It takes courage to be confident. You have to be daring enough to say yes to the unknown, knowing that you might “succeed” or “fail”. It’s the courage to step out of your comfort zone that leads to confidently engaging in the world….
Journal Entry: February 16, 2018 Capitol Reef (Unedited from entry)
This is what I love. To be on some strange 4x4 road, overgrown with grasses, searching out a place to rest my head for the night. I walked through the desert rock abyss until 4:30pm, the sun drifting behind the sandstone. I am out here all alone, not a soul around, and no where in sight to camp for the night. I jump in my car with just little nerves fluttering within. Will I find the place, that idealistic, magical place that is away from others, feels secure, and has a view for dinner and coffee? I lucked out today. Happened upon some very old BLM road and went for it. the road hardly visible to the naked eye, left over tracks from long ago. The sun setting quickly behind me, I gun it and search for any small clearing. I see nothing for five minute, ten minutes, and then fifteen minutes I find it -- one small block of sandstone unearthed at an arroyo. The perfect size for my car and I to slide into (without crushing any crypto!).
I am quite comfortable alone in the wilderness and I get nervous. It's funny to reflect that I was just stopping any movement every time I heard a sound. I don't get the jitters about mountain lions or critters but about people. I keep listening for noises - is that a car? I stop moving, silence. No, it is just a plane, high overhead. There are a lot of planes. Taking in my surroundings, I remember I am safe, far from much of anything, and I breathe as I sit to take in the full sunset. So, my nerves are there and that’s one of the many reasons I love doing this. To stretch my comfort, my limits. To get a little scared and feel that thrill of the blood pumping through my veins.
I sit here in silence. Not even a bird singing, just the sound of my puffy swaying on the page as I write. It’s... well it’s indescribable. The only place I can find this peace (once my unnecessary nerves subside) is in the wild, be it car camping on BLM land or walking deep into wilderness. This is what I am. This view. The rocks. The silence. The indescribable feeling.
This feeling brings me back to what I am meant to do, to connect people (myself included) deeper to themselves, one another, and the natural world, for the sake of protecting these places, these experiences. It is rooted in everything I do, from my career, to adventure, to who I spend time with. It’s why I support people to connect deeper to themselves by connecting deeper with the natural world. It is about loving these special places and protecting them in the long run. It's these wild places, be it the desert, plains, oceans, or the mountains, that we, yes we, can all see, hear, taste, smell and touch the wonders of ourselves and the world around us. And I hope it gives others what it gives me, an overwhelming sense of who I truly am and what I want to fight for.
[What do you want to fight for?]
Friday morning I call my friend Sammy, hoping to convince her not to work and go climb with me Saturday. The conversation jumps from our climbing mission the following Tuesday at the Davis Face, to jewelry making, sleep deprivation, and then to her deciding if she is still running this Half Marathon she is signed up for. I jokingly respond, "well, if I had a free entry to the marathon I would totally do it with you." Well, turns out, her dad was signed up for the race, wasn't feeling well, and maybe I could take his spot. And, that was it, the flood gates opened and BAM - just 18 hours before the race began, I was signed up to run my first half marathon at the Aspen Backcountry Marathon.
And did I mention, the most I have ever run in my life was somewhere around 8 miles (years ago), and the most recent run, about a month prior, was a solid 3 mile run on Avalanche Creek Trail. So yeah, no training, my body completely unprepared, AND I was amped as could be! I prepped as much as I could, bought compression socks, body glide, and a single packet of Skratch from Independence Run and Hike in Carbondale. Then I ate pasta, went to bed early, woke up at 6am and ate two eggs. Totally ready (the sarcasm is heavy).
Saturday morning 8:30am, Sammy and I were jazzed on coffee with bright compression socks styled high, jumping around at the start line. The count down begins and the runners are off - we let them all go, back of the pack was our starting track. The first few miles were great, downhill and chill. We hike/run up Sunnyside Trail, pass the first checkpoint. I am already thirsty, the electrolyte water (that I had never tried before) was sweet and a little nauseating but I kept drinking it. We bounced along, chatting and laughing, passing folks here and there. At the top of climb I tell Sammy to crush it and keep going. My pace was slower and I am definitely not in the same running shape. She cruises along, me belching in the background and asking myself why in the world I am running.
I get to an aid station, somewhere around mile 8 or so, my mouth parched and craving water. I dump out the half consumed Skratch, fill up my bottle with water, down a good gulp, and keep going. I get up to the crest of the hill, lodge pole pines and arnica flowers just basking in the sun, then it hits me. My stomach drops, I have to go to the bathroom, immediately. The lodge poles and aspen trees were not offering much seclusion, I jump off trail go over a little hill, search for leaves, and relieve myself. My GI tract was livid. The electrolyte water, no training, and dehydration pushed me to my edge. A solid ten minutes passed as I could hardly move, let alone stand up without the aching need to squat back to the earth. It finally passed. I got up, took a deep breath, and continued running.
The rest of the run was a downhill trot to town, running through the high grasses of Hunter Creek. My stomach still weak but better, I started to feel my hamstrings tighten and my feet ache as I passed the last aid station. Less than three miles to go. Running, pushing my body to the limit, it really is a mind over matter situation. My body rejected me, stomach and legs, AND I was determined to finish - hoping to finish under 3:30. I pushed myself down the trail, on to the Rio Grande and as I cross over the bridge I can see the finish line.
Rounding the corner, not even 200 yards from the finish, my body tests me again. As if it was a waterfall of lactic acid through my body, my feet cramp, then my calves, then my adductors. My legs are tight and all I can think is -- oh great, I am going to be that person who crawls through the finish. Mind over matter. I pushed through. Cross the finish line, still running, and go directly to Sammy who is all smiles, no sweat, and cheering me on! I stop, gasping and wanting to vomit. But, I did it. I got there in 3:21, just a bit under my randomly picked time.
To say the least, the Aspen Backcountry Marathon was an overall amazing experience. I am not a runner, I like to go out on short jaunts to clear my head, and running 13 miles was never on my radar. It is nice to know I could do it sin training, and it peaks my interest to know what it would be like if I did train. Some suggestions for people who decide last minute to run a Half with no training: 1) don't try electrolyte mixes as your only hydration source for the first time 2) Compression socks are awesome 3) Drink water 4) Maybe don't decide last minute and actually train a bit.
I am glad I did it. Experienced it and witnessed myself through it all. And I am glad I kept going, despite my GI tracts plea of rest.
Adventure. It's defined many different ways by many different people. I mean, I can define adventure in a different way throughout the course of one day. Adventure can be an epic journey into the high country, conquering a mountain peak, or a short walk by the river. Shoot, an adventure can be meeting someone new and connecting, getting to know one another. I love adventure -- on any scale and at any level. Adventure is like the beat of my heart - it keeps me going, it exhilarates my whole being, it literally and metaphorically pumps my blood.
I was recently ill for the whole month of April. Out. Laid up in bed for days at a time. I would feel healthy again, go outside, try to have a little adventure and BAM - in bed again for a whole day. It was a challenge for me. A challenge to just chill, relax, and not to push it. No skiing. No running. No biking. Hardly any yoga. Once May came around and I was feeling better I wanted to jump back in full force. Bike, ski, run... I wanted it all. I had to SLOW DOWN, remind myself to ease back in, and enjoy the simple adventures.
So over two weeks I eased back in. A short trail run in the red dirt, clouds drifting above and flowers blossoming. An "epic" mountain bike date that ended with me pushing my bike up the trail, in the dark, exhausted and cold. A hike up my favorite trail, overlooking Mount Sopris - a constant inspiration. And two days of climbing, thanks to a close friend who supported and pushed me to get back on the rock and face some heavy fears rooted deep in my psyche from a climbing fall last year.
And just this Saturday, I got my yearly ski up that inspirational mountain that looms high above Carbondale in all its glory. A six mile hike and skin to the peak of Mount Sopris at 12,996ft, with four other amazing women. A perfect 29th birthday celebration for Courtney. It was grueling, yet so satisfying. My body, strong yet not as strong as it was. We started the morning around 5am at the trailhead, coffee streaming through our veins, hooting and hollering before we began our trek up. Skis and boots strapped to our back, we hiked for just under two miles to the overlook meadow. The sun rising, beaming behind the Holy Cross Wilderness ridgeline, illuminated Sopris peak in a pink hue.
Leaving our shoes behind we started to skin through the woods, over minimal dirt patches, up to Thomas Lakes. Playing a game of leap frog with two guys heading up, we passed the trees and into the Thomas Lakes Bowl. Just slick and steep enough that ski crampons would have been helpful (Kendall was crushing with those crampons). But at least falling is entertaining, if not momentarily terrifying that one might slide all the way down the pitch.
About half way up the bowl my legs started giving way. This was definitely the most activity I had done in weeks, like 5 weeks. Especially after two days of rock climbing. I'd go about twenty steps and bam, my quads would seize up. Harnessing by breathe I would stop, slow my breathing, moan, and after a few moments do it again. Every twenty to fifty steps, I would stop. Aching. I felt like I was birthing a child through my legs. Intense. Once to the ridge I stretched, ate some salts, and layered up to stay warm from the howling winds. We cruised up the ridge to the summit. Cider and birthday cake to celebrate the birthday girl and reaching the summit! All worth it. No matter my quads thoughts.
The ski down was so delightful! Spring corn, a pocket of fresh turns, and four other magnificent women smiling as each cruised down. A party ski down the "best backcountry blue" and then to seriously wrap up the ski - Courtney crushed a backcountry pond skim. We skied out to our shoes, packed up, ski pants off, and hiked back to the car, chatting about how we take care of our hair and onward to brunch. It was a true adventure. And better yet, it was a lady adventure. Thats a whole different category!
I realized every moment can be an adventure as long as I keep my eyes open and notice what I am experiencing, how it is impacting me, what it is showing me. I am interwound in my adventures.
Adventure is what I make of it. Sometimes things don't go as planned, sometimes my body might come to a dead halt, sometimes I might push for more, taking myself to my limit. And what I am realizing is no matter what happens it really is all an adventure. Life is full of momentary adventures, be it a 6 hour journey up and down a mountain, an afternoon of climbing, a blind date, being sick for a month, or a daring conversation with a loved one. It's those moments that bring out the truth, allowing me to discover who I am -- my core values, my fears, my truths, and my joys. Adventure is my beating heart.