It was the summer between my junior and senior year of college and the family trip was to visit Aunt Mary in North Carolina. We had taken this trip several times, driving from Western New York to Waynesville, N.C. to see my dad’s sister. Now that my brother and I were older we ditched the amusement parks (which, truth be told, may have been closed by this point) and went through a collection of tourism brochure’s in Aunt Mary’s living room. (Side note: This story predates Internet search engines.)
On this trip my brother, dad and I went whitewater rafting and hiking. The whitewater trip was mild and our boat had a guide — Shane — who basically maneuvered the boat on his own. His calls of “all forward!” were quickly followed by “take a rest!” but we had a rafting experience with a bit of adrenaline mixed in with spectacular views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. We followed that up with a hike. Where, I don’t remember, but at the time it was challenging to me with sections I found steep and difficult. I remember a sense of excitement and frustration. I loved this adventure. I loved being active and outdoors. I wanted more of this.
If that was going to be the case, I needed to make some changes.
If I wanted hiking and outdoor adventures to be part of my life, I needed to work on my fitness. I needed to work on my nutrition. I needed to address the fact that a package of Hostess snack cakes and a two-liter of diet Coke did not a good breakfast make. Since I was the manager for the women’s basketball team (#gobonnies) I had access to some knowledgeable and encouraging people who helped me learn how to exercise and eat so that I could do the things I wanted to do.
It would be more than a decade before I discovered triathlon and distance running — sports I fell in love with. I continue to train and race, learning all kinds of things not only about how to get the best performance out of my body but about the mechanics of me including everything from stubbornness to self-talk. But at those inevitable times when I’m dealing with doubt and failure, I think back to the trip to the North Carolina — to why I started to work on my fitness in the first place.
After a ridiculously successful 2015 running season, I started to think about goals and ambitions for 2016. It’s time to get back to why I started this in the first place — to be outside on the trails.
I will still be training and running and probably throwing in a sprint triathlon for good measure in 2016. I’ve already planned on the Pittsburgh Half Marathon, Grandma’s Marathon and the Niagara Falls International Marathon. But start this first week of December, I’ve set a goal to get on a trail once a week for a year. I’ll document that journey here, just like I document so many other things, using the working title #hike52 for hiking 52 weeks in the year. I no grand plan and few rules. In fact “hiking” isn’t even a rule here. I could be snowshoeing or cross-country skiing. My goal for #hike52 is to be on a trail, to reconnect with my original joy and see what I may discover along the way.