Sunday, July 12, 2015

Dear William (71 months)

Dear William,
Today you are 71 months old!

You have done SO MANY THINGS this month.

First off, you helped me crew your dad in the Quad Rock 50 Mile.

Then, we took a trip out west.  We made a stop in Idaho, where mommy ran a marathon, and you got to hang out with your friends Anton and Julius.  You showed them our tent.
Playing with friends
You have been friends with Anton since before you were born.

Then we went to Yellowstone National Park!  We hiked along the Yellowstone River Trail.
Yellowstone River trail

It was beautiful.
Yellowstone River

There were bison walking around in our campground that night!
Campsite bison

You really liked the bison.

Daddy liked the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.
Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

We also enjoyed the hot springs.
Mammoth Hot Springs
Mammoth Hot Springs

And the geysers.
Norris geyser basin

Old Faithful.

You became a Junior Ranger.  You were so thrilled with that.  You decided that when you grow up, you want to be a park ranger and an astronaut.

We left Yellowstone and headed into Grand Teton National Park.
Jackson Lake and Teton Range

It was A-M-A-Z-I-N-G.

Our first campground had a lot of mosquitoes, and some ill-mannered people.
Snake River mosquito-fest
Snake River.
Then we went to Jenny Lake.
Grand Teton NP campsite

You ate well during our trip.

And you were great at helping clean up.

On our last day, you hiked a little with me while daddy ran.

We had so much fun on our camping trip that we went on another camping trip to Gould the very next weekend.
You are my orchid child.

Hungry after a busy day.

This time, I brought vegan marshmallows and you and daddy made a fire so we could roast them.

We stayed up late and watched the stars twinkle to light in the darkening sky, one by one.  You love anything that has to do with space, but you so rarely see the stars.  In summer, it gets dark so late that you are already asleep when the stars come out.  And in the winter, it is too cold.  On our camping trip to Gould, we saw Venus and Jupiter around the time that they converged in the sky, and that was really neat.

I love this summer, William.  This is the summer of adventure and wilderness and being in the landscape and "meh, we'll shower when we're old."

Making up for the lost years when we lived in a crumbling-brick jungle.

As much as we love being outdoors, after our back-to-back epic camping trips, it was nice to sleep in our own beds again, and have indoor plumbing.

On 4th of July, we went to the parade in the morning.
Storm trooper with American flag.
And the fireworks in the evening!
At City Park for the fireworks


This month you also had fun taking swim lessons.

And eagerly waiting for your grandparents to arrive.
Map watching
Watching their progress
You ran a kids' race at Lory State Park right after your grandparents got here.  You got very nervous while you were standing on the start line and wanted me to run with you and hold your hand the whole time (1 mile).
Kids Run

You hit a few dark patches towards the middle.
Kids Run

But you powered through and finished strong.
Finishing strong

You recovered enough by the afternoon to take your grandparents on a bike ride to the pool.

William, this has been such a great month.  I love all the memories we have made this summer, and I am already excited for the next adventures we have planned.

Love always,

Friday, July 3, 2015

June 2015 Mileage: Hanging on

June was very touch and go, both in terms of my ongoing state of Exhaustion as well the tibialis posterior pain in my right leg.  It was also the first month in which I ran significantly less than I did in  that month of 2014, the year of never ending injury.

I just never could seem to get in a groove.  I'd run one day and be totally fine, and then the next day I would go out and couldn't run one step.  The injury never seemed to progress any further, thankfully.  I just couldn't rack up decent miles, and I couldn't be consistent.  I never even tried to make the trip out to Horsetooth or Lory because I never knew from day to day whether I'd be totally fine, or whether I'd get to the end of my driveway and have to turn around and come back due to pain or exhaustion, or both.

One of the highlights of the month was when we took a camping trip to Gould and I got to run the hills at 9000ft.  I've run at that elevation or higher before and don't recall ever having trouble, but this time I definitely felt it all.  Maybe it was because I started out running uphill for 3 miles straight.  Still, I was having one of my "good" days, my leg didn't hurt, and it was great.

I'd hoped to get in another 20 miler before the Bear Lake Marathon, but couldn't manage it.  I was glad I'd done an impromptu one at the end of May, because that was all I got.

I was strangely calm going into the Bear Lake Marathon, really unconcerned about how my leg kept hurting.  "It'll be fine on race day," was all I could think, with a shrug.  Just like Bear Chase.  Something will happen on the start line, and everything will be okay.

And it was.  The day we left for Idaho, I still had that all-too-familiar pain as I walked down the stairs and loaded the car; I even had pain on the morning of the marathon as I climbed down the ladder from our pop up tent.

But I got to the start line and ran the entire race without so much as a twinge.

Bear Lake Marathon start

Mile 11

Mile 15

I really liked the Bear Lake Idaho Marathon (I wrote about it here).  A lot of it was on dirt roads, and since it was geared towards Marathon Maniacs and 50-Staters (some of the participants were running 4 marathons in 4 days), it felt more like an ultra to me.

Unfortunately, the course was short, so my finishing time of 4 hours does not seem genuine.  I'm trying not to be disappointed about that, but I've haven't been able to break 4 hours since hyperemesis and giving birth.  "Your best race is yet to come," my new marathon friend told me during the race.  Someday your kids don't require so much of you emotionally, physically, and you can be a real, actual human being again.  I'll have to get The Exhaustion and The Injury under control first.  And maybe not choose a race on a 80 degree day at 6000+ ft elevation.

Bear Lake Marathon finish

In the past, I've often gotten injured in the weeks after a marathon because I don't rest for long enough and don't realize that I needed more rest until the damage is already done.  This time, we went to Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons for almost week afterwards, and I didn't run a step.  I didn't even hike or walk that much--the blister and sub-blister on my left foot hurt too bad, and once that started letting up, the pain in my right tibialis posterior returned.

As soon as we got back home, I gingerly set out for a test run to see how things felt, and I ended up going 8 miles.  I guess it felt okay.

That weekend, we took another trip to Gould (yes, we went camping again after only 2 nights of being at home) and I had a chance to run in the State Forest State Park.  I had intended on only going about 8 or 10 miles, but I just kind of zoned out and kept running instead of turning back.  I also missed the turn off to the trail I was headed for, so I logged a couple of miles in swamp (who would have thought there are swamps in Colorado, at 9000ft, even) with thigh-high grasses and even more mosquitoes than had been at Grassy Lake.

Trees down.
I didn't know exactly where I was, but it sure was pretty.

If you are supposed to turn, they put up big signs.... like this one...
If my leg hurt, I didn't notice it because I was too busy dealing with other things, such as 1) Is that mountain lion scat; 2) Do rattlesnakes live in swamps;  3) Have I entered a never-ending maze of logging roads, in which I will be lost for all eternity; 4) Can you die from loss of blood due to mosquito bites; 5) If only I had known I would be running 16 miles, I would have brought more than 40 ounces of water with me.

Even though I did, literally, make it out of the woods during that Gould run, I wouldn't say that I am out of the woods in terms with this injury and The Exhaustion.  I feel like I'm hanging on by a thread-- I'll have a good day followed by a bad day, and I've got precious little time to train for Howl.

June was okay, but I'd like the miles to come easier, to not feel like I am fighting for each and every step.  Hoping that July will be better.

112.86 miles this month. 714.39 year to date.  Still 101.17 miles up from where I was last year at this time, but my lead is dwindling fast, and it's looking like I will be hard pressed to make it to 1500.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Summer of a Little Bit Wild: Grand Teton National Park

**Please note: All of the good photos in this post were taken by Rob**

On our last morning at Norris in Yellowstone, I got up around 6:45am and people were already circling the campground like vultures, looking for vacated sites to occupy.  As I was climbing down the ladder from our camper, a woman jumped out of her subaru to ask me if we were leaving and if she could put her camp chair at our site to claim it.  I sighed.  Rob and Will weren't even awake yet, but this kind of thing was enough to make me want to get the heck out of Yellowstone.

We headed south to the Tetons, planning to see if we could find a dispersed camp site at a place called Grassy Lake that I had read about in my Lonely Planet guidebook.  Because when has Lonely Planet ever led anyone astray.

Snake River and Teton Range
Grassy Lake Campground, along the Snake River.  What a great name for a river.  It reminded me of how I had wanted to camp on the "Poison Spider Mesa" when we were in Utah, but we didn't end up venturing over there.
The place seemed good enough, if you could ignore the swarming mosquitoes.  Mainly I just wanted some solitude, like our trip to Gould, when we were alone in the mountains and it had been the best thing ever.  So we set up our canopy tent and left a camp chair at the site we chose and then headed on into the Tetons.

These mountains were lovely, and I instantly liked the Tetons better than Yellowstone.  There weren't as many people, for one, and everything seemed more relaxed.

Jackson Lake and Teton Range



We stopped to make lunch at a picnic area along Jackson Lake, and Will set to work on his Grand Teton Junior Ranger booklet because he was very motivated to earn another badge.

After lunch, we drove the rest of the loop around the park.  It was much smaller than Yellowstone, so we had time to stop and enjoy the things we wanted to see.

Grand Teton and Jenny Lake
Kayakers in Jenny Lake.

The Grand Tetons
One of the major attractions of the park is an iconic barn on a stretch of road called Mormon Row, where I think some Mormon settlers had endured harsh winters to work the land.  I don't really care that much about Mormon history, but I do like old barns more than the average person, so this was nice.

Old barn on Mormon Row

By the time we made it back to the mosquito-infested campground, we found that our canopy tent had blown over, and a van-residing young hippie was squatting at our site.

I wasn't very happy about this, but he seemed like a nice enough kid who just wanted a place to park his van and sleep for the night, and it appeared that all the other sites were occupied.  So we were like, whatever.  In the scheme of things, it wouldn't really bother us to have his van parked near our campsite.

Snake River dispersed campsite

Snake River mosquito-fest

The bothersome thing about the campground was the mosquitoes.  Who would have thought that at a place called "Grassy Lake" mosquitoes would be a problem.  In addition to any bit of exposed flesh, they went for your eyes and ears, and every time you breathed, you got a few of them up your nose. We climbed into the tent as soon as we finished dinner, desperate to seek the shelter of the mosquito net.

Long about 10:30 that night, we were woken by a cowboy-hat-wearing Utahan, who had returned from a long day of fly-fishing to discover (much like us) somebody squatting in his campsite.  He seemed to think that we were in on this conspiracy (which he viewed as affront his manhood), simply because we were at the adjacent campsite, though in truth, we had not known anything about it.

The Utahan and the squatter sparred for about an hour, in a way that made silverback gorillas seem polite by comparison.  The Utahan finally took off on his motorcycle to go get the park rangers, and the whole thing began to seem like that time I watched a 2:00am police chase/drug deal from the window of my house in St. Louis.

The next morning, we talked to the Utahan, who in the daylight seemed like a really nice guy, but I was still very eager to leave Grassy Lake.  The whole reason why I had wanted to camp at a dispersed campsite was for some more solitude than is available at one of the Walmart-like campgrounds inside the park, but even the crowded campgrounds at Yellowstone had been more peaceful than the night we'd just lain awake through.

We headed to Jenny Lake, the most popular campground inside the Tetons, and we snagged the last available place.

Our campsite was beautiful but was the farthest one from the bathroom.  I kid you not, it took 6 minutes just to walk to the bathroom (and that meant another 6 minutes to walk back up to the campsite), which with my still-sore foot, was kind of difficult.

The Jenny Lake area was pretty ramped-up in terms of bear safety precautions.  A little over a week before our visit, the park staff had euthanized a "bold," purse-snatching black bear who had been attracted to the $700/night Jenny Lake Lodge after some guests left the trunk of their car open (and food accessible) while unloading.  I think it is horrifying that the bear was euthanized, but even more horrifying that despite all these warnings, I saw people at the campground doing things that the rangers specifically said not to, such as leave water jugs and fuel containers unattended at their campsites.  Seriously, at the campsite you were not supposed to dump out dish water, brush your teeth, hang up laundry to dry, or sleep with chapstick in your tent.  Nothing that would make a bear suspect that humans, and their associated foodstuffs, are around.

I didn't ask if peeing in the woods was strictly prohibited (because your two injured legs make it painful for you to walk 1/3 of a mile to the bathroom), but given the heightened level of other precautions, I just assumed it was and didn't even consider it.

At any rate, we saw no bears at Jenny Lake or (spoiler alert) any other time during our trip.

The main reason why Rob had wanted to camp at Jenny Lake is because it was an area where you could access many of the trails in the park.  As soon as we arrived and got ourselves minimally set up, Rob began readying himself for a long run up Cascade Canyon.

He didn't end up needing the Bear Spray he brought with him, but he did have to filter drinking water from a stream.

While Rob ran, Will and I went for a hike around Jenny Lake.  With enough bandaids, my blistered foot was finally feeling better, and my injured leg was okay.  It wasn't until after we started the hike that I realized it was over 7 miles all the way around the lake, so we didn't do the whole thing.  But we still had a nice time, and on our way back, we stopped at the Jenny Lake Visitor Center and general store to get ourselves a treat.

Jenny Lake

When Rob returned after several hours of hard trail running, I decided that we could all use a shower.  It was a Tuesday, and none of us had had a shower since Friday, at our friends' house in Idaho Falls.  We drove over to Colter Bay Village (I think it was about a 20 minute drive from Jenny Lake), where they had a laundromat, general store, and shower facilities for campers.  It kind of doesn't make sense that the showers are at Colter Bay, when most of the hiking trails are at Jenny Lake, but I'm assuming there are sustainability/environmental reasons why they don't have showers by the trails.  At least I hope there was a pretty good reason why we had to get in the car and drive 20 minutes just to clean up.

It was nice to wash of the last several days of grime, sunscreen, and bug spray off me.  When I got done showering, I went out to the common area to wait for Will and Rob and started chatting with a woman from Iowa.  We compared notes about how we'd planned and packed for our trips, and we discussed the extraordinary level of preparation it took to come up with meal ideas and bring along everything our families were going to eat for an entire week.  We both marveled at the grocery store in Colter Bay--she was thrilled that they had meat, I was thrilled that they had hummus, tofu, and produce.  I hadn't known about the Colter Bay grocery store before we left for our trip, but if we ever go back to the Tetons, I will keep that in mind for restocking our supplies.

When we finally got back to our campsite after our Shower Expedition, it was getting late, and everyone was hungry.  

Grand Teton NP campsite
"Where is my dinner?"  -- William
Because it was the last night of our trip, I decided we would try the expensive, dehydrated backpacking foods I had bought at REI.  What I didn't realize was that it took like 20 minutes for these to rehydrate, so we just kind of wandered around hungrily waiting for the time to pass.

I made all 3 meals, even though I knew that would be way too much food, because I reasoned that we could keep the leftovers in the Yeti and eat them on the road the next day.

Will only tried the two rice and bean dishes and declared he didn't like either of them.  I tried all three and thought they were all good.  I liked the Santa Fe Rice and Beans the best, followed closely by the Kathmandu Curry.  What was impressive about the curry was that it had vegetables in it and they tasted like real, actual, vegetables.  What was not as impressive about it was that it was the saltiest thing I'd ever tasted in my life.  

When we were done with dinner, Rob and Will offered to wash our dishes, and Will had so much fun doing this that he got sad when he was done and asked me if there was anything else he could wash.  I told him that when we got home, he could do dishes whenever he wanted.

We snuggled into the camper for the last night of our trip.  I slept well and woke up when the sun rose.  While the boys were still asleep, I went for a walk on the trails near the campground, and then I went to the store and visitor center, where I bought myself a black coffee (when I'm desperate enough, I discovered I can drink coffee black), and I bought Will a toy bison he had admired the day before.

Then it was time to begin the long drive home.  I told Rob that I was sad our camping trip was over.  He said, "Do you want to go back to Gould this weekend?"  And I answered, "Alright."

Thanks for reading.