Patagonia -Coming to an End

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Leaving Paine Grande we headed to Campamento Italiano. It was a relatively short hike, but we knew there were two miradors after we arrived and dropped our packs that we wanted to see.

Francés and Británico miradors. 

We needed to get to camp after crossing a raging river on a one-person swinging bride. As I am standing, waiting for my turn to pass over this unreliable-looking bridge, I am thinking, “one person of normal size with a 20lb pack, or a small child, or a large grown man with a 30lb pack or …?” What truly does a one-person bridge mean? 

It reminds me of how God works in our lives. Sometimes there is no answer right away, and life feels like a risk. Often. But in the end always works out according to plan. 

I could allow negative thoughts, doubt, anxiety, fear, despair, worry, denial, disbelief, or uncertainty fill my head. Fill my heart. I could stand on that bridge and see the massive, furious, arctic river below me and the old, weathered, wooden, swinging bridge ahead of me and stop dead in my tracks allowing panic to grip me, but God isn’t a God of panic. He’s not a God of fear or anxiety. He FREES us from all of that! 

“This is my command-be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord, your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

We crossed and checked in to Italiano, set up camp, filled our water bottles, and set out for the miradors. 

The Valle Francés was inconceivable! The entire trip, I said over and over how beautiful each place was but this…. We stopped and took tons of pictures and then pressed on towards Británico. Patagonia is full of beauty but also full of unpredictable weather, and as we pushed towards our next mirador, the clouds started rolling in. We continued as the wind ripped at us, and then the rain started. Light at first, and then really picking up. We pulled out our rain gear from our slack packs and decided that, as we looked towards the mountains, it was only getting worse, and the view we were craving was going to have too much cloud cover, so we turned back for camp. 

We got back to camp, peeled out of our rain gear, made some dinner, and dropped into the tent. 

We continued on to Campo Central the next day, and we knew as we approached that we were nearing the end of this hike but that the most unprecedented part of our journey was ahead. Los Torres. 

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We waited in line to check-in, found a place out of the wind to pitch our tent, and headed for the showers. Ya know, being clean and showering are things we really take for granted. It’s such a luxury on a backpacking trip! The showers were HOT, and I stood in there way too long! 

Afterward, we decided to hike over to the Refugio. The restaurant was warm, and we ordered GIANT beers that tasted like a little bit of heaven. They made us lazy and sleepy, which was exactly what we needed for a quick bedtime. We had an early alarm for our frigid, dark hike to the Towers before the sun rose in the morning. 

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Our daybreak was cold — possibly the coldest of the entire trek. Most of our days were warm, hot even, with the harsh sun and no ozone. When we did have rain, we welcomed it! We left our tent and belongings at camp, hiking only with our slack packs filled with water, tea, some food items, and warm clothes. We started early, pre-dawn with our headlamps on. 

I was walking in constant prayer on our ascent. Meditative. I knew this was our last day, and I was overwhelmed in my heart with gratitude. The reasons many. The time with my husband, the adventurous spirit God created in the two of us, our friendship, and the fact that we can spend days and weeks together in a pocket-sized tent and still laugh, still love, not argue, and grow even closer together as a couple. Thankful that my husband respects and encourages the wild-girl in me. We get one another to our depths. Grateful for the opportunity to start this journey, and the healing that took place on my body to get us to the trail start. I am utterly floored by this Earth and the paradise that God has created for us. Everything so intricate and complex. I was, and am always so taken by the enormous mountains and how small and humbled they leave me feeling, stripped of everything, deprived of ego and pride. Hiking allows us the opportunity to feel God at a whole new level, a deepening, to see His provision in our lives, to hear him in a way that is clear and simple and uncomplicated. It’s easy when you break it down. He provides all we need and loves us so wholly and excessively. I was most grateful for the way the Most-High spoke to my husband. Revealing to him some areas that we were struggling with direction and trying to find closure. 

We both know when we are in a place of discontent, confusion, uneasiness, or dissatisfaction, it comes from us not being aligned on the path that our Creator has us on. Things in our hearts that God never assigned to us. It’s so easy to veer. Easy to get caught up with our own agendas, eagerness, yearnings, and desires. It’s easy to “think” we are walking in God’s will and to B E N D our intention J U S T enough to feign closeness to what God wants for our lives, but when it comes right down to it… it is a skewed view that ends us up on an uneven, angled messed up path. Not matched or harmonized at all with what God’s plan is. We falter and end up thinking, “how did we get into this situation?” “Why aren’t things better?” “How is this still happening in my life?” 

The mountains make it simple to listen. 

As we continued our ascent, getting to a bouldering area, we knew we were getting closer. The trail was getting more difficult. We were excited about our first view of the Towers. The pinnacle of this entire trek! 

 When we reached the top, we paused — suspended in a moment awe-inspiring beauty!  

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Cordillera del Paine is such a spectacular set of mountains! It’s the area known as the Torres del Paine (Towers of Paine), the three massive summits are gigantic granite monoliths that are UNESCO-declared biosphere reserves. The highest peak of the range is Cerro Paine Grande, at 2,884 meters (9,461 feet).

Paine means “blue” in the native Tehuelche language and is pronounced PIE-nay

It was COLD, and the wind bit at us. We met up with others that had been in our original group the day we started in Laguna Amarga, each of us making this pilgrimage in our own time. Little by little, we trickled in. We took photos, sipped hot tea, broke bread together, all nestled next to an outcropping of rocks away from the wind and elements. 

Soon, we knew we needed to return to camp and break down to make our busses back to Puerto Natales. 

It was hard to leave. Hard to turn our backs on this extraordinary work of beauty. 

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Returning to camp was somber. It’s hard when you know a journey is coming to an end. Sometimes I feel like I could wander the mountains forever. Every time I hike I love the stripping away it does on me. Peeling off the lamina. I come back changed in some way. Always. Something is left behind, dropped off, and left in the dirt, unneeded, with new lessons learned, and new promises and assurances put in its place. It gives me time to do some soul searching and reevaluating. Where does God want us/me? Where is He placing us for most use? What’s important? What do we genuinely need? What is superficial and fake and inauthentic in me or in those I have in my life? Where do I draw the line? What boundaries need set or reestablished? What do I need to let loose of? Am I harboring unforgiveness for anyone? Have I put unnecessary pressure on myself or those around me in any way? 

 It’s the opportunity for God to pluck me up, and right my path with such clarity, it’s undeniable. 

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We packed up in near silence, only joking about how stinky we were. We headed to the Refugio and met up with our fellow hikers. It was fun to have one final toast to our accomplishments, to hear the stories from everyone about their journey on this incredible trek — their take-away from the trail. One beer down and we loaded our bus back to Puerto Natales, spending a couple of days here before hopping a plane for Santiago, where we almost missed our flight due to falling asleep in the airport. How were we to know they changed the gate?  I joke! We ran for our new gate in a drowsy stupor and reached the jetway only to see closed doors. We stood staring, weary, fatigue ravaging us and just started pounding on the glass doors. As the jetway was moving and the agent approached the doors, she saw us and having mercy on our completely worn-out souls, stopped the bridge, and asked them to let us on the plane. Had we been in the States… no way this would’ve happened. I could’ve kissed this sweet Chilean woman straight on the mouth. 

 

We laughed & laughed after finding our seats because this is always the way for G and I. Always coming in, hurriedly, screaming, with our pants on fire. We aren’t and have never been “planners,” and this sort of thing is just expected in any given circumstance with us. In this situation, however, we were just plain spent and fell into a delicious, deep sleep on benches in the aeropuerto. 

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We spent a few days in Santiago in the spa-comfort of a fabulous hotel. Allowing ourselves pampering and delicious PLANT-BASED foods (boy do we always miss greens and fruit) and exploring the city.

Off and away from the mountains….

Grateful, continually. Humbled, unceasingly. Changed, as always.

Patagonia Ocho a Diez

Leaving Dickson, we set off for Campamento Perros. This day was one of the most beautiful! One of those days where you can’t stop taking pictures and can’t help but be grateful to be alive, to be breathing and seeing this scenery. I was starting to feel better but nowhere near 100 percent yet. We took our time and took in all the beauty of Patagonia. The mountains spread as far as we could see. This part of the hike was forested, dense, and thick with some pretty decent accents — the first coming right out of Dickson Camp. There are fantastic views of the backside of the Towers and extraordinary views of the Valle de Los Perros during this section.

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Rockin’ my Elevation hat…as always!

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We stopped to eat alongside a river. One of the things any backpacker has to consider is water. It’s crucial and, in my opinion, one of the most important things to consider.It’s a vital life saving force. In most of my hiking experience….(ok other than when I was a hose-drinking wild kid and didn’t know better) I’ve filtered water. I have a great filtering system that condenses down into a small pouch. I’ve heard the horror stories of people not filtering and falling so sick that they’ve had to stop their hike. Heading into this trip, ALL of my research showed NO FILTERS were needed along this hike. I was skeptical. The last thing you want is to be sick… from bad water. The flu I can conquer, but hiking with a stomach illness, sleeping in a tent, with little to no showers did not sound great to me. I packed the filter, but ultimately after talking to people and guides in Chile before leaving, left it along with our “travel clothes” in the hostel in Puerto Natales. That’s trust in humanity!

“Patagonia water is the best water you could ever possibly drink,” we heard over and over. “It’s straight from glaciers and the purest, finest, cleanest water ever!”

TRUTH!! 

I’ll tell you, though, the first time I had to take the lid off of my bottle and dunk it into a water source and drink, I was on my knees praying that everything I had read and had been told was the gospel. And it was! That’s faith!

G and I still talk about the water there and wish so terribly we could find a way of getting it here. It’s hands down the best water on our planet!

We got into camp a little early, set up our space, and backtracked along the trail to Los Perros Lake and glacier. We marveled at the icebergs floating in the turquoise water of the lake. We took a ton of photos and sat taking in God’s creation. We breathed in the Holy wind.

G and I, even though we spend a lot of time together, never lack in conversation. He and I can sit into the wee hours of a morning, from the night before, talking. We can go to dinner together, sitting across a table from one another, like no one else is in the restaurant and have a 3 hour dinner just chatting away. BUT we also crave our alone time. Our independence. It has always been an important and essential part of our relationship, and we always consider and honor one another’s space.

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Bridge For One

 

On this day…after the funny pictures and skipping rocks into the water, trying to reach out and touch some icebergs we both found ourselves wandering to the opposite sides of the lake. Taking our time, individually to pray, meditate and just be alone. We have been coexisting in a 2-pound backpacking tent with a space of 88 x 42 inches for the past 7 days….we needed to air out our minds, our hearts….our pits. HA! We needed to get quiet, to listen, to take in what was being given to us. What nuggets were we going to glean from this adventure?

As we were getting up to leave, we heard the strangest sound… we stopped, looking around, and right across the water, a HUGE section of the glacier was cracking off. It plunged right into the water! We stood there mouths gaped.

The next morning was an early alarm. We knew we were hiking over John Gardner Pass. The weather on the pass can change in an instant, and we knew our best bet was to get an early start because weather conditions in Torres del Paine are generally better in the mornings.

  • We put on our headlamps and started our ascent in the dark. The first section is forested. It is wet, dripping, and had parts with creek-like crossings, and oversized puddles. It is swampy and has mud holes that will swallow you up. The rocks are slippery, and we had a couple of slips, nothing too terrible, but I was happy for my Jackie Chan-like skills when one of my trekking poles slipped off of a boulder and left me falling headfirst towards the deep, dark, black mud. Somehow I was able to hop-scotch my way whilst falling headlong, recklessly. I somehow recovered (un)gracefully after bouncing over several logs, roots, and boulders. We stood and laughed for the longest time, remarking how we wished we would’ve “caught that on video” and thinking about what it would’ve looked like had I fallen. I am glad I didn’t find out!

We took our time over this section and eventually came to the boulder field that is the toughest part of the pass. It’s full of small and large boulders that require maneuvering around. Quite a few places were gushing water from melting snow, and we felt like we were climbing through waterfalls. Essentially… we were. We were happy that this day was sunny and hot and that the glacier water was ice cold! There was a steady stream of hikers heading up at the same time, and we would watch as other hikers, looking like ants, would disappear over the saddle to their first view of Glacier Grey.

The final pitch was steep and seemed like we were never going to get over the top… then… there we were!

The view!

Isn’t it incredible how after so much effort in a huge climb, there is a reward. Kind of like like, huh?

 

I often get overcome with emotion when I hike in the mountains. The enormity of it all just takes my breath from my lungs. I feel so small and it really humbles me to be surrounded by such giants. I stood in complete silence and awe.

We were gifted on this day with perfect hiking weather. This pass is riddled with wind, snow, and rain, but today was full sun, blue skies, and NO wind. We talked with several guides who said that type of weather happens about three times a year on that pass. THREE TIMES A YEAR! and here we are atop the pass with the most perfect view of Glacier Grey, in the most perfect weather, surrounded by snowcapped mountains. I could’ve just died right there it was so magnificent. Thank you, God.

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Grey Glacier is a glacier in the Southern Patagonia Ice Field. It flows southward from the Patagonian Andes Mountains into Grey Lake. The glacier is 6 kilometers (3.72 miles) wide and over 30 meters (98 feet) high. It occupies a total area of 270 km2 (100 sq mi) and a length of 28 km (17 mi) It’s the second-largest contiguous extrapolar icefield. There are truly no words to describe this glacier!

After taking photos and spending time taking in this marvel, we made the massive decent down, relishing the views of the glacier and having fun on the suspension bridges. If you’re afraid of heights… stop here, because these bridges are incredibly long and the valleys that they connect are DEEP! The highest and longest bridge is 80m high (262 feet), and 50m (164 feet) long.

Luckily it wasn’t windy, and I wondered as I crossed how these bridges would be in heavy wind. Thank you, Jesus!! I read over some blogs before our trip that said to be sure and HOLD ON in high winds. Ummm… We stopped at Paso Camp today. We rested, drank, filled our bellies, and chatted with fellow hikers about coming over the pass. We were exhausted, sun, and heat beaten and were happy to be off of our feet this day. One thing to note, there is zero ozone in Patagonia, so if you’re planning a trip, pack FIRST; sunscreen, SECOND; glasses! The sun is no joke!

Paso to Grey Camp was up for our next day. Grey was initially not on our itinerary… but ya know… those pesky eleventh-hour reservations… We were quite happy to get to Grey. We had decided we would sleep inside (a lot of people opt for the tent area) and had a shared room with another couple. Funny enough, it was a couple we had met a few days ago on a windy ascent but hadn’t seen since. It was like a family reunion when we opened the door of our bunk house. This is the first time in our history of travel that we’ve “bunked” like this. We were a little hesitant about this sleeping arrangement with total strangers! Turns out after hiking all. the. days. adding in a nice HOT shower and a legitimate meal in the restaurant… no one cared. We were so tired, after some small talk about our future adventures, we each collapsed onto our beds and slept straight through until the morning.

Grey Camp was in a gorgeous area against a sheer rock face. We sat out on the deck in Adirondack chairs, watching the sunrise the next morning.

From Grey, you can hike to the Glacier Mirador. After the Mirador, we headed off to our next camp, Paine Grande. This is the part of the trail where you meet up with the W hikers. This also begins two-way traffic on the trail, as there are a lot of day hikers and hikers heading in and out for an overnight or two. The trail gets busier after this section. G and I always call them “the shiny people” because frequently we have been out backpacking for DAYS and sometimes WEEKS and to day-hikers, I’m sure we look and ..ahem… smell like hobos. They pass us in their clean khakis and white t-shirts, smelling heavily of that morning’s shower. They have applied deodorant, fresh-hair in perky ponytails… and I think… I used to look pretty like that!

Paine Grande is a bustling place with O-hikers, W-hikers, and day-trippers. It sits stunningly on a lake with towering mountains to its side. We had already booked a room (alone) for this night’s stay. We checked in, showered, bought meal tickets FOR REAL FOOD in the morning, and set out to explore.

First stop; the fantastic bar on the top level. With its panoramic view, great music, and ice-cold beer, how could we pass that up? It was here that we talked over the trip that we knew would soon be ending. We talked about our ups and downs and the emotions that hit you when you’re on long treks like this. The peaks and valleys, and how real life seems to always follow trail life. We both hit low points. I was upset I had not felt 100 percent dealing with the flu, and I had times I got extremely frustrated with the congestion and nose blowing. Greg’s came after descending from John Gardner Pass, where I am convinced he was suffering some slight sunstroke and dehydration.

Looking back, I am still so glad I took the risk to start this hike.

Always take the risk! I could’ve let the sickness win, the fear of being miserable, the dismay of starting and maybe not finishing the hike, but like every hard thing in life, I pressed on and was so happy for that. I (we) never take our travel for granted. We both know there are people unable to travel as we do. There are couples who, one likes to travel, and one doesn’t, so they both don’t! For some, it’s a financial burden, some constrained by their career, some just simply don’t like to travel and some… are just paralyzed in fear to take that first step into something unknown. I can’t be that person and am thankful to have married a man who feels the same! There is no chance of tomorrow, and there is no chance that we will allow this precious life to pass by us.

We sat in this bar for a couple of hours and talked about the stories we will have for our future generations. Our grandkids… when looking at the globe someday, can hear stories of us climbing mountains and hiking all the miles, getting flooded in monsoons, eating God-knows-what from street vendors all over Asia. Standing in the Sea of Galilee in Isreal, getting stuck in the middle of the jungle, alone, on a motorcycle in Panama, having lightning strike so close that we felt our hair stand on end on a backpacking trip. Walking across a border crossing into Nicaragua, paragliding and sky diving, climbing down into war tunnels in Vietnam, surfing with giant sea turtles and stingrays all around us, nearly falling to my death in the Colorado Rockies… the list goes on…..

I know all grandparents have beautiful stories to tell their grandkids… and we can’t wait to share ours if someday God blesses us with littles.

We did a little sink laundry before heading over to the mess tent to cook some dinner. Greg was utterly crippled with eating dehydrated meals, so he opted to shop in the small store and buy… none other than Cup-a-Soup. Because that dehydrated food in styrofoam was far superior to the Packit Gourmet meals that we were currently existing on. Can you hear my sarcasm? I say this laughing because BOY does that food get old, and Cup-a-Noodles is like five-star cuisine when you’ve gotten tired of what you’ve packed.

As the sun set on another incredible night, we saw a Mama fox and her kits running around and playing in the meadow just outside. We moved out to take some video. They YIPPED and wrestled with one another until it was too dark to see.

Cont…..

Didn’t catch the first part of our Patagonia adventure? Start by clicking RIGHT HERE.

 

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​Rest Up Sweet Child

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Mid-year check-in because obviously, I don’t know how to keep up on blog posts. It’s not that I don’t care, or that I don’t want to write or have content, it’s more the act of sitting still and jotting things down. I’m still working on my Patagonia posts. (I say with a spirited eye-roll) Promise, they are coming. I promise!

It’s interesting how a turn of events can lead you right where you should be or NEED to be. My One Word for the year was RESTORATION. It’s not a word I would’ve chosen for myself. My One Word is something given to me every year when the new year rolls around. A gift. I’ve had a great year of restoration so far. So I thought.

Maybe going a million miles an hour isn’t quite “restorative” in the eyes of our Creator.

We’ve had another incredible year (half-year at this point, I suppose) of travel. Patagonia is at the forefront of course. Being able to backpack in one of the most beautiful, unrefined, mountainous parts of the world was unimaginable! As unyielding as it was, it still sparks fireworks in our minds and puts smiles on our faces when we get to share our adventure with others.

For us, that was what started this year of restoration. Being in the mountains has that impact on us like no other place. High altitude, hard work, relying solely on your own capabilities and surviving on what you’re carrying on your back for days and weeks is very soul-invigorating! It’s something that no one can understand until they’ve lived out the situation.
After we returned, we decided to train for some races. Half marathons are so fun! Although not my favorite distance, it’s a great challenge that doesn’t take up your whole life training. They easily fit into any schedule. The hubster decided he was going to start running (for real this time) and we set out training together for the Kentucky Derby Half. Needless to say, we ended up doing back-to-back-to-back halves in KY, NC, and SC, and he became a Half Fanatic! Secretly I’m working on him to become a Marathon Maniac…but… (laughs villainously) he is not seeing the light quite yet.

Fast forward to today. Restoration. Some FORCED REST is happening.
Last week after two weeks in California followed by a quickie 5-day trip to NYC I fell and hit my head. In actuality, I passed out and hit my head and didn’t remember it happening. I am so stubborn. Or passionate. Or determined. I assumed everything was fine when I woke up and had a big ‘ol unicorn horn on my noggin. After some discussion, we decided to go to the Dr who sent us to the ER. Surprisingly I think this was my first trip, which seems crazy for a family of adventure junkies! Oh…besided M’s stitches from a split head and A’s broken leg. Oops!
They sent me through the whole rigmarole. Checking for dehydration, blood tests, and a CT to be sure I was still as smart-alecky as ever.

Mission accomplished!

They gave me a great “headache cocktail” through an IV and had me rest, then sent me on my way with strict directions for (you guessed it) REST! Concussions require a “sling for your brain,” the Dr said.

Huh?

This has NOT been easy. The Dr gave me orders FIRST off, no screen time for three days: no phone, iPad, computer, Kindle, or TV. I missed the Kindle. Then I missed my friends, because moving away from the PNW, I still love my daily chats with my lovelies, which means being on the phone. The TV…eh… never a big deal in our house, It’s rarely used.
So basically I was told to lay down and do nothing.

Mission NOT accomplished! (I am sure you can see my furrowed brow and rebellious face a mile away)

HOW? I couldn’t. And I didn’t. I mean… I had an achey brain, and couldn’t see well and dizzy spells, and zero appetite,  but I just cannot lay in bed or on the couch and do… NOTHING. I couldn’t even read a regular book.

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Resting….. I tried and was terrible at it. I worked at being the best-rester I could be (yes I know that’s not a word), but it’s HARD y’all. I am in the middle of a June run streak with 4000 other streakers right now and HOW could I stop that? I couldn’t, so I focused on what I could do. I thought about those streakers that are newbies. The ones who have not only never done a streak, but some have never run or walked a mile a day for any amount of time. Ever! I considered how they felt, with sore feet, joints, legs, bodies. Tired after the mile, but determined to make it through this month and I channeled their perseverance, their dedication to this streak and took off walking. It was hard for me. Did I want to run? Absolutely! Running is like breathing to me, and it’s something I need daily! But I couldn’t. I mean, honestly, I couldn’t run if I wanted to. I did what I could, which is precisely what I’ve said to other streakers. Not everyone is running a 6-minute mile. Do what you can do.

I decided instead of sitting around in misery, I needed to have a mind shift. I am always a silver-lining girl. I am always looking for the good in every situation. How could I turn this around? What lesson was I to learn? I decided that I would be thankful that I could walk, that I could still play with my pup, could food prep, could listen to good music, could spend some time sitting in the sunshine AND since I’m walking at night, it’s allowed me to see spectacular sunsets.

I needed to be grateful for the act of resting.

In the past when I have had circumstances beyond my control that has forced rest upon me, I’ve come back stronger. Our bodies are such incredible machines and so intricate! I’m hoping for this outcome because, in the craziness of brain fog and a concussion, I signed myself up for an Ultra Marathon. A 50k. I must’ve really bumped my head! Ha!

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In reality, it’s been something I’ve been considering for a while and decided, now is the time. I went back and forth about triathlon this year and can’t find the right fit for an Ironman or HIM, so I have put that on the back burner until next season to focus on running. Lots of running!

Ok, ultramarathoners, I need your words of wisdom and sage advice going into the next few months of training. What tips and tidbits do you have for this newbie? I AM super excited to hit 31-miles of trails this coming November!

Today, it’s day 10 and I’m still… resting and allowing my body to RESTORE itself. I’ve realized over the last couple of days, this is going to be a process. There is no rushing in concussion recovery. My unicorn horn is going down and is a lovely shade of yellow. Not a shade that looks great with my skin tone, unfortunately, and I have a gorgeous set of black raccoon eyes now, but I am continuing to follow Dr’s orders and allow myself some downtime.

“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.”

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