I cannot believe that it has been well over 4 months since I sat down to write. I love writing about our travels and adventures so I am not sure why I have been absent. In any case, we are about to embark on a new year, a new decade and another year on the road. My goal for this coming year is to continue writing a post once a month, no matter how busy I am or how tired I am, I commit to writing. This blog started as a way to keep a “journal” of our vanlife adventures and I don’t want that to disappear.
So, my last blog post was about our summer in Colorado, and what an amazing summer it was. We have been to so many places since then, had epic adventures, made new friends, visited with old friends, seen family, raced and volunteered. Our first stop after Colorado was Ketchum, Idaho. A place that neither of us had visited before, even though it is only about a 12 hour drive from Seattle. We spent almost a month in Ketchum, racing, David raced the Big Potato (100 mile gravel race) at Rebecca’s Private Idaho and I did the Cirque Series Sun Valley (10 mile mountain race), training, and exploring. We had a short visit with friends from Seattle, Jonathan and Victoria, and a visit with my parents. It was such a joy having all of them visit us on the road and we hope to have more meet-ups in 2020. So, if you want to take a trip somewhere, look us up, you never know what adventure awaits. We fell in love with the beauty of Ketchum/Sun Valley and put it on our list of many places we would like to go back and visit someday.
We left Ketchum at the beginning of September and headed to Salt Lake City, Revel Big Cottonwood was the next race on our schedule. This was a big race for both of us, one last shot for a BQ for 2020 and 2021 (the only weekend that will qualify you for both years). This was a Powered by Hyland’s team race which meant spending some quality time with our Hyland’s family and meeting some new members of the team. I had some lofty goals for this race. My BQ time was decreased by 5 minutes after the incredible amount of qualifiers for 2019, this meant running a PR to have enough cushion to not only qualify but actually have a chance of getting into the race. After a summer of trail running and not much of a focus on speed, I really wasn’t sure how that was going to happen. I went into the race with a solid plan and was determined to stick to that plan for the duration of the race. I had studied the course elevation map, there is an out and back section where the elevation flattens with some small rolling hills between miles 18-22, and I knew I needed to bank some time as I was going to need to walk a good portion of that section. My plan was to run the first 3-4 miles of the course at a pretty fast pace and then begin my run/walk segments. This would hopefully give me the time cushion I needed before the out and back section. I carried all my own hydration and nutrition, as I had no time to stop at aid stations and I hoped that I would not have to stop at the porta-potty, as I really had no time for that either!! It had to be perfect conditions, on a perfect weather day, with my body feeling great and my mind totally focused on the task at hand. The stars must have aligned that day, the first 4 miles went by in a flash. I started my run/walk with more of a run/slow jog so that I was moving a bit faster during my rest portion of my intervals, I thought to myself, anything to bank some time for that out and back section that everyone talks about being so sucky. The miles ticked away seamlessly and before I knew it I was at mile 18 and making a right turn on the out and back section of the course. I looked at my watch, although any type of math during an endurance event is not easy, I calculated that I was ahead of pace at mile 18, this meant I had some cushion to walk some of those “hills”. I say “hills” because they are really quite insignificant compared to all the hills I was climbing in Colorado but at miles 18-22 after running steep downhill for all those miles, flat and small hills felt like a mountain to me. I ran when I could, and I power walked in between. It was on this section that I saw David (several miles ahead of me) and a handful of my other Hyland’s teammates. A smile and wave and a shout here and there does wonders, a boost of energy and motivation to keep pushing despite the discomfort and desire to slow down. I got through the out and back section and knew it was all downhill to the finish line, no really it was all downhill. I made another right turn, back on the main road with a little more than a 5K to go and about 35 minutes to cross that line under 3:50. The faster I ran the next 3 miles, the better chance I would have at getting a spot on the start line in Hopkinton in April 2020. I took one more walk break and then I ran those last 3 miles with my heart, my legs were burning and tired, my body was screaming at me to stop but my mind was totally focused on the goal at hand. I crossed that finish line in 3:47:48, my best marathon time ever and a BQ. David was there waiting for me at the finish, with a hug and a smile and tears ran down my face as I realized I had hit my goal. David did not achieve a BQ that day but we were both proud of the race he had as it was only 4 weeks after his first 100 mile trail race. We collected our race bags and sat down in the shade to celebrate with our Hyland’s family, as many of them qualified and were able to register for Boston right then and there!! It was almost surreal to me. Me, the person who grew up being unathletic, who tried everything to get out of gym class in high school, who was sedentary until the age of 30, had just qualified for the Boston Marathon for the 3rd time, what an incredible weekend!!!
While in Salt Lake City, we had a chance to hang out with a friend of a friend’s son, Scott. Scott is a 20+ year old endurance cyclist, skier, climber, and all around athlete. We didn’t know him very well prior to our visit but we spent a few days hanging out with him and had such a good time. He is down to earth, has a great work ethic, is a big outdoor enthusiast and genuine. He offered to take care of Mira while we raced and gave us a warm place to hang out, shower and do laundry. We love these connections we have made with people which may otherwise not have happened. We will certainly swing by SLC again for a visit.
From SLC we headed to Arizona where we would spend the next 6 weeks (with 2 side trips, Virginia and New York City). We had an incredible time in Arizona, visiting with friends, an epic crossing of the Grand Canyon, exploring Sedona and Flagstaff, and racing.
Sedona is one of my most favorite places we have been on this journey. The weather in the fall is perfect for running/hiking/exploring, the trails are varied and plentiful and the scenery is breathtaking. We spent as much time there as we possibly could (in between all the other adventures) and it still wasn’t enough. We explored the trails everyday, sometimes with Mira, sometimes without, and never got tired of the views, the terrain or the perfect temperatures. It was a great place to train for all the adventures that lay ahead in the coming weeks.
We spent quite a bit of time in Flagstaff as well. We did not enjoy it as much as Sedona but it is still a beautiful place to explore in the fall, plenty of good trails and cooler temperatures than Phoenix. We climbed Mt. Humphreys on a crazy, cold windy day, walked through an Aspen grove at the peak of the color change, joined a fitness center so we could work on some strength training and have a place to shower!! In total we spent about 3 weeks in and around Flagstaff and Sedona before and after our epic adventure in the Grand Canyon.
One of our bucket list adventures, something on our list for a long time, is the Rim to Rim to Rim of the Grand Canyon or R3. R3 is a traverse of the Grand Canyon from one rim to the canyon floor, back up to the opposite rim and then you turn around and go back to where you started, all in one day! Depending on the route you take, it is a 46-50 mile trek with over 10,000 feet of climbing and descending. It is completely self supported and no one is coming to rescue you unless it is a true medical emergency, and even then rescue is hours away and can be difficult. We had been planning this epic adventure for 10 months and we were so excited that it was finally here. We posted about our idea on Facebook and asked anyone if they wanted to join us. We had quite a lot of interest but after it was all said and done we had 6 people arrive at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon on the evening of October 5. David and myself, our friend Joan from Phoenix, friends from Sacramento, Bonnie and Jerry and a fellow Orange Mud ambassador whom we had met briefly (several weeks prior) at the Big Cottonwood Marathon. Carrie is from Alaska and expressed interest early on and never wavered. She was all in on the idea even though we had never met, and yes, she was coming all the way from Alaska!! We sat around the dinner table that night looking at maps, talking about logistics including water and pace and expectations and made plans to meet at 4:00am the next morning to begin our epic trek. We piled into Joan’s car and Russ drove us to the South Kaibab trailhead. Trekking poles in hand, headlamps shining bright and full packs, we set off into the darkness for what would be an amazing adventure. It was slow going at first, and some of us were a little more cautious as it was very dark and steep as we made our way down the trail onto the canyon floor. The weather was cool and crisp and as the sun emerged over the horizon the canyon lit up. It was more magnificent then I could even imagine, being in the canyon, seeing it up close, there is no substitute. As we approached the 7 mile stretch across the bottom of the canyon, we split into 3 groups. All of us had a buddy, Joan and Carrie took the lead, David and I in the middle and Bonnie and Jerry at the back. The 7 miles felt almost effortless as the temperature was cool and the terrain was an ever so slight uphill grade. We regrouped with Joan and Carrie at the last water stop before the climb up to the North Rim. The North Kaibab trail is another 7 miles of steep, sandy and rocky terrain. As we started to climb Joan began to struggle and as we topped out at the North Rim she knew she needed to call it a day. There is no room for ego in this type of event. You need to know your limits, you need to know when to bow out, you need to know that your safety and the safety of your teammates is more important than anything else. She was able to catch a ride with some other R3 hikers that had decided to end their day at the North Rim and get a ride with a buddy back to the South Rim. David, Carrie and I were all feeling good, we ate, refilled our water and headed back down, just in time to beat the mule train. On our way back down to the canyon floor we passed Bonnie and Jerry (they were less than a 1/2 mile to the rim). Jerry was struggling a bit and they decided to call it a day. Ultimately, they would take the rim shuttle back to the South Rim, a 4 hour bus ride and $90/person. We were down to 3 of us now, meaning we could move a bit faster, but only as fast as our slowest person, me!! So, I took the lead and we kept a nice pace all the way down the North Kaibab trail. It was quite warm by this time but we had plenty of fluid. As we made our way across the canyon floor the sun started to drop behind the canyon walls, it was perfect timing, we had shade during the warmest part of the journey but plenty of sunlight left in the day. We made it to Phantom Ranch around 4pm but the canteen had just closed for the day, the lemonade that we talked about all day was not going to happen. We sat for a bit, ate some snacks, refilled our water and off we went, the last 9 miles of our trek, most of it climbing up the Bright Angel trail. Our goal now was to make it to the restaurant before closing time at 10pm. As the sun set and the temperatures cooled, we pushed through our fatigue and soreness. We made one last stop at the 3 mile rest house to refill our water, and then pushed to make that 10pm deadline. As we approached the South Rim there was a big group waiting for some friends (they had seen us earlier in the day), they began to shout and cheer and congratulate us for completing the R3. It was 9:45pm and all we could think about was real food. We headed straight for the restaurant and had one of the worst meals you could ever imagine, but it didn’t matter, we just spent 17 hours crossing from the south rim to the north rim and back to the south rim of the Grand Canyon. We had an incredible, epic adventure that we will treasure forever. Carrie was an acquaintance, a fellow Orange Mud ambassador, when we began this journey but we finished as friends. We were inspired by the courage she showed by committing to such an adventure with strangers and so glad she took the chance on us. We hope to share more adventures with her in the future, but in the meantime we will at least get to share the experience of the Boston Marathon. Carrie qualified for Boston at Big Cottonwood (just as I did) and was accepted onto the Hyland’s team as a legacy member!!! I can never say it enough times, this journey is all about the people.
While in and around Phoenix I ran 2 races, both with Joan, both Aravaipa Running races and both at McDowell Mountain Regional Park in Scottsdale. The Javelina Jundred 100k was on my schedule for months. The plan was to run the entire race with Joan and for David to run the last loop, approximately 20 miles, with us as a pacer. This would be my 2nd 100k and Joan’s first. Joan had mentioned that there was a night run, on the same course, a few weeks prior, Javelina Jangover Night Run 50K. We were in Sedona but decided to make to trip down to Phoenix, it was a good opportunity to run on the Javelina course, run at night and run with Joan. I struggled with both races and realized that it was temperature related. I have a pretty good tolerance for the heat and have never had too many issues running in the cold, but this was different. It wasn’t exactly cold once the sun went down but it wasn’t hot either. It was just cool enough to be chilly when walking but then it seemed like I would overheat when I was running. My heart rate would soar and my face would feel like it was on fire, I would slow down and walk and get cold. During the day at Javelina I was absolutely fine, no issues in the hot sun, I was staying hydrated and had on plenty of sunscreen. As soon as the sunset and the temperatures cooled I started to struggle. Ultimately, I finished both races with the help and encouragement of Joan and David and I have yet to figure out what the real issue was for me during both of those races. This is something I will work on as I would like to avoid the same issue in the future.
After our epic Grand Canyon adventure we took a quick trip to Virginia (yes we flew) for the last IGNITE SwimRun race of the season. We were excited to see our IGNITE family and support all the athletes at the race, the National SwimRun Championship. It was great seeing a lot of familiar faces and ambassadors out there racing on what proved to be a fun and exciting course. The water level was low enough to allow for a new section to be added to the race, a race where there is a mix of urban trails, roads, big river rocks, ladders and pipelines. David took photos while I supported the racers on land throughout the day and swept part of the course. It was a quick trip but a great end to a fun SwimRun season. We are looking forward to the IGNITE 2020 season and I have plans to actually race this year along with supporting the athletes!! I am looking for a partner for Maryland and Minnesota, any takers???
We made one other trip by plane from Arizona. One week after completing Javelina 100K I ran the NYC Marathon. Many months ago, my friend and fellow Hyland’s teammate, Stephanie, asked me to accompany her the 26.2 miles through the streets of NYC. She has MS and has used a guide for her past several marathons (NYC was her 12th marathon). I was honored and delighted that she wanted me to be her guide for this incredible race. I had raced in NY twice before but this time would be different. This wasn’t about me or my race, this was about Stephanie, making sure she was safe and that she had an incredible experience. We met up at the expo to pick up our race bibs and talk about the race and logistics. Race morning arrived and the weather looked like it was going to be perfect. We met up at the AWD (athletes with disabilities) bus and enjoyed our hour or so ride to Staten Island. We were dropped off right near the AWD area, where there was a warming tent, food and bathrooms set up for athletes and their guides. It was inspiring seeing all the AWD athletes, wheelchair, push rim, blind, amputee, etc… all lining up for the most exciting one day event in NYC. We milled around, then sat down and waited to be called to the start line. At around 9:40am, we approached the start on the bottom level of the Verrazano Bridge in Staten Island and off we went. For the first several miles we had the streets to ourselves, as far as runners go. AWD athletes start at the back of the first wave, so it took several miles for the next wave to catch us. From that point on, it was crowded with runners the rest of the race. I found myself grabbing Stephanie’s arm a few times, making sure no one got in between us and protecting both of us from being plowed down. There were some very large pace groups that came from behind, all whom were very serious about keeping on time with their goals and no one was going to stop them. We didn’t let that deter us from keeping a steady pace, we listened to the roar of the crowd, we stopped for a few bathroom and stretch breaks and found ourselves turning into Central Park before we knew it. I knew it would be an emotional day for me, but I didn’t realize how much of an impact it would really have. I became teary eyed as we ran through the park, so proud of Stephanie and so honored that I could accompany her in the biggest marathon in the world. What an incredibly humbling and rewarding experience it was to help someone else accomplish their goal. We crossed the finish line together and then walked hand in hand through the shoot, picked up medals, took some photos and headed to meet Jeff and David at the AWD finish area. We went our separate ways to shower and then had a plan to meet up for dinner later that night. Although we waited forever to sit down for dinner and it was extremely loud, we chatted about our day, about racing and training and life in general. I felt a new connection with Stephanie that we did not have prior to this experience and an even greater respect (if that is possible) for her perserverence and drive to continue to run despite the challanges she faces. I will forever be so grateful that she asked me to be her guide that day and we already have plans to run together in Sacramento in December at the California International Marathon.
In addition to spending time with Stephanie, we were able to get together with several other Hyland’s teammates who were racing. We all got together on Monday for a post race brunch, where we got to hang out, catch up and enjoy some post race food!! David and I were also able to meet up with some Seattle friends, that now live in NY. We met up with Stella and Brannon for dinner 2 nights before the race and they came out on race day to cheer for Stephanie and me. We are sad that we didn’t get to spend more time with them (we could have stayed at dinner all night talking), we will have to make a point to get back to visit them again.
We flew back to Arizona and left the next day for California. I would be working at the Hyland’s booth and David at the Orange Mud booth at the Revel Big Bear Marathon. In addition to helping at the expo, David would be running the marathon. This was a last minute decision for him, a chance for a guaranteed entry into the Chicago marathon and by passing the lottery. I had recently signed up with a guaranteed spot (my BQ qualified me), so we thought, why not. Well, David had not been seriously training for a marathon, he had a very big race season and was running for pleasure and with me, certainly not to try and qualify for anything. We had fun at the expo and at dinner with our Hyland’s teammates, both old and new. Race day proved to be a hard day and at mile 17, David decided to pull the plug. He wasn’t on track to qualify and he wasn’t feeling prepared for another 9 miles. So, he hopped in the car with Mike (Hyland’s coach) and I to cheer on the team at the finish line. It was a great training day for him, and the right decision.
From Big Bear we headed to Las Vegas. We were on our way to help Orange Mud at the Rock N Roll Marathon expo. We worked the booth last year and had so much fun, plus we wanted to spend some time at Red Rock Canyon Natural Conservation Area and Valley of Fire State Park, 2 treasures in the Las Vegas Valley region. We spent a week in and around Las Vegas before heading north. Our next scheduled destination was Sacramento for the California International Marathon, where we would work the expo and support the Hyland’s team throughout the weekend. We had several weeks to get there, so this meant plenty of time for some more adventures.
Thank you for sticking with me this far and stay tuned for part 2 of this extremely long blog post. This is what happens when you don’t sit down and write for months on end !!! And I promise, part 2 is coming very, very soon.