Sunday, September 10, 2023

The one where I became a UTMB finisher

I was scanning the horizon, searching for a shady patch large enough to fit my body next to the trail. My eyelids drooped, over and over, begging for sleep. I was 55 miles and 18 hours into the race, but still had another 50 miles and who knows how many hours to go. A small patch of shrubbery on the left side of the trail appeared and I lowered myself gently to the ground. I set an alarm for 15 minutes in the future, turned my "I'm sleeping" card to face the trail, laid my head on my pack, and promptly fell asleep.

The sun peeked out of the clouds and I felt my legs warm. Concerned with sunburn, I pulled my rain jacket out and draped it over my exposed legs. A grazing horse neighed loudly nearby. I opened one eye and saw I was safely out of its path.

When the alarm buzzed 15 minutes later, I repacked my jacket in my pack, ate a granola bar, and clipped my poles back into my gloves. Immediately revived, I was ready to continue my journey of 106 miles around Mont-Blanc.

I flew Monday night, having learned my lesson from last year about Eiger and not feeling as though I'd thoroughly shaken the jetlag at the start. Though I arrived in Geneva on Tuesday afternoon, my checked bag did not. I had all my mandatory race gear in my carry-on with the exception of my trekking poles, but all my extra drop bag stuff and casual clothes were in my checked bag. There wasn't much I could do, but at least I had a few days until it was go time.

Roger picked me up at the airport and we stayed overnight at the Geneva Marriott. We had a wee too many drinks and lots of laughs.

I woke up and did a short run of 20 minutes to reset my body and enjoy a 50° morning. It was heavenly after running in 90°+ all summer.

We picked up a few grocery store items for lunch and our short road trip to Chamonix and then went to the airport to pick up Megan and my bag. Thankfully it had arrived the night before on a later flight!

In Chamonix, we got settled in our chalet before wandering over to the expo area for a bit of shopping and dinner. I took a guess on selecting the area of the chalet, but think I nailed it pretty perfectly. We were away from the noise and crowds of being in town, but it was only a short walk to get to the hive. The space wasn't huge, but we had a living room and dining space both inside and out and incredible views all around us.


UTMB has 13 races total and a new one that begins each day, starting on Monday. There is activity all week and we watched as runners made their way to the finish line from our table in the town Wednesday afternoon.

Back at the chalet, our friend Davide came over for a few minutes until he had to go move his car for the evening. It was fun to catch up with our Italian friend in France. He had started the PTL and lasted 24 hours before pulling the plug and supporting his other 2 teammates still racing. It's pretty wild you can "only" race 24 hours and not be anywhere near the finish.

All of us settled in for the night, tired from a full day. In the morning, each of us went for a run and met back for breakfast and lounging. Megan and I could pick up our bibs at noon so after asking multiple people along the way, we finally arrived at the sports center to obtain our numbers, drop bags, and race shirt. They were out of the size I registered for and the women's shirt was a crop anyway so I ended up getting a men's small. Feeling a bit ragey by this slight, I posted to social media in hopes of changing this for the future.

Megan and I both wanted to buy bib belts and a race hoodie so we went back to the expo to finish our shopping. I really wanted to buy a few more commemorative items, but was too scared I wouldn't finish. After shopping, we had a late lunch and then went back to the chalet to put our legs up and try to relax. I made myself some ravioli for dinner, knowing it was going to be one of the last real meals until the race was over.

I slept until 9am race day, but woke up a couple times in the night and had a hard time going back to sleep. Race day was kind of a blur. We spent time putting our packs together, filling our drop bags, and trying to keep the excitement tamped down. I was nervous, but not overly so. I knew it was going to be a really long few days so I was just anxious to get going.

 We left at 4pm to walk over to drop our bags at the sports center and then sat in the shade for about 30 minutes before heading into the madness of the start line. 

Once we got to a spot that appeared to be the end of a corral, we said our goodbyes to Roger and Casey and hunkered down on a curb.

Soon enough, runners started to squeeze in and we stood, listening to announcements in French and English, standing on our toes trying to see the screen. I always remember seeing runners clapping before the start, beginning slowly and ending quickly with cheers and whistles. Megan and I were surrounded by thousands of men. We were 2 of 200-some women racing in a field of 2800. I remember thinking just how lucky I was that not only was I getting to race this, but in the same field as a woman runner I know and really look up to. We had no plans to stay together, but at least we'd have this shared experience of the start.

 I didn't even hear the gun go off due to the noise, but soon, we were pushing forward and squeezed into the starting line arch. I clicked the start button on my watch and headed into the unknown.

The first mile was wild. People were lined all the way down the streets, 10 deep in some sections, pouring out from hotel windows, screaming, taking videos, putting their hands out for high fives, and creating an energy unlike any other start I've ever experienced. I scanned the crowd, grinning wildly as I made eye contact with people. Megan and I exchanged glances as we ran side by side, unable to believe it was happening. We were running UTMB.

I spotted Casey and Roger screaming at us and waved to them one last time before I'd see them again 50 miles later in Courmayeur.

Megan and I continued on the next 5 miles, chatting and enjoying the freshness and excitement of the early miles. People were lined all along the street and the river trail, cheering and ringing bells, watching the parade of runners.

At the highway, we crossed the road and came to our first aid station at Les Houches. Already a madhouse, we skipped it as planned and used the chance to get a bit further up in the field. At the first climb, I told Megan to please tell me if she wanted to just separate in case I was infringing on her race. I was happy to stay with her and have a friend for as long as I could hang, but I didn't want to stress her out. She in so many words said she was happy to have the company for the time being too and so we stuck together in those early evening miles.

It was mostly forest service type roads in the beginning, which still felt crowded despite the width. There were so many runners that it was hard to find your own groove and so I just tried to stay as relaxed as I could, hoping it would eventually thin out. At one point, we all had to squeeze through a single-person sized gate and came to a standstill as each person slipped between the narrow pass.

As the sun set down over the mountains, I stopped to snap a few pictures of the scenery. It was unreal and we were only a short distance into the race. I remember saying to Megan at some point, "hey, we're running UTMB!" Once headlamps were clicked on, it seemed as though the real race was beginning. Everyone was headed into the first night.

In Saint Gervais (mile 13.5/9:10 pm), Megan and I waved, knowing it was likely we'd get separated at the aid station, each filling bottles and grabbing snacks. However, as we exited the madness, we found ourselves right next to each other! The streets of Saint Gervais were alive with townspeople out for dinner, cheering from their tables and shouting as they made their way home for the evening. It was electrifying to be a part of something that felt so special.

Back out on the course, Megan and I power hiked the ups, jogged the very few flats, and tried to not get trampled on the downs. Runners who we'd been passing on the ups came flying down the descents, clipping our heels as we navigated the rocks and roots. It was very stressful and I felt pushed to go at a pace I was uncomfortable with just so I didn't get knocked over.

At Les Contamines (mile 19.8/10:52 pm), the carnage looked like it had already begun. This was the first crew access point and I remember thinking how odd it was that people already looked spent sitting in this aid station. They were sipping soup, lying on benches, and being attended to by their crew. I grabbed a few cookies and bread, refilled my flasks with water, and used my reusable cup to drink some sparkling water. Somehow, Megan and I found ourselves exiting at the same time again, despite the chaos.

The next section was fairly runnable along the river and though I was concerned about clicking off some miles at a faster pace so early, it did feel good to actually stretch out the legs. I knew that I'd be reduced to a walk/run at best later on so I tried to embrace jogging whenever possible, especially when it wasn't technical.

I was feeling good on the ascent to La Balme (mile 24.9/12:31 am) and I knew that climbing would chip away at the over 30,000' of elevation we had to ascend over the race. I love climbing and felt in my element as I locked into the steps behind Megan, silence falling over the field as we headed into the wee hours of the night.

The descent into Les Chapieux (mile 31.5/2:54 am) was fairly runnable and I felt people hot on my heals as we dropped down into the aid station. It was the first and only place they checked mandatory gear on course. They had small tables set outside the aid station with volunteers and everyone had to show they had an emergency blanket, a smart phone, and rain pants. Once inside the aid station tent, Megan and I used this aid station to sit at the very cramped picnic tables to eat some soup with rice in our collapsible bowls.

Past Les Chapieux, the climb up to Col des Pyramides Calcaires is 4,000' of elevation gain in 8 miles. The lower part of the trail is pretty gentle, but then it turned into a technical rocky snowy muddy mess. Somewhere along this long stretch, I watched Megan pull ahead as I decided I needed to take it a bit easier.

The wind was howling as we neared the top and I felt cold for the first time in the race. Descending was my nightmare, rocky and muddy with sheer drop offs that were only felt in the darkness of the night, not seen.

The time was passing very quickly as I suppose I had settled in for two nights of this in my brain. Once the first light started to appear, I stared in awe of my surroundings. I was in a scree field with the sun splashing light on the mountains behind me. It was stunning. I stopped a few times to take pictures and soak in the moment. Other runners flew by me on the descent, but a few also stopped to take it all in.

Down into Lac Combal (mile 43.3/7:14 am), I was relieved for hot food and a chance to sit. The light in the valley was beautiful and though I was 12+ hours in, I felt a sudden sense of revival after the food and sunlight.

There was a short gravel road section leading up to the next climb and I started chatting with Vivian from California as we headed up Arête du Mont Favre. It was a nice distraction from the task at hand and she was able to give me a few tips as she'd finished the race the year prior.

As the sun started to really rise, I was looking forward to changing out some of my gear and seeing my crew at Courmayeur. But first, I had to make it to Checrouit (mile 47.8/9:26 am). It was here that I started to feel truly hungry for real food and made a bread/cheese/meat sandwich that really hit the spot. I'd been eating things from my pack and supplementing from the aid stations, but my stomach was definitely happy to have a few hundred calories of real food. Though I knew it was only a short distance to Courmayeur, I refilled my bottles just in case.

Down into Courmayeur (mile 50.5/10:19 am), it felt very reminiscent of going into Wengen last year at Eiger. Warm, a bit chafed, and facing some monster climbs, I knew I needed to take my time once I got there. Casey was screaming her head off outside the aid again and lied and told me I looked good (after the race, Roger and Casey both told me I looked like pale shit coming into this aid station).

I grabbed my drop bag, found Roger (only one crew member was allowed inside), and he got to work helping me out. He taped my chafed back, forced me to eat some pasta, obtained a couple of croissants, and went through my checklist. I changed my buff, shirt, socks, and shoes. I slathered on sunblock, refilled my nutrition, and finally walked out after 40 minutes of a pit stop.

The climb to Refuge Bertone was full of steep ascents and switchbacks. In the midday heat, I started to feel cooked. Partially up the climb, a runner sat on a large rock, taking a break. I sat in the space next to him for a minute or so and then felt overwhelmingly nauseous. My stomach convulsed and I turned my head away to empty its contents onto the trail. Surprisingly, it was mostly liquid and after I was able to stop and sit for a minute, I continued on the climb.

Along the most beautiful afternoon stretch of trail for running, I was scanning the horizon, searching for a shady patch large enough to fit my body next to the trail. My eyelids drooped, over and over, begging for sleep. I was 55 miles and 18 hours into the race, but still had another 50 miles and who knows how many hours to go. A small patch of shrubbery on the left side of the trail appeared and I lowered myself gently to the ground. I set an alarm for 15 minutes in the future, turned my "I'm sleeping" card to face the trail, laid my head on my pack, and promptly fell asleep.

The sun peeked out of the clouds and I felt my legs warm. Concerned with sunburn, I pulled my rain jacket out and draped it over my exposed legs. A grazing horse neighed loudly nearby. I opened one eye and saw I was safely out of its path.

When the alarm buzzed 15 minutes later, I repacked my jacket in my pack, ate a granola bar, and clipped my poles back into my gloves. Immediately revived, I was ready to continue my journey of 106 miles around Mont-Blanc.

As I neared Arnouvaz (mile 61.3/3:52 pm), I knew I was going to finish. A part of me scolded myself, knowing there was still so many more miles left. But a part of me became elated at the thought that I was going to actually do this. I wasn't wildly above time cutoffs, but I was moving and feeling happy.

At Arnouvaz, I finally had to pee again and since there was no crew at this aid station, I didn't dilly-dally too long. Besides, I was most excited about the next section. Climbing Grand Col Ferret! It's the highest point of the course and climbs 2,500' in and 3 miles. I happened to be climbing in the late afternoon sun and kept turning around exclaiming, "wow, wow, wow!" It wasn’t lost on me that while this was excruciatingly difficult, it was also excruciatingly beautiful. I reached the summit of Grand Col Ferret (mile 63.2/5:34 pm) with the biggest, cheesiest grin on my face.

The descent was fairly easy and I was happy to hit a bit of pavement as we neared La Fouly. It was nice to not think about footing for a few minutes and my feet were feeling pretty beat up. We were on the east side of the mountains so I was keeping an eye on the sky as the sun started to drop between the summits.


All of a sudden, Casey appeared out of nowhere, screaming my name. I was so confused. What aid station was I at? Did I skip one? Where was I? I slowed my jog to a walk and let her explain that she could see me at this aid station, just not hand me anything from my drop bag. Ahhhh, ok.

Inside La Fouly (mile 70.4/7:44 pm) I grabbed a few cookies and a piece of bread and headed back out to try to nap. I laid down on the pavement and told Casey to set a 15 minute timer. After chewing some bread, I sprawled out and closed my eyes. 

I couldn't fall asleep quickly though so I got up within minutes, used the restroom, and stuffed my cookies and remaining bread in my shorts pocket.

I was getting updates about Megan and the elites (yay Courtney, yay Jim!) from my crew as I was coming in. It was something to keep me motivated, knowing that others were out there battling, albeit much faster. Casey and Roger told me Megan was moving well and in good spirits and I was thankful we had 2 crew members who were willing to spend 2 days on shuttle busses to see us for a few minutes at weird hours of the day and night.

I don't remember much about the next section other than I was motivated to get to my crew and the potential of having a cot to try to get some sleep at Champex-Lac. I was headed into the second night and preferred to not sleep on the trail again if I could help it.

Into Champex-Lac (mile 78.9/10:49 pm), I shocked my crew by arriving earlier than the anticipated time. As I came into the aid station tent, I saw Roger chatting on the other side of the barrier to another crew member. I walked up to the table separating us and loudly banged my poles on the table, getting his attention. He came running around and helped me get some food and gave me intel (re: shitty) about the next section. I packed a few more things into my bag, including the last of my Spring Energy Awesomesauce that seemed to be working well.

I tried to sleep in the warm tent with the sleeping pads and blankets amongst a dozen or so other runners, but laid there only a few minutes before deciding it was a waste of time. Roger and Casey hung out in the tent, stating the warmth outweighed the smelly shoe scent. I, of course, was obvious to smells and feelings.

Leaving Champex-Lac, I nearly got run over by a car in an intersection and happened to be crossing around the same time Chris from Utah was as well. We swapped stories for the next few miles, hating on the crop top race shirt and discussing European trail culture. I was happily distracted and relieved for a bit of conversation heading into the night.

Unfortunately, the climb to La Giète was pretty awful as advertised. Very steep and very technical, it was a long slog to reach the top. I hated to stop and put on warmer clothes, but it got quite chilly near the top. The descent was just as rocky and I couldn't wait to get to Trient to see my crew again.

Roger had gone ahead to crew Megan at the next stop so Casey led me into the tent and helped me get in some calories in Trient (mile 89.2/4:01 am). I laughed that I had bread on a table that had seen a day's worth of carnage and could not care less about any remaining germs. I felt like I was finally ready to actually fall asleep and told her to set a timer for 5 minutes. I laid down on the wooden bench seat and promptly fell asleep. At 5 minutes to the nose (according to Casey), I woke up and panicked I'd slept too long.

Casey walked me out of Trient where arguably the worst ascent of the course awaited me. 

The climb up to Les Tseppes is wildly steep. A runner at the base of the climb had his phone open to the Strava segment and I swore it said a 22% grade.

I don't think my heels touched the ground for over an hour. We were still pretty bunched in even at 35 hours into the race and you needed to trust the person in front of you would climb continuously and not fall back. Treachery. I took my gloves off and on near the top, discovering they were actually a bit too tight for my comfort (I gave them to Roger post-race).

I sat at the top of the climb in the hydration tent, using the time to eat something now that I didn’t have to concentrate on toppling over a mountain. Afterwards, the trail started to meander down towards Vallorcine and I chatted with Jörgen from Sweden for quite some time as the sun began to rise for the second time. My spirits were high as I knew we were getting within striking distance of the finish.

Into Vallorcine (mile 96.3/7:47 am), Casey met me for the last time on the course. 

Roger had gone to see Megan finish and I was so pumped to hear she was almost there! In Casey's hands were 2 gigantic croissants and though I only managed to eat half of one, I was so relieved for real food and a tasty treat. The sunlight had revived me once again and I was about to make my final trek to the finish. We parted ways with "I'll see you at the finish line" and it all felt so surreal.

There was a small stretch of a horizontal section along the road, but I was only jogging very small increments. Once reaching the trailhead, I stopped to apply sunblock all over again and then settled in for the next climb. The ascent wasn't all that bad after the prior 2, but I found the rocky descent that broke up this section pretty bad. It was here that I had to extremelyurgentlypoop and sprinted off behind a rock, hoping for the best. My leg spasmed wildly as I squatted and was grateful for my trekking poles to help me up. I'll know if anyone actually reads this by admitting that I used a mossy rock as toilet paper.

I found myself behind Vivian again on the climb to the final summit at La Flegere (mile 103.3/11:20 am) and we stuck together until the aid station. 

I grabbed a few pieces of fruit, topped off my bottles, and died a bit inside when my quads hit the descent of the ski pass. Had I left any ability to absorb eccentric contractions, I might have done more than shuffle down. But my quads were absolutely destroyed and I was so unsure of my footing that I baby-stepped my way down.

The ski pass gave way to another rocky, rooty trail that I cringed with each step. Hikers coming up cheered us on. I smiled on the outside, but on the inside was very annoyed that they were taking up space on the trail. Finally, we reached a more runnable gravel descent and I was able to run for longer stretches. I doused my hat in a creek one last time and started panning my eyes for signs of the town.

At long last, I saw where the trail met the pavement. Naturally, we had to go over a metal pedestrian bridge with a few flights of stairs, but once I dropped to the other side, emotion came pouring out of me.

I was back in Chaminox. The finish line was minutes away. People were clapping and shouting at me all along the river and I had the biggest smile in my face. Volunteers directed me across the street and I followed the markings through town. I wanted to stop so badly, but I wanted to soak in these final moments. I looked around, unable to believe I'd done it. I was about to be a UTMB finisher!

Casey shouted my name and I saw her as I made the final turns. Children held out their tiny hands for high fives and I reached for them all. The noise felt deafening coming into the finish chute as spectators banged the signs wildly. 

A row of photographers awaited me at the end of the chute and I shook my poles high as I ran the final few meters.

UTMB finisher!

I stood in a daze for a few seconds and then started bawling. Roger ran into the finish area and wrapped me a big hug and soon I was bawling in everyone else's arms. Award-winning Shannon had hobbled over to see me and we chatted for a few minutes before I happily handed over my very heavy pack, got some food and a beer, and finally sat down. It was done. I actually did it.

I absolutely couldn't have done this on my own. My family, friends, and social network all cheering me on with messages and posts. All the training hours in the awful heat and humidity with my crew at home. My coach navigating training hiccups with stitches and bee stings. Megan L. giving me pep talks prior to the race and running 50k of the race with me. Roger and Casey for schlepping themselves and my stuff for 2 days, keeping me motivated, fed, and setting sleep timers. Megan H. and Frank hanging with Adam for 2 weeks to help with the doggies. And Adam, who sent me a text sometime on Saturday saying he was having a tough day too but that we were keep pushing and both of us going to get through it. Proud of us. It truly takes a village. 

Thursday, August 24, 2023

August 2023

August 2023 - Random Musings

I'd be a liar if I didn't say I had tremendous doubts. I think about how hard it feels doing something a quarter of this difficulty and then compounding it with zero rest in between.

I can't decide if the scariness makes it better or worse.

I will always feel like I've never enough for this kind of thing. There is no real way to practice, and I'm not a high mileage runner, so I just feel all these doubts.

I definitely feel like a poser headed into this race. Maybe others have similar feelings? I dunno. I don't feel that way generally about most races any longer. Road marathons, timed races, flattish 100s, I've done those. I feel like I belong.

This is the kind of stuff that feels intimidating.

Which I think as a runner can be exciting in some ways. I'm trying something I'm not really sure if I will succeed. I've been scarred by DNFs. so while I want to always be shooting to finish, I don't want that to mar my experience in general. To be able to go run these mountains, at this race, and hang out in a beautiful alpine town with a couple of my close friends is the gift. The icing on the cake will be to finish the damn thing.


I careen through the forest, my footsteps nearly silent. The green swallows the narrow ribbons of dirt. There is a steep and rocky incline to my left with trees jutting high and wide enough to create a canopy of shade. My body veers towards the incline as I run, staying away from the sheer drop to my right.

On the good days, I can skip over roots and rocks with ease, nary a pause for obstacles. My legs feel strong and effortless as I float down the trail. As much as I enjoy the company and conversation of a companion, it's when I'm alone that I feel the most free.

In those rare instances that fear is outweighed by pleasure, I let gravity do the work. It's hard to put into words the feeling when my mind is completely shut off and my body is at play.


Some days I feel as though I have it under control and that while it’s still back there whirling in my brain, I am just going about my life rather easily. I wonder if over time that it will become such an iota of a memory that I will no longer care.

Or will it sit there, staring at me like those moments that no matter how long time stretches, are still following me around. The taste of ipecac mixed with saltiness of soy sauce and mushrooms. The suffocatingly warm stairwell of a Manhattan hotel, the danger obscured by my own self-hatred. A stormy night of Norah Jones and a bottle of YellowTail that couldn’t drown my sadness, no matter how much I drank. Sitting halfway across the world with my head physically pounding, feeling the sharp edges of someone else’s sadness and wanting us both forget for just one night.

The shame marred in excuses of others, but my brokenness has always been there.

If my own expectations are high, just think about how you’ll never be able to reach the ones I set for you. Any achievement feels like it still drips with disappointment.


I watch my ghost ship, wondering all the what ifs in those other lives. I'm drawn to stories about rewriting our own paths, full of time machines and portals and an endless supply of outcomes. It's easier to believe in parallel dimensions when we are free to imagine all the paths that we could have chosen. I've taken leaps of faith, throwing a hail mary to my future self and hoping it all works out. So far, I've managed to escape death and jail, but maybe come a little too close to both at times.

My ghost ships are all there making their own journeys. Some getting swallowed up by storms. Some wandering aimlessly for years upon years. Some washing ashore too soon. All are full of heartache and beauty and pain and joy.

They are full of joyful independence, full of children, full of grief, and full of loneliness. They are happy marriages and tumultuous ones. They are divorce and widowing and rekindling. They are homelessness, fame, wealth, storied careers, and parades of dead-end jobs. They are ended abruptly at age 22, long with chronic illness, and uneventful until age 99. They are ripe with intense and unwavering spirituality and also decades of changing religions as often as the sheets.

They are suburbia with picket fences, vagabonds in vans, brownstones in concrete jungles, couches of friends, acres in the country, ramshackle apartments, and perhaps, a houseboat. They are drinks too much, eats too much, desires too much, lies, cheats, steals. They are kind, forgiving, loving, volunteering, giving. They take lavish vacations and skip meals to save money. They know how to code, perform open heart surgery, perform for a crowd, edit a manuscript, shoot up heroin, shoot a gun, shoot the shit.

They etch their stories into thousands of lives and yet, they all end in ashes and dust.


Where Have All the Cowboys Gone and AC cranked on high. Driving around in the warehouse district, the afternoon so warm and I'm carrying around a sweatshirt everywhere. I should be hanging out with my friends somewhere, listening to this song in someone's bedroom, analyzing the lyrics or talking about the hijinks of the night prior. But instead, I'm welcoming getting back in the warm car with my mom, despising how cold every building is in late summer.

The stories when I feel the most broken come tumbling out easy now. It seems strange that in those years that I can easily pluck out a memory from that exact space in time. The summer of '97 in particular. So much time to myself. Which was dangerous in so many ways. I should have been having weeklong sleepovers with my girlfriends, catching the latest blockbuster at the movies, and falling in and out of love with each passing week.

The summers seemed longer then. The weeks stretched endlessly and without anyone to share them with, I dove further away from the outside world. I remember eating peaches as slowly as clock drug on. Their cold, juicy sweetness the antithesis of that hot, awful summer. I’d walk for hours early in the morning, the humidity drenching my skeletal body. Running wasn’t allowed, but walking was and I, of course, took it to the extreme.

I could only be mad at myself for it was me who made the decision to shrink myself into oblivion. What began as a mild transformation, fighting off puberty and desperately wishing to fit in, took a dangerous turn. People talk about having an addictive personality. I don’t know if that’s actually a thing, but I did easily slip into the madness. And often find myself a little too close to compulsive behaviors.


Is there such a thing as drinking too much champagne? I'm not talking alcoholic levels, but drinking it often enough that it loses its celebratory meaning. I don't know that we celebrate enough.

A gorgeous day. A beautiful run. Making it through another week of work, of a complicated situation, a health scare. A clean to do list. The lawnmower starting up in the spring. A day with sunshine and an evening of rain. 10 hours of sleep. Porch coffee. A really great read. A good hair day. Car repairs done in my own garage. A motherfucking PR. Birthdays, of course.

Tuesday, July 18, 2023

July 2023

July 2023 - Random Musings

I’ve been here before. The days that you are deep in it and it smothers you from every angle. It’s impossible to believe that you will ever surface. And then slowly you see the sliver of light and there is hope that you will escape the darkness. Eventually, you’ll float along the surface, waiting for it to come grab you again and pull you under. Part of you will miss the struggle, wondering how to go about life with this thing forever etched in your memory. 

It’ll feel too forced at first. But you hope that one day, you’ll be able to tuck it away and feel so far removed from it that you don’t feel tempted to be pulled again with the same intensity. As the months trickle by, it does feel a bit easier. The memories slowly losing details and intensity over time. 


They were deep in the pain cave, their eyes sunken from the effort, blinking through the driving rain. There is a connection of endurance, our spirits intertwined by this innate thing that drives us to see what our bodies can handle. As much as I enjoy a warmed, flaky croissant and thousand thread count sheets, I also am drawn to scraping my soul by moving my body when everything is screaming to stop. 

And I wonder just how much darkness you can handle. I wonder how much darkness I can handle. 

Maybe there are the good ones out there who have fewer demons to battle. Maybe they are able to separate their imperfections from sport and are driven by goals rather than punishment. When things are good, I think it's easier for me to walk away from the pain. 


It’s our discomfort that connects us. The pain of sore feet, blistered skin, legs cramping running downhill, and lungs exploding climbing uphill. For all but a few at the top of the sport, there is no material benefit. Everyone exclaims never again and then they find themselves on a starting line, a Groundhog Day of Saturdays with no one but themselves to blame. 

For those that don’t run, they cannot fathom the distance covered on feet. It seems unreal that people not only want to do this, but they pay for it, repeatedly.

I sometimes stare at a map and wonder how I ran that far. I know my body did it, but it seems unreal that it can.  


I waited for the tears to meet the raindrops. As the sky opened up, I felt vulnerable with my emotions. They surfaced briefly, the grief and anger and sadness all taking their turns, trying to push their way out. I was tired and dehydrated to start and drug myself through the warm, thick humidity. Nothing about this felt easy except the familiarity of being uncomfortable. 

Uncomfortable with my thoughts. Uncomfortable with my movement. Running from the discomfort. Running through the discomfort. Running home to the discomfort.


I write about the same things over and over. Worrying about the future that I cannot predict. Feeling helpless to make things any better now and feeling even less helpless to make them better as we transgress through these stages. I am often at a standstill. The toilet is leaking, albeit extremely slowly. And my immediate reaction is to just simply walk away from it. To acknowledge it would require me to take action. 

I don’t want to take action. I’m tired of taking action. 

All the things that I must keep track of swirl about in my brain. I try to see that I’m on the fortunate side of things. But is it so wrong to wish that the dishwasher is loaded the wrong way or the lawn mowed a few days later than I wanted?

I am standing in the garage, sweat dripping off my nose and splattering onto the concrete floor. The evening is still oppressively warm. I cut a piece of trimmer string and it is way too long. I work it carefully around the cylinder, hoping that I don’t lose my grip and forcing me to restart. Part of me wishes that this is the last time that I ever have to follow through with this mundane chore. But a part of me feels a certain sense of sadness that if I stop doing even the things I loathe, will it be because I am no longer able to do them myself? 

I forget the destruction of my legs each summer. They were first covered in patches of poison ivy, the wounds fading to pink splotches over a few weeks. As they were almost cleared, I tumbled over nothing along the cruisiest stretch between Lance Creek and Jarrard Gap. My knee was freshly scraped and faint bruises covered the length of my quadricep. I somehow managed to avoid sunburn in the high elevations of the desert, but back at home, the unkempt Duncan Ridge Trail obliterated any exposed skin. A yellow jacket managed to pierce my left calf and 24 hours later, my entire lower leg swelled.

So when I finally restrung the trimmer and stood behind it bare-legged, I didn’t think twice about it slicing my ankles and shins. They were already beyond repair.

The heat is troublesome enough to run in the summer, but I forget all the other things I hate about this time of year. The extra chores that must be done to maintain the yard. The mental health walks that leave me sweating just 5 minutes in. Even with the air conditioning cranked low, it still feels hard to sleep. 




I was a volcano. 

Too many years had passed.

Instead of slowly seeping out.

I erupted.

You didn’t know how it would chase you.

How it would snake around your ankles.

The ash in your every breath.

I’m smoldering now, fire waiting to be stoked.

Will you idle with my soot coating your insides?

I could hurt you.

Are you afraid I will fool you twice?


I imagine that your summers are idyllic. Dripping ice cream cones, shrieking laughter on a worn out dock, and golden hours splashed with lazy sunshine. It's hard to get there; packing up the car and closing up loose ends at work and at home. The kids are fighting ruthlessly in the backseat and it feels as though you're headed to hell rather than paradise.

But as soon as the brackish air reaches your nostrils, there is a sigh of relief. The days are to be spent without an agenda, save for the meals. And even those are relaxed affairs. Hot dogs, sandwiches, and bags and bags of chips. The sun and water makes everyone exhausted and the littlest ones often fall asleep before they make it to the table. Everyone sleeps well with the creaky fans cooling their warmed skin, night after night. 

Even on the days it rains, it manages to be a wholesome afternoon with board games, puzzles, and naps. It's a time to read unremarkable paperbacks while curled up on a cozy chair on the screened porch. No one seems to miss their phones, tablets, or TVs. The adults scold the children for this at home, but it's often them that need the break.

There is sand in everything and the laundry is piling up, but no one seems to mind the mess. You crack open crabs on newspapers with a towel wrapped around your waist. Glasses sweat and leave puddles wherever they are placed. By the end of the week, your feet are a little more tough and your soul a little more tender. 


Wednesday, July 12, 2023

Merrill's Mile 6 Hour: A Visit to the Pain Cave

Funny how 8 years ago my experience at the 6 hour Merrill’s Mile was the penultimate in mileage and time. It was my first ultra and each mile after 26.2 was a journey into the unknown. At the time, I chose the daytime 6 hour distance and somehow lucked out on an overcast day. But I’ve learned that flat paved loops in July with zero shade are better at night and have only run the nighttime option since 2016. 

At Merrill’s, I’ve dabbled in the 12 hour distance, volunteering, etc., but found myself doing the exact same thing as I did in 2015 - using the 6 hour race as a training run for a late summer race. 

This time, I went in with zero taper and with my legs and body still in recovery mode from the R2R2R effort 2 weeks prior. Flat paved loops are pretty far from ideal for UTMB training, but the mileage and running fitness would serve me well in the big picture. And though I didn’t know it when I signed up, a trip to the pain cave would help me build some mental fitness. 

I completed a 90 minute steady state workout on the Tuesday leading up to the race and hill repeats that Thursday. Again, zero taper meant that I was going to be feeling far from fresh, but I was hoping that long and slow would feel reasonably okay.

Casey wanted to come run a few laps and volunteer so she offered to drive us up that evening. We got there at 8pm and true to every Merrill’s it had just stormed, blowing over 10x10 tents and pummeling runners with hail. Fortunately, it had subsided to a drizzle by the time we got there.

People were asking me what my goal was all week and I said somewhere in the 30s. Which was true, I wasn’t sandbagging! I’d had an incredible winter/spring of racing and have been feeling great lately, but I also knew the weather was going to be trash and I was going into it on fumes from recent efforts. 

Last time I ran Merrill’s, I started in the 12 hour and bailed after 50k. So I just wanted to make it to 50k and whatever else I could squeeze out in 6 hours. 

At the start line, I saw my watch (brand-freaking-new-as-of-May-watch) was frozen in between screens. I started mashing every button trying to get it to move, but it wouldn’t budge. Casey offered me her watch, but I just shrugged and hit start when it was go time thinking it would correct itself. At the end of the first mile/loop, it was still wonky so I threw it to her and asked if she could try to reset it. She worked her magic and tossed it back to me when I came around again. Technology…

Given that it is a one mile loop and they have a timing clock out, it wasn’t like I actually needed the watch. But you know, gotta get those stats!

I followed another couple of runners around the first few laps, letting them set the pace. But then I realized it was a little slower than I preferred so I passed them and tried to settle into something relatively comfortable. 

I grabbed my handheld after a few miles and got right on track with eating something every 30 minutes. Unfortunately, I think the heat and heavy sipping of electrolytes all day leading up to the race caused something to go haywire. I was so freaking thirsty and after finishing a 0.5L bottle of Skratch, I pretty much just chugged water for the rest of the run. I was drinking almost 0.5L every 2-3 miles towards the end! 

After about 90 minutes, I started to feel the discomfort come over me. My stomach felt unsettled, I was unable to quench my thirst, and the soles of my feet started aching. I stopped to use the portapotty and loosened my shoes a bit and that seemed to give me a little bit of relief. But after a few more miles, I had to loosen them again.

I was trying to just zone out because cardio and leg-wise, everything was great. A few miles in the middle were okay and I was hopeful that I could turn things around mentally. The weather wasn’t really bothering me too much for a few hours, but as the evening wore on, I actually got pretty warm. I decided to start using ice to cool down my core and shoved a few handfuls in my sports bra and in the pocket of my shorts. Thankfully, this seemed to help so I continued to do this every 5ish miles or so for the remainder of the race. 

My feet were still bothering me even after loosening the laces a few times so I decided to switch from the NB Supercomp to just the NB 1080. This was very reminiscent of The Stinger in that apparently my feet just don’t like carbon plates for timed races. Though I felt immediate relief, the damage had been done and the soreness was just no longer increasing. 

When a race is going great, the minor annoyances seem unimportant. But when a race is a mental battle, minor annoyances are magnified. The loop is fairly wide and 4 runners could be comfortably next to each other without bumping elbows. As the night wore on, I found myself getting more and more frustrated with weaving around groups of runners. I had to check my own attitude a few times, realizing that I was getting worked up about things out of my control. Control the controllables.

Timed races are always a little bit of a mind game in that I often feel like I spend the first 75% of them trying to get to X miles and the last 25% trying to squeeze out what I can in the time remaining. This one was no different. I knew where I wanted to be at the marathon and 50k mark and found myself behind a bit compared to prior races. Meh.

Once I finally got to the last hour, I was calculating out what I thought I could do in the remaining time and that became my goal. I’m not sure if it’s because water/food intake finally settled out or if it was more just the idea that I only had one more hour to run, but I did finally feel much better towards the end!

As I was looping around the last few times, I told Casey 4 more laps, 3 more laps, etc. When I saw that there were still 19ish minutes left and I had 1 more lap, I fought with myself about pushing for another one. 

It’s a training run with a bib pinned on. 

It’s a race! 

You don’t have anything to prove. 

Why would you not try for one more lap?? 

35ish miles is great. 

Why don’t you go for 36ish miles?? 

Part of me likes to think I was being prudent when I stopped, but really, I was just ready to be done. I was ready to sit down. I was ready to put on dry clothes. I was ready to eat something that didn’t come out of plastic package. I was ready for a beer. I was ready to go to sleep. 

I was proud that I ran the whole time and managed to keep a relatively steady pace throughout. It was good training for night running and I didn’t find myself sleepy at all thankfully. I’m hoping that I can go through the first night of UTMB without feeling too terrible due to the sleep deprivation. The second night of no sleep will just be a “fun” new place to experience. 

Anyway, to come full circle to my first paragraph, it’s funny how running 35 miles in 6 hours now feels like just another humdrum weekend. And it certainly isn’t, but sometimes I think about how these achievements get buried when the bar continues to be raised. I almost didn’t write a race report because I didn’t feel as though it warranted a story! 

Thursday, June 22, 2023

Filling My Adventure Cup: Grand Canyon R2R2R and beyond....

 Grand Canyon - 6.17.2023 - 6.18.2023

The last time I crawled out of the Grand Canyon, I repeatedly said never again. My first R3 in April 2022 was a shitshow. I was sleep-deprived, undertrained, over-caffeinated, and it just wasn't my day. There were parts that were incredible and beautiful, but I ended the 46 mile out-and-back feeling absolutely gutted.

So when Roger started pestering me about doing it again in 2023, I was not initially enthusiastic. But he wore me down eventually and I found myself wanting to try it again. The time on feet, mental challenge, vert, etc. would all serve me well in preparing for UTMB. I was taking a risk that the North Rim section would be open by the time I arrived. It had been closed for repairs due to heavy snowfall over the winter and the open date was already pushed back once. Spoiler alert: it opened the day we were planning to run. 

Knowing the things that DIDN’T work last year, I aimed to make this a better experience. I booked my flight to come in on Thursday night instead of Friday morning which gave me a better night's sleep. I didn't have anything outside coffee the morning of and actually didn't pack anything caffeinated nutrition or hydration-wise. I trained as much as I could with poles and a heavy pack in the limited time I had between Boston and this trip.

My plane ended up being delayed due to a passenger who was in the bathroom while we were taxiing to take off and we had to go back to the gate. He was escorted off the plane and we eventually were able to leave. Fun. Roger picked me up at the airport late Thursday and we immediately went back to his apartment so we could get some sleep. 

We grabbed breakfast at a local spot in Phoenix on Friday morning. Then we went back to his place so he could work a bit more and I closed my eyes for an hour or so. Because we wanted an earlier start this year to beat the heat, we decided to have lunch in Jerome and then head to the Canyon. 

Arriving at 6pm or so at the top of the South Rim, we made our last minute preparations in the parking lot. We asked someone nearby to take our photo and then clicked the start buttons on our Garmins.

The first few miles were very reminiscent of last year. Roger's blood sugar was tanking and he was sweating profusely. We took those first few miles pretty easy, taking pictures in the gorgeous evening light. A helicopter overhead spooked us a bit as rain started to fall, but it eventually landed a few hundred feet above us. There were only a few other people out and all were headed back up the Bright Angel Trail. 

At Havasu Gardens, we stopped to use the bathrooms. I started talking to a hiker while Roger was readjusting his pack and a park ranger came over and joined our conversation. After indicating we were heading down, she asked me to do her a favor and be on the lookout for two hikers that other people had mentioned were possibly not prepared for the climb out. She asked if I could carry a bag of Fritos and a beef jerky stick to give to them if they needed it and if not, I could keep the snacks for myself. I now had a mission!

We got down to the top of the corkscrew before needing to turn on our headlamps. Darkness fell quickly and our easy banter stopped as we concentrated on navigating the unforgiving terrain down to the river. 

A few miles down from Havasu Gardens, we ran into the hikers that were described to us that might need help. They both had on headlamps and the man was wearing a backpack. We stopped to ask them if they were okay and if they needed anything. Knowing that we were within a few miles of Phantom Ranch and just getting started, I was prepared to give them water in addition to the snacks if needed. However, they both appeared to be in very good spirits and said they were doing great. I now felt awkward about forcing the snacks on them so I decided to just keep them.

First mission completed, we continued moving down towards the river and crossed the bridge around 9:30 p.m. Once we reached Phantom Ranch, we filled up our water for the next stretch to Manzanita. I was eating something every 30 minutes or so and sipping on water and Skratch. Because we were doing a lot more walking than running, everything felt really good. We continued to just power hike the section between PR and Manzanita, aka “the box”, jogging a few seconds here and there on the steeper downs. My one goal was to finish feeling better than last year so I was okay with our slower pace through the night. 

Bats were dive-bombing us in the box and the roar of the river made it tough to hear each other, but otherwise, it was an uneventful stretch. We reached Manzanita at around 12:30 a.m. and topped off our water once again. From Manzanita, the trail climbs 3,600’ in 5 miles. It’s far less used than the Bright Angel Trail and even less so as it had just reopened. The drop-offs are steep and as we headed into the witching hours of the night, I hugged the inner canyon wall as much as possible.

It was in this stretch that I felt the natural inclination to sit down and take a nap. I purposefully left all things caffeinated out of my nutrition and hydration fearing that it is the culprit for nausea on long adventures. I still felt my stomach sour a bit in the night, but was fortunately okay after the sun came back up.

We began to see the area where trail work had been recently completed with narrow passageways and fresh dirt. About 2 miles to the top, Roger stopped abruptly in front of me, surveying the trail in front of him. There was a rope to his right at about shoulder height and a drop of about 10 feet below where it appeared sections of the trail had just crumbled. Being this close to the top, I was willing to forgo the extra 2 miles if we were unable to pass safely. But Roger figured out the rope was meant to be used to maneuver over 20 feet of horizontal “trail” with most of the trail part missing. 

So we’re 21 miles in, it’s 1:30 a.m (re: dark & sleepy), we haven’t seen another person in about 4 hours, and oh yeah, did I mention that it’s now gusting winds of 20-30 mph? And you want me to hold onto this rope on a cliff? Coolcoolcoolcool.

Roger starts climbing over and I realize that I need to put my trekking poles away because there is no way in hell that I’m going to not be white-knuckling this rope with 2 hands. It takes me a few minutes to get them in my quiver and because I cannot see Roger around the corner, he would later tell me he was wondering if I was ever going to come. Because you’re reading this, you know that I didn’t fall off the cliff already, but it was not a top 10 experience for sure.

We climbed the rest of the way to the top and passed another person in this section. At the top of the North Rim, we snapped a photo, pressed the “we’re ok” button on the Spot (for Roger’s parents and Adam who had our tracking info), and promptly started back down again.

It was just as slow going down, but we knew we were going to get light soon. The wind was really picking up at this point and my hair kept blowing my eyes. I didn’t want to take my hands off my poles and readjust my headlamp and buff, but eventually, I worried that I was going to make a stupid mistake because my vision wasn’t totally clear so I stopped to fix it. The rope treachery was just as awful coming back, but at least I was mentally prepared this time and thankful that there was just one section like this. 

Once we saw the sky beginning to lighten, we both breathed a sigh of relief that we could finally move a little easier. Plus, getting back to a section that was more runnable felt like we were nearing the home stretch. I sprinted ahead to Manzanita in the last half mile of this stretch as I desperately needed to get to the restroom. It felt good to stretch my legs with a bit of running and I was looking forward to picking up the pace in the box.

We stopped for a few extra minutes in Manzanita, putting away our night gear and preparing ourselves to do a bit of running. I had begun making mental checklists of what to do at each stop so that I wasn’t wasting a ton of time in between.

The box was really fun as we did the most running in this section. It was early morning and still cool enough that we were really comfortable. I managed to keep eating and drinking, trying to not get lazy about it as the hours wore on.

At Phantom Ranch, we both put on our sun layers (matchy matchy) and I made it a point to soak my hat, buff, and arm sleeves at this point to stay cool early and often. The sun shirt made a huge difference in my opinion. Keeping the arms sleeves wet kept me cool and I felt a million times better than last April and this was arguably much warmer in mid-June.

Roger had a bit of a rough patch with the climb back to Havasu Gardens, but he was still moving and not taking breaks. I had been there myself the
entire climb last year so I was empathetic about how he felt. 

Once we reached Havasu Gardens again, we took a pit stop to fill our water and I reapplied sunblock to my legs and face. A younger couple who were doing a much shorter run had passed us coming up, but were now stopped at Havasu as well. I asked Roger if he wanted sunblock and the girl piped up and asked if she could have some. I tossed her the bottle and the four of us talked for a few minutes before they took off ahead of us. 

We continued our climb, looking forward to checking off the rest of the route in 1.5 mile sections. Havasu Gardens is 4.5 miles from the top and there is a water stop at 3 miles to go and 1.5 miles to go. Just like in any ultra, we were only concentrating on making it to the next stop. The trail was much more crowded now and we exclaimed good morning to as many people as possible. Naturally, Roger was able to pick out any German accent and I learned that apparently there is a region he described as the West Virginia of Germany

At 3 miles to go, we paused to douse ourselves in water and made a few people's mouths drop when they got word that we were on mile 40-something. I have surrounded myself with a lot of really incredible runners in my life so some of this stuff starts to feel unremarkable. But seeing their faces reminded me that this was something to not take for granted. And I definitely was appreciative that it was a complete 180 from the way I felt last year doing this route. 

Knowing we had just one more stop reinvigorated us and we started pushing a bit more on the climbs. We passed the younger running couple a few times back and forth and eventually passed them for good. I could tell as Roger power-hiked past them, he was motivated by leaving them in our literal dust. 

I kept eating and drinking right until the end, knowing that we still had another 2ish days of hiking to follow this crazy adventure. Usually, I just let it go in the last hour or two, but I wanted to make sure I felt as good as I could when I finished. 

Once the top of the rim came into view, I felt so freaking happy that I was feeling so good. Sure, I was tired and ready to be done, but I was also in great spirits. We both started whooping in the final stretch, excited that we'd make the trek back safely and on our own two feet. 

Roger immediately threw his body over his trekking poles at the top, feeling an equal mix of exhaustion and euphoria. I was grinning ear-to-ear, relieved that it went as well as it could. We asked someone to take our picture at the trailhead and revered in the moment a bit before heading back to the car. 

We had a cabin at the South Rim so we checked in, showered, ate, took a nap, and went to a very nice, but very early dinner at the Tovar.

Back at the cabin, Roger passed out and I watched a bit of TV and read before falling asleep myself. 

Canyonlands & Arches - 6.18.2023

The next morning, we got up at 4ish and made our way to Canyonlands in Utah. I was a little unsure of how I'd feel for our next adventure, but we'd planned an out-and-back and I knew I could always just pull the plug if I wasn't feeling great. 

I got a couple souvenirs from the visitor's center once inside the park and then we were on our way. Our initial plan was 13 miles, but we both agreed while we were doing R3 that we should scale it back to just 5 miles. It was long enough to see something, but we could sleep a bit more and take it a bit easier. 

The first mile was pretty tame, but then I found myself climbing over giant sections of slick rock, using my hands to pull myself up. It was a bluebird day and while warm, it wasn't oppressively hot. I laughed repeatedly as we meandered through the trail as it seemed to just get more and more ridiculous. 

The landscape was very different from home, but also very different from the Grand Canyon. I wanted to spend more time exploring, but we had to be at Arches between 2-3 p.m. At the 2.5 mile mark, we turned around and headed back to the car. 

Having more exploring to do later in the day, we cheersed at the car with Athletic Brewing beers (re: nonalcoholic) and I grabbed a lunch of sorts from various things in the cooler. Then we made the drive through Moab and to Arches National Park. The line to get in, even with reservations required, was 30+ minutes, but eventually we were on our way to the next trailhead. 

Though my eyes had been overwhelmed with beautiful sights the past 48 hours, I still had a bit of a pinch me moment as we snaked through the enormous sandstone structures. We parked at a trailhead and made our way down the trail in between columns of rock. I was a little surprised that the trail seemed so easy to traverse given all the structures around me and would soon find out that this was limited to just this short stretch.

Once on the Primitive Trail, the footing became very dicey. We climbed over huge pieces of sandstone, some appearing to just drop off at the edge from our vantage point. Luckily, Roger had done this route before and had programmed it into his GPS watch. The markings were minimal and even with this added intel, we found ourselves going in the wrong direction a few times. 

It was beautiful and terrifying to stand atop slickrock with the wind blowing sand in my face. It is in these experiences that I find myself wanting to continue to say yes to the things that feel far from the mundane in life. I can’t do them every day, partially because I’m not independently wealthy, but also, they would lose their luster if they became the norm. But if I can slip them into life at intervals and appreciate them in the moments I’m there, that is the magic.

We made a point to push the pace a bit in the second half as I needed to check in for my flight and WiFi was spotty at best. I felt as though we had truly lucked out with all of our timing and the things we were able to see in just a short amount of time. We made it back to the car, happily wrung out and ready for food and beer.

Thankfully, Adam checked me into my flight as we drove back to the hotel; I was flying Southwest and dreading getting stuck in the C group on the way home. After getting cleaned up, we drove over to Proper Brewing Company for burgers and a few pints. My beer choices ended up being unremarkable, but it was good to sit and relax after the gogogo of the day. Back at the hotel, we went for a short dip in the hot tub before crumbling to exhaustion. 

Arches & Four Corners - 6.19.23

The alarm went off at 3:00 a.m. and I felt dizzy from the constant sleep deprivation and activity. But I had laid out my gear the night before and went through the motions of getting ready. Down at the car, I realized I left my headlamp in the hotel room and hurried to grab it thinking we were short on time.

At the trailhead, Roger realized he miscalculated the time and we had another hour plus before we needed to start hiking. I immediately threw my seat back and passed out until I heard the alarm once again. Though I was groggy to start, I started to awaken with first light as we followed the trail out to Delicate Arch. It was another easy trail to begin followed by bouldering and sketchy rock shelves that seemed extra scary in the dawn light. 

But it was all worth it when we turned the last corner to see the arch come into view at sunrise. We stood and soaked it in for a few minutes. A couple had reached the summit shortly after us and we took turns taking pictures before Roger and I beelined it back to the car. 

I had mentioned to him a few weeks ago that I really wanted to try to go see the Four Corners if we had time. We would only have time if we hurried our morning so we got cleaned up and ate breakfast in record time and got on the road. 

The drive to Four Corners was uneventful and the monument itself was rather unremarkable, but I was happy to cross off this thing that I had been enamored with as a kid. It’s the only place in the United States that you can stand in four states at once! We snapped a few photos and then made the long drive back through Arizona so I could catch my flight.

I was sleep-deprived, slightly sunburnt, lips beyond chapped, feet swollen, calves tight, and 100% couldn’t wait to fill my adventure cup to the brim again.