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West Highland Way, Day 2 (Balmaha to Inverness- 22 miles)

Slap, slap, slap….. running footsteps woke us up at 3:50am.   We heard someone yell- “go right”… and with that, we were both fully awake and standing at the window.  We had read that an ultra marathon of the entire West Highland Way (WHW) path would be going on.  We had originally hoped that the runners might be passing by on our 2nd day,  but then we realized that the race began at 1am and that we were only 19 miles into the course.  We decided to get up to watch, ONLY if we happened to be awake at 4am anyway.  Well, now we were awake.  Ken got dressed and went out to check things out… I tried to go back to sleep, but soon heard Ken cheering on the runners with “Well done, Mate” (his new British encouragement).  I joined in, watched the leaders and top 3 women pass by, and THEN went back to sleep.  

The second time I woke up, it was nearly time for breakfast.  Litzy had laid out a feast of breads, cereals, fruit, yogurt, coffee and tea.  And that was in addition to the individual hot breakfasts that she prepared to order.  We sat with a Scottish couple who were hiking the WHW from North to South.  They were starting their last day, and they warned us that today would be our toughest.  22 miles, and mostly along the water, but relentless up and down climbs, lots of scrambling over rocks, ladders to ascend, and streams to cross.  They advised us to stop at a restaurant along the trail, 15.5 miles in.  We are glad we did- we were both tired by then, but a bowl of soup and a cup of tea helped plus the stop broke our day into two parts.  Now we had only 6.5 miles remaining- even if it was the toughest 6.5 miles of the entire trail.   
Our phrase for today was “Oh Boy”… it seemed like every time we turned a corner, we would face a steep rocky climb, sometimes with stone stair steps, sometimes with ladders, sometimes with lots of boulders to climb up and around.  It became a joke, that every time we were quickly moving along on a slight downhill or flat, there’d just as quickly be another “Oh Boy” view and our pace would slow.  The 22 miles took us approximately 7 hours today- when things were smooth and flat, we jogged (like maybe 2 miles total of the entire day) and the rest of the time we climbed and walked as quickly as we were safely able to.  

Walking along the lock was very pretty, but dare I say, a tad bit monotonous.  We missed the beautiful views of yesterday, and were pleasantly surprised when we popped out of the woods at mile 19 and were back on a lovely green hillside with views of both the loch and the mountains beyond.  

Ken, back to his routes as a naturalist, found some interesting snakes and slugs to photograph and probably play with for awhile.

One of the best views of the day was the final descent right into our resting site for the night.  Benglais is a campsite with some private cabin type rooms and a rowdy pub/restaurant.  We checked into our room, picked up our luggage which had been dropped off earlier in the day, got cleaned up and ate a terrific dinner. 
Day 3– Invernan to Bridge of Orchy (19 miles) 

By the end of yesterday, I was feeling a little despondent and not sure that walking two more 20 mile days plus a 14 mile day was going to be much fun.  I said to Ken, “when do you think the turning point is?”  Guess what?  It was today!  19.5 miles in almost exactly 5 hours.  We were able to jog a good portion, along old military roads.  We stopped for a big lunch (Cullen Skink soup which was possibly the best thing I’ve ever eaten, and jacket potatoes with chili and cheese… also delicious). But other than our lunch break, we were able to move quickly and arrived at our B and B a bit early.  

Bridge of Orchy sounds pretty populated, doesn’t it?  Well, it’s NOT.  There is a train station, although we’re not sure why.  There is a hotel/restaurant, and there is our 2 room B and B which was once a drover station.  It’s been remodeled and is somewhat comfortable, although very simple with 2 twin cots, a drying rack for our clothes, and a tiny bathroom.  There is internet, but it’s very spotty so who knows if this will actually get posted tonight.  We are feeling quite isolated here, and are looking forward to our stop tonight at Kinlochleven which although described as remote, appears to be in a more populated village.  A pub and some other walkers to chat with will be fun.  

Every afternoon when we arrive, we are offered tea and cake.  Apparently the Scots love their cake, and there is a nation wide movement to reduce sugar because of an obesity problem.  But how do you reduce sugar and have cake 2 or 3 times per day?  There’s cake for breakfast, cake at tea, and cake for desert.  Speaking of breakfast- Ken has been enjoying the full Scottish breakfast of porridge, juice and coffee followed by bacon, eggs, mushrooms, tomatoes, potato scones (flat pancake like things made out of potatoes), toast, black pudding, and of course, cake.  Dinners have varied- there is lots of good seafood available, some salads although the salads tend to be anything that is cold… like tuna, or cheese and pickle, or mayo coleslaw.  My favorite was warm goat cheese salad-  2 medallions of goat cheese set on a little bed of greens and topped with a beet chutney.  Most places offer gluten free and vegetarian options which is incredible, considering that we really are in the middle of nowhere.  Last night, the waiter actually pointed out the 3 entrees (out of about 15) that did NOT have gluten, soups are all gluten free, and gluten free bread has been available at every meal.  

Today’s hike included lots of mud, lots of beautiful waterfalls, lots of sheep, gorgeous views, and some long steady climbs and descents.  

It’s amazing to think that after nearly 20 miles today, we are feeling rested and Ken even suggested that we extend our walking one extra day to include Ben Nevis, the highest peak in the UK (4,411 feet).  If the weather is good, I’m all for it!  

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West Highland Way– 96 miles of unbelievable beauty

Wow– that is pretty much all we can say for today.  The weather turned out great, with only one or two showers, and the walking was unbelievably spectacular.  We found that alternating jogging and walking felt better, and so we mixed it up, usually jogging the flats and downhills and walking uphill.  

For anyone that knows Ken, this may not come as a shock, but “yes” we got lost in the first 1/2 mile.  So we did a nice big loop back to Milngavie, despite 16 hours of GPS mapping and planning.  Good thing it was at the beginning before I got tired and maybe just a little grouchy.  Once en route, we made good time, covering about 3.5-4 miles per hour, for a total of 21.7 miles.  Add the 2 or 3 miles to and from the train station lugging our baggage, and we were very happy to get to the Bay Cottage at 4:00!

Here we go– enjoy the trip as much as we did (maybe without the sore feet!)

The path leading out of Milgavie was smooth, easy to navigate, and had lots of friendly walkers/dogs

Holyhocks were among the many pretty wildflowers

About 5 miles into the hike, the path starts to approach some low hills

We crossed in and out of several pastures, walking along with the Highland Cattle and Sheep.  The sheep were quite friendly, and we loved their black spotted faces and legs.  It is lambing season, so there were lots of cute little guys.

At around 12 miles, we went a half mile off the path and into the town of Dryman where many people stop for the first night.  We ate our sandwiches and headed back for what we thought would be 6 easy miles.  NOT…. more like 9 hard miles, but spectacular.  

A secret passageway!

One of the many gates we went through

Our first glimpse of Loch Lemond.  And now the trail gets a little tricky!!

Just after climbing up and over Conic Hill, we dropped down very steeply into the Village of Balmaha where we would be spending the night at the Bay Cottage.  Litzy greeted us with tea, scones, and cookies.  There are several other hikers staying here, but none have arrived yet so we are relaxing, enjoying the hot tub, and planning for tomorrow.  

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Norwegian Air announced non-stop flights from Bradley to Edinburgh, Scotland beginning June, 2017.  Ken and I have been wanting to do a  long walk in Europe and it took us about 5 minutes to decide to jump at the low introductory fairs!  Upon researching “Walking in Scotland” we found the 96 mile, WestHighland Way walk which could be undertaken over 5-10 days. Of course, we chose 5 days, meaning that we will walk between 14 and 21 miles each day. That didn’t sound like a big deal in February when we booked the trip, but after 12 miles around the city of Edinburgh yesterday, we are starting to wonder if we may have bitten off a little much. Nah…. that 12 miles was on 1 hour of restless sleep on an overcrowded airplane. With nice B & B’s, a van transporting our luggage, and Scotland’s renowned healthy meals, we should be fine!  Tomorrow morning we take the train to Milngavie (pronounced Mullguy) and head off for the first 18 mile leg of our walk.
We arrived in Edinburgh at 9:30am, took a train to our AirBnB apartment in the outskirts of Edinburgh,  dropped off our exactly 22 lb bags (the max allowed on Norwegian) and headed out to tour the city. Our thought was that if we managed to stay awake through the day, and go to bed early, we’d be able to get onto the Scottish time schedule most quickly. Edinburgh is beautiful- lots of old castles, graveyards, and gardens. Everything is built into a hillside, so the views are spectacular. Here are a few pics from our 12 miles around the city:

Edinburgh Airport

Edinburgh Castle, built in the 12th century, continues to stand guard, high above the city.  

From the Castle– looking towards the city

At the entrance of castle

The Moat around one side of the castle

We ate lunch at TukTuk, and Indian Street Fair restaurant built into an old bank.  This was in the restroom!

Greyfriars Kirkland— Greyfriars takes its name from the Franciscan friary on the site (the friars of which wore grey robes), which was dissolved in 1559. The churchyard was founded in 1561.

More views from the Royal Gardens in Old Town, Edinburgh

After walking over 10 miles through the city, we decided to catch a bus back to our apartment.  Clearly our bus navigation skills need work, as we were dropped off on the wrong side of our landmark (Murray Stadium), the bridge over the canal was closed for repairs, and we now needed to walk an extra 3 miles.  We were finally back to our apt by about 7pm and asleep shortly thereafter!

DAY 2- Thursday, June 22

Another day of touring the city.  We both slept restlessly, but were up at 4:30am and shortly there after caught a “practice” bus ride to Haymarket Train Station where we would catch our train to Milngavie tomorrow.  Nothing opens too early, so we wandered around, viewed St. Mary’s Cathedral, and eventually at 8:45 were able to get some breakfast.  

We wanted to go back into the city, and we got on the right bus this time, but going in the wrong direction!  By the time we realized it, we were near our apartment and decided to take a short nap before trying again.  Great idea- 45 minutes of actual sleep and I felt like a new person.  We now had the bus system down and rode back to. The Royal Mile.. We walked through Holyrood Park to Arthur’s Seat..  Arthur’s Seat is a hill that rises 822 ft,, and has a spectacular view of both the city of Edinburgh and the North Sea..  The surrounding trails and pathways are very popular for runners, hikers, families, and dogs.  

St. Anthony’s Chapel

Next Stop was the Holyrood Palace, which is home to Queen Elizabeth for exactly one week each summer. We didn’t take the tour (too many people!) but we wandered around the outskirts before going to tea and a marvelous bookstore called Blackwell’s.  We were impressed by the entire room of Scottish books (guide books, history, novels…). The selection of “adventure” and sports books was also impressive, and we enjoyed an hour of browsing.  
On the way back, we walked through the Royal Mile and the Royal Gardens, then hopped on exactly the right bus which delivered us practically to our door stop.  

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England 2017

Ken’s work travel and my college coaching schedule don’t often line up, so when he was offered a class in London the week before my spring break, we jumped at the chance to spend a week exploring.  Of course, my first thought was– “I wonder if there are any races we could join in… you know, for the experience?”  And yes, there just happened to be a half marathon in Weymouth, a coastal fishing village about 3 hours south of London.  I emailed my friend Jerry who is from England, and he said “OMG- Weymouth is where I grew up”… quickly followed with dozens of suggestions of things to do, places to go, and favorite foods to eat.

We had a spectacular 6 days, loved the friendly British people, the beautiful London Parks, and the absolutely stunning coastal walking paths.  Following are some of our favorite pictures.  We can’t wait to go back, possibly for a longer walking tour…. there is so much to see.

Day 1

I arrived at Heathrow airport at 9am, took the Heathrow Express train to Paddington station, where my friend Luda met me and guided me to my hotel.  I took a short nap, and Ken arrived a couple hours later after finishing his teaching.  We headed out on a walk through Hyde Park


Beautiful dafodils throughout the park

We had dinner at Luda and Okhtay’s flat that evening, played with brilliant Leo and adorable Nina, and headed to bed early having flown all night previously.

Day 2

After an early morning walk around the village of Westminster, we took some croissants over to Luda and Okhtays where they had already prepared a wonderful breakfast.  Okhtay and Nina then walked us to the train station, gave us directions, and sent us off to explore some of the tourist sites.    Starting with Westminster Cathedral and Big Ben…


Yes, the iconic red phone booths are still poised throughout the city


Westminster Cathedral and Big Ben in the back ground

The “London Eye”

We walked a couple of miles back to the hotel, through the old streets, and to the “Car Park” where we rented our car for a few days.  I’ve hiked mountains in all kinds of weather, canoed 120 miles through the night, been on the rodeo team and trained race horses, but the most terrifying experience of my entire life was driving (or in my case riding) on the left side of the road!  Only 2 taxis almost collided head on when Ken “forgot” which side of the road to turn onto.  Once out of the city, he did great (and I sure wasn’t about to try it), but for awhile I really wondered WHY THE HECK they let people with a US lisence rent a car in the UK.  We drove 3 hours to Weymouth, where we checked intou our AirBnB apt, cooked an easy supper, and prepared for the half marathon the next day.

Day 3-

We both finally slept well, and got up early for breakfast.  We wanted to be at the race  around 7:30 to check in and get ready for an 8:30 start.  At 7:15, we remembered, “OH MY GOSH, it’s day light savings time… we just missed the start”.  We went running out of the apt and headed down the road.  As we passed some folk returning from an all nighter at the pub, I asked “what time is it here” and learned that daylight savings time doesn’t start in England until the end of March.  PHEW… we made it.

The weathe Kind of drizzly, but failrly warm and pleasant.  My legs felt like I’d been on a plane all night, hadn’t slept well, and sat in a car on the wrong side of the road for way too long…. in short, like crap.  But I hung onto Ken and kept telling myself it would get better.  Well, it didn’t get better, but by half way, I knew that I could make it and was able to hang onto the pace.  We both finished in just under 1:50, which we were happy with considering the past few days.  After the race we had the famous British Fish and Chips, and I will say it was delicious, we walked along the beach, and then had our first “Cream Tea” with a blueberry scone.  The first full on gluten I’ve had in 9 years and it was well worth it… I am in love with clotted cream, and every last crumb of the scone was delicious.IMG_3955


Boats along the River Wey, Weymouth

Weymouth is a beautiful little village, with a fantastic beach, lots of nice restaurants and pubs, and lots of fantastic views.  Right across a bridge is the Isle of Portland which we drove around and took a few short walks out to coastal views.


Fishermen off Isle of Portland


The Coastline off Isle of Portland

Day 4-

We left Weymouth, and drove south towards the town of Poole where we had reserved another airBnB.  On our way we stopped at Lulworth Cove, and took a short, 3 mile hike along the Coastal Path  (a 500 mile walking trail).  It is spectacular, there are lots of people walking, and we can’t wait to go explore more of it.

Everyone seems to enjoy walking, and nearly everyone has a dog.  Usually off leash, and seemingly very well behaved.  Dogs are even allowed in many restaurants!


The Coast Path goes for 500 miles, and is well marked!

Some views as we walked along the path to Durdle Door— all stunning.  But most stunning of all is Durdle Door itself!


Durdle Door- along the Coast Path

From here we drove another 45 minutes or so to Poole.  Along the way we passed a castle.. .


A castle we happened to pass on our drive

Poole is a nice village, a little more populated than Weymouth, but still quaint and with lots of outdoor activities.  The beach is lovely.  And the tidal marshes beautiful both when the tide is out like below, and when it is higher.  There are lots of water sport activities- kite surfing, wind surfing, paddle boarding, etc.


Who knew the beaches in England were so grand!

Day 5

We headed down to the water and rented mountain bikes.  They were not much to look at, but they worked, and they got us across the Isle of Purbeck to Corfe Castle which was built by William the Conquerer in the 11th Century.  The ride out was gorgeous, and included a short ferry ride.


Ken cycling on Isle of Purbeck


More well marked walking trails


Corfe Castle


Just one of many beautiful quaint old cottages we cycled by


Chain Ferry between Poole and Purbeck

Day 6

After such a beautiful day yesterday -we did not think we could match it, but the New Forest was absolutely amazing.  Again we rented mountain bikes, and headed down to 100 miles of dirt roads through the forest.  The semi-wild ponies throughout the forest were a real highlight!


The ponies are quite friendly, and wanted to join our walk!


Another Pony

After our biking adventure, we drove back into London, survived the traffic, and the left side of the road, and then went to dinner with Okhtay, Luda, and Nina and Leo.


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Power of the Human Spirit… accepting and growing through challenge

Naive, uneducated, egotistical, stupid?  What made me think that I could liken a 50K run to a life of devastation and poverty?

The idea to raise money for Haiti came about when I compared running between water stops in a 50 mile or 50K race to growing up in a country with inadequate water.  While a good idea, and one that I hope truly did make a small difference in the lives of 56 orphan Haitians, there is no comparison.

When Ken and I nervously stepped out of the PAP airport, and into the throng of eager taxi drivers and hungry luggage carriers, all of our senses were assaulted by the sights, sounds, and smells.  Still recovering from the earthquake of 2010, Haiti is one of the most impoverished countries in the world.  In addition to our own luggage, we had brought 2 duffle bags of supplies. Ken waited with our pile, while I went in search of “Mitch”, our prearranged driver.  I was followed, touched,  and relentlessly badggered (in Kreole) by 50 or so eager entrepreneurs and was tremendously relieved when Mitch stepped forward with a sign that said “Katherine M”.  He quickly ushered us into his luxurious 4 wheel drive Hummer. I felt almost like royalty as I stared out the closed window while Mitch skillfully negotiated the crowded streets.  We wove through thick foot, motobike, taptap (highly decorated mini pickups with benches which serve as busses), donkeys, goats, and automobile traffic for 2 hours.  15 miles out of the city, the countryside began to open up.

It was lush, green, and very mountainous although still littered with piles of trash and the rubble remaining from the earthquake.  4.5 hours after leaving the airport we turned onto an even bumpier “road” and drove through a maize of gated homes to arrive at “Pastor John’s” where we would stay for the next 4 nights.  The mosquito net draped bed was likely a luxury here in Haiti, but to our American senses  the room  looked tired, worn, and shabby.  We pulled out our plastic bed bug mattress and pillow covers, and began to unpack.  One of many ironies is that the kitchen has only a charcoal fire stove, and yet we have good internet access (as long as the power is on, which is about 75% of the time).  Dinner (rice, beans, and sliced avocado) was served family style and we met the other 7 members of our  “team”.

We tossed and turned throughout  the hot/restless night and woke early, anxious to see the orphanage. We learned a lesson that would become the theme of our trip- nothing happens quickly in Haiti, we must learn to be patient.  Over the next few days, I am not proud to admit that I struggled  with tears of frustration on more than a few occasions.  Ken and I went to Haiti  to be useful, and to contribute, but unfortunately there didn’t seem to be much that we could actually do.  When we were finally ready to go, the bus took wouldn’t start.  This happened frequently, but every driver in Haiti is also an excellent mechanic and we did eventually get to HELO around noon.  We met the adorable children who were very excited to see us, offered high fives, hugs, and kisses.  The youngest loved to be held, and the older children enjoyed having me take pictures of them and vice versa.  We spent quite a bit of time photographing each other, the sheep, goats, pigs, and chickens.  If I were to go again, I would bring picture books and other activities that I could do one on one with the children.

The electric pump that we purchased for the orphanage has been installed.  The pipes are on site and ready to be installed next week.  Watching the children haul water for their baths and to flush toilets, made us especially thankful to everyone who helped with our at well.JPG

Along with 11 of the older children, we bussed to Saut Mathurine waterfall.  The drive down was an adventure in itself. Only later, did we learn that the bus driver let us out a mile early because the brakes weren’t working.  Ken and I chose to walk up, and were grateful for the opportunity to stretch our legs. and escape the bickering and whining of our teammates.   On the way, we were offered several motobike rides. Our “teammates” were surprised and perhaps even a little dismayed by our desire to walk.  They had struggled with the 1  mile back to the bus, and in fact 3 of them had hired motobikes to take them up.  At dinner they proclaimed us “crazy” and that they could NEVER do that.  Of course, I contend that they COULD do it, they just don’t choose to.  Which raises the question- why do any of us do the things we don’t think we can?  Why do we ever want to leave our comfort zone?  Food for thought for a future post, but I believe that we grow through challenge and that by taking on new challenges (large or small)  we are able to live the fullest possible life.

When we returned to the orphanage we began setting up for a New Year’s Day/ Independence Day party.    The party was held in the classroom, and we were amazed at how the children waited patiently at their desks, then diligently set to task working on whichever craft or project was handed out.  They made crosses out of cardboard and out of beads, colored the Haitian flag, sang a very rousing version of the Haitian national anthem, played pin the tail the donkey,  and made some handheld masks.  All this took about 4 hours.  They were then served caked and kool-aid.  We returned home in our little school bus and had a late supper of rice and beans.

Saturday was market Day, and a trip to the beach- Ken and I got up early as usual, after reading for a couple of hours, we decided to take a walk.  This is a bigger deal than it seems because it would be very easy to get lost, there are no phones or way to communicate, we don’t speak the language, and the gate surrounding our guest home is always locked. This was one of those moments where frustration got the better of me.   Ken and I decided to leave a note and hope that someone would wake  up and let us back into the house in an hour.  Upon our successful return, we had breakfast, then stepped back out the gate to buy a few souvenirs from the local merchants who had set up shop in the alley .  The bartering was fierce and as soon as we made our first purchase, we were actively pursued by every merchant.  We did buy a traditional Haitian style painting, a hat, and a couple of bracelets.  The planned departure time of 10am came and went, and once again we found ourselves spending a good part of the day waiting.  The beach was pretty from a distance, but there wasn’t much sand and the surf was a little too rough for swimming.  We watched the children play, attempted to dig and make a sand castle, and helped serve peanut butter sandwiches.

Haitians are extremely religious, and Sunday is designated as a day of rest and church. I consider myself spiritual, but I am definitely not a “non- church goer”, and  was apprehensive about the day’s  activities.  We began  with  an early service at Pastor John’s (our host) church in Les Cayes.  Everyone was turned out in their absolute finest; the women were in gowns and the men were in suits or tuxedos.  Many of them walked or arrived on moto-bike.  I was amazed that they were able to dress so meticulously without running water (in some cases) and with such limited means. The 200 people packed into the tiny church sang loudly and joyfully with wide smiles.  The music was uplifting, heart felt, and very moving.  As I repeatedly wiped my eyes, I glanced at Ken only to see that he was doing the same.  We went straight from this service to HELO where the iimmaculatley dressed children had already started their 2+ hour service.  Again, the music and singing was enjoyable but the preaching, (in Kreole)was long and loud. We hung out for several hours after the service.  The fancy dresses and button down shirts were replaced with shorts (or not in a couple of cases), all shoes were removed, and the children were back to entertaining themselves with simple games and friendship.  One highlight was the unveiling of the new pump which will be hooked up next week.  This will allow the children to have showers and flush toilets!  Up until now they have used an outhouse and a large metal basin for bathing.   While we didn’t feel very useful during our three days here, it is very gratifying to know that in a small way we have made a difference in these children’s lives.  Elisabeth told us some of their individual stories.  They don’t know them all, many arrived right after the earthquake.One girl, Lekita,  spent 12 years of her life as a child servant (age 2-14)  She was out getting water when the earthquake hit, and returned to find the family had been killed.  Another boy, Abraham, was abandoned and left in the street.  They have since discovered that he has epilepsy and Elisabeth’s theory is that he was “thrown away” because he was imperfect.  Stories like these helped us to understand the tremendous impact that Elisabeth and others like her have on the people of Haiti.

It is not possible through words or photos to show the true devastation in Haiti.  However, along with that, we have also noticed lots of huge smiles, waves, introductions, hugs, and blessings.  Adults and children both seem “happy”.  They are deeply grounded in their faith, they are proud of their country, and they are continuing to work steadfastly towards a brighter future for Haiti.  When we returned to Port au Prince, we asked Mitch how we could best help, and his response was that while money is obviously helpful, and the many orphans need love and attention, what is really needed is jobs.  People visiting Haiti, touring, buying their arts and crafts, eating in their restaurants, and staying in their hotels will bring jobs to Haiti.   If you are an adventuresome traveler who wants to truly experience a country outside the veneer of a resort, and if you can travel with an open mind and a good sense of humor, then there are some beautiful sites to see in Haiti.  It is an experience that could change how you see the word.     Ken and I also found that the time together without distractions (no t.v., cell phones, facebook…) was both relaxing and bonding.  We talked about our feelings and abstract ideas.  Some of the days were difficult, but ultimately we came away feeling stronger, happier, and extremely grateful for our own lives.

IF you go to Haiti, hire a guide.  Mitch was fantastic.  Not only did he get us everywhere, he always showed up early, he told us about the history, politics,  and customs of Haiti, and he took us to some places we could have never gone on our own. He has a facebook page, Mitch Tercius, and you can contact him through that.

Baisin Blue Jumpboy fishing Haitidonkeys, Haitifishermen HaitiHike Haitiwoman with water HaitiJacmel bay, Haiti

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Packing for Haiti-  

10 days until we fly to Haiti. We are excited to see the work that all of your donations has done for the children at HELO, inc, excited to meet the children themselves, and excited to tour some of this mountainous, beautiful country.  There will be many pictures forthcoming!   

 This past week we helped to gather and pack various supplies to take with us, and on Saturday we met with Elisabeth Kennedy (one of the founders of HELO). Elisabeth and 4 other team members were organizing and packing medical supplies, toys, toothbrushes, clothing, and gifts o be used by the three homes at HELO (each home houses approximately 20 children and a “house parent”) and for infants in the local hospital.  Ken and I will be staying at HELO for 4 days before heading off on our other Haitian adventures. 

When we planned our trip several months ago, it included running in the Port-Au-Prince marathon on January 10.  I was in contact with the race directors and had collected over 50 pairs of shoes (mostly from Fleet Feet in West Hartford).  Unfortunately the marathon has been cancelled so we are now contacting other organizations in Haiti who would be able to put these shoes to good use.  

In preparation for our 27 mile hike, we wanted one last equipment test.  Yesterday we hiked MUnt Greylock in Massachusetts while testing our packs, poles, and shoe choice.  One thing we learned-  the shoes you choose for 90 degree days should probably not be the ones you wear on a sub-30 degree, icey hike.  After 4 hours,  we returned to the car feeling like foolish newbie hikers with very cold feet!  They will be perfect for Haiti!  

Today we get our travel shots and meds– ouch! 

To everyone who helped raise $3,910, a huge thank you!  If you wanted to donate, but haven’t yet, there is still time and here is the link. 

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50K– check, $3700 raised– check

After 3 months of preparation, anticipation, and nervously watching the weather, we were treated to a perfect weekend in Vermont.  The race started at a cool 40 degrees, but quickly warmed up to a brilliant bluebird day.  The trails were incredibly well marked, the aid stations were frequent (although I only stopped at one), and the views were amazing.  Combine that with good friends, wonderful pacer (Ken), and a fundraising goal reached, it was TERRIFIC!  Thank you to everyone who contributed in so many ways.  I really couldn’t have asked for any more.

Christine cindy kathy

After dropping Maui at Coach Devito’s house, Ken and I drove to Ascutney where we checked in, shopped the bargains, and met up with Christine and Dave.  Christine had decided (at this point) NOT to race, but was going to run the first 13 miles with me.  Her hip had bothered her since our 32 mile run in early August, and she hadn’t been able to do much long training.  Conversely, I had done tons of long training, and just in the last week, everything seemed to be tightening up and on the edge of breaking down.  We both stayed positive, and decided to just see how things played on Sunday.

me christine after3 miles into the run, Christine felt good and decided to keep going at her own pace.  That was good, because she is a bit faster, and trying to run her pace was already pushing my limit.  My entire left side hurt- foot, calf, glute, back, and neck.  I felt strong though and was moving well, just hoping that I could hold it together for 29 more miles!  My goal was under 6 hours, and at the half way point, I was at 2:45… right around 10 min miles.  I was thrilled, and as I ran into the Greenall aid station where I would see Ken for the first time, I got choked up with emotion.  It meant so much to me to have a good race here after all the donations and positive support.  Ken ran along side me for 100 yards brandishing food, drink, shoes, clean shirt…..  I took a small bottle of UCAN, but didn’t really stop.  I now had 9 miles before I’d see Ken again.  The course was still beautiful, but the mountain bikers (who had started 2 hours before us) were joining our course.  It became quite annoying to have bikes wizzing by on every downhill, and several times I had to get completely off the trail, stop running, and let them through.  My pace began to slow, and I was hurting by the time I saw Ken at 22 miles.  He set a good pace, not only for me, but for several other tired runners that we gradually picked up along the way.  I was determined to break 6 hours, but at somewhere around 24 miles my back started to cramp so badly that I was forced to walk….. alot.    We walked fast, I ate some salt pills, sucked down a sugary gel, drank a little coke at the last aid station, and eventually started to feel better. VT 50 prizes The last 3 miles were mostly downhill and we were able to run again!  5:52.55 was my final time, with over 5,000 feet of climbing. Without the cramping, I might have been 10 minutes faster, but I was thrilled and placed 2nd in my age group.  The fact that the woman who beat me is ONLY 50 helped too!

Chrisinte ended up running the entire way, with just one little bottle of water.  She finished 20 minutes ahead of me and 7 seconds behind 1st in her age group.   Other friends, Carly, Cindy, Nicole, and the entire Janji relay team also had great days on the trails.  A very well organized event, beautiful scenery, and goals accomplished.  This is why I run.

Maui with his new Vermont 50 neckchief:  Maui VT 50

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