Day 21: “A Long Haul”

Day 21, Friday, October 9th

Little Box Canyon to Buford

 

Dedicated to:

Mike Cress, Chico, CA

Alexandra Woods, Redding, CA

Kristin Heggeli, London, England

 

With Marcus and Vaughn in Big Blue, my dad and Stephan in his truck and Tory in my truck, we had quite the train back up to Little Box that morning. The first 3.5 miles up the canyon were beautiful. The biting cold air stung my cheeks, but at the same time I had sweat pouring down my back as I went back and forth from jogging and walking depending on the grade up this steep canyon road. Without the risk of traffic, the dogs got to run free with me this morning. It was joyous to watch their excitement to just be able to run. That made me smile and remember how lucky I was to be able to do the exact same…I get to run each morning.

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The climb through the pines and aspens was as breathtaking as always (literally and figuratively speaking as we quickly gained elevation). When we hit Triangle Park at the end of Little Box, the dogs had to get in the truck as the traffic increased slightly due to the first week of rifle season starting the next morning. Trucks loaded down with trailers, campers, and all their hunting gear were bound to be all over the place which was too risky for the dogs. For me though, it was a wonderful break. I knew I had miles and miles of dirt road (finally off the hard pavement) and I was in the Flat Tops Wilderness area… my stompin’ grounds.

The next 2 miles after hitting the New Castle Buford road were so enjoyable. The road was fairly flat, with just a few gradual ups and downs. I was able to look over the vast country of beautiful mountains covered in all the fall colors as I made my way onward. Each step seemed effortless when my mind focused on the beauty… until it hit me. The climb started and kept going and going. It didn’t look like much of a grade but after 5 miles of climbing and playing cat and mouse with Marcus and Vaughn in Big Blue, I finally had to just sit down. Marcus (and Tory today) immediately had cameras in my face to capture what they knew was a vulnerable moment. Most days I can handle this as I know it’s his job, but this wasn’t one of those days. I was so irritated and tired that a seemingly simple grade was kicking my butt. Then I was reminded that I was at 10,000 feet, I had climbed all day the day before and I pretty much only ate soup yesterday. I didn’t have an option though, I had to keep going.

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I stood up, dusted off my butt from sitting in the dirt and started forward again. A few more miles in, I was in a rough spot again. My mind was beating me. It was telling me to stop and that I couldn’t make it. I literally was having a fight between my body and my mind… everything hurt and was so tired, part of my brain was saying rest, the other part was saying ‘keep moving forward’. Finally at 11.5 miles I reached the summit. With another brief rest and a bit of a temper tantrum, I collected myself and saw downhill in my future. For the next 13 miles I let gravity do the work, it was time to coast downhill. That also comes with a price though. Running downhill is easier on the legs and the lungs, but WAY harder on the joints. My knees, hips and ankles were screaming at me. Because my toes are such a disaster, my good POSE running form left weeks ago, and the heel striking was causing even more jarring on the joints. But, I just found a rhythm and kept moving.

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I’m not sure what mile it was, but I was running past a hunting camp when I saw a guy in a blue shirt that looked a lot like a guy I went to high school with, Cole Fritzland. I thought, “there’s no way that’s him though” and kept truckin along. Then all of a sudden a here someone yell, “Jenny LaBaw!”. I turn around and see this crazy ol’ guy in a cowboy hat running toward me. “You remember me?” He said as he got closer. I recognized him right away, “Kevin Pressler’s dad” I said. I felt horrible I couldn’t remember his first name right away. “Yeah,” he said. “It’s Butch.” Then he gave me a big ol’ hug. I walked back to his camp where, sure enough he was there with Cole and Cole’s boys. They had read about Move Mountains in the paper and I think we were all shocked that we ran into eachother. We stood around and chatted a bit before it was time to get going again. The numbness in my feet had worn off, so my first several steps out of camp were a hobbling mess as Marcus followed me with the drone and I waved goodbye to old friends.

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They were the spark I needed to keep moving that day though. Marcus rode beside me for a bit while we winded down the switchbacks through the orange and yellow aspens with the fresh scent of wild game blowing across us every now and then. As we continued to descend down into the valley, I couldn’t believe I was running into the area I grew up fishing, camping and hiking in. My love for the outdoors was born in these mountains and I was running through them! With every bone and muscle in my lower body aching, I saw the end in sight. I saw the Buford store… somehow I picked my pace up for the last 800m or so, turned right onto North Fork Road and “sprinted” the last 100m to the store… I was done! 24.6 miles with 2700ft climb and 2300ft descent. All I wanted was Salt and Vinegar potato chips! Marcus secretly text his parents, who were on their way up from Rifle and much to my surprise, they showed up a few hour later with chips in hand. Thank you Art and LaVonne! It’s the little things!

After a long, much needed massage from Tory at the generously donated cabin for the night, my dad suggested that we take the crew to South Fork Campground before dark. We spent countless long weekends at this isolated campground growing up, so of course I was in and so was everyone else. Six of us piled in my dad’s truck and headed down the hill. We took a right just before the Buford store and winded around the oh-so-familiar 10-mile dirt road to where it deadends at South Fork. We passed cabins that I remember dreaming of owning when I grew up. We passed herds of cattle grazing on the soon to be snow covered pastures. We looked up over the Flat Tops at where I had run from that day… it looked impossibly far. As we approached the campground, there was private property to the right with about 100+ head of elk getting ready to bed down for the night while the fence was lined with men and women in blaze orange drooling as the looking through their binoculars. Hunting season opened the next morning and it was as if the elk were just toying with the hunters emotions. The irony of the whole scene sent us all in a good chuckle.

The campground was just as I remembered it, only with a lot more people and the big bouldering rock I was so proud of as a kid seemed way smaller than I remembered. We circled the dirt road and then headed back out. As we neared the herd of elk again, my dad pulled over and we all got out. Stephan was snapping shot as he had never seen in elk in the wild before. My dad pulled out his elk bugle to see if he could get some bulls talking back. Sure enough, there were 3 big racks that turned toward the sound and began bugling right back. The sound was all consuming. My thoughts were still, my heart was calm, my emotions were raw. I was exactly were I needed to be at that time, with the people I wanted to be with, in a moment of complete peace.

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As we listened to the sounds of the wild, the sky began to turn every shade of pink, orange, and purple you could imagine. The mountains became silhouettes and another day came to a close.

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Lessons Learned: The sounds of nature calm my soul.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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

Day 19: “Reunion”

Day 19, Wednesday, October 7th

Rest Day 

Dedicated to:

1211 Fitness (Ashley Gavito and Kortnie Valencia)

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Last night we had a few new additions to the crew. Marcus’ folks, Art and LaVonne Brown, showed up at my dad’s with their former German foreign exchange student and family friend Stephan. Needless to say, my dad’s house was full of people. Tory and Vaughn took off early to go hike my suggested hike, Storm King Mountain. It’s about 20 minute from my dad’s house and is a hike that will change you. In 1994 there was a big fire, called the Storm King Fire in South Canyon. Smoke jumping teams from all over were sent to fight the fire. As they dropped into the canyon, the winds shifted and they were all trapped. 14 fire fighters were killed that day trying to save our mountains from burning up. Throughout the trail there are plaques that describe the scene that day and explain how the weather changed, causing the fire to race uphill at 35ft per second, making it impossible escape. The trail leads to the memorials of the brave fire fighters where I swear you can feel their spirits around you. Tory and Vaughn had the same experience and everyone that I know that’s ever gone up there as too.

While they were hiking, the rest of us were at my dads. We sat around the table, looking out the back window a the cliffs, enjoying a scrumptious breakfast that my dad made us. After breakfast Tory and Vaughn returned and we all took care of business (Big Blue prep, blogs, emails, grocery shopping, phone interviews, etc). A pretty typical “rest day” we are finding out. I needed to get to where I would be starting the next day about half mile up the road at Rifle High School (my alma mater). So we leashed up the dogs and Marcus, Tory, my dad and I took a nice stroll up the hill where I got to share stories of high school. On our way back, Lindsey (my best friend from growing up) passed us driving to my dad’s house to hang for a bit before the big event tonight.   We sat in my front yard reminiscing about our childhood. Lindsey and her family moved in next door when I was just 4 years old. As a shy kid, I surprisingly felt like they were family right away. The day they moved in, without being prompted (and probably a bit of an embarrassment to my parents), I took a toothbrush over to their house and knocked on the door. Kenda, Lindsey’s mom, opened up the door with a big smile on her face and I announced, “Hi, my name is Jenny and I think I’ll be spending a lot of time here” as I handed her my toothbrush. Kids! We talked about the time we thought it was a good idea to jump off the camper with umbrellas to see if we could fly, about my brother making us eat cookies with worms in them, about using sidewalk chalk to make up dance steps in the driveways, about the games we used to play outside on the trampoline. The stories went on and on while Cooper, Lindsey’s daughter, rode her bike up and down the sidewalk just like Lindsey and I did so many years ago.

Lindsey headed down to Centennial Park, where we would all shortly follow her for another amazing event put on by high school friends, Ashley Gavito (owner of 1211 Fitness) and Kortnie Valencia. I didn’t know quite what to expect but when I got there was overjoyed with what they had worked so hard to put together. There were 40+ people there (plus a bunch of little ones running around), mostly familiar faces that I hadn’t seen since high school. Old friends with their families, parents of old friends, grade school teachers, former coaches, and new faces that I was so happy to meet had all come to support me. Ashley did a quick introduction and I was able to look into a crowd of such familiarity and tell my story. A story most of them never knew when we were growing up. I didn’t really talk about my seizures until 2012, which was long after I had gone to school with all of these people. I was surprised to have a bit of fear talking about it… that hadn’t happened yet. Maybe it was old feelings of being judged or made fun of. Of course this didn’t happen and quite the opposite, I had several people come up to me and share their stories. “My niece has epilepsy”, “My brother has epilepsy”, “My granddaughter has epilepsy”. I just remembered the statistic 1 in 26… that means it’s possible that 2 people here have or have had a seizure disorder.

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Ashley organized the event to be her gym’s evening class. So, all of these people that came down to the park, came to hear my story, support Move Mountains and run laps around the park for 1 hour in the name of epilepsy. My cup runneth over… to see so many people that you were afraid to share your story with, taking steps for a cause you now are so deeply passionate about… there are no words! With the entry fee, the silent auction and the donations, the 1211 Fitness family and my hometown raised $1000 in one short hour for The Epilepsy Foundation. Thank you all for the reunion and your support. I went to bed that night with a warm heart and almost a sense of relief that my story was off my chest to people that I’ve hidden it from forever.

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Lesson Learned: “There’s nothing to fear, but fear itself.”

Day 18: “Home Sweet Home”

Day 18, Tuesday, October 6th

Glenwood Springs to Rifle

 

Dedicated to:

Amber Warwick, Rifle, CO

Guadalupe Sheridan, Manteca, CA

David Wolf, New Mexico

 

Today was a special day… I was running home! 26 miles from Glenwood Springs to the front steps of the house I grew up in. It was back to just the four OG’s (Marcus, Tory, Vaughn and I…oh and the pups). We packed everything up from the hotel and headed to the starting line for the day. Today started different than any other day though… I had to be on a bike for 6 miles. Before starting my run, I contacted the Highway Patrol to make sure everything I was doing was legal. The only part that wasn’t legal to run on was this stretch through South Canyon. I’ve driven this part of Interstate 70 hundreds of times in my life, so totally understood why. It was curvy and people often drive way to fast and take the inside line of the corners…safety was an issue (even on bikes). But, Marcus and I jumped on our Santa Cruz’s and headed west on I-70 to the Canyon Creek exit. It was honestly harder to ride than to run that day. My knees hurt and my hamstrings cramped and my back tightened up. I’m assuming my body has just become so accustomed to running in the last two weeks that anything different was a bit of shock to the system. Hence the importance of cross-training!

We made it safely through those 6 miles. I put my bike back on the rack on Big Blue and took off down the old highway 6&24 that parallels I-70 but is MUCH safer. It was 9am, which meant 8:30pm in India where my brother and sister-in-law live.  Missing them so much on this run, I finally had service in a safe place at an appropriate time of day their time, so I called them on FaceTime as I was running. They are the one piece of this puzzle that is missing. I think of them and my nephews everyday and wish so badly that they could be here as well. I thought it was a long shot to actually reach them, but was pleasantly surprised to see both of their faces as I chugged along. It was a short chat, but I am confident is set the tone for the rest of the day. For the 20 miles from where I started running to where I ended, I don’t remember any negative thoughts going through my head.  Thank you Kim and Luke for answering that day… you’ll never know how much it helped.

I first ran through the town of New Castle, which is where I lived and worked for just over 3 years out of college. It is also where I met Marcus for the first time. We were introduced via email through some mutual friends and had been in touch for 3 months. Then in July of 2007, he had come to the valley to coach a waterski clinic for our mutual friend. I met him the night he came into town and that is all she wrote. I fell in love right away and months later quit my job and my life changed forever.  Coincidentally, as I was reminiscing about this story, Judy Mauldin (our mutual friend), came driving down main street, waving out her window.  She said, “I’ll meet you at Ware Lane”. Not 100% sure where Ware Lane was, I just kept running my route, knowing I would eventually run into her. Another mile or so up the road, I saw her car and 2 others parked. I crossed the highway and was greeted by Judy, Kathy York (another old friend), their friend Sarah and Kathy’s grandkids. We embraced and talked about my journey, what they’ve been up to and snapped a few pictures. Just as I was about to take off again, another car pulled up and a man stepped out and introduced himself as John Mitchell. No way! John has been a sports writer for local newspapers for years and he and I have chatted on the phone several times throughout my various athletic endeavors, including Move Mountains. He knew we were going to be in the area, so drove up and figured I would be on this route and found us! Crazy! I said my goodbyes to Judy and Kathy before heading back on the road toward Silt (the town my mom lived in for years and is another piece of home).

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John followed me down the road, periodically snapping pictures for the upcoming story. I was passing so many memories as I ran this stretch. One location was where my first (and hopefully only) real car accident happened. Long story short, I was driving my truck home from Denver on a snowy night (I shouldn’t have been on the road anyway). I had to turn right to get to my house. Knowing not to break on the unplowed snowy road, I down shifted and lightly tapped my breaks. That sent me fishtailing and from then on, I was just along for the ride. My tail end started to spin around and I was heading backwards in the opposite lane (luckily there was no on-coming traffic). As I slid across the highway, my passenger tires hit the edge of the road where the dirt and grass meet the pavement and I rolled down the 20ft embankment, landing on my passenger side. I climbed out the window, down the undercarriage and up the embankment to where a car had pulled over to help. I was unscathed and my truck was just a bit banged up. The ambulance came shortly after, also fishtailing as they pulled up, and after looking over me and the situation, have no idea how I wasn’t badly injured or worse. There were angels on my tires that day.

A few miles after we hit Silt, I headed to the local Kum&Go (gas station) to use the bathroom… a nice change from the constant squatting I have been doing on the side of the road everywhere we go. John waited outside and interviewed myself, Tory and Marcus about our venture thus far. Then we parted ways for the last 9-mile stretch to my dad’s house. My feet were definitely tender, but for some reason the pain today wasn’t as unbearable as most days. Possibly because my view of the Roan Cliffs and knowing that each step I took forward got me closer to home!

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As I ran into Rifle staring at the Roan Cliffs, I thought of all the times I’ve spent up on top of those beautiful mountains with my dad and brother camping, hunting and fishing. That’s where I first learned to drive a stick shift, where I saw my first bear in the wild, and where I first drew back my bow at an elk. It’s where I felt like “one of the boys” and the tom-boy in me loved every second of it. I hit Rifle and it was like I never left. It’s like that every time I come home, in a good way. I ran a few blocks up Railroad Avenue (main street) and turned left on 3rd street and headed up onto the mesa I was raised on. The “elk’s hill” is a grinder that takes you to the top and just a few months back, when I decided to do this run, I couldn’t run up it without stopping to walk. Today I did it without stopping (after running 19 miles before). I was totally out of breath, but I did it! From there it was an easy jog down 5th street, right on Prefontaine Ave, then left on Mesa Ave and down the hill to dad’s house. I was home!

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Lesson Learned: “There really is no place like home”

Day 17: “Valley View Hospital”

Day 17, Monday, October 5th

Carbondale to Glenwood

 

Dedicated to:

John Olson, Highlands Ranch

Sam Roach, Carbondale, CO

Paul Schmidt (In Memory Of)

 

No alarm clock set today! We had a later start again because we didn’t have to be at Defiance Strength and Conditioning until 11:30 and it was only 8 miles away. I got to wake up slowly, enjoy my usual hardboiled eggs and banana before heading out the door with the crew for a 13-mile slightly downhill day. Michelle and Becky stuck around today to join me for the run. We gave our hugs and “I love you’s” to my friends and family before Tyler (Becky’s son) escorted us out of town on his bike down the Rio Grande Trail. It was such an enjoyable run on an overcast day. We jogged down the valley surrounded by the mountains painted in red dirt and junipers. We talked CrossFit most of the way. Michelle shared stories from the business side of things as the owner of CrossFit Parkhill. We reminisced on the personal side of things from past Reebok CrossFit Games we competed in together. We talked about how far the sport has come in such a short time and where we think it’s going. Then, in what seemed like no time at all, we saw Big Blue up ahead. Eight miles down in a jiffy! We waited for an opening in traffic and timed it perfectly to cross the busy HWY 82 as a group and jogged up to Defiance.

Mackenzie (owner of Defiance) greeted us with a smile and open arms. We socialized at the big dining table in their warm, welcoming entry of the gym as we gobbled up our polenta muffins and chugged our Rehydrate from True Nature Kitchen. Shortly after, Tyler and Becky had to take off back to the front range as to not miss Tyler’s lacrosse practice later that evening. Thank you Becky so very much for the time you spent with us and for bringing Tyler to be a part of it as well. Defiance members started to file in for the 12:00 class that Michelle and I helped to assistance guest coach. We got to share my story before class and then had the pleasure of coaching these individuals through a pretty grueling barbell complex right into some conditioning. Tory got to join in the fun with the group and get her sweat on too! Thank you Defiance for opening your arms and listening to some instruction from a couple of Games athletes. It was our pleasure.

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We had to unfortunately rush out of the gym as the class ended to make our next appearance…one that I was personally really looking forward to. The rain was pouring down during class, but faired off just as we started down the trail again. I should probably knock on wood when I say this… but I don’t know what’s up, but we’ve been SO lucky with outstanding weather. I was confident by this point in the run we would be in rain at the very minimum, if not snow. Anyways, as Michelle and I trotted down into Glenwood Springs another 2.5 miles, we veered off the path and took a right turn up toward Valley View Hospital. This place holds great significance in my life… I spent a lot of time here as a little girl. The Valley View family treated me well and I am so thankful to have had such a good place to make a bad situation feel as pleasant as it could. Also, my mom worked at Valley View for most of my childhood and young adult life. Several of the people that work there were family to her and thus family to me. I also, worked at Valley View Hospital out of college as a PT aide when deciding whether or not to go to Physical Therapy school. Needless to say, I have a lot of history at this place.

As Michelle and I ran up toward Blake Avenue we heard cheering and saw the sidewalks to the entrance of the hospital lined with people in lab coats and scrubs holding the most beautiful purple balloons. As we got closer I could read that they said “Move Mountains”. There were so many familiar faces to remind me that I was home. The kindness, the pride, the joy that was felt in that moment I will cherish forever. People who had an integral part in my life as a child, were there to support me as an adult, helping me to Move Mountains in the same place where I often felt like the mountains were crumbling down on me.

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After the welcoming party, Marcus, my mom, Michelle, Tory, Vaughn, and myself joined Mike and Chris (owners of Sopris CrossFit and also medical professionals at Valley View Hospital) up to the café where they all got coffee and I had them order me a Hot Chocolate for after the run. Michelle and I took off back toward the bike path and ran along the Colorado River with Marcus on bike (with cameras) until we reached our stopping point in West Glenwood. Waiting with big smiles and our warm drinks were my mom, Tory and Vaughn. Thank you Michelle for so generously donating your time and energy to help me Move Mountains and give me company for a total of 20 miles of my journey in the last few days. Michelle is a great person, a phenomenal coach and I’m lucky to call her a good friend.

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After the run I got to spend a bit of time alone with my momma. We went to Target to get a few odds and ends while Tory and Vaughn explored Glenwood Springs and Marcus did whatever Marcus does.  On our way back to the hotel, we had to stop to capture the full double rainbow embracing the Colorado River roaring through the valley floor… a sign that we were just where we needed to be and that the future was going to be bright.  My mom headed back home and Marcus and I took the dogs to the park for a serious game of fetch until my dad was able to come meet us at our hotel (which was generously donated for the night). Some friend time, some gym time, some party time, some mom time, some dad time and now some sleep time! Another good day! Tomorrow… I get to run to my hometown!

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Lesson Learned: There is no better time than with those that you love.

Day 16: “Sopris CrossFit”

Day 16, Sunday, October 4th

Rest Day in Carbondale

 

Dedicated to:

Chris Butler and Jen Tilley

Mike and Natasha Conklin

Lari Good and Mark Fischer

*all owners of Sopris CrossFit

Today’s blog is a combination of an evening and the following morning to make for one of the most impactful portions of our journey so far.

Saturday Night: Oct 3rd

After showering and getting myself together, we all headed to Sopris CrossFit. We started the evening with a workout led by Michelle Kinney, Kevin Ogar and myself, programmed by the Sopris CrossFit staff and performed by the Sopris CrossFit community and Move Mountains supporters. The workout was Run 800m then 21-18-15-12-9-6-3 Kettle Bell Swing + Box Jumps then Run 800m again. People pushed hard through a grueling workout in the name of epilepsy…it was amazing to witness! As people worked hard to earn the dinner on the way, Becky Conzelman (3 times Games athlete) and good friend showed up. Like Kevin and Michelle, Becky volunteered her time to come be a part of something near and dear to my heart. She also brought her incredibly mature 7-year old son, Tyler.

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After the workout, people hung around for a few more hours to partake in a fun event put on by Sopris CrossFit. A delicious BBQ dinner was catered by Slow Groovin’ BBQ and drinks served by Marble Distillery. I had the opportunity to speak about why I was doing what I was doing, how it came to be and how it was going thus far. I got to introduce everyone and explain how each one has been an integral part in the success of Move Mountains. Kevin spoke after I did and explained how he’s overcome a huge obstacle in his life. Just last year, Kevin was injured lifting weights, a barbell came down on his back and severed his spine. He was left paralyzed from the waist down and doctors say he will not walk again… his response “We’ll see about that”. He’s already proved them wrong in so many other ways and I’m rooting for him 100% that he will defy their judgment on this one as well.

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After Kevin awed us with his story and his strength, people mingled and began to bid a bit more seriously on the silent auction. There were so many items generously donated that it left me in tears (as most things do right now). We had signed CrossFit games gear from several athletes and friends of mine (Becka Voigt, Katie Hogan, Annie Thorisdotter, Aja Barto, Julie Foucher, Annie Sakamoto, Brooke Ence). Local businesses donated massages, home organizing, helicopter rides, restaurant gift certificates and more. Businesses in the CrossFit world donated their products (Marc Pro, Cross Over Symmetry, Caffeine and Kilos, Paleo Treats, and more). I am so thankful to each and every person/business that believed in Move Mountains enough to donate their time, energy and products to the cause.

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And last, but certainly not least, the BIGGEST thanks to the Sopris CrossFit crew that opened up their doors to help me Move Mountains. The following individuals put in so much time and effort to host a successful event and there is no way I will ever be able to thank you enough. Tash Conklin, Mike Conklin, Chris Butler, Jen Tilley, Mark Fischer, Lari Goode and Ray Cooney… you truly are amazing people, running one of the best CF gyms around. I’m so thankful to be a part of your community each and every time I come home.

The evening lasted longer than I had expected. I got to reunite with old friends and meet new. I got to share my story and hear theirs. Once again, Move Mountains’ main goal is to spread the knowledge about epilepsy but the deeper meaning shines through every time I speak to individuals about it. Every one of us have times of struggle, obstacles that want to knock us down… but the way the human spirit perseveres in these times in what makes us stronger.

After several hugs and tears and laughs… it was time to call it a night and get some shuteye. But not before counting up the total money raised for Move Mountains. That night, with the silent auction, dinner and donations we raised $7,000!!! Thank you Sopris CrossFit community and beyond for your incredible generosity!

Sunday Morning- Oct 4th

We started the morning at Carbondale’s favorite breakfast joint, The Village Smithy. My friends from Chico, my family, the Move Mountains crew, and the guest coaches/athletes all joined for some scrumptious vittles. It was the first morning I’ve had a real breakfast because I wasn’t running…it was an off day! I had a huge omelet with hash browns and an order of blueberry cornmeal pancakes to split with Marcus. Weighing myself for the first time last night since I started the run, I was down 11 pounds. So my mission now is to eat as much as I can. I drowned my pancakes in maple syrup… SOOOOOO good!

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After filling our bellies we headed to Sopris CrossFit again where Michelle and I lead the 9am class. Becky did the workout with Tyler and Kevin with Chris. The workout was a 15min partner AMRAP (as many reps as possible) of “Fran” (21-15-9 Thrusters/Pull-ups) + “Grace” (30 Clean and Jerks) + “Diane” (21-15-9 Handstand Pushups/Deadlift). Let me just say that it was so inspiring once again to see people throw down. Tyler was busting out handstand pushups like it was his job and Kevin was doing things most able-bodied people aren’t able to. I took a moment and just watched. There were 25+ people in a gym in Carbondale, CO working out on a Sunday morning in the name of epilepsy. My heart was singing with joy!

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As the workout was winding up, people whom I had been waiting weeks to meet started to trickle in the doorway. Marcee Peterson from the Epilepsy Foundation of Colorado, Dr. Jeff Seigel from Valley View Hospital, Megan ­­Noonan and her son Sam (who were there last night and I had met in Aspen a couple days prior), Tom and John Olson from Denver area…. These were all people that were somehow or someway involved with the epilepsy community and had agreed to volunteer part of the precious Sunday to speak on behalf of Move Mountains.

First, Dr. Seigel spoke. He quickly corrected me and said “Please, call me Jeff” after I introduced him. Jeff is a neurologist at Valley View Hospital. He had just moved to the valley from North Carolina five months prior and he and his wife were excited to be in Colorado to adopt a healthier lifestyle. He spoke about what epilepsy is, how it affects people differently, that there is no cure but that there are ways to help control seizures with anti-seizure meds. He answered questions about diet and exercises pertaining to epilepsy and did a great job explaining what myself and so many others live with on daily basis in laymans terms.

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Next up was Marcee. Marcee got a job working for The Epilepsy Foundation of Colorado because as a child her best friend was diagnosed with epilepsy. Due to lack of understanding of what epilepsy was, they grew apart and she lost that friendship. Working for the Epilepsy Foundation provides Marcee a way to give back and educate in hopes that this doesn’t happen to any other people. She had a different approach to educate the audience. She gave stats. 1 in 26 people will be diagnosed with epilepsy at some time in their life. Epilepsy is more common than Multiple Sclerosis and ­­muscular dystrophy, yet only receives $2 per person in national funding. That’s compared to $1000 per person for muscular dystrophy and $120 per person for MS. Part of the reason is that people are afraid to talk about it and stand up. Hopefully Move Mountains will change that.

John Olson was the next to take the microphone. Before he started talking he handed me a personal card he had made. It had a photograph of a mountain that he had climbed and note that had me instantly in tears. About 1 minute into his speech, he had everyone in tears. John has had a hard fight with epilepsy his whole life but he hasn’t let it win. I was put in touch with John from the Epilepsy Foundation and when I asked if he and his dad, Tom, would make the trip over, the didn’t hesitate. John has been an advocate for epilepsy awareness for years. He does so by climbing 14ers. He’s climbed 12 to date and has more in his future this next summer (which I plan to join him for). John has what’s called a VNS­­­ (vegas nerve stimulator) device. It’s a small device just above his pec on his left side that sends a shock to his vegal nerve for 30 seconds every 5 minutes all day, everyday. That shock helps to control his seizures. He also has a magnet that when he feels seizure activity coming on, he can put that on the device for just a second and it will stimulate the shock. John says the worst thing about it is that it makes his mouth and throat dry.

Last, but certainly not least was Megan Noonan, Sam’s mom. As Megan was talking, her husband, Chad, was sitting proudly in the audience. Sam and his little brother, Charlie, were being boys… jumping on the plyo boxes, playing with balls, running all over the place. Sam is a normal little boy who just happens to have epilepsy. He has been fighting trying to find a medication to control his seizures, but hasn’t found one yet. He is on the last medication the doctors think will work and if it doesn’t, he will have brain surgery. Megan explained Sam’s seizures, from a mom’s perspective. She is so strong and so brave and made me tear up with how awesome my mom and dad were when I was just about Sam’s age. They were scared out of their minds, but I never knew it. They always led me to believe that I could do anything I wanted, even if maybe they didn’t 100% believe it themselves. Megan and Chad are in the same place. But I tell you little Sam… you’re going to be fine, you’re going to be great and you’re going to be able to do anything you put your mind to buddy. It’s not going to be easy and sometimes it’s not going to be fun… but you’re so strong and so brave. Just like John and Kevin and so many others out there. You’re going to Move Mountains!

Lesson Learned: “People come in and out of your life. Only the real ones stay.” Thank you Chris, Jen, Mikey, Tash, Lari and Mark for being some of those people in my life.

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Day 15: Half Way Point

Day 15, Saturday, October 3rd

Willits to Carbondale

 

Dedicated To:

Tabitha Johnson, Cleveland, OH

Jeffery Sullivan, Boston, MA

Ciera Moyer, Calimesa, CA

 

My body was full of excitement for several reasons this morning. 1- I awoke in a familiar place (mom’s house). 2- I knew I got to run with friends today. 3- It was the start of the big promotional event at Sopris CrossFit (my Colorado home gym) 4- It was the shortest day of the entire run! 5- The next day was a “rest” day.

Four of my good friends from Chico flew in the night before and stayed in Breckenridge. They wanted to run with me today but it’s a 2 hour drive over for them….which meant we got to start a bit later than normal and sleep in. However, like clockwork, 6:30 hit and I was awake in a house full of silent sleepers so I busted out the computer and started blogging. Around 8:30, Michelle Kinney came over from across the street (where she was staying with some good friends of mine). We ate a little breakfast and just as I finished taping my toes for the run that day, my friends came to the front step. Bret Crowe, Jenn Schultz, Kayla Bentley and Casey Annal… familiar faces with huge smiles and open arms… I knew this was going to be a great day!

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We all took off in Big Blue toward Willits to the spot where I had finished the day before in a malnourished/delirious state. I didn’t even recognize the spot when we got there… I really was out of it yesterday. After a few pictures, we took off on the run (well 2 people on bikes). I STRONGLY suggested to my Chico friends to trade off and on with the bike so that they didn’t risk getting altitude sickness. It worked well. The six of us chatted it up the entire time as miles just whizzed by. I pointed out to them where I worked as a groundskeeper in the summers during college, where the backside of our local ski hill was, where the best view of Mt Sopris is. I told them stories of my friends growing up and asked them about how things were back in Chico. As we were running along the Roarking Fork River, Michelle and I got to chatting about her learning how to fly fish (a goal of mine). Then all of a sudden we were just over 6 miles into the 7.5 mile run when we hit the town of Carbondale. Rather than staying on the Rio Grande Trail, we ran right down Main Street where I got to point out the good restaurants, the cute shops, and all the small town things. Marcus followed us down the sidewalk with the drone as we passed people either giving us funny looks or cheering us on.

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As we turned right off of Main Street, we took a quick pit stop at Sopris CrossFit where I was so honored to introduce my good friends from home to my good friends from Chico. The Sopris crew was busily cleaning the gym and setting up all the gear for the silent auction they put together for Move Mountains. So after some quick hugs, we were back on the run. And then it happened… the last steps of the day, I hit the half way point with 5 good friends, Marcus, Tory, Vaughn, my mom and Dario all there. 250 miles!!!! I honestly couldn’t believe it… in some ways it felt like we had been on the road for so long, but in others it felt like we just started.

I had the crew with me look back toward Carbondale at the mountain that has given me inspiration in so many ways my entire life. Mount Sopris, the massive peak that sits just outside of Carbondale, is the emblem for my run. It’s the mountain in my logo and the representation of home that I have worn around my neck since the day I left for college over 15 years ago. It has dangled by my heart from my chain for so many years as a sign that I will always return to the valley. That this area has been, and always will be, home. Sharing it with so many people that I love, at such a monumental point in my voyage, is a memory that I will hold with me forever.

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Post-run we went to True Nature Healing Arts Center and I was able to share another amazing piece of Carbondale with my friends. The reflexology path is one of few registered paths in the world. It’s a pattern of strategically placed river rocks and geodes that each have a purpose and direction to help heal the body from the feet up. Needless to say my feet are pretty beat up, so there was a lot of healing to be done. I could have stayed there for hours. But we had to split ways for a bit… I headed to the radio station with Tory, Marcus, and Michelle were we met Dave and his beloved girlfriend who was hosting the KDNK radio show that day. She interviewed Tory and I about our journey with Move Mountains and gave us the opportunity to share with a crowd we may not otherwise have been able to touch. Thank you!

From there, I headed back to my mom’s house with the intention of resting but instead a much better thing happened. My long time childhood friend, Lindsey Spaulding (now Ellsworth) showed up with her family (husband Damian, 5 year old Cooper and 4 month old Kalli). Right behind them was Kevin Ogar…an acquaintance through CrossFit (now turned friend). He also was volunteering his one weekend off during the month to come be a part of Move Mountains. We got to catch up, share stories and then of course take the kids and the dogs to the park for their playtime. Not “resting” but very relaxing and a good change of pace from the go, go, go.

When Lindsey and her family had to go, I had enough time to shower before heading to the amazing event put on by Sopris CrossFit. I can’t wait to tell you all about it in the next blog!!!

 

Lesson Learned: I am a very lucky girl… I have amazing friends in my life.

Day 14: Fuel Your Body

Day 14, Friday, October 2nd

Aspen to Willits

 

Dedicated To:

Grace Farris, Chico, CA

Charlene Schmidt, Portland, OR

Kara Hopkins, Philadelphia, PA

Tyler James, Pocono Mountains, PA

 

Not sure what the day would bring for toe health, I was surprised to wake and see the condition was tolerable. I’ve found that the care taken the night before is CRITICAL in setting myself up for any sort of success the next day.

It was just Marcus and I this morning as Tory and Vaughn stayed down valley at my mom’s house. Marcus took me to the intersection I stopped at yesterday and he drove down the road as I hopped on the Rio Grande Trail for the first 2.5 mile run to Aspen CrossFit to make an appearance at Erik’s gym. It was a great warmup for the 21-mile day and a good test as to how the feet were going to fare. They were sore!

The 2.5 miles went fast and I met Marcus, Tory, Vaughn, my mom and Dario at the gym. I was greeted by another ever-friendly CrossFit community. Erik has his gym set up in the coolest way… very organized and everything has meaning. His colors are green and silver, the walls are strategically plastered in motivational sayings, meaningful words and all with a purpose. I arrived just between classes and Erik took the time to explain my journey and my mission in words better than I could have myself. It was an honor meeting you all and being a part of your awesome community, if even just for a few minutes.

Shortly after the visit, Erik escorted us down highway 82 for a few short miles before reconnecting us with the Rio Grande Trail for the remainder of the day. I was on foot of course, joined by Marcus, my mom and Dario on bike. The time was flying by as we talked about my mom’s recent work visit to Istanbul, Dario’s successful week of work and my stories of the last several days on the run. The sun was shining, I was running toward home and my feet were holding in there.

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Then all of a sudden, the slight downhill started to rear it’s ugly face. Even though the downhill isn’t noticeable, each step the toes get jammed further and further into the toe bed of the shoe and after awhile it feel like someone is stabbing me with a hot poker. I started thinking of little Grace Farris when this happened to distract myself. I was running for her today and although I am not 100% sure of where she is at with her battle with epilepsy I know she’s been struggling and her family has been fighting with her. Grace is a sweet young lady from Chico, CA (where I live) and her mom, dad, brother and sisters are amazingly supportive people. One awesome thing about Grace that I haven’t talked about with other fighters is that she has a companion in her fight. She has a dog that has been trained to help her detect when she may have a seizure coming on and help in the event that she has a seizure. Dogs are incredible creatures and although mine don’t have any idea about my epilepsy, they help heal me everyday. At the end of each run they are there to snuggle and love me no matter how the day went.

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With Grace in my mind all day, I kept putting one foot in front of the other. I knew the finish line today resulted in a good nights sleep at my mom’s house. When I reached Basalt, the intended destination for the day, I wanted to keep going to make the next day shorter. I had another mile or so in me. Turns out my calculations were wrong and it was another 3.5 miles. I ended up with 21 miles that day at Willits. I struggled the last 3 miles pretty bad, but knew if I stopped I wouldn’t keep going. Then in the distance, my mom spotted Vaughn sitting on a park bench. I sort of saw him, but it was my first time experiencing a bit of delirium. I couldn’t make out him or the bench he was sitting on until I reached them.

I laid down on the bench immediately and felt like I could have fallen asleep right then and there. I knew I had to get my feet in a creek and some water in me though, so I sat up and got really dizzy. It was there that I realized I was in trouble. I wobbled over to the creek and put my feet in. Someone brought me water and I chugged it down. Nausea crept all over my body and all of a sudden I realized I was in trouble. I hadn’t eaten anything but a gluten free zucchini bread that morning because we had no food with us. Not ideal for 21 miles in the heat.

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Next thing I knew, we were at the Whole Foods parking lot. Once in the store, Tory and Marcus kept telling me I needed to get something to eat, but nothing looked good. Tory handed me a green drink full of who knows what and told me I had to drink it. I took a few gulps down and about threw it back up. It tasted horrible. I managed to get the drink down, plus a bowl of chicken noodle soup and an ENTIRE bag of sea salt and vinegar potato chips. Life started to come back to me… my face had color, my brain was working and I could hold a conversation.

After gorging on some food, we headed to my mom’s house where Tory massaged my legs for a good 2 hours. Then a friend of a friend who is an athletic trainer came to the house to teach me some trick for my blisters… we’ll see what works as the next few days pass. Finally, the night wrapped up with the arrival of the one and only Michelle Kinney. A good friend and 4-times CrossFit Games competitor, who volunteered her time to come up and support epilepsy awareness.

 

Lesson Learned: Don’t be stupid…fuel yourself!

Day 13: “The Struggle is Real”

Day 13, Thursday, October 1st

Copper Creek Trail Head to Aspen

 

Dedicated to:

Katarina Ostarcevic, Corona, CA

Jessica Joye Ostarcevic, Corona, CA

Karen Goodwin, Houston, TX

Owen Skillen, Billings, MT

 

Today started on high after the shorter/positive day with Wendy yesterday. It was my first and only day without a support vehicle, but also a day where my heart loved to be… in the wilderness…without people, cars and cell reception. I was heading over East Maroon Pass trail (via Copper Creek Trail), unfamiliar ground to me, but leading me to my first signs of where I grew up. My feet were sore, but nothing that wouldn’t go numb and be insignificant after the first little bit…or so I thought.

I hit the trail running (literally) with Marcus slightly ahead on his bike. He had his camelback stuffed to the brim with his bike gear, snacks, cameras and everything else he could fit in there. Then on top of his camelback he had is drone back pack… as he road off down the rocky trail I watched him trying to maneuver his awkwardly packed self and giggled… thinking “this is going to be quite the trip for him”… and I was right!

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The first 6 miles were a tough climb through the pines and aspens. The scent of recently abandoned deer and elk beds from the night before filled my nostrils as I focused on my breathing. As we continued to gain elevation my running turned into fast walking and Marcus’ intense pedaling turned into hike-a-bike. I knew he was struggling with all his extra weight, so offered to carry his drone the remaining 2.5 miles to the summit. With much hesitation (and me persisting) he finally let me strap it on my back. The added weight made walking a bit slower, but it was the least I could do to help Marcus capture some of the most amazing footage of the trip. As we passed Copper Lake and hung a right onto East Maroon Pass trail, the pain started to set in. The blisters on my feet were starting to throb. The muscles in my low back were aching. The tendons on top of my knees were screaming.

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We kept pushing forward and the rocky dirt trail turned into a path of jagged broken shale. Each step my ankles would twist and my feet would shift in my shoes causing even more friction on the already formed blisters. What I thought was going to be one of the most pleasant parts of the trip, was turning out to be quite the opposite.

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As we reached the summit we were above tree line and I knew that the trail ahead was going to be spectacular. However, my mood was headed downhill fast and I was struggling to get out of the hole I was diving in to. Marcus was trying to so hard to keep a positive attitude and encourage me, but I was in my head, I was grumpy, I hurt and we still had A LOT of miles to go. He stopped to grab a snack and prep his drone for the descent, but I just pressed forward. Stopping hurts worse than continuing on because the semi-numbness goes away and the pain is 10 times worse.

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Without the weight of the drone backpack on, I figured the steps wouldn’t be as painful, but I was wrong. Every step sent agonizing pain through my toes, ankles, knees and hips… so I tried to focus on the absolutely breath taking views I had. Jagged peaks to my left, aspens surrounding the trail, yellow leaves scattering the trails. The sounds of chipmunks scurrying up trees and runoff streams finding their way to the Roaring Fork River down in the valley made my heart happy but still the pain was unbearable.

There were several streams that crossed over the trail I had to carefully rock hop over or balance across fallen trees to cross without getting my feet wet. If my feet got wet, I knew I was done for. Blisters require 3 things to form… friction, darkness and moisture. The friction was there with the repetitive steps on the uneven trail and the inside of my shoe was obviously dark… so keeping them dry was critical. Then all of a sudden, I heard what sounded like a full-blown river ahead.

I rounded a left hand bend in the trail to see Marcus standing by his bike in front of a knee deep creek about 20 feet long without any sign of a dry crossing. I broke down. Tears just started streaming down my cheeks. There was NO WAY of keeping my feet dry and I still had 17 miles left for the day. What was I going to do? The only option in my brain at the time was to wade through it and live with the consequences. Luckily, Marcus was still thinking logically and seconds before I stepped into the water he talked some sense into me and told me to get on his bike and he would push me across. I held onto the right handle bar with my right hand and his back with my left hand. He held onto the left handle bar with his left hand the seat with his right hand. With my legs straight out in front in an effort to stay dry, Marcus carefully pushed me through the water soaking his shoes and socks an telling me “it’s okay.”  He was my knight in shining armor that day.  Afterwards, I sat down and cried tears that I hadn’t been able to run the entire route now and that I still had 17 miles to go.

In a very tough spot mentally, I started forward again. The rest of the trail was the same… unexplainable beautiful scenery surrounding me as I took one excruciatingly painful step after another. We came upon a second creek crossing with the exact same scenario explained above and executed the crossing in the exact same fashion.

With 8 miles to go I could feel more blisters forming so stopped, took off my shoes, applied chapstick to the toes to help with the friction, put my shoes back on and charged ahead. A couple of long miles after that, I ran into the guy I was looking for. Bret Nelson, an Aspen local and friend of my mom’s, came to meet me for the last leg of the run. Seeing him means we were close to getting off the trail and onto a flatter/paved surface. I didn’t think there would ever be a time in my life I looked forward to getting off a mountain trail. But ½ mile later, we reached the pavement and it was a low-grade downhill jog for the next 5 miles.

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I finally reached the bottom of the hill at Aspen and the intersection of hwy 82 (my route for the next day down valley). I desperately asked for water, as I had run out miles ago, sat down and waited for our ride (Pam) to come get us and take us into town. The initial plan was to have Vaughn and Tory meet us at the intersection but they had been delayed 4 hours up on Kebler Pass due to blasting and didn’t arrive until 6pm that night (loooooong day for them as well). Since we didn’t have food or clothes or shoes or anything… I walked barefoot hand in hand with Marcus a few blocks from where we were staying to a favorite local restaurant. We ordered half the menu (salads, French fries, salmon, burgers) and devoured them in good company. Erik Larson (owner of Aspen CrossFit) and Bret came to join us. Good food and good conversation made the pain of the day disappear. Then, the best thing of all… my dad showed up after work (he’s a carpenter in Aspen) and I gave him a big bear hug and buried my head in his chest. I was home!

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Lesson Learned: Some days the pain is too bad to ignore.

 

Day 12: New Friends

Day 12, Wednesday, September 30th

Crested Butte To Copper Creek Trail Head

 

Dedicated To:

Lynda Parker, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

Stephanie McAulay, Dundas, Ontario

Maylee Superales, Germany

Lotte Lesage, Bussam Netherlands

 

We woke to the crisp morning air with excitement for a short day today. Only 8 miles!!! It’s seemed like marathon after marathon after marathon as of late, so a shorter day was just what the doctor ordered. And… I was going to have company on the run. Wendy Fisher is a Crested Butte local, snow ski legend, friend of Marcus and now I’m honored to say a friend of mine.

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After dropping her boys off at school she met me at the Christiana, our hotel, and we drove to our starting point for the day. The first several miles were all uphill as we climbed up toward the Mount Crested Butte community, making our way to the small town of Gothic. Part way up the hill, mine and Wendy’s gabbing was pleasantly interrupted by a man working for a Pepsi delivery truck. He said, “Jenny LaBaw, you probably don’t remember me, but we went to high school together.” I was SO embarrassed that I didn’t recognize him, but I did remember his wife when he mentioned her name. He had read about Move Mountains and often delivers to CB, but thought he had missed me passing through the area. He said he couldn’t believe it as he saw us trudging up the hill. He generously donated a case of Dasani water, saying “you probably don’t drink anything else he had in the truck.” People are SO kind!

After a little reminiscing, we continued up the hill gabbing away and getting to know one another. She told me all about her days as a skier and how she started to lose her love for the sport with the pressure that came with it and the constant competition amongst her teammates. She said, “Those girls are hard core and I didn’t have that in me.” Then, in the next moment she pointed up to this cliff and nonchalantly said, “I’ve skied that line”. Are you joking me… that’s literally a wall of rock! Her humbleness and kind persona was so refreshing from someone that is such a high caliber athlete.

We finally hit the top of the hill and it was downhill all the way to Gothic from there. I thought the colors over Cinnamon Pass were breathtaking… but these greatly overpowered. The oranges and reds and yellows colored the hillside. As we continued sharing life stories and experiences and realizing we have a lot in common… we were surrounded by cattle. A few went bailing of the edge of the road as we startled them, some just curiously staring at us as we moved by and occasionally we got a little “moooooooo” that made us giggle like little girls.

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Coming into the town of Gothic, Mount Gothic was towering over us on the left. The jagged rocks at the top make you envision gargoyles leering over each one. There were a handful of small barn wood covered homes that Wendy went to explain are only inhabited during the summer months and in the winter there is only one caretaker that watches over the town as it’s too cold and remote. No one plows and there are no snowmobiles allowed. In the warmer months the town is used for environmental research. We looked at the map at the visitor center one more time to make sure we were headed to the correct trail head to set us up for success tomorrow and in fact we were only 1 mile away.

We headed up the dirt road and ½ mile in hit a trail for another ½ mile to the entrance of Copper Creek Trail head. Day 12, so quickly complete with great company, amazing scenery and a short distance.

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The rest of the day consisted of resting, eating and prepping for the only day without a support vehicle.   When it was time to wind down for the night, Dave pulled out the guitar and we sat in the lobby of the hotel with good people, telling stories of world travel and listening to the relaxing tones of Dave’s music.

 

Lesson Learned:

New friends are made when you least expect it.