We pulled into Stillwater, Oklahoma 2 weeks prior to the Land Run 100 wanting to do some running and riding on the local red dirt roads. What we got was so much more. We left with new friends, full hearts and memories to last a lifetime.
After a brief visit to District Bicycles, we promptly headed out to Lake McMurtry. We had stayed out at the lake when we were in town for the registration party, running on the trails and knew that we wanted to go back. We pulled in and met Jared and the rest of the staff that help keep this park beautiful for all of us to enjoy. They were so welcoming and so excited that we had come to Stillwater to enjoy the area, the community and the race. We spent 2 nights at Lake McMurtry and had the place to ourselves. It was peaceful at night and trails were empty during the day; it was cold and sunny with snow and mud but absolutely beautiful.
After 2 nights out at the lake we decided we wanted to stay closer to town. We found the empty gravel lot right around the corner from District, a porta-potty in the corner and right in the middle of town. This is where we would spend almost all the rest of our nights, it was safe, convenient and surprisingly quiet.
Within the first 2 days we also visited the local Stillwater YMCA. Since we were staying in town for a few weeks we decided to join short term. Once again, we found the people there so welcoming and generous and for a very nominal fee we had memberships for 2 weeks. We would spend quite a bit of time there, when the days were cold or windy or rainy. We met so many people who shared the best places to go, to eat and to play!
We weren’t even in town for 48 hours when we got a message from Anthony. We had met Anthony and Alexis last summer in Kansas (Dirty Kanza) and again at the LR 100 registration party. They are fairly new residents to Stillwater but are fully immersed in the gravel biking scene. They welcomed us with open arms, invited us into their home for showers, laundry, and really just to hang out. We had great conversations over dinner (they are both amazing cooks) and David and Anthony would spend time out on the gravel roads. It was all meant to be. As David approached mile 85-90 of the LR 100 he caught Anthony who was struggling a bit. They would ultimately ride the remainder of the 103 miles and cross the finish-line together. They are caring, genuine, salt of the earth people and we are lucky to call them friends.
One of the other things I always do when we pull into a new town, and are staying for a while, is find out about the local running scene. I sent a few messages on Facebook and before I knew it we were running with the local group for the Wednesday pub run and meeting up with a British gal named Ruthie for coffee. Our coffee date with Ruthie was all about running and races, where we have traveled, where she has lived and before we knew it an amazing friendship had formed. Little did I know that day that Ruthie would become someone that I now consider a friend who is family. Ultimately we spent quite a bit of time with her and we can’t wait to see her again soon.
We frequented District Bicycles many times over the course of the 2 weeks in Stillwater. It is owned by Bobby and Crystal Wintle and they are the brains and the heart behind the LR 100. We first met Bobby at a breakfast gathering in Kansas (Dirty Kanza) and then again at the LR 100 registration party. He has more energy then anyone I have ever met and he pours his heart and soul into this event. He was genuinely excited that we were in Stillwater for a few weeks prior to the race and whenever he would see us he would make sure we didn’t need anything. His energy is infectious and you can’t help but smile when you are around him.
We had some really cold, windy. gloomy days throughout our stay and one of those days we decided to take a drive to Tulsa. We were advised by several Stillwater locals that the Gathering Place was a must when visiting the area. It is a 100 acre park on the waterfront of the Arkansas River in Tulsa, Oklahoma that was made possible by $400 million dollars in donations from private companies and individuals and $65 million from the city of Tulsa. There is a beautiful visitors center, walking paths, sports courts, skate park, adventure playground, pond, water park and swings. It is a mini Disney with no lines and no fees. We were told that there was enough money donated to sustain the park for 100 years so that anyone and everyone can enjoy it for free. We took advantage of all the attractions with the exception of the water parks (they were not open and it was cold outside). Although dogs are not allowed in the playground areas they are allowed along the walking paths. We walked Mira several miles and then explored the rest of the park by ourselves. It is an absolutely incredible park, for kids and adults. We had a blast climbing, swinging, crawling and sliding. This place is a must if you are ever in or around Tulsa.
After almost 2 full weeks in Stillwater it was getting close to race day. Wednesday evening (prior to the race) we met up with our friend and owner of Orange Mud, Josh. We chatted all things Land Run and racing over dinner with a little business thrown in. He was going to be racing the Land Run double (50K run on Friday, 100 mile gravel bike on Saturday) so I had been offered the opportunity to oversee the Orange Mud booth for the day on Friday. We originally met Josh and were introduced to Orange Mud at Dirty Kanza (do you see a pattern here). I fell in love with the endurance pack and became an ambassador. We kept in touch with Josh throughout our travels and we were looking forward to hanging out with him and of course talking about OM and racing!
Even more folks rolled into town on Thursday, including Amber and Quincy whom we met at the Land Run registration party. Although we didnt get to spend much face to face time with Amber and Quincy we became fast friends through text messages and followed each others training via Facebook and Instagram. It is amazing to me, in this day and age of social media, how you can really connect with people even though you have not had significant in person interaction. Some people would say that they were not “real” friends but I completely disagree. We met them at Fuzzy’s Taco on Thursday afternoon, while having lunch with Josh and Ruthie, and it was like we were lifelong friends that had not seen each other in a while. We exchanged hugs and chatted as if we had known each other forever. They are such a wonderful couple who are passionate about running and biking and the outdoors and are instilling those traits in their daughter Ava. We went our separate ways for the afternoon but met up at an Italian restaurant for dinner. Amber, Quincy and David were all doing the 50K the next day so it was early dinner and early to bed.
We went to packet pick up as soon as it opened and met up with our Emporia friends. We were so excited to see them after so many months. We met all of them in Emporia when we were there for Dirty Kanza (see there is that race again). This is a group of people that are so passionate about gravel biking that it is almost infectious, I said almost. They are down to earth folks who are amazing support and cheerleaders. They lift you up, encourage you, support you and would give you the shirt off their backs. Lyn, Scott, Kristi, Tim, Treva, Michael, Cassie, Jason, Rick, Tina, Adam, Jessica, just to name a few. We would spend some time with them but it was a bit hectic and it certainly didn’t seem like enough time. They were even willing to watch Mira for us while we both raced on Saturday.
David had come down with a cold and congestion earlier in the week and Thursday was the worst of it. He had a low grade fever and body aches and I was questioning if he should be running the next day. He rested all afternoon, ate some hearty soup for dinner and went to bed. He woke Friday morning feeling a bit better and of course there was no question about it, he was going to race. We got up early, met Josh at the OM tent for a brief set up and then to the start line. It was cold, sunny and a bit windy but at least it was dry and the forecast was for a warming trend over the next 24 hours. David took off on his 50K and I went to breakfast with the Emporia gang. It was a quick bite to eat and then off to set up the Orange Mud tent for the day. I was lucky to have some help from some other OM ambassadors, Jolene, Shannon and Ruthie. It was so much fun, meeting people from all over, chatting about OM and racing and watching the 50K runners finish.
Orange Mud is a huge sponsor of the Land Run and because of this and Josh’s encouragement and heckling, there was a huge group of OM ambassadors at the race. It was so cool actually meeting all the people we had “met” through social media, training and racing in OM gear. Everyone was so encouraging and supportive of one another. It is amazing to me how a company could bring people together in such a positive way. Thank you Josh and OM for creating an incredible community of like minded individuals.
I was able to step away from the booth long enough to watch David finish the 50K, give him a big hug and a kiss, help him a bit and get back to the booth. We were both hanging out at the booth when other OM ambassadors rolled in (some finished before David) and we were super excited to be able to cheer Amber and Quincy into the finish. It was a spectacular day of racing, supporting, spectating and representing Orange Mud and Saturday was looking to be just as good.
We were anxiously waiting the arrival of some other friends from Emporia, Jacob, Lyndsey and baby Henry. Jacob was running the Land Run 50K, just like me. They rolled into town Friday afternoon and we were able to spend some time with them catching up on Friday evening. Jacob is a runner in Emporia, in a town dominated by gravel cyclists. So, of course I made sure to meet him when we were in Emporia for Dirty Kanza and we went running. Well mostly he and David ran together as I was way too slow for either of them, especially Jacob. We had the pleasure to be around town when Henry was born and got to meet him when he was only a few days old. It was so much fun seeing them again, seeing how Henry has grown and chatting about strategies and race plans for Leadville 100. You see David originally asked Jacob to be on our crew for Leadville and then Jacob got into the race by lottery!! We are super excited for him and can’t wait to see them again in Colorado!!
Saturday we woke early and it was 29 degrees and sunny. The winds had died down and it was looking to be a beautiful day for racing. The bike race was set to start at 8AM. David lined up, we took some pictures, said our goodbyes for the day and I headed into District Bicycles to keep warm. I bumped into some fellow OM ambassadors and Jacob and Lyndsey who were all trying to stay warm as our race was a bit delayed. The gun went off and I was right with Ruthie for a bit. I told her to have a great race and we parted ways. She caught me at the first aid station and again at aid stations 2 and 3. I was feeling good and was running my own race. I wasn’t concerned about where I was in the pack or my time. I was running for feel, power walking the hills and running the downhill and flats. I was playing leap frog with several other runners, they would pass me on the up hills and I would pass them on the down. Eventually I would pass some of them and never get passed again. That is always a confidence booster. The weather had warmed significantly and it was a beautiful day to be racing. The terrain was challenging yet all runnable, lots and lots of rolling hills and no real mud to speak of. Right before the race started Lyndsey asked me if I had a goal in mind. I wasn’t really sure but felt that 5:30 was a reasonable goal considering I had not been training much speed work, mostly distance. As the miles clicked by I was feeling good about my 5:30 goal. My hydration and nutrition were good, my legs felt good and in the last 5 miles I passed 5 people, all men (not really sure what the significance of that is but its always fun to pass guys in a race!). As I entered into town I could feel the excitement of the finish line build. I knew that David wouldn’t be there but Bobby would be, ready with open arms to welcome me home and congratulate me on my finish. As I ran down 7th Avenue in downtown Stillwater there were people cheering and screaming, all for me. I got the finish chute to myself, got a big Bobby hug, a smile on my face and a finish time of 5:23:59.
I went back to the van to find Mira waiting anxiously for my return. I changed my clothes, drank some recovery drink, called my parents and Ruthie came by to chat. We talked about the race and made plans to meet up again before we left town. I wandered over to the finish line and got a text from David that he was at mile 85 or so. I knew I had some time to kill so I went into the local coffee shop and ran into Alexis. She was tracking Anthony and it seemed that he and David must have been riding close to one another. Another text from David and he was at mile 90 with Anthony. They were going to stay together for the remainder of the race. So, Alexis and her crew and I headed to the finish line to wait. It seemed like the last 5 miles took forever and all I could do was ask Alexis, “where are they now”. As they approached the finish line there was Bobby waiting with open arms and a big high five, giving David and Anthony his famous Bobby hug!
I ran to meet David past the finish chute, congratulated Anthony and off we went to get David some recovery drink and warm, dry clothes. We quickly drove to get some food and return to the finish line as we didn’t want to miss Amber and Quincy cross. We planted ourselves at the finish chute and as they came into the finish they had huge smiles on their faces. We were screaming and yelling and carrying on, it was so much fun to see them accomplish the double together and be a part of it.
We were tired and hungry and in desperate need of showers. We, along with all the OM ambassadors, were invited to hang out at Josh’s rental house. We headed over there after getting some food, hung out with our fellow ambassadors, took showers and slept in the driveway. We chatted with Josh briefly that morning and knew that we would see him again soon, likely in Colorado for one/some of the Leadville races.
We went into town, had breakfast with the Emporia crew, bumped into Amber, Quincy and Ava, chatted with them for a while and said our goodbyes, well really “until next time”. We asked them to come to Leadville and be a part of our crew for the Leadville 100 and we are super excited they said yes! Off to Ruthie’s house to visit with her one last time before we head out of town. We spent the remainder of that day relaxing and enjoying a nice dinner with Anthony and Alexis. Again, not saying goodbye but “until next time”.
David went on one last gravel ride with the Monday Funday group and we spent one more morning running the trails of Lake McMurtry before we got on the road to Emporia. As we pull away I couldn’t help but refelct on our time in Stillwater. We went for a race and what we got was so much more. We left with new friends, full hearts and memories to last a lifetime.
“Good friends are hard to find, harder to leave and impossible to forget” -unknown
After a month in and around Phoenix and a little over a week since the Black Canyon 100K, we are now on the road again, heading toward our next destination. We had an amazing, unbelievable and memorable time in Arizona. We were able to spend a month visiting with our dear friends, Joan and Russ, explore the area and running my first 100k at the Black Canyon Ultras.
After spending the first week in and around the BK 100 course we decided to head out to McDowell Mountain Regional Park outside of Fountain Hills. It is a beautiful park in the desert with majestic mountain views and many miles of trails for biking, hiking and running. We spent many days and nights in this park during our stay. It provided both of us a perfect place for training and is also the location of the Javelina Jundred 100k that I will be racing in October. We really fell in love with this park and its landscape and we are both looking forward to visiting again.
Along with all the biking and running we found time to go on some epic hikes. We could not pass up the opportunity to hike up Camelback Mountain. This is an iconic hike that is only 20 minutes outside of downtown Phoenix and provides 360 degree views of the surrounding city. We left from the Echo Canyon trailhead. It is 1.2 miles to the top after a steep and rocky ascent requiring assistance of handrails and some scrambling. I was certainly cautious on both the ascent and descent as it was too close to the BK 100 to risk a fall or injury.
Another popular destination is the Phoenix Mountain Preserve. Along with Camelback Mountain, it contains another iconic peak, Piestewa Peak. We were lucky enough to be able to run from our friends house to this area. It is right in the city but feels so remote and off the beaten path. Piestewa Peak is 1.2 miles with 1200 feet of elevation and a rocky, unrelenting climb. Definitely worth the effort. Prior to climbing Piestewa, we explored some of the Dreamy Draw Recreation Area which is in the same general location. There are plenty of trails along with a paved bicycle path that made for a great 7 mile run.
We took one day to drive out to the Superstition Mountains but the mountains were so socked in and the weather so cold that we decided to go to Usery Mountain Regional Park just outside Mesa. Another beautiful park with over 29 miles of trails for hiking, biking and running. After exploring some trails with Mira we took a short hike up to wind cave and witnessed one of many amazing sunsets in Arizona.
It had rained a few times since we were in Arizona and we kept wondering how that would effect the race. We decided to go run the section from Black Canyon City to Table Mesa, a 13 mile stretch that Joan would run with me during the race. During this stretch of the race there are 2 river crossings of the Agua Fria river. We were curious to see how high the water was, so 1 week prior to race day, David, Joan, Mira and I set off from Black Canyon City trailhead. David and Mira would run to the first river crossing, about 1.5 miles, and back and then pick us up at the other end in Table Mesa. The first crossing was about knee high with moderately swift water, but overall very easy to navigate. The terrain was rocky and technical at times and really runnable at other times. We got to the 2nd river crossing and it looked a little more intimidating. Joan and I were a little reluctant but we saw a cyclist on the other side who directed us to the best location to cross. The water was about mid-thigh on Joan and a bit deeper for me but it was easy to navigate. We had a great day of trail running and course recon and were hoping that there would be no more rain before race day.
We had been watching the forecast very closely and hoping they were wrong about the amount of rain that was going to fall on the Thursday before the race. Well, for once the weather predictions were right and the area of the Agua Fria river received over an inch of rain. In most places this wouldn’t seem like a lot, but in the desert, that doesn’t see rain often and floods easily, this was a lot of rain. I watched the website of the river levels rise rapidly over the next 24 hours and we all anxiously awaited an email from the race director. The Black Canyon course is typically a point to point course with 3 major river crossings. We knew that if the river was too high the course would become some version of an out and back.
The river seemed to be receding on Friday and as of Friday afternoon the race was to proceed as scheduled with just a small re-route. We were all excited about this as this would allow Joan to pace me the 13 mile section from Black Canyon City to Table Mesa and David to pace me the 13 mile section from Table Mesa to the finish line, perfect. And we would get to do the “real” Black Canyon course with river crossings. We knew there was always a possibility of a change on race morning but we were ever so hopeful.
The 3 of us (and Mira) drove up to Bumble Bee Ranch (mile 19 aid station), after a quick stop for packet pick-up, and spent the night there. Joan was a trooper and slept in the van, under the bed in her sleeping bag. It was a much better option then setting up a tent in the dark and muddy conditions. We woke early the next morning to an email stating the race had decided to re-route to the high water route. The river had not receded as much as they had hoped and it was too dangerous to allow us to cross. We were all disappointed but grateful to amazing race directors who work really hard to have a great race and still keep us safe. So, this meant that there was a long out and back section and that Joan would only pace me for approximately 5 miles while David would pace me for 22 miles.
The weather at the start was cold, windy and right before the 7am start it began to rain. I was thankful that I had a good rain jacket and decided to wear capris instead of shorts, at least until I saw my crew at mile 19. The first few miles were on a fire road mixed in with some single track. At about mile 3, surprisingly there was a “river” crossing. I am sure that this is not a place that water usually flows unless of course there is over an inch of rainfall 2 days prior. It was running swiftly but only about knee high, so it was easy to navigate. There were some extremely muddy sections, thick, sticky, goopy mud, the kind that will pull your shoe off. I made it to the first aid station, mile 7.9, where the views were amazing and overall I was feeling good. While standing at the start we ran into Lisa who works at the local running store, iRun. We ultimately ended up running to the first aid station together. It was there that I stopped for a porta-potty break and she kept on going. I wouldn’t see her again until the out and back section to the river, much later in the day.
The weather started to warm, the sun came out and the trail going forward was dry. The next section of the race was this amazing single track trail, not very technical but windy and beautiful and super fun to run. The miles just seemed to fly by and before I knew it I was at Bumble Bee Ranch (mile 19) aid station where Joan, David and Mira were anxiously awaiting my arrival. They had my shorts ready and waiting along with fluid and fuel to replenish my pack. They also had some chicken soup with noodles which hit the spot. I changed into my shorts, got in some calories and off I went. Next time I would see them would be at Rock Springs aid station at mile 36 (ish).
The next section of the course was also some fun single track. Along the way I made some new friends, a guy that had run the course backward, ended at the start line and then turned around to run the actual race, sisters that were running together and Filip, an ultrarunner who has done his share of ultras and was shooting for a 15 hour finish. I kept up with Filip and we chatted for a few miles before he would take off into the distance and I wouldn’t see him again until we passed each other on the long out and back section.
I made it to the Gloriana aid station which was the turn around for the out and back section. The next 7 miles (to the next aid station) seemed to take forever. For about 4 miles the trail was extremely narrow with a drop off on one side and deadly cactus on the other. It was at this point when the front of the pack runners started onto this single track and it got a little dicey at times. They were running somewhere around a 7 minute pace and did not want to slow down for anyone. The single track opened up onto a jeep road that was rocky and washed out in places but mostly downhill. I made it to the aid station, got some ginger ale and had 4 more miles until I reached Rock Springs where my amazing crew would be waiting for me and where I could pick Joan up for the out and back to the river.
I was in need of some company by this time and was so grateful that I have friends like Joan who will sit around all day and wait for me just to run 5 miles. We had a great time chatting and running down to the river and back to the Rock Springs aid station where Joan would stop and David would accompany me the rest of the way. David was waiting for us with more chicken soup and noodles, fluid and fuel for my pack, a dry shirt, rain jacket and headlamp. It was starting to cool off and it would be dark soon enough so we needed to make sure we had all the proper clothing. Well, I had all the proper clothing. David decided to forgo bringing a rain jacket or gloves and as we looked into the distance there was a big dark cloud looming in the direction of our travels. He decided to ask the first aid station we hit (4 miles from Rock Springs) for a large garbage bag in case it started to rain. Good thing he asked because the rain stayed away for the remainder of the race!!
We climbed back up the jeep road that I had descended hours earlier and finally made it to the single track trail. It was now dark and the 2 way traffic was a bit scary at times. Of course this was not the ideal situation and not what the race directors had wanted but it was certainly safer then crossing the river. David and I walked this section as I was not comfortable running it in the dark. It was at this point in time that I learned a really good lesson. If you are going to run single track trail in the dark you really need to practice running single track trail in the dark!!! And that I need a better light. I thought my headlamp would be adequate but I felt like I couldn’t see as well as I wanted. We made it to the Gloriana aid station, ate some food, drank some ginger ale and set off into the dark returning on the same trail. There was still 2 way traffic but the number of people coming toward us was decreasing as the cut-off times at Rock Springs drew closer. It was on this part of the trail that we ran into our friend Steve. He sat down on the trail and was feeling discouraged as he was hurting really bad with knee pain and cramping and was thinking about calling it quits at the turn around. We gave him some Hyland’s leg cramps, encouraged him to keep going and that he had plenty of time to finish even if he walked the entire way back. We kept moving forward, power hiking to the jeep road and then we began to run. At this point my run pace was not much different then David’s power hiking pace and we both got a good chuckle out of it. We made it to the last aid station with 4 miles to go and I knew that not only would I finish but I would finish in under 17 hours.
The last 4 miles were on the road and some windy single track. We ran the road section and then power walked the single track. As we climbed along the single track we could hear the finish line in the distance and both of us got super excited. As we came into the finish line, David backed off and let me have my moment of glory, crossing the finish-line of my first 100K. I was elated and proud and tired all at the same time. And of course Joan was right there screaming and yelling and cheering.
I could not have asked for a better day for my first 100K (well running the real course would have been better). I felt great all day, my nutrition was on par, my crew was amazing and the weather was perfect. The folks from Aravaipa Running made the best out of the situation at hand and put together an extremely well organized, well stocked, safe and memorable race. I can’t wait to be a part of Javelina Jundred 100K in October as I know it will be just as memorable.
I can’t stress enough how meaningful it was for me to have my 2 best friends with me through this experience. As they say it takes a village and I have the best village in the world!!
And by the way-our friend Steve said the stuff we gave him (Hyland’s leg cramps) worked really well (his words), he pushed through with a finish under 17 hours and earned his Western States 100 lottery spot!! Congratulations Steve on a great race!!
After 8 weeks in the PNW and spending some amazing, quality time with friends and family, we are back in the van and ready to embark on our 2019 journey. We feel so lucky that we had the opportunity to return home for 2 months and that we were able to re-connect with so many important people in our lives. We are sad that we didn’t get to see everyone but we also know that the holidays can be a difficult time, with the many obligations and plans that surround us this time of the year. I hope you can forgive us if we didn’t get to see you and hope that we can connect when we are back in Seattle at the end of 2019. Or better yet, feel free to come visit us on the road, in one of the many fun places we have on our list this year!
One of the last things we did before embarking on our 2019 trip was to take a coaching class through the Road Runners Club of America. www.rrca.org . It consists of a 2 day seminar to provide a baseline of education for individuals looking to become knowledgeable and ethical distance running coaches in the community. This class was engaging, interesting and a great introduction to the world of run coaching. I have had previous coaching education with the USA triathlon level I class as well as a coaching class through Team in Training, but I believe, you can never have too much education when it comes to coaching, both for my own endeavors as well as others I may coach.
Our 2019 journey started off with a fever, a crazy epic snowstorm and lots of driving to get to better weather. After a brief stop in Bend to catch up with some old friends, Colleen and Bryan, we headed toward Boise, then Salt Lake City and we eventually made it to sunny, St George, Utah. I was still feeling a bit under the weather but was able to muster up enough energy to go for some nice hikes and a half marathon. We were even able to meet up with some Hyland’s Boston Marathon teammates, an extra little treat! After a few days in St George, we woke up to rain. Time to move on to sun and warmer climates, so off to Las Vegas we went.
We spent a few days in Las Vegas, although it was still a bit chilly there, the sun was shining and I was feeling much better. We were able to visit with some long time friends, Eric and Dawn-Marie, Nicole whom I had not seen in a few years and Randy, who I had not seen in probably 10 years.. We got some good training runs in the desert and David was able to get out on his bike quite a few times. We love Las Vegas, it has so many great training opportunities, the weather is perfect year round and we both love the desert. We could have stayed longer but we wanted to make it to Phoenix in time for an organized training run on the Black Canyon 100k course. I believe that getting to Phoenix 2+ weeks prior to the 100K race will be very beneficial for me and will provide both of us with some great training.
We quickly learned that the terrain of the desert is not dog friendly, at least for our dog. Mira is so accustomed to the nice cushion of the PNW forest floor. She went on a 7.5 mile run with us and was quite sore for a few days. We will be buying her some dog “shoes” in the near future in hopes of getting her out on the trails, not only in the desert but in and around Colorado, as we plan to spend most of the summer there. We will have to do a fair amount of “tag-teaming” with Mira, as our training gets longer and she slows down a bit, as well as the harsh desert environment, but we are hopeful that she will acclimate a bit just as we will. I have mentioned it before, but this is one challenge of van life with a dog. We don’t feel that it is a sacrifice, we love her, she is family and we wouldn’t want it any other way. We cherish this time, we get to spend everyday, all day with her, something we couldn’t do working/living in Seattle.
We pulled into Phoenix and the weather was even better then we could have hoped for, perfect for training, cool in the morning and evening and warm and sunny during the day. Our first run on the Black Canyon course was a blast. We ran miles 37.5-43.5 as an out and back and then I ran a short loop in a neighborhood followed by another out and back on the course, almost 19 miles with 4 river crossings! It was good to preview some of the course during the day, as I may be doing this section in the dark!! The following day we met up with a group and ran a 15 mile loop north of the Black Canyon trail. This trail was even rockier than the previous day and unfortunately I took a hard spill at mile 3.5. It was an extremely challenging day and without the support of David, I am not sure I would have continued on and finished the run.
We will be spending the next several weeks in and around the Phoenix area, visiting with our dear friends Joan and Russ, training on the Black Canyon course, mountain biking (David, not me!) and enjoying the warm weather. Black Canyon 100K will be a challenge, not only physically but mentally, and I am excited to push my limits and see what I am made of!! Stay tuned for a race report.
It has been a little over a month since our last SwimRun race of 2018, SwimRun NC, so I thought it was about time that I sit down and write a little race report. This race takes place every year at the end of October at Hanging Rock State Park. Hanging Rock is about 45 minutes outside of Winston-Salem, so very easy to access but still remote enough to feel like you are off the beaten path. It is a beautiful park with a lake for swimming and kayaking/canoeing, more than 20 miles of hiking trails that climb onto spectacular views and weave alongside clear streams and waterfalls. There is also access on the Dan River for paddling, over 8 miles of mountain biking trails and rock climbing. With its technical trails and water access it is the perfect backdrop for SwimRun.
We had the opportunity to do some course recon with one of the race directors, Herbert, a few weeks prior to the race. This recon proved to be an invaluable tool, it allowed us to get a great feel for the course and how technical the terrain really is. At that time the water temperature was a balmy 70 degrees, perfect for someone like me who does not do well in cold water. Well, that temperature was too good to be true and in the following few weeks the air temperature would drop and several storms with torrential rains would not only drop the water temperature but change the flow of the Dan River.
The day prior to the race all the athletes gathered at the Green Heron Ale House for packet pick-up and race briefing. We picked up our race bibs, tee shirts and hats along with an extra little surprise. Three heart-warming personalized notes to us from 3 different kids at a local grade school. This is by far the most unique and personal race swag we have ever received. The race briefing was short and I sat there anxiously waiting for someone to talk about the water temperature and the conditions of the Dan River. Neither were mentioned in the briefing but it really didn’t matter, because the conditions were what they were and talking about it wouldn’t change either.
Race morning was sunny but cold and I knew the water temperature would be a challenge for me. The race starts at the Ale House with a nice 4.5 mile run up to Hanging Rock State Park. This was moderately technical terrain with a few creek crossings and an amazing waterfall climb up and around Window Falls. There was plenty of time to get warm before hitting the lake and the first of 4 – 500 meter swims across the lake. The lake was very cold, the kind of cold that takes your breath away, that freezes your face and gives you an ice cream headache, yes it was that cold. The race director, Herbert, estimated that the lake temperature was around 54 degrees that day. We got through the first swim and cut across the bay, a short traverse past the dam and back into the lake for the 2nd loop. This second loop proved to be a bit more challenging for me, as the run portion in between was not long enough to warm up at all. Back into the lake and I started to get cold about half way across. We made it out and across the bay and by the time I hit the traverse past the dam I was shivering uncontrollably, teeth chattering, lips blue and feeling like there was no way I could possibly get back in that lake again.
This is where having a really supportive partner comes into play. Looking back on it, if I were racing alone, I may not have had the mental fortitude to get myself back in that lake for 2 more swims but having David there by my side, encouraging me, supporting me and counting on me as a partner was exactly what I needed to keep going.
The race continued with a nice long climb up to the top of Moore’s Wall with 642 steps. This section was slow and steady with more power hiking than running and the views were certainly worth the work. It also gave me time to forget about how cold I was after that 2nd swim!! After stopping for some fluid and a photo op at the top, we descended back to the lake on an extremely rocky single track trail, the most technical section of the race. Once back at the lake it was back in for another 2 loops. The 3rd swim was cold but tolerable and I was so happy to get some warm chicken broth after that loop before having to get back into the water for the final lake swim of the day. The chicken broth was exactly what I needed to warm my core, just enough to get through that swim, and knowing that the hot broth would be there when I got out of the water after that 4th loop.
It was a relief getting out of the water and knowing that all that stood between us and the finish was a 5.7 mile run and a 900 meter swim in the Dan River. I knew that the river temperature would be even colder than the lake but also knew that with the current the 900 meters would be very quick. The last run took us on an out and back section to climb Cascade Falls and then down to the Dan River. We ran along the river to the entry point and hopped into the Dan River, where I decided to not submerge my face for fear of getting too cold. The river was running rather swiftly and there were rocks just under the surface that were a bit tricky to navigate. We made it to the exit point unscathed and I struggled a bit to get my feet under me. Again, having a partner who could help me to my feet was invaluable. We climbed a short set of stairs, through the finish arch and as always we both had huge smiles on our faces, happy to be finished and happy with our accomplishment. I guess I am accustomed to more excitement and enthusiasm at the finish line of a race because this was lackluster and a bit of a disappointment. No photographer, no announcer, no one from the race, just a few people milling around who had just finished.
We walked away from the finish line, changed our clothes and went to partake in the post race festivities. Despite the lackluster finish line the post race experience was enjoyable. The majority of the race participants and their families/friends sat around feasting on the tasty post race food and drink, sharing stories about the race, cheering on the division winners during the awards and hoping to win some great swag in the raffle.
This race was challenging and technical and fun and a great way to end our SwimRun 2018 season!
After 2 weeks of feeling like all we were doing is driving we are finally back in the PNW. When we first made the decision to do the “Van Life” thing, we promised our families we would return to the PNW for the holidays. I don’t think either of us really thought about where we would be in the country or how long it actually takes to drive across it and I am not sure it would have really mattered. We want to see our families and spend time with all of them during the holidays, but boy was it a whirlwind few weeks.
After our last race in North Carolina, SwimRun NC, we went back to South Carolina to see David’s daughter and grandson. We had such a wonderful visit and it was so nice to be able to see them again. From there it was time to head west to the PNW. Our first stop was in Tuscaloosa, Alabama to visit David’s niece. She is a freshman in college at the University and has not seen any family since her mom took her to school back in August. Although we didn’t get to spend much time, it was so nice visiting, having dinner, catching up and hearing about her freshman year so far, she looks and sounds extremely happy.
From Alabama we made our way to Stillwater, Oklahoma. It was a crazy day of driving to get to Stillwater. I bet you are asking yourself why on earth would we rush to get to Stillwater, OK. Well, Stillwater is the home of the Land Run 100, a 100 mile bicycle race on red, rutted, gravel roads through the beautiful countryside surrounding Stillwater. Our goal was to make it to District Bicycles on Saturday morning for the registration party. We met the owner of District Bicycles, Bobby, back in May in Kansas, he was one of the 34 people racing the DKXL (350 miles of gravel, unsupported). He was super excited that we made the trek to Stillwater as were we. There was so much positive energy surrounding the registration, we had a great time, both registered for races (David for the Double-50k run followed by 100 mile bike the following day and me the 50k run), and spent an extra day exploring the area.
Little did we know that we would really enjoy our time in Stillwater. Much like Emporia, Kansas, Stillwater is a hidden gem in the middle of the country. A place that most people will never get to experience because most people would never even dream of going to Oklahoma on vacation. We were able to do a little Land Run course recon and some trail running before we had to move on toward the west coast.
From Stillwater we made our way to Phoenix, Arizona to visit our dear friends, Joan and Russ. On the way, we could not help ourselves, we had to make a very brief pit stop in Winslow, Arizona for a photo op on the corner. And yes, there was a flat bed Ford sitting right in front !!
Although our visit in Phoenix was less than 24 hours, we were able to spend some quality time with our friends, working out, running and catching up.
On to Las Vegas where we would help in the Orange Mud booth at the Las Vegas Rock and Roll Marathon Expo. Orange Mud has focused on making hydration packs for running and cycling but they also have lots of other fun items, like the transition towel! They are a great company, they stand by all of their products and they love supporting their customers. We happened to meet the owner, Josh, in Kansas where I became a huge fan of their products and became an ambassador. David and I had a blast helping out, promoting and selling great products and meeting so many like minded people.
We couldn’t come to Las Vegas and not find a race. Well lucky us, an old friend of mine, from way back when I was living in Vegas, has his own race management company, Bristlecone Events, and happened to have a 5k race the day we were leaving. So, before hitting the road again we participated in the race and then went back out for a second 5k to help pick up cones on the race course. Not only did we get to race but I was able to catch up with an old friend, meet his amazing wife and daughter and introduce him to David. Thank you Eric and Dawn Marie for welcoming us into your home and your space for a few days!!
From Vegas it was on to Salt Lake City for a very brief visit with some other old friends from Vegas, Melinda and Nathan. We had very little time to explore but we were there long enough to get in a nice hike in the foothills of the Wasatch Mountains. This area looks amazing and we can’t wait to come back when we have more time to really explore the area. We are hoping Melinda and Nathan want to be our tour guides as they are amazing athletes and know the region well.
From Salt Lake City we made a brief overnight stop in Boise before making it to Portland, Oregon and my brother’s house. We were able to spend 10 days with my brother, his 2 girls and his girlfriend and her daughter. We took advantage of some nice weather for some great outside time, a stop at Multnomah Falls , running up Mt. Tabor and out at Forest Park. We spent Thanksgiving with my family before heading north to Seattle to have another Thanksgiving celebration with David’s family. We will spend some time in Seattle, visiting with family and friends, racing and training and planning our 2019 journey.
We have now been on the road for 9 months and heading into this holiday season we have so much to be thankful for. We have our health, our families, the ability to travel and each other. We cherish everyday we have to make memories with each other and with others around us. We have realized that living with less has allowed us to appreciate the little things so much more and we can”t wait for more adventures in 2019.
“But the most beautiful things in life are not things. They’re people, and places, and memories, and pictures. They’re feelings and moments and smiles and laughter.” Unknown
Let me start out by saying that David and I are ambassadors for IGNITE SwimRun. We actually became ambassadors prior to having raced any SwimRun events. We originally signed up for one event, SwimRun Lake James, but then we were picked to be ambassadors. We knew it was an opportunity to be a part of a growing sport, to represent what looked to be a great company (IGNITE) and ultimately race more. Well, we got so much more than we could ever imagine. By the end of the 2018 season we raced a total of 5 SwimRun races with 3 of them being IGNITE races: Minnesota, Rhode Island and Virginia.
We met the IGNITE team for the first time in Minnesota. We arrived several days early to the race venue and were eager to help out, marking trails, setting up the venue, really whatever help was needed. We could see immediately that they are a group of dedicated, hard working individuals who have a passion to see SwimRun grow in the US and love organizing races.
IGNITE Minnesota is located at Cuyuna State Park in Ironton, Minnesota. It is known for its 30+ miles of single track trails with tight turns and scenic vistas. It is a popular mountain biking destination, but the trails are also amazing for running. The many quarries throughout the park are filled with beautiful crystal clear water which allow for perfect swimming conditions and is also popular with scuba divers. This race was a combination of a little bit of road, a little bit of fire road and mostly moderately challenging single track trails mixed with quarry swimming. We had perfect weather and perfect water temperatures. We had a great race and although it was super challenging, we had so much fun.
Our next SwimRun was in Rhode Island, Block Island to be exact. This race was more of a spur of the moment decision. Since we were going to be only 4 hours away we decided it would be a great opportunity to do another SwimRun. So off we went to Rhode Island to help set up, explore Block Island and race. This race was spectacular in so many ways. It was a combination of road, fire road and moderately technical single track trail along with some calm swimming in the Great Salt Pond and more challenging ocean swims in the Atlantic as well as the scenery of sparkling clear waters, dramatic bluffs and miles of beautiful beaches. Again, the weather was perfect, or even a bit warm, and the water temperature was warm enough to opt out of a wetsuit if desired. Since we had some rougher ocean swims I decided to wear my wetsuit for security and David opted out. This race really pushed me outside my comfort zone. The ocean swims were a bit rough at times and one section turned into a run as I was unable to get past the break. Although all of the SwimRun races we have done have been so different, this race became our favorite SwimRun race of the 2018 season.
Our last IGNITE race of the season (but 4th overall) was SwimRun Virginia. This was a general entry race, meaning open registration for any athlete, but it was also the National SwimRun Championship where the top teams from 9 other SwimRun races in the US would compete for the top spot on the podium. David and I put this race on our list because we had heard that it was a pretty cool race with a combination of urban and trails and river swimming. Well this race did not disappoint. The week prior to the race the weather was warm and perfect. The river had been running high all summer long due to the many tropical storms that passed through the region and then another storm rolled through the week prior to the race. The temperatures dropped, the river levels rose and we were questioning if this race would happen. Well, the river dropped enough for the race to go on safely but the temperatures never recovered. The day of the race it was cool and overcast and the water temperature was about 61 degrees. The most challenging part of this race was the river. At 6 feet high it was running swiftly. I have never swam in a swift running river and tried hard not to panic. Once again I found myself way outside my comfort zone. There were several moments of sheer panic but David remained calm and was the voice of reason I needed to get through this challenge. This is the essence of SwimRun, having a team member to encourage you, support you as well as for safety. This was probably the most challenging race of the season.
Prior to 2018, David and I had never been ambassadors for a company. We feel so honored that IGNITE invited us to join them for the 2018 season and welcomed us into their family. We have had an education on race organization and directing, got an opportunity to race in 3 amazing but very different venues and made some lifelong friends, not only with other athletes and ambassadors but with the IGNITE team.
“There is nothing more exciting than meeting new people, hearing their stories, and being inspired.” -Unknown
It has been quite some time since I have posted and a lot has taken place; several big races and family visits. We continue to love this lifestyle, spending almost all of our time together, racing, training and visiting with friends and family along with the challenges of van life. We have one more big race coming up, our 5th and final SwimRun in North Carolina, before we head back to Seattle to spend time with our families for the holidays.
We left Ohio and headed to Erie, PA for the Erie Marathon on September 9. David and I had aspirations for qualifying for the 2019 Boston Marathon and we both felt prepared, mentally and physically. The weather was perfect and the course pancake flat, but it just wasn’t our day. David realized at mile 10 that it just wasn’t going to happen, and my wheels fell off around mile 16 when my left hip began to hurt and I began to walk more often then I normally would (I always do a run/walk for all my marathons including my past 2 Boston Marathon qualifiers). We were both disappointed and I shed a few tears but there is no time to wallow in self pity. I have so much to be thankful for, the fact that I got to run the Boston Marathon not just once, but twice, makes me so proud of my accomplishments. You see, if you know me or have been following my blog, you know that a bit over 15 years ago I could not even run a mile let alone the Boston Marathon. So, running Erie, although not the results I had hoped for was still a marathon and still something I am proud of.
After the Erie Marathon we drove to Vermont to spend some time at Cold Moon Farm with Irene and Ed and my parents. Cold Moon Farm holds a special place in our hearts. I grew up down the street from the Glazer’s and they were my second set of parents. I spent half of my formative years at their house, hanging out with their sons, swimming in the pool and sometimes driving Ed crazy with my whining. Just like my parents, they were always there for me if I needed something. They moved to Vermont over 20 years ago and I don’t get to see them as often anymore. When David decided to propose to me somehow he knew this was the place to do it. We made a trip to NY and Vermont in December of 2014 and it was on this trip, at Cold Moon Farm where he asked me to be his wife. So, this is why we love this place and knew we needed to make a stop here. It was also a perfect place to meet up with my parents to celebrate my 47th birthday and catch up. We really loved our time on the farm, helping out wherever we could, hiking and exploring the Green Mountains, visiting, reminiscing and telling stories about my childhood and relaxing. If you ever find yourself in Southern Vermont it is worth a stop over at Cold Moon Farm.
During our stay in Vermont, along with our regular schedule of running, hiking and strength training, we traveled to 2 big races. The first one was IGNITE SwimRun Rhode Island. This was our 3rd SwimRun race of 2018 and our first one which included ocean swimming. The location was Block Island, Rhode Island, a quaint island 12 miles off the coast, famous for its miles of free public beaches, sparkling clear waters, dramatic bluffs and open spaces. In our usual fashion we arrived early, helped set-up the venue and did some course re-con. We knew it was a beautiful location but this race course was breath-taking. It was also extremely challenging- ocean swimming with big swells, running on single track trails and rocky coastline, sandy beaches and stairs, lots of stairs. Due to the conditions on the south end of the island, one swim was cancelled and another adjacent swim became optional. If you could get through the break then the swim parallel to the shore it wasn’t too bad, unfortunately, I could not get past the break. After trying several times and not getting very far, David could see on my face that I was starting to struggle and panic a bit. He signaled to me to turn around and go back to shore, we will run the beach, it is not worth injury or even worse. We were doing well, in the middle of the pack, until we missed a turn onto a single track trail and ran almost a mile in the wrong direction. We got back on track but knew we were in last place (only 6 teams did the long course). We popped out on to the road, saw the team ahead of us, turned up the speed a notch and managed to come in 5th place at the end of the day. It was one of the most scenic races I have ever done. The day ended with an amazing bonfire on the beach, with the awards ceremony and sharing stories with the other athletes.
The second race we signed up for was more of a last minute decision. We happened upon a timed race that was only about 30 minutes from Cold Moon on another local farm, Beebe Farms in East Dorset, Vermont, called the Beebe Farm Classic. This race was a 0.87 mile loop on a gravel road surrounding horse arenas. We signed up for the 6 hour race with the goal being as many loops as possible during those 6 hours. This was my first timed race and my goal was a 50K, about 32 miles. I had my phone and headphones with me in anticipation of the monotony of such a race, but was surprised by how quickly 6 hours passed. Before I knew it, we had only a few minutes to go as I raced to complete my 39th lap and a total of 33.99 miles. David was able to complete a little over 43 laps for a total of 37 miles and an overall win. The race was well organized, had some awesome swag, including a fleece jacket and a mug, tons of food and great music. The best part about the day for us was getting a chance to catch up with our friend, Nancy, from the Hyland’s Boston Marathon team.
Our month in Vermont was incredible but we needed to start heading toward South Carolina, where David’s daughter and grandson live. We were going to be there for his 1st birthday party!! We left ourselves plenty of time, since we don’t like to drive too many hours a day and we had planned some other stops along the way. Our first stop after leaving Vermont, was New Jersey. We spent a few days with my cousins, Elaine, David, Robin, Michael, Randy and Jamie. We had so much fun sharing stories and spending time getting to know all of them better. While in NJ, I was able to show David around my high school, The Peddie School. I reminisced about my days there and how meaningful it was and how I never would imagine that 30 years later I would be running on the track and talking about doing my first 100K. Back then I was all about avoiding PE class and did everything possible to get out of it.
After NJ we made a brief stop in Shenandoah National Park. This is one of the most dog friendly national parks we have encountered so far. We hiked the Cedar Run-Whiteoak Circuit, a strenuous, technical hike which runs along the river and passes many waterfalls along the way. It was a perfect fall day.
From Virginia we made a brief stop in North Carolina, finally landing in South Carolina where we would spend a few days visiting with David’s daughter and grandson and celebrating his 1st birthday. We spent time at the Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia and the pumpkin patch. It had been 6 months since our last visit and it was so nice to spend some quality time with them. Our current living situation allows us these opportunities to visit family that we may not have otherwise, we feel so blessed to have the time to visit and look forward to next time.
Back to North Carolina and Hanging Rock State Park to scout out the SwimRun NC course. We were lucky enough to meet up with one of the race directors, Herbert, who took us on a tour of the waterfalls and the upper section of the course. This course is beautiful, with lots of single track, technical trails, waterfall climbs, and an amazing overlook on top of Moore’s Wall. We spent a few days here exploring the other waterfalls and trails in the park.
After a few days exploring Hanging Rock it was back north to Virginia for IGNITE SwimRun Virginia in Richmond on October 20th followed by SwimRun NC in Hanging Rock on October 28th. These would be our last 2 SwimRun races of the 2018 season, making a total of 5 for us this year!!
So stay tuned for some race reports and pictures very soon!!!
As I sit here in Ohio, with 2 days until our big marathon, I am thinking about all the places we have been since our last big race in Minnesota. Our plan after SwimRun Minnesota was to head north to Canada to visit our friends, Debbie and Cory, in Gravenhurst, Ontario. We started north after IGNITE Minnesota and stopped at Tettegouche State Park.
Tettegouche is located on the north shore of Lake Superior. There are 23 miles of hiking trails with high cliffs, shoreline and waterfalls. It is a beautiful location in Northern Minnesota and no where near a big city. Usually this would be a plus, but as we quickly found out, it is not easy to find a place for an Amazon delivery in a remote region. Unfortunately, while in northern Minnesota our solar panel controller shorted out, a wire came loose, which meant we only had the power that the batteries had stored. This meant the refrigerator had to be turned off and the power had to be limited to only those things that were absolutely necessary. We were able to order the control panel and found a co-op for delivery, but that would take several days. During that time, we took advantage of the state park, hiking the trails and exploring the shoreline. The delivery was delayed and the weather turned to rain so we decided to splurge and got a hotel room for a night. We took advantage of warm showers and air conditioning which granted us a little reprieve from the heat, humidity and bugs of Northern Minnesota.
We finally received our control panel and were able to get our solar up and running again. Prior to departing the area we got a break in the weather and went for a beautiful run along the lake where we discovered these enormous Adirondack chairs.
Once we were able to get back on the road, we entered into Canada with no issues. We skirted the shores of Lake Superior and stopped to explore Lake Superior Provincial Park, for an afternoon. The park is a diverse landscape of forested hills, clear lakes, streams and rivers, and a Lake Superior shoreline with features ranging from cliffs to long stretches of beach. We spent several hours exploring the park and all it has to offer.
After our small set back, we were finally able to make it to Gravenhurst, a few days later than we anticipated, but a place we would spend the next 2 weeks, running, swimming, racing and just relaxing in the company of our good friends Debbie and Cory. They live on Lake Muldrew in the Muskoka region, a beautiful, clear lake that allowed us to get plenty of open water swimming, some kayaking and just some plain old fun.
Cory was signed up for an Olympic distance triathlon while we were visiting, so since we love to race, we signed up for a sprint SwimRun (750m swim, 5k run) on Saturday and offered to volunteer for a full day on Sunday. There were only 4 people racing the SwimRun so we were guaranteed to score a podium spot! The race was short but we both pushed ourselves and we were happy with our results. Sunday started out early with parking cars and managing traffic in and out of the park followed by directing and cheering on the run course. It was a hot day and we were both lucky enough to find some shade. We had a great time volunteering, it is always good to give back to a sport we love and we both know the race can’t happen without the help of all the volunteers.
After 2 amazing weeks in Gravenhurst, we went south toward Toronto for a trail race. This would be our last really long run before the marathon. The Iroquois Trail Test 34K was most certainly a test. It was a 3 loop course of mostly single track trail with mud, rocks and roots, with a little double track thrown in to make it more runnable! It was a challenge and humbling and required focus and concentration to remain upright. Fortunately, I did not take any spills on the course, David, on the other hand, took what he called 2 1/2 falls but with no serious consequences. Despite the difficult level of this race, I surprisingly found myself in 1st place for age group 36-50.
From Toronto we continued east, with the town of Sutton, Quebec being our next big stop. I have been fortunate enough to have landed a part time position with an amazing company, Hyland’s Homeopathic, and had some training to attend in Sutton. We had a few days so we were able to take our time and stop along the way. We decided to make a stop at Presqu’ile Provincial Park on the shores of Lake Ontario. It is a peninsula which sits in Lake Ontario with 1.5 miles of beach, 10 miles of trails and paths along shorelines and through woodlands and meadows, a nature center and historic lighthouse. We spent several days here training on the flat roads, working out on the shoreline and watching the kite surfers.
We pulled into Sutton and spent 3 nights. I had 2 full days of informative training which will set me up for success in this new position. The Hyland’s employees were welcoming and friendly and excited to have me join the Hyland’s family. Of course, we made time for some running and gym workouts as well as a nice hike one evening.
At the conclusion of my training we set off, heading back to the US and toward Ohio to visit Aunt Nancy and Phyl. Most of the time we are in no rush so we try not to drive more than about 4-5 hours a day. We made it to a lovely secluded spot in the Finger Lakes region of New York. We stayed there one night and then moved on to the Rochester area where we spent the night in my cousin’s driveway and ran along the river to Lake Erie. From there we continued along the lake, stopping at Presque Isle State Park, the location of the Erie Marathon, to scout the course. We made it to Ohio and got a huge warm welcome from Aunt Nancy and Phyl.
We planned on visiting with Nancy and Phyl for about 2 weeks, until just prior to the Erie Marathon. It has been a wonderful visit, catching up, assisting in their move, training, hiking, relaxing and discovering all that Ohio has to offer. We were surprised to find out that this area of Ohio is the home to the Goodyear blimp. We were able to witness the christening of the newest blimp, the Wingfoot III, watch it emerge from the hanger and take off. It was christened on August 30th by Shaesta Waiz, the youngest woman to fly solo around the world in a single engine aircraft. This date is exactly 89 years to the day that aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart christened a Goodyear blimp in 1929.
We were also surprised at the outdoor opportunities that this region provides. There is a path that runs along the Ohio and Erie Canal called the Towpath Trail. This trail will cover approximately 110 miles from Lake Erie in Cleveland to New Philadelphia, when it is completed (currently there are some unfinished sections). We were able to take advantage of this nicely paved and hard packed gravel trail for some good training miles as it is flat and shaded. We were also able to visit the only National Park in Ohio, Cuyahoga National Park. It has over 125 miles of hiking trails, 5 major bicycle trails, canoeing, kayaking and historic train rides, a hidden gem in the middle of Ohio.
Our time here in Ohio has been more about visiting family than anything else, but we are delighted that we were able to enjoy the little gems that this state has to offer.
As I look through all our photos, reminisce about where we have been and as we prepare to leave for our next adventure, our hearts our full, with gratitude for the people in our lives and the love, support and comfort they surround us with.
It has been almost a month since our 2nd SwimRun race, IGNITE Minnesota. This race definitely ranks as one of the most entertaining and challenging races that I have completed. SwimRun is not like any other sport. It’s not triathlon without a bike, it is a team sport where the team alternates between running and swimming along a pre-marked course in nature; it can be between islands or between lakes. As a team you race within 10 meters of each other, you share the experience, the fun, the beauty and the suffering.
Minnesota had a short and long course, so being endurance junkies, we picked the long course. This race consisted of 7 swim legs (3.48 miles) and 8 run legs (12.72 miles) for a total distance of 16.2 miles. This is way more swimming than either of us has done in a single race and we knew it would be demanding and difficult but also knew we were up for the task.
We arrived in Minnesota several days prior to the race to help with pre-race preparation. Less than 24 hours after arriving in Minnesota we were at the race venue scouting some trails to asses their condition and getting a sneak peak at the course and the region. The water was warm and crystal clear and the area was beautiful but buggy! While in the park we met an incredible local couple who invited us to their cottage to hear our story, share a meal and take hot showers (a hot shower is a luxury when you live in your van). We spent that evening and the next morning with Coreene and Mark, getting to know them, talking about life, sharing our stories and enjoying their company. It is people like Coreene and Mark in Minnesota, Becky and Steve and Tim and Kristi and Lyn and Scott and Jacob and Lyndsey and… in Emporia, Janie and Corey and Brian in Cody, Blake and his family and the entire Black Hills Running Club in South Dakota (the list goes on and on) that have made this trip what it is.
Back to the race and the reason we traveled to Minnesota to begin with. The following day we met with some of the IGNITE crew and marked the course that we had scouted the day before. In addition to the course marking we helped set up the venue and be of any assistance we possibly could. This was a great learning experience for both of us, as we got a first hand understanding of the work and dedication it takes to direct such a race.
Race morning we woke early, as we usually do on race days, and were super excited to race. There was excitement in the air and everyone was anxiously awaiting the start of the race. We had a very specific race day plan-have as much fun as possible and try not to come in last!! We started off with a 4 mile trail run and somehow managed to stay in the top 5 teams getting into the water. That top 5 placing quickly disappeared during the first swim leg!! We felt that we were holding a good position until we hit the 4th swim of the day. David is typically a stronger swimmer than me but he was really struggling with this leg of the race. He had just completed his first 100K just 1 week prior to this race and I believe this contributed to the difficulty. The remainder of the swims were arduous for him and we even tethered together, with me in the lead. This was a new scenario for us but we managed to make it work. We continued to push through, while encouraging each other along every step of the way and checking in with each other even if we didn’t say a lot. We hit the final swim of the day before getting out at the boat ramp and a short run to the finish line. We finished with huge smiles knowing that despite the challenges we had that day, it was a huge accomplishment but most importantly we had fun, we worked together, we raced together and we didn’t come in last!!!
After the race, some food and socializing, we went back out on the trails to sweep the part of the course that we had marked. We walked the course and talked about the day, how much fun we had, how hard it was and how we can’t wait to do another SwimRun. We were so impressed with this race, with IGNITE, with Danny and Jay and the entire race crew. They picked an amazing race venue with beautiful trails and crystal clear lakes, extremely organized, safe with tons of race support, great swag and they treated every athlete like they won the race!!
Thank you IGNITE for such a memorable race and we can’t wait for IGNITE Rhode Island in September!!
I have always valued my friendships and felt that quality is much more important than quantity. Having friends that really know me, really care about me and really support me is invaluable. These friendships remain even while we are on the road, but trying to develop new relationships, while living a nomadic lifestyle, can be very difficult or next to impossible. As we all know, relationships take time to develop. I knew this going into our journey and felt that my current friendships would provide the support and companionship that we as humans crave. We are very lucky to have each other and Mira, but having interaction with others is important too.
During our first few months on the road we were moving rather quickly from place to place but had the pleasure of seeing many friends and family along the way. We then pulled into Emporia, Kansas and were fortunate to have met some amazing people that we now call friends and these relationships are the kind that will last a lifetime. From there we landed in Cody, Wyoming, where we also met some great people who will be lifelong friends. As we were on our way to South Dakota, I wondered if we would have that type of experience again.
As we drive off to our next destination, I sit here reflecting on our time in the Black Hills of South Dakota. It was a month of racing, exploring, adventuring, family time and making new lifelong friends. It was such a special time in a region that has so much history and beauty. When we arrived on June 20th we had a plan to stay one month, time to really explore the region, get to know the area and the people that call the Black Hills their home. As we pulled into town the first thing we did was join the Black Hills Runners Club Community on Facebook. Finding the local running club and community allows us to meet like- minded people who love running as much as we do. It allows us to meet locals who can provide us with all the best places to run, hike and explore. The group meets on Thursday evenings for a group run, so we joined for the run and the gathering at Thirsty’s for some post run food. It was there that we met so many people that we now call friends, Kyle, Desi, Chris R., Heather, Tami, Shauna, Marge, Billie, Jeremy, Laren, Roger, Dan B., Chris G., Kassy, Alfred, Chris S. and Tom (hope I didn’t forget anyone, but if I did I apologize); just a few of the many folks that welcomed us into the community, provided us with invaluable information about the region, invited us to run with them on a regular basis, invited us into their homes and into their lives. This didn’t happen overnight and if we decided to stay for only a few days or a week, we would have never developed these special friendships.
Along with these relationships came so many amazing experiences in the Black Hills. We heard about the Black Hills 100 trail run and thought it would be a great way to kick off our time in the region. Unfortunately, the 30K distance was sold out. So we contacted the race directors (Chris S. and Ryan) and not only did they let us into the race but after explaining our situation they allowed us to sign up for half off the registration fee. This race was epic, single track trail on the Centennial Trail (trail number 89) in some of the most beautiful areas of the Black Hills. If you are looking to do a truly memorable trail race, this one should be on your list.
We had not planned on racing so much but we loved hanging out with all our new runner friends so we competed in several other races while in the Black Hills- Belle Fouche Rodeo Run 10K, Spearfish Canyon Half Marathon, Heart of the Hills 10 miler, Pure Pactola 2.4 mile open water swim and the High Thrive Classic Trail Run-24 hour race.
While in Belle Fouche for the Rodeo Run 10K, we decided to stay for the biggest July 4th parade in the state. David and I happen to set our chairs next to Blake and his family. Blake and his daughter Sara ran the 10K as well, so of course we started to chat. Blake is a down to earth guy who loves to train and race but who also is dedicated to his family. His 3 girls are all extremely active with running and swimming and his oldest just started crossfit. He proceeded to tell us about his upcoming goal of running the entire length of the Mickelson Trail, 109 miles from Edgemont to Deadwood, in 24 hours. This will be a solo running, with support along the way, to help raise money for his sister, Jacci. Jacci is a double, below-the-knee amputee from a degenerative bone disorder. She is a runner and really wants to get back to running to her ability and in order to do this she need “blades”. So, Blake had this idea to run the trail to help raise $10,000 for his sister to purchase “blades”. With the support of his wife, kids and sister he is well on his way to raising the funds and his training is going well. He will be running in September 2018. If you want more information or to donate: Blades for Jacci.
In addition to all the races, we did some great hikes and trail runs. We hiked to the highest peak east of the Rockies, Black Elk Peak. Black Elk Peak (aka Harney Peak) sits at 7,242 feet and from the historic lookout tower you have views of 4 states- South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming and Montana. It has historical, geological and spiritual significance and well worth the hike, a bucket list place for those that love the outdoors. We explored Devil’s Bathtub, Buzzard’s Roost, Cathedral Spires, Sylvan Lake, Custer State Park, Badlands NP, Centennial Trail, Mickleson Trail and Spearfish Canyon just to name a few. David was also able to take a day and ride the entire length of the Mickleson Trail.
Half way through our month, my parents came to visit and to explore this region with us. Since we had been here for a few weeks already, David and I played tour guide. We explored Custer State Park, hiked around Sylvan Lake and had a unbelievable encounter with a herd of Bison. We went to Mt Rushmore, Crazy Horse, Badlands NP, Spearfish Canyon, Deadwood and Lead. We had several days full of adventure and family time. We had a ton of laughs, it was a very special visit and we made memories that will last a lifetime.
In addition to all of our running friends, we met 2 other local couples who happen to live blocks away from each other but didn’t know each other. We were introduced to Zuzana and Vance through a mutual friend in Washington. They are a very nice couple who transplanted to Rapid City about 4 years ago. They opened their home to us when it was 100 degrees outside, made us dinner, shared stories and poetry with us and even allowed Mira to invade their space. Dave and Rhonda have been in Rapid City for over 30 years, they were genuine and generous. Rhonda shared her homemade jam and vinegars with us, they allowed us to fill our water tank, shared stories about traveling in a van and shared a really special place with us, Pathways Spiritual Sanctuary. We were able to all meet for lunch and David and I can only hope that they will develop a friendship.
Pathways Spiritual Sanctuary is a very special place. It is a place to reflect, to meditate, to write, to draw, to laugh, to cry or just enjoy nature. David and I went a few days before leaving the Black Hills and we are grateful to Dave and Rhonda for encouraging us to visit. There was no one else around at the time of our visit, making it quiet, peaceful and reflective for us. I would encourage anyone visiting the Black Hills to make a stop at the sanctuary.
Our time in the Black Hills has been extremely fulfilling physically, emotionally and spiritually. We made so many new friendships, explored a new region, had much needed family time and lots and lots of training and racing. Thank you to the people of Rapid City and the Black Hills as we leave with full hearts and the desire to return.
“Good friends are hard to find, harder to leave and impossible to forget”-unknown