If you are feeling like you are too old to do something, I suggest you take a run in the mud, or help a younger generation make some mud pies, or get a mud facial. Any of the three can be healing.
It’s not that I wasn’t forewarned. I read the information on the Squirrelly Tail Twail Wun website. I heard numerous stories from year’s past. The trail can be icy or deep in snow. This year, the mud should not have been a surprise.
Unusually warm weather and rain a few days before the race guaranteed a messy course. Race day temps were in the low 30’s accompanied by a brisk wind.
After the traditional pre-race photo with my running group, I did a couple of warmup miles and saw what I was in for. I enjoy a fall run on the trails around Pincho Lake but winter/spring conditions are quite different.
Although there were a few drier spots along the way, running through the mud was tough going. Attempting to stay to the edge of the trail out of the deepest muck, I found myself entangled in wild raspberry canes along the trail edge.
Around mile 8 as we slogged along, a friend on the course made a comment about the joy of playing in the mud. That helped my state of mind and I decided to let my inner child come out and play.
With some bloody splotches on my hand from the close call in the raspberry brambles and having landed on all fours at one point, I arrived at the finish line a dirty, happy runner.
You won’t find overall finisher or age group awards at the Squirrelly Tail. You will find a memorable February challenge and a beautiful course, whatever its condition.
After picking up my finisher medal and enjoying some post-race chatter, I returned to the trail to get in another three miles to fulfill my 18-miles for marathon training. Fortunately, I remembered to stash an extra pair of shoes and warmup pants in my bag for the ride home. Trail shoes are once again clean, only the memories and some dried mud on my floor mat remain.
What are your February memories to warm you through a blustery March? Did you let your inner child play, and did it involve mud?
While posting a series about my London stay, I bumped into that great American holiday Thanksgiving. Deciding to hold off on sharing my London food finds until we had made our way through the end of the year, I now find myself well into February. Given our current clImate, it’s an opportune time to talk about the wonderful foods of London and what each cuisine brings to the table, literally and figuratively.
My first find was a simple meal which will stay etched in my memory as the ideal post-theatre snack. After an evening show, we returned to South Kensington in need of just a light something. Of all the small Italian eateries lining Brompton Road, we found the one that satisfied that need. I noted the name of the restaurant as Pasta by Mama, but I don’t think that is correct. If any readers identify the insignia on the plate above, please help me out with the correct name.
Our next find was during an exploration among the narrow streets of Spitalfields. This immigrant community has also become an area energized by a young crowd of fashionistas making their way through open air markets, small shops and outdoor cafés. We opted for Shad, a Bangladeshi restaurant housed in a building on Brick Lane home to earlier restaurants. The building can be identified by the frying pan atop, an emblem historically used by braziers. As we enjoyed our meal, a large screen television was showing live footage of the Hajj, the annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca.
Along with scoping of restaurant finds on our own, we benefited from friends living in London and friends of friends who shared their dining favorites.
One of those friends shared a favorite stop on the South Bank, the Green Room. I felt at home in this neighbourhood diner serving British food in an open airy space. Seating includes props and scenery used at earlier shows at the National Theatre, located nearby.
Later in my stay, I met with Elizabeth again for a lecture at the National Gallery and tea at the exquisite Ham Yard Hotel hidden away in a courtyard near Soho.
Stopping for tea and a light lunch is such an enjoyable way to spend time with friends. I rendezvoused with Katherine at the Victoria and Albert Museum . We met several years ago on the Iron and Ice voyage, two of the few travelers on that journey who enjoyed sightseeing on foot.
My travel partner reached out to a friend of a friend in the Somali community of London. He shared with us a favorite of his, Yogiz Dairybar & Eatery located near Stratford and the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. We enjoyed lamb on a bed of rice with condiments on the side. I learned that a banana is generally served with all Somali meals and is sliced and eaten along with the main dish. We also enjoyed the samosa (or sambas, a pastry with savory filling) and a cup of tea.
Finally, let’s talk about the first meal of the day: Breakfast. My best breakfast during the London stay was definitely British. On a misty morning at the Holland Park Cafe, I chose the Traditional English Breakfast and was totally satisfied with the choice. It included some of the most flavorful sausage I have had. From the eggs to the tomato, I could identify the freshness in each bite.
There you have it. Mix in friends and acquaintances old and new, some familiar cuisine, and some that stretches your palette and dining experience. The result will be warm memories and new food knowledge to take home with you.
To enhance your travel and dining, I suggest keeping an open mind and an inquisitive palate.
January is slipping away too quickly. It’s high time to take that 2017 roughed out race plan buzzing around in my head and put ink to paper. Here goes.
FEBRUARY – Squirrelly Trail Twail Wun 1/2 Marathon – I register for this every year, but haven’t run it. Each year there is either a last minute conflict or the weather is brutal. Maybe this year.
MARCH –Naked Bavarian 20-mile trail run. This will be a good opportunity to do some trail as one of my 20-miler marathon training runs, and to prepare for my May hike. I’m not sure how the name of the race came about. Since this is March in Pennsylvania, I doubt that I will actually see any naked Bavarians. If I do, don’t expect photos.
APRIL – Paris Marathon – my destination marathon for 2017. Say no more. The portion of the course on cobblestone may be tough, but I’m looking forward to the last few miles through the Bois de Boulogne. I’m working on my training plan and brushing up on fledgling French.
The Paris photos are from a rainy December visit to Paris several years ago. All are scenes along the marathon course and include the Seine and Notre Dame Cathedral.
MAY – Hike Across Maryland (HAM) This hike organized by the Mountain Club of Maryland has a 150 maximum registration and fills almost immediately. We will be hiking the Appalachian Trail from the Pennsylvania and Maryland state lines to Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia.The distance is approximately 40 miles. I’m expecting to do this with a combination of trail running, hiking and a lot of grit.
JUNE – Run for the Ages 10K Trail Chase – I spotted the race while adding HARRC races to the RRCA event list. It has an age graded start and runs through Nolde Forest. Oldest female runners start first. Will I be first at the start line and maybe the finish line?
JULY – likely a 5 or 10K on the 4th. We’ll see.
AUGUST – I’m not sure. Any suggestions for inspiration?
SEPTEMBER – This calls for something special to acknowledge my 70th year on this earth. Stay tuned.
OCTOBER – I’ll add in a 1/2 marathon or two. It’s not autumn without a 1/2 marathon.
NOVEMBER – Harrisburg Marathon – Whether I run the full marathon, participate on a relay team, volunteer or some combination of the above, this is a wonderful marathon that seems to have more energy and participation each year.
DECEMBER – This is the time to ease off and maybe add in a 5K for a very good cause.
So there is the plan, but subject to change. Suggestions are always welcome.
Now that I see it in writing, I’m more excited for the year ahead. Will you be running or hiking any of these upcoming adventures?
When I saw a January 1 mid-day hike at a nearby state park posted on Meetup, i signed up. I expected to meet with six or eight other hikers usually hiking with the group.
Instead, the parking lot was filled with families, dogs, groups of friends, all ready to begin their new year following a trail through the woods of a state park.
All in all, more than one hundred of us followed volunteers from Friends of Pine Grove Furnace State Park with Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn along the leaf-covered trail.
It seems I am a latecomer to the first-day hikes. State parks across the USA have been hosting hikes on January 1 for the last six years. In Pennsylvania alone this year, hikes were occurring at different times of day and night at more than 20 locations. That included a Last Night Hike in one park where they rang in the new year on the trail. Another park hosted a night hike that focused on owls in the park.
My particular hike distance was just over three miles. That distance was fine for me as I’ve been nursing a minor injury. Leaders took us down a relatively flat and newly renovated Mountain Creek Trail.Although Laurel Lake at the start was frozen over, temperature at hike time was in the high 40’s. The hot chocolate and cookies at the mid-way point were an unexpected treat provided by park volunteers.
I’m thinking this will be a great new tradition. Probably not the same state park, but wherever I happen to be on January 1, I will be looking for a First Day Hike.
Tell me about your First Day. Any hikers who found yourselves in a state park?
In spite of everything we throw at her, Mother Earth finds a way to cope and thrive. Regardless of how disappointing we humans can be in our actions, getting outdoors never fails to regenerate hope. Here are a few examples that popped up before my eyes during 2016.
A July run down a country road brings into view a fisherman knee deep in waders. The stone building abutting the bubbling creek demonstrates its own resilience having stood strong for over a couple of centuries.
In August, nature brings us a spider web glistening in the morning sun. While the web may not be resilient, its creator is. A run brought me to an ambling creek flowing by temporarily abandoned lawn chairs.
A November breakfast at a café in the 540 million year old Laurentian Mountains was enjoyed on the warm side of this window.
What have I found to be resilient in December? That we have made it through a trying year with one day to go may be the best description of resilient. Mother Earth is still holding her own and so should we.
If you would like to see the perspective of other writers and photographers, take a look at these ideas on the meaning of resilient.
We runners tend to have a rare view of the world. Most of us will have mornings where we are out the door and back while the household sleeps. Other times we are traveling, staying with friends and family or in a hotel. Again, and always with safety in mind, the most opportune time to get in a run is early morning before the day’s activities begin.
So it is that my view of the homeless on our streets and in our parks is through the sleepy eyes of an early morning runner.
Thinking back several decades to the 70’s, the homeless population seemed to be a smattering of men, usually along a skid row area viewed through a car window. By the ’80’s I was seeing more people on the very streets I walked and ran near my office. Because I moved from one city and state to another, I first thought the larger homeless population was a quirk of my new hometown. It didn’t take long to realize that the increase in homelessness was not just where I live, but was a national and international phenomenon.
Running offers time to think and question. Questions like, why do I see more of the homeless now, where do they come from, what occurred in their lives that brought them to this park, this riverfront this retail doorway this particular morning?
The news reports I occasionally hear identify certain percentages of homeless as military veterans, those suffering mental illness or plagued with addiction, LGBT youth estranged from parents, and young families suffering job loss. Whatever the percentages, I, and I’m guessing many runners, have witnessed those from every category above.
My travels abroad have affirmed we in the U.S. are not alone in a growing homeless population.
Several years ago on an early morning run along a river walk in Osaka, Japan, I was jolted, realizing I had come upon a homeless encampment, blue tarps spreading in the distance. I quietly turned and rerouted to avoid disturbing anyone’s sleep.
Versions of that experience have occurred during most of my travels. I used my softest running steps as I encountered the homeless sleeping in doorways along Avenue de Clichy in Paris. At dawn, I’ve side-stepped those “sleeping rough” under the display windows of Christie’s Auction House in London’s South Kensington.
If you’re expecting to find my recommendations or solutions, I have none. I’m just an early morning runner reporting my observations. I do, however, believe there are smarter and more creative people than me who have within them the potential to contribute to the resolution. Policymakers, counselors, non-profit agencies, maybe some from the homeless community; among you I believe there are answers. By example, Back on my Feet is a relatively (2007) new organization with an innovative approach. In this wide world of creative, caring people somewhere there is someone, probably many someones, who have the beginnings of other solutions.
Personally, my meager contribution is to donate to organizations that are sincerely helping. When I travel, I make it my business to identify a local group with a proven track record. Since I have benefited a city by spending my tourism dollars in restaurants, hotel stays, and race registrations, it makes sense to also contribute to the population least likely to benefit from my stay.
Could 2017 be a breakthrough year? With hope and determination, who knows.
On this chilly December evening, I wish all of my readers the warmth of family, friends and most of all, a place to call home.
Sometimes you just need to walk away. A park is just the place to temporarily escape. If you can’t physically get up and take that walk, it helps to remember a favorite trail or an unexpected quiet place. I’m taking my mental walk through some enchanting parks found in London. Come along with me.
Let’s start with Holland Park. Entering through the gates at Kensington High Street, first notice the remains of a 17th Century castle named Holland House. It was damaged during World War II and that is still evident.
The park has multiple areas for exercise and sports, but it is serenity we’re looking for and it can be found here amongst the English gardens,
the Kyoto Garden,
and a natural children’s play area that may make you wish you were still a child.
Next, we’ll move to Postman’s Park. Located in the City near St. Paul’s Cathedral, walk through the unassuming entrance under the shade of its trees. The traffic and tourist noise diminishes. We are now in good company. The park is dedicated to memorializing ordinary people who died to save others.
Read the poignant stories of those honored on the plaques, or simply sit quietly.
Here, the clatter of those telling us of their greatness can’t compare with the brave and spontaneous deeds of those who would not otherwise be remembered. Their names will not appear on the side of a building, but here in this tiny park they are remembered.
We’ll finish with a walk across the Hampstead Heath. The Heath is there to enjoy today because forward thinking Brits of the 19th century fought to keep it common land. The Heath is made up of forests, ponds and heath, large scrubby grass areas. While it provides wonderful views of London, if our purpose is to clear the mind, then keep your eyes on the beauty of open space. Do some people watching. The area is so vast, we have the company of others but can still feel as though we are in a wilderness of sorts.
There, now. Doesn’t our park walk improve your outlook? With patience and perspective restored by the memory of those beautiful green places, I hope your are ready to return with me to today’s reality.
Where do you go when the world gets to be too much? I’m open to finding new destinations to recharge.