Day 20: “Famous in a Small Town”

Day 20, Thursday, October 8th

Rifle to Little Box Canyon


Dedicated to:

Zayden Stumpff, Ely, IA

Kristian Solem, Monrovia, CA

Amanda Abbott, Delplane, VA


At 7:45 I jumped in Big Blue with Tory, Marcus, Vaughn, my dad and the girls (Ziggy and Pogo). We drove the same half-mile that I drove day in and day out for 4 years throughout high school. From my front door step to the high school. This time however, I was going to my alma mater as an inspiration to the students at Rifle High School. To show them that they can do and be anything that they want to. That small town kids can do big things to help change the world.

As we slowly drove down the driveway and over the speed bumps approaching the parking lot, butterflies filled my stomach. Was it nerves? Was it anticipation? Was it the unknown? I’m not sure, but as soon as Theresa Hamilton, long time Rifle native and old t-ball coach came to the side door of Big Blue it was go time. I walked toward the front doors of the school where I saw Todd Ellis, Rifle High School principal (my former teacher) and Troy Phillips (my former teacher and softball coach). Again, so great to see familiar faces. I was then introduced to three RHS cross country runners that would be joining me for a jog out of the school. I told them they had to take it easy on me and run slow! 😉

Then I looked around me in a moment of complete awe. The Rifle High School band started a long tunnel of students and faculty lining the driveway. It was 8:15, school was supposed to be in session, but they delayed the start of school for me…for Move Mountains. I was taken out of my moment of zen, when the band started playing The Fight Song… and we were off. Running through this tunnel of young influential kids. I can only hope that I had even a small impact on them that they can do whatever they want to do. There were not only students and faculty, but so many familiar faces from my childhood… I was fighting back tears. I felt so famous in a small town.


At the end of the drive, I gave the three runners hugs and said my thanks then continued down 16th street and out of town on Railroad Avenue then merging onto hwy 13…the entire time escorted by the Police Chief Dyer and his crew. There were Rifle citizens lined up on the streets with signs that read “Go Jenny Go”, “Move Mountains”, “We Love You”…I’m pretty sure I had a permanent smile glued on my face for the first few miles of the day.


Then I reached the bowling alley where I turned to head up toward Little Box Canyon. My mom and more friends were there waiting for me along with my crew in Big Blue. I gave them hugs, shed my layers and was once again on a solo mission. At first I was still riding the high from the morning of fame, but then the adrenaline faded and I started to feel the slow steady climb I had in store the rest of the day. I was fighting the mental battle of mind over matter when I started to think of little Zayden Stumpff. I played college soccer with his mom, Jenny Stumpff (then Jenny Blanchard). Zayden is a young boy in Ely, Iowa fighting everyday to find control of his seizures. I know the stress and anxiety and fear it puts in his mom and dad… I can feel it in the words she writes me. As my legs were heavy to pick up each step, little Zayden kept me going. If I keep moving forward, so will he! So I did.

All of a sudden I was at the golf course, then Rifle Gap, then Rifle Falls. As I passed each of these places I was flooded with memories. I remembered the beauty and love at Jenny Sawyer’s (now Jenny Nolan’s) wedding at the golf course. Jenny and her twin sister Stephanie were my dear friends growing up from 5th grade on. As I passed Rifle Gap I started chuckling out loud. My senior year, one afternoon I ditched school with Mike Reedy and Alfonso Alfini, but had to be back for my last period for a test. Right before getting in the car to head back to school, Alfonso threw me in the lake. In sopping wet clothes I had to return to class and take my exam. I thought of my dear friend Mike MacIntosh as I passed Rifle Falls. He and I would go up there to just get away from stresses of life as teenagers.


After passing Rifle Falls, the grind was getting to me… my legs were tired, my mind was tired… the hill just kept going and going. Then all of a sudden, the thing I was looking for. Tory passed me in a white SUV… that meant Lindsey was there. Lindsey had met up with Tory in her car because her baby was sleeping in the back. Tory was able to drive Linds’ car while she ran with me. Lindsey jumped out of the car, ran down to meet me. We hugged and then start moving up the hill. Lindsey did amazing! She just had Kalli 4 months ago and was keeping a great pace as we moved up the hill chatting the whole time. We passed the fish hatchery and then we both knew that the dirt road to Rifle Falls State Park was just around the corner. We hit it and were home free. As we ran deeper into the canyon the rock walls towered over us. Climbers from all over the world come to Rifle Falls State Park to challenge themselves. There were a few people carefully making their way up the chalked paths. However, the crisp air coming off the damp walls and babble of Rifle Creek made me remember that winter was coming and the days of Indian Summer were dwindling.

Lindsey made it a little over 4 miles and told me to keep going, she would join up again in a few. The energy she brought me, when I was questioning if my legs would keep going was irreplaceable. I moved along at a decent pace for the next couple of miles, when she joined me again. We reached the turn for Little Box Canyon where I was supposed to stop that day, but decided to get an extra mile on the day. We let the dogs out and started up the narrow, rocky, steep road at nice little jog, that quickly turned into a hike as the grade continued to increase. At 1 mile in, I tapped out, waited for the truck to turn around and pick me up as we crawled our way back down the extra mile.


When I took my shoes off, my blistered feet were screaming for the cold creek. Thinking that it would be as refreshing as every other creek I’ve hit, there was no hesitation to dunk my feet right in. Boy was I wrong. It was so cold my bones felt like they were freezing. It was painful to the point I couldn’t handle it more than a few seconds. My feet were instantly bright red and numb to the touch. Winter really is coming!


After my feet came back to life, we packed up the troops and back tracked the exact 21 miles I just ran to my dads house for one last night of a warm bed and shower before days of camping and no service.

Lessons Learned:

  • It’s easy to stay motivated when there’s a lot of hype, but harder when you’re all alone
  • Best friends make everything better

9 thoughts on “Day 20: “Famous in a Small Town”

  1. Great post!
    I don’t know how you do it. You dig deep, mentally and physically to keep moving. You are famous, not just in Rifle but Chico… All over. You are an inspiration to people all over the world.


  2. Ha! You’re cracking me up. Mr., not Ma’am 🙂 No I haven’t been to Rifle, at least not yet. I’ve climbed lot around Estes Park, and up in Rocky Mtn Nat Park. Also at a place called Shelf Road


    • lol… i’m so sorry.. i just realized it’s KRISTIAN… i kept reading your name as KRISTEN! 🙂 I feel horrible. So so so so so so sorry! get to rifle… maybe I can join you (although i’m terrified of heights) but maybe can overcome my fear with your help! 🙂


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