Monday, April 4, 2016

The endless immensity of the sea...

I didn't know Sarah Young.  And I also didn't know Andrew Ashman, or Michael Johnson.  But I know their spirits, I know what drove them.  I know why they followed their hearts to the sea.  Journeys such as the ones they pursued are those which keep our souls alive.  And yet, rendingly, sometimes, they also lead to our deaths.  I was saddened by Michael's death, and we mourned him as a community, each of us reflecting back on our own adventures, on our own close calls when we failed to clip in, knowing how very easily it could have been any one of us, with our own families and friends grieving in their losses.  But, as it does, life moves on, with or without us.  

I didn't hear about Andy's death in September; I only found out about it by way of recent events.  But something really strikes a chord in you when you hear your own name, and the words of Sarah's crewmates during her burial at sea ceremony really hit me hard.

Ichorcoal's skipper Darren Ladd said of her, "Sarah was a valued crew member and amazing victualler.  On deck she was fearless and could often be found at the bow wrestling with headsails, or up the mast wrestling wrapped spinnakers, even below decks wrestling crew to protect the biscuit ration. She was a great wrestler, never lost a biscuit.  Sarah was an adventurer and lived life to the full. She died an adventurer's death battling the elements circumnavigating the globe. I wish we could have said goodbye properly, we all do. The ceremony was for Sarah on behalf of all those that were fortunate enough to know her. Today we said goodbye, but she will always be present in our hearts.  Sarah will be sadly missed." 

And thinking these thoughts, something changed in me on my run tonight... I know perhaps it's the combination of a lot of things in my life right now: end of my current outdoor ultimate season, the end of the summer season of kayaking, mountain biking, and motorcycling, daylight savings ending and the very changing of the seasons - new smells and breezes and feelings in the air... and somehow, Sarah's death hit me in a strange way.  Not in the usual, 'I'm saddened by the loss for her crew, and her family and friends' way, but in a way that made me reflect on where I'm at in life, and where I want to be. Because, by virtue of being alive, I have that ability to do so, and I know that were it not Sarah Young, but another, more familiar Sarah, that was being memorialised, I would hope that others would do the same in my absence.

Endings, whether we're ready for them or not, change us.  Successes and failures have similar connotations for me - they give me a chance to, in Jimmy Buffett's words, "Come down to talk to me, when the coast is clear."  The end of the season gives me the opportunity to reflect on my failure in not making the World's team and our success in bringing the national championship title back home to Christchurch.  Regardless of the actual outcomes of these endings, I am incredibly grateful just for the simple chance to begin anew, to be able to jump feet first into the refreshing Hutt River with friends, to be able to look back on the events that got me there, basking in the last of summer still warming the shallow eddies, and yet also eager to follow the rapids down the inevitably singular temporal dimension of life to new first descents.

For the first time in a long time in my life, I am free - free to slow down if I were to so choose, free to adventure if I choose, free to continue pursuing a path that I've dreamed about for years, free to strive towards completely different goals.  Free to set sails and chart a course few have dared dream about.  Free to simply dream.  And in that freedom...  I was fairly flying on my run.  I don't know exactly how, but I changed.  Not into something new, but into something I used to be, someone I haven't been in awhile.  Brought back to my roots, so to speak.  Smiling at the high school girls at soccer practice under the bright lights of Avonhead Park, seeing myself in their young, determined faces as they sprinted suicides, seeing my own coaches in the wisened, white-haired figures looking gruff but kind as they presided over their charges, feeling the pride that they feel, knowing that each of their teammates was working as hard as they were, for each other, for the team, for come what may later in the season, and striving for those victories which they could foresee, together, in the future.  

And although it's a feeling I've had often of late, only today was that transcribed feeling actually translated into my physical being.  I ran on feet that remembered how much work it took to reach new heights.  My heart pumped on the scent of a new challenge.  My lungs and soul expanded with the joy of new purpose.  I had to laugh, because while I cherished and eagerly lapped up the endorphins running through my bloodstream, the only challenge and purpose I was chasing was my newfound freedom in not having any challenge or purpose on a Monday night, but the feeling was intoxicating.

So.  Day 1. It starts now.  I don't necessarily know what "it" is yet, but I'm stoked to search for it.  A donf!

"If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea." -Antoine de St Exupery 

“Alice asked the Cheshire Cat, who was sitting in a tree, “What road do I take?” The cat asked, “Where do you want to go?” “I don’t know,” Alice answered. “Then,” said the cat, “it really doesn’t matter, does it?” -Lewis Carroll 

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

You have to go there to come back...

I've been in a fairly introspective mood lately, and though I haven't written on the blog lately, it doesn't mean that I haven't been writing. No, I'm done with comps, so I'm not writing on that, and although my research is coming along really well, I'm not writing manuscripts at the moment, either. With a little inspiration from the recent finishing of the inaugural Indian Ocean Rowing Race and gentle nudging from Tim (thanks!), I've finally gotten back to writing my ocean rowing book.

As Jimmy Buffett put it as he was writing about his fifty years of adventuring: "That to me is the way any good romantic would look at his life: Live it first, then write it down before you go." That's the way I've looked at it for awhile, too, and to put it simply, I've been too busy living my adventures to find time for writing them. I've had some pretty great adventures in the last few months, and maybe someday I'll start writing about those again :). But, I've put it off the book long enough now, and I owe it to the story to get it down on paper.

It's a mammoth task, but one that I enjoy immensely. So immensely that I sometimes get carried away while I am writing and forget that I really am on land (with the responsibilities that come with it) and not out in the middle of the ocean, surfing waves and dodging squalls. I have had to set timers in order remind myself of experiments (which I have never had to do before), as time flies by with my fingers flying on the keys, trying to convey the brilliant intensity of an ocean sunrise or the absolute calm that is experienced during a peaceful night with a million stars cradling you in their pinpoints of light.

It's amazing to go back and relive all those memories, and getting back to the book is truly good for my soul. In doing it, I remember exactly why we went out there in the first place. Life on land is inevitably hectic and complicated, no matter how chill you are or how much you try to simplify (as Sarah Outen is currently figuring out as she tries to become reacquainted with society - it's not easy!). Life on the water may be hard, but it is pure... more pure than could ever be experienced on land, and it is that purity that I really miss and reconnect with as I write again. It is infectious and addictive, and I feel that I could write about it and tell stories about it for the rest of my life, if only to relive those most inspiring days again. If I can manage to illustrate just a little bit of how pure and simple life can be, then I will be happy with the outcome of the book.

I had not been out to the Fire recently, and after writing so much, I felt that I owed her some quality time, so I headed out to just be with her on Monday night. We both definitely needed it. I didn't bring tools to work on her or friends to show her off. I just wanted to be with her. I sat there on the bow and stared at my reflection in the cabin hatch in the waning evening. I held on to her gunwales, fingering the rough patches of repaired plywood and feeling the strength of her hull, remembering all of the times that we have shared together through the years. I thought of the hectic months of training, the humorous road trips, the frustrating days lashed to a sea anchor, the refreshing rain squalls, the frightening monster waves, and the finality of defeat in our capsize. I've spent more time with her than most of my friends (with the exception of Kohl, of course), and she is as much a part of me as any person in my life. I really do love her unconditionally, and it was good for both of us to be together. As the twilight faded, I stepped into the cabin and lay down, staring at the quotes Kohl and I had written on the walls. Even sitting there in the storage lot, hundreds of miles from the nearest ocean, it still felt like home.

Short excerpt from the book so far, corresponding to Day 5 of the '05 trip:

"During my off-shift between 4 and 6, I had nothing to do but relax. I had made lunch and called Bill on my previous off-shift, and having nothing else pressing on my agenda, I crawled into the cabin and curled up on my side down the centerline of the boat, making sure not to disrupt Kohl’s strokes by offsetting the boat. All I could do was smile. Never in my life had I felt this comfort before. Everything in my life was perfect at that moment. Every detail filled me with happiness - the padded blue walls and two inch inflated sleeping mats cradling me in the tapered stern, the color of the sunlight streaming in through the rear hatch, the creak of the rudder, the rhythm of Kohl sliding down the salt-encrusted tracks, the rush of the puddles whooshing past the hull. The waves rocked the boat into a familiar swaying lullaby and I felt safe and contented, knowing that we were living our dreams. We were headed towards Antigua and making history, basking in the freedom that was ours for the taking. In the entire vast blue expanse of ocean, the cabin was cool and dry, and it felt like home."

I guess you really do have to go there to come back...

Thursday, July 23, 2009


Life has been going incredibly well for me lately, as the month of July usually is for me... That’s not to say that it has been without its difficulties, but those challenges only serve to add value to my character and make the good times seem even better. It’s easy to be inspired when things are going well, but I am definitely not taking it for granted. The new challenges, incredible people in my life, and beautiful locales that I find myself in make for a very inspiring life.

As much fun as I've been having here in AZ, it was certainly pleasant to escape the Valley heat and head back to the Midwest. It is home, and always will be, and the peace that I felt as I touched down in Louisville was overwhelming. The simple pleasures in life are sometimes the best, and home is definitely one of them.

I stepped off the plane into a humid July night, hopped into my rental car, and had my favorite radio stations dialed into the presets before I even pulled out of the parking lot. As I cruised north on I-65 with the windows rolled down and the radio blasting, I had compiled top ten list of things that I love about coming home before I had even reached our driveway. 1. Downtown Louisville. The familiar buildings, landmarks, and Waterfront Park… small enough to be friendly, but big enough for lots of culture and things to do. Love it, and keep it weird! 2. Cool temperatures. Pretty self-explanatory, here. So simple, but so nice. 3. Kennedy Bridge. It’s the first time I’ve seen in painted in years, and it really was special all lit up and reflecting off of the mighty Ohio. 4. All of the amazing radio stations, especially 91.9, that play all of my favorite indie bands and loads of others whom I haven’t heard about yet. I really miss it, and my day was made with the first few notes of Rogue Wave on the radio. 5. The smell of red clover in a freshly cut hay field. Heavenly, indescribable. 6. The sounds of the cicadas and crickets in the woods. Again, a comforting, beautiful sound. 7. Mosier Knob. When Supertramp’s Take the Long Way Home came on 107.7, I decided to take their advice, and wound around the southern Indiana hills at midnight just because I could. 8. Lightning bugs out in the fields. We don’t really have them out in AZ, and I forgot just how special they are. 9. Tassled corn. The sight and smell of it brings me right back to lazy days of my childhood down at the swimming hole. Good stuff. 10. Country roads. The grid system of greater PHX makes it easy to navigate, but fairly boring. They don’t write songs about the grid system: long and winding roads, they’re a different story. The time I spent back in the land of green fairly flew by as I made good use of those country roads.

For the first part of my trip, I got to interact with some of the top scientists in my field at the Plant-Based Pharmaceutical Symposium, had my best research presentation to date, got a tour of one of the leading bioprocessing plants in the country, and learned about careers that I didn’t even know existed. By the end of a very full two days, my head was crammed with new information and exciting new possibilities for research and my life. To say that I was inspired would be an understatement.

I also spent some amazing quality time with family and friends while touring around my home state: picking veggies at Dad’s in Floyds Knobs, a quick visit with my Gran, a cruise through Pekin and Salem, Em’s birthday in Indy, a nostalgic trip around Purdue, some crazy homemade wine-fueled antics with Jessie on Daisy Hill, and a little walk with Mom on the farm. The whole trip relaxed me in such a complete way that I haven’t felt for a long time. After months of preparations for my comprehensive exams and the conference, it felt incredible to have successfully finished everything, and it shone in my eyes every second that I was there. It really was the perfect way to end a few stressful months, and as I rocked to the gentle riffs of Band of Horses on the front porch, watching the sun come up over the woods and fields, I knew that there was nowhere else that I would have rather been at that moment.

That’s not to say that I haven’t had those moments back here in AZ… on the contrary, I’ve managed to have some pretty kickass adventures on the weekends even during the craziness of preparing for my comps. And the smile on Tsafrir’s face when he informed me that I had passed is one that I will not soon forget.

So, I returned from my Midwest excursion to the start of the monsoon season here in the Valley, and am now back to the life that I’ve made for myself here. It’s good to be back to bench research, back to my Arizona family, and back to adventures that can only be had in the great, wild West. Stay tuned for more… I should be a little bit better at the blogging now that life has returned somewhat to “normal.”

Sunday, June 21, 2009

All that you can't leave behind...

I always find it amazing how music can take you back… as poignant as a faint, but familiar, scent on the breeze. When I got home on Friday, Jack was playing U2 in the garage (because that’s all that’s good on my iPod, apparently :)). I really do enjoy U2, but it’s been awhile since I’ve listened to that album, and with it flooded back some of the best memories of my life…

Eight years ago, almost to the day, I was a happy 17 year-old kid, packing a suitcase for a place none of us had been. My life up until that point had been an incredible mix of highs and lows – but had mostly centered around the open gyms, cross country hills, softball fields, band buses, and freedom of one of the largest counties in Indiana. I had just returned from my first real overseas adventure, and although I had incredible time running around Madrid, Barcelona, and Paris, I had no idea what was in store for me in the coming month. No amount of map studying, e-mails, or information packets could have prepared me for the way my time in Israel changed my life. With my passport tucked safely in my bag and “All That You Can’t Leave Behind” spinning in my Discman, I settled down on the El Al flight and watched New York disappear into the clouds, not knowing then that I would come back to the States with a new passion for life and an emerging understanding of the world around me.

I must have listened to those 11 tracks several dozen times in the course of that summer. In my bunk the first few nights as the jetlag wore off, during ping-pong matches in the commons during our down time, while writing e-mails back home, on the coaches to and from all of the amazing places we visited that summer, while falling asleep on Asher’s shoulder as we rolled through the desert. And now, listening to them brings me right back there, and I can’t help but smile at the hundreds of incredible memories that link back to that album.

What I also find amazing is how much my life today parallels those best days of my life… new adventures, incredible friends, a shoulder that I can fall asleep on, challenging research that I’m passionate about, and a great big world that I am still only beginning to discover. I’ve varied my soundtrack dramatically since then, but I as I fall asleep tonight on this, the shortest night of the year, I can’t help but think that these songs will someday hold the same meaning as the ones from that U2 album. Life is good.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Adventurous Life

Adventure. It is infectious, ingrained in my blood, addictive. Dangerous, awe-inspiring, heart-stopping, and refreshing all at the same time.

A million words could not describe the feelings that I have for adventure. In the end, adventure is my life. I survive with the basic needs of food, water and shelter, am blessed and my life is made rich by my incredible family and friends, but the challenges and adventures in my life are what really make me tick. It shows in my everyday life. Normally my ride to work in the morning isn't special, but when the winds whip down Apache Drive, I smile and enjoy attacking them with gusto. When I find myself having to do the same analyses day after day in the lab, I grow weary, but if an unexpected challenge or new finding crops up, I am instantly engaged. A weekend spent mulling around town leaves me unfulfilled, but a few days rocking down slickrock singletrack or standing on the top of a mountain refreshes my mind, body and soul. It's just who I am.

So, lots of things have been on my mind lately, and even more things have been on my schedule, so unfortunately my blogging has suffered as a consequence. But, I had to get back to let all of these crazy ideas floating around in my brain out.

Life in the past few weeks/months has been amazing. Since mid-February when I posted last, I have knocked off about 7 of the items on my list of 101 in 1001. I've completed a 24 bike race solo, climbed Weaver's Needle, hiked the Peralta Trail, climbed Baboquiavari (though we didn't summit, so it doesn't fully count yet), snowboarded in Colorado with my family in Winter Park, comfortably answered seminar questions at the MCB colloquium (100% better than last year), and mountain biked all over the slickrock with Jack in Moab. I would write about all of these adventures, but I'm afraid the post would be longer than anyone would want to read. Spending time with my family and friends in some of these amazing places makes my life worth every breath I take. It feels good to be accomplishing my goals, and the adventure of it all keeps me happy.

But, as many of you know... what my soul yearns for is the bigger challenges... the ones that strip life to its core, to its simple pleasures and pains, its pure, real, beautiful roots that are hidden in much of the padding of modern society. So, I have been thinking about the next big adventure. I will be (hopefully... research is fickle) graduating in the next two years. Once I graduate, I will have completed one of the biggest challenges of my life and will add three more letters to the end of my name. It will be the end of my formal education, putting me on the path to the "real world" if I so choose... moving on to bigger salaries, greater responsibilities, and (an unfortunate truth of living in the States) limited vacation days. And eventually, I'm going to find my perfect/intelligent/funny/adventurous man and settle down a bit and have some kids. So, I will need one more big adventure before I move on to those next chapters of my life. Right now, my mind is like a winter meadow - seeded with millions of ideas that are just waiting for the right conditions to germinate and grow into something beautiful. I've still got some time to decide and a ton of factors will go into the decision, but so far, here is the list of potentials in no particular order: Hike the Pacific Crest Trail. Hike or bike the Arizona Trail. Mountain bike the Great Divide Race. Assorted adventures in New Zealand. Climb Mt. Chimborazo. Indian Ocean Rowing Race 2011.

I almost hesitate to put that last one on there... it's a ton of money and I've already rowed an ocean, but gravity pulls me back to the ocean as much as it pulls the ocean up and down the shores. There is just something so pure and infectious about rowing an ocean that it will never leave my blood. Like the memory of a past love, the hard times are quickly forgotten and the joys of the time spent together are some of the best memories of your life, and if a chance to reunite with them comes about, no matter how insignificant that chance might be, it just makes all those memories come flooding back and the desire rises up again. The inaugural Indian Ocean Rowing Race will be starting this Sunday, and for the first time in my life since I learned about ocean rowing races, I will be not be in one of those boats. My muscles will not be propelling that dot on the ocean, instead I will be watching the representative dots move along a computer screen. Not quite as exciting, and although I am exceptionally stoked to watch others make history, I know that I am going to find it hard not to be one of them. It doesn't matter that I am having a blast at what I am doing now, or that I don't have the money, time, etc. to be out there at this point in my life. Some people have no self-restraint when it comes to buying too many shoes or eating too many cookies: I guess it's probably a good thing that my obsessions are a little bit more out of reach than the store or the cookie jar.

Alas, my ideas so far are just that, so don't go worrying just yet. I've got awhile to figure things out, and more will probably begin to populate that meadow in my mind before the spring of 2011. So until then, here's to the next batch of future ocean rowers, and to all of the adventurers out there!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

24 Hours in the Old Pueblo... solo!

Alright, I'm going to try to start blogging again. It's certainly been a busy few weeks, but an incredible one at that.

Most of it, as I have said before, have been training for and/or thinking about the 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo. My first solo 24 hour race. Although Jack tried to help me in saying that, "it's just another bike ride," it was my first >10 hour bike ride, and I had paid for this bike ride, so I wanted to do well.

I had ridden some great training rides with Jack, Hannah, Angel, and Zumbala over the last few weeks, and on every one of them, I tried to keep my pace/heart rate at what I wanted for HOP, and kept my mind trained on what I had to do to keep going. That said, I never did a 24 hour training ride, and I really had no idea what to expect.

So, when Jack and I rode down to the course on Friday night, I was definitely nervous. We met up with the team, who had set up an amazing camp full of space heaters and lots of food, and then hauled the bikes out of the back of the camper and set up our own little world in 24 Hour Town. The camper is absolutely perfect and we enjoyed a great, candlelit meal of pasta and spiced cider sitting in the warmth of the camper while the temperatures dipped below freezing. When we finally went to bed, my mind was torn between enjoying the last bit of respite and worrying about how I was going to fare the next day. The sleep monster finally took over and I slept soundly until the sun came up the next morning.

We awoke to a crystal clear, albeit cold, day and began it by eating everything we could get our hands on in anticipation of the long ride ahead. The morning was spent making last minute adjustments to the bikes, signing in, attending the preride meeting, and some more preride fueling. Before I knew it, the clock had rolled around to 11:30, and it was time to head down to the start.

Even though I knew I had 24 hours to race, my adrenaline was still pumping at the start. The atmosphere of over 600 riders and teams is infectious. I lined up about midpack for the LeMans start, chatting with friends and teammates in the final seconds. When the gun went off, I jogged with the pack for the 1/2 mile to our bikes and then fell into the swarm of riders on the pipeline road. My adrednaline was pumping like crazy, and despite my efforts to keep my heartrate down, I tackled the seven hills affectionately known as "The Bitches" with gusto. By the end of the hills, I was solidly in the middle of the pack and coasted along with the group to the beginning of the singletrack. Even though we were lined up like a giant snake, I was much further ahead in the line than I was last year, and we kept a pretty good pace through the first stretch of singletrack. The weather could not have been more perfect, and the riders around me basked in it while we shared in the great community of endurance mountain bikers. We talked about our previous races and what we thought of the 24 HOP, and how nice it was compared to last year, until at last we came out to the end of the Rattlesnake Trail, wished each other luck, and proceeded at our own paces along the jeep road. We spread out fairly well before we came to the His/Her Trail, but I was still on top of the world and feeling great. I fairly flew through to the Junebug Trail singletrack, and was happy to find that the spots where I had trouble last year didn't even register this year. Before I knew it, I was steadily booking it up the Highline Trail. Again, the hills that had so haunted me last year didn't faze me, and I reached the top in top form before flying down the last section back into camp. After going through the exchange tent for the first time in my solo 24 career, I stopped to suck down a Hammer Gel and got back in the saddle for a second lap.

The field was completely spread out by this time, and I rode the singletrack (first lap skips this part) to the bitches mostly on my own. I got passed a few times and passed a few other riders on the hills, but made it to the end of the first section still feeling great. I had the Corral Trail all to myself, and the combination of the beautiful surroundings including the snow covered mountains to the south, the sunny weather, and the speed with which I was flying, I was really on top of the world. The rest of the lap was spent in the same manner, and I was still overwhelmed with how good I felt even on the last climb. After my second trip through the exchange tent, I sucked down some more Hammer gel and some trail mix before clipping back in and heading out for another.

By the time I reached the bitches for the 3rd time, I was beginning to feel the effects of the previous 35 miles, but I still mashed up them with as much effort as I could. By the time I got to the His/Her Trail, I was visibly tired. My feet were cramping in my shoes and my rear end was starting to complain. I took a short break from the saddle by walking up the hill just before the start of that singletrack, felt better, and pressed on. The Highline Trail was much harder than it had been the first two times, but it felt very good to cruise back down into camp.

After my 3rd lap, I headed back to camp for some awesome pasta compliments of our team, Zumbala, rested a bit, and tried to get in our camper that Hannah had accidently locked shut. About 20 minutes later, Jack returned and broke into the camper via the emergency exit so I could gulp down some hot cider, grab a long sleeve shirt, put my lights on my bike, rest a little bit, and then get back on the trail. The sunset was gorgeous, but the absense of the sun made it cold, and I was definitely not very fresh. I walked several of the bitches to try to stretch out my muscles, and began to push myself mentally. By the time I reached the halfway point of the lap, I was bonking. I started wobbling on my bike on the flat sections, and dropped my gearing down to just stay moving forward. Riders were passing me left and right, and I wasn't even sure I was going to make it. Try as my mind would, it could hardly keep focused on the trail ahead, much less push my body to its best. I was contemplating how far I could make it when a light behind me failed to pass. I yelled back to the rider that they could pass, but the response was,"It's ok, I'll just stay here and stare at your a**." I was so out of it that it took me a few seconds to match the voice as Jack's, but in the instant that I recognized it, my world changed. I had been so focused on my own goal of finishing the lap, that I had forgotten about the rest of the world. We rode together for most of the rest of the lap, talking the whole way, and having my training buddy there really lifted my spirits and allowed me to push a little harder. We went back to camp together where I ate and drank everything I could get my hands on, and took a little nap in the camper. My little nap lasted a bit longer than I would have liked, and Jack went out for his next lap before I got up, but I woke around 1 a.m. feeling much, much better and ready to tackle the world. I hopped back on my bike for Lap #5 with a renewed sense of energy. That's not to say that the lap was easy: I still finished it much slower than my day laps, and by the end of it, I was exhausted again, but I got through it without falling off my bike. I came back to camp for some greatly appreciated hot soup (thanks again Zumbala!), talked to my teammates for a bit, and crawled into my sleeping bag without even talking off my stinky outer layers. Two more hours of sleep later, my stomach was not agreeing with the 24 Hour race format, and I woke up more due to necessity than desire. Since the port-o-johns were down at the lap start, I figured I might as well go back out again after I used them, so as the sun was just beginning to light up the race course, I headed out for #6. By this time, my muscles were shot, but my head was clear with the rising sun. In my rush to get out of the camper before I increased the padding in my biking shorts, I had forgotten my gloves, so my hands froze to my grips while I bombed down the bitches, but I knew that the sun would soon warm them up. I walked up the majority of the bitches, getting words of encouragement from the other tired riders that passed me. Once I finished with the hills, I looked around at my incredible surroundings with the sun reflecting off of the nearby peaks and I smiled in my exhaustion. At that moment, I felt so inspired and so lucky to just be alive in this beautiful day. I fairly flew down the singletrack of the Corral Trail, just basking in the morning. Once the inclines started again, my pace slowed down to what my tired legs could handle, but nothing could touch my mental state. Even when I got to the Highline Trail, I kept my mind focused on the next section of hill, and I was almost surprised to find myself at the top when I arrived. I got checked off for 6 laps at 9 a.m., which left me 3 hours to knock off at least one more lap, so I headed back to camp for an absolutely amazing breakfast of potatoes and eggs. It felt so good to see everyone in the daylight again, and knowing I only had one more lap had me in the clouds. I hung out in camp until about 9:45, giving me 1:15 to complete my last lap in order to come in after the 12 noon finish time. With the warmth of the morning and the excitement of my last lap, I jammed my legs into the pedals to get over the bitches and said happily said goodbye to them for another year. I spent the rest of the lap on an adrenaline high, so very happy to be completing my first solo 24 hour race. With reserves of energy that I didn't even know I had, I bombed up the last hills, bunny-hopped over the rocky section at the top of the hill, and cruised into camp as fast as I had during the first lap. I made it back to the end of the lap in 2:05, 10 minutes faster than I had anticipated, so I pulled off the trail with some other riders and waited for the clock to roll over to noon (if you come in before 12, you have to do another lap or be counted as DNF). Hannah came in about 5 minutes into my wait, so we made our way to the exchange tent and crossed at 12:03 p.m. 24 hours and 3 minutes after I started.

I had completed my first 24 Hour Solo mountain bike race. 7 laps, and 119 miles. Success!

We headed back to camp for a celebratory chocolate milk for me and Coke for Hannah, and Jack rolled in shortly after for his post-race beer. We all ended up doing very well. Hannah's 4-woman Zumbala team took 7th of 15, Jack and B.J. took 23rd of about 60, and I took 10th of 20. Overall, I was stoked to have just finished, and now that I know what to expect, I can't wait to improve. Keep posted for the next one!

Friday, January 30, 2009

Ok, so maybe not quite...

Well, I said that I was back, and although I really am back to the ol' grind here in Arizona, my blog postings have been less than stellar, I know.

I have been up to quite a few things with adventures, training for the 24 Hours in Old Pueblo, my research, teaching, and preparing for my comprehensive exams. Most of the fun things that I've been up to can be viewed on my Picasa site, otherwise I hope to REALLY be back to regularly scheduled blog posts in the next week or so.

Thanks for your patience, have a great weekend, and Go Cards!