Year End What’s Up/ What’s Next

Well, 2014, it’s been real.

This year has been a huge tornado of firsts and changes. Sometimes, a few life path alterations keep us pointed in the same direction, but I have had so many this year that I truly feel like my life has started in on a new journey.

The year started off in an epic way- my first lifting meet! I flew down in January to Dallas Texas to meet up with some of the best people on the planet- other Rebels from Nerd Fitness. We met up at a Crossfit gym, and cheered each other on towards a mountain of PR’s. Hanging out with them was a highlight for me, and now that it’s almost a year later, I miss them all so much. Such good people.

Nerd Fitness Crew

In May my best friend and I did our very first Spartan race. It was one of the most challenging things I had done. The water was freezing, the obstacles were difficult, and the finish was epic. I’m thinking I might even shoot for more in 2015…

Spartan

June brought one of the most epic things I have ever done, which led me to one of the most amazing communities ever. GORUCK. I participated in a Light, and now I have plans to get a challenge in 2015, and maybe a few more events? Hint hint, GORUCK, a scavenger in Colorado would be cool…  My reward to myself and a belated birthday present was Ziva, my GORUCK pack. Easily the most comfortable bag I’ve ever owned.

GORUCK Light Class 322

Most of my summer was spent hiking, 14ers in specific. There are quite a few that I still want to get to, and 2015 has their names written all over it. I’m really excited to get back out on the trails and to keep pushing my limits. I was trying to think of which summit was my favorite, but I don’t think I can nail it down to just one. Catching sunrise on Mount Sherman was amazing. Getting 3 out of 4 of The Quad was challenging and fun. Pikes Peak was an awesome hike and though it was long, it was gorgeous, with multiple different types of terrain. Evans’ summit was quick, and the way down was… trailblazing…

The Quad

In August I took a twist with my 5k adventures and started to Ruck them (ie, carrying weight in a pack, and instead of running I do a quick walk, like a shuffle, but more effective.) I had been shooting for 45 minutes or less with the weight, and at the Esprit de She I clocked in at 44:08!!! I was on fire and I felt amazing!

Esprit de She 2014

In the fall I started attending November Project on Wednesday mornings, before work. The workouts are killer, and though I’m the slowest person there, I never feel unwelcome, and I always get a good burn. Free fitness? Hello. I’ve even been given the positivity award twice, which is crazy because THEY are the ones who keep me positive!

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I finished up the year taking a massive step towards a Life Quest goal of mine (Becoming a Search and Rescue K9 handler). This December, I completed my Wilderness First Aid certification. We spent 2 days in the mountains working through lessons and scenarios, and the scenarios specifically showed me that this is what I want to be doing.

Med Training Group

Unrelated to health and fitness, my life took another huge turn. In September, I felt like I was being called out of ministry. I had been working at my church full time for almost 8 years, and the thought of leaving my job scared me and made me sick to my stomach. But, God provided and showed me where he wanted me to go- and confidently I went. The change has been one of the most difficult things I have ever done, but I know it was the right thing.

Related to health, I also started to see a chiropractor. I am feeling great, and I am hoping that the long term benefits to this are everything that I hope they will be. My Chiro showed us our X-rays and walked us through all the different aspects to them; I feel sort of like an expert on my spine! All the areas where it Zigs instead of Zags directly relate to issues that I have physically and emotionally. It’s amazing.

Upcoming for 2015:

1. More Spartan! I’m thinking a Super?

2. More GORUCK! A challenge in June for my birthday!

3. More November Project! Ya’ll good?

4. More 14ers! Bierstad, Quandary, Democrat…

5. More safety! I’m applying for my church’s safety team!

6. More lifting! I am determined to get my 500# club patch this year!

I’m preparing for a wild ride…

Mt Sherman (and “Gale” her BFF)

I remember the first time I went hiking in Colorado. It was a couple of years ago and a few of us ladies hiked out to Ouzel Falls; ever since then I have been enamored with not only the mountains, but also the gorgeous skies they reach up to. Those days I would send pictures of the sunrises back home almost daily, which I’m sure my friends and family just loved (especially at 5 in the morning…). So often, I would just pull over and stare.

Fast forward to this past weekend- a few of us decided, as the season is drawing to a close, we wanted to try to catch Mt. Sherman (a fourteener) at sunrise. Despite my best effort to dissuade everyone from a midnight meetup, at 12:02 am we arrived at our first friend’s house to begin the journey. Up until this point, most of our hikes started in the sunshine, with just a few that required a predawn meet up. Our goal with Sherman was to be standing at the trailhead ready to go by 2:30/3am. So, being that it was about a 2 hour drive we had no choice but to leave at midnight. Official sunrise was set for 6:28, but we would need to be up at the summit by 6am to catch it all.

We met up with our next companion at 12:30 and after a quick stop for coffee and nutrition (because it wasn’t dinner or breakfast- so what do you call it?) we got on our way. The nice thing about starting at that hour is that there isn’t anyone else around to fight with for parking etc. We found the trail head with little issue, and in the darkness we nearly drove up onto the mountain itself. We parked the car, got our headlamps and windbreakers on and began the ascent.

Hiking in the dark is strange– I had only done it once before, when we hiked Long’s Peak, and then too I found myself lost in my thoughts.

With your headlamp focused on the trail ahead it’s very easy to get tunnel vision. Step look, step look, on and on in the night. A few minutes into the hike the wind started and it did not relent then entire time we were on Sherman. I have never in my life experienced gales like that. Full power and force repeatedly knocked me off of my footing- a sight that I’m sure made those around me think I was drunk.

We worked our way through the dark following my friend’s GPS and at one point we realized that we had gotten off the trail, needing to work our way back. I’ve not been so grateful for a piece of technology as I was in that moment. My mind started to run away, as we made our way back to the course, and I imagined being lost in the darkness, alone for hours. I can’t imagine that my crew would do that to me, but in the dark on the side of a peak, it’s hard to not let the enemy get inside your head…

Once back on the trail we started to move confidently forward again. Onward and upward we pressed until we reached what I barely recall reading about on the trip reports- the sawtooth/saddle. I couldn’t tell at the time, because of the pitch black surroundings that engulfed me, but we were VERY high up and there wasn’t much to either side of us. The wind was brutal and I frequently found myself touching the rock face next to me for assurance. I needed the rock to *literally* be my rock.

As I came over one ridge I realized that I couldn’t see my party, and for a brief moment Bross came running back into my mind. No no no, this is not happening again.

Then I heard “Turn off your light and sit down.’ My friends were huddled inside a windbreak and when I killed my headlamp and joined them, my eyes caught sight of a million stars.

I lost my words. The sky was amazing, the wind was calm, and here in the middle of desolation and darkness, there was an overwhelming beauty that I cannot explain.

I could’ve sat in that windbreak all night.

But, the sky to the east was starting to get warm, and we had a sunrise to catch.

My friend had his GPS out again and we realized we had less that a tenth of a mile to go for the summit. We climbed out of our little camp and pushed onward, towards the finish line. We made it to the summit a little before 6am and found a windbreak to hunker down in. After a little building, which I cannot take credit for, our hut was complete. We sat there on our throne atop Mount Sherman and watched as the sun stretched out and caught the sky. The colors that we saw that morning were incomparable to anything you can visualize and paint with, and in that moment everything was right with the world.

Looking at the Layers of Pikes

After a few minutes of enjoying the view, I started to realize that I could not feel my fingers. The wind was so bad that I was also starting to lose feeling in my face. We posed for a couple more photos and then decided we better start to head down the mountain.

Our Crew

The sun was coming up, but the brutal wind was relentless and it made the descent more difficult for me than it probably should’ve been. I had on enough layers, but the whipping wind continued to throw me off of my balance. We slowly made our way down, through the terrain that was now well illuminated and so very foreign to me.

We came over the sawtooth and around cliffs that screamed “Nope” but knowing that we had already conquered them made the process easier to handle.

The Pathway Down

The sun was well out by now and I finally had feeling back in my face and fingers. I was shocked at the number of people who were still making the pilgrimage to the top and one of our seasoned teammates was advising them of the weather. Off in the distance we could see the clouds rolling in- bad weather was coming, and these folks and their kiddos were ill prepared for what we had just encountered (and was about to get worse).

Clouds coming at Sherman

It was kind of fun seeing all the things we had missed in the darkness as we finished our descent. There was a few old mining structures that we falling apart, but somehow still there. There were many off shoots to the trail that we were on- it was crazy to think that we only got slightly off track once!

We finished our hike totally thawed out (I was relieved to have all of my digits in tact) and got in the car to head home. So many people were still coming to conquer this animal, and I don’t know if I would’ve gone with had I known all the wind we encountered.

Sherman's Epic Crew

Who am I kidding. I totally would’ve still gone.

 

Hey guys! All the photos in today’s blog are property of my friend over at images by mikel. You should probably check out his website and pictures- there are some incredible shots of things that you and I never even think to look at twice! Cheers 🙂

My First 14er(s)

This past weekend I accomplished a goal that I never would’ve believed would be possible- I summited my first two 14ers. For those of you unfamiliar with 14ers, these are mountains where the summit is over 14,000 feet above sea level. They are tough, time consuming, and slightly dangerous. And they are now crossed off my Epic Quest.

This past Sunday my husband and I got up at 3am (ouch) to catch a ride w my BFF and her sister to the trailhead for Grays and Torreys.

The road leading up to the trail head was long and would’ve been impossible to navigate if we hadn’t been in a 4 wheel drive jeep. In the parking lot, even at that crazy early hour of the morning, there were just a few spots left. There was another group of folks heading up right before us, so the place seemed very active.

We suited up with our hydration packs and warm clothes and took off towards the trail. As we hiked along a small slow incline I made the mistake of thinking “this isn’t so bad!” Little did I know we hadn’t even started to ascend the mountain.

We passed some folks who were coming down the mountain and they told us that they had started at 1 am because the super moon made the trail so bright that they didn’t even need their head lamps- the moon was huge.

Anyhow, after about a mile and a half we finally reached the sign with the info about the 14ers we were about to go up against. Grays was 2 miles from where we were and would reach a height of 14,270 ft. Torreys was listed as a little further and 14,267 ft (which was weird because it looked taller from where we stood.)

We stopped for a couple pictures then began the serious part of the hike.

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We passed by a small lake that was crystal clear which was cool- it was formed by the run off from GT! After the lake we started vertical ascension.

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There were parts of the mountain that were easy to hike up, and other parts were still covered with snow and ice. Some places were only 6 inches wide or had no path whatsoever- there were just some cairns indicating that we were still on the right track.

As we went higher and higher the summit, which looked empty, was getting closer and I realized it wasn’t vacated- it was just so high and far away that I couldn’t see the people! They were tiny!!!

Higher and higher it was getting harder to breathe. We would walk about 10 yards and stop to catch our breaths. We did the over and over, slowly going up the side of Grays.

Finally, about 4 hours later we summited Grays Peak. I got to the top and I felt like I could see all of Colorado, it was phenomenal. I took a bunch of pictures because none of them could capture what my eyes were seeing.

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I looked all over the top for the Geo Marker, with no luck. Someone told me that people frequently steal them, so instead of getting a picture of that, I got a picture of myself holding the summit log. That will have to be good enough.

Another hiker offered us some watermelon and I munched on that for a bit before parking behind a rock to dig into my own lunch. The wind had picked up in a big way a few yards (vertically) before the summit, so even though I had added my compression sleeves, the wind was biting. Sitting behind a rock was perfect to block the wind. For my lunch I had a sandwich with gluten free bread, almond butter and jam. I also ate some fruit leather and a little jerky. I wanted to save the rest for our break on Torreys.

It’s funny, as we were about 3 hours into the hike we had passed someone and I asked how far we were from summit and he said we had about an hour yet. I was so pissed I swore and told my hubby and friend that I didn’t think I wanted to continue on to Torreys. I was over it. But sitting on top of Grays changed my mind. This was amazing and I could get used to it.

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After a nice half hour break we decided to make our way over to Torreys. In order to get over there we had to descend a bit to something called the saddle. The descent off of Grays was all shale and we practically slid down the side. It was rough but fast. We trudged along the saddle and approached the side of Torreys.

Torreys is technically shorter than Grays, but the side from the saddle to the summit was ridiculously steep and very tough to navigate. There were a lot of folks coming down and the path was just a few inches wide, if we could see it at all. The steep nature of the side made it so that we would hike about 4-5 yards at a time before we needed a break.

Slowly but surely, one foot in front of the other, we made it to the top. I grabbed the summit log and added our names to it with the comment “ouch.” Coming up Torreys had revealed that I had some major knee pain developing. It was in the same realm as the knee pain I had in my two half marathons except on the inside of the knee. Each time I picked up my foot to continue the upward climb pain would shoot through my entire body. Ouch seemed appropriate.

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We sat on top of Torreys and marveled at the sight again. I could see Longs Peak from where I sat. I ate the rest of my lunch, carrots, jerky, chocolate, and fruit leather and drank a ton of water. After a few more pictures we decided it was time to descend, before the storms rolled in.

Getting down from Torreys was pretty easy until we got to the saddle. Our options from there were to re-ascend the shale covered side of Grays or cross down the side of it. Now, in the summer I’m sure this is a no brainer, but on this day that cut across was covered in snow. Slick slippery snow- and the path was less than a foot wide. That trek was the single most terrifying part of the hike. Even in my new hiking shoes I slipped and caught myself about every other step. I couldn’t look away from my feet for fear or losing my composure.

After what seemed like forever we caught a break from the snow and were back on a rock path. The path was still very narrow but it was easier to navigate. Behind us we watched some folks who had pick axes sit on their bottoms and put the ax in the snow above their heads and slide down. The descent that was going to take us about 2 hours took them less than 2 minutes.

Being that we were ax-less, we continued walking. We passed by some folks with an injured pup (lots of people had experienced dogs with them- I was impressed). This pup had cut his paw on a rock in the saddle and his owner was trying everything to protect it. We let her know that if she needed help carrying him down we were happy to help. She said she was good but thank you so much and we continued on our way.

We each took turns falling as we were fatigued and getting sloppy, but the worst was for my husband. He slipped on a rock and tucked under, narrowly missing hitting his skull on the boulder. Instead, he whacked into it with his ribs. Writing this now, 3 days later, he is in a ton of pain still and possibly has broken ribs. Word to the wise: hiking is very dangerous and should always be approached with caution.

Slowly we made our way back down, past the clear lake and to the trail head. Looking over my shoulder I just couldn’t believe that we had actually done it and that I had been on top of those mountains that were so far away you couldn’t even see people on them. Crazy.

While I am still in so much pain (my calves are killing me!) I wouldn’t change it for the world and I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to tackle this amazing adventure.

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