Friday, March 28, 2008

"Not All Who Wander are Lost"

I have the above quote all over the place... in my email signature, on my computer, on my frig, and so on. I had discovered it last summer, when my life was at a bit of a crossroads. So much had taken place: my weight loss, layoff from my job, dad's illness and death, graduate school, my aunt's death and all the chaos that ensued, even more deaths of friends... you get the drift, it's a long list that seems to continue to grow.

That list of changes made me evaluate what exactly is important to me and how I not only view life, but live it. And in the process I found this quote and I latched onto it with all my heart. Most people who read it assume it's all about hiking, the love of the outdoors and that feeling of being far away from civilization. That was part of my attraction to it, but that was only a small portion.

I remember my friend Robert asking me "What are you passionate about?" And I smiled when he asked that, because I honestly had no idea. There are lots of things in my life that you could say I love to do: climb, hike, run, spend time with family and friends, school, and so on. But to hone in on one thing that I am passionate about? Nope. And that doesn't really bother me - I know that at this time in my life I am wandering around, with no idea of what is in the future. And for the first time in my life, I am ok with that. It doesn't matter what my career is, how successful or important I am or how much money I have, all that matters is that I am at peace with my decisions and my life. The passionate part? That will come someday.

When everything in your life is turned upside down; when nothing seems to make sense anymore; when you feel like your life has no purpose; that's when you find out who you really are and where you are headed. I found out that with my wanderings, whether on a mountain or in some other sense, there was a purpose to my life. It just didn't fit the regular parameters that I had set for myself in the past.

And all the changes? Not really so bad. If I hadn't experienced them, I would of never gone back to school; I wouldn't of been able to spend those last few, precious months with dad; I wouldn't of reconnected with old friends who meant so much to my life in the past and mean even more now; and I wouldn't have found out that I have a love of the outdoors that surprises not only me, but most who know me.

"Not all who wander are lost."

I'm a wanderer, and I honestly don't know when that may change. But my wandering has led me to do so many things I never imagined doing and right now I like that - it may not make me tons of money or make me famous, but I can guarantee I will never be bored.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Sleepwalking Elbert

I have always been a sleepwalker. There are quite a few stories of me as a child haunting our house with my nightly jaunts. It continued on in my adulthood and there were many times where I would find myself standing outside of my home in the middle of the night wondering how I got there. But in all the years I have sleepwalked I have never done it while I was hiking... until yesterday. Well, maybe not so much sleepwalking as falling asleep as I hike. On a 14er, no less. How did it happen? That's a darn good question.

I spent the day with a great group of people from, trying for a winter ascent of Mt. Elbert, the highest spot in Colorado. In my case, trying was the operative word. I made it to about 13,000 feet and had to turn back, the combination of the wind and not feeling too good forced me to turn and head back to the trailhead with a mile and 1500 vertical feet left to the summit.

As I was heading back down I began to feel tired. Actually, not so much tired as exhausted. You know that feeling when you are driving down the road and you can't keep your eyes open? That is exactly how it felt. If it happens when I am driving, I will stop and run around the car a few times and that wakes me up. It isn't so easy when you are already physically moving your body. I tried everything - pinching myself, taking a break to eat or drink, even leaning against a tree to close my eyes for a few minutes. A couple of times I actually fell right into a snow bank because I had fallen dead asleep. It was what I would classify as bizarre - it had never happened to me before and really took me by surprise.

I finally decided to run the last 2 miles (in my snowshoes no less - something I have never been able to do before) and while I was still fighting to keep my eyes open, it did help me a little. I got to the trailhead fairly quickly with the run, got out of all my layers of clothes and jumped into the truck hoping to catch a few shut eyes before the group returned. And you know what happened? I couldn't fall asleep. Figures, doesn't it?

Today I decided to do a bit of googling to see if I could find anything on my "sleep hiking" and found a couple of possibilities. The most probable was High Altitude Sickness. I knew I wasn't feeling good up top but I had never heard that drowsiness can be a side affect. And sure enough, it is. I had noticed I was having a hard time keeping my eyes open before I turned around, but at the time I thought it was due to the wind. Apparently not. A lesson for all of you that would like to hike higher elevations - if you start to get tired enough to fall face first into the snow/trail, you might want to consider turning around.

All in all there were 4 of our group who made it to the top - James and I were the only ones who didn't get to stand at the highest point in the state on Easter. They hiked 12 miles and 4900 vertical feet (I did about 10 miles and 3500 vertical feet, James was a little bit more than that). But we are planning on another attempt, this time in the summer. Winter ascents are not exactly something I want to try again - I'm a wimp in the cold and I gladly admit it!

The day ended with a great meal at a local mexican food restaurant in Buena Vista. It was a great day with great people who I would love to climb with again (in the summer, of course).

Here are the pics from the day.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Hi ho, hi ho, it's off to work we go....

I know, corny title, but I'm tired and nothing else came to mind so there it is. It was hard getting back to work and school and just the everyday grind of life after my fun, long weekend. I'm also in the process of moving and just have to say that living in one place for a long time is not always a good thing - I have collected way too much junk! Geesh, where did all this stuff come from???

The above pic is from my hike at Arches National Park to the Delicate Arch - beautiful hike that I squeezed in before heading back to Denver. I went with a fellow AR camp attender David who had also stayed in Moab for a couple of days after camp - it was a nice ending to a great weekend. We also did a short hike among some of the rock formations (below) that was just gorgeous - fun time!

My workouts have been rather intense since I returned from Moab - I have a whole new motivation that I didn't have before and am trying to push myself harder. Mental toughness is always my problem - most of the time my body can do it, but my mind isn't always so sure. I'm working on that and hoping I can begin to build the confidence and toughness that goes with racing.

My dear and wonderful brother (Hi Steve!) has offered to let me use one of his mountain bikes, yeah!! I'll be heading down to Texas soon to pick it up and hopefully hit a trail or two when I'm there - I would love to go out with someone as experienced as him. On top of that he has agreed to do a race with me!! He's strong in biking, I'm strong on trekking and between the two of us I think we could do pretty well. He's pretty competitive, I'm only so-so competitive so I'm hoping his competitive streak will rub off on me. Mom has even said she would be there for support, so it could be a fun time for the whole family!

Now, if I can just get Bill to step up and do the Bolder Boulder with all of us, I would be happy (hehe - I thought I would try another route to get you motivated my friend)

It looks like I will be spending Easter Sunday climbing Mt Elbert - my first winter ascent, (or spring, if you want to get all technical about it). I have wanted to do Elbert for a long time and was going to make it my first summer 14er this year, but this chance came up and I don't want to pass it up. Let's just hope the weather holds up - it's suppose to be 20 with some wind but that's it - pretty decent considering what a rough winter it has been. I'll try to post pictures of the climb, as long as my camera doesn't freeze!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Camp Debriefing

So here it is Tuesday and a couple of days after camp. I've been thinking a lot about the camp and it's affect on me, which I have to say is quite profound. For a newbie like me, this was the perfect way to get my feet wet. It was challenging yet fun and helped me get past some of my fears.

I was never made to feel like "the newbie" either - I had wondered if some of the more hardcore types would look at me and my lack of skills and be not too kind. But there was never a moment where I felt looked down on or ridiculed, the support from everyone was amazing.

It truly was a life changing weekend for me. Here is just some of what I learned:
  • That I can do so much more than I ever imagined I could and that sometimes a little push is a good thing.
  • That no fear is too great to overcome.
  • That compasses are sexy!
  • That when you are climbing a hill on a bike and the front wheel pops up, you should put your break on and jump off the bike quickly otherwise you will end up bloody and bruised (I'm STILL bleeding from that fall!)
  • That falling is an art that I have mastered all too well.
  • That of the instructors I had, Jari cried the first time she mountain biked (and is now a world class biker) and Jon hates heights (yet still does some of the most challenging ropes around). Made me feel a whole lot better.
  • That going from Point A to Point B in a straight line is rather difficult for me, whether on land or by boat. I guess I missed that class in elementary school.
  • That despite not being able to go from Point A to Point B in a straight line in a kayak, it can actually mean you get to do lots of 360's, which is a lot of fun! (not exactly great race strategy but I've got to find the good in this somehow)
  • That if you use "Frankenstein arms" for kayaking, you will learn great form for paddling (it feels weird and looks funny but it works)
  • That it is possible to go straight down a hill on a mountain bike and not fall off (well, most of the time)
  • That you can meet the most amazing people in the most unexpected places and your life is the better for having met them.
  • And finally... that my life is an extremely blessed one. All of you, my friends and family, have been so supportive of me in this endeavor and I will never be able to repay each of you for that support. Your emails and comments meant a lot - THANK YOU!!!
And so on to my next adventure - I have no idea what exactly it will be but I can't wait to find out!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Kayaking 101

The last day of camp was our kayaking day on the Colorado and it was the day I was most looking forward to. No fear of the water here, so I knew the day would be my day to just enjoy. And that is exactly how it turned out. It was truly the most fun I had all weekend and I owe it all to my terrific kayaking partner Tim, who happened to be very experienced and was able to give me some personal instruction and pointers. On top of that he was just a blast to be with and made the entire trip fun!

The day started off cold and cloudy and the talk was about a storm that was suppose to make our trip miserable, cold and rainy. Miraculously, as soon as we hit the water the sun came out and gave us a couple of wonderful, sunny hours.

Despite having kayaked before, this was all pretty new to me. Most of my experience had been ocean kayaking and very low key, as in "here's the boat and paddle, wear your life jacket and have fun" - that was about the extent of any instruction we were given. The only river kayaking I had done was way back in college and I don't remember much about it. This day was a solid introduction to good techniques, which I plan to put into practice as much as possible.

The rapids were Class 1-2, big enough to be fun but not too scary. We spent a lot of the time going in circles - I just could not master the whole "going in a straight line" thing at all (sound familiar? It was the same problem I had biking - why does that not surprise me?) Tim kept giving me pointers on how to correct my zigzag approach and I was starting to get a little better toward the end of the day. I wish we had had more time but unfortunately it all ended way too soon. As soon as it gets a bit warmer you can bet I'll be out there practicing though!

I did learn a lot but most importantly, I had fun. I laughed, saw lots of beautiful scenery and had great company to enjoy it all with. You can't ask for a better day than that - it was a perfect ending to the camp.

Ropes and Tigers and Bears, oh my!

A good nights sleep can work wonders! I actually slept all night and feel like a different person today. So here it is, Monday and I am ready for another day of being outside - I'll be 4 wheeling with some friends who just happen to be in town for the Jeep Safari. Should be a great day! That is hours away and I have yet to post about the rest of my weekend, so here it goes.

Saturday was ropes day and as I mentioned in a previous post, I was pretty nervous about what this day would bring due to my fear of heights. But due to the amazing instruction of Jari I conquered it, no problem. The first rappelling exercise was a 60 foot cliff, pretty small compared to the big ole' cliff that I did later. The pic above is that very cliff - it seemed so big at the time but now it looks so tiny. But it was a HUGE step for me to make it and gave me the courage to take on the larger cliff right next to it.

But first I decided to do the zip line, or Tyrolean Traverse. I hate to admit it but I completely panicked on this one and couldn't do it. Someday I will do it, I have no doubt about that. But at that very moment, when I had to actually jump off, I just couldn't. I instead decided to go for rappelling off the larger cliff. No, let me rephrase that... JARI decided I would be doing the larger cliff. I don't think I had much of a choice. But her confidence in me gave me the courage to do it, and I did!

It was freakin amazing! The first part of the cliff you are walking down the rock but the bottom half is all free fall. (pic on right is the very cliff) It was a 150- 200 foot drop and I made it down no problem. I had a huge grin on my face for the rest of the day and that night I laid in bed reliving the day, which is part of the reason I have been so tired. I wish I could describe the exact feeling but it's hard to put into words. There is just something about conquering your fear that is empowering and liberating. I honestly believe that I can do anything now, anything at all. It may not be easy but I have no intention of letting that stop me.

Here are more pics from the day Ropes

I have to give a lot of credit to the instructors, especially Jari. They knew exactly what to do to walk me through the day. It was one of those days that I will never forget!

We ended up getting back late from ropes and dove right into the navigation clinic/dinner/Adventure Racing 101 with no break. Navigation was a bit over my head, although I plan on taking a more in-depth class this spring that will hopefully help me figure it out. Then Team Salomon/Crested Butte (the team Jari is on and one of the top teams in AR) presented lots of great info on nutrition, time management, gear, etc. After that was 'awards' time- they gave out some gear and I was one of the lucky ones to get something! The whole "I haven't been on a bike since I was 10 years old yet still rode the slick rock trail" won me a couple of backpacking food packets (woo hoo!! I've been wanting to try these). Great end to the day!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

I Need Some Sleep

I am seriously tired, so much so that I can't even imagine trying to post all that happened this weekend. So instead I am going to give you a link to some of my pics from this weekend and then tomorrow, after I've gotten a good nights sleep, I will post more from this weekend.

Ropes Pics - Saturday
Kayaking Pics - Sunday

I will say this... this weekend was one of those experiences that was life changing. I did things I never imagined I could and met people that both challenged and encouraged me. But I'll post about that later, sleep has to come first.

A Teaser...

Yesterday was a crazy day and I am just now able to even turn on my computer. I won't be able to do a big update until tonight, so until then check this out...

This cliff was part of our rappelling day. Tonight I'll post more on whether my fear of heights derailed me or not. Let's just say that it was one of those days that I will never forget.

Today it's kayaking day - it's suppose to snow. Oh boy.

Friday, March 14, 2008

My first day!

I made it! I got to Moab at 7:45 this morning, got checked in and then headed up to Slick Rock Trail with about 60+ crazy people like me. To give you an idea of how the day went...

Notice the blood? I had a huge gash on my hand from a fall (one of many) and I STILL can't get the darn thing to stop bleeding, 7 hours later. I 've also got bruises all over, bloody legs from getting tangled in the bike peddles, a massively bruised hip and various other ailments. As someone said "you aren't trying hard enough if you don't come back with bruises and blood." Apparently I tried really, really hard. Despite all that, I loved it! It was a blast and now I get to add another "must have" to my shopping list - a mountain bike!

I was in the beginner group and had the absolutely best, most wonderful instructor in the world! (see pic on left) Her name is Jari Kirkland and is one of the top Adventure Racers in the country; so good that she makes her living doing it. She had infinite patience with me and the other 2 beginners that were with us and made this day just wonderful!

The beginner group began at the Fins n Things trail, which is suppose to be a little bit easier than the Slick Rock Trail. The guide book says this about it... "Like Slickrock, this is a trail for conditioned, skilled riders with intermediate to advanced technical skills. "

Notice the skilled riders with intermediate to advanced technical skills line? That is most definitely not me. (pic below is of the trail) When I first got on the bike I looked like a 5 year old just learning how to ride - I was wobbling all over the place, could not follow a straight line for the life of me and had the hardest time just getting on the dang thing! As the day progressed I got a little less wobbly and began to try more difficult sections.

All in all I would say the day was a success and a great start to my first taste of adventure racing. I would report more but I am exhausted and need to head to bed, we start bright and early tomorrow morning and I need to get some sleep.

If you want to see more pics, go here: Mountain Biking

Now it's on to the ropes clinic (which is a change - kayaking will take place on Sunday instead) - let's hope my fear of heights doesn't hinder me too much.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

One More Day!!

I'm in the midst of packing all the junk I'll be taking with me to Moab - you would think I was going to be gone for weeks with all the bags I am taking! I've got 2 bags of shoes, 2 BAGS!! The funny thing is, none of them are dressy, cute shoes. I've got my hiking boots, my trail runners, running shoes, water shoes, biking shoes and regular tennis shoes. Just for kicks I might throw in a pair of heels just to be able to say that I'm a girl.

I leave later this morning, I'm hoping that I will miss the snow that is suppose to be heading into the mountains this afternoon. I plan on staying in Rifle with some friends tonight, then heading to Moab first thing in the morning. Camp starts that morning (Friday) at the bright and early hour of 7:30. It's going to be a packed schedule, here's what I am told is planned:

Friday, 7:30 am: Mountain Biking day - head out to Slick Rock Trail and spend the day learning how to ride. Believe me, I will need it! I haven't rode a bike for over 20 years and I have a feeling this day will be challenging.

Friday, 4:00 pm: First aid clinic and swimming certification

Friday, 10 pm: collapse in my bed after having spent the evening in the hot tub

Saturday, 9 am: Kayaking the Colorado River all day. I am really looking forward to this day, I love water sports!

Saturday, 4 pm: navigation and orienteering seminars - I get to learn how to figure out where I am when I get lost in the mountains. That might be a good skill to have.

Saturday, 6 pm: This will be dinner and a seminar/Q&A with one of the top Adventure Racing teams out there, Team Salomon/Crested Butte. Can't wait to meet these guys!

Sunday, 9 am: Ropes day - I admit, this day has me a little nervous. It will involve rappeling, rock climbing and Tyrolean Traverse. It also means I will be on very high rocks with little to stop a potential fall. Did I mention I have a big ole' fear of heights??

Sunday, 3 pm: DONE!!! By this time I will be feeling either exhilarated from completing the camp, or so exhausted that I can't walk. I'm thinking the later might be a better possibility.

I am staying a couple of extra days to do some 4 wheeling with some friends - the Jeep Safari is taking place that week and so we will be hitting a trail in a motorized vehicle. That should be a nice change.

My plan is to do updates each night, so check back often for pics and other crazy stuff.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


Someone forwarded this to me and I admit I got a little teary eyed when I watched it. It's worth spending the 5 minutes it takes to watch, honest!

After watching this, I will never complain about my 'long runs' again. Truly inspiring.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

A Special Thanks to the snake at Lair O The Bear Park

I've been asked many times "Why did you start running?" or "What made you decide to climb a 14'er?" The little known answer is that I began my pursuits after an encounter with a certain snake.

It was this past July and I was checking out a trail for the next group hike I was planning. I wasn't paying attention to the trail when out of the corner of my eye, I saw something move... no, not move, slither. Slithering in that gross, horrible way snakes do. Without a moments hesitation I turned and ran; ran in my big, klunky hiking boots the entire mile back to the parking lot.

What exactly does this have to do with my above mentioned goals, you ask? Before I answer that, you have to understand that I don't have a fear of snakes, I have a FEAR OF SNAKES. As in, I'm terrified of the ugly, slithering things that plague this earth. I have been known to hide when I see a snake on television. It all harkens back to my childhood and a run in (literally) with a snake near my playset. Suffice it to say that snakes and I have never been friends.

However, sometimes fear can be a good thing. And this time, this one time, the fear of snakes propelled me to do things I never imagined I could. Running back to the parking lot made me realize I can run, and I haven't stopped since. My desire to not see a snake again pushed me to pursue hikes at a higher elevation (the wonderful place where snakes never appear) and I just kept climbing higher and higher until I reached the top of a 14er.

I have lots of other fears that have stopped me from pursuing many of my dreams. I will be facing many of them next week during camp and I have to admit that unnerves me a bit. But then I remind myself of the affect that one snake had on me and I think, maybe, just maybe, something good can come from those fears as well.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Addiction of a Different Kind

I love REI... love, love, love it. There is no other place I would prefer to be than at REI. On bad days I will head on over to the downtown store and just wander through the store, dreaming of the day when I will be able to afford all the equipment I long to buy: the GPS with more bells and whistles than anyone could ever imagine; an internal frame backpack for backpacking; a tent, sleeping bag and all the other goodies for camping; a mountain bike; and the list goes on and on.

Today I was able to get my REI fix and spent an hour looking for the last items on my shopping list for camp. I have spent a pretty penny on all that I need for this trip, everything from trail runners, sandals, swimsuit and other misc stuff. Today was my search for cycling pants. You know the type, the 'so tight you can see everything' type of pants with padding in all the right places. I was told that if I want to be able to walk after my day of riding, then I should get these types of pants.

So today I set out to find these miracle pants and after spending way too much time trying on every pair they had, I found ones that will work. They are comfortable and, well, tight. But hey, I might as well look like everyone else when I'm out there!

The best part of today's shopping spree? All free! Another reason to love REI are those lovely dividends they send out every year. REI members get back 10% of everything you buy during the year. Let's just say that despite wanting to spend even more money in the future, I spent A LOT last year and it certainly did pay off. A pair of cycling pants and cycling gloves for the big price of $0.

Now this is an addiction I can live with.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

The Weekend...

I knew Saturday was going to be nice so I had already made plans to spend the day outside. And I wasn't disappointed! 70 degrees and sunny, it was the perfect day!

I began the day by running a local trail, the Bluffs Regional Park trail. It's a 4 mile loop (ok, 3.9 to be exact) and is up and down the whole way. One hill in particular has been a tough conquest for me and I have yet to make it all the way up without walking. But I made it farther than I have before and ended up walking for just a few minutes.

This trail was actually what got me started on my hiking adventures - my physical therapist had recommended I start hiking to help strengthen my ankle. And I did, although the first few weeks I could barely walk the entire loop, let alone run it. I'll bet he never thought I would take it this far!

I took a break after my run to do some packing then headed to Roxborough State Park, where apparently everyone had the same idea as me. There was a line of cars waiting to get in. I only had to wait 20 minutes and headed straight toward the Carpenter Peak trail. It's a 7 mile trail and is listed as strenuous. I never did get to the strenuous part since there was so much snow and ice on the trail that I had to turn around before I made it to the top - note to self: ALWAYS REMEMBER TREKKING POLES!!

I probably did about 5 miles total and although my legs were tired from all the sliding I did, it was my neck that hurt the most. I was so tense and had to watch the trail so carefully that I had my head down the entire time and now my neck is all messed up - next time I will remember to look up more!

I did meet some newcomers to the US, 2 engineers from India. It was their first time in Colorado and they were here doing some work for a company in the DTC. They had never seen snow before and had this joyous, childlike wonder that you don't see very often. They were both wearing dress shoes and slid all over the place, laughing the entire time. Funny, I had other choice words coming out of my mouth due to the snow :-) But they did remind me how much I (usually) enjoy the adventure of being outside.

Today was another longer training day - I spent about 2-1/2 hours at the gym (since we have a lovely blizzard going on outside). Did 40 minutes on the bike, 45 minutes of weights and then ran 4 miles (at a much faster pace - yeah!). After all that I spent about 20 minutes stretching, my favorite part.

I feel tired but not that sore, and I'm thrilled with that! This weekend was a test for me, to see how I do at long periods of exercise. If I keep up with my workouts the next 10 days, I should be ready to endure all the torture the camp instructors throw at me.