Day 31: “Finish Line”

Day 31, Monday, October 19th

Columbine to the Wyoming Border

 

Dedicated to:

My mom- Cathy Desautels

My dad- Jeff LaBaw

My brother- Luke LaBaw

 

With the cold morning air brushing against my cheeks as I stepped out of the cabin, I took a big deep breath in, filling my lungs to capacity. As I exhaled tears started filling my eyes. Today was it. This was the last day. I wasn’t sure what the tears were from…happiness, pride, sadness, fear, exhaustion…maybe a little bit of everything. Taking a moment to acknowledge and accept the feelings, I stood on the porch staring at the grove of frosted aspen trees. I was lost in the moment, when all of a sudden Columbine Cabins started coming to life with the Move Mountains crew.

Tory and Vaughn starting packing up the truck. Marcus was gathering his camera gear.   My dad had his truck warming up. Andrea, Shelly, Becky and Kylie came walking down the dirt path. My mom and Karla drove in with smiles on their faces. Dario had come in this morning as well. Art and LaVonne pulled up in their pick-up. Erin and her boyfriend, Kyle, were ready to go in their truck. Then all of a sudden a familiar face comes strutting up. Matt Hamblin was back (remember Marcus’ friend from the first 3 days that ran with me). He was there for the start and now was back for the finish. And finally, the local woman who had greeted me yesterday on the front porch was there with her crew of kids. In total, we had 26 people to start the last day of the run.

It was so amazing, so wonderful, so exciting…. So overwhelming. In fact, so overwhelming that I had to go back in the cabin for a second. Marcus was still in their collecting his gear and the moment I saw him, I just fell into his arms and laid my head on his chest. I can’t explain it, but all I wanted was to crawl back into bed and lay there so that this run never ended. I was so proud that we were about to accomplish what we had set out to do. I was so ready for my toes to have a break. But, I was so sad that in a few short hours when I hit the Wyoming border, this “event” I had worked so hard toward the last several months…planning, prepping, executing and now finishing… would be over. Just like that, in one step across an imaginary line, it would be over. Marcus just held me and let me cry. I know he felt a lot of the same feelings, but he held so strong (just as he always does when I need him). He didn’t have the camera in my face and for one of the only times this entire run, he got to be my boyfriend rather than the videographer. It was so important for both of us.

I collected myself and knew that today was going to have to start. We all piled in the vehicles and paraded to where we had finished the day before at Road 494. During the drive, the girls were chatting and I’m sure I participated in the conversation, but honestly don’t remember much of it. My mind was somewhere else. Part of me just wanted to be alone, so I think I was mentally putting myself there. I heard the rumble of the tires crossing the cattle guard and knew it was time. Big Blue came to a stop. I strapped on my hydration pack, took another deep breath and jumped out to take those first steps. Hugging everyone and saying our “I love you’s”… the final day was underway.

With 17 miles ahead of us, there was quite the crew to start running…Matt, the girls, the mom with her kids, Erin and myself. It was so fun to catch up with Matt and see how his last month had been. Since I saw him last, all I had been doing was running… he had been working and traveling and living his normal life. I was then slapped in the face with a bit of reality. While this has been all consuming for me, life goes on as normal for others. As my life is being drastically changed on a daily basis, people continue with their daily grind. It made my heart sink for a moment…I knew somehow, someway, when I get back to my “real life”, there is no way I can continue like I was.

Matt was full of funny stories, as always, that made the first couple of miles go by quickly. I learned my lesson since I saw Matt last though, I have to keep my pace. So this time, when he started to drop off a bit, I just kept going. The mom and her kids had also dropped off at this point. Their plan was to start with us and make it 2 miles to where her husband picked them up (which they conquered). Erin had jumped in with Kyle. The girls continued to trade between running, riding and driving again today. Their transitions seemed a bit faster…turns out they did some strategizing at the cabins last night. Throughout the mileage, we were again awed by the beauty of the landscape encompassing us. The sky was grey again but the air was warming quickly. We saw some breaks in the clouds that allowed for sunrays to fall down on the brown grasses, aromatic sage brush, and barren aspens. It was the perfect representation of the mix of emotions I was feeling… bright and sunny in some spots, empty and cold in others. As we continued down the dirt road we rounded a corner and stopped dead in our tracks as we were slapped in the face with a 30-acre lush green lawn in front of a colossal lodge supported with massive timbers and faced with beautiful stone. Smaller cabins lined the shore of the Little Snake River, but were obviously an addition to the ranch. This was it… this was where I had originally planned to finish but they had no openings and were WAY above my price range. That meant, in this surreal surrounding we were now just paralleling the Wyoming border until the road curved up to cross the line.

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We continued down the road, passing expansive fields filled with cattle. Trucks with the Three Forks Ranch logo kept passing us. How big is this place? Turns out its HUGE! There fields upon fields upon fields. In this remote area of Colorado/Wyoming a group of bouncy-ponytailed girls, dressed in bright Reebok gear and running with a train of trucks behind them just didn’t fit in quite right. Cowboys already several hours into their work for the day would slowly turn their heads in confusion as we passed. But, like gentlemen, would lift the brim of their hats to give us respect.

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Erin popped back in a time or two to join us running. Marcus occasionally would pull up on his bike. Matt was still running a couple miles behind us. He set out to run the whole thing today and he was going to do it. It was a team effort to finish Move Mountains. However, the last 2 miles, Becky did something I didn’t expect but so appreciated. She pulled Andrea and everyone else off the road with me and said, “Finish what you started girl!, You got this.” The respect I had for Miss Becky just grew to capacity. I know how much everyone wanted to be a part of this last day, and I was so completely honored to have them all there. However, for 31 days, this has been an internal battle. Without the support of each and every person that somehow was a part of this run, it wouldn’t have been what it was and I couldn’t have made it through. But Becky, did what I couldn’t. She asked for people to let me finish this running alone, with a sea of support right behind me. The moment that Andrea jumped in the truck with Becky, the tears started flowing. I couldn’t breathe. I kept moving forward, one step at a time but it seemed that every ache, pain, and trial was trying to hold me back. At the same time, every smile, encouraging word and accomplishment was pushing me forward. As in life, the positive overpower the negative if you let them. I kept moving forward. Marcus was there on his bike with a camera in my face. He was capturing the struggle to breathe, to keep composed, to take it all in. The struggle to decide whether to be happy or sad that I was almost done with the most impactful, most purposeful, most inspirational thing I had ever done in my life. He asked me what I was thinking about… I was thinking about Katie, Zayden, Sam, Brooklyn, Jim, Grace, Sophia, Gabby, John, Grace, Lydia, Anna, Ava Grace and so many more. The real heroes that pulled me through on days that I didn’t have the strength to do it myself. I was thinking about my mom and dad and brother and the strength they have had my whole life to show me what it means to be strong and to not let adversity knock you down. I was thinking about him, Marcus, and the courage he has helped me to find. I was thinking about Tory and Vaughn and how they selflessly gave up a month of their life to be a part of something so special to me. Then… I was thinking about me. I thought about the 8-year old girl that was “different”. I thought about the embarrassment of peeing my pants in front of my friends. I thought about the scary times I was leaned over the toilet in retching attacks. I thought about the girl inside of me that is still scared to completely let go and tell the world about my epilepsy. For the first time the entire run, I decided to run for her. It felt so good. She was being freed from the pain and the fear.

I looked back at Marcus and said, “I need my mom and dad.” He said they were coming and not moments later, I heard the roar of my dad’s diesel engine coming up. The red of his truck came into my peripheral. I heard him ask, “Is it okay if we ride next to you?” I looked up to my right and broke down. For the first time in 22 years my parents were in the same vehicle. That moment, made everything worth it. An expectation I didn’t have and didn’t know was even possible. I didn’t know this desire to have my parents together was still buried deep inside of me. I looked down at my watch, which read 17.3 miles… at least nothing changed on this last day… we were still off on mileage. It didn’t matter today though, I never wanted this moment to end.

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Then, it happened. I saw the Colorado flag about 50 yards ahead and just past that, a tattered Wyoming flag suspended up on an arched tent pole that Karla and Vaughn were holding. The finish line. I stopped a few feet before the line, looked back and asked for my mom and dad to join me. With my dad on my left and my mom on my right we walked hand in hand under the archway, onto the Battle Creek bridge into Wyoming. I lost it. My mom and dad and I embraced and they just held me like they had so many times as a little girl.

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My watch read 18.3miles for the day. It was over. I had just run 500 miles across the Colorado Rockies in 31 days. My body was tired, my mind was lost, my emotions were running wild and all I wanted to do was run back to New Mexico. I hugged everyone and thanked them for being there. I cried in Marcus arm as he held me so tight as my boyfriend and not as a videographer. I felt his sadness, I felt his pride, I felt his love. I hugged Tory and felt her tears on my cheek and mine on hers. Throughout this month she and I have become more than friends, we are sisters. I hugged Vaughn, just like I did every morning for the last 31 mornings and we both said our “I love you” one more time. I was surrounded by so many people that love me, support me and believe in me more than I do myself. And I had never felt so alone.

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This was not what I had expected. I guess I didn’t know what to except, but this wasn’t it. I took a moment to walk away from the crowd, look up the hill at the ranch house that leant us the Wyoming flag. In my mind, all the hustle and bustle behind me when silent. I watched a hawk soar in the blue sky, I heard the babble of the rushing, I felt the dirt under my torn up shoes. I took a moment to take 3 deep breaths… Breathe in the good and breathe out the bad. Breathe in the good and breathe out the bad. Breathe in the good and breathe out the bad. I turned around to find everyone still there chatting and laughing and enjoying this monumental event. We did it!

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I hobbled back to the bridge as my toes were regaining feeling. Time for one last icing of the feet in the creek. I took off my shoes, then my socks and laughed at what I saw. The toe that first started giving me grief on day 3, had just shed it’s nail. There was blood all over my toes and a dangling toenail that had hung on for hundreds of thousands of steps. I tore it off, tossed it in the creek and then soaked my feet with the girls. I couldn’t think of a more perfect ending for my feet.

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We all packed our gear up in preparation for the drive back to the Steamboat. The ride back couldn’t have been better in my mind. In the same order that we crossed the finish line, my dad on my left and my mom on my right, we rode in the front bench seat of my dad’s pick-up reminiscing on what we had just accomplished and everything that went with it. About 1.5 miles from the finish line, we passed Matt who was still running. Art and LaVonne followed behind him. I wanted so badly to get out and finish that last bit with him, but my feet were toast and I was freezing. Shelly got out and crossed the line with Matt. Of the 500 miles, Matt completed 68.3 of them. Are you kidding me!?!? Such an honor and so dang proud of you Matt Hamblin!

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We all met up at The Roadhouse again for a bite to eat. I devoured a burger and fries. We filled the bar with love and laughter before heading back into Steamboat for a quick shower and rushed to CrossFit Steamboat, where again they put on a big shindig. Although fashionably late, people greeted me with big smiles, hugs and high-fives. I got to share my story some more, hear other’s stories and be surrounded yet again by amazing people. I was surprised and beyond honored when I was approached by Geoff Pope, a former New York Giant and also co-founder of Athletes vs Epilepsy (of which I am too an athlete advocate). I knew there was a possibility he was coming, but hadn’t heard any more for several weeks. Geoff told me about his grandmother who had epilepsy and his passion for raising awareness. He then presented me with a plaque for my accomplishment from the Epilepsy Foundation. Of course tears streaming down my face again. He asked if we could get a picture together. Are you kidding me?? A pro football player was asking to get his picture with me? I naturally replied, well of course, as long as I can wear your Super Bowl ring. Oh man, that thing is heavy! Bling, bling!

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The night wrapped up with Sarah Coleman giving another brief speech and presenting me with a generous gift full of Steamboat love.  I then gave a lengthy speech and thanked everyone that helped make Move Mountains what it was. Then the talented Shelly Rollison, got on the mic and performed the song she had created just the night before. It was beyond beautiful and the perfect ending to a crazy, wild ride. My heart was full! “We can move mountains, together, today!”

 

Lessons Learned:

  • No matter how old you are, having your parents by your side makes everything better.
  • There is no way to explain the mix of emotions to the bittersweet ending of the biggest thing you have ever done in your life.
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Day 30: “A Day of Perspective”

Day 30, Sunday, October 18th

Clark to Rd 494

 

Dedicated to:

Danielle Vasiliou, McKinney, TX

Christopher M. Weaver, Lancaster, PA

 

What a weird night. With my family all around and a cozy campfire to put me to sleep, I imagined a perfectly rested night last night. Boy was I wrong. My thoughts were consumed with confusion of the upcoming last two days of the run. One moment I was focused on the pride and amazement that I was actually going to complete 500miles across the Colorado Rockies. The next moment I was literally in tears that it was almost over. The next I was flooded with the honor that we were well on our way to achieving our set fundraising goal. I couldn’t turn my brain off. Finally around 12:30a I fell asleep. In what seemed like 10 minutes of sleep, every alarm in Big Blue was going off. The propane detector, the smoke detector, the carbon monoxide detector… it sounded like an elementary school band was practicing in our ears. Marcus and I shot up and tried to unplug everything. Turns out it’s not quite that simple. Everything is connected internally and the battery was dead. It was a dark, cold 4:30am and we were wide-awake. We didn’t want the rest of the campground to be awake so we drove the truck to the entrance parking lot, turned the generator on and unsuccessfully tried to get another couple hours of sleep.

At 7:30 we headed back to camp to see the confused look on our crew’s face. “Don’t ask,” we both tiredly thought. Feeling like I got run over by a truck, I performed my morning ritual and we headed back to the Clark store where I finished yesterday to meet a crew that would be with us to the end. CrossFit all-starts, Andrea Ager and Becky Conzelman were there with Becky’s daughter, Kylie and their good friend Shelly Rollison. Right behind them was another friend through CrossFit from California, Erin Sanders. Along with my dad and mom, Karla, Art and LaVonne, and regular team of 6, we had a total of 16 people headed up 129 in support of Move Mountains. Trying to wipe the sleep out of my eyes and tired grumpiness out of my mind, we all gathered at the Clark Store in preparation for the 18 miles ahead. The girls were peppy and brought an overall positive energy I just wasn’t prepared for. Something I realized in that moment, absolutely at no fault of theirs, the perspective that people have of this run when just joining it for a day or so, is completely different if you’ve done the entire thing. Their bodies were fresh, their minds were energized, and their attitudes were stable. I on the other hand was a complete mess. To spend 30 days in your own head, breaking your body down and trying to keep your headstrong enough to overcome the pain is exhausting. And I found it’s incredibly trying to be patient with others when you’re completely broken down. It took this day to realize that this was the feeling I had had so many times on this run. It always leaves once we get going and I can come to terms that their energy is actually exactly what I needed whether I wanted it or not.

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This held true yet another time. As we took those first steps for the day and I looked around me at the love, compassion and excitement that people carried for Move Mountains and the efforts we were putting forth brought it all back to center. This is exactly why I was doing what I was doing. To get people together for a common goal. To be able to run with people and tell them about epilepsy. To be able to learn from their experiences of overcoming adversity. To grow as an individual because of the impact these amazing people have on my life and to hopefully reciprocate that gift.

It was a cloudy, misty morning with intermittent rainfall. Minus the little bit of drizzle we had from Carbondale to Glenwood on Day 17, this was the worst weather we had to date. I was confident we would be in rain and snow by this time. Somehow, Mother Nature was on our side and looking out for us. She also wanted to move mountains I guess. There were several long climbs today that kept my core temperature up and the rain actually felt good; a nice break from the beating down sun. Andrea, Becky and Shelly took turns with their mode of transportation… one person running, one person biking and one person driving. Not sure how or when they decided to switch but all of a sudden when in the middle of conversation with one, another would be by my side not missing a beat.  We chatted about everything from CrossFit to Move Mountains to epilepsy to religion to family… we had 18 miles to just get to know each other better. I can tell you that these 3 women are strong, passionate, beautiful people that I am so fortunate to have in my life. Their individual perspectives on life and differences in personality made the 18 miles go by quickly again.

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At one point, Becky was taking steps by my side and Andrea was on the bike behind us. Marcus was with us as well, as always with camera in hand. And then a highlight of the trip… my mom was standing on the side of the road cheering us on. As we passed her, she started running with us, stride for stride we ran next to each other. Half way from where she started running to where Karla’s truck was waiting for her, she wanted to stop. Her heart was pounding. This isn’t easy! But as I grabbed her hand, she continued moving forward. This may sound corny, but this was such a symbolic moment in time. My mom has always been by my side. She’s pulled me up when I felt down. She’s led me in the right direction when I was lost and just wanted to quit. This day, something compelled her to start running with us, she wasn’t sure what, she wasn’t sure why, but she did it. For me, it was so much more… again, my mom was doing something to support me. But, this time I got to help her. I got to show her that she could do more than she thought and that nothing was going to stop her. I’m so proud of you mom.

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As we climbed throughout the day, we left the reds and browns of the valley and got into the now leafless silver colored aspens. The road changed from pavement to gravel and again I was home in the mountains, running across ground that most will never have the pleasure of seeing. What an amazing thing… not only am I able to witness the changing of season in one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to… but I’m able to do it by foot at 6-7 miles per hour. The details of the blackened bark from knots on trees, the pattern of protruding roots from the bank of the road, the scatter of fallen silvers leaves blanketing the ground… my appreciation for the power of nature has been magnified in the last month. With the girls’ comments as they experienced a part of this same feeling made me realize another meaning to this mission… to show people things they’ve never seen before. To give people the opportunity to develop a relationship with “my” mountains that they may never had if it wasn’t for Move Mountains.

Coming into the last long stretch of the route that day, the gravel road became a bit more treacherous. Larger rocks covered our path, increasing ankle-rolling possibilities. My legs were tired, my feet were heavy and I wasn’t landing as carefully as I would have liked. A few times my ankles gave out, but nothing of any damage. As we came into an open meadow of sage and tall grasses, Big Blue was stopped ahead. We crossed over the cattle guard at the “T” of 129 and road 494 (a two track road into the hills) and finished the day with smiles.

My sweaty clothes almost immediately get freezing cold when we stop. My core temperature drops and I have only minutes to get dry clothes and a heater before there’s no recovering. Knowing I wasn’t going to have a shower that night, I knew getting in a car with heat was critical. The girls piled in Big Blue with Marcus and Tory. Art and LaVonne were in their truck with camper behind. My mom and Karla were in Karla’s truck. I jumped in with my dad and blasted the heather. Vaughn led us all back 12 miles to Columbine Cabins where we would call home for the night. We had quite the parade of support.  My dad and I took a quick pit stop at a hunting camp that had donated as I ran by to thank them and continued to the cabins to meet up with the gang.  I so needed that time in the truck with my dad.  He just always seems to know exactly what to say (or what not to say).

The cabins were adorable little one room rustic abodes. We immediately fired up the woodstove and/or a space heater in each cabin to keep out the chill of the oncoming winter. Some people headed to a little bar and grill down the way, The Roadhouse. Others stayed at the cabins and napped, ate and relaxed. I spent some time hanging with my dad and Marcus, throwing the ball for the dogs and enjoying a bit chill time.  We were just hanging in the cabin, when someone knocked on the door.  I answered it to see an unfamiliar but friendly woman on the porch with 3 little ones.  She went on to explain that the lived in Hahn’s Peak (just a bit down the road) and wanted to possibly join us with her kids tomorrow morning.  Of course!!!  We chatted for awhile on the porch.  What a wonderful woman with so much love in her heart.  Her girls run for “Girls on the Run” and although it was a Monday, she was going to pull them out of school in the morning to be a part of Move Mountains.  I am so honored and so appreciative of parents that understand the importance and impact that something like this can have on their kids.  Becky did the same with her son Tyler in Carbondale and now her daughter Kylie here.

Shortly after they left, we headed to meet the others at Roadhouse.  While everyone got some good hometown cookin’ in their bellies, I posted a blog. My fatigue was setting in and I knew I had to get some good food in me and get my knee worked on. or tomorrow could be rough.  Tory met my dad and I back at the cabin where we got some body work and break from the chaos of so many people.

The night wrapped up with something so special. We headed the community campfire and gathered around the crackling wood as Shelly pulled out her guitar and came to life. The girl is amazing. While we were running today and I was getting to know her, she humbly led onto the fact that she recently gave up a successful career to pursue her dream…her dream of becoming a music artist.  Well, let me tell you, she already is a music artist. The girl is so talented, now she just has to be found. As I was getting ready to call it a night, Shelly and the girls said that there was one more song I had to hear. Shelly went on to explain that after dinner she wrote a song in just 5-10 minutes. I know nothing about songwriting, but I do know that doesn’t happen often. She said that this song was like a gem inside a stone. It’s always been there, she just needed to find it. And that she did. She started playing and singing and the words hugged my heart. It was about Move Mountains… she wrote a song for us. I don’t know if she has titled it, but the chorus says, “we can move mountains, together, today”. No truer words have captured this whole movement. This isn’t about me, this isn’t about epilepsy, this isn’t about running, this isn’t about the people I ran for. This is about all of it. This is about life. This is about understanding that we need each other. This is about overcoming adversity, in whatever capacity is shows up, with the help of others.

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Lessons Learned:

  • Sometimes you wake up on the wrong side of the bed…but that doesn’t mean you have to stay there.
  • Move Mountains has more meaning and depth than I ever could have imagined/hoped for.

Day 29: “Smiles”

Day 29, Saturday, October 17th

Steamboat to Clark

 

Dedicated to:

Bill Whittmore, Steamboat Springs, CO

Alexis Perlmutter, Golden, CO (her wedding day, congratulations)

Renzo Giraldo, Miami FL

 

We all woke pretty much in the same situation… not rested. Why in the world, did none of us sleep well? We were in the best beds, quietest rooms, and most comfortable environment we’d been in all month. Guess we have just gotten used to camping and didn’t know how to take being treated like royalty at the Sheraton.

The fatigue from lack of sleep was overcome by the energy and excitement the moment we stepped into CrossFit Steamboat. It was just before 8am and the room was covered in purple shirts, purple balloons and smiling faces. Sarah Coleman and her team had brought together members of their CF community, kids from “Girls on the Run”, athletes from the high school cross country team and supporters from the Steamboat community to run out of town with me. Sarah I stood tall on plyo boxes overlooking the abundance of people. I was overwhelmed with appreciation as Sarah introduced me and Move Mountains. I then gave a short speech and introduced the Move Mountains team. After a few tears of joy shed (I swear I can’t keep my eyes dry for nothin’), we headed out the door with a sea of purple balloons flying high around us. The love I felt put a permanent smile on my face for the day.

We were greeted and escorted out of town by a fire truck driven by Troy Kuhl (the guy that let us stay in his apartment). At about 1 mile in we reached where I had ended two days before (the intersection of highway 40 and 129). The fire truck blocked highway-40 for us to all take a left and head north on 129. This was the final road that would take me all the way to the Wyoming border. 129 didn’t have much of a shoulder so I was a bit nervous for the safety of the 30-40 people behind me (especially the little ones). Shelby, one of the girls from “Girls on the Run” was right behind for 2 miles. I mean the girl was moving! At mile 2, Shelby called it and I was then shoulder to shoulder with a guy named Kyle. Sarah said that he is the runner of the group at CrossFit Steamboat. Boy was she right! His initial plan was to run a bit with me and then go hit the 9am class at the gym, but for some crazy reason (and my personal luck), he decided to run 9 miles. He will never know how much I appreciated the company that morning, he kept a great pace and kept my mind preoccupied.

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As we were approaching the 7-mile mark just gabbing away, Kyle and I were surprised to hear a voice behind us. “Hey guys. Care if I ride with you?” It was Bill Whittmore. I was so honored to have him join us. I was running for Bill this day. He had been in communication with me since the planning of Move Mountains. Bill told me more about his story as we continued charging up the consistent slight grade of highway 129. He was diagnosed with epilepsy when he was 2-3 days old. I would guess that he’s in his 50’s now (sorry Bill if I have that wrong). He’s a fighter. Bill has never been able to drive, but he moved to Steamboat (I think he said in his 20’s). He joined a support group there called Horizons and had a community he could call his own. He’s been independent living in his own condo and working a full time job at the local grocery store there. He rides his bike everywhere he can, for exercise and for commuting. In the winter, when the roads are covered in ice and snow, he uses the local bus system (like we all should do anyways). Bill couldn’t gain control of his seizures and ended up being a candidate for brain surgery. I’m unsure of the year, but Bill braved surgery and it was a success. The part of his brain that showed activity during a seizure was the left frontal lobe, the area of the brain that effects our speech. After surgery, Bill’s seizures were better, but he developed a stutter. You would never know though, Bill is a talker. The 11 miles that Bill rode with me up 129 he told me stories of his family, his friends, his life in Steamboat, his job, his gym, his biking… the guy is wonderful. He leads a happy life and literally had a smile the entire time we heading up the road.

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The sun was shining bright again, the Colorado blue sky was vibrant, the initial morning chill in the air was gone. The terrain was open rolling meadows surrounded by mountains, with a huge peak up ahead… Hahn’s Peak… the pointiest peak I’d ever seen. As Bill and I kept moving forward, we heard a “honk honk” and my mom’s good friend, Carla, showed up in her pick-up with florescent pink signs taped to the back reading “Move Mountains” as well as a Tibetan prayer flag dangling from the bumper. I didn’t know she was going to be there. It immediately brought my heart peace. Life is good! I was reminded that I’m so lucky to be able to run 18 miles today with new friends, old friends and family by my side.

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For the most part, the traffic this day was extremely respectful. People slowed down, waved, cheered us on. We got a few funny looks, but that’s to be expected. We were cheered on by fields of cows, mooing at us with pleasant tones as if to say “you’re doing great”. A smile was brought to my face. There was a farm house to the right, with a father and his young daughter standing outside. He waved and said, “on your way back down, come stop in for some pig”… then I saw the smoke coming out of the ground. A pig roast… oh how I wish I was going to be headed back down for that! Another smile! We passed a woman on the left as we were climbing a hill who was holding her sign that said “Jenny” on it. I couldn’t believe someone way up here knew we were coming through and took the time to stop. Her name was Diane and she was cheering us on her with goat, Samwise. Tory, a former goat owner, jumped out of the truck and we all took a moment to cuddle Sam and thank Diane. Another smile. A few more miles up the road, I saw Tory and Marcus out of the truck with a camera up in this guys face. Doug was walking up the side of the road with his dog Gunner. However, not just any old walk. He was trudging up the hill (7 miles was the goal this morning) dragging a big tire behind him. He had trekking poles in each hand. Bill and I stopped to say hi and see what was going on. Are you ready for this… Doug was out there training for a 700mile solo trek to the South Pole! WHAT!? I asked him what his motivation was. He answered calmly with a smile, “my bucket list”. After chatting with him a bit more, he also has climbed Everest and canoed with an 8 person team across the Indian Ocean. This guy is LEGIT. We wish you the best on your adventure Doug. Please follow his journey at http://www.southpolesolo.com/password  Another smile.

As we continued up toward Clark, my legs were getting tired. I looked down to see chalk paint on the asphalt reading “Go Jenny Go”. A bit further ahead, “You’re Almost There”. And further ahead, “ My Feet Don’t Hurt!”. And finally, “You Made it”. Smiles with each one! To my left was the Clark store parking lot filled with smiles and hugs from family and friends. After getting my shoes off to provide some relief to the toes, we headed inside the Clark Store for some grub. Even with the menu filled with gluten free hamburgers, sandwiches and more goodies… again, I just wasn’t hungry. I knew I had to eat though and was getting chilled from the sweat soaked clothing. I had some delicious steak and potato soup with great company.  Another good end to a solid 18 mile climb. We enjoyed lunch together and then headed to Pearl Lake State Park and camped at Gold Pan Campground. Marcus’ folks showed up, my dad showed up, my mom was there and of course Marcus, Tory, Vaughn and the girls… I was a lucky to girl to have family with me. Smiles again.

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Lesson Learned:

  • The power of people uniting for a good cause is priceless.
  • Small gestures and words of encouragement will carry you for miles and miles (literally and figuratively)
  • A smile can change your day, or your hour, or you minute.

Day 28: “Grumpy Pants”

Day 28, Friday, October 16th

Rest Day in Steamboat 

I am going to apologize in advance for the negativity in this post.  You can’t be your best everyday, sometimes you just have to embrace the rough days to fully appreciate the good days.

The day started great…productive!  Although I am running 500miles across CO, I still have to work. I woke this morning at 7:30, opened my computer while still laying in bed, and began hammering out online programming for my clients. I hadn’t heard Vaughn or Tory rustling around yet and Marcus lay next to me breathing peacefully in a deep sleep. It was a perfect time to concentrate. Next thing I new it was 10:00 and I was closing my computer. Done! I tried to quietly sneak out the door to let the girls go potty and feed them. When I got back inside, Tory and Vaughn were moving around and Marcus not far behind them. We all gathered up all our junk and packed the trucks again. It’s truly amazing how much stuff we move around on a daily basis between the four of us.

As soon as we started to drive out of the parking lot, I got a call from my mom that she’s almost into town. Perfect timing! Then all of a sudden, I had this crazy mood swing. I don’t know what it was that set me off, but I turned into serious grumpy pants. Maybe it was that I was completely sleep deprived. Maybe it was the slew of people I knew that were coming into town. Maybe it was the self-inflicted stress of trying to make sure everyone was happy. Maybe it was the sadness that Move Mountains was coming to a close. Maybe it was me finally letting down. No matter what it was, it was my day to rest and it was turning into what felt like herding cattle. Everyone but me was hungry and wanted to get a burger. I wasn’t hungry and just wanted to go to the hotel and check in and take a nap in the sun with my dogs. It was my fault for not speaking up (just trying to go with the flow, but going half way crazy in the process). It seemed like forever that we were at the restaurant waiting for their food (in reality it was probably pretty quick). You know how time goes by really slow when you’re in an environment you’re not looking forward to. Then Marcus’ parents showed with the sweetest intentions, but I was not in the mood for more people (they did nothing wrong). Again my irritability was shining through. I felt so bad for everyone, I wasn’t being nice, but I was so tired and just wanted to be alone! Their food came, they all ate, and I there I sat basically throwing a silent fit like a 5 year old. Passive aggressiveness at it’s finest. Not my proudest moment, but I just couldn’t pull myself out of it.

After the meal was over, I jumped in a car with my mom as everyone else figured out vehicle shuffling and we met up again at the Sheraton Steamboat Resort minutes later. We were greeted at the front desk by the beautiful Gatlynn, a friend of Sarah’s and manager of the hotel. She had organized us a nights’ stay with 3 rooms (typically $350 each) for a total of $50 for all three!! Wow, I mean wow! We thanked her from the bottom of our hearts for her generosity and carted all of our gear to the second floor. The “click click” of the hotel key unlocking the door, followed by the opening of a beautiful large wooden door led us into a sudden feeling of being kings and queens for a day. The suite was nicer than most places we have lived. A full kitchen opened to a warm living room. To the left was the bedroom with the fluffiest white pillows I had ever seen propped up on a king sized bed (finally a night’s sleep ahead with some room to move). The bathroom, with a glass walk-in shower, jacuzzi tub and double sink vanity was attached to the bedroom. All of this, just nestled in at the base of Steamboat Mountain.  To top it all off, waiting for me on the kitchen counter was a “Good Luck” basket from Gatlynn and her team.  They put so much thought into it… With the sweetest card, there was a Steamboat beanie, some Smartwool socks (local company), HoneyStinger goodies (local company), a water bottle, and card board cut out junk food (Doritos, Twinkies, PBR, Frosted Flakes).  So generous!  Thank you so much!

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It was midafternoon, the sun was shining and I needed a break. I realized that all of my scheduled “rest days” so far have been loaded with things to do. Either PR events or catching up on work/blogs/etc…all great things I am so thankful for, but I needed more this month than the one hour of solitude I had yesterday. Then all of a sudden, Tory notifies me that Move Mountains was on CNN-Health!!! Oh my gosh… this was huge!!! We made national news!! I bolted down the hallway to my mom and Tory’s room where Tory immediately taught us how Twitter could work to our advantage to spread the word. So, the three of us glued our eyes to our phones for an hour or so promoted Move Mountains. After plucking away at my tiny phone screen and pitching the story to everyone we could think of, my eyes were starting to cross and I felt anxiety starting to creep in again. I NEEDED to take a break…sanity was going to have to take presendence of promotion.

I leashed up the dogs and we headed outside with my mom to the base of the ski hill. There was a nice little babbling creek that streamed by a span of grass. The grass, although coarse and browning for the winter, was the most comfortable I’d been all day. I laid out flat and just took in our surroundings. I tried to calm my negative, grumpy thoughts by focusing on the blue sky speckled with white clouds, the sound of the creek, the smell of the aspens, the feel of my mom’s hand in mine. Marcus took the dogs for a walk with his parents and I got to actually lay there with my mom, trying to figure out why I felt the way I did… or more just trying to accept and attempt to move on. Not sure I ever reached that point…some days I guess you just need to be grumpy and that’s okay.

That night I tried to be social and get out of my funk by going to a sushi restaurant at the resort with Marcus, Tory, Vaughn and my mom. I didn’t want to chance eating sushi in case my stomach didn’t agree, so I ordered some asparagus while they all devoured yummy rolls of every flavor you could imagine. It was about 8:30 and I was starving. They all had more rolls coming and I could still sense my negative mood, so I excused myself so they all could enjoy an evening without Miss Grumpy Pants… I headed to the truck, got my usual pre-made dinner from True Nature Kitchen and heated it up in our room and gobbled it up in quiet with my pups by my side.

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Time for bed in hopes of waking up on the right side tomorrow.

 

Lesson Learned:

  • I REALLY need my “me” time.
  • Some days you just need to be grumpy.

Day 27: “Shortest Day”

Day 27, Thursday, October 15th

Through Steamboat (Bald Eagle Lake to Hwy 129)

 

Dedicated to:

Jory Gomes, Elk Grove, CA

Mike Frabotta, Zimbabwe

 

On the schedule, today was supposed to be my final “rest day” of the entire trip. However, since I was 13 miles ahead of schedule and had to leave Saturday from CrossFit Steamboat, I only had 6.1 miles for the day. Officially the shortest day of the entire route. So we decided to get that done first thing and have 1.5 days of rest before the last 3 big days.

We woke without an alarm clock, wiped the sleep out of our eyes and got all geared up to drive ½ mile back on highway 40 to Bald Eagle Lake where I stopped yesterday. Because it was just a 6-mile run today, breakfast wasn’t needed, we could just get on the road. It was another frigid morning, but the sun was shining bright in the cloudless blue sky.   Pre-run we took our first and only group “selfie”, then I took off with gimping steps for that first ½ mile until my toes went numb enough to have a semi-normal looking gait. At that ½ mile mark I had another great surprise for the day…the Yampa River Core Trail was my route for the day. I didn’t have to beware of on-coming traffic and could enjoy the 6 miles of trail with Marcus by my side on his bike. IMG_3469

I was being serenaded on my iPod by The Parks (one of our favorite country music bands), while I paralleled the Yampa River. I embraced the chill coming off the water (although freezing, it was so refreshing). I breathed in the smell of sulfur emanating from the hot springs (not quite as refreshing…ha!). I took in all the sounds of Steamboat coming to life this Thursday morning. Then, with about 2 miles left, I took my phone out to take a picture of a hawk flying over a soccer field. When I hit the “home” button, I saw the spinning wheel and then a black screen… starting the 30minute run with a full charge, it died. This was not ideal considering I had 3 more days left and my music source was literally kicking the bucket. The good news was that my dad was on his way up with a new iPhone 6S that Marcus intended to surprise me with before leaving Rifle last week, but there was an order mishap.

The final 2 miles of the day were a breeze. I ended at the intersection of highway 40 and 129 where I was to head north to the WY border the last 3 days. As I turned around to walk back to Big Blue, where Vaughn was patiently waiting, Tory and Marcus had cameras in my face to capture a happy ending to a short morning run. We realized when we got to the truck, we had ended at Steamboat Today (the local newspaper). Tory confidently led us into the building where she pitched my story to the front desk lady. They had already heard of us coming through and had a guy on it. We chatted a bit with editor, Lisa Schlichtman, about Move Mountains. She was impressed and was so generous about asking how we were feeling and how it was going. Her husband has just finished a month long bike ride so her empathy shone through. The next couple days proved that they were in fact in support as Move Mountains was well covered. (I will link to those on my media page).

We headed back to Freshies for a filling breakfast and then to CrossFit Steamboat to actually meet Sarah Coleman. Oh my gosh… she is mine and Tory’s long-lost sister. This girl’s energy is infectious. We hung around for an hour getting to know her, one of the other gym coaches, Ronnie, and owner, Mike. Their gym is adorable and yet again, another outstanding CF community opening up their doors to make us feel at home. As the 11:30 class got into the conditioning portion, I couldn’t help but jump in and coach a bit. It’s in my bones… it’s so hard to be in a gym and not coach. With a struggle to escape, because I wanted to stay in the positive environment all day, I knew it was time to get some down time.

Tory and Vaughn took off again to the pool to channel their inner fish, Marcus hit the mountain trails on his bike (where he came back to footage of moose), and I took the dogs to the ski lake for some playtime. I realized two things at this point… first, when I drove Big Blue to the lake, it was the first and only time that I had driven Big Blue the entire trip… and second, it was literally the first time I had gone somewhere by myself in almost a month. I am VERY much a person that needs her alone time. It was so healing to watch the excitement of Ziggy and Pogo as they sprinted, chasing balls for an hour. I was actually able to escape the constant chatter in my head of what I was doing… why I was doing this, who I was doing it for, how much my body “felt”, where do I have to be next, did I post on social media, how many blogs to I have left, I need to force feed myself, is the crew happy and getting everything they need… my mind was finally at ease for the first time since July when I decided to do this run.

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Lesson Learned:

  • It’s okay when you get ahead in life, to pull back the reins a bit.
  • It’s necessary in life to pull back the reins before life gets ahead of you.

Day 26: “Getting Ahead”

Day 26, Wednesday, October 14th

Stage Coach State Park to Steamboat

 

Dedicated to:

Kamryn Hahn, Marion, IA

Mia Allen, Aurora, CO

 

I take it back from yesterday’s blog… THIS was the coldest morning yet.   The thermometer read 22° F… the chairs outside had frost on them… the windows of Big Blue were dripping with condensation… Ziggy and Pogo were literally shaking… but the sky was blue as blue can be. It was going to be another good day.

I got myself all put together, then Marcus and Tory drove me 4 miles up the road to mile marker 2 while Vaughn followed in the Tacoma. We exchanged our hugs and “I Love You’s” then I limped my way into the first steps of the day. Waiting for my toes to go numb, I distracted myself by watching the cattle already grazing on this chilly morning, the hawks flying high in the sky looking for their morning meal, and the chipmunks bravely scurrying across the highway (probably hiding from the hawks). Before I knew it, the lake appeared on my right. I was already 3 miles in, my toes were numb enough and sweat was beginning to drip down my back.

Art and LaVonne were still at the camp, getting their gear all packed up. The initial plan was to come back to Stage Coach, but last night when we arrived there was a notification that the bathrooms and water were shut down for the season. Probably not the best place to spend 2 more nights with an already REALLY stinky group of people. We hadn’t bathed (minus a quick dip in Vaughn lake) for going on 6 days and 65 miles. Tory literally had unwanted dreadlocks forming, you could smell Marcus’ armpits from a mile away and I can only imagine what EVERY part of me reeked like. Needless to say, we for sure needed running water.

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As I climbed up a bit after the lake, Country Road 14 narrowed down to no shoulder on either side. A little nervous about my well-being, I zig-zagged back and forth on either side of the road, hitting the white line and trying to stay as narrow as I could to the shoulder. I was back to feeling like a human powered racecar, except taking the outside corners instead of the inside for safety sake. For a nice change, people were incredibly kind today. Mostly, they slowed way down and raising a finger or two off the steering wheel in acknowledgement. Some people even gave a few honks and “thumbs ups”.

The view was beautiful as I winded down the switchbacks of the county road. The oak brush and Quakies had reached their late fall/early winter brown color with touches of red. The land was starting to open up to more meadows and rolling hills with mountains encompassing it all. The farmhouses and barns that occupied some of these open meadows were outstanding. For about the 100th time, my mind wandered to dreaming about living on one of these ranches and living a simple, hard-working, fun-loving life. One particular home caught my eye as the road took a sharp 90° turn left. The old rustic wooden barns were stacked tall with hay, the horses ran freely in their pasture, and the farmhouse was tucked back from the road with a big front porch looking out over the peaceful view of the valley. I was dreaming with my eyes wide open as I ran up and down a few rolling hills. Then all of a sudden, my attention was brought back to the present as I heard big rigs rolling by.

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Highway 131 was up ahead and a completely different ball game than the 12 miles I had behind me for the day. Vaughn was parked at the stop sign waiting for me to safely make it across the highway. There was a break in traffic right as I reached the stop sign, so I just kept moving and was excited to see a big shoulder. Little did I know that this was going to be 6 miles of surprises. First, vehicles were racing toward me at what seemed like 85-90mph, but I’m sure was 65 or so. Either way, it was quite the change from the slow moving, respectful traffic from Country Road 14. Second, The smell of road killed filled my nostrils several times on 131. Not to get too graphic, but I passed a deer that had to have been there for awhile. It was completely gutted with just the hide slowly wasting away on the skeleton. I smelled it before I saw it and knew it was going to be bad. The stench really is nothing that I can put words to. There was also a skunk that had recently been hit, the smell wasn’t bad but for some reason the sight of blood and guts and a smashed face got me a bit nauseous as I had to leap over the mess. I will spare you all with the other details, but trust me, it was enough to make me gag several times. The third unexpected surprise of this route was the power of the wind. I’m not sure if it was the more open terrain or the colder air, but every time a semi passed me, the backdraft of the wind literally pushed me backwards. I had to jump into it, break my stride and almost swim my arms to get through the air. I had a good chuckle a couple of times thinking, “I couldn’t have lost this much weight and strength, could I?”

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All of these, I hate to use the word “negative”, so let’s call them “challenging” surprises were pleasantly overpowered by the best surprise of the day. As I took a wide bending left on the highway, an on-coming car pulled over part way in the shoulder with the most excited driver I have ever seen. She pulled off to the side and asked, “Are you Jenny LaBaw?” in a sort of a rhetorical way. I mean if she knew I was coming, who else would be running on the side of the highway…ha! I said “yes, but this is a really unsafe place to talk.” Her tail end was still slightly in the right hand lane with on-coming traffic zooming by. She said, “I’m Sarah Coleman”. My heart started singing inside. This is the woman who my mom and I have been in communication with for about 2 months. She has worked her buns off to make us feel so welcome at her gym (CrossFit Steamboat) and in her community. I stuck my arm in the door to grab her hand and say thank you. She then handed me an envelope generously filled with 2 passes to the Old Town Hot Springs and said, “enjoy some rest and we’ll see you soon.”

And like that she was gone. I continued on my way with just a few miles left when all of a sudden my numb body was coming back to life. This usually happens around mile 14 or 15 everyday. I couldn’t decide if it was better to run on the slightly sloped asphalt or the flat, but soft dirt on the side. The dirt was harder on my toes but the asphalt was harder on my knees. So, I just alternated back and forth until finally I saw Big Blue parked ahead and Marcus out with his drone. The finish for the day was here. I picked my pace up slightly, turned in the driveway of Bald Eagle Lake (a private waterski lake that Marcus knew of) and sat my butt down. Time for some food.. I was starving.

Marcus reached out to a waterskiing buddy of his, Troy Kuhl, that suggested we go to Freshies. He nailed it… we all demolished some serious sandwiches. I ordered a big fat burger with a GF bun and a ton of sweet potato waffle fries. Troy met us for a few on a brief break from his shift on the fire truck. Marcus explained that we weren’t sure where we were staying for the night since our campground with a shower fell through, but we were thinking the KOA. Troy then generously offered up the apartment that his housing development owns. While we waited for a for sure approval, we took the dogs back to the lake where they swam and ran for over an hour. The apartment was only ½ mile away from the lake, so we popped back over, got the keys from Becky (Troy’s wife) and parted ways. Tory and Vaughn took the passes to Old Town Hot Springs to swim laps (they are actually fish, you should see these two swim) while Marcus and I headed to a local coffee shop and busted out a lot of much overdue work (blogs, editing, emails, etc).

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That evening, we returned back to the apartment where the first thing that happened was a shower. I was disgusted when the water starting running over my head and I could taste salt and see the white tub turn into a pool of brown water. Wow, I mean wow! I got to shave my legs, wash and condition my hair, brush my hair and feel like a real person again. With us all feeling like new, Marcus and Vaughn enjoyed a drink or two while Tory rubbed my legs down for the night. Becky and Troy joined us all for a few, what amazing people they are and how considerate of them to donate their apartment to Move Mountains. They will never know how much that meant to us to have a real bed and hot shower. Thank you!

It was time for a good nights sleep knowing that I was 13 miles ahead of schedule and tomorrow was only a 10K.

Lesson Learned:

  • Karma is a real thing. If you’re good and do good, good things happen and people are good in return (thank you Sarah, Becky and Troy)
  • There really are no words to describe the smell of road kill as you run by.

Day 25: “A Close One”

Day 25, Tuesday, October 13th

Mile Marker 67 to Stage Coach State Park

 

Dedicated to:

Marcus Roque, Miami, FL

Marti Martinez, Massachusetts

 

 This was the first really cold morning that we’ve had yet. There have been a few mornings with a chill in the air, but this morning there was a bite. I stepped out of Big Blue and my nose was instantly frozen. I quickly stepped back in and did my morning ritual… prepped and taped toes, stretched whatever needed it, ate a couple hard boiled eggs and a banana, filled my hydration pack, and laced up the tennies. While I got ready for the day’s run, the rest of crew packed up camp.

We drove the route I had run yesterday…. Where one day ends, the next begins…literally! From mile marker 67, the day consisted of a 12 mile winding descent…there were a couple of “woops” in there, but mostly downhill. I’ve mentioned it before, but to reiterate myself, the downhill is harder than up. The pounding takes it’s toll on the joints. By about mile 7 my knees were aching, but I was having a great run. The sun was shining, the sky was blue, and the air was fresh.

As we were nearing Phippsburg, we started to see some amazing old barns and rustic cabins that were still inhabited, but very run down. We were getting out of the thick of the hills and into the ranch and farm lands. Real cowboy country. As I crested a small hill, there was a horse to my left up against the fence bordering the road. Typically, horses and mules bolt when they see me coming. But this good ol’ boy just stayed there watching me. I took it as a perfect opportunity to take a break. I picked some dead grass off the side of the road and let the horse munch it out of my flat palm. Then, I spent a few minute giving it a good pat down and rub between the eyes. What an amazing creature.

With a smile on my face, I hit play on my iPod and carried on down the dirt road. It turned to pavement not long after and instantly my joints started to whine. I had had several consecutive days of dirt road, so to be back out pounding the pavement was a bit of shock to the ankles, knees and hips. Not long after hitting pavement, I came to “T” in the road, hung a left and ran not even a ¼ mile before hitting Phippsburg. It was the first town I had run through in 4 days and although it was a population of 204 , there were a few people out and about and couple little businesses open.

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With towns, even small towns, come more traffic though. I was scheduled to stop at Phippsburg, but feeling descent and in my rhythm, decided to keep going to get a head start on the next day. As I continued up the road, Marcus and Tory went ahead in the Big Blue and Art, LaVonne and Vaughn took the other vehicles to Stage Coach State Park, where we were planning to call “home” for the next 3 nights. It was a good strong climb initially out of town and no shoulder to be heard of. I was right on the white line, or even on the road as cars charged toward me. When I saw vehicles coming and not pulling away from me, I’d just jump down into the ditch. It’s almost like a video game.

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Ahead of me was a bridge. Bridges are always sketchy because there’s nowhere to really jump out of the way if you need to. The bridge was a big bending roadway so I knew the risk was even going to be higher as most people hug the inside corner (which happened to be oncoming traffic). I saw Big Blue on the other side of the bridge, maybe 100 yards away. Picking up my pace as much as I could and keeping my eyes wide open, I started heading across hugging the guardrail on my left as close as possible. A few cars zoomed by but at least tried to pull to the middle when they saw me. Then, ahead, I saw a black pick-up coming at me SO fast… I knew I could be in trouble if he wasn’t paying attention. He wasn’t, or he didn’t care and was trying to run me off the road. Either way, he was on the white line and was approaching quickly without any sign of moving over. I had to bail over the guardrail. Luckily there was just enough room for my toes to catch the edge of the dirt while gripping the guardrail. My heart was racing… that was the closest call yet to being seriously hurt on the road. I took a deep breath, jumped back over the guardrail and sprinted to the end of the bridge where I could continue on. I passed Big Blue and obviously neither Tory nor Marcus had seen what happened as Marcus was flying the drone and Tory just gave me her usual sweet wave and smile.

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Just past the bridge was the sign for Stage Coach State Park, so I hung a right and started moving down that road. I turned the corner thinking that I would run another mile, but when Marcus passed me and told me I only had 5 miles left to the park, I decided 2 miles was good. At mile marker 2, Tory and Marcus were waiting with cameras in my face and love in their heart! We were ahead of schedule again.

We pulled into the campground to meet the rest of the gang and all of us enjoyed a little rest. Vaughn and Tory sunbathed, Marcus relaxed in the shade and I got a few moments to myself in Big Blue with the girls. Art and LaVonne headed into Steamboat for a few where we met them after spending some time on the nice sandy beach playing ball with the girls and giving Tory a little shoulder rehab workout with Cross Over Symmetry. We all met up at little Mexican Restaurant where they all ate (I just mowed down chips and salsa). It was our first day on the internet in 5 days so embarrassingly, Marcus and Tory and I buried our faces in our computers to get some overdue work done.

We clocked the mileage from Steamboat to Stage Coach State Park on the way home (17 miles) then finished the night out with a campfire under the stars.

 

Lesson Learned: Always be on your toes (even if they’re too beat up to stand on).

Day 24: “Eatin’ Dust”

Day 24, Monday, October 12th

Mile Marker 49 to Mile Marker 67

 

Dedicated to:

Tim Keough, Las Angeles, CA

Allegra Genereaux, Burlington, Ontario

Finally… a solid nights sleep. Every night so far, there’s been something that has woken me up before I was ready. The dogs, other’s snoring, aching knees, people talking, the need to pee… but this morning, everyone was so kind to stay quiet in their respective tents/campers until I woke up. I slept until 9….I got 12 hours of sleep! It was a brand new day and I was ready to tackle it.

The moment I stepped out of Big Blue at mile marker 49, I pressed play on my iPod and Tom Petty wailed the perfect theme song for the day. Naturally, I sang right along… “No, I won’t back down…” just as I started taking my first steps for the day. Everyone got a good laugh out of it and the day began in the right direction.

Vaughn, Tory and Marcus were all in Big Blue today as we left the Tacoma at camp since we were returning for another night. Art and LaVonne stuck around camp a bit longer and met up with us a few miles down the road. The first 5 miles were a nice easy gradual downhill grade until I reached a fork in the road. The left fork continued downhill and the right had a steep incline. I stopped and looked back at my crew to get confirmation that right was the correct direction so I didn’t climb for no reason. Big Blue was a good 100yards back, Marcus was out flying the drone and Art and LaVonne were behind Big Blue quite a bit. I waved my arms in the air, yelled, lifted my arms up in confusion… and nothing. No one responded and neither vehicle proceeded forward. “Really?” I thought. Rather than getting frustrated, I used it as an opportunity to strip some layer as the sun was coming out. Still, no one regarding my obvious confusion, I waved my arms again. After what seemed like about 5 minutes (but was probably closer to 2 minutes), they started driving forward. Turns out that no one was paying attention to me, but rather on their phones, looking at maps, and flying drones. We all got a good chuckle out of it as I continued on the right fork. And the uphill began.

 

Yesterday Marcus clocked the uphill as a 6 mile jaunt… turns out it was 7. It’s amazing how being off a mile messes with my head. I hit that 6-mile mark after climbing and climbing and climbing, expecting to see either a flat road or a slight downhill. All I could see in the distance was more incline. My heart sank. I was tired, my legs were heavy, my feet hurt and I was sick of each step slipping out on me from the loose gravel. It seemed like every step forward was only a half of a step with the slipping. Marcus passed me in the truck and all I could say was, “You lied, you said 6 miles.” I realize now, how bad that must have made him feel. Tory, Marcus and Vaughn do so much to protect me everyday, but sometimes in the heat of the moment when I feel like collapsing, my best side doesn’t always shine through. I’m sorry guys, thanks for being patient and understanding.

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I finally made it to the top! The summit sign read, Dunkley Pass 9764ft. I stopped for a minute to look back at what I had come over. I could see the end of the initial 5-mile downhill followed by the pass I had just climbed. I had a moment of pride. A moment of, “holy cow, I’m actually doing it”.

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Carrying that pride with me, I headed down the back side of the pass. Today was different than any other day thus far. I didn’t have a destination. From Vaughn Lake to Phippsburg was 31.5 miles and I wasn’t going to do that in one day, but didn’t see anything on the map between the two places. So, when setting the route a few months back, I just knew I had to get that mileage done in 2 days, however that worked out. With the intention of breaking it in half, the goal mileage for the day was 15ish… but I ended with 18. That was 6 miles of a gradual downhill from the summit.

Going up the pass, I had been dusted quite a bit from trucks driving by. It was irritating, but figured they couldn’t slow down too much as they were on a hill and gave them the benefit of the doubt. But those last 6 miles down, my patience was running out. I had literally been dusted by trucks zooming by on the gravel road for the last 2 hours, and I was over it. There was one truck in particular, a white Toyota, with a young guy in it that had passed me a couple of times. Each time dusting me so bad, I had to stop and cover my face. The third time he did it, I finally lost it and for the first time the entire trip, I lost my cool. Road rage set it and I flipped the guy off! One of m favorite quotes ever is “Of all the paths you take in life, make sure some are dirt”. That day I not only got to take a dirt path, but I got to taste it and breathe and was completely covered in it.

I finished the run at mile marker 67 with a smile on my face, dirt in my teeth and another craving for salt and vinegar potato chips. Luckily I hadn’t eaten any of the bag that Art and LaVonne had brought a few days ago. So, in the short drive from where I finished to where we got back to camp, I annihilated all but a few crumbs. Totaling 840 calories of pure heaven in about 10 minutes.

When we got back to camp and the sun was beating down on us, Vaughn, Marcus and I braved the cold water of Vaughn Lake. It had been 3 days of running and I was literally caked with dirt. I scratched an itch on my neck and my finger nails had a layer of brown grime underneath them. It was FREEZING… like take your breathe away, give you a headache freezing. But tolerable enough to jump in, jump out, soap up, jump in , jump out and done! Not clean, but cleaner and at least smelled a bit better.

 

Lesson Learned: Some people have no regard for others well-being.

Day 23: “Missing Family”

Day 23, Sunday, October 11th

North Fork Campground to Mile Marker 49

 

Dedicated to:

James Mullen, Vestavia Hills, AL

Erik Wettermark, West Long Branch, VA

 

I woke up in the morning with a pit in my stomach. I had to say goodbye to my daddy. He was heading back to Rifle for a week of work while we continued up and over the mountains. I of course still had my amazing team of Marcus, Vaughn, Tory and Marcus’ folks, but there was just a feeling of emptiness knowing that I wasn’t going to have my dad, mom or brother with me. Throughout my journey thus far, it has become even more clear to me how much my family means to me. They have always believed in me, they have always encouraged me, they have always fought for me at times when I couldn’t myself. To be at such a vulnerable place in my life, I needed them so much and it was so hard to know that I couldn’t hug them each day or night. Luke, my brother lives in India with my sister-in-law Kim (best friend from college) and their two boys, Grady and Hudson. My mom was on her way to Boston for the week of work. And in a few minutes after I taped my toes, filled my hydration pack and put on my tennies, I knew I was going to have to give my dad a hug goodbye. My eyes started to well with tears. I was fighting hard to hold them back as to not make Marcus feel bad, but I was emotionally spent and control was lost.

It was inevitable though, after about 10 “goodbye” hugs to dad, he turned right out of the campground and we turned left. Sitting in the back of Big Blue, I cried so hard as I saw his red Dodge drive away. I felt like a child again. In the rear view mirror, I could see tears pouring down Tory’s face as she drove me away from my dad. Our emotions were wild, but it was time to continue my mission to Move Mountains. In the literal sense, today I was climbing another mountain. With about 4 miles of a gradual climb to Ripple Creek Lodge, the road took a deep bending left turn and the real climb started. Ripple Creek Pass was a 6-mile continuous climb of gravel road switchbacks. I was pleasantly surprised that I was able to run most of it. Typically my uphill trick is to look just in front of my feet, that way it doesn’t seem as steep. However, the colors as I ran over this pass were too vibrant to let my eyes look at the dirt for too long. I know I keep saying it, but the yellows, oranges and reds were more beautiful than words can describe or pictures can capture.

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At about the 2-hour mark I reached the peak of Ripple Creek pass. Marcus and Tory had passed me about 1 mile prior and Marcus yelled, “1.5 miles to the summit”. With heavy legs, I was happy that it was closer than he had predicted. I took a moment at the top to sit and rest with Marcus, Tory, Vaughn, Art, LaVonne and Stephan all waiting for the next move. We were near the trailhead for West Lost Lake (one of my favorite high mountain lakes that we hike into). For a moment, I got lost in a daydream, thinking back to a father/daughter weekend we spent at the lake. It seemed like yesterday that I was anxiously following his footsteps as we hiked to go spend some time throwing a line in the lake, roasting hot dogs over the campfire and feeling like the most special girl in the world. Then, like that, I was back in the moment. I stood up, embraced Marcus and hobbled back onto the road for a 3-mile downhill stretch to Vaughn Lake. The plan was to stay there for 2 nights, but plans changed when Vaughn had gone ahead to get a site to find that they were all full. Rather than stopping at the lake, I continued another 2 miles up the road until I hit mile marker 49, for a cumulative 15.75 for the day.

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Exhausted and ready to put my feet up for the day, we pulled to the side of the road to discuss what do to. Art and LaVonne had to drop their trailer there so they could drive Stephan back to Denver to catch his evening flight. While they were gone, Tory and Vaughn went one way, while Marcus and I went the other. About ¼ mile down the road, Marcus and I found a perfect spot hidden just off the main road on a small jeep road. A previous camper had made a bench out of logs and a fire pit out of stones. We just found “home” for the next 2 nights.

Tory worked on my legs as Marcus and Vaughn settled camp. Aspen leaves were literally falling on me as I lay there. A sign from the universe, that although this spot wasn’t the original plan, it was where we were supposed to be. After my massage, we headed 30 miles into Oak Creek for two reasons. One, we were on a reconnisance mission to discover which route was best for the days t come. Two, Marcus and Vaughn really wanted chips and salsa and we needed water. In town, we found the cutest little grocery store that was exactly what the doctor ordered. They had so many grass fed, organic, gluten free options…. The four of us were in heaven! We stocked up on some goodies and just before checking out I saw the frozen treats icebox. Uh oh! Without hesitation I smashed an ice cream Reeses Peanut Butter Cup. Then on the way out of town, we had to refuel Big Blue. At the gas station I may have also accidentally inhaled an ice cream Snickers bar. They were both amazing… guess my body was craving some sugar!

Although the day started a little rough around the edges, the run went well, the scenery was beautiful and ice cream fixes everything… well maybe not everything but it sure did help that day.

 

Lessons Learned:

– I need my family by my side.

– Sometimes ice cream does fix things.

Day 22: “Stompin’ Grounds”

Day 22, Saturday, October 10th
Buford to North Fork Campground

 

Dedicated to:

Ava Grace Dresback, Hunt Valley, Maryland

Britney Dipley, Victorville, CA

A fairly uneventful day today. I awoke feeling like I had run a hard marathon yesterday…because I had. My knees were sore, my feet felt like hot pokers were stabbing my toes, my low back was tight, and in general my body was just feeling the 300+ miles. But the fact that I was with good friends and family in one of my favorite places in the world, meant the day was going to be great.

I started at the Buford store with hugs and “I love you’s” from everyone and limped my way into the start of the run. Like I’ve said before, it takes a bit for my toes to go numb and to be able to get whatever part of a normal gait I have left going. The 13 miles ahead today were going a nice break on the body from the 20+ milers that have become the norm. However, the continuous gradual uphill grade was going to make those 13 miles feel a bit longer. I headed up North Fork Road, a paved road without much of a shoulder. My dad and Stephan were right behind me in dad’s truck with Art and LaVonne just behind them with their truck and trailer. All hazards going, I felt safe.

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The view was spectacular. On the run I was thinking about how much the terrain has changed everyday of the run for the most part. I’ve been on everything from the side of highways in the high desert to mountain passes in the aspens and pines to trails full of rocky shale slides above treeline. Today was some of my favorite. Expanses of fall colored aspens and oak brush intertwined with spruces and pines lining the edges of golden meadows. The sun had crested the hills, spilling raise of sunshine on the day.

As I ran along, taking in my surroundings and trying so hard to distract myself from the fatigue in my legs and the pain in my feet, my heart skipped a beat and then began to race with joy. Maybe 50 yards in front of me, 3 deer crossed the road. Their agility and grace is astounding. They climbed the steep hill on the other side of the road and disappeared in the oak brush. With a smile on my face, I continued up the road and memories of my childhood in these woods ran through my head all day.

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I hit dirt at about 11 miles in and new that I was getting close to North Fork Campground, where we would call home for the night. My legs were feeling heavy, but I knew if I stopped to walk, I wouldn’t start running again. So in what Climbing Ivy would call the winning shuffle, I scooted my body along until I saw Big Blue on the left with a big yellow and brown sign in front of it. Knowing that was North Fork and that tomorrow was going to be a big day, I put my eyes forward and passed the truck yelling, “2 more miles”. Dad followed me those last two miles and was there for a big hug when I finally stopped and ended he day with a seat in the dirt. Marcus and Tory showed up minutes later and we all headed back to camp.

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I devoured a gluten free muffin and a Reyhdrate from True Nature Kitchen, before laying down on the couch in Big Blue and surprised myself by waking up from what seemed like a 3 hour nap just 20 minutes later. It was the first nap I had taken since we had been on the road. I am not a good nap taker, so when it happens I know sleep deprivation has set in. Tory and Vaughn had taken the pups to the river, but were back shortly after I awoke.   While my dad, Vaughn and LaVonne sat and chatted with us, Tory again brought my lower half back to life. I literally couldn’t be doing this without her.

The afternoon and evening were consumed by playing in the river with the dogs, Marcus taking a FREEZING bath in the river, sitting around the campfire chatting and just enjoying each others company in the midst of nature. It was the first of many nights we were going to be out of service complete and sleeping under the stars. I’d been looking forward to this portion of the run since the day I planned it.

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Lessons Learned:

– I had the most amazing childhood… Thank you mom and dad for making Luke and I appreciate the simple things in life.