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Our First 14'er

Ever since we moved to Colorado, Ross and I have wanted to hike a 14'er. 

Note: For non-Coloradoans, a 14'er is a mountain peak that towers over 14,000 feet in the air. Colorado has 53 - the most of any state - and because of the thin air and the beauty and all, it's a great feat to hike one.

 Over the years, we have both had opportunities to hike one or another, but never were able to make it work -- mostly because of childcare. After a few hard hikes last year (Rabbit Ear's Pass, Hahn's Peak and Fish Creek Falls), I thought the kids might have it in them to do a 14'er WITH us... and what better day to make Ross' dream come true than Father's Day?
Hiking Fish Creek Falls last summer. Back when a 2.5 hour hike was a LONG hike!
Leading up to the hike, I tried to get the kids excited. I took Lincoln "snack shopping" with me where we got tons of food I knew they would love - GORP, Snickers bars (the BIG ones), energy chews, I let him pick out the chocolatey-peanut buttery granola bars, teddy grahams - you name it. If it had sugar, carb and/or protein in it, and they would eat it - SOLD!

The day before, we went on a warm-up hike up to Lily Pad Lake - and we were in business! The kids were stoked about hiking. The morning of, Lincoln even asked me if we could hike Lily Lake AGAIN before hiking Bierstadt. Oy vey! This child did not know what he was getting into.
My happy hiker on the way to Lily Pad Lake
Check out my new hiking stick!
 Morning of, we awoke bright and early to pack up our stuff. We were heading back to Denver after a week of staying up in Silverthorne at our new place. Knowing it was going to be cold, I wasn't in too big of a hurry to get out of there. Since the forecast called for a clear day, optimally, I wanted to summit later in the day when it would be a little warmer. We packed up and fed the kiddos breakfast.
French toast, eggs, blackberries = Breakfast of Champions!
We arrived at Guanella Pass around 9:15 and were on the trail by 9:30. Since there was a bike race going on a little later, all of the lower lot was full and we parked in the upper lot. Clue #1 we were not true hikers - we couldn't find our way from the upper lot to the trailhead. Brilliant! But, we got there the round about way. 
BAM! Found the trailhead!
We started hiking and hiking. The path actually goes a little down for the first 3/4 mile and through a lot of mud. We made our way around it as much as we could. Then you cross a river and the kids enjoyed that. Our feet got wet, but it was nothing terrible. That is when you start hiking UP.

We went for 1/2 hour and then had our first snack. Normally, we find some cool spot to stop along the route - a cool rock to climb up and sit on,  an overlook with a view, a lake, etc.- but today we said we would have "walking snack breaks" for the most part. The wind was picking up and I was afraid of stopping for too long.
When we did stop, it was usually to climb up on some sort of rock - boys!
 Along the way, we met hikers coming down and the kids would ask if they made it to the top. About 1/3 of them hadn't, so I started telling the kids not to ask. I didn't want the kids thinking THEY couldn't make it. After that, when we passed hikers I would ask them in a low voice and, if they answered that they had summitted, I would say "Look guys! These guys made it! Isn't that great?!?!" Or something along those lines. We got some great stories and great advice from those passing.
Still below tree line.
 
 Soon enough we were at 12,000 feet. What I didn't realize then is that you climb a total of about 500' elevation in the first 1.7 miles and then another 2,000+' in the second 1.7 miles. That's a BIG difference! And I am pretty glad my kids didn't realize it so much. They were troopers and just kept plugging along.

It was somewhere right around 13,000 feet where spirits started to get low. I ran up to 13,000' EXACTLY (on my watch) and said "Look guys! We are RIGHT at 13,000 feet!" We stopped, looked around and took some pictures to admire the view. We then found an AWESOME little cove behind/in some rocks that sheltered us from the wind and sat down to have a proper snack break. I think that was a life saver. 
My attempt at a panaramic pict
Look at those happy faces - so excited to be eating!
Hunter hogging the cheese and sausage, while Lincoln snacks on energy chews!
 And from there on out it was plug, plug, plug. We played some hiking games we had made up in the past - like 20 questions, only instead of it being something you saw, it was something you thought of. And you got more than 20 questions. The kids were awesome and started taking breaks anytime they could.
They were seriously SO tired!
At one point (it must have been 13,400' feet or so), I said something like, "we can't rest too long or we might not make it." And from that I hear Lincoln, "WHAT!?!? I am NOT going to let 600 feet come between me and making it!". And he didn't.
My determined little hiker.
 The trail had turned to pure rocks at this point (or, rather, we had lost the trail, so we were hiking/scrambling over pure rocks at this point). Being that the kids LOVE to climb on rocks, they were in decent spirits, just tired. Hunter kept saying how he wanted to just lay down and go to sleep and I assured him that he could sleep the WHOLE way back to Denver... we just had to get off the mountain first.

 The closer we got to the top, the more motivated Lincoln became and he was leading us all.

And then FINALLY -- THE SUMMIT!!!
No one can take this away from me - EVER!
On top of the world at 14,000 feet!


 I was happy to finally be there! We took some token pictures to prove that we had made it to the top.

Then, being Father's Day, I tried to take another one to remember the day by.
We also got him a soda keg and CO2 system for kegging beer, but I somehow think this was the better gift.

After pictures, it was signing the log (more proof that we had made it)!
Linc and Hunter signed their own names!
 And hung out with our new friend who lives at the summit.

After all the logistics, it was more snacks and then it was time to descend. As we went down, I tried to get a better "Father's Day Picture" with just Ross and the boys.
It was so windy on the way down, Ross couldn't keep his hat from blowing off!
Thankfully, the walk down was a lot easier than the walk up!

And there you have it. 6 hours of hiking. 7.5 ish mile round trip. ~2,500 feet vertical. And...
One 14'er conquered.
(If you ask Lincoln about it, he will make sure to tell  you it was 14, 065 feet, not just 14,000 feet up.)

 Happy Father's Day, Ross. I love you.

Boston: Survivors and Scarves

After the 5k, it was off to check in for the race. This part is non-eventful, so I will spare you the details, but what happened after was not.

Upon exiting the expo, we were back out on Boylston and the police had it blocked off. One of the police officers informed me that a number of the survivors were participating in the invitational mile (a race for the elites to see how fast they could run a mile). At the end, the survivors were walking. We were fortunate enough to see two groups of walkers walk the last bit of Boylston to the finish line. I can’t tell you how emotional this was for me. At first, I don’t think I thought too much of it, but as I watched them walk, I realized a few things.

The first thing that struck me was when the first group of walkers stopped. They stopped at the exact location on the route where the first bomb went off. They had a moment of silence, talked/prayed amongst themselves, and that it was then that I started to admire not just the physical strength of these people, but the emotional strength they had.

They were standing on the direct spot that, one year ago, changed their lives forever. 

 Their lives changed there from a physical standpoint and from an emotional one. I think our first reaction when seeing someone who is physically impaired is to think how that would affect us on a physical level. Makes sense, right? We think of the things we couldn’t do if we were, say, in a wheelchair, or we think about how we would button up a shirt is we only had one hand. But we don’t also think about the emotional side of it – and in this case, how they became physically impaired having such an emotional impact. That that emotional side may weigh on them just as much, if not more, than the physical aspect of their impairment.

I started to thank my stars for these survivors. For their strength. For their example to us. For their courage to return to and walk through the spot that had changed their lives forever.

Following that group, there was another survivor and companion. He, too, stopped at the spot of the bombing and then proceeded to the finish line.

This also seems obvious, but it struck me at that point – this man was crossing the area he had been forbidden to cross the year ago.

That the amount of emotional strength this man had to have to continue on in a spot that had been denied to him, with a direct attempt at taking his life the last time he was in this spot. And how he fought through and kept walking. For every step he took, a tear welled up behind my sunglasses until I started crying and had to look away.

THIS was what being at Boston was about this year for me. It was a race, but it was so much more than a race. Witnessing this kind of strength, bravery, courage and patriotism is something that does not happen always… and this was a place where it was happening with every turn of the corner. With every person that chose to be there that weekend. It was a choice. It was all a choice. And I was glad I made that choice.

So… if that wasn’t enough… we then found ourselves at the finish line. Sacred ground in my eyes. And, I am not sure if you noticed, but there is a very beautiful, old church that stands at the finish line – South Church. 

Outside of South Church there were loads of people handing out scarves, and I was given one.

I think this will be one of (if not THE) most treasured ‘souvenir’ of the trip. These scarves were handmade by people around the world who had knit them with thoughts of love and peace and prayed over them before sending them to Boston to be distributed to the runners.
A volunteer handing out scarves
Tag on the scarf
  Now, the city wasn’t just supporting the runners/cause/event, the US wasn’t just supporting it, but the world coming together to support it all as well. As I felt the need to come and run, these people felt the need to do the same in sending the scarves – their way of fighting terrorism.
Mine came from California

 I kept my scarf close and safe that weekend… and will always. It is a symbol of so much more for me and I am honored to wear it.

 The more I was there, the more I was realizing how much this town NEEDED this event. How THIS was the weekend that was going to help not only the city and its people, but the world. While this probably struck closer to home with certain demographics, we were all in this together.

How the whole world was rooting for the race to succeed and for the terrorists to fail. And that they would.

Boston: BAA 5K with besties

With Boston on my mind, I asked two of my girlfriends from high school, Allece and Jessie, to meet me out there. We have been friends for many years (obvi) and they have been along on my running journey with me. In fact, it was Jessie who got me to run my first marathon by simply saying “Hey, wanna go on vacation…and we’ll just run a marathon while we are there?” circa 2001. (…and you wonder how I get ‘suckered’ into doing so many things.) And Allece who who sherpa’d me around in Dallas when I qualified for the race. To me, there is not anyone else better to share this experience with than these ladies!
Jess and I running my first marathon - oy! how far we've come!
 We all got there Friday evening and Saturday morning it was the Boston 5k. What a perfect opportunity for us all to be together and “do Boston” I thought, so I talked them into it and signed us all up (months ago).

When we arrived at the Boston Common, and while there were bits of rememberance around, the mood here was light, fun and celebratory. Unlike the memorials I had seen on tv all week, this felt like the kick-off of the marathon events and somehow the somber mood I had observed the previous week had been lifted and replaced with this more optimistic and energetic one.
By the 5k start
In the starting chute, cozing up to a Boston flag!
 Now, due to long work hours (and just buying a new home) Allece hadn’t found time to train, so she insisted that she just support me and Jess while we ran the 5k…but Jess and I wouldn’t have it. We wanted to do this together, so we convinced Allece to join us and we would all walk it (peer pressure at its finest). But as we crossed the start line, Allece started running, so Jess and I ran alongside her. And BAM! Just like that – couch to 5k in 1 day for Allece. SO PROUD of her!

We had a great time as we ran down the streets, checked out Cheers and enjoyed the sights of the brownstones on Beacon Street. The cherry blossoms were in bloom – something none of us get living where we do (Colorado, Texas, Wisconsin) and just enjoyed the run! 
Running by South Church (non-Boylston side)
Running by brownstones and cherry blossoms!
We turned onto Hereford and there was the turn to Boylston—I got so excited. Sitting at the corner was a firetruck with a gorgeous flag and I was struck again how this perfect New England race was forever stronger because of the events of last year. I saw signs of support and pride along Boylston.
Turning onto Boylston
Signs on Boylston

And this is where we, as three, got to cross the marathon finish line!
Boston Strong
 From Boylston, it was back to the Boston Common, where the race ended.
Finish Line stretch
Jess and I stopped for a photo, Allece just kept running till the end!
Done = Winning!
And THIS was the kick-off to a weekend filled with  friendship, running, pride, patriotism and support - for us all!

Boston: Why I needed to be there

Where to begin? There seems like a lot to tell, well, simply because I haven’t been blogging in quite some time. But, we will stick to Boston, and how I got there.

I ran Boston first in 2012. It was the first time that I had qualified to run the marathon. It had been a life dream ever since I had started running marathons. OK, well maybe not at first. At first, it was probably, "I'll never get there, so why try?", but as the years passed and the marathons added up, the dream was built... and in 2011, I achieved it. I ran a marathon fast enough to qualify - so in 2012... I went!

 I brought the whole family along, thinking that I might never qualify, let alone be able to run it, again. That year it was a HOT race and while I didn’t have the best (running) time, I had the best experience! With family and friends around me, it couldn't be beat! (If you really are so inclined, you can read about it here.) Anyways, I was there, did that – and, even with my less-than-stellar race time, I didn’t have the need to go back.While Boston is an amazing race, it is far away, expensive, not a kid-friendly town, etc. etc. so I was over joyed to have that be my one Boston experience. One I would treasure forever (and still do). But I didn't have the need to go back.

Until last year.

After the bombing last year, even with no close friends in the race, I was deeply affected. I know part of it had to do with the fact that I had been there the year before. That I had spent so much time at the finish line, both before and during the race.
The kids racing to the finish the day before!

And that my family, my WHOLE family, had been at the finish line – directly across from where the 2nd bomb was placed – on race day. We were precisely 1 year and about 20 minutes off from being directly affected by the bomb. I can’t tellyou the number of times “what if it had been that year?” had gone through my head.
Vantage point of my family on race day
Just hanging out waiting for me at mile 26.
But then it turned into more than that. As the events unfolded, the feelings of resentment, the feeling of violation for what the terrorists had done, swelled. What they did to everyone, the people of Boston, our country, our community, the fear they installed, etc.

This is one of my favorite bits on Boston after the bombing.
To me, he exercises the use of humor with such a strong message that rings true that it really hits home. While Colbert talks about the people of Boston, it was more than that - it was the people of this country.

I couldn't put into words why I was feeling, and have continued to feel, the way I do but as one of my friends stated, "It was such a direct threat on my way of life." And it is true.

I needed to do something. And I realized what the terrorists wanted was us to lay down. To be afraid. To not come back. So... that was the one thing I could do, the one way I could ‘fight’ the terrorists is to go back. To not be afraid. To say you cannot take away MY freedom. It sounds so silly, but at the same time, it is what was ringing true through my body.

That (and a qualifying time achieved at the Dallas Marathon) is how I ended up here in Boston this year.

I didn’t do it because it is an awesome race. (Which it is.)
I didn't do it because I needed to redeem my time.
I didn't need it to "say" I did Boston.
I didn't do it because I thought I might never qualify again.

I did it because the terrorists didn't want me to.
I did it for the people who can't.
I did it for the people from Hopkington to Boston who line the race route every year. To give them someone to cheer for. To show them that we aren't running scared.
I did it to face fear - and show others how easy it is to do the same.
I did it to stand up for our freedom that we have as Americans. To not let that be taken away from us.

I often feel like I do very little for this country for what I get back.

For me, THIS was the one way I COULD give back.

HITS Half-IM and other Grand Junction Adventures!

What's this? A race report? From moi? I know, it's been FOREVER since I have done one, but... I just had a really fun weekend (with loads of fun peeps and picts), so I thought I would share.

The adventures began Friday with a little trip out to western Colorado. Now, Ross had never been west Beaver Creek, so it was fun driving with him and seeing how the scenery changed and showing him my favorite part of that side of the state - Glenwood Canyon.
This picture doesn't begin to do it justice.
So, we scurried on over to Highline State Park in Loma (where the race would be happening) and drove the bike course. Now, if you are unaware of this course, you know you have gone too far when you get to Utah.
We went too far.
After that, it was a quick bike and swim (man that wetsuit feels weird) and off to dinner and check out the sights of Grand Junction.
Apparently, they really like their sculptures in Grand Junction.
I was advised not to climb up on this buffalo for fear of a ticket (I really wanted to).
Going into this race. Everyone has different thoughts, expectations, etc. of what they want from a race. For me, this was a "training race" as its purpose was (more or less) to prepare me for my "A" race in July. Regardless of it's "training race" status,  I was a little more anxious and felt like a little more rode on this one. I have been training hard and I felt like I needed to see improvement in my times. I wanted to be assured that my hard work was paying off somehow... and that is what I was looking for from this race.
 

Fast forward: Race Day!
Surrounded by some of my tri friend favorites!
What's a tri without Tyler and Keith?
World's BEST spectators (minus Joey)
I guess it is time to swim, huh?
Kelly's smile is infectious!

Feeling strong before the swim... or just convincing myself I am.

This picture is beyond awkward - which is why it makes me laugh so hard.
Ladies in the water.
The swim start was a mass swim and a little brutal at the beginning. I got anxiety about 150 yards out, but recovered ok. Spent the rest of the time trying to go fast, but really just re-learning how to swim in my wetsuit (first open water swim of the year). 1.2 miles and I was done and ready to come out of the water!
Not sure how I feel about this photo. 
 And then it was off to transition and onto the bike.


Now the bike course WAS beautiful. I guess I am a sucker for good views and you could see forever out there, so that was nice.
Just pretty wherever you looked.
Kelly on the bike!

Me coming up a hill.
Someone needs to teach me how to put on my helmet correctly.
The second half of the bike, you are climbing for a bit. Ordinarily, this wouldn't be a big deal, but the wind had picked up MAJORLY and made it kind of brutal out there. This is where I caught Kelly and we leap-frogged a little bit. Overall, the field of athletes was very cool and friendly and there was a lot of chit-chat, support, nice comments as you would pass other bikers - this made it even more enjoyable and fun for me.

After we turned, it was downhill with a tailwind and - as Tyler would say - BOO YAH!!! This part of the ride was my favorite... till I ran out of gears. I was pedaling in my hardest gear, without my heartrate being elevated and unable to go any faster. So I got left behind as Kelly whizzed on down ahead of me. :) That is ok, cuz I kept leap-frogging with some of my other "new friends" on the course.

As we got near-ish the end, I was calculating my time... thinking "I'm gonna pr by, like, l0 minutes"... then there was some climbing involved so it turned into "I'm gonna pr my bike by about 7 minutes"... then my Garmin clicked over to 56 miles and I was nowhere near the end and it turned into "I don't really think I am gonna pr this bike course...". But, fear not, the end was near and I was happy to be done. :)
Riding into the end - no aero in the park!

Off the bike and onto the run. Now here is where things fell apart. I won't dwell on it, I will just say I didn't have the best run ever (or even close). My back cramped, by legs felt like lead and the wind was just unbearable. The good thing(s) about the course were (again) more support from other runners and the fact that it was an out-and-back allowed you to see everyone.

As I hit mile 4-5ish I was able to pull myself up out of a dark place and into a happy place for the second half of it. So, that was a good thing. :) And it gave me a number of things to work on for the future. Tra la la la laaa.
Yes, the wind was so hard that I had to wear my visor backwards so it wouldn't blow off.
And, I'M DONE!!!!
So, put it all together and what do you got? Exactly what I was looking for. I didn't have the best race in the world, but by the times, it was better than my best race in the past -- which was an indicator that I was improving -- and that is what I needed.

On top of that, I had a great weekend.

I learned a lot - like what was working and what I need to work on.
Kelly and I got 1 & 2 in our age group.
Did a little wine tasting.
Wineries - my new favorite part of western Colorado!
Got in a little recovery ride with some great scenery and my favorite bike partner.

Went hiking in the Colorado National Monument
And felt like a kid in a canyon!

Yea... this weekend is what I needed to rejuvenate my soul ... for triathlon and for life!