working on it. We’ve had more adventures lately (including pottery painting). I’m on the verge of (hopefully) more blogging and writing and social promotion work, which would afford me more afternoons with Max and Ben. Life since my last big project ended has been really sweet here, more time with the kids, more time for everything, less use of sitters. I like it.

So here’s to taking the kids to Boston–or anywhere out of their usual routine–again soon.

* Target.  For cookies and toys. But whatever–I’d rather put a dull spoon through my temple than take both kids to Target on a Saturday morning, you know? Also, those generic-brand “Pumpkin Cremes” are actually pretty good, and the 75-lb box of “naturally colored” goldfish will save my butt on a double-whammy double shift of parent helping at Max’s preschool this week. So go, C!

** Not a blame. He has a full-time, onsite job. I have a part-time, freelance-from-home job. It just happens that I spend more time with the boys.

Whooping in the Woods: 5 Trail Runners, 4 Directions

Because I somehow messed up the registration for today’s trail race–not just for myself, but essentially for three other people*–we opted for Plan B, a longer trail run in our usual patch of woods, on the most technical trail there.

We met, three of us, plus my friend J—— (the fastest runner I know, and by far the fastest mother-runner) and my friend Lei (a very experienced mountaineer).

Lei had warned us she’d be slow today and didn’t want to run as many miles as the rest of us, and she reassured us we could leave her behind. She’d run home from the woods instead of waiting for a ride.

We lost her a few times, waited for her to catch up, and eventually lost her for good. When I told the other runners some of Lei’s accomplishments, they relaxed. “OK, so she’s going to be fine if we leave her alone in the woods, probably.”

Yeah, more than likely.

The trail we were on was beautiful, narrow and rocky and technical, bright leaves hiding trail hazards. My new minimal trail shoes were marvelous, so I felt fleet without bruising my soles on the rocks.

We followed the trail up and down and around and rocks, rocks, rocks. I love that trail. And then we burst out into a high, clear field that I didn’t recognize. Several trails led from the top. I noted it was lovely but weirdly unfamiliar.

Yes. That’s because we then ended up on a fire road with no white blazes in sight.

I suggested we run back up the trail to the intersection so we could find the white blazes, but F—– and J—— didn’t want to backtrack.

We agreed I’d run back up the trail, then yell “Left” or “Right” to tell them which way to go on the fire road. After all, the trail would cross the fire road again. We’d meet up there.

I ran back up, farther than I’d expected to. Then I realized that my left was their right. I trusted they’d understand that if I yelled, “Left!” they’d know I meant that coming from where I was, one would turn left onto the fire road.

Not only had we not clarified this before I left them, but they couldn’t clearly hear what I was yelling.

I ran an absolutely delicious section of trail, my enjoyment only slightly marred by the nagging feeling that we’d never meet up again. The trail was veering far to the left, and I wasn’t sure it would cross that particular fire road anytime soon.

I got to the fire road, finally, and waited. Nothing. I whistled a few times. Nothing. I thought I heard a “Whoop!”  I “whoop!”‘ed back. More whooping, mostly from me. I heard voices and whooped more, but saw in the distance a small group of hikers passing by. I waited alone, periodically letting out a loud “Whoop!”

“Whoop” came back to me, but from different directions.

A man and his dog came over the hill. The man looked at me curiously: a lone runner, standing on the trail, whooping into the woods.

“My running friends and I got separated,” I explained.

And then out of the blue, Lei came trotting over the hill behind the man. “Hey, Lei!” I called. Then I explained to the man, “We lost her about an hour ago.” He smiled slightly and walked on…but then waited at a curve in the trail, probably to see what was going to happen next.

I saw some bright color through the trees, coming toward us: L——–, on the white trail! And some voices coming over the hill: J—– and F——-, on the fire road! They’d taken the wrong fork and then bushwhacked to get over to here, hearing the “whoop!”.

And here we all were again, reunited, laughing about Lei rejoining us like this. I’m not sure we ever did determine who else was whooping besides me.

We lost Lei again, figuring she’d take a shorter route and run herself back home, but when we eventually got back to the cars (for the very last bit L—– and J—– on the fire road, F—– and I on singletrack), who did we see but Lei, running up the road toward us?

So that’s one way to have a fun morning trail run, with some very improbable but lucky meetings-up in the woods. Sure, the race would have been a lot of fun, plus we’d all get running gloves instead of T-shirts (Note to race directors: USEFUL! We don’t need more T-shirts!). But hey, it was certainly a nice, rugged, and adventurous way to start the day.

*Lesson: Always register yourself for a race. Don’t rely on half-assed schlubs like me. And by “essentially” I mean I registered me and L—-, but it didn’t go through, and F—— and T——– were  relying on L——‘s wife to watch their kids so they could run the race, so if L——- wasn’t going….see? Yeah.

Swimming Lessons: Updated with Pictures

I didn’t mean to disappear for so long. Days turned into more days turned to a week turned into longer.

What’s going on is that it is summer, and we have been swimming. I’m not sure why any of us bother to take off our suits, in fact, except that Max is immediately freezing as soon as he comes out of the water, even if it is 90 degrees and he’s in the sun (he gets this from me, I think); Ben needs something diaper-like as he is still not entirely potty-proficient (well, he’s really proficient, but if he’s wearing something like underwear or a swimsuit he forgets to pee in the toilet, whereas if he’s buck-naked he has almost no accidents at all); I feel clammy if I stay in a damp suit; and C, well, he changes out of his, too.

Me trying to keep Ben from swimming out to a pod of seals in Chatham…yep, Chatham, where the shark was. The shark wasn’t a problem; the ripping outward current was. I think I did a masterful job of keeping Little Half-Naked Boy from washing out to sea, though.

Us in Chatham. We weren’t even swimming; we were just parked briefly to show some friends this beach, and next thing I know, Ben’s almost naked and in the water.

We were on the Cape for several days, in the water. In the ocean. In the lake. In the lake. In the ocean. Every day: eat breakfast, pack lunches, get the kids into swimsuits and covered in sunscreen, find the sun hats, and head to the water.

It sounds so quick and easy, but it actually takes hours, even with several adults taking on various tasks (child-watching, sandwich-making, breakfast clean-up, car-loading, etc.).

At the ocean, Max and Ben played happily in the water. Max used to love “dolphin rides” (I swim on my side or back while he rides on me), but this year he doesn’t. It could be that I find it harder to swim with 42 pounds on my midsection, and he rides lower in the water than he used to. Or maybe he’s just more interested in playing with his cousins now and building sand structures. Or trying out his snorkel and goggles with C. He still likes water, though.

Ben can’t get enough of it. He and Max and I played “Ring Around the Rosie” in the surf zone, on a day when the waves were pretty strong, and he repeatedly got facefuls of seawater before I’d let go of him and let the waves carry him onto the sand. He loved it.

At the lake–both on the Cape and here, in our town–he likes to wade out deep, to his chin, and sometimes deeper. Sometimes he’ll say something like “It’s getting deep!” just before he steps into even deeper water, and then I pull him out and he’s sputtering and coughing. And then he does it again.

He happily plays motorboat in the lake and in the bathtub, putting his face down and blowing bubbles in the water. He kicks strongly as I pull him along. He walks into the water as soon as we arrive at any beach.

So naturally I thought his swimming lessons would go….swimmingly.

The main protest was that is was “too wet.” That’s right. The pool at the local Boys and Girls Club is “too wet.”

It didn’t help that we had to shower before getting into the pool, which he hated, and then had to sit around for 10 minutes, since we’d arrived early. He doesn’t like to wait, and he was getting cold.

While most of the things the instructor had us do together were things we’ve already done, he didn’t like doing them in the pool. “Noooooo, Mommy, noooooo! It’s too wet!”

Though relaxing back in my arms while kicking may be something he won’t enjoy doing for years, he loved jumping off the wall into the pool and then climbing back out again. He’s two years old. I know he loves being in the water and doesn’t mind getting his face wet. So we’ll look at this set of classes as “Adjusting to an Indoor Pool” class instead of “Adjusting to the Water” class, which is really the point of it at this age.

Max’s lesson’s are next week, drop-off big kid lessons. That should be interesting. I think he’ll be OK with the drop-off part–something I wouldn’t have said two months ago. I’m curious to see what skills he develops in his lessons. He’ll definitely be continuing lessons this fall. He’s four. He really needs to learn to swim now.

So I’ll be in the pool every day this week, at the lake this weekend, and, who knows? Maybe we’ll have some after-school trips to the lake next week, too, so he can practice his new skills.

Of course, the only photo I have of all this swimming is this one of them in the bathtub, because I was too busy keeping them from, you know, drowning to take any pictures at the ocean or lake.

On the Edge of 17

Tomorrow’s my 40th birthday.

You’re probably thinking, “What will she do this time? How can she possibly top the crazed bacchanalia of her 30th-birthday rock-star party? How is this fun-loving, no-holds-barred, who-needs-boundaries socialite* going to celebrate this momentous occasion?”

Glad you asked.

The original, long-ago plan was to take a week-long mountaineering course at the American Alpine Institute. [Hahahaha. That was before husband and kids.]

The new plan was to take a day off, start with a trail run, get a pedicure, and go shopping so that when I meet my family for dinner on Saturday I’m not wearing the exact same top I have worn for every “nice” occasion for the past two years.

The reality:

  • A pre-dawn trail run with my wonderful running group.
  • Home in time for a quick shower, some hurried oatmeal, and then dropping Max off at preschool and driving C to work while on a conference call (he’ll drive, I’ll conference).
  • Next up: Chiropractic appointment (to tweak my back and neck back into place after last week’s 90-minute Astanga class, which I’m clearly not quite ready for), after which I will try to get to yoga, which will be the same 90-minute Astanga class (I’m older, see, but not necessarily smarter…).
  • Pinworm medicine. That’s right. Nothing says “Happy Birthday!” like pinworm medicine. Ben has pinworms, so we all need to be treated.
  • Work. I will spend the afternoon trying to move through an extra project I mistakenly took on, thinking I’d have more time for it. I do not. I have to work all weekend, due to what one might call a gross oversight in terms of biting off more than one can possibly chew if one has small children who need things like dinner and cannot walk themselves to and from daycare/preschool and such (come on, kids, Route 16 isn’t that busy…and if you’re early enough, the crossing guard can help you!).
  • Speaking of which, right around their dinner time I will knock off work to relieve the sitter, and then drive both hungry kids to pick up C at the bus station, and then somehow get everyone fed…

Saturday we’re celebrating with my parents and brothers and their families. We were going to go away skiing but there is no f*cking snow. Well, maybe it snowed last night, actually, but too late, sucker! We’ll take a weekend away skiing another time (back country/cross country, so a generalized snowfall is pretty crucial). Or maybe I’ll just go with a couple of close friends.

In a few weeks, when one friend is back from some traveling, I’ll go out to dinner with friends and then go on a ski trip with a few of them.

So, it won’t be the fanciest, most exciting, most thrilling birthday ever, but it will be…fine. And, unlike after my 30th birthday, I will be in excellent condition to get up early and run 10 miles the next morning! Which is what I will do. Because I will be 40, and I will still rock. Just in a very different way than I used to.

* I’m no longer a fun-loving socialite. I’m a quiet recluse, in fact, who lives her life in a one-mile radius except for the Internet and for yoga class, which is 2.5 miles away.

40 Years, Not 40 Friends

Nothing’s harder for a recluse than being asked for a list of her friends and their contact info.

And nothing is more depressing than someone asking for this a few weeks before said recluse turns 40.

I don’t mind turning 40. I’m kind of looking forward to it, in fact. I’m done with my 30s and ready to move on to the next adventure, much as I was totally over my 20s and ready to turn 30 a decade ago (31, however, was a tough birthday. 31 means you are actually in your 30s, which at the time seemed most of the way toward old). I’m ready to turn 40. I’m happy about it.

Plus, I’ll be one of the youngest in my age group at races, giving me some kind of edge, right? Right?

So that’s not what has me down. No, it’s that my brother asked me for a list of names of friends (and their contact info) to plan a party for me.

I thought for a minute.

“Um….friends. Sure. Hang on. Let me think for a sec.”

About eight or ten years ago, my close friends started moving to far-flung places: Arizona, California, Omaha, Chicago. Vermont. Pennsylvania. Delaware. Maine. We kept in touch, but of course we all start finding new friends closer to home.

And then I got married, which changed a lot of relationships for me. If I say I’m a recluse, well, I look like a blazing socialite next to my hermit of a husband.

And then we had babies.

I no longer want to go out. I’m tired. I’m hopelessly unfashionable. I own one decent “casual night out” top. I’m overwhelmed by work and laundry and my children’s needs. I have a marriage to maintain (I know that makes it sound as sexy as cleaning gutters, but marriage with two young children is not always spanky fun, you know?).

When I do finally get out the door and to my destination, I’m a little dazed. I haven’t been out in months, remember. And just being away from the mayhem of bedtime is so stunning that I can do little more than stare and smile blandly and sip a drink and ask the same question three times, interrupting the answer each time with something intriguing and thrilling like, “Wow, I can’t believe I am not home trying to get Max to pee before bed!”

I could still have friends, even if I don’t go out, but I don’t. I have about three “real-life” friends, one of whom just had a baby (as in, less than a week ago) and another with whom I’ve fallen out of touch (my fault).

Otherwise, there’s my running group, my blog-world people (both bloggers and commenters), and my Facebook friends. My running group is probably the closest thing I have to real live friends, really. I spend more time with them than with anyone else. While we don’t get too personal, we know each other pretty well.

But wouldn’t it be weird to see them in the evening, in regular clothes? And to talk about something other than our pace?

So, much as I’d love to proffer up a list of friends, dear brother, I don’t think I have enough friends to generate an actual list. This isn’t any sort of pity party; I don’t think I’m lonely. I guess I just live behind a screen so much that I don’t really talk to many people any more.

Oh, that does sound pathetic, doesn’t it.

My 40th birthday will be a low-key affair with a few essential ingredients: a long morning trail run on the actual day of my birthday, a weekend away with just C for some backcountry skiing, some small family celebration, and maybe a dinner out with my two remaining actual friends.

And it will be grand, any and all of it.