Sunday, November 13, 2011

Mountain Masochist: "I didn't do it for the pleasure. I did it for the pain." -L. Armstrong

~Make every obstacle and Opportunity~

Where I've been training (view from top of S mtn) and Twister (roommates dog)
For the past couple of months I have lived in the Arkansas Valley in Colorado. Whenever I step outside I have 360 degree mountain views and have enough 14ers around to keep any mountain climber happy. It’s gorgeous and breathe taking. Yet, I still can’t help but day dream about the mountains in Virginia. There is just something so special about them that I can’t even find the words to explain it. Even the people I meet in VA seem to meet this criterion, hardcore (for running) but enchanting. This is why I had to go back to Mountain Masochist for a second time. Well okay, to be honest that’s not the full reason…. It was the first ultra I lost; I had a score to settle. Also, I couldn’t end the year with WS100. Yes, I am proud of finishing WS with Rach at my side, but anyone who knows me wouldn’t have recognized me as a runner that day as I contemplated dnfing at aid station 2. Plus, what ultra runner doesn’t love running “Horton” miles?

I started the trip to VA with a 1am flight on Friday morning. I thought I might be able to get some decent sleep on the airport floor beforehand. So I started the trend of sleeping on the floor that night but being the freeze baby that I am, I was getting the chills even with a winter jacket and scarf on. I got a total of 3 hours of sleep that day… all sitting in an airplane with my head against the window. Great quality sleep before a race, eh? Really, my goal was to try to do everything as perfect as possible for this race (something I have yet to get good at).
Downtown Lynchburg

After an all too interesting ride to the hotel (convo with driver involved cocaine and a baby being delivered) and walking in circles to find a decent lunch Shaun came, making the 8 hour drive from Ohio to see me. I know… it’s cute. After not seeing anyone from lovely Ohio it was great see Shaun, Lee and Gabe. Virginia mountains, an ultra to be ran, friends from Ohio and Shaun… I was almost flying high as a bird (no cocaine needed, thanks).

On the bus ride to the start I noticed I forgot my watch. It’s the only watch I ever where for races. $5 from Wal-Mart and it only tells me the time. I have absolutely no desire to wear a watch that has more than that during a race. At first I kind of cared, but after a whole 30 seconds of thinking about it I smiled to myself… running without a watch is my kind of running. I think the first few ultras I did were without one anyway. When the race started 4 of the women, myself included stuck together for the first few miles at a decent but comfortable pace until we started getting close to the trail and the first decent climb. Right before the road section ends is a few down hills and 2 of the women took off. I didn’t want to fall behind, but I knew from past experiences in Virginia that not much good comes from crashing down hills at the start of a race. Plus, I knew a climb was coming up and I love climbing. Sure running up is hard, but my legs were built for going up (even if they aren’t long and super lean ;). Soon it was just me and Darcia Reed (track star turned ultra runner with a very promising future) and we kept swapping the lead. I’d run get ahead on the climbs and then forced myself to hold back on the down hills while she flew past me. Finally after the main river crossing there’s a long uphill and I knew it was my chance to take the lead for good. From there I just went as hard as I could.

The race hurt of course, but I felt strong except for an 8 mile stretch where I made a silly but costly mistake. A few miles before the aid station at mile 26 I knew I needed to eat more and I needed something with caffeine. Before I reached the aid station I wasn’t worried, I had the perfect remedy in my drop bag: perpetuem with caffeine and a cliff bar. Shaun was supposed to meet me there and have already have found my drop bag. Unfortunately Shaun got lost and wasn’t there. After looking for him and realizing he wasn’t there I wandered over to find my drop bag which was nowhere in sight. After wasting too many minutes looking for it I got frustrated and quickly just grabbed a small piece of a pb&j sandwich. A few minutes later as I was going up a big hill, not having much energy to run, I was cursing at myself for making such a careless mistake. Not only did I waste time looking for a drop bag, but I made the situation worse by not getting the calories in that would have provided me with the energy I badly needed. I don’t even want to think about how much time feeling exhausted cost me. However, I do love knowing that I’m young and am still making stupid mistakes that if I work on, is an easy way to get faster without physically getting faster (although I’m still working on that too).Thankfully, the aid station at the start of the loop at mile 33 had gels with caffeine along with my Virginia friends calling my name and yelling support….in addition to spanking a husbands butt if I pass him ( you know who you are lol thanks for giving me a laugh!!!). The last mile of that loop, about mile 37, I had most of my energy back and I had a feeling I felt too good for anyone to catch me. I finished in 8:05, running about a minute per mile faster than I did last year.  (I learned last year that running Grindstone 100 is not the best race to run before MMTR)
Eric Grossman and I. 2nd race we won together this year.

Alyssa Wildeboer, my TheAidStation teammate, followed in less than 30 minutes behind me to take 2nd. (Big congrats to beating last years’ time as well!) In 5th came in Lee Conner to represent my home state of Ohio! Lee and I have started an Ohio tradition to win the strongest woman award. I won last year and didn’t even attempt this year because I was quite aware she would kick my ass. She benched 65 lbs 43 times after running 50 (I think 50 Horton miles = around 52 or 53 actual miles??)! Way to represent Ohio Lee!!! Also I just wanted to give a shout out to the 10th place women Jennifer Nichols who is one of the many great people I have met in VA and is always encouraging and supportive.
Top 10 women

Too soon I headed back to Colorado. My trips to Virginia are always too short. I won’t run another ultra till spring and I’m already excited to see how much I will grow next year. My garmin watch will barely be used (not that I use it much anyway). Running will be based completely on how I feel for the next few months besides getting my butt kicked by my neighbor who I should mention since he was my secret training weapon. (Hopefully he doesn’t mind me writing about him) To give you an idea about him he is about twice my age, has a beard and a braid going down his back, moved to Colorado on a bike when he was in his 20s, ran a 4:20 mile with a burrow (at 10,000 ft), lived a year off the money he made from burrow racing, only ran 2 ultras and won them both, volunteers as the snowshoe director for the special Olympics, still tests out shoes for Nike, and knows tons of unofficial trails that I may never figure out on my own. We are an odd running pair on the surface, but I love running with him even though my lungs burn as he pushes me to run harder up hills. I must admit I dnfed in my trail run with him and another guy today. After running a hard 7 miles my legs were done so I said adios and slowly ran the trails back to my apartment. Good thing I ran an ultra last week or my confidence may have been deeply wounded.
Now I’m just rambling… big surprise there. =)

On a side note, please check out and follow the next youth expedition. Ray (founder) is the first person who told me he thought I could be an ultra runner and that he believed in me. I2P is an amazing organization and is really doing some wonderful things in the world. Also, ultra runner/ my sister, Rach is going to Africa to volunteer for a few weeks and it would be great if you could support her, even if it’s just sending well wishes her way: .

In the words of my home town’s running store:

Run hard, live easy.

Happy trails.


~Where you invest your love, you invest your life~ Mumford & Sons


Saturday, September 24, 2011

Not perfect, just happy

Endurance - it’s more than just competing in distance races - it is more than simply running. Its the lifestyle of never looking for the easy way out. It’s finding opportunities whatever the situation. It is a freedom, if you have the courage to seize that freedom. It’s an exploration towards the edge. For each of this ‘edge’ will be in a different place. And that place will be constantly changing. It is the journey to find that edge which maybe teaches us more about ourselves. Lizzy Hawker

Rach told me this quote and I had to add it: "It is also inspiring to come to the knowledge that you need nothing. Having nothing that ties you makes you so free. The more you know, the less you need, as the aboriginees say." "...I am identified by myself."-S. Browne

                As usual I wrote this as blog and it turned out to be more of a journal entry. I was about to take a lot out of it but then I got the okay to leave some things in. Plus, if it wasn’t for everyone’s support I don’t know if I would be here so this is my way of letting you share my adventure.
I believe I left off my last blog on my little adventure in California….
After leaving Truckee I headed to the small town of Foresthill, Ca for the sole purpose of running some of the WS100 course.  Since I walked most of the course the last time, I felt the need to run it.
                After my GPS took me up a ridiculous canyon road that I could have easily of drove off, I made it to Foreshill, Ca.  I didn’t realize this when I ran through it at WS100 (This was the point where pacers were allowed to pick up runners) but there are historical markings everywhere for the race. There are actual road signs telling you where the WS trail is! I’ve never seen such evidence of ultras in a town. I even had the trails completely to myself…even the whole canyon. I think my running confidence got a little needed boost when I did an out and back in the canyon, completely running the inclines this time around.

                One downside to camping in Foresthill was that there were no showers. Getting clean consisted of sponge bathing in a sink or jumping in the lake. Shaving my legs consisted of a razor and a glass full of water. (I refused to have hairy legs no matter how much I was roughing it lol)
                The other downside to camping alone in Foresthill is that there are bears. I’m from Ohio, the scariest animals we have on the trails are coyotes and they’re terrified of people. As I said in my previous blog I am scared of the dark because I can’t see what’s in it, so naturally every night in my tent I am already freaking out that a bear is going to come get me. So I’m in this little random campground that no one else is in and I attempt to fall asleep in my tent. Then my nighttime fear comes to life. I hear stepping and heavy breathing all around my tent that could only come from a bear. I’m of course terrified and afraid to move a muscle. I pray the bear goes away. A car drives past and I hear the bear run into the forest. Relief, but I can hear it panting. Without thinking I quietly get my phone to text Rachel. It’s of course much later in Ohio but I know I can count on her to answer me back when I need it most. She of course texts me back terrified as well. At this point the bear comes back to my tent for what seems an eternity (probably 10-15 minutes). Then, amazingly, my prayers are answered. It was around 12am but randomly a car pulls in the campground, the bear runs away, and a young couple decides to camp right next to me. It was obvious the campground was barely used (but it was the only free campground anywhere close) and I couldn’t believe my luck. I texted Rachel back not to worry and all the adrenaline leaving me allowed me to fall into a nice sleep as I heard the couple talking and building a fire (I’m quite sure the fire danger was high at this point and it was illegal to build a fire lol). Unfortunately, the area ate up my cell life in record time. Of course, Rachel being the good sister she is sent me messages asking if I was okay and when there was no reply she got really worried and almost called the forest ranger. SORRY RACHEL!

                From Foresthill I went to the Auburn to check out the town and go to a coffee shop where I could follow the Burning River 100 runners/ my twin.  This plan somewhat failed because like most ultras updates seem to stop after the first 50k of the race. Thank goodness for Rachel’s boyfriend Steve who kept me updated throughout the race. I don’t think I have ever been so thankful for another person in Rachel’s life. Over the past couple of years I have let myself realize that Rachel will always be the person who knows me best and there will never be a person I could love more, no matter who comes in and out of my life. I couldn’t help be a little bit of a mess that day when I should have been there for Rachel, cheering her on at every place I could. Thankfully, Steve was/is there to take his place and my place, something I will always be grateful for. I couldn’t have been more proud of her for how she ran at BR100. 2nd female, not far behind Connie Gardner, an elite and very experience ultra runner.  Being the sap that I am, I couldn’t help but get a little emotional talking to her on the phone seconds after she crossed the finish line.

            After another night of finding a random camping spot I headed toward Lake Tahoe. The first place I ended up at was the south end and I instantly got overwhelmed. This is possibly because it was early Sunday afternoon and many vacationers were leaving. After spending so much time in quiet small towns, it’s a hard adjustment to be stuck in traffic surrounded by people. I didn’t do much more than drive down the main street and then started north. On my way I stopped by the park office and got a map and list of camping places. I ended up camping at a nice little free campground a little ways up a mountain road on the west shore, the calmest part of the lake since it’s not flooded with tourist shops and activities. I didn’t have plans at being in one spot for too long, but I ended up spending a full week.

                The mornings and nights are way too chilly for my liking, but I couldn’t help but love it during the day. I love forests and mountains, but I also love being by water. My mornings were spent running and hiking, my afternoons were spent reading at the beach (getting a bad sun burn) and even paddle boarding, and my nights were spent rollerblading or walking. The water in the lake was so clear and pure, I could see easily see the bottom even when I was far out in the lake paddle boarding. Since much of the water came from the mountains, it was also freezing!  Barely any body was swimming. Then I saw some little kids dive right in. But… “I don’t mix well with cold… but the water would clean me off a bit… It’s too cold!...I didn’t care how cold water was when I was a kid…I’m going!” And then I went for it. I dove in, letting the cold wrap around me, embracing my inner child. I felt like every part of my body was awake and I felt a huge smile come on my face. I felt so alive. I swam a little bit more then climbed out and laid on my towel, letting the sun warm my skin. I did this almost every day I was there and I would feel refreshed every time. It also helped me keep clean along with my sink sponge baths!

                The whole week I didn’t put on an ounce of makeup, I cleaned up by jumping in a lake, and I probably never felt prettier. Little by little I could feel myself becoming a little bit happier this whole trip and it must have showed because I have never got hit on so much in my life. At first I was a little annoyed, but then I was just a little bit flattered. I guess it goes to show that a smile is a person’s best asset and that even if  you’re by yourself you should still smile. However, the last thing I wanted to do was start something.  My heart (thankfully) wasn’t ready for it.
                Lake Tahoe also made me learn something very important about myself: If I’m ever in danger I’m completely worthless. Ha!  I’ll explain. So up (and I really do mean up) the road from my campground was the Tahoe Rim Trail/ Pacific Crest Trail (they run into each other here) and I attempted to run it but after 10 minutes the snow makes it impossible. I of course keep trying anyway before I give up and then as usual I get lost. Thankfully however I make it to the mountain road not too far from the trail head. To get in some more miles I just run the dirt road till any sign of a road stops. I turn around and head back towards my car. I’m running, I’m running, I’m running and then all of a sudden I hear a noise from the bushes and then a bear pops out of nowhere literally 15 feet in front of me!  The bear just runs from one side of the road to the other. It was like Animal Planet live. During this time my heart just about stops and not a single thought of self defense runs through my head. All I feel is fear with not one thought going through my head. No, I didn’t think of the things I was supposed to do if I saw a bear, I didn’t have my life flash through my eyes, there was nothing but shock. Since the bear was so close, even if I had had some thought of what to do it probably wouldn’t have done me any good, but it would have been nice to know that I had some type of instinctive self-defense.  Ah well…
           I also got a parking ticket in Lake Tahoe. The day before I got it I talked to this really nice-country coach who was telling me about trails I could run that were used for x-county skiing in the 1960? olympics. He told me where I could park too which is how I got the ticket. Helpful advice gone wrong. I was of course on a budget and paying for a parking ticket was not in my plan. Thus, I wrote a nice letter explaining the situation on a Snoopy thank you card. The ticket got dismissed. =)
                During this whole little adventure I was of course trying to find a job and when I was in Tahoe I got offered the position to be the Program Coordinator for the Boys and Girls Club of Buena Vista, Co.  The job is through AmeriCorps  (it’s kind of like the Peace Corps but in the US). I also got asked to interview for a part time position to be the Youth Development Specialist at the Boys and Girls Club of Auburn, Ca. I didn’t like that it was part time, but I knew that Auburn Running Company was a minute’s walk away. As soon as I finished the interview I knew I was in trouble. It went well, way too well. Over the summer I have been little surprised by myself. How confident (for me anyways) I had been in front of the interviewer, whose purpose is to judge whether or not I am good enough to work at the organization.  I’m normally a wreck just being around new people, not wanting to say the wrong thing, and I was only worse for interviews. I think one of the many good things that did come from Teach For America is that it gave me a confidence boost. It was rated as the 7th hardest interview in America, and I believe it. While this was part of my new interview confidence, I think the lessons I learned over the summer and the experiences I had have brought out the best in me. Being able to appreciate myself has helped me to finally breathe a little bit better around new people.
                So I got offered the job. I now had a choice to make. I will always loathe making hard choices and I felt like I made enough this year. I’m terrible indecisive and sometimes thinking about my options only makes it worse. Buena Vista is a small town surrounded by the mountains (the collegiate peaks). There is one traffic light, the only chain restaurant is Subway, there are dogs everywhere, and the night sky is filled with the most stars I have ever seen.  The stars, clouds, and moon also seem/ are a lot closer living at 8000 feet. Running is tough here. Auburn, however, is known as the endurance capital and I could run the western states trails whenever my heart desires. For those of you by the CNVP in Ohio, it’s a bit like Hudson but bigger, a little more “worn”, and has a lot more traffic.  The American River is right there and after my runs during my stay I could run right in the river still in my running clothes! I loved that. I felt like such a little kid. I wasn’t used to the heat during my first run in Auburn and running into the river cooled me down instantly. I haven’t jumped in the water with my clothes on in probably over 16 years. It’s also a lot easier to run there since the elevation is a couple hundred feet, but it’s only a 2 hour drive to Tahoe if I wanted elevation training. I’d also get paid almost at much working part time in Auburn as I would full time in Buena Vista. That’s the thing about Americorps, joining it means that I’m fully accepting to live below the poverty level and volunteering my year to help kids in America; it’s not so I can use my college degree to make money. The money I get is called a living allowance and if I complete the year I get money towards loans or graduate school. With this being said, I felt like the logical choice would be Auburn.  Yet I knew my mind wasn’t ready to fend for itself in a busy little city with traffic every which way and chain stores all around. I still needed simplicity, a place where fresh air is abundant, and my mind could feel calm by just looking at all the open space. I also wanted the experience of being fully contempt with what little I may have. I camped most of the summer, my life fitting in my car, and the only thing I ever missed was people (and sometimes a free shower). I know I don’t need much to be happy. So here I am now, writing you from a little local coffee shop in Buena Vista, Co.
                I should mention that this decision was made in Ohio. After being alone for months (and plane tickets suddenly dropping), I was ready to find a little more stability. At least for a year anyway since Americorps is only a year program. I have a new appreciation for knowing local trails by heart. I needed a way to put my journey to rest for now, and I needed to see the people I loved. I mentioned this to my dad and right away he offered to help. I think he learned some things as well. When Rachel and I declared ourselves social science majors he continuously tried to talk us into getting into a major that promised more money. I think some parents fall into the trap of “I want my kids to have more than I have”, not realizing that kids don’t need the tools to make money, they need the tools how to be happy, love themselves, and care for others. I think my dad has accepted I’m happier having less right now because I have so much more love for life, myself, and others. (On a side note (Adjust this to your life/kids): If you’re a football loving dad and your little girl OR boy loves ballet, you better show up to your kid’s recitals like you have a front row ticket to seeing your favorite team in the championship. This is important, this will mean a great deal to your kid(s) as they become adults.)
                So I went home for a week. Just because I felt like changed a little bit, I realized I couldn’t expect too much from this much needed trip. My sisters, my dad, and my mom still had to work.  No one in my blood related family would be able to pick me up from the airport, but that was okay, I still got my much needed welcome back hug from Mrs. Pope. I felt bruised after telling my mom I was coming back for a week and getting no response. But, Mrs. Pope, a blessing in my life who lovingly checks to see how I am doing, was more than thrilled to see me. She was secretly hoping I’d visit for weeks. She was there waiting for me at the airport, a huge smile on her face, and arms open wide. I was more than happy to see her as she has turned from my boyfriend’s mom to part of my family. We talked in the car, we talked at her kitchen table, we talked on the patio, and we talked over a bottle of wine, and we talked as we took the dogs for a walk. As corny as it sounds, I cherished every moment.
                I will admit the biggest reason I can back to Ohio was because I missed Rach. I felt guilty I came back to Ohio too late. I did look up plane tickets the weekend on BR100 but they were incredibly expensive and for reasons unknown to me, the cost of a plane ticket went way down 2 weeks later.  God, it was great to see her. We went to Hinckley to go paddle boating and our similarities instantly came out. We naturally paddle as hard as we can and the boat still goes turtle speed. One of the workers even comments on our speedy pace. After we have some steering problems, we give in to the slow speed and spend the time talking about our lives and how much happier we have both become in the past year.
Rach when we went paddle boating in Hinckley.
                               One of the harder things I finally had to deal with on my trip was my relationship with a family member. She grew up with different priorities and goals then I did, I realize that. She calls herself the “voice of reason.” I cannot help that while I try to be reasonable; I’m a “dreamer” by nature. I can’t help but day dream about things I want to do and accomplish and then try to go after whatever runs through my head. Taking this away from me would be like blowing out a flame. My light would be gone. Thus much of what I do is not understandable to her. I felt like there was something wrong with me for years because of her reactions to me that I won’t get into except for one. While I was in Ohio she told me I thought I made bad choices recently. This was my test. Could I prevail and not let myself fall into old habits?  I was hurt, I had to accept that there was no getting around that. In a way I understood.  I resigned from a job that is extremely hard to get and that would pay me much more than I am going to make now to load up my car, live my dream of taking off and exploring for a month, and living a very humble life style for now. But if she would actually have tried to talk to me about my life, she would have seen how much more at peace I am with myself. How much happier I am.  Isn’t that what everyone wants for their loved ones? To be happy? To find peace within themselves? After letting myself take in the hurt for a bit, I turned to the ones who were happy for me now. When she is ready to love me for who I am, I’ll be here waiting with love.
                I loved my time in Ohio. I spent my last day with my family and was thankful for the time with them. Part of me wanted to stay, but I knew in my heart it was time to head back to Colorado to help the Animal Camp at Leadville 100. The great thing about the Animal Camp is that they are some bad ass tough runners, but they also are some of the nicest guys I have ever met. It was an honor to run with John for a bit. I think we both got a lot of inspiration the next day when we were lucky enough to help bring in the last of the runners who toughed it out for almost 30 hours or more.
The Animal Camp: Leadville 100
Creepy Santa at the Delaware Hotel in Leadville. Don't touch him! He's bad luck. lol

From Leadville I went to back to Buena Vista to find a place to live and wait till Americorps training. First day running trails there I saw another bear. A woman told me she has been running there for 15 years and never saw a bear. Figures... lol. It wouldn't move off the trail so I added to hours to my run to avoid it.

I told Shaun the other day that I wish I could have felt at home in Ohio. Maybe that wasn’t exactly the right wording because I felt at home on the trails and in the people there. Yet, at this time in my life, it wasn’t enough space, not enough nature. After running all over the West Coast I still absolutely adore the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and Mohican State Park. I love the steep short hills that spike my heart rate, the flats that take my mind far away, and the fields of overgrown flowers and plants that have an intoxicating sweet smell. But, I feel bad admitting this, it wasn’t enough for me. I’d get done running and return to busy streets and a hectic life that my mind couldn’t keep up with. I need mountains surrounding me so I can get done with running and still be in a place where my mind can remain relatively calm.
                The main reason I said what I did though wasn’t because of the trails in Ohio, it was because everyone I love is there. I wish I could have felt at peace there so I could be with my family and friends. My dad’s birthday and my cousin’s baby’s christening was today. My family gathers to celebrate and I’m on the other side of the county. My sister’s got to go out to dinner with my Dad for his birthday, I had to settle by calling him. I can’t help but feel guilty that I’m not there, that my mind couldn’t be happy enough being so close to their love in Ohio. It also makes me lonely. My job hasn’t started yet and I spend just about all of my time alone. It hasn’t been easy trying to start a new life out here by myself. I’m learning how to do things as I go. It’s an adventure, but it’s scary and often lonely. I try to take away some of the guilt by reminding myself that in this time so far I am becoming a better sister, daughter, and friend.

I stopped there and now this is me finishing up 2 weeks later.

                Starting my new job/ life the past week was at first a little scary. After my last experience I guess it was only natural for me to worry, however, there was no need to this time. I loved Americorps/ Boys and Girls Club training. In TFA there were almost 300 people and in a crowd that big I feel lost because I never know where to fit in. This time there was only 25 of us and I felt much more at ease. Most importantly, I thoroughly enjoyed training…. it felt “right”. One of the days I got so site shadow a club in Denver and I felt right at home spending time with the kids. In the 3 hours I was with them I actually got to know them a bit and had some quality conversations. It’s what I felt I was missing in TFA, so it seems that all this summer’s hard decision making was well worth it. Also, when I first came to Colorado I had a tough time feeling like myself running. I loved running here because of the challenge, but I wasn’t necessarily having fun. The last two weeks I’ve been having the time of my life trail running and I’m even surprised about how good running uphill feels. It’s crazy how things happen. So many times I don’t understand why things happen at first and then a little bit later it’s like all these little pieces fit together in a beautiful picture (even if at first the pieces were a pain in the ass to fit or find). 
Fell running down Green Mountain in Boulder. Don't day dream when there are

                So I guess that brings an end to my summer adventure and it’s time to make way for a new adventure to start:  I had my first week of “service” at the B&GC in BV and I really enjoyed it. Yesterday I can home in yarn and beaded necklaces, bracelets, and rings made by 7-11 year olds so I must be doing something right. I feel like this is the part where I should say something insightful summarizing my summer but honestly I’m sure what I have to say has already been said before. But for the sake of an ending: Don’t ever give up on happiness, love, passion….yourself. Everyone knows that life isn’t easy, but it sure as hell doesn’t mean that you can’t find happiness and love (not in a significant other sense but in life). Now, when I think back to all the unpleasant experiences I’ve had in my life I have to admit to myself that I’m grateful for them. Because of those experiences I’ve gained so much wisdom, I’ve learned how to empathize and understand all different kinds of people, that my purpose in life is to try and make what difference I can in the world, how to overcome the mental challenges in an ultra, how to love deeper, how to follow my heart a little better, etc,.etc., etc… and to finally appreciate who I am. I may have not handled all the bad experience very gracefully at first, but I’m human, that’s okay, all that matters is that I’m better off now. Lastly, everyone has their own path that is meant for them. Not everyone is meant to do what I did this summer. Follow your own heart, take the good advice and support, and understand that it’s okay if not everyone supports you. If you ever take your own “leap” realize it’s okay if at times you feel like you’re falling. It just means you had a high arch on your jump so have to come down a little bit to land on the other side. =)
Home sweet home <3

                Thanks for taking this adventure with me.
                                                                Lots of love,
(P.S. When I first came out here I felt like I would never run fast again…. I won my first marathon yesterday. New things can be reeeaallly hard at first…keep going…. It gets easier because you get stronger)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

If we aren't following our hearts, then what are we doing with the blessing of our lives?

(This is split up in three sections: Beginning thoughts, places I’ve gone, and some self reflection)

An adventure would not be an adventure without low points along with the high points. Without low points, it would be a vacation. While I may be doing some things people do on vacation, I know that I am really on a journey-physical, emotional, and spiritual. All the people I love are with me in spirit, but physically, I travel alone.
To better start off this chapter of my adventure I’d like to start with the wise words of Star Blackford.  It’s some of the best advice I have ever gotten and sums up a lot of the kind and loving support I have received from many people:
“We are who we are, Sandi, and we don't owe anyone any explanations, excuses or rationalizations. Each of us, in our own lives, has to figure out what it is we need to do to live more fully into the people we were created to be. It isn't always easy, and the world at large often has plenty to say about it, but we always know the answers in our hearts. And if we aren't following our hearts, then what are we doing with the blessing of our lives?”
With that said, I truly feel like I am following my heart completely and fully for once. After making a very hard decision to leave TFA, I can say that I have honestly not regretted the decision once. Considering I tend to over think absolutely everything this realization has been a blessing. However, there have been plenty of time where I’ve sat in my car freaking out because I don’t know where the heck I’m headed (at the moment and in life), I miss loved ones, little moments of heart ache, I’m afraid of being alone in the dark, and whatever reasons I unhelpfully come up with at the moment.
This is my way to “figure out what it is we need to do to live more fully into the people we were created to be.” It’s definitely not for everyone who is having a life “crossroads” moment (I feel like everyone will have this moment(s) come sooner or later), but for me, it’s what I need and am lucky enough to be able to do.

The Beginning (What I’ve done so far):
Not to say the desert isn’t beautiful in its own way, but I will be quite happy if I never have to go back to Phoenix. Sorry, cacti, rattlesnakes, 110+ F, birds that screech instead of sing, etc. etc, etc, but I am head over in heels in love with big leafy green trees, green grass and plant life in every directions, running through rivers, and seeing all types of animals that don’t threaten to poison me.
I headed out after getting mobbed by first graders telling me they love me. It was a nice way to go to say the least. I had to take care of some things in Colorado yet I still had enough time to see the Grand Canyon and Mesa Verde.
I started off at the Grand Canyon, in which I gave myself a huge surprise. I knew I only had a few hours to spend there and all I really wanted to do was run the rim trails for 2 hrs. Thus, when I saw it was $25 dollars whether I wanted to spend a few hours or a week, I was not happy. I drove up to the ranger in the toll booth and asked him if it was possible to turn around because it’s crazy for one person to pay that much for a few hours when nature should be enjoyed freely to begin with. (This is completely out of character for me). The park ranger just shook his head and told me to just go and enjoy the park! Success! So I ran around the rim looking at absolutely gorgeous scenery (my legs weren’t ready to go down in the canyon and back up from WS100). I would have loved to have camped but I had to move on.

My second day of the trip I headed to Mesa Verde National Park. Of course, there was a fee but this time I felt like the $15 was well worth it (The $15 pass is good for a week but I only had a time to spend a day). I have loved learning about the Native Americans in the area since I was in elementary school. I remember being fascinated that people actually lived in homes built on cliffs and I would gladly do it today if I could. There are 3 main cliff dwellings in the park. In order to go in and get a tour it is $3 but it is well worth it. (There are also plenty of cliff dwellings along the canyons that you can only see if you really look close) I swear if past lives our possible, I was Native American. LOL. Seriously-the culture is beautiful. The bond that these people had with the land is something that is hard to imagine it today’s society. It’s such a pure and simple life. Every rain drop, plant, and ray of sunshine is appreciated because that’s where life stems from. Mesa Verde was the true start of me feeding my need to explore. I spent hours exploring the land from going in the cliff dwellings, learning in the museum, and running/hiking the canyon trails.

Now it was time to head into Denver. After having two days of being surrounded by nature with my spirits soaring I had a bit of a hard time adjusting to the city. The purpose of this side trip was to pick up the things that TFA stored for me. When I went into the storage room I tried to hide my shock from the guy helping me out. “Did I really have this much stuff….There is no way this can fit in my car.” I put everything outside of my car and then began my game of real life car Tetris. I won the game, fitting everything, but I couldn’t see out of any of my windows. This wasn’t going to work- I couldn’t waste money on storage, but I had to down size. I spent a good hour worrying about what to do when I finally stopped at a Goodwill. There went 5 boxes of things I really didn’t “need”. Much of it was kitchen appliances from a toaster oven, containers, baking things, etc. I was quite sad to give up the wine glasses but unfortunately they’re not really necessary in the woods. My car was still a little too packed- I spent a good day thinking about giving up the TV and microwave and I am somewhat ashamed to admit that I could not part with these things. It’s not that I really care about having these things- but they are the most expensive things I own at the moment. I actually am starting to despise TV. I have barely watched it for 2 months now and I love it. The hours I spent watching dumb TV shows about people who appreciate expensive things rather than loving relationships was ridiculous. Almost every meal I ate was in front of the TV, not exactly what I call healthy- when I was done with my meal I would then sit in front of the TV some more and maybe even get more food even if I was full. Now my meals are spent appreciating nature. When I’m done eating I get up and take a walk or climb on rocks. Yet the TV stays for now in my packed car.

While in Denver I stopped in the humungo REI store. After talking to some old men who for some reason admired my journey instead of thinking I was nuts, I bought my new home on the go! I must admit, I am quite fond of my little tent. It’s quite cozy and so simple I have no problem putting it up in less than 5 minutes. Unfortunately, by the time I bought the tent it was dark out and there is no place to camp in the city. I decided to sleep in a motel one last time. On the way to Denver I slept once in my car. It still had room and I made a bed out of my trunk. It was quite nice compared to the motel I chose! Staying at the motel was by far the most scared I have ever been on this trip that I was going to get raped or have my things stolen. The room smelled like smoke, paint was chipped, and there wasn’t even toilet paper in the bathroom. There was a “No Refund” sign at the office- I understood why. I got a blanket and pillow out of my car and slept on top of the bed. Next to me was a kitchen knife. I have had no desire to stay in anything but a tent since.

I woke up at a little before 4am and immediately was excited for the Buckeye Trail 50k. So what if I was across the country- most of my east coast running family was all there. I started texting Rachel about the race and for constant updates. I tried to go back to sleep but no luck, I wanted to get the hell out of the motel anyway. I ate a quick breakfast then headed to Boulder to go running.

As an ultra runner, I was curious to see why so many of the “great” ultra runners choose that as a place to live. It is a very lovely place and is alive with energy. The town has street performers (from mind readers to musicians) and tons of great window shopping. The main spot for trails is less than 5 minutes from the center of town. I was in Boulder a few days before I started TFA and enjoyed it, the trails were beautiful, but waaaaayyy to crowded for my liking. Wanting to see if there were any more low key places I actually emailed Anton and he was nice enough to let me know about the trails. He said if I got there early enough it wasn’t as bad, to definitely try Green Mountain,  and about a few other places a bit farther of a drive.  I have to admit running Green Mountain has been my favorite run in CO. It’s absolutely gorgeous. The area is full of life, colorful flowers, and breath taking views. Yet, I still saw way more people than I am used to when trail running. I’m glad all the people were out there running or hiking, but I missed getting lost in the scenery and going for long amounts of time without seeing another person.  It was still enjoyable, but it wasn’t my normal trail running “mediation/therapy” session. There are some other really great trails off of Canyon and Magnolia road, but the trails weren’t long enough for a really solid long run. With that said, I’m sure there are still tons of places I did not explore so I’m not exactly sure what my opinion of Boulder actually is.

Boulder was also my first night of camping. I always seem to have a hard time actually enjoying my first night of camping because it’s an adjustment to sleeping indoors. This was no exception. I didn’t know where to camp, if I could actually put up a tent by myself, I’m really scared of being alone in the dark (I don’t like not being able to see what is around me), and it was hailing when I was trying to decide what to do. After some pointless driving, a really bad nosebleed, a sad phone call, and some frustration tears shed, I camped off Magnolia Rd. (A long, steep, winding road and driving up it may qualify for car abuse) I lucked out and camped not too far from a family (easing my fears of being alone) and I set up my tent at the exact time it started to rain.

Sandi Nypaver, Mountain Climber:

One thing I knew I HAD to do in Colorado was climb a 14er. I didn’t know where to start or where to go. I put Leadville in my GPS and hoped that by getting farther in the mountains that I would I could just find a place to stop and ask, which is exactly what I did.  I stopped at a forest ranger station and two of the rangers all too happily explained everything to me in unnecessary detail. It was decided I’d start with Grays and Torreys (two 14er summits that could easily be done in one day). This was my first test of using a map because my gps can’t find mountain trail heads. Much to my surprise, I headed in right direction and found where to go without any problems. Up another long Colorado winding and rocky road I went. After saying sorry to my car a 100 times I got to the trail head and texted Rachel where I was. Of course, no service. I felt awful-  I hadn’t texted anyone in awhile and I knew I would be causing worry. But it was getting late and there was no way I was going back down the hill.

Too make this a little shorter, I woke up early the next morning to the trail head being filled with people. Within 2 hrs I got o Grays Peak and less than 40 minutes later I was at the top of Torreys. As expected, the views were spectacular. Yet, I was disappointed it only took a less than 3 hrs to get to the top of both peaks. I don’t want to say it was easy, hiking up for hours will always leave you breathing hard, but I wanted more of a challenge. Thus, I began my “I am a mountain climber” 4 day period.  I headed to Buena Vista and climbed 3 of the collegiate peaks. I started with Mt. Yale, thought it still didn’t take me long enough, and then went for Mt. Harvard and Columbia (both can be done in the same day) and I had finally met my match! Mt. Harvard wasn’t bad; I got to the top within a few hours and then debated Mt. Columbia. Being type A, I of course could not pass the chance to do another summit. I knew from talking to people there wasn’t exactly a trail to Mt. Columbia, but I knew it was possible. I thought I could just follow the ridge line between the mountains and it wouldn’t be too bad, boy was I wrong. There are a few karens to get you started but after that it’s a bit of a guessing game and looking at the snow to see if there footprints. Right off the back I started boulder hopping. It was a little scary but mostly fun. Then I saw a karen that led me to a steep downhill. I didn’t realize how steep and long it was until I had been sliding down it for ten minutes with still a long way to go. I slid for 45 minutes, praying I could catch something to slow down on the way, and caused a few rock slides. I’m still not sure this was the right place to go but there were foot prints when I reached the snow.  For another hour I boulder hopped on unstable rocks and slid through snow that I knew could very possible give and have me falling down into the rocks beneath it. I know no one else was going to be on the trail that day and was all too aware that if I got hurt no one would find me until the next day or longer. I knew I had to stay smart, and I had to stay positive.

From there, it was another hour of going back uphill. This was the steepest climb I had. I climbed up using my hands the entire time. I even had to stop and catch my breath a few times. I would have liked to have taken a longer rest but the clouds were getting really dark. It’s storm season in the mountains and your suppose to summit by noon. I finally reached the summit a little before one and was met by (I think) a marmot. It was great to have made it, but I heard thunder and it lightly hailed for a minute. I knew there was a trail down Mt. Columbia to get me back to my car but as I looked around I couldn’t find it. I started to worry and said a quick prayer to find my way. The marmot caught my eye and he walked about 20 feet to my left. Not knowing what else to do I followed. When I got close, the marmot again started moving and I followed. Five minutes of this and the marmot stopped, right where the trail started. I can’t prove this was my prayer being answered but this trip has certainly made me trust God more than I ever had before. Every time I have said a prayer when I got scared of where to sleep or where to go it has somehow been answered. At times I have gotten lonely, but I have never felt truly alone on this trip. For me, this little experience showed me that I’m not alone.

(Side note: There are ups and downs to climbing alone. Here of course it was scary being alone on such technical terrain. I’m sure it is also very special to share the experience of reaching the summit with others. However, I really appreciated being able to go at my own pace- pushing myself when I felt good and taking it easy when I wanted. I also love the mental challenge of pushing myself through it and developing that mind body relationship. Same goes for ultras)

I was grateful to find the trail, but I found out that it was again another mile of sliding down hill. For parts I could slide sideways standing up but after falling a dozen times I opted for the crouching position. It probably would have been way more of a blast if I wouldn’t have known that if I got hurt being alone that I would have been screwed. I got back down to the trees. Out loud I professed my love to the trees, telling them how much I missed them. Walking the next few miles to my car I knew it was time to stop my mountain climbing for awhile. I really missed running… it was time to get my speed and running confidence back.

I spent one more night in Buena Vista, a great little town, and so far my favorite little town in Colorado. Many towns are a little too “touristy” and there are plenty of tourists who come, but you still get that small town feel that I haven’t found in any other places in CO. There are also plenty of places to camp (free of course) and places to do laundry, check email, and shower. After running the CO trail (not very easy to do with an hour of uphill until you reach over 10,000ft) I headed out. I thought I knew where I was headed and then kept changing my mind with a “something isn’t right” feeling.  I ended up in Utah that night finding a place to camp just in time on a pretty lake. I was supposed to pay a fee but I just wanted to sleep there unlike everyone else who obviously were spending the weekend, so I didn’t pay. (This may sound bad, but I have gotten quite good at this. If you come late and leave early no one is there too notice if you paid or not. Most of the places you pay its more expected that you are staying for awhile- since I don’t and am on a budget- I honestly feel no guilt for not paying. It’s nature anyway- should be free.)

I have to admit, I kind of knew why I felt bad driving west when I started. I was driving farther away from Ohio. It’s not that I had any plans to stay in Ohio (this is my time in life to try out new places), but this weekend is Burning River 100 and Rachel is running it along with plenty of other people who have supported me along my journey. I really wanted to be there to show my support and see the people I have been missing. I talked to Rachel the next morning crying from a rest stop because I didn’t know what to do. I really wanted to go run in Cali, but I really wanted to see the people I missed. It’s not in my budget or time frame to go back to Ohio and visit or Cali. Of course, Rachel told me it was okay I wasn’t going to be at BR100 and to continue my adventure. I went on my way to Cali, not feeling quite right. I don’t want to say I regret this decision because I definitely learned that seeing and supporting loved ones is more important than pretty scenery, but I do wish I was going to be in Ohio this weekend. I got to see the redwood forest which I wanted to see for a long time, but it wasn’t the experience I had hoped for. I also spent 2 days driving in Cali, not really sure where I was going. It took until this morning for me to truly appreciate the experience and except that I made a “mistake” and it was okay, I’m only human.

So that’s the “quick” summary of my adventure thus far. It has continued my experience of jammed pack learning in a very short amount of time. As I stated at the beginning, I have not once regretted my decision and it’s obvious to me as to why. I have felt more myself these past two weeks then I have since I was a little kid. I have always had this side to me of just wanting to go and explore and I feel like that part of me is finally being fed. I have felt more at home and alive in nature then I have ever felt living in Parma. No offense to Parma, but this experience in nature has given me the chance to make things right within myself.

A little self reflection:

There have been so many moments where I felt so at peace with myself. This often comes from me trail running, but never lasts long after I stop running. To be honest and open, my mind has worked like this for half of my life: Negative thoughts come into my head and then I fight and fight and fight with my own mind to make my thoughts become positive. I usually win, especially since I have started running, but it is still quite mentally exhausting and it’s never a good thing when I lose the battle against myself.  There have been plenty of days within the past two weeks where I haven’t had this problem. It’s such a wonderful experience. I’m finally learning how to become my own best friend when I need it. Meaning when a problem comes, instead of beating myself up I can actually process what’s going on and how to help myself whether it be talking to someone else or being able to look at the situation and give myself advice and support that I normally only had for others.

The time outdoors has also allowed me to reflect on my own traits. For instance I know I am tough (that’s obvious through ultra running) but I have finally been able to appreciate that as tough as I am, I am also an extremely emotional person. I always thought this as a good thing when it came to trying to help/ guide others, but when it came to myself and my personal feelings I always despised this part of me. In response to the feelings I didn’t want to deal with, I would mentally shut down and spend my time alone or pretty much being a ghost of a person to the people I was with. I didn’t know how to respond to myself. This problem isn’t fixed but it’s been much better. I have just let myself just feel whatever emotion I have (good and bad) and then let myself think about it and adjust. If I need to cry because I am mad at myself for something, hurt because a certain family member has barely talked to me (only about school loans), or I am feeling unwanted from a recent heart ache, I just let myself do it. I take it all in. Then I remember that this is the most support I have probably ever had in my life. I have these words from Star Blackford posted in my car:

 "You are a strong, intelligent, talented and determined young woman - I have faith in you, I believe in you, and even in the darkest nights of your soul, you are never alone. You are loved, supported, and even understood."

I can then start to believe these things about myself (something I could never do before) and take care of my emotions till I once again feel at peace. This process is still a little unnatural, but I realize how positive it is for me. It’s allowing me to love myself more, as well as learn lessons that will not only allow me to help myself but also all of the people around me. It’s helping me to experience a peace and happiness within myself. I must admit, however, I am extremely scared that this won’t last once this little adventure ends. Yet I am thoroughly determined to set my life up so this process can continue.

To end this already:

I am currently in Truckee, California ready to explore the Pacific crest, Tahoe Rim, and Western States trails. It’s a nice change from running at 10,000 in Buena Vista and I’m loving all the trees. The one thing better about CO is that mosquitoes were not a problem. I am getting eaten alive out here! I have a great job lead in CO but I’m not sure what I think about it. It’s absolutely gorgeous out west, but I think that the mountains out east are just as pretty. I still think the most fun I have ever had running has been in Virginia. The Western States (CA) and Promise Land (VA) courses are tied for the prettiest courses I have ran. Virginia, however, is quite a bit cheaper. I must admit living in the North Carolina Mountains has crossed my head plenty of times (if you know a bit about me you will know I enjoy warm weather which is why I said NC). I have no idea where I will actually end up yet. I’m worried, bu I’m alive, I’m learning, I’m growing. I’m excited to see where my life will take me.

Really this is it:
Words cannot express how much all the support I have gotten means to me. You are constantly with me on this journey and I hope my pictures and Facebook and my blogs help you feel part of my adventure. I miss everyone so much it can be a bit painful at times, but thank for understanding this is what I need to do right now.
Good luck to everyone running BR100 this weekend- I rrrreeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaalllllllyyyyyy wish I would have made the decision to go, but know I will be there in spirit.

Sending my sincerest love,


Sunday, July 10, 2011

L E A P I N G: Dear God, Please let me make it to the other side.

leap of faith

The act or an instance of believing or trusting in something intangible (

            After a month of learning a priceless amount of things, deep personal debate, and I’ll admit…plenty of tears…I have decided to resign from Teach For America. It was one of the hardest decisions I have ever had to make.
                Teach For America is an absolutely extraordinary organization and I am extremely proud to have been accepted and gone through a month of the program and a half a year to just prepare for it. I know there is a lot of controversy with TFA but if those against it would come to TFA institute or really listen to the people working for TFA, all controversy would be gone. There are obviously plenty of amazing teachers who have not gone through TFA, but there are not enough. TFA is making it so low income schools are packed with amazing teachers. TFA doesn’t just give members the skills to be a teacher, it gives members the skills to get every single student in the classroom a shot to have a bright future and to truly have the opportunities to pursue happiness.
                It’s easy to think that any teacher with a good work ethic can push his/her students to greatness, but over the past month of teaching summer school I know a good work ethic isn’t enough. Knowledge and experience is everything, and TFA relentlessly finds and uses ever bit of it. Over the past month I’ve learned to be humble enough to know that if a student didn’t do well on an assessment that it was completely my fault. I have then learned how to figure out where I went wrong for students and how to give my best shot at doing a better job. I learned that if a kid isn’t paying attention I might need to be more entertaining, that I need to figure out a way to make my lesson more understandable, I need to give better directions, or I need to teach students how to listen.
                For example my co-teachers and I had one student who was all over the place the first week of school.  We spent so much time trying to control him we didn’t have enough time for other students. This is the student who normally would be labeled as the trouble maker who doesn’t want to learn. Then we taught him how to listen. During carpet time we gave him his own special chair to sit in and he could rock side to side when he felt the urge to move. A week and a half later I gave him a classroom culture survey and I asked him what he had learned. He told me “I learned how to listen.” (side note:  when I asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up he said a bird because he wanted to fly. I did too. He also told me he wanted to go to college.) This may not seem big, but when he learned to listen his grades had a drastic improvement and he participated willingly in class.
                I also learned how to change a kid’s mindset. I helped teach kids they could go to college if they worked hard. The first week of school one girl told me that when she grew up she wanted to work at McDonalds. Last week she was set on going to college.
                One of the hardest lessons I learned no matter how hard a kid’s life is that he must be pushed as hard as every other kid. Let me explain. On Friday a past TFA teacher told us about a boy she taught who was  4 years behind his grade level.  The first year she taught him he lived in foster care and he made about a year and ¾ worth of growth.  He was still behind grade level and so he repeated the 4th grade. This time he was back living with his grandma. His personality changed. He wasn’t always being fed, he missed a lot of school, he’d come home from school to people drinking and paying no attention to him. The TFA teacher loved him as much as she possible could. His life was so hard however that she stopped expecting him to do his homework or other little things she expected from other students. By the time his second year of 4th grade was over he was still behind but the school had to move him up to the fifth grade. That student will remember his teacher as loving, but because she expected less from him he may now never have the skills to ever get himself out of poverty. As the TFA teacher was almost in tears, I realized that all of the other teachers in training will make sure that every student is pushed to their best no matter their circumstances.
                There are also the students who some people say are lazy and don’t want to learn. I’ve seriously heard principles say don’t waste your time on that one.  It’s probably more likely that no one in his/her family has ever done well in school or has taught him/her the importance of an education. That student has quite possible thought he’s dumb or school isn’t for everyone for years. I’ve learned skills to help get these students to college and have seen proof that “these” students can go to college.
                Obviously, I cannot say enough good things about Teach For America. What I’ve said above is only a very, very small portion of what I learned. I deeply appreciate these things and I will be sure to use them. It is also why this decision was so incredibly hard. I am head over heels in love with the kids I have taught, I think TFA and its purpose is incredible, but I hate being inside all day, working 13-16 hrs days, and most importantly I don’t love teaching. My passions have no longer been at a balance. Barely any time for running and when I did have time, I was exhausted.
                I’m not normally one to ask for help but for the first time in my life I asked for it. Many people told me to try TFA for at least a year, but whenever I heard this advice I was unhappy. Then I had 2 people tell me it was okay if I didn’t feel like TFA was the right fit. That it was okay if I wanted to pursue other dreams and find a way to balance both passions. That it was okay to find other ways to guide kids and still have time to run. I noticed I instantly relaxed when I heard that. I then talked to my faculty advisor for a few hours about how my life would be at a TFA the next 2 years.  I realized that if I decided to fit in running that I would be choosing running over family and friends and I would probably be tired even when I did run. Then he had me make a pro/ con list and rank each point of importance from 1-10. The pro TFA side went like this: I LOVE the kids (10), Help close the achievement gap (7), Resume builder (5), Teaching license (4), Stable Salary (3). A lot of the things I had on the con list that I would be giving up were ranked pretty high and I had a long list of things I wasn’t happy about. I also realized that teaching wasn’t the only one way to guide youth to a better future. It took a month for me to realize that it was okay for me not to feel like I was meant to teach in this wonderful organization and to not beat myself up over needing to find a balance to pursue other dreams as well.
                With that said, it’s time for me to learn how to be genuinely happy. There are some “demons” I have left that need to be gotten rid of once and for all. I know it’s time for me to defeat them. It’s also time for me to get the hell out of Arizona. I realize that some people think AZ is beautiful, and it is in its own right, but it is in no way my type of beautiful or trail running. And I HATE rattlesnakes- they freak me out! I need trees!  Seriously- I love trees. Lol.  A cactus just doesn’t cut it for me. I have absolutely no desire to do Badwater any time soon. =)
                So I have thrown away a stable salary/life for the next two years++. I bet you’re wondering what exactly I am planning on doing and what I feel the best way for me to learn how to be happy is. Well I have sent applications in to some wilderness therapy programs for troubled and/or low income youth. (I feel like that has me written all over it and I bet you do too). I have already gotten 2 phone interviews set up. One is back in the east coast in the mountains. Until I see where that goes however, I am doing a west coast adventure. I don’t have much money, but I have some money saved that was going towards a teaching license and so I’m getting myself a tent and some camping gear and going exploring. I probably shouldn’t have read Into the Wild, Lost Girls (3 girls quit there NYC jobs for a year to travel around the world), and Becoming Odyssa (Jennifer Pharr Davis’s first Appalachian Trail hike through- She’s actually doing in again for the record right now!) all in the month before I left Ohio. Lol. I have wanted to do something like this for a long time though and I’m not about to pass up this chance. I’m going to climb a mountain in Colorado, head into Wyoming, run in the Redwood Forest, and only God knows what else. I completely realize doing this alone is going to be hard, scary, and lonely, but I need this. I know I do.
                I know I’m throwing away a lot, but I think I have a lot to gain. If you read my last blog it was probably easy to tell I wasn’t happy. I thought I was a bad person for not feeling happy about being a teacher. I felt really bad that I didn’t want to sacrifice my running. I never want running to come before people, but I hope you can understand that when I started trail running, something in me just felt at peace. I started becoming more of the person I wanted to be. I need running in my life right now. I think working with youth outdoors might be by answer to finding a balance.
                Obviously, my first 6 weeks away from Ohio have been way harder than I ever could have imagined. Thankfully, I am now at a place where I can reflect back and be thankful for all the incredible lessons I have learned….and boy did I learn a lot!

                If people want me to, I will write about my adventures for the next month. Just let me know. Also, I’d appreciate it if you keep me in your prayers… I’m a little nervous being a 23 yr old girl, not exactly sure what I am doing, and being out in the wilderness by myself. =) I promise to keep you in my prayers as well!

So here I go on my BIIIGG ADVENTURE! If someone wants a tv or stereo let me know…. I need to get rid of things I don’t need.

Again, THANK YOU to anyone who has supported me and taken the time to help me out. =)

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable.” –Helen Keller.