Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Fall Fun

Things are getting settled here in Colorado Springs. We have been exploring the area and are really enjoying living here.

We found Milt's Coffee Shop which offers unlimited pancakes and biscuits and gravy, this may have something to do with our love for the area.

I have started working at The Colorado Running Company and am super excited about that. The other peeps that work there are fun to work with and it is nice being involved in the running community. We are working on getting some fun runs and training groups started so I am particularly excited about that!

Fall is beautiful here with the changing leaves and cooler temps. We are a bit nervous about winter because we have not dealt with a real winter since we lived in Illinois. I am hoping that living in a place with snow means we can break out the snowshoes again! I hit up the Barr Trail, which is the trail that goes up Pike's Peak and the site of a race I want to do next year. It is beautiful. And a real quad killer. Some work to do there before next August when the race takes place.

This week we are off to Minneapolis to visit some of my all time favorite people. My friend Maren and I are running the Twin Cities ten miler and some shorter distances as well. I will be doing the Loony Challenge which involves a 5k and 10k on Saturday followed by the ten miler on Sunday. Maren has committed to the ten miler and the 5k as well. While I don't see any record breaking performances going down I think it will be a great time. The Twin Cities Marathon was one of my favorites so I am excited to go back.

We are driving to Minneapolis with the plan to hit up Mount Rushmore and visit the Badlands National Park. I have been weirdly obsessed with visiting South Dakota so I am excited to make the magic happen there. After this trip we will be home for awhile. I am looking forward to that. All this exploring and traveling has been a ton of fun but it will be nice to be settled for a bit. Though I have been rolling a Yellowstone, Grand Tetons, Glacier National Parks adventure around in my head for next summer.....National Parks I just can't quit you!

Monday, September 26, 2016

Santa Fe Thunder

There is nothing better than spending a weekend with running friends.....even if the race you are meeting up for hasn't been trained for. Whoops. Last Thursday D and I drove the five hours south to Santa Fe to our bnb Casa Pacifica where we met up with my friends Karen and Michelle. The bnb was great because it meant having our own kitchen and Michelle likes to cook and we all like to eat what she cooks. It is a beautiful relationship!

It was so great to see Karen and Michelle. The hardest part about moving is being far away from the friends you have have made. We spent two days exploring near the Santa Fe plaza, hitting up breweries and wine tastings and eating delicious food. On Saturday we were able to hit up the farmer's market which was in walking distance of our bnb. 

On Saturday we also drove out to the Buffalo Thunder Casino to get our race numbers. The expo was small and besides numbers and t-shirts there was not much going on. I spent the day telling myself I would be fine and that the race was downhill, over and over and over again. I was hopeful that positive talk would make up for my lack of training. The longest run I had done in preparation was an 8 miler weeks ago. 

 Race day dawned early and we drove to the casino to board the buses for the start line. This race was very well organized. We did hear about one bus whose bus driver did not know how to get to the start line but they still made it. It was chilly race morning but was tolerable once we got moving and stayed a nice temperature throughout. I think if it had gotten any warmer it would have been uncomfortable since much of the race had no shade and lots of sun. My goal was to try to keep up with Karen. I was nervous about my shins just exploding out of my legs with all the downhill and not being trained so I held back a bit on the downhill and that seemed to workout okay since I never felt too sore while running. The course is downhill, except for the first two miles which were a fairly steep uphill, just climbed and climbed and climbed. Overall the course was really nice. It was scenic, the aid stations were great, there was some entertainment with belly dancers and drummers including an amazing drumming batman.

Karen and I powered through to about a 2:40 finish. I really enjoyed running with her. I think races are about 110% more fun to run with friends. I would recommend this half. It would be a great course to PR on, training would also help with that whole PR thing. Plus Santa Fe is a nice city to visit. Overall it was a great weekend and the best part was hanging with Karen and Michelle. Running friends are the best. I can't wait till we come up with our next adventure! 

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Sunrise strides, drowning, and other adventures

Life in Colorado is going pretty well. We have settled in our apartment and slowly learning our way around. I have found a running group to join called the Sunrise Striders. They are ridiculously fast (as in their warm-up pace is faster than my race pace), they regularly win age groups and races outright and all look like they belong on the cover of Runner's World. All of this would be really, really annoying if they weren't so nice, and warm, and welcoming, and encouraging and happy to share advice about the area. I really enjoy running with them in various places around the Springs and am sure if I can stick with them I will eventually be a better runner. 

I have also been swimming with a master's swim team which meets four times a week. They are also nice and easy going. There are the serious lanes full of sleek, seal like people and then there are the lanes of people just trying to get the workout done. I am in a lane just trying not to drown. Luckily, I am naturally better at swimming than running but this still has me gasping for air for most of the time since I have not been in a pool consistently since high school which was.....a while ago. I feel like the swimming is really helping my strength overall and hopefully helping with my cardio. 

A week of being sick and then various adventures have made it difficult to meet with these groups consistently but after my two fall adventures I am hopeful I can settle down to business and come up with some goal races to train for. Swimming starts at 5:30 and the Striders meet at 6 so by the end of the week I am pretty exhausted. Hoping as I get in better shape and into a consistent training schedule that will get better. 

One of our most recent adventures was to the Great Sand Dunes National Park. We got to go with my sister and bro-in-law and spent two days camping in the Alamosa area and having a great time hiking and exploring the area. 

Amazing sunset

This National Park is great because it is smaller and this time of year was perfect. The weather was cooler and it made being out on the dunes comfortable. Of course hiking up the dunes is super difficult but at least the sun wasn't trying to kill us. 

We spent the first night at the Oasis Campground just outside the park. The picture above is actually of the bathroom train car. The campground is pretty windy and rocky but there is a store and a diner, showers and running water. The next day we got up and headed to the dunes. After a quick stop at the visitor's center we hiked a bit on the dunes, had a picnic lunch and then hiked a bit up the mountains next to the sand dunes. It was perfect weather and beautiful there. 

We headed into Alamosa for some supplies and hit up the local brewery because that is what we do. Plus we needed a snack after all that outside activity. The beer was pretty tasty and the brewery was in a cool building. I would recommend it if you are in the area. 

 The second night we stayed at the Sand Dunes Pool campground. Which has hot springs pools. They have an area called the Greenhouse which is adults only. Pay the extra $3 for that. It was so nice and relaxing. The next day we headed to the Colorado Gator Farm with a quick stop at these giant birds for some pics. Because when you see giant animal statues I feel you should take a picture.

The Gator farm was pretty cool. It has all kinds of reptiles, many surrendered after, for example, someone realized their giant boa constrictor would rather kill them than be their friend. The farm reinforced my belief that gators are super scary and creepy. But I do like turtles. The farm is on a hot springs so the gators can stay warmish in the winters and the farm is also a working fish farm. I would also say worth the visit if you are in the area. I liked it more than I thought I would. 

 This weekend we are off to Santa Fe for the Santa Fe Thunder half marathon which I am not prepared for at all. So that should be interesting. And by interesting I mean incredibly painful and full of walk breaks. I am super excited to meet up with some friends and explore that area since I have never been. Have a great weekend!!!

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Colorado Life

Otherwise known as the struggle is real when it comes to running. We got back to Colorado the end of July and after two months off and then another week to let a bruised heel (from backpacking) heal starting to run again at 7K feet seems like cruel and unusual punishment. And just when I started to get in shape I got Lasik. Good news....I can see!!! Without glasses!!! It is amazing!!!!!!!

Bad news.....I had to take another week off to let my eyeballs heal. Which I am totally okay with cause I CAN SEE!!!!!!!!!!!! I have worn glasses and/or contacts since I was 16. Waking up and being able to see is the best thing ever!!!!!! EVER!!!

I haven't been running but I have been making things out of the new Run Fast. Eat Slow cookbook. So if I am not blazing fast tomorrow when I go for a run (first one in 7 days what could go wrong) I am returning it. Not really, but only because this almond torte is delicious and going to be made again.

And I don't want to brag but I tweeted a picture of this to Shalane and Elyse and Shalane liked my tweet. Yep, you read that right Olympic marathoner Shalane Flanagan and I are basically best friends.

With our plans for backpacking put on hold D and I are moving to Colorado Springs which I am super excited about. Trails, running groups, more trails, mountains, trails. Basically a bit of a running mecca.....which will be lots of fun as soon as I can breath again. Tomorrow I will be back at it training for the Santa Fe Thunder and Loony Challenge, two races I am super excited about. I am currently trying to figure out what other races I want to do. It is a brand new running area for me with tons of races. Super exciting!

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Wonderland Trail Fail

The Wonderland Trail was supposed to be our big backpacking trip of the summer. 10 days. Lots of elevation gain and lots of elevation loss around Mt. Rainier. It was kind of the true test of what we were made of backpack wise. Heavy packs, lots of walking. Good times.

The Monday of our first day we woke up to rain. While not unheard of in the Pacific Northwest.......after a week of sunshine we were not pleased. We loaded the car up anyway and headed for Mt. Rainier. We decided to begin our adventure at Longmire. It is a popular place so we figured our car would be safe there. We had a plan of how we wanted to attack the mountain. It involved on average between eight to ten miles of hiking a day. The entire trail is 93 miles. Not easy but not epic distance wise. When we went in for our permit (this year there was no reservations it is on a first come first serve basis) we were told our plan wouldn't work. There are only so many people allowed at each camping area so the ranger adjusted our plan and gave us our permit and we should have said no thank you but we were excited and optimistic. 

Our permit called for  us to hike 13 miles the first day, 10 miles the second and third day and then it got easier with 6 to 8 miles the rest of the time. The 13 miles on the first day broke us. Maybe if it hadn't been raining the entire time, maybe if the trail had been cleared all the way through, maybe if we weren't climbing up a huge mountain in dense vegetation, maybe if our packs weren't so heavy then maybe I wouldn't have thrown a fit around mile 9 and Dustin wouldn't have gotten sick. The first day was miserable. Cold and wet, the trail was washed out in parts requiring a mix of heaving yourself over boulders and trees and trying not to slide down steep embankments. I hated it. HATED IT. This was not fun. Backpacking should be fun. This was voluntary torture. 

After nine hours of hiking we finally got to our camp (this was after several discussions about quitting brought on by hiking next to roads and crossing roads and generally being in places that we could have just driven too, that was pretty discouraging. I did not read about that aspect of the trail, the fact that part of it runs next to the main park road) and had to do the tedious part of trying to put up camp without getting everything soaked. It was day 1 and I was over it. 

The next day I woke up, it was sunny and I was fine. Funny how good weather can pull you out of a funk. I have learned that if I start to hate backpacking I just need to wait a good solid 8 hours filled with sleep and usually I feel better.....usually. Unfortunately D did not feel better. The day before he had handled my melt down  with grace, probably because he is legally bound to me through the institution of marriage, but hiking that far was hard for him too. We had just been ignoring the fact that he is in fact ill with something chronic and debilitating. He can push through most anything, the will is strong in that one, but physical activity at this level was taking a toll. Most of the backpacking we had done up until this point had a moderate level of difficulty. Now we were climbing mountains, freaking high and difficult mountains. The exertion level was through the roof. 

We finally got everything packed up and started hiking again around 10 a.m. A bit of a late start but D was exhausted. And we climbed and climbed and climbed. But at least it wasn't raining. 

After about three hours D was feeling horrible. But the only thing to do is keep going. At this point we were finally away from that stupid road, but that meant we were also kind of stuck out there. When D gets too exhausted he feels physically ill. So he was having a not so great time.

The views on this day were incredible. Finally out of the suffocating forest and up among the pines. I was fine, actually having a lot of fun. I was also pretty worried about D. He is the stronger one of us both who knows what to do on the trail, if he isn't feeling good alarm bells start going off in my head. Not a good situation.  

We got to the Indian Bar area for a break, which is a beautiful area, and still had a huge mountain full of snow to get over. About a five mile (vertical) trek to our next campsite. We rested for awhile and then set off, and turned right back around. D wasn't gonna make it. I was tired but I wasn't dry heaving tired so we decided Indian Bar for the night was the best and safest option. The only problem is there are only so many campsites but we were in luck. On campsite had a downed tree over it. No one would be assigned to that spot so we set up camp for the night. 

The next morning we woke up, again I was fine, and D was still exhausted. But we pushed on. We figured if we could get to our next assigned campsite, about a  nine mile hike with about 4 of those miles downhill, we would be back on track. So we climbed up and up and up. Poor D was dying. And then we had several miles of snow to navigate. Snow makes finding the trail a bit tricky. Luckily the direction we were going was pretty clearly marked with those who had hike through before us. 

After several hours of hiking/ sliding through the snow we finally got through a super steep and snow covered pass (there was some nervous breathing through that one) and made our way down towards the Summerland Meadow, the place we were supposed to camp the night before. I was feeling super proud and smug. I had navigated all that snow without any major catastrophe and only one slide down in the snow. And then the minute my feet touched rock. Boom. I went down hard. I had slipped on some slick rocks and since my shoes were wet from snow it was just a bit of a disaster. I feel so hard my hiking pole went flying and I slammed my right forearm hard into the rock. 

I just kind of sat there for a minute seething. I was pissed. I had made it all this way and then when it is finally clear THIS is when I fall. I finally got back up and then realized my right hand didn't work. I couldn't close my hand. That seemed bad. I had a pretty big knot forming on my right forearm. There was nothing to do but keep going down towards the meadow. I put both poles in my left hand and very carefully hiked the rest of the way down. 

We rested in the meadow for a bit, me cradling my non-working arm, D trying his best to find the energy to hike the rest of the five miles to our next camping spot. We were a bit of a mess. D finally called it. We were going to stay in Summerland for the night. We pitched our tent in the biggest site and hoped that either no one would show for this site or that they would be nice enough to let us stay. While we were setting up camp something popped in my arm and my hand worked again. Hurrah. It still hurt but at least I was back to two functional hands.

About two hours after we pitched our tent some hikers showed up and gave us the boot. They were nice enough but it is still a lot of work to break camp and move. But fair is fair, they had the permit. We asked two ladies who were camping in the group site if we could pitch our tent near them and they agreed. They were super nice and friendly which was lucky because if they hadn't agreed I am not sure what we would of done. That night in the tent we realized we were going too slow, at this rate we could not catch up with our permit itinerary and would run out of food before we made it around the mountain. Even worse than that, D was done. He had felt really bad for two days in a row and resting and eating were not helping. If it isn't fun, then why are we out here. We decided to call it. We checked out the map and realized the next day was our best chance to get back to our car. We texted our friend (weirdly and luckily in the right spot we had cell service) and made arrangements for him to come get us at the trail head and deliver us beaten and broken back at our car.

The next morning I let D sleep as long as possible and then we packed up and slowly hiked the four miles to the trail head. We got there about 5 hours before our friend could come get us so we decided to try the good ole fashioned thumb out on the highway method of getting back to our car. And it worked. I couldn't believe it. A nice older couple stopped and let our stinky selves and dirty packs into their car and drove us back to our car. I tried to give them gas money and they wouldn't take it. They just wanted to do nice things for people. It was a hiking miracle. They saved us a cold five hour wait, our friend a several hour drive and had two cute dogs we got to cuddle with on the way back to our car. I will forever be thankful to that couple.

We had made it a third of the way around the mountain before we bailed. We saw some of the most amazing views. I learned I am tougher than I thought (snow crossing, arm bashing), I also learned that I only like backpacking when the weather is good. We learned that D is just not able to do this level of adventure at this time. His body just won't have it. We also learned that the plan of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail is not going to happen at this time. Thru hiking is hard, really, really hard. You have to move so many miles per day to get to your end destination before bad weather comes around again. You have to by physically and mentally up to the task. I don't like backpacking enough at this point to do it for six months straight. D's body is not physically able to handle that amount of activity at this time. Dream on hold for now. 

I am glad we attempted the Wonderland Trail. It clarified for me what kind of backpacking trips I like (short, light, high altitude) and showed us where our weaknesses are. It also helped us focus on what our priorities need to be, trying to address D's illness and find a way for him to feel better. We also realized out on this trip that we were tired of traveling and missed our dog. So once we got back to Tacoma we decided it was time to head back to Colorado.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Tacoma Time

After spending the night in Port Angeles we drove the few hours to Tacoma to meet D's best friend for lunch. He was an awesome tour guide of beer based Tacoma touring.

If you like craft beer Washington is the state for you. If you like craft beer and specialty hot dogs then The Red Hot is where it is at. 

The week we were in Tacoma we sampled lots of local brews and hit up some of the waterfront restaurants. 

We went up to Seattle for the day to meet some friends for dinner but arrived at lunch time specifically to go to Piroshky, Piroshky. Russian pastries at their finest. 

We wandered through the market sampling fruit, looking at art and taking in the sights. After we had seen all there was to see we wandered through downtown Seattle towards the Space Needle. Since it was super crowded and a pretty penny we were content to stare up.

After wandering the streets for a few hours we headed back towards the market and randomly found the gum wall. Ewwww and kind of cool.

We then met some friends for dinner and documented the momentous occasion of meeting up again after like five years with exactly zero pictures. Smooth. 

July 15th was the actual day of D's medical retirement from the Army so we headed to Fort Lewis to get our official retirement ID cards. Retired Life! Afterwards we headed to Boathouse 19 to celebrate in style. Style being a U.S. Army Retired hat. 

We really like the pacific northwest. Part of this trip was looking into places we might want to reside someday. Bend and Portland Oregon, and the Tacoma and Seattle areas are high on the list. We got super lucky and had great weather all week, Lots and lots of sunshine! The week in Tacoma was meant for us to rest up before doing the Wonderland Trail. Besides all the walking around Seattle and kayaking in Gig Harbor for our 10th anniversary (kayaking is the best, I would do it all the time if I lived next to water and then my arms wouldn't be useless T-rex arms, WIN) we did do a lot of hanging around and 'carb loading'. Unfortunately all the resting up wouldn't save us on the Wonderland Trail....