The everyday life of a New England woman.

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I’m Hiking!!!

I got word two days ago that I can attempt a northbound thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail! Stay tuned for updates and click the YouTube logo to follow my video blog!
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Training Update

I’ve suspected for a few weeks now that I’ve been over-training for my Appalachian Trail thru-hike, and tonight, a friend with considerable long-distance hiking experience confirmed it. I’ve been experiencing a few of the classic signs of over-training, including physical and mental exhaustion, no improvement in my cardio fitness, and feeling like hiking is becoming a chore. So, tomorrow I’m taking the day off. Not only because it’s my 40th birthday, but because I need to physically and mentally regroup and implement the new training regimen I have planned below. I am comparing it to the training regimen I had during September and October to see the differences.

When I say I was “feeling like hiking is becoming a chore”, I mean that there have been a few days recently when I didn’t want to be hiking. I didn’t want to be in the woods. That was one early sign that I was over-training, aside from the fact that I’ve had to go home and nap after my hikes because I was so exhausted. Most of the other aspects of my training are going fine. I get eight to nine hours of sleep a night. I drink lots of water (but still probably not enough). I take a multivitamin. I eat better-chosen snacks that are higher in healthy fats and carbs as well as protein. What I’ve been doing for training has, according to some people, been “admirable” and “inspiring” and “more than what most aspiring thru-hikers do to prepare”. That’s all well and good, but it’s not working for me. Draining myself physically and emotionally before I even leave my hometown is not going to get me from Georgia to Maine.

New Regimen:

Day Workout
Sunday REST
Monday 2-mile walk, weight training
Tuesday 5-mile trail hike (w/30-lb. pack), Tabata cardio training (jumping jacks)
Wednesday 2-mile walk, weight training
Thursday 5-mile trail hike (w/30-lb. pack), Tabata cardio training (jumping jacks)
Friday 10-mile walk (w/day pack)
Saturday REST

September-October:

Day Workout
Sunday REST
Monday 5-mile trail hike (10-lb. pack in Sep., 20-lb. pack in Oct.)
Tuesday 5-mile trail hike
Wednesday 5-mile trail hike
Thursday 5-mile trail hike
Friday 5-mile trail hike
Saturday 5-mile trail hike

Finally, November!

It’s finally November! It’s not that I’m looking to rush winter in, mind you, but on the 9th I can finally re-submit my forms for my student loans and get the ball rolling on my plans. I’m growing antsier by the day!

My plans have been altered very slightly in my personal life, due to what I would call “foreseen circumstances” (not a big deal and for the better, really), but the rest of my plans are on the launch pad and ready for liftoff. Things are exciting, scary, unknown, new…I think 2015 will be a fantastic year and I’m looking forward to everything, the plans becoming realities as well as overcoming challenges and obstacles.

Training-wise, I have slowed things down a lot. I’m still hiking five miles, six days a week, but have basically stopped my weight training. For one thing, I have lost about 20 pounds and I feel like that’s a bit too much. For another thing, all the hard work that’s gone into weight training is going to go “kaput” once I’m (hopefully!) on the Appalachian Trail. I’d rather just summit Katahdin, come home, rest a few days, and then start my weight training to rebuild my upper body and maintain my lower body strength.

It’s coming down to the wire, folks! I’m as ready as I’ll ever be.

Decisions & Changes

100_0542It’s almost November, and that, of course, excites me to no end. No, not because winter is coming (*shudder*), but because on November 9th, my student loan grace period ends. I get to reconsolidate my loans and reapply for my payment plan…and find out whether I’m thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail in 2015 or not. It’s been a seemingly long wait, since July. I’m a very patient person by nature, but having my life be in such limbo was really grating on my nerves. By late November or early December, I will have my answer. I will consider it my Christmas gift if it just so happens that I can hike!

Life has changed a lot for me between July and now. Just when I thought I had everything figured out, I discovered that I don’t. It’s not so much that everything has changed, but my sense of direction has. It’s changed in a way that I’ve shared with a few people but am not ready to share with everyone quite yet. It’s exciting and scary, and will certainly be carefully considered quite often on my hopeful nearly 2,200-mile adventure. Once that “Bucket List” item is checked off, it will be gonads-to-the-wall job hunting for me.

So stay tuned, the time is almost here for the Appalachian Trail decision!

Hunting Season & Outdoor Safety

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A doe in my yard.

Hunting season is closing in, and for outdoor folks, that means it’s time to break out the blaze orange apparel! There are a number of ways to stay safe in the woods this fall. Here are some tips:

  • Wear blaze orange or other bright colors (preferably neon: orange, green, yellow are best). Avoid black, browns, grays, reds, and whites…those colors are too similar to that of bears, deer, moose, turkeys, etc.
  • Display your blaze orange apparel where it can be easily seen from a distance. A blaze orange logo on your back will not be visible if you’re wearing a backpack. Hats and vests are good, visible apparel. If you’re wearing a large pack and do not have a blaze orange pack cover, tie a blaze orange bandana to the outside of the pack where it can be seen.
  • Don’t forget about your canine friends! Make sure they are wearing a wrap-around blaze orange vest every time they go into the woods.
  • If you see or hear hunters in your vicinity, make your presence known. Verbal identification is generally better than making noises. Do not assume that they can see or hear you.
  • Know and avoid popular hunting areas entirely, if possible. Know when hunting season for bows and firearms begins and ends in your area.

I’ll be digging out my blaze orange hat and tying my blaze orange vest to the outside of my pack while I do my training! Be safe in the woods this hunting season!

Training Update (and Some Introspection!)

20140829_140634 I’m still hard at work with my anticipatory training for the Appalachian Trail (November is inching closer to find out for sure!). My training has changed a lot since I last posted about it, so here is what I’m currently doing versus what I was doing back on June 19th:

Now:

Day Workout
Sunday DAY OFF
Monday 4.7-mile trail hike, upper body w/two 10-lb. dumbbells
Tuesday 4.7-mile trail hike, lower body w/one 10-lb. dumbbell, abdominal/core strengthening
Wednesday 4.7-mile trail hike, upper body w/two 10-lb. dumbbells
Thursday 4.7-mile trail hike, lower body w/one 10-lb. dumbbell, abdominal/core strengthening
Friday 4.7-mile trail hike, upper body w/two 10-lb. dumbbells
Saturday 4.7-mile trail hike, lower body w/one 10-lb. dumbbell, abdominal/core strengthening

June 19th:

Day Workout
Sunday DAY OFF
Monday 2-mile road walk, upper body w/two 10-lb. dumbbells
Tuesday 2-mile road walk, lower body w/one 10-lb. dumbbell
Wednesday 2-mile road walk, upper body w/two 10-lb. dumbbells
Thursday 2-mile road walk, lower body w/one 10-lb. dumbbell
Friday 2-mile road walk, upper body w/two 10-lb. dumbbells
Saturday 2-mile road walk, lower body w/one 10-lb. dumbbell

For the month of August, I started using my trekking poles and wearing my pack with 10 pounds of gear. I just added 10 more pounds for September, and when October comes I will add the final 10 pounds for a total of 30 pounds. I’ve lost approximately 14 pounds of body weight and am feeling really good, although pretty tired by the end of the day. Often, I want to head to bed at 8 PM, and those who know me well know I tend to lean toward being a bit of a night owl!

At times, I have to dig pretty deep for inspiration. When you decide you want…need…to do something like thru-hikng the Appalachian Trail, it can become daunting. Almost-2,200 miles is a long way to hike. A really long way. I have the additional challenges of medical issues. So, I dig deep. I remember how I discovered the Trail, why I decided I want to thru-hike it, and how I will feel if I don’t go down to Georgia next March and give it 100%. These are pretty normal feelings, from what I’ve read of many other thru-hikers’ journals. That’s why I have chosen to train six days a week, rain or shine (except downpours and lightning, of course). No amount of training will have me totally prepared for what the Trail will throw at me, but if I’m in the best possible physical shape that I can be in, I will at least stand a chance. It’s a domino effect: feeling physically adequate will give me the mental strength I will need. I also have a ton of support from family and friends, and people who don’t even know me (via social media). I am grateful.

I look forward to so much that the Trail has to offer: interesting places, history, random acts of kindness of strangers, the complete physical and mental challenge, and contemplations about my life’s direction. In November, my student loans will be the deciding factor as to whether the dream is actualized, or becomes dust in the wind.

The Death of Robin Williams

As a new MSW (Master of Social Work), Robin Williams’ suicide has me thinking many different thoughts about life, death, and my future work. These are my own personal thoughts.

I have never been so touched by the death of a celebrity than I have by Robin Williams. He was exhausting to watch. He was brilliantly funny and entertaining. He was amazingly versatile. Many of us welcomed him into our homes like a good — albeit perhaps crazy — friend. It’s no wonder that he was so beloved. Who could think of a more seemingly happy person on the face of the earth than Robin Williams? I have never met the man, I did not know the man personally…but I was utterly shocked and heartbroken to learn of his suicide on August 11th.

Robin Williams’ suicide has taught me more than “money can’t buy happiness”, more than “drugs are bad”, more than “sometimes the happiest people are the saddest people”. His suicide has taught me that I have much research, education, and advocacy work to do in my future career. I have a whole career of people I haven’t even met yet to care for and to help, and perhaps also, some to lose. I have a firm grip on the reality that, “you can’t save everyone”, but I have yet to put it into practice.

Depression is, yes, partly a chemical imbalance…but it is also more than that. It is genetic. It is environmental.  I’ve learned that stigmas and myths can be dangerous. “People who talk about suicide don’t commit suicide”, “suicide is selfish”, and so on. Suicide maybe boils down to the inability to live with that darkness that alternates between rearing its ugly head and lying dormant inside your soul, whatever that “darkness” is. Maybe it’s substances. Maybe it’s past trauma. Maybe it’s having not yet found an effective medication to treat a mental illness. Maybe it runs in your family. Depression does not care how famous you are, how much money you make, or what a good person you are.  Depression can be overcome in some circumstances. I should know, I used to be depressed. While I don’t profess to possibly know the depths of Robin Williams’ depression, what could cause someone like him to commit suicide and allow me to keep going? Is it the differences in people’s brain chemistry? Is it the depth of the depression itself and the individual’s coping skills (or lack thereof)? I don’t know.

Thank you, Robin Williams, for the decades of laughter and tears. I have learned things through your unfathomable tragedy.  I wish that there could have been a much better solution for you.

Video

Hike 08-07-14

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A Wet Wander