Friday, November 30, 2012


Many many times I've been asked why I do what I do.  It's hard to explain, yet simple: "Cause I like it". Why I like it?  That I don't know.  I couldn't explain it, but this is who I am.

"No one told me who I was. No one told me I should do this. No one told me it would be easy. Someone said I am my dreams, that if I don't dream I am no longer alive. My steps follow my instinct and take me into the unknown.  I no longer see the obstacles behind me, but look forward to the ones ahead.  It's not about being the fastest, the strongest or the biggest... It's about being myself.  I am not just a runner, mountaineer or skier... or even athlete.  I am a person.  I don't know if I'll find it, but I'm going in search of happiness.  What am I looking for? To be alive." Summits of My Life

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Hello? Search and Rescue?

Ok, definitely not AS bad as it seems, but we did call Search and Rescue.  It's a good story, I swear.

Of course the man-friend and I planned an epic.  Maybe too much of an epic for winter.  But heck.  We're having a crappy start to the snow season, so I BET that there's BARELY any snow.  Yeah, right.

We set off at 5:30am and had some delicious hearty breakfast in McDonald's on the way up.  We got to the trailhead at around 8:00am and started hiking.  We were aiming towards Mt. Harvard and Columbia.  We knew it was going to be a long day (somewhere around 16 miles) but as we got started, SURPRISE! Nothing but snow.  The walk was slower than I had hoped for and once we got close to tree line, the trail was barely there.  We had to break trail in some sections and above tree line, we were definitely post-holing.

It was a gorgeous bluebird day... Everyone that knows me, knows that I LOVE snowy mountains during sunny days... the mountains look so pretty.  And the higher we got, the prettier it got.

Happy place
Did I mention that the higher we got, the windier it got?  Ok, you sorta gotta pay the price for those amazing views.  With the wind comes the cold... and exhaustion.  I smiled for the pictures (yes, I'm a poser), but I was quite pissed at the wind and at the post holing going up.  Oh, have I mentioned that I usually bring my Garmin to sorta figure out where I'm at distance-wise and elevation-wise?  Well, I didn't bring it this time, so I had NO idea how much farther I was supposed to go.  And HEY, this was only to get to the first peak.

Yes... I stare at my watch until it finds the satellites... As if staring would speed the process.  
I kept pushing, even though I wanted to stop.  I figured I was roughly 5 miles in, so I may as well get that over with.  Wind increasing, anger increasing... UGH!  Are we there yet???

YES! We made it.  And we're smiling at... SOMETHING?  Cause the 50mph gusts were definitely not funny. 
"Alright, let's go back. I can't keep going", I said.  The man knows how to make me push to the limits... explore what's going on outside my comfort zone and most times, I'm thankful. This time, I was not, but more to come on that... 3 hours from that point.  It was just past 1:00pm when we summitted Mt. Harvard, around 5hrs after we had started.  At that point we were supposed to drop roughly 800 ft as we walked on the ridge for 2.75 miles and then gain the summit of Mt. Columbia.

The wind was insane, but it seemed to calm as we lost elevation, it was still sorta nasty... but the ridge started getting a little too sketchy.  It was taking us forever to walk on it (well, I should say, it was taking me forever) and we finally made a decision to drop a little lower so we could continue on safe terrain.  By the time we got to the bottom there were some things happening:

1. We had dropped all the way down to 12,500 ft.  If we wanted to summit we had to go back up 1,600 ft.
2. Number 1 wouldn't usually be a problem, but it was already 4:00pm
3. Number 2 wouldn't usually be a problem, but in mid-November, the sun sets at 4:45pm.
4. Number 3 wouldn't be a problem (cause we always carry headlamps), but 50 mph winds at the summit and snowy  ridge walks would make for a VERY sketch decent in the dark.
5. All of the above wouldn't usually be a problem, but we were standing at 12,500 ft on the OTHER side of the ridge, in the wrong valley.  To get to our car, we had to go back up and down to the right valley.

Did any of that make ANY sense??  Let me see if I can explain with a map:

This is what we attempted
Long story short:  We started our hike where the purple line starts.  We went ALL THE WAY to the top to Mt. Harvard following the left side of the loop (can you see the lil blue tag pointing at the summit of Harvard?). Then, we looped around on the ridge (to the right of Mt. Harvard) trying to summit Columbia. Since the ridge was sketch we dropped to the right of the purple line (which obviously means we lost a lot of elevation). By 4:00pm, this is where we were standing (RED X):

Aren't we in a pickle?
So... at that point, we had two options: suck it up and go up to Columbia, or head out to the right (red arrows).  We had a map and had figured out which trail (and trailhead) were that way, but with all the snow, and the little amount of time we had left with natural light, we had to hurry to try and find the trail (dotted line which you can barely see).

View of the valley we were leaving behind (with Columbia - the pointy one on the right)
It took roughly an hour to find the actual trail and probably a good 20 more minutes to get below tree line and find a more marked trail from a campsite that had clearly been used in the past couple of days.  Damn deer and/or elk had walked ALL OVER, so it was hard at times to follow the right footsteps.  Especially once it got dark.

Sunset in the backcountry
Let me mention that once we made the decision to bail and headed out in the opposite direction, we had to change gears and go into survival mode.  We had no doubt (once on trail) that we'd get back to the trailhead... but in reality, we had no idea how far of a walk it'd be to get from the trailhead to the highway.  We talked it over and realized we probably had a LONG night ahead of us and lots of walking.  We were not cold (we weren't even wearing all our gear) and we weren't hungry or thirsty (we still had food and water left).  We tried to walk together and only use one headlamp, since we didn't want to use up batteries for both.  We tried to be smart about things and constantly checked in on each other.  Apart from that, we tried to chat about different things and enjoy the adventure.  Side note: this is why I love my man.

We eventually made it to the trailhead... it could not be darker.  We were hoping we'd find someone camping but not a soul.  we kept walking down the road.  I must say, I was happy to be on the road.  I really didn't care how much farther we had to go, but being on the road was a blessing.  We weren't sure how the rest of our night was going to turn out, but the one thing we knew was that we were ok and in good spirits.  In the middle of one of our many chats I asked: "Well, what would one do if in trouble?  I mean, we are ok... but let's say we make it out fine, but one of us is severely dehydrated or hurt?  Do you call the cops?". I can't lie, that made us think... well, yes. I guess one would call the cops.  We took a break and Chuck took out his phone and turns out we had service.  We googled Chaffee County Sheriff's Office and called. We made sure they understood we were ok and were just walking but we were wondering if someone could give us a ride to our car.  We still had NO idea how far we were, honestly.  They offered to call Search and Rescue.  Wait what?  We don't need to be rescued.  Well, we needed a ride... and apparently, they're the ones that could give us one.

We got a call back from Jim, from SAR.  he mentioned he lived 10 minutes away and could come get us.  We kept walking down the dirt road and met up with him 15 minutes later.  It took roughly 10 minutes to drive down the dirt road to the highway and another 15 minutes to town back up the right dirt road and to our car.  We eventually mapped it and we came out 25  miles away from our car.  That would've been a long walk.  We got back in our car, drove to town and had some dinner.  While we usually get sleepy on the drive back home, especially after long days.  It seemed like this time around we still had so much to talk about.  We were super chatty the whole way back to Boulder and the thought of that makes me smile.  We got home a little after midnight, showered and went to bed.  We both fell asleep quite fast.

Can I say one last thing?  This is why I love my man... I love waking up to a new adventure every day.

Until next time...

"Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all."  Helen Keller

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Road to Alaska

My man and I have had a few (well, more than a few) conversations about going to Alaska late in the Spring.  While I'm a little scared, I think it will be an EPIC trip.  At first I was shooting high and told him I'll train to climb Denali, but in all honesty, I don't think I'll be ready.  I'd have to take some classes about Glacier travel, Avalanche safety, etc. and I don't think I have the money or time to cram all those with my marathon and triathlon training. And Denali is a scary mountain.

As time went by, looks like Chuck made up his mind and found a place that he knows I'll be comfortable in... although I still need the glacier travel training and of course avy awareness.  I'm sure he'll help me train, but I don't feel the need to get those classes as badly as if I were doing Denali, but still.. I gotta know my stuff to be safe.  He decided to go up to Little Switzerland area, still in Denali National Park, but way lower elevation. Did you click on that link?  The pictures are SICK.

To prepare to go to Alaska, I need to make sure I ski a lot, I workout a lot, I'm in the best shape and I sleep in cold and unforgiving conditions.  I don't think Colorado has those crazy unforgiving conditions, but it may get pretty bad out there, especially at higher elevations.  This is why we decided to head up to the mountains last weekend, with a big storm in the forecast and REALLY cold temps.

Our goal was to climb Father Dyer via the NE ridge.  It looks something like this:

The plan was to park the car where the blue and the black like meet, hike up the black line towards the lakes, camp Saturday night where the red line starts and go up the green (which is the ridge) on Sunday morning.  On the way down, we'd traverse to Crystal Peak (purple line) and come down the Crystal Peak route back to camp. Pack up our campsite and come back home.

As the week went by, we were following the weather and it looked NASTY.  Really cold.  We still stuck to our plan.  Left Saturday around 8am and drove up... only to find this:

This may be a LONG weekend... 
We got to the trailhead, got ready and started hiking up.  The storm cleared out and we got some amazing views.

Father Dyer is that pointy peak way back there in the middle 
Once we got to the lake, we set camp... it was cold.  It was hard to set up camp with gloves on, but if you took them off, your hands would freeze super fast.  It was not breezy, but the storm was coming back, slowly.  Little did we know, that was the last bit of sun we'd see for 24 hours or more...

Our tent was up, and the clouds were coming back.  Father Dyer to the right with a great view of our ridge.  
The snow returned as we were hiking out to get some dinner and attend the CAIC (Colorado Avalanche Information Center) Benefit Bash.

Snowy and cold
We had a great night the rest of the night.. drinking and not thinking about Sunday's (or Saturday night's) hike.  Josh and Joe joined us there and at around 10:30 at night we headed back to the trailhead with the rest of our group.  We started hiking at 11pm and in the dark, with snow, and a small bottle of whiskey, we made the 2 mile hike to camp and got there at 1am (talk about slow hiking!).

I crawled into bed right away.  It was DAMN COLD.  But Chuck helped the guys set up their tent.  I was sort of falling asleep, so to me it felt like it took them 15 minutes, but apparently it was more like an hour.  Can't imagine setting camp somewhere like this:

Headlamp in the snow... Close to camp. 
They eventually all went to bed and I fell asleep quite fast (especially cause I was a little buzzed).  Waking up in the morning was HARD. I slept REALLY well in my new zero degree bag, I was nice and toasty, but the second I poked my head out, it felt SO cold. We had cell service, so we checked the temps in Breck and it was -3 degrees!  Burrr.  Considering we were roughly 3000ft above Breck, we decided it was EASILY -15.  Ok, that's legitimately cold.

Despite it being hard to crawl out of the sleeping bag, we all did.  Had breakfast, some hot tea and started walking up towards the ridge.  While it was not too windy (or at all), it's hard to do anything when it's that cold.  It wears you out.  But we were all good sports and went for it.  Some complaining more than others, hehe.  My only motivation was: "If I don't tough it out, Chuck won't take me to Alaska." And I REALLY wanna go to Alaska.

Chuck, Joe and I a few minutes into our hike
I wanna say, it was not the best conditions to hike anyway... not weather-wise, but also the terrain was odd.  You know, when there's ice and snow, but not enough to cover the rocks... but enough that you don't see them?  I thought someone was gonna break an ankle.  We didn't, but we were cautious.  We made our way to the saddle, which was the base of the ridge.  Took us around an hour.  At that point we decided it wasn't safe to continue.  The weather wasn't great, it didn't seem to be getting better, it actually seemed to be getting a little worse and even breezy, and given the fact that not only did we need to summit, but go over and come down the other way, it would've been dumb to continue since a whiteout was possible and a REALLY bad idea when on a ridge. We took a victory picture regardless.

We made it!!!!  ... to the saddle! 
The hike down was obviously faster, but breaking camp wasn't that much faster than setting it up.  Everything was frozen and hard to pack down.  Again, it was so cold that it was hard to do anything.  Once we finally got everything dialed in and packed in our packs, we left... fast. Took us roughly 50 minutes to get down to the car and another 15 to be sitting in a warm restaurant with heat blasting.

Surprisingly, I can't wait to get back out there this winter.  Just a little more snow and I will be skiing down that thing.  The good thing is... my sleeping bag is awesome and apart from being REALLY cold when crawling out of bed.  I was mostly warm.  So, what's next?

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The end is near...

The end of year that is.  And it's so easy to be lazy.  And the lazier I am, the easier it is to get lost and be unable to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  On my way to work today, I was thinking that it's been a long year for me.  Lots of training and lots of good races.  Also, lots of mountains and lots of trail running miles (if you have questions, scroll down and you'll see).  And well, given the fact that I've been busy with all sorts of stuff on my calendar, I'm finally tired.  "Well," I thought, "the year is almost over..." As if my body knew that January 1st is the day to press the RESET button and all of a sudden I'll feel all better.  No, my body does not know it's a whole new year.  It's all in my head.

For the past 10 months, I've been busy training and with work.  Training got crazy at one point and work got busy and overwhelming, but two weeks ago, everything slowed down.  I completed the San Francisco Marathon mid-October and I got the runner's high having completed my 10th and fastest marathon yet, and also, got back to a couple busy weeks at work.  Come November, everything changed.  I had completed my best season ever and work had calmed down (looks at my 2012 results page on the left).  Now what?  Life is no longer exciting.  I've been apathetic about life and not really caring about anything.

In my head, I desperately want to work out, but I'm having a hard time getting anything done.  I wake up late to go to work. I go to work, come home and go to bed early. It's lame. I'm lame.  Is there a switch in my head that can be turned off so I can rest physically and mentally for one day?  And maybe tomorrow can be January 1st?  That'd be nice.  My body needs a January 1st.

It's not the first time I've hit a low point... but again, look at my 2012 results page, but this time REALLY look at it.  It's the results of a rockstar.  Ok, maybe I didn't WIN anything, but seriously?  How can I get in my head that my accomplishments are AWESOME?  Why is it that those don't look like enough to me...? Why is it that I feel sad about it being over?  Why is it that I can't get my lazy ass out the door for a quick run, a quick ride, a quick swim.  A hike?  That's too much work.

Today I realized, that as much as I wanted to fight it, I reached the "end of season blues". And my poor man-friend is the one that has to deal with my crazy mood swings and my insecurities.  Trying to remember how I dealt with it last year... but truth is, I didn't.  I sat and did nothing, and gained 20lbs and got going again on January 1st and learned that starting from scratch SUCKS.  Does anyone out there has some piece of advice?

My thoughts (and initial goals) are: to workout at least 20 minutes every day. If I'm feeling better, then go out longer workouts following the coach's plan. But if my schedule looks overwhelming, do what he'd like me to do, but shorter.  Until I get back in the game.

And for now, I'm off to bed.  Tomorrow's Friday and that's a great thing (I'll make my body believe that it's Monday and we gotta start a new routine!)

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Warning! Women running!!!

For reasons I find hard to explain, I found myself running the Nike Women's Marathon in San Francisco. Also hard to explain why it hadn't quite sunk in and I was planning an awesome girls weekend out in the Bay Area.

We explored the Sausalito area on Saturday and Muir Woods (damn! those are some big trees).  Anyway, I was of course late to packet pick up and I had to get in line... a line that looped twice around Union Square.  45 minutes or so after that, I made it to the tent, where I got my packet and got to walk around the expo.  I must say, quite a lame expo.  Ok, not SUPER lame, but all Nike stuff and nothing too useful.  I needed GUs and compression socks, none of which I was able to find there.

Big a$$ tree!
I decided to go across the street to Niketown to see if I would find my socks.  WHOA!  It's like they were giving out gear for free.  Hundreds of people, DJ playing loudly, I wanted nothing but to get out of there.  I did find a pair of socks.  Red ones... not great, but good enough (in case you were wondering).

The "Expotique""
Race morning I woke up early as usual, showered and got ready.  I had created a "strategy" to run my personal best.  I didn't have a bracelet with my pace, but I certainly had mile by mile how strong/slow I should go to be able to accomplish my goal.  I grabbed a green Sharpie and wrote it one mile at a time on my arm (wish I had taken a picture, cause it looked cool).

Walked from our hotel to the Start Line in Union Square and OH MY GOD.  I have NEVER seen more women altogether in my whole life.  I heard there were roughly 28,000.  ARE YOU KIDDING ME?  That's a whole lot of estrogen.  The mood was weird.  I swear... That was way too many girls talking about nails, hair, make-up and how they got a blister right before so and so's wedding.  Seriously?  You ARE a runner, just deal with it.

The race started and it was damn crowded.  I was able to run on the sidewalk as the masses of chicks stayed on the road.  It was weird to me that all these girls had signed up to be in that specific start wave while they started off walking.  Sorry but there's no way you'll finish a 10min/mile half marathon or full by starting your race walking. It's that simple.  Anyway, I kept moving forward and was able to stick to my Sharpie-tattooed game plan.  It was also quite a scenic course starting downton and heading east towards the water and going along the coast and through Fisherman's Wharf. We also went up to Golden Gate bridge and back down towards Golden Gate State Park.  It was all really pretty yet foggy and drizzly.  This is actually my favorite running weather since it keeps me cool and I am able to maintain a steady pace.  Somewhere in GG State Park, the half marathon people take a right and off the go to the finish. IT WAS AWESOME. I swear 80% of the people were gone and all of a sudden it became a really enjoyable race.  I had been stuck behind chicks walking the hills in crazy bottle necks that I did not appreciate and I must confess I threw a couple punches... well, not really, but let's just say it was hard to keep my elbows close to my body. 

Around mile 15 or 16 we ran close to the finish area and it seemed cool to be able to call it a day, but I was feeling strong and obviously didn't want to end up doing what I did in Denver.  I kept going.  The next few miles felt amazing.  I was going at a very comfortable pace and was super happy cause it looked like it was uphill so I was stoked!  Once we got off the coast we had to go around a lake which seemed endless.  It had ups and downs, but I was right on track with my goal time.  I just didn't feel like giving up.  Once back on the coast and on the last stretch to the finish, I could feel how my legs were shutting down.  That's always a crappy feeling... but after all I've been through this year, I now realize how much stronger my mind is and I'm still able to tell my legs to keep going.  I must confess... right after mile marker 25 I walked for exactly 60 seconds, and then kept going.  It was a nice little break.  Before I had time to think about it, I was at mile marker 26, but surprisingly couldn't see the finish.  Then 26.2 and I had reached my goal of 4:20:00, hitting 26.2 in 4:16:42, but... where was the damn finish line?!??  I kept running, OH! There it is.  Crossed the finish (that was 26.65 miles from the start) in 4:20:37, so I'll call it good.  No, scratch that, I'll call it PERFECT.  

Happy Finisher!
Of course, the treat of the day, firefighters greeting you at the finish with a Tiffany necklace in silver platters.  Could a girl ask for more?  Nope, this girl was happy.  

This girl LOVES Tiffany swag!  :) 
And of course.. nothing like cruising SF after a morning jog... 

Lombard St.