First adventure of 2016: COMPLETE.

Back to life, back to reality. I always repeat that song (in my head) when I get back from a vacation. Although, I have been back for two weeks and only now am finding time to finish this post.

We got back home last week, two weeks ago. It was 1am Monday morning, bed at 2am (a shower was a must after 10 days of camping), and back to the grind at 6am.

But what a wonderful adventure we had! Here’s a quick-ish view of our vacation! I would love to go in more detail on a few of our stops in some future posts.

New Years

We weren’t planning on starting our vacation until the first of the year but we decided to take an extra day and go up to Buena Vista, CO to the Mt. Princeton Resort. My friend is in a big swing band, William and the Romantics, and they were playing that night, New Year’s Eve! It was a blast! We rang in the new year by attempting to swing dance, soaking in the hot springs and hanging out with friends. It was lovely.

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Death Valley

Quickly after 2016 arrived, we headed straight to bed to get up the next morning and start the long drive to California. The plan: drive as long as we can before we needed to sleep.

We made it to Death Valley! We decided to camp there since neither of us had been before. Plus, it was free! We arrived way after sun had set and couldn’t see a thing out our car window in the dark park. We found our intended camp ground, set up the tent and went to bed. We woke up the next morning to some fantastic views!

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View from the campground

View from the campground

Since we were already there, we decided to venture around the park and check it out. We visited the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, Artist’s Palate, and went for a short, shake out run to Darwin Falls. We even saw some coyotes!

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Mesquite flat sand dunes

 

Artist's Palate

Artist’s Palate

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Coyotes

Darwin Falls

Darwin Falls

Lone Pine/Mt. Whitney

With daylight still around, we decided to set up camp at our next destination in Lone Pine. The plan: to hike the mountaineer’s route of Mt. Whitney the next day.

After eating a fulfilling dinner (spaghetti before a big day, duh!), we went to bed to wake up at 2am to start the long hike.

We didn’t summit the 14er (the tallest one in the lower 58 states), but we got in a great hike and my first attempt at mountaineering. The route/hike was a little harder than I had anticipated (I’m sure Ben could have blazed up and down the thing, twice) and I was already feeling worn out with 2/3 of the hike left. Plus this my first time doing anything like this, wearing mountaineer’s boots and crampons. We turned around at the three-mile mark, Boy Scout Lake, which already had an elevation gain of 2,000 feet! I learned a lot and want to go back and try again…maybe during the summer months!

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Sleep was nice that night but it was another cold night in Lone Pine. They next day we checked out the Alabama Hills, where a ton of movies and commercials were filmed. We learned all about it with a stop at the Film History Museum of Lone Pine. A ton of Westerns, Ganga Din, parts of Django Unchained, a scene from Iron Man, Tremors, parts of Star Wars, and a TON more were all film here!

the Alabama hills..interesting rocks!

The Alabama hills..interesting rocks!

San Diego and the Zoo

After the museum…we got right back in the car and navigated our way to San Diego! Oh the traffic – oh the horrors! Both my boyfriend and I can’t stand traffic and boy was there a lot in that part of the world! But we made it to our campground, the San Diego Metro KOA, took advantage of the shower situation (there was one!), cooked dinner and decided to try a local brewery, Iron First Brewing!

That’s when the rain started….for the next three days.

The following morning, we packed up our tent and straight to the zoo!!! I have always wanted to visit the San Diego Zoo! I heard it’s one of the best, plus they have PANDAS! We spent most of the day wandering the huge zoo, in the rain, and tried to see every animal they had. The rain was sorta BEAR-able (pun intended) for most of the morning into the afternoon, but later it started pouring on us. We stuck it out, determined to make the most of the situation and see the zoo since we’re only there once!

Baby Bonobo!

Baby Bonobo!

 

It's a PANDA!

It’s a PANDA!

 

Bucket list item checked off!

Bucket list item checked off!

Joshua Tree

After drying off in the car, we made the trek to Joshua Tree National Park. We had a nail-biting drive over some mountain pass where the intense, once-a-year, rain washed microwave sized rocks into the road. On the end of our nerves, we set up camp in the short break between rain storms, cooked some quick dinner and fast to sleep.

The plan was to climb in Joshua Tree…while we did eventually accomplish this, there were a few struggles, both personal and environmental.

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Obstacle #1 while climbing Joshua Tree: Cold Weather. What I learned from our vacation is that I don’t like climbing in the cold. It hurts! With the morning free of rain, we attempted to find some climbing, but rain free does not equal cold free. I am now on a mission to make the best climbing glove.

Cholla cactus

Cholla cactus

Obstacle #2: Cracks: Oh geez. To my non-climber friends, it isn’t what it sounds like. If you are a climber you’ll understand: Crack climbing is HARD! At least I think so. I have not really done any of this, so this was a first attempt. It feels like you’re going to break your feet, hands and arms. If you are not a climber, picture this: You wedge your toes and hands in a crack between two rocks and pull, repeatedly, to get to the top. It was very uncomfortable. I was told I would learn to like it. We’ll see…

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Obstacle #3: (Me) Being a scaredy cat! As told to me by the Boyfriend: “Joshua Tree is a very old school type of climbing.” That being said, a lot of the routes felt way harder than they were rated and even getting down from a climb was an obstacle. One down climb in particular left me in tears.

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Triumph #1: On our last day in Joshua Tree, the sun finally came out. We got a few routes in. My ever so wonderful boyfriend sacrificed climbing a lot harder routes to put up a top rope for me so I could (painstakingly) practice. I also discovered that I kinda like slab climbing (where you use less upper body and more leg/feet placement and core). I practiced a little bit more of this crack climbing stuff and still am undecided on if I “like” it.

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The Hoover Dam and Lake Mead

Sadly, we packed up camp at Joshua Tree. I actually did really liked it there. I would love to go back (with more crack climbing practice under my belt) and give it another go, but it was time to make the journey back toward Colorado. The plan to was to see the Hoover Dam on Saturday and wake up Sunday morning and make the 12 mile drive back.

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However, as shown before, the only sure thing about a plan is it will change. We arrived at the Hoover Dam in the afternoon, thinking we could just get right in and take a tour. No, that is not the case. The full tour does, indeed, sell out (much to my dismay after searching the website intensively). Having our hearts set on the full tour, we decided to walk around the top of the dam, take pictures and come back the next morning to be the FIRST people in line to get on the FIRST tour.

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We camped nearby at Lake Mead National Recreation Center which was definitely beautiful despite being noisy (the National Recreation center campground was full of RV’s that liked to run their generators at night).

Lake Mead

Lake Mead

The next morning, with a belly full of pancakes, we packed up the tent, one last time, and arrived at the Hoover Dam, again. We did get on the very FIRST tour and we VERY impressed and glad we decided to come back. After getting our fill of the Hoover Dam, we hopped back in the car and proceeded to spend the next 21 hours driving.

Picture from INSIDE the Dam!

Picture from INSIDE the Dam!

Home

That brings us full circle, arriving back home Monday, 2am.

 

 

Tiger Trot 15K – Post Race Recap!

Ok, ok, I know, I didn’t do a Pre Race Review…but, SURPRISE!!! I can now cross Kansas off my list!!!

Racing The States goes all the way to….Kansas!!

The Trip:

It was sort of a last minute decision. I have my calendar on my computer with a BUNCH of different races I could do or want to do…. a couple weeks ago, I saw I had added this one and finally decided: Ok, I’ll make the drive to Kansas. It was an 8ish hour drive to Wichita, one that I was not able to make all at once.

I got off work at 2:30 Saturday afternoon and had originally planned on leaving no later than 3. However, when my “driving buddy” backed out on me, I knew I had to plan a little better. Reason being, if I didn’t make it all the way to my friend’s house that night, I would need a shower pre-drive so that I wouldn’t be SUPER gross on the way home. I also had to account for more coffee in my diet since I had no one to talk to/keep me awake plus a few other logistical things that took me a bit to figure out. I ended up leaving Colorado at 4pm. Not taking into account the time change, I had to text my friend that so graciously offered me to stay at her place, “thanks for the offer to crash, but I will not make it there at any reasonable hour.”

I originally had planned to stay with a girl I met at the Wild West Relay who lives about an hour from the race. Free place to stay? Done! And the hour drive in the morning would have been a good chance to wake up prior to running. Well, besides the fact that I wouldn’t have made it at a reasonable hour to accept her offer, driving safely was becoming a problem as the hours wore on.

As soon at I got off I-70 to head south through Salina, I was not driving safely at all! I was only about an hour and half form Wichita (where the race was) and I would have just stayed at a cheap hotel close to the race site, but smartly, I pulled over into a rest stop and slept. Knowing I would have to complete the drive in the morning, I set my alarm, pulled my car blanket over me, and shut my eyes.

My alarm went off before the sun even rose and all I had to do was put my seat in the upright position and start the car. Luckily for me, I’m really good at changing and eating in the car all while following directions on my phone (this might also be signs I’m a bad driver…but you do whatcha gotta do when you’re driving by yourself). I made it to the race head with 30 minutes to spare; enough time to pick up my race packet, go to the bathroom and stretch.

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Good morning!!!

The Run:

FANTASTIC run!!! I had a great run! I completed the 15K (9.3 miles) in 1:22:29.9, I’m not setting any records here, but I felt accomplished with this time, especially because I was just using it as a training run. I started off the run slowly because I didn’t get a chance to warm up very well, using the first mile or so to loosen up. At mile 3, I was slowly passed by two men with a garmin that was making all sorts of noise.

The starting line.

They first commented on the runners going the other way (by then the first men and women had already hit the turn around and were crossing paths with us). One man made a joke about how they weren’t having any fun running that fast. I chimed in and said, “yeah, it’s us over here having all the fun” and then throwing in…”were not competing, were training.” Since they laughed at my comment, I started to keep pace with them. The chime on his Garmin was signaling that we were under an 8:30 pace! This really excited me, so I decided to stick with them for as long as I could stand it. We chatted about their lives and what they did for a living and I told them I was from Colorado and about my running goals.

I stuck with them until about mile 7, but kept them in site for the remaining of the run as motivation. I finished strong, although I did feel a little alone because no one was there at the finish line for me or running with me…I think this might have been the first race I’ve done without any company.

Proudly wearing my race shirt after the race!

The Event:

Also FANTASTIC! Well put together. The money went to the Tanganyika Wildlife Park…so of course, I was well on board with this race from the beginning!

Super organized from start to finish. The course was well marked. There was enough water stations and people to direct you where every you needed to go. At the end there was booth that you could give them your bib number and they instantly printed your time along with finishing position and pace. Super awesome! The volunteers were awesome, I spent some time chatting with one of them; and the place was easy to find with plenty of parking. Well accommodating for the 700+ participants (there was a 5K as well).

Is that not the cutest thing you’ve ever seen?????

I wandered around the park to “cool down” instead of immediately getting in my car and sitting for 8 hours. It was a small wildlife park, but really interactive. They monkey habits were on islands surrounded by water, but no fences between any of it. You could walk right up and touch the giraffes, tortoises, and kangaroos (which are super soft btw). There was also apparently a place where you could get your picture with some lemurs as well, but either I did not find it (cause you know I would have been all over that) or they didn’t have it set up because of the event. The rest of the exhibits were wonderful as well and the animals all looked very happy.

Pretty cool animal habitats, huh?

By the time I was done meandering, they were giving out the place awards as well as doing the raffle. I did not place (obviously or this would be a very different post) nor did I win any prize (which they gave out for last/first to register, last to finish, most pained expression at the finish line, etc) but they did have a sock throw at the end….and believe me they were clean socks…or you would have seen me sprinting as fast as I could in the opposite direction. I managed to catch a pair of the clean socks that had the Tiger Trot logo printed on them.

I’ve gotten shirts, headbands, medals and water bottles from races, but never a pair of socks. Do I wear them or display with my other race goodies??? Would that be awkward to have socks displayed or a dinner conversation starter (keeping in mind, I HATE feet – and that’s an understatement)???