Sunday, August 4, 2013

Up and Around and Back Again! [NM & CO]

32 days. 32 crazy days full of adventure, of pushing limits, of exploring new places, of living life to the fullest. 32 days alongside my mister with no expectations other than to get in there. Our summer was cut in half because of grad school commitments, but we made up for that once we were able to hit the road.

We finished up a course in the History and Philosophy of Education on June 26 and were on the road by 9AM on the 27th. There was no holding us back. We had places to be (well, not really, but the idea of taking seven days to make it to Nebraska as opposed to one was too much to ask for) and sights that we wanted to see on our way there.

Our road trip began with a visit to Aztec Ruins National Monument in northern New Mexico. We learned that these ruins are neither of the Aztec persuasion, nor are they considered ruins by the Puebloan people or the Navajo who later inhabited the area. Rather, they are a home to the spirits of those who once lived there. Shortly thereafter we crossed the state line and said good-bye to New Mexico and hello to colorful Colorado.
Aztec Ruins National Monument

We buzzed through Durango and picked up a couple of things at the visitor center (and checked to make sure we weren't going to encounter any road closures due to fire) before heading north to Silverton. The sights were amazing - forests and water seem to be in abundance as soon as you leave New Mexico and we soaked it in. 

At one mountain pass we couldn't take it any longer and climbed out of the car to enjoy an overlook. That overlook led us to a trail, which led us to an exploration of trails leading up Engineer Mountain, through wildflowers taller than Chris, and eventually into afternoon thunderstorms. Having spent plenty of time in storms, we decided to turn around when we saw our first bolt of lightning in the distance and got in some trail running on our way back to the car.
Tarah Running
Chris Running (This one is especially great if you zoom in!)

We made it off of the mountain safely and then drove into Silverton. We wandered around town and checked out the train depot before heading into the national forest for some free camping. We ended day one of 32 with cans of beans and some bread followed by a sunset hike up to a high meadow lake. We crossed over rivers, found ourselves embraced in a warm red light that covered the mountain after the sun went down, and eventually found our way back to our trusty tent.
Red-tinted Skies in Colorado

The next morning we worked our way north on the million dollar highway between Silverton and Ouray. It was incredible (especially at 7AM when hardly anyone was on the road). We stopped at a small pullout before Ouray and were blessed with the sight of a majestic waterfall that we didn't even know that we had crossed over. A little further down the road we pulled over for good to try our hand at high altitude hiking on the Bear Creek National Scenic Trail.
Rim Hiking on Bear Creek Trail
Rock Hopping on Bear Creek Trail
We picked our way through shale fields as we made a quick ascent, and then we kept right on climbing. I pushed as hard as I could and still my feet did not want to leave the ground. As we wound our way along cliffside trails we were granted more views of the previously mentioned waterfall, the river that it came from, and the mountain streams that fed into that river. We passed old mining camps, rock hopped across some streams, encountered a porcupine eating lunch, and continued climbing until we lost the trail about a mile before coming out at Engineer Pass. Feeling exhausted, I did not have the energy to search for the trail and so we turned around and made our way down. Each step was remarkably easier than the previous and it felt like a weight was being lifted off of my shoulders (or lungs, rather). 
Grizzly Bear Mine (Bear Creek Trail)
After returning to the car we drove through Ouray and made our way further north to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. We drove around the canyon rim and admired the beauty of nature. We paid for a night of camping in the park so that we could get an early start on a hike down into the canyon. The next morning we got our early start, but the descent freaked me out a little (okay, a lot), so we turned back and did a more moderate hike on top of the canyon before heading east toward Grand Junction and Colorado National Monument.
Black Canyon of the Gunnison
We were unsure of what to expect of Colorado National Monument, but we were pleasantly surprised. From the forests of the Rocky Mountains we found ourselves thrust back into our desert landscape. The red rocks had me in awe, and then I realized that we live amongst the same types of formations. We hiked the old monument road, the serpent trail, which was once one of the curviest roads in the United States. We drove along the park road and observed a canyon that was vastly different from that which we had been at in the morning. Instead of dark striated rock, we had a painted desert of rich reds, golds, and oranges in front of us. Monuments reached for the sky and we roasted under the sun. That night we hiked to the base of one of the monuments and camped out under the stars (and a couple of climbers that had begun their ascent of the monument at dusk). With the exception of some noisy night hikers that came through the trail junction in the middle of the night, we had a peaceful desert sleep.
Our Camp Was Surrounded By Monuments
The following morning we drove east to Boulder where we got some much needed sibling time. We stayed with Sarah and James for a couple of nights and spent our time in town exploring trails, eating good food, and observing the oddities that exist on Pearl Street. We made it to Chataqua Municipal Park where we climbed Green Mountain (a goal of Chris's for the summer trip) and did a little more trail running.
Wildflowers Were Abundant 
Our Colorado visit ended with a trip to Red Rocks Amphitheater and Dinosaur Ridge. Both places were incredible for different reasons. We hiked around, took in the sights, and learned a little more about the geological and archeological history of the area. In the early afternoon we had to call our short stay to an end and we drove north into Nebraska where the next phase of our summer adventure took place.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Moab's Red Hot 55K

Last weekend, Tarah and I took advantage of a semi-long weekend (no classes on Monday, but parent/teacher conferences) to head up to Moab for some racing and hiking. We would have preferred to be in sunny Florida or Nicaragua for the weekend, but Moab was still a great escape.
We made the four and a half hour drive on Friday after school and got to our super nice hotel (no really) about 9:00. The race didn't begin until 8:00 the next morning, but I needed to pick up my packet closer to 6:45 so we were up early by most people's standards, but for us it meant sleeping in about an hour later than normal. So after a delicious hot breakfast at the hotel we headed to the trailhead and race start just outside of Arches and Canyonlands National Parks.
While we were waiting around for the start we met a couple from Colorado and chatted them up for a bit and Tarah ended up hiking with the Maggie in Arches while us guys "raced" (well, Daniel raced to seventh place, I survived). 
The race started and I had again positioned myself way too far back in the pack. As we started our ascent up the the mesa I quickly passed people and settled into a nice pace. The weather was perfect and the course was beautiful. I cruised along the trails at a nice clip until the second aid station at around 13 miles. I hit the half marathon point in a little over 2 hours, shooting for a sub-six finishing time and then my race fell apart.
My shin/IT band/knee hadn't been feeling great leading up to the race, but I had rested and I felt great for the first third of the race, but the last 20+ miles were horrible. Every other step was excruciating, it felt like someone was putting a knife in my knee. On any terrain that was flat or downhill I couldn't manage much more than a hobbling shuffle, however anytime the course went up hill my leg didn't bother me and I could climb like a champ. At the first onset of the pain I tried some yoga breathing to try and alleviate the discomfort and that seemed to help, though it may have just been that I focusing so much on my controlled breathing that I wasn't focussing as much on the pain. I stopped a few times to massage my calf and shin and do some stretching (I'm sure some runners were shocked to come around a corner and see me standing on one foot hugging my leg into my chest), but it was all to no avail.
I contemplated dropping, but I didn't have anything better to do than hike in a truly incredible setting, so I soldiered on. At about a marathon, we hit a rolling section of trail and I yo-yoed with few runners blowing past them on the climbs and getting passed on the descents. Every time someone huffed and puffed past me I wanted to shout "But I'm not even tired, and my legs feel great, I just can't bend my knee." It was really frustrating to be passed by runners that I knew I was better than, but I knew it wasn't meant to be that day. Perhaps February just isn't my month for ultras.
With about a mile to go I finished the final climb of the day and a course marshall, trying to be optimistic, told me it was all downhill to the finish and I cringed. I ended up passing at least one other runner in that section and was meet by Tarah a few hundred feet from the finish line. About seven and half hours after I started I crossed the finish line.
We hung out at the finish for awards, I ate some soup, drank some cola, and talked to Dakota a bit about the race he's directing in the San Juan Mountains. We caught a shuttle to the car, went back to the hotel to clean up a bit, ate delicious pizza and calzones at Eddie McStiff's, and then relaxed in the hot tub with about ten barely supervised kiddos.
The next day I ate a huge breakfast (eggs, gourmet salsa, hash browns, sausage gravy, bacon, sausage, french toast,  and hot chocolate - seriously, when in Moab stay at Aarchway Inn), Tarah ate a good breakfast and we headed to Arches National Park for a little hiking. The area around Gallup is pretty beautiful, but Moab is absolutely gorgeous. We hiked around in Devil's Garden and I decided to do my hiking barefoot, despite the freezing temperatures and snowy/icy trails. Other than a few areas of sharp, crusty ice the walk was great, and the expressions on people's faces and their comments when they thought we were out of earshot were awesome. We ended up taking the primitive trail back from Double O Arch and Tarah got her cardio workout in on some fear-inducing sections. On one particularly sketchy spot that Tarah had thankfully already traversed, I did a semi-controlled fall/slide on the slick rock down to the trail about twenty below. If Tarah had been behind me, we probably would have had to call in a helicopter to get us since we had another super sketchy section behind us. I came out unscathed and we finished our adventure as the trails were starting to fill up.
We're looking forward to getting back to Moab during the first part of our spring break in April before heading to the mountains outside of ABQ for another ultra.

The view at the start

Finishing up

Trailhead and trail guardians

Barefootin' it

Probably the second most famous arch in the park - Landscape Arch

Fair warning

Feeling great going up
At Black Arch overlook

The primitive trail

Heading back to the car

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

twenty twelve running recap

Last year I set a goal of running 300+ hours from January 1 to December 31, but unfortunately I didn't come anywhere close to that number. Apparently moving to a new country, becoming a teacher and starting graduate school take a lot of time and energy.
Despite not logging as many hours as I had hoped, I logged a bunch of very awesome hours, in a bunch very awesome places, with a bunch of very awesome people.

In 2012, I ran in the jungles of Costa Rica and Nicaragua, I climbed (and descended) two volcanoes on Isla Ometepe, I ran to and from a not so nearby village in the campo to raise funds for disaster relief, I ran to the highest point of Costa Rica (12,533 ft.) (and some other nearby peaks), I ran a 50 miler in our tico county two days before saying hasta luego al pais y nuestos amigos, I ran in the deserts of New Mexico, the forests of North Carolina, and the streets of my home town, I ran in Rocky Mountain National Park, I ran "A Real Mountain Race" put on by a legend, I ran into the pages of TrailRunner magazine, I ran my first half-marathon(s), I ran on roads, I ran on "roads," I ran on trails, I ran on "trails," I ran in cow pastures, I ran in brutal heat, I ran in freezing temperatures, I ran in sun, rain, and snow, I ran at dawn and at dusk, I ran with Ticos, Nicas y gringos, I ran with new friends and old friends, I ran with my wife, I ran alone.

In 2013, I don't have a long-term goal, but I want to complete my first hundred mile race, and quite possibly a 24 hour run, I want to traverse Petrified Forest National Park, I want to run up and down the highest point in Gallup (~3 miles with 900' of climb) in under 30 minutes (36:39 is my current best), I want to continue to explore new places and meet new people.

Running in the High Desert

One week later

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

2012 Book Blog

2012 was an interesting one for books. The year started with some great reads in both English and Spanish and then surprisingly our free reading time became almost non-existant as books for grad school were thrown at us as well as all of the delightful stories that get put into the mix as elementary school teachers. We did squeeze out a few pleasurable reads after the school year began, but the book consumption rates that we enjoyed while living in Costa Rica are no longer.        

Chris threw himself at Vonnegut whenever he had a spare moment and we perused the bookshelves at Goodwill to pick up anything that wasn't already in our collection. That being said, his favorite read of the year was not by Vonnegut but instead by McDougall. His number one for 2012 was Born to Run.

In my attempt to escape from our grad school readings I got sucked into The Hunger Games after our professor let me borrow them. I also revisited numerous old favorites and found some treasures on our own bookshelves that had been rescued from numerous yard sales over the summer and then forgotten about. My favorite read of the year though came from the Peace Corps library - Worldwalk topped my list in 2012.

A summary of what was read: 

Non-fiction: 13 (Chris - 12, Tarah - 9)
Spanish: 11 (Chris - 5, Tarah - 9)
Fiction (English only): 26 (Chris - 15, Tarah - 17)
Total Books Read: 50 (Chris - 32, Tarah - 35)   

And the list:

                         The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven - Alexie (C&T)
Lorna Doone - Blackmore (T)
Educational Foundations** - Canestrati (C&T)
Maggie, Una Chica de la Calle* - Crane (T&C)
Catching Fire - Collins (T)
The Hunger Games - Collins (T)
Mockingjay - Collins (T)
The Witches - Dahl (T)
El Dia de la Venganza* - Daniels (T)
Robinson Crusoe - Defoe (C&T)
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao - Díaz (C&T)
Captivating** - Eldridge (T)
El Gran Gatsby* - Fitzgerald (C&T)
First on the Rope - Frison-Roche (C)
Hoja de Aire* - Gutierrez (C)
A Farewell to Arms - Hemingway (C)
The Murder Room - James (T)
The Dharma Bums - Kerouac (C&T)
Fear and Trembling - Kierkegaard (C)
Prodigal Summer - Kingsolver (T)
Where Men Win Glory **- Krakauer (C&T)
A Sand County Almanac** - Leopold (C&T)
Mere Christianity** - Lewis (T&C)
Call of the Wild - London (C)
Young Men and Fire** - Maclean (C)
Siempre dama de honor* - Marsh (T)
Dynamic Social Studies for the Constructivist Classroom** - Maxim (T&C)
Atrapados en el Ayer* - McCusker (T)
Born to Run** - McDougall (T&C)
Un Magnate Aventurero* - McMahon (T)
Moby Dick - Melville (C)
Worldwalk** - Newman (C&T)
Cuentos de amor, de locura y de muerte* - Quiroga (C)
Limon Blues* - Rossi (T)
The Catcher in the Rye - Salinger (C&T)
The Bookseller of Kabul** - Seierstad (T&C)
Juevos Verdes con Jamon* - Seuss (C&T)
The Confusion - Stephenson (T)
Quicksilver - Stephenson (T)
Tormenta Silenciosa* - Stevens (T)
Ana Karenina - Tolstoy (T)
Language Arts: Patterns of Practice** - Tompkins (T&C)
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer - Twain (C&T)
The Indian Frontier of the American West 1846-1890** - Utley (C)
Breakfast of Champions - Vonnegut Jr. (C&T)
Cat's Cradle - Vonnegut (C) 
Deadeye Dick - Vonnegut (C)
God Bless You Mr. Rosewater - Vonnegut (C) 
Hocus Pocus - Vonnegut (C)
Teaching in the Real World** - Zukergood (C&T)
* Spanish
** Nonfiction