Life Randomness

It’s time for some randomness from my life…

Weston Update – Weston completed his 3rd week of chemo last Thursday.  It went very well which was a relief.  The previous week he received chemo and his flu shot and the next day ran a fever.  While it was most likely due to the flu shot it still required him to be admitted to the hospital for the night for labs.  He received a blood transfusion the next day due to his neutrophil levels being too low.  His levels recovered well from that and no infections were found.

We received great news this week when his genetic infusion test results came back negative!  That means the odds of recurrence of the cancer once it’s fully treated should be very minimal.  His hair did start to thin and started coming out, so my sister had a family friend come over to shave his head.  My brother in law opted to have his shaved as well.  While we all worried seeing him without hair would be upsetting (he was born with a head of hair) and possibly make him “look like a cancer kid”, his big brown eyes and bright smile make him still look like our Weston.

Baseball – Jason and I attend two York Revolution games recently.  Neither of us are huge baseball fans and never watch it on TV, but enjoy a local game now and again.  We had received free tickets at both the Sasquatch 10k and the White Rose 5 miler.  The first game was very exciting and high scoring.  The second game Todd and Armand attended with us.  It was nice to do a non-running activity together, but the game itself wasn’t nearly as exciting.

Personal Training – I applied for a water fitness instructor position at the JCC in August.  I followed up asking about the status two weeks later and to date still have not received a response.  The job is still posted.  I don’t know if I should try to follow up again or cut my losses.  The more frustrating part is when I originally emailed to inquire on the details of the job I received a quick reply.  I’m starting to think my spending money/time to become a NASM certified personal trainer is going to be as much of a waste as my Bachelor’s Degree in Recreation Administration.

Vermont – I find myself daydreaming about our road trip to Vermont a lot lately especially if I’m having a bad day.  Other than the feet of snow to shovel in the winter (which likely won’t be a concern in years to come if global warming isn’t curbed) I could really see myself living there.  Jason loved it too, but we both agreed we couldn’t afford to buy a house or rent there.

Indigenous Peoples Day – I want to take a moment to recognize today in honor of all the Indigenous Peoples.  I no longer recognize this day as Columbus Day and feel if Italians want recognition for accomplishments then they should celebrate today as a co-holiday and call it Italian Heritage Day.  Honoring someone who began the genocide of Indigenous Peoples isn’t a great way to celebrate your history.  I strongly encourage people to read An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States; it was incredibly eye opening for me.

Any randomness you’d like to share?

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2021 – 3rd Quarter Fitness Summary

The 3rd quarter of 2021 was one of the most challenging ones weather wise to date.  For some reason I never felt acclimated to the heat and humidity no matter how many runs I did.  I struggled to get the longer mileage base in that I built the previous summer.  That said let’s see how the numbers stack up:

July was a month I had hoped to start building a solid base of miles in preparation for my October half marathon.  I was fully recovered from my first marathon and looking to get some long runs completed.  Alas partially due to the weather and partially due to a week long vacation the farthest run was just over 10 miles.  While I didn’t race at all I did volunteer at the Shoe House 5 miler.  I took 8 days off from working out and ran a total of 11 days for 65.88 miles.

August featured one race, the Miller Plant Farm 5k, that was ran more for fun than anything else.  Building up to some really long runs remained a struggle and I only managed an 11 miler.  Normally dad, Jason and I would get a solid long run in on our Ocean City vacation.  Even with not going until the end of the month the humidity was torture and we had to keep our runs short.  I took 9 days off from workouts and ran 14 days for a total of 88.2 miles.

September normally brings about a welcome reprieve to the hot and humid summer weather.  While it did provide great conditions for the Sasquatch 10k and the White Rose 5 miler, there were still plenty of warm and humid runs to tackle.  I did finally get up to a 12 mile run.  I took off 8 days from working out and ran 12 days to log 76.09 miles.

Besides the weather there was a lot of emotional stuff affecting me during the 3rd quarter.  Work was really stressful at times until we added a person to our team and my nephew’s cancer diagnosis made it hard to want to do any workouts besides running.  No other workouts could distract me as much as running could.  While I can’t say I’m thrilled with my summer training compared to last year I did build some confidence in my strength and speed at the White Rose 5 miler.  I’m hoping to carry that into the End of the Road half marathon later this month!

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White Rose 5 Miler

The White Rose 5 Miler hosted its 44th running this past Saturday.  It was only my 3rd time racing it as I volunteered last year.  Jason joined me in racing it for his first time and Todd and Armand raced as well.  I also helped out with the drive through packet pickup the afternoon before the race.

Jason and I arrived with plenty of time to get in a solid warmup.  I really wanted to be able to race hard since my previous two races, Miller Plant Farm 5k and Sasquatch 10k, weren’t courses I could push my normal race pace.  Also, the weather was picture perfect for a fall race, so I wanted to take advantage of that to see what kind of shape I really was in after so many hot and humid summer runs.  After a porta-potty visit and a few sips of water we were lining up fairly close to the front to get a good start.

The course changed from when I ran it in 2018.  We had preran it as part of a long run a few weeks prior which helped me know where to push the pace.  The beginning was the same with “Cannonball Charlie” and the York Revolution mascot, Downtown, getting us started.  We headed out a slight grade towards Penn Park where a drumline was playing before descending and flattening out through the city.  The biggest hill (which was short compared to a lot of hills I regularly run) to Farquhar Park came during the 2nd mile as opposed to the 4th mile.  I held a steady pace and worked the following downhill as much as possible.

My first mile was a 7:59.  After settling in plus running the hill I hit an 8:23 second mile.  I wanted to stay at 8 min miles so I pushed harder on the 3rd mile which was a 7:22.

I found the fourth mile to be the most challenging.  The course left the city to go out and back on part of the Northern extension of the York Rail Trail.  The beginning part was paved but after crossing a small bridge it became gravel.  I had always heard of people talk about the “slippage” on parts of the rail trail, but never really felt it until then.  It’s most likely because I had only ever raced a 10 miler and marathon on it, so I wasn’t pushing the pace during those races.  Trying to push harder than an 8 min mile though made me wish I was wearing spikes, and I was grateful when I finally reached pavement again.  I had hit an 8:11 fourth mile so I knew I really needed to work the final mile.

Coming down the final street to the finish line felt long.  There was a guy holding a boom box playing the Rocky theme song which was fun, and plenty of people cheering along the street.  The black arches of the finish line seemed to not get closer as I tried to pick up my pace.  I had no final sprint, partially due to no one right ahead of me or behind me, but I still held a strong pace and finished with a 39:18 official time.

Neither Jason nor I placed in our age groups (there was a lot of strong competition – the first 5 men overall all ran sub 25’s), but were still happy with our performances.  He improved his best 5 mile time and I was only 15 seconds off my time from 2018.  I had wanted to break 40 minutes and in doing so confirmed to myself I’m in the kind of shape I want to be heading into the End of the Road half in October.

We enjoyed the post race festivities of some music and good food thanks to White Rose Bar & Grill.  We might not have earned white and purple award winner hats, but we have nice purple tech shirts to show off.  I don’t know if I’ll be racing or volunteering next year, but I plan to continue being part of a great community race!

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Sasquatch 10k Trail Run

My race report is a tad overdue as I actually ran Sasquatch on Sept. 11th.  

Jason was thoroughly disappointed that Sasquatch was cancelled last year due to Covid, and insisted I had to run the 10k this year instead of the 5k since he and dad had in 2019.  Keep in mind I am not an avid trail runner, so the idea of racing trails beyond a 5k wasn’t too appealing.  I had talked Jason into doing the winter series the other year though, so I was a good sport and signed up for the 10k.    

The weather was ideal for racing, not the usual heat and humidity that had plagued the majority of my summer runs.  As I had no time goal in mind I was pretty relaxed at the start.  The 5k started at the same time with runners doing a loop in the field before heading out on the same route as the 10k.  I recalled a good portion of the course from doing the 5k and ran comfortably.  I knew there were horse jumps to get over, but forgot just how high they were until I was climbing over them.  Still, I tackled the first half of the course relatively well knowing the second half would be harder.

An acquaintance of my dad’s who also happened to be the dad of one of my former track kids ended up pacing with me the first 2-3 miles.  We chatted a lot as we meandered through farm land and woods.  Once the trail got more technical on a downhill he pulled ahead of me, and I completely lost sight of him once we encountered mud.  When I said mud I mean completely sloppy, you might fall on your butt or have a shoe sucked down in it MUD.  I walked a good portion of that part, staying as close to the edge as possible, and hoping the shrubs I was brushing against weren’t poison ivy.  

I was grateful to finally reach the swinging bridge and get away from the mud mess though I didn’t pick up much time as I baby stepped across the rather old and rickety bridge.  I crossed over the York Heritage Rail Trail where I expected to see a water stop and was disappointed to realize it was farther along on the course.  When I reached it I came to a complete stop so I could drink the full cup offered to me; I knew the hills would soon begin.

Leaving the water station I watched a girl ahead of me jump and yell as a Sasquatch jumped out from behind a tree, glad he scared her and not me!  Just past that point I began the climb of the longest hill of the course.  I hadn’t gotten in too many trail runs over the summer, but I was confident in my hill climbing ability from all the hills I normally ran, and was fortunate that while the hill was long and steep, it wasn’t technical.  I passed many people walking and fought myself to make it to the top without stopping.  I accomplished that goal then proceeded to struggle on the next two shorter, but still steep hills.  I made it about halfway up each one of those before having to hike the remainder.

Anyone who had previously ran the Sasquatch 10k, including dad and Jason, kept warning me about how hard the hills were.  What no one found necessary to disclose was just how challenging the downhill would be.  Myself, an older lady who said she had knee replacement surgery not too long ago, and another girl cautiously proceeded down the steep and more technical decline.  There weren’t many trees to grab for support, so I was continually turning sideways and/or bracing myself and taking small steps.  We called out to runners behind us to let us know if they needed to pass and carefully got as far to the side as we could, watching them cruise down the hill with no fear.

I was quite relieved when I reached the bottom and was able to start running again.  I tried to pick up my pace especially when I reached an open field.  The only creek crossing (there were 2 in the 5k course) came in the last mile.  It was thigh high on me (I’m 5’4″) and felt wonderful on my beat up legs.  It also washed off all the mud that had caked a layer on my shoes and got them cleaner than any hand washing I could’ve done!

After the creek was the final stretch of the race that included another small hill to climb and 3 (not 2 like I originally remembered) more horse jumps before a final crossing of a field to the finish line.  Jason was grinning at my exhaustion, and I lectured him and dad about not warning me of the downhill.  I did impress them having ran the whole first uphill as both of them hiked part of it.  We walked back to the car and I changed shoes and socks before we chowed down on some pork bbq sandwiches and mac & cheese courtesy of White Rose Bar & Grill.

Dad won his age group, Jason bettered his time from 2019 by several minutes and I finished my first trail 10k in a 1:15:53.  I had hoped to keep all my mile splits under 15 minutes but the challenging downhill made that impossible.  Still a 12:14 pace overall was good enough for me.  I’m glad I ran the 10k for the experience, but I might be going back to the 5k in the future!

 

 

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Quick Weston Update

I hadn’t planned to use my blog to regularly post about Weston’s fight against cancer, but I know I have some really great follower friends who I don’t want to leave out of the loop.  Last week he had a PET scan which showed that the only cancer in his body is in that original spot; it hasn’t spread anywhere else including to any lymph nodes.  This was a huge sigh of relief and some good news during a rough time.

If anyone is interested in more specifics regarding his treatment plan, my sister started a blog to keep family and friends updated.  She posted this week after her and Erik met with doctors to go over the chemo plan and you can read that here.

Today is port placement day and the first round of chemo.  To say the cancer cloud above my head grew heavier and darker last night is an understatement.  I had gotten to see and play with Weston yesterday before running group.  It is challenging to see a happy, energetic toddler look so healthy and know that he really isn’t, and that toxins have to be put in his body.  I know him looking so healthy on the outside is a likely indicator that the cancer was caught early and therefore should be more easily treated.  I still have no doubts he’ll be able to get through this; it just feels like a very long road ahead starting today.

The heavy downpours this morning seem almost fitting; as if the world is crying alongside us.  I keep picturing his happy little face wandering into the hospital, oblivious to the scariness of it all and just viewing it as a new adventure.  That is a saving grace at times, knowing he likely won’t remember any of this.  

Much like running A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step – Lao Tzu.

Thank you for your continued support.

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Cancer Cloud

Two weeks ago I was enjoying the sand and surf of Ocean City, MD with my parents and Jason.  We had chosen to change things up and rent a condo via Airbnb around 84th street instead of staying at our usual hotel on 19th street.  My sister, brother in law and nephew were due to arrive early Wed. morning and stay at a hotel across the street from us.  At the time our biggest concern was if the effects of Hurricane Ida would bring rain to the area.

Tues. evening Kasey called to say they had taken Weston to urgent care as his eyes appeared a little yellow and his stool was lighter than usual.  It was too late to get bloodwork, so they planned to go in the morning and arrive in Ocean City later that day.  We were slightly concerned, but thought maybe he had picked up a virus from being at the lake the previous day.

We spent Wed. morning on the beach while waiting for updates and their arrival.  Kasey said the bloodwork showed elevated liver enzymes and bilirubin numbers.  Weston’s doctor ordered more bloodwork and an ultrasound.  The odds of them coming to Ocean City were becoming more slim.  The winds were picking up on the beach, so we headed back to the condo to shower and go to the boardwalk for an early dinner.

We were relaxing on the condo’s porch that evening when I received a text from my sister; it was Weston’s ultrasound results and a message saying they were heading to Hershey hospital to be admitted.  Reading the results felt like a punch to the stomach and I struggled to keep my emotions in check in front of my family so I could process how to deliver the news.  A 3.9cm solid mass in the liver.

I quickly called my sister then returned to the porch to fill in my family.  I won’t recount the details of the rest of the evening as it was slightly traumatizing to me because of my mother’s reaction, but it was a long night.  Many phone calls were made as I filled in family members and family friends.  Oddly enough doing that, as hard as it was to repeat things, at least gave me a sense of control and purpose.  Despite not being due to check out until Friday and not being allowed to into Hershey anyway (due to Covid protocols only 2 support people are allowed per patient and no visitors) we left Ocean City Thurs. morning to head home.

Between Wed. evening when he was admitted, and Saturday morning when he was discharged, Weston underwent multiple rounds of bloodwork, a CT, a MRI and an endoscopic biopsy.  While my family was in disarray and my phone was non-stop as I kept family and friends in the loop, Weston was his usual happy self enjoying pudding and popsicles.  It was heart breaking to think of what was going on inside his body while pictures of him showed no indication of illness.  In fact some of his bloodwork numbers improved despite not receiving any treatment and his jaundice and discolored stool were no longer symptoms.  Could our little guy really be that sick when he appeared fine?

Waiting for the biospy results made for some very sullen days.  I stood strong when needed for those around me, but broke down several times to Jason.  Kasey and I were already mentally preparing ourselves for the news of cancer.  Their follow up appointment was Thursday morning in Hershey, and I told her to take as much time as needed to process and go to lunch and take Weston to chocolate world before filling anyone in on the results.

Thursday afternoon she texted that he was diagnosed with rhabdomyoscarcoma, a cancer in the soft tissue.  While the original ultrasound said mass on the liver further imaging revealed it to be between the liver, gallbladder and pancreas.  This made him ineligible for surgery due to the difficult location, but apparently it was in a favorable location for chemo treatment to directly attack.  His age, 22 months, also put him at an advantage as most kids diagnosed over the age of 10 don’t do as well with the chemo.  He had a genetic infusion done to determine the aggressiveness and overall prognosis, but unfortunately those results take about 2 weeks to receive.  He is also scheduled for a PET scan to ensure there are no other locations but original imaging implied there was no metastasizing.  If all goes as scheduled his chemo will start by the end of the month.

The family, myself included, is doing about as well as anyone can be under the circumstances.  We’re all still working and going about life as “normal”.  Dinner is being cooked and the house is getting cleaned.  I managed to enjoy the latest Marvel movie and run a trail race.  I’m line judging at Eastern’s volleyball games.

That being said I sometimes feel like Eeyore of Winnie the Pooh, with a dark cloud hanging over my head.  Some mornings I have pushed through work in an absolute mental fog despite getting more than the usual 8 hours of sleep.  I broke down during a consult with a kitchen designer over our project; decision making was taxing my brain.  I worked from my mom’s house one day so that I could play with Weston.  He is now at the development stage of rather than being told what to do is quite insistent on telling us what to do be it sit in a certain spot, give him more graham crackers or sweep the crumbs off the floor.  This all without saying a word as he’s not talking yet, but he makes his wants pretty clear!  It was a fun day, but the somber vibes emitted by my parents took their toll on me, and I hysterically cried later that night.

I am fortunate to have a good support system in two of my closest friends, Lindsey and Angel.  They readily responded to my frantic texts that we all pray/send positive thoughts (because I don’t traditionally pray) that Weston not be taken from us.  I could tolerate a long journey through treatment (he’s looking a 6 months of chemo followed by radiation) so long as he would be ok at the end.  I know no one can guarantee that right now, but it’s the only thing I can believe.

It’s one day at a time, some harder than others.  Some days the cloud above me will be darker than others and may unleash a downpour, but I can only hope there will be times where peaks of sun will breakthrough and I can trust that it will be ok in the end.

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It’s Ok to Not Be Ok

Two weeks ago I had a really bad depression spell.  I’m talking full blown, downward spiraling thoughts, haven’t felt like this since I needed counseling in 2014 depression.  It scared me.  There were no PMS hormones to blame and no one particular incident to blame.  It was if my brain had become a magnet for bad thoughts, any trigger big or small could feed the ever growing negativity, and it just kept compounding on itself.

When the IPCC report was released that was a big trigger.  I’ve always been an environmentalist, but joining Citizens Climate Lobby in 2016 I had taken a more active role in trying to get legislation passed to fight climate change.  Reading the findings of that report just made me feel hopeless about the future.  It was hard not to think if no one cares enough to act on this why should I be fighting so hard myself?

Any Covid related news of increasing cases, hospitalizations and deaths just made me angry.  Every Trump sign be it 2020 or 2024 I just wanted to burn.  Despite knowing there are plenty of people, not just those who voted for Trump, who are still unvaccinated, I placed the blame squarely on them.  They were the reason I might have to start wearing a mask again.  They were the reason I was waiting to order Broadway tickets.  They were the reason I couldn’t go to Canada.

Small triggers throughout the work day and just overall work burnout kept fueling the bad thoughts.  Why are people so annoying and stupid?  Do people even read the info I send?  Why does anything matter?  I’m a failure.  I don’t matter. 

When it happened one day I just chalked it up to a bad day.  When it happened again the next day I became really concerned.  Did I need to go back to counseling?  How do I get the spiraling to stop?  Why is this happening again? 

The biggest challenge I’ve always found with depression is the apathy it creates.  In my brain I knew the things I needed to do to put myself back on track, but just the thought of doing any of them felt completely exhausting.  I did let Jason know what was going on so if my mood seemed erratic he would know why.

I wouldn’t say I just “snapped out of it” after those two days as it took a few to feel fully ok again, but luckily I haven’t had any days quite that bad since.  I’ve done some work to put myself back where I need to be mentally including reaching out to two members of CCL who I knew would feel my despair over the IPCC report.  As hard as it is, action definitely helps fight apathy.  Mustering up the energy to take action sometimes is the hardest part, at least for me. 

I’m writing this to remind anyone out there struggling that it is ok to not be ok.  I think allowing myself to remember that helped.  I became so fixated on “fixing” myself that I panicked and had forgotten to just stop and let the emotions be what they were for a bit.  Our brains get overloaded.  Living through a pandemic, a tumultuous election and just existing in a very divided country is hard.  Add to that the normal everyday life and work stresses, our own self doubts and criticisms and our never ending to do and life goals list, and it’s bound to get to everyone in some form or another.  Just take a deep breath, exhale and remember it’s ok to not be ok sometimes, you aren’t alone and there are resources out there to help.     

 

 

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Miller Plant Farm 5k

After training for and running my first marathon earlier this year my speed had slowed considerably.  I wasn’t really up for doing any short races, but after coming across the Miller Plant Farm 5k I changed my mind.  This was for two reasons.  One, the race benefited the cancer patient help fund for the healthcare organization I work for.  Dad, Jason and I always like to do at least one race per year if possible to benefit cancer patients, research, etc.  Two, the race was being held on a working farm which meant it would be a cross country style type course.  This meant I wouldn’t be putting as much pressure on myself as if it was a road race.

The race offered the option to order t-shirts, but since none of us needed any I signed Jason, dad, Armand and I up for $20 each plus a processing fee.  I picked up our packets Friday night.  They included the race bib and pins, some race fliers, a coupon for Flying Feet, a voucher for Miller Plant Farm, a sticky note pad, a chip clip (always handy) and electrical socket covers.

Saturday morning we arrived with plenty of time to warmup.  Armand arrived extra early and preran the course to get in more miles.  He warned us it was very challenging especially at the beginning and to not go out too hard.  A little before 8am we lined up at the starting line where the director gave thanks to all the sponsors, volunteers and participants and went over a few instructions.  An air horn signaled the start of the race.

I had lined up somewhat close to the front to avoid getting trapped, but I still got trapped a little when the stone route narrowed up the first climb.  I stayed trapped even when it turned into a field as I didn’t want to waste too much energy early on, but upon seeing the course stay flat for a bit used it to move out and settle.  The course continued in a switchback style with some climbs then flatter sections.  There was a slightly steep downhill in the field that caused me to scale back my pace to ensure I didn’t fall.

The first mile and a half or so did contain a lot of climbing, and I found myself taking longer to recover after each climb than I’m used to.  I think the short steep climbs combined with the uneven terrain worked me harder than usual.  By the time I reached the section that ran alongside a corn field my calves were yelling at me.  Despite over 100 people participating and it only being a 5k, I actually reached a point where I was running solo.  It was very well marked with wooden stakes and spray painted arrows, so there was no way I could get lost.

The course reminded me of my high school cross country course and made me wish I had trained on that to prepare.  I thought about how much of a mud mess the course would’ve been had it rained in the previous days and was grateful that it hadn’t.  In the last mile the course went into a wooded section which was still run-able and not technical like some of the trails I’ve ran on.

I caught a young guy who was starting to slow to a walk and noticed he wasn’t wearing a watch.  I offered him encouragement, telling him we only had a half mile to go per my Garmin.  He thanked me saying he had wondered how much farther it was.  There were no more big climbs, and once I saw the opening out of the woods I began to pick up my pace.  The course transitioned to a dirt road and the guy passed me.  I ran the long downhill better than I usually run downhills, and when we hit pavement again I started pushing.  With a final turn towards the finish I caught the guy and asked, “What kind of kick do you have?  Let’s go!” and he said I deserved to beat him as I took off.  My finishing kick was stronger than many kicks I’ve had, proof I didn’t push as hard during the race as I likely could’ve, but it made me feel good nonetheless.

As I soared through the finish line a volunteer handed me a bottle of water wrapped in a wet towel.  I slowed myself up and reached Jason who was enjoying the towel on his head.  I was grateful to have it to wipe my face off as the humidity throughout the race had been higher than I expected.  We stretched out and grabbed my bag from the Rav so that we could check the results on my phone with a QR code and buy ice cream from a local truck that had showed up.  A “summer bash” was scheduled in conjunction with the 5k as a full fundraiser and there was a coffee/smoothie truck and other foods for sale.  Kids’ activities and a fun run were held as well.  We used our vouchers to get a produce sampler that consisted of a cantaloupe, two tomatoes and four ears of corn.

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After discovering dad had placed 1st in his age group we hung out for him to collect his prize – a whoopie pie that he gave me because he doesn’t eat them, and a gift card for Miller Plant Farm.  Prizes were only given to the overall male and female and top in each age group, but given it was mostly a fundraising event and only in its 4th year that didn’t bother me.  I only finished 9th in my age group anyway with a 28:45, but having only set a goal of breaking 30 mins I was happy enough with that performance.

Overall the event was very well organized and fun with a challenging course.  I would definitely run it again in the future and maybe do a little more grass training to prepare.  I was happy to get in a challenging workout, work on my speed at the finish and benefit a great cause.

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New England Road Trip Part 2 – New Hampshire

After having a wonderful few days in Burlington, Vermont Jason and I were headed to Wolfeboro, New Hampshire.  I had never even heard of the small town until he came across it on a “best small towns to visit” article online.  I was curious to see how it compared to other small towns we had visited over the years.

Thursday morning we ate oatmeal in our hotel room, showered and checked out.  My uncle had suggested we check out the Cog Railway to go to the top of Mt. Washington.  Unfortunately it would’ve added an hour more to our drive and the amount of time spent traveling up the mountain and back down would’ve consumed our entire day.  We agreed it was best to save that for another trip.  The drive was very scenic; New Hampshire was like Vermont in that there were no billboard advertisements to be found.  It enabled us to enjoy all the green mountain views and despite seeing signs for moose crossings, we didn’t see any.

We arrived at our hotel, Lake Wentworth Inn, around 1pm.  We were pleasantly surprised to discover our room was ready despite check in not being until 3pm.  The lady at the check in desk was incredibly welcoming and went over all the amenities before pulling out a map of the area to highlight her favorite restaurants for us.  To access our room we put a hand over a scanner that made a keypad light-up to type in the last 4 digits of my phone number to unlock the door.  Holding a hand over the scanner locked the door as well upon leaving.  This was the first place I had ever encountered the fancy technology.  Our room was quaint and packed a lot in it including an apartment sized refrigerator, microwave, dresser with TV, queen sized bed, two night stands and a table with two chairs.  The bathroom was small but very clean, and outside our back entrance we discovered two Adirondack chairs to relax in.  There were some yard games and outdoor grill near the pool.  Rooms attached to the lobby included a small library, a lounge with a fireplace and board games and a game room that included a pool table and Wii.  While we didn’t have enough time to take advantage of all these amenities there certainly were a lot for the size of the inn!

Once we unloaded the Rav and settled into the room we set off on the nearby Cotton Valley Rail Trail to walk to downtown Wolfeboro.  The trail travels over Lake Wentworth which made for a very pretty walk.  Quite famished we quickly located the recommended Garwoods Restaurant and were seated on the lower desk beside Lake Winnipesaukee.  Enjoying multiple water view restaurants had become a highlight of our vacation.  After lunch we wandered around the small town taking in its resort town vibe.  I told Jason it reminded me of a place where families come each summer to stay in lakeside houses and take boats, kayaks, etc. out onto the lake.  We treated ourselves to ice cream from the Yum Yum Shop and explored some shops before going back to the trail.  The trail crosses through the parking lot for Albee Beach, so we walked down to it to take in the view of Lake Wentworth.  I had never saw a beach with trees other than palm trees along it.  Back at our room we enjoyed some reading before bed then called it a night.

Friday morning we decided to drive into town as we too hungry to walk the almost 2 miles on the trail.  The Farmers Kitchen was busy, but luckily we didn’t have to wait long to obtain seats at the bar.  The TV was on and almost to emphasize the smallness of Wolfeboro and New Hampshire in general, the news all seemed to feature stories from nearby Portland, Maine (about an hour away) and places in Massachusetts.  After breakfast we popped in a few shops and I bought myself a shirt and one for my dad for his upcoming birthday.

We drove just outside of town to check out the Wright Museum.  After exploring the National World War II Museum in New Orleans in 2019 it seemed like any other WWII museum wouldn’t compare.  We were proven very wrong as the Wright Museum held its own with very well done displays, plenty to read and helpful volunteers.  Several of Norman Rockwell’s pieces were featured in the lobby and while reading lengthy excepts beside them a volunteer came over and asked if we were professors.  I was surprised and said “No, why?”  The volunteer said “Because no one else reads all of these!”

We spent around 4 hours in the museum.  It featured everything from interactive displays of propaganda videos and daily life information on things like victory gardens to a large room with military vehicles and a special exhibit on WWI.  We were a bit brain drained until we were ready to leave, but Jason made sure to purchase four reprinted newspapers from the 1940s as souvenirs from the gift shop.

We drove back to town one final time and bought a light dinner at Bayberry Juice Bar.  We sat at a picnic table by the lake and split our sandwiches to each have one half of a gourmet grilled cheese and one half of a gourmet PBJ.  Our smoothies were very healthy and filling as well.  Back at our room we relaxed and watched TV before deciding to get in our one and only run of the trip.  We set off down the Cotton Valley Rail Trail in the opposite direction after giving up hope of the GPS in our Garmin watches connecting.  We ran about 4 miles total wishing we had the energy to go further down the trail, but glad we got to run on it nonetheless.  We enjoyed one last sit outside of our room talking about how great our vacation had been.

Saturday morning we packed up for our final drive of the road trip.  It was to be longer than the drive to Vermont, but we still had plenty of songs and podcasts to listen to on Jason’s playlist.  We drove through Massachusetts and were able to fill up for only $2.99 (Pennsylvania has the 2nd highest gas tax in the country and it was around $3.25 when we left home) which made us happy.  At a rest stop I chatted with an older gentleman worker who in a short period of time told me about being a runner, teaching college courses on philosophy and teaching in South America.  When we were outside Hartford, Connecticut I was very glad Jason was driving as it became a 5 lane highway and that tends to give me some anxiety.  When we were about 30 mins from Scranton I phoned in an order to Armettas Pizza.  We picked it up and drove to Lackawanna State Park for a short spell, devouring our favorite pizza that we rarely get anymore with living 3 hours away.  I took over driving at that point and we cruised home with only a minor delay from some heavy rain outside of Harrisburg.  We arrived back safe and sound having had a great road trip to two very pretty New England states and already talking about other places to road trip to in the future!

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New England Road Trip Part 1 – Vermont

Jason and I recently returned from our longest road trip to date.  I had read travel pieces over the years that mentioned Burlington, Vermont as an up and coming area with shops and restaurants.  Originally we wanted to combine visiting there with a few days in Montreal, Canada.  Unfortunately the Covid pandemic shut down the US-Canada border.  Not knowing when it would reopen (we began planning our trip at the end of winter once we were vaccinated), we decided instead to add on visiting Wolfeboro, New Hampshire after coming across it on a “best small towns” list.

Sunday morning we showered, ate breakfast and left home around 6:30am.  I drove the Rav4 as far as Jermyn, a small town just north of Scranton that we lived in for a few years.  We had a second breakfast at Wayne’s Family Diner, a spot we used to frequent often.  Then we drove through the other small towns around Scranton to see what was the same and what had changed since we lived there.  Jason handled the driving from Scranton to Burlington.  The drive was a bit long, but uneventful.  We made a few quick stops for pee breaks, gas and take out lunch from Jersey Mike’s.

We arrived at out hotel, DoubleTree by Hilton Burlington Vermont, around 5:30pm.  Its location was beside the University of Vermont and about 1.5 miles from downtown Burlington.  Walking is never an issue for Jason and I, so we had chose to save money by staying there vs a lakefront location.  The room was very spacious with a comfy king sized bed, dresser, desk, two chairs and a mini fridge.  I had made a special request for a microwave (something I personally feel should be in all hotel rooms) which I was told wouldn’t be available until the next day.  After settling in with our luggage we got back into the car to head out to dinner.  Jason had picked The Gryphon for our first meal.  Having not made reservations we took seats at the bar.  I ordered a mixed drink and Jason had a local beer.  Still feeling full from my Jersey Mike’s sub I only ate a bowl of white bean soup while Jason had a full meal of a pork schnitzel sandwich and fries.  We were too tired to do any exploring, so we went back to the hotel to relax for the night.

Having slept very well we set out Monday morning to find a spot for breakfast.  August First was our choice, a bit more expensive than we expected for breakfast sandwiches, but a healthy option to start the day.  Then we walked to the lakefront to take in our first views of Lake Champlain.  We sat on a bench along the short boardwalk to view boats coming and going before heading north on the Island Line Trail.  There were fitness stations set up along it and we passed a skateboard park as well.  We walked as far as North Beach which was rather empty before turning back to grab a lakeside lunch at Splash at the Boathouse.  Nothing can make someone feel more on vacation than indulging in a drink while watching the water.  We bought “creamies” (soft ice cream cones) at a nearby stand for dessert.  The rest of the afternoon we explored the Church Street marketplace; several blocks of shops and restaurants blocked from traffic.  By the time we walked back to the hotel we had covered about 12 miles and my feet were definitely spent for the day.

After a rather warm and humid Monday (warmer than I anticipated for being so far north), we awoke to rain Tuesday morning.  We considered taking advantage of the hotel’s gym, but ended up relaxing in the room watching TV and doing a crossword puzzle instead.  After hawking several weather reports we decided to head out trusting that the rain would be finished for the day.  On our way downtown we ducked under a tree as a short, light shower passed, but fortunately the umbrella wasn’t required the rest of the day.

Wanting to explore more of the Island Line trail we rented bikes from Local Motion.  We biked the entire length of the trail out through a development and park to the causeway.  That crossed part of Lake Champlain and provided an option to take a bike ferry over to the other part.  We had looked up the island the previous night, and not finding enough to peak our interest decided to make that our turn around spot.  We turned our bikes in just before the 4 hour mark after logging about 20 miles, and headed back to the Church Street marketplace for a late lunch/early dinner.  The miso ramen at Gaku Ramen filled our ravaged stomachs and was as good as the first ramen we ever tried during our trip to Palatine, IL.  It had been good to be off my feet by biking, but I went to bed equally tired that night.

Jason wanted to go out to breakfast Wednesday morning, and found a diner for us to check out.  Believing it was in Winooski, the town just north of Burlington, we chose to take the scenic route through Centennial Woods which was behind our hotel.  Our trail navigating skills were tested and we popped out on a road that we weren’t expecting, but we ultimately made it across the river to Winooski.  It was that point that Jason realized Athens Diner was a bit further away, in the next town of Colchester.  We certainly had worked up an appetite until we arrived, but my plate of scrambled eggs, french toast, ham and a biscuit had me filled up in no time.

We took our time walking back through Winooski, enjoying the views of its river and sitting alongside it with some Canadian geese.  Assuming we could reverse our route in the woods we headed back to the hotel.  Somehow we must’ve missed a turn because we ended up right back at our starting point!  I’m not an avid trail runner for many reasons, and my sense of direction in the woods is proof of that!  We took the roads back through the University of Vermont’s campus and had a short reprieve in our room before venturing out once more.

The previous evening the hotel manager had told us about nearby Mt. Philo, so we decided to drive down to the state park and hike it.  It was only about 30 minutes away and a nice drive.  I was surprised that the park charged a $4 per person entry fee as state parks in Pennsylvania don’t charge fees.  The park ranger asked if we planned to drive or hike to the summit and directed us to the appropriate parking lot.  The trail was “beginner friendly” though some rain had made the rocks wet, so I was extra cautious to watch my footing.  At one point we weren’t sure of where to go but eventually found our way and then saw a sign directing us to the summit.  There were two lookout points, the first of which I was able to hold onto the railing and take a picture with Jason before quickly returning to the trail.  The second lookout I didn’t walk up to the railing as it was even higher and my fear of heights was pushing me to a near full blown panic attack.  While I appreciated the views it was hard not to think about falling to my death.  After calming myself down and wiping away a few tears we began the descent of the trail.  There was another trail called Devils Chair that I told Jason to go explore and I would wait for him.  About 15 minutes later he returned; he didn’t explore the whole trail but had fun and assured me it was best I had stayed put as the trail was very technical.  I slowed us down returning, watching every step I took to ensure I wouldn’t fall, but we made it back to the parking lot with no incidents.

Back at the hotel we showered and dressed to head back to Winooski.  We axed the route through the woods and stuck to the roads.  Despite not being able to make online reservations for the time slot we wanted, we were able to get a table at Waterworks with the promise we wouldn’t stay beyond 75 minutes.  Our table was in an enclosed porch which was perfect since a short but heavy rainstorm began not long after we were seated.  We watched some kayakers go down the river while enjoying a very tasty dinner.  On our walk back we passed by the local baseball team playing a game.  We strolled through Greenmount Cemetery, the burial location of Ethan Allen, and had fun reading the unique last names that weren’t common to our area.  I wasn’t even able to keep my eyes open to read before bed that night after putting in about 17 miles of walking that day.  It was bittersweet going to bed knowing we had to leave a wonderful city, but curious to see what New Hampshire had to explore!

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