Still a Runner

A Blog by Mary Lou Harris

Archive for outdoors

Pining for the Trail

On these beautiful early Spring days, I’m longing to be leaving a trailhead and moving through soft dirt, rocks and roots. That I am longing for trail rather than running trail is due to my earlier decisions and time commitments. How was I to know that running a couple of trail 50K’s would spoil me for road training? I did sneak off for a couple of short hikes on the Appalachian Trail; wonderful but not the satisfaction of a distance trail run.

I committed this year as I prepare for Boston, barring sickness or family emergency, to complete every scheduled training session. How committed am I? Taking seriously the warning of our record-breaking January snowfall,


IMG_1952 (1).jpg

City Island became the parking lot for snow removed from city streets

I shifted schedule and managed to run my long run the day before the mega-storm hit with full force, limiting runners to training in  yaktraks or snowshoes – and only after shoveling feet of snow from their doorways.

How committed? 1207301-An-image-of-a-bare-footed-women-running-with-some-thunder-and-lightning-in-the-background--Stock-PhotoLast week our  mid-week session of repeats was cancelled due to lightning flashing through the sky, I joined several other runners who sprinted to the nearby covered parking garage and completed the workout up and down the ramps.

Race director responsibilities for the Capital 10-Miler – a run for the arts – is the other wonderful commitment temporarily keeping me off the trails.  We are expecting some fantastic competitors and many runners who love the variety of this 10-mile course not to mention the camaraderie of returning runners. 


Capital 10-miler course along the Susquehanna River. Photo credit: Bill Bonney Photography


While I love the excitement building to the race, It doesn’t allow much time to make my way out to the trails.

So, if you are anywhere near Central Pennsylvania, please join us for a great 10-mile race on Saturday, April 2nd. We have a number of runners coming in from neighboring states, so why not join them? If you do, please stop by to say hello to the race director.

Next up, I will see many of my readers in Boston, either running, volunteering or cheering along that historic course.

And after that, IMG_1938look for me running or hiking on the trails. I’m hooked.

Lost in Amsterdam

To avoid the Capital 10-Miler post-race wrap-up chores, I’m indulging in wanderlust. Helped along in that quest by Cirsten’s blog, My Writers Block, where she explores the history of Amsterdam’s residents and buildings, my memories wander to my own brief exploration.

After my sister and I finished a river cruise through Belgium and The Netherlands, we took an extra day or two to explore Friesland


Heeg Harbor, Friesland

and spend a night on dry land. An option for our last day was to stop in the Van Gogh Museum or the Rijksmuseum down the street from our hotel in Amsterdam. 

I had only managed a couple of brief runs during our cruise (unless you’re counting my many laps around the ship’s upper deck).

Is this the track?

Is this the track?

While my sister enjoyed an early cup of coffee, I opted for the outdoors, letting her know I’d be returning in an hour or so. The front desk directed me down the street to Vondelpark.

Entering the park through a beautiful gate, I ran under an overhead walking bridge and took a look back to identify landmarks for my return. The park path appeared to be a circle, a circle of beautiful old residences, inviting outdoor restaurants, people walking dogs, more people riding bicycles.  Bicycles loaded with children on the handlebars and on extra seats, bicycles with business riders – briefcases stashed in their pannier, bicycles with spandexed riders.

After admiring some of the wildlife in the park,


Blue Heron enjoying breakfast in Vondelpark

I noticed I was seeing the lovely homes and inviting outdoor restaurants a second time. How had I passed my landmark exit with the beautiful gate?  I turned around, backtracking. How does one get lost on a circular path? One more time around and still no gate in view.

O.K. Now the panic begins.  Is my sister looking at her watch wondering why I haven’t returned? Will I find my way out of this beautiful but perplexing piece of land in time to make our flight? Am I feeling a little panicked? Do I pick an exit and hop in a cab back to the hotel?

I spotted a park diagram posted nearby. While trying to identify my exit, an Amsterdam native out for a run and speaking fluent English asked if I needed help. Oh yes, I need help. Please point me to the ornate gate with the park name. We jogged together back to that somehow hidden gate, comparing running histories, families and travel.

Why hadn’t I seen the overhead walkway or the gate? Well, my entrance was not  actually on the circle, but was a dog leg leading to the circle.images

Waiving good bye to the kind stranger, I returned, once again passing under the overhead walking bridge and through those beautiful gates. I returned to find my sister packed up and dressed, relaxed, reading a magazine with no idea that my outing had been a bit adventurous. She looked so calm, it would have been unkind to share.

If you must get lost, Vondelpark is a beautiful place to carry it out. I had eaten up extra time for a museum visit, but sometimes running in a beautiful

Vondelpark gate

Vondelpark gate

park, even in a state of panic, trumps a museum.

Tales of Bostons Past – Lost in the Woods

With Bostonians burrowing out from Nemo this weekend, we’re running through strong headwinds to get our training in for April 15 and comparing notes on Bostons past.

Snowed in

Snowed in (Photo credit: NinJA999)

Although each Boston Marathon is memorable, the post-marathon days turn out to to be worth remembering as well.  Take for instance that beautiful 2009 Tuesday morning in New Hampshire.  Post-marathon night was spent with friends before my scheduled mid-day flight out of Manchester.  After testing out my legs with baby steps down the stairs, I set out for a 30-minute loosen-up morning walk.  My hosts had suggestions for my route.  Although Mrs. Host insisted it would be too muddy, Mr. Host thought I might like the nature trail that intersects about a block from their home.

Opting for what was a lovely trail, I found stream crossings, roots, rocks, and many side trails intersecting, overall a nice soft walking surface. Blame it on my post-marathon addled mind that I didn’t take a cell phone or water, but did walk out the door wearing my Garmin.

Trail Blaze

I made a point of paying close attention to landmarks at the path intersections on what was a planned out and back, but apparently not close enough.   On my return, everything was familiar except the most important landmark: the side path back to my trailhead.  Here I am, directionally challenged in the best of circumstances, the day following a marathon in heavy woods without my cellphone or water.

My attempt to use the Garmin to lead me back was fruitless. A tool is only good if you know how to use it.  Being clear-headed and properly hydrated would have been helpful as well.  I was neither. Just short of total panic setting in, through an  open area in the woods I spotted a house under construction.  There was hope!  I left the trail, cut through the construction site, onto a dirt road that led over a hill and down to a real honest-to-goodness road.  To the right sat a house with an open garage door, a sure sign people were nearby.  A knock on the door brought a  cautious “yes?” from a 60ish (roughly my age) woman with a slightly puzzled but alert expression.

After explaining my confusion on the trail I asked if she could direct me back to my host’s street.  Yes, she could – out her driveway to the left, down the road to the first intersection, turn right and it should (should??) lead me back.

Thanking her profusely, I asked for one more thing.  May I please have a glass of water?  Without moving from her position solidly centered at the screen door, her right hand reached for something out of my view and returned with a cold bottle of Gatorade Rain.

Gatorade Rain bottles lined up on a supermarke...

What a sweet sight!  Unlocking her screen door far enough to hand over the bottle, she immediately closed and relocked it.  Hmmm, maybe I’m not the first lost soul who has come knocking at her door.

Her directions were spot-on.  A mere 4.1 miles and one hour and 27 minutes after I set out, I return to the home of my hosts. This is where you make that promise to yourself never to embark on a new route without some essentials: water,

Water Bottle

a safety whistle,photo a few bucks


 and a cell phone.

English: New Mobile Cell Phone Technology


I didn’t immediately share my misadventure with my hosts, but saved the “lost in your woods”  story for a late summer evening while enjoying their company at a lakeside Adirondacks cabin.  Dawn of the morning following my confession, I hear the sound of loons and quietly slide out the kitchen door to  cover more unfamiliar territory, this time with water bottle in hand and cell phone secured to my body.

Hawaii Holiday Hill Run

Up and about in the early morning hours of my first Hawaii daybreak, I try to be a good houseguest and avoid waking my host.  I bide my time with a delicious cup of Hawaiian coffee and quiet time on the lanai. Patience brings the dawn and I’m off for a brief sunrise Makakilo, ‘observing eyes’ in the Hawaiian language, is a superb lookout point.  As I turn out of the street from my son’s home, the view extends down the island past Waikiki Beach all the way to Diamond Head. This morning, the landmark is shrouded in clouds but still visible. This vista was once a strategic spot to observe approaching visitors, be they friend or foe. Now, it’s a residential community far off the tourist

I run downhill on a wide boulevard under a canopy of monkeypod trees. A simple 4-miler will be  great for stretching out after a long flight, which is also a great excuse to run an out-and-back to the Malama Market and pick up a few goodies.  lThis little store at first glance appears to be a typical mini-market.  Inside, it has the feel of  an old fashioned grocery, with a deli area of fresh sandwiches, breads, salads and seafood with a local touch, and a great little coffee shop next door.  I snap up a pack of warm Hawaiian-style andagi, and a couple of other items.  Three favorites:  travel, running and a kickstart with a fresh morning local food treat.

"Sata andagi" is Okinawa doughnuts.サ...

“Sata andagi” is Okinawa doughnuts.サーターアンダーギー (Photo credit: Wikip

This is daunting running territory, with tough uphills and downhills. With a little less than two miles distance, my mini-grocery run requires a straight downhill with more than a 70 foot drop in elevation  (This U-tube video is a good visual of the downhill), which in turn means 70 feet elevation gain for my return trip.   With goodies loaded into a running backpack, I begin my reverse trek uphill with a jog, which quickly becomes a fast walk. 

I’m seeing a few other solo runners, retired boomers like myself along with a few military folks sharing a portion of my route.  On O’ahu, most runners are out early and in before 9 a.m. or so. With this year’s Honolulu Marathon taking place last weekend (Sunday, December 9), this is a recovery week for some.

The sun is quickly rising in the sky but soon enough I’m back to the house.  It’s time for some holiday gift baking before the second phase of my jet lag sets in.

Wishing all good family visits, good food, safe travels and few moments to get out for run.

Gift Shopping for the Senior Athlete – Thinking Local

It must be the holiday season.

Jingle Bell 5k

Jingle Bell 5k (Photo credit: J Bull)

Every morning, my inbox is filled with special offers for outdoor gear and running apparel, just in time to buy for family and friends or to replenish my cold weather supply.  After several clicks, I can usually learn where the product is made.

Earlier this year, Tom Vanderbilt’s article “Born in the USA: The Amazing New Economics” appeared in Outside Magazine. He writes about a trend with some sporting goods and outdoor equipment companies to either establish in or return to manufacturing in the United States.

One of the companies he discusses was on my radar screen.  Last year, my stocking included a new ProTec headlamp.  It works really well for moonlight snowshoeing.

Although not a total zealot on the topic, and fully aware we live in and benefit from a global economy, I have a hard time justifying that long-sleeved tech shirt making its way on a barge thousands of miles just to give me a warm, breathable layer.  My point of view is, all things being equal in quality, to choose the product made nearby, then in my country, then from neighbors in my hemisphere.  

People who are interested in purchasing and eating locally grown foods are known as locavores.  

Buy Local!

Is there a similar term for those of us who attempt to feed our running needs with locally grown equipment and apparel?

I’m careful to stay faithful to this philosophy but I do make the occasional stumble. Admittedly, I have yet to find a running shoe that works for me and is made this side of either ocean.  But generally, I – and those who occasionally gift to me – have done pretty well.

Here are a few of the items found in my clothing and gear cache that were manufactured locally and nationally:


Running along river’s edge facing downtown Exeter

Darn Tough Earlier this year, I Darn Tough Socksvisited Exeter, New Hampshire. After a run along the river, I cut through downtown where I found a local sporting goods store, and these colorful, comfortable and cushioned running socks, manufactured right up the road in Vermont.

Nuu-muu  I love the quirky touch of fun this company brings to their products.  634850117771580942The dresses are great for running, as a go-to item to pack for vacations, or to throw on with a pair of leggings.

irunlikeagirlI bought two of their running shirts several years ago – one for me and one as a gift to a goddaughter as she was just getting interested in running.  My shirt is still wearing well.  Goddaughter is still running and has expanded to triathlons.

Sub4usaGreat apparel that seems to never wear out. Their compresssion shirt keeps me toasty and the 2-pocket compression pants are perfect for storing supplies during a long training run. Unfortunately, this company is going out of business and liquidating their inventory, so I have blown my running budget stocking up while my favorites are still available.

Additionally, during visits to our northern neighbor, I discovered a couple of Canadian labels that suit my needs.

Louis Garneau – I wear their cross-country gear for skiing and snowshoeing.  They have a lines of biking and running clothing and gear I haven’t yet tried.

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Grand Tetons National Park, Jackson WY

Kombi Sports  – These folks strictly manufacture cold weather gear.  I wear their long underwear as a base layer for skiing and snowshoeing.

That’s my closet inventory and shopping list from holidays past and present. What’s in your closet?

Whatever your purchase philosophy for gifts and updates to your sports closet, happy shopping and happy giving!