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.
As we made our way back to Seattle, we reflected on the past year, where we have been, who we have met, and the experiences we have had. We are so grateful, every day, for the opportunities we have had over the past 2 years but also throughout our lives. We often talk about how we got to where we are today. Ten years ago neither of us would have ever imagined that we would be divorced, remarried and living in a van with our dog, traveling the country, working, racing and experiencing life to the fullest. But here we are, going into our 3rd year of van life and we wouldn’t trade it for the world. I have tried to be very realistic about our journey. It has not always been easy. It can be challenging spending 24/7 with your spouse and dog in a 60 square foot space, most of which is taken up by a bed, kitchen, living space and storage. We have decided to stay on the road for most of 2020 and it is yet to be determined what we will do after that. We both know it will be difficult to transition back into the “real world”, whatever that means, but in the mean time we will focus on living for the moment, living life to the fullest and enjoying every second of this journey.
Ultimately, we spent about 1 month in Seattle. We were able to visit with family, friends, train and race. We had the holidays with both of our families. My parents live in Seattle and David’s mother, sister and her family and his daughter all live about 1 hour south of Seattle. This makes visiting all of them easy and convenient. We also got to visit with friends whom we had not seen in a year. Although we did see quite a few of our friends, we were unable to see all of them. We know the holidays can be a difficult time for people to get together, for many reasons, and we are sad that we couldn’t make all the connections happen.
In addition to family and friend time, we were able to find time to get some training and racing in. We did a few road races and few trail races and as per usual Seattle winter there was lots of rain and mud, just the way we like it. We had planned on spending more time swimming and in the gym but realized we needed some down time from a very busy 2019 season. I did make it to crossfit a few times a week, which reminded me how much I love high intensity training.
The month went by quickly and before we knew it we were back on the road on the way to Utah for our first ultra of the year, Arches 50K. We had a heart warming visit in Seattle and look forward to catching up with everyone again. We always say, we love having visitors, so if you feel like taking a road trip, look us up!!
We had plenty of time to get to Sacramento and had a few places on our list that we wanted to explore, Death Valley and Bishop, California were at the top of the list. So, off we went to Death Valley National Park where we had perfect weather to explore without Mira (most National Parks don’t allow dogs on the trails). We spent 24 hours there, just enough time to scratch the surface and to know that we want to return someday and spend more time on the trails. We met a couple, Debbie and Joe, who planted a seed about visiting another National Park in California, Pinnacles NP. Debbie and Joe are part time van-lifers, who live on the coast of California. We chatted for quite some time about life on the road and amazing places to visit. We have come to realize that every time we meet someone who travels, it just adds more and more locations to our bucket list of places to visit.
After 2 nights in Death Valley we headed to Bishop, California. David has wanted to visit Bishop for a long time and was happy to finally make the trip there. Visiting in the summer or early fall would have been ideal but it was now mid-November and the weather was starting to turn a bit colder. We pulled into Bishop and there was a chill in the air and snow in the forecast. We walked around town a bit and then ventured off to the outskirts of town to find a place to call home for a few days. We awoke to snow in the peaks and cold temps which meant we would be staying in the lower elvation for the duration of our stay. We were a little disappointed that we couldn’t get up into the mountains and the road to Sabrina Lake had just closed. We did some exploring close to town and ran along the canal but decided to venture up to Sabrina Lake despite the snow. We parked along the road and made the 4 mile hike to the lake. It was sunny, cold and crisp and worth every step. We checked out the local climbing area (just hiking, no climbing) and when the forecast was calling for a major snow storm, we hit the road!!
Our plan was to go north and drive through Lake Tahoe to get to Sacramento, but that quickly changed with the weather forecast. So we headed west to the coast before heading north and back east to Sacramento. On our way to the coast we made a brief stop at Red Rock Canyon State Park. The park is located where the southernmost tip of the Sierra Nevada converge with the El Paso Range. It features scenic desert cliffs, buttes and spectacular rock formations. We had enough time for a short run up one of the washes before dark.
We camped close by and the next day made it to the coast, specifically Morro Bay. We would ultimately spend 5 days in Morro Bay, including Thanksgiving. We ran along the water and out to Morro Rock numerous times, spent a lot of time just watching the sea otters and sea lions, hiked some local trails, ran the San Luis Obispo Gobble Wobble 5K and spent Thanksgiving at the community center for a meal and volunteering with clean-up. The weather was far from ideal (they had more rain in those few days then all year) but we made the most of our time there.
We left Morro Bay and made our way up the coast, stopping along the way at big vistas, the Elephant Seal Rookery and the most famous bridge on the California coast, the Bixby Canyon Bridge. We still had plenty of time to make it to Sacramento so we decided to take a little detour inland to Pinnacles National Park. A park that we had never heard of prior to meeting Debbie and Joe in Death Valley and some place that was never on our radar. They had told us about amazing hikes and huge caves, so we thought, why not. The weather on the coast had been monsoon like all week and wasn’t any better at Pinnacles. We decided to venture out anyway (you can’t let the weather stop a great adventure) and were not disappointed. We explored Balconies Cave and Bear Gulch Cave and had an experience in the caves that most people don’t get to experience, water flowing from above and below with no one else around. These caves are actually made from very large boulders falling from erosion over time (read all about it on the website) not your typical lava tube cave. This means there are plenty of openings in the “roof” of the cave allowing light and water to enter. Some of these boulders are the size of a house or larger and lay precariously above the trail as you make your way through. This was a bit outside my comfort zone but so worth it. It was an unforgettable experience, one that we would have never had if it weren’t for that conversation with Debbie and Joe. This brings us back to a recurrent theme of this journey, the people we meet!! (No photos from Pinnacles but we have a really cool video at Instagram.com/david_amy_mira)
From Pinnacles NP we made our way to Napa to visit David’s old diving buddy, Jason. We had visited Jason when we first left on our vanlife journey and we were excited that we could swing back through Napa for another visit. This time we were able to visit his tasting room (Rebel Vintners) and enjoy some Uncharted wine. If you are ever in the area you should definitely check them out.
We finally made it to Sacramento where we would meet up with friends from all different chapters of our life. We got to spend some time with Linda and her husband, Mike. We have known Linda for 10 years but have never met her husband and have never seen her outside of Kona. We both met Linda at the Ironman Medical Conference and continued to meet up year after year for the conference and to volunteer at the Ironman World Championship. It has been 2 years since David and I have been to Kona , so it was really nice seeing her, catching up and finally meeting Mike. We also met up with a friend, Kurt, we met at the coaching class we took in Portland in January 2019. He took us on a tour of some of the local trails and we talked about training, racing and running. The last visit we had before heading back to Seattle was with Bonnie and Jerry. We got to know them during our Rim to Rim to Rim adventure and were happy to spend a little more time with them. They were so welcoming to us and unfortunately we all forgot to get a photo before leaving. It is such an perplexing thought, that all of these people live within 10 minutes of each other, they are all runners/hikers and they don’t know each other, but we know all of them.
Our primary reason for being in Sacramento was for the California International Marathon.We were there to work the expo and support the Powered by Hyland’s team. This company and team is near and dear to my heart, so whenever we can meet up with them, we jump at the chance. We spent time with some “old” teammates and met so many new ones. We were there on the race course and at the finish line to cheer and support our team. We always come away from these events with more friends than when we arrived and memories to last a lifetime.
While we were there, it happened to be the lottery drawing for the Western States 100. If you are not familiar with WS 100, it is the grand daddy of 100 mile trail races and almost impossible to get into. It is by lottery only, a somewhat complicated lottery system, and David and I, along with one of our Hyland’s teammates each had 1 ticket in the drawing. If you show up to the lottery and your name is already in the mix, you get a second chance at getting a coveted spot. So, of course , we went. There were 27,000+ tickets in the lottery for only 369 spots, so needless to say, none of us walked away a “winner”. It didn’t matter as it was an experience just being there. While we were in Auburn, we got to visit the famous Auburn Aid Station and No Hands Bridge, mile 96.8 of the race.
It was now mid-December and we were heading to Seattle to see family and friends. We would ultimately spend 1 month there, visiting, training and racing before venturing off on what will likely be our last year as vanlifers.
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.
One question we get asked a lot is, where are you going next? When our answer was, “We are spending the summer in Colorado”, the next question was “the entire summer, why”? Leadman, that is why. What is Leadman, you ask? It is 5 (or 6) races in the Leadville Race Series: Leadville Marathon, Silver Rush 50 (MTB or run or both), Leadville 100 MTB, Leadville 10K and the final race of the series, the most daunting of the 5 races, the Leadville Trail 100 run. Not only are the 5 races at or above 10,000 feet but the 100 mile MTB, 10K run and 100 mile run are all in 1 weeks’ time. David had a dream of someday doing this, well someday was this summer!!
I am not sure where the time has gone but here we are in mid-August and our time in Colorado is ending. We arrived in Denver at the end of May about 1 week before my first race. This gave us the opportunity to try and acclimate to the altitude and explore the Denver foothills. We were so excited to finally be in Colorado. We took advantage of the cool weather and spent the week hiking, running and cycling.
The first race in Colorado, the Revel Rockies Marathon on June 2, is not part of Leadman and was a race that I would run without David. He was hired to take photos for the race. He is extremely passionate about photography and was super excited about getting the job. He was stationed at mile 11 and the finish line and had a great time, taking over 2000 photos. I decided this would be my first attempt at qualifying for the 2020 Boston Marathon. This race starts at over 10,500 feet and drops 4,700 feet over the course of the marathon, certainly not easy by any means. The day prior to the race I assisted with the Hyland’s expo booth set-up and we met up with our Hyland’s teammates, Carol and Mary. Mary lives locally and wasn’t racing but Carol was. Mary invited us to come and stay on her driveway for race weekend, an offer we could not refuse. We had such a wonderful time catching up, getting to know them better and just relaxing. I ran hard but it wasn’t enough to hit my qualifying time. I finished about 5 minutes too slow but I was still really proud of my performance. I ran a sub 4 hour marathon, which, for me, is a huge accomplishment. This was a great way to kick off our summer of racing in Colorado.
After the marathon we went to Boulder for a week to spend time with our dear friend Joan and her family. Joan was about to compete in her first Ironman, Ironman Boulder. This had been a long term goal of hers and it was finally here. A year of training , sacrifice, and very early mornings were finally going to pay off. She had asked me to coach her for the race, something I took very seriously and was honored to do. We spent the week swimming, biking and running with and without her, depending on the distance. Race day was extremely exciting, we followed along with her all day long, and she crossed the finish line with a huge smile and her goals reached.
We had an amazing week with Joan and her family but we were anxious to get to Leadville, see what it is all about and train at elevation. We arrived in town, visited the Leadville Race Series store and went for a run. We decided to stay on road for our first outing in Leadville. We hit the Mineral Belt Trail, an 11.6 mile paved trail that circumnavigates the town of Leadville. That run was more walk than run, as our lungs burned and heart rate soared in the thin mountain air.
The first week in Leadville was a challenge in terms of training. Just like our first run, every workout seemed to cause significant shortness of breath, elevated heart rate and the overall feeling of being totally out of shape. It is a feeling I haven’t had since I started running so many years ago. The end of our first week in Leadville was the Leadville Marathon, the first race in the series. David and I had both signed up for this race and we were super excited about climbing up to Mosquito Pass. Well, that never happened. The snow pack this past winter was so tremendous that there was no way the marathon could go in that direction. The course was re-routed but was still a challenging race for both of us. We were both happy with our performances and felt good about getting the first race in the series under our belts.
At some point before the marathon we met a guy outside the bike shop in town. David was inside and I overheard him saying, to someone else, that he was doing Leadman. He finished his conversation and I said, “my husband is doing Leadman too”. Little did I know that this would lead to a friendship that will be lifelong. Mark, David and I would spend quite a bit of time together over the course of the race series and we are excited to meet up again when we go to Phoenix in the fall. Yet again, I have to say, it is all about the people we have met on this journey.
We headed to South Dakota for about 10 days for the Black Hills 50K, see our Rapid City friends and visit with David’s mom (Sandy), who was driving from Seattle to visit with us. We were able to do some sightseeing with Sandy, run with our favorite running group, Black Hills Runners Club and race before heading back to Leadville. Unfortunately, it was not the visit I had hoped for as it was a week full of stress and disappointment. I am not sure if this stress contributed to my race but it did not go as planned. I did not feel well from the start and despite wanting to drop at mile 12, I stuck it out and finished. David stayed with me the entire race, supported and encouraged me and I have no doubt that without him by my side this race would have been my first DNF.
I was happy to get back to Leadville and resume training at altitude and blend into the scenery for a bit. The next race up was Silver Rush 50 and a visit from my parents. Silver Rush is race #2 in the Leadville Race Series. For Leadman, you can choose to do the 50 mile run or 50 mile bike or both (yes there are people who do both). David had signed up for the 50 mile MTB so I signed up for the 50 mile run which took place the day before. This would be my second 50 miler but the first one all by myself. My first 50 was an amazing adventure with David and Joan at Antelope Canyon 50 miler where we stayed together for the duration of the race. Silver Rush was a high altitude race with lots of climbing and definitely outside my comfort zone. Despite this I took the plunge and committed. Orange Mud was generous enough to sponsor me for this race and I certainly didn’t want to disappoint anyone. This race was perfect, the weather was cool, my body and mind were on the same page and David and my parents were my crew. I could have not asked for a better experience and I was thrilled with my results. The following day my parents and I were crew for David as he took on the same course on his bike. I couldn’t imagine doing this course on a bike but he was up for the challenge. He is not a super technical mountain biker and this course was out of his comfort zone too. His goal-stay upright and finish before the cut-off, one of the requirements to staying in the Leadman standings. He also had a perfect day, everything came together and he crushed it.
Despite the stress in South Dakota it was so nice to spend time with Sandy and then with my parents in Leadville. Family is extremely important to both of us and we are lucky to have such supportive parents who understand our lifestyle.
Over the next six weeks we would train in Leadville and on occasion we would go to Breckenridge or Frisco for some different scenery. We got to partially climb Mt Elbert with our friends Chris and Jeremy and their cross-country kids (they are both teachers and coaches in South Dakota), We spent the day with my best friend from college and her husband, who I had not seen in 20 years. We went back to Mt Elbert to summit and did so successfully. We summitted 4 other 14ers with the Decalibron Loop. We traveled to Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs, where I raced the Pikes Peak Ultra 50k, we visited Garden of the Gods and hiked the Manitou Incline. We ran and swam and cycled (well David cycled) and hiked in the mountains as much as possible while balancing work and rest/recovery. Although we didn’t travel far from Leadville, we tried hard to take advantage of all that Colorado has to offer.
August seemed to come quickly and before we knew it the remainder of the Leadville Race Series races were upon us. The last 3 races are back to back to back and it is a fine balance of tapering, racing, rest and recovery.
Our plan was to take Mira to doggie daycare for the weekend of the 100 mile MTB and then again the following weekend for the 100 mile run. As we dropped her off on Friday, she was promptly attacked by another dog. So off we went, on Friday afternoon, to Frisco where she went under anesthesia and had 8 sutures to close her wound. This meant she would be staying with me for the weekend.
Leadville 100 mile MTB is an iconic race that draws people from every state and many countries. It is so popular that it is a lottery only entry with approximately 1700 riders. The aid stations and crew stops can be chaotic with traffic jams and long walks but I had a good plan and the support of Josh and other fellow Orange Mud ambassadors that all stepped up when I needed help. David and Mark lined up together and the plan was to be at Twin Lakes all day, miles 40 and 60. The race started and I drove to Twin Lakes securing a parking spot about a half mile from the aid station where Josh had set up the Orange Mud tent and chairs. I set up for the day and made Mira comfortable, on her bed in the shade. We had a great day supporting David and a bunch of other Orange Mud athletes. Unfortunately, I was unable to make it to the finish line to watch David finish, but I did get to see him cross the line via the live feed. It was a tough day, with heat, rain, wind, and lots of climbing. He had some nutrition issues but stuck it out to finish under 12 hours, earning a nice shiny belt buckle and the ability to move on to the next race, Leadville 10K.
The 10K takes place at noon the day after the mountain bike. It was cold and rainy at the start but it eventually cleared up making for a nice easy recovery run, together.
Exactly 1 week after the 100 mile MTB and 6 days after the 10K is the Leadville Trail 100 run. This does not allow for much recovery time between the events, making it important to eat and sleep well and not overdo it. David took some easy hikes and run/walk sessions but for the most part it was all about rest and recovery. We had not realized that this in between week was also the week of the Trans Rockies Run. This is a 6 day stage race, starting in Buena Vista, in which some of our Hyland’s teammates were participating. Since the start was less than an hour away we knew we just had to be there for the start. We arrived and met up with Mike and Mirna and met Jacky (a new Hyland’s member) for the first time. It was so much fun catching up, taking photos and having a quick impromptu mini reunion. We went out on the course (mile19) and got to catch some photos and high fives with Mike and Jacky as they cruised by. Trans Rockies day 3 was in Leadville, so we were able to meet up again with our Hyland’s team and cheer them on. We are so blessed to be a part of such an amazing group of athletes, from all over the country, that support each other and cheer for each other whenever possible.
The week flew by and before we knew it, it was Thursday and our friend Jacob (from Emporia) and his dad along with our other crew member and pacer, Josh were arriving in town. We met up for dinner and talked about all things race related. Friday was a very busy day filled with athlete meetings, packet pick up, organizing crew/aid station bags , dropping Mira off for the weekend, then dinner and bed, 2:30am wake up call comes quick.
Neither of us slept great that evening but it was enough, at least I had hoped it was. David got up and ate, we got dressed, met up with Josh and walked to the start line in time for the 4 am shotgun blast. We milled around for a bit, David entered the corral and Josh and I hurried down the street to get a glimpse of the chaos that is the start of the Leadville Trail 100 run. David and the rest of the 800+ runners were off so we wandered back to the van and I promptly left for Outward Bound aid station at mile 24 (mile 77 inbound). My plan was to get there super early to get a good place to park and then crawl back into bed. My plan worked perfectly, except I didnt get much sleep. I was too excited and nervous and cold! Eventually I wandered out to the aid station and planted myself next to Jacob’s crew, cheering and yelling and encouraging all the runners that came through. David came through the aid station first, we got him re-fueled and sun screened and off he went. No time to sit, no time to chat, just in, get what you need and leave. Jacob was not far behind him and was in and out of the aid station just as fast. Josh and I hopped in the van and drove out to Twin Lakes (mile 38 outbound/mile 62.5 inbound). It was complete chaos at Twin Lakes, with a line of traffic and no where to park. Somehow Josh had the idea to park where we really were not permitted to, but we were off the road and thought there is no way anyone will try and tow a big Sprinter Van in the middle of this race!! We were a short walk to the aid station where an Orange Mud tent was set up for some shade. We waited, and waited and waited and finally David came into the aid station ready to change shoes for his trek up and over Hope Pass into Winfield (the half way/ turn around point of this race). He was feeling good, looking good and spirits were high and he had plenty of time before the cut-off. As soon as he left the aid station so did I. I was heading out, on a bus, to Winfield to meet up with David and pace him up and over Hope Pass and back to Twin Lakes. This year no cars were allowed to drive out to Winfield, this became both a blessing and a curse. It is a 14 mile narrow, dirt road with an incredible amount of washboard surface. (We had taken the van out to Winfield the week prior and it took over an hour to drive there.) So the fact that we didn’t have to drive was great but the bus situation was not. I waited over an hour to get on a bus and then it was a very loud, very bumpy ride in the back of a school bus, a trip that still took almost an hour. So, over 2 hours later I reached Winfield and again, I waited and waited and waited for David to arrive. (Do you see a pattern here, crewing a race like this is a lot of hurry up and wait). He came into Winfield a little more beaten down than when I saw him at Twin Lakes, we re-fueled him, he sat for a minute and off we both went to conquer Hope Pass. It was a very long hike up to the top, I muled for David to make it a bit easier for him (this means I carried all his gear along with all my gear) but he was still struggling a bit. I kept him moving with as few rest breaks as possible as I knew we wanted to make it into Twin Lakes with a comfortable cushion on the cut-off time. We finally reached the top of the pass and David was overcome with emotion, picked up the pace and at the top of his lungs screamed “Grit, Guts, Determination, I won’t fucking quit”. He took off down the trail and waited for me at the Hopeless Aid station, he grabbed a headlamp and I told him to go, I will be fine, I know my way back to Twin Lakes. He took off down the trail, into the dark, and somehow about half way down I was able to catch him. We ran into Twin Lakes aid station together where Josh and Jacob’s crew were anxiously awaiting and ready to help. David changed his shoes and socks, re-fueled, grabbed some warm gear to prepare for the cold night ahead, and he and Josh left with a 30 minute cushion. I waited around until the 10pm cut-off and Jacob had still not arrived. The timing counter was packed up and still no Jacob. This was a hard pill to swallow. I was filled with emotion, so happy that David was well on his way to Outward Bound (with Josh) and so very sad that Jacob’s day was over in Twin Lakes. I was cold and wet from the river crossing so I quickly packed up our stuff and headed back to Outward Bound, to warm up and rest. As much as I really wanted to stay and see Jacob, I knew I needed to take care of myself and be ready for David at Outward Bound and to pace him the next morning. Back to Outward Bound aid station (and no the van wasn’t towed and no ticket!!), where I rested and ate and waited and waited and waited. David and Josh arrived with about a 30 minute cushion to cut-off, so it was a quick re-fuel and off they went. Just like I had done all day, I packed up and drove to the final aid station, MayQueen at mile 88. This would be the final stop before the finish line. I arrived to a line of cars with no knowledge of how far of a walk it really was to the aid station. I would lay down in bed for a while and then gathered some supplies and headed out. I sat myself down on the cold, hard, asphalt, shivering and waited and waited and waited. David and Josh finally appeared out of the dark, again, with 30 minutes until cut-off. I knew this would be a tight time line so we grabbed some fuel, stopped for some warm broth and off David and I went, heading toward town. It was still a bit dark and the trail a bit rocky so we walked. I tried to get David to run a bit and every once in a while he would muster up enough energy to run a few feet and then back to a walk. He was drained. His feet were sore, his legs were sore, he was tired, he was ready to be done. I tried my best to keep him moving at a good enough pace to make it to the finish line for the 30 hour cut-off. As the sun came up and we hit the jeep road, we knew he would finish the race, it would be really close, but he would finish.
As we approached the pavement (with a little less than 1 mile to go), Josh was walking toward us and Jacob and his crew were waiting for us, this was a huge emotional boost for David, really both of us. We all walked side by side up the boulevard with the finish line in sight. We were talking and laughing and as we got within a few hundred feet David said, “when we get to the timing mat lets all run in together”. We hit the timing mat, picked up the pace and crossed the finish line together, as a team. We had a big group hug, David got a medal placed around his neck and a huge congratulations and hug from Ken. There at the finish-line, waiting was Mark. Mark’s day was over in Winfield and despite his disappointment he was there, waiting for David, to congratulate him. With a final time of 29 hours and 39 minutes David became one of 60 people to become a Leadman in 2019.
Words can not explain how proud I am of David. He worked so hard, he showed true Grit, Guts and Determination throughout and he never once thought about not finishing what he started a few months prior. There is no thank you big enough for all the people who helped us reach this goal, our friends and family who sent words of encouragement and love from a far, Josh, Jesse, Kristen and the entire Orange Mud family, Jacob and his crew and Mark. Thank you, thank you, thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Our 10 weeks in Leadville and South Dakota was not only filled with some incredible scenery, amazing training, 14ers and friend/family visits but we made some new friends along the way. We met an incredibly nice couple from Vermont, Stuart and Leslie, who have been living in their RV for 5 years. Mark (who I already mentioned) and Annie. Annie is an ultrarunner herself and has completed Leadville. She is genuine, warm, friendly and has more energy than you can even imagine. We met her just a few days before the Leadville Trail 100 run and she came out to cheer David on race day. She was in Twin Lakes, hiked up to Hope Pass into Winfield to see us and at the finish line on Sunday morning. The bottom line is, we need more Annie’s in the world.
In the words of Ken Chlouber “You are better than you think you are, you can do more than you think you can.”
It has been quite some time since I have sat down to write. Part of that has been due to lack of motivation for wanting to write and the other part has been time. I started working a second job, which I am really enjoying, but it does take time. I try and work early in the morning or later in day, before bed, but it doesn’t always work out. I am not complaining about my time. I feel so lucky and blessed that I have the ability to work remotely to support our lifestyle of travel, training and racing. We have also been really busy with life, which is a great thing.
Since my last post, we have done and seen so much. We left Boston, after the marathon and headed to Vermont for 3 weeks. We went to visit with Irene and Ed at Cold Moon Farm. This was an opportunity for us to spend time with people we love and get some good training in the Green Mountains. If you know anything about Vermont, you know that very few people visit in spring. The weather is usually cold and wet and not very conducive to outdoor activity, it is known as mud season. We tried to take advantage of the warmer, sunnier days, which were few and far between, but we did venture out even when the weather was less than ideal. We met up with Adam and Eliza, from Nor’east Trail Runs, for a night hike, hiked Stratton Mountain in blizzard-like conditions, visited with our fellow Hyland’s athlete, Nancy, hiked up Killington Mountain, ran a self supported marathon and witnessed many baby goats being born on the farm. It was a wonderful stay for all 3 of us.
We left Vermont and headed back to Maryland for our first IGNITE SwimRun race of the season. We were really excited about the season opener at Greenbrier State Park. We had visited the park about 6 weeks prior and were looking forward to being back. It is a beautiful state park with great trails. Although we did not race, we helped with course set -up and tear down, David took photos on race day while I helped on course. After the race IGNITE had its first ambassador summit. We got together with all the ambassadors and talked about all things IGNITE SwimRun and how we can improve the ambassador experience, along with getting feedback from them on what IGNITE could do better. It was an extremely successful summit and something we hope IGNITE will continue to do every year going forward. We absolutely love being part of the IGNITE family. Not only are they are dedicated to making their races successful, but the sport as a whole. It is so nice to work with a group of people that are so passionate. I am looking forward to getting back to SwimRun racing next season (too many other races this year!!) and hope to inspire some people to try this amazing sport!!
After a very busy few days in Maryland, we made a brief stop in Washington, DC to see some old college friends. Dana was one of my many housemates while at Tulane and Dave was a good friend. It had been years since I had seen either of them. The weather was less than ideal for walking around and sightseeing but the rain finally subsided enough for us to take a short tour and see some sights. We had a great visit and fun time talking about our college days and catching up.
Then it was on to South Carolina to see David’s daughter and grandson. We realized that we would be driving near his son in North Carolina, so we made a brief stop to see him and his wife. It was a short visit, but it is always good to see family when the opportunity arises. We spent a couple of days in South Carolina, enjoying the company of Dee and Helen and of course we had a blast with Tucker Jay. David built him a swing set, which once assembled, we couldn’t get him off of. We went on the boat and to the beach, and had one of the best visits to South Carolina that we have ever had. It was full of fun, laughter and smiles.
From South Carolina we started heading west with our ultimate goal being Colorado for the Revel Rockies marathon on June 2nd. We had not raced in quite sometime so I scoped out a race located in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Oak Ridge is not far from Knoxville which was the location of the next IGNITE SwimRun race, IGNITE Knoxville. We were invited to stay at one of our ambassador’s house for a few days, while we explored the area, did course recon at Ijams Nature Center and raced the Run Under The Stars 12 hour (RUNTS). Larry and Sarah and their girls could not have been more welcoming. They opened their home to us, made us dinner, allowed us to shower and do laundry, and just made us feel at home. Like I have said so many times in the past and I am sure I will say it again, this journey is all about the people we have met. Ijams Nature Center is a beautiful urban park with amazing trails, beautiful lakes and the Tennessee river. We are sad that we wont be able to be there for the race but this is definitely on my list for next year!! The RUNTS race was interesting, a 12 hour race on a 1.19 mile loop starting at 6pm. We were both signed up to race but as it turned out the weather was unbearably hot and Mira wasn’t happy with anyone watching her but me. It was 90 degrees at race start, and although we got a lot of volunteers to offer to watch Mira, she was anxious and barking and quite frankly a pain in the butt. I did get to run periodically throughout the 12 hours for a total of 17 miles, not as much as I had hoped for but still happy that I got some miles in. David was able to really race and after 54 miles he ended up with a 4th place finish. A great training run for sure.
As we made our way west we stopped at one of our favorite state parks in Missouri, St Joe State Park, where we spent a few hours one evening in the concrete bathroom waiting out a severe thunderstorm and tornado warning. This seemed to be the theme of our journey to Colorado. The storms were rolling through the Midwest on a daily basis and brining with them hail and tornados. After a few days in Missouri, we made our way to Emporia, Kansas to visit our friends and for David to do an overnight training run with our friend Jacob (he is doing the Leadville 100 too). As we pulled into Emporia, the tornado sirens rang out and we scrambled to figure out where to go. At first we pulled into a car wash, well that protects the van but it certainly doesn’t protect us. So, after a quick pause, we called the local coffee shop, Gravel City Roasters, and they invited us over to take cover inside, Angie and Nic (owners) are so genuine and generous and we could not thank them enough. Emporia was spared from a tornado and off we went to dinner with our dear friends Steve and Becky. We were able to spend time with most of our Emporia family, David and Jacob ran 30+ miles on the dark and muddy trails and we dodged a few more severe thunderstorms before heading west to Colorado.
We finally arrived in Denver on May 25th to sunshine and mountains. Our first stop was Red Rocks Mountains Park, where we went for a hike, took in the amazing scenery and relished in the fact that we were finally in Colorado. A place we had planned on visiting a year ago but never made it here. We have plans to stay in Colorado for the remainder of the summer with the exception of one week when we will return to South Dakota to visit friends and race the Black Hills 100 50K.
We think about how fortunate we are to have met so many truly generous, genuine, honest, caring people. We have made so many friends that we are able to visit as we live our lives on our terms. I recently said to David, sometimes I feel like we are on vacation, but more often than not, I now feel like this is our life. I have 2 jobs that I really enjoy, they are able to help sustain our lifestyle and support us (for the most part) and we have supportive families that see the value in what we are doing. We may not want to live this life forever but for now we are extremely content.
As we pulled into Boston a feeling of excitement, anticipation and a little bit of sadness came over me. Don’t get me wrong, I was so thrilled to be in Boston for the 2019 Boston Marathon but I wasn’t going to be running. David and I had tried to qualify during the final weekend in September but neither of us had what it took that day. We were both so disappointed that we wouldn’t be making a 3rd trip to Boston but we both thought, hey we could go somewhere different, somewhere we haven’t been. Several months went by and I was a bit jealous reading about all my Hyland’s friends who qualified and all about the new team of Hyland’s Healers. Of course I was super excited for all of them but also wishing I was joining them. Then came the email from Lisa, asking if we would join Hyland’s in Boston as support staff. As I read the email out loud to David, tears flowed and my voice cracked. I was honored and delighted that they would ask me to be a part of a very special experience. They wanted me to be a part of a team of dedicated Hyland’s employees who make the Boston Marathon an amazing, unforgettable experience for their team. I looked at David, and although I knew he didn’t have a great desire to drive back to the east coast, he didn’t hesitate to say, “of course we have to go, how can we pass on such an incredible opportunity”.
The weekend started out with an employee team dinner. We got an opportunity to catch up with people we had met in years past and meet new people that would quickly become our Hyland’s family. Margot spoke about the Boston Marathon, what it has meant to her and what the future of the relationship between the marathon and Hyland’s looks like. We had such a great time and felt really welcomed, as always.
Friday was an extremely busy day for me. I worked for a few hours in the morning, David and I went to the expo and walked around and then I worked the Hyland’s booth for a few hours. It was extremely busy throughout the afternoon and into the early evening. I educated athletes and non-athletes about our products, talked to people about the race, encouraged first timers and met some really inspiring and dedicated athletes. I was also able to meet some of our incredible Hyland’s Healer and legacy team members for the first time. David and I then went to dinner with Mike (Hyland’s coach) and Mitch (employee) and had a terrific meal over fantastic conversation. We walked back to the hotel to sleep as we knew Saturday would be just as busy.
Saturday started with the BAA 5K. This was the first big event for the Hyland’s team, as a team. We all met at the athlete hotel where there were lots of hugs and smiles and conversation. David and I felt like we had known these people for years (some we have known from previous years) even though we were just meeting in person for the first time. I mentioned in a previous post that some people feel that friends you make on social media are not real friends, but I disagree. We had all become acquainted through discussions on our Facebook page and a few emails, over the course of many months. Following each others training and the ups and downs that come along with that, as well as other happenings in their lives, I felt as I was seeing old friends that I had not seen in a while. The race was crowded but the energy was electric. I lined up with David’s pace group but quickly lost sight of them as they pulled away from me. I had a great time taking pictures and video and despite all that I was extremely happy with my performance. After the race was a team brunch at Margot’s house. This was a fun filled event for the team only where there were lots more hugs, smiles, laughing along with good food. Margot gave a heartwarming welcome speech and I am pretty sure there wasn’t a dry eye in the room. David went off to the Red Sox game at Fenway with a bunch of the team while I went back to the expo to work. Although it is a lot of talking and repetitive information (for me), I found it so rewarding to feel like I could potentially save someone’s race come Monday. I again met some incredibly inspiring athletes.
Sunday we woke early and walked to the meet up location of the 7th annual #BostonRun. This is a run lead by Zoom Multisport. It is approximately 4 miles and we run so it spells out Boston on your watch app and Strava. There was a huge turnout and a few us there sporting our Hyland’s gear. We had a nice easy run, enjoying the conversation and the company. After the run we were off to the team and family brunch where we had another chance to spend time with the healers and legacy teams and meet their families. We had a very special guest join us as well, Dave McGillivray (Boston Marathon RD and runner extraordinaire). He spent time saying hello to each of the athletes, chatted a bit and took a picture with every one of us. He is a humble and genuinely nice person and we were all so thrilled that he took time out of his very busy schedule to meet all of us. Then it was off to the expo for the final day of packet pick up. We were busy right until the very end, giving out the last of our product samples and wishing everyone a great race day! It was off to dinner and bed as we knew race day would be another long but rewarding day.
Race day, Monday, Patriot’s Day started out with a repeat of the weather from 2018, with the exception of the temperature. It was windy and pouring with thunder as the athletes boarded the bus which would take them to Hopkinton. As they drove away the weather started to clear and we were crossing our fingers for no more rain. David, Mitch and I drove the van to the University Club where we unloaded all the athlete bags into the club for them to have after the race. We then met up with Catherine (Hyland’s pharmacist) and drove to several of the aid stations on the course to make sure our product was placed correctly for the athletes. Once that was done we headed back to Boston, parked the van and headed to the University Club to wait for the first of our 65 athletes to arrive. It is so hard to describe the atmosphere in the University Club. It is electric to say the least. This is how it works, the athlete crosses the finish line and is met by Margot or Lisa or Elyse and escorted to the University Club where they are escorted inside, down the hall into a room full of more Hyland’s employees, families, friends, other athletes, all who are screaming and cheering and yelling and hollering for you (the athlete who just finished the Boston Marathon). There is a DJ with music playing, an abundance of food and drink, a professional photographer (to take some amazing post race pictures) and the best showers and locker room you have ever seen. You are escorted with your bag into the locker room so you can shower and change before returning to the party to eat, drink, dance, sing, mingle, tell war stories and cheer on your fellow athletes finishing. This year, David and I got to be a part of the cheering section, a job we took very seriously as we had no voice by the end of the evening. We cheered and laughed and ate and drank until the last of the team arrived and then continued to have fun until well after 10pm.
The weekend was everything we had imagined and more, being on the other side, supporting a team of dedicated, compassionate and passionate health care workers and legacy team members was such a fulfilling experience. Being a part of big goals, lifelong dreams and memories and friends that will last a lifetime is absolutely priceless.
“Surround yourself with people that reflect who you want to be and how you want to feel, energy is contagious” -unknown
It was difficult to leave Stillwater, Oklahoma, but it was time to start heading toward Boston. We decided to make a stop in Emporia, Kansas to see some old friends and spend a little more time with the ones we just saw in Stillwater. Becky and Steve are genuine, generous people who hosted us back in June 2018 (when the temperature reached 90+ degrees outside) and again as we were passing through town. We love spending time with them and they even got me out for a gravel ride, (which by the way I absolutely loved!!). It was my first bike ride in almost a year. I may have to take the plunge and purchase a gravel bike at some point in time, the Land Run Double has my name written all over it!! We were also able to spend a day out at one of our favorite state parks, Eisenhower State Park. We camped out in “our” spot that we spent so much time at and ran some trails. Our time in Kansas was short but extremely fulfilling.
From Emporia we headed east to Kentucky. Neither David nor I have experienced Kentucky and we didn’t really know that there are so many great places to explore. We spent a little less than a week in different parts of the state, starting in Jefferson Memorial Forest outside of Louisville. We ran the trails on two different days, camped out and got locked into the park! After some back and forth phone calls to the office, we were able to get out and move on to our next stop, Red River Gorge. Red River Gorge is one of the premier rock climbing locations in the east. It is located in the Daniel Boone National Forest in east central Kentucky. The intricate canyon system features an abundance of high sandstone cliffs, rock shelters, waterfalls and natural bridges. There are more then 100 natural sandstone arches and over 60 miles of trails. We spent several days in this area exploring the natural bridges, hiking and trail running. This part of Kentucky is absolutely breathtaking and worth the trip to Kentucky.
We left Kentucky to continue our journey eastward, West Virginia was our next stop. The last time I had been in West Virginia was over 20 years ago when I was a camp counselor, was severely injured in the backcountry and air lifted to Morgantown where I spent 20 days in the hospital recovering from burns to 20% of my body. This was life changing for me in so many ways and definitely shaped my future as a medical provider. I was looking forward to retuning and making some new, more positive memories.
I had remembered West Virginia being rugged and remote but a wonderful place for outdoor activities. We landed in Fayetteville in the New River Gorge for a few days. There is an abundance of outdoor activities in this area including rock climbing, hiking/trail running, mountain biking and white water rafting. The scenery was spectacular and the hiking/trail running was perfect for our training. We met some really nice locals who gave us plenty of tips on places to explore, including Mike from Bridge Bound Campers. He is an avid rock climber who once lived out of his van and has now settled in West Virginia with his family, building out custom vans. We were able to visit him at his shop and talk about all things van related. I could see the sparkle in David’s eyes as they were talking about electrical systems, solar, water systems, etc… As with all of the other places we have visited on this journey, so much of it is about the people we have met and Fayetteville was no different.
After a few days in and around Fayetteville, we drove to the east side of the state and Monongahela National Forest for one more day of hiking before leaving and heading further east.
On to Maryland and Greenbrier State Park, the location of IGNITE Maryland. We wanted to stop here and explore the trails since we will be back on May 11th for the race. We had so much fun running all the trails, as you can see by our video (check out our video here). David and I are lead ambassadors for IGNITE SwimRun and have been given this incredible opportunity, not only to be a part of an amazing company and represent their brand but also to learn more about race organization and logistics. This year we will not be racing. We will be working, helping set up the venue prior to the race and on race day David will be taking photos while I do race support (and anything else that is needed). As much as we both love to race we also love to learn about the behind the scenes and the intricacies of race management. We will also be a part of the ambassador summit that will take place after the race. This is where we will get a chance to really get to know our fellow ambassadors and talk about all things SwimRun, training and racing!!
While our time in Maryland was short, we did get to spend some time with our friend and fellow IGNITE ambassador Maggie. We met Maggie last year at several SwimRun events and it was great to catch up with her outside of a race. We were also able to meet another fellow ambassador, Meghan, for breakfast one morning before we headed out of town.
Next stop Pennsylvania, specifically Pine Grove Furnace State Park. This park is located in south-central Pennsylvania at the northern tip of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the Michaux State Forest. It is the mid-point of the Appalachian Trail, the 2,190 mile trail that runs from Georgia to Maine. It is also the location of the Buck Ridge Burn 5k and Half Marathon. We had volunteered to trail sweep the course so the day prior to the race we went for a run/hike along the AT to the Pole Steeple overlook. The trails in this part of the country tend to be rocky and rugged and in thick forest and this was no different. We had perfect weather and some beautiful views at the top. The next day we were trail sweep for the 5k and ran the half marathon. Yet again, we made so many connections including Jen, the race director, Tammie and Jeff who are about to start their van life journey and Colton and Maggie, a young ultrarunner couple. As with all of the other places we have visited on this journey, so much of it is about the people we have met and this was no different.
On to New Jersey, our last stop before Boston, where we would visit some family for a few days. It is always nice to spend time with family that we do not get to see too often. Robin and Michael and Elaine and David opened their home to us and we had a wonderful time catching up with them. We had some nice weather to explore some places that I had never visited (despite the fact that I grew up there).
After a few days in New Jersey it was off to Boston for the Boston Marathon. We could not have been more excited to be going to Boston for the third year. This time, not to race, but to support the amazing team of Hyland’s Healers and Legacy runners, 65 people strong. The experience in Boston was incredible and certainly deserves its own post. So until next time….
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!!