Friday, August 19, 2011

Rainbows, Unicorns, and Puppy Dog Kisses

I recall someone once telling me that a) prince charmings don't exist (this was followed with a snide "good luck finding yours") and b) life isn't rainbows, unicorns, and puppy dog kisses.

I disagree completely.

For one, I've definitely found my prince charming and I'm a lucky lucky girl. Second, right now life sure feels impossibly wonderful: like rainbows, unicorns, and even wet sloppy love-you-with-all-my-soul puppy dog kisses.

For once in my life I actually feel like I belong. I am doing everything that I love, I have a great job, my health is better than it has ever been both mentally and physically, and I have an amazing family and circle of friends. Life is fucking beautiful.

My trail runs have been increasingly satisfying. I have vowed to adventure out past my usual front range paths and into the mountains more, pushing my distance too. I want to explore all I can of this wonderful state. I am not above driving an hour for a good long mountain run. I feel so alive lately.

Sometimes mid-run I just stop.
And look around.

I take out my ear buds (which I've been wearing less and less of except on some high adrenaline downhills where I just want to rock it out and fly) and stand there in a hushed state. My brain literally buzzes with adrenaline as sweat drips down my face and off my chin, sometimes I can feel it dripping down my belly and sides soaking my shorts. Everything looks greener, brighter, happier. Shaking aspen trees, long grassy fields dotted with wildflowers, or snow-capped mountains; it all awes me. Sometimes there are elk, deer, fox, squirrels, birds, marmots, or coyotes watching me watch them. I take it all in and it makes me smile huge and be extremely thankful for the life I live. One day I won't be able to do this. I used to say "one day I might not..." but that is just silly talk. Sooner or later (hopefully much later rather than sooner) I truly will not be able to do this and that is a matter of life. Whether it be age, injury/accident, or disease, I won't always be in the health I am now and I can sort of accept this. For this reason I wish to do as much as I can now, to see all I can, so that when my "down time" happens I can look back at it all and know I have lived.

Two weeks ago Cowboy and I sold our television. It was a great feeling.

We never watch it except for a rare rental movie here and there. It's not even hooked up to any cable. We catch our news and a random movie on our computers so the tv just sat there in the corner of the living room taking up space. A lot of wasted space. We lounged on the couch one day in silence and just stared at the big rustic tv cabinet trying to make up our minds what to do with it. Within a few short minutes and a little apprehension we both came to the conclusion: let's get rid of it.

A week later we sold it on Craigslist, cabinet and all. In its place we purchased a large gorgeous bookcase with heavy sliding beehive glass doors. We moved our growing book collection from our smaller bookcase (which we thought was big at the time) into the large one and sighed with contentment. It was a beautiful thing we just did. If you didn't know, we both love books and I've been reading more lately than I have ever been (if you don't count my childhood in which my nose was literally stuck in a book 24/7). Along with that bookcase I've started collecting children's books. Who knows what the future holds...

Along with my trail running, I'm hitting the weights more and I'm getting back into eating healthier too. I started putting Chia seeds in my meals and shakes. My favorite quick go-to shake is simply pulpy orange juice, a scoop of vanilla whey powder, and a Tbsp. Chia seeds. It really quite delish- like a orangecicle. Hey I should try freezing this in a popcicle tray (note to self: need to put popcicle trays on my wish list).

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Mt. Evans- Finally Conquered

If you've been following my blog for awhile you might recall a post from last year, leaving a personal bone to pick with Mt. Evans. Left unconquered and un-summited, I had vowed to come back and finish that beast.

Well, Sunday proved to be the day to do it. Shortly after summiting Pike's Peak I emailed MtnRunner2 asking if he was up for it, knowing full well he wouldn't be able to resist. Muaahaahaa! Sure enough he replied the affirmative and we set plans for an adventure in just under two weeks.

We set off at 0530 for the hour long ride up to Echo Lake. On our way up the winding back road to the lake, we came around a sharp corner to see a doe standing in the middle of the road with two teeny tiny bambi fawns underneath her. They were both bucking their heads up into her belly to nurse. They stood there nursing from their momma as we came to a soft halt (cursing the fact that both of us left our cameras in the back of the car) to watch them. They startled and trotted off to the side of the road, the little ones bobbing their heads and ears twitching as they stared at us curiously. They were way too little to realize humans meant danger. It was a great start to our morning.

As we stepped out from the car at Echo Lake a cool dampness hit our exposed skin. A family of campers were huddled in hoodies and gloves around a Coleman stove. We both smiled as we set off onto Chicago Lakes Trail knowing it was perfect running weather!

We warmed up immediately, though both of us commented nearly at the same time how we felt sluggish with heavy legs. I just couldn't get into a groove. We still pressed forward, admiring the beauty of the morning around us.

Passed Chicago Lakes and headed up to Summit Lake. There were a couple of tenters around here just waking up and having their morning coffee. Mtnrunner2 and I both chatted about how camping along Chicago Lakes would be the perfect spot.

 Looking back down upon Chicago Lakes.

 Mountain Goats!!! (babies too)

We curved right (around the goats) and came upon Summit Lake. Summit Lake parking lot was buzzing with activity unloading hikers and bikers from cars. M. mentioned that the Colorado Initiative built a trail just down the road so we decided to opt out of the Mt. Evans trail (starting to swarm with hikers) and head up the road a bit. 

I'll never admit this out loud, but that flat(ish) road felt so good to my legs and feet. As a runner who had caught the trail bug a few years ago I had completely sworn off all running which involved pavement (except for the few triathlons I participated in a year). I hated road with a passion- not only did it hurt my body from head to toe but it was excruciatingly b-o-r-i-n-g. 

With the strenuous beastly climb of Chicago Lakes Trail, however, the road was singing a sweet, sweet tune to me that day. I almost had a change of heart. Almost.

***A good friend and trainer of mine often reminisces his painful ascent up Mt. Evans road as the hardest run he's ever done. We have this friendly teasing timed competition going on. Not to make light of his hard work and kick ass time up the mountain, however..... "T." Get off the road and onto trail and then you can call yourself a badass:) These are two way different animals***

We swerved off the road and headed up the C.I. Trail. Now the real fun began. This shit was steep and rocky. My quads were protesting immensely. 

 Almost to the true summit. 

At this point we were cresting over the ridge onto the Summit parking lot. Needless to say we received more than a handful of strange looks in our running garb and water bottles. M. stated he would've been rich if he had been paid for every time he was asked what he was training for (most people asked "Leadville"?) When we shook our heads and said, "No, just for the fun of it." People scrunched their noses in disbelief and distain gasping, "YOU ARE SO CRAZY."

 Remains of the Crest House.

Crest House 1950 (a fire gutted the insides)

 Summit Success!

Besides the typical rapid heart rate and breathing, I had no other issues with the altitude. However there is one mystery in which I cannot figure out. I handed my camera to a young man in a group of people to take my picture (M was off taking another couple's picture). After the man snapped a couple of pictures of me we got to talking and joking around. As M. rejoined me, I waved at the group, took a step back towards the trail, and realized I forgot to get my camera back from him. I headed back to the group and then noticed I had my camera tucked back into the little pouch of my chest pack right where it belongs. 

I had no recollection of taking my camera back from this guy or putting it in my pouch. None. Try as I might I couldn't squeeze even a flash of memory of this event. There was a big stark white blank where this memory should have been. Seriously it was kind of freaky. I talked to M about it and we both chalked it up to altitude. 

With that, we headed back down. Our intense climb up resulted in a part slide, part scree-ski down. It was literally like skiing. Turn and slide to the right, turn and slide to the left, repeat. It was a little slow going just for the sake of safety. At one point my shoe got caught mid-slide between two rocks and my body (minus my right foot) pitched forward. An adrenaline surge rushed through my body as I lurched forward until I felt the sharp tug of my shoe pinning me back down into place. I took a few breaths, re-righted myself, unstuck my foot, and let the adrenaline drain out from my muscles as I contemplated my near disaster. Granted not as stellar and epic as a fall off the sheer side of a mountain, but this would've been nasty and I could've guaranteed at least a little blood shed.  Once my heart returned back out of my throat to it's rightful place in my chest, I slowly picked my way back down to safer and smoother running ground. 

Cowboy decided to meet us (with the pup of course!) at Summit Lake on our way back down. He was our impromptu aid station and we were thrilled. We both had just run out of water and were discussing treating some water at the lake for a refill. Cowboy pulled out the 7 gallon spare water jug we keep in our car for emergencies and helpfully filled our bottles. Then we stood around and snacked on power bars, pb&j, and a Tanka bar. Argos was in hog heaven as he was positively sure that Cowboy had brought him here to run with us. Without a doubt he whinnied and pranced, sharp happy barks and tongue hanging out the side in a goofy grin. Poor guy. He moaned, shivered, and whined as he saw M and I take off without him. My heart sank.

Cowboy ended up letting him play in and around Summit Lake then brought him down to Echo Lake (where he would meet up with us) to run free for a bit. Argos was pooped by the time we met back up with him. Hindsight I probably could've taken him down with me at Summit but was afraid of having to keep him leashed to me at the still treacherous rocky downhill part to Chicago Lakes. He would've easily  maneuvered it, but I have found going downhill with a large excited leashed dog usually leads to me trying not to fall.

And people ask us why we choose to do this for fun? Times like that I wish I could just hand them a handful of my trail pics like this one.

We made it down in no time and it felt good again to open up on the downhills and cruise. I popped in some tunes and hopped like a kid over roots, ruts, and boulders. Mud splashed up on my legs and I even played in some snow. It was pure childish fun and I loved it. 

We had a large climb at the end of the trail back up to the Echo Lake campground. I was still giddy with play when I came upon a guy crouched down posing with his dog on a rock outcrop as a couple of his friends snapped a picture of him. He was just about to stand up when I said, "wait wait, one more!" and ran up beside him, slung my arm around him, and posed goofy as his buddy said, "got it!" and snapped another pic. I ran off waving as the group of them laughed and cheered. It is fun to be stupid silly some days. Maybe they'll delete the pic of this odd stinky girl who invaded their picture, but maybe they'll keep it and laugh about it years later. This crazy runner girl who made them laugh. 

M and I rounded the sidewalk of Echo Lake and finally reached Cowboy. High fives and grins all around. We were sweaty, stinky, muddy, out of breath, and still having a great time. I was ecstatic that I had finally FINALLY summited Mt. Evans and had some great company doing it. Although we both agreed that we felt sluggish throughout the run and our times could've been better, we relished in the beauty of the massive mountain, of the early morning start, and the fact that we were out sweating up a storm on a fabulous trail run. Thanks M for sharing today with me and getting my legs burnin'! Check out his post on the day here- his pictures are amazing.

I believe this is an 'Aspen Daisy'. LOVE IT!

Ya know. There's an old acquaintance of mine who moved here about 2 years ago. She hates Colorado. Hates it. I don't get it.

I really truly just don't get it.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Pike's Peak Summit

I've been a slacker blogger. Life has been pretty wild here, so much going on and not enough time to barely breathe let alone blog.

Cowboy's parents came for a much needed visit (thank goodness I have the world's best in-laws, seriously) so there was scrambling to get the house cleaned and prepped to less embarrassing standards. Dog and cat fur was vaporized, a craigslist steal was found in the way of a spare bedroom set, and fridge was stocked with good eats. We had a GREAT time and found time slipped by fast.

I did a few strong runs during the week in preparation for a planned run up Barr Trail to summit Pike's Peak, one of my running bucket list to-dos. Cowboy and the parents were quite uncomfortable with the idea of me driving down to Colorado Springs solo and camping out in my car the night before for an early trailhead start. This one was not Argos-friendly in terms of length or elevation so I had no "backup" when it came to safety. Stubborn as I was, I waived away their concerns with "I'll be fiiiinnneee."

The run was planned for Monday. Saturday late at night my coworker, good friend, and oober ultra runner asked me if I wanted some company up Pike's. "Heck Yeah" I replied. He said he had to clear some prior plans and would let me know the next morning. I love spontaneity!

Having a partner in crime, the family was now calmed and soothed. The three of them were going to attempt to schedule a cog railway trip to the summit and meet us before we headed back down. To say I was excited was an under statement. This was going to be the first Fourteener I was going to summit via RUN!

I did a final gear check, set out necessary nutrition/water, and laid out my clothes for the next day. A lengthy quiz to Paul, my now running partner,  along with Matt Carpenter's website gave me some down and dirty details on what to expect, how to pace myself, and where to get water. Paul assured me I would do fine and the fact that he was going to be there eased any concerns I had about finishing the marathon-length run.

I tucked in early and got a good night's rest. I was worried I would toss and turn as I normally do before an exciting event, but I fell right to sleep as soon as my head hit the pillow. Everything was packed and ready to go for a pre-dawn start.

We met at the trailhead about 0530ish. I hopped out the car and was giddy with anticipation. I bounced, I flounced, I might have even twirled. Paul willingly fed my childish behavior and joined in on the whoops and yippees of my excitement. We headed out around 0600 onto the Barr Trail.

 Gotta love the pre-run warning signs.

The climb up was more of a very strong hike with a handful of rolling runnable sections in between. Surprisingly we reached Barr Camp (approximately halfway point to the summit) in no time. I felt the run thus far was relatively easy and I wished I had run more of the ups to this point.

Paul showed me around Barr Camp and we dawdled awhile here to take in the full experience. I was awed. What a cool place!

 Paul (on the left) 

back sleeping quarters of Barr Camp. These cot-beds were lined up end to end.

We filled our water bottles up at the babbling brook right outside the camp and plopped in some purifying tabs. Potable Aqua came out with a new product called Potable Aqua Plus which I grabbed from REI to try. You drop in one tab per liter of water, wait 30 minutes to purify, then drop in a tab from the second bottle and wait five minutes. The second tab neutralizes the iodine taste, making it safe and tasty to drink. The thirty minute wait was not an issue since I carried a 1 liter bladder in my pack along with an Amphipod Hydraform handheld. I drained my pack bladder first to get the weight off my back then dumped my handheld water into my bladder. The creek water went into my handheld so while that water was being treated I still had clean water in my bladder to sip on. The tabs worked well- no sickness and no iodine aftertaste. 

From there we continued on towards the A-frame at a decent pace. Along the way we came across a bunch of hikers that called us crazy and one dude who was seventy-something. He was resting near the A-frame, dabbing his brow, and sipping some water. We took a short break upon seeing him and Paul struck up a conversation only to find out he was the top runner in his age group for the Pike's Peak Marathon. He was out here training, getting acclimated for the race. I believe he said he was here from a few states over and was staying out here until the race. He was in great shape!  

I'd say right around here I started really feeling the elevation. Breathing was a touch labored and I felt my neck jumping with my rapid heart rate. I had to take pauses frequently (only about 30 seconds or so) to try to calm my body down. 

 Nothing much living up here but rocks, marmots, picas, and a few head swooping swallows. 

 cool rocks.

 The Golden Stairs? Oh my! It was pretty tough here on up, hand on leg step-ups.

 looking back down. WOW.

Yay we made it!!!  Paul: You are SUCH a badass, truly. 

At the peak I felt a tad light headed every once in awhile but no other altitude issues. I patted myself on the back for controlling my hydration and nutrition well. 

We hung out in the store/restaurant after deciding we would wait it out to see the fam. We tucked into a booth, propped our legs, bought some snacks, and refilled our water bottles. I bought some fudge (avoided the cake donut- not my fav) but after noshing on so much GU on the way up, the fudge was too darn sweet to enjoy. I ended up buying a salty soft pretzel and split it with Paul. It was most excellent and hit the spot for some salty carbs. 

 Cowboy and parents met us about an hour later for a quick pic and a handful of delightful 'atta girls before we headed back down for some warmth! The skies were getting darker by the minute and a chill was setting over us.

I warmed up immediately once we got down off the summit. It was fun opening up (after such a long albeit much needed leg rest) and actually 'running' downhill. My legs felt great and I cranked some tunes.

Everything went perfect until the last few miles. The afternoon sun was beating down on us relentlessly and it was around 98 degrees at the bottom with no breeze and very little tree shade. I suddenly got super hot, like my clothes were lit on fire. I kept sucking down water thinking maybe I was dehydrated but then I felt sloshing in my belly and knew I was taking in too much water too quickly. I started feeling like I couldn't breathe well and still the fire inside my body became nearly unbearable. I finally started taking little walking breaks and told Paul something felt wrong and I was just too hot. He was patient with me and told me that we were in no rush. I felt bad for slowing us down but I really couldn't get control over my body. 

We finally made it down to the parking lot and high-fived each other. We did it. 
I didn't feel like puking and within a few minutes my body started to cool to a bearable level so I was happy. It was an amazing experience and I'm glad I had someone as cool as Paul to share it with me and help me through the rough patches. 

After Paul left, Cowboy walked up from the cog and helped me sling my solar shower over a tree where I proceeded to take a shower (yes I had a shower curtain enclosure!). Salt was caked all over me and burned. It felt like heaven taking that shower and pulling on fresh clean clothes. We met up with the parents at La Baguette in Manitou for some to-die-for French onion soup, walked the streets for some shopping, and ended the day at a used book store. What an amazing fun filled day. 

Pike's Peak and 25 miles of wonderful trail: you are now check off (though I wouldn't mind running you again Barr Trail!)!!