Shoutout to Trailrunner Nation Podcast…How to Deal with Difficult Situations

This is in reference to podcast #501 called the Comback Quotient, about a new book by Matt Fitzgerald.

“Physical fitness enables an athlete to do hard things, mental fitness enables an athlete to deal with hard things, and no athlete realizes his or her full potential without both.”

Key message is when you are faced with a setback:

Face reality.

Embrace reality.

Commit and reassess.

Implement your updated strategy.

They also had a reference to a Jocko episode called “Good” I have to watch…..

I was a Madwoman running Down Mt Tecumseh

Stats: Hike was 4.74 miles, 2224′ elevation gain and took me 2:18:55 (about 1:30 up and 45″ down) with splits: 28:32, 42:27, 36:25 (last part at top, short rest, then down), 19:36, 12:54

As usual, I was afraid. I had decided to do my first winter hike up Mt. Tecumseh, a 4000′ peak bag close to me. The hike has one trailhead in the parking lot for the Waterville Valley ski resort, which was packed, so I had to circle to find a spot. I know I have all the gear required and pulled out the once used microspikes (confirmed to be the right gear from folks online who had hiked it the day before) and all my normal trail running stuff – food, hydration, extra clothes, headlamps, safety kit, etc….

It was a beautiful day starting in mid 50s and ending in 60s. Snow was slightly slushy/sticky and packed on the trail. This hike was all trail with no rock scrambles if you take the left path to top at the loop near the top.

After a few minutes hiking, I called Kenny stating how hard anything is in the snow (and it is) and then made the slow slog to the top. Mt Tecumseh is a pretty steady 2200′ up. My mental state:

  • I often thought “Do I really love this?”
  • I learned long ago on hills that it is never easy going up and then you’re fine.
  • I remembered that I had done 6x this elevation in the 26 miles I ran at Killington Spartan Ultra… press on!
  • I was afraid to drink thinking I didn’t bring enough water
  • I was hot
  • My right shoe kept slipping off my heal
  • My former training kicked in and I employed the walking sideways technique and flipping directions every ten steps.
  • Fear really set in during one downhill on the way up that seemed treacherous and was very very slow going. I was wondering if the downhill would take 2x as long.

I picked up a hiker near the top (as I was at least an expert on the trail having a map and studying it in advance) and helped her find the top!

Then something came over me immediately on my way down. At the summit, it was a gradual downhill so I started to run it and then I couldn’t stop. I was like a mountain goat running down that hill gaining confidence in microspikes – it was AWESOME! Best run of my adult life – a short 2-2.5 miles down. What seemed steep going up seemed very reasonable going down. I gained confidence in my side to side skills as I had learned in my hill training on Wachusett last year.

So many lessons learned from early use of new gear:

  1. Importance of Shoe lacing: I got a 2nd pair of Altra Lone Peak shoes this year as I loved my first pair of 4.0 (but not the color so much!). Have hated them ever since I tried them. The right heel slipped and the middle of another shoe kind of hurt my midsole, etc. The other day I went to buy a 2nd pair of the original I bought only to realize they were both the exact same model, Altra Lone Peak 4.0, which flabbergasted me. Why did they feel so different? THIS WAS THEIR LAST CHANCE!!! I loved the colors, why couldn’t they just work like the last pair! Well, it turns out the issue was lacing. I’ve heard about tricks for runner lacing, etc and had always poo-poohed the importance of lacing thinking it was just a detail some runners obsess about. I am now a believer. A mile or so up dealing with the right heel slip, I first tightened the laces…didn’t work. Then I took a look at right vs. left and realized my right shoe didn’t have the laces thru the very top lace hole and the left did. I added just that and it made all the difference – I knew after one step.

Now I’ve been reading up on lacing since I got home and will modify the top to create this “runners loop”. Best lesson ever

2. Always dress for running: It didn’t matter so much but I didn’t have my sportsbra – my back running back did its job!

3. Bring plenty of water: I thought hike might take 4-5 hours based on online reviews and only had water for 2 hours. I did this because the last few mountain hikes I hardly used it. I was worried about it all the time though. Avoid extra stress.

4. Start cooler! When you’re hiking in 50ish weather, start with a short sleeved shirt. I’ve been hot the last few hikes having even a lightweight long sleeved shirt.

5. Practice with the pole technique and straps: I ended up using skate ski technique using both poles near my shoes going up and ended up starting to feel a slight hot spot under the strap on my left hand. Need to loosen the left strap to equal the right and consider gloves for any future long runs.

6. Microspikes: They worked well today in packed, icy/slushy conditions. They did not work so well the other week when I went running in new snow locally. In that case, even with a few inches of new snow, use the running snowshoes!

7. Always be prepared when you get back to the car. I had my list and remembered the comfy slippers to wear home, the extra set of clothes, the Recoverite and water to drink right away but forgot the washrag and was sorry for that! also forgot the banana.

Overall, fantastic, fantastic day!

Fake it Til You make It

Surviving hard times.

I am always finding that lessons learned on the road apply to my everyday life as well. In 2019, when I was in the middle of the Killington Spartan Ultra race coming off the mountain at around 16 miles, 9000′ elevation gain I was tired. I knew my husband was waiting at the bottom and was determined to show I was A-OK! This is what he ended up seeing:

I don’t think I’ve ever heard my husband speak of anything I’ve done with such pride as he does recounting this moment. He saw big tough guys pass this point, who were doing the shorter race, see the uphill sandbag carry and just walk off or sit down in defeat. I just smiled and kept going… and going another ~6 hours until I timed out at 26 miles, 12,200′ resulting in my first DNF on the 31 mile, 15.5k course. My motto I said to myself thru this race was “There are the trained and the untrained, I am trained!” (Denzel Washington, Man on Fire). I also felt better by encouraging others around me.

A podcast I was listening to this weekend, Trailrunner Nation episode 505, had one of the hosts Krissy Moehl sharing how she used to come into aid stations smiling asher mom was keeping an eye on her health and could pull her from the race. Later, she was told she had impacted others by being so positive from others at the races. In addition to the benefits of being positive, her advice for running was if you feel bad, before quitting, eat something and make your decision in a better state.

My advice to myself and to my team at work today is this: As we go through this difficult transitional period in our company sale, stay as positive as you can. If you’ve had a hard day/week, let’s pause and do something that makes us feel better before quitting. Let’s plan something to do this week that accomplishes something at work but also for ourselves.

You can do more than you think you can and if you/we end up being unsuccessful, then we were brave enough to try. If you don’t have some failures along the way then you’re not setting your sights high enough.

Question is, how do you know when you truly should stop?

2021 An EPIC Year in the Making

I have the UTMB as a longer term goal but first have to fix my shoulder and more importantly, my hip pain to survive the training and just waking up in the morning to put on my socks. A few months ago, my PT said I should feel good every day (and “sore” is considered good – I know the difference between sore/worn out and in pain). I do not. My husband had to help me with my socks this morning.

Short term goal by end Feb: Fix the hip pain and shoulder mobility

SHOULDER PLAN: I hit the six month post surgery mark this week. I have a hitch when I raise my arm and can’t get 180deg yet. I just realized I own Crossfit Symmetry. My plan:

  • Massage 2x a week
  • Crossfit Symmetry 2x a day on mobility then strength when I can do all the mobility.

Measure of Improvement: When standing flat against the wall, how far from the wall can I raise my arms. Probably about a 45 deg gap now.

My surgeon says issue is due to strength and my PT says it needs massage to loosen up the cap so I will do both. The worst exercise is the “Incline Plus” position (ie. wallball push) which is very hard to do with arms straight and just the light bands. Yesterday I tried to do 6 lb wallballs at crossfit and only did <20 before deciding the 150 in the workout was not a smart thing to do. What I can do:

  • Pushups at 35 deg – a lot. Will move to floor this week.
  • Green band pullups
  • Tons of ring rows

HIPS: Went to Dr. Kelly McInnis at MGH and got a diagnosis of B/L gluteal Tendonopathy and sent to a PT, Mike Roberts in Worcester, MA.

Problem: Hips hurt when I lie on them at night. Bursa on both sides equally sore to the touch and general pain in hips. Nothing found on X rays. Saw Mike last week.

Measure of improvement is how much I can minimize the space below my knee when lying flat on my back with lower back pressed to table. Starting 2.25″ air gap under both knees.


Exercises to fix Gluteal tendonopathy

GENERAL MOBILITY: I am trying hard to incorporate all of these plus a yoga session into my new morning routine.

Results to be evaluated end of Jan at next PT session. I accept the challenge.

My Evolving Relationship with My Google Nest

Now that I am on a strict daily routine for both shoulder and hip issues, I am reliant on my timing devices for those long, painful holds. I have taken over my husbands Google Nest device.

At first, my requests were somewhat polite and have now evolved to angry demands in the middle of 3 minute stretches…”Hey Google, how much time is LEFT??!!!” or curt demands “STOP!!”

Is this angry domination of this Nest device indicative of my true personality? I hope not.

Small Changes, Big Difference

So I succeeded in a few things to help my mental health and to reduce stress:

  • Thanksgiving meant a few days off and I also left early 2 days. I took off half a day Friday before thanksgiving week as well. Needed that.
  • Got moving again with 2 good weeks of crossfit
  • Upped macros to 2000 cal/maintenance
  • Played piano and practiced sight reading – can tell that is better
  • Spent more time on positive things I can do in the future
  • Moved my standing lunch meetings out of there so I can take a break at lunch (the break was not accomplished yet)
  • Put up my Christmas Tree!

Last Sunday, I went out on a trail run at Beaver Brook, not knowing how I’d feel and did an hour/5 miles and felt great – Just taking off 4 hrs on the previous Friday helped a ton. There were a bunch of leaves and I did one superman fall but didn’t get hurt. It did scare me though so I won’t be doing trails with leaves until next season while I finish my shoulder rehab – six months is end of December.

Feeling good on the run last weekend is helping a lot with my confidence again. Goals next few weeks:

  • Finish shoulder rehab – doing a ton of stretching to fix the hitch I have when I raise my shoulder and getting massages. Have appt with surgeon Dec 17.
  • Continue with crossfit mixing in cycling/running 3 x a week
  • Take it easier at work
  • Less time on phone and more on future plans/studying/learning.

Corona virus, elections, work stress and a plan to overcome

I have been in a declining state of mental health which equals physical health the last few months.

  • My company is selling the business. Because of the uncertainty, over half my team has quit and we are trying to continue to support a growing install base during the transition, which will hopefully occur first quarter 2021.
  • US elections just occurred and hopefully the horrible policies of the current administration will end soon.
  • Corona virus remains unchecked because of the administration requiring continued isolation at home
  • My shoulder is getting better but it has been 5 months now of adding PT appointments and extra work to bring it back to health

In my last blog, I was celebrating running ~8 miles in good health. A week after that, I went to run a few loops of a local 3 mile trail loop and couldn’t even make it running once around. I could barely finish walking it! I am just tired and super stressed.

My new plan:

  • Do something fun every day – play piano 15″ sight reading, 15″ fun review
  • Increase activity levels. Get back and build up strength in crossfit. I need to modify a lot but made it to 3 classes this last week! Standing at home working 8+ hours a day has made my daily steps plumment down to <1000. I can tag on aerobic run/cycle/row onto this but this forces me to stop working and go to class.
  • Eliminate lunchtime meetings and go walking with Kenny
  • Increase planned calories to maintenance 2000 to not feel bad every day about going over and then cut later. I probably have 10 lbs I can lose but don’t want to stress over it right now!

I am also going to convert over to be vegetarian, although not totally strict, and see how this impacts my energy levels. A little self-experimentation!

It is a challenge right now. My hips still hurt from a year ago – am going to see an orthopedic specialist to rule out anything serious vs. just mobility items I can work and I don’t feel so good on just a few mile run.

I need some fun and hope every day to get out of this rut. Biden won and I cried – I think anyone with empathy is stressed about the what is happening to a lot of people right now. I rang my cowbell outside for a minute in celebration and my signage is staying up until the current “President” accepts defeat or is finally carried out when Biden is sworn in.

I also put up my Christmas tree last weekend!

Let’s all hope for a less stressful 2021

Walking is not running

I got the go ahead to run again 3 months post surgery at the end of September. As I had been walking for 2.5 -3 hours I decided to just go out and try to run that. I ran and had some walking but it destroyed me after 2.5 hours and I could barely move running at the end and it destroyed me for the rest of the day.

Walking is not running. I had not expected that.

So then I ran 15 min and walking 15 min to build endurance back.

The good news is that within a month on October 31 I completed a 7.6 mile run in 1:27 – all running on a messy, snowy day and felt pretty good at the end, even picking it up the last mile!

Keep the faith and realize that you really do need train in the exact way you expect to perform. I am not sure how cross training with bicycle will work as I train to run 50 and 100 mile races where you also need to get your body used to the loads specifically due to running….

Beautiful day for a run though on the Nashua rail trail – ran to the Pepperell “station” and back. Note first snow of the year!

A Study in Walking

Not being able to run for 3 months post shoulder surgery has given me the opportunity to study walking speed. As I have learned the last year, the line between walking and running is blurred (ie. going up hills) and walking is OK, something most every ultrarunner will do during a long race – sometimes planned just to destress load on the body. Recall the blog I had last year where it was easier to run 12 miles when it was broken up into 2 mile segments even with 30 burpee pull ups in between. I’ve been thinking that that may be why the Killington spartan ultra race, although with an added 12,000′ of elevation, was easier than running 31 miles straight on flatter ground which also started hurting my hips.

So for the last 9 weeks, I’ve been walking, walking lunging, air squatting, etc as my shoulder heals back to the bone. “Easy” walking turns out to be around 20″ miles. Just the last two weeks I’ve tried to pick it up and see how fast I can go walking. A few observations:

  • By blurring that line, you will naturally soften your knees, which must be better for you
  • On pavement, I am now going 13:57″ per mile even with hillwork mixed in
  • Arms are at 90 deg and I am looking more like a power walker
  • My cadence with short steps, as I do in running, is 145, which destresses load on knees/hips also
  • Videos on internet show fast walkers doing heal strikes, which I don’t agree with
  • The fastest hill I ever did to date at Nashoba felt this way – consistent motion forward with soft knees/like gliding up the hill

So next time I am in a race, trying to be mindful, I have realized now that thoughtfulness about how I walk can save me minutes per mile. last weekend I did some trail walking trying to mimic the form on road and with some elevation (830′ over 90″) only got down to 18″/mile (on downhill portion). This gave me an appreciation for how much just trails slow you down, let alone elevation gain.

Trail flat pace still seems to be over 20″/mile. After seeing the faster road pace, I was starting to think I had been a slacker on my trail runs with over 20″/mile pacing and feel better having done this test.

Post blog addition 9/8/20: So I’ve been youtubing and realizing that what I am doing is “running”, not power walking or race walking where you do heel strikes and have straight legs. Am going to give that a try tonite!

My First Tire change At AGE 54

It took me two years to finally try and change my bike tire. I thought after a year of 3+ hour rides, I should at least know how to take care of it. I got a bike stand, soap/degreaser, a brush to clean with all this year. Finally, a few months later, took the stand out to learn how to change my tire. Forced, mind you, because my valve stem broke so I had no choice.

Wasn’t too bad. Glad I know how. The basics:

Align tire “name” area with valve stem

Take some air out before you start

Take out locking nut from inside of rim

Start at least 8″ from valve stem

Use lower parts of palms to push outer tire into groove

Remove the washer from around the shrader valve so you can remove it

Blow up inner tube a little to make it easier to install, enure it is seated and blow up ultimately slowly.

I use a 700×20-28c 40mm presta valve inner tube (specialized brand)

I don’t know why I hate doing this mechanical stuff so much but I absolutely dread it….would rather weed a 2 acre lot!

why i run and stepping off The Hedonistic treadmill

General situation:

8/9/20 Six weeks post surgery: Sling taken off last week. Have to wait 3 months post op (Sept 26) to run.

COVID situation still very bad in US – most states escalating cases and death rates. Wearing masks wherever we go. Travel/quarantine restrictions – cannot travel outside of US (banned in Europe, etc).

Political situation horrible with the divisiveness pulling apart friends and families. <90 days til I pray we have a new President and a general population fed up with how things are to really drive changes to systemic racism, supporting the poor vs. making the rich richer, etc.

My company continues to be in “wind down” mode with my last expected day end of next year. I have had several team members quit and many apprehensive about their future in general.

So, last weekend I also had an emotional Sunday because I arrived at my husbands RC field to find many, many people without masks in small close knit groups. Germ central with many of them refusing to wear masks so at higher risk than others. I was pretty mad and scared for Kenny and the rest of the guys and yelled at them all, went home and posted on their facebook page asking them to care about each other. Spent rest of the day upset at my husband for not being careful as I don’t want him to die. I am also having a hard time separating out “politics” and maintaining relationships important to me – having had an argument with my sister and possibly damage with my godparents, who voted for Trump yet are religious. I cannot reconcile how good people can support such a disgrace of a human being. Kenny says to think of it as if they are conned vs. supportive of the evil things he does and says as well as all the enablers around him. This helps.

When I got the news of a further six week recovery period prior to running, I was down. There possibly went my goal for the year although I don’t disagree it’s probably the best for healing.

Finally, I recognized what I already knew. Happiness is in the process. You don’t become an “ultraanything” overnite – this is a years long + adventure and six weeks doesn’t really matter.

There was a great piece on NPR today where someone who studies happiness talked about the “hedonistic treadmill” which is how people are always getting more things but never being truly happier. The fact is you get used to things, to people and stop appreciating them. Perhaps that is why I like the long runs. They are hard. You appreciate more the non painful times and by being outdoors/training, you appreciate simpler things like nature, the sounds of birds, the beauty of the outdoors and the drama that occurs over the course of a day. When I had also become more restrictive on food, it made the “cheat” food way more fun. A lack of something renews your capacity to appreciate it. Maybe post this COVID situation people will slow down and care more for each other and fight more for each other. Per my marriage vows, I do make a point to tell Kenny every day how much I appreciate him – and I honestly do. He helps me every day from pulling up my skort, to doing my hair, to cooking, cleaning, and just being supportive of my dreams.

So I went out today in my “big girl trail shoes”, the Inov8 X-Talons, which honestly aren’t needed on the easy Hollis trails, just to enjoy myself, to remember I am an ultrarunner, to remember that it is a beautiful day, to remember that I’ll ultimately be stronger, and to appreciate that I’ve taken this time to meditate more, to get my sleep better, to move my diet to more vegetarian and to use my slower time for more mobility work.

Here are some pictures from the run today:

And one picture of the future, some equipment I’ll bring out again, when I’m ready and strong enough, to continue this process but that for now, will help my car when the snow finally comes back 🙂

The Walking Dead and Getting Shoulder Surgery While I Still Have Insurance 6-30-20

NEC Energy Solutions Corporate HQ in Japan announced 2 weeks ago that they are “winding down” our smallish startup.  I am not sure if I will have a job for a week or 2 years at this point.  Strangest year ever continues.

So June 26 I got my right shoulder rotator cuff and bicep reattached.  My goal of doing a 50 miler remains for this year.  I will do Kilkenney Ridge one way as  a practice run.

#Seenlocal #Seensolo at Beaver Brook 6-14-20….Growing Forward

“In his book On Trails: An Exploration, Robert Moor writes, ‘In the end, we are all existential pathfinders: We select among the paths life affords, and then, when those paths no longer work for us, we edit them and innovate as necessary. The tricky part is that while we are editing our trails, our trails are also editing us.’ The choices we make, make us. We get to edit our paths, innovate them. We get to choose the story we tell about our lives—and the paths we choose, the story we tell, changes us too.”

Here I am again, at another crossroads in life.  My company announced its’ “wind down” last week and I am not sure if I will have this job for a week or a year still.  I am back in a “comfortable” place I have been frequently the last 11 years after I left the “safety” of GE and excited about what is to come.  It is the first time in a while I’ve had a “normal” transition out of a job, vs. ending a consulting engagement where you really aren’t part of the company and its nice to be with friends going through the same transition.  NEC has been the best team I ever worked with.

When I started trail running last year, I saw the movie “A Star is Born”, which broke my heart thinking about my friend Gunter, and listened over and over to the song “shallow” which talks about diving into the deep end and never meeting the ground.  I felt like that all last year – being afraid…committing to something I didn’t fully appreciate or know how to do.  I had set a goal, the Killington Ultra, having never done anything like it and just determined to trust my coach and try.  Finish or leave my body on the mountain – and this doesn’t mean failure, it meant doing my very best and not giving up ever.  Through all of last year, I found new friends, a love of trail running and the fun of problem solving myself.

I found the introductory paragraph and the following in a running blog:

The author talks about finding someone with the “…spirit of approfondement—if I may borrow that marvelous French word that translates roughly as ‘playing easily in the deep.'”

You follow your heart, be happy about what you have, who you have in your life, and grow forward.  Learn to be good being in uncomfortable situation – it is something I hire for now.

Today was a beautiful, cool sunny day and I did my Sunday run on some new trails at Beaver Brook.  It was spectacularly beautiful.  As I think about updating my resume, I realize I need to rethink this as I am not the same person I was four years ago – better I think, I hope and definitely changed. And not afraid at all to go deep.

Tied Bike Hill Record 6-6-20 and New Gear

Just when I was certain I am weaker than last year inexplicably, I tied my cycling hill record by Silver Lake 1:40 on Saturday, near the beginning of an 85″ bike ride.  YES!  I also got a new yellow watch band AND best of all, a new way to attach my phone to the bike for long runs when I need extra battery life with navigation.

Introducing the new quadlock system with extra components to sandwich in my big battery.  My phone, even in airplane mode, with GPS lasts less than 90 min.  This may not be the most aerodynamic solution but it is great for me and I am very excited to have battery life while riding.

I also realized that mapmyride has no vocal navigation so think I need to download map to google map to get turns called out.  Strange that no cycling app has figured this out yet.


Running on a Bottle 5-17-20

The world seems to be falling apart.  Corona virus still rampaging.  Crazies protesting wearing a mask.  Still working from home.  The idiot President and lack of sensible plans across the US.  Even though I sit here in my peaceful Hollis home, I almost can’t stand watching any news.  So this Sunday I had a glass of peach wine from the winery by my sisters’ house after a long day gardening.  Then another.  Then a few hours later two more until the bottle was gone. I was then thinking I should do my long run Monday instead but….  postponing is for the weak right?!  I set out around 7:30pm for my 80″ run around the hood at 180 cadence.  Miles 2-3 were a little tough…hard to keep steady but I did it.

Lessons learned:  Drinking OK prior to running.

No Tears Shed This Year! First Nashoba Run 6-2-20

Back at it.  I’ve been missing it.  Wanting to beat last years’ record.  Knowing it would not be easy to get back at.  Fearing it.  Remembering that every step that hurts there means I won’t hurt in a big race later (that thought is the most useful!)….

Nashoba hill runs Tues 6-2-20.  Forgot my watch so have no stats.  6x, one with 20 lb vest and one with 40lb sandbag.  It felt like a slow slog.  I remembered to pace at beginning – you shouldn’t be tired/worn out after the first third…. I always ran up over the top.  Started using technique I found at Killington where I got up facing left 10 steps, then right 10 steps – just keep going.  Determined progress forward.

I wasn’t alone but as usual, was the last on the mountain 🙂

No new records today but I did it.  I showed up and that counts too.

Recovery, Menopause Amidst Corona

This is day 86 since I was last in work.  We went on vacation in the Philippines and then I was quarantined when I returned and then right as I was about to go back, the entire company was sent home.  Every Friday night we ask each other what we want to do and answer “Stay In!”  I am having issues wearing bras now (so uncomfortable) and accidentally putting my clothes on inside out:

We roll out of bed already in our work clothes and go to it!  All the deliverers (fedex, usps, ups, etc) are crazy busy with home deliveries so things take longer, also as the companies may not be up and running you order from online.

I follow Andrew Cuomo, Governor of NY, as he has united a block of states on the east coast (unfortunately not NH as our republican senator chooses to go alone) to have an orderly, and scientific reopening plan.  He does daily updates with facts and real data vs. the joke of a President, who uses his daily updates for propaganda, lies and to promote himself and the “good job” the Federal Government has done (not).  Tests are not available, there is no formal guidance to the states, the states haven’t been funded, moneys have gone to big businesses, unemployment process is overwhelmed with over 20% of the population applying, and no support with coordination of supply chain for critical PPE or tests.

I used to go to the grocery, Market Basket, early on the weekend and would be practically alone in there.  Now I get up at 6:30 and get there around 6:50 to already find this line, socially distanced at 6′ between each, waiting to get in after the 6-7am early opening for elderly (of which I am almost one!).  I find:

  • Only a certain number allowed in store so someone counts people going in and coming out – only one entrance allowed for this to be possible.
  • Meat limited to 2 of each type/customer as meat plants are shutting down all over the country due to COVID – close proximity of the workers has spread it fast.  Trump ordered them all open this week without requiring employers to follow safer working practices as dictated by the CDC – do your job and possibly die or don’t do it and get fired.
  • Market Basket has their deli/fish counters open.  Hannaford does not.
  • Plenty of empty space on shelves as everyone appears to be buying toilet paper, sanitary wipes, any fast food meals like Ramen noodles, yeast not to be found anywhere (I ordered a 2lb bag online), pasta, soups.  Plenty of healthy food though like vegetables and grains!
  • Everyone at MB wearing masks but Hannafords was a free for all with noone monitoring number of people in the store and many without masks.  Hannafords did have food that MB did not like popcorn, peanuts, more meat.
  • Reusable bags not allowed.  I bring a wipe to clean the cart handle before and after I use it.

After my shoulder surgery was delayed, I decided to go all in and work out like crazy, which then almost broke me.  I was so rickety I could barely walk in the evenings.  Not sure why – in March, when I was in NC I had a glass of wine, which I swear threw me into hot flash hell.  One an hour, which makes my sleep crap.  That, combined with perhaps unacknowledged stress of the 24/7 bad news, has taken its toll.  We geared back the workouts (also because all races seem to be cancelled this year) into maintenance and I am trying to improve sleep (Tylenol PMs working well last two days) and do some meditation during the day.

Love the drama of running the trails – did a 65″ workout in the Hollis trails last weekend starting from the North Cemetary and running to trails across from Silver Lake for a short loop and going back:

I have my buff to cover my face when passing others….

Since working out less with weights and just trying to feel good every day, I have had a few good runs where I don’t feel tired all the time.  Hard to untangle if it is age, overtraining, general stress or this menopause!



Favorite Full Sun Roofdeck Plants

These plants are tried and true for full sun roofdeck.  They do require water!  Based on 10 years gardening on my South End, Boston roofdeck.

Perennials (come back every year)

  • Blueberries – great berries and fall color, underplant with alyssum and lantana
  • Shrub roses – white seafoam and pink fairy.
  • Scabiosa – purple round, spiky flowers
  • Coreopsis – many varieties – prolific bloomer all summer
  • Heliopsis Lorraine Sunshine – underplant with annuals blue Felicitas and lobelia
  • Coneflower/Echinacea – white, pink
  • Rudbeckia – many varieties
  • Indian Blanket Flower “Gaillardia artista” summers kiss – with lavender
  • Daisies- many perennial varieties
  • Walker’s Low – Nepata Faassenii…beautiful grey/green leaves with continuous flowering blue spikes. Cut back if flowering stops
  • Susanna Mitchell – Anthemis Hybrid…delicate foliage with daisy flowers that close at night
  • Lavender Provence, Hidcote (sometimes these just die over winter – not super hardy)
  • All sedums – many, many varieties
  • Daylillies Stella d’Oro daylilies (yellow), planted with lavender, lamium, and purple/white violas
  • Nicotiana – several varieties/varying heights – white flowers

Annual Vines

  • Mandevillas – these come in climbing vines (pink, white or red) or red bush varieties. Super bloomer
  • “Candy corn” vine available from Hillbilly Acres nurseries…underplant with yellow lantana and alyssum
  • Thunbergia (yellow flower) …underplant with alyssum, brachyscon, zinnias
  • Morning Glories – I plant them everywhere – bloom in morning late summer and fall. Best bloomer by far is variety “Heavenly Blue”.  Can be invasive at ground level.
  • Passion Flowers – totally beautiful flower, climbing vines in a variety of colors

Annuals  (Must buy every year)

  • Arctotis Graadis – beautiful white flowers with silver leaves
  • Verbena
  • Hibiscus – these can be trimmed to be like trees or are in bush form. Continuous bloomer.  Tropical – bring indoors in winter…condition slowly to put outside again
  • Zinnias – Always a winner all summer
  • Double impatients – I am not a big fan of normal impatients but the double ones are fantastic, vibrant colors – a standard for me. Do better with partial shade but recover well after they are wilted.
  • Bacopa – can be good bloomer all summer but may die off in heat spell/needs water
  • Gaura Whirling Butterflies..G. Lindheimeri – Another standard planted with Euphorbia diamond frost
  • Lantana –One of the best heat tolerant plants, variety of colors
  • Allysum – totally heat tolerant and small white blooms all summer, low 2”
  • Brachycon (Asteracea Brachyscome, lemon twist swan river daisy) – fine leaves and small yellow flowers, great for overflowing containers
  • Double petunias – wave variety – these are the only plants that have survived in 5” deep hanging boxes
  • Coleus – plant a mix of them in a container, don’t mix with other plants as they’ll take over
  • Spearmint – great for mojitos
  • Sunvitalia – very heat sensitive, cannot dry out
  • Osteospermum – white with purple centers is my favorite
  • Argyanthemum – prefer cooler weather so may die in hot spell
  • Felicita – small blue flower (Felicia amelloides) good for underplanting

Hellebores…Beauty among the Debris

Hellebores are one of the earliest flowering perennials.  Note that these plants are often sold in grocery stores in early spring and people think they should just throw them out but NO!  Plant them for next year.  Many a good perennial is sold and accidentally thrown out if the owner doesn’t realize the treasure they have!  Another great example is in Sept/Oct timeframe you’ll find Montauk Daisies sold as little gift plants.  These things are workhorses and need to be planted for one of the few flowering fall shrubs.

Anyway….hellebores look a little mangey.  Some of the old leaves are brown and flattened on the ground but look closely as the little flowers will start to show themselves in March.  They’ll add leaves and perk up through April.  They come in a lot of different colors and are slow growing – mine has taken a few years for my first to become a bit intimidating.   They also need just the right spot and can be finicky.  Mine seem to like a spot under a tree that does get some direct sun.  I had a few in a more shady area and they did not do well.  I have started a little hellebore garden now outside my office window.  Note that if they are in the right spot, you can abuse them and they still do well.

What to grow with?  I often interplant them with tulips and they are growing with a huge hosta and some Jack Frost Brunnera underneath a magnolia.  It is a bright spot in my yard in early spring!


Freedom in the Woods, 1st Trail Run April 19, 2020

I’ve been running around my neighborhood several times a week.  In and around each cul de sac multiple times a night….around and around.  With my 2.25 hour long run today, I broke free of the neighborhood and ran down to my home course 3 mile loop.  The soft pine needles under my feet felt great!  I remembered why I love the trails so much…. Note that the day before we had snow pummeling down that melted in a few short hours.  The run started out so cold I could have used gloves but ended up peeling off the fleece after a few miles and being comfortable in just a long sleeve rashguard.

Despite the fact noone is supposed to be out, I saw plenty of cars still.  To get there, I had to run 2 miles each way down a typically very busy road with, in some places, a very small berm.

Ended up still going around and around my neighborhood 🙂  My neighbor called me a chicken about going up a hill around the corner so I had to do it….finished in front of the forsythia!


I am still struggling with hip pain so did two romwods prior to the run and then had a little soak in the hottub after.  Note that with the corona virus and Kennys’ dad passing away, I cancelled my shoulder surgery and spent the next few weeks working out very hard to see what I could do even with the shoulder.  I rehurt my shoulder and last week was so worn out I could hardly do anything.  Took it easy this week and next with no strength work and extra mobility.  Despite me feeling like an old woman with my aches and pains, it is perfect training grounds out here in NH!  Then, although I was tired and walking a bit slow, spent 4 hours mulching….which is another blog.  Let’s celebrate progress – last year at this time, I would have been absolutely crippled with lower back pain.  At least my lower back pain is gone after running due to all the single legged exercises I’ve been doing.  It does come back after doing strength training….What’s the fun if it was easy?!

Train on!



Get to Work its April 19!! Spring Cleaning

And with all of us working at home due to the Corona Virus, a little more time to work in the yard!  I can’t complain as this is my “office” view of the magnolia and a few hellebores on my desk.

This is what you need to be doing so you can spend May buying plants!!  And note that some good perennials start going for sale in April, which are totally safe to plant as long as they’ve been outside.

  • Thorough leaf cleaning of the yard.  We rake onto tarps and drag into the woods, use a high powered leaf blower and also a lawnmower to pick them out of the grass.  If you get most of them up, you can use mulch to cover some in your flower beds.  Leaves will just compost and mulching right after makes everything look neater.  Here are a few before and after shots from the last three weeks:

  • As you do the leaf cleaning, cut down all the perennials left over from last year.  Cut off the old daylilly brown leaves all over the ground, rip off the old sedum stalks, hosta stalks, tall phlox, cut down all the old peony stalks (but be wary of the new shoots!), cut down the grasses and get those leaves out of the base of your shrubberies!  No easy way to do that.  Just dive in and get them out by hand.  I use a very small plastic rake to try my best before hand picking them out.
  • Take a break and have fun.  Order a few more bulbs!  I just ordered 20 (more) dahlias, some calla lillies and a bunch of caladiums.  All of which need digging up for the winter.  I may have accidentally killed all my old dahlias leaving them dug up in the garage too long causing them to mold.  I have little hope.
  • If you’re making a mess while cleaning up leaves with all the perennial rubbish, you might as well do some pruning as well of your hydrangeas, spireas, Montauk daisies, and any boxwood hedges you have.  This boxwood hedge is AFTER pruning. I like to keep them natural looking and dive right in to cut out some of the big branches just trimming a little at the end.  Getting light in there will keep it healthy all the way thru the shrub.  That debris took up a lawn bag or two all on its own!  I think I also made about 10 trips dragging branches out to the trailer between what I pruned and just branches that had come down due to winter storms.


  • Before laying down mulch, edge and get the grass out of the beds!  This is very important.  You need a 2″ clean vertical cut for grass not to grow into the bed.  I have some rubber bed edging that always needs cleaning out as the mulch/dirt eventually covers them and they don’t prevent grass that well so I always have some work to do.  Pretty fast work though and nothing is better than a good looking edge to your beds!
  • Trim your crabapples if you need to.  Tall husbands useful here.  Remember your rose gloves as doing battle with crabapples is not for the faint of heart!
  • Spread down some grass seed for all the bare spots.  Our front yard always looks ragged from the critters and from me dragging big branches through it…


  • Clean and reactivate any birdbaths and ponds.  Get those dead frogs and snakes out of there!
  • Take a half day and go out to a local nursery and buy a few of the always good, cheap perennials you can never have enough of prior to mulching.  I just brought home a few more columbines (my husband calls them chlamydias but that is a sexual disease…), hollyhocks, some spring flowering low growing clumps of something I can’t remember now, and pansies for the front window box.
  • Rake those leaves gently off all the daffodils coming up!  Their yellow leaves will turn green in time.
  • Take a few hours and have fun pulling out all your pots and setting them up.  Important to get the dirt wet again as it has dried out all winter.  I pour water in and am very careful before planting. Leaving them out a few weeks before you try to plant helps a lot.  You’ll also have to freshen up the dirt in them anyway with a little compost/manure.  Don’t forget to put them on feet so they can drain.
  • Get out the hoses!  I have converted to the very lightweight, expandable hoses so those are simple.  We need the old, long rubber ones to drain the pond.  Nothing is worse than rolling up a hose.  That is my husbands’ job.
  • Also important is to address the varmit holes… as soon as the leaves are up, spread down some mole away typically made up of castor oil to make them go away (or at least into your neighbors yard!!).  The hole below belongs to a very cute groundhog who eats all my plants.  I don’t want to kill the guy and am in a quandry right now with what to do about him.  One year I did try to bomb his hole but ended up poisoning and killing a crabapple tree instead.  Every afternoon I see him taking a stroll through my garden.  For the little voles/moles, you can use some chlorine pellets if you cover up the hole after.


  • And very importantly, PULL UP ALL WEEDS BEFORE MULCHING!  You are wasting your time mulching if you do not do this.  Avoiding weeds and stopping them from coming back is the entire point of mulching.  Don’t be lazy and cause yourself extra work a few weeks later when your newly mulched beds end of being the perfect backdrop for a bunch of weeds!
  • Only now should you mulch.
  • If you mulch NOW, in April, you will do a preemptive strike on weeds and save yourself a ton of work.  There are just a few short weeks to do this before all hell will break loose.  I start with 10 cubic yards.  For beds with few weeds that still have mulch left, I may just do a sprinkling of it.  For weedy areas, I put down a good 2-3″.  To calculate how much you need in cubic yards, do this math:

Approximate square feet you need, for example 100 s.f..  Multiple by 3″ converted to feet to get cubic feet and divide by 27 to convert to cubic yards.  There may be free delivery if you order some amount so ask about that.  They like to deliver on a tarp.  make sure to weight down the edges as it will blow away.  I put bricks, logs or pieces of slate around it and once it is down, keep it covered with a tarp so it doesn’t get soggy and blow away.

Example:  (100 feet*(3 in)/(12 in/ft))/27 = cubic yards


  • Sweep after you have cleaned up the leaves and put down mulch.  Nothing is worse than dirt all over your patio and paths and driveways.
  • Make sure that when you cleaned up, you exposed the true edges of your patios.  Often grass can grow over the edges slowly shrinking down your playspace.  Show it who’s boss and scrape it off with a trowel!
  • Put out your patio table awning.  Ours still has a hole in it from last year when my husband killed a wasp with a blow torch under the awning and caught it on fire…
  • Set out the tiki torches!
  • Take a break the few days you might get a snow if living in NH!  This was last week …typically melts within a few hours.  This is the reason that you have to wait to plant annuals.  I had already purchased a few pansies so made sure to cover them with a plastic bag for snow and freezing nights and they are still doing fine.


A note on child labor:

It it wonderful.

The last few years I have been hiring neighborhood kids to help bring me wheelbarrows of mulch while I lay it down which is awesome!  I also have them do the edging and often, dig me new beds as mine are always expanding a little…. Delete and repost your advertisement in facebook if some local mother writes that you aren’t paying her kid enough.  Minimum wage for someone not old enough to work is apparently not enough in my neighborhood…..why try and thwart me?!

This year of the corona virus, it was up to me and my strong husband to do it all.  While working at home, we’ve been power mulching for 30″ a night during the week.

What not to do:

  • Cut down any lavender.  It looks like crap right now – that is normal.  Leave it alone.


  • Dump mulch over little plants coming up.  In beds with a lot of plants, I use a wide toothed, heavy rake to gently shake the mulch over top of them or manually lay it down.  Covering up most things with a little bit of mulch won’t hurt but i wouldn’t bury tender leaves of a little lungwort or columbines or tulips.
  • Do not mulch around the base of trees – that will kill them.  Leave the tops of the roots or the flare at the bottom free.  Any landscape company that does this is a bunch of hacks.

Do not work so hard it is not fun.  I’m giving you a little crap and trying to scare you to mulch early – which is important – but enjoy your time out there.  Talk to your neighbors.  Commiserate about the groundhog.  Divide a few daylillies and share.  Sit down and enjoy being outside with the sun on your face. Tell your hard working husband how great is doing (positive reinforcement!) and don’t forget to stop for a 5pm “zoom” cocktail with your friends (corona times…).

Garden on my friends!



For the Love of Dahlias…

I guess the 20+ I have in my basement aren’t enough because I just ordered 20 more bulbs for this year 🙂

They are taking up a considerable dedicated space these days around a crabapple tree and have also expanded to be along the periphery of another sun bed.  It took me a few weekends to dig up all the pachysandra to create this space.  A secret to getting rid of pachysandra is to post and have others dig it up.  Garden centers charge dollars for one stem when they can lift mine in huge sheets for free!  Everyone is happy.

I surround them with other things so the space looks natural – here is a picture when they are just about a foot high- they are hard to see in front of all the daylillies.  After seeing a beautiful massive grouping of daylillies when walking Lake Superior in Duluth, MN, I realized how beautiful it is if you can group them.  This tells you how late in the summer they are ready – the phlox is tall in this picture and the daylillies are already blooming too.


Is it time to plant? (courtesy of Swan Island Dahlias)

  1. Is my ground temperature around 60 degrees?
  2. Is it time to put the vegetables in my garden?
  3. Is the weather warm and dry enough to allow me to work in my yard on a daily basis?
  4. Is my soil workable, not too soggy?
If you can answer yes to those questions, then your dahlias are ready to be planted. It is important to remember that dahlias DON’T like cold and/or wet feet. So, if you get one beautiful day and the rest are wet and cold, don’t plant. Dahlias for the Northern half of the United States can be planted anytime from late April through early June.
I take them out of basement where where haphazardly thrown in late fall in paper cartons, milk crates, old cat litter boxes and the plastic garden trays some garden centers put plants in:
dahlia storage

I haven’t split mine very much yet because they have been growing a few years getting bigger but note that each “tuber” is not a plant.  They need to have an “eye”, which are hard to find.  My strategy will be to just hack one in two when I am ready.  Any plant that requires too much delicate handling is just not for me!

I throw them in the ground around mid/late April with a small stake to note where they are and put them about a foot apart.  Is it worth trying to plant them earlier in pots?  NO.  I tried it vs. just putting them in the ground and didn’t see a huge difference and it was a lot more work.  Just throw them in the ground – don’t water them in!  Throw some slug bait down and give them a few weeks to come up.  Once you start seeing a few sets of leaves, pinch them back – even if they have a bud on them!  This will give you a bushier plant.


They take your breath away.  They require patience as once planted, you won’t see a flower for a few months.  But when they flower, wow!!!  And then you realize you need to stake because they grow so fast.  Last year, I started/made little cages out of garden fencing and used those in place of staking which was less work.  I need another year of this to decide the right mix.  You can see below a cage vs. my typical staking on the right.  Note that one plant needs several stakes because some get so big and wide….Stakes become a huge mess and some plants needed 4-5.

Although the caging method looks funny for a while, they soon disappear as you can see below and contain some pretty big plants.


I’m growing into getting bigger ones every year… here are a few of my new ones

The dahlia is also a mystery….who knows what you will find in one!  Spiders, FROGS!….. I cut mine and leave them outside for a few hours so the creatures inhabiting them may leave.  These are a few I cut so my husband could take them and give them to all his work wives.  He walks proudly into his office with several bouquets in hand taking care of those who take care of him.

dahlia bouquet
Here is my favorite (“Fluffles”) of all the ones I grew last year:
Unfortunately, it didn’t grow that big or give me many so let’s hope it does better/is bigger this year!
When to cut
You MUST wait 2 weeks after a hard frost before digging them up.  You will read it is OK sooner but I lost all of mine one year by being “proactive.”  A hard frost will immediately turn all the leaves black.  Then wait…wait….and cut off the top stalks, dig them out and take off what dirt you can.  I let them dry NO LONGER THAN A WEEK in the garage before shaking off even more dirt and putting them downstairs.  If you leave them too long, they will start getting moldy.
They really do require full sun and I keep expanding one of my beds to give them the best conditions.  Here is “Cafe au Lait” which is a big one, loving the sun spot I moved it to this year.
Pots vs. In Ground
One year I tried planting a bunch in pots and it didn’t go so well.  I am throwing them in the ground from now on reserving a pot only for a short, bushier variety like: Bishop of Llandaff:
bishop of llandaff dark leaf dahlia
So here’s to an ever expanding dahlia collection and to all the mornings I walk out in my pajamas getting my feet wet to cut some and make someone smile at work!
dahlia quoe

Container Gardening Class

Container Gardening 2019

Normally I do a container gardening class at the local library, which is, of course, not possible this year with the Corona Virus so I am posting my presentation here.  I also have this handout which also has a few of my favorite perennials (plants that live outside year after year) and good books and other resources:

Plant List Handout for Container Class

The cover picture is from my old roof deck and this is a passion flower, which is an annual out here in the northeast.






A Journey in Professional and Personal Continuous Improvement

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