Monday, August 25, 2014


I remember reading that word, "processing", as the only caption on a friend's picture of her son as she dropped him off at the airport to begin his missionary service. I remember trying to picture what it would be like to be in the "processing" state.

I found that word an exact description of how I felt yesterday.

Dave and I celebrated our 24th wedding anniversary yesterday by dropping Carson off at college. It wasn't too hard to process or believe that we have been married 24 years. But what is strange is this new phase of life that we find ourselves in. The phase where, if you have done the parenting job correctly, your children are now permanently out of the house. Yes, the kids will return for visits, school breaks, and in Carson's case, every weekend for food and laundry, but that's all. It's weird and I am processing.

But we didn't look too concerned yesterday when I snapped this selfie as we were waiting for Carson to finish his check-in procedure at the dorms

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Spokane to Sandpoint 2014: The Race Report

Wow what an adventure!

The adventure started back in May as I was walking through the Bloomsday trade show. I happened to walk by the Spokane to Sandpoint booth just as the video clip of Totally Tubular (my team last year) was playing on the TV. Memories of the fun times had with that team flooded my mind. I was sad that we couldn't get the team together for this year's S2S, but I wasn't going to let that stop me from running this year's race. So, next thing I know, I am signing up as a "runner looking for a team."

As I was signing up, I didn't actually think there was much of a chance of a team asking me to join their team. Boy was I wrong. About a week later I was contacted by Art, a guy from Issaquah whose team was looking for a runner. My first response was "Ack! what have I done? I don't randomly sign up to run with people I don't know. What was I thinking?" But then I decided "what the heck" and e-mailed Art a series of questions that I hoped would help me decide if I would be a good fit for the team.

These are the questions I asked:
  1. Are you in it for the competition or to have fun?
  2. What are the ages of the other teammates?
  3. Female to male ratio?
  4. What are the paces of the other racers?
  5. Previous relay race experience?
Art was a good sport and answered the questions right away. After I received his response, decided I would be a good fit, and verified that US Department of Awesomeness was registered with the S2S, I mailed in my check and it was on. I was now a member of US Department of Awesomeness. I have to admit that I was still a bit nervous about fitting in with the team, especially since I wouldn't meet them until the night before. But when they walked into the restaurant looking like this
I knew that I was on a team that didn't take itself too seriously and the race was going to be a lot of fun.

So Friday morning I assume my familiar position of "navigator in Van 1"and are our adventure begins. First adventurous moment at the starting line, a guy on another team, who happens to be wearing the same Speedo that the little dude on our shirts is wearing (red, white, blue striped with stars). I will spare you the picture that we took with him at the starting line. I'm still trying to recover from that scarring moment. Next starting line adventure moment, our first runner sees that people are lining up at the starting line so she goes over and as the race gun goes off she starts with the group. But wait! It's only 8 o'clock and our start time is 8:30. We finally get her attention after about a minute to tell her that she has started too early. Talk about a buzz kill, but fortunately she was able to psych herself back up and was ready to rock it when the 8:30 gun went off.

I was runner number 2 and had an 8 mile run. My run was 5 miles of a gentle grade as I finished coming off Mt. Spokane and then 3 miles of mostly flat. That last 5k felt incredibly long and hard. It was a little warm and muggy, but I think the hardest part was just hitting flat ground after running down hill. I managed a 8:07 pace for the 8 miles, but I certainly was glad to reach the exchange point and hand off the baton to the runner 3.

Things stayed pretty adventure-free until runner 4 was about a mile from his exchange point. We were already there waiting for him to come in. We had passed in on the road and he was looking good. His pace was nice and even and he was passing runners. So, as those runners that he had passed began to come in and still no Art, I was beginning to wonder what had happened. Next thing we know, Art is behind us, in the parking lot, saying "Here I am and here's the baton". What?! Some time after we passed him, he had a horrible cramp in his calf and couldn't hardly walk. He was fortunate that another team's van was happening by and could pick him up and bring him to the exchange point.

Runner 5 was off and an adventure-free run. The baton is passed to runner 6 and we think "yes, the home stretch". Now, since I have been in Van 1 on my previous two S2S experiences, I knew that runner 6 had to veer off the road and run a trail across some empty acreage. I had our van stop to make sure she made the trail turn-off; no problems there. We then proceeded to the lane where the trail ends. It's a good thing we stopped because another adventure was about to occur.

The trail T's into a dirt road. For some reason the race organizers did not mark which way to turn off of the trail. Going to the left goes up a hill and is the wrong way. However, going to the right looks like the wrong way because there is a gate across the dirt road and it would be easy to decide there was no way through, although there is a small trail along side the gate.

Our runner was closing distance to the runner ahead of her and just watching that lead runner. We were watching from the end of the lane (about 400 yards away) and cheering her on. But then we had to change our cheers to yelling "Come back! Turn around!" because the lead runner had turned to the left instead of the right and our runner followed right behind her. We continued to yell and caught the attention of a couple of runners who were behind our runner. They also tried to yell up the hill to get our runner and the other runner to turn around. Our runner had slowed down because she thought she had heard us yelling "Turn around, wrong way" but she wasn't sure until she heard the closer runners yelling the same thing. Oiy! She wound up running about an extra 400 yards because of this adventure. (We never did see the lead runner turn around so we have no idea how long it was before she realized she was going the wrong direction).

Finally we make it to the first major exchange and happily hand off the baton to Van 2. Yay! Now time for food, shower, and rest. Or so we thought. We have gone about 5 miles down the road when we receive a phone call from Van 2 asking us to meet them at their next exchange point. They have picked up a stray dog and want us to take care of it. Seriously, people?! We are in a race and you pick up a stray dog? I have to admit that I was a bit annoyed at this disruption in my plan on what Van 1 should be doing. In fairness to Van 2, they thought we could just take the dog back to the major exchange point because Spokanimal was there collecting pet supplies and offering kittens for adoption.

Unfortunately, Spokanimal no longer has animal control licensing so all lost/stray animals must be taken to SCRAPS out in Spokane Valley. So here we go. Instead of heading to my house for a shower, food and rest we are taking this lost dog 30 miles from his home to SCRAPS. It takes about 30 minutes at SCRAPS because the intake officer couldn't decide if the dog was a schnauzer or a wire-haired fox terrier. It was eventually decided that it was a fox terrier and after we received a case number (Art was very concerned about the dog and wasn't ready to leave him without knowing how to find out if the dog made it home), we were on our way again. We made a stop at the grocery store and then eventually made it to my house. I ate and took a shower and was NOT the hostess with the mostest at this point in time. I told people where the bathroom was, had food set out, and then pretty much let them fend for themselves as I took care of myself.

About an hour later it was time to head to the next major exchange point so we could start our second set of run legs. Now, the one good thing about having all of the extra travel time in the van as we were dealing with the dog, was we had time to figure out how we were going to accommodate Art, the runner who could no longer run. It was decided that I would run legs 14 and 15 which would give me just a little over 6 miles. Julie (runner number 3) traded places with Lori (runner number 6) and Lori ran Art's leg 16. Whew, craziness. Of course, Art was super bummed that he couldn't run and probably a bit annoyed at his team for insisting that he sit this one out, but as one of my teammates said "We have to save Art from himself."

Since my leg was going through a section of the Centennial Trail that isn't far from Liberty Lake I had asked a couple of my running friends to join me. Jen was able to join me for Leg 14, which was 3.3 miles. It was so nice to run with her and catch up since we haven't run together all summer. Our original plan was to run 8:45's but once I found out I was running double the distance I asked her to help me keep the pace at about 9's. We hit the exchange point for Leg 15 right about 9's. Dave was able to join me for Leg 15, a 2.8 leg. I finished the whole 6.1 miles in 58 minutes. Initially I was not happy about my final pace (which worked out to be about 9:50), but I later realized that I had stopped for about 1:30 between the two legs to put on my lights, reflective vest and get a few swallows of water to wash down my Gu.

The rest of this set of exchanges was again, adventure-free. We met up with Van 2 in Coeur d'Alene and passed off the baton again. And then we were off to our sleeping place at the next major exchange at Timberlake High School.

This was the first time that I had experienced sleeping at the major exchange point. I was spoiled in my previous S2S races to have a house to crash out and a bed to sleep in. I missed the bed, but what I mostly missed was the dark and quiet. Sleeping in the school with 100 racers was not so quiet although it was dark. I will need to remember an eye mask and ear plugs if I find myself in a race situation like this again. We arrived at Timberlake at about 11:30 and got the wake-up call about 3 a.m. I wish I could say that I got some sleep but mostly I was just lying still with my eyes closed.

Van 2 arrived at the exchange at about 3:30 a.m. and Kristen (runner 1) was off. The rest of us spent a few moments chatting with Van 2 and planning on how to tackle the rest of the race. Art was feeling better, but we were facing our toughest legs yet. He probably wouldn't be able to run the tough 9 mile run that he was scheduled to run. Van 2 was feeling bad that we were facing such a tough situation so it was decided that they would take our final 9.4 miles (giving them 7 legs for the final stretch and us 5; up until this point it had been 6 and 6). That proved to be a very serendipitous decision for our next adventure was just up the road.

We decided we better get on the road and check on Kristen. It was pitch black and the highway doesn't have a very large shoulder. As we are driving we see a runner down. It is clear that the runner is hurt and can't get up. When we get closer we see that it is Kristen. She has stepped off the lip of the shoulder and twisted her ankle quite badly. Ugh. She is almost a mile into her 6 mile run but it is clear that she is done. Art gets his wish. He is going to get to run after all. He finishes up her leg without incident or further cramping and passes the baton on to me for my final 6.01 miles.

Now you might think this would be my worst leg, but it wasn't. I was running in my element. It was early (about 4:30 a.m). It was cool (about 60 degrees). And I had runners to chase after. I passed my first runner after about 5 minutes. That gave me a little confidence boost. I kept my eyes on the blinking red lights on runners ahead of me and just fell into "the zone." It took me another mile or so to pass the next runner. After I passed that runner I could see in the distance a glowing green light. I was like a moth pulled to the flame and that green light beckoned me to come catch it. It took me almost 3 miles to catch that light. But with a little under a mile left I almost caught the lady running with the green light. I say almost because once I was upon her shoulder, she started running again. I said in my mind, with a smirky smile, "That's fine. You go ahead a run. I've been watching you run/walk for the last mile so I know this burst won't last long." And I was right; about 100 yards later she was walking again. This time she didn't have any juice left to start running as I grew close so I was able to pass her. Because I had been so focused on passing that runner I hadn't realized how close to the finish I was and before I knew it I was at the exchange point. I slapped that wrist baton onto Julie and did a little happy dance because I was DONE! I felt a little guilty for being so jubilant about being finished but honestly, I couldn't help it. After running 20 miles in under 24 hours I was happy to say "I'm done" I think running 20 miles this way is more difficult running 20 miles straight for marathon training. It's the starting and stopping, the sitting in a van, and the not stretching that makes it so hard and makes my muscles so stiff.

The rest of our race was adventure-free. We finished about hour slower than our projected finish time, but considering all of the adversity we faced we were pleased with how we did. Would I run S2S again with US Department of Awesomeness? Absolutely. But next year I want to be in Van 2.
Van 1 couldn't let me leave without a group hug

US Department of Awesomeness: still smiling at the end

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Picture Out takes from Summer

Great picture, except Dave's eyes are closed (as expected).

Water break on the hike from St. Joe Lake

A cab-full for sure. Carson isn't visible in the picture, but he is there too.

Ice cream in a bag. Oh, they were squealing like little girls because their hands were so cold.

Fellow GMS employee at the top of Logan Pass. Always strange to run into people you know when you're away from home.

Nobody really wanted their picture taken, except maybe Rich. He has a nice smile.

Went home by way of Butte just so I could pick up the one with her mouth open full of food (also got her big sister and brother)

Another full truck cab.

Carson always brings out the best in me when it is picture time.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

And Now...Glacier Day 2

Since the fishing on day one was a bust, the boys were more agreeable to my wish to just do touristy things. In my mind, touristy things include visiting the visitor center at the top of Logan Pass, hiking the Hidden Lake overlook nature trail, and stopping to take random pictures.

This year's hike to Hidden Lake was a little more adventurous. Usually there is a nice boardwalk to follow all the way to the overlook, but we were there a little earlier in the season and the boardwalk was covered in snow. Matter of fact, it was pretty much just a giant snowfield and people were forging their own trails. It was quite interesting to pick our way across the squishy, slippery snow. But it was worth the trouble as the sights were just as spectacular as I remembered them to be.
One of my favorite sights along this trail...mountain goats

Hidden Lake still covered in ice in places

Monday, August 11, 2014

The Glacier Recap

I love Glacier National Park. It's soaring peaks with waterfalls around every bend are beyond breathtaking. I love the hiking trails and the relative uncrowdedness of the park. But if you are an angler making a bucket list of "must fish" places, don't waste your time adding Glacier to your list. My anglers were pretty disappointed with their fishing experience.

In an effort to find some good fishing we ventured to an area of the park I have never visited before. We went to the Many Glacier area. This is on the northeast side of the park...the plains side and it was interesting just how different it felt compared to the very familiar west side of the park.  In Many Glacier we saw 3 grizzly bears and one of the biggest black bears I have ever seen. I was so surprised to see the bears since in all of my years in visiting Glacier I have never seen a bear in the park. I've seen lots in Yellowstone, but never in Glacier until now.
So the fishing...well the boys decided that Red Rock Lake would be their best bet for finding some fish. We hiked in about 2 miles to the lake. It was a nice easy hike with a well-maintained trail which was a welcome change from the last fishing hike I took. That was up to St. Joe Lake and my knees and shins are still covered in healing scabs from climbing over the many fallen logs that covered the trail.

The boys didn't waste any time in getting in the water and casting out their lines. I think they all had a couple of bites and maybe David actually caught a fish, but in general they didn't think Red Rock lived up to the billing of "decent fishing" as stated in a book Dave had about fishing in Glacier. But the area sure made for some pretty pictures.

My boys enjoying some time together in a glacier-fed lake. BRRR!

After they had their fill of frustration fishing, we headed back to the trailhead where we had left Charlene with Zoe and Josie. We had some lunch and then drove back down the road towards another fishing spot.

I think I have blocked out the name of this fishing area because of the unpleasant experience I had here. Here's the story.

The wind was coming up and Dave was wavering a bit about fishing another spot. Carson really wanted to so he talked Dave and I into renting a canoe to get to the next spot. The boys paddled us across the lake to where a little stream was coming in. We beached the canoe and the boys did a bit of fishing. Carson got a fish on so Dave got out his phone to take a picture. After the photo op, Dave put the phone in his pocket and then started to cross a log that was jutting out into the water to get a good vantage point for his fishing. I told Dave since I wasn't going to be fishing or in the water, I would be happy to hold his phone for him. So he handed me his phone for safekeeping.

We got back into the canoe, I tucked the phone safely away between my waistband and my life jacket, and away we went down the lake towards another little creek. We beached the canoe again. Carson got out first and then it was my turn to get out. I remembered a second too late about the phone that I was supposedly holding for safekeeping. I had already dropped it into the water when I remembered that I had tucked it into my waistband.

I could have died. I felt so bad about dropping Dave's phone into the lake. But props to him, he didn't freak out. He didn't get mad. He just said "You dropped my phone". And darn it, if his reaction didn't make me feel worse. It just showed me, once again, what a gem he truly is.

So we initially thought the phone might have survived (we put it in rice as soon as we got back to camp), but about 4 days later it became apparent that it was probably a goner. Unfortunately we had just upgraded in March and did not purchase insurance for the phone. Ugh! Dave only wants his pictures off the phone so that is my task. To see if I can get the pictures off or if the people at the Apple Store can help me.

More Glacier recap on my next blog post.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

What Happened to July?!

The last 2 weeks of July are a bit of a blur. I had good intentions of doing a great vacation recap but the one week I had to get that done got interrupted with some great "aunty" time.

And then from July 26th through August 1st, I had the opportunity to attend a fabulous School Nurse Leadership Training program. The program was held in New Brunswick, NJ at the Johnson and Johnson Corporate World Headquarters. The training was underwritten by J&J and facilitated by staff from Rutgers University. More about what I experienced and learned in another blog post. Tomorrow I have to finish the Glacier National Park vacation recap and coming home by way of Butte.

A Fishing Tale

I can't move on to the Glacier National Park recap without telling this fishing tale.

Prime fishing holes are well-guarded secrets. It is darn near as impossible to get an angler to share his/her favorite fishing hole as it is to get someone to divulge their huckleberry-ing spot or hunting locale. But that never stops Dave and Carson from asking at whatever local fly shop they happen to be visiting where the hot spot is for fishing. They usually get a lot of hemming and hawing followed by a "Welll, such and such spot is pretty good." Sometimes they'll get adequate directions to the location and other times it is all vague landmarks to use as markers.

While in St. Regis they, of course, stopped into the local fly shop to get the scoop on the hot fishing holes. Imagine their surprise when the kid behind the counter divulged to them where the locals go for some good fishing. The directions involved driving about 10 miles down the frontage road to a non-descript dirt road, crossing a farmer's field, telling the farmer that "Jake sent them" (I think that was the kid's name), and then continuing on until they reached the creek.

Now, I would have wanted more specific instructions, but that's just me. The guys were used to vague instructions and were just thrilled that they finally got someone to tell them where the locals go. And so off they went in search of Cedar Creek.

They should have asked for better directions.

They travelled the 10 miles down the frontage road and began looking for the dirt road that goes up a hill. Do you know that in Western Montana there are a lot of dirt roads that go up a hill off of the frontage road? And that it is a probably a really good idea to know exactly which dirt road you are looking for?

Well, the guys didn't realize the importance of being careful in choosing which hill to try. But they soon learned that choosing wisely is indeed important. Their first clue was the first wooden signs they began to see along the dirt road; signs that said "Posted: Keep Out". They didn't pay a lot of attention to these signs because they knew that they were going to have to cross a farmer's property so they figured it was signs for that property.

Their next clue that things might be a little off was that the signs became more threatening; "Warning: Guards carrying guns", "Shoot first, ask questions later."

The last sign sealed the deal and they turned themselves right around. "Warning: entering The Compound. Trespassers will be shot."

Turns out Western Montana, specifically Superior, is now the destination of choice for those conspiracy theorists, anti-government Doomsday Preppers. Carson discovered that after they returned home and then Googled "The Compound, Superior Montana" and got an actual hit and discovered it is a real place.

Good news: They did eventually find the right road to Cedar Creek and had a great time fishing. And now they have a whole different type of fish tale to share.