Archive for the ‘backpacking’ Category


Hilary at Bald Peak, Adirondack Mountains, NY Dec. 2015

It  turned midnight for my friends in Lake St. Clair, Tasmania, in Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide. Happy New Year! Yes, of course Happy New Year to all in Australia, but I have friends in those four places and want to make a particular shout out to them.

I do not make resolutions but I do make goals for the year. They are nothing crazy, they are  measurable, reachable goals that involve developing skills and strength through practice.  These goals only make my life more rewarding by having a healthy strong body but they are also really fun and will involve 6 months or more of practice each.  So in particular order:

  1. Master the pistol squat. 
  2. Get  StrongFirst Certification
    This is not so that I can teach Pavel Tsatsouline method of kettlebells, but to prove to myself that I can develop the strength to do 100 kettlebell snatches, 12kg in 5 minutes. along with perfect form in the

    • Swing (one 12kg bell)
    • Turkish Get-Up (one 12kg bell)
    • Double Clean (two 12kg bell)
    • Press (one 12kg bell)
    • Double Front Squat (two 12kg bell)
    • Snatch ((one 12kg bell)
      There is a 30% failure rate on those that can even make it to  certification day.
  3. Race the WhiteFace Skymarathon,
    So when I say “race” I don’t want to just participate and run it, I want to run it hard and do well. Thanks to my new coach, Sean Meissner at Sharmaulta I am feeling really good about this. I have worked with Sean for just 2 weeks now, but I love how he puts together a training plan.
  4. Race the Marquette Trail 50 in MI
    Same as #4. Additionally having a coach, I can focus on the work I need to do, running, and not think about planning my run schedule. Plus a coach can see far more clearly when their athlete needs to be pushed or needs to back off. This is hugely important to me.
  5. Build a canoe by hand.
    This takes a lot of skill, none of which I have.  I identified two canoe building teachers, one at the Adirondack Folk School,  the other at the Bershire Boat Building School. What I especially like about the Bershire school is that the man who own’s it is named “Hilary.” Many of Hilary’s boats classes are  solo lightweight canoes for easy carry and would be awesome for Adirondack canoe camping.

Of course there are other things I will do, other races, personal bests I want to beat, but right now they are not specific or measurable, two requirements of a good goal, as in S.M.A.R.T. defined as one that is specific, measurable, achievable, results-focused, and timebound.

After being in a boot last year for my broken foot and getting  weak, I am all about strength focus and having fun. Being that my goals involve skill makes them all the more interesting. What are your S.M.A.R.T goals for 2016?

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After not posting for over two months, this is a good one. If you believe in fate, luck, or the universe, this is the story of stories. After a two frustrating summers in a row with injury, canceling my key races and developing a hateful attitude about New York, my job, blah, blah, this is almost unbelievable.

A sleepless last Saturday night I was surfing Craig’s List real estate ads first for the New York Adirondacks and Northern New Mexico. I have been doing this on and off for five years with big fantasies to sell my apt, leave my job, live simply and just make art and train and race in some beautiful place. Reinvent myself so to speak. Why five years? That is the first and last time I went to New Mexico. I was an artist in resident at the Santa Fe Art Institute and after the residency my then girlfriend Lisa and I rented this amazing round stone house in Abiquiu Every house I have looked at I compare to that landscape and that house. That year was a turning point in my artwork and my athletic prowess.

The house we stayed in was built by Pat Frazier and master stone mason Felipe Leyva. Pat moved to NM from California. She was a radiologist who took a vacation in NM; fell in love with it, bought some land. She eventually took a class at the Northern New Mexico Community College on how to build adobe and moved to NM full-time. She met Felipe and they began building houses. Pat gave Felipe 2 acres of land to build his own home which Lisa and I saw the beginnings of it back in 2005.

Back to Saturday night. I am looking through Craig List and I see this amazing stone, what looked like steps cut into a channel on two walls of earth meeting in the center with a sweet little casita. There is a photo of a chapel and kitchen and I am immediately thinking about Pat and the stone house. I read the ad, and not only is Pat’s name there but so is Felipe. It is the house he built for himself completely out of stone and adobe. I almost had a heart attack! I especially almost had a heart attack because I could not believe the price.  I immediately emailed Pat and told her how Lisa and I stayed there and how I want this house more than anything in the world.  I want to live there the rest of my life, dust my ashes there when I am dead.  I want to go there, set up a printshop, invite artists to make prints and my athlete friends who can train at altitude, (6k feet) not only running for miles, but  biking and swimming. The 5200 surface acre Abiquiu reservoir is only a couple miles away and mountains including the iconic view of Georgia O-Keefe’s Pedernal surround us.  Now how is it one can be so lucky as to live in the desert and have a reservoir a couple miles away that you can swim and kayak?

Now the obstacles. I must get all the money in cash, which is definitely not in my savings account. I need to do it immediately, buying it with a leap of faith sight unseen. A deal with another interested party needs to fall through and to top it off, it must all happen in one week. So I offered a little extra money. I emailed Lisa to tell her how she will not believe it. And while it never crossed my mind, when she said, “I love would to own a home there” I offered. Why not? So we will be co-owners. I wired a deposit on Monday, Lisa wired money to me, I took money from my retirement and it looks like I will wire the remaining cash on Friday.  I will fly down in a couple weeks to see our new two bedroom hand build adobe and stone casita. I want to sleep on the roof and wake to the sunrise.

To top it off  I will probably use  the most more than Lisa, staying there during my academic breaks in December, January, June, July and August. So what about all those other times? Felipe was going to move in with his son-in-law who lives a short walk away, but why not let him keep living in the house, care take it and work exchange to build a print studio? This way he keeps living in the home he built. He will be there to maintain it pay the electric and water bill and we will use it when we can.

In 2013 I get my next sabbatical and I have no plans of returning to my job. You will find me running in the mountains, swimming the Abiquiu Lake or in the studio.

For friends and friends of friends if you are wondering, yes you can rent it.

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Finish of North Face Endurance Challenge

Finish of North Face Endurance Challenge

I just got home and I am grinning from ear to ear. Today was my first mountain trail race the 1/2 marathon at Bear Mountain, part of the North FAce Challenge Series. There is a five star ranking series on this race, elevation change 4 out of 5, technical terrain 5 out of 5, overall difficulty 5 out of 5 and scenery 5 out of 5. How hard is it to run a trail race as compared to a road race? I looked up the results from2008 the first over all male, Oliver Obagi ran it in 2:15, a 10:22 pace,  the first overall female professional ultra distance runner Nikki Kimball ran it in 2:25 an 11:07 pace. In the 40-49 year old women the first place women, Judy Stobbe ran it in 3:15.  The first place non-prof women was 2:52. This was going to be a hard race!

I do not have trail running shoes and the trail is all rock and rivers. At the last minute I decided to wear my hiking shoes. Heck I have no experience doing thing, I am not sure what to expect besides mud and rocks, and if it took Nikki Kimball 2:25, when her last road marathon was 3:08, I am going to be out there for a while. We were told that there would be 3 aid stations so we needed to carry provisions. OK I am ready.

All night I watched the thunder and lightning but by 9:00am race start it was just raining. A total  308 people, 234 men and 74 women,  lined up, I was standing with my friends Rachel, Claudia and Les. The horn went off and we ran, no walked, ran, walked. Hey, what is going on? It was a  crowded and the first mile as it went up hill people were already walking! To get around them and find some space that mile was a big chuckle taking  just under 12:00 minutes to complete. Wow if they are walking already it is going to be a long day. In no time though I found some space, I lost my teammates, one ahead two behind,  and I was just out for a trail run. I came across the first aid station and on to my first 1000 foot climb. Piece of cake, this really feels good. The pace got much quicker and I fell in with a group of dudes. From running cross country I know I can always kick their ass on the uphill, but they can kick mine on the down hill and that is how it went most of the race. But at one time it just got a out of hand. There was an 800 foot direct downhill of  rocks, suddenly the dudes were flying down the hill and falling, taking out each other like it was a bowling alley, sliding down the wet mud, hitting the rocks. It was a too much. I decided I need to run away from them which I did. I moved forward and fell into a group of older duded that I ran with most of the race. Now when I say older, most are still under 35. It seems that trail racing is a young guys sport, there were only 14 women in my age group. At New York road race there are often 300+. We had some big steep climbs, at certain points there was a string of men about 8 deep all walking. The trail was extremely narrow so I just fell in behind them and walked, took the time to eat a gel and drink my water, the pace was down to 14:00. But the time we got to the top, they were ready to rest so I motored on. One of them  emerged about one mile later and passed me.

A very happy Hilary running the trails

A very happy Hilary running the trails

I was smiling whole race. It did not matter if it was up hill, down hill, running though shin deep water, over a mile of sharp rocks. Okay the rocks did really hurt, in this particular spot there was 4 miles to go, I had a major blister under my left bunion and the rocks were killing it. But I got off the rocks, and onto a beautiful wide path and running all alone in that last three miles, I managed to clock some 7:30’s. I took it easy, I never felt stressed, never tired, never frustrated. It was beautiful the whole way. Early on I got my fall out of the wall, tripping on a rock or my feet on a downhill. I rolled up like a little pill bug, did a complete left to right should hip roll and came right back onto my feet. One women that I did see early on, immediately asked if I needed help, the dudes just kept going. I am glad I ended up beating them all, HA! It was around mile 4.5 that I fell because my shoes were already soaked and they got very loose. I stopped after that to tighten them up. This is probably one of the downsides of running in hiking shoes, but they  protected my feet, that and my crew style wool socks. With my skinny legs and short black socks I looked like a little old man but the knees down.

I am checking out my GPS, I had 5646 of ascent and 5730 decent. The course was changed from last year and made easier, I mean faster.  My friend a 5X iron man, runs every intense race and tri across the country and many in European races said this was by far the hardest course she had ever run. It did take me a long time, 2:39, but I am totally happy. Out of 308 runners I was very middle of the pack, 172. Of the women I was 30 out of 74 and of the 14  40-49 year old’s a solid 7th.Judy Stobbe who won my age group last year with a  3:15 ran a 2:29 this year and came in 5th. She may be more experienced this year, but most likely this was a  reflection of the course change. The majority of the women, 32 of them were 21-29. Of the 234 men, 95 were 30-39. There were only 2 men over 60 and no women. At 44 years of age I am an old timer in this crowd. Was it slow, sure, but I had a great time.  I was not racing, I was experiencing. I was learning how to trail run, what it is like, and let me tell you. I may never go back to the road again. This was a blast. I love being covered with mud and dirt and smelling like some god awful swamp creature. I am wearing my scraped leg and bruised write like a badge of honor. I had plenty of energy to run hard the last couple of miles, and picked off 5 guys in my last mile. It took me an hour longer than it would have taken me on the road, but it was so much more fun you can’t imagine. I honestly was not ready to leave the woods, I would have ran it again. Speaking of that, next year I am doing to 50K. That is in preparation for the Trans Rockies, a 6 days, 113 mile multi-stage race through the Colorado Rockies. I got an email just last week from a women asking me to be her partner – you bet I could easily get used to this.Hilary at Finish of 1/2 marathon

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