I am a girl who loves mountains, changing seasons, running, true backpacking, strong coffee, and knitting with high quality yarn.

When something bad happens, you have three choices: let it define you, let it destroy you, or let it strengthen you.

The purpose of life is to discover and develop your gift. The meaning of life comes from sharing your gift with others. - David Viscott

Monday, May 28, 2018

May

When the real training begins...

Yes, May is when the stakes got real. With 9 weeks to Go time, it was time to buckle down. Normally, by now, I would have been not able to run any longer, after my "yearly spike of 4-6 weeks of good running" (in the last 5 years, I mean). This year, though...knock on wood, 4 months and going. Who's complaining? But, it also means, if in my prior backpacking training cycles I would simply substitute some runs (shuffles?) with backpack walks, this time...I am not giving up my running! I love it too much! And thus comes a shaky balance, managing a fine line between what needs to be done, what is wanted to be continued, and my health at this stage of my life (I still don't know what prompted the sudden death of running, and with that - no clue what makes it worse or better). Not to mention. Austin entered summer, and my body does not do well in this hot humid hell.

That said, the runs stayed as they were for the previous 3 months: Monday 10, Tuesday 8 on hills, Wednesday easy, Saturday 7 tempo. Friday run turned into steep hill repeats (Beauford Hill road at 18% grade). Thursday was transferred at the end of April into River Place trails (with staircases) as a run, then after 2 weeks, in May - into multiple 2 mile stair-stretch repeats with a backpack. Tuesday's Mt Bonnell's 100 steps repeats got loaded with 35 lbs pack. Still weights workout (with legs getting the brunt of the load, and upper body - just for the "cuteness" of it). Still yoga 1-2 times a week. Still getting my monthly massage with Kat - now needed more than ever. Sunday is off! I am consistently hitting over 40 miles a week, and actually trying to not over-reach. Preservation. The first week  of increased load left me very tired (having a job I do doesn't help). But body adjusted, and so did the mind. Fine-tuning this schedule, as well as adding little things to each workout, continues. Oh, how I miss regimented focused training! A delight in its own right. I draw such a satisfaction from each of my hard workouts - and somehow it feels like all my workouts these days are hard ones. Love it. Larry claims last time he's seen me train this way was for San Diego 100 in 2013. That was my last racing season. I do feel as focused as back then, for sure. Bring it.

 
On another side of the preparation, I packed all my food - yes, 20 lbs of it. Don't judge, I like to carry most of my fuel from the start and count on not resupplying, but rather adding on (an only if I hit a small store directly on the trail, which are only 4 opportunities here, who knows what they carry and if they'll be open when I pass by). I also pulled out all my clothes to use. It is a normal practice for me to start with a 45 lbs pack - 14 lbs of base weight (irreplaceable items I'll be starting and finishing with), 3 lbs of extra clothes, 3 lbs of "things that will be gone, but not food" (random items, like stove fuel, personal hygiene, medical, etc), 20 lbs of food, 5 lbs of water. No, I am not a minimalist, or ultralight packer, I don't follow trends, I do what works for me. If my free-standing tent is in perfect condition, as well as my sleeping bag and other main items making up the "base weight" - why would I spend hundreds of dollars to "upgrade" to lighter version? Once they get used up - I will replace them one by one as needed.
I also worked up the projected time line and mileage, as well as I could from the maps and the book. I'll be carrying the Atlas (on the right), and copied some pages from the book on the left for the tricky sections.
There was some fun squeezed in. First Wednesday of the month my lovely Marta took a day off work, and since I was in for the second shift, we drove 2 hrs to some little town that bears not one, but 2 caverns. It wasn't the matter of how pretty the cavers were (although they were! and lots of information consumed) - it was the matter of spending 7 hrs talking with a dear friend.
                            
Another Wednesday night the former HCTR (local running club that seized to exist, and which I at some point was not only a big participant in, but even a VP) had a resurrected night together - very few people, but still fun to reconnect. It did feel far, far away and gone, honestly...Larry and I continue with Sunday afternoon dates, and the small things still keep us smiling.

My sister-in-law Stephanie (the one in Denver) gave birth to a Little Princess, and I now have more fun things to knit!
 Reading is stalled - not surprisingly! But, I was gifted 2 books written by my co-worker - yes, she is a real publishing writer! - and while I don't even remember last time I read romance novels, I enjoyed these, not to mention it all happens in a small CO town! Check it out if you like this type of reading.
Even knitting has gotten sideways. In this month's crafts - 2 summer tank tops re-purposing previously used yarns (cotton and silk), working on 2 cashmere shawls (one is very lace-y, a.k.a. so thin, it's a struggle to knit), and pushing to the end of an 8-months long cross-stitching project (granted, I took 5.5 months off this, so I really set a goal to get it over with by the time of the hike).

And, on a personal note - in the middle of this month Larry and I celebrated 10 years anniversary as we, quite literally, ran into each other at the Jemez 50 mile mountain race - which started our romance. This is a number we can be proud of!

Partially to commemorate that, along with hitting official 10 years "dating", and simply checking off that "Texas list of things to do before we leave", we escaped from Austin for an overnight trip to Houston to visit some museums and other pretty places.
First date back on May 29th, 2009
It was a delightful 24 hr span. We treated ourselves to a nice room with a view (dinner, breakfast, and unlimited espresso included), a drink and a cookie for after-dinner, a gym workout at the ungodly hour in the morning (of course, who said traveling is an excuse?!), and beautiful walks around Museum District. I have to say, Museum of Science had impressed us greatly - we spent over 2 hrs there, and could keep on enjoying (especially the mineral collection, and the exhibit of Faberge eggs), but getting tired was not in the cards before another museum - although Fine Arts Museum was a disappointment (comparing to the one in Dallas, and don't even start me with Metropolitan, or, especially, Russian collections!) Overall, it was an amazing trip, totally what we both needed - and absolutely exceeded the expectations on how it all turned out. The only other time I ever have to set a foot in Houston - is for my passport renewal. Photoalbum



Its time to stop this photo-assay of the month. More training to do - 5 weeks before Go Time!


With that - our final year of Texas living count-down has began. Last dreaded summer ahead:) Along with happy feelings and eager anticipation, there are many other thoughts that are rolling in my head about it all. It takes a concerted effort to continue focusing on the now - even if, also, continue to dream big.
Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Awakening:
...in our lives, how often are we living in anticipation of what comes next, as if that will finally bring us to some sort of completion or fulfillment?



"Attaining lasting happiness requires that we enjoy the journey on our way toward a destination we deem valuable. Happiness is not about making it to the peak of the mountain nor is it about climbing aimlessly around the mountain; happiness is the experience of climbing toward the peak". Tal Ben-Shahar, "Happier"
A glimpse at one of my own personal journeys I am vastly enjoying.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

April

Colorado dream living.

It was, indeed, the month with Colorado in mind, two-fold. One was a trip to our "final life's destination", Colorado Springs, a mere 13 months away (who's counting? heck, you bet I am crossing the days on the calendar already!), and another - a vast increase in training for my solo backpacking of Colorado trail's 485 miles comes July.

While the trip to Springs was only for 5 days (4 of which were in the city itself), it made a huge impact on our month - both prior, during, and after. And yes, it did firmly confirmed - we wanted to move exactly there, exactly to the neighborhood we picked up in other trips and searches, into the house of the style we outlined, and in the projected price range we agreed upon.
That said, April 17th to 21st were days wrapped in a smile of a dream living. The day we arrived the winds were fierce - gusting up to 60 mph, and our tiny rental was having hard time making it along the highway. Larry had a wise idea to drive over the other side of the mountain (Pikes Peak that is) to ensure more clear visibility (even if no lesser winds). Past Colorado Springs, Manitou Springs, and Woodland Park we went, to Mueller State park - OMG, clean, beautifully maintained trails, and great views on the back of Pikes Peak range! I cried. Of course. What else is new?

We had lunch on the way back in a cutest coffee shop the Leo - great food and espresso.
By 3 pm we checked into the VRBO house we stayed last year's visit - right in the neighborhood of our choosing, did some grocery shopping to stock up the fridge, and off we walked downtown, only a mile away, to visit the yarn store (for sure!) and a small Mountain-Trail store - where a book "Colorado trail" popped right at me! Yes, I bought it, I figured it must be a sign from God or something along those lines.

Ah, yes, one still can see Pikes Peak from ANY street of the city!

Next day, the winds died out - with the temperatures staying at the lower range. We love, love not being hot, even if we feel somewhat not fully acclimated coming from Texas. The start of our hike lead us to a) bundle up, and b) move faster. We picked a 7-bridge trail to begin the venturing into the backcountry, and out there - it was gorgeous, quiet, and with many discoveries, including one of the log underground cabins (built by a local math professor from late 1800's). We sort of loosely got lost (not really, but having no maps provided for stops and decision makings), as well as foolishly didn't carry any water or food, so last couple of miles felt strained mood-wise, but overall, a great introduction into our future backyard. And we met a pig!

The rest of the day - more walking around and dwelling, checking out (and crossing off the potential list) the near-by (another) neighborhood (as well as coffee shop - "our" is still the best!). Later that evening Larry looked for info on the trail he wanted to do - and it was closed. That allowed me to voice my personal desire - a repeat of the Incline (a 1 mile 2,000 feet vertical staircase built on the old railroad and known as a brutal workout). I love that kind of stuff!
We topped it off a full 5 min faster than we did 2 years ago, and it felt easier already - I can't wait to add these stairs as my weekly training! Larry took us via "local knowledge non-trails" path to a jeep road called J-pipe, and we turned towards a saddle between Pikes Peak and Mount Manitou. The views of Pikes Peak that opened up to us - breathtaking! It was a slow walk full of gratitude.
I used to say Mt. Hood was "my" mountain. Finally, as of now, Pikes Peak feels like "IT". I have a new "MY" mountain that makes my heart skip a bit. Welcome home.
Eventually we popped up the Barr trail at its mile 4.5 (of 11.5 miles up to Pikes Peak), where I remembered that Barr Camp is about half-way point, give or take. It turned out to be at 6.5 M up, and we got there soon enough to ask about Zack Miller (quite famous ultrarunner who works the camp). 10 min later we took off running down, "air in the hair", laughing inside. What a great day!

Once at home and cleaned up, we headed for lunch to "our" coffee shop, where we later met with our future realtor. Yes, it's that serious. Larry researched real estate agents downtown, and picked the one who grew up there, lived there, knew his stuff, and was a nice guy overall. The meeting went great! A couple more walk-arounds, and we were ready for bed. 

Next morning, there were no more big hikes or runs on our schedule, a more lazy kind of day, along with the weather being back to windy and somewhat grey. I decided to start the day by heading out to a local yoga studio, to check it out. Not a bad place at all, close-by, inexpensive, lots of options. That's a start.
 Then we drove for less than 10 min North - to visit trail system (25 miles!) of one (of the many!) inside-the-boundaries city parks, Palmer Park. A different kind of beauty, rock and trees and single track, and even wild life.
More coffee - a stop at former high school that was remodeled by locals into little shops inside the classrooms and connected all via the hallway - and we took ourselves for a walk in Garden of the Gods. After that - one more yarn shop, to commemorate a National Local Yarn Store day (for real!), and then Memorial park (very touching).

Indeed, we only scratched the surface of living in Colorado Springs - but up until this point, there is nothing (absolutely nothing) we don't like about this town (yes, that, what scares some - too; and no to what pleases many others). Can't wait!

It started snowing during our last evening of stay, and it did so the whole night - and on and off during the first half of the day. It was perfect. Just divine feeling, fresh white snow, covering surrounding area.

We drove back to Denver, stopping on the way to visit my friend (hailing from Oregon) Kristin - so awesome to re-connect, and meet her husband Scott and son Jacob (where did the time go??)!!! - and Larry's sister Stephanie with her husband Skye (they are about to have a baby - to think, exactly a year ago our trip was to Kauai for their wedding...).
Sadly, that concluded our get-away, and as much as we didn't want to return to Texas living, we did want to return home. We are both not big travelers - frequent, yes, but not for long periods of time.

On the home agenda, there is lots of training, work, and more training (for me). I added Mt. Bonnell stair repeats (no backpack yet, 100 steps, 10-15 times up, weekly), backpack walking (hilly roads as of yet, 30 lbs in it), and my yoga practice is blossoming (having an extra studio near is helpful). By the end of the month, trails came into picture as well - local hilliest parts of it. Short, sweet and hard.
I also had my body composition measured (last time was exactly 3 months ago) - and without any serious focus towards it, by simply adhering to the same caloric intake I had implemented back on September 1st (and logging my food), yet adding a lot of weight training to my routine - I lost a full 2.5% body fat (totally unexpected). I am now officially in "single digits" - something I had never in my mind even dreamed about (nor wanted to, really). In the last nearly 8 months I lost total of 24 lbs, and 9.6% body fat. While happy about results - and proving the point that age is not a factor, and gimmicks don't work, just dedication and discipline - this gotta stop, or I will have nothing to loose on the trail! In the same token, being light is extremely satisfying, I feel great - and while I have no idea if it has something to do with my running, my running keeps improving (knock on wood, pray to God, and make a wish that it is on its way to a full return and will lasts forever!). I've been running same miles weekly as last 3 months, still not wearing any device but a simple watch - and my overall/average pace kept falling from 10's to mid-9's to culminating a 10.5 miles on the 23rd at 9:05 pace. As a side note, my "long" runs (a.k.a. Monday's 10 milers) are always my fastest. Go figure.

During this month, we also visited to our friends for a couple of celebrations: Gabe turned 70 (and we got to see our running friends from the tumultuous past), and Marta had a birthday as well (so I was able to present her a shawl I knitted for her while in Sedona).


And oh, yeah, the knits and the crafts! Big item's month, very timely - heavy wool sweaters, even if only two (one for me, finished a day before our Colorado trip and one for Larry, made during said trip). Must be the wind of our impending move to Colorado is blowing! 

Also, finished all 30 hats for Liza's veterans camp - a 4.5 months project of doing it only at work, between clients, a few rows at a time. Go, me!
My cross-stitch project has also moved along via concerted effort on my part. I really want to tie all the ends of unfinished projects and pick up all the new yarns I bought, in Portland, Sedona, Colorado Springs, and even online (reclaimed cashmere lace, anyone?)!
12 years apart
This month wasn't without some challenges, on personal/extended family/couple's front, but we've overcome, and got stronger with that. No families go without occasional impact, it is important to keep talking, connecting, and being true - to ourselves, our partner, and our relationship. Stay working - love is a verb, not a noun.