Friday, May 28, 2010

The Payoff

I believe my plan has helped greatly!  I felt much better on my runs this week, each one feeling better than the last.  From what I've read, it takes approximately 10 days of training to acclimate to the heat.  Not sure what can be done about the humidity, but I am able to keep a respectable pace of 9:15 or so.  I ran an "easy" run last night and came in at a 9:25 pace, with a walk break at mile 3.  The first 3 miles had an average of 9:15, the second half a bit slower, but all in all, a good easy run that worked more on my case of  "I don't wannas!" than anything else.

This weekend will see about 20 miles between Saturday and Sunday's runs.  This will finish my mileage up at over 40 this week, over 100 for the month.  Pretty sad that most of that 100 will be from one week of running! 

I've also been playing with nutrition a bit this week.  Basically, I've dropped everything.  No S-caps.  No honey stingers.  No sports drinks.  And I have not noticed any difference in performance.  Well, maybe that isn't quite true.  I've noticed that I didn't bonk on my runs, granted that were only 6 miles, but I've always at least used an S-cap or two because of the recommendation for hot weather.  I think that what I have been eating before and after my runs have become more important.

I am trying out some recommendations from Brendan Brazier and they seem to be working.  He recommends a mixture of dates and agave before the run and then a protein drink after the run.  I have not had dates on hand, but I did have some golden raisins so I've been eating those or a natural fruit chew.  I guess the idea is the simple sugar gives enough support for the run.  And I would agree that it does.  I am actually going to try his recipe with the dates this weekend before my long runs. 

After my runs, I had been taking in chocolate soy milk, but I have decided to drop soy as a staple from my diet until I can get a better handle on the whole GMO situation.  Brendan talks about the estrogen levels being raised from soy as well, so this is something else I need to take into consideration.  To replace the chocolate soy milk, I am using Vega's Whole Food Optimizer with vanilla almond milk.   It is delicious!  And what's more, my recovery between runs has been fantastic!  My legs have felt great all week and my energy level has been high enough that I am even doing my Spring Cleaning!   The real test will be how this works after the longer runs. 

My push-ups are coming along nicely as well.  I will not be outdone by Bill!  I hit 90 yesterday! Meow!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Blackberry Picking!

Blackberry-Picking by Seamus Heaney
Late August, given heavy rain and sun
For a full week, the blackberries would ripen.
At first, just one, a glossy purple clot
Among others, red, green, hard as a knot.
You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet
Like thickened wine: summer's blood was in it
Leaving stains upon the tongue and lust for
Picking. Then red ones inked up and that hunger
Sent us out with milk cans, pea tins, jam-pots
Where briars scratched and wet grass bleached our boots.
Round hayfields, cornfields and potato-drills
We trekked and picked until the cans were full
Until the tinkling bottom had been covered
With green ones, and on top big dark blobs burned
Like a plate of eyes. Our hands were peppered
With thorn pricks, our palms sticky as Bluebeard's.
We hoarded the fresh berries in the byre.
But when the bath was filled we found a fur,
A rat-grey fungus, glutting on our cache.
The juice was stinking too. Once off the bush
The fruit fermented, the sweet flesh would turn sour.
I always felt like crying. It wasn't fair
That all the lovely canfuls smelt of rot.
Each year I hoped they'd keep, knew they would not.

                                                       First you pick the berrires

                                                                 Everyone helps!

                                                        Then they must be washed

                                   Our sweet friend teaches us to make our own pies!

                                     Pie making is fun when you have a partner

                                              Nothing says love like a beautiful pie!

Date Night on the Run

Wednesday night is date night around our house, which means that I either miss my run or try to fit it in earlier in the day.  Sometimes, though, I get really lucky and get a date night run!  Last night was one of those nights and it was great.  Mark is not a runner, but he does try to support my efforts to run and when I announced my running plans, he was generous to forgo much of our date night and ride his bike alongside me for my 6 miles. 

We still dropped the kids off at the relatives for the American Idol party that was going on.  After that was done, we headed out to get the mileage in and enjoy the cooler evening together.  I ran a very easy 10 min pace which allowed for conversation that we don't get a whole lot of time for in our usual day to day activities.

After the run/ride, we headed out for dinner at the Black Walnut.  It was quite nice out with fairly low humidity and a wonderful breeze that just called us to sit on the patio to enjoy our meal. 

To end the night, we picked up the kids, who were able to keep the secret on who the winner of Idol was for us, and after tucking them in, we watched our DVR'd AI.  Great night, great company, great music! 

I am so thankful that my family supports my crazy passion...of course, they also know what it's like to live with me when I can't run so....

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

10 K per day

This week, as I said in my last post, my focus is on consistency, heat acclimation, and generally just getting through the "I don't want to!" whining episodes that have been accompanying my runs or lack there of this month, really since the heat has turned on. 

My plan is to run 6 miles a day every day, Mon - Thurs and then take Friday off.  Run another 6 on Saturday and then long on Sunday, (12).  I may even try to squeeze a couple in on Friday just to teach my badittude a lesson.

I am noticing a slight improvement in how I am feeling already.  Able to maintain the pace a little better, not as nauseous.  I did better today with fueling the body.  A nice lunch with a quinoa dish and some lovely greens on the side.  I think this may have helped with my running endurance some today.

Still not a fan of the heat, but it is getting better. 

Monday, May 24, 2010

New Block

This week starts another 4 week block of training for me.  The first two blocks have gone fairly well, with the exception of last week.  My mileage was less than what I would have liked, my consistency not where I wanted it to be.

The next four weeks will continue to be base-building and a bit of speed, but mostly, my efforts will focus on consistency and acclimation to the heat.  I've had a bit more trouble this year adjusting and I am not sure why. 

Tonight I was able to get 6.45 miles in and felt great until mile 5.  I just felt the energy leave my body and had to walk a bit.  I was moving at a pretty nice 9:00/min pace on some hills and when I hit the bottom of the last one, I felt myself begin to sink into a funk.  I tried walking a bit and cooled off at the water fountain, but had to walk the better part of a half mile to gather up my second wind.  As I hit the home stretch, I felt better.  At some point after 5 miles, I was trying to assess what else, besides the heat and humidity could be causing this problem.  Then I remembered.  I forgot to eat today.  It was a very busy day and I hit the ground running.  I had 2 cups of coffee and a fruit and grain bar at lunch.  Not so good for calorie intake.  And not good for training.  Remembering to eat shouldn't be so difficult, as I do get hungry!  I've been relying on the Vega as my breakfast and this morning, I didn't make a smoothie as I didn't have enough left.  I did use it after my run for a recovery drink and I felt great after drinking it!  I am very impressed with this stuff!  I ordered some more last week and I am hoping that it arrives very soon. 

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Summer has arrived

We knew it would come eventually.  And Nature has not let us down.  The heat and humidity are back and training has taken on a different direction.  The goal now is to acclimate to the weather.  Attempting big miles in this weather early in the season is not a pleasant experience, but anyone who has run through the summer before can attest to the fact that once that cool weather shows up again in the fall, all of our hard work will have paid off.

Right now, I am struggling to maintain a decent pace on my weekday runs.  I have two 8 milers, two 6 milers, and a long run scheduled for the week.  I am not hitting the 8 mile mark very successfully yet.  I hope I can acclimate quickly as I get frustrated not being able to reach my mileage goals.  I know in my head that the mileage isn't a big deal right now, but my spirit of will doesn't take, "DNF" very well.

My personal goal is to be consistently running 5 days a week.  No excuses.  Time on the feet.  Time to acclimate, pace is secondary.

Playing with nutrition will be another issue that I will be addressing this summer.  I need to find what works the most consistently.  So far coconut water is on the list as well as honey stingers, avocado, and pumpkin seeds.

Yesterday's run was full of horseflies.  They are definitely in full swarm right now.   My advice is to stay off the trail for a few weeks. 

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Treading through Training

Coming off of the OT 50, I allowed myself a week of recovery followed by another week of light runs to allow for more healing. 

I posted a long run of about 13 miles two weeks after the race and felt pretty good.  Even last week, I ran fairly low mileage because I have had my sweet granddaughter here and finding time to fit in running has been more challenging. 

On Wednesday, I ran a total of 9 miles and though the humidity was rough, I felt ok until that evening.  By bedtime, I had some pretty uncomfortable pain in my right foot.  On Thursday morning, I could barely walk on it.  I was sure I had a case of Plantar Fascitiis.  However, by the evening, I was able to put in a slow run, mostly due to humid conditions as my foot felt ok.  About an hour after the run, the pain set in again.  By morning, I was again unable to bear much weight on my foot.

I rested on Friday and applied ice several times during the day.  Saturday morning, I was still unable to place any real weight on my foot, so I reluctantly canceled my long run.  Last night, I made the decision to not even try to run today and just give myself another day of rest to see if it would have any impact on the pain.

When I awoke this morning, I jumped out of bed and started my day as usual.  Not until 30 minutes into my day did I realize that I did NOT have any pain in my foot!  I am so happy as I was quite concerned that I was looking at several weeks out of training to heal.

I am not sure what is really going on, only that both legs are still extremely tight and need to be worked over.  I did X Stretch on Saturday and more stretching today.  I am hoping that this will help release the tightness that is pulling on different locations causing these difficulties. 

Tomorrow is a scheduled rest day so I may stick with that, but if the cool front comes through tonight, I may sneak a short run in to try things out.

On deck for my next race is one of the Capt'n Karl's 60Ks.  I was planning on July, but it looks like I may have another commitment that would keep me close to home.  August or September are my other choices, so I'll shoot for August and plan for September! 

Of course the big one is in October.  I am really wanting to get Cactus Rose 100 miler done.  I would prefer to do my first 100 before the holidays, but if something happens and I can't, I've got Rocky as my back up plan. 

Being a mom dictates that I must put family first and fit the running in when possible.  The family is always supportive of my passion so I try to not pick times to race that would be very disruptive to family events.  Of course this also means I must be willing to drop a race or run on short notice, so I never really commit to anything until I reach the start line.  It's a wonderful blessing that I get to run and have so much fun doing it, but nothing comes close to the blessing of my children, not even running.

Cilantro Tomato Quesadillas

Thought on my heart today:

"Prayer makes your heart bigger, until it is capable of containing the gift of God himself."  Mother Teresa

Playing with food is becoming a more frequent event in the home these days.  Growing up on fast food, stove-top style dinners, and the typical SAD (Standard American Diet), never really inspired me to cook outside of baking for Christmas and our traditional Thanksgiving meals.

Honestly, food just wasn't something I enjoyed.  I preferred reaching for nuts, fruits, salads, etc, even at a young age, but consistent with the thinking I 'needed' animal based food to stay healthy, I submitted myself to eating as I was told to.

Over the years, however, I have become much more 'in-tune' with what my body is asking me to provide it as food.  Last August, I asked the family to commit to The Engine 2 Diet for 30 days to see if we couldn't resolve some of the allergy issues several of us seem to be experiencing. 

The 30 days has long since come and gone and I am quite pleased at how much our eating habits have changed.  I am pretty much all plant-based.  The rest of the family is at various levels of "flexitartian" eating.  I don't want the children to resent the food we prepare, so I allow them to eat what they like outside of the home, within reason (not much fast food, soda, or candy).

After 9 months of plant-based eating, I have tried many new recipes and now have begun to come up with my own.  Lunches are a real problem area for us because they need to be quick, but I want them to be healthy and one can only eat so much pb and j.

Today I prepared a new type of quesadilla, sort of a spin off of a recipe I had used from The Vegan Table.

This is my recipe

Cilantro and Tomato Quesadillas

Preparation time:  10 mins.

Hummus - see recipe below
Tomatoes - sliced
Cilantro- finely chopped
Juice of Lime - optional
Spray oil for griddle

Heat griddle over medium heat, spray lightly with oil.  As the griddle is heating, prepare tomatoes and cilantro.  Spread Hummus on one tortilla.  Arrange tomatoes on the hummus.  Sprinkle with cilantro.  If desired, squeeze the juice of the lime onto the ingredients.  Cover the quesadilla with another tortilla.

Place tortillas onto the griddle and allow to cook to a light golden brown then flip to the other side and cook in the same manner.

When it is finished, place on cutting board to cool for a few minutes.  Cut in half and then in half again.

Garnish with lime, cilantro, and serve with your favorite fruit.

I like to make a batch of this on the weekend to last the week.  This preparation is healthy as I do not use olive oil in it.

2 cans chick peas, drained and rinsed
2Tbs Tahini
Juice of 1 lemon
3 Tbs minced garlic
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
Salt to taste
Fresh ground pepper to taste
Water to thin as needed

Place all ingredients into the blender or food processor and proceed to blend.  This process takes a little time as you must stop and move the ingredients around quite often.  It is worth the effort though!  Add small amounts of water in as needed to help move the ingredients around.  You could also use lemon juice or olive oil.

One it has blended to a fairly smooth consistently, place into a covered container and enjoy it all week long, if it lasts that long!

This was a winner with the kids today.  I hope you enjoy it as well.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Update to the Vega Experiment

A brief update to anyone who might be following this little rabbit trail of my life...

I am currently on Day 9 of the Vega Experiment and I am quite impressed with the results I have seen thus far.  I don't want to cast aside my somewhat skeptical approach to this, but I have not had anything but good things going on since starting this product.


I really enjoy the taste of the Vanilla Chai.  Some of my children don't like the flavor, so I may order the next batch in one of the other flavors, Chocolate, Berry, or Natural.  We have been making smoothies incorporating berries of various sorts, mangoes, bananas, and shhhhhh....Kale.  Don't tell my kids.

I am glad to not have to remember to take my supplements.  Knowing that they are all inclusive in the protein powder makes my life easier.

I am drinking far less coffee and really, I am only drinking it out of habit.  I like a warm cup O joe in the morning.  I am not reaching for multiple cups with little return.  I have yet to experience a "crash" that I typically have between 3 and 5 pm.  I have energy all day when I usually feel tired and ready for a nap.  I haven't even thought of a nap this week.  My middle of the day snacking is minimal as I feel full until lunch time, then eat a nice green salad and/or bowl of quinoa for lunch.  I have little need for anything until dinner, except maybe a piece of fruit or two.  I have not really craved any chips, my addiction for the past few months.

I have had the energy to get out on my runs even though my sleeping has been somewhat inconsistent since we are watching our wonderful little grandbaby this week.  I wake up refreshed and earlier than I had been previously.

I have not had any issues with restless legs or insomnia.  This is a miracle in and of itself.

And finally, I have lost 4 pounds.  I have lost the bloated nasty feeling around my mid-section.  This is also amazing to me as I have been trying to lose this for 2 years with little to no luck no matter how many ab ripper sessions I do.  I have also cut wheat out as I believe I have a gluten intolerance and soy is down a lot as I have been reading more and more about the estrogen levels in soy.


I still don't like the price, but I am willing to work it into the grocery budget if I continue to do well on this.

I had a small bout of eczema on my eyelids this week which was not unexpected, but still unpleasant.  Brazier's website does talk about the effects of the Chlorella and how it can cause things like this to happen as your system is cleansed.  The eczema has almost disappeared now.

I recommend that even those of you who are not interested in a plant-based diet to at least go through Brendan's Thrive in 30 lessons.  They are very informative, especially for those beginning in their quest for the right nutrition plan for themselves, and best of all, they are free!

The Wedding

This past weekend, Mother's Day, we had the blessing of attending our oldest daughter's wedding.  It was a beautiful event that reflected the love that Alicia and Ryan have for one another and for their family.

They both looked so beautiful and so ready to embark on their lives together as man and wife.

Not to be overshadowed by the wedding, was our beautiful granddaughter who only added more joy to the ceremony!  This being Alicia's first Mother's day made the occasion even more special.
I can only say how proud I am of both of these young people and I pray that they have many beautiful years together with many children to love!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Happy Mother's Day Mom

Even though she isn't here with me now, I still treasure my mom and think of her most everyday.  

I love you Mom, now and always!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

My Vega Experiment

I have been following Brendan Brazier on and off for a couple of years, even before my own transition to plant-based eating.  He is a Canadian-born professional Ironman triathlete who follows a plant-based diet and has developed a line of products that are whole foods/plant based.

I decided to give his Vega Whole Food Optimizer a try in an effort to couple my needs for a variety of different supplements and a plant-based frame of reference into one product.  Also, I am addicted to caffeine again and would really like to rid myself of this habit.

Some other symptoms I have been eager to get rid of:

1.  Restless legs
2.  Bouts of insomnia
3.  Feelings of being tired even after a good night's sleep, lack of energy for running
4.  3:00 PM crash followed with coffee for a pick-me-up
5.  Bloating
6.  Decreased metabolism and inability to drop the weight around my mid-section
7.  Symptoms to remain unnamed as they pertain to my being a girl...

In addition to beginning the Thrive in 30 plan, I have minimized my intake of wheat to determine if I have an issue with gluten, which I suspect I do. 

After doing research on the product and speaking at length with the distributor, I bit the bullet so to speak and made the purchase.  It is definitely an expensive product, but if it delivers what I expect it to deliver, it will be worth the cost.

Yesterday was our first day to try it.  We are using the Vanilla Chai flavor and combined with with Vanilla Almond Milk, blueberries, and a banana.  It was quite tasty!  We only used about 1/2 of the recommended portion of the powder because I've read that it could cause stomach upset during the initial days of using the product. 

I felt full until about 3:00 PM which worked out nicely since yesterday was a hectic day with Volleyball class for Lem and we had to pick up Bean from the airport.  We stopped at Subway and I had a Veggie Patty sub.  It was enough to hold me over to dinner at about 8:00.  I also managed to have the energy to fit in 6.9 miles at 6:45 in 85 degree temperatures.

My first day looked pretty good, but being quite a skeptical sort, I am wondering if it is a coincidence that 7 of my 6 symptoms were non-existent yesterday.

Then I woke up this morning, at a fairly early hour for me.  Here is the kicker...I felt rested.  Ready for the day.  I haven't felt like this in a very long time.  No matter how much sleep I get, I can't ever seem to feel like I've rested well.  I was, quite frankly, very shocked. 

I got up and made myself another smoothie this morning and I only had the urge for about half a cup of coffee.  Mostly for flavor as I feel energetic and ready to take on this week of fun family time! 

I am hopeful, yet reserved in making a complete judgment until I've used the product for at least 2 weeks.  For now, I am going to enjoy this burst of energy and lack of physical complaints. 

Sunday, May 2, 2010

As the Weeks Fly by in the Blink of an Eye

I can hardly believe that it is May already!  It seems like I was just packing up the Advent and Christmas decorations a few short weeks ago.
This year has been passing by at light-speed it seems.  2010 has served many changes in just a few short months!  The most significant, of course, is that Mark and I became grandparents.  This is so hard for me to wrap my mind around, yet, my heart is all in.  The love I feel for our little granddaughter is unlike anything else I've ever felt.  I can certainly see how a grandparent could/would spoil a grandchild.  I mean, they are perfect, right?!

2010 is also the year that my youngest daughter became a preteen.  She turned 12 in February.  It was a blessing to be able to go to the American Girl Store in Dallas.  It was a bittersweet trip as I realized that my  youngest daughter is probably not going to be enjoying American Girl Dolls or little girl activities for much longer.  The other side of that coin is that we will be able to share these pasttimes with our sweet granddaughter.

Nature was very kind to us while we were in Dallas.  We were blessed with a very unusual snow storm close to home.  As we headed down 45, we pulled off and had a good old-fashioned snowball fight!  This was her first and my first one in many, many years.  What a sight to see my sweet little girl, dressed in her new spring outfit complete with silver shoes, throwing snowballs straight at me!

Lem has grown into such a lovely young lady.  She loves to help others and is discerning a nursing career with an emphasis on pediatrics.  She would be perfect in this role as she would be in any role where she is serving others.  She is truly a living angel.

As February moved into March, our family enjoyed the season of Lent.  Mark and I celebrated 19 years as husband and wife, (how he puts up with me, I'll never know!), and grandbaby J came to visit!  It was complete joy having her here.  

                                                    Boo hunting Easter eggs!

After Easter, our Goddaughter from Connecticut came to visit.  It had been two years since we had visited with her, two years too long!   Fia and Lem are very close in age and this has begun to translate into visits to see Lem more than visits to see the Godparents!  We love that they have this wonderful friendship developing.

                                                         Sisters of the heart

We were able to visit the Zoo while she was here.  It was a gorgeous day!

A few pictures of our day...(aka, lots of pictures that may bore you to tears...)

                                                                     I love meerkats!
                                                                 Fish enjoying the day!

             Going through the Piranha tank.  No, I did not even try.  Too freaky!

                                     Boo enjoying the shade and the scent of jasmine

                     Petting the local lizard who happened to be out on his walk

                                                              Eagles Nest Pics

                                       The Most Majestic Bird, Liberty...isn't she beautiful?

April also brought with it news that Boo will be requiring surgery to remove TWO, yes, TWO airsoft BBs from his nose.  One is residing in each nostril.  Lucky us.  He will also be having his tonsils removed as they are so enlarged that he can not swallow thin liquids without choking on them.  Out go the tonsils, adenoids, and a good ear cleaning!   Oh the joys of being 4!

Foo celebrated turning 15 on the 27th.  I can hardly believe how quickly time has passed watching this young boy evolve into a remarkable young man.  He has a bright future ahead of him!

Bean will be returning home this week from college and then the big event, A and R's wedding!  I am going to be a mother-in-law too!  I hope I am a good one!

We will be celebrating more birthdays, confirmations, and graduations over the next few weeks, providing pictures all the while.  Prepare yourselves.

Facebook is on hiatus for me right now.  I love the social media, but I am finding that I am really missing blogging.  For some reason, I can't seem to balance both, so the FB is taking a back seat.

As spring unfolds and summer approaches, I realize that there are many seasons to this thing called life.  Sometimes it seems to be slow and boring, but usually, it is fast and furious and at times you might feel like you are being run over.  Mark, my very wise husband, once said when I shared with him that I was feeling like this that I had a choice.  I could feel like I was being run over, or I could roll with the wave.  Rolling with the wave is much less painful.

So roll with your waves this season, be it with the good stuff or the bad.  It all passes away too quickly and we only have one life to live.  What we are left with are the memories.  I hope to make many wonderful ones.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Lone Star Hiking Trail

Today was the first long run I've had since OT 50 and what better way to get back at it than to take a long awaited adventure on the Lone Star Hiking Trail!  The Houston Trail Runners had a planned excursion to the trail and I thought it might be fun to both run a new trail and meet some new trail runners!

Unfortunately, my morning didn't go exactly according to plan.  Heading out 149, I missed a turn which would have kept me on 149 and ended up in the middle of lost.  I would not say that I have a very good sense of direction, in fact, I am the first to admit, if I don't park in the same place at the grocery store, my car gets lost.  However, I do seem to know right away when I am not going the right way...usually.

I came to a dead end and turned left.  I knew instantly that this could not be right as I felt like I should be heading the opposite direction.  I turned the car around and decided to plug into the GPS the town of Richards, Texas, to help at least get me in the right town.

Garmin, (Freida, as we affectionately call her), was spot on getting me back onto 149 and eventually to the correct parking area.  The group was meeting at PA #3.  I was late in getting there so I missed the start of the run.  I considered just heading home since these trails were unfamiliar to me, but I have a new mantra since OT the trail, trust yourself.  So, with map, hydration, and a few extra prayers, I headed off on my run.  The plan was for 13 miles along the Little Lake Creek Loop.  

I had hoped to take my Blackberry with me so that I could take some pictures, but while on my way to the trail, I realized that my water bottle had leaked onto the phone and it was literally drowning.  Not only was I lost and late, I was without a phone!  I left it in the car, dismantled and hoping that it would dry out and not be damaged.

It was hard to relax as I ran the trails as I kept feeling like I was still lost.  I was following the map, but something just didn't feel right.  As well, I kept having to remove spider webs from my face and this was an indicator to me that the group must have gone in a different direction otherwise, I would not be the one removing the webs.   I supposed that they must have gone into the trail from the opposite direction and that if this was true, I would meet them about half way and then run back in with them.

I happened upon a sign for the North Wilderness Loop approximately 1 mile into the trail.  I knew that there was a good chance that the group could have taken that route to get more mileage in, but I was not going for big miles today.  I stayed on the LLCL.  Another half mile or so down the trail, I came upon the Pole Creek Trail.  I could not find this on my map anywhere and figured I was truly lost only 1.5 miles into the trail.  I continued on planning to complete and out and back instead of a loop and began to take note of memorable landmarks so that I would be sure to find my way back.

There were several creek crossings, however, most of them were dry.  What appeared to be the largest crossing had very little water in it.  There was also a bridge that was down, but because the creek was so low, it was not difficult to cross.

There has been obvious controlled burns going on very recently.  I saw some areas that were still smoldering.  I am always amazed at how quickly green life returns to a burned area.  What was an added bonus for me today was that I was sure that I was on the trail most all the time because of the burn pattern.

At one point I did come upon an "entrance" to the LLCL.  This was somewhat confusing to me as I could not figure out how I would have come to the PA #4 that quickly.  It never dawned on me that I was on the opposite end of the trail.  I was reading the top of the map as if that is where I was, but in fact, I was on the southern portion of the trail, I later learned.

I continued on for a few more miles to yet another PA.  This one was not on my map and it was for certain that I was lost.  Not the kind of lost that I couldn't find my way back, the type of lost that one just doesn't know which part of the trail she is on.  Nothing serious.

Running through this new parking area, I crossed a fairly open field for about a mile and eventually hit a fork in the trail.  I could have gone left or right, but not knowing where I would end up, I decided it was a better bet to head back in the direction I had come.  I was at about 5.5 miles at this point.

At the parking area, there is a sign in box.  I looked into it to see if it would give me some information.  Lo and behold, a friend of mine had taken her family to the trail in March and their card was the first one I pulled out.  Knowing she is a stickler for details, I read her card which stated that they were entering the trail from PA #2.  Hmmm... It was confirmed.  I was off the trail I had planned to run and made the right choice to head back in.

The rest of the run was fairly uneventful with the exception of the HUGE snake, which I believe now was a water moccasin, who had taken up residence across the entire single-track trail.  He was probably 6 feet long and didn't care to move out of my way.  So, I trudged through some brush, hoped that no other snakes were awaiting me under the debris, and avoided the snake vs runner battle of which I surely would have lost.

I was glad that I had made mental notes regarding landmarks on the way out as they helped keep me reassured that I was heading in the right direction.  I should mention that the trail was marked, but the markings were all plain metal, silver in color.  I had read that the trail I was on was supposed to be orange, but I never saw any orange.  I also had read that the North Wilderness loop was marked with red, and I did see a few red markings along the way.

After I passed by the Pole Creek area again, another fork appeared.  I did not recall a fork heading out, so this began to make me rethink everything.  I was praying and hoping for some sort of indicator that I was heading in the right direction.  I made a gut decision to stay left on the trail.

I began to experience a lot of self-doubt at this point which was wreaking havoc on my running.  I started tripping over everything and stubbing my still-battered toes on the roots.  I decided to walk for a bit to gain my composure, and out of no where I hear, "Karen?"  As I turned around, I was greeted by the ladies from HTREX and I was never so happy!

We ran the last 1.5 miles in together and it was so nice to have company.  At the parking area, Mariela was kind enough to show me where the other trail entrance was and which part of the trail I had ACTUALLY run.  It turns out that I ran the southern portion of the LLCL and a portion of the North Wilderness Loop.  

The ladies headed back onto the trail for a few more miles as I headed back home.  The mileage to the house was 38 miles compared to the 53 I drove TO the trail.

It was a great day for a run, and an even better day to decide that I definitely need a map skills and compass class!

Overall, my body felt pretty good.  My feet are still healing so I think I will keep my runs a bit shorter for a few weeks.  I was able to log 11.2 miles today at a whopping 13:40/min pace.  Knowing the trails will most probably help me to run faster next time I give the LSHT a go.