Tales From the Trail -Red’s Meadows

IMG_5634IMG_5620We traveled 11.75 miles this morning after breaking camp in 5-hours! We were a tad motivated to get to Red’s Meadows. As we hiked, we talked about the upcoming luxuries of SHOWERS. REAL FOOD. CELL SERVICE. Among many, one of the things this trail has lended me was to absolutely and constantly be thankful for the little things. As I paid the $15 for 15 minutes of clean water in an actual shower I considered people who do not have this option and how easy it is to take for granted. I couldn’t believe the MUD that rolled off of me and down the drain. Serious filth! Even though I was bathing daily in whatever body of water was available to us each evening, it just didn’t compare to a warm, clean, shower. How much this relates to Jesus! I would’ve paid $100 for this luxury. We laughed! Us girls. We all three went into the shower at the same time, finding three empty stalls and as we plopped our tokens into the coin operated machine and stepped in, we laughed! Hard! We stood under the rush of warm water and felt like pampered princesses and REALLY felt clean! We didn’t shave the entire trip. It was our pact. The feeling of wanting to now was SO incredibly overwhelming. It was part of the journey and being all in. We may be clean princesses but we are hairy! And so was our dude! His facial hair was reaching epic proportion! For me, this shower washed so much more than dirt away. It washed away my bad attitude from the days before, it washed away feelings of guilt over decisions I have made, expectation I’ve placed on myself and ones that have been put there by others, it washed away things I’ve been holding on to that needed desperately to be let go of, past hurts, pride issues, being judged, negative feelings, mistakes, times in my life that I fell apart, fear, the mess of the last year and the dirt of the past…..It all ran down the drain in a puddle.

Red’s Meadows is such a great place. Magical. The gathering place for all wanderers just outside of the beautiful Mammoth Lakes/Devil’s Postpile area. IMG_5630Full of wonderful, backpacking, happy people. It’s no wonder I loved it! (“My People” as my hubs refers to them) We quickly recognized some of our trail family. Those we’ve met along the way, and continue to see on the daily. Leap- frogging along, but always ending up camping alongside each night. Our Slovakian’s whom we met WAY back on Glen Pass; two buddies hiking together, one of them barefoot. Tony, our dreadlocked farmer, who gave up an organic farm to hike the JMT, and of course the sweet 50th-anniversary couple, Brooks and Rita. We all filtered in little by little to the showers, the Mule House Cafe (that had the BEST cheeseburgers, fries, and fruit pie on the planet, ON THE PLANET!) and little general store that held our resupply. Interestingly enough, none of us rushed for our resupply. We opted instead for a shower, food, beer and hanging in the sunshine talking with other hikers…. in that order. We met Sam, a guy from the UK who is hiking the PCT. He is 3 weeks from finishing his 6-month journey and even though I have suffered some pretty rotten things out on this trail, I yearn for the opportunity to hike the PCT at some point. I was a little jealous. We talked to 2 women hikers from Maine that were having issues with sleeping bags. They were freezing at night and were asking opinions from everyone about new sacks that they were considering purchasing in Mammoth Lakes. We met a group of 4 women hiking together that were sharing a jar of queso dip and chips from the store. HEAVEN! We listened to the stories of fun and laughter, of animals, of heartbreak, of spiritual journeys, of blisters and sprained ankles, of sleeping COLD, of favorite and least favorite passes, the stories of their journeys and what brought them out here in the first place. I was happy to see so many solo-female hikers, and Ladies of the JMT (all of us wearing our blue bandanas on our pack to signify who we were) I was fascinated by these people and their stories and just wanted to take it all in! Sometimes I thought; man we must have a screw loose to do this, to want this, to enjoy (to some extent) the suffering of almost a month in the wilderness. The isolation, being dirty, being in the complete silence, the remoteness…but then I realized…Nah, it’s passion. It’s passion that drives this and every. single. one. of. us.  has. a. story.

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This was some DANG good coffee!

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With our “Slovakian’s” Igor (who hiked most of the trail barefoot and Jakob (Jakub)

We picked up our resupplies from the little general store and sifted through the contents. I dug….WAY down to the bottom for my note, but quickly saw that Greg had added a few other goodies to this bucket. A can of Pringle’s (oh sweet Jesus) about 5 lbs of Starburst, blister care items (first aid) and a few bottles of Fire Ball. That man knows exactly what I need even from thousands of miles away and not hearing from me in over 10 days! This would be our last resupply. My last note. The last little bit of correspondence until we finish this out. It excited me as much as it grieved me. It was bittersweet in several aspects and as happy as I was to be finishing up this incredibly, epic experience, I was deeply SO saddened at the same time.

My note to myself.

Paula,

Wild Mama, just because you cried today doesn’t make you weak, Allow the tears to come and wash your spirit clean. You’ve come a long way baby! You’re at Red’s Meadows. Reflect on where you have come from and where you’re heading. Continue to celebrate all that lies within you. God has created in you and adventurer, a lover of nature and of stars and extraordinary views. This is why you’re out here. Breathe it all in. You are stronger than you ever give yourself credit. Keep it up, badass warrior! Thanks be to God. Remember, you planned well and are ready for the next few days to the finish!IMG_1659

And from G.

Look at you, Lady! Wow! Bad-assery in its truest form. Your body is probably a little beat up and tired, but that’s ok. Better this than a lump on the couch. Embrace it all! You can make it this last stretch, dig in and remember, LOOK UP! Hopefully, you remember me at the end of this. I will be the guy standing with a cold beer, a super-soaker, and a razor. Ha-Ha! I love you, G

I roared with laughter as I read this. Along with his funny note, and myriad of additional goodies, he had packed the baggies of my re-packaged dehydrated meals (yes RE-PACKAGED because weight is EVERYTHING when it’s on your back) and had renamed a few for me, which brought some great laughter around our little Jet Boils as we cooked dinner at camp.IMG_5623

We had to say goodbye to Red’s Meadows  in the morning and start our way up Donahue Pass. It was hard leaving. We ate an AMAZING breakfast with WAAAAY too much coffee from a pot. Donahue is a big pass with 23-ish miles to the top. It’s long and gradual reaching 11,703 feet. We camped part way up around the Shadow Lake area. We had decided to bite this last section off in chunks. This was a gorgeous camp, with a waterfall right outside my tent door. (and for me, besides sunrises and sunsets, waterfalls rank HIGH up on the food chain of gorgeous-must-sees for me. I LOVE them) I climbed to the top of the falls and spent some alone time with God thanking Him for his creation, for His love for us through his creation. The beauty here and along this entire journey has been unsurpassed. I thanked Him for the opportunity of being out here, for His healing on my feet and body. I thanked Him for my hiking partners and keeping us all healthy (for the most part.) and safe. Out of the four of us, we had one common thread before going into this hike….our dude! K and I knew one another, but not to the depths that we did now. J and I met the day she, K and her hubs picked me up in San Bernardino to head to Lone Pine. Talk about really putting your faith into your hiking partners. So for us to make it this far with only a few small scrapes and bumps along the trail (so to say) I think I was in good company. I was so thankful for their underserved patience, and their inspiration, and kindness. I know we all had days where the raw emotion was high and we wanted to scream at one another, but in the end, we showed love, appreciation, devotion, fortitude, humility, mercy and grace. We showed friendship.  I was so grateful for that. Complete and utter favor in the most extreme conditions Their compassion was incredible. I know full well that some days, probably most days, I was deserving of NONE of it!

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That one day that J fell and K had to bandage her up with a Maxi-Pad!!

I took a deep breath as I climbed into my tent and into my mummy, the cascading sound of the falls outside the door making me dizzy with relaxation and tiredness. It had started to rain and we all retreated to our tents early. The daylight still lingered. I sat up and re-read the note from G and giggled. He has the greatest way of always making me and those around him laugh! He would love this spot. I cannot believe this journey is almost ending. I didn’t want it to. It had changed me in some pretty profound ways already. What would going home be like? What would matter to me that hadn’t before? What things would I cherish more and what would I no longer need or care to have? Would I want to go home and buy a Tiny House in the woods after living in Big Agnes for the past 3 1/2 weeks? What would I appreciate more and find unnecessary? What would food and water taste like? Different? Possibly. I do know the need to see my family was so colossal. To breathe them in deeply was all I wanted. That, and to lift and inhale the sweet, dirty, earthy, grass-smell of my puppy’s paws. (this is something her and I do several times a day) Those things that on a daily we become so accustomed to, that are so ordinary at times, that never will be again. They just can’t be.

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Start my JMT journey from the beginning HERE 

Merry Everything and Happy Always

image3Who doesn’t love a fresh start?

As the clock rolled over into another new year, we were surrounded by love, laughter and friendship, good food and champagne. I took a brief moment, almost as if I was standing outside and looking in, to take it all in. I saw a lot of happiness. I saw a lot of joy! I heard conversations. Heard screams of cheer and saw fireworks. I always seem to get nostalgic and semimetal in the New Year. I have always loved talking and thinking about the past year. It’s lessons. It’s losses. It’s new and second chances. What great things happened, how far we’ve come and what we have to look forward t0.

The hubs and I had one last official date of the year on the 30th. In a restaurant full of people, I love that somehow it can still be only us. A hundred people swirling around us and it’s simply he and I. Alone. We talked about the incredible year we had. A BIG year! A graduate. A lot of travel. The sell of a house. A move. A new career move.

Starting it off we had our last baby child gradate high school. That in itself was huge! Empty-nesters.

You know when you’re just starting out and you’re building your family…that word seems like an eternity away and then one day you wake up, and you’re there. It. Goes. By. So. Quickly.

image6Over the years of our life, he and I have had dreams and goals. We’d talked often about life after our chicks were gone and out of the nest. I am grateful and thankful that we have remained a constant with one another. Best friends who have grown up and grown closer over the years of raising a family. Always putting God first, then one another, then our family. We will no longer have carpools, school calendars, dance recitals, swim meets, football games, gymnastics meets, ski club, co-op, homeschooling, trips to craft stores for projects, teacher meetings and the mountain of other actives that accumulate while raising kids. What would life be like when it’s not full of running errands and helping with homework? We dreamed, he and I. We always have. We made goals. We looked forward to the future, all the while LOVING the time raising our kids, but looking forward to that chance to become just a couple again, someday. Isn’t it fun to dream with your spouse? To reach in and pull out one another’s heart and examine it? As we stepped into 2016, we knew that time was upon us. We did it! We celebrated our success at raising the last of our three kids to adulthood.

One of the plans was to sell our big house and downsize. After all….we would both rather collect memories, not things. Travel more and not be tied down to a house that is way too large for two. Not to mention maintenance; lawn care, snow removal. Not our thing. We’ve always thought there are better ways to spend our time. Mission accomplished. The move was tumultuous to say the least. The binging and purging was taking way longer for us than expected. We both felt as if while we were paring our house down, we were paring our life down. Letting go of “things” was so refreshing and it allowed for evaluation of every single aspect of our life.

image1After my JMT trip, I had already come back a changed person (more when I continue that post) I came back ready for change, ready to purge…everything. I had lived 3-weeks out of a tent and backpack. I had nothing but time to process unwanted garbage out of my life. When I returned I had a new focus and new zest for life, that when shared with the hubs, motivated him just the same. He didn’t need to be out in the wilderness to catch everything I was getting at. Taking 6 days to drive the coast after that trip was the best debrief I could’ve asked for. I shared my journaling with him and it came as NO SURPRISE that he and I were both on the same page. LET IT GO!! A fresh start was about to take place. The move….well, it was just the icing on the cake. It sealed the deal that everything we had talked and dreamed about all these years, was about to break free and come to fulfillment.

Our words for last year were Patience and Prepare. Every year instead of resolutions, we wait and listen for ONE WORD. Isn’t it just like our God to give us those two words? Patience and Prepare. WOW! Our ENTIRE year was lived out and based on the fulfillment of those words. I learned patience like I’ve never had before. Through all of my training and racing last year, through injury and sickness, I HAD to be patient with myself, with my body, with my health. Hiking days on end for long hours in the Sierras instills patience like I’ve never encountered. Selling a house…pushes it to the brink. But I knew that God had prepared me/us for all of it.

During the process of moving, we took the advice of those friends who have gone through the same thing. The ones who have dreamed big and had those dreams become reality, some selling their homes to travel and live by RV, some selling and moving different states to chase the sun and some who sold homes to live their dream of living on a boat. Talk about having to purge! We loved the encouragement. Loved the inspiration! The purging became so much more to us than getting rid of our stuff. I literally became clearing out EVERYTHING we felt was holing us back, holding us down, holding us hostage. Baggage. The trunks dragging behind that were getting too heavy to haul. Bad, unhealthy relationships, bills, toxic unauthentic people in our lives, old unforgiveness, walls that were built over time, that needed climbed over or broken down, unhealthy eating and drinking, missed workouts and missed opportunities, resentments. You name it, it was flushed out. God worked on our hearts as a couple and individually. He guided and showed us the way. And when it was done…..we felt a whole new sense of freedom. We felt …. Light. And as 2016 slipped away and 2017 came flowing in God whispered my word for the year: Intention. Be intentional.image2

image4Living with intention to me means, to live with purpose. To continue to foster the REAL in me, verses what people want of me. Live deliberately. Instead of thinking “I don’t have time” really evaluate if it is a priority, and move on from there. And if it’s not, to not allow guilt of any kind creep in. I want my actions to speak more than my voice. I want to be intentional with friends, giving them the undivided attention they deserve while we are together. I want to surround myself with people on fire for life. I want to be intentional in my food choices, my exercise, and the time spent doing the things I love: traveling with my hubs and soaking in salt water. I want things in my home to have a use and a meaning, not just “because its shiny” I want to wake up each morning with my aim focused to my Creator, to listen to what He has in store for me. I want to be a magnet for miracles and notice them everywhere, every day. I want to continue to notice the beauty and abundance that’s all around me. I want to dig deeper and deeper into the Word of God. I want to be intentional in my relationship with my hubs, honoring and respecting him everyday and being acutely aware to his needs and interests and fanning those in him. I want to believe good things are happening everyday. I want to be intentional to giving, to doing everything with a good heart and expecting nothing in return. I want to inspire others in my walk with God. I want to watch less TV and be outdoors more. I want to drink more water. I don’t want to “settle” for anything, realizing life is short and fleeting. I want to NOTICE more. I want to journal and pray more. I want to serve more and be aware of others needs. Spend time with those I adore.image5 I want to take more risks and love fiercely, even if others can’t return that love. I want to let go and let God, knowing I cannot control the uncontrollable. I want to soak in the knowledge that each day starts with new grace and fresh mercy.

This journey into a new year will be radical. Exciting and challenging! I already know it will be filled with more joy than we will know how to contain. Join me in raising a glass, to your ONE word, to your resolutions, to your new year, new you, new career, new marriage, new baby, new chapter or maybe even a whole new book. Get excited!  Flip the page.Processed with VSCOcam with p2 preset

 

Straight Through to the Finish Line (Ironman Canada)

The moment that something hits you like a ton of bricks can be overwhelming, overpowering, a brutal reality, and like a ray of sunshine all at the same moment.  How you deal with the ton of bricks, makes all the difference in the World!  Do you allow it to consume you?  Do you sit an dwell on it?  Or do you stare it in the face, and head straight into the pile of bricks? Maybe for some its a process.  Me?  I am an “all steam forward” kind of girl.  The ton of bricks in this case, was the fact that I was half way through the marathon of Ironman Canada, upset, dealing with relentless pain, and BAM…. realized…no water.  Pains of dehydration?

Anyone who has done an IM gets to the point, at some time during the day, that they figure, can it get any worse?  So…”what the heck, I’ll try it” takes over.

With my hubby leap frogging me on his scooter, and pushing me, mile after mile….to just go ONE more mile, I thought, at the next aid station, I am taking in a FULL cup of water.  I knew I would finish the race, even walking, but I wanted AT LEAST a PR from 2010, if possible.  (Doesn’t everyone)  I came up to the next aid station, and proceeded to take a big cup of water.  I didn’t just take a tiny sip, I drank the entire thing as I walked from one end of the station to the next.  It was forced.  Drinking it was awful!  The taste was putrid to me.  I continued on my way.

At the next aid station, I realized that I was starting to come to life a bit, I drank.  Another big cup of water.  This one tasted a bit better than the last, and I could tell, my mood was improving a bit.  I saw the Hubs just past the aid station, and he told me to grab some Coke at the next stop.  I have learned from not only myself, but from friends, that flat Coke, can sometimes be like drinking liquid gold in times like this.  I could feel my stomach becoming less crampy…(no that isn’t a word, but sometimes I have to use my “me-ness” and create a word) so I started to run a bit.  Not bad.  It was a slow pace, but at least I wasn’t feeling that stomach pain of the fist 14 miles.  I trudged forward.  I saw my Scooter Boy again, and he told me our friend was right ahead of me, and he still wasn’t feeling good.

I kept up with my drinking plan at the next aid station, and added in a cup of Coke and 2 pretzels.  A new woman started to emerge. The girl, that came into this race, feeling so good and confident, was coming out of her fog.  I was starting to feel really great!!  My pace picked up little by little.  Luckily for me, the physical part of this wasn’t muscular.  It was all digestive/dehydration.  My body was not tired, my legs felt fresh, and I was feeling really positive that I could finish this IM strong.

I caught up with my friend, and walked a bit with him.  He wasn’t feeling good, and I told him to drink if he could.

The more and more I drank, the better and better I felt.  By the time I was around the 16-17-mile point, I was feeling great!!  I continued my cup of water and cup of Coke at every station.  I was becoming more and more social again with people along the course, aid station volunteers, and medical teams.  Talking, waving, and thanking them for being out there to support us.  Not that I was necessarily being anti-social, but when you are in such a dark place inside yourself, most people retreat.  For me, this means I get quiet, and not my bubbly self.  Mostly because the way I process things of agitation, pain, sadness, upheaval, annoyance, sorrow, and uncertainty  is to recognize it, strategize how to get through it, and walk right straight through the damn mess.  That’s my Fierceness.  That’s my Fearlessness (Abhaya)  That’s my Me-Ness.  And that’s exactly what happened on this day.

Pain/misery/sucky race + realization/determination/ambitiousness = PLAN OF ATTACK

And my plan was hydration!

By miles, 17,18, 19, I was cruisin’!  I was smiling.  I saw my hubs, and he said, I looked refreshed, and new.  I had that normal spring in my stride.  I was loving this race again.  Loving this run.  Loving Ironman.  I had to get over the one small fact, that my time was not going to be as I planned, but that it would indeed be a huge PR, if I could maintain my current pace.  I passed people one by one, cheering them on as I passed.  A lot of them were not looking well.  Getting tired.  Blistered, beaten by the day, the clock, the sun, the course.  A few of them asked, how I was looking so fresh?  I just kept encouraging them to keep moving!

NOW was when I wished I hadn’t given the Napalm flask to my hubs.  NOW I wish I had just kept it!  Because even though, the abdominal pains were gone and I was feeling on top of the world, I was running a little low on energy.  Energy that would’ve easily come from a few ounces of gel.  Again, knowing this was now out of my control, and that I ALONE made the decision to NOT hold onto the gel flask, I owned it, and kept moving forward.

Coming into town was surreal.  I was starting to hear the announcer, his sweet French accent waiting to call me across the finish line.  The music, the crowds.  I kept up with my pace with a huge smile on my face.  I waved, and thanked every single person I saw sitting out by the side of the road, cheering me on.  As I came into the last aid station, I saw my long-time-forever-friend (our gracious host while in Penticton)  She screamed and grabbed me after both of us realized who we were, with her offering me a Coke.  We laughed so hard!!  She hugged my sweat drenched & salt covered body without even giving it a second thought.  And when I said, “I am all sweaty and gross” her sweet daughter ran to me, arms open wide, and said “I DON’T EVEN CARE! I want a hug!”  It was a rock-star moment for me!  And was EXACTLY the last push I needed to get to the finish line.  Right around that time, a guy that had been running on and off with me, caught back up to me.  We ran our entire way through the last winding streets.  Talking about the day.  He was exhausted and hurting.  He told me, that no matter what, he was going to keep up with me until the end.  We came into the last mile.  That bittersweet start/finish area I talked about.  This time, feeling completely used up, as we passed by the finishers chute and back out to the turn around on the Lake Drive.  He noted that this part felt like torture.  And that he was having a hard time keeping up.  I…like I do with my friends when we run and I push them to a faster pace, did what I always do…started talking to him.  Asking him where he was from, who was he here with, how many IM’s had he done?  I kept him talking, so he wouldn’t think about how he felt.  We ran by the restaurants filled with spectators, and from out of nowhere I hear a loud, rowdy, raucous coming from one of the restaurants.  Friends!!  Cheering for me!!  My “friend” running with me, says, “Wow!!  You’ve got some great fans!”  We round the last part of the course, and head towards the finish…again, more friends, yelling my name, cheering loudly, carrying me right down the road.  I had learned that this was my new friends first Ironman, so as we neared the chute, I tell him to go.  GO!  Go run through, and breathe in every single second of this part, because one; your pain goes away immediately as you start down that chute.  Your entire day of suffering, distress, worry, anxiety, aching muscles, fatigue, tiredness, all disappears.  And you are left with the most euphoric feeling.  And two; you only get your first finish of an Ironman, one time.  I wanted him to have his moment.  He of course, being a total gentleman, pushed me forward, and said, “NO, go for it!!”  And I did!  I ran down the row of madness.  Deafening sounds of the bells, horns, clapping, screaming, music and the pounding that is an Ironman finishers chute.  I soared, with my arms out by my side, floating, high-fiving and with an enormous smile on my face, right through the banner, and through the finish!  Remarkable!  That is a feeling that I could relive over and over.  It’s those certain days that play over and over in your mind.  Distinct, finite, precise memories that never fade from your mind.  Days like, graduating college, getting married, getting your first pay check, having your children, buying your first home and finishing an Ironman.  I don’t care if it’s your first or fiftieth, what time you finish, if you PR, having the best day ever or the worst, that is a day you won’t easily forget.  After all of the hard work, sacrifice, resolve, steadfastness and loyalty to your sport, your training plan, your family, your coach, your training partners and to yourself, to cross that finish line is like sweet rain.

Of course crossing the finish line to see your friends and family there is incredible!  The laughing, tears, hugs and party that ensues afterwards is priceless and unforgettable!!

I did PR this Ironman by 1 hour and 16 minutes!  I immediately told my friends and family that I was done with these RIDICULOUS distances, and that I would NEVER do another Ironman.  They laughed.  My husband laughed the hardest because he knows me too well!  Of course two days later, I was singing a different tune, and considering which IM will be my next.  That’s just how I roll!!

*Special thank you, first and foremost to God for giving me the physical ability to be able to race, swim, bike and run.  For continually whispering in my ear that day, that He had me.  Phil 4:13  For keeping me able-bodied, strong, and giving me the courage to start the race! “and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” Heb 12:1

To my Scooter Boy. He has stood by my side in good and bad, and REALLY bad.  He has held my hand, my heart, my body, my laughter and my tears.  He encourages me every single day to be the best version of myself that I can possibly be.  He is my biggest supporter and biggest fan.  I wake, daily, thankful for this man in my life!

My family.  They are there cheering me on no matter how crazy the race day may be.  They encourage me, hold me up, and call me out.  Their calls, texts, emails, signs they made, cards, fist pumps, high-fives and praise are so amazing.  I am proud to be a Wife, Mother, Daughter, Sister and Aunt that they can look up to.

My coach.  When I thought all was lost, he was a voice of reason.  He pushed my ass hard.  Made me work for this, and was great at promoting and encouraging me at every workout, every day.  He told me from day one, I had to be “game on” in order to finish this Ironman on such a tight training time frame.  His plan was straight forward.  He listened to me about workouts, injuries, and some days…just lamenting about having a bad day or bad attitude.

And my friends.  Every single one of you are amazing.  Thank you for being there for me.  For training with me.  For allowing me to vent, cry on your shoulder and laugh with me, for supporting me no matter what!  And for those who train with me, for keeping me motivated and driven to reach that finish.  It’s nice to have people who can hold you up, and vice-versa.   Each of you, is a huge piece of the puzzle of my life.  A thread in the fabric of my existence, and I adore every single one of you.

***And special congratulations to ALL of my friends/training partners that finished that day!  Well done, my friends! Well done!! (And the friend leap frogging me all day, yes, he had an incredible finish….not too far behind me) 

Coming out of the fog, and LOVING the run!!

Feeling Great!!

Signs from my Family….Take THAT Chuck Norris!!

That’s Right!!

Family and Friends

My Finisher’s Victory Leap!!

All Worth the Bling