Tuesday, August 4, 2015

A Change of Pace

An occasion arose yesterday that required me to bring all five kids to Seattle. Now, I love going to the big city every now and then to take in the sights and sounds and even to smell the air...salty sea, mixed with yummy foods, tainted by the exhaust of traffic, but never did I think taking five kids to the bustling city by myself could be found anywhere on a scale of fun.

What I did find, however, is that not only taking kids to the city really was a lot of fun but that it wasn't all that different from taking them hiking in the mountains. 

It's a good idea to hold hands. To thoroughly enjoy the experience one must do a lot of walking!

Both have a way of letting you feel the beauty of insignificance.

You can find waterfalls in the mountains....as well as in the city. Both places give your legs a good workout!

Both off opportunities to practice your balance, and to climb like monkeys all over stuff.

Lots of opportunities to observe wildlife!

Both have signs to important places....

There are of course, some things that would never be seen in nature, and these things are what make the city a fun change of pace for us:

The Hammering Man stands tall outside of the Seattle Art Museum (SAM)

From top, clockwise: In from of Pikes Place Market, the biggest pizza we've ever seen, Ben showing his love of pigs, Isabelle excited for the Seahawks in front of the 'Clink' and again, Ben loves pigs.
And, of course, this is something you should never see while hiking in the mountains....but should check out while scoping out the city!!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Lesson taught, lesson learned.

“Life provides ample opportunity to test our mettle. When circumstances call for it, let’s give ourselves a break and ask for help.” 

Moments that teach my children valuable lessons are usually moments that come at a somewhat painful cost. Like today for instance, two of my boys went out riding their bikes barefooted. I told them to put shoes on but they only really learned the lesson after they both hobbled home with scrapes on the bottom of one foot. Before I even had to remind them that "I told you....," they were saying "I know, I know".

When I have opportunities to teach my children things they will need to know, I prefer to make the most of them rather than let the moment be wasted. Well, I had the "opportunity", the other day, to teach Samuel how to change a tire on a car. It's a lesson that I would prefer their dad teach them, but I don't know if that "teaching opportunity" would present itself with him so I felt the burden had fallen on me.  

To start off the day, I began to make breakfast but was short something (I can't even remember what it was now) and when I started to back out of our driveway, I noticed it felt and sounded different. I got out to look around and saw right away that the back, passenger-side tire was completely flat. "Ugh." 

So I headed back inside the house to call Kia's roadside assistance hotline but stopped myself short when I understood I was presented the perfect opportunity to teach Samuel something he would someday need to know. The weather, though quite warm, wasn't wet and we were at our own home. These circumstances beat being stranded on a busy freeway in the pouring rain. So, yes, I decided to show my oldest son how to change a tire (then maybe next time I wouldn't HAVE to be in the equation at all)

Some of the steps I had to learn as I taught, like how to lower the spare from underneath the van, and where exactly to jack the van up from. Did I say it was "quite warm"? What I meant is it was pretty DANG HOT!! By the time we got the hang of the jack apparatus, we were both dripping sweat and frustrated for no other fact than that it was SO DANG HOT! We made sure to loosen the lug nuts in the right order, but not all the way until it was ready to come off.

"Phew!!" Flat tire off. We noticed a large piece of metal (bigger than a nail or screw) lodged in the tire tread. That explained it. Now to put the spare tire on. I read in the manual that the tire went on "Bevelled side out". What the HECK did that mean? Bevelled....who says that?!! I had no idea what bevelled meant in regards to a tire.....so I guessed.

We managed to get the tire on, screw on the lug nuts, lower the van....then, and ONLY then, we noticed the tire stuck out a good four inches farther than the other normal tires. "That does not look right." I told Samuel. We were worn out on account of the heat and filthy from the dirty tire, but the reality sadly sunk in and we knew we would have to take this tire off and turn it around. Before jacking the van back up I tried loosening the lug nuts. All but one loosened right up. One was being stubborn, it acted like the child who, upon not getting the exact piece of dessert he wanted decides to fold his arms and plant himself in the middle of the floor instead of heading off to the bathtub. NOTHING I did worked in moving this stubborn piece of metal. I tried one last time. We attached the lug wrench, I stepped up on it, jumped, and "FLOOSH!!" it was off, I was down.

I knew instantly that something was wrong. The nut had flung off the wheel and part of the bolt was now lodged in the nut...broken off of the vehicle. Upon realizing this, I sat down in exhaustion and felt tears well up. I didn't want Sam to see me so worked up so I abandoned the project and left for the house. After regaining my composure, I called the Kia Roadside Assistance hotline and they suggested that I get it towed to a shop. They asked what dealership I wanted them to tow the van to; the one five miles away or the one I got the van from, 16 miles away. Although, I would've preferred them take it to the farther one, I was too exasperated to care and simply told them, "Whatever's closest."

Long story short, my dad came over, the van got towed, they couldn't get to it that night, as they suggested, we went to the dealership for a loaner car, they didn't have one, the next day they told me the tire was unfixable and for a new tire and labor it would cost me $144. I called Dad, Dad called dealership, yelled at them, we went and got the van, took it to trusted dealership and they fixed it all for $20. What should've taken half an hour turned into a two day affair.

So, yes, a teaching opportunity arose. I took it. Sam learned to changed a tire but the real lesson was one I learned: Ask for help.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

First Vacation Race Under my Belt

Yes, it's been awhile since my last post. From finishing up the school year to moving into a new house to driving to Yellowstone and back, we haven't been without activity around here. The summer is in full swing and it is hotter than ever in the Pacific Northwest! However, much has been accomplished and now, I feel, is a good time to get back into writing. Since my last post was about preparing for the Yellowstone Half Marathon, I will start with an update on how that went.

"The best laid plans of mice and men often go astray" says Robert Burns. That quote is as true as could be regarding training for the race. For six months from January to June I stuck to a restricted no sugar diet. Not only no sugar, but no foods that act like sugar; potatoes, bread, anything with wheat, oats, corn. I don't know how it happened really but I stuck to it and didn't even find it difficult. Then, came the road trip to Yellowstone, and candy and other junk found it's way into my mouth and since then, I can't beat the addiction!! What does this have to do with running the race? It's to point out my state of being the week leading up to running 13.1 miles.

I had been eating like Cr@P and sitting in a van for many hours a day. But even much before that, months, in fact, I could not bring myself to train. The thought of running was as far as I could go. There was ALWAYS something better to do and it often involved doing nothing. I should say it involved relaxing, which, to me, is doing something. It's not that I was lazy. I was working full time, and then coming home with my five children and running was a hurdle I couldn't force myself to jump. I seriously ran maybe once every two weeks....max!! For a month I took a few rowing classes, so I wasn't exactly sedentary, but in reality for months leading up to June 13th, 2015 I didn't train to run a half marathon at all.

So after driving a day and a half we got to Glacier National Park and camped for two nights. Then we drove all day and arrived in West Yellowstone on June 10th. We ate, met up with my folks and my sister and brother-in-law, ate, saw hundreds of buffalo, ate, saw many wondrous geysers and hot springs, ate, sat around a campfire, ate....you get the picture.

June 13th rolls around and it's race day!! The night before I laid out my running clothes, wireless headphones, socks, shoes and hat so I would only have to roll out of bed, get dressed and go. At this point we were staying in a very nice cabin and my mom and dad together with my sister, Emily and her family were staying at another.  Mom and Emily picked me up and we went together into town where the race was set to begin.

I was mentally prepared for this race in spite of my lack of preparation and fear had no hold on me. Maybe it was ignorance that allowed me to have that mind set, I've never ran a half marathon before, in fact, I've never ran farther than 5 miles at one time and I really didn't know what to expect. All I knew is I have a stubborn disposition and if stubbornness alone is what it takes, then I was all set!

I got my racing bib, the timing chip that went on my shoe to accurately calculate my time and my race shirt. I checked my sweatshirt and wallet at a gear check table and then turned on my prepared playlist of running music. If nothing else, songs the like of, 'Eye of the Tiger', 'Rolling in the Deep, and 'Moves Like Jagger' could keep me moving. One thing I forgot, however, was to charge my wireless blue tooth headphones....so now I had no music. Stubbornness, alone, would have to do.

Due to the large number of people (okay, really due to my lack of experience and maybe a little bit of "blonde" tendencies) I lined up ready to go....in the wrong direction. I was getting in line toward what I assumed was the rear of the line where you are supposed to be if you consider yourself a slower runner but I was confused by the pacer numbers. Why are the shorter times toward the back? It was Emily who ended up helping me get my bearings straight.

The National Anthem was sung. The gun fired. We started out slow, simply trying not to bump into anybody. The crowd slowly began to disperse and I found a man carrying a full-sized American flag in honor of our country's vets. He was running the race and I figured I could keep up with an old man carrying a flag...on a pole. I stayed directly behind him for awhile. Before I knew it we came to the first tall vertical flag that announced what mile we were on. Mile 3. I was in disbelief! Was it really already three miles?  Three miles at home was almost quittin' time. My energy soared at this point. The mental boost was bestowed at that 3 mile mark and I knew then and there that I would do this just fine.

At mile 4 we had the first opportunity to get water and honey packets. It was the first time I stopped running and it was good to catch my breath, but only for a second. At this point I lost track of the flag carrying vet and had to find someone else to "try to beat". As long as I had someone I thought of as my competitor,  I had a reason to keep running. "I can't let her beat me!" This time it was Supermom, running while pushing her toddler in a stroller. There was no way my pride would allow myself to slow down now.

Miles 5-7 were uphill and nearly everyone around me began to walk, as well as myself. It was getting quite warm and my lungs were glad for the break. Walking uphill is the same as hiking....that, I was used to. Before long the path straightened out and I picked up my pace (only because Supermom kept trying to pass me up). The scenery was lightly forested, a small river meandered down it's rocky path on my right. At one point I realized the pacer carrying the 02:30 time was nearby. I was stunned. I had told mom and Emily to be back in three hours to cheer me to the finish line. Now I began to think I would beat them there.

I was grateful for the cold water at mile 9 and took extra time drinking from the rubbery clip on cup that all the racers wore in order to prevent litter. In that extra time Supermom passed me up and I began to look for another competitor. I found that in a pretty twenty-something Asian girl. No way is SHE going to beat me! Without even knowing it, she motivated me for the next three miles, until I came upon Supermom again. Seeing the mile 12 flag excited me the most. Almost there!! Yet, so exhausted. My heart and lungs never struggled with the thin, high elevation air as we were running at least at 6600 ft. elevation, but my legs began to feel like lead.

There were people along the way, Boy Scout troops, Girl Scout troops, volunteers, and locals who lined parts of the course to cheer on the runners, they will never know how their words of encouragement helped me that day. When I saw the 13 mile banner my heart skipped a precious beat. I could hear the crowd cheering and a voice on a speaker, but couldn't make out words. A tenth of a mile ahead I could see cars, flags, people, tents...I was so close. I picked up my pace in order to finish strong. I had to convince my legs that they could, and would move, like it or not. Asian girl and Supermom were not in sight but I was pretty sure I was ahead of them as I couldn't recall them passing me up.

A wave of emotion came over me as I could see the end. It was an incredible sense of accomplishment mixed with relief. I tried to sprint to the finish line because isn't that what you are supposed to do? When I watched the video of me crossing the finish line that was posted online in the following weeks I looked pretty goofy, like a child running to it's mother, arms flailing in all directions grinning from ear to ear. But oh, what a feeling!!

I did it. I beat my family who showed up ten minutes later to watch me finish, but the pride in my children's' expressions were priceless. My time: 2 hours 39 minutes.

I wore my medal with pride. I wasn't racing an American vet, or Asian girl or Supermom, I was racing myself, and I won.

P.S. The next day I think I discovered the real reason for training. I could barely move! My legs were revolting with pain and my digestive track was screaming at me as I was driving for 10 hours to Boise, ID.  I'll say no more.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Training Log 2/28/15

The weather was so beautiful yesterday that nothing I could say to myself could justify not going for a run. I didn't even try. Good weather is never taken for granted around Western Washington and any day you can see a blue sky is a day to be outside. So the kids got Papa to pump up their bike tires and I put on my running shoes.

On one shoe I wear the Spark Tracker from Sparkpeople.com which tracks how many steps I've taken, length and type of activity and calories burned. As silly as it seems, it's a great motivator and has helped push me on when I have had the burning desire to fall down flat on the ground and give up.

Samuel and Benjamin led the way as I walked/jogged/ran next to Cecelia on her too-small-for-her bike with training wheels (Hunter and Izzy were staying the night at friends houses). Cece wore a fancy dress-up vest over a frilly shirt with leggings and fuzzy boots. On her back she carried a backpack filled with stuffed animals. Her hair stuck out in all directions due to her two-day-old braids. Hey, it was Saturday morning, anything goes. Half-way to the park she stopped in the middle of the road and decided she was done. So the rest of the way I had to jog along side her motivating and occasionally pushing her onward.

When we reached the park, I put Samuel in charge of Ben and Cecelia and I began to run the 1/3 mile track.  It was a narrow gravel track that traced the outline of a large field, then swerved around the play area through some tall evergreens. It was nice to get lost in my music and feel the sun on my face. I didn't have a specific mileage that I wanted to accomplish but I knew it wouldn't be less than two miles. At two miles, Cecelia had to use the restroom, so that decided it was time to go....I was ready.

It ended up that Cece had a burst of energy for the bike ride back home (which was probably about half a mile) so I ended up jogging that distance as well. We stopped at Nana's on the way back home. As was expected she refueled the kids with cookies and Pop Tarts and gave me a bottle of water. The best part of the day was getting to visit with her.

To sum up my run on 2/28/15:

2.5 miles
Not sure how long....
Felt great the whole time, I am slowly building endurance.

My motivating thought for the day.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Half Marathon Training - Week 1

Training to run a 13.1 mile race at high elevation began in my mind. It had to, my body wasn't ready to get up and move. I love to relax on the couch once the kids go to bed, sometimes it's the first time I get to sit down and not think all day long. So I read how to train for a half-marathon. I looked at a map of the course, I watched videos on Youtube about proper running techniques, you name it...I put off the actual training part for as long as I could.

Then at the beginning of this week I got an email with a training plan for this specific race. I could put it off no longer. Do I enjoy running? Not really. Why, then, would I put myself through the torture of running so far for no apparent reason? The answer is this: while I don't particularly enjoy the actual act of running, I love the feeling you get after you are done. I hate the gym, riding a bike isn't my thing, I'm not the best swimmer, so I needed an activity that fit my life.

Hiking will always be my exercise of choice, for one, I don't even consider it exercise. I enjoy every aspect of it, not just the feeling of accomplishment at the end. But hiking everyday isn't an option with my busy life. Running puts me in the outdoors, but can be accomplished on a treadmill if the weather is nasty or if it is dark out, so it is choice #2. One interesting thing I just thought of; I am a scaredy cat to run on the streets in the dark....and I probably should be, but while hiking alone, in the dark on the Wonderland Trail, I didn't feel fear.  People scare me much more than nature. ANYWAY....

I want to keep a log of my training and by doing so here I will be held accountable when my body would rather be glued to the couch. I will track my mileage, my time, my perceived exertion and whatever else runners tend to track. As you've probably guessed, I'm not much of an athlete, but I have the desire to be healthy. I want to set a good example of not only a healthy lifestyle for my children, but that if you set a goal, you see it through.

Today's run:

2 miles
25 minutes
wanted to stop after 10 mins

On a side note, iTunes Radio has a cruel sense of humor. Around 7 minutes into my run the music on my headphones cut out and a commercial for a Burger King Whopper came on describing in all it's juicy goodness why it's the best burger out there. Mmmmmm! Must. Keep. Running.....

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

"I Want You To Do This." -God

The older I get the more and more I realize that everything happens at the right moment for the right reasons. God's plan for our lives are better than our own, but sometimes, just sometimes, our plans coincide with God's plans and everything syncs the way you want them to. This is happening to me right now.

I have always desired to visit Yellowstone National Park, and for awhile I have wanted to run a Half Marathon race. 'Lack' has always prevented me from both; lack of money or lack of time or lack of energy. But I have erased 'Lack' from my life this year and exchanged it for 'Resolve'. I will resolve to save money for the trip, I will resolve to make the time, and I will resolve to do what it takes to train for the race.

The best thing 'Lack' ever did for me is prevent me from ever having made this trip without my children. I am so excited to be able to experience one of the world's Natural Wonders for the first with them as they also experience it for the first time.

How things are falling into place being orchestrated by the Creator of all good things:

  • I was looking on Pinterest and saw something about a race in Yellowstone. I looked up the website, liked what I saw and impulsively registered right then and there. I figured I would work the details out in time.
  • Then, since I hadn't been planning on running a race this year and have been rather couch potato-ish lacking in exercise, I looked up how to train for a half-marathon. Everywhere I looked said to give yourself 16 weeks of preparations. It is 17 weeks until the race.
  • Tax season gave me a return that would fund the entire trip.
  • Within days I had at least one of my sisters (hopefully more) and a brother-in-law on board to come with. Now I have someone to be with the kids while I am running.
  • Also, within days, reservations were made for a cabin for myself and the kids near Yellowstone and also for two nights at a campground in Glacier National Park. 
The kids and I are beyond excited! 

Oftentimes, an impulsive act can get you in trouble, especially if trying to do what you want to do  brings nothing but heartache,  but sometimes an impulsive act is nothing less than God tapping you on the shoulder and saying..."I want you to do this!" 

"Nature is the artwork of God"

Monday, December 8, 2014

Adventures in Wonderland: Solo Trip, Final Day

“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.” 

I woke pretty early the next morning, or maybe I never went to sleep, I'm not sure. I know for sure I listened to the rain pour on my tent hour after hour and wondered how long it would take before I simply floated down the mountain side. Several times an ominous drip fell onto my face when my over-saturated tent just simply couldn't keep another drop from falling inside. As soon as the light of day overtook the soggy darkness of night I decided the best thing would be to brave the inescapable wetness and get the rest of my journey over with.

It was going to be a short day, only four miles, and for that I was extremely grateful. The last two miles would be in familiar territory as I headed closer to Sunrise where my van was parked, and where I had hiked so frequently over the last couple of summers.

The rain continued as I packed up camp. My bag was heavier than ever, and I had to completely surrender to the fact that I was just going to be hiking wet. There was no other choice. There is something to be said for the peace that comes when you surrender yourself to circumstances that are out of your control. Once I did just that, I can honestly say that despite the cold and wet conditions I truly enjoyed my final stretch on the Wonderland Trail.

From Granite Creek Camp I made my way through the dripping and foggy woods to the silent meadows. The sound of my feet on the muddy path was the only sound that could be heard. The wildflowers bowed down to the weight of the rain and everything was green. The positive aspect of hiking in the rain is there was not a bug in sight. No mosquitos looking for a hot meal, no bees flying circles around my head.

A little over a mile from camp I reached the ridgeline that I had been ascending to since I started out that morning. I couldn't see Rainier's summit due to the fog, but the views where breathtaking nonetheless. There was a stillness that was unlike anything you experience at home. The clouds morphed slowly over the surrounding hills giving me glimpses of distant peaks. I felt like I was in the  Lord of the Rings movies with the sweeping views of treeless, green panoramas with rocky outcroppings dotting the landscape. It was beautiful, it was all mine.

Before I knew it, I found myself at a familiar crossroads. The Wonderland Trail came to a point that met up with at least four other possible trails. Walking up to that spot I could finally say that I had hiked every trail that broke off at that one point. As I stood there memories of former hikes flooded my soul; my treasured solo hike to the Burrough's Mountains, the hike with beloved friends up to Fremont Lookout, the hike with my children to Frozen Lake and I remembered clearly the day only a month prior that I stood in the same spot with a terrible dread in my heart wondering where my ten year old could be. The day that fog covered the mountain and Hunter, along with two sons of a friend, disappeared as they hiked ahead of us. For three hours we searched, we yelled, we split up and gathered as many people to help us search as possible. For those three long hours in weather even worse than that which I found myself then I prayed, I begged all the angels on that mountain to keep them safe. They did, he was found only moments before a full on search was organized.

I continued hiking, happy that I knew exactly how far I had to go. I knew this part of the trail so well, every rock was familiar, every turn predictable. I passed the large rock that I huddled behind with Samuel and my niece, Ava as we tried to keep the biting wind from passing through our clothes and into our bones the day Hunter went missing. The memory of that day stayed with me for the rest of my trip. The feelings I experienced then, flooded my mind as my feet squished in my wet socks. I was so excited to be almost done! About a mile to my van, I began to be throughly chilled. My body shivered in an attempt to keep warm, but being soaking wet from head to toe, it seemed an impossibility.

I saw human beings for the first time that day only fifteen minutes from my van. It was a husband and wife and they had just begun their hike. As I past them I overheard them talking about how they had forgotten their camera and the wife was telling her husband he needed to go back and get it. All I could think was, 'For crying out loud, who hikes in the rain for fun!!?' I couldn't decide who I felt worse for, the man who had to retrace his steps in the rain or the woman who had to stand and wait. I hadn't even thought about taking pictures that day, and for that reason I don't have a single photograph of my journey that day.

Finally, I reached the last stretch, the 'staircase' of rock and gravel that led down to Sunrise Visitor Center. The end was in sight! I began to quicken my pace, I'm not sure you could call it a run with my wet clothes, my heavy pack and my blistered feet but I felt like I was flying! As I reached the parking lot, I used the restroom and headed to my van praying that it's battery wasn't dead. Anyone who knows me, knows that it would not be a bit of a surprise if something went wrong before I got home, it's just my luck, it always has been.

The sight of my headlights blinking when I pushed the button to unlock my van told me everything was okay. I breathed a sigh of relief, started up the van and turned on the heat as high as it would go.  A white plastic trash bag filled with clothes waiting to be taken to the Goodwill was in my trunk and I dug through it to find some dry clothes to change into. As I drove off the mountain at 9:10 AM wearing pink fleece pajama bottoms with penguins all over them and a stained oversized Seahawks T-shirt with no shoes or socks I thanked the good Lord for keeping me safe. I thanked Him for the beauty of His creation that I was allowed to share in.

Stuck in a dorky smile that could not be erased, with matted, wet hair and wind burnt red cheeks I was on cloud nine. I completed what I had set out to do just over a year ago.

         "...If you can dream - and not make dreams you master;
             If you can think - and not make thoughts you aim;
             If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
            And treat those two impostors just the same; "

Triumph and Disaster; sunny days and thunderstorms, there is beauty in it all. I have learned to never let the difficult moments in life negate the precious moments and to appreciate the great moments for what they are; glimpses of Heaven. Tiny glimpses of Heaven is what I saw on the trail that took me on a circular journey of 93 miles around Mount Rainier. Where will I see Heaven next? In the smiles of my children? In the laughter of a friend? Yes. Everyday I will try to see the foretaste of that Paradise which we were all made for.