Words to live by...

"A good teacher is like a candle - it consumes itself to light the way for others." ~Author Unknown

"A good wife is her husband's biggest fan -- no matter how crazy he is." ~Me

"May God give you.. For every storm a rainbow, for every tear a smile, for every care a promise and a blessing in each trial. For every problem life sends, a faithful friend to share, for every sigh a sweet song and an answer for each prayer." ~ Irish Blessing

Monday, June 30, 2008

Yes, yes, we are still alive...

Wow, haven't posted here in a long time!

Quick update:

*The trip to/from picking up Chris from Lima, Montana was pleasantly uneventful. I never knew Idaho was so pretty, so that was fun to drive through.

*Having Chris home has been great. After many conversations about what happened out on the trail, I am 100% sure that Chris made the right decision about his race. He's been doing a good job resting his sore achilles although he's itching to get back out for long rides. We have done a lot of relaxing, resting, eating, and decorating. We have started to fix up our basement and make it into more of a living space than the storage that it has been for the past few years. I'll take pictures and post them as we get more done. I love our time together and am so glad he's home.

*Yesterday was my first Winter Park cross country race of the year. It was an advertised "Just over 16 mile" race that, in reality, was closer to 19. Due to this discrepancy in distance, I timed my eating for 16 miles, and was basically bonked by mile 17. At this point the trail was pretty technical and I did not, stupidly, stop to eat something. I made silly mistakes that I will remember not to do next time. I got 4th in my Sport group, only 6 minutes behind my teammate who got 3rd. Considering that I think of her as a much stronger rider than myself, I was super happy with that. I will write more of a race report later, with pictures, as I have realized that looking back on these reports the following season is very helpful.

*Tomorrow Chris and I are hoping to attempt our first 14er of 2008. We will be setting out early to climb Mount Evans by foot with Turbo. Friday we will be summiting the same mountain via road bike with some friends. I'm pretty sure by the end of this week we'll be sick of Mount Evans!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The latest...

Chris and I are currently in Banff!! The blog for Chris's great divide attempt is set up and we are posting to it when we can find internet in town. This will also be where I will update you on his progress once he gets started, and there is a link at the top (under his picture) that you will be able to click on and see his progress via the Spot tracker. We don't quite have the Spot up and transmitting so while it's not interesting yet, it will be soon.



Saturday, June 07, 2008

Koko Trail: The Aftershocks

Well, it's now been almost two weeks since starting the Kokopelli over Memorial day. Since then, I have finished school, Chris has finished work, and we have been working on GreatPlans, traveling to and from a wedding in STL, and enjoying our summer off.

I've been on the bike twice.

Basically, when I got back from this trip, my body went into total crazy mode. I had gained about 4 pounds of, what I assume to be, water weight. My legs swelled. One day my feet were so swollen they wouldn't fit into shoes to go to work. My big right toe has, only recently, regained feeling from being numb. I'm eating CONSTANTLY... which is cool, I'm always ok with more of an excuse to eat.

Wednesday Chris and I rode at Mount Falcon (a group CLIMB, that no one else showed up for because of the weather). So for my first ride back, I climbed for three or four miles. Just what my body wanted -- haha. But I did it, made it to the top, and enjoyed my newly refined downhilling skills on the way down.

Thursday I rode the trainer for a half hour. Not exciting, but it worked out some of the kinks.

Today I was supposed to go work on the Colorado Trail as part of national trail day or whatever, but my niece turned 12 on Friday and wanted me at her self-catered party today. The girl is a serious up-and-coming chef if I've ever seen one. I didn't want to disappoint her, so I ditched the workday and went to her party. We had a blast playing games in the yard, eating her delicious food, and hanging out. I made a good decision.

Overall, I love my hubby.
Anticipation fills the house but hubby stays strong.
I admire him.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Koko Trail, Day 3: Hideout Camp to Moab (49 miles)

Day 3 started out after waking from a decent sleep at the Hideout Camp.

After our very looooooong day two, Chris was resolute in getting us up, moving, and on the road early. After all, our goal was ultimately Moab, then a drive back to Fruita, then a drive back to Denver. Day 3 would only be half over by the time the 49 miles of riding concluded.

Day 3 will forever be known as The Day of Layers, No Layers, Layers, No Layers.

The guidebook calls this first section "amazing" and "what a long climb should be."

I'd have to agree.

Even with as much as I decided I NEVER wanted to climb again after day 2, I really enjoyed this one.

We all tentatively mounted the bikes after a delicious oatmeal and hot chocolate breakfast and immediately set out climbing. From the first pedal my right knee screamed out to stop climbing, but after some Advil and warming it up, it improved enough to keep ignoring it.

The best part about day 3 was that we started down in a valley, then we climbed a fairly gradual and smooth climb (albeit "17 miles of pure uphill"), and then suddenly we were in those mountains that had appeared so far away the first two days. Also, even though we'd taken a few stopping breaks in the beginning to strip off layers, our mantra for the day was to "keep moving forward." Basically, any time we'd need a rest, it was totally ok to get off the bike, but we had to keep pushing it in a forward direction at all times. Because of this, we were making awesome time. Because we were making awesome time, Chris was downright giddy. On North Beaver Mesa, as we passed the "Welcome to Manti Lasal National Forest" sign, I thought Chris would fall of his bike with excitement. We even stopped to take a picture:

We continued climbing, chatting, laughing, and enjoying the change from desert to alpine terrain. Soon the air cooled enough to put a few of the layers back on (including my new bubble gum pink arm warmers from my sister!).

Chris and I had some great talks on this first big climb of the day. He was trying to keep my mind off the whole *climbing* thing, and we were pretty isolated as B&N had hauled up the road (Nicolette was rocking the climbing on day 3!). We talked about everything from jobs, life, and future children to favorite I Love Lucy episodes. A few times I would take a break to eat, and Chris would sweetly push my bike as I tore open another PB&Chocolate granola bar. No matter what, we kept moving.

Soon we came across upper Fisher Creek. The view was stunning! We stopped to regroup and put another layer of jackets on, as the wind had become fairly fierce and the air quite a bit cooler (it was hard to believe that we'd ridden from waaaaaaaaaaaay down in that valley).

After taking in the view for a few minutes, we continued a bit more up the climb. The boys went up ahead and Nicolette and I followed at our own pace. We chatted for a little while as we watched the road twist around and the boys quickly leaving us behind. At this point I had arm warmers and my rain jacket on, and I was starting to bake. I told Nicolette to go ahead, and I pealed off the layers again and ate a few goldfish. Soon, I saw my group chugging up the climb, and I was in the back enjoying the scenery by myself. It was really a beautiful day, and although I knew there'd be more climbing to come before the end, I also knew this particular climb was almost over.

4 hours after starting Day 3, we reached the true summit of the trip and of this particular climb. The boys and Nicolette were already sitting on the side of the road waiting for me, and at least once I heard Chris's voice cheer for me and echo through the canyon. I've never checked to see if he really actually did that, or if it was the hallucinations starting again, but either way it motivated my legs to move a bit faster and soon I was sitting with them stuffing my face with pringles, carrots, and jerkey (aka: The Gut Bomb).

Soon we got cold and I, once again, put on my rain layer, and we headed down a big descent towards Castle Valley. The descent was fun, although tainted, as I knew we'd reached the summit of our trip, but still had another 1600+ vertical feet left to climb for the day. That means that whatever we went down, we'd have to climb up almost as much on the other side. Hard to enjoy a descent when you know that!

Chris had tried to make us feel better, prior to this last paved climb, saying things like "It's paved, so it's easy" and "It's similar to riding up lookout, and you have done that in only a little over a half-hour." He was being sweet, but deceitful. Later he pointed out that he didn't really want to tell us how crappy the climb is, because then we'd get discouraged from the start. That was a good choice.

Ok, so the climb is paved. Good.

It is not super steep. True.

It's *only* a five mile climb. True (and compared to the 17 mile dirt climb we'd already done, it could only be a piece of cake, right?).

The only part I don't think any of us really expected was the massive headwind/crosswind that we would fight the ENTIRE way up the climb. A few times it blew so hard it knocked Chris and I both a solid few feet to the right. The wind was the worst part of the climb. Without the wind, I can see this climb being annoying, but not tear-inducing. Instead, it was tear-inducing for sure.

Chris not only played sherpa on this trip, he also played motivational speaker, life coach, and psychiatrist. This stinking climb was the only point in the trip that I truly thought I wouldn't make it to Moab. We were soooooooo close, yet each gust of wind seemed to want to keep me from getting there. We walked a ridiculous amount considering the fact that it was a paved climb (and stripped layer after layer off), but I luckily had the most wonderful man in the world with me and he kept redirecting me in a positive direction.

I had a few talks with The Man Upstairs about this wind in my head, but it kept gusting harder and harder. ONCE, and only once, the road turned in such a way that this massive wind turned into a massive tail wind. This is my best THANK GOD face, as captured by Chris:

After several false summits and several very frustrated, angry sounds from me, we FINALLY reached the top of this climb. It was windy, and cold. We put more layers back on (including, for me, a light wool cap to keep my head warm). From here, at the top of the Upper Connector, Chris called Saint Fred to give him an ETA for our group to make it to Moab.
Vitamin I: The candy of champions

Soon, we pointed down and "zipped" the final 16 or 17 miles back to Moab.

The Upper Connector trail was not fun. Everyone seems to think it's fun. I don't think I would've found it fun even if I were fresh. With basically nothing left in the suitcase of courage, suitcase of fitness, or suitcase of mental stability, I merely found it to be a cruel joke. It is a short section. But rutted, and rocky, and technical. I got cranky and probably snapped at Chris when it wasn't necessary.

Luckily for both of us, the descent soon turned to a grated road that flew down to Moab. At this point I launched my front bag that had my sleeping pad and down coat in it, so I had to retrieve it, shove the straps in my pocket, and the bag in my backpack and catch back up. Chris soon turned around to make sure I didn't fall, but alas, I was back in business.

We all rode as a group through the last few twists and turns down to the Slickrock parking lot, but the group was silent. I think we were all stunned that we'd actually made it. I was too tired to get emotional which surprised me. I was mostly focused on how dramatically the weather had now changed dropping down into town, and I wanted my rain jacket, knee warmers, arm warmers, and wool hat off of me as fast as humanly possible. I didn't think Chris got a picture of this, but luckily he did. At this point, I had the knee warmers sagging in a very unattractive fashion, my arm warmers pulled down around my wrists, my jacket pulled up around my arms. I was a mess and didn't care.

We cruised past Slickrock parking lot, and went on into Moab. We stopped to strip off the layers and got to take this picture with self-timer on a mail box.

From here we headed straight for the Wendy's where Saint Fred would pick us up. Chris, B&N stood in the longest and slowest line ever in the history of Wendy's, while I managed to find a booth and promptly fall asleep. At some point Saint Fred must've gotten there, and eventually those four came to me with food and a nice, icy cold Sprite (which I had craved the whole trip).

We finished eating, sharing stories (as Fred is one of the maniacs who does this sort of crazy thing in a day), and then we headed to the parking lot to load into Fred's van. Fred lives in Moab, and graciously offered to shuttle us from Moab back to Fruita where our car was waiting for us. He is an awesome guy and is another example of the wonderful human beings we have met being part of the cycling community.

The parking lot is where I found a curb, sat there, and would've happily been run over had a car chosen to try to do so. There would be no quick movements from me. Chris found my state cute, pathetic, and humorous. By the way, this smile took every last bit of energy left in my system (notice the coat on AGAIN, the Wendy's was freeeeezing and my body had given up on any sort of temperature self-regulation):

Within five minutes, according to Chris and Fred, this is what the backseat of the van looked like:

In a few hours we would see our cars again (WOHOO). Chris and I would stop for snickers and snow-cone in Fruita and then head home. We would also stop at Qdoba. We wouldn't get home until about midnight.

One LONG shower later, I was in my bed.

I woke up 12 hours later in the exact same position that I went to sleep in. The sheets and comforter on our bed looked like they had just been freshly made.

Somehow we survived what can only be called the hardest physical and mental adventure of my life.

But don't worry, the story is not yet over, the aftershocks are coming...

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Koko Trail, Day 2: Westwater Ranger Station to Hideout Camp (57 miles)

After a hard, muddy, but overall enjoyable first day on the trail, getting up on day 2 wasn't too difficult.

Earlier in the week, as Chris was planning meals for our group, he bought some shelf-stable bacon. This means that for breakfast, in the middle of nowhere, we could have bacon for breakfast and not die of some un-shelf-stable-bacon-disease. Sweeeeeeeet. Bacon and muffins. Yum!

Chris heated some hot chocolate and the bacon right outside our tent door, and the lure of the food and the beautiful scenery around us was enough to lure even me out of bed.

The river rushed by as we ate our meal and we looked up at the cloud covered skies and hoped that the MudBikeMonster would not return today.

At a little before 9:00, we packed up our gear and we were once again ready with the loaded bikes for another adventuresome day out on the trail.

Day 2 shall be known as The Day of Delirium.

This is what the trail guide says of the first section of today (Westwater to Fish Ford): "... it's a welcome rest from the technical challenges you've faced before now and the miles will begin to roll by very fast. If you're lucky, the desert here will put iyou in a trance and you'll wonder where the last 15 miles went. Not because they weren't enjoyable, but because you achieved a real desert high."

Granted, I didn't read the trail guide before this trip, but "desert high" is exactly how I would describe this section on the spot if I were more eloquent of a speaker. Chris and I cruised along the rolling terrain like our bikes had motors.

Whether it was simply the terrain, some tail wind, a good night's sleep, bacon, or a combination of the four, we felt awesome. Chris and I laughed and smiled and felt like little kids out on a ride around the neighborhood.

B&N were a little bit behind us, but for the most part I think they felt the same way. Until Bill broke a spoke on his rear wheel. That was a huge bummer and would require some strategical planning and good will from a friend to allow him to continue.

We finished with the quick and flowy section, and ultimately came to a more technical section before McGraw Bottom. Chris and I picked our way among the rocks while B&N discussed options with how to deal with his wheel. Riding the dirt and rocks reminded my body that it was still pretty tired from the day before. I asked Chris to mix me up some Gatorade, and I tried to eat to keep my energy up. After such a fun, fast section, I was still having fun, but was feeling the fatigue in my legs for sure.

Chris and I went a bit ahead and entered McGraw Bottom. This BEAUTIFUL section by the river made us walk in several places, but it was worth it.

Chris even cleaned 70% of this short, super steep, crazy loose hill simply on a "hey, let's see you clean that" comment from his loving wife. I could hardly hike up it! How he got that far up with his single speed is beyond comprehension.

Soon we ran into Dave and Lynda out on their personal time trial efforts going the other way. It was fun to see their insane amount of energy as they zipped past.

Soon we all reconvened at highway 128 where we had the choice to take a shortcut down the highway to Dewey Bridge or ride Yellow Jacket Canyon. Due to my fatigue, given the choice by myself I would've taken the shortcut. But... being part of the group, I went with the flow and we rode Yellow Jacket Canyon. The terrain was ok -- technical and super sandy in spots, but overall not too bad. The scenery was the best on the trip so far. Very Moabesque with huge sandstone bluffs and wild cactus flowers blooming all around.

Chris was all smiles riding through one of his favorite sections of the trip. I'm not sure I share the same sentiment, but then again, I can't surf the sand like the pro he is.

In Yellow Jacket Canyon my knee started to whine from a day and a half of riding. I swallowed a bunch of Advil and my mood slowly improved. Soon we were out of Yellow Jacket and cruising down toward Dewey Bridge -- the halfway point in our three day tour.

At the old, historic, and now sadly burned down Dewey bridge, we stopped and ate some yummy PB&honey Pita sandwiches. The rest was welcomed, but not nearly long enough, as soon Chris, Nicolette, and I were back on our bikes trudging up the worst part of the whole trip. (Bill stuck around Dewey and waited for a new wheel brought to him by Saint Fred.)

What can I really say about the Entrada Bluffs road?


I never want to, ever, ever, ever see that road again.

First of all, when you get to Dewey bridge, you become painfully aware of how close you are to Moab, and how you are really only halfway there based on trail distance. All you (well, at least I) want to do is cruise down the road to Moab, and all you really HAVE to do is skirt to the left, up and down a few mountains, and then back to Moab. Eww. Then, you have to climb your tired body up a painfully long and often loose 12 mile climb that seems to have no end in sight. It was hot with no breeze. I was tired.

This part, which should've taken us a few short hours, took us 3+. About 3/4 of the way up the climb, Bill even caught back up. Around each bend, Nicolette and I would look for the summit, and around each bend we would find another freaking hill to climb. Entrada Bluffs was demoralizing and painful. I've gained perspective on most of this trip over the past week off the bike, but this part still remains in my mind as terrible. Annoying. And terrible.

We went up up up. Then, as we reached the summit of the climb, I felt relieved. Now we could go down.


MMmmmmm, kinda.

Technical downs don't count as downs in my book. It is not relaxing, it is not refreshing, it is certainly not what you want to do after climbing for the last three hours.

So guess what my already ticked off attitude had to do?

Go down some technical sections.


And we had yet to meet Rose Garden Hill.

By Rose Garden hill, Chris was getting stressed and a little ticked off. He knew that we'd taken an extraordinarily long time getting up the hill, and still had a ways to go before we reached Hideout Camp -- our destination for the day. This was the first and only time on the trip that Chris didn't seem to enjoy himself. He was worried that we wouldn't make it to camp by dark, and worried that we'd wasted too much time going up the darn hill. He hiked his bike down and up Rose Garden Hill as B&N and I followed behind. I don't think B&N were happy to see that we had to both hike down and then back up Rose Garden although I'd already been warned.

On the hike up, I passed B&N and started what Chris describes as my "Endurance Eyes" phase. I literally lost my mind at this point. I started to hallucinate (once seeing what appeared to be Chris's legs hanging off the side of a trail -- when I got up to it, there wasn't anything there -- not even anything that could pass as legs). I even imagined I saw and hit the sleep monster that Chris had described from his race the week prior. To me, he looked like one of the monsters from Monsters Inc, cute, but he needed a beat down for taunting my hubby the week before.

I had seriously neglected my eating, and it was started to effect my brain.

When hiking up the hill, I had the greatest realization of the whole trip. I could take off my helmet when hiking. Wow. The stupidest things seem like genius ideas when in a state of delirium. Soon I caught up with Chris, he saw "The Eyes" and we cruised along the roller coaster of smoothness to find our water and campsite (which we still didn't quite know how far away it was). We stopped to add more clothing as the sun was almost totally down at this point, and saw Nicolette coming up behind us. Bill had broken a chain. Chris went back to help him and sent us girls ahead, in the dark, with the GPS to find the campsite. We rode along, bitched a bit, but also pretty quiet in our hunger and tiredness. Soon we saw this sign:

The sign perked us up, and shortly the boys caught back up. Unfortunately, the sign didn't tell us HOW FAR the campsite was -- we just knew it had to be close enough for them to even put a sign up. So, everyone else turned on their little headlights and I followed behind Chris and mooched off of his. We cruised down a road for quite a while and finally found signs of the campsite. A few turns around the bend and we were at a sandy area which was close enough to water to be called our resting area for the night. Chris immediately got to work on our dinner (thanks again honey!), while I tried to be helpful and lay flat at the same time. I'm sure I wasn't much help.

Unlike the first night, I had a hard time eating dinner. It tasted good, but I couldn't figure out a way to lay down and eat at the same time. That presented a problem where I had to choose which was more important to me. I chose laying down. In the process of laying down, I realized that somehow along the trail, I had punctured a small hole in my sleeping pad. So Chris and I had to patch it. And it didn't even hold. But I was tired enough that I didn't really care.

We had somehow made it through Day 2.

One more day left. And oh goody, the next day would start with ANOTHER climb...