Camping at James River State Park

When Jay and I were dating, we went camping in Florida over winter break.  Most of the details of that trip are gone from my memory, but I do remember one pretty clearly.  We had just finished a really yummy dinner and he asked me, “If we get married, can we keep going camping like this?”  Um….YES!  Six weeks later, he put a ring on it.  Fourteen years and two kids later, we still love camping together.

Friday

Friday we left for our trip to James River State Park.  For dinner that night we had chicken & veggies cooked in foil packs, the same meal that I’m pretty sure convinced Jay he was ready to start talking about marriage 14 years ago.

Saturday

I’ve been counting down the years until Bubba would turn 6, the minimum age for tubing, canoeing, or kayaking at the park.  I ended up deciding to take the kids tubing Saturday morning because I remember enjoying that as a kid.  I just had a whole paragraph typed out about Bubba’s bad attitude during this trip, but I’ve decided I’m not going to let that define my memory.  Instead I’ll choose to remember the rapids that felt big from the water but look tiny from the bank, the magic of watching the bottom of the river zip by you in the shallow parts, and our stop on a sandy island to poke around.  Tubing was just as fun as I had remembered it.

I know Gerry Brooks would not approve of this photo, but I couldn’t help myself.   In the afternoon I took the kids to the Discover Area, a natural playground of sorts.  They played, and I prepared for my upcoming book club in the shade.  I love these slow moments.

 

Saturday night we took a wagon trip to the Tye River Overlook with a park ranger.  (Jay took this shot of us on the ride, and I happen to love it!)  The ranger had an electronic owl call to attract screech owls.  On our third or fourth stop, right about the point that Bubba fell asleep in my lap, we finally got one to respond!  It talked to us from a nearby tree for several minutes, but we never spotted it.  On our last stop we heard both the whinny and bounce calls, and two owls called back and forth to each other.  We joked that we had just helped to make an owl love connection.

Sunday

This day started out the best way…with a run.  I took the Cabell trail, and in keeping with tradition, got slightly lost.  The trail map and markings are great at the park….about 95% of the time.  But when there’s an arrow pointing left and no real trail going left, you just have to make your best guess.

 

The night before, Bubba asked to join me on the morning run, but we all knew that would be fun for like the first 5 minutes.  So I promised him a short run together when I got back.  He turned out to be a much better running partner than expected.  We took the Cabell trail in the opposite direction from what I had just run and figured out where I went off course.  I’m still sticking with the fact that it was a signage error….not mine. 🙂

Later that morning we went to two programs led by the rangers.  We watched Cobb, the corn snake, eat his weekly meal of a tiny thawed out mouse, then both kids held him.  We also learned lots of interesting ways to start a fire, and Chica got to try it out with a magnifying glass.  When I asked the kids at lunch today what their three favorite parts of the weekend were, both of these were mentioned.  I was slightly underwhelmed, but they were enthralled.  Doesn’t it often work that way??

If I’m being honest, I feel like I have a hard time connecting with this one these days.  I’ve written about that a bit, but that feeling keeps nagging at me.  So when she expressed interest in kayaking, I jumped on the opportunity to spend some time just with her.  We rented two boats after lunch on Sunday, and it was everything I hoped it would be.  She was (is) brave and strong and chatty and positive and encouraging.  We docked our boats twice and explored.  At lunch today both of us voted kayaking as our favorite part of the trip.

As if we hadn’t already packed enough into this day, I ended up sending the kids on a scavenger hunt before dinner.  I hid some Dollar Tree toys around the campground with clues, and they rode their bikes to find them.  The hunt was followed by a few (mostly drama free) hours of playing together.

Monday

I was feeling brave this morning, so I decided on a morning bike ride instead of run.  I’m still so green at riding trails.  I picked the longest, easiest trail in the park, the River Trail.  Most of it was a really wide, grassy path, but the end had several super steep downhill sections.  I’ve been reading about taking risks in my math teacher book, and I know risks are how we learn.  So…..I leveled my pedals, stood up, stuck my elbows out and butt back, cried out “Jesus! Jesus!” a few times, and went for it.  I lived to tell about it, y’all.  It was kinda fun.

The rest of the day was just packing up and hot.  Real hot.  The most exciting thing that happened was that we found a black widow spider building an egg sac on the top of our tent, under the rain fly.  I snapped this picture and took a short video before Jay killed it.

 

And finally, a few more pictures just for fun!  I asked Jay to send me a few of his best photos from the weekend.  Apparently he either really likes funny face photos, or that’s all we ever do when he pulls out the camera.

   

 

 

 

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My Ten New Things

Last week my friend Brittany wrote a post about the ten (terrifying!) NEW things she tried in 2016.  Her words got me wondering if I could think of my own ten new things from 2016.  Here goes!

1. Running Buddies:

What began as my most terrifying new thing turned out to be my absolute favorite part of 2016. I heard about the No-Pressure Running Group from a friend when training for the Richmond Marathon in 2015.  For whatever reason, I pictured a perfectly manicured group of Boonsboro mamas prancing up the Monument Terrace steps like it was no biggie.  I just knew they would be too fast and too cool for me.

Fast forward to the summer of 2016 when a sweet friend from church invited me to run with this same group.  At that point I wasn’t even sure if I could run the 5 miles they had planned, but I sucked up my fears and agreed to meet her anyway.  I quickly learned that this group was not at all what I had expected.  These women are real and flawed and smart and supportive and strong and amazing.  So for about six months now, the promise of good company has helped to drag my rear out of bed at 4:50 (or 5:00, or 5:13) a few mornings each week.  They’ve kept me running through the cold and pushed me to run faster and longer.  But more importantly, I now have a great new group of friends that have each been a tremendous blessing in my life.

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2. A New Job:

At the start of this school year I took a new position as the STREAM Coach & Math Remediation Specialist.  That’s a big-ol’ crazy mouthful that means I get to help kids build stuff and get better at math all day…what could be better than that?  The hard parts have been getting the room ready in time for school to start, missing working closely everyday with teammates, learning 500+ names, and figuring out how to respond to students with love and understanding when expectations aren’t met .  The best parts have been witnessing growth among both the students and teachers, the excitement I see as students get to collaborate and create, and nights (every once in a while) where I don’t come home to hours of prep or grading or emails.  Oh….and a schedule that makes those 5:30am runs possible!

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3. A New Degree

In April I finished my Master’s in Math Education K-6 from WGU.  At the end of this program, I was convinced that higher education is where I eventually wanted to land.  I knew that this degree was only going to get me so far, so I immediately started looking for the what-next.  For now the what-next is Integrative STEM Education classes online through Virginia Tech.  For me this has meant many late nights in the library at LC fueled by gummy worms.  For Jay this has meant countless nights of holding down the fort on his own.  I tell him and tell him, but I so hope he realizes how thankful I am for him.

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4. Blue Apron

A friend of my parents gifted us with a free trial of this meal service.  I had fully intended to get the free box and then cancel the subscription because it’s so expensive.  However, we really liked it!  The recipes were simple but interesting.  They forced us to slow down and eat at home.  We got some recipes that we liked so much we’ve repeated them several times with ingredients we’ve bought at the store.  Also, the portions are generally good sizes so neither of us overeats.  We were getting a box once a month, but now we’ve bumped back to every few months because we can reuse the recipes we already have.

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5. Mountain Biking

Whenever I run on the Peaks View Park trails, I get the mountain biking itch.  Before this year, I’ve never really tried it, but these trails (more than the ones at Candler’s) make it look like fun to me.  I remember thinking after a run this summer, “I wish there was a way I could learn to mountain bike….like a class or something.”  Well whadayaknow?!?  A few days later I ran across an ad for a beginner mountain biking class that would be offered through Parks and Rec.  It was super cheap and at a time when Jay could watch the kids, so I signed up!  I loved the class, but I left convinced that my bike from circa eighth grade just wasn’t going to cut it for many more rides.  I got a new bike for my birthday, followed promptly by a new school year that took up every free minute of time I might have had to ride.  I’m hoping that 2017 will bring more rides…and maybe a friend or two that will go with me!

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6. LuLaRoe

legginsSoooo….yeah.  I seriously debated whether or not to include this in my ten new things list, but I finally decided that ten years from now rereading this would probably give me a good chuckle.  At some point this year the Facebooks blew up with the LuLaRoe.  It somehow went from one college friend selling it to a gazillion sales every week.  I’ve never been a fan of buying something I haven’t tried on, so I waited until I got invited to a real-live party to buy any.  Somehow I got out of there with a bright orange pair of tights with blue paper airplanes.  What in the world?  And while they do actually feel as good on as everyone says they do, I can’t help but wonder what we’ll say about ourselves in 2026.  “Ahh….remember those leggings we all used to wear!?!  With unicorns and spaceships and flamingos and pineapples….what were we thinking?!”

7. Pokemon Goimg_2187

As usual, I’m a little late to this trend.  We just downloaded it over Christmas break, and I finally see what all the fuss is about.  It’s fun!  Grandma and I have been texting each other back and forth about our current level and how many we’ve caught.  She’s currently skunking me on level 14.  As soon as this post is up, I think we’re headed out to LC to try to catch up to her.  🙂

8. Twitter

twitterYep…also late on this one.  I started tweeting in March after hearing George Couros at LC.  While I was certainly hesitant to get started, so many good things came from tweeting the second half of our school year.  I think it’s fun to look back and have a record of what we did, but the best part was collaborating with a class in Canada through Twitter.  This school year I haven’t used it nearly as much because I’ve been sharing what we’re doing at school through Facebook instead.

9. Tutoring

A friend at school asked me to help tutor her in math for a few weeks over the summer.  She wanted help getting ready for a math placement test she had to take at CVCC.  Until this year I have never tutored adults, or hardly anyone for that matter, but I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to help her.  It was such a rewarding experience to watch her grasp concepts and gain confidence.  I hope to do more of this in the future!

10. Aid Station-ing

There are people who run 60+ miles in below-freezing temperatures, in the mountains, just for fun.  There are also people who stand outside in those below-freezing temperatures to feed hungry runners, thaw out their bottles, and cheer them on….just for fun.  So while I was not crazy enough (yet) to run the Hellgate race, I did help with three aid stations for this ridiculous event.  It was so inspiring.  And cold.

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How about you….what did you do new in 2016?   

Thanks, Brittany, for the inspiration!  Follow her at TheBamBlog.com.

 

XTERRA Richmond 21K Trail Run 2015

About three months ago, on the eve of the Shamrock Half Marathon, I sat at the table of our rented beach house recording future training run distances on a calendar.  I should have been sleeping, but I instead needed to know what was going to come next.  I’ve set the far-off goal of completing the Richmond Marathon in November, but I needed a few shorter races in the meantime to keep me focused and motivated.  First up….XTERRA Richmond 21K Trail Run.  Today was the day!

My training leading up to the race went well.  I ran Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday most weeks, alternating between a hilly three mile loop in our neighborhood before school and the treadmill at the Y in the afternoons.  The highlight of each week was my long run on Saturday mornings.  As the weather warmed up and dried out, I tried to do as many of these runs on the trail as possible.  I twice logged miles on the Buttermilk Trail in Richmond.  My last two long runs were on Liberty Mountain (11 miles) and on the trails parallel to the Blackwater Creek Trail (12 miles)…two of my favorite spots in Lynchburg.  With school getting out this past week, I was also able to catch up on lost hours of sleep.  I was feeling ready!

Our family headed to Richmond Friday after lunch, and we stopped at REI before making our way to Grandma’s house.  We downed a great pre-race meal from Joe’s Inn and then took the kids for a quick swim before bedtime.  Grandma and the little people decided to sleep in the tent in the backyard, so I got to sleep fairly quickly.  I slept completely unencumbered by any pesky snugglers.  It was beautiful.

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We had decided that Jay would take me to the start, and the rest of the family would wait at the Reedy Creek Tunnel aid station.  From there they would be able to see me three times during the race.   Jay was kind enough to drop me off near the start so that I could pick up my packet while he went to park the car.

Bag checked.  Porta-Potty visited.  Bib pinned.  Husband hugged.  Before picture taken.  Let’s do this!

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The first mile and a half were ridiculously hot.  We started in the Brown’s Island/Tredegar area and ran past this cool spot, over a bridge, and across the Flood Wall.  I blew through the first aid station way too fast.  I grabbed only one cup of water and ended up pouring most of it on me.  I promised myself that at all other aid stations I was going to slow down and actually drink something.  I know that I should have expected the heat when signing up for a race in Richmond in June, but I’m not going to lie…it caught me off guard.  Even at 8am, the sun felt pretty brutal, but I kept trucking knowing that we would get to the trail soon.  I was so relieved when we finally dipped down into the shade.

I don’t remember much of the next section except for the steps that RVA-ers call the “Mayan Ruins.”   The runners in front of me had come to a slow crawl up these steep steps.  For half a second I was a bit annoyed.  Then I realized that I couldn’t have moved any faster than we were already going, and I quickly got over myself.  Two girls behind me decided they were taking the road less traveled and went up the steps that were around to the right.  I think they realized it wasn’t any faster, however, when they ended up right back behind me at the top.

The main thing that kept me going was knowing that my family was waiting for me at the Forest Hills Park aid station.  I could hear them cheering before I could see them.  Both kids wanted to give me a hug, and I gladly obliged.  I dumped a couple more cups of water on myself, downed a few, grabbed a gel, and kept going.  There were several switchbacks right above their watching spot, so I got to see (and hear) them a few more times.  By this first loop of the park, there were a handful of us that were all doing about the same pace together.  One guy behind me told me that it was his fourth time doing this race, and warned me to save my energy for the second loop.  Turns out I felt much better the second time around.  I think it had to do with the fact that I had at least a little bit of an idea how far I had left to go.  There were no mile markers, so the first time around I just kept wondering how close I was to seeing my family again.

I remember a few other things from the park loop.  At one point we crossed a creek.  Both times over it I dipped down and splashed water on myself to try to cool off.  It helped for about 30 seconds.  🙂  Right before the aid station there was a really skinny cement bridge to cross.  I remember being a tad bit nervous that I would run right off the thing, but I was too embarrassed to slow down and walk.  The second time around there was an old man standing at the end with a big bouquet of sunflowers.  Somebody behind me joked, “Oh, how nice! You brought me flowers!”  He didn’t seem to get it…just confused why several sweaty people were running straight at him.

During this section I also remember contemplating some of the differences between road races and trail races.  This is only my second trail race, and there’s this whole new added element of passing people that you don’t really have to worry about on a wide road.  Several times I heard people right behind me that I thought wanted to pass, but it turns out they seemed to be fine with following my slow, slogging pace.  Other times I got right up behind somebody else and then had to really convince myself that I had enough juice to pass them and then stay in front.  More than once those people passed me again at the aid stations while I was busy dumping cups of cold water on my head.  I also got lapped in the park loop by three or four of the guys who went on to win the race.  Impressive.

After I passed my family for the third time, I headed into the Reedy Creek Tunnel where the race volunteer promised me air conditioning.  I admit I was so out of it at that point that I believed her for a half a second.  Ha.  The water crossing that I had heard about turned out to just be maybe three inches of running water.  No biggie.  My favorite part of the whole race, however, was the bouldering we had to do to cross the river.  I’m sure my tired self bounding crawling over the huge rocks was quite a site, but the race volunteers were quite encouraging at this point.  One guy said something like, “Just power yourself over to that big rock, climb this ladder, and then you’re in the shade!”  I joked to him, “I don’t think I’ll be powering anywhere at this point,” as I basically slid down the rock on my butt and then leaned forward to catch the next one with my hands.  I’m certain he was lying, but he said, “Looked pretty powerful to me,” as I climbed the ladder.  I’ll take it.

By the time I was winding my way through Belle Isle, I was alone.  No more leap frogging with runners around me.  At this point I was really thankful for the hundreds of signs put up by the trail organizers because I never worried that I was going to get lost.  As I came out of the wooded trails, I was relieved to see the suspended bridge because I knew we were almost done, but the section right before it was especially hot.  It was at this point that I realized that my goal of 12 minute miles was out of the picture.  I just kept trying to remind myself to finish and finish well.

On the road between the suspended bridge and the finish, I started leap frogging again with another tired runner.  He would walk, and I would jog slowly past him.  Then he got up enough speed to pass me, and I didn’t have it in me to power past him.  As we approached the finish line, cheered on by three especially great volunteers, I had passed him.  But at the very last stretch, he tried to pass me one final time.  I sprinted with everything I had left (which wasn’t much), and it appeared we crossed at exactly the same moment.  Turns out the official race results say I beat him by exactly one second.  Woot!  It’s the little victories, huh?  My final time was 2:36:13 which was a pace of 12:29 per mile.

I found Jay, drank a few more cups of water, and we sat in the shade a while to cool down.  We then went for a kid-free post race meal at Millie’s, a restaurant I read about in another runner’s blog.   I got the Huevos Rancheros, and it was absolutely amazing.  Go there!

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Jay asked me when I was done if I’d run this race again.  Definitely, yes.  Here’s my quick list of grows and glows to sum it up:

Grows:
Mile markers.  Maybe this is taboo in a trail race, but I really like knowing how far I have left to go.
Finish line.   The race course took a sharp turn at the very end, which meant you couldn’t see the finish to gauge how far you had left to go.  I’m always leery of starting to sprint too soon, and this time I waited too long.
Heat.  Maybe the race organizers could work on that for next year?  JK.  More like, maybe I need to do a few mid-day training runs so I’m not such a wimp.

Glows:
Course.  The race is called an “urban adventure,” and they aren’t joking.  I liked how varied the trail was, and the runners really got a few beautiful views of the city.
People.  The volunteers were helpful, and so were the runners.
Signage.  I never really had to worry about getting lost.
Family.  It was SO good to have them waiting for me at Reedy Creek.  I’m not sure what else would have kept me going!
I finished!  Though I didn’t make my goal of 12 min pace, I am choosing to be excited that I completed this tough course, with a smile, injury free.

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Now on to training for the next race!  Up next:  Percival’s Island 5 Miler.