Leaving Seattle in the middle of winter to drive to Utah is never a good idea. The weather in the mountains was calling for snow for the foreseeable future and the longer we waited the more driving we have (per day) to get to Moab in time for our race at the end of January. We considered staying longer and just forgoing the race but weren’t sure that staying any longer would afford us any better weather. So, as planned, we decided to head out. We had originally planned on driving to Bend to visit some friends before heading east but the weather that direction was really not good. So we decided to head over the pass and into Idaho before heading south into Utah. I am not sure the weather could have been any worse, except if they closed the pass. We were traveling no faster than 30 mph (if even that fast) behind the plows as they cleared the roadways for all the anxious drivers behind them. It was a bit nerve wracking but David is an excellent driver and really the best place to be is behind the plow as it clears the road for you. We would have snow just about everyday on the way to Moab but had plenty of time to get there. On the way we stopped for a hike or a run and to see our friend Scott, just outside Salt Lake City. We had dinner, chatted about life and visited before we got on our way again the next morning. We arrived in Moab to more gloomy skies and snow, but according to all the locals the snow never sticks around and its pretty rare to have no sunshine. So, we were hopeful that the sun would come out, the snow would melt and we would have some glorious, cold, but glorious weather. We were there for over a week and I think we saw the sun once, maybe. It snowed several times, including the night before the race and as a result the race was re-routed and shortened a bit. We did get to run some trails, visit some iconic arches and visit Arches National Park during our visit but some trails were inaccessible due to the snow and ice. We were disappointed to miss the sun rising over Delicate Arch or the beautiful sunsets over the red rocks, but we were happy to be there. The camping in Moab is so easy, so much public land, plenty of room for boondocking and very, very quiet.
Mad Moose Events Arches 50K was cold, snowy, muddy, slippery and a bit harder than either of us anticipated. We were both happy to run a bit shorter in those conditions. It is a beautiful course though, in a beautiful location, with super nice race directors and very well organized. We volunteered to help out, prior to race day, but they were so efficient that we weren’t really needed. We didn’t stick around for much longer, as the weather wasn’t looking any better. So we got on the road and headed south.
We made a stop at the Four Corners, high tailed through New Mexico (the weather was terrible) and into Texas. We would ultimately spend a month in Texas, visiting our favorite Texas State Park, Palo Dura, as well as a lot of other beautiful state parks. We had the opportunity to meet up with one of our Hyland’s teammates for the 2020 Boston Marathon. We had 2 races in Texas, both Tejas Trail Races, Rocky Raccoon 50K and Spider Mountain 12 hour relay. Rocky Raccoon 50K was a great race for both of us. Held at Huntsville State Park, it is not at all rocky but definitely rooty but very very runable. We were both super happy with our race and felt that it was a good building block for the season ahead. Spider Mountain 12 hour relay was much more challenging than either of us anticipated. It was a 4 mile loop at the Spider Mountain Bike Park, so basically steep uphill sections followed by steep downhill sections, rocky, technical and twisting. David and I decided to switch off every 3 hours, so neither of us really got much sleep, just enough time to get a little bit of rest. We would finish with a total of 13 laps, 55.9 miles and 3rd place in the relay division (there were only 3 teams but we were the only team of 2, both the other teams had 4 people). While in Texas we also were able to visit with our friend and Orange Mud owner, Josh. We were sad we didn’t get to spend more time with him and his family but we knew we would see him soon enough in Stillwater, OK for the Mid South Gravel.
While in Texas we had some unplanned medical issues with Miss Mira. She began having severe diarrhea which turned into bloody diarrhea and the need to seek emergency care. It was extremely scary for us, not knowing where to go to get the best care for her, and we had to trust that the closest emergency vet in Ft Worth, Texas would take good care of her. She was ultimately diagnosed with a bacterial gastroenteritis, likely from contaminated water that she drank, was given antibiotics and IV fluids, admitted for 2 nights and sent home with a laundry list of medications. She recovered quickly from that ordeal and was back to her normal self, or so we thought. Many months prior to this we had noticed a lump on the side her face. It did not seem to be bothering her and it wasn’t growing rapidly, so we left it. Sometime in February we noticed that the mass began to grow, and grow rapidly. It was extremely vascular and we didn’t want it to become an emergency removal, so we found a veterinary surgeon to remove it. Again, we did our homework on local veterinary practices but we had to hope that we made the right choice. Her surgery went well and her recovery was unremarkable. We were grateful for the amazing care she got at both the emergency vet and the surgeon. Since both episodes Miss Mira has seemed to be more energetic and playful, and we even joke that she lost 5 years with that mass removal. Maybe it was bothering her a lot more than we ever knew.
While in Texas, I tool a quick trip to LA for a Hyland’s event. I was the team captain for a group of Hyland’s employees for a Fitbit challenge. Hyland’s brought together a small group of athletes to represent and lead the teams in this challenge. It was an incredible 2 days, filled with catching up with old friends, meeting Hyland’s employees, running and sun. I am grateful everyday for the opportunities I have had since joining the Hyland’s team.
Back in Texas we visited more State Parks, ran, hiked, worked and David cycled (including a 100 mile gravel ride). March came around and we were a bit tired of Texas so we decided to head to Stillwater, OK. We had planned to be there for Mid South Gravel on March 13/14 anyway, knew the area well and enjoyed the town but mostly it was about seeing the people. We got to visit with friends we had made last year, joined the YMCA and ran a 25K in Oklahoma City where we met up with some of our Hyland’s teammates.
Mid South Gravel weekend arrived and it was just as COVID-19 was making headlines in NYC and California. Things were shutting down on both coasts but the middle of the county was still up and running, for the most part. The Mid South 50K took place on Friday, March 13, with a few changes, limited touching, lots of hand sanitizer and no Bobby hugs at the finish line. The weather was perfect and the roads were dry but the forecast for the 100 mile gravel ride, the next day, was not good. It began raining late in the day on Friday and rained until mid morning on Saturday. If you know anything about Oklahoma red dirt roads you know it can be really ugly in the rain. It sticks to everything and becomes the consistency of peanut butter. Now, imagine riding 100 miles in that. Well, lots of folks did, including David, who miraculously finished the race after 11 hours, with one pedal. As he rounded the last corner to come into the finish line his pedal broke off the spindle leaving his foot in mid air.
March 24th is David’s birthday and this year happened to be his 50th. Several years ago, prior to our van life, I was planning a big trip for his birthday. Well, van life happened and the trip was put on the back burner. But, I wanted to do something. I reached out to some of our local Stillwater friends as well as some other friends that would be in Stillwater for the race and I pulled off a surprise party. The day after David’s epic finish at Mid South Gravel I surprised him with 50th birthday party. Twenty or so friends that we have made since our van life journey started all gathered to celebrate. I could not have done it without our friend Ruthie, who helped me plan everything from start to finish. I was amazed that David was truly surprised, he never saw a single text message regarding the plans and no one spilled the beans. It was an amazing ending to an amazing weekend and little did we know this would be the last social event and race for a very long time.
By Tuesday, Stillwater was shutting everything down, along with the rest of the country and we knew we needed to figure out what we were going to do. We rely on recreation centers and swimming pools for showers, laundromats and public bathrooms and we go to the grocery store almost everyday. All the rec centers and pools were closed and using public facilities and going to the grocery that often gave me anxiety. We both felt that it would increase our risk of getting sick and we needed a place to stay, at least until things settled.
We weighed the few options we had and thanks to our friend Coral we found a wonderful place to call home in Asheville, NC. Ultimately, we would spend 9 weeks in Asheville at a lovely Air B and B, enjoying the mountains, exploring the trails, doing virtual races and challenges, working and relaxing.