Tales From the Trail-Guitar Lake to Mt Whitney

Into the mountains I go. To lose my mind and find my soul. img_0570

When we woke it was cold. I had smartly decided to wear a base layer under my hiking pants. I layered on a top base layer, a cold weather fleece, my down jacket, beanie, buff and my gloves. I was cold now but knew I’d warm in the climb. I put on my headlamp and unzipped myself from my tent. Immediately I noticed what appeared to be fire flies out in the night sky, which after taking a second look I realized where the headlamps of the hikers climbing Whitney ahead of us. Their lights danced in black space as they made their way up switchback after switchback in the freezing cold of the night.

The terrain of Whitney is rough and jagged. It’s granite boulders unfriendly. Sharp and serrated. As we started our way up we sludged through water running down the grassy slopes. The only green laying like a skirt at the bottom of this giant, granite treasure. My breathing was out of rythym and I wasn’t sure if the cause was the frigid cold, the accent or fear that had a grip on me. I can’t tell you why I was experiencing fear, other than worrying about altitude sickness, climbing in the dead of night or falling or quite possibly it was the fear of the unknown or the fear of failure.
As we climbed I could look out into the dark abyss below us and see the bobbing head lamps that reminded me of twinkling stars. I wondered how many would join us at the top for the sunrise.

Making it to Trail Crest was surreal. I had that a-ha moment of “I’m actually doing this!” Adrenaline rushed through my body. Trail Crest is the turn you take to the summit where the trail from Guitar Lake meets the Whitney Portal trail. It’s a staging area for the summit. Large packs are dropped and left here and slack packs are put on. The trial gets steeper and narrows at this point.

Previous to going to bed, we had packed our slack packs. Since we were returning to Guitar Lake we didn’t have to bring our big packs. We packed a small amount of food and enough water to get us to the summit and back.img_4946

Shortly after leaving Trail Crest I got ahead of K and K. J had decided that morning that she was going to skip the summit due to an injury from the day before. Being up Mt Whitney before she decided it wasn’t worth the risk to possibly take her out of the rest of the trip. At this point I was climbing alone in pitch black. No one ahead of me or behind me as far as I could see. I’m not gonna lie I was terrified! It was very empowering, scared me to death and allowed me to overcome some fears. I shook as I walked. I was cold and spilling over with unease. I had to get myself under control and allow my bravery to kick in. It was completely silent except for the wind on the side of the granite slab to my right. The other side a sheer drop. I learned right then I am a lot braver than I think I am. My entire world existed in a tiny dot of light from my headlamp. I couldn’t see further than 5 feet. As the trail narrowed I had a hard time being able to tell where I was going, a couple of times climbing over waist-high boulders dead center in the trail and watching every step I made as to make sure I planted my foot wisely. It was getting colder and colder and I was starting to get in to some snow and ice. I was anxious to reach the top and I was worried that I wouldn’t make it before the sunrise.img_0569

I prayed  and knew that God is not a God of fear. This calmed me. I was quickly reminded of all the fearful things He’s brought me through only to step to the other side of that fear and feel accomplished, free, able, unrestrained and….enough. I think moving past fear is healthy.  To do so is liberating. It changes you. You no longer feel the need to compromise or settle. And what’s funny is after you’ve smiled in the face of fear, you know you can never go back. You can’t go back into the unhappy relationship, the dead end job, the unhealthy friendship, the uneventful life, or the unloved and given-up dreams.  You won’t allow fear to trample you again. You may have the occasional whisper of fear, a hint that reminds you that you’re human, but it will never overtake you enough to disable you.

When I turned the final switch back I saw it. Silhouetted by the faint glow of the pre-risen sun. The hut! I made it. A sob choked out. Relief from my discomfort and a complete sense of joy filled me! A feeling of success washed over me. I went inside just enough to warm up a bit (the summit was in the low 20’s with a sharp, biting wind)  then I walked out to the summit table where ten others were perched waiting to be kissed by the sun. I sat alone and cried. I was overwhelmed, so caught up and grateful to be there right in this moment and as the sun rose I sat in praise! How awesomely, magnificent this gorgeous country is! How strong I am. How great our God is.

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*As I finish this blogpost I have just received confirmation of issue for another wildernesses permit for the JMT hiking southbound this time (SOBO) this July/Aug including, God willing, another summit of Mt Whitney!!

**Mt Whitney summit 14,505 feet

                                       May you always do what you’re afraid to do.

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Seasons

Can you believe we are half way through the first month of the year? Did you make resolutions? Are you hanging in?

I have been quiet. Life has been quiet and delightful. The extraordinary, chaos of having imagesour house full of kids over the holidays has died. The bustling of shopping, the parties, and entertaining through the New Year is gone. The snow continues to fall and its quiet. That placid, calmness that is carried in after a new year begins is incredible! Winter season.

This is always my regroup-reassemble-organize-tea-time-book-reading time of year. It’s cozy and delicious.

In these moments of quiet is when I hear God. It’s when work happens. It’s when closeness arrives.

I’m still riveted by my word for the year: patience. I often find myself fidgety, and saying “OK, let’s get going on this, and see what it all means.” Then I am gently reminded to be quiet. Wait. Lean in and be patient.

0e7f937cb212216ba9409e26c270df10As days creep on and God peels back layers of me like an onion, its literally captivating me to see what is and what will be revealed. What wisdom is he going to drop on me? To know him better? To live more profoundly through him? What needs resuscitated in me? In the life of my husband and I? In our family? How will he use me this year?

Our last child is a senior this year. Knowing this is plaguing me. It’s gone so fast. Too fast! We have loved the dickens out of our kids and have had the MOST-WONDERFUL time raising then, goofing off with them, laughing with them, having grand adventures with them, traveling with them and living this life-journey with them. We love them with such fierceness. Our best things ever in life have been our kids. So now….we are in this pivotal, transition. We both know it is going to be a time of patience and change and growth and modification and revision. As well as resurrection.  The best-friend couple coming back into a place of being “just a couple” again. Older. Smarter. More in love, with decades of growth and passion and zeal under our belts. Already the hubs and I are both sorta going..”HUH?” We’ve talked about this time coming for a while and now it’s almost here. We are excited and thrilled to be transitioning into this next phase of life. It’s bittersweet though. No more “crazy” of a houseful of kids, but onto the “crazy” of just being a couple again. Very thrilling!! A whole new season. A whole new circus ride!images-1

 

Another thing going on in the Fun-House  is race season prep. I’ve also had great patience regarding this. I’ve been reading over training plans, meal plans, rest plans….you name it. In some ways I’ve had to be patient, coming off of a recent running injury and a less than stellar year health wise. All that is behind me now, and I’m starting to round out the season. I talked with a sweet friend of mine yesterday and told her I have a whole new approach this year. I’m not racing frenetically. Not getting pulled into races randomly. Not falling into any type of pressure. The season is well planned out. Allowing me for some incredible training and race time with family and friends, but not enough to consume me. It’s all about having a lot of fun! (It always is) and balance. I’m being kinder to my body and kinder to my soul. Eating better and DRINKING better (as in H2O, which I am admittedly horrible about.) Turns out, the camel approach…not always the best for our human bodies. I will get to do some fun traveling to Pittsburgh, PA (GO STEELERS!) back to my place of birth to run and ruckus with my cuzzies and see A LOT of family and to California (HOLLA being able to race a 70.3 in my hometown!!) and end it all with a most-epic adventure in August! The icing on the cake!! Honestly!  THE ICING!

It’s not a busy schedule by any sense of the word. But a fun-butt-kicking-laugh-alot-and-train-with-good-friends-season! It already feels good!

It’s a Joy-Filled season all authored by the One who knows and loves my soul in the most furious of ways. Who knew exactly what kind of year I needed!7efb6abf00184733b6b41d1a0db1fc6d

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.