You Can't Fake Fit

I learned this lesson a few times this summer. 

The lesson begins last summer when I signed up for my first 50k trail race.  I wanted to challenge myself to commit to the process of training for months, being accountable to the plan and test my body to see if it would hold up during the process.  I bought Krissy Moehl’s Running Your First Ultra book and it became my bible.  As a PT, I appreciated the emphasis she placed on the injury prevention strengthening plan as well as the mobility piece.  (I believe this area is what is missed most often in running training plans.)  I wrote out my weekly workouts and stuck to probably 80% of the plan.  This 80% got me a first place result in the VT50k.  This was an incredible achievement and the first part of the lesson.

In general, I do not race that much compared to many other runners.  I like to pick a few races that sound fun or challenging.  This spring I was intrigued by the Mansfield Double UP (July 30th) and there was a race near my parent’s home called the Ragged 50k (August 13th) that sounded fun.  And of course, returning to the VT50k (Sept. 23rd) was an option in the back of mind.  I signed up for the first two in June and in hindsight, should have cobbled together a training plan.

To be fair, I was also working through some L sided low back tightness, glute burning and very subtle nerve-like symptoms in the posterior L leg.  I sought out the care of my fellow PT Lindsay and spent June and July as a PT patient (more of that in another blog).   This period made my training period a bit muddled and I was a bit confused on how much I should be running, etc.  My training weeks were in the 20 mile range for runs. 

I did try to do some longer hikes and did my first Presidential traverse 2 weeks before the Mansfield Double Up.  It was that time that I realized that I should be trying to run longer runs before the Ragged 50k.  OR would good ‘hiking’ shape carry over to running for 5+ hours?  I wasn’t sure but knew I would have to find out. 

The Mansfield Double Up race was beautiful, really hard and I loved it.  It was 11 miles, 5500 vert and took 3 hours.   We went in heats of 10 so spent more of this rugged course alone.  Trying to keep pushing and pushing.  I think I was above my threshold heartrate the entire time.  I ended up 2nd – only 50 seconds out of 1st.  The chatting at the aid station, getting lost and falling several times were hard not to dwell on after because the times were so close.  Leslie O’dell was 8 seconds behind me.  Either way, it was rad!

Now to the Faking Fit lesson #1.  I ran 12 miles the week before the Ragged 50k – this was my longest run in the last few months and went into the Ragged 50k wholly under trained.   But I was excited to see what would happen.  My plan was to run ‘easy’ for 20 miles and then keep running (my plan that worked last year in VT).  This was a hillier, more rugged course with 6300 vert and ended up being 34 miles.  I felt comfortable for the first 14 miles or so and then started to have problems with going up.  At mile 19, before a section of big hills and single track, I was starting to get worried that I was about to gas out – and I did.  I threw up a few times, sat down at some pretty vistas and thought about dropping at the mile 26 aid station.  I was listless and could barely walk on flats.  It was scary. I was in first and kept waiting to be passed.  I walked for 3 miles, made it to the aide station and wanted to lie down so badly.  They told me to stop eating gels, drink a Tailwind they mixed up for me and to keep going - AND that a few women were closing in.  I don’t know if it was my competitiveness or the 3 miles of recovery walking but I ran out of that aid station had a pretty solid closing 9 miles considering.   I ended up winning but it was ugly.  I kind of faked my fitness but had fun in the process. 

I had a tough week of recovery. Body felt okay but I was really tired.  I did a couple of stand alone 16 mile runs, track work and hill workouts over the next few weeks but nothing like I had been doing the year before.  I signed up for the VT 50k 2 weeks before and figured I could fake it again.  Oh and we had an 80 mile week of hiking and trail running in Chamonix that I figured would help too. 

Race day in VT was 90 degrees. In hindsight, my ego and optimism set me on a crash course at the get go. I wrote down my aid station splits from the year before and subconsciously decided to try to hit those.  I would run my ‘forever pace’ and give it go.  Immediately the hills were longer, steeper and my legs were tired.  I think I was pretending to run my forever pace but I was working harder, breathing harder than it should have been.  I ran the same splits to mile 19 and I ran head first into the proverbial wall.  I could barely walk again and this time I had weird burning pain down the backs of my legs.  Nerve pain which was freaky.  The heat and my pace were not realistic with my training but it took this experience to learn that.  I walked for 2 miles to the 23 mile aid station, took advil, laid down for 30 minutes (I was in 4th at the time) and let my body recover.  I ran/walked the last 8 miles and enjoyed every minute.  I ended up 8th, 50 min. slower than last year and was just as satisfied with crossing the finish line. 

I spoke with Krissy a week after.  Told her about my tale of two races.  She said it was good for me to experience the well trained win and the undertrained struggle.  It was then that she said, ‘You can’t fake fit’.  And she is so right.   Either way, the races were fun but now I know that if I want to execute races, I have to be the right kind of fit. 

Backcountry Bliss and Laney&Lu!!!

Earlier this summer, Lindsay and I worked together with our great friend and role model Jenn Desrosiers, to put together a wonderful morning for trail runners.  Jenn has created two visionary projects: Laney&Lu Cafe and a wellness and lifestyle website, Wild Adventurous Life.  

The topic of the day was Injury Prevention for trail runners.  Lindsay and I used our experience and knowledge at DPTs combined with Lindsay's yoga practice to put together a short lecture on biomechanics, anatomy and how running affects the body.  We created a handout for the participants to take home.  

The group riveted by our lecture!

The group riveted by our lecture!

The lecture was followed by a lab on a grassy field next door to go over exercises that we believe are critical to strengthening and mobilize the body correctly to withstand injury.   We took the time to instruct the group on posture and body awareness.  If you are performing a lunge - what muscles do you feel firing?  Where is your knee in relation to your hip/feet?  These are critical questions - because if you are just doing a lunge with no focus; what is the point?

Lindsay working with a participant who is performing a bridge.

Lindsay working with a participant who is performing a bridge.

This was followed by a quick 30 minute trail run in a trail system nearby. This was led by the Exeter Run Club.  The group spanned out according to their running pace with many fun conversations about running while getting to know new people!! This was followed by smoothies provided by Laney&Lu - curated specifically for muscle recovery and packed with restorative ingredients.  

We had a wonderful day.  This was the first of hopefully many collaborations with Laney&Lu for the wonderful space, invigorating smoothies and the opportunity to meet new people.  I am energized by seeing people connect the dots with injuries and how to prevent them.  Running is such a passion and necessary outlet from our busy lives so being able to teach people to pursue this sport safely and smarter is what I LOVE!   

What a great looking crew enjoying our smoothies!!!!!

What a great looking crew enjoying our smoothies!!!!!

Bonjour Chamonix!!!

Summer appears to have come and gone while we were away adventuring in Chamonix, France.  The crisp air and cool evenings are invading the weather pattern which is always bitter sweet in my book.  I made my first apple pie of the season this week but still longing for more days of lake swims and warm sun on the skin.  

I will write a more thorough recap of the summer but for now my heart is still in France.  Andrew and I ventured over to the Haute Savoie region of France to lose ourselves in the picturesque views, ancient glaciers and mountains.  We have been wanting to check this off of our list for awhile now.  We chose a week that coincides with one of the ultimate trail running festivals and events in the world.  UTMB - aka Ultra Trail Mont Blanc.  The main event is a 170 km epic tour around the Mont Blanc range that takes racers from France to Italy and Switzerland while they gain and lose 30K in vert.  There are 4 other 'shorter' races for the more normal people :)  Andrew and I had media credentials so we were able to chase the leaders through the night to track their 19 hours of fun - we were up close and personal with some racers we have idolized over the last few years of being ultra running fans!!    

This trip was special on a few levels.  I spent my teenage years and early 20's traveling through this region and all of Europe but haven't been back over since I retired from the USST.   I spoke with a fellow ski team alum while I was over there about how different a 'filter' I had over my eyes this time.  I had a challenging time toward the end of my professional ski racing career and I feel I left a little bit of myself over across the big pond.  Going back to that world as a more confident and mature person, I felt I could confront that confused girl that I associate often with my memories on the team.  A piece of a puzzle was found that had been missing.  

And we fueled the adventure fire.  This region has views straight out of a fairy tale book.   

 

Burke Skimo Race - for real this time

Light weight race Skimo gear is definitely all that it is cracked up to me. I did this race last year in my moderate weight backcountry gear with Fischer profoil skins and a lassez-faire attitude.  I was not as fit coming into it and found that it was a kick starter into my training for the rest of the season.

THIS year it was a different story.  Fischer hooked me up with Traverse Carbon boots, Andrew mounted up the crazy light Alp attack skis and I was off to the races. I was excited to see how the tiny carbon skis were in action because I have seen Andrew who is 6' 2" shred on this in all conditions for the last few winters.  I was nervous because now I looked the part but was half confident because I was in shape this time.  The women who crushes almost all the men in these races was out in Utah at an adventure race which Andrew notified me so kindly before the race.  The race for 2nd was a race for 1st.  

I had learned last year that it quickly went into a single track trail for the first 2.5 miles so it was critical to not cruise in the back of the pack and push a bit to get into the woods behind people going the same pace.  We were basically running on the skis out of the gate and after a mile I was thinking it was the fastest mile EVER on skinning gear.  At about 20 min in, I was being trailed by 2 women and I was about to break from not having much anaerobic training.  My legs were motors for steady uphill after the BC hut trip but my 'race' pace was not ready.  I was able to pull away slightly be not falling on the small technical ups which they were having trouble with.  

I was neck and neck with Stephanie from Quebec at the first transition to ski - she passed me when we were back on the ski trail for the last .5 miles up to the transition.  I was quick to switch over and never saw her again.  The trail this year had been groomed but it has large icy whales and random moguls - otherwise it was a serious high speed power sliding and straight lining it. We were not allowed to 'tuck' so that was hard to not do out of natural instinct. 

We then had 2 skin-bootpack-skin sections back up under the quad.  There was a ski race going on and I distracted myself with watching them and memories from when I was on the other side of the T-bar.   I looked back a few times and was in the clear for the last 2 laps but kept pushing.

I ended up shaving 40 minutes off of last year and winning for the women.  I was super proud and happy to have executed as well as I could for the first day with the new gear.   

Fairy Meadow Hut - Northern Selkirks, BC

I am still processing what happened on our trip.  It was perfect in every way.  We met 16 rad new people who share the same love for skiing and living life to the fullest.  There was a blank canvas awaiting us upon arrival with stable fresh powder and a lucky high pressure system.  

We were bumped up in a helicopter to the Bill Putnam/Fairy Meadow Hut on Saturday.  First time in a bird and surprisingly wasn't nervous on take off but maybe that was the beer we had while waiting for our trip.  We unloaded and proceeded to work as a group to get our avi awareness and skills up to snuff.  Ian Havlick, a snow forecaster and guide, was one of the group and took the reins and basically ran us through an Airie 2 course.  

The next 6 days we gradually explored zones further and further away from the hut as the snow and weather allowed.  We had smooth powder lines from Magog and Gog, a wide open bowl off of Sentinel Peak, shredded the Houdini Needle couloirs and set endless skin lines in the pillow trees. Mastering the pillows was challenging and a goal - figuring out how to hop and turn down them took all week.   Each day I pushed my boundaries of comfort and found a connection with the powder.  

I cannot say enough about the group we were with.  All unique, fun people who partied and played hard, as most skiers tend to do.  Parke, who organized the trip and luckily asked Maddog if he had 3 willing friends, hired a chef and catered gig out of Golden to feed us.   Every day we were in awe with our warm soup appetizers at 5 pm, fresh veggies at each meal, ribs, salmos and whipped iced snow.  

Andrew and I had a day to make our way back to Calgary for a late flight so we checked out Lake Louise and Banff.  Andrew coined Banff as 'Canada's Park City' where we walked around and had a nice lunch.   Then to a cool brewery in Calgary.  

There are so many memories and too many photos but it was a trip of a life time.  I feel so lucky I can go on these adventures with Andrew.  

ROARING into WINTER

WOW, it's already January and I feel like I am just getting a minute to sit down.  Andrew and I were just saying we have skied, skinned, nordic and downhill skied more so far this winter than almost all of last year.  Mother Nature has given us an early taste of the fluffy white stuff and everyone is soaking it in as urgently as possible because NE winters are fickle and can change on a dime.  

The next months is going to be a busy one....

The Launch Party for the Winter edition for the Wild Northeast magazine.  A rad little quarterly magazine based out of Madison that talks all things wild northeast.  I was psyched when I was asked to contribute about my experience as a spectator at the women's alpine world cup races at Killington in November.  As an ex US Ski Team member it brought back so many unexpected and lovely memories.  The Wild Northeast

The Fairy Meadow Hut - Andrew, Dana, Heidi and I are off to BC to a hut with 16 other people.  Should be an epic adventure and getting out of our comfort zones.  End of January.

Back Country Bliss - Lindsay and I are starting a retreat for backcountry skiing and yoga.  We are starting with the ladies as guests the first time around then will hopefully grow and grow!!  Backcountry Bliss

Sliding Down the Kitty

This past weekend we heard that Wildcat had been blowing snow at night so we headed up to see how much they had made.  Andrew, Squall and I hiked up to around 2700' where we reached to bottom of the snow pack on Lynx.  As expected, there was an endless line of icy whales so we bootpacked up to the summit.  I had forgotten how peaceful and quiet a snowy area can feel; this is one of my favorite aspects of winter.

Well, it was peaceful until we headed down on the icy man made snow with Squall adding his herding barking.   All in all it felt great to get onto skis, find the gear from our seemingly bottomless gear room and make a few turns. 

Arcteryx Talk and Old Man Winter

I had such a great night at Arcteryx in Boston on Wednesday.  Adam Bidwell and the Arcteryx team put together a memorable evening with a photo booth, raffles, hard cider and a cozy atmosphere as the temperatures were dropping outside.  I am so appreciative of everyone who came.  I am relatively new to these talks but I feel they are so important to help educate people to be healthier and safer.  

The questions were thoughtful and gave me new ideas.  The concept of having a weekend workshop up here in Conway or down in Boston is a great idea - I have been throwing that around with my fellow PT Lindsay who would add so much to a project like that (she is a yoga instructor too).   And then we started dreaming up more inclusive retreats with yoga, educational talks and outdoor adventures!! Oh the possibilities are endless and exciting. 

Oh and this was the view from Wildcat this morning!

Cheers!!!

HIl

Tendinitis

The toe pain that I had when I finished the VT 50k was a touch of the tendinitis.  The extensor tendons that lift up my big right toe was overworked during the training for the race and then exacerbated by running 5 for five hours.  

The tendon seems very minor however we fire these muscles every time we lift our foot off of the ground, flex the ankle and clear the ground of our toes before we make the next step.  Then add in running downhill and the toes fire more to slow down the drop of your foot as it hits the ground.  These muscles would have to work harder if the calf muscles were tight because it takes more force to pull the foot forward or if the muscles on the anterior shin were weak.   

I ran 2 short runs 5 day after the race with mild pain. Then went on a hike, a 6 mile run and a 5k trail race within 4 days.  The next day the tendon was squeaking and it was very painful to touch or to lift up my big toe.  My friend and fellow PT, Lindsay, told me to take a couple of weeks off because I needed someone else to tell me what I knew.  

I have ben stretching the tendons, working on the soft tissue.  Doing some core, easy biking and trying to keep busy.  But I am getting soft!  It is so hard to slow down.  Either way, I ran on Saturday for 2.5 miles and it felt great!  I'm going to start getting back into a short runs every day or every 2 days and see how it goes.  

Tendinitis is tough because you have to wait until the structures are not aggravated, the pain is gone and then gradually return to normal activities.  The tough part is that when they pain goes away it usually does not mean the tissue is ready to be worked which is why so many people have a hard time keeping it at bay.  

I am skipping the North Conway 1/2 Marathon this weekend which is a bummer.  It is this weekend so I will be cheering Andrew on and working the tent that Mountain Center has to stretch out racers.   

VT 50K

Here goes my first race report....

All I can say is that I am so glad that I was inspired by Andrew last year while I watched him take on the VT 50 miler.  The experience of training for this race and then getting to toe the line after months of anticipation and learning about my body/mind was well worth it.

That week before the race I had a serious case of the Taper Tantrums.  My last long runs were 2 weeks in the books, I was worrying I was losing my fitness and I couldn't sleep.  I was in denial that I was so anxious about the race but in reality, I had been quietly thinking about it and putting in hours of running for months so of course I was chomping at the bit.  Andrew was in Nova Scotia working on a project so I was home alone with too much time to think.  Once I admitted that how much this really meant to me, I was able to calm down.

The morning of the race, yesterday, Andrew woke up 2 hours before me because his start was at 6:30 and mine was at 8:00 am.  I was relieved that I could roll over and get a few more hours because it was very dark and 38 degrees outside.  Once I was up, dressed and had eaten a bowl of oatmeal, VT maple syrup and a banana, my Mom picked me up from my friend's house and we headed to the start.  I was not nervous at all and was calm while I checked in, checked my nutrition and went over my race plan.  My goal was to run my race, have fun and see if I could run the whole thing.  

I was nervous about executing the full 30 miles because I had not done any training over 20 miles at in one shott.  Would I have any gas left?  Could I hold off on the first 20 so that I could keep running the last 10?  Would my body hold up?  Andrew's advice was go easy for 20.  And he said the hills were constant but nothing as steep as in our hood in NH so they were all runnable.  However, Andrew's 'runnable' and mine can vary.  Plus he said, 'run your forever pace' and you will crush it. 

It was a very casual start.  A very seasoned and badass runner was in the field which put my mind at ease for thinking about the insanity of winning this race.  It was cool, crisp and screaming Vermont - I grew up there and it holds a special place in my heart so it made me calm.  

I had made a little card in my vest that had the mileage for aid stations.  I would take it from aid station to aid station, celebrate when I hit mile 20 and then have fun.  My plan was to take water and cocacola at each station, eat a Gu every 30 minutes and a Gu salt/electrolye tab every hour.  I had a vest with mesh on the back and 2 water bottles in the front so I would be hands free plus pockets for the nutrition and salt tabs.  My watch would have time elapse and distance.  I did not want too much information and wanted to run by effort/feel.  

The first 3.8 miles were dirt roads and single track.  Beautiful frosted grass in large fields, stone walls and barns.  I was in heaven.  I tried to go easy; there was a pack of probably 15 that went out ahead but I kept thinking of down shifting on the hills, little steps and breathe easy.  My legs felt a bit stiff and numb for the first mile and then warmed up.  I made it to Coon Road aid station, dumped my long sleeve and headed into the woods.  

Next aid station was at 7.1.  Single track, a steady climb and small fields was the majority of the next section.  I passed 2 women on an uphill, they were breathing hard and starting to walk so I took that as a mini motivator.  I did not let myself look at my pace but maintained the run easy, I did open it up slightly on the downhills and hoped the quads would agree.  Nice dirt roads through 7. 1 and then onto 11 at Margaritaville Aid station.  I did glance at my average pace at 10 miles and it was 8:50 min/miles which was faster than I expected.  This was a good reminder that there was a long way to go and to tone it down a bit. 

We had a long mellow climb up to Margaritaville and the introduction of the bikers.  The bike and 50 mile run course had taken a 19 mile detour up until this point so we were starting to mix as they were about 1/2 way through their race.  The bikers were awesome, lots of 'good job runner', 'go girl', 'great time' and good communication in the single track.  I found that I passed them going up and they would pass back on the downs.  I was still feeling solid, talked to a few guys that passed me but I tried not to reel them in and to run my race - very hard for the competitive spirit.  

The 13.4 Greenall's aid station was in a large field and it was one of the 2 that we could have our 'handlers' come too.  Most of the race is run on private land so there are few places that a large number of people and cars can commune without causing havoc to the pristine land.  My Mom, Squall and 2 friends were going to be there so it was my first mental benchmark.  I came into Greenall's feeling good, my L calf was a bit sore but nothing else significant other than mild tightening and that whisper of the full leg aches.  I filled my water bottles, took at hit of coke and headed out before my Mom informed I was 3rd female!! I couldn't believe it!.  My first thought was, 'shit I'm going to too fast, there is no way I should be in 3rd'.  

The next 5 miles was through Blood Hill.  This was a section that Andrew has repeatedly said he hated.  It is non-stop twisting, turning, winding single track with many ups and downs.  I loved it!! My legs at 13 - 18 miles could handle it while he came in there in the mid 30's and had very worked legs.  At this point, the only runners ahead of me were 50k racers, the 50 milers would still be behind me so I knew who was in my race easily.  I passed 4 men easily - they were starting to hike up the hills and I motored past in that easy, 'forever pace'.  I was at home in the woods and the single track was more buffed out than our hiking trails here so it felt like a freeway.  I did have to remind myself over and over...slow, slow, slow.  And this is where everything started to really ache and feel tight. No cramping, just general discomfort.  I was with some guy from Quebec when we hit 15 miles and he celebrated with a fist pump.  At mile 16 or so I glimpsed a female up a head.  She looked strong and steady but I knew I had been gaining.

The 18 mile aid station, Fallons, was where I met up with her.  I did my routine and took off a few seconds behind and quickly passed her on the first uphill.  It took me a minute to realize I was in 2nd!  I got ahead of myself slightly here and started thinking about a podium finish and then quickly reminded myself that I had 12 miles to go and that they were a complete unknown.  More single track, up, down, etc...but Andrew was right, nothing too steep or long.  

I hit mile 20 coming off a long downhill on a dirt road and was elated but slightly worried.  I was so tight in the legs but no cramping.  I re-focused on my fueling plan and started to think about single digits.  I glanced at my avg. pace again and it was 9:20 min/miles - this I was mildly impressed with.  I came into Stones aid station at 22 miles and they said it was 6 miles to Johnsons. I'm a numbers person and here is where I almost ruined myself.  We had been told that it was 4 miles from Johnson's to the finish so 22 + 6 to Johnsons + 4 was 32ish miles.  I had signed up for 30.  I assumed the guy was wrong and put it out of my head for a minute.  The next 6 was mostly down but a few mile sections of up/down single track.  I passed 3 more men here and kept my head down.  'You are a beast' and 'just keep moving' were my mantras at this point.

On a side note, my Grandparents used to live in Brownsville and our course took us within a mile or so of their house.  My Grandpop is buried in a cemetary that we almost ran right by on the course.  Somewhere around mile 24, I ran alone through a pine forest and a wind gust blew yellow leaves in front and around me.  My first thought was that it was Grandpop saying hello and I knew I was going to finish.   

I was almost to Johnson's and my watch said 27ish and I got angry.  I had signed up for a 50k and did NOT want to do any more.  This was the only time my confidence or my belief I would finish strong wavered.  I knew my Mom, Dad and Squall would be at Johnson's so told myself to shut up and keep motoring.  Some guy told me I was in 6th 100 yards out from Johnson's - I was confused what that meant - 6th female or 6th overall?  

I was out of Gu, I was exhausted and mad that there were 4 more miles and I had already run 28.  My Mom come running down the hill and informs me, 'that pro chick is 2 minutes ahead of you.  Don't hurt yourself but go get her!'.  I went to the table, I refilled water, pounded a coke and ate a 1/3 of a banana.  Then it hit me, holy shit.  I'm crushing it!!  This is nuts.  

After each aid station, the legs always felt better for a few minutes.  I knew it was a very gradual 2 miles up of up, a sidehill and then a switchback down to the finish.  I kept my same plan...forever pace, run easy, etc.  I kept putting one foot in front of the other up the switchback trying not stumble on wobbly legs.  The mini cramps were hitting on the ups in the quads. I worried I had not enough fuel left.  I just had to finish this thing!!  I saw a runner behind flying...I wondered who it was that I had passed but it was the first 50 miler!!! He was crushing so that was motivating. Then a random spectator (the only one I saw aside from at an aid station) about 2 miles from Johnson's started hooting and hollering that there were 2 women in the top 6. He told me she had 4 minutes on me.  Damn it, she's pulling away.

About a half mile later I see someone walking up a switch back.  Holy shit.  Then she was jogging, then she was walking.  Maintaining my pace I easily passed her on an uphill and literally 30 seconds later my quads cramped.  I called bullshit and kept running. I ran as fast I as I could.  I could hear the music and MC at the finish and I was in disbelief.  I ran the last mile, down switchbacks like someone was chasing me - although I could not see her if I looked back.  Do not fall, OMG I am going to win, do not fall, omg!!  The last 100 yards winds down a grassy slope with bikers, families and spectators lining the path...I was smiling, laughing and almost crying.  It was such a cool feeling.  

My legs hurt like nothing I have experience for the 10 minutes after I finished and then I was smart enough to sit down.  I couldn't believe it.  I ran my race, my pace was on point with my training and I executed.  Hell yes.  My family was there which was so special.  My bro and Elsa came too.   I was proud of my body, my perseverance and belief.  I am still quite shocked a day later but my secret goal had been to win, you always want to win.  

Andrew's race report is here....he had a different experience.   I want to thank him for answering my many questions, trying to be patient with my worrying and to inspire me to take on new challenges. And for believing in me.