Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The Summer of a Little Bit Wild (in review)

Now that Labor Day has passed and Twitter is all a-twitter with Coloradans waxing their skis as they eagerly await the first snow, I guess summer is officially over.

"You don't see that face too often outside of the Tour de France," Rob said.
I am sad to see it go because it was The Best Summer Ever.  It was the Summer of a Little Bit Wild.  It was the summer where there were more adventures than showers, where we sometimes woke up in Utah, Idaho, or Wyoming.  I feel like we went all out, we went as big as we could, and we rarely spent much money doing so. I don't know what William will remember about this summer, but I hope he remembers it all.  Most of the time I feel like I am struggling, often abjectly failing, to do right by my child, but this for once, feels unequivocally good and pure and true.

It started off before summer was even official.  Why wait for Memorial Day when I was done grading final exams and we have Rocky Mountain National Park in our backyard?

Longs view

Dream Lake


There was still a little snow.
William was not yet done with school on the 1-year anniversary of our move to Colorado.  Rob took the morning off, and he and I climbed Horsetooth Rock together.
He assures me it's not always this wet, foggy, and slippery. We had an unusually rainy May.
Not much of a view that day, but it's about the journey.
Melissa's first Horsetooth summit

This guy.

South Ridge
It went a lot quicker on the way down.
It had been very rainy throughout the month of May all across the Front Range, so by the time Memorial Day rolled around, we were desperate for some sun.  We went to Canyonlands National Park (Arches wouldn't let us in, too full), which was my first experience in Utah.

Utah was crazy and dirty and beautiful and as long as there isn't a sign strictly prohibiting it, anything goes.  

Utah was one of the most beautiful places I had ever woken up.

This photo just did not do it justice.  You really had to be there, see it with your own eyes.



Taking a break
This is one of my favorite pictures, ever, of Will.
I hadn't realized how much I would love the desert, how beautiful it would be.

Feeling sick
Until next time, Canyonlands.

We celebrated the end of Will's first year of school with a backyard camp out.

Reading a book about the moon, underneath a nearly full moon. #spaceistheplace

Back yard

Then it was time for the real fun to begin.

This was the summer we discovered Gould, CO.  

Nokhu Crags
Cloudy at Nokhu Crags
Our first expedition was in early June, when the mountains were still covered in snow.  Rob went on a training run for the Never Summer 100K, and Will and I stayed at the campsite.  We saw a fox.

I finally figured out how to work the camp stove.

I spy

It was the first time I had ever slept well on a camping trip.  We stayed at a "dispersed" campsite.  There were no other people around.  There were billions and billions of stars in the sky.

Golden hour at State Forest State Park

In the morning, I got to run at 9,000 ft.

When we got back home, Rob ran the Quad Rock 50-- his big comeback race after nearly 6 months of injury. 

Only someone as badass as Rob would come back from an injury at Quad Rock.  That course is so hard, I can't even do half of it on a good day

Quad Rock 50

Will and I "crewed" for him, though in truth, I felt that we didn't do anything useful.

Quad Rock 50

Quad Rock 50

Quad Rock 50

It was a very interesting experience crewing/spectating this race.  I wasn't even running it, but just being there made me feel a little bit like I had my old life back-- the salad days of my early to mid 20's, before hyperemesis and St. Louis and a series of broken dreams.  Will and I drove over the bumpy dirt road in Lory State Park (which I know like the back of my hand) from aid station to aid station and met Rob at different check points and saw all the extraordinary efforts of all the runners and volunteers. 
Quad Rock 50

I'm normally kind of shy around the RD of the event, given that he's a World Famous Ultra-Runner and I'm never quite sure if he has reason to remember me or know who I am.  But on that day, every time he saw me, he would radio the volunteers at the other aid stations to check on Rob's progress and give me a report.  At the halfway point, he even told me to slow Rob down for a bit, make sure he got what he needed before taking off again and didn't push himself too hard in the heat.

And holy hell was it ever hot that day.  Will and I were miserable just standing outside, I couldn't even imagine how unbearable it must be to run.  I seriously don't know how anyone finished.

Quad Rock 50
Cloudless, otherworldly.

At Arthur's Aid (Mile 32.3), Will slept in the camper while I stood huddled in a tiny patch of shade next to Joe Grant, who was volunteering at the race.  I couldn't think of anything to say to him other than "OMG, you're Joe Grant," so I just stayed silent.  

While I was waiting for Rob to come through, another runner arrived and announced that he was dropping.  There wasn't really a good way to get runners back to the start/finish area, so the guy was just going to walk there (2 miles) on the dirt road.  He didn't complain, but Joe was like, "Hey, I'm heading back over there in a few minutes anyway, why don't I just give you a ride."  My head started spinning at how totally weird the ultra-running world is.  Here was one of the biggest celebrities of our sport, totally nice and nonchalant, chatting it up and helping out a regular guy who had gotten in over his head.  In what other realm of the universe could this possibly happen?!

Rob finished the race, in what must have been one of the most massive efforts of his life. 

Quad Rock 50
Finally, some clouds.

There were only a few days to recover before we left on our biggest adventure of the summer: a camping trip to Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons.

We stopped in Idaho first, where we visited some friends and I ran a marathon on a calf injury.

Bear Lake Marathon start
Rocking the one-calf-sleeve, and Sketchers.

This puny little marathon wasn't anywhere near as hard as what Rob had just done at Quad Rock, but maybe seeing that race inspired me enough to push myself to my brink and give it to glory.

Mile 15
In spite of everything, I loved this race.

The post-race nausea had barely settled before we drove to Yellowstone.

Yellowstone road bison

There were a lot of bison everywhere, including the campsite we managed to snag at Norris Geyser Basin.

Campsite bison

I got a little more creative than just campstove pasta during our trip.  Look at that-- vegan baked beans, cous cous, broccoli.  We ate like kings.

Have I ever mentioned how much I love volcanoes??

Norris geyser basin

Rob probably doesn't love volcanoes as much as I do, but he does love canyons.

Yellowstone River

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

If you ever go, I honestly suggest skipping Old Faithful, because meh, but Will did end up getting a Junior Ranger Badge out of it, so I guess it was worth it.

Old Faithful

Yellowstone Lake
I fell asleep in the car as we drove past Yellowstone Lake, which had been one of the main things I wanted to see.  Good thing Rob took a picture of it.

Yellowstone was a lot of driving and me being carsick and crowds everywhere you went.  Once we got to the Grand Tetons, I liked them better.



Old barn on Mormon Row

A week in the wilderness wasn't enough for us, so as soon as we got back to Fort Collins, we only paused long enough to buy some vegan marshmallows at Whole Foods, and we headed back to Gould for Rob to have another Never Summer 100K training weekend.

There were more people this time and we didn't get our preferred campsite.  This one had to do.

There were mosquitoes the size of Volkswagons, and it was unbearably hot until the sun began to set.  Once we got a campfire going, everything was a whole lot better.


Another of my favorite pictures, ever, of Will.  Ranger Lakes, with Nokhu Crags in the background. We did a self-guided hike on a nature trail.  He loved it.  I realized that this was unschooling, and it was so much better than anything he had experienced in the education system.

Rob's parents came to visit in mid-July, and we made sure they had the total Fort Collins experience.  Which is to say, frantically biking home from the neighborhood pool before the afternoon thunderstorms hit:

And a day trip to RMNP, where Will earned another junior ranger badge:

Oh, also we saw some bears in Big Thompson Canyon on the drive home.

Mama black bear + 2 cubs

After Rob's parents left, Rob's Never Summer 100K loomed large and presented enormous logistical challenges.  Rob ended up going to Gould by himself on the Friday before the race, while Will and I stayed at home.  On Saturday afternoon, I took Will to a friend's house, where he had been invited to spend the night.  I dropped him off and then headed off to the Poudre Canyon, where I wouldn't have cell phone signal for the next 18 hours.  It was only the second time in his entire life that Will had spent away from me (the first time, my parents had watched him).  This was flat-out the scariest thing I had ever done.
Rob's races always go well when I bake him a (vegan) good-luck cake.

I arrived in Gould about 5pm, when Rob had been running for around 11 hours.  I didn't have a good way of figuring out where he would be on the course, so I took a guess and headed to the Bockman aid station, around 55 miles into the race.  I waited with a small but enthusiastic group of volunteers/spectators, who instantly became my BFFs.  One of the spectators had binoculars, and whenever we would see a runner come over the horizon, she would call out distinguishing characteristics to see if this runner belonged to anybody waiting at the aid station.  One of the runners entering the aid station was a friend of Rob's (he recognized me but I didn't recognize him) and told the volunteers to let me know that Rob was close behind.

Sure enough, Rob emerged along the horizon.  I didn't even need my new BFF's binoculars to recognize his stride.  I readied anything I thought he might need as he approached the aid station, but he took nothing from me.  He was all business, went straight to his drop bag.

I ran with him for a tiny bit as he left the aid station, and I couldn't tell if he was annoyed or exhausted.  So I turned around and went back to my car to head to the next checkpoint, which was the last aid station of the race.  This involved parking at the finish line and then running back 2 miles on the course.  Luckily, I made a friend (Angie from Omaha) who ran with me.

I didn't wait long at the mile 62 aid station before Rob showed up.  He definitely seemed more slap-happy than he had been at the last checkpoint.  We took off running into the newly darkened night, and it was at this point that I realized two things.  1) He was wearing my good headlamp -and- 2) He could still run faster than me, even after having covered 62 miles of ridiculously technical terrain.

Rather than pacing him, I just hung on for the ride-- with my supremely inferior flashlight-- as he threw down sub-7-minute pace on those last two miles.  At one point he asked if I could look behind me (without shining my flashlight in that direction) to see if there was anybody gaining on us from behind.  I looked.  Nothing.  He later told me that he was running so fast because he thought a guy we passed was hot on our tail (he wasn't).

The small crowd gathered at the finish line cheered enthusiastically as they saw our flashlights approach in the dark.  I was so happy for Rob.  He finished in just a hair over 16 hours, a full 2 hours faster than I'd been anticipating on that course.


Rob and GnarRunners, the RD
I finally felt minorly useful as I drove exhausted runners back to the campsite and helped set up the camp shower so they could at least wash the mud and salt and grime off themselves before falling into a coma-like sleep.

The next morning I drove home, relieved to find that Will had survived his first slumber party.

There was no rest for the weary, though.  We soon had friends visit (another slumber party for Will, and then bouldering the next day), followed by a camping trip to RMNP.

Slumber party



Aspenglen Campground
There was barely enough time to come home and repack before heading out on our last great adventure of the summer: a trip to Illinois to visit both of our families.

Will got to see his cousins, visiting from Ireland.
Also, I ran Howl at the Moon and didn't throw up.

Howl pre-start

Soon after we returned home, Will's birthday signaled that summer was drawing to a close.

Space ship
He wants to be an astronaut when he grows up #spaceistheplace

We had a little birthday party for him at the neighborhood pool, until an afternoon thunderstorm cut the celebration short.

Third and final birthday cake

A few days later, Will bravely started first grade.

So far, it seems to be going slightly better than kindergarten, although that really isn't saying much.

Over Labor Day weekend, we took him to the Northern Colorado Astronomy Night at Bobcat Ridge.  He got to look through a telescope and see his favorite planet, Saturn (rings and all).
He insisted on wearing his astronaut suit to the event. Everyone thought he was adorable.
We finished out the long weekend with a trip to Denver, where I ran the Bear Chase course and then we all attended a BBQ/Trail Run with Emelie Forsberg, who is one of the best people of all times.

I was probably more excited about meeting Emelie Forsberg than the rest of family, but they humored me.

There it is, one of the top 5 moments of my life. 
Will even went for a tiny trail run with me.
And with that, I suppose our dirt-bag Summer of a Little Bit Wild is over.  The sun is setting earlier, and although it is cold at night, it still gets hot and sunny in the afternoons.  I'm doing my best to ignore the people who are praying for snow and eagerly sipping pumpkin spice lattes.  Watermelon is still in season.  I refuse to hunker down with root vegetables just yet.

Thanks for reading.


Anonymous said...

ABSOLUTELY AWESOME PICTURES!!!! MY very VERY favorites are all the ones with FAMILY and ALL thr ones with scenery!! in other words, ALL of them! so happy you had a fun summer of various adventures!! that is what life is all about !! Creating your own happy!!! try not think of what may come! LIKE SNOW!!! ugh!!!, thanks for sharing yiur summer fun!!! hugs and luv to all, mama

Anonymous said...

Happy to read about your wonderful 'little bit wild' summer!! Beautiful pictures!! Seeing Will on his way to the school bus gave me a 'little bit' of a shiver ... doesn't seem like he could be old enough to go off on his own yet!!! Loved his astronaut suit!!! Absolutely awesome! And congratulations to you and to Rob for all your accomplishments in your sport this summer ... Thanks for writing and for the amazing pictures!! Love, auntie