Category Archives: adventures

More than meets the Eye

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They postponed the start by a few minutes.
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Runners huddling under the few shelters.
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I was so cold! But happy. ūüôā

Looking at these photos what comes to your mind? Do you wonder why people run? Or why they’d pay to show up and run in the rain like this? Or why would they try to stay dry under a tent when they’re about to run in the rain? Or did you notice the couple with the stroller under the umbrella? The lady had a small baby. Or maybe you saw the portable toilets and thought , yuck, I’d never use those.

Or maybe you’re a runner and thought, let’s go, it’s just a little rain! Or you were checking out the starting line and other features of the race course.

I woke up at 4 am, checked my weather app because I knew the forecast, and saw a huge storm headed to where the race was being held, about 40 miles to the east of my house. Got ready to go and was about to get in the van when the sky opened up. Had a few second thoughts , but then I thought , well maybe it will move north. I took off down the highway and eventually drove out of the heavy rain into sprinkles. When I go to the race venue it started raining moderately. Oh well, I thought, I’m here, I’ll put on my rain jacket. I had to walk about a 1/4 mile to the packet pickup area from the parking lot, or at least it seemed like it. In line with the other die hard runners, I started to feel good about showing up. One of them, an older man and amazing runner that I know from trail running, had driven 1.5 hours in heavy rain, hydroplaning on the highway. I thought , if he can do this, I can! Then another lady mentioned that she might just go home. I was thinking, then why are you here? She didn’t leave , though.

We had to wait awhile after picking up our bibs and during that time it rained¬† off and on. It started raining a bit harder right before 7AM so they held off a few minutes. Finally, we saluted the flag during the national anthem in the rain and headed to the starting line. I decided to keep my rain jacket on even though I knew eventually I’d get hot and have to take it off, which is what happened later.

I had registered for this race during a “super low price ,early bird” registration period , read ‘impulse buy’. I could have skipped it since I had run 22 miles the day before, but I wanted to challenge myself and see what I could do.

The title of this blog is really about what goes on in the mind of a runner, and probable other athletes and people who like to push themselves in whatever pursuit they enjoy.

In the car on the way there: Dear God , please get me there safely. Please help me run my race. Please watch over and bless my family while I’m gone from home. (Then I listened to Christian music and¬† the end of an inspiring¬† message from Ravi Zacharias on the radio.) Oh crap, watch the road. Do not look at your GPS while driving! Why are these people in such a hurry at this hour on a Saturday?

Arriving at the venue:¬† Oh no! I thought this was where I am supposed to go but evidently not. I will follow those cars. I hope I’m not late! Whew, I guess this is the place. Well, here comes the rain. Hmm, I don’t want to walk back to the car with my t-shirt, so I will wear my pack under my jacket and bring everything I need . I can just stuff my shirt in my pack, or maybe the pocket of this jacket. I bet the shirt will be too small for me. I guess these people sitting in their cars went to packet pickup yesterday. The sky is lightening up, the sun is coming up soon. I should hide my wallet. I wonder if anyone breaks into cars in the rain. Okay, off I go into the rain with the other nuts.

Waiting to start, while standing under a tent:¬† I hope I can run. I hope my legs and body can do this. Oh, that’s nice that this family is running together and look how enthusiastic and positive their kids are! What is wrong with my kids? I wish my family would run races . I’m cold. Uh-oh , it’s raining harder. Will there be lightning? Will the race go on? Oh no, people are getting bit by ants. I hate ants.¬† ( I have a short chat with the man next to me about ants. We compare scars that we both have on our wrists from ant bites. We talk about the craziness of what we are about to do and how we like it.) Oh, yay, they are starting pre-race stuff. Almost time! Remember to take it nice and easy, don’t go out too fast.

First loop of two 5 mile loops: Well this isn’t so bad. I feel pretty good! I’m not hot and I have energy and I’m passing a lot of people since I stared off in the middle-back section. Oh, she went out too fast, now she’s slowing down. Why is that man breathing so hard? He’s running too fast for his fitness level. I hope he’s okay.¬† Wow, already 3 miles done! That went by fast. Look at all these awesome cops and volunteers standing in the rain for us! I love these volunteers! Wow, they¬† have a lot of orange cones. Careful, don’t slip on the painted lines. Man, I feel so good. I can’t believe it. I wonder if that will change soon. I’ll just go with it and if I have to walk some I will. Oh wow, almost to the turnaround already! 5 miles done. Halfway. Oh , what?! There is the winner coming in! He has run 10 miles already! How do they do it???

Miles 6-10:¬† Hmm, that lady keeps running by me and then walking. I am going to just try to maintain this steady pace as long as I can. Well, I am passing her again. We are yo-yoing. She can’t hold that pace. Why doesn’t she slow down? Maybe she likes the run/walk. She can run well, but she can’t hold it, she’s out of breath. I am slower , but we are averaging the same pace. This is interesting. I will just keep going. Where is she? Oh, I caught her again. I think I might be able to run the whole thing without walking. That is my new goal. So much for my plan to run/walk. Hmm, should I eat a Gu (gel)? I can’t believe I’ve run this far on just water! In the summer I need so much fuel! Mile 7 already! This is flying by! I think I will go ahead and eat a GU just to help me stay strong . But I’m not going to walk. How can I do this with this jacket in my hand? I’ll put it under my arm. Okay, here we go! Last mile, push it. I wish I could run faster . I wonder what my pace has been? (I forgot my watch and was using an app and had not looked at it during the race.) Oh, here I am catching up to that yo-yo lady, I will encourage her. “Almost there! You have a great pace! Go for it!” ( We finished within seconds of each other, but I didn’t get a chance to talk to her after the race, unfortunately.) Push it! Finish line ahead, go hard! I did it! I think I PRd this course! (no, but almost) Wow, that was awesome! Crap, my app won’t stop! My phone is too wet and my hands are cold and wet. (somehow I stopped it but it had a little extra time on it.) Oh, I like this medal.

After the race:¬† I’m cold. I’m hungry. I want dry clothes. I want food. But I have to wait around so I can get the results. Did I place in my age group? Breakfast tacos ! I will eat the insides, no tortillas for me. (I’m gluten free.) Oh, soda, yes, I want one.¬† What is going on ? Oh they are already giving out awards and the cash drawing. I hope I win $100! ( This race gives away 8 $100 bills and 5 $50 bills. ) Well that was pretty tasty, I love potatoes and eggs. I need to sit down and I need a paper towel. My hands are so cold! Oops that area is only for VIPs. Oh, there are some chairs. They are wet,¬† but so am I. Oh it feels good to sit down! I can barely hear the announcer. I better pay close attention. He is calling the winning numbers with little warning.¬† Oh bummer, one number off. Hey I see a lady I know, I want to say hi. She won Masters Female ! And her mom won her age group. Hey there is another trail friend. Good to see¬† and chat with her . I’m so cold. Should I just leave? I will put on my wet jacket. That is actually warming me up. Well, I didn’t win any money or place in my age group. I can finally go get warm!

On the way home: Thank you, God! Thank for you making this a good day. Please get me home safely. Amen. Why are these people driving 80 in a construction zone? Idiots. Okay, out of that death zone. No, I’m not moving over. I’m doing 80. Sorry. Pass me if you want to. Go back to Austin.

So now you know a little bit of what is going on in my seemingly quiet little head.

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Why are you doing this ? Crewing Capital to Coast Relay Solo 2018

I’m sitting on a country road in my friend’s Toyota Tundra which currently , and often , smells like stinky running shoes and sweaty clothes. We are around 60 miles into a 223 mile run from Austin to Corpus Christi. No, we aren’t a relay team. My friend is running all of it , just like he ran the entire 203 miles of the Texas Independence Relay.

The first time we did this everything seemed easier . This course is pretty hilly , we started at night in the rain, and there is way more traffic than I expected. We also have no other crew members to help us,¬† unlike last time when we had quite a nice group of pacers and supporters. But also I’m just really struggling with not wanting to be here. I’ve been in a menopausal funk lately that has zapped me of all motivation. I’m still fulfilling my responsibilities at home . I just am content to do little else. This is not me ! I’m usually always on the go or cooking up plans. But I would never let my friend down and he doesn’t know I’d rather be at home doing nothing .

But this is dragging on so slowly! Thankfully the sun came out and it’s not so gloomy , but I hope it doesn’t warm up too much . We started the race at 10:30 last night . You can see the video on Facebook. I did enjoy the first hour or two of running through my old college town. It’s not the same, of course. Austin is one of the fastest growing cities in the country. New skyscrapers are going up everywhere, along with sky high rents. New toll roads and highways are full of cars. But the downtown night life brought back memories of my freshman year. We used to party on the famous 6th street after walking there from campus, then walk back to our dorm.

Part Two

Okay those first two paragraphs were written yesterday afternoon. Now it’s the next night and I’m at home and the race/run is over. My friend did not finish this time. Things were just not going well and he decided that he didn’t want to run/walk for another 40 hours. The total was going to end up being more like 80 hours instead of the 68 he had planned. The¬† finish line would have been taken down, no hoopla, and possibly no official recognition of his efforts, but we weren’t sure about that. But we did know we’d be finishing sometime after midnight Saturday night. It was just not his day.

I’m happy to report that I did start having more fun with my fellow crew member after I wrote the first paragraphs. But, boy oh boy, I am so glad to be out of the truck! I am so glad to be at home! I am so glad to be here with my husband, kids and dogs. I am so glad to be able to cook dinner and hang out. Last time we did this I was totally into the race, enjoying the journey through country roads and then all the way from one side of Houston to the other, a long way.¬† We were having a good time even though it was difficult at times to keep my friend going and the run lasted about 62 hours.¬† This time we were very¬† much alone, not much to look at along the way, the road was not very good, and I just felt like we weren’t prepared for it all. But every run/race is a learning experience if you pay attention. This time I learned that it is very important to train for the specific conditions you will be running, that one’s diet matters very much, as in, don’t under eat before and during a race, and that you must have very good reasons to run long distances or it will suck. You can’t run to prove your worth to others or to beat others or to win approval. You must prove it to yourself, beat yourself, gain your own approval. And you must be able to dig deep from your own well of motivation, strength and peace because running for hours and hours alone is not for the weak. My friend is definitely not weak. He ran a 100 miler two weeks ago and got a personal best and won the race! But he was physically tired and not sure of his own reasons for doing this race. In the end, it just wasn’t worth it to him to continue to suffer. His knee, feet and back were hurting the whole time. He pulled the plug at 94 miles, got in the truck and went to sleep. When he woke up I asked him if he wanted to continue and finish at least 100 miles but his heart wasn’t in it. It’s okay. A DNF ( did not finish) is not the end of the world! It doesn’t define your value or status as a runner. I really hope my friend will not beat himself up over this. Running is supposed to be a positive force, not a negative one.

So I’m home. I ran 27 total miles with him and my legs are feeling it, but I am thankful for the experience. We had a good time running until it was no longer fun. I took a break while he kept going into the night. He got discouraged by the hills and got in¬† the truck to sleep a bit. When he woke up, the sun was up and¬† we ran some more . We talked and laughed and braved the dogs and traffic . Then he ran alone all through the night down gravel roads¬† with fences on both sides under the full moon until it just got too hard, something like 32 hours. My brain is too tired to do math. We had adventures! I peed behind two campaign signs next to a school along a road with no trees after holding it for an hour waiting to find a hidden spot. We missed our turn once and had to backtrack half a mile. We saw deer, raccoons, cattle, horses and more dogs. Coyotes howled at the moon that was so bright you could see the road without any lights. We may not have finished the course, but we gave it our all, especially him. It was worth it.

True Grit: Sky Island 25k 2018 Race Report

Me: “Hey ,honey ?! Want to run Sky Island 25k? My husband: “What? Oh, sure, why not? Sign me up! ”

Way back in March of this year,¬† I got the email for priority registration for previous runners of the Spectrum Trail Racing Sky Island trail race which took place September 22nd.¬† Even though this race is one of the hardest race I’ve ever run,and last year didn’t go very well, I still keep going back for more. I like a challenge! I was on my computer signing up and I yelled into the other room to ask my husband if he wanted me to sign him up, too. He had a goal of running a half marathon this year and this race offers a 25k distance as well as a 50k, so I thought it might work. Sure, why not, he said, and I signed him up. Plenty of time to train!

A little background info

What makes this running story extra special is that my husband has a surgically rebuilt leg. Not a prosthetic, his leg was saved from amputation and reconstructed from his own bones and muscle tissue. He has some pretty impressive scars all over his body.¬† Riding his motorcycle home from work one day in 1989, through no fault of his own, he was run over and nearly died. Along with being unconscious for a couple of weeks, suffering severe pain, and having multiple surgeries,¬† he spent a year lying in bed, then gradually using a wheelchair and¬† then another four months learning¬† to walk again . Surgeons did a good job of making his leg functional, but his hips are not level so it’s like having one leg longer than the other, which contributes to significant knee and hip pain when he runs. But my husband is a a determined man. I met him at a Halloween party when he was just getting back to being able to ride motorcycles and work again. We hit it off right away and were married in May.

Fast forward to when I first discovered the joy of running and racing back in 2011. Soon after, my husband decided he wanted to try it , too. Doctors had told him he would have limited mobility and would probably need a knee replacement someday after they rebuilt his leg, but he had already spent over 20 years walking, standing and working on his feet in a shop all day on that leg. Why not try running with it? We signed up for the same local 5k race that had been my first race, one year later. He pushed my daughter in her special needs jogging stroller and had my two youngest sons dragging along with him, so it wasn’t fast, but he had fun and it sparked his competitive spirit to try to do a faster race. After about two years of running 5k road races , he switched to trail races with me in 2015. Because of the way his leg looks, he gets some stares and curious looks which makes him feel a bit uncomfortable, but he doesn’t mind answering the question, What happened to your leg?!

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His first 10k trail run at Brazos Bend

A temporary setback

Evidently I inspire him, because when I decided to start a run streak , he decided to try that as well. Even with his bad leg he was running at least one mile every single day for 115 days!  He was doing well, feeling great about his accomplishment, and then one day a dog startled him in the dark and he made a sudden movement which caused a painful and lasting knee injury in the rebuilt leg. This was really unfortunate because running had greatly improved the depression that has plagued my husband off and on for the past 10 years.  He had to end his streak and stop running for many months. Even walking was very painful and he went back to using a cane.

But eventually he noticed his leg was feeling almost normal and decided to try running again. His pace is slower now and he’s lost a lot of fitness and gained some weight back that he’d lost from his earlier running but he is very happy to have the ability to run again. . He is only running once a week now, sometimes twice, and that seems to be the magic key to preventing too much leg pain, which leads us back to the current race on the schedule.

Coach/Wife

I really didn’t know if my husband could run this particular race. The course is rocky, technical, has big climbs and no shade. I can barely handle it with two good legs and pretty good fitness! He’s had some blood pressure issues and even heart concerns in the past , but was in generally good health. But I didn’t want to push him too hard. I knew he’d have to train very specifically and consistently.¬† Once we got started , he showed me that he was serious and put in the miles even when he didn’t feel like it or it hurt.¬† He told me that he mentally turned it over to me as far as how he stayed motivated.¬† He listened to my advice and heeded my warnings that this race was not going to be easy. We gradually increased his run distance until he ran his first ever unofficial half marathon, or 13.1 miles, on the road. This was a very special milestone!¬† After doing that he felt sure that he could make it 15 miles. To prepare for the race, we ran a few times on some trails that had some good steep and rocky climbs and descents to get ready for the race. There were a couple moments where we both thought he might pass out on those climbs. We also ran some flat, easy dirt trail miles.¬† Most of our training was in the usual, awful Texas summer high temperatures with high humidity, so we were looking forward to heading to the cooler temps of the high desert the first weekend of Fall.

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After a fairly busy summer of running, training, and traveling, September finally rolled around which means I was back to work homeschooling my kids, plus my son had a birthday, so the first few weeks passed quickly.¬† We didn’t run very much in those weeks which always makes a runner nervous. Finally race week arrived! The days flew by with me trying to get packed while still teaching school and making sure we had everything we needed for the trip. He was getting pretty nervous and told me he wasn’t sure he could do it. Maybe he would just be happy with 13.1 . Just taper madness, I reassured him. Oddly I was not nervous at all about the running even though I knew how tough the course is. I was more concerned about getting him to the finish line happy and uninjured. I knew this was going to be a big challenge for both of us, but that a successful race would be so rewarding.

Heading West!

The race location, Davis Mountains State park,  is 550 miles from home, in far West Texas, near the famous town of Marfa.  Leaving behind our dogs, cats, older sons and my daughter who was being cared for by my sister, we hit the road Friday morning  with the youngest kids, a cooler full of drinks, bags of snacks, and plenty of nervous excitement. Even with an 80 mph speed limit for much of the route, it still takes a long time to get there. There was rain in the forecast and sure enough, it started pouring down so hard that my husband could barely see the road and then something crazy happened. The rain was so heavy it was beginning to flood the highway and water started coming into the van under the door! That has never happened before. It kinda freaked us out and it got some of our stuff wet , but not too bad. We made it through the storm okay,  but some of our friends who were a little behind us were not so lucky. There was a flash flood that covered the highway and traffic was blocked for a few hours.

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After escaping the flash flood, we drove into better, COOL weather, and finally arrived at our destination right on time and got our room keys. We were among the lucky ones to get a room in the lodge which was the headquarters and start/finish line of the race. The historic Indian lodge was very nice and my kids and husband took a moment to relax in our comfy room and check out the cable TV, which we don’t have at home,¬† while I went to explore. I found the starting area being set up and then just took a moment to look at the beautiful location. This is one of my favorite places in Texas. Later we went into the nearby town of Fort Davis for dinner at a favorite tourist spot, The Drug Store. Not my best pre-race meal ever, a small, lukewarm baked potato, but the service was very friendly. My husband and kids enjoyed their burgers and fries. We thought it was super funny that multiple employees kept coming by offering them soda refills. Seriously,¬† you can only drink so much!

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Race day!

We didn’t sleep much the night before the race, but that’s not unusual. The bed was okay and it was nice and cold in the room, it was just race anxiety. Our phone alarms went off at 5:00 even though we only had a one minute walk to the start and our race started at 7:15. Gotta have plenty of time to eat a snack, drink coffee, get dressed, and poop! I almost forgot that we still needed to pick up our timing chips. It was chilly (for us) , mid 50s,¬† and misting rain, but we figured it would warm up a bit,¬† so we weren’t quite sure what clothes to wear. First I put on capris, but then I decided I might get hot, so I changed into shorts at the last minute. My husband wore shorts and we both grabbed our lightweight wind breakers which we ended up shedding and stuffing into our packs about two miles into the race, but they were nice while we needed them. We both wore hats, plus our¬† hydration packs which I filled with GU Roctane hydration drink. I also packed a few gels and a couple of snacks. He chose to run in his Brooks Ghost 10 which aren’t trail shoes, and I wore New Balance MT910 trail shoes.

Ready, set , go!

We found the crowd of nervous and excited runners staying warm and waiting for the pre-race briefing in the lodge living room , which they call the lobby. Then it was time to line up in the sprinkling rain outside! The sun was not quite up so we used our headlamps for the first mile, then we stashed them. The race started off with a run down the asphalt park road to the park entrance, then down the side of the highway in the grass, under a bridge and then back up the road to the trail head on the other side of the highway. This was a nice warm up. The first part of this trail was pretty flat, including two crossings of a dry, but rocky, creek bed which had had about 8 inches of water in it the previous two years, so we had a pretty decent pace for the first 3 miles. After that we slowed down a lot as we climbed the first mountain on a long and winding trail. We were both encouraged by how good we felt and by the wonderful cool,cloudy weather.

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Staying warm before the start

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The desert terrain is tough but beautiful!

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Across the dry creek bed.

Primitive Loop

After we made it to the top of the approximately 550 foot gradual climb, reaching around 5400 feet elevation, where the aid station was located,¬† we began a 6 mile loop around the top that included some small inclines, and tons of rocks and awesome views. We were feeling good and enjoying the awesome views from the mountain, talking and keeping a fast walk/jog pace.¬† Sadly we did not have any wildlife sightings up there. Last year I saw a tarantula, frogs, and a Javelina . We started getting tired towards the end of the loop and slowing down. We got passed by one of the few people that were behind us when we had to stop to pee a few times and then to re-tie a shoe. The course was so rocky on that section near the end of the loop that we were mostly walking because both of us were starting to stumble. Our trekking poles had already saved us from falling several times.¬† We were both feeling¬† ready for that loop to end.¬† Finally we heard the sound of cheering and¬† a drum being played at the aid station by one of the volunteers and knew we were close. We stopped there and refilled my husband’s pack with water and he ate some peanut butter tortilla wraps that he said were delicious. Funny how good food can taste when you’re¬† trailrunning!

We were excited to go back down the trail we had came up on,  but it was not easy going. The fast runners from the 50k race began to pass us going down and the slower 50k runners were coming up the narrow trail which meant that we stopped frequently and stepped to the side. I was having trouble with my left foot, stumbling a lot, which was making me anxious, and my husband had a painful blister on his toe, so we were both not in the best mood at that time.  Then we passed an injured woman who was waiting for the medics to come carry her off the mountain and we realized that things could be worse! A few minutes later, the medic team went by.  We were both relieved to reach the bottom of the trail. My husband stopped to check his blister and discovered he had more than one and the one on his toe had already popped. There was nothing to do but keep going.  Meanwhile I went to pee in some bushes. During that short break another back of the pack guy almost passed us. We hurried up and got moving again,  went  under the bridge and back up the road into the park and then onto the next trail.

Indian Lodge trail

My husband’s only real goal for the race was to finish, but he also said that he’d be very happy if he could finish in under 5 hours. Both of us have a competitive streak and neither wanted to come in last! He has a history of go-kart racing, drag racing, and motorcycle racing and enjoys giving a race a good effort.¬† Since the 50k had taken me over 9 hours both times I’d run it, I knew this 25k would take us a long time, but I was trying to get him there in under 5. We still had about 2.5 miles to go and¬† that included a very steep climb and rocky descent. I had been nervous about this trail ever since we signed up and waiting for it all day! It was on this trail that my husband reached his longest distance ever run, when he passed the 13.1 mark. After that point the thought crossed his mind that maybe he would just stop there because he was having a low point and had blisters! But thankfully, he kept trudging along. I gave him a pure Maple syrup packet and that really perked him up once it got into his blood. But the climb was very steep and his heart was racing and he was even feeling dizzy, so we took it slow until we made it to the top. I was praying hard the whole time. Faster runners were passing us but even those speedsters were slowed a little by the technical trail. This trail that had terrified me the first year was not even hard for me this time, I was so focused on my husband. I would move forward a little, then stop and give him time to get almost to me, then move again. There was not much talking going on other than me telling him to take his time and catch his breath and watch his step.

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Starting the climb, stepping up and over a rock on the trail.

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Near the top. You can see another runner to the right coming up the steep climb.

The end is near

With great relief , I watched him make it up and over the top edge of the mountain. We knew after that we only had about a mile or so to go! No turning back now. The trail along the top of this small mountain was still fairly technical and we were not going fast. I wanted to push him a little because I knew we had a chance to make sub 5 hours, but I didn’t want to cause him to fall, so I just kept moving and pulling him along.¬† You could see and hear the finish line way before you could get to it, and that motivated us to move as fast as we safely could, while allowing the faster runners to pass. As we got closer to the bottom, we met a woman who was going even slower than us on the steep, rocky, uneven trail. She was afraid of falling, so we gave her encouragement, then passed her and kept going down. By this point we were both excited and eager to be done.¬† The trail ended and we ran a short way across a parking lot then down a small hill to a drive way and through the finish line holding hands ! Official time 5:01. We had done it!

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Our finisher awards were Sky Island logo trucker hats that were handed to us as soon as we crossed the line. We were both a bit overwhelmed at the cheering crowd and feeling like, now what do we do? The race had been a very intense experience emotionally and physically.  After speaking to a few people who were very happy for us, we decided to head over to our lodge room, which was so convenient, take a few moments to process what just happened,  take a shower and rest a bit. First I took a quick photo of my husband.

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Wearing the hat that only finishers get!

Later we had a delicious lunch at the lodge restaurant of Angus beef patties with grilled onions, bacon , and fried eggs on top. Plus french fries. Then my husband rested in the room with the kids, who had been watching TV the whole time we were running,¬† and I went and hung out with some friends by the pool and had a celebratory beer. It was a great day all around! The following day I was able to take my sons on a hike on the Indian Lodge trail, which made me very happy.¬† They aren’t really into hiking,¬† but I just had to show it to them! Then we went for a lovely scenic drive through the mountains and to visit the unique town of Marfa. We also had plenty of time to talk about and relive the highs and lows of the race.

 

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Resting

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Almost there

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We made it!

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Happy mom! Indian Lodge in the background

I want to give God all the glory for bringing us across the finish line happily and¬† successfully, as well as getting us safely to the race and having a wonderful 4 day vacation in the Davis Mountains. I believe that He answered prayer after prayer during the months of training and the race itself. Everything could not have gone better, except for the blisters. ūüôā We have talked about different races we might want to run in the future,¬† but for now we are just enjoying the good memories.

 

 

 

 

Take a walk with me and my Doggies

Every morning my dogs are eagerly waiting for me to finally get out of bed and immediately take them outside. The slightest delay while I make coffee or turn on my laptop will start the whining from the dachshund. If possible the Shepherd will put her nose under my bedroom door or at least lay against it loudly to remind me that she’s waiting for me, lazy bones, and I should hurry up ! When I emerge from the room she will run to whatever bedroom the Dachshund is sleeping in and stare at the door until I open it to free her buddy so she can accost him by putting his head in her mouth. They both will stare at me intently and watch my every move and try to telepathically force me to do their will. Usually I can’t stand the ultra high pitched whining for long so off we go. Here are some photos of what we see along the walk, with captions.

Today I almost beat the sunrise over the trees. It’s only low 70s right now but will hit mid-90s by noon.

On your left is the red dirt “pond” that only holds water as long as it keeps raining.

The Sky is really pretty today.

Looking north back towards the “hill” where dewberries grow in May and where we run and ride dirt bikes up and over and down.

Along the road we get wildflowers in the spring . I run on this road.

This part of the trail is very sandy and slightly uphill. It’s more fun running down .

Trying to get the mole they can hear but we can’t .

this is the much hated Yaupon bush that grows and takes over property all over Texas and is very difficult to remove .

The back of the hill. You can see the dead berry brambles.

The steepest path down the hill , also gravelly . No trouble for Ellie.

and back to the house. My husband made the fish . There’s a huge hornet nest by the door. Lots of them this summer. Hard to kill .

I hope you enjoyed our walk! Now it’s time to drink coffee and then start another busy day! Maybe tomorrow I’ll share some of the hundred different hummingbird photos I’ve taken lately . God bless you and keep you.

The Humbling Power of Mountains: Lost and Afraid in Park City, Utah

In the days following this incident which happened two years ago on 8/27/2016, I had some great experiences hiking and¬† exploring Utah and I didn’t have much time to process my emotions. The memories have been sitting in a dusty corner of my mind waiting for the right moment. It was so overwhelming that I am still struggling to put it into words that fully describe it. I feel a little shaky for some reason.¬† But I feel that you , the reader, may benefit from my dangerous, rookie, flatlander-goes-running-in-the-mountains mistakes , so I will do my best to fight my surprising reluctance to type this. I want to state right now that I know that God was with me and protected me from my foolishness, as he has done so many, many times.

Overconfident and underprepared

Before starting off on what I thought was going to be a couple of hours testing my legs in the mountains and then meeting up with my sister at the bottom of the mountain , I had checked out some trail maps. My sister had given me some instructions when we met up on the mountain, with some trail names, and we both thought I knew how to find my way to the meeting spot. She was riding her mountain bike while I ran. I had no trouble finding her at the top of a certain trail so I figured I was good to go. Unfortunately, I was not really prepared at all.

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The run started off fairly late in the day , 1:00 PM, at Park City Mountain Resort. Originally I was planning to run the Mid-Mountain Marathon that happened the same day on these trails, but I decided to just do my own run so the race would not take up too much time of my trip to visit my sister. I figured the lower pressure solo “easy” run would mean I wouldn’t have so much prep time and recovery time. Also, I truly questioned my ability to run that marathon. All the other runners would be locals who were totally altitude and mountain ready. I live at just above sea level and train on the same.

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I was thrilled to be running in the Aspens, in low humidity, low temperatures ( compared to Texas), and on trails! I’d been looking forward to this for a long time.

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I could not get over the beautiful views! This shot was taken when I first got up high and out of the trees.

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The climb to this location was not easy, but I was feeling good. I waited a little bit for my sister and soaked in the views of Park City. I think this was at the crossing for Quicksilver Gondola.

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That was the last photo I took before my phone battery died . Back to the list of mistakes I made.

  1. I didn’t bring a battery pack for my phone.

  2. I didn’t bring extra fuel/food for emergencies, like getting lost.

  3. I didn’t bring enough water.

  4. I didn’t have a headlamp, jacket, compass, or any emergency supplies.

  5. I DIDN’T HAVE A MAP.

I was so exhausted I could barely remember my sister’s name and phone number! Might want to write down some info like that.

When things went Bad

I was running along for a good while and I noticed that I was getting low on water and fuel . I started to worry that I was going the wrong way. I stopped for a minute and some nice mountain bikers came by and kindly shared some extra fuel and water with me and told me which way they thought I should go, except that I barely remembered the instructions my sister had told me. I kept moving but my anxiety was growing. I talked to a couple of other of the few people I saw on the trail and they honestly weren’t much help. Finally, I was moving in one direction when I met a man hiking in¬† the other direction. I made the decision to turn around and go with this man because at least I wouldn’t be alone. He wasn’t the most helpful or friendly guy, and he could have been a serial killer for all I know, but we chatted a little and he seemed to indicate that he was headed in the same direction I wanted to go. By this time I was so tired and turned around and all the trails felt like I was going in circles, that I just didn’t want to be alone.

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It’s hard to tell by this Garmin map where I did the backtracking. You can tell that the area was fairly tree dense, but you can’t see the scary, sheer drop-off trails I had to cover twice. Have I mentioned I have a fear of heights and falling off cliffs? All of the gray lines are ski trails. The brown lines are the trail I was supposed to take but I turned¬† off the trail I was on too soon because I was panicking as I will explain more soon. You can see where I finished up , the red marker, was still up in the mountains, not where I was supposed to be at the end of the brown trails.

The point where I completely lost  it

So I was hiking with that man and he was headed to the ski resort where I had started the run. I however, was supposed to have been finished and at the bottom of the mountain by this point, where my sister was waiting for me. I made a decision that eventually turned out to be a good one, but for the next mile and a half was terribly frightening. I turned off onto a trail that can be seen on the Garmin GPS, but is not shown on this trail map. The whole time I was ‘running’, scrambling, careening down this trail I wasn’t sure if it was a trail or just a dry creek or something.

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Here is the map online. The trail intersects somewhere before that number 7 sign. If I had just gone a little farther I would have been where I was supposed to be, but then things would have gone even more wrong. If I hadn’t taken this rough, waterfall type of trail that went straight down the mountain, I would have missed my sister who was getting super worried at the meeting place. She would have called Search and Rescue and my whole trip would have been pretty ruined by the expense of that.

But, I can’t leave out the growing anxiety I had that was multiplied exponentially when I came upon a moose with a calf. I don’t know much about moose, but I knew I’d read that they can be very dangerous. I immediately jumped off the trail I’d been attempting to run down as fast as I could to get off that mountain, and crouched down in the trees. I sat there catching my breath, praying that the moose would not move in my direction. I was also incredulous that this had happened just when I thought I was getting closer to being safe. Did I mention that by then I’d been up there over 3.5 hours and the sun was starting to drop behind the mountain and the shadows were getting longer? I was also dehydrated and hungry. I think I burned more calories from being afraid than I did running! I peeked out down the trail and didn’t see the moose but I had a feeling she was just off the trail. I decided to just go for it and I took off running as fast I could manage on very rocky and steep downhills without falling head over heels. I wish I had photos! But, dead phone.

Rescued by angels in a Suburban in the nick of time

Once out of the moose zone I began to breath again. I still was doubting if this was a trail when suddenly a dog appeared and shortly after , a girl. I asked her something to the effect of how much further to the start of this trail and I think she said half a mile. I could barely think.¬† I kept going, not having the sense to ask her to call my sister or give me some water,¬† assuming that soon I was going to be IN THE TOWN, still not having any clue where I was on the mountain. I made it to the trail head and it was a parking lot. I kept going and ended up in a neighborhood! I was nowhere near the town. I tried knocking on a door, no one was home. The houses were mountain houses, not too close together and they looked deserted. I just started walking down the road. I came to a stop sign when suddenly two angels in an SUV appeared. I must have looked pretty bad because they rolled down the window and I quickly told them my sad tale of being lost and trying to find the town to meet my sister. They knew the coffee shop or whatever it was that I supposed to be at and offered to give me a ride. I jumped in and off we went! I babbled a little and they comforted me , such nice people. We drove up to the place and I saw my sister’s car . I jumped out and saw that she was¬† IN HER CAR ABOUT TO TURN THE KEY IN THE IGNITION to go get Search and Rescue! I am not kidding. A minute later and she’d have been gone. If I’d taken the other trail, it would have taken longer.¬† Thank you God for taking over when I got hopelessly lost !!!

Relief and Guilt

I was too worn out to cry, but I was full of emotions when I finally got back to my sister . The whole time I knew she must be so worried and/or mad at me. Turns out she was both, thinking I’d ignored her texts after my phone had died, not knowing the ordeal I was going through. She also blamed herself, as she is very responsible and always makes good plans, but this time she had given me too much credit for knowing my way around. I don’t blame her at all. I am the one who was not prepared and should have known better than to venture into the mountains without a map and supplies. I was really more worried about getting to my sister on time than about being lost, but once I got on that crazy trail I started worrying about other dangers like the sun going down. Over the next few days we did a lot of fun stuff, including hiking in Moab, and occasionally we’d joke or comment about this day, but it was still a bit raw. I think I’ve redeemed myself since then and I look forward to traveling the Park City trails again, with plenty of supplies and a map!

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On the free gondola in Canyons Village, Park City after the run. My sister was probably thinking about what a dummy I am! You can see how dehydrated I was in the photo. I was humbled and have new respect for the mountains and I love them even more than before. If you want all the numbers,¬†¬†here is the link to my Garmin report.¬† You might say, what’s the big deal? But it was a big deal to me and if I had kept going on the Mid-Mountain Trail heading east like I almost did, it would have been much worse because that was a much longer trail in the wrong direction.¬† I’m thankful to all the people who crossed my path that day, especially my Suburban-driving saviors.¬† I also believe real angels, heavenly beings were with me on that journey .¬† They say God protects children, drunks and fools, and I’m not sure about that, but I know He protects his own children.

Stay safe out there!

 

 

 

How a Texas flatlander climbed a Colorado mountain.

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My sister called me up one evening and said, Can you meet me in Colorado and go hiking? My heart started pounding a little faster and I dared to get my hopes up a little. This was the call I’d subconsciously been waiting for all summer. I knew about her plans of traveling, camping and hiking through beautiful places with her little teardrop camper and I wanted to be a part of it, but wasn’t sure how or when things would come together .¬† She had literally just finished hiking the trail seen above in the guidebook and was excited and inspired to call me. She gave me one month’s notice to get there. We chatted a few minutes and I was non-committal but told her I’d ask my husband. He was already in bed, but I couldn’t stop myself from heading to the bedroom to ask him if I could go. Not sure why , he was probably half-asleep, but he said yes without asking questions! My spirit soared! Yes! I am going hiking in the mountains of Colorado! Segment 10 of the Colorado Trail to be exact.

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I’d been training for a hilly trail running race for the past few months, gradually increasing my hill repeats and time on feet, but I still immediately began to wonder if I could handle something like this. I’d never backpacked overnight before or even put on a pack heavier than just a full 2 liter hydration bladder. I may look strong but my upper body could use some attention, so I knew I had some work ahead of me.¬† My first step was to go to Ebay and look at backpacking packs. My sister said I could rent one at REI in Denver but I wanted to train with a pack. God blessed me with a super nice vintage Gregory pack in my size for only $75.00 plus shipping! I ended up using this pack on the hike. When it arrived, I immediately put some stuff in it, including some hand weights and various random blankets and put it on. Yikes! It felt heavy. I was nervous.¬†IMG_2712

So I started taking walks with the pack. The first time I only had about 10 pounds in the pack and it felt so awkward and different than my running vest. I was walking sooo slowly! I tried to go faster and tried various postures.¬† The pack is supposed to sit on your hips, which means you have to get used to that weight on your hips as opposed to your back.¬† I started to worry that I’d not be able to keep up with my sister. Later, I discovered that 2 miles per hour was considered perfectly normal so I stopped worrying so much. I kept adding time to my hikes with the pack and adding weight. I even went out in the rain one day. Finally I did a 3 hour hike with 25 pounds in my pack and used my trekking poles and tried climbing hills. It went so well that I finally felt ready. My only fear was the altitude.

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I live at 300 feet, basically sea level. I would soon be traveling to a high point of over 14,000 feet . I posted in a Facebook Texas hiking group about my plans and the replies were that I was probably going to get very sick in the altitude. Headaches, nausea, dizziness, etc.. Great! I became very concerned . My sister thought I’d be fine because I had been okay at 10,000 feet in the past, but this was higher, said my Facebook friends. So I did some research about how to survive and this is how it worked out.¬†IMG_2727

The first day I flew into Colorado Springs and my sister picked me up and we drove out to where she was camping.¬† Mueller State Park is at around 9,500 elevation. All we did there is sleep and then get up and pack up and leave to drive to the next place. That was one night at elevation. The main thing, as far as adapting to altitude, that I did the first day was to drink a lot of water. I woke up needing to pee so bad it hurt,¬† but I was afraid of bears! I finally couldn’t hold it and I got out of the camper and just went right there in the grass. My bear fears abated a little over the next week.

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We set up our next camp at Twin Lakes campground, a very scenic park with a lovely lake surrounded by tall mountains. Gorgeous! This was about 9,200 feet elevations, the second night. We got our gear all sorted and packed and ready, discussed morning plans with her friend who was going to shuttle us,¬† and went to bed.¬† Her little camper is very comfy. The temperatures there were much cooler and dryer than Texas, by about 30-40 degrees at night and 20 degrees in the daytime, and I was loving that! Day two I also drank water constantly and also took some salt tablets. I was peeing constantly, as fast as I drank, the faster I peed it out. This is normal as the body adjusts, so you need to add salt to your drinks or food, or you’ll get dehydrated from so much water. Avoid caffeine and alcohol.¬†IMG_2783

The next day we loaded up in two cars, dropped my sister’s car off at the place where we planned to end the hike, and then rode in her friend’s car to the trail head. All of this driving took awhile and we didn’t actually start the hike until 10:00 A.M.¬† The hiking went pretty well as far as how I was able to handle the backpack and poles and trail, but I had one problem, gas! In other words, my intestines were bloated up with air and it really hurt. I found out later after suffering for a long time that¬† my sister had some Gas-X tablets which I took and they helped a lot. After that I just farted as often as necessary to relieve the pressure. Turns out gas is common when adjusting to altitude. Bring Gas medicine!

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The first day I was super happy, almost giddy, to finally be hiking in the mountain, something I’d been dreaming of doing for awhile. Instagram has a way of inspiring me to try newer and more exciting adventures , especially when I know there’s a real possibility of making it happen, thanks to my amazing , retired, adventurous¬† big sister. So far, thanks to her and with her, I’ve been to Hawaii, climbed up to the Delicate Arch in Utah, hiked Negro Bills Canyon in Moab, went running on Mid Mountain in Park City, went snowshoeing and alpine skiing, and did lots of camping and other fun things when she still lived in Texas. We also went to see the late, great¬† Stevie Ray Vaughan live in Houston. Once we went canoeing and our boat capsized in some rapids and I was left stranded in the middle of a river. Another time we got caught in a huge rainstorm and near-flash flood while camping and had to abandon our tent. Oh, and I got lost on that mountain that¬† I climbed in Park City and thought I might die.¬† But things always work out!¬† I’m very thankful for my sister and her willingness to teach me how to adapt and learn and have fun.¬†IMG_2787
Back to hiking. On the first night on the Colorado trail, we set up camp at 11,000 feet. I was feeling good, no issues with headaches or anything, except for the previously mentioned intestinal gas. This was my third night at altitude. The next day was going to be the real test. We were going to attempt to climb the trail to Mount Massive, up to 14, 421 feet. Could I do it? Could she do it? Neither of us were really sure. It took me a long time to fall asleep.

We woke up at sunrise as usual. It was gloriously cold and beautiful weather, but there was¬† smoke in the air from a wildfire burning. It wasn’t close to us, but the wind carried the smell. We retrieved our food bag from the tree, took some sunrise photos, packed up our sleeping bags and tents and got our packs sorted, then hiked about a mile down to the Mt. Massive trail intersection. Before we headed out we had to refill our hydration packs from the stream (after filtering), figure out what food and supplies and clothes we were going to wear and set up a tent to leave the rest of our stuff in while we were gone. This was a tip we got from some fellow hikers that we became friends with, leaving our stuff in a tent instead of just leaving it out by a tree or something. We finally hit the trail to climb the mountain at around 8:30 or so. Not as early as we should have started , but it worked out.

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The first mile or so was still in the trees, mostly pines. It was fairly steep going, about 1000 feet in one mile. Then it got really steep! About 2500 feet in a little over 2 miles. The trail was well built but rocky and got slightly technical in some places. We took a lot of breaks to take photos, rest, catch our breath, eat snacks(protein bars, jerky, cheese, and Clif bloks), and my sister made one phone call, so it was slow going . The closer to the top we went, the steeper it felt and the slower we climbed,¬† and the windier and cooler it got. My sister said she had never moved that slow in her life, and we were having a little trouble with the lack of oxygen, but no headaches or dizziness, so we were thrilled when¬† made it to a flat spot about 13,900 feet up where we stopped for a short break. We took some photos, shooed away an overly brazen marmot who wanted snacks and¬† waited on our friend who we saw descending the trail which was pretty technical past that point. She was without her husband and she told us that she had decided to stop short of the summit because it was very difficult and included some rock scrambling in place with steep drop-offs.¬† Her husband had gone on to the top. After hearing this information, we decided to push forward as far as we could , knowing that we would probably not make the summit as we both have a fear of heights when we can see the bottom. As long as there was no visible drop-off , I was okay, but the minute I had that in my peripheral vision, I knew I would get scared and could freeze. I also knew that even if we made it up , we’d have to come back down which is even more frightening.¬† We made it up the increasingly technical and hard to see trail to approximately 14, 153 feet, based on my Garmin and were both okay with stopping there. Next time I may make it to the summit, but this time I am happy with climbing over 14,000 feet . We could see a mountain goat on the summit, we were so close. Of course, there was¬† a boy about 10 years old scampering back down from the summit with no poles and no fear and¬† that did make feel a little like a big chicken for not going all the way.

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After that, we carefully, but fairly quickly descended the mountain and made it back to our tent.¬† We were tired and hungry so we took time to refuel before¬† we packed the tent and hiked another 4 miles mostly downhill to her car.¬† Our total mileage for the two days was about 20 miles.¬† The next few days were spent camping,¬† kayaking relaxing, and reliving the hike and feeling very good about it. I can’t wait to do it again and I plan to use the same methods of sleeping at gradually higher altitudes for several nights, drinking tons of water, and taking salt, to adjust to the the altitude. It worked and I’m so thankful!