Day 11: Dream Home

Day 11, Tuesday, September 29th

Gunnison to Crested Butte

 

Dedicated To:

Tom Hauburger, Seattle, WA

David Marmon, Williamsburg, VA

Ashley “Sunny” Cavalcanto, Seattle, CA

Kris Garcia, Riverside, CA

 

Going to bed last night, I honestly didn’t think that I was going to be able to continue the next day. My toe hurt so incredibly bad that I couldn’t put pressure on it. I was planning on starting the morning walking to Crested Butte in flip flops. Upon waking, I was pleasantly surprised to feel relief in my toe and enough so that when I started up the highway toward Crested Butte, as per the new norm, my toes went numb enough to tolerate the pain at about a ½ mile in.

With a mix of Michael Franti, Tom Petty, Citizen Cope and some more of my favorites, I jammed up the road. At mile 4, I got a burst of energy with a group of fishermen that were stationed at a turnout with Tory, clapping and cheering as I trotted by. With a smile on my face, I continued up the road winding around along the white line on my right. Being so close and personal to the road everyday, I notice things I never would. One being how reflective the white pain strip is. Sometimes I get mesmerized by its shimmer as it leads me through the mountains.

Crested Butte Mountain came into view on my right around mile 10ish and provided an amazing view the rest of the run to distract me of the pain that was starting to intensify in m feet and knees. It’s rocky face collided with the outpour of colorful aspens leading down into the sparsely dispersed cabins and barns beneath it. I found myself dreaming of living there with Marcus and our family, skiing in the winters and mountain biking in the summers. Who knows… maybe this will be where we land permanently. With about 1.5 miles left, Marcus came up on his bike and videoed me running through the quaint little town. We passed people sitting outside enjoying lunch at cafes, kids playing in the park, dogs retrieving frisbees… just people enjoying the amazing sunshine on this outstanding indian summer day.

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As I hit the end of town with 21 miles clocked for the day, I saw a long hill in my future for the next morning and decided that I had done enough. I collapsed, immediately took my shoes off and felt instant relief as the cold mountain air breathed through my toes.

We then headed into Crested Butte, got our hotel set up and went to the local mountain store, Alpineer, to see if they could help us set our route that I was unsure of for the next two days. I had an idea, but never being in this part of the state, I wasn’t 100% sure and the maps we had didn’t quite give us a great understanding of what lied ahead. The men at the counter were so incredibly helpful. They pulled out the map and together we came up with the shortest route from Crested Butte to Copper Creek (just outside of Gothic) for the next day and the day following we decided on East Maroon Pass trail to get me up and over the mountains to Aspen. They also generously donated a pair of Colorado socks to protect my feet and gave us a great discount on the items we purchased… I literally could have bought the entire store, but managed to come out with a Colorado hat for Marcus, the necessary map, and an emergency blanket in case I got stranded on the trail.

After getting prepped and ready for the next couple days to come, we headed to the local’s favorite café, Camp 4, and grabbed some coffees and teas before heading to the local CrossFit Gym, Synergy Athlete where Carrie Jo and her crew kindly welcomed us. I’ve been to a lot of CF gyms and this one is adorable… it’s small but so well put together. They have an amazing mindset and really focus on what I believe crossfit to be… a tool to make us stronger and healthier to do the things we love. In a mountain community, the evening class was small because everyone was out doing just what they should be doing… enjoying the last of summer on the trails. However, I got to chat with Carrie Jo for awhile as her daughters monkeyed themselves around the rings and structure. I love the philosophy this woman has… seriously another reason that Crested Butte is on our list of places to move!

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The day ended with an amazing home-cooked meal from a friend of Marcus’ and Crested Butte local, Wendy Fisher. Wendy and Marcus met in 2004 while filming to be in the Warren Miller film, Impact. I’ve heard for years about her and have watched her in films for extreme skiing. The girl is badass!!! She was a 7-year member of the womens US National Alpine Team and earned a spot to the 92 Olympics. Now a mom of two to Aksel and Devin, Wendy spends her time skiing with her boys and coaching private lessons at Crested Butte. I will write more about her in tomorrow’s blog.

With full bellies and warm hearts after spending an evening with Wendy and her amazing family, we headed back for some much needed shut eye.

Lesson Learned:  You can’t predict how the next day will be the night before.

Day 10: “Uh Oh Toe”

Day 10:  Monday, September 28th

Blue Mesa Reservoir to Gunnison

 

Dedicated To:

Lin Sutton, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire

Amber Rose Galloway, Carlsbad, CA

Heather Lakmann, Redding, CA

Beth Bringle, Redding, CA

 

It’s was the start of new work week and HWY 50 was busy as people buzzed by to work. We started around 8am from last night’s stopping point (a mile or so from Blue Mesa Reservoir). A fairly uneventful day but I really felt great. About 3 miles in we got off the highway and onto a frontage road that paralleled it. Marcus jumped on his bike to join me, of course with a camera in my face, and we chatted it up as we approached Gunnison. It’s amazing how much faster the time goes when you have someone to talk to.

About 7 miles into the run I was getting pretty hungry so stopped for a rest on the curb and grabbed my homemade True Nature Kitchen baby food pouch out of my bag. I cracked the lid open with excitement to get some nutrition in me. The first swallow tasted a bit different than usual, but had just told Marcus how good they were, so offered him a taste. He said, “It’s kinda spicy”. I said, “Well yeah, it has black pepper in it”. Then I proceeded to take another gulp and that time couldn’t handle it and spit it out in the gutter. It literally gagged me. Vaughn saw my dramatic spitting and came out of the truck laughing and to kindly take the pouch from me. I said, “It’s rancid, it’s gotta be rancid.” With the hunger immediately gone from that bad taste, we got back to running. Turns out, my essential oil and Epsom salt liquid soap spilled all over the kitchen in Big Blue and infused EVERYTHING around it. So, not rancid, but my insides are bubbly clean now!

As we continued through town, it was a surprisingly great to see a bit of civilization. I am very much a country girl and would love to spend all of my time in the woods, but after days of loneliness, turns out seeing a stop light and a Safeway makes you smile.   The plan that day was to only go to the end of town, but again I was feeling decent and wanted to get a head start on the next day… so when Tory said “28 miles to Crested Butte” (the destination for the next day)… I kept chugging along. My feet were swelling and the numbness was wearing off. Each step was painful, but somehow I just kept going saying “one more mile” to my crew each time I saw them. Finally at 14 miles into the day, I asked Tory if she would walk the last mile to make it a solid 15 miles (6 miles into the next day)!

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As Tory and I were walking that last mile, I had my shoes in hand to let my toes get some relief. We’re just chatting up a storm and all of a sudden we see a bus sized motorcoach in the large shoulder coming at us at about 55mph. They pulled to the shoulder (with us in plain view) to let other cars pass them, but weren’t slowing down. Tory bailed off into the stickers on the side of the road, but me in socks (and half way delirious with hunger and fatigued) didn’t quite comprehend what was happening. I got out of the way, but not without scaring the dickens out of Marcus (who was right behind us).

Surviving another potentially life-threatening event on the road, we crossed the highway, jumped in the rigs and headed back to our hotel that was donated for the night. When we got to the hotel my pinky toe was really in pain… A LOT of pain. Enough pain that we were contemplating going to visit a physical therapists office for advice. But with the suggestions of friends, Tory’s amazing touch, flushing with the MarcPro and hours of elevation… my toe had enough relief to take the pups to a park and get them some much needed play time. We played ball until dusk, headed back to the hotel and crashed with hopes that my toes would hold through to start the day tomorrow.

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Lesson Learned:

  • Probably not a good idea to walk on the side of a highway in socks

Day 9: “Keep Moving Forward”

Day 9, Sunday, September 27th

Gateview to Blue Mesa Reservoir 

Dedicated To:

Katie Raines, Naples, FL

Sophia Martinez, Danville, CA

Gabby Martinez, Danville, CA

Ashley Griffiths, Lymington, UK

 

Last night, we all gathered around the map after Tory and Pam had made a run into Gunnison (the direction I was heading in the morning). They came back fairly concerned with the road safety of the next day as the shoulder was almost obsolete and who knows what the traffic would be like. After some discussion we saw a possible route of CR-26, which would bypass the highway for most of the mileage. Vaughn and Tory then took off to find the mileage/condition of that road and Vaughn’s last words were, “We’ll see ya in about an hour”…. 2.5 hours later and pitch black, Pam and I were sitting around the campfire contemplating whether or not we should jump in the truck to go rescue them. Did their car break down? Did they run out of gas? No service… so who knows. Minutes before Pam had a complete anxiety attack, we saw headlights. Good news..they were safe! Bad news… the road wasn’t accessible.

So, on the shoulder-less highway of 149 we took off just after dawn to avoid as much traffic as we could. I started the morning with a good 3 mile climb, then descended 2.5 miles into a one-horse town, then immediately climbed for another 3 miles….then it was slightly downhill the remainder of the 16.1 miles to Blue Mesa Reservoir. I obeyed the law and ran into traffic when the road ahead was visible… if not then I ran on the right side of the road, with Vaughn behind me in “Big Blue” (our nickname for the RV) protecting me from the crazies on the road. Every time a car would come up on us, he would give me a gentle “honk honk” to make me aware to be prepared to dive into the sage brush on the side of the road.

The day was fairly uneventful. There were basically no trees, so I was subject to the sun again. But luckily it didn’t get too hot until about 12 miles left. However, the combo of the heat on the black asphalt and the downhill grade, my feet were beginning to hurt pretty bad. There’s no way to prevent your toes from being jammed in the front of your shoes when repetitively pounding the pavement downhill. I stopped with 9 miles to go to grab a snack and check on my feet. Let’s just say they weren’t good. Blisters on blisters. Tory and I did some doctoring, put on dry socks, then slid on my shoes to start at it again.

The first few steps are always the most painful, then they start to go numb. By about 1 mile in, they were numb enough to run with a semi-normal gait and charge to Blue Mesa Reservoir. One foot in front of the other… on step at a time… just “Keep moving forward”. I thought of dear Katie Raines today when the steps were so hard (as I have several days so far on this journey). Katie’s mother, Lenora Raines, contacted me when I announced Move Mountains. She told me of her daughter Katie and that she lost Katie to SUDEP. Lenora gave me words of wisdom that I have carried with me when those steps get heavy and hard. As Katie fought epilepsy, she used the words “Keep moving forward” to give her courage and strength. Thank you Katie and Lenora… you are with me sweet Katie, every step you’re in my heart and when things get hard you’re in my mind.

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Suddenly, around a bend, Blue Mesa Reservoir came into sight… I was almost there. I rounded the bend and saw a bridge way up in the distance. I looked at Vaughn and desperately asked, “Is that my bridge?”… “Yes!”, he said. I was almost done for the day. It looked like it was 4 miles ahead, but my watch said only 1.5 miles until the end of my projected mileage for the day. Keep Moving Forward!!! I tried to focus on anything but the pain in my feet and the doubt in my mind for the distance to go. The smell of fish from the lake, the smell of sage as my feet stomped through on the side of the road, the sound of Marcus’ drone as he captured the last minutes of the run that day. Then I saw a straight shot to the bridge… I made it. 24.6 miles and I walked across HWY 50 to where Tory and Marcus were waiting for me.

We jumped in the cars, headed to Mesa Campground where we would call home for the night.   Tory worked on my legs for about 2 hours that day… She said, “I work until your muscles give up”. They were definitely starting to feel the mileage at this point. As I was getting worked on, Dave from True Nature Kitchen showed up with a fresh set of meals and the new addition to our road warrior team for the next couple of days. We filled our bellies and then Tory offered to join me for a little head start on the day tomorrow. Marcus took us to where I ended a few hours earlier. We walked (me in flip flops for some toe relief) on the side of HWY 50 as cars buzzed past us. Tory got a taste of the trip from my vantage point. A bit scarier I think… but we made it 1.5 miles more than I would have if she wasn’t by my side. Thank you Tory for being so wonderful.

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We went to bed with the Super Blood Moon protecting us, filling our dreams and prepping us for the next day. Once again, we finish a day with a positive mind set and ready for the next days’ adventures.

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Lesson Learned:

1- There are no better words for what I am doing than from the special words of Miss Katie Raines… “Keep Moving Forward”. Take that with you in life and no obstacle will knock you down!

Day 8: Lonely Road

Day 8, Saturday, September 26th

Lake City to Gateview (21 miles)

 

Dedicated To:

Sara K. Halperin, Charleston, SC

Grace Howe, Collingwod, Ontario

Amy Sayers, Sturgis, MI

Jesse Swinburnson, Lake Stevens, WA

Bennett Levine, Lake City, CO

 

Confident that a day of rest would leave me feeling rejuvenated and ready to tackle a new week on the road, I bandaged up my toe, put on all my gear, prepped my pack and laced up my tennies. Pam, Macus, Tory and Vaughn efficiently packed up our lives from the last 3 days in one sleeping location and we were on the road 3 miles into Lake City to start at the Hensen Creek Bridge, where I stopped two days before.

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At the end of the bridge was a family friend and Lake City local, Phllip Virden along with two other locals Greg and Martha Levine. Phillp kindly handed me a gift bag full of Lake City memorabilia from the movie theater that he owns. I seriously could move here. This small town life is what I was born into and love. Greg and ­­Martha got to chatting with me about their son Bennett. He is 11 years old and would have been out there too but was tired. Totally get it buddy! Anyways, Greg went onto explain that Bennett also has epilepsy. He has gelastic seizures, which are identified by uncontrolled giggling. They found that Bennett had a tumor on his brain, called hypothalamic hamartoma (HH). Just over a month ago, Bennett had brain surgery to remove the mass on his brain and since has been off meds and seizure free. His parents ran out of town with me about a mile to chat about epilepsy, hear my experience, share their experience and possibly just feel like they had someone to relate to. In a town as small as Lake City, they don’t have a neurologist in any sort of close proximity, so they have to communicate remotely most of the time between two different doctors…one in Denver and one in Houston (where Bennett had his surgery). It helped me greatly to be able to chat with them and I can only hope that sharing my experience helped them as well. If nothing else, Bennett is a tough cookie… had him in my mind all day today. Thank you for the love Lake City!

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After we exchanged hugs and they said good luck… I was on my way up State Highway 149 north toward Gateview. It was the beginning of several solo days. The morning air was crisp, I had on gloves and my beanie… but quickly the sun came out and I stripped off layers and put on my shades. It was going to be a great day!

Hwy 149 has VERY narrow shoulders… something I never paid attention to much on roads before… but I’m sure I will now notice forever. There were a couple close calls, jumping over guardrails and darting across the street around the winding turns to make sure I was always on the outside of the curve. I felt like Danica Patrick on foot… just WAY slower. J

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Before I knew it, the dense trees I had become accustomed to for days started to become a bit more sparse and the sun beating down on the asphalt radiated up. I could feel the heat penetrate my shoes and absorb into the sole of my foot. What started out as a great day was starting to look and FEEL like it was heading down the other side of the spectrum. My legs were getting heavy, my body was exhausted, my mind was starting to go placed I didn’t want it to. The road was becoming a lonely place. Time to dig deep and focus on why I am doing this. Young Bennett Levine raced through my head and gave me occasional bursts of energy to keep moving.

Tory and Pam had driven ahead to find a camp spot and as they returned I had Marcus ask the how much farther I had to go. They came back and enthusiastically said “4 miles”. NO… NOOOOO!!!! My watch said that I have less than a mile… thinking today was a 17 mile day. Dang Google Maps! Marcus got on his bike when he saw how crushed I was with the less-than-good news and he rode some miles with me (of course simultaneously filming). As we winded around the hot road, sweat pouring in my eyes and pain with each step… I saw the truck parked ahead in the distance and picked up the pace. When you see a finish line, somehow your body finds this energy you didn’t think you had. Striding it out, I narrowed the gap between myself and the day’s ending point… tears started to pour down my face, I lost the rhythm of my breathing and finally collapsed as I reached my support team.

I did it… we did it… all of us!

 

Lessons Learned:

  • Thinking you have less distance than you really do is deflating.
  • Having someone by your side (running or riding) makes things WAY better.

Day 7: “Deeper Meaning”

Day 7:  Friday, September 25th

“Rest” Day in Lake City

Dedicated to:

Andy Frei (and his mom, Katie Frei)

 

This day isn’t going to be much about my journey with raising awareness for epilepsy, but more about my understanding of how good humans really are….

Sam headed back home to Cali early in the morning. The rest of us spent the day working and catching up on our real life. Mom did all our laundry and then headed back to her house because she has to travel to Turkey for work this coming week. Pam prepped meals. Vaughn organized our lives a bit. Marcus downloaded and organized video footage while Tory and I were elbows deep in work on our computers at the only internet café in Lake City… Chillin’ Cafe. While we were outside taking in the fresh air and pounding away at our keyboards, a tall lanky gentleman with a scraggly beard and nothing but a backpack full of his few belongings came strolling in to get a hot meal.

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Tory overheard him talking to someone about his journey. Andy ­­­was walking from Canada to Mexico for his mom. She was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer nearly 3 years ago and has been able to keep growth at bay with chemo.  However cancer is adaptable and will mutate and grow…then Katie, Andy and their loved ones hope will be at the mercy of current research.  His mission is to raise funds for research so when this time comes, his mom has the best shot possible.   If you feel like contributing to another road warrior, please visit his site HERE.  His goal is to raise just $3,000… let’s help him greatly surpass this.

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Another bearded man came out of the hostel next to the café while we were chatting/crying with Andy. This man was also walking for his mother. Choking back tears, he explained to us that his mom was diagnosed with a terminal illness and unfortunately passed not long after. He was also out raising awareness and funds for research.

This was an emotionally exhausting day for my team. Although it was physically relaxing, we were all in tears as we heard these two men tell their stories. The amount of love, compassion and genuine goodness that people innately possess is contagious and I am finding is a huge reason that I am doing what I am doing. Yes, the goal is to spread the word about epilepsy, but the deeper meaning is to connect with people. To share stories. To relate to eachother. To love one another. To support one another.

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Lessons Learned:

1- People are really genuinely good.

2- There is much much more to what I am doing than raising awareness for epilepsy.

3- A sunset like the one above will make any day the best day!

Day 6: “Lydia”

Day 6 Thursday, September 24th

Cinnamon Pass to Lake City (17.1 miles)

 

Dedicated To:

Anna Stevinson, Burlington, WI

Lydia Shaeffer, Burlinton, WI

Sebastian Mayen, Guatemala

Elijah Cloukey, Bowdoinham, ME

 

I could feel it was day 6.  I woke tired and questioning if I could do this another day. But… I didn’t have any option… I was going to do this and I knew once I started I could finish. Just had to take that first step. Vaughn and Marcus drove me part way back up Cinnamon Pass where I stopped yesterday with Tory, my mom and Sam right behind us in my truck. We winded through the aspens on the jeep road and I realized this was the first time that I have seen my route before running it. Up until now every step was new territory. The day before we had set up a Karin on the road to know where exactly I had stopped. It seemed like FOREVER to get to that point, which didn’t help my mindset as to how that day was going to feel.

When we finally saw the rock pile on our right, we turned the cars around, Sam and I jumped out, hugged everyone and off we went. I’m not sure I could have started without her this morning. She was feeling much better and chugged along with me for another 3 miles… she was getting tired and urged me to go forward… but then I find out she ran an addition 3 on her own for epilepsy…makes me tear up! As I took off on my own, I kept thinking, “Once you hit the pavement, it’s only 2.5 miles to the cabins, then only 3 more miles to town…then rest day!”

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This was the first day that my thoughts controlled me. I bounced from positive thoughts of how amazing it is to be running through the mountains to negative thoughts of how hard it is to be running alone to moments of clarity of how lucky I am to be running at all. I’ve read that while ultra running you will have aches and pains that bounce around from minute to minute and I experiences this that day too. One minute my left Achilles was aching, then next it moved to my right knee, the next to my left hip, then next my upper back… My mind was beating me.

Then all of a sudden, I see Marcus and Vaughn ahead of me telling me to stop and look ahead. 100 yards ahead in the shade of the aspen stood a moose…broad side on the right of road. I was awe-struck. It was a beautiful moment… a moment that for some reason brought little Lydia Shaeffer into my mind…and she stayed there until I got to the cabins 8 miles or so later.

When I hit the cabins where my crew was waiting… I sat and the dirt and started crying and explained that Lydia carried me through. Lydia Shaeffer and her best friend, Anna Stevinson, both from Burlington, Wisconsin are two adorable little girls who have both battled epilepsy. On May 11, 2014 (Mother’s Day that year) the world lost an angel… Lydia died of SUDEP (sudden unexpected death of epilepsy) at the young age of 7.  She had a seizure in her sleep and didn’t wake up.  Anna lost her best friend. I will go more into this at some point in the near future, but what is so sad about this story is that Lydia was on a waiting list to get medicinal marijuana in the form of CBD oil. Anit-seizure meds didn’t work for her…she was just patiently waiting for the one thing she and her family knew could help. There is so much proof in CBD oil helping control seizure activity, yet it is still illegal in most states. In Wisconsin, they had just passed the law one month before Lydia’s death, but Lydia didn’t get it in time. The law was revisited shortly after and renamed “Lydia’s Law”. On this day, Lydia and the strength this young girl must have possessed carried me through…all the way into Lake City, 3 more miles up the road.

Pictured Left: Precious Anna who is now in second grade and loves “eating healthy” and is playing flag football this year.

Pictured Right: Lydia… the angel that I never got to meet but hold dear in my heart.

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Once in Lake City, my team and the Lake City locals made a small dream come true. In the middle of my run, I passed Tory and said…”I want gluten free pancakes”. I knew in my heart there was no way we would be getting GF anything in Lake City (SMALL town). However, once I crossed the Henson Creek Bridge in town and called it a day at 17.1 miles… Pam announced that my special order pancakes were on their way. We headed to the cutest little restaurant called Poker Alice owned by Steve and Linda. Turns out Pam came into town and asked if they had GF pancakes and explained what we were doing. Linda said, “We don’t even make breakfast, but I’ll tell ya what… If you go get the ingredients we’ll whip you up some GF pancakes.” And they did just that… in fact we had about 12 GF pancakes between all of us (I ate 4 of them!!!). When we were headed out, Steve handed us a generous donation to the cause. We asked where Linda was and he said she was upstairs on oxygen. Turns out she was just getting over a bad bout of pneumonia and he told her she could make the pancakes if she promised to go upstairs right afterwards. People are so amazingly kind. Steve and Linda, those pancakes made the end to my first week (123 miles in) complete! Thank you!

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Now… a day off!

 

Lessons Learned:

  • Little girls have the power to help Move Mountains! Thank you Lydia and Anna.
  • Small things make the biggest difference in life (ie: Seeing the moose, GF Pancakes)

Day 5: “And Then Some…”

Day 5: Wednesday, September 23rd

Silverton to Animas Forks… And Then Some…

 

Dedicated To:

Sara K. Halperin, Charleston, SC

Grace Howe, Collingwod, Ontario

Stephanie Alexis Rusu, Hellertown, PA

Jonathan Kummer, Airdrie, Alberta

 

With the best of intentions of starting at 7:30am, we finally headed out of town around 8:30am once I got my toe taped, my gear all organized and the sleep out of my eyes. Some days are just slower than others.

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Stepping outside, it was by far the coldest day yet. The fog loomed over the valley floor off the Animas Canyon as Sam and I started the first steps of the day. I prefaced the day to Sam by saying, “if you feel any signs of altitude sickness, stop! It’s not worth it. Headaches, light-headedness, nausea, etc. Either walk or flag down a support car and jump in.” I’m so proud of her, at 9,500ft Sam ran 3 miles after only 20 hours at altitude. She was smart and listened to her body and stopped before she actually got sick. Starting the day with her set me up for success. Thank you Sam.

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It was 10 miles to Animas Forks (where we had no idea what to expect). After a couple hours of trudging uphill on a 4-wheel drive jeep road, all the vehicles and I made it to Animas Forks unscathed. As soon as I stopped running the chilly air hit my sweaty clothes and my body froze. We were at tree line… if trees aren’t growing you know it’s cold and there’s not a lot of oxygen. Animas Forks is on the map, but not 100% sure why… there is NOTHING there. It is an old ghost mining town.  Vaughn and Pam came up before the rest of us and scoped out the area and found a possible camping spot. We started to position the vehicles to block the wind from the tents we were going to set up for the crew… everyone was strategizing with a positive attitude while I warmed up a bit in the RV.

This is Animas Forks…

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Again, I was feeling good and learning from the day before, I prepped for a few extra miles to make the next day less. Vaughn then says… hey if you’re going to go a bit further why don’t we just take the vehicles over the pass and find a place to sleep down in Lake City (the next days destination). It was sort of an “ah ha” moment and without hesitation everyone agreed. Excited to get out of the frigid air, we all quickly jumped in the 4 vehicles (Vaughn’s Subaru XV Cross Trek, my mom’s Toyota Rav4, my Toyota Tacoma, and of course the trusty rented 4WD RV)

We had two options… Engineer Pass, which I had originally planned, or a few extra miles over Cinnamon Pass. Vaughn had talked to some local in Silverton asking which route they suggested and their answer was…and I quote… “Engineer Pass will make you pucker your butt.”   In an effort for more confirmation or second opinion, as we were climbing up to Animas Forks he spoke with a local couple and their response for Engineer Pass was, “It will make you wet your pants”. So Cinnamon Pass it was.

It was about 2.5 miles to the summit of the steep rocky grade from Animas Forks. I had to walk a lot of it to keep moving, but never stopped. When I saw Vaughn and Marcus at the summit I brought my fast walk to a slow jog and crested the mountain road at 12,640ft. There were no trees, there was barely any grass, but there were three yellow butterflies. I’d climbed over 3,000 ft in a few short hours at high elevation and was feeling great. After a quick photo opp with the crew and a brief chat with an older couple sitting in their jeep, it was downhill the rest of the day.

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For another 7.5 miles I kept jogging along downhill. My mind and body were in a good place. My toe had gone numb, my lungs felt amazing, my legs felt descent and it was a beautiful bluebird day. As I descended, the colors started to appear again, I saw deer and the air warmed. My gait was rhythmic, my support team was behind me and I just kept going. The original goal I set out was to hit the 17-mile mark, but when I hit that no one was there, so I decided on 18 miles. The same thing happened at 18 miles so 19 it was, but then my OCD self said, “Jenny, might as well make it a round number.” I hit 20 miles and collapsed to the ground in complete fatigue. My mind was in such a great place I didn’t realize how tired my body was after climbing 3,240ft up and 3,250ft down. I cried in Tory’s arms, I cried in Sam’s arms and I cried in the camera Marcus had in my face. All I could say was “I’m just tired”.

Lessons Learned:

  • Listen to the locals… they know the way!
  • Your mind is so much more powerful than your body (not a lesson, just a reminder).

Day 4 – “Take A Step Back In Time”

Day 4 Tuesday, September 22nd

Little Molas Lake Campground to Silverton, CO – “Take A Step Back In Time”

 

Dedicated To:

Jake Pitts, Cumbria, England

Sean Coonce, Vancouver, BC

Emily McMurrian, Wiggins, MO

 

I woke up to find Matt had taken off early in the morning and left me the most touching note on the camp chair along with a set of headphones saying “music is a must”. If only my phone hadn’t crashed the day before leaving Chico, meaning all my music is on “the cloud” and only accessible with service, which was slim pickin’s at this point. Fixing that is a definite priority!

However, this run required no distraction with music. Running down Molas Pass into Silverton, CO was the start of “god’s country” in my mind. With the crisp morning air brushing against my cheeks, the vibrant yellow, orange and red aspens filling my eyes, and the sound of the awakening wildlife… my heart was full. I was home in the mountains! We winded down Molas Pass and suddenly around one curve the sleepy little town of Silverton came into view. Each step brought me closer to this historic mining town nestled in the San Juan mountains. When we hit town, I felt good and decided to keep running through town and up Country Road 2… making gains on the next days mileage. The Animas River rushed past me on the right and large mountains on either side made me realize how small we really are in this world. I am one person, just a small being, but with the team I have by my side, the support I have from all over the world and a common goal in sight… we truly can and are moving mountains.

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At the 8.75 mile marker that day, my legs and body were ready for a break after the jarring downhill grade. We headed into town, grabbed lunch at Hungry Moose with the ever-generous Victor serving up some world famous green chili. The fatigue was apparent in all four of our faces… it’d been a long 4 days. Time for a shower and a nap. We climbed the red carpet staircase up to the Teller House Hotel where we would call home for the night. In a town of 629 people the amount of trust is commendable. Instead of checking into the hotel, there was a note that said something to the effect of “Please find the door with your name on it and make yourself at home. The key to your door will be on the table. Thank you, Mike”.  The sign you see when you first drive into town is so fitting… “Take A Step Back In Time”.  I could totally live here!

Tory crashed, Vaughn took a 45minute shower, and Marcus and I headed to the local baseball field to let the pups play ball (they have been so patient with endless hours in the car). I sat there hand in hand with Marcus, looking over the San Juans as rain started to fall out of the sky and had a moment of peacefulness. I realized that I had run around 80 miles in 4 days and no sign or symptom of seizure activity. Increased stress and lack of sleep are big triggers for epilepsy and with those two factors in high effect, I still was remaining stable. I owe it 100% to my supporters… I will say it again and again… I could not do this without you!

After Ziggy and Pogo seemed fulfilled with their activity for the day, Marcus and I went to Mineral Creek to soak my aching toe and swollen feet in the freezing water before heading back to the hotel for some rest. The goal of taking a nap was quickly put to a halt as my energy levels rose when my mom returned to the mission with Pam Davis (chef extraordinaire for True Nature Kitchen) as well as Samantha Guterres (a client and friend of mine from the bay area who came to run a few miles with me for epilepsy). The team for the next 2 days was together! Instead of a nap we hit up the Montanya Distillery. Well they hit it up, I just pounded water and enjoyed their company while we watched a torrential downpour outside.

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Out stomachs started to rumble while we waited for a break in the rain, but to no avail we darted across puddles of main street to the RV where Pam and mom had heated up some grub for the night. Packed like sardines in the RV, we were continuing to bond as a family and make memories.

Following dinner was Epsom salt bath for the feetsies and reading from a gifted book… basically the foot care bible! Thank you to the Carey’s! I know have at least legit literature to try and take care of my trick toe.

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Lessons Learned:

  • Smart to keep going and get extra miles if you feel good.
  • Having my mom with me makes everything better…always has and always will.

Day 3 – “Climbing Ivy”

Day 3 – Monday September 21st

Haviland Campground to Little Molas Lake Campground (48.5 miles to 72.5 miles)

Dedicated to:

Karl DeLoof, Michigan

Kelly Reece Schneider, Washington

Ashley MacMillan, Vancouver, BC

 

After a rough finish yesterday and a few important lessons learned, I was ready to take on day 3. It was the first of the several mountain passes to climb over the next 30 days. We had a talk as a Move Mountains family about the plan for the day. I had 3875 feet to climb and 1417 to descend… the plan was to walk the ups before I needed to walk and run the downs. I stuck to the plan and it was a much better experience than the climb the day before. I made the 23.5 miles in 5 hours and felt good afterwards… minus my first “injury”… a bad blister on my left 4th toe.

The first climb out of Haviland Campground was Coalbank Pass… Matt started the morning with me again and with a little running and walking he reached his 50-mile mark in 3 days without any real training… IMPRESSIVE Matt and I am so thankful for your support, love and encouragement. I ran the first 8 miles and then it was walking up a steep grade for 4 miles… one step at a time and enjoying the amazing colors as we reached higher elevation.  While I was chuggin’ along, my attention shot to this crazy, excited lady leaning out of the window of her maroon Isuzu Trooper cheering and throwing the fist as she zoomed passed me honking.  A surge of energy raced through my body and my pace picked up a bit…the motivation continued to improve as I saw her climbing back up, whipping a “U-ie”, parking and jogging down to where I was.  Ivy, was her name… a petite, blonde ball of energy.  She started walking with me, asking if I wanted company.  “Of course, please!” I responded.  “What are you doing out here?” She asked.  “How far are you going”.  I went on to explain my adventure and she opened up telling me about her story.  She’s a mother of three (16yr, 14yr, and 11yr olds)… she lives in Silverton, CO… she’s a professional ultra runner… and she is Type 1 diabetic. We spent a few moments talking about overcoming obstacles and that this was the true meaning of my adventure… our minds are our only limitations!

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Ivy was the spark I needed that day.  She got me to the top of Coalbank Pass in what seemed like seconds as conversation took over time.  She gave me pointers on the ultra world… “learn to take 8 minute naps”, “keep the shuffle going”, “eat oreos even if you don’t eat oreos”.  As I jogged down the pass, I giggled out loud as I thought of her as my “Climbing Ivy”.  Thank you!

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Next was the base of Molas Pass. As I jogged around the big right hand bend to start the climb up… my mind went back 3 months to the moment I decided I was going to do this run. It was just a few miles up that I looked at Marcus and said “It’s time! I’m going to run across Colorado for epilepsy.” As I walked up the mountain I thought of all the people that have come together for this cause and made this monumental event happen in such a short time. You each know who you are and what importance you have in my life, in this cause and in the goodness of humankind.  I will say it over and over throughout this run… there are NO words to express how thankful I am for each one of you.  I really am living a dream!

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I summited Molas Pass with Matt by my side, Vaughan waiting with the most genuine smile, Tory with tears streaming down her face, and Marcus with his arms wide open with pride and love… I am the luckiest girl alive.  A little 600m jog down and we were at Little Molas Lake Campground for the night.  I stopped at the entrance to the campground, thankful that my legs could rest for a few hours and absolutely emotionally taken aback… tears streaming that another day was done.

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Back at the campground, Tory worked on my legs then my crew all got a workout in themselves (hiking the Colorado Trail).  We wrapped the night up filling our bellies and then our souls with music from Matt!

 

Lessons Learned:

  • People are innately good… Climbing Ivy saved me that day!
  • Walking up passes is faster and more efficient than running.

Day 1 and 2 – Move Mountains

Day 1: Saturday September 19th

New Mexico Border to Durango

Dedicated to

Leah Yates, Albuquerque, NM

Jim Schoenberg, Albuquerque, NM

Tim Maluski, Cottage Grove, MN

 

Feeling rejuvenated from a good nights sleep after 2 days of driving to Durango, Marcus and I united with my first support crew… my mom (Cathy Desautels), Marcus’ friend from growing up (Matt Hamblin) and a good friend from home (Vaughn Zellick).   We jetted downstairs, ate a couple hard-boiled eggs and a banana and anxiously drove 25 miles south to the New Mexico/Colorado border. Waiting for us at the “Welcome to Colorful Colorado” sign were two vehicles filled with people that were about to become lifelong friends of mine. Jim Schoenberg with his family and Leah Yates with her family… both from Albuquerque, New Mexico, both have epilepsy and had never met. They were there to join me in the start of this epic journey.

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After a few hugs and a few tears, at approximately 9am, Leah, Jim, Matt, Hannah (Leah’s daughter) and I took off North on 550 with our entourage of vehicles behind us cheering loudly! We took off trotting at a nice easy pace and about 8 minute into the run I heard the buzzing of Marcus’ drone (he’s the videographer for the event)… then about 60 seconds later I heard a crash and then clanking on pavement. I looked behind me and saw the drone, rotors down broken into pieces but still buzzing in the middle of the highway. Quick instincts… look left… no cars… sprint into the street and grab the drone. It was toast and we had just begun. Marcus had accidentally hit a telephone wire with the drone (he couldn’t have done that if he tried). Next thing I know, Marcus is hurdling the median to come take the battery out of the drone to turn it off. He was so good about keeping a smile on his face and encouraging us to keep going, even though I know he was screaming inside. However, not 10 minutes later another drone was ordered and in route. Our first hiccup was over with!

The rest of the day was less eventful… we just kept chuggin along up 550 waving at oncoming traffic and carefully dodging those that weren’t willing to give us any room on the little to no shoulder we had to work with already. Life was good though… we laughed, we got to know each other better and we got to share some pretty deep moments.

Leah and Jim did a phenomenal job and I was so glad to have them with me. Matt made it the entire distance with me and I realized that day how important it is to have company during these long days.

We got back to the hotel and a reporter from the Durango Herald (local newpaper) was waiting for me. We did a little interview then wrapped the day up with a little bit of “chuck-it” with the dogs at the park, a soak in the hot tub (hotel rooms donated by good friends), a good yummy meal in my belly from True Nature Kitchen, a leg massage from the beautiful Tory Zellick (my dear friend and talented massage therapist that will be with me all trip…I’m SO LUCKY!!) and then some good shut eye for day 2.

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Day 1 Lessons Learned:

  • There are a lot of unhappy people on the road. We got the bird a few times, honked at and arms thrown up in the air. But also several fist pumps and double honks (good honks).
  • Nothing is irreplaceable that we have (not even a drone).
  • Road kill smells VERY VERY VERY bad when you’re up close to it.

 

Day 2: Sunday September 20

Durango to Haviland Campground

Dedicated to…

Madison Breedan, Brownsville, TX

Brooklyn Karl, CA

Sabrina McNeil, Ashland, OR

 

Today started amazing. We again woke well rested and excited for another beautiful Colorado day. We back tracked 2.5 miles from what I had run yesterday to be able to start at CrossFit Durango (poor planning on my part, but what is 2.5 miles when you have 500??). It was well worth it… the people of CrossFit Durango so graciously woke up early on a Sunday to run with a girl they’d never met before. They also, suggested/encouraged a much safer route, HWY 250 rather than 550 to avoid traffic. It added yet again a few more miles to the day, but the safety factor was way more important.

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I am so sorry to say that I don’t remember everyone’s name that started the day with us, but THANK YOU to each one of you for joining us in this effort. The smiles and laughs made the day start off with a bang. There were 3 people that stuck with us for the longest and I got to know the best so do remember their names. Jacob, one of the owners, just got done with a power lifting meet (quite the opposite of distance running) and held up great. Baird stuck with us for a good 8 miles or so (sorry if I have that number wrong, the miles are starting to get lost). And Molly stuck with us for 13 miles… it was great meeting her as we are pretty much long lost sisters. Turns out we played against each other in high school soccer, almost went to the same college and really have so much in common. We have promised to meet up next year to hike the Colorado Trail together (a bucket list item for each of us).

After Molly dropped off it was Matt and I at it again… it was definitely a jog/walk sort of day for Matt as he was terribly sore, but a trooper! At about mile 17 he had to call it. It was my first solo mission… I took off at a bit faster pace then we had been keeping because I felt great… however due to the change in route, I wasn’t exactly sure how far I had to go. About mile 20 the fatigue started to hit in from the day (and discouragement as the day was only supposed to be 17.7miles). It was 85 degrees outside, but the heat radiating off the black asphalt was much hotter. My head hurt, my feet hurt, my legs hurt, my mind was starting to go to a dark place…

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My support crew could tell and they started to suggest stopping once I hit the 550 intersection because traffic was bad, I was tired and it was hot. I was adamant to keep going… although I couldn’t be facing on coming traffic because there wasn’t enough shoulder, I had Marcus follow me in the support truck with flasher on the north bound side of the road… it probably wasn’t safe, it probably was stupid… but I had my mind set on Haviland Campground and I was going to make it.

I started jogging 3 reflector poles then walking 1… just to take my brain somewhere else. I started thinking about Jim and Leah and the other people that I am out here running for. It was only day 2 and I was having to go into my head to complete a day. Was I going to make it? Can I really run 500 miles?

Then… all of a sudden Matt came out of nowhere…scared me to death… and we started chuggin along again and he started telling me stories that I was half way listening to and half way just focusing on taking another step forward. The distraction was enough to get me to the finish… I saw the brown sign ahead that I knew meant campground and started booking it… I saw my mom, Tory, Vaughn and Dario (my mom’s boyfriend) ahead and just went as hard as I could and collapsed at the entrance to the campground. It did it.. day 2 complete.

A quick jump in Haviland Lake with the dogs, then a nice big meal and music by the campfire to round out the night.   Life is good.

Day 2 Lessons Learned:

  • Before the day starts, talk about where possible stopping points are if not feeling 100%… I can always make up miles the next day
  • Going my own pace is a huge benefit… no faster, no slower
  • The people of CrossFit Durango are my kind of people