Author Archives: amyreinink

About amyreinink

I'm an award-winning writer and middle-of-the-pack runner who moved to the Washington area as a freelance journalist in October 2008. I'm also a marathon runner who recently signed up for the Marine Corps Marathon on Oct. 25, 2009. This blog, which I first started to chronicle my training for the National Half Marathon on March 21, 2009, is the story of my training for the MCM, and for many shorter races before it. I have run one full marathon and three half-marathons previously, and I'm looking to improve my time of 4:34 from the Nashville Country Music Marathon in April 2007. To avoid burnout and injuries, I'll be using the FIRST marathon-training method — running three hard days a week and cross-training hard two days a week. In this blog, I'll provide suggestions for running routes, training strategies, staying motivated, cross-training without boredom, injury prevention, playlists, sports nutrition and more. I live in a revamped Canada Dry bottling plant in Silver Spring, Md., that serves as a jumping-off point for running in Rock Creek Park, camping in Shenandoah National Park and skiing at Whitetail Resort, where my husband, Steve, and I are members of the Mountain Safety Team.

How I’m starting 2016: Snowshoeing at Mont Tremblant

What’s a skier-girl to do when winter takes its sweet time arriving? If you’re me, you try snowshoeing (have you ever heard a snowshoer complain about trail conditions?).

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Snowshoeing at Ski de fond Mont-Tremblant, a cross-country ski and snowshoeing center. 

I’d always assumed snowshoeing was basically plodding: A good workout and a good way to get outside if you can’t ski, but not something you’d necessarily do on purpose. I am happy to admit that I was wrong.

I borrowed a friend’s pair of snowshoes before a New Year’s Eve trip to Mont Tremblant after hearing that skiing conditions weren’t super-ideal yet. I wasn’t prepared to love it. But on an outing at Ski de fond Mont-Tremblant, a cross-country ski and snowshoeing center, I changed my mind. The snowshoes provided a mechanical advantage that made it feel like I was floating above the snow, and I felt like an intrepid explorer venturing through the snowy woods. By the end of the trip, I began to see snowshoeing as another way to go places outside you couldn’t comfortably go otherwise—and who doesn’t love that?

Don’t get me wrong—I’m as pleased as the next skier-girl that winter has, in fact, decided to arrive on the East Coast. But that’s in part because I plan to get some more mileage out of my new snowshoes. Yep—I liked it so much, I decided to buy my own pair.

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An atmosphere of growth

I’ve become a bit of a Gretchen Rubin fanatic over the past few months after picking up The Happiness Project, her bestselling book on how to build a happier life within the framework of the life you’re living right now. I was instantly hooked, thanks to Rubin’s simple, clear writing and her engaging personal journey.

She starts with a simple concept: To be happier, you have to think about feeling good, feeling bad, and feeling right, in an atmosphere of growth. When I read the last item on the list—an atmosphere of growth—I sat up a little straighter in my chair. It’s so obvious—it’s kind of the whole point of this blog, after all—and yet most of us spend almost no time consciously trying to foster it in our own lives.

We don’t wake up at 6 a.m. on Saturdays to train for distance runs and open-water swims because we enjoy hearing our alarms go off before the sun rises. I didn’t sign up for ski patrol training or run my first marathon because I figured the process would be an ego-boosting hedonism fest. We do these things because they create an atmosphere of growth, which is truly a necessary ingredient in a joyful, meaningful life.

As Rubin says here: “To feel happy, it’s not enough to have fun with your friends, and not feel guilty about yelling all the time, and feel like you’re working in the right job; you also need to feel growth—a sense of learning, of betterment, of advancement, of contributing to the growth of others.”
I had that concept in mind when I made the decision this fall to embark on my latest adventure: yoga-teacher training. My favorite teacher is offering the 200-hour training, and it’s full of other yoga “classmates” of mine. It’s offered locally, with a schedule that’s easy for me to accommodate. In other words, if I’m going to do a teacher training, this is the one I’m going to do.
Still, I waffled on making the decision. Do I really want to be a yoga teacher (maybe, but not in a burning-desire kind of way)? Is this a worthy use of my time and money? Can’t I grow enough in yoga by continuing to work on my handstand, or by going a little deeper in meditation? Am I really up for taking on 200 hours worth of intense training, along with the reading and other pre-work that comes with it?
Those are all worthy questions, but in the end, I chose to be OK with not having solid answers to any of them. I’m not sure where this journey will take me, but I know what I’ll create along the way: an atmosphere of growth, which is sure to boost my overall level of joy.
How have you created an atmosphere of growth for yourself? Has it boosted your happiness?

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Simple, foolproof homemade Greek yogurt in the slow cooker

A couple years ago, my breakfast life changed forever. I made yogurt at home, and I’ve never turned back.

In fact, if anything, I’ve leaned in, and have developed what I’m pretty sure is the simplest and most foolproof method for yogurt-making aside from buying a completely unnecessary yogurt maker for $300.

It’s basically the same method I used back in 2013—but using a slow cooker rather than a stovetop.

First, go buy some milk. I’m lucky to have access to fancy local milk from Battenkill Creamery, which I’m convinced tastes better than any other (but I’m sure your local milk will be delicious, too).

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Heat the milk until your candy thermometer tells you it’s 180 degrees. In my slow cooker, this takes about seven hours. If you overshoot that and get it closer to 200 degrees because your afternoon hike takes twice as long as you expected it to, or because your 4 p.m. meeting runs long, no harm, no foul.

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Cool the milk to 110 degrees. You can use an ice bath, but I find it easiest to just pop it in the fridge for a few hours (about four hours in my slow cooker). This is the only step that’s kind of a pain to overshoot, as you’ll need to reheat the milk to 110 if you do.

Gently stir a few tablespoons of plain yogurt into the milk. Your new batch of yogurt will take on the taste and the cultures of this “starter” yogurt, so choose wisely. Wrap the pot of the slow cooker in a beach towel to keep it warm, then place it in your oven with the pilot light on overnight.

IMG_0956.JPGAfter taking it out in the morning, I strain mine with a muslin cloth and colander to make Greek-style yogurt, but this is a nice-to-not-need-to step.

Et voila—breakfast for the week (plus some snacks)!

Let me know if you try making yogurt in your slow cooker—I’d love to hear how it works for you!

Also, let me know if I can provide any tips on food photography. I’m happy to share my secret techniques that enable me to take photographs that are both harshly lit *and* blurry.

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(Mostly) Wordless Wednesday: Thanksgiving plans

Not pictured: A comfy couch. A warm blankie. And SO much pie. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

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Workout of the week: Justin Michael Williams’ core sequence

I’m on a constant search for the next new core exercise—the twist or tweak that will render the standard few abdominal exercises (plank, sit up, crunch) nearly un-doable, and therefore super-valuable to any athletic endeavor or yoga practice. Yoga teacher Justin Michael Williams delivers a dozen or more such movements in one 17-minute video.

From twists on the classic boat pose to a forearm plank variation that will eat your obliques and shoulders alive, this sequence offers enough movement and variety to keep things interesting, and enough breaks and modifications to make it do-able for beginners (or for people who reeeally don’t feel like doing core work today). I’m going to be honest and admit that the first time Williams suggested I take a rest in sphinx pose, I laughed out loud, then laid flat on my stomach in exhaustion.

Yogis will love the way the sequence fuses movement with breath, and the way it boosts their inversions and arm balances—I have been doing the sequence regularly for about a month, and I genuinely think it’s helped my handstand practice. Athletes will love that their midsections will be sore for days after their first attempt at the workout.

Let me know if you try this—and if you make it to “rest” in sphinx pose!

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Endorphins and awe

This post has been at the tip of my virtual tongue for months. I started to think about writing it at the end of the summer. Last weekend, Jonny Moseley announced at the end of this year’s Warren Miller movie that for skiers, “winter starts now.” Better late than never, right?

Season notwithstanding, it’s a tough post to write because grief and loss are at the root of it. I’m not ready to share the source of this grief (sorry about that—I hate all the vague, obtuse posts floating around the Internet, too). However, I’m happy to share the two things that have helped me heal: movement and beauty.

I found peace and beauty hiking in the Rockies, in Hell’s Hole and Devil’s Thumb (you could say there was a bit of a theme).

Hell's Hole, near Winter Park, Colo.

Hell’s Hole, near Winter Park, Colo.

On the Hell's Hole hike near Winter Park, Colo.

On the Hell’s Hole hike near Winter Park, Colo.

Hike to Devil's Thumb, near Winter Park, Colo.

Hike to Devil’s Thumb, near Winter Park, Colo.

I found simplicity and exhilaration putting my earthly belongings in a backpack and camping in the Adirondacks’ High Peaks region.

The view from Fish Hawk Cliffs , close to our camping spot at Gill Brook.

The view from Fish Hawk Cliffs , close to our camping spot at Gill Brook.

I found grounding in my regular runs to the gardens at Yaddo.

Yaddo Lake.

Yaddo Lake.

And I found hope watching the most stunning sunrises and sunsets in the peaks overlooking Lake George.

View from our camping spot at Fifth Peak.

View from our camping spot at the Fifth Peak lean-to.

Sunset from the Fifth Peak lean-to, part of the Tongue Mountain Range.

Sunset from the Fifth Peak lean-to, part of the Tongue Mountain Range.

I don’t know why the combination of endorphins and awe is so powerful. I just know that it works in a way that feels truly magical.
How have you found healing through motion and natural beauty?

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Three down, 43 to go: Nippletop Mountain

“Are you guys going for your 46ers?” the woman asked, nibbling on some Swedish Fish as she took in the view on top of Nippletop Mountain.

I shrugged. We were standing on top of one of the Adirondacks’ famed 4,600-foot peaks, so it was natural to ask whether we’re consciously working toward summiting all 46 of them.

“Kinda sorta,” I said. “Casually, and slowly.” The woman and her hiking partner hurried off to ascend Mount Blake, another 46er, before the end of the day while we hung out at the summit and enjoyed a snack and the views.

It’s not that we’re uninterested in “going for our 46ers.” But we’re more interested in the journey to each peak than we are in the actual peak-bagging. Maybe this is why we’ve only done three since moving here in 2013. (Read about our ascents of Cascade and Wright here.) In any case, Nippletop (I know—heh, heh) is worth the trip, both for the vistas up top and the scenic journey leading to the summit.

There are plenty of turn-by-turn blog posts that offer advice about routes (this one from Hike the Adirondacks is especially helpful), so I’m going to focus on sharing a few of my favorite moments from the hike instead.

We camped at Gill Brook the night before. This enabled us to be among the first on the trail in the morning without waking up at the crack of dawn in Saratoga Springs (which I highly recommend). It’s a long slog down a fire road, then a beautiful hike along the scenic, brook-side Gill Brook Trail. IMG_0776 IMG_0777The next morning, we were awed by the weird beauty of the trail between Gill Brook and Elks Pass (which is exactly as steep and scrambly as everyone says it is). It’s an old-growth forest with lots of exposed roots and interesting rock formations. Right before I took this picture, Steve said: “I keep expecting a bunch of Ewoks to jump out.” IMG_0738

The summit was interesting—the actual highest point is just a small clearing without many views. A few feet below it, there’s a nice rock outcropping where you can see Mount Colvin and Mount Blake, though. We paused and took in the views there. IMG_0739

We also got that couple in a hurry to summit Blake to take our picture there.

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The most amazing and beautiful part of the hike was Fish Hawk Cliffs and Indian Head. If you hike Nippletop or any of the other nearby peaks, don’t miss the sweet, deep peace of this fjord-like overlook.

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We lingered for an awfully long time, staring at Lower Ausable Lake in pure wonder. We were in no rush.

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