My boyfriend who was mean and dismissive is now out of my life, as Bono eloquently put it, “What you don’t have you don’t need it now.” I joined a fitness Meetup group to keep busy, which has resulted in friendships with amazing people who have all added joy to my life. We gather every Saturday morning at the Reston Town Center. Our fearless leader Irina always brings enthusiasm and provides us with a kick butt workout. One Saturday, she had us run the stairs of the five garages, and when we reached the top of each garage we paused to appreciate the beautiful views of Reston and take silly pictures. Another Saturday, she had us alternate single and double steps up seven flights of stairs in variation for 40 minutes with a loop run every time we reached the rooftop. There is genuine camaraderie among the group, which consists of individuals at all fitness levels. Members look out for each other during the workouts and yell “you go girl” or “you can do it.” We share photos of our time together at the end of each Meetup and Irina adds inspirational fitness quotes to them. A fun way to spend mornings!
Art, my 83-years-young adopted grandpa from Starbucks, knows my love for photography and brought in the photo of all the parachutes to show me. During the war, Art used to jump out of planes and he was the photographer for his unit. He said the photo was of the whole division doing a jump to impress a visiting foreign dignitary. He went on to tell me that they were T-10 parachutes and “the men were at the mercy of the wind back then.” A cool pic; I asked Art if I could borrow it to scan and share with my friends on Facebook. He granted my request. I showed him everyone’s reactions/comments and he beamed! The next time I saw Art, he handed me two additional parachute jump photos to scan and post. I put the scans of the photos on a flash drive for him to pass along to his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He loved it!
Inspired by Art’s initial photo, my friend Christy shared this picture of her grandparents from the same era and the cool story behind it … My granddad was a paratrooper in WWII. My grandmom was a nurse and sewed her wedding dress out of one of his reserve parachutes. They got married in North Africa.
NOTE: The photos that look like streams were all sections of the trail we walked through and across that are normally dry soil!
Shenandoah Hiking Series: Overall Run / Overall Run Falls
Instructors: Beth and Raquel
Classmates: Charlotte, Dan, George, Fazon, Paul (a grad student from France), Jessica and Brain (a cool couple), and Jennifer and Lisa (a mother+daughter duo)
Start Time of Hike at Shenandoah National Park: 9:30 a.m.
End Time of Hike at Shenandoah National Park: 4 p.m.
Total Miles Covered: 10 (it was supposed to be 5.5)
Weather: Overcast the first half of the hike and sunny the second half
I had so much fun on my previous REI hike, that I registered for another one. Again, Mother Nature unleashed buckets of rain the days leading up to the hike, class proceeded and we met outside my local REI store at 7:30 a.m. to board “Teddy”. (See my previous hiking blog post for explanations about “Teddy”and some other details.)
It was a lively group! During the van ride Brain goofed with Paul about the U.S. slang term “splunking” and the sexual meaning. Beth, an avid caver, warned them to be careful where they use the term because to outdoor enthusiasts, “spelunking” refers to a cave rescue due to careless people. Very different meanings! At the start of our hike, Beth and Raquel taught us about the proper use and benefits of trekking poles, botanical life we may see like the wineberry (a favorite of all the instructors, a relative of the raspberry, nonnative to Virginia and safe to forge), and animals to beware of like Copperhead snakes (We came across a Copperhead at one point and I yelled, “Keep it moving people!”). Our fearless leaders were unsure of the condition of the trail given the heavy rainfall days prior. We soon discovered that it was miles and miles of mud ditches! Our major trail connections were washed out with mini rapids. I asked if anyone had swim floaties in their backpack? Raquel just finished telling us a story about the last time she led a hike at Overall Run and how they had to walk crouching down for more than a mile as a survival method amid a thunderstorm. During our hike she said she never saw such “epic streams!” Due to those two incidents Raquel jokingly declared, “this trail is cursed!” Safety was a serious issue given the slippery rocks and rushing waters, so I didn’t take many photos. Teamwork and using the trekking poles were crucial. Never underestimate the power of 1-2 feet deep rapid moving water. When we finally reached our destination Overall Run Falls, know as one of Virginia’s tallest waterfalls, it was a beautiful sight. The cascading falls were to our left and the majestic Massanutten Mountain was to our right. Toward the end of our hike I slipped on rocks, fell on my side and was covered in mud. It looked like half of my body got a fancy spa treatment. Our hike was supposed to be about 5.5 miles, but it ended up being 10 miles due to the rerouting. I was exhausted when I got home from my adventurous day!
To search for REI classes/events in your area go to: https://www.rei.com/learn.html
Shenandoah Hiking Series: Little Devils Stairs
Instructors: Nathan and Matt
Classmates: Alison, George, Scott, Jayne, Adriana and Al
Start Time of Hike at Shenandoah National Park: 9:15 a.m.
End Time of Hike at Shenandoah National Park: 1:30 p.m.
Total Miles Covered: 5.5
Weather: Rainy, chilly and super foggy
I received a classes/events email from REI and noticed they had some great hikes planned through their outdoor program. I began hiking in 2013 with my Framily (yes, that’s how my crew spells it), but I missed going on hikes last year because of the freaky weather and moving. So I decided to go for it, and signed up for a class. What’s more fun than an adventurous day of fresh air, education and exercise?! At the time, I didn’t know Mother Nature would drench our area with rain for weeks. REI is hard core and naturally, the class proceeded as scheduled. We met up outside my local REI store at 7:30 a.m. and boarded the pimped out 11-passenger Mercedes van. Way to go REI!
The van, nicknamed “Teddy” by REI staff was new, but the front right corner had a dent in it that I found out was accidentally done by one of their unnamed associates. Nathan and Matt were knowledgeable and entertaining. Everyone had a blast. We learned about various invasive and non-invasive plants. Nathan shared this interesting tip with us … whenever we finish hiking we should always clean the bottoms of our shoes, because while walking through the parks the soles of our shoes get impacted with plant pollen and that’s one way both good and bad plant populations are spread. The more you know! (cue music) Despite the bad weather, it was a very fun day and I was able to take some cool pics. Visit my blog next week for tales and pics from my hiking adventure to Overall Run Falls.
Happy New Year! Thank you for taking the time to read about my adventures.
The main theme of Gal on the Go in 2015 was training and Spartan Races. I still plan on doing some races, but I’d like 2016 to be a year of mixed life experiences. I will be out of commission in March and April for medical reasons, BUT when I’m back and active, look out!
Your opinion matters to me. What are some adventures, activities or events you would like me to participate in/attend and write about this year? Enter your suggestions in the reply section of the blog or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Wherever I go first, I will bring back the person who made the suggestion a souvenir. I can’t wait to hear from you!
Gal on the Go
When I got married I thought it would be forever, not because I had delusions of grandeur, but because my husband and I both came from divorced households and we thought we learned from the mistakes of our parents. Fast-forward 7,297 days later to the end. My husband and I separated and of course it’s something I NEVER expected. You go about your life and then a curve ball heads your way and knocks you down. I went through all the typical phases … sadness, anger, mourning, scared of unknowns ahead, etc. Three of my girlfriends helped me pack on Christmas Eve of 2014. (Friends who help you pack, especially on the night of a holiday are GOOD friends!) Two days later I moved into an apartment. I hadn’t lived in an apartment since my early 20s. The first few months were a whirlwind and I felt like I was living in a hotel, then one day my apartment suddenly felt homey. I was going through A LOT between the divorce and other life events, and the reality of them hit me at odd times causing me to have many tearful moments. Along the way, I discovered who my true friends are — those who have been there to take my random calls and texts any time of day or night when I needed someone the most versus those who haven’t had any time to spare or worse, used my personal business as their own gossip fodder. On September 10 my divorce became final. Given all the time and legal c**p involved, I thought it would feel different in ways I can’t explain. Instead, it just felt like OK, now I’m divorced, bring on the next life adventure! I’m currently in the process of preparing to move to shorten my commute and improve my quality of life. This past year bad days seemed frequent and time felt like an eternity; at the same time I can’t believe that 2015 will soon be over! I’m sad leaving an apartment that’s hard for me to believe once felt sterile. During my time here I took up bike riding and immersed myself in my community cruising around town to my local gym, favorite mom and pop businesses like HighGrain Bread Company and more. I have been reflecting on my own advice of “Use your fears to become fearless.” I’m doing my best to navigate life, move forward and apply the quote by facing the unknowns with excitement rather than fear. Gal on the Go 1.0 underwent a lot of life debugging in 2015. Gal on the Go 2.0 is an upgrade and looks forward to being better than ever in 2016!
The day had finally arrived for the last leg of my Trifecta pursuit. It was 59 degrees and partly cloudy; a beautiful fall day for a race in Boston. On my way over to the stadium I could see participants walking along the top of Fenway Park carrying large jugs. I looked away, not wanting to psych myself out. I already conquered the Super and Beast, BUT the cement grounds of the ballpark were different from the grass/mud terrain I was used to, and just because it was a Sprint race, didn’t mean it would be easy. I was very torn because I wanted to get through the course quickly and to the best of my ability, but at the same time, given the historic location and access to special areas like the locker room and dugout, I wanted to pause at points and enjoy the experience. It sort of didn’t go down as planned. I tore through the course because I was unsure how to pace myself through the stadium. Toward the end, when I was running around the clay warning track past the famous Green Monster wall, I slowed down a little to look up and around. While I was taking in the awesome 360-view, I thought WOW, I never imagined I would be running bases at Fenway Park one day! I’m not even a baseball fan (I’m a hockey gal), but I appreciated the significance of the venue. I proudly finished the course in 51:56.
The Spartan obstacle races became addictive, which is something I didn’t expect when I originally signed up for my first, and what I thought would be only one. I never imagined the Blue Ridge Mountains of Northern Virginia would lead me to Killington Mountain in Vermont and then to Fenway Park in Boston. The journey to accomplish my Trifecta goal took me outside of my mental and physical comfort zones and revealed capabilities to me that I didn’t even know I possessed. I’m not sure what my fitness goals are for 2016 yet. I’m going to take some time off from racing this winter and figure them out.
(FUN FACTOID: The Green Monster aka “The Wall” was part of the original Fenway Ballpark construction of 1912. The wall is the highest among current Major League Baseball fields, and is the second highest among all professional baseball fields, including minor leagues.)
Visit Last Word on Sports to read my article on tackling challenges races from a rookie to seasoned competitor perspective.
I was on my way to Vermont for the Spartan Beast when I had a bucket list worthy experience that I never imagined. I had to take a flight from Dulles to Boston to Rutland. My flight from Dulles to Boston was on a standard size commercial plane. I knew my connecting flight from Boston to Rutland would be on a smaller plane, but I had nooooo idea that a Cessna Prop was only a nine-passenger plane! Before boarding the plane the attendant weighed our bags and recorded our personal weight to ensure proper distribution. While we were standing outside on the tarmac I was taking pictures (until I was nicely yelled at to stop) and I didn’t realize I had volunteered to be the “co-pilot”! Boarding the plane wasn’t the typical leisurely stroll on inside, we had to duck and enter as if we were getting into a mini van. There were only six of us on the flight. I figured I would be sitting behind the pilot like on a commercial flight. Nope! I was sitting right next to the pilot with the steering wheel and controls all directly in front of me. I had a genuine oh sh** moment! The pilot made his speech, but I was still in shock about where I was sitting and didn’t hear a word he said. As the plane took off the wheel and pedals in front of me started to move automatically and I immediately froze up. I didn’t want to accidentally touch anything!!!!! When we reached cruising altitude it seemed like we were suspended in air hanging by strings. I didn’t breath for what seemed like a long time. When I finally started to relax, I distracted myself with the amazing aerial view — a perspective I never had before, not even when I rode in a hot air balloon. I embraced the situation and tried to soak up the experience. Having 360 degree views of the deep green beautiful mountain ranges of Vermont contrasting with the powder blue sky and cotton-like clouds while coming in and landing is something I will never forget. My nerving situation turned out to be peaceful and majestic. If you ever find yourself in a situation where you have an opportunity to be a co-pilot, put your fears aside and go for it!