2011 RUNNING & TRAVEL ADVENTURES

 

   
 
Runtrails' Web Journal
 
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   WELCOME TO OUR WEBSITE!

SUNDAY, JANUARY 2

 
"One way to get the most out of life is to look upon it as an adventure."
~ William Feather
 
 
Ah, adventure! Is there anything more appealing than living each day as if it is a grand new adventure??

Too bad it took me so many years to reach that perspective. Jim and I have been trying to make up for "lost time" since we retired several years ago. More about that later.

NEW YEAR, NEW JOURNAL

Welcome to our website . . . and our unconventional lifestyle of wandering around the USA in a recreational vehicle with our black Lab, Cody. I'll describe that more in another entry, since we often get questions about it from other folks who have a similar dream.


Jim and Cody share some quality time at Clear Lake, a beautiful alpine lake in the
San Juan Mountains near Silverton, CO (June, 2010).

This is the seventh year I've been writing journals on this website. The entries have morphed from focusing primarily on our ultra-distance running and racing to including more and more travel and RV topics. We have many other interests that I occasionally talk about, too, but those are the main topics.

It'll be interesting to see how the website continues to evolve over the years . . . reflecting the evolution of our lives.

Sometimes I also toss in miscellaneous humor and what I call "cautionary tales" when our intended  adventures turn into inadvertent misadventures. Readers tend to remember those the most!


It's hard to avoid summer thunderstorms, sleet, and snow in the Rockies;
that's been my most frequent "misadventure."  (Colorado Trail, Segment 22, July, 2006)

My goals remain the same as when I began the first journal to chronicle our Appalachian Trail Adventure Run in 2005: to inform, entertain, and inspire readers and to satisfy my urge to write and take photos. Those hobbies are almost as much fun for me as exploring new places on foot and wheels. This website is the easiest way for me to record and share all that with others.

Be forewarned:  I'm not known for my brevity. In fact, this may be one of the shortest entries I write all year!

PHOTO FANATIC

Not only do I write too much, I take 'way too many pictures.

That's the downside of digital photography for someone like me -- the ease with which I can take and store thousands of photos. I spend an inordinate amount of time editing them, mostly making them smaller so they don't completely overwhelm my internal and external computer hard drives. I take them in the highest resolution my camera will allow in case I want to zero in on details later.

I'm also a photo pack-rat; it's hard for me to delete any but the lousiest of pictures. Hmm . . . I might want to use that one someday . . . That's the biggest reason my computer is getting increasingly sluggish.


The scenery is superlative in the Upper Ice Lake Basin near Silverton, CO  (June, 2010)

One of the upsides to digital photography is that it satisfies my inner need to record the many interesting places I've seen, not only for my own benefit but also for the pleasure of others. It's very rewarding when readers visit this website and provide feedback about how much they enjoyed the photos.

If you aren't interested in the verbiage, just scroll through the photos! There are even more on our Picasa site. There's a link to it in the upper left frame ("More Photos"). I've got that site full now and need to create another free account so I can upload my favorite 2010 and 2011 pictures . . .

There's that "pack-rat" mentality again. I don't want to delete any of the albums I already put on Picasa! [Note that there's a virtual tour of the Appalachian Trail on there. I'd like to do a similar series for the Colorado Trail.]

Above and below:  colorful rocks on Antelope Island in the Great Salt Lake, UT  (Sept., 2010)

I'm an enthusiastic amateur, not professional, photographer. My favorite subjects are landscapes and the details of nature. Jim occasionally takes photos, too, but he isn't keen on carrying a camera when he's running or hiking.

All the photos on this website were taken with relatively simple, inexpensive, compact digital cameras. For more than a year I've been using a 10-megapixel Nikon Coolpix L20 model. I recently saw the newer 12-megapixel version at Sam's Club for only $89. Pretty amazing how much technology you can get for so few $$$.

For photos of outdoor scenery I think composition and basic photo-editing software are almost as important as the type of camera a person uses. You don't need a fancy SLR with all sorts of lenses to take decent pictures unless you are doing portraits or taking pictures indoors. I do have problems taking good indoor photos with this camera, but that's more me than the camera.

WHERE IS THAT SCENE AT THE TOP OF THE PAGE?

Speaking of photos . . .

. . . the one I finally chose to use in the headers of this year's journal pages is a shot of Pike's Peak framed by some red rocks at Garden of the Gods Park in Colorado Springs. I had a hard time picking just one picture to represent the fantastic mountain scenery we enjoyed during last year's "summer" trip (our mid-year trips to the Rockies ideally span three seasons from May to October).


I'm still smiling after climbing to the 14,000+ foot summit of Pike's Peak in July, 2010.  (Photo by Jim)

One of my 2010 goals was to climb Pike's Peak but there was too much snow near the top to hike all the way up when I took that photo in early June. I did reach the summit on foot at the end of July; it was one of the highlights of my summer. (And the last entry I uploaded to the 2010 journal -- on December 6. Oh, my!)

Some day I won't be able to climb mountains or travel any more. I'll be mighty glad I have an extensive collection of photos and descriptions of the many beautiful places I've recorded in scrapbooks and this website.

FILLING IN THE GAPS

I also have a bad habit of getting behind on journal entries and leaving gaps. Heck, I left an entire  gaping hole in the last five months of the 2010 journal!

At the time I'm writing this, I have a gap in the Summer 2009 journal, a gap in the spring of 2010, and that large hole from August to December. < sigh >  I resolve to fill those in eventually.


Photo from one of the journal gaps:  a large American alligator
enjoys the warm spring sun at Brazos Bend SP in Texas  (late March, 2010)

I already explained half of the problem: being too verbose and including too many photos. The other half is doing too many interesting things in too many interesting places!

I'm only partly joking about that. We do keep busy and I hate to leave out any of the topics I think readers might enjoy. Last year we visited several new places and explored some fantastic trails we'd never run or hiked before. It'll be fun to write the rest of those entries when I find the time to do them.

I'm so enthusiastic about some of the places we visit that you'd think I was getting paid to promote them -- I'm not. Trying to make money being a travel writer or photographer would take all the fun out of it for me. It's simply a labor of love, the same reason I've never written a book about our Appalachian Trail experience.


Caprock Canyons SP in Texas: one of the new places we visited last year.  (May, 2010)

Right now in Janu-ugly is a good time for me to resume writing. I haven't written any entries since the ones about Pike's Peak that I uploaded in early December. That was right before we left on our annual winter snowbird escape (which will last into spring) from Virginia to the Phoenix area.

I'll talk more about the concept of "snowbirding" in another entry.

So far we've had generally disappointing weather, with temperatures about 20 F. below normal. At least most days have been sunny. But instead of basking in warm sunshine, more often we've been challenged to prevent the water pipes in our camper from freezing overnight. We hope to find warmer weather when we're in Texas the next three months.

Hmmm . . . wasn't it southern Texas where we ran into 9F. temperatures one night about a year ago???


After the rain:  dramatic clouds over our campground at
McDowell Mountain Regional Park near Phoenix, AZ (December, 2010)

I shouldn't whine about the cold temps and occasional rain, though. Much of the rest of the country has been wracked with frigid temperatures and repeated heavy snowstorms, even in the Southeast. It looks like a repeat of last year's below-normal temperatures and above-normal snowfalls in many places of the U.S.

Meanwhile, lousy weather gives me time to reflect, start this new journal, and get inspired to fill in previous gaps. And sometimes dramatic rain clouds make more interesting photographic subjects than clear blue skies!

JOURNAL THEMES & TOPICS

It'd be real easy to make a crack about global warming right now . . . but I try to stay away from controversial topics like politics in this journal.

< wink >

Oh, Jim and I have our opinions; we just usually keep them to ourselves (such lively debates we have!). We also avoid talking about most of them with our families and friends. It makes life so much less stressful.


We enjoyed seeing our friends John and Marcy Beard at races in Colorado and New Mexico last year. 
They are well-known in ultra running and adventure racing circles and maintain a lively blog.

I don't talk about our families much in this journal, either, out of respect for their privacy. I do mention friends and acquaintances by name sometimes, however, when relevant to an entry about a race or other activity. I figure their names are already listed in race results and running blogs that anyone with a computer can access.

I have several recurring themes on this website:

  • sharing the thrill of discovery: to me there's nothing like literally exploring around the next corner, learning the history of a place, or meeting new people. I try to be like a sponge, absorbing as much information and as many good experiences as I can. Learning is much more fun and meaningful now than when I was a young pup in school.


Exploring Amish Country in northern Indiana  (October, 2010)

  • challenging ourselves and our readers to set goals and dream big dreams: all of us are capable of accomplishing so much more than we think we can. I always encourage people to think about what's important to them, make a plan, and make it happen sooner rather than later. "Later" might get here a lot sooner than you think!


One of my lifelong dreams was to run/hike the entire Appalachian Trail.
Jim and I celebrate our completion at the northern terminus in Maine (September, 2005).

  • adapting to changing circumstances: you can make all the plans you want but life constantly throws curve balls at you. The faster and more gracefully you can adapt, the happier you'll be. We've especially learned a lot about flexibility during our recent nomadic years on the road. I usually don't write about our plans because we change them so often, more often because we've changed our minds than because of some type of glitch.

     

  • being good role models for folks to live active, healthy lifestyles, regardless of their ages: when you read about some of our running/hiking and other adventures, keep in mind that we are in our early 60s. Our favorite ultra-running role models are in their 70s and 80s! Not everyone can run long distances or climb mountains, but almost everyone can do some appropriate aerobic and strength activities so they become/remain physically and mentally fit.

 
An ultra running legend (Ray Krowlewicz, L) and one of our heroes (80-year-old Dan Baglione, R)
pick up their race packets before the Across the Years 72-Hour Run.   (December, 2010)

Because Jim's and my major sports passions are running and hiking, many of my entries are about our training, races we've run or worked, and trails we've explored. If you're new to this website, a scan of each year's topics pages illustrates the wide scope of those entries and can keep you busy reading and/or looking at photos of beautiful places for a long, long time!

Each year I include more non-running entries because 1) some readers are interested in travel and RV topics and 2) I'm not supposed to be running any more, doggone it.

Even though I still walk/hike a bunch (1,400+ miles last year), I no longer participate in races. Believe me, it is much harder to write interesting reports from the perspective of a race volunteer than it was when I ran those races.


Awesome view of the "back side" of the Tetons from Table Mountain (August, 2010)

But I can whip out some heart-felt entries about the awesome hikes I've had since I (mostly) stopped running!

I'm simply amazed by the amount of mountain hiking I was able to do last summer and fall with knees that have been bone-on-bone for well over a year. Orthovisc, one of several types of visco-supplementation that help to lubricate cartilage-challenged knees, makes it possible for me to continue walking long distances -- although not nearly as long as I used to be able to run in one day.

After 30+ years of running, I thought I'd miss it more than I do. Instead, it's been less stressful to not feel like I always have to be "in training" for races. As long as I can walk long enough to produce some feel-good endorphins and reach scenic vistas, I'm happy. It's the main activity that keeps me sane and healthy. I also cycle on- and off-road, do weight training, stretch, and practice yoga.


Jim happily runs to the finish at the Bighorn 50K in June, 2010.

Jim is still able to run several ultra marathons each year. He's not as fast as he used to be but his desire to finish a mountainous trail 100-miler, or reach 100 miles in a 24-hour dirt track race, still burns brightly. He has another ambitious list of races planned for 2011. He focuses primarily on running and walking but also occasionally cycles and does weight training.

JOIN THE FUN!

I'll talk more about all these things in subsequent entries. We hope you'll join us vicariously for some new adventures (and inevitable misadventures) this year. We had so much fun last year that we'll probably return to some of the same places and do it all over again.

After being in the Phoenix area most of December for one of our favorite races, the Across the Years 72-, 48-, and 24-Hour Run, we drove to the Fort Bliss family campground in El Paso today. In about a week we'll move to some Texas state parks farther east and south where we'll be "Winter Texans" for a few months.


Camping at McDowell Mountain Regional Park near Phoenix;
Four Peaks Wilderness in distance. (December, 2010)

If you have any questions or comments you can contact us at the e-mail link in the frame in the upper left corner of each journal page or the home page. We love to get feedback, especially when folks tell us they are inspired to set new goals or try something different after reading about it on our website.

Next entryour unconventional RVing lifestyle

Happy trails,

Sue
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, and Cody the Ultra Lab

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2011 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil

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