Poetry, Music, Forests, Oceans, Solitude -They were what developed enormous spiritual strength. I came to realize that spirit, as much or more than physical conditioning, had to be stored up before a race. -Herb Elliot, Olympic Champion & World Record Holder in the Mile, who trained in bare feet, wrote poetry, and retired undefeated.
One of the reasons I have always run is to achieve a sense of peacefulness and solitude within my mind. Our lives are filled with hustle and bustle and ‘things to do’, and, without outlets, such as running, solitude can soon be nonexistent. I can remember being deep in the throws of nursing school in Boston. I had countless hours of studying and clinical, and, after navigating Boston traffic or the “T”, little patience for much else. However, one thing I knew for sure, was that in order for me to be successful in school, I had to first take care of myself. Of course, I did not have enough time (usually) to drive up to some fun trail in the woods, but, instead, I embraced the city greenery along The Charles, in and around The Boston Common, and, The Minuteman Trail. I found that even a 40 minute run would change my perspective on my day, give me energy, and, focus me to get my work done more effectively.
This summer, while running the Long Trail, I have had to learn how to take time off in order to rest so that my running can be sustained for the entire 272 miles. Now, with approximately 190 miles complete, I have a few minor bruises and scrapes, sore feet, and a huge smile. Just yesterday, while we did not get onto the trail until later than expected, finished w/a headlamp, and quite literally fell into the car, we had a blast.
The section completed yesterday between Appalachian Gap and Camel’s Hump is extremely technical, full of elevation gain and descent, and, drawn together with panoramic views of the Vermont countryside -from Lake Champlain to Mt. Mansfield and beyond. I was exhausted, as was my running partner, Brian. We both have worked, and been on the trail, a lot lately, and, it was late. At one point, as we climbed a rocky mammoth of what appeared to be a staircase to the sky, he asked me “Hey, how you holding up?” Without thinking, I answered “Mind over Matter.”
I guess that is just where the strength must come from sometimes. You can use gels, energy bars, train your tail off, but, sometimes, or, I would argue, most times, it is the training of the mind that is what will get you through.
Despite having moved away from Vermont for a few years, I have always considered Vermont my second (albeit, adult) home. I am so lucky to have so many wonderful friends who have either stayed, or, after travels and jobs, or education that took them elsewhere, have decided to move back and make Vermont their home. Now that I am back too, I feel even more aware of the abundance of ties I have to Vermont and, especially, the strength of the community I choose to live within.
This year’s Olympics celebrated many endeavors, however, I believe the grandest one was that every country represented had a woman on their team. Even a mere fifty years ago, in the United States, women were not allowed to participate in sporting events, like the Boston Marathon. Now, many movements later, and specifically Title IX, women in sports is not only common, but also celebrated.
“Girlington” is name I coined about ten years ago when I was living in Burlington and needed a Vermont City Marathon team name. I was in awe of how many beautiful, strong, and dedicated women, I was always surrounded by. And, it goes without saying, ‘Girlington’ is true to form. Burlington and beyond, there are so many amazing women in Vermont who are committed to making this state better and better each year, and, for this reason… I am dedicating tomorrow’s section of the Long Trail to all the ladies. Here’s to the women of Vermont! May we continue to move forward and may our work be a catalyst for change. (photos to follow taken by the amazing Lisa Boege!)
As of yesterday, August 12th, I have completed 137.6 miles of the Long Trail. The rest of the ‘Run Plan’ is updated, and, we are ready to finish up on Labor Day, September 3rd, 2012!! Most of the next 100 miles of the Long Trail will be done out of sequence due to rides, time available, etc. The last leg, from Johnson to Journey’s End will take place over Labor Day weekend.
Someone recently asked me how I was feeling, after having run this far, and, continue to work 3, 12 hour night shifts a week. Honestly, I feel great. Of course, I have had some days when fatigue gets the better of me, and, my legs have had more than their fair share of bumps and bruises (trail running is not always gentle), however, I feel, overall, rejuvenated. While out on the trail, whether running through the forest, taking a snack break on a ledge, or, cooling off in a stream -it continues to be about the journey and not the destination. I guess keeping that frame of reference is what makes it attainable. So, here is to the second half…
The Green Mountains are the backbone of Vermont. Tall evergreens, a variety of hardwoods and softwoods, lush underbrush, and mosses, transform the landscape, dressing the spine with a myriad of fierce and dense foliage. Deep jade and harlequin colors permeate the forest as the summer heat also propagates fat and juicy blackberry and button top raspberries.
The crickets continue to sing while the butterflies search out the many wildflowers whose colors seem to explode across the green like a Jackson Pollack painting. The forest feels alive and powerful. The air is filled with sweet scents of honeysuckle and dew-laden grasses. Black-eyed Susan’s and Echinacea litter the landscape. Buttercups and clover line the many twists and turns of what is known of as The Long Trail.
The Long Trail, which traces the path of The Green Mountains, is laced together by numerous peaks and the valleys that connect them. It runs through both private and public land, alongside reservoirs and streams, and crosses wetlands and farmland. It connects numerous towns in Vermont, and often roadways that connect the East and West Side of the state creating the many well-known ‘gaps’, Middlebury Gap, Lincoln Gap, and Appalachian Gap, to name a few.
As a nurse, I truly believe there is an aspect of healthcare that has to come from the patient. And, equally as important, as a healthcare provider, it is our responsibility to educate patients to take ownership for their health. Preventative healthcare needs to stem from patients and healthcare providers working together to develop an awareness of health and wellness as a daily process that needs constant nurturing. Our health is a life long process. It, too, has peaks and valleys. As a nurse, it is my job to ensure patients are educated and supported as they journey to implement health and wellness into their lives.