I think one area where we all struggle is in appreciating what is right in front of us. I think this especially applies to our home towns, local communities, and regions where we are from and spend most of our time. There are always people looking to throw shade on your home town and focus on the negative and dismiss the positive. Don’t let those people bring you down. Don’t let them blind you to all the great opportunities right in front of you.
I know one thing that I often find myself doing and maybe you do it too, is I always think that there is nothing fun to do locally. I always think that if I want to do something fun it requires some grand adventure or at least a couple hour drive to someplace new or someplace you rarely go. It is really a difficult mindset to shake. I struggle with this all the time. It is very obvious to me in my photography, when I frequently remark that I have not gotten to X, Y, or Z local area to work on photography in some time. And I say it all the time. So if I openly acknowledge that regularly why is it I am so stuck on thinking about needing to go someplace to get my fun fix? I really don’t know the answer to that. I wish I did.
What I do know is that if you are able to shift your mindset away from the, “I need to go away to do something fun” and to “what does my local area have to offer”, you might be pleasantly surprised.
One way in which I am fortunate to live where I do is that there actually is a lot going on in our area. Not just event happening, but places to go that are regularly available for a visit. One of those places is the amazing Corning Museum of Glass. A place I often wish I spent more time. Recently I decided I wanted to take a trip there with my wife and my dad. There are so many cool items on display and I often wish I was a more patient museum going and could focus myself enough to read about all the pieces on display, but I really struggle with that. I am much more of a visual person. I really like to move from piece to peace soaking it in through my visual cortex as a work of art and not so much as expository text.
I wanted to try something different on this visit to the museum. I wanted to find a way to get myself to linger longer on objects and I don’t know if think about them differently is the right frame or if I just wanted to observe them differently. But I wanted to do more than simply walking through the museum looking briefly at the objects it contained. I wanted to find a way to train myself on certain object. So I did the thing that one does when they are a photographer and they want to focus on something, I brought my camera.
As we walked through the museum as I found items that interested me for whatever reason I took the time to study them through my camera lens. Often I photographed the same objects from multiple angles. I often tried to focus on the smaller components of a particular piece of glass and see if I could isolate it in an interesting way. I really enjoyed visiting the museum in this way. It took the whole experience to another level for me by combining different things that I enjoy.
Once I got home I was able to view all the images I had created. Some of them I really liked. Then I did something I don’t do a whole lot of. I edited the photos in a more creative and “artistic” style. This resulted in the final image not simply being a replication of exactly what I saw through my lens, but something a little bit different. I didn’t do anything too dramatic, but often the editing I did changed the colors of the items and or the backgrounds around the subject. Let me know what you think of the images. Especially if you are familiar with the Corning Museum of Glass let me know what you think of the images and if you can recognize the pieces I photographed from the museum and know what they are, particularly the ones where I isolated something small from a bigger work.
The CMOG has amazing pieces of glass and I love living someplace where I get to experience it regularly if I keep my eyes open to experiencing local. I am thankful for an opportunity to share some of our local treasures with you from teh CMOG, but you really need to come see it in person if you have the chance. If you have something local you want to share with me comment here or Tweet at me at @KRNaturalPhoto.
I referenced this article in my previous one titled “Defeating Anxiety in 2020” and I am glad to have fought through the several layers of anxiety to have finally produced the article. Thanks for all your support.
One of my favorite things in life has become working on art projects with my dad. We do different types of art, I’m a photographer and he’s a painter, so we don’t really work together so much but we show each other our work and talk about things we like about each other’s work. From time to time one of us will have an art exhibit and we often help each other hang our exhibits.
I love spending time hanging an art exhibit with my dad. It’s time consuming and it can be tedious at times but it is just a nice occasion to hang out and talk about art and specifically really boring things about art. Things that probably no other humans on earth could care about, except maybe other artist. My dad is a much better planner than I am when it comes to putting up an exhibit. He completes scale drawings of the exhibit space and then maps out where he wants each peace to be before we even arrive. We unpack the art together. We set it out in the exhibit space according to where it is planned to be hung.
Then the real excitement begins. We start hanging paintings on the wall!!! Conversations center on, how high should the artwork be hung from the floor to make it easiest to look at. This painting, Higher or lower? Is this painting level? Do we need to adjust the spacing of the paintings on that wall? Are they too close together or too spaced out? What about that one? And we have the same conversations over and over. We talk about all kinds of little minutiae surrounding the creation and presentation of art.
I also love hearing my dad talk to others about his work. His passion about his art is evident when he talks to others about his paintings.
I helped my dad set up his exhibit and then I went for the exhibits opening. One thing that I like to do is photograph our art exhibits. I often take some standard shots showing the art on display. Then I like to take some more creative photographs to alter the perspective of the art on display or focus in on one aspect of a larger painting and isolate a small detail as if that was the entire image.
I always enjoy talking to my dad about art, his art, my art, other artist’s art. It just comes so naturally between us. I wish I had this level of comfort talking about my art or artwork in general with other people. I often feel like this is one of my biggest struggles in my creative pursuits. I love photography and have real passion about what I do and the subjects I photograph but I am completely uncomfortable talking to most people especially people I do not know about just about any aspect of my creative life. I don’t know if I have ever even referred to myself as a photographer when talking to someone I did not previously know. This is one of the biggest ways I struggle with anxiety in my everyday life.
I don’t think I would ever call hanging an art exhibit fun, but it can be enjoyable and it was just the kind of day I needed.
In many ways 2019 was a really good year. 2019 was also a year I faced some significant struggles. I am sure this is the same for many of you. The good is always mixed with the bad or so it seems. I spent the year struggling to find balance in a lot of ways. I set PRs and accomplished huge goals I never dreamed of in some arenas, but struggled with actual physical pain like never before as well that held me back in a lot of ways. The pain and challenges I was experiencing cascaded and I am sure impacted my mental health in some negative ways.
So, I am going to take some time here to talk about my mental health. In a lot of ways I have been very fortunate. I have been relatively healthy both physically and mentally. I have seen others go through much worse than I ever have. And I think that is part of what makes mental health a difficult topic for me to talk about. I have not suffered through what I know so many others have, so some times it feels like to complain would be to do a disservice to everything they have experienced.
I have always been a person that I guess one would describe as anxious, shy, self-conscious, and easily embarrassed. For me my anxiety is most present in social situations and interactions especially where there are no well-defined rules of engagement. Anything that risks embarrassment or looking foolish is very hard for me to approach. I spent much of my adult life studying psychology and even while studying psychology I actively avoided any course that would require me to speak in front of others. I even dropped a class after it started when I learned to my surprise that we would be required to regularly speak in front of others. I have always rationalized that as being pretty normal. No one really likes to speak in front of others so I never really took that as a sign of anything significant. But then there are more mundane things like making a simple phone call to order pizza, or more importantly for work that would start my palms sweating and anxiety building. If I needed to make a call for work it would preoccupy my mind and I would plan excessively around how to approach the phone call and I would feel like I was suffering the entire time until I finally made the call. Despite me knowing that most calls go fine this is something that I cannot shake. I almost never make phone calls. I prefer to do all my communication by email and even that is becoming difficult.
As someone who has studied psychology I am equipped with knowledge that one might think would help me in this situation. But instead I harnessed my knowledge to convince myself everything was fine instead of convincing myself to get help. In clinical psychology to be diagnosed with a psychological disorder one needs to display symptoms that are disruptive to one’s life. So, for me I have always told myself that I am still getting along with life pretty well despite the issues I struggle with. I have never had anything really stop me from maintaining a relatively “normal” life. I can still carry on most activities of life freely. I have been able to complete an education, sustain jobs, pursue leisure time activities, and pursue creative endeavors. Why should I need any help right?
Another aspect of my anxiety that has impacted me has been difficulty meeting new people. I am just completely uncomfortable with that idea to the point I have pretty much avoided it most of my life. For a long time as an adult I didn’t really have any friends. It took me literally making a new year’s resolution that I would join a running club to meet new people for that to happen and boy did that resolution come through for me in a big way. The other half of that resolution was to reconnect with old friends that I lost touch with, but I was never able to get comfortable enough with that idea to make it happen.
This year, specifically the last quarter of the year probably, my anxiety has gotten worse. Ever since I started writing in a public way online and to try to publish my work writing has been cathartic for me. It has been a release. It is something that I truly enjoy doing. I wrote 43 posts for my website this year. But near the end of the year I began to feel more stress and anxiety about writing and the simple act of writing and putting my photography together, the thing that used to bring me the most joy was creating anxiety for me. It took longer and longer for me to complete posts for my website. I had to gather the strength to push through each project. There were things I wanted to write about but just couldn’t get started on. There were articles I would write but then couldn’t summon the strength to work on the accompanying photography. There were photographs I would select for an article but then I could not manage the writing of the article. The struggle itself was exhausting. It kept me from being as productive as I would have liked to for my website, despite all the ideas and aspirations I had. As I write this there are two posts sitting unfinished. One I started writing, but couldn’t get focused on enough to finish and add photographs to and one that I have all the photography ready to go for if I could just summon the will to write the article for which the idea is already fully formed in my head. I just have to do the work. And that very thought of doing the work is just overwhelming and I don’t know why. Why should it be? It hasn’t been before. Or maybe it has been and I have ignored it.
This year I ran a 100 mile race and it was amazing and being finished with the training for that race was a relief, but one thing it also did was unmoor me from my structure. I still function ok if there is structure. Getting up for work and going to work I can manage, but a weekend where there is nothing going on and I am free to work on anything that I like is almost like a nightmare. Previously I knew what I had to do every weekend because I had a training plan and a project I was working on, but now I was free to work on anything I wanted to. Take on any idea that I had in mind and that was completely overwhelming. There was so much that I wanted to do, but I never felt like I could actually accomplish any of it. There were many days on weekends where I would lie awake in bed in the morning simply unable to take on the challenge of taking on the day. I would lie there in bed staring at the ceiling or literally hiding under the blankets having this internal dialogue with myself trying to convince myself to get out of bed and that everything would be ok. This new level of anxiety that made it so I couldn’t even get out of bed was scary to me. It was nothing I had ever experienced. So after suffering through this for a time I was finally convinced that it was ok to admit to myself that I was having mental health issues that needed to be addressed. It is going to sound completely corny but I was able to finally get to this place when I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts, Safety Third, where they were talking about mental health issues in the outdoor community. It struck chord with me. Unfortunately, it was a long time before I shared this feeling with anyone else. After weeks I told my wife that I thought I needed to seek professional mental health help. Then I eventually told my best friend. As of now I still have not contacted a mental health professional. That is part of what makes my anxiety so challenging. Recognizing what needs to be done mentally is the easy part. Actually taking the action is hardest, especially when it comes to reaching out to contact a stranger, especially if that contact will need to be done by phone. But I am in the process o trying to get the help I need and take this on in 2020.
I think a huge part of this anxiety and feeling of overwhelm that has hit me this year is because I have been dreaming about and pursuing a career where I feel I have value and meaning. I went to college and studied and wrote and learned for years because I wanted to have a career and a life that I found fulfilling and satisfying. Over the years I have found that what I want is a career as a creative and I have actually had some level of success at it. Enough success that the possibility of actually achieving it scares the crap out of me. It scares me because it would mean leaving behind the structure of everything I have known in work behind. It scares me because it means if I fail it is on me. There is no boss to blame. It scares me because I would be free to do the things I truly want to do and if I still fail to do them it is my own fault.
I have been so overwhelmed with fear and anxiety that there have been many days where I have thought I should just quit doing all of the creative work that I am doing. It is too hard. It is making me too anxious. I will never be able to make it. I should just give it up and enjoy a simple life of going to work and coming home and sitting on the couch watching TV. What would be so wrong with that? The answer is that there is nothing wrong with that. But for me everything is wrong with that. It is not the life I have envisioned for myself or that I have been working for my entire life. It would not make me feel fulfilled. I would not be happy. At best I would be comfortably numb. At worst I would be miserable.
This whole post and life situation is like a giant sad irony to me. I have spent a large part of my life studying mental health. I have been an advocate of talking about mental health. I try to do all the things a good mental health advocate would do. Except that I haven’t taken care of my own mental health and I haven’t been able to share my struggles with anyone. That ends today.
I wrote this post 12/31/19 and didn’t find the strength to post it until 1/12/20.
Why run 100 miles? Well, it’s really hard to explain. The reasons are buried deep inside me and seem clear, but those same reasons are very hard to put into actual words especially into coherent thought out sentences that would seem sensible to most people. When most people hear that you are planning to or that you did run 100 miles they get this look on their face that indicates they think you might be a little nuts. They generally are kind about it but express that they can’t understand why you would do that. It is even hard for other runners who share the same love and joy of running that you do to understand. How do you explain why you would do something that is so foreign to what seems to be the natural state of human existence? Why would you put yourself through that?
For me I think a big part of it stems from how I got started in running. I started running primarily as a way to get into shape after really getting out of shape, particularly after starting a very sedentary desk job. My goal was to run a 5k. Once I found I was able to run a 5k I began to wonder what else I could do. I found that there were 10k races and I trained for and ran a couple of those. Then I set my sights on running a half marathon. I found with more training and more running I was able to complete a half marathon. I don’t know if I would say I was enjoying running at this point but it gave me goals to aim for and strive for as a way to get healthier and fitter. What could I accomplish as a fitness goal?
I wasn’t happy with my finish at my first half marathon because I managed to injure myself doing something stupid (trying to itch my calf at the same time as I continued to run) and that lead me to limping across the finish line in some degree of pain. So I pretty quickly decided that I was going to run that race again. At the beginning of the next year I joined our local running club and began to go to group runs. As I met more and more of my fellow runners I began to enjoy running more and more. The more people I became friends with and the more I talked to them about running and the things they were doing in running the more it stoked my fire for running. FYI I you befriend an ultra runner there is a 90% chance you will eventually run an ultra.
I became increasingly interested in trail running and met trail runners. I became more and more inspired and excited by the wide variety of things you can do in running, especially in trail running. In trail running every race is different, every run can be different. Plus trail running married running with my love of nature. It was the perfect fit for me. In trail running there are a wide variety of races and each race is on a course that will be nothing like any other course you run on. Every race is a completely new experience and I found this even more inspired. It is something I love about trail running. I love new experiences. I generally don’t run the same race very many times, because I just like to do different things. Even if I love a race I may not run it all the time because I just want to do something new.
This growing desire to push myself physically to see what I can do and the inspiration of doing something new helped to grow my spirit in ways that I never knew possible. When I started running I didn’t even know an ultra marathon was a thing. All of a sudden shortly after meeting this group of amazing and adventurous people I was running one.
When you talk to people about the adventures they have had doing something you love and how they have challenged themselves and then you set it in a framework of something you already love like being outdoors it really just stokes this fire inside you and grows your passion and excitement for just doing things. Exciting things. Hard Things. Fun things.
Maybe this is the kind of fun that only runners understand but testing your body is fun. It is fun in a way that is not really easy to explain. Either you are someone who likes to test their body physically or you are not. Either you are someone who likes to challenge themselves or you are not. I would argue many of us if not most of us actually do like to challenge ourselves but we just don’t think of it that way. I never did before I started running. Think about all of the hard things you have done in your life, especially those things that you chose. You didn’t do them just to torture yourself. You did them for some higher reason. Some reason that seems unquantifiable. That is the same reason I do hard things in running.
As I got baptized in the fire of ultra running I became aware of the fact that I was able to do more than I ever thought I could do. When I ran my first half marathon I said I would never run a marathon, NEVER. To be fair I have never run a road marathon, but I have now run 6 marathon or longer races in 2 years. I have learned as I have become more experienced in running that the more I do the more I can do. You kind of have a mental shift from I could never do that to wow I actually just did that, what else could I do. That can be completing our first 5k or completing your first half marathon, or for me the biggest shift came after completing my first 50k. I think that is when my mind really began to think about what am I actually physically capable of doing.
Once my body confirmed to my mind that I could be on my feet for more than 8 hours in a very challenging race it opened up a new realm for me mentally. If you let your mind go there you will become fascinated by it and then it will take hold of you. I think people think about all the things they can do but they do not let their minds fully occupy that space, they don’t give their minds permission to truly think about what they could do if they put their effort into doing it. Running more than a 50k would not be easy but could I actually do it if I put my mind and energy into preparing for it? I began to feel like the answer was yes.
As I talked more and more with my fellow runners about running and became aware of the amazing events that happen all across the United States and the world for that matter and I became aware of the incredible elite athletes who win these events it was hard not to become inspired. But you know what is even more inspiring than that? More inspiring than the elite athletes are the regular every day people that compete right alongside the elites at these events. Sure they don’t run the crazy fast times that the elite athletes run but they finish the same races. They complete the same course cross the same terrain as the elite athletes. They finish the race. Knowing that so many other people actually do this thing called ultra running and that so many people run 100 mile races was incredible. How could I not put myself to the test when so many other people were doing it?
It really became less about could I do it as how could I do it and when would I do it.
You run 100 miles because you get this feeling inside that you are capable of more and you have a desire to find out exactly what you are capable of. You want to unlock that human potential. That is what drives it.
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Every time I take on new adventures I learn things. The bigger and more challenging the adventure the more you learn. The first time I took on an ultra distance run, I was alone on the Finger Lakes Trail, I learned a lot. Now taking on a much different more complex challenge I stood poised to learn even more.
When you set off to go on any type of adventure ideally you have a plan. You make the best plan you can to try to have the best outcome you can. You also try to think about what you will do if things don’t go according to plan. Think about back up plans and contingencies. I don’t think you want to dwell to much on that because you want to focus on being successful not dwell on possible failure or challenges. But at the same time you want to try to be prepared. It is a bit of a balancing act.
I think we all know that plans are great but they are only goo until you reach that first difficulty or obstacle that requires a change. Then a lot of the plan can get thrown out the window. You can try to stick to the basic concepts of the plan but specific details like pace and times can quickly become meaningless. It wasn’t long into my 100 miles that my planned for pace goal was pretty much out the window.
One aspect of my 100 mile journey that I found to be more of a challenge than I planned for was fuel consumption. For all of my runs and races that will take me longer to complete than a road half marathon I really prefer to try to eat actual solid food as opposed to gels and things like that. More specifically I like to try to eat whole foods. That is my preference. That is what works well in my body and how I feel myself on a daily basis as much as I can. I like the taste of the whole foods I have been using and they feel better in my body. They don’t cause me any issues.
What I learned is that as hard as running 100 miles is, it might actually be harder to eat 100 miles of running energy’s worth of solid foods. I thought I had a good mix of foods to use that would allow me a variety of tastes and nutrient combinations so that I would not get sick of my fuel and would have plenty of options. That was not really an issue. What it really came down to is that eventually you just don’t feel like eating or think about eating, because you feel like you were just eating. It really is something you have to mentally prepare for and maybe force yourself to do. I was not as focused on that during my race. It was easy to not think about eating because I never really felt hungry. I would just eat whenever it felt right while I was running and then grab an extra piece of food or more at an aid station. As it turns out that casual approach wasn’t quite sufficient for my body. It seemed that my two big crashes at aid stations were primarily due to not having enough calories/sugar in my system.
My take away from this valuable lesson is for next time, because lets face it as my friend said you know there will be a next time, even if I don’t know when it will be is that I will need to plan to use a combination of solid food so I don’t feel hungry like I need to eat and something more easily consumed without making me feel full or too full like gels or liquid fuel. This is something I have Ben thinking about although I don’t know when I will begin to experiment with it to se what works best for me.
I expected the night portion of the race to be a challenge, but I had no idea how hard it would actually be for me. Being in the dark for that long wasn’t as bad as I thought it might be. What was hard is that during that period of the race that is when exhaustion really set in for me. I could walk but my eyes and my brain were ready to go to sleep. I could keep my legs going but often found myself staggering around not making much progress. It was a struggle just to keep my eyes open. Things may have been different for me if I hadn’t suffered through a really hard crash right before that point in the race where I could literally barely move, but it’s hard to say. I will need to think about strategies to help myself stay alert and awake. Taking more caffeine or something else to force myself awake will need to be tested.
I learned a lot about what the human body is able to overcome physically. If someone told me how I would feel at mile 65 or so I would have been pretty sure I would not finish. If you told me that 16 miles later I would have a very similar experience I would never expect to be able to finish the race. I would have thought it was impossible. I would not have thought that the human body could come back from being inoperable and in a state of being where I couldn’t even take a drink of water on my own and I would recover and run 35 more miles. I would have thought that if I reached that state I would have to drop out of the race. My crew taught me that you can get back into the race after such a low. My crew taught me something I could not have learned on my own.
On top of the physical recovery if you had told me prior to the race that I would experience that kind of situation I would not have been surprised if I would have quite. I would have expected to hit a very hard mental low, wondering how I would ever finish the race, even if I recovered physically I would have so many doubts about being able to finish once I was able to continue. But that never happened to me. My mind stayed strong. My mind and my will were able to remain focused onm the goal and determined to finish. Before you do something it is easy to say the words that you are not going to quite and tell yourself and others that you will finish no matter what, but you never truly know how you will respond to a given situation until ou are in it. So now I can tell myself I know how I will respond to that kind of pressure. I will stick with it and I will persevere.
You learn so much about yourself on this journey. You learn about your physical body and what it is capable of and what it is not. You learn what things cause you pain and what things are not as bad as you thought. You learn what you can endure. You learn about yourself mentally too. You learn where your fears and doubts lie. You learn where they start to creep in and how you can overcome them. You learn that you can push through more than you ever thought. You learn that even in the toughest time you can keep your mind in a good place.
You learn more about the value of friends too. I knew I had a solid support system and crew. I knew they would be there to cheer me on. I did not know they would volunteer to jump in and run extra miles with me and take care of other runners as well. Pushing themselves farther than planned even as I was pushing myself. I knew my crew would always be there with words of encouragement and support. I did not know that I would find them literally physically supporting me as my body shut down and I was on the verge of collapse. I didn’t know they would be called on to revive me physically and bring me back from the verge of having to drop out. I didn’t know they would be there to safe guard me. I didn’t know they would be there to push me and get everything possible out of me when I didn’t think I could give any more to this race. I knew I had a great group of people surrounding me for this 100 mile attempt but I didn’t know all that they would put themselves through to make sure I was able to accomplish my goal. I am eternally grateful to them. I literally could not have done it without them. They mean the world to me. There really aren’t words to express how much all the people who were with me at Pine Creek 100 mean to me.
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Racing season is over for the year for me, unless one of my friends somehow convinces me otherwise. My last race was one I wasn’t really planning to run for sure. Once I decided to run the race I actually got pretty excited about it. The race was Last Rebel Survivor presented by Rebellion Running.
Last Rebel Survivor is a last person standing style event in the vein of Bigs Backyard Ultra. Everyone runs loops of the same course until only one person can continue. The spin on this event is that with each lap completed the time you have to complete the next lap decreases. The course was a 1 mile loop on local trails. The race begins with 20 minutes to complete a lap and decreases by 1 minute after each completed lap then after about 10 laps it decreases by 30 seconds for each lap that follows. Each person is eliminated when they either fail to complete a lap in the allotted time or fail to start the next lap.
The more I thought about this event the more I became intrigued about the strategy of how best to run this style of race so that one could last the longest possible. Is it best to go as slow as possible and even walk on the early laps so that you are exerting yourself as little as possible or is it better to run at a good pace and have plenty of time to rest between laps? What strategy will keep you freshest the longest so that you have energy to push yourself harder when the time to complete a lap gets shorter and shorter?
Race day ended up being pretty chilly and I opted for a slow paced run that allowed me to keep warm through exertion and get back to the start line with time to rest. The downside was that since I started off at a run I got sweaty early and got cold because I wasn’t exerting myself enough to stay warm or constantly to stay warm so unlike everyone else who was removing layers as the race went on I actually added a layer. I had no expectation that I would win the race, but I wanted to see how long I could last before I could no longer complete a lap in the designated time. I was really hoping to complete at least 10 laps which would be around 10 miles and would be my longest run by 4 miles since September 7. Unfortunately, things did not go my way. It seems the rocky terrain struck my foot just right to aggravate this tender spot I had near my heel and cause pain to spread along the outside edge of my left foot. The pain got worse as each lap went on and got to the point where I could barely push off my left foot and any side to side movement of my foot was quite painful. I was averaging around 12 minute miles until the last lap I completed where by the end I couldn’t really run at all. I called it a day and dropped after about 6 miles.
I didn’t want to chance causing a more serious injury. The whole plan for the last few months has been getting healthy and staying healthy, so the last thing I wanted to do was get hurt and derail all the work I have been doing. It was really frustrating to struggle due to an injury at this event. So much of my running this year has been a struggle. But I did manage to find some positive in the early exit.
I had been planning to document the event as I ran with my GoPro, which I did and I planned to photograph what remained of the event after my day of running ended with my DSLR. My early exit simply allowed me to spend more time doing something else that I truly love, photographing the running community I love. Although, it did hurt a bit to hobble around to get into position for photos I wanted to take. Maybe the early exit was a blessing in disguise because I really like the images I was able to capture. Who knows how much if any I would have been able to photograph if I had kept running even if I was healthy.
The good news is my injury seems to just be soft tissue strain of some type. It wasn’t swollen or bruised post race and did some icing and soaking and a few days later it feels much better. Still painful but definitely better.
The winner ended up running around 20 miles I believe, 19 laps completed. This was such a fun event to be a part of as both a runner and a spectator. I can’t wait to run an event like this again. Also Rebellion running gave the most unique awards to the winners that I have seen. They received a cool cape with an awesome logo on it that they can wear. I am all for unique awards that can be used in some way.
We recently did something that from the outside probably seemed rather rash to most people. We woke up one day with no immediate plans to get a puppy and the next day we had added a new puppy to our family. While it was sudden and unexpected it was not exactly unplanned. It was less rash from inside our little bubble than it may seem for anyone seeing our updates on social media.
We recently lost our dog Josie. She was an older dog and even before we found out she was sick we had been discussing what life would be like after she was gone. We just knew with the combination of her breed and her age the odds were not good that she would be with us a whole lot longer. We have always lived our lives with dogs as a main focus of our lives. We often let our hearts lead us into situations that maybe a more rational thinking person might not take on. We have fostered and adopted dogs some of whom have been hard cases. We wouldn’t take any of it back for a minute, but it can make life more challenging and lead to sporadic disruptions. We often didn’t have plans for how we wound up with dogs we just did what our hearts urged us to do. After everything we’ve been through, especially all of the recent loss we wanted to have a plan for our lives with dogs.
Josie was a Bernese Mountain Dog, the breed we had fallen in love with. She was out last Bernese Mountain Dog. We knew that we really wanted to have a Bernese Mountain Dog in our lives as much as possible. So we began to think about what made the most sense for us. While we loved adopting older dogs the heartbreak of the very limited amount of time you get to have with them and the huge tears that loss leaves in your heart was just too much for us to go through again right now. We decided that what we really wanted to do was to have a Bernese Mountain Dog puppy to raise as our own. A dog that with all good fortune would live a long and healthy life and have many long years to spend with us.
We began to think about what the process would be to bring a Bernese Mountain Dog puppy into our home from a reputable breeder. We began discussing this with our friends who have experience with the breed itself, people who have gotten their dogs from responsible breeders, and with people who have experience with breeding dogs. It seemed like in the best case scenario it would likely take at least a year before we would have a Bernese Mountain Dog puppy in our home after losing Josie. It was not really what we were hoping to learn but it is what we were willing to do to do what we believed was best for dogs. We would have loved to have had a new Bernese Mountain Dog puppy sooner, but we wanted to go through the process that would hopefully lead to a good outcome for us as individuals as well as a good outcome for dogs in general. We were always looking to help dogs in shelters and rescues and were open to that possibility but what are the chances that a happy healthy Bernese Mountain Dog puppy is just going to wind up in a shelter or rescue and be available to us?
The answer to that question is, as it turns out surprisingly high, at least in this one instance. My wife is connected to I don’t even want to know how many shelters and rescues on social media. She is always showing me cute dogs that would love to come live with us, or cute dogs that we should “just go visit”. I have fallen for that trick before. Then surprisingly one Saturday my wife shows me a post on social media. There is a 15 week old Bernese Mountain Dog puppy available at a rescue. This dog was not available at just any rescue. This puppy was available from the same rescue where we adopted our girls Josie and Little Kira from. So we knew them and they knew us. It was kind of stunning and a little hard to process.
My wife asked if she should inquire about the puppy. I said yes, inquire about the puppy and find out as many details about him as you can. I was skeptical that a perfectly happy and healthy dog, a puppy especially had just magically landed right in front of our eyes at a rescue. It seemed unlikely. It seemed too good to be true.
After a lot of messaging back and forth with the rescue it seemed like the puppy was healthy as far as they could tell. He was neutered and up to date on his shots and ready to be adopted. He was just waiting for someone to come get him. Being familiar with the rescue we knew we could trust their information and they knew they could trust us to provide a good home for this puppy. It really just came down to a matter of logistics. Could we actually make getting a puppy work right now? Could we make arrangements at home that would be good for a new puppy? After a lot of frantic discussion and messaging we thought that we could. Could we actually go to get the puppy? See that is the other trick. The rescue is 6.5 hours away in Ohio. So that is an entire days worth of driving to meet and adopt a dog. That part actually turned out, purely by coincidence to be the easiest part of the equation to solve because it just so happened we learned this information on a Saturday and we had nothing going on, on the next day, Sunday. We could actually just go get him the next day with no problems. The next issue was what would we do when we got him home. We didn’t want to go get a puppy and bring him home just to leave and go to work literally the next day. Fortunately one of the best aspects about my work is that I have a good amount of vacation time and work is pretty flexible in letting me use it. So we decided that if we got the puppy I would take the week off and stay home with the dog to help him get adjusted to his new home. Then what about after I went to work? Thankfully through our frantic messaging we were able to find friends who would be able to help us out watching the puppy during the day. We thought we had everything we could anticipate covered.
So then we just had to decide. Were we ready to get a puppy? Is anyone ever really ready to get a puppy? Were we ready after losing our last dog so recently? I honestly wasn’t sure if I was ready in just about every way. Even though I know it is what we ultimately wanted. I generally like to be a little more deliberate about things. This might be the fastest we’ve ever had to make a decision like this. A puppy in a rescue wasn’t going to last and we had to decide.
So, we told the rescue that we are in. We wanted this puppy. We woke up early Sunday morning and headed out to Ohio. After a long drive we arrived at the rescue and reunited with the amazing owner there who allowed us to bring Josie and Kira into our lives. We met this tiny (well not so tiny rally, 35 lbs) puppy that we wanted to bring home. And we met the rest of the permanent residents, the owner’s dogs. It was so nice to be in a house full of dogs. They all wanted to meet these new humans who had arrived, especially the darling puppy. After spending time getting to know the new puppy and talking over everything with the rescue and asking all the questions we could possibly imagine we said our goodbyes and began the long journey back to New York to bring our new Bernese Mountain Dog puppy home. He was amazingly good on the ride home. You would not have even known he was in the car. We got home got home and did meet and greets with the puppy and our current dogs, Mojo and Brynn, which went amazingly well. Then we crashed to sleep.
Monday the real adventure started. Working with the new puppy to get him all settled in and adjusted to his new home and new routines. The plan for me was to get up early at 5 AM just like I would on a regular work day and get the puppy used to starting his day off with us. The biggest goal was to get the dog used to th routine of going out to go to the bathroom at regular intervals as well as getting used to spending some time in his kennel which he would have to get comfortable with at least for a while when we are at work.
Spending a week at home with the sole purpose of taking care of the dogs, particularly the new puppy was a totally new experience for me. It was very different than my normal routine even on days I am off or otherwise on vacation. I think it may have been a more difficult transition for me than it was for the puppy.
Monday was a really fun day for the dogs. We spent time letting them get to know each other outside. Brynn really, really wanted to play with the puppy. The pupy wanted to play too but was not entirely sure of what to make of Brynn. Her antics are a bit out there at times. She is loud and constantly in motion when playing. Once Brynn and the puppy got to know each other and knew they wanted to play it was on. Brynn went into full on zoomies mode. She was scampering all over the yard from one end to the other and then in circles around the puppy and Mojo as the puppy tried to make any sense of this game and attempted to follow along with Brynn. The puppy obviously could not keep up with Brynn but seemed to be having fun. Brynn was having more fun than I had seen her have in a while. She loves puppies. After all the fun in the yard Brynn was tuckered out and slept most of the afternoon.
After a day or so we arrived at a decision on a name for the puppy. We decided to name him Colton. My wife came up with that name and I liked it. It was a good name and could also be shortened to Colt. It also reminded me of a park I like in PA, Colton Point State Park.
So, not only was the new puppy arrival overwhelming for the humans it was hard on the dogs as well. While Brynn loved the dog she was not used to exerting herself at that high level to try to play with a puppy and she ended up with some type of injury and she was content to sit on the couch and didn’t even bother me while I was using treats to work on training with the puppy. So I knew she was not feeling well. Brynn ended up on medications for her injury. Now I was taking care of a brand new puppy and working on training and managing energy and behavior, but I had to take care of an injured dog and make sure the puppy did not accidentally hurt the now injured dog that previously wanted to play and that the puppy continued to want to play with. This was not a contingency I had planned for and was a difficult tight wire to walk. Thankfully Brynn has recovered and is currently feeling much better.
With our dogs we try really hard to stick to force free positive reinforcement training in the Karen Pryor style. While we had worked on training with all of our previous dogs at times it had been a while since we had really done much focused training on behaviors our dogs really needed to learn. It was hard to get back into that routine. The treat bags and clickers we retrieved from the cupboard where they have been for a while. I spent most of each day wearing a treat bag and with a clicker in my hand working with not just the puppy but our other dogs as well. Helping Colton to learn and refreshing prior training with our older dogs. They were all so well behaved when it came to training. No fighting over treats or anything. I knew that our other dogs still had quite a firm grasp of training basics like sit etc. at least when at home so I was hoping working with all of them at once that Colton would not only learn from me but would learn from observing the other dog’s behaviors as well. Colton is very food motivated which is very helpful in training. I spent one morning sitting in the living room with him cutting up treats and having him sit and rewarding him with the yummy stinky treats when he did as asked. But what he really wanted was to jump up on the table and gobble up all the treats at once. But he didn’t do it.
Colton has quickly learned sit and is in the process of learning skills like leave it, drop it, and loose leash walking. Being a toothing puppy he really wants to chew just about anything from coffee tables to ay pair of footwear you take off but do not immediately put out of reach. He really likes to chew toys we give him but quickly becomes bored and wants something new to chew on like a hand, foot, or maybe a face. You have to keep a stream of constantly new distractions in front of him.
Colton has been great but our current dogs are a true blessing and really make this possible as they adjust easily and put up with all his nonsense reasonably well.
One reason we decided that while unexpected it was actually a good time of year to get a dog was because it was the time of year being fall going into winter where we would not be particular busy with vacations or other spring and summer adventures. We would have more time to have a new addition to our lives and help him adapt. It would also be cooler outside so it would be easier to have all the dogs outside to play and expend energy than it might be in the heat of the summer. The downside is that it is getting darker and darker earlier and earlier. So It is currently a challenge to get outside and play with the dogs after work because it is essentially dark when we get home.
Brynn has been remarkably well behaved with the new puppy, especially when outside playing. Brynn loves her toys especially her balls for fetching and chewing. She has a tendency to guard them jealously. However, much to my surprise with this new puppy she has been remarkably patient and willing, however reluctantly, to share her toys at times. I can go outside and throw Brynn’s ball for fetch and she can obviously get to it and retrieve it before the puppy, but then she has to bring it back and put it down for me to throw it again. This is when the puppy strikes. As soon as Brynn puts the ball on the ground Colton rushes over to claim it for himself. Brynn has an expression on her face that clearly signals she disapproves of this, but she allows it. The fact that she even allows the new dog near her toy let alone to take the ball from her, often without even growling or making a noise is huge. We have had to stop playing fetch with her at times around other dogs because she becomes too excited and protective of the ball. Watching the dogs behave appropriately with each other makes me so happy.
Colton has also become very fond of Mojo. I am not sure Mojo knows what to think of him. Brynn is our only dog that in Mojo’s 12 years has ever actually wanted to play with him. Colton loves him. Colton will run right up to him and back at him and bounce around trying to get him to play. Mojo will run and Colton will give chase. Mojo will bob and weave and dodge Colton trying to avoid having to play with him, but never behaves aggressively towards him and sometimes gives in and actually plays with him. Colton also has found the fact that Mojo’s idiosyncrasies require him to wear a leash even when outside in our fenced yard fun. Colton has picked up the end of Mojo’s leash and dragged him across the yard by his leash. Luckily he seems to e mostly over that now.
One thing I have been trying to do with Colton as a way to help him get exercise and help him get used to walking with me and staying with me is to take him for walks along the inside perimeter of the fenced in yard. He trots right along with me for the most part. If he gets distracted and stops I stop and wait for him and then we resume our walk as soon as he remembers that is what we were doing and runs back over to me.
At this point things are going about as well as one could hope for when adding a new puppy to a house already full of animals. No serious behavior or health problems have presented themselves. Nothing more trying or frustrating than regular puppy behavior, which I mean can be very trying at times, but it is hard to stay mad at this little fluff ball for long. We are so in love with Colton. Even though this is not where we expected to be with dogs in our lives right now we have fully embraced this new journey as you really have to if you are going to bring a puppy into your home and do right by him. I am sure I will be sharing more about him here in the future. If you want to follow along in Colton’s adventures I created an Instagram account for him and you can follow along at colton_rescue_bmd : https://www.instagram.com/colton_rescue_bmd/