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 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!

The Creation of Move Mountains

For the next couple of months my blog is going to be focused around my next adventure, Move Mountains: A Run For Epilepsy.  I will be sharing about my training, the work leading up to the run, my amazing support system, my sponsors, the incredibly generous people who have donated, some educational pieces about epilepsy and the roller coaster of the actual event itself.  Please, follow along with me as I embark on the most monumental event in my life yet…

Today, I am going to give you all a bit more of an idea of how this event has come to be.  In April of this year, Marcus and I were curled up on our couch scrolling through the plethora of choices that NetFlix has to offer.  I of course wanted to watch a romantic comedy and Marcus wanted to watch anything SciFi.  After not being able to come to a conclusion we ended up in the documentaries genre.  I was not in the mood for a documentary at all, but was more than willing to compromise if it meant we didn’t have to watch Star Wars (sorry all you Luke Skywalker fans out there, I am burned out from the 9millions times I had to watch it as a kid with my big bro).  Anyways, we finally landed on a 30for30 film called “Into The Wind”.  I was not really in the mood for a documentary that night either, so figured I would semi pay attention and fully give myself a pedicure.  Let’s just say my toes never got painted.  If you haven’t watched “Into the Wind”, do it NOW!  If you have, then you know what I’m talking about.  If you’re on the fence, let me give you a brief synopsis.  Terry Fox, was a young Canadian man who was diagnosed with cancer.  He had to have his right leg amputated as a result.  Rather than feeling sad for himself and letting this stop him, he did quite the opposite.  This incredibly inspiring man decided he would run across Canada, east to west, to raise funds for cancer research.  Without giving any more details, Terry Fox is the trigger for Move Mountains.  Marcus and I looked at each other during the film and both knew that it was time.

Time for what?  Time for me to finally do what I’ve wanted to do most of my adult life.  Time to do something big, something inspiring, something to make a difference in the lives of people that are going through hardships.  Time to do something to give people hope, strength and courage to keep fighting.  Time to stand up for what I’d hidden from for so long.

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Now, I am embarrassed to say that life took over again.  It wasn’t until mid June when Marcus and I were driving north on highway 550 out of Durango, Colorado in route to visit my family and home that Move Mountains actually began to develop.  I was soaking up the beauty of what Mother Nature provides us with… my senses were taken over by the taste of fresh mountain air, the smell of pine needles, the sound of natures animals living in the moment, the sight of the bluest skies you’ve ever seen and the touch of home in my heart.  Tears started to well up in my eyes with the overwhelming emotions that just being in the mountains floods my soul with, then I looked at Marcus and they fell down my cheeks.  He knew… I knew… it was time to run for epilepsy.

I started by just telling my family, then my close friends, then my not-so-close friends, then a few potentials sponsors and now EVERYONE.  My fear of telling people that I have epilepsy has long passed… now I am telling the world.  It’s time to educate people about epilepsy, it’s time to encourage those with epilepsy that you don’t have to succumb to it, it’s time to raise money to hopefully find a cure for this disorder that effects 60 million people world-wide.

With that said, I thought I was just going to go out there, run 500 miles in one of the most beautiful places on earth and inspire people.  Turns out it’s ALOT more than that.  One thing I have found out in the last month and half of planning this is that it’s really hard to put on an event like this, especially in such a short amount of time.  I am so lucky to have so many amazing people in my corner that are eagerly willing to help me live a dream.  More to come on each one of these people, but without them (you know who you are) this really wouldn’t be possible.

I am now 1 month and 2 days away from the start of my 500-mile run across Colorado to raise awareness of epilepsy… there is still so much to do.  Yes, prepping my body for the run, but even more importantly making sure that everything is in line to run as smoothly as it can.  Getting the route set, the PR events established, the website built, sponsors on board, and the donations site out there.  The biggest way you can help is to donate now and to send the donation page to anyone and everyone you know.  Every little bit helps!  Thank you in advance for being a part of my journey and helping me Move Mountains!

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Move Mountains: A Run for Epilepsy

The following video pretty much says it all…

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” ~Confucius

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In my case it’s only 500 miles for Move Mountains: A Run for Epilepsy, but in reality it’s been journey of thousands and thousands of miles.  Since I was diagnosed with epilepsy at the age of 8 there have been physical, mental and emotional battles I have fought through.  None of these battles would have been won without taking that first single step forward with loved ones by my side, people that believed in me more than I believed in myself.  Now it’s my turn to give back.  I am going to be running 500 miles, one step at a time, for each person out there that needs someone to take that first single step with them.  Someone that can inspire them to keep going.  Someone that can give them the courage to stand up and rise above.  Someone that will be there for them to cry on, relate to and grow with.

I ask that you join me in my upcoming run across the state of Colorado, starting September 19th.  Join me by running any part of the route you wish (Move Mountains Schedule).  Join me by donating to the cause.  Join me by attending any of the PR events along the way.  Join me by following the event on this site and through my social media channels.

Together, we can Move Mountains.

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