Imogene, the update

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Downhill!

Now that I can walk again, I’d like to share with you my final thoughts on this race. First, second, and third, I’m not doing it again! I’ve heard there is a hormone released during childbirth that makes women to forget about the agonizing pain of labor allowing them to go through the process again. While I can’t scientifically say why a similar phenomenon exists for runners, it does. I call it the “March Optimism.” It’s cold and dark in March. You’re sitting in a cubical feeling a little softer than you did in August. You look at a few pictures of beautiful mountain scenery and starting thinking, “that wasn’t that hard. I could do that run/ride/hike/bike/tri again.” Well, I’m here to tell you {and remind myself} that yes, Imogene was that hard.

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Very thankful to see this cone

I burst into exhausted tears of relief upon hitting the summit. If I wasn’t so spent, I would have taken a reminder video of myself to save for the upcoming days of March Optimism . “This is stupid. It hurts. I don’t want to do this in 2017.”

It was beautifully scenic, the volunteers were heartwarming, and the post-race beers were delicious, but I’m done. I’ll return to cheer on others in the coming years but with a coffee and scone in hand.

On the drive back to Ouray, we stopped at the Colorado Boy Brewing Company in Ridgeway. Granted, I would have enjoyed a warm Natty Light at that point, the Colorado Boy beers are fantastic. It’s a great spot, worth a stop.

We made it back to Ouray in time for a soak in the Orvis Hot Springs. Turns out it’s not just clothing optional at night, but all day, every day. My legs ached all afternoon and only during the five minutes of shock from the sight of numerous naked, old, out of shape men, did I seem to forget the pain caused by this race.

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Photos and accompanying emotional support courtesy of my super fan sister-in-law

Changing expectations, Imogene 2016

 

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Imogene summit and Tomboy Mine from the top to Telluride Ski Resort – squint and you can see the course zigzagging across the mountain

A few curious friends asked me how long it took me to run {struggle} up and down Imogene Pass. Honestly, until I looked it up for the purpose of writing this I didn’t know. My rough estimate was “3ish hours up, 1 hour down, 20 minutes to drink chicken soup and chat with volunteers at the summit.” My actual time was 4:34 which put me squarely in the middle of the pack. I was elated with my performance especially since my goal was “don’t get kicked off the course for going too slow.” There are cut-offs at various stages to make sure that no one is standing at the top during an afternoon thunderstorm.

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Straight up, straight down.

I loved the race last year. This year, I’m nearly dreading it. Year two, I have updated expectations. It’s no longer good enough to just not get kicked off the course, I feel the need to BEAT last year’s time. I hate this expectation and pressure that accompanies it, and yet I can’t make it go away. Ugh. I’m open to suggestions.

As a positive change for 2016, I expect this year’s race to hurt considerably less. In 2015, you can imagine my horror upon arriving in the sleepy, one-street town of Ouray, Colorado at 10pm realize that despite all my pre-race planning and checking, I forgot a sports bra. I had a better chance of winning the race the next day than I did of finding such a luxury item at that hour. While Shakira brags, “lucky that my breasts are small and humble, so you don’t confuse them with mountains,” mine aren’t.* They need support. I dug through my overstuffed bag: three dresses, two pairs of non-athletic shoes, two swimsuits, ZERO sports bras, and no girlfriends to borrow from. In a panic, I called my resident swimwear expert Kerry, my bestie from college and the “hold all the pieces together”/president extraordinaire at Faherty Brand, a fab swim wear company. Kerry assured me that running in a Faherty Brand swim top would not in fact kill me, and I should not skip the run the next day. “I do it all the time!” Kerry claimed. Damn, I would have taken the out.

 

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Not me, Faherty Brand

Welp, Kerry was right. The race was so painful and challenging for the first 10 miles, I hardly noticed the unjust discomfort – no man on the course was feeling my pain. It wasn’t until the sharp turn downhill that was I quickly reminded of my packing blunder. Personally, I think I should have received a 20 minute time deduction for my tenacity. You try it, runner dude. As you know, I did in fact finish the race. I didn’t die. I doubt I did permanent damage and I now smile a little brighter every time I pack my suit for the beach.

So here’s to Imogene 2016 – hopefully a faster, more supported race. Also I’m hoping this year to have enough pep post race to make it to the famous Ouray Hot Springs.

*Side note, I’d like to get a 20-year old tutor/life intern to get me up to speed on pop culture of 2010+.

The Lost Coast

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The Lost Coast in northern California has been on my “must do” list since I first heard about the area over seven years ago. A trip to the region is logistically challenging to pull off from Colorado without taking too many vacation days so I begrudgingly I added to my growing “someday” list.

But this past spring, the backpacking gods blessed me. I was chatting with a best friend about swapping dresses worn to various weddings over the last summer {we’re both at 27 Dresses and counting} when she mentioned she was leaving in five days to hike the Lost Coast. My heart skipped several beats – I was between jobs and I had an abundance of airlines miles. “Um, I want in! I’ll see you on Sunday.”

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King Range NCA

The Lost Coast is the remote area where California’s Highway 1 ventures away from the ocean to head inland leaving a large swath of coastline difficult to access via a road. The King Range National Conservation Area was created in 1970 to protect this unique landscape. It stretches 35 miles along the coast and covers 68,000 acres.

After a few requisite trips to REI and Trader Joes and a swanky stay in Napa, our group of three ladies departed for the Kings Range BLM office to secure permits and confirm our itinerary. A stop at the BLM office is also necessary to pick up a tide map and rent a bear box if needed. The office is 3 hours from Healdsburg where we stayed or 4.5 hours from San Francisco and is only open Monday through Friday which can add to the challenges of accessing this area.

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Tide table

The traditional Lost Cost hike is a one direction 35 mile hike along the coast. Nearly everyone recommends hiking north to south so the wind remains at your back. It is necessary to have a tide map and plan your route in advance because at high tide some of the sections of the trail are impassable.

According to trip websites, there are shuttle services available to make the trip possible with one car and minimal shuttling. However, this area is REMOTE. Cell service doesn’t work. The shuttle service listed on the website we tried to call never picked up the phone. We’d also heard a bummer of a story from a friend who was able to book the shuttle, but it never arrived to pick him up. We opted for two cars. We left one car at the Black Sands Beach and hopped back in the car for another 2 hours drive up to our starting trailhead at Mattole. I mentioned this is logistically challenging, right? The driving, permit obtaining, car shuttling, etc. took us an entire day. We pulled into the campsite at Mattole just in time to start a fire and cook some dinner. We camped at a designated site that night and left all our unnecessary items in the car the next morning to be picked up there in 3 days.

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Yeah, I’d say it’s scenic

We spent three days hiking along the coast marveling at wild flowers and sea creatures. The trail itself is easy to navigate, but hiking on sand was a new experience for us. Sand is tiring and slopes into the ocean leaving legs unevenly sore. I am now keenly aware of what it would be like to have one leg shorter than the other. While campsites are not designated along the trail, it’s pretty easy to spot good sites close to fresh water access. Our second night, we passed up too many good sites and ended up having to hike uphill,  away from the ocean for quite some time to find a suitable spot.

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Yes, I probably got too close

The trail meanders inland from the beach in stretches, but the ocean is always visible. We spent an hour one afternoon watching the whales migrate north to pass the time for the tide to lower and our route to become passable. The next day, we watched a river otter frolic around in a stream while we pumped drinking water.

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California Poppies

whale watching

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Likely my favorite campsite of all time

A few other things to know:

  • there are definitely bears in the area – we saw the prints in the sand
  • long pants are a must – the area is covered in poison oak
  • you are supposed to poop in the sand on the beach – I’ll let someone else explain that
  • never turn your back on the ocean
  • you must have a permit to start a campfire
  • Humbolt County is known for its rouge marijuana fields on public lands, and as a result, there were some interesting folks wandering around the desolate roads between Black Sands and Mattole
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The last mile at Black Sand Beach

We ended 35 miles later at Black Sand Beach with sore feet and big smiles on our faces. There was more car shuttling to pick up the one left at Mattole, but as a wonderful bonus, the drive back to San Francisco treks right though the Humbolt Redwoods State Park. I love the ocean, but I also really LOVE redwoods trees. I made my tired and hungry friends stop the car while I marveled in their glory – and hugged a few trees too.

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The unnecessary “Fear of Missing Out”

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The Tetons, photo credit to my labrador friend

I have a group of guy friends who are affectionately known as “the labradors.” I didn’t come up with the nickname; I believe they did, but it fits them to a tee – picture a lab smiling, slobbering, and bouncing around the trunk of an SUV. “Where are we going? What are we doing next? Where’s the fun? I’m ready NOW!” These are my friends. I love them for their enthusiasm. There are endless adventures to be had in the Rocky Mountains, and they are clipping them off at an unprecedented pace.

This past weekend, the labradors organized an epic trip to explore Jackson and the Tetons. Sounds amazing, right? Well, for a few reasons, I opted to go visit a new friend in rural Nebraska instead. It was a hard call to make – both in the decision but also to my labrador friend to explain why a 7 hour drive across the plains was my choice for the weekend.

I had a fabulous time in Nebraska, but it’s always tough looking at instagram/snaps/texts of jagged peaks and glacial lakes not to be a smidge envious. Did I make the right choice for the weekend? What fun did I miss out on? And then I let that feeling go. My friends and I are incredibly lucky to have the opportunities we do to explore and adventure and sometimes its okay to sit one out or better, sit one out from a cornfield.

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