About Wheels

mantra: love people, cook them tasty food, love life! Scientist. Engineer. Daughter. Sister. Friend. Coffee snob. Ultra-runner. Skier. Cyclist. Cook. Beer snob. Dog-lover. Volunteer. A former midwesterner, I moved to Utah to play in the mountains and found so much more life waiting for me here.

That which sustains us, also destroys us.

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Photo Credit: Mark Lehmkuhle

It has been a long and wonderful few weeks out here.  My yard was dug up and held captive to the city’s contractors who took over it, my sanity, and my sprinkler system.  This led to me giving up any ambition of doing the “homeowner” fix everything at once state of mind and  along with pushing aside the dark cloud of work stress. I went running, played with the puppy, went biking, traveled with friends, traveled for work, ran with friends, rinse, repeat.  Mountains sustain and satisfy the soul.
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Photo Credit: Mark Lehmkuhle

18089028350_939cbc2b25_oI lived life in full color and enjoyed every last drop.  However, while the physical tolls of of our ventures may be immediately apparent, the mental and emotional fatigue of having fun and venturing socially is delayed in onset and even further delayed in recognition.

I have taken a lot of walls down this year, so while there is too much and yet always never enough said about this story, I want to keep sharing. When I was 17, I took a double digit number of sleeping pills, advil and promptly chased it down with some bad beer.  A reaction to stress, that I’ll now describe as not wanting to die, but just needing the world to stop spinning, just to stop; no cognition of the selfishness that decision actually entailed until later in life.  A reaction of wanting to do everything, that I could, physically, academically, and socially which was followed by delayed onset mental soreness that nearly destroyed me.

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My father, forever wise beyond his (and certainly my own) years, kept me on a modified house arrest for a while after this.  Citing fatigue, I’d had too much stimulation. I needed a break.  Feeling physically fine, I wanted to get back into the tackling everything game, but fortunately for me, someone loved me and knew better.  Over the years I have learned to love myself, so that I can then love everyone else.   That means taking care of myself and forcing myself to not take part in every adventure… despite how amazing they appear to be.  It has still taken me more than 15 years to truly learn this lesson.

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It is still a battle to balance the physical, “hell yes!”, I want to go play with friends in the mountains with the emotional decompression that my soul needs, on a more frequent basis.  So friends, please be patient with me as I stumble through this mess, I am still learning to take care of myself… and hopefully that means that I can be around to be a better friend on all accounts, not just one that plays in the mountains.

 

 

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Gave Utah Another Go Around the Sun!

And I’m still here…

I don’t know where to start. I don’t have too many photos from this year and they seem to come in spurts.  2014 for me was a whirlwind of sorts filled with stagnancy in life at times and strong bursts of movement at others.  It was a year in which I was forced to let go of someone who I thought was the most important person in my life, and a year where I came back to realizing that you, in fact, are the only person who is ever going to take care of yourself.  Fortunately, I have so many amazing people in my life who were willing to help in that battle and for maybe the first time, I think I learned to let them.  I don’t have photos from every month… well I do… but let’s be honest, you see enough darn Tele photos already that I can’t use them as filler any more.  In lieu of twelve fantastic photos for 2014 with one for every month, I’ll give you fourteen photos that were actually taken in 2014 filled with life, love and some of the best friends, views and dogs that a girl could ask for.

New Year's Day - Ridge Line

The path less traveled, but one of my favorite vantage points in the Wasatch.

The end of 2013 came with the news that my Dad’s mother had passed away, complete with the perfect storm of a massive blizzard on the east coast, exactly where I was trying to go.  After finding out that my flight was canceled — indefinitely– and waiting for the projected 4 1/2 hour wait time for Delta to call me back, I did the next logical thing.  Went on a 4 hour impromptu adventure run.  In reality I actually spent at least an hour of that time, sitting on the ridge, soaking up the new years sun, and absorbing the situation.

Snow angels on a run with my sister.

After flying to the West Coast to fly to the East Coast, I managed to make it in and out of the state between storms.  While my sister and I were in snowy and cold Albany, we figured when life hands you lemons you make lemonade, so if life hands you too much snow, you may as well make snow angels.

Alice Wheeler

All in all, it was sadly wonderful  to see family, and to hear stories of my grandmother, I felt as though I got a glimpse into this wonderful woman who I didn’t know as well I would have liked.  My sister bears an incredible likeness to her (pictured above).Mar2014 (1 of 1)

March soon rolled along and most of my fellow mountain goats came out to play!  Kendra, John, Abbie, Jenny, Ali and Adele all came and filled the house for a great weekend.  Also, I believe that Ali & Jenny ate at the Habit, three times while they were here!!

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Ski Uphill! Dawn Patrol- photo credit Eric Dacus ericdacus.com

April  was filled with business, the skiing slowly trailed off and I snuck in a visit to NOLA to visit my sister.  The month closed out with surprise fresh snow the last week, including a nice solid 10-12″ the day before my birthday.  I ended April with a sunrise birthday trail run with my favorite girl.

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Always hunting for something.

 

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Ride and run straight from camp? OK!

May brought me a change of jobs and an impromptu visit to Bend, camping, all by my lonesome, just to get some decompression.  It is moments like that when I think I might figure it all out someday.  June and July came and went quickly, filled with lots of mileage in my Wasatch training, gardening and just life!

On the Dunes near Glen Arbor, MI

August was taken over by a giant road trip to Starlight and Northern Michigan.  Tele, of course, in tow.  Being nearly eaten alive by the Michigan mosquitos was certainly worth it for the scenery that we sometimes bypass mentally when we live in the west.

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On the return trip, I was lucky enough to get a quick stop in Golden to see all sorts of awesome people, AND their puppy dogs.

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Wheels on Wheels.  September entailed a lot of mountain time on the Wasatch Crest.  After obliterating my previous race time at Wasatch, the most significant (physical) damage was losing my two big toenails; nonetheless, I still kept moving.

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Kendra and myself overlooking Big Cottonwood Canyon

 

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I took Jenny trail running in the daylight this time!

In October, I was lucky enough to get a visit from, not one, but TWO great friends.  Both weekends filled with spectacular Wasatch trail running, fall colors, and above all, good company.

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November became rather dormant on the mountain activity front as Tele and I moved into our own place.  Grateful that we had a safe place to rest our weary bones.

We ended 2014, filled with hope, that this time around might treat the world a little bit better, and grateful for all the love we have in our lives.

I started 2015 with new friends, and old friends, ready find a better path forward than much of the idling of the last two years.  I’m spoiled and have been skiing 5 times already this year, so I’ll leave you with a starting view for this time around. Some friends took me on a great ski tour, with some ridge walking, that pushed my mental comfort zone just to the point to shake your soul with a bit of energy. I walked away from everything about that day, and said “I needed that.” It’s nice to have found people in each different part of your life that can push the little things to help you learn to trust yourself again.

 

Movement

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The earth moves regardless of how badly we want it to stop spinning; in that moment I will always be better off if I open up my soul and decide to move with it.  Keep on running.  One foot in front of the other.

Never stop loving, never stop living.

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“We had done this thing we had set out to do, and instead of becoming larger because of the experience, we became smaller, more humble, more aware of how little we know: about the world in general, about ourselves specifically.” – Rich Benyo

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If this image is too much for you, then consider that fair warning that the rest of this post will be raw as well.  I originally told Spike that I wasn’t sure if I could blog the race, but it turns out it was a huge event in my life, and thanks to some of the best friends I could ever ask for, I ran an amazing race.  It is in these races, as you break down, you become stronger, a process of rebuilding grows inside of you without you even knowing it.  You must be broken by the world, to grow strength and grace and be who you want to become.

I set out to run Wasatch this time around because I volunteered at Ant Knolls aid station (mile 79), last year and caught the bug of nostalgia and inspiration.  I was overcome joy when friends who were there for me the last time around immediately said they wanted to pace me after the lottery drawing in February.  While it seems crazy from the outside these runs become a part of your soul, your character and sharing that space, that exposure with someone is sharing a piece of yourself. Training runs, races, hikes alike; we have good days and bad days, and just plain mundane days.  Every time you go out you risk failure, you risk exposure, and you break yourself down; sometimes just physically, sometimes only mentally, every time though, you build a little bit of strength.  With that exposure comes the views and the beauty and the reflection; the trail runs in your own backyard and the shared experience of a sunrise on this earth.  For all the runs I’ve had, whether it be a huge failure or a short easy jaunt watching the puppy dog, I’m grateful for everyone of them that I’ve been able to share with friends and family.

This year my runs leading up to the race made me stronger.  I didn’t set out to run specific things, I just set out to run and enjoy the year, enjoy my mountains and enjoy all the company I had.  This summer I ran with a lot of weight off my shoulders, I can’t pin point it, but even being broken down I felt stronger.  Despite having the worst taper of my life, I carried that strength through to Wasatch, to my first sunrise of the race.

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Experience paid me well this time through, I climbed faster and with less effort than before.  I quickly wound up with runners who were telling me they would finish in 24-26 hours, a time significantly faster than my 30 hour target.  My brain said slow down, but my feet just found a rhythm and went with it.  By mile 24, I was lacking in calories and nauseous due to the sun, but I felt great and kept clicking along.  I just soaked in the views and eagerly ran to meet my friends at Big Mountain.14984856660_dc3c3d2ffc_o

The sun in the next section beat me down, but Emina’s cheery spirits kept me moving as well as I could between bouts of nausea.  The fall colors had come out to play for us creating a spectacular backdrop overlooking the valley.  Eventually, we made it to Lamb’s canyon, where I picked up Jenny for round 2 at pacing this section.  Greeted by wonderful friends and family, I was sent on my way.

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Jenny grabbed on to my energy and worked like a slave driver to get me to Brighton as quickly as my feet could go.  A stark difference to the long, cold night we walked through two years ago; we made incredible time, and despite the persistent nausea I still felt amazing. I surprised Jenny, and most certainly myself, when we walked into Brighton Lodge about a full hour before my optimistic projection.  It was at this time that I began to wonder what my limits were, how far could I push?  I was surrounded by people who loved and believed in me and there were some pretty fast numbers that seemed within reach.  20 minutes and a bit of coffee later, Kelly and I were out the door into the cold of night for the last big climb.

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Fatigue began to set in as we made the climb to Point Supreme, one of my favorite places in the Wasatch.  I kept moving, always one or two steps behind Kelly, there was a faint familiarity to this routine by now, and my body remembered exactly how to do it this time around.  We sailed down through Ant Knolls, where I briefly caught up with the crew I volunteered with the year before. Getting back on our way, we moved purposefully through to Pole Line Pass, then taking a brief minute to let my stomach settle, we turned off our headlamps and soaked in the stars.  I finally started to break, falling few times on the way down to Pot Bottom, I sat on my ass and wondered if that was all I had left.  Kelly didn’t miss a step, she kept gently pushing me back up and kept me going.  Climbing our last real climb, I finally started to find a rhythm again, amidst a constant fight with my digestive tract, as we kept running towards the second sunrise.7075_10152228449681891_7027872862308038822_n

Like clockwork, the sun came up and brought some life back in to my soul. I swapped Kelly out for B and we proceeded to fly through the next 4 miles, with 5 miles to go the course flattened out and B kept me running as much as he could, challenging me to pass people and to move faster.  I ran into the finish line in a time of 27:24; 6 hours faster that my previous time.  I felt amazing, and strong; something I’m still in disbelief over, as I didn’t take in even 1/4 of the calories I should have.  By all rational reasoning, I should have bonked, yet every step of that race, I gained something inside of me.

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I have the most amazing crew, friends and family for supporting me, for believing me, for challenging me, and for pushing me.  With any large feat like this, your body and mind will break down and I am again broken.  I am at a loss with what was the most significant relationship in my life right now, perhaps the one which has seen me the most exposed and broken, as well as inspired and strong.  I gave myself to that but I wasn’t strong enough, it wasn’t strong enough to survive.  I am bewildered, as the world I knew is vast and different than I once thought; yet I am grateful I am surrounded by amazing people and friends.  I will be stronger and a better person because of it.  The world I emerged out of Wasatch from is different than I expected, yet beautiful and challenging and waiting for me.

Post-notes:

As Mike Place commented, “Wasatch isn’t special by accident.”  So once again, hats off to the race, all the volunteers and even Matthew Van Horn who made all of our days with his special appearances along the course.  I hope this race can stay small and special.

Ali, Adele, Emina, Jenny, Kelly, B, seriously I could have done it with out you, but it certainly would have sucked a lot.  Thank you for being in my life and for everything.

Wowasatch has some spectacular photos from the race, for your viewing pleasure.

More of my edited photos can be found here

Vitamin S

Sooner or later, you’ll find your breaking point. 
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I went to Squamish for this.  I still got to witness that.  I even got to spend a day with good friends in Vancouver.  I didn’t get injured, I didn’t lose anything or miss a flight.  All in all, it was a success.   Except I didn’t run 50 miles.

Two weeks before the race,  I had a great time at Speedgoat; you know, the race I ran and said I’d never do again, then proceeded to run twice more.  Then I went to Starlight and had a good easy recovering week.  I came home with a bit of a sinus headache and proceeded to not sleep very much the whole week.  I debated canceling the trip; all I wanted to do was sleep in and have a nice day at home in the mountains.  I went anyways, figuring it would help me relax.  Due to a room debacle, I, and several other people, were without rooms that had been booked.  I found a couch to sleep on… at midnight.  I was up at 3:45 in the morning.  Again, not much sleep.  I had always been told to get my “Vitamin S” when I was sick.  Apparently you need it for real life too.

Amazingly awake at the start of the race, I decided to go for it.  I ran the first 6 miles, pretty fast, 49 minutes, watching the sunrise, enjoying the momentum; but I was tired, aching, my body was begging for sleep.  Mile 8, we hit single track.  It was fantastic; you can see pictures here.  I kept moving.  By Mile 10 I was done.  My muscles hurt.  My bones hurt.  My joints hurt.  My body hurt.  I kept moving.  Just to get a little more trail time.  My body started to feel like it was actively breaking down.  I kept running, at a decent clip, but I felt like I was doing too much damage.  I was done.  I dropped at Mile 17.  Then I took a 5 hour nap.

Inside, you always know it, but you ignore it.  I came off running a new PR at Speedgoat, felt well trained and that I had faith in the miles.  But I didn’t take care of myself off the trails.  Sometimes you need some Vitamin S. I started that race 6 feet deep in a hole, that I was never climbing out of.  Life happens, all in all it wasn’t a bad weekend.

Adventure Running Season in Utah

AF Canyon and view of the Timp

It’s spring and the snow has been melting away in these parts which means there is tons of opportunity to end up with a small epic adventure day (or a big one…).  Since it was a three day weekend and we have one more day to squeeze in the ridiculous amount of painting that took place, I convinced B to give up house work for the morning so we could venture outside of our usual circle and go for an adventure run down in American Fork Canyon.  I was tempted by some facespace photos people had been posting of the Ridge Trail on the Wasatch 100 course and the views did not disappoint.  After a small effort to get up towards Mill Canyon, we changed our minds and headed away from the dirt bikers and picked out a route to go loop around Box Elder Peak.

Possibly by being over ambitious, and potentially by not looking at the map and the peak in front of us that carefully, we decided to bite off more than we could chew, with the outline in blue being the intended loop with a smaller “bailout” option from the top of the ridge. It was Sunday, we had all day to do our 3 hour run, and it was beautiful, so off we went!A lot of steep, steep, steep and some of my whining about the steepness later, we found some snow and Tele was in heaven!  I took a chance to catch my breath while we had some scenic stretching; when I run with B I am perpetually behind.  With his leg length, even power hiking is twice my speed, I have no chance of keeping up.

Snow! Mom there’s snow!

Taking in the views!

Re-learning how to run (and breathe) at 9600′

And up, up, up we went to the ridge line above.

It’s mighty fine up here

To the saddle looking out towards the Pfeifferhorn.

IMG_4294And views to the south looking on Box Elder Peak and the Timp (and our heads perfectly blocking the view).

From there on out, it was a sloooooooow go.  Post-holing through snowfields along the ridge, looking at time (90 min for what we thought was less than 3 miles) and our water supply and the puppy, and the snow; we decided to cut the loop short to the bail out loop and cut across into White Canyon.  From afar, we thought we saw the trail cut out clearly, but when we got closer, we ended up sinking and post-holing across what may have been  no more than half a mile of snow.  After losing the trail several times and some serious debate about following the drainage out versus trying to find the trail through the trees, Tele  pulled the plug for us.  Turns out mountain dog is a scared mountain dog and wanted nothing to do with scrambling down loose rock; she kept climbing upwards and, thankfully in hindsight, we reversed route and called it a day.  Funny thing about human nature is, that even though we spent 2 hours fighting through snow, figuring out how bad of an idea it was to try and short cut down, most of the way fighting back to the trail down, we were still looking for short cuts.  

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Our route and eventual scratch point in pink, it looks like we made it really far…

IMG_4266Turns out, we had a whole lot further to go.  Ah well, at least the view is pretty.  Time for the next one!

On Boston.

 

I am not certain how any of us can truly wrap our mind around what happened in Boston yesterday. I don’t want to highlight this specifically with the effect that it belittle some of the other tragic shootings of recent, but this one hits close to home for many of us.

I had to “turn off” my access to the news for a while today.  More and more photos show up, more and more videos go viral on twitter and more and more you replay how you were RIGHT THERE.  I didn’t let myself open up how vulnerable I felt even though I had no plans to attempt to run Boston in the past few years until I talked to Kendra about how we were RIGHT THERE.  Until several friends asked if I was in Boston and I was asking friends if their runners and spectators were safe. You remember how your were RIGHT THERE as a spectator, as a runner, how your friends and family were in that spot, how any day, that was any one of us.

So I to tune out the news, I went for a run afterwork.  I wore my Boston jacket, which still is “THE jacket” and I saw four others running in Boston jackets or shirts.  Then I let myself feel grateful and lucky, that we can still go for a run.  That for the most part this country is in good enough shape that for these events are still safe, that our neighborhoods are still safe, and that dirty bombs in popular neighborhoods, events and crowded streets are not a part of our daily life.

Many thoughts and well wishes to those affected by the acts of horror at the Boston Marathon, may strength come your way.