It’s all about perspective. 26.2 miles. That’s far, right?

Well, depends. If you are flying in a plane, then 26.2 miles is a blink of an eye.  If you are driving, 26.2 miles is a short commute. If you are riding a bike, well, then that is a good mid-distance ride. If you are an ultrathoner, meaning you run 50 and 100 mile races, then 26.2 is just a warm up.  For me, 26.2 is a far distance. It has been decided. I should know, I just ran it on Saturday, September 8th, 2012. Which just happened to be my 31st trip around the sun – aka my birthday.

I signed up for the marathon back in March. I am not quite sure what compelled me to even search one out, but I did, and when I saw the Mid-Mountain Marathon (a single track trail marathon on the mid-mountain trail in Park City, UT) being hosted on Saturday September 8th I figured that it was a sign. I must do it. Right then and there, sitting in my ski boots, gear and all and sitting on the sunny deck in front of Goldminer’s Daughter at Alta, I registered for that marathon. By-golly I was going to set it in stone and make it happen. That was March. And I was doing this…

…running wasn’t even in my zip code of thoughts. But eventually, as it does every year, the earth rotates around the sun and the tilt of the axis brings us out of winter and spring and into summer.

I started the running season by doing a few trail runs with my friends Wynn and Lesli Shooter who were training for the Zion 50 miler, which I blogged about here.  I very quickly, and probably too quickly, started running long distances with them – 10 to 15 mile distances. This is not to say I wasn’t in shape. I skied all winter and Cross-fitted all winter too. But running is different. It uses different muscles and puts demands on different parts of your body. I think all in all I would have been fine with this speedy start and quick jump in mileage if it weren’t for a run on the Pipeline one chilly morning with Wynn, Lesli and Matt Schrier in which I rolled my left ankle – HARD! And not just once, but twice. Then I continued to run on it for, oh, I don’t know, another 9 miles. Probably not the smartest move…

I ended up dealing with the effects of that injury (which had translated into a bad case of the IT Band ouchie’s) and having to seek out a few weeks of PT with my friend Collin just before the marathon. Throughout the summer I thought my IT band was fine, then it would flare up again, and then go away, and then come back. I had a couple of trips at the end of July and beginning of August that I used as a chance to not run and let my IT band rest. That didn’t help. So I sought out the assistance of Collin and his elbow. He does a style of massage as part of the PT, called Rolfing. Google it. Let’s just say, this isn’t your “feel good” rub down. This is re-organizing the small tissues and cells with deep, deliberate and painful pressure. Let’s also just say that the IT band is one of the most painful parts to have worked on in the Rolfing world. In our 30 minute sessions I would just lay on my side, take deep breaths and try and find a quiet happy place. Sometimes I had to scream out and say, “NO MORE!”  If it weren’t for the fact that I gained such relief when I ran from these painful session, I never would have gone back for a second one!

So where was I??

Oh, yeah, August. All of these session with Collin, coupled with some longer runs on sections of the Mid-Mountain trail on my Saturdays meant that this marathon thing was actually going to happen. It was going to go down.

Side note: I have always hated running.

So why in the hell was I doing this to myself?  Well, I never liked running for time or for conditioning for any of my sports. I was never that great at it and felt that it was a chance for coaches to see a weakness in me, when I am otherwise a very talented athlete – just not at endurance running.  But since I have moved West and found trails to run on, and pretty vistas, and friends who like to just be out running in nature, I have realized running isn’t so bad, I just don’t care about my time. Sure I have goals, but they are realistic for me. I don’t run 7 minute miles. I run 10 minute miles and I am okay with that. So there.

The days to the marathon kept getting closer. And my IT band kept feeling good. Shit – I actually had to do this.  Just kidding. I really wanted to make it happen, otherwise I wouldn’t have paid for all those PT sessions out of pocket.

There were a number of folks running the Mid-Mountain that I knew and I was psyched to have some familiar faces for race day.

Race day morning arrived. The world didn’t end or stop spinning or anything wacky. The sun came up just like every other day. But not before my 5 am alarm went off, reminding me that I needed to get up, eat, drink coffee, poop and walk out the door. In that order.

Stephen would be driving me up and dropping me off at the start and then would meet me at the end.

I guess instead of boring you with all the details of the time between when I pooped (this is important stuff people) and when we walked out the door, till when the race started, I will just jump right into the RACE START.

Standing with a few of my friends at the Start, high fives and good lucks exchanged (and I got a few Birthday wishes), the race begin. We were afoot. A very small section of it went on the road around the Silver Lake Lodge at Deer Valley Resort, before it picked up the Mid-Mountain trail. I set off on a pace I was happy with and stuck with it to the finish. THE END.

Hahaha, just kidding.  I am trying hard to figure out what to write about the race. I want to try and capture it so I can read about it in the future and remember what exactly went down on my 31st Birthday.

So i decided to break it down by groups of miles:

Miles 1-10:  These miles went as expected. Not too difficult and on a section of the trail I had run a few times during training.  People were so stacked up on the single track that it was difficult to get around people moving slow in front of you. But there were opportunities and I did pass a few folks. During this first 10 miles I ran everything – every little hill or incline and every descent. There’s a section that opens out to some switch backs criss-crossing some of the ski runs on Park City Mountain Resort, and here was one of the 3 places I tripped and fell. This was common. The trails are rocky and uneven and littered with roots in places. Luckily I only skidded into the grasses off to the right of the trail, and onto my right side. With any injury or wounds, I quickly got up, dusted off and started running again. I saw some of my friends below me on the switch-backs, making their way down and around. We waved and cheered each other on. Every 30 minutes I pulled out a Gel or Gu pack and ate and drank my water. I had to keep up with my eating and drinking to be able to finish this thing. You can’t get behind. At mile 10 the trail starts to make its way around Iron Mountain.  I started to get passed by chains of runners. Groups who where men and women (most in the late 30’s and 40’s) and running as a group. They probably trained together too. Who knows? I let them pass. Kept my mental toughness and tried to keep up with their chain.

Miles 10-15: These miles were TOUGH. As the Mid-Mountain trail traverses around Iron Mountain it encounters very rugged terrain.  Scree slopes and talus, and lots and lots of rocks and roots -so abundant that in some sections you couldn’t really run, you just had to quickly step your way through them and try and make it across with out rolling an ankle or catching your foot on a rock.  Some weren’t so lucky.  As I was following some of these chains of runners through these tough sections I had to slow down even more. My left leg (IT band) was starting to tighten and I just felt like I needed to take it easy, and get through this with out a major disaster.  There was an aid station in here, right around mile 10. It was tucked into a tight spot in the woods. I didn’t stop. I just kept on moving, ate another Gel and drank my water, knowing I would fill up at the next aid station.  So round and down we went. Getting on the back side of Iron Mountain put me at about 13.5 miles in. I was starting to have stomach problems. The Gels weren’t settling well in my stomach. I had a few moments where I thought I was going to vomit. But I held it down and kept moving. At this point too, I started to feel the first signs of cramping in my legs. They were getting lactic acid build up and I needed to keep drinking water. I took one of my salt tablets at this point and in another few miles I ate a Gu that had caffeine in it that really seemed to help. Don’t get me wrong. I was still in a mentally and physically compromised state, but those two things helped keep me moving. The mile 15 sign was posted at a junction between the trail and private road that winds through The Canyons Resort. I had gotten through Park City and now just had to traverse and descend The Canyons. No big deal right?
I should take a moment and tell you that the trail was really quite beautiful. The day and weather couldn’t have been more perfect. A high of 72 degrees, sunny and blue skies. The leaves are changing up in the higher elevations and when I took a moment here or there during the race to check out the view I realized it was a nice day, and here I was suffering. HA! I won’t lie. This race wasn’t exactly “fun”. I didn’t have a smile on my face and wasn’t jumping around like a little school girl. It was tough. And it took all of my concentration to stay mentally tough to finish. So, I didn’t really take in the view and enjoy it – despite the fact that it was otherwise a perfect fall day.

Miles 16-19:  These next set of miles are a blur and hard for me to remember what was going on. My legs were really cramping at this point and the trail was crossing many road junctions and the aid stations were filled with very cheery people that wanted to offer you things and yet nothing sounded good. The other tough thing, and something I didn’t like about this race, was that the mileage for it wasn’t marked put in a couple places. The aid stations that were listed on the website were “approximate locations” and then come race day there were fewer stations than mentioned and they didn’t seem like they were all in the right places. This made it tough to know where I was in the race.  At this point I had made a pseudo friend on the trail. There was this girl that I kept leap frogging in the previous section. We kept giving each other the thumbs up as we passed each other from time to time (there were times in the previous set of miles that I had to walk). After going through the aid station at mile 17, her and I started chatting. I said, “I am ready for this thing to be over”. And she agreed. She said her legs had been cramping since mile 6! So I gave her one of my salt tablets and told her it should help. She took it and then inquisitively asked me if it was my birthday today?  I said, yes. And she admitted that she over heard me talking to some folks in the lodge, pre-race. She wished me a happy birthday and said she thought it was a pretty cool thing to do on your birthday. I said, “Cool, or crazy?”  After that exchange I said, “Let’s keep moving”. We walked and hiked and ran and hiked the slow inclines and ran the flats, and just kept moving. The trail was slowing switch backing through sections of wooded lots and passing under chair lifts on the Canyons Resort.  There was a moment when the trail, after so more climbing, flattened and a small footbridge crossed a little spring. On the other side of the bridge was a small bench. This is the only time I sat down during the race, but I sat on that bench and rest my legs and caught my breath for 30 secs to a minute before I could get up and start moving again. It actually helped a lot to stop for that brief moment. I had another surge over energy, ate another caffeine infused Gu and kept moving. After climbing up few another couple miles the trail dumps out at a mid-mountain lodge on the Canyons Resort. This was aid station mile 19, and it was going off!  There was loud music playing and the volunteers were in costumes and there were a few friends and family members of runners that had ridden the lift up to see their loved ones go through this aid station. At this stage in the game, I had resorted to eating my Shot Blocks instead of the Gels because the Gels weren’t going down so easily. So at this aid station I actually stopped longer than to just fill up my water bottle. I ate a few gummy bears and a small slice of banana and then set off. As I walked away from this aid station, 2 small girls with colorfully decorated signs came running in my general direction. The older girl’s sign said, “We are so proud of you Daddy. We love you”. And I saw out of the corner of my eye a man who was making his way over to hug his daughters. At this moment, I broke down crying. I kept hiking up the short steep hill out of this aid station, but with tears streaming down my face. The emotion was overwhelming, and my mental toughness was wavering. I told myself that I needed to dry it up and keep moving. This wasn’t over yet. I wiped up my tears and trudged on. I knew Stephen was waiting at the finish line and I couldn’t wait to see him.

Miles 20-21: This short section consisted of the last bit of ascent before the descent. Sections of it were open and hot and dry. I knew there was a steep hill out of aid station 21 and I just wanted to get there, hike it and get it over with. Because on the back side of that is the descent. I am good at running down hill. I knew I would be able to run and run fast. So I was looking forward to getting to that point, because like I said, my mental toughness was wearing off and I needed to be able to start making up some time. I got to this 21 aid station, had another piece of banana, at a couple of Shot Blocks and started hiking and drinking water. I threw an electrolyte tablet (lime flavor) in my water and guzzled it. I had to…the cramping in my legs was about to become severe. And this helped. About 10 minutes later I could feel the electrolytes working. But back to the hill. I climbed that hill and when I got to the top I stopped. The single track cut off to the right and I could see the descent starting. I took a really deep breath and let the two ladies that were behind me go ahead. They set off and I followed. Now about 100 yards into this descent I had a problem. Don’t want to get too detailed here, but I had to pull off the trail and take care of some lady business. Yes, you guessed it, I was dealing with Aunt Flow for this Marathon and had to make a little sanitary change at this stage in the game. I almost lost it. Here I was, tired, hot, cramping, and on the side of a hill changing my tampon. I couldn’t believe it… “Stay strong Abbey”. I just kept saying that over and over again.  I took care of business (don’t worry I packed it out in a zip-lock baggie I had) climbed up out of the steep, shrubby slope I was on, and hit the trail running. Time to get a move on!

Miles 22-26.2: The DESCENT! It was finally here. I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. Fortunately the trail not only descends, but it finds its way down through pine and aspen on the shady side of the ridge line. Hallelujah!! I started moving faster and just kept at it. I felt okay. I wasn’t hot. I was fairly well-hydrated by this point but still feeling a bit of cramps in my legs. I was maybe a little low on calories, but I had gravity on my side. There was one more full aid station tucked away in the woods at about mile 22.5. The guys were super positive and fed me and told me to just keep moving. So I did.  The trail comes around the east side of the ridge, a bit open and exposed before tucking away again on the west side in the shade. Almost exactly at the junction of this cross over I saw a girl stopped on the side of the trail stretching. I took my eyes off the trail for a moment and totally rolled my left ankle! Agh! I couldn’t believe it… I knew if I kept moving it might be okay and to not slow down and hobble on it because that usually makes it worse. About a mile of the trail after this cruises straight down through Aspen trees on a fairly clear and fast single track. I was making some time up here!  Then the trail bends back around the ridge line and finds its way back to the east slope and in the open, hot air. But it was as I came around this corner that I could see the Finish line. I could see and hear the end! It was about 1.5-2 mile descent from here and I just flew. I went as fast as I could, as safe as I could, but found myself tripping and falling into the hillside one last time before the race was over. Thankfully, again, I only got a bit dirty, no scrapes or major dings. Just a small scratch on my hand. I got up, dusted off, and took off running again. The trail switch backs some as it makes its way down to the final dirt road descent. The switch backs seemed to never end. I thought for sure that as I rounded that last bend it would be the last one until I was spit out on to the dirt road – well, I thought that  few times before it came true. As we came out (with the  other runners I had been with for the last 6 miles) onto the road, there was one last aid station (just water). I passed it up and the gal that was running behind me had some friends who were standing there and cheering her on. A steep hill before us gave me a bit of a fright, but I hiked it and she “ran” it and when we got to the top she had some more friends waiting for her. She stopped running and said her legs were cramping and she couldn’t run. I looked at her and said, “Come on, let’s finish this thing out”. We high fived and ran in that last .5 mile sort of together. She ended up finishing in front of me, but she finished running and that made me smile.  As I crossed the finish line I saw a few of my friends who ran it and had already finished and were there cheering me on. The time read 5:03. I had planned on doing it in 5 hours, so I pretty much met my mark. As soon as I went past the Finish Line the tears started flowing. They put a medal around my neck and handed my a cold wet towel with ice in it. I looked up and saw Stephen and went to him and just kept crying. I was so happy to be done. I was so proud of myself for finishing and staying tough. I was so relieved to be at the end and I was so incredibly happy to see him, the love of my life, standing there at the finish line waiting for me!

Now I can get one of those stickers that says 26.2 and put it on my car. It was all worth it. Just for the sticker.

The end.

I can’t write any more.

That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it.

(Writing this blog post was exhausting. It was like running the marathon all over again).

P.S. I have decided I am more of a middle-distance runner. Or as Stephen called me, the Middle Distance Maven.

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~Big Hearts~

It’s with gentle reminders

that we see the way

we want it to be.

No matter how we hope

or pray

or wish,

we are the only ones

who can make it

the way

we want it to be.

With big hearts we can.

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Back to Ohio

Apparently there is a song by The Pretenders…

I went back to Ohio
but my city was gone
there was no train station
there was no downtown
south Howard had disappeared
all my favorite places
my city had been pulled down
reduced to parking spaces
A, ,O way to go Ohio

Well I went back to Ohio
but my family was gone
I stood on the back porch
there was nobody home
I was stunned and amazed
my childhood memories
slowly swirled past
like the wind through the trees
A, O, oh way to go Ohio

I went back to Ohio
but my pretty countryside
had been paved down the middle
by a government that had no pride
the farms of Ohio
had been replaced by shopping malls
and music filled the air
from Seneca to Cuyahoga Falls
said, A, O, oh way to go Ohio

Chrissy Hynde (of The Pretenders) wrote this song (actually titled “My City Was Gone” and often referred to as “The Ohio Song” ) about the singer returning to her childhood home of Akron, Ohio and discovering that rampant development and pollution had destroyed the once “pretty countryside” of her youth.

The interesting thing about this all is that a coworker of mine mentioned this song and the first few lines of it about a year ago when I mentioned I was going back to Ohio for a visit. Unfortunately I was an utter disappointment to him because I had no idea what he was referencing.

He said, “The Pretenders? Chrissy Hynde?”  Nope. Didn’t ring a bell. I kind of let the whole thing go and never checked into this “Ohio song” he kept referring to every single time I mentioned going back to Ohio – until just now.

So as I mentioned in a previous post, my last trip to Ohio was really special and was probably one of the best trips back to Ohio I have had in a long time. As I pondered on this feeling I tried to put merit to it and figure out the root and the cause of why this was. Why did I feel this way about this trip to Ohio?  What was so different about it?  Is it a factor of this time in my life?  Meaning, I am in a very happy, comfortable and joyful time in my life. Would this affect my willingness to be more open to a good experience of going back to Ohio for a visit?  Yes, I think this definitely contributed to the general sensation that was building in me.  But it was more than that.  There was more to this  sensation. Time to dig deeper.

A couple days ago I replied to a comment my Dad had made on my previous post, about this very feeling. But I felt my reply didn’t exactly capture what it was I was feeling. I found myself wanting to put into words this sensation I had about Ohio and this fairly new realization that I had come to about my birth place.

That’s when I decided to at least look into this song by The Pretenders and see what it was all about.  Once I read over the lyrics it became clear to me just exactly what had grabbed my attention during this last trip to Ohio – unlike Chrissy’s experience of going back to Ohio (to Akron) where her city had been altered so dramatically, and farms were replaced with pavement, and back porch landscapes were gone – my experience different.

It was better and here’s why:

The air was hot and sticky, the crickets performed in stereo, there were corn fields as far as the eye could see and there was a quietness of the countryside that I found comforting in contrast to the city life I live in now. There is a nostalgia to those sounds of country living.  The hum of the humid air. The rumble of a combine rolling down a country road. The sound of the wind dancing through the corn. I chased my nieces down the driveway, sipped whiskey with my cousins around the fire in my parents backyard, and felt the love of a place I used to call home.

OH, and the nostalgia of a right-proper Ohio thunderstorm. I was blessed to witness a spectacular thunderstorm the last night I was in Ohio. As the rain poured down and thunder and lightning struck outside the Wedding Reception Hall, I kept finding myself drawn outside. I wanted to see it and feel it. I mean really feel it. If I hadn’t thought everyone standing and watching the storm would think I was crazy, I would have gone running through the rain. We don’t get storms like that in Utah.

In this rural part of Ohio things were still as they had been for years and I appreciated it.  The moment of realization came at an odd time. I stepped out of my parents shower (a moment of solace in an otherwise hectic and family-filled weekend), and peered out the window to the corn fields on the west side of their home, and for just one moment I thought to myself, “I could live in a place like this”. And what that meant to me was this: that, I, for the first time ever, appreciated my home, where I grew up, for exactly what it is.

I don’t go back to Ohio in the summertime, mostly in the winter, which isn’t the prettiest time to be in Ohio.  And I have A LOT of fond memories from summers in Ohio. Catching lightning bugs. Spending the entire day at the pool. Playing hide and seek in the corn fields. Sitting in the screened in porch and watching thunderstorms roll in and then the lightning show! Drinking cold lemonade on the back porch with my sister, in the hot sticky air. Playing games of  capture-the-flag in the creek behind my house. Listening to the crickets lull me to sleep at night as I lay on top of my sheets, with the windows open and the hot breeze whispering through the trees outside my window. Summer was a magical time for me, and this last trip to Ohio helped me realize all of that. The memories were plenty and great, and I feel so fortunate to finally arrive at a time and place in my life where I can appreciate Ohio and the childhood it gave me!

In sticking with this lyrical theme, one of my FAVORITE bands of all time is a band called Over The Rhine. They are from Cincinnati, Ohio and borrowed their band name from an area in Cincinnati called The Rhine. They are a married couple, who the husband happens to be related to the wife of Nathan Gundy, a high school friend of mine. They make beautiful music, Lyn writes most of the lyrics and plays the piano and Karen sings. They have this entire album entitled “Ohio” and one of the songs on it goes like this:

Hello Ohio, the back roads
I know Ohio, like the back of my hand
Alone Ohio, where the river bends
And it’s strange to see your story end

In my life I’ve seen a thousand dreams
Through the threshers all torn to pieces
And the land lay bare someone turned a profit there
And a good son lost his life in a strip pit

Hello Ohio, the back roads
I know Ohio, like the back of my hand
Alone Ohio, where the river bends
And it’s strange to see your story end

When the sun went down we would all leave town
And light our fires in the Egypt Bottom
And the reservoir was just as good for Joni
‘Cause we knew we would dream out loud in the night air

Holly said, “Don’t go inside the children’s home”
Mary said, “Don’t leave your man alone”
Valerie was singin’ to the radio, Ohio

It was summertime in ’83
We were burnin’ out at the rubber tree
Yeah, I’m wonderin’ what in the world
Would make all this worthwhile
And if I knew then I was older then
Would I see regret to the last mile

Hello Ohio, the back roads
I know Ohio, like the back of my hand
Alone Ohio, where the river bends
And it’s strange to see your story end

How I hate to see your story end
It’s so sad to see your story end

It is one of the most beautiful songs I have ever heard, and I had the pleasure of seeing them live in Salt Lake 3 years ago and hearing Karen sing this song.   When I was just back in Ohio for my cousin’s wedding, we attended the rehearsal dinner in a neighboring town, Ottawa.  The best way to get there is back roads, and it had been a long time since I had traveled those roads from Bluffton to Ottawa (like since I was a teenager and heading there to go to parties…shhh, don’t tell my parents). I wasn’t sure if I would remember how to get there, but as it turns out those backroads haven’t changed, and I knew them like the back of my hand.

Oh Ohio. You will always be special to me.

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Blogging stallout

I have not blogged. In a few weeks. Sometimes it seems so daunting, when life is so busy, to try and capture “it all”. To sit down, and try and be creative and write something that others may enjoy reading. But that is no excuse, as I was told. So this one is for you Stephanie.

It’s time to pick up where I left off.  This blog will be a bunch of blogs rolled into one. Sounds fun right? In summary since my last post (over a month ago), here is what has happened:

1. Stephen had a birthday – it was July 17th and we celebrated! Just for the record, in case you all didn’t know, which I am sure you do, but I will just put it out there and quit stalling… I love this man so much!

Stephen’s mother, Lisa, came to Salt Lake the weekend just prior to Stephen’s birthday and we had a lovely time eating and catching up and celebrating. She arrived Friday evening and we went out for dinner at one of the best new restaurants in town, which happens to be 2 blocks from our house. It’s called Finca, and its FABULOUS. They make this grilled pork chop over a woodfired grill, that is like 4 inches thick and served up with this citrus chimchurri oil sauce. It is truly one of the best things I have ever eaten.  We have eaten at Finca a couple times now, and for good reasons!

Saturday, Lisa and I went to the Downtown Salt Lake Farmer’s Market. The market has only continued to grow and grow and grow since I first moved here. Each year there are more booths and better looking veggies and fruit and wonderful handmade crafts. This year, the market has actually organized musicians who want to play for money during the Market (“buskers”).  They have to apply and are given a spot at the market to set up. This particular Saturday showcased 2 girls playing Suzuki music on their violins (Lisa is trained at the highest level in Suzuki and loved this); 2 young kids (maybe 7-9 years old) playing a small guitar and the other was on a “drumset” of tupperware! The last (and my favorite) was a hipster playing his old, worn out, stripped down, pulled-on-a-trailer-behind his bike, piano. There were broken keys and dusty surfaces, but the guy could play. He was playing a classical piano piece and it was a really interesting scene…

That night for dinner, we went out to Nuch’s. A wonderful little Italian restaurant that Stephen’s friend’s dad owns. Collin, LeeAnn and their newborn Clara joined us. As well as Stephen’s good friend and old house mate, Ben Attridge. It was a pretty scrumptious dinner and Lisa, being the kind hearted woman she is, treated us ALL to dinner that night. Thanks Lisa. You are a generous mother.

2. I went to San Diego, CA for work – I went to San Diego for a geo-nerd conference – the ESRI International Conference.  San Diego is a fantastic city! I ate too much sushi, drank too much sake, oh and learned a thing or two while I was there. The Conference is a great place to network and meet  face to face with folks that I talk to over the phone or via email on various projects – that part of it was very useful. The session, eh, they aren’t always so informative or great. But I will tell you what was great. I got to eat a Chubby’s Burger and do a WOD at Invictus CrossFit. The Conference had a Food Truck court set up outside for the first 2 days. It was so awesome to see the ESRI International Conference Signs directing you to the Food Trucks outside. When I got there I was blown away:  they were set up right on the bay and there were about 8 trucks. There was music playing and tables with linens. I was excited to check out Chubby’s and I can tell you I wasn’t disappointed!

3. I went to Ohio for a wedding – My youngest cousin, Nathan Miller, got married in Bluffton, Ohio (my hometown) at First Mennonite Church (my church) to a lovely gal Janelle Kratky.  They look pretty darn happy about what they just did, don’t they?

The wedding was on Saturday August 4th, and my little niece, Carys, got to be one of the flower girls!  This trip to Ohio was one of the better ones I have ever had. And here’s why (at least why I think):  I got to travel with Carys from Denver to Columbus, OH and was her primary caregiver for about 2 days until my sister flew out. Travelling with her and getting to spend some quality time with her was awesome. She is a darn cute 4 year old and we had some special auntie/niece time.  4 year old’s are fun.

Carys waiting “patiently” to get on the plane to Ohio

Another reason it was special is that I got to spend some quality time with my cousin Kate and her family (Ava, Sophia and her husband Kevin). They moved into a nice big new house “out in the country”. I arrived with Carys to Columbus on Thursday August 2nd, and it was Kate’s birthday, so we got to celebrate her birthday with her (cupcakes and all).   Ava and Carys LOVE eachother and they were both bouncing off the walls waiting to get to spend some time together.  They play pretty well together, and are learning the meaning of “sharing”. Later in the weekend, they got to dress up pretty and walk down the aisle as flower girls. They did such a great job and were so darn cute.   Spending time with Kate and her family is important to me. Kate is like a sister and I feel very fortunate that I have had such a special connection with her for so many years.


As Nathan and Janelle danced their first dance together, Ava and Carys sat on the floor watching them. Just staring at them as if they were magical.

Carys posing for the camera as she always does, and Ava diligently eating her food, as she always does.

To sum up the other great things about the trip: I hugged my family. I laughed with my family. I danced with my family. I sipped bourbon with my cousins. I played with my nieces and nephew. I celebrated my nephew’s first birthday. I  saw a classic (an amazing) lighting and thunderstorm – Ohio-style. I watched the lightning storm with my sis and bro on our parents back deck. I got to see two of my cousins with their new boyfriend or girlfriend and see them truly happy. It warmed my heart!

My cousin Maggie and her new beau, Tom (a real keeper).

AND, above all I was happy. Genuinely and truly happy to be there and see all my family and watch as my cousin Nathan and his now-wife Janelle, entered a loving marriage.  That pretty much sums it up!

OH, and here was the real icing on the cake. There was a Photo Booth at the wedding reception. Talk about a real blast. I did one session with my sis and another one with my sis, and my two cousins (who are sisters) Maggie and Kate.

Thank you Family for being mine!

4. My tenants got on my nerves – I had to replace the dishwasher and dryer at my house for my tenants. They are needy and I don’t like being a landlord. I hope I can have enough patience to maybe stick it out another year beyond this one – I would really like to gain some more equity in that home. That home that I have such a love/hate relationship with.  I will assess where the market is next year when the lease runs out and figure out what my next move is.  Never wanted to be a landlord, but sometimes life serves you lemons and you just have to make lemon pie 😉 or something like that.

5. I had pizza for the first time in a long time!  And man was it delicious – and not Paleo. And I will tell you what – it totally knocked me out. I ended up falling asleep, rather unwillingly on the couch, while watching the Olympics. It’s interesting observing my body react to food that it hasn’t had to deal with or digest in a long time. All the more reason to stick to my Paleo!!

6. We started xeriscaping (aka landscaping) the backyard. Sunday we worked on it from about 9-5 and made some real headway!! It will look so great when it is done and will be such a lovely place to spend summer evenings. I am looking forward to how it will extend our “living space”.

About half of the yard is done. Actually more like 1/3. We still need to redo the deck and then build raised garden beds to go in the back corner of the yard, as well as lay sod in a small portion of the yard. Also in the works is a Sun Shade Sail that will hang over the patio and provide some shade during the hot summer days.
Here are a few examples of kind of what we are going for!  Should look really cool when it is all done!

red! sun shade sail

Patio Shade Sail

Whew. I think I am all blogged out. Other little tid bits have happened, but I think this covers the big ones. Stay tuned for more blogs. I hope to not have such a gap between them.  I am finding myself doing more on Instagram and really enjoying that. It’s kind of like a picture blog. Find me there as “altagirl”.

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The Notch – an epic adventure

Today was an epic adventure in the High Uinta Mountains. Being that it is nearly 100 degrees in the city we opted for a cooler environment, one with beautiful vistas, for a long trail run. Neither Stephen nor I have spent any real time in the Uinta Mountains.

Fun Fact: The Uinta Mountains are unusual for being the highest range in the contiguous United States running east to west. 

The last time we were in the Uintas was in the Fall of 2010, collecting firewood for the winter. We didn’t really get to do much exploring then, given that it was the end of October, flurries were in the air, and I was coming down with something (ended up being a pretty severe head cold).  Stephen was a true mans’ man and went back the next day to collect another trailer-load of firewood all by himself.  I think he was excited to use his new chainsaw 🙂

This past week, a good friend of mine spent the Fourth of July up at one of the MANY lakes in the Uintas (there are a ton of lakes up there. I have no idea how many, but on our adventure today we must have run past at least 10). I saw a few of her photos on Facebook and it just looked glorious. I knew right then and there that we need to get up into those mountains this weekend. I throw the idea out to Stephen and he was all in for a good adventure. We did some searching on The Google and decided on heading up the Mirror Lake Highway and turning off at one of the few spots that have trails leading up to The Notch. The Notch Mountain Trail allows you to visit over a dozen high mountain lakes, several meadows and to climb through the famous “Notch”. This is one of the most beautiful areas of the Uinta Mountains, I am just sure of it.


After heading east from Kamas, up Mirror Lake Highway, we turned off at Trial Lake and decided to start from there. Trial Lake is a great lake for fishing and hanging with the family. We got ready in the parking lot. Loaded up with water, gels, sunscreen, and bug spray. I had my race vest, which carries 50 oz. of water, and Stephen and I both carried a handheld water bottle which hold about 16 oz of water.

Okay. Roscoe is ready now. We can head out, around Trial Lake.

After we were all geared up and ready to go…it takes Roscoe FOREVER to get ready. We are always waiting on him in the parking lot and tellin’ him to hurry up. It’s like, sheesh dude. We’d like to get moving sometime today.

So after Roscoe is ready, then we head out. The trail heads west around Trial lake and then meanders up through the alpine. Its really quite beautiful. The trail is rocky though. Small boulders are littered throughout the trail. It makes for some very concentrated running. After we ascend for quite some time, we come to a pretty lake called Wall Lake. Probably the prettiest (in my opinion) of the entire run. See some pictures below.

Stephen helping Roscoe cool off. He throws rocks in the water and Roscoe is determined to “kill the splash”.

Do you see Roscoe??  He’s hiding…

The next series of pictures is a little series called “Roscoe the mountain lake monster”.

Did I mention the “mountain lake monster” is quite handsome?

After this lake we put heads down and finished the couple mile ascent up to “The Notch”. We passed a couple other hikers during our ascent.  By the time we got to “The Notch” I was so tired and the views so breathtaking I forgot to take a photo. I have included a photo below that I found here http://www.utahhikes.net/uintas/display14.html of the view from “The Notch”.

We took off from The Notch after a full breath could be taken and the view was burned into our retinas. The descent was fun. A cool and shady trail and no one else to be found for miles. At least until we reached the “bottom” of the descent. We stopped a small stream crossing to check the map and our progress. We had been out for about an hour and 45 minutes. The biting flies were really starting to get at us, so we take off, heading east on the trail. The trail that leads to Bald Mountain. Unfortunately either the flies were extra bad in that area, or just stopping for a bit allowed them to “find us” and I had several buzzing my head and totally driving me nuts. I was going so crazy that I actually lost track of my step and tripped on a rock and went flying toward the ground. Sunglasses and water bottle launched and I some how managed to just get a bit dirty (and a bit shaken). I hate tripping. Regardless of the fact that I wasn’t getting bit by any of the flies, they were certainly making the run less enjoyable. We were climbing a section that was pretty steep and very rocky and there was threat that I would tumble again. UGH!

A bit of disclosure is in order. When we started out on this run, we weren’t sure our route. We were going to either do an “out and back” or a loop. The loop, whichever one we chose, would definitely be a longer run. An “out and back” could be a bit more regulated. But at this point we were almost at a junction where it would be much more difficult to turn around and head back to Trial lake. Not because of the distance, but because of the climb back up to The Notch. I was already in the mindset to head out towards the Bald Mountain Trailhead, which would be a bit more of a flat trail. My legs and lungs were really burning at this time. And I knew we had about another 6 miles (at least) to get back to the car.

One foot in front of the other. That became my mantra. We had been out for about two and half hours at this point and I knew I just had to stay positive. Thankfully the flies dissipated, and the trail was lovely, and yet treacherous at times. Sometimes it was so rocky we really couldn’t run it. The only thing we could do was hike through it as fast as possible. Roscoe seemed to be doing great! He is so efficient, requiring very little water.

We finished out to the Bald Mountain TH. Sigh. Legs tired. And next up, about 3 miles of pounding pavement to finish our loop.  Roscoe did great, he ran next to us along the road as we descended to Trial Lake.  I was so glad to finally see the sign for Trial Lake. We got to the parking lot and then walked down to the lake and soaked our bones. It felt A-MAZ-ING.  After about 10 minutes of soaking, we headed back to the car. Changed clothes and cracked a post-run bevie!  It was such a beautiful day. I feel so blessed to have such a beautiful life. It was a bit of an epic day, but was worth it. We pushed ourselves pretty hard, but got to see some of the best that Utah has to offer.

The last stop in our Notch Adventure, of course, is none other than a visit to The Notch Pub for a beer, burger and fries.  I couldn’t finish all my fries so I took them out to Roscoe. He was hilarious – I put the pile of fries down in front of him and he tried to consume the entire pile in one bite. When he failed, he swallowed what he did have and then looked up at me, tail wagging and licked my face. I think that was a Thank You.

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