Adjusting Our Altitude

Continuing on with our travels, we left beautiful Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, with bubble water in hand (the first and most important part of driving in a car) Red Vines (second crucial piece of supply) and a various smorgasbord of road snacks appropriately divide between salty and sweet and headed to southern Idaho to meet up with our sweet girl and make our way to the Sawtooth Mountains with only our backpacks for a couple of days.

Our first stop was to gather a few items for dinners/breakfast/snacks. Oh for the love of freeze-dried meals! I always wonder what happens when you’re backpacking and stop to grab the MSR stove to cook a bag of dried food and it tastes like HEAVEN! It’s a phenomenon all of it’s own. I mean, in the real world of day to day meals, eating contents in a foil bag, boiled in water, would definitely not be the most palatable. But the goodness that is contained in those lamina bags after a day of hiking is some of the most delicious cuisine on the planet. It’s like opening up a box in December and a Christmas puppy emerges. Outrageously amazing! I cannot tell you how many times on a backpacking trip I will say “OMG this is literally the BEST veggie Pad Thai I have EVER tasted” as I’m standing and shoveling it into my mouth with my spork. Ok we’ve been to Thailand so this is a complete lie in the real world, but not after a day of backpacking.

The Sawtooths were mesmerizing. The jagged cliffs shot straight up to the sky and I just soaked in the beauty. We had such a great hike in. It was hot and dry and we laughed all day. Mainly at our daughter’s expense, who didn’t pack entirely “light” for the trip. In her defense it can take a fair amount of time to curate your perfect backpacking set up. G and I have ours down, and have for years, but have also done A LOT of backpacking. Everything is tiny and ultra lightweight. We can go WEEKS carrying everything we need and coming in at 25lbs. Our sweet daughter…..not so much.

I was really hoping for some bear sightings along the hike in, but didn’t see a single one. We were hiking in mid-morning so we were probably a little late for that. When we got to our primitive little campsite there were bear signs all over. We didn’t have our bear vault so I fashioned a little pulley system in a tree for our food and smelly items. Our daughter told us in all the trips she has taken out in the Sawtooths, she always kept her food in her tent. My mouth dropped open. Oye! I had to be a “Mom” and fill her in on Backpacking 101. Man I love that kid.

After leaving the Sawtooths we took off for Moab. In all of the time living in the West (our entire lives) G and I have never been to Moab. Why? We had no idea, but WOW! We were both so blown away by this amazing landscape. The twisting rocks, rose up to meet the daily sunshine wrapped in the bluest sky. The baked-in terra-cotta and garnet colors of the archways and cliffs butted up to incredible alpine peaks, far surpassed anything we had imagined. Our first day there we made a hike into a waterfall that a local told us about. Tucked back into a mineral rich, crimson valley, this place was a gorgeous oasis. The deep pool making the perfect plunge for locals.

Great dive!!

That night we headed with beers in hand to the heights of Dead Horse Point. It’s like the Grand Canyon of Utah. We loved being there for sunset and watching as the landscape below us changed colors and shadows danced. The sun set and we marveled at how for a good 50 minutes after it went down, there was still a glowing ember in the sky. It was the longest sunset we’ve ever witnessed. Truly God’s masterpiece!

The next day we woke early to make the hike to Delicate Arch for sunrise. Driving into our parking site we couldn’t see what was waiting for us after the sun rose. We hiked in the quiet, cool air of the desert in the faintest of light, making our way to the arch just as the sun rose to wake the day. We sat in amazement. The browns, reds, yellows and oranges came to life on this arch that is balancing in the middle of a sandstone valley. We had never seen anything like it. Why we hadn’t visited Moab before this, was beyond us and we fell in LOVE. We are already planning a trip. Taking mountain bikes to hit some of the incredible slick-rock trails and stay in one of the Glamp-ing yurts.

We spent the rest of the day exploring Arches. We did a great trail run in Devils Garden visiting Landscape Arch, Navajo, Partition and Double O arches. We felt like kids climbing all over these sandstone walls that you magically stick to. We can’t wait to go back.

Throughout this entire trip we just kept thinking how grateful we are. Grateful that during a pandemic, we can still find tons of adventure, new opportunities and travel to new places. Grateful for nature and our complete love of the mountains and water. Grateful that we had three weeks to see our family and friends and explore some of our own country. Grateful for our health and the ability to backpack the mountains and run in the desert. Grateful for a God that gave us such an incredible and diverse landscape to play in and painted some unimaginable sunrises and sunsets just for us. Grateful for pine. The rugged trails. The dirt. For peaks & summits. Grateful that we took the time to go wild for a while. We love to travel unscripted and without a schedule. No plans, other than where the wind blows us.

We returned back to Denver and spent some time in the mountains there. Talking about which fourteener we’d like to take on next and the possibility of backpacking the Colorado Trail again. We knew our trip was coming to an end and that our time in the mountains was closing. We allowed the deep peacefulness and tranquility to filter through us. We welcomed in ourselves, the ability to feel small and humble and gain some new perspective on our future. We prayed a lot and were and still are, expectant for answers.

For us being in the mountains is almost too much sometimes. It’s a beautiful spoonful of wonderment, that never gets old and never eases or let’s up. Almost as if our heart is trying but unable to gather it all up. We look and stare again and again, but it’s never enough. I can’t explain it any better that to say that it just gives us a deep ache inside. It’s like being with family……needing one more day. It’s why I cry every time I see them and every time we leave.

We allowed time to stand still, gave way for our mind to imprint the imagines, take in the smells, listen to nature and taste the clean air until we meet again. Our hearts expand, gather up as much as possible and hold on.

“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity.” ~ John Muir

Wild Wild West

Well howdy there. G and I have been out traveling, doing what we called our Wild West Tour.

With Corona virus still raging through the country, closing international borders, we thought we would use our time to do some in-country travel. We’ve missed the West, our family and our kids. Since the Hood to Coast Relay was ALSO cancelled, we thought we’d head to the sunset side of the country a little earlier than the late August trip we had planned.

We started off making our first stop in Denver, CO. We will come back around to this at a later date. Denver was also our last stop before returning East, because honestly, we just can’t get enough of that Rocky Mountain area. Both G and I have always had a “thing” with the area, so it’s always fun when we can have some extended time there.

Good Morning Tetons
Day before I finish GVRAT

We wandered our way through the Tetons in Wyoming and Yellowstone in Montana after leaving Colorado. Making note that the Teton glaciers will definitely be in the running for our next long backpacking trip.

Can’t be in Coeur d’Alene and not hike Mineral

Second on our list was Big Sky, Montana. We love it! It’s always been a favorite ski area with our family and when we lived in Minneapolis, it was a trip we took often to get some nice, steep, slopes loaded with fresh pow! It’s just stunning all times of the year. I was working through my mileage to finish off the GVRAT 1000k (and now continuing back across, because I’m a glutton for punishment a lover of running) I chose to finish my 1000k on our last day in Big Sky. Waking up on the mountain, with Lone Peak, still with it’s snowy patches, out our window, just stoked our mountain running love affair. The air was crisp, clear and filled with the scent of evergreen forest. The trails were buffed and soft with pine needles and it made those last few miles an absolutely perfect finishline.

The Finish Line of 1000k
Searching for breath in the thinner air.

We soaked in the mountain vibes, sat outside drinking fabulous Montana beer and just really took in the enormity of those western ranges.

It’s a funny thing, our love of the mountains. I remember when we lived in MN and would take our ski trips to Montana, the anguish my soul felt when we would leave. I’d often be sobbing and it would take the ache days to go away, once we returned to the Mid West. It’s like something in the fabric of our lives was off. Our DNA was made to be steep and it’s why a lot of our trips have always been through hiking and climbing big mountains. With G growing up in the mountains of Northern Idaho and me in Northern California, it is just wound into our pneuma. So it was no surprise when I got that first glimpse of the Rockies and started to cry. Actually I take that back, it WAS a surprise, because since being in NC, we have spent A LOT of time in the mountains. Almost every weekend, hiking, climbing and running and have loved every single second of it. But something inside me broke and I was left longing.

Our time in Denver and Big Sky went by too quickly. We drank in the mountain air, literally. I remember running and saying to G “I can actually draw in huge, full, gulps of air” which if you’re living in the south right now, you have no idea what I mean…. or you do, and are looking forward to fall/winter running when the air isn’t thick and oppressive and slapping you in the face when you step outside. I LOVE humidity, but not when I’m running. I think in a perfect world it would be humid for morning dog walking, firefly watching and porch-sitting and crisp and arid at the perfect time for my daily runs. But for now, I’ll have to deal with the daily beat-down of humid, hot air that constantly assaults me while I run.

Distance like a Grizzly and wash like a Raccoon

When we got to Idaho and Coeur d’Alene it was full-steam-ahead with a steady stream of visits with family and friends. It’s hard living somewhere so long, and coming back as a visitor. You know your time is limited and we always try to stretch it out anyway we can, but it’s never enough. Now looking back, we wish we would’ve stayed longer, since we weren’t really on any schedule. We had fun acting like tourists in a town that is so close to our hearts. Running with our kids at English Point, hiking Tubbs, Mineral Ridge and Lost Man Trail all made it to the top of our list. We had fun watching our Goldie-girl realize she was back where she had learned and trained to run trails with us. Her old stomping grounds.

We were able to see friends who now live in AZ that were back in ID visiting their kids. God had impeccable timing. We were so grateful.

I know one thing; solid friends are solid friends and no matter the distance we are separated by now, when we walk into their homes, sit in their back yards having dinner, and picking up right where we left off on our last visit home, it’s magical! Unchanged and constant in my life, they are my sisters and are such gifts to me.

The time we had with our own kids flew by. We always want one more day. Always. I think that’s the way it is for parents. We raise such independent kids, who grow, and fly off and we are so proud, honored and satisfied with the jobs we did raising them and of their accomplishments and then the go and be adults, and you’re left with with the want of “one more day.” G and I feel fortunate to be able to see our kids often, even on the other side of the country. But no matter the time, the yearning of one more day is always present.

I think Covid has us all revisiting what’s important. G and I have really been talking about this a lot. This pandemic, as terrible as it has been, has also given us all the time to stop and redefine some things. To bring into focus what’s most important. To see things differently and with more clarity. To appreciate, recognize and discover what is paramount for us. It’s brought things that may have been in the back of our minds to the forefront and has made them more acute and pivotal. It’s has us both listening so raptly to that Still, Small, Voice. Waiting patiently, and watchfully. It has turned our prayer life upside down and has driven it to a whole new depth. It has made us both keenly and profoundly aware of some goals and dreams that may have slipped to the back of the lineup, that seem to have new breath being inflated into them. We recently had sweet friends that after years and years living out of the country, decide to come back, saying Covid and a recent birthday really put some things into perspective with a new angle and outlook. Has it had this effect on you? Has it brought around a new vibrancy and newness to chapters you’ve maybe left half read? Has it spurred some new passions that maybe you’ve shelved for a later time? Take the book down off of the shelf, dust off the cobwebs and crack its weary spine open. What do you see?

I think it’s in most of our natures to grow. I also think for some, the thought of growth or change can be paralyzing. I think Covid has either nudged or downright pushed some entirely out of their comfort zone.

For G and I we use our time in the mountains for prayer, reflection and to bust ourselves out of stagnation. We are most inspired on long hiking trips. We have some of our best conversations either hiking or sitting in the ocean on our surfboards. Maybe it’s the thin air and altitude, but more likely it’s the place that’s the most quiet where we hear the voice of God. We are both pretty content people, but are both constantly seeking to evolve. We have been gifted in knowing when and when not to make a move unless we both feel a prompting. Things tend to be disastrous when we put our own plans before God’s plans for us, but we ALWAYS see how even in the confusion and jumbled disarray we can sometimes step into, God works things out for the best. It’s such a comfort to us, having that faith.

Beautiful Coeur d’Alene
This was her back yard for the first three years of life. Happy Doggo

The mountains give us a great escape from the noise and chaos. They are simple. Their scents and sounds, Fauna and Flora provide us soul-blanketing relief. They make us feel small and for me, like a young child.

Their balm was so welcome on this trip.

Ironman Boulder-Part Two

I always say; it’s magical crossing an Ironman finish line! Magical in a hundred different ways. When you hit that finisher’s chute, you become weightless. You float. Hands raised around you, cheering you on, high-fiving you like you are some sort of mega-star….and of course EVERYONE is a star that makes that midnight cutoff. Your pain goes away, or at least you’re able to push it so far back behind you, if only for the 90-seconds it takes you from chute to finish.

My Ironman Boulder day started typical. I woke up at 3:45am and promptly started on some coffee. I sat in the quiet of this early day thinking of the months of training that had passed. All of that training for this one day. I felt so ready. I knew I had put in some great training, no doubt about that! My mind fast-forwarded through my day as coffee entered my veins. I envisioned the swim. The calm of the reservoir. Wondering to myself where I would seed myself for my first “rolling start.” My other two IM’s have been mass start…which I’m kind of fond of. My mind rolled through onto the bike. A lot of the course I had never ridden or even seen, which was fine with me. I am a confident rider and know I had trained well for these 112 miles. My mind kept going…onto the run. This run course was pretty unique. Called the Flex-Capacitor for it’s shape; it is three out and backs with 2 loops. I already knew some of the trail. It was gorgeous. I also knew that with its shape, there would be ample opportunity to see my friends racing. My running has been stellar during training as well, and after all is my favorite of all the disciplines.

Hubster and little cub (OK teenage cub) got up as I was preparing my Elvis bagel. My nerves staying pretty well in check, I grabbed the last few things and out the door we went. We got to Boulder High school, dropped off Special Needs bags and boarded the bus to the Res. These busses ran smoothly and efficiently and there was no problem getting right on.

Special Needs (these are the bags that are given to you at or around 56 miles on the bike and 13 miles on the run) You can have anything in them you need.

Bike bag: 2 scoops of Infinit Nutrition in a baggy. (This was juuuuust in case my bike did not go as planned)

Run bag: 2 flasks of EFS Liquid Shot (one full, one half) to finish off the second half of my run. 4-Tylenol

I moved through body marking quickly, and loved that my marker said he would draw a smiley on my other calf. That’s how my day started after all…why not wear it! In transition I knew exactly where my bike was. I had walked it the day before, as I always do. They started announcing that we needed to drop off our morning bags! Morning bags are the bags that contain your wetsuit, cap, and goggles and once changed, you put your clothing that you are wearing into them, hand them off and they are waiting for you when you finish.

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But first….Let me take a selfie!!

I started down the row where my bike was and saw my training partner-in-crime. I gave her a hug and asked how she was feeling, and of course, took a selfie!  She looked great and ready to roll. I kept heading to my bike…. and to my dismay, could not find it!! Now they were announcing that we needed to get lined up for the swim. “WHERE THE HECK IS MY BIKE?” I run back to my friend and with what I’m sure was complete panic and terror on my face I say, “I cannot find my bike!” What was she going to do? HA! I turned back and head back down the row, heart racing, starting to have a little mini panic attack and there…I see her cute little red camo bars. Hallelujah!! I air my tires, add my nutrition bottles on back, put on my wetsuit, drop my bag and get in line for the swim. I felt really good. We make our way down the chute. I’m hugging my training partner. We are smiling, knowing we have trained well and it’s going to be a phenomenal day! Into the water we go.

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Race Morning Thank you God for this masterpiece you prepared for us this morning.

Piranha is what I imagine the water looks like from shore. Fighting one another for position. I am tucked right into the middle, which is fine. I get about 100 meters and finally settle into the chaos of swimming with 2500 other people. I am calm the entire swim, although cannot seem to sight worth anything. Normally this isn’t a problem, but today…. man, it took me some time to see those buoys. I start passing swimmers, and buoys but realize I am far from the buoy line…. I never did seem to get closer in and think that maybe that swim was about 2.8 miles! HAHA! I remained within a pack the entire time including though the swim exit…. we all came out and hit the grass where those amazing wetsuit peelers were. Swoosh…peeled like a banana, and happy my kit stayed in tact!

I moved through bag pickup, into the changing tent to get ready for my bike.

Let me break here. The volunteers in these changing tents are always top-notch. I was immediately greeted by a woman who asked if I needed help. Sure!! She grabbed my bag, dumped the stuff out and proceeded to hand me helmet, glasses, shoes, and gloves. She grabbed my wetsuit, stuffed it, cap and goggles into the bag and got me out of that tent in 5 minutes. Out of the tent I ran towards my bike, praying out loud that I would find it more easily than this morning.  I see my hubby…he’s yelling at me, but doesn’t give me my swim time, which means…. it wasn’t what I was expecting.  Didn’t matter…I couldn’t wait to get onto the bike. I found her easily and off I went out of T1.

I started on water right away and when my bike computer beeped at 10-minutes I started on my nutrition. Infinit has been my bike nutrition for a while and I love how customizable per person it is. Every 10-minutes that computer beeped….On the bike I had plain H2O in my aero drink and 2 3-hour bottles of Infinit.

The bike course is one loop, and consists of a few decent climbs, a lot of rollers, and some long, LONG flat/false flat sections. The wind was blowing, which is typical. Sometimes to our advantage and sometimes, not. I felt strong on the bike the whole time, taking in nutrition and water the whole 112. I had a few (3 or 4) times that I felt sick to my stomach. And at one point quickly ran through a scenario in my head as to what to do if vomiting was going to become an option. Should I stop? Keep going, stay aero and let it fly? What if I did that but got dizzy? Could I really vomit and maintain this bike speed? Thankfully it never happened.

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About 90-miles on the bike course

At 95 miles into this bike course you hit the hills. It’s a small section of 3-4 hills. Short, but one has a pretty good grade to it, and at mile 95…well you can guess how your legs may feel. It was also HOT!! There is a big downhill, and then a sharp left turn, slowing you down into the hills. The wind and air stood still in this section. I may have caught fire, it felt so hot…. I went up them smoothly. Thank you Coeur d’Alene for the hills you have provided me for training. Coming back into town you have great downhill and smooth road. The crowds were great and really pumped you up. I came into transition feeling good physically and feeling GREAT about my 6:14 bike time!

I ran through, handed off my bike to a bike handler and grabbed my T2 bag. Again, the volunteers here were amazing. I sat down and started taking off my helmet etc. She handed me visor, socks and shoes. I took a squeeze off of my EFS shot and a good pull off of a water bottle. I stood as she handed me my Spi belt with number on it. And I was ready to hit the run.

Running 26.2 miles is never easy, but followed by a 2.4 mile swim and 112 miles on a bike…. well that brings a whole new perspective. It’s never going to be easy, and as a triathlete, you just know this. This is the point in your race that you see what you’re made of. It’s that point where you need to dig the deepest into yourself as you possibly can. After all…this is your only way to the finish line. Your will needs to be in tact and has to conquer your pain. You will need to decide how much pain you find acceptable and live there for 26 miles. On this day for me, that pain would be like a punishment.

Starting onto the run, as usual, I felt good. Legs felt strong after a great bike. Soon however, stomach distress set in. Bloating, dry-heaving, walking, I continued on until I saw my hubs at about mile-6. He could tell I was struggling.

This is the 2nd time in an IM that I have had stomach distress on the run. Maybe…this is something that I just need to get used to, or maybe there is something wrong that I need to continue working on. Either way, quitting this race was not an option for me. Re-evaluating my race strategy was what happened. I took in nutrition where and when I could, ran when I could, but ultimately ended up walking quite a bit. Blisters appeared on my feet due to walking. But I knew every step I took brought me closer to that finish. I watched, as people all over that run course walked, sat down, laid in the grass, ran for porta-potties. The heat was intense. (I heard 105 on that bike course) Medical was everywhere to help those that could not go on. I felt very grateful that I was still standing, and still moving forward. I had little bursts of energy here and there. Volunteers, yelling out for us, the stranger that sprayed us with water, other athletes to talk to, drawing and giving energy. After all we were all in the same boat. I FINALLY saw my training partner through the crowd, both of us swerving back and forth through a sea of people to embrace. Tears flowed. It seemed only yesterday that this same type of embrace took place while we raced at Ironman Canada together. She was having a GREAT race, and I was so proud of her. She looked strong and was riding the wave of PR’ing on both her swim and bike that day. We left one another and continued on. Step by step I knew my chance of a PR was diminishing, which was hard to swallow after coming off such a great bike. I thought about quitting. My throat caught thinking about the long day my hubs and daughter had to put in for me while I was out there. I thought about my coach, my family, my friends all watching stats and waiting for me to cross that finish. I kept walking. And that is how it went, mile after mile. My stomach never got better, my resolve just got stronger. When I got to my final turn and knew I was about 1.5 miles from the finish, I thanked God. All day I meditated on Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” I love how the Message says it; “I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.” I thought and prayed that verse all day long and thought I can do ALL things…even this.

And then…. I came off the Boulder Creek Path. The volunteers were yelling that we had 2 blocks. TWO blocks and I would be an Ironman for the third time! I ran down the street, seeing my friend from CdA…he said, “enjoy that finish line!” Then, my daughter, from out of nowhere is running next to me. I loved that last burst of energy that she passed off to me…. she said “Hi Lady!! I’m going to run in with you!” Music to my ears coming from this teenager who had been on the course being a spectator for her Mom ALL DAY LONG. (It’s much harder I think to be a spectator during this length of a race than it is to DO the race) She ran me right up to the end of the chute and dropped back. That memory will forever be burned into my memory. And then…there it was…that weightless feeling. That magic carpet. That last 30 seconds.

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My dear friend, training partner-in-crime, and sister in pain, tears, laughter and endurance. You give me inspiration every single day!

You forget the day you had. You forget there are blisters and torn, chafed skin. You forget your muscles hurt and your stomach is sick. You forget all of it and know this is exactly why you did this. This is exactly why you’ve trained a year. This is exactly your reward for all of your hard work. Because in this 30 seconds you realize that everything that has tried to destroy you, hasn’t and that the unimaginable physical and mental strain that you have endured cannot and will not take you down when you are dedicated to something that you wish to conquer.

To me doing an Ironman shows you who you are. It shows you your tenacity and how determined you can be. It’s not about a medal, or bragging rights. It shows your strength and your resolve. It shows you that if you really want something, do the work needed to get it. It shows you that when you are at your end and ready to give up, you CAN keep going past that. There’s more rope when you feel like you’re at the end of it.

I did not have a PR for this IM. I could allow disappointment to pour from me but it just isn’t in me to do so. I am so grateful to have trained well and made it through that day, when so many others did not. I am thankful and so full of compete joy for my training partner that PR’d her race by almost an hour. She worked so hard this year and to see her succeed at reaching her goal is to be celebrated!! I am thankful to my hubs and family and friends that supported me throughout this whole year and whole day to the finish. And mostly I am grateful to God for giving me my health, my strength, my determined mind and a capable body to reach for these goals.photo copy 5

photoI will be back out training again soon….well, I am already back to small training days, but will be back for a PR on the Boulder IM course next year on Aug 2. From now until then I have some things to work through nutritionally but am excited to go back and take on that course again! Look out Boulder; I’m coming for you!!

Swim: 1:27  Bike: 6:14  Run: 7:02  Finish: 14:57

Love this quote from watching the Ironman World Championships:  Of all the parts of the body that are tested in an Ironman, the mind may have the most critical job of all.  Because it’s the mind that has to convince everything else to keep going.  To remind the body what’s at stake.