Solitude

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.  

Girlington…

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!)

Half way there!!

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…

Peaks and Valleys

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.

Night Shift

Well, this week I officially switched over to the night shift at work.  Luckily, by the time I was back in the ICU, my legs had gotten some much needed rest from last weekend’s run.  Now, adjusting my sleep schedule back to ‘normal’, and resting my legs, so I can focus on this weekend’s and next week’s section(s) of the Long Trail run.

This weekend we plan to run from where we left off last weekend -VT 30 & VT 11, and run until either Pico Peak or Brandon Gap.  Most likely we will run to Pico and finish the section to Brandon Gap later next week on my day off.  Weather dependent, we are aiming to leave Friday night to camp at the trail head.

Will update soon!

First Leg of LT, complete!

Hello!

Yesterday I finished the first 54 miles of the Long Trail (58 total if you include running to the ‘start’ which is 4 miles or so from Williamstown, MA to the border of VT).  We had a great weekend of nice sunny weather, no humidity, and, lovely trails to run through.  We carried our supplies with us the entire way, and camped along the trail.  Please check out the photos posted on this blog.

As I ran, I kept meeting up with through hikers along the way.  Some were completing the Appalachian Trail (which starts in Georgia) while others were completing the Long Trail.  Also, there were plenty people out for day hikes, and overnights.  It was a constant reminder that no matter how old or young, anyone can get outside and enjoy walking in the wilderness.  Honestly, there was no standard hiker.  Everyone out there was out there for different reasons, with different life experiences, but, the one common theme, that was quite evident to me, was that health and wellness (both physical and mental) was central to their individual well being.

One of the things that I have always enjoyed about running on the trails is the simplicity it brings.  I did not hear a vehicle for 36 hours, and, outside of taking pictures, I was completely unplugged form society -which, felt great.  It gives you a chance to reflect, and, take a step back from things.  One of the things I observe, as a nurse, is how people often do not provide themselves time to reflect.  If we are talking about preventative healthcare, surely, reflection, and, taking the time to provide for that, is a necessity.

I think part of taking care of yourself, is to begin from your gut.  Think about what truly makes you happy, and, be brave.  In order to achieve health and wellness, a gym membership is only meeting halfway.  Part of health and wellness comes from listening to your body and taking care of yourself.  One of my favorite books is the “Te of Piglet” written by Benjamin Hoff.  Here is a quote that I was reminded of while traipsing through the Long Trail this past weekend:

“It is hard to be brave,” said Piglet, sniffing slightly, “when you’re only a Very Small Animal.”  Rabbit, who had begun to write very busily, looked up and said: “It is because you are a very small animal that you will be Useful in the adventure before us.”  

Here’s to the adventure ahead.

Thoughts on Why I Run…

“Do whatsoever you will do, so long as you do it beautifully.” -Kahil Gibran

I started running when I was 10, in the middle of winter, and, feeling stuck on the little sand spit I grew up on in Southern New England.  I got outside, danced over snow and ice, felt the wind on my face, and let the winter sun slowly warm me, as I ran the entire 0.25 miles down the end of my street ‘and back’.  From that moment on, in mid February of 1988, I was in love.  Since then, running has led me to meet many of my closest friends, race cross country and track in high school, and in college, as well as complete 10 marathons, 3 of them at Boston!  My passion has always been, and continues to be, running on trails -whether the trail is on a beach, in the forest, or Rock Creek Park, in the middle of Washington, DC.  Any trail, anywhere, I am able to continually rediscover my bliss.

To me, running is a frame of mind more than it is a way to ‘get in shape’.  Consequently, you can definitely get in shape by running.  However, I find running is much more about mindfulness.  It is about having fun, playfulness really, and not worrying too much.  Running is also a place where I, sometimes, do a lot of thinking.  I have written poems in my head when I run (forgetting half of them by the time I got home) and made very important ‘life’ decisions.  Running is the place I go to, no matter where, how long, or how the weather is, and, I find the same thing -myself.  That much I know.

It was while on a run, up in the Green Mountains, when I came up with the idea to run the Long Trail.  At the time, I was living in Washington, DC and working in an Emergency Room up the street from the Lincoln Memorial.  I started thinking, for one, how much I missed Vermont, but also, how much I respect the work being done for preventative healthcare in Vermont.  In DC, I was constantly in the middle of the health care debate.  No matter what side of the aisle you sat on, I kept thinking, Stop talking, just do something.  Which, got me thinking about the Community Health Centers of Burlington (CHCB).  Having worked there in the past, I know first hand how exceptional the care is, how dedicated the providers and staff are, and, foremost, how much of the local community depends on CHCB for it’s services.  In other words, it is all about action, and, that is something I can support.

So, I am dedicating the 272 miles of the Long Trail to the Community Health Center of Burlington, and, everyone else out there that supports preventative healthcare… we are the ones that will make the difference, in the end.

See you out on the trail!! -Beth