Climb Every Mountain

Auntie Linda sent the lyrics to the Sound of Music’s “Climb Every Mountain.” This was on point considering the trekkers and climbers have been singing the tunes and lyrics to Do-Ray-Me, 16 going on 17, and many more. So I have been instructed to sing loud, proud, and high pitched from family. Can’t ignore that!

“If it is to be, it is up to me”

I picked out of my lime green bag another letter, lucky for me it was also from family. Aunt Libby and Uncle David sent kind words of admiration for how I conquer life, not just live it. And consider me a role model. My eyebrows shot up. To read these words from my Aunt and Uncle. To not know how my life is being observed by family members. To see that my actions have impacted someone else, without me knowing it. It is humbling. It is motivating. My life is my easel and guided by my own strokes. I don’t often feel as though these are seen by others. And this doesn’t make me feel bad or sad, this doesn’t shadow my action. I am fulfilled by the empowering idea that my own actions motivate and feed my own fire. But when I hear that it also motivates others; it truly sends me to the moon. I think my life is pretty quiet and simple. I think I go under the radar most of the time. I’m sure the negative affect people in my life, but hearing that the positive do, is all I can hope for. And this allows for a deeper, fuller breath. A moment of joy, satisfaction, meaning.

“It is only when we truly know and understand that we have a limited time on earth and that we have no way of knowing when our time is up that we begin to live each day to the fullest, as if it were the only one we had” -Elizabeth Kubler-Ross.

Not sure I can say I know I have a limited time, my life seems endless, as I think life should feel. But each day I am reminded by the people who cross my life professionally that it is indeed not endless. Self-preservation sustains my own invincibility and timelessness…glass half full, not empty, I guess. But it doesn’t mean I’m any less grateful for each day, moment that passes, or person that I have the opportunity to interact with.

Today we walked from Dole to Machermo; mostly along the hillside with more peaks


Sun-bathing: Nepalese style (photo credit: Paul Fejtek)

coming into view including Cho-Oyu, which is climbed from the Tibetan side and closed for climbing this autumn season by China.  It was an easy walk with cooler air brushing and rustling my jacket. The sun is still intense and I enjoyed sun-bathing “Nepalese style”: fully clothed, while sipping lemon tea. I’m embracing trail life as I wash clothes in an outside bucket and settle into cards and music for the afternoon.

Our group is now complete as climber Nick met up with us this evening. Daniel is suffering from GI issues and obvious dehydration. It is frustrating to be the outsider seeing what he needs, but hearing him reject food and water because of how he feels. Each person makes their own bed, and you can’t necessarily “educate” someone to do what is right for them. Ignore the pun; but gut instinct guides each person’s path. And you hope they can look outside themselves to what will satisfy another day. If not….a helicopter awaits to transport them back down the mountain to lower altitude and medical care.


Denise and Me outside the lodge with an amazing backdrop (photo credit Paul Fejtek)

Tomorrow we head to Gokyo and have another acclimatization day. At this point in the trip I’m eager for a restful night of sleep. As we climb to higher altitude my sleep-apnea roommate is singing new tunes that she is unaware of, but I am acutely aware and starting to feel the fatigue.

My intent, in honor of my Aunt and Uncle’s reminder, is to live each day to the fullest, climb every mountain, ford every stream, follow every rainbow, until you find your dream. I am ready to celebrate my 31st birthday in Nepal trekking to Gokyo.

SpO2 85%, HR 48


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Dole via the “Stairway of Death”

As I creep to higher altitude my sleep comes in chunks. But there is plenty of time for sleep, just awake for a few hours with the sounds of snoring and restlessness. But each morning, I awake feeling rested and rejuvenated. Gotta love the mountain air, it just does that to you!

We kept the yoga sessions alive in Khum-Jung before heading out to Mong-La and then onward to Dole. Kathy told me we would be ascending the “stairway of death” today. Not sure what to think, but I didn’t need to, because I’d experience it TODAY. “Short-cut?” Is the famous statement of our Nepalese guides. My response: “sure” as I look back at my teammates. It was a steep cliff-side climb with rock slates serving as steps, narrow and shear drops. My eyes were ahead on the next step only. When turning in the direction of the drop-off, I would look out across the expanse with both trekking poles planted. My fear of heights can freeze me in space….and I didn’t want to freeze here…it was still the beginning! I was following Nepalese guide Rung-jee and the team slow and steady- pole, pole- behind.


Starting to ascend the “stairway of death”, that’s me leading the group looking back at the camera…both poles firmly planted! (photo credit: Paul)


Here you can see the slate rocks forming steps, Bill is seasoned at looking out at expanses and steep drops and looks very comfortable here, note hands in pockets. My head was staring straight ahead at the next rock slate :) (photo credit Paul)

IMG_4015Beautiful views of hanging ice/snow serac and jutting peaks towards the sky kept me out of my fear of heights and enjoying the moments in time.

The details are fresh. The experience is raw. Raw in a sweet tooth manner.

P1080394As we headed towards Dole we diverted from the normal Everest-trek path and headed up Dudh Koshi Nadi and the Ngozumba Glacier instead of the Khumbu Glacier. The trail was lush, water rushed down the glacier river, and many streams fed into the rushing water. The air was dense, which was a surprise at higher altitude.

I enjoyed this hike, but also my well-travelled teammates were enjoying a new area of Nepal. Guide Garrett had not been on this part of the trail, despite his 20+ visits to Nepal. I enjoyed the level playing field that day, we all had eyes wide open taking in new views and terrain. The lifestyle of a guide is intriguing and daunting, but I was more interested in what Garrett did on his time off the mountains when not guiding climbers and trekkers.  There is a normal person mixed into an extraordinary person. I learned he guides ~8 months/year on the highest peaks in the world. Imagine working 24/7 in some of the harshest climates promoting safety and responsibility for and of climbers. When not on an excursion he is setting up the next trip and enjoying life in Seattle at local restaurants and coffee shops. We talked about Mountain Collective pass and ski resorts; agreeing that Snowbird is a good resort and a good schooner awaits at Grumpy’s in Sun Valley. It was refreshing to peal back a layer from one of the top international guides to a 38 year old who is passionate about exploring the land. Relatability is a basic human motivator.


USC colors on the Mani-Stones welcomed us to Dole

You can find familiarities and connections when being open to conversation. I will be the first to admit, I guard my conversations depending on what role I’m playing: practitioner to patient, CI to student, friend to friend. Vulnerability is not my strong suit, but I continue to pursue it on a daily basis; motivated before and after Nepal. If you want to connect and enrich the meaningfulness of a relationship: acquaintance, casual, friend, colleague, girl-friend, mentor, mentee, daughter, niece, cousin, granddaughter…vulnerability deepens the experience.P1080402

“Never let the odds keep you from doing what you know in your heart you were meant to do.” H. Jackson Brown Jr.

“You are so much stronger than you think you are.”

“The mountains, the forest, and the sea, render men savage; they develop the fierce, but yet do not destroy the human” -Victor Hugo

“This mountain, the arched back of the earth risen before us, tim ade me feel humble, like a begger, just lucky to be here at all, even briefly.” -The Provence Cure for the Broken-hearted

“The real work of an expedition begins when you return” -Louise Amer-Boyd

From my journal: “The last two quotes really resonante with me. I am humbled by the expansive and massiveness of the great outdoors, as well as, the elevation hey reach up to touch.. I am enjoying every breath and definitely am aware of my expedition being applied change my day to day upon returning home. To apply the change I desire”

What change was I specifically addressing…eh, I don’t think it was specific. It was general. It is keeping the opportunity open. Taking a singular breath and refocusing my intention of applying change to reach my goals or desired outcome. Living with intention and meaning. And knowing when to let go, laugh, smile, and breathe. Let it be.


An opportunity to breathe and let it be.

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Namche to Khum-Jung

Today motivated me to blog. Why? Because I was huffing and puffing walking up to the ski lift at Mammoth. What this means? My high altitude adventure is creeping into the past temporally. My high altitude conditioning that was a major bonus to the trek is wearing off. A somber moment. As entities slip into the past. I can choose to keep aspects in the present, but the time is in the past.

So let’s bring it back to the present:


Denise and Me at the entrance to the village

10/25/2015: 10 hours of sleep, yoga session in the morning, and ready to leave Namche Bazaar to head towards the mountains we sat and enjoyed from the Everest View Hotel. I’m half way around the world….correction: I’m on the other side of the world and ironically and fittingly my left side of my body is feeling tighter than my right…..the opposite of my American norm. Ha! This made me smile quite a bit during the yoga session. Walk with me here: you know yourself better than anyone else, you have your “normal” and typical. There was nothing typical about this trip, and my body followed suit. As a physical therapist, as a intuitive person, and as me; this all went against the grain. I sank in during our morning yoga session to enjoy feeling tension release in my L piriformis, scapula muscles (working really hard to not get technical here), and allow my back to stretch into flexion. Breaths of fresh air and beauty.

    We switched back on a trail as lower clouds rolled over the mountains with breaks for beautiful views of Ama Dablam and Shangri-La. 


And Martha and I photo-bombed Denise and Paul taking a cute picture with Shangri-La in the background.

Bill organized a tour of the local hospital in Khum-Jung, Khunde. The facility was bare-bones. An US machine, X-ray, less-than-sterile operating suite, and a freezer/fridge filled
with medication for pain, antibiotics, and altitude sickness. A baby was born that morningIMG_4012 and the mom was eager to head back home. If an expectant mother requires a C-section, she is carried down on a stretcher or flown by helicopter to Kathmandu; financially the former is more common. I can’t imagine all the steps and rocky terrain, while an expectant mother is in labor. I couldn’t help but be acutely aware that the “lucky” end up at the minimalist hospital supported by Canada. My fellow trekker asked if a lot of heart attack patients were seen at the hospital. The doctor politely said no. The trekker was shocked. I knew exactly what that meant. Those suffering from cardiovascular issues most likely didn’t survive a walk or carry to the hospital, but hopefully died peacefully surrounded by family in his/her home. The realities of an emerging county and living along a trail. Bipedal transportation; which is seen as a luxury and leisure in American culture, but is the way of meeting basic needs of building shelter, transporting wood, buying food and clothing; and collecting water; not clean water for my GI system, but clean for a Nepalese GI system. I wonder what the daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly over-head costs of running the Khunde hospital are…

I walked away from the hospital with a bit of a heavy heart. The excessive product, service, and resources I function in and with during my day-to-day job. The expectation my patients have when they receive care at the hospital I work for. I am grateful to have the resources I have access to at work; but often people expect it rather than express gratitude for it. The Khunde hospital would probably reject some of the resources saying “there is no need for that.” Need, want, benefit, lucky. And on and on…..

  We walked from the hospital to the school. The kids who attend are lucky to receive an education that can help them adventure on to Kathmandu and have access to resources that may advance them to a job outside the Khumbu region. I watched some local kids spit on both their palms and hang from the monkey bars! You remember doing that? Ahh, I loved traversing across the monkey bars, trying to swing one arm at a time and skip a rung or two. When is the last time you hung from the monkey bars? Then a see-saw, and a slide. Ahhh, some jovial smiles and relating to the smiles in childhood pleasures shared between Khum-Jung, Nepal and Farmington Hills, Michigan.

IMG_4007Jakey-Poo sent the quote “Be Present”. This trip has been nothing but. The peacefulness of walking down the narrow walk-ways away from the Khunde hospital, sharing the craft of french braiding hair with an on-looking Nepalese girl and giving her some of my hair-ties. Similarly “the One and Only” reminded me, “When walking, walk. When sitting, sit. Above all else, don’t wobble”. -Buddhist Koan. Ignore the noise and focus on what you’ve chosen to do. Every day we make choices, some seem routine, some seem big, some seem small…but how lucky to have the choice. Be grateful for the choice.

From my journal: “The noise is minimal here; I’ve chosen to not access the internet so far. I am sitting and sitting. Walking and walking. Eating and eating. Sharing conversation and thought. Thought: If the Nepalese people visited London, Paris, or New York, what would they think or feel? Of the advanced society that exists away from their home. Would they be inspired? Mad? Angry? In disbelief? They know nothing else as they haven’t seen or experienced outside their country, their means….but what if they did?”

Onward to Dole!

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Either these are special soles or special souls over-come soles. Namche Bazaar and first view of Mt Everest

After falling asleep listening to rushing water in Phak-ding and starting to learn what colored waterproof sacks held what supplies for ease of unpacking and packing each night, we were ready to head up to Namche Bazaar. Rifling through my colored waterproof organization sacks would prove to be an almost daily event tackling my big bag. I started reorganizing my colored sacks by activity or time-of-day needs rather than by categories of items. The funny things you do and learn while hiking :)
The hike to Namche Bazaar was a steady uphill with many rock formed steps laying the land. It made me think of my training hikes: Mt Baldy via ski hut, Gorgonio, and Mt. San Bernadino all rolled into one. My fellow Trekkers had shared that the last ~2 miles were a steep climb into town. I walked with American co-guide Sid and chatted about outdoor hobbies. As we switched back on the trail I was noticing some Sherpas climbing straight up the mountain off trail bypassing the switchbacks. I decided those individuals were probably part of our climbing Sherpa team, ha! Sure enough it was our climbing sudar Purbah, the expert in charge of the climbing portion of our group’s expedition. Next thing I knew we were at the check point to access Namche and the hill has been passed without awareness that this is “the” hill. So far so good!
I was still enjoying the slow pace of eating, after all I am on vacation! In my typical workday I eat breakfast on the run, either while walking to work or imbetween drying my hair and putting on make-up. So on this trip we sat, conversed, enjoyed each other’s company, let a conversation evolve, and tasted the food we were eating. Some of our group wanted to eat and go, so I tended to be the last out of the lunch spot. This particular day the group filed out while I was in the bathroom line, yikes! And at this point it was still resembling a western bathroom so worth waiting for in my novice eyes.
So long-legged guide Garrett set the stride to get me back up with the group. I noticed how my eyes were daggering the ground since we started the trek in Lukla. Aware that a mis-step could end the journey and putting a little more attention on my surroundings to ensure continued reciprocal stepping up the trail! Now I just stepped where Garrett stepped and fell in rhythm. My mind relaxed. The people I traveled with are experienced mountain climbers. Although your safety is your own responsibility on the trail it was reassuring knowing my immediate friends were surer footed and familiar in Nepal. And whatever they recommended I took as fact and good as gold. For those who know me, I am definitely not that trusting in my day to day life. I engage in conversation over a comment of fact. I investigate the who, what, where, when to make my own decision on whether I believe something to be fact. In Nepal I was stripped of any expertise or authority in decision making. I trusted my teammates and followed in their footsteps and recommendations. It’s partly why this trip was so liberating, to follow and not lead. To absorb the surrounding views, sounds, and not feel the responsibility of problem solving. The only problem I had to avoid was coming head to head with a yak on a suspension bridge! Mission accomplished :)
I digress….catching back up to the group got my heart rate going, leaning into the hills, poling to propel up and forward. The travel from LA to Nepal and our first few days in Kathmandu were pretty stagnant. It felt great to get moving!
The suspension bridges we passed over were more sturdy than I had imagined. They had cable reinforcements longitudinally and fencing on both sides. They didn’t rock and sway requiring a strong grip. They just got a little longer and a little higher as we continued up the trail. Listening for yak bells and eyes ahead kept me calm and comfortable passing on the bridges.
Everyone’s moods were light in Namche. Our more experienced team members were warning of early altitude sickness signs and pushing for hydration as we start sleeping at higher altitudes. The first of two evenings in Namche on the hike up turned into Bill playing Les Miserables’ songs on his cell phone and us singing along to “Master of the House” and “On My Own”, comical to travel so far and be brought back to your roots growing up. We started hearing the mastermind creativity of Daniel as he sang well known theme songs with song writing specific to our group. We all laughed without filter or hesitation. I shared more deep rooted uninhibited laughs that night than I probably have in years. Sad, but true. And I wrote in my journal to keep allowing the laughs to be uninhibited for the remainder of the trip. Smile wrinkles welcomed on this face ;)
I also continued to feed my sweet tooth with milk tea and was reminded that night of need for moderation! My SpO2 was 90% and HR 76 that evening at dinner. I was quite surprised as I did not feel any added strain or discomfort from altitude but both numbers were off from my normal. SpO2 typically greater than 96% and HR in the high 50’s when sitting, relaxed. I’ll blame the belly laughing.
The following day was an acclimatization day at Namche Bazaar with a hike up to the Everest View Hotel. After a sleepless night due to too much milk tea, hearing my roommate Cheyne-Stokes breathing at altitude, snoring around the lodging (the walls are particle board), and Daniel rehearsing Sound of Music from 4am onward, I opened a letter from my brother and his wife that said “open when feeling tired”. I opened this around 6:45am, long day ahead. The quote inside was: “You need special shoes for hiking and a bit of a special soul as well.” -Terri Guillemets. I am always pleasantly surprised how my energy finds itself in the mountains. And this quote brought me back to our porters who are wearing flip flops, crocks, ballet flats, and jeans. Either these are special soles or special souls over-power soles!


Denise and me at Everest View Hotel. Just to the right of Denise’s head is Everest encapsulated in a cloud.

As we hiked to the Everest View Hotel we were looking out at some of the world renowned climbing mountains. I had to ask guide Garrett to point out each peak and state the name for my GoPro video as my eyes were not familiar with these mountains and could not identify exactly which mountain is Everest, let alone the others. The video is still one of my favorites from the trip as Garrett points to the different peaks and scans from left to right across the valley finishing at co-guide Sid standing next to me, with Sid self proclaiming himself a “mountain of a man.” He definitely proved his proclamation later in the trip with the climbing crew!
We spotted 2 climbers on the final approach to the summit of Ama Dablam. Such small specks against the white sheet of snow. I could have sat along the trail watching them for the rest of the day! The air was noticeably gaining crispness and losing the humidity of Kathmandu, Lukla, and Phak-ding. Looking out at Everest I was feeling awe to be looking at it as a physical entity with my own two eyes, but I didn’t feel any emotional connection and actually was drawn by my eyes to the sight of Lhotse more than Everest. Shh, don’t tell anyone.


My own 2 eyes (well fine, 4 eyes) captured on Mt. Everest, Lhotse, and Ama Dablam. Mt Everest has two line appearing clouds coming off to the right side of it’s peak, Lhotse is the first peak to the right of Everest and Ama Dablam is the snow peak directly above my sunglasses.

We sat outside in the sun and enjoyed a high tea, pee, and cha-cha dance performed by Kathy and Daniel. She wanted to document how coordination in the Cha-cha changes as she moved to higher altitude. The flatness of her dance floor changed more than the preciseness of her well-trained moves. But they were sure out of breath and lightheaded at the end of the performance!


Western Guides Garrett and Sid, Left to Right with Tenzing statue and Mt. Everest in the backdrop. Strike a pose!

Walking back to Namche I stopped off to see the statue of Tenzing Norgay, the Indian origin Nepalese Sherpa who summited Everest for the first time with Sir Edmund Hillary, who was first will be a never ending debate. Next to the statue I was treated by a friendship statue between Nepal and Israel holding two rocks from 1) the top of Mt Everest and 2) the depths of the Dead Sea. Pretty cool site to see and coincidentally my mom bought me a bracelet with water from both locations that she gave to me when visiting in December, after the trip.


Friendship Statue between Israel and Nepal



The afternoon was spent walking through the Namche Bazaar market and visiting shops of local flavor and all the hiking, climbing gear you would need to weather the trail ahead. It amazes me to see all the produce and products and think it all was walked up here on the backs of porters or yaks. It’s a lot of stuff!
Namche sits in a bowl shaped area looking out over the ravine we walked along from Lukla. I love the fall of the mountains as they rush down to the river’s edge, looking out across the ravine you see the diagonal lines of the mountain sides criss-crossing as long as the eyes can see. One of my favorite views, lucky to be found many places in the world. Looking up the valley ahead from atop Namche my mind is excited to get on the trail and wondering what my eyes will feast on ahead. I noted in my journal that the air will be getting cooler and less desirable to be still in. Good thing this is a walking trip!


Namche, bowl-shaped looking towards the ravine leading to Lukla



My second day in Namche had an exclamation point of a warm shower, my first on the trail, and I noted in my journal it may be the last for a while, ha. Bud advised me that if a shower is available to buy or use, take it….you don’t know what is coming ahead.


Namche sitting along hillside

I tucked my toes into my sleeping bag, boiling water in my Nalgene toasting my sleeping bag and feet, and fall into a deep sleep as my eyes synced to Everest, Lhotse, and Ama Dablam today and my mind acknowledged that cooler temps and less comfortable accommodations lay ahead.





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Lukla to Phak-ding: rushing glacier river, green hillsides, damp fresh air

So let’s start on the trail :)

I’d say trekking is the composite of the trail, walking on two feet, the people you meet, the interactions you have with the outdoor environment…and the indoors too. Not just your two feet plodding along. Sending up mud clods to John hiking behind me ;)

I googled it: trekking is a long arduous journey, typically on foot.

So, let’s start the trek!

Upon getting to Lukla we helped the porters identify which bags were to stay with us on the trail, vs. which were heading up to Burke-Khang basecamp for the climbers. Bags that included ice axes, down one-piece puffy suits….think like little kiddie pajamas, climbing boots, and climbing helmets….stuff I didn’t need, but they sure did for once they started their arduous climb. Lots of shifting of gear, many unfamiliar faces as our porters, sherpas, and cook staff that I’d later re-meet at base camp were organizing who’d be with us as we trekked to base camp vs. who was going straight to base-camp to start setting up, starting figuring the route to the


Load the Yaks! 14 Yaks took all the gear to set-up base camp and the climbing equipment for Burke-Khang

mountain, and on the mountain. We sat down to breakfast, which truly is a blur to me at this point. It was a blur even when I returned to Lukla 16 days later. Until I saw a picture of me sitting in a tea-house eating breakfast in Lukla I would have denied that it happened. So many new places, people, and experiences to take in that some were being left to the camera to document. After breakfast we headed across the archway that signified the beginning of the trail in Lukla and then crossed the threshold and the hiking permit check point identifying the start of the real journey.

As we walked along the main street in Lukla, I saw little shops carrying toilet paper, Pringles, Snicker’s bars, Kleenex, Pop…you know the essentials you may have forgotten or ran out of on the trail. I learned about the flag poles with Tibetan prayer flags that are situated on the trail,


Tibetan flag pole, stay left!

which you always should walk left of if safe to do so to respect the flags and to keep safe passage along the trail. Similarly mani-stones, or prayer stones lined the trail when coming up to a village or leaving a village and again you should stay left of them. So there would be trails on both sides of the mani-stones depending on your direction of travel on the trail. I took some extra ups and downs traveling around these mani-stones…but if it was to add to the lamp of safe passage, I’d keep rubbing the right way…or left I should say!

I noticed early on the trail how damp the air was. You could smell the green of the trees, grass, and hillsides. And to my ears’ enjoyment I was listening to a rushing glacier river, Dudh Koshi Nadi! The entire way the first day to Phak-ding we walked along the glacier river and crossed over it via suspension bridges. It was so nice to hear powerful rushing water and set my eyes on the ice blue color. SoCal’s drought earned an exclamation point to me at that moment as I couldn’t recall the last time I heard rushing water to this degree.

Phak-ding sits at 8563 feet and Lukla at 9317 feet. So our first day was grossly downhill! The first mile or so out of Lukla was stone steps down. I


Steps leading away from Lukla towards Phak-ding. Can you smell the clean fresh air?

computed to memory that this would be the end of the trail…a long stair-case up to Lukla. I had anticipated the suspension bridges as rickety with spacing I could fall through if I wasn’t careful. They were less intimidating than I imagined. They were reinforced with cables running longitudinally, fencing running along the lateral sides, and steel or metal plates running closely together on the bottom. I still kept my gaze forward the first suspension bridge, but as time went on I could glance around and enjoy the view while keeping pace on the bridges. I wrote in my journal that evening:

“It seems as though my imagination dramatizes a lot of unknown experiences, increases emotion. The flight from LAX to HKG, the flight to Lukla, suspension bridges. All of these experiences have been calm and invigorating without a negative hint of fear or anxiety.”

An applicable thought to life after Nepal, keeping my lessons alive and applied. These aren’t rocket-science or light-bulb bright….but when you have the time to think about them, let them sink in, and offer the energy to adapt behavior it can be liberating, refreshing, and rewarding.

Upon crossing my first suspension bridge we arrived in Phak-ding. This is


Bill and me; fast friends and a mentor I’ll keep close to my heart. After this picture I crossed my first suspension bridge!

Bill’s favorite village along the trek. It was beautifully painted with buddhist symbols, art, and dotted with mani-wheels. John, fellow trekker and climber, had visited a Monastery above Phak-ding the last time he was in Nepal. I went with him that afternoon to visit the Monastery and was welcomed into the sanctuary to observe a ceremony. The monks were chanting their prayers and turning individual papers tied between two cardboard pieces holding the words to their prayers. They laid out a carpet, poured milk tea (my Nepalese crack), and said “ok” to video and pictures. Then I got to sit amongst them and listen to a ceremony that few get to see, let alone be in the midst of. I smiled at the offerings of bagged candy and popcorn to the buddha. What a different way of life. A chosen way of life as seen by the community. The first born son of a monk family automatically goes off to a Monastery. Seen as an honor, but I wonder if free thought has led to an eldest son choosing not to stay in the Monastery. And how would that be accepted or rejected? An agreed honor by a large community may not be an honor to an individual. So many empathetic, sympathetic, and respecting emotions. But can’t help my mind from wandering and wondering.


Monastery with ceremony, notice bags of candy on the right as offerings.

I finished my journal entry this day with “Il bel far niente” an Italian quote sent to me by friend Alyce reminding me of “the beauty of doing nothing.” So far on the trip I was enjoying the beauty of leisure meals with good conversation, something lost in my American workday and solo breakfasts and dinners. I noted in my journal to “work into the moments of nothingness.” 

“‘I know God will not give me anything I can’t handle. I Just wish that He didn’t trust me so much’ -Mother Theresa. I relate this quote to my calmer demeanor than expected with unknown experiences…keeping it simple to enjoy the beauty. Un-clouding the drama, fear, anxiety, or negative emotion. One step in front of the other, head up to enjoy my surroundings”


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Culture Shock in the Unexpected Place

Life after a trip of a lifetime…ha. I hadn’t thought about that aspect.

I returned to work on Tuesday. I can’t say I was thrilled to be stepping back into the 9-5 routine, but it was inevitable. At least for now. I was moving slowly getting out of Mammoth Monday, snoozing the Tuesday alarm, and the lack of emotion felt Tuesday morning. I was pleasantly surprised by the warm hugs I received stepping back into the gym. It felt welcoming and home-y and reminded me that the people are who bring you back to work day after day.

I noticed myself being less aware of the content of surrounding conversations in the gym, across the desks in our PODs, and my coworkers conversations with their patients, on the phone, or to each other. I noticed sound and words, but not the content of them. I usually can’t tune out conversations and am aware of many things going on around me. Now I was tuned into my conversation, but hearing sounds around me, seeing people walking in multiple directions, and the volume of people around me. I was sensory overloaded! Walking one foot in front of the other, often alone for HOURS on the trail, occasionally smiling at a hiker going the other way or saying Namaste to the passing porter…and when meeting back up with fellow hikers sharing our sentiment about the trail. It was a simple way of life…and I enjoyed it and was now seeking it!

  1. The busyness of my visual and auditory surround at work

The second aspect that hit me was how quickly and direct people were talking: patients, caretakers, families, coworkers. The questions were very matter-of-fact, almost cold seeming. Much of the language had an accusatory tone.  EEK….it felt ugly. I sat in on a meeting my first day back to work and I was shocked at how quickly each person was presenting his/her point. How each sentence never was completed, but rather rushed into the next sentence…so the thought had to be concluded instead of heard. Each person’s viewpoint was already concluded before the conversation began…the conversation was to each other, not with each other. A check mark was completed.

2. The speed of conversation, thoughts, and being 3 steps ahead of the current moment

This environment used to energize me, I would strive to be on top of it all. Now I want to back away, look people in the eye and listen to their sentences, enjoy how they are expressing themselves, and support the space to finish a thought. That’s my idealistic moment.

I am sure somewhere between my sensitivity walking in Tuesday morning and my demeanor leaving on October 16th, I’ll settle back in. But I hope I can encourage the expression of thought and talk with my patients, coworkers, and families and not revert back to talking to them. The nature of health-care is always more work than there is time for…but I’m going to try and dig my heels into the longer side of 8 minutes instead of rushing through 8 minutes :)

Each day this week I felt myself falling back into “routine”. But conscious awareness will hopefully keep me from falling back into all of my routines or all of the routines of the “culture at work”.

I came home to a few letters in the mailbox intended for Nepal. So I let my mind hop back across the pond and read the letters and quotes. I did this daily in Nepal. I brought over 70 letters with me to Nepal from friends and family, who I promised I wouldn’t open them until on my journey. Each day I embraced the familiarity of the names on these letters, the thoughts of the people I care about swimming in my head and applying their quotes to my current day. I used the quotes and words of encouragement to shape my daily journal. Commenting on the day’s hike took on a growth opportunity personally by exploring how each quote applied to my perception of the day and larger to life.

So, let’s start in the beginning!

My car was packed with my belongings traveling to Nepal and also up to Mammoth after my return to LA. I drove up to my Aunt and Uncle’s house in LA, dropped off my car and loaded my bags into Natalie’s car. We headed off to dinner to catch up before she dropped me off at the airport. I was grateful for a send-off from a good friend, it was a few hours of laughs, talking about life and love, and altogether taking my mind of the pending journey. TNatalie and Me at Airporthis was welcomed after weeks of to-do lists and concentrated errands, to stop and enjoy conversation with a good friend. She even helped me carry my heavy duffel bag to the check-in desk!
My bag was 22-24 kilos….eek. As a novice hiker, I definitely “over-packed” to experienced standards…but I wore every thing I brought and was happy for the layers and variations in jackets, socks, and hats I had. And my bag was NOT the heaviest in the group :)

I was surprisingly content being sedentary on my 15 hour flight to Hong-Kong. I slept the majority of the flight. I still was quite zombie-esque for the majority of my 11 hour lay-over in Hong Kong. I was not feeling confident enough to leave the airport and explore Hong-Kong. Instead I walked around the airport, found deserted sections (not quite The Terminal status, but unused gates) and fell asleep across the seats. I’d wake up as people were filing into the seats for upcoming flights and move along to another section. The Hong Kong airport has water dispensers where you can choose the temperature of the water: cold, luke warm, or hot. Sensitive to different cultural preferences. Cold water for me :) About 5 hours into the lay-over I decided I couldn’t stick to my


Hong Kong Ramen


snacks for sustenance and ate some ramen, airport style. This may have been my downfall. After waking up sprawled across some airport seats with 30 minutes before my expected departure, I jumped up and started walking quickly to the updated gate…my legs felt like lead and my body was wondering what I was doing at whatever hour it was and without sleeping in a bed for over 27 hours, ha.  I had stayed pretty subdued since leaving OC, and finally felt a little relief that I was on the segment of my travel that would take me to my final destination. My stomach started cramping as we were taking off and I spent the rest of the flight in the small airplane bathroom expelling my Hong-Kong ramen. Not a way to start your trip, with no nutrition, dehydrated, and with all my rib and back muscles sore. Eh, I guess this is why you train…so hiccups don’t derail you.

Arrival in Kathmandu, baggage comes around the carousal, roll my cart out to the crowd of taxi drivers, family and friends of arriving passengers, and my designated driver holding a “Madison Mountaineering” sign. This sign had gold beams shooting out from it, I spotted it in the crowd and smiled from ear to ear. Here’s where my responsibilities felt like they disappeared. I had placed my trust in Garrett and his company to take care of me in Nepal and now I was under his company’s care. I met my fellow trekker Martha who had flown in on the same flight and we headed off to the Yak and Yeti Hotel.

We arrived in Kathmandu on the night of one of Nepal’s main festivals. One where the streets were EMPTY and every one is home with their families. I didn’t see a single car or person walking around from the airport to the hotel, which I was told is the opposite of normal. Laying down in the hotel’s bed was the greatest feeling after being reclined but not horizontal since sleeping in my bed in OC.

I woke up the next morning feeling pretty refreshed. Martha and I meandered down to a buffet breakfast and met up with the rest of our group. Every one gave welcoming hugs and I looked around at the food not sure what to test my stomach with. The food was all familiar food, I just didn’t want to repeat my experience from Hong Kong to Kathmandu. Bread and water it was.

I had a gear check with Garrett after breakfast. I unpacked my duffel on the bed and walked through all my gear with him. What a way to get to know someone! I ended up leaving behind my Mammoth knit ski hat, a rain coat (‘cus I had 2 other water proof jackets), and clean travel clothes. I acknowledged my “excessive” clothes, but he encouraged me to bring along what I packed. As a group we took a tour of Kathmandu visiting two world heritage sites:

and visiting an art school that explained the mandalas and the bare bones of Buddhism. I was soaking it up and eager to learn about the culture and country. As we walked into the area of Pashupatinath a wood pallet with a dead body heading to the cremation blocks along the river crossed my path. The jet lag and empty stomach probably contributed to a visceral pull back to the site. I watched as they started the ritual of shaving the eldest son’s hair to prepare him to light the mouth of his mother on fire. Welcome to a different world. I took pictures with my new friends who conduct prayer ceremonies along theIMG_3924 river…or may be collecting money from tourists, we’ll leave the jury out on that one. At Boudhanath Stupa I walked clockwise in a complete circle turning all the mani-wheels; purifying the soul. I’ll turn as many of these as I can before heading up the trail to have as many good fortunes stored up as I can. We visited an art school and learned about the Wheel of Life and Mandalas of wisdom and meditation. I’m now on a hunt for a mandala symbolizing meditation.


Maniwheels or prayer wheels encircling Boudhanath Stupa

We came together for a group dinner at one of Bill’s favorite restaurants in Kathmandu. This was the first meal that I ate and enjoyed in Kathmandu and decided veg was the way to go for the rest of the trip.

Team Dinner Kathmandu

Family dinner in K

We had an early wake-up call to catch one of the first flights from Kathmandu to Lukla. The domestic terminal was quite a different experience than the international terminal.
Small stands representing each airline had scales behind them where we passed our duffels, then back packs. Pat down security lines for men and women….a call of our flight, and then walking out onto the tarmac to board a bus that drove us out to our plane. Circa 19-a while ago.IMG_3929 One IMG_3935person can climb the steps onto the plane at a time. No seat belts, no partition from cabin to cockpit, and no pressurized cabin. A tray of cotton balls and hard candy came around as we taxied to take off. I will say it over and over again, that our weather was consistently perfect. Our little prop plane didn’t experience turbulence and clear skies welcomed our landing at the Lukla airport. An airport famous for turning flights back around due to cloud cover, plane traffic only in the morning due to clouds coming in early afternoon, and a “committed” landing as Bud, a climbing teammate who is a pilot, explained as we approached the landing strip. At a certain distance there are no other options, with mountains on both sides and at the end of the runway, there is no turning away from the landing if something was to happen….you are committed to land the aircraft. Our pilot yelled “hubba hubba here we go” as we landed and out we hopped to the cooler air of 9000′. My transportation from here is my own two feet.


Denise, Paul, and Myself under the arch that marks the start of the trail through the town of Lukla and beyond!



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Noticing the quality of western toilets, buying make-up, reintroducing a western diet

I am in one piece, sturdier and healthier after the Khumbu trek.
I journaled daily while trekking and realized that my journal and my blog are very separate entities. None of you would be interested in reading my journal, but my blog hopefully takes you on a journey through my eyes.

My eyes were wide open and often overwhelmed from October 19th-November 10th. The enormous ridgelines, vastness of valleys, rushing glacial rivers, and lack of people as we walked farther away from Lukla never got old. I’d be walking and just stop in my tracks and glance over my shoulder, or square my shoulders to the view and take it in for a few extra breaths. It was refreshing every time. Invigorating with every advance up the region, conclusive with every step back down away from our high points to the sky.
My trekking days were leisure and relaxed while walking with the climbing group up to Burke-Khang base camp. We stopped often for tea, lunch, and picture opportunities. When the trekking team departed from the climbing team our days got a little longer and less leisure without tea stops or as many picture stops.
I was spoiled rotten with the clear skies and views of Lhotse, Ama Dablam, Mt. Everest, Choy Oyu, and Burke-Khang. I continued to see Everest as I walked down past Namche. Our first supposed glimpse of Mt. Everest on the way up the Namche trail hill into Namche Bazaar was a tease as cloud cover blocked the viewpoint. The spot has become famous, meaning lots of people stop there and take a pit-stop. From a sanitary and business perspective there is now a “toilet” facility and someone collecting money to use it, ha! When your main source of income is from tourism, the country has adapted to maximize on basic western human needs…a “toilet”. In quotations as this term is loosely used. Kathy, climbing teammate, defined a toilet rating scale to be used along our way. 5 stars indicating a western toilet with an attendant handing out mints, mouth wash, and cotton squares….this does not exist in Nepal. 0 stars to the stop you invent along the trail. We had more than a few laughs describing some of the surprising situations we encountered while managing our input/output.
No my trek was not all about using the bathroom. But the simplicity of this trip brings you back to your basic needs. Food was cooked by tea houses along the trail. Each menu I opened to study and make an educated decision. Each menu was the same! Especially as we walked further up the region, less options were available. My food decisions for each meal:
Breakfast: hard boiled eggs and either porridge or muesli with or without Apple. I stuck to this regimen religiously, no need starting the GI tract on the wrong foot each morning, go with what you know!
Lunch: veg fried rice, rara soup, or tomato soup and cheese sandwich. As it got colder, soup was always welcomed, the taste of the soup went from resembling tomato to broth that was deep red…not sure from what.
Dinner: veg fried noodles or veg fried rice, rara soup
My finicky stomach was fine on these foods, and I wasn’t going to start experimenting. One night in Namche we were served a fixed meal, which was yak steak. More likely buffalo steak. I ate it with a smile and was grateful it sat well. My body was craving salt, which rarely happens. But the higher we went in altitude, the harder to stay hydrated, so the more salt I took in to try to absorb more water. And yes, “rara soup” is good ole ramen noodle soup. Delicious on the trail, especially when some vegetables were mixed in. Exciting choices, I know. I was surprised to see fresh apples pretty high up the trail. Remember, I was eating to live, not living to eat on this trip…maybe living to eat when I get back to the states :)

The tea houses were always excited to see our group roll in, more so when we were a big group than the 6 in the trekking team. Our beds ranged from beds to wooden slabs with foam or a cushion on top. All the way up to a tent with a foam pad at base camp. I was comfortable every night of the trip tucked into my borrowed sleeping bag. As we got to cooler temperatures I added a silk liner and switched to heavier long underwear. I am happy to report that I slept in my clothes and down jacket only one night: base camp tent camping. Too cold to think of changing out of my clothes and the possibility of having to get out of the tent in the middle of the night for toileting would require redressing all those layers. So they stayed on. I learned a craft on this trip that I wish I knew growing up in Michigan in a house that the heat would magically get turned down to “too cold” at night. Boiled water in Nalgene bottles thrown inside your sleeping bag! There were nights I would wake up too warm and have to take one out! Every night our guides and support staff dutifully collected our multi-colored assortment of Nalgene bottles and filled each with boiling water. It was yummy to warm up my sleeping bag before jumping inside! Conversely, in the morning I would stuff my clothes for the day into my sleeping bag to warm them up before going through the routine of changing out of my sleepwear. It made the process much easier!
Water…..water, water, water. As an individual who drinks >100 oz of water per day and who trained for this trek by loading my backpack with extra water for weight…I had a hard time letting go of all my extra water. The second day from Phak-ding to Namche I carried 4 liters of water. My teammates lifted my bag and said “oy” or “I’m glad I’m not carrying your bag”. I was still in training mode. It took Garrett, our guide, telling me that I didn’t need to carry extra water to get me to knock down to 3L. Still considered excessive by most of my team. Most days I emptied my hydration bladder of 2L while on the trail, along with tea stops. On shorter days I would forgo the Nalgene bottle which added the 3rd Liter.
Finicky stomach = me being anal about treating my water. The water in the Khumbu is not safe to drink for a westerner who is used to purified and chemically treated water. Our water was always boiled to help kill bacteria. On top of boiling the water, I was dropping in an Israeli water purification pill, of unknown chemicals, that required 30 minutes of sitting time prior to consuming. AND I was treating the water with a Steripen, which is a UV wand that you swirl in your water for 90 seconds per liter. Triple treatment. My two boiled Nalgene bottles that kept me warm during the night, were treated with the Israeli purification pills during breakfast, followed by the Steripen before being dumped into my hydration bladder for drinking along the trail. I would then fill one Nalgene with boiling water before setting out on the day’s trek. Upon arrival into our next location I was only 30 minutes away from treated water for teeth brushing or drinking. I may have been carrying more weight in my pack than my comrades, but it worked for me and I managed to stay well hydrated during the days.
My hydration was more difficult at nights as you inevitably played the cat and mouse game of having >10 hours available for sleep time, multiple awake segments each night due to acclimatizing to altitude making you pee more often, and the walls are made of particle board and inevitably someone is snoring loudly. Most mornings I woke up with a very dry mouth and eager for water.

So that covers food and shelter. Coming from the cushy lifestyle I am accustomed to in Newport Beach, where my bed could fit 4 of me and has enough cushion for an 800lb man, I was surprisingly very comfortable in the Khumbu. I hadn’t given much thought to the accomodations prior to the trip, which made it easy to roll with what presented itself. Also, each night I was very tired, which made falling asleep easy. I was happy to have some form of walls to protect from the outside elements. And altogether I was just thrilled to be there, so no electricity in the room for a light, or a door that didn’t quite close, or a snoring hall mate was just part of the experience!
The hardest adjustment has been the the airplane travel. On my way from Hong Kong to Kathmandu and conversely Kathmandu to Hong Kong I got sick on the airplanes. I wish this on nobody. Having to rush your aisle-seated row-mate, cram into a airplane bathroom to dry heave and be sick is miserable. And repeatedly is exhausting. I am going to tack these experiences into my stress response category. Happy that I was affected in the beginning and end of the trip, but not along the way on the trail. Put the girl from Michigan on a plane to travel around the world by herself and something is bound to express itself. I’ve bee back since Tuesday afternoon, and my stomach is revolting the complex foods. I am still eatting hard boiled eggs and cereal for breakfast, but not able to hold in foods for lunch or dinner. I have no interest in rara noodles, fried rice or chow mien, left them in the Khumbu. So for now, laying low in LA letting my body adjust back to the time zone and ease into western food. Everyone is wondering about how much weight I lost. Per the scale I dropped 5lbs along the trail. But my clothes are very loose and I’m interested to see how my body composition changed. I recognize I lost a fair amount of muscle mass in my upper body. So we’ll see next week when I return to Newport and take my body composition testing.

I realize this post is not what you’ve been waiting for. You want the stories of walking to base camp and sleeping alongside the glacier in a tent, climbing Kala Pattar, and visiting Everest base camp, what and when altitude affected me, what surprised me, what challenged me, when I broke down, and all the amazing pictures! I promise you they are all coming and they all were an experience of a lifetime. This post is what rolled off my head first. The basic needs, the aspects we don’t have to think about in western society in a thriving nation. But these are the things that sat at the forefront of my brain in Nepal when I was depending on my own two feet to take me up a valley, across a pass, and down the adjacent valley. To keep me moving through a bustling emerging society in Kathmandu. All systems were important and they were driving my moment to moment that allowed me to enjoy and take in the beauty of this trip.

If the pictures below don’t come out, I’ll republish shortly!










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Ready to join a new team

No this NOT in reference to my Michigan Wolverines…

Today has been about familiarizing myself with the electronics I’m bringing, making sure batteries and spares are ready to go, and downloading movies, music, books, and podcasts to enjoy the time on the airplane and acclimatization days. Funny how a trip centered around my feet on dirt and snow trails has me updating all my electronics at the last minute. Partly as I haven’t been doing this for the last 6 months because I’ve been on dirt trails logging miles on my legs.

The time difference between LA and Kathmandu is 12.75 hours. My first leg of the flight is to Hong Kong, where I arrive at 5:45 in the morning local time. My Uncle suggested to take every opportunity to sleep. I was hesitant with the suggestion, but now thinking that will be my best bet. A 15 hour flight may not all be for sleep, but I will be more comfortable sleeping on the airplane than in the Hong Kong airport. I have a 12 hour layover in Hong Kong before boarding my flight to Kathmandu. Kathmandu is 2.75 hours behind Hong Kong and a short 3 hour flight. Sleeping on my first leg of travel and trying to stay awake from Hong Kong until arrival in Kathmandu will be a long day, but will hopefully help me switch time zones. No idea how this will go, but it will go, that is for sure.

Many of you asked me if I will see comments on my blog during the trip, or how to be in touch. I will most likely not be posting during the trip, but writing and will catch up posting upon returning. Bill will be updating his blog regularly and posting pictures, feel free to leave comments for the team on his blog! Here is the team bios so you can “meet” each of us and follow the journey. Don’t be surprised when I stop appearing in the pictures as they start climbing. Remember, I’m part of the trekking team, and we will leave the climbing team around day 13 to head over to base-camp everest, hopefully up Kala Pattar, and then back towards Lukla. My itinerary can be found here:

I feel very lucky to be included in this trip. As you can tell by the bios, the team is stacked and very accomplished. I will be absorbing their energy and adding the delightful energy of a newbie. Opportunities come across your path that you can make a million excuses why not to jump at them….money, time, risk, the unknown, solitude. But realizing that these are just excuses, and by grasping the opportunity, saying yes, and hitting the trail to preparation with both feet has, for me, re-defined meaning, purpose, enjoyment, happiness, hopefulness, and relating. For this, it is the 100% right decision for me. And I can’t wait to make my way to LAX tomorrow to transition from my trail of preparation to my trail of doing.

I feel your energy and have an entire stuff sack of letters, quotes, and thoughts from my friends and family. I am so excited to take you all with me and to embrace the power of words along the way. Especially since these words tie me to you. I would not have the confidence to be willing to jump across the pond without the grounding of what and who is my day-to-day life. My only hope is that I’m not brought to tears every day by them :) Or maybe that is my hope…to feel and to breathe.

Namaste :)


Posted in Hiking for the Soul | 1 Comment

When a runner swims…and a physical therapist takes vacation….and a write has writer’s block ;)

I madly worked all week to get my patients’ charts ready for a 1 month departure of their primary therapist. I had a running to-do list at work and was ticking off item by item. I closed up shop by setting voicemail forwarding to my supervisor’s phone, poor guy, ha. And setting my email alert for “out-of-office” reply. Punched in my PTO for the next 20 days of work to keep the paychecks coming while I’m away. It was weird to think, I’m all caught up and I won’t be dictating another report, faxing another evaluation, or meeting a new patient for more than a month. But I’ll get over it quickly :)

This week had 1 more trip to REI to buy some more stuff sacks. I packed and re-packed my duffle bag, that is now the right size, 3 times! I had to familiarize myself with what was in what stuff sack and how things are moving together in my duffle. Sounds crazy, well maybe it is, but imagine having someone clean up your entire house/apt and put items in different drawers and organizational spots around. You’d have to poke through your own place a few times to locate every thing. My duffle is my apt. for the next month :) Except this one is not color coordinated or polished:

Stuff sacks

I’m kind of mind numb right now. I have so much I could share, but it’s not flowing. Here’s some tidbits; hopefully some more fun-to-read commentary after a good night’s rest.

-Tuesday: I had my last workout at the12, the gym I’ve been consistent at since April working on putting on some muscle mass. I did my last Bodyfit testing to see how a month hiking at altitude changes one’s body composition. I’m leaving the States with:  101.0lbs of lean body mass, 126.8lbs body weight and 55.8lbs of skeletal muscle mass. Body fat percentage of 20.4%. A little nervous to see how much the skeletal muscle mass and body fat percentage decline over the course of the trip. Here’s an after-workout shot:Last workout at the12

-Tuesday: took extra photos for visa/passport/permit pictures for just-in-case along the way

-Wednesday: had a 5 year recognition lunch at work and caught up with old co-workers from inpatient, swam to stretch out my back (stress? I don’t know, but it feels tight)

-Wednesday: Tracy was a saint and typed an inventory list of EVERY THING I packed in-case my bags get lost

-Thursday: last REI visit for stuff sacks

Kimie's sweets-Friday: wrap up at work and get a sweet send-off from coworkers….and now non-creatively rambling. #basecamporbust

When asked if I’m excited and ready, my response is: yes and yes. I just want to be at LAX and boarding the plane. I am not getting too high energy yet because I have a long flight to stay chill. I’m looking forward to a long swim in the morning, some Michigan football in the afternoon, Go BLUE!, a beach walk and dinner, and then a restful night before heading up to LA on Sunday. Feeling very calm after a loaded brain of crossing “T’s and dotting “I”s to leave work feeling resolved.

Time to let my brain shift gears to an adventure of my lifetime!

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The storm is brewing, less than 1 week until the giant leap across the pond

The reality is starting to sink in. In an amazing way.

In less than one week I will be heading out on an adventure that I have been prepping for over the last 6 months, and committed to in the last 4 months.

I have had polka-dotted moments of emotions, but over-all a sense of calm regarding the trip. But the wind is shifting and the moments of emotions are gaining endurance.

Last week I was busy scratching off to-do lists, making new ones, putting on crampons and gaters over my Sperry top-sliders at work, and sorting my calendar to organize all the errands and car trips in the most efficient way possible. I visited Best Buy for the first time in years and bought the accessories for my Go Pro: 64MB memory card and an extra battery. I am looking forward to playing with my new gadget on the long plane flight. I will be  happy to have something to play with and figure out the ins and outs. Speaking of plane flights……

So my flight got cancelled. Oh yes, this happened. Cover your mouth, you may scream:

I was trying to call China Eastern’s LA office in good-ole Pasadena all last week to select my seats for my return segment that had been rescheduled due to an earlier cancellation. I called on 3 separate occasions on 3 separate days with long holding times that never ended with a live person. Friday at 4:00pm my “holding” phone call got answered! YES!

Paperwork put aside for <10 minutes. “I am calling to select my seat for a segment of my flight rescheduled by the airline”

“May I have your ticket number” I report my ticket number. “Your flight has been cancelled” ……My chest, neck, and face start feeling warm. My left arm reaches overhead and my hand rests on the crown of my head. “Excuse me? What portion of my flight has been cancelled?”

“Our airline has discontinued service to/from Kathmandu until November 13th, can I rebook you for a November 13th arrival?”

“Ummm, no… that will not work for me…..Are you helping your passengers rebook on other airlines”

“No, I can book you on a November 13th flight”

“No, I need to be there on October 20th. I called today to select my seat for a segment of a flight, and you are telling me all segments are cancelled? When was it cancelled AND when was I going to be notified by the airline that my flight was cancelled?”

“The cancellation happened today and you would have been notified in the next week”

“I am leaving next week.”

Needless to say my head was spinning. I was at work. I needed to attend to this flight situation immediately. I needed to. Or else I would have felt doom and questioned if this trip was really meant to be. Not an option in this go-getter, optimistic mind. I politely asked how to receive a refund for my entire airfare; the agent indicated to do it online and gave me my order number. I packed up my work “stuff”, closed down my computer, filed my charts, and skedaddled out of work on a bee-line to my apartment.

“Where are you going?” Inquired my coworkers. “I gotta go, my flight to Kathmandu just got cancelled!!!”  “WHHATT?!?!?!?”

On my short walk home I called my Dad 3+ times without an answer, called my international traveling friend Maxine, and yelped “travel agent”…before opening my apartment door, turning the fan on my face, and opening my laptop. Luckily I remembered the other airlines I considered when booking my original flight.

Less than 1 hour later I had secured a flight on Cathay Pacific with less stops, equivalent travel time, and a cheaper price. Yes the timetable isn’t ideal…but honestly….beggers can’t be choosers :) And..I have a flight.  I….have….a……flight.  Huge sigh of relief. My head is spinning. Gotta get refund, gotta get refund. At this point, my lovely easy-to-reach LA office of China Eastern is closed. I search the website for other local numbers to call; I call the assumed LAX office and am placed on hold and disconnected 5 minutes later. I call the “customer complaint” phone number and leave an awkward message on a voicemail that I’m sure will never be listened and responded to. AND then……I’m back calling China through a 1-800 number. An agent answers in Chinese, I greet in English. She asks me to talk slower. I say, “I am.” All in all, my local LA office has to refund my ticket, not the website as my lovely LA office told me to do. These people are not only easy to get a hold of, they also provide accurate information. Guess what, at this moment. I don’t care. I have a ticket :)

My head is pounding, I’m sweating in this California heat wave, and I have an hour and a half to change gears to social-Rebecca for Friday night celebrating a friend’s birthday. What do I do….lay down on my foam roll, open my arms, and breathe. Positive self-talk for handling the situation and not losing my mind. Then gulp about 32 oz. of water and continue to lay there and breathe.  Let’s hope the next hiccup can be managed as quickly….’cus there is always another hiccup.

Really, that happened.

Saturday morning came quick as I headed back to Mt. Baldy with Mendy. Last hike in SoCal before heading to Nepal. Breaking in my new pack I bought the weekend before and still trying to coax my feet to like my hiking boots. Mendy likes Register Ridge; which is the shortest but steepest route to the top. So up we went, breathing hard and quickly drenching in sweat. With another 90+ degree anticipated at the beach, I was happy to escape to the mountains for reprieve. Compared to earlier in the summer the hike up required less standing rests to catch my breath or let my heart rate calm down. We got to the top energized and shocked at the warmth that still enveloped the top of the mountain. After my customary laying down on the job at the top of the mountain, eyes closed, relaxed and content, we snapped a picture: Mt Baldy 10-10-2015 and started the decent via Ski Hut trail. Last time we hiked this route I didn’t have trekking poles and borrowed one of Mendy’s to limit the skidding and sliding down loose sand and rocks. This time I kept my poles in front and worked on staying low and wide. Mendy instructed me on how to better utilize the pole’s straps to support my body weight through the straps instead of my hand grip.

Silence enveloped me. No to-do lists to cross off, no errands to run, no trains of thought trailing off to other trains of thoughts. Silence. Me. One step in front of the other. My head started thinking through relationships with people in my life with thoughts of the trip darting in here and there. Then I’m starting to feel shaky…..starting to feel foggy, slowing down my cadence, being more careful with my foot placement.  But not wanting to stop. Then…down I go. I tripped/mis-stepped…I don’t know. Ouch, I felt my knees give a little cry. And it was enough to get me feeling a sense of internal pain. Not physical pain…but emotional pain.

You know me, I am the steadfast one. I may mouth off a bit here and there, but I’m even keeled. I show a smile 24-7 and I’m easy to laugh and get excited. Negative emotions don’t sit around very long. And here I was, overwhelmed with a sense of sadness. I couldn’t express it, I couldn’t figure out what I was feeling or why. It was an emotion.

“Are you ok?” I said “yes”, but was covering tears with my sunglasses and hesitating to move forward on the trail. “Are you sure you are ok?” Water-works. The cringe of your face and the tears start to shed. A supportive hug and then more release of emotion. I don’t know what this is, I don’t know. I was shaking, I was not putting words together well, I was crying and trying to stop. I was a mess.

Took some breath, heard the calming words of a world traveler who had experienced emotions before his trip, and ate some sugar. I continued down the hike, first pretty slow and deliberate. I cried a little here and there. And then picking up pace, but still being a bit clumsy. Mental over-powering physical.

I still can’t pinpoint where this “storm” came out of. I identify I was a bit hypoglycemic, but did the physical pain, as minute as it was, allow the emotional pain to rush in? And what was that emotional pain? I was pretty quiet, just sitting in the feeling the majority of the car ride home. It was a feeling of sadness. I could only express an irrational insecurity of not being missed while I am gone, away from my day-to-day routine and not being noticed as missing from the space I share with friends, family, and coworkers. It is a very sad feeling. But why did it creep into me?

I have been receiving numerous letters every day in the mail from people who have brought and bring meaning into my life. There is an outpouring of support and daily people are asking about my trip and sharing in my excitement. So what was the root of this?  This trip is “big” for me. It would be “big” for a lot of people…but it is not very “big” to others. The rush, rush, rush…managing my time while working full-time to prep with gear and prep with physical and mental workouts, dealing with the hiccups that land on my ears, and continuing to push…I think it just finally pushed back.

I am happy to feel these emotions. But to be honest, the sadness that I experienced during that hike was like losing a family member or the end of a chapter of my life. And it hit me out of nowhere. A very meaningful conversation came from this and my heart ached for the rest of the evening, despite going to a curling game and winning. It was deeper set than that.  I just don’t know at this point.


More of those moments to come in the near future I am sure :) And happy to feel them, experience them, and work through them. They will be what builds my energy and changes my being.

Following in daily fashion: Sunday! I woke up, pretty calm, rested, and low energy. I went to the pool to stretch out after the hike up Baldy. Then returned home to an inevitable to-do list. I sat down to organize my next few hours and was shocked at how short my to-do list was.

1) Return hat and shirt at Dick’s Sporting Goods

2) Exchange duffle bag and buy locks and trek pole cages at REI (yes, this is the third exchange of duffle bags…they’ve been too small! AND I hadn’t been back to REI in an entire week thank-you-very-much!)

3) Home depot for batteries and to buy a light bulb.

This is it?! Can it be true? Wow…alright. So instead of plotting the shortest route to each location and keeping myself only looking at items on my to-do-list. I leisurely drove to the stores, smiled and shared an extra pleasantry with each cashier, and looked around the stores at what caught my eyes. Leisure errand running, if you will.

Then, the plans I’ve been waiting MONTHS for. Getting to spend the afternoon and evening with my Aunt and Uncle! It has been so long since the three of us spent time together. Between my hiking and weekend travels and their around the world excursions to be with family and friends, it has been far too long. I was all smiles from the moment I set out on the-405 for their home and long after I returned home late last night. Their home feels like my home. It was my home for a short while, when studying for my PT boards after grad school. And to be back under their roof and with their arms around me; I felt loved, supported, and nurtured.

Coincidentally my Uncle is setting out on a hiking adventure two days before I leave for mine. I can’t wait to get back to share stories, pictures, and hear and provide gear feedback.

I finished my weekend out with submitting my travel visa application via the Nepal immigration website.

What is left to do:

  1. photo booth for extra passport size pictures
  2. update ipod shuffle with tunes worthy of this adventure, clear my iphone of all current pictures
  3. pack pillow case and trash bags
  4. Awaiting Burke-Khang Snow Jacket expected to arrive Wednesday, teammates have been sharing their positive feedback with each other via email re: the Lukla brand jacket
  5. Pick up Go-Pro and 3-in-1 tripod, selfie stick and hand holder Thursday from coworker
  6. Get cash for the trip
  7. Receive shipment from Amazon for solar charger and battery pack
  8. Eat, sleep
  9. Visit with friends before departure
  10. Get snowboarding gear together (Mammoth opens November 11th, the day I hope to land back in the states….we all know what that means!)

Life is beautiful!

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Hold onto your hats, T minus 2 weeks!

As I sit here on Sunday night, gearing up for a week at work…I can’t believe how quickly the last two weeks have gone. I knew that once “a month away” hit, the rest would fly. But really…I’m just trying to catch my breath!

This weekend was a gift left and right. I was scheduled the day off work on Friday, for working the previous weekend. In normal Rebecca fashion I woke up at 5:00a.m.; but I made myself stay horizontal. My mind and my body have been running on over-drive with work, driving around SoCal on the weekends to hike at some higher elevation, and gather and buying gear I will need for the trip. I had been feeling a little run-down and took the opportunity to doze and catch up on podcasts. Any one still feeding their “Serial” addiction with “Undisclosed”?

So then the day began…take a deep breath and hold onto your hats: a) dropped off 2 packages to return to amazon at UPS store (failed packs), b) talked to pharmacist and dropped off prescriptions at Walmart for my “I hope I don’t need any of these” medications for Nepal, c) visited Trader Joe’s for environment-friendly shampoo/conditioner/body wash all-in-one and impromptu lunch, d) CVS for first-aid needs (and I bought floss for the first time in my life….I come from a family of dentists and dental hygienists…always get the stuff for free!), e) Salon for eye-lash tinting (more on this below), f) Bed, Bath, and Beyond for travel size things and steri-pad for toothbrush, g) REI (for the 2nd time in less than 24 hours) for the little things: small towel, compass and thermometer, stuff sacks, etc. and h) Road Runner for Superfeet to make my boots slightly more friendly to my feet.  Phew, yea…it was more work than my typical day at work! But you can see how detail-oriented my “to-do” lists have been. They spread between my brain, scraps of paper in my car and around my apartment, and digital lists on my ipad and iphone. When I think of something, I write it down. My brain is running in many directions (as this blog post exemplifies perfectly), and I don’t want to make more trips than I have to. Prime example: I visited REI on Thursday night, Friday afternoon, and Saturday morning…happy to report my Saturday trip only cost me $5.40. When my yearly dividend check comes from REI, I will have my own personal Christmas! My productive day was followed up with a quick walk in Crystal Cove park in my boots, enjoying watching the sunset and the clear views of Catalina Island and Ranchos Palos Verde. I am trying to walk in my boots every day at least for an hour to keep my feet encouraged to accept that THIS IS HAPPENING. My feet still are whining for my cushiony running shoes. But remember, I’m stubborn…on both fronts, ha!

Saturday I reintroduced myself to my road-bike. I started riding at 5:30a.m….yes, I am crazy. My friend joined me from 6:00-7:45; and I rolled back home after 43.5 miles and 3 hours and 18 minutes on the bike. Slow, I hear some of you saying…fatigued out my quads and was trying not to cramp for the last 5 miles. The result of not being on my bike very often. (I see your head shaking and hear your exhale of disgust, Dan!) But it felt great and I stayed coastal for the majority of the ride enjoying the wind in my face and feeling the sun rise on my back. After laying on the floor for 40 minutes listening to audio of the Michigan vs. Maryland game (Go Blue!) and feeling my quads release, I put myself together for a little relaxation with friend Tracy.

I felt a sense of mental quietness after being so productive Friday and wanted to enjoy sitting at a restaurant, eating, and sharing good conversation. So we found an outdoor patio in Los Alamitos, I ordered a Bloody Mary and Tracy ordered a beer, and we sat and ATE ourselves full. I can’t tell you the last time I sat at a restaurant during the middle of the day eating and drinking with no time-frame restricting the relaxation. Ahhh, much needed and appreciated.

Although I woke up at 5:00a.m. willingly; I did have a curling match slated to begin at 9:20p.m….so mandatory veg session was up next, where I actually fell asleep for an hour or so. Then it was back off to REI and Dick’s Sporting Goods before heading to curling. REI hasn’t started calling me by first name yet, but I had to stop as the duffle bag I bought Thursday night demonstrated to be TOO small for the amount of stuff that will be accompanying me to Nepal. Dick’s, or Big Dick’s as my dad and I called the store in Michigan, was for a new running hat. I misplaced my favorite white running hat, and it was rubbing me the wrong way that I was going to have to get a new one. Naturally, I picked up a light colored long-sleeve athletic top to reflect the sun during the trek. Curling: WE WON! And nice to be back on the ice! Finally some sleep..zzzzz.

Today/Sunday: this was going to be the Nepal So-Cal residents Mt. Baldy hike day! But…rain and snow in the forecast resulted in a cancel. I was bummed to not spend some time with the people who I will be step-for-step with in 2 weeks, but having a day to rest and organize was welcomed. After a morning swim, I started putting together my first-aid pack and pulling out all my clothes that could make the trek with me. Tonight will be taking the packing list and setting aside the minimal clothing. I was able to pick up a Steri-pen, electrical plug converter, and more drugs I hope I don’t have to use while in Nepal from my recently traveled friend Mendy. (Nothing illegal…over the counter stuff for those who just raised their eyebrows) It is very comforting having a friend who was recently in Nepal and who has been helping guide me on what to buy and how/when to use it.

My living room is turning into my staging grounds and I am finding that things like the water and self-purification products and snacks will take up more room in my bag than clothes. Which also means my bag will continually get lighter as the trip goes on! Full disclosure: I won’t be carrying it, a very nice porter or yak will be :) Thank you sir or animal ahead of time. My feet, back, and mental disposition thank you dearly!

Can you tell how all over the place I am? Even this blog I can’t edit and write normally. Bare with me. I’m sure it is still entertaining.

Back to the eye-lash tinting. I am sure many of you did a double-take when you read that. Who would care about the color of her eyelashes when traveling to a third-world country? Rebecca? How selfish, right?

Here’s my thoughts: I have no problem going au-naturale and usually spend my weekends without make-up on in sports clothes doing my thing. I take less than 45 minutes to get ready most mornings: including making 3 meals (yes I’ve been eating 2 breakfasts and a full lunch lately to ramp up my metabolism). I am going on a trip of a lifetime. And when people who know me see me without any make-up on, I often get asked, “are you tired?” My eyes will be making most of the mental images of my trip in Nepal, however, there will be pictures that I want to document the land WITH me. A blonde hair, fair-skinned face with white eyelashes and eyebrows turns into a washed out face in pictures. So let my self-consciousness sing out from the mountain tops, but I want my eyes to be visible in these pictures!…And how can I do that? Pay a beautician $30.00 to tint my eyelashes, and wahlaa, genie rubs the lamp, wand sprinkles pixie dust; and my eyes will be visible in these pictures, I can leave all make-up at home where it belongs, and make my “weekend” get-up last all 24 days of my trip :) So Cal 6 peak Challenge

Concurrently while writing this blog I did an online purchase of the snack foods that will accompany me to Nepal and my all-time favorite chapstick that I can’t go to any cold environment without: Waterman’s!

As scattered as this blog post reads, I’m feeling really calm (new since Saturday) and excited. I have two weeks left and have every thing on my list accounted for. I have plans for normal social outings all week and have time to let the things that flew out of my mind without making it down on paper or digitally to fly back in. My coworkers are being helpful in stirring my excitement by keeping a daily count-down and I’m ready for the numbers to turn into single digits! Weirdly ready :)

What’s left to do:

Apply for Nepal Visa: <2 weeks before arrival date

Buy batteries for all my electronics and solar charger to rejuice said batteries

Visit a photo-booth to take a few more pictures that can be used for visas, permits for back-up purposes if needed (anyone want to have fun with a photo-booth?!?)

Borrow gaters and crampons from Denise

Pick up Israeli water purification pills from Mendy

Update my ipod shuffle with new music

Stuff my duffel bag and fill with trash bags for rainproofing (yes recommended from my very experienced mountaineering friends) and strategically pack my carry-on pack

Pack pillow-case for tea-houses (example of a digital list, ha)

AND…most importantly, make sure every letter has made it into my bag. Thank you for all who have sent your letters, I CANNOT wait to open them while in Nepal :)

Have a wonderful week and one deep breath together …….in…………..out……………….Namaste

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6-pack SoCal Peaks, complete

Friday morning had a 4:05 a.m. wake-up call. I admit, I couldn’t set it to 4:00, 4:05 just sounded so much more agreeable, ha!  The tricks we play.

IMG_3858My head still in a cloud (of sleep) and my breakfast in my cup-holder, I set out to pick up Christine and then continue on to San Gorgonio. We talked about this hike more than a month ago, well really last winter when skiing/boarding on Mammoth. Christine submitted for the hiking permit and I started reading the trail map and accounts online.

In MY summer 2015 fashion, I set out with my hiking boots on my feet and my trail running shoes in my pack. I tried a new pack with a wide, padded hip strap. Christine generously kept readjusting my pack throughout our long hike as I just couldn’t quite make it feel comfortable. It is currently re-packaged in a box to be shipped back where it came, ha. Eh, will keep trying to find the right pack, not so sure I will find it before October 19th take-off.

We started the hike at 6:50a.m. after watching a bear climb the side of the mountain we were about to start on and noting that the temperature was already in the upper 70’s at the trailhead, and expected to be 99 degrees by mid-day. We were happy to start climbing to cooler temperatures and avoid the heat of the day. We crossed a wide rocky divide where Christine notified me that a man died as he was swept away in a flash flood 2 weeks ago. Wow. It was as dry as bone, I couldn’t imagine rushing water over these rocks.

“First switch-backs, here we go”. Vivian Creek trail welcomes you with a bang, you start climbing right away. Less steep than Register Ridge and the start of Dragon’s Back (look at me comparing to other hikes like an experienced hiker ;0) ). But still had me huffing and puffing and my stomach started gargling as blood shunted to prioritize my heart, brain, and muscles. Christine seemed excited to document my journey with pictures at every sign we passed. I knew I was in for a 18+ mile hike gaining 5800+ feet. And the rest I was open to my eyes and my legs seeing and feeling out. My agreeableness to pictures waivered as we climbed higher.

The first switch backs were short and sweet. Then we had a long, easy walk along the river bed, where I searched for signs of water.  I kept trying to consume small bits of food every hour and we took a 15 minute sitting rest after 3 hours. We hit round two of switchbacks and were treated to the sound of stream water and a waterfall, and enough shade to keep us comfortable. We stumbled upon the final part of the trail, “this is the badass part” states Christine.

The “bad-ass” portion was not short, it kept going. I thought I was getting to the top of it and then it opened up to another peak beyond it, a hidden summit if you will. I just kept my feet stepping one in front of the other. I looked up to try and spot Christine who was powering up the trail like a champ. I was hungry and feeling slightly deflated by the minimal exertion resulting in heart pounding as we were above 11,000ft. It messes with your mind. You have to be careful not to become too self-critical and downplay your “physical capabilities.” You acknowledge the elevation gain, the amount of time you did it in, and you keep taking one step at a time. Self-critique and demoralizing talk while hiking IS NOT productive. I’ll blame it on hypoglycemia ;)


A snapshot into my mental state at the top of the climb is captured by Christine asking me, “do you want to take a picture at the summit with the sign, or find shelter and eat?” My response: “I want to sit and eat.”

At that moment I didn’t care that I had just hiked uphill for 6 hours, my mind was foggy and my feet were achey. That is the truth. So I sat down, I started in on my lentils and an apple. Then I started lightening my mood, I passed my apple core off to a squirrel eyeing me closely and started navigating the small and medium rocks/boulders to the summit. Christine offered a celebration beer and we shared it while setting up for our summit photo shoot. When you hike for that long…and have that much longer to safely get back down, a beer is to be shared. If I had a full beer at that point, I would have had to sit still at the top for too long waiting to get my head back on straight. Time is sensitive, especially with the sun is setting at 7:30pm, even with it being a “super-moon”.



As we headed down the length of time prodding on my feet started talking to me. I started thinking of my trail runner shoes. I gave in and switched into them for the long, flat portion along the river bed. I took the time to let my feet move freely in the air before pushing them back into shoes, laid on my back along a fallen tree to stretch against the weight of my pack, and closed my eyes to re-group. Our breaks became more frequent, my steps became shorter. Fatigue was present. The light was changing, and the temperature was rising as we descended from higher elevation. We had to keep putting one foot in front of the other to avoid having to pull out our headlamps from deep in my pack. Christine was more aware of this time crunch than I was. She was pressing on and waiting for me from time to time. We got to the last switchbacks as the sky was bright orange and the sun was starting to set behind the mountains. I switched back into my hiking boots to make sure my ankles were supported and my grip on the dry loose trail maintained under a fatigued body. We arrived at the car in the dark, but we happily crossed the rocky divide with enough natural light to be sure-footed and safe. Phew.

6:50 a.m. until 7:35 p.m.  San Gorgonio. Complete. 6-pack SoCal Peaks during summer 2015, Complete. Hiking boots tolerated for 10 hours. Hydration sustained. Trekking poles comfortable.

IMG_3851 IMG_3848

Next step… front of the last ;)

Left to do for Nepal

Square away check-in Duffel bags and day-pack

Water purification system

Re-stock snacks and keep seeking low glycemic index food sources

Clarify and resolve flight change

Superfeet cushion orthotic for my hiking boots

and find the best hat for practical use and that will look cute in pictures ;)

Next hike:

Mt. Baldy with the SoCal crew of our Nepal group, Oct 4th

And if you all think I keep pretty even keeled…’ll be happy to know that when I was asked Saturday night how long until I leave for my trip? I looked at my calendar and vocalized “3 weeks”, as my heart started pounding, my stomach turned over, and I had to stand up instead of sit still. Ha, as if I hadn’t answered “4 weeks”, just 7 days earlier when asked the same question. Let the excitement build!

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Mammoth’s Dragon Back Trail

Day 2 in Mammoth! IMG_3831

Maxine and I got another late start to Dragon Back Trail. We drove to Twin Lake’s campground and headed up on switchbacks immediately. Breathing hard, but heart rate less intense than yesterday. This trail was such a treat for me. I saw the lakes I’ve been getting to know in the spring and summer time over the last year and the mountain I shred up all winter long. Every turn we made I could recognize more of where we were and a huge smile crept on my face when I spotted the top of Canyon Lodge Express Chair.


IMG_3812The steeper trail was well welcomed, after a slower ascent yesterday. Maxine continued to share the stories and charms of Mammoth with me. She pointed out a hole in the mountain side and that it is actually marked as a ski run! I don’t think I would go down the mountain that route, but it was cool to peer through to the valley floor below!

When we came along the side of Scotty’s run we jumped aside the mountain biker’s as they made their way down the trail. I Mammoth Minaretsfound an extra bound in my step as we neared the top of the mountain. It was like I was a kid in the candy store! I wanted a picture next to the classic mammoth sign and compare where my head measured up in the middle of the summer vs. winter. I wanted to take a picture with the Minaret’s towering over and behind me. I wanted to look out over the back of the mountain, the front, the side. I wanted to imagine snow covering all the boulders and jagged edges of the mountain. I wanted to have my snowboard to strap on and ride down!


Ok, ok…back to summer. We took the Gondola down, said hi to the lifties, and took our time heading out of town. Leaving Mammoth was another goodbye that I would not say hello to until after my Nepal trip. These are goodbyes that I’m not good at. I’m not a person who is very good at saying goodbye, but I’m avoiding acknowledging these occurrences relative to Nepal even more!

Up next: San Gorgonio via Vivian Creek Trail with Christine 9/25/2015…get your walking boots on, it is going to be a LONG day.

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Team Huddle #1 and returning to my base-camp

Hi all from my base-camp: Mammoth
IMG_0194I followed Maxine up here for the weekend with an impromptu invitation, after-all a solo hike in SoCal doesn’t sound too appetizing. Especially when I can return “home” with a cherished friend.
I admit I am a bit de-conditioned with the Friday-after-work drive to Mammoth; snowboarding season ended too long ago! I put on a personal music concert with Rascal Flatts, Carrie Underwood, and Sam Smith to keep my eyes open and my car within one lane. I stared at the star studded sky. I kept cruise control at 78mph and let the Sheriff go after other motorists. As soon as I drove through Bishop that excited feeling started moving through my veins. Pulling off the 395 onto the 203, I eagerly looked around at 12:45 a.m. to see what looks different in town since my last trip here IMG_0192-0.JPGin May.
This morning Maxine and I set out towards Duck Lake with my trail runners tied to my   backpack and my Salomon hiking boots on my feet. I am happy to report there was no shoe change this hike! My shoes are melding with my feet well. No blisters. I think trading out the insoles for some slightly more cushioned ones will do the trick for happy feet throughout Nepal. Or that’s what I’ll set in my mind ;)
My breath was moving a little faster and harder winding through the backcountry, but hiking in Mammoth is beautiful at every switchback and you come across different IMG_0193lakes everywhere you go! Altitude hiking day 1 with happy feet. Tomorrow we are going back to back with dragon back to say “hi” to the staff at the top of Mammoth Mountain and hitch a ride back do
wn on the gondola. Steep but a short climb up. Ready to mash on, one foot in front of the other, working on staying uncomfortable cardiovascularly (shameless made up word) the entire time. I may add a short morning run to really get my heart racing while up here!

Rewind to Monday: Burke-Khang Team Huddle #1
Denise and Paul hosted a team meeting followed by a meet and greet for our SoCal teammates and guide. We got down to business with gear talk and the climbers discussing the anticipated route. I listened to experienced mountaineers talking shop. I really feel as though I am amongst giants. Not trying to discount myself, but rather acknowledging the feats accomplished by the people sitting around me. These are people who live their lives. They hear the call for adventure, they seek the physical and mental challenges, and they prepare and succeed. I cannot be more thrilled to learn from these giants, walk the similarities that drive us, and appreciate the differences that still brought us together.
The moment I felt most novice was when temperature was being discussed. It was referenced to other mountain temps: Denali, Everest. I leaned in and asked for clarification in plain ‘ole Fahrenheit, without mountain reference. Temperature range anticipated: -20 degrees F to 70 degrees F. I’m brought back to snowboarding in Utah with windchill in the negative teens and canvas tent camping as a Girl Scout in the middle of Michigan winter. Those are cold memories, and I think I will build some more!
At the end of the evening I felt excited about the trip, comfortable and fortunate with my decision to say “yes” to this adventure, and grateful for the men and women I met who I will walk amongst and build cold and meaningful memories with.

What’s left to do:
-buy crampons for glacier passes
-trial two day packs
-decide on GoPro options
-water purification needs
-fill prescriptions for meds recommended
-photo booth session for backup pictures in case visa, passport, or permits go missing
-keep the physical prep going

Dragon back Mammoth TOMORROW
Hiking San Gorgonio Friday Sept 25th, my 6th of 6-pack SoCal peak challenge

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REI shoe department is the hot-spot for new friends and San Jacinto Peak, 5 of 6 SoCal 6-pack peaks completed

The wind is picking up around here and I’m swirling so many ideas and “need to do” items that I have multiple checklists on multiple electronic devices. I may be reverting back to pen and paper soon to keep every thing in ONE spot.

Since the last post: I booked my airfare, I submitted the remaining trip forms and payment for Nepal trek, I email bombarded friends and family to request words of wisdom to read during my trip, Michigan lost their first game to Utah, I painted a canvas. (some randomness here)

Saturday morning was set for a visit to REI to seek out “the best boot-fitter”.  I had plans to find a new best friend at REI. Mission: To encourage him or her that my feet and hiking boots can have a harmonious relationship and motivate my lucky new friend that this is priority one. So I met Brandon and Ernest. Unfortunate for them, but fortunate for me!

‘Hi, I’m here to find a pair of hiking boots for an upcoming trip. I’ve hiked in Keen trail runners, Keen hiking boots, and Ozob hiking shoes; all with unhappy feet. I’ve been advised to get above ankle boots, which I’ve never been able to break in over my 24 years of hiking”

The look on Brandon’s face was “oh boy”, and I think I caught him twisting his trunk away from me…non-verbal body language for: “problem that I want to get away from”. So he showed me the boots that were on sale and said they are a great fit for many. I knew right away, that probably meant they wouldn’t work for me. Honestly, I don’t try to be difficult. (Famous last words) I blame my parents, my feet are the product of genetics. My parents can blame their parents and yada yada, so no hard fast blame in any direction here :). So I put on the boots and start walking around…I start feeling some hot spots. Brandon is wiping his brow and happy to have escaped a bullet as he moves on to the next customer. Afterall, Saturday at REI means these co-op workers are in high demand. But then Ernest pops his head over the sock aisle and says “so you found some boots, now you are finding the right socks”.  Sucker!

“Hi, I’m looking for synthetic liners and hiking socks, but I’m feeling some hot spots already in these boots”

Ernest asks all the right questions: 1) What kind of hiking will you be doing?  2) What types of socks do you like?  3) What types of socks do you need?

He jumps on board my limping train and starts mending and fixing. I share TMI with him regarding my feet’s perspiration, my happiness only in cushiony-cloud-like running shoes and below ankle wicking socks, and my previous hiking with bandaged feet due to improper shoe-wear. Ernest doesn’t back away, he doesn’t flinch. He starts explaining what material I should be looking for in socks. He starts taking socks out of packaging and asks me to put them on. He looks at where the heel of the sock sits on my foot. This man is detail oriented and is explaining the mystery of hiking socks and boots to me. He’s my designated “shoe guy”. Brandon comes back around to see the frenzy going on in the shoe department. They start debating shoes and talking specs. I’m smiling. Then they start bringing out box after box after box while haggling each other with “world of warcraft” lingo. I can’t keep up, but happy that they are enjoying themselves during what is an anticipated painful process to me. Ernest doesn’t let me tie my own shoes…he is showing me all the different shoe lace configurations to try to avoid specific hot spots. I feel awkward, but this is exactly the education I need!

Fast forward some time…I am not willing to admit how much.  Brandon heads out for his lunch break, I thank him and tell him most likely I’ll still be here when he gets back. Warning the man on the indecision that comes with trying on hiking shoes for less than 1% of the time I anticipate wearing them for!  Ernest then leaves and comes back with his keys and his lunch sack. He is still asking me how I’m doing and what shoes I’m leaning towards. It turns out his shift is over, but he wants to make sure I feel comfortable with my choice before he leaves. AND, it is HIS birthday. Oy vey. I apologize for his birthday being spent helping a PITA like me. I promise I didn’t close down REI Saturday night…..but it was close. Time spent in this store is elongating with every visit, so is the length of the receipt!

All in all, I walk away with a new pair of hiking boots: Salomon Quest 4D 2 GXT. SalomonAbove the ankle, wide toe box, heel sitting in the back, and a whole bunch of lacing options to take off pressure along my anterior tibialis tendon. Advice from Ernest: wear your shoes around the house for 30 minute increments, slowly building up time. Confession to Ernest: I am hiking San Jacinto tomorrow and plan on bringing them and another pair to switch in and out of.  Eye roll, but understanding that moderation is not my strong suit with activity and little tolerance of gear “needing to be broken in”.  Any runner understands this: you buy a new pair of shoes and expect to run feeling weightless and like your feet are wrapped in clouds for the same distance you were running in your old shoes. Another reason for when a “shoe endangered” email gets sent out you run to RoadRunner and stock up on 2+ pairs of your favorite running shoes.  I digress…

Sunday morning; 5:00a.m. wake up call, 6:00a.m. meeting Christine 37 miles away from home to head to Palm Springs. I packed my bag and made food the night before to minimize time in the morning. I trialled a different pack that Erika lent me. Comfy, but still probably a bit small for the Nepal trek. Christine asks me why I have so much stuff when I get in her car. I explain my new shoe purchase from yesterday and my need to have San Jacinto Peakmy trail runners to switch into. And then I inquire to the length of the hike. I’m floored. We are going on an 11 mile hike with less than 2500′ gain. Why have I been avoiding San Jacinto all summer? San Jacinto has many access points. We embarked on the easiest! We took the tram up AND down, leaving most of the work to the cables that transported us to 8500′. In the summer, Palm Springs is HOT….there is no hiking from the base, “you can’t beat the heat”.  Just means I’ll have to come back and challenge myself when I have more hiking under my belt and the temperature is cooler. The sea to sky trail or cactus to the clouds is no joke. It is long, extremely demanding, and needs to be well thought out. Another day.

I’ve learned from snowboarding around the world that I do not enjoy trams. The swinging motion as they pass over the towers leaves me darting my eyes around and an uncomfortable sensation like we may fall at any moment. My unnerving fear of heights has me pushing to the center of the tram so I don’t have to look out the windows. Added bonus of the Palm Springs tram: the floor rotates 360 degrees so you can see all directions while it expedites you to the 8500′. No thank you! I politely looked around at other people, ease-dropped on conversations, and stayed mentally calm during my tram ride.

Christine is a hiking genius and has conditioned herself to hike multiple days up and down altitude and is well versed on the trails. So up we went, she keeps looking back asking how I’m doing. Smile and a “good” come from me as I feel my heart beating a little harder, my breath a little faster, and my sweat working to keep me cool; yes altitude is welcoming me back. We boulder scramble at the very end to reach the top and are treated with a beautiful 360 degree view. San Jacinto 360 It was a perfect hiking day. Mid 60’s in temp throughout, light cool breeze. My new boots enjoyed an hour of the hike up and about 2 hours of the hike down. Not bad, but definitely going to ease into them as they are more supportive of a shoe than I am used to.


I think I found my trekking boots thanks to some world of warcraft rivals who happen to work at REI.

I have completed 5 of the 6 peaks in the SoCal 6-pack peak summer challenge. Last one to be embarked on September 25 with Christine…her favorite: San Gorgonio via Vivian Creek Trail. Christine was very explicit that I needed to prepare for this hike and be versed on the trail map. Hiking mentor teaching me to be prepared and well educated on the hikes.

Still need to do:

Find a pack, figure out sleeping bag rating with/without silk liner for trek, get passport size pictures taken for hiking permit in Nepal, get my car back so I can quit biking around the city on top of my workouts (or not, it is good cross-training), go through equipment list with my scribbled comments to determine what really is left to buy, decide on a Go-Pro for trip (a friend offered a great deal…more to come), figure out the battery charging situation with no electricity and determine memory card needs…the list continues.

Stay Calm, and Carry On.

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Flight is booked, shoes are in the fritz

After spending a wonderful 1st-world vacation wake-boarding, sun soaking, and being care-free with great friends and new friends on a house-boat on Lake Shasta; I awoke at the crack-of-dawn….well really before dawn and first thought: book flight to Kathmandu.

Another cushioned first-world philosophy I like to spoil myself with is always having the next adventure or flight booked before I take off on my current one. Mentally it keeps me stretching to the next excitement. Or it just feeds my planner personality that is admittedly borderline pathologic. On the flight back home last night I said to Tracy, “I don’t have my next flight booked.”  And Tracy knew exactly the dilemma this causes as she compliments my borderline pathologic planner ways. “Well you better get on it”

I perused flights last week while having a long conversation with mentor and friend Paul about airlines, hiking boots, and advice from a well-travelled Nepal adventure seeker doer. I closed my laptop lid feeling not ready to purchase the flight, but knowing it was the right time.

One week later, I did. Flight booked. Passport number sealing the deal on all reservations. Eeeeekk!

What this means. I will be traveling for 24 hours and 38 minutes (hopefully) to Kathmandu and traveling for 31 hours and 27 minutes (hopefully) back home. You know me. That is a lot of sedentary time. May there be peace in my movement-seeking body. Anticipation will keep me rolling through the audio-books, movies, and hopefully sleep during my travel there. Flat out fatigue will keep me happily in a seat on the way home. I’ll keep telling myself that at least.

Travel time affords sitting in your thoughts. Letting them sink in. Making the magic build to reality. I experienced this most profoundly when driving from Michigan to LA. At the age of 21, I packed up my Saturn SC2, had to remove a piece of luggage and TV when the wheel wells were rubbing the tires, and set out for my solo drive across the country. I cried from the time I pulled out of my childhood-home’s driveway until about Kalamazoo; scared of the unknown and in pure disbelief that at the end of this drive I’d be on the West coast. By the time I rolled into LA I was singing cheerfully to the songs on my 1st generation Ipod that only days earlier made me well up with tears and push the skip button in denial of my emotion. I had lots of time to sit with my thoughts, to let the music play out the tune of insecurity, fear. Let my wings spread and learn to fly.

I don’t anticipate tears on the way to Nepal. Very possibly on the way home. But any last minute insecurities I can sit with, embrace, and establish the mental perseverance to build a stepping stone. I will also have plenty of time to twitch my heel up and down, cross and re-cross my legs, walk endless paces in the aisles, and breathe.

Top priority of this week: hiking boots. Paul assured me I could find hiking boots that feel like clouds when worn and that ankle supporting shoes are a necessity for this trip. “Call REI, ask the manager for the name of the store’s best hiking shoe sales person and when his/her next shift is”.

Added bonus of a weekend on Lake Shasta: a whole lot of foods I don’t normally eat including potatoes, flour tortillas, white bread, biscuits, beer, chips, cookies, and bacon. Stomach was happy. Shout out to the chefs on this trip: we had amazing meal plans and endless snacks, food was top notch and not your typical camping quick-fix meals. If you didn’t have a drink in your hand or were eating food; it was offered! The meals just happened to include foods I need to welcome back into my diet for quick carbs and easy digestion.

Next hike: Sunday, September 6th. Open to suggestions and hiking buddies :)

Feel free to check out Bill Burke’s blog, who I will be trekking to Everest Base Camp with and then he and fellow mountaineers will be climbing a mountain of all mountains…there is a 3-part series with video coverage and pictures detailing Burke-Khang:

To parental units, family, and friends who are starting to hyperventilate: I will NOT be doing this portion of the climb with them. I am strictly trekking. No climbing experience in this chica’s resume.


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San Bernardino Peak and New Accessories

After consulting with my SoCal trail guru, Christine, I saved the San Bernardino Trail topographic trail map to my phone and got ready for a long, solo hike.

San Bernardino Peak Topographic Map  

One of the perks of having a work schedule that rotates into the hospital on weekends is having a week-day OFF!  This weekday was rewarded after 7 days of working, and naturally I’m going to wake up earlier than normal and head to the mountains.

“Going to the mountains is going home”-John Muir

And that is what it feels like as I drive on auto-pilot to the San Gabriel/Bernardino mountains. This trail was a newbie for me, but one identified as the top 6-pack Socal Peaks.  Reading on the internet the night before about recent trail hikers’ accounts and “what to look out for” notes, I felt prepared to go at it solo. It’s a Friday, most people are working. I was looking forward to breaking in my hiking shoes more, (and I’m laughing just reading that statement) and trying out my new trekking poles. I’ve never hiked with them before. Some of my more experienced hiking friends swear by them and talk about the decreased joint stress and improved tolerance of a long hike. I mean, I’ve used them in the PT clinic for incorporating reciprocal limb motion of all 4 extremities for people with neurologic disorders working through a lack of coordination, but haven’t put myself to the same coordination demand…let alone for 16.5 miles.

I parked my car, a couple other cars in the lot, no messages on the wooden board, my hiking permit in my bag, adventure pass on my car mirror, and two text messages fired off to my friends who are keeping track of my where-abouts. I have plans to meet them later, so if I don’t show up they have been instructed to send out a search party ;).

I smell the pine in the air, I start heading up. Online accounts state 4.5 hours to the peak. I’m sleep deprived, tired from 7 days of working, but hydrated and set on making the hike. I keep playing mind games to pass the time. 1) Count the switchbacks….really it passes the time and then on the way down when your feet are pleading for you to relieve their pressure you can count down the switchbacks. 2) Look up the mountain and look ahead on the path for wildlife and whatever wild flower may catch my eye. 3) Let my mind wander in thought and to the people who are in my life….(why I was addicted to running).

Treat 1: Big Bear Lake…you look out over a wide expanse and initially what looks higher than where you are is a shiny blue lake….I didn’t realize how high Big Bear Lake is and that not far from it is a steep drop off to the space dividing me from it.

IMG_3534Treat 2: HoneyStinger Fruit Smoothie chews, ProBar Berry Blast chews (a real treat)

I brought along all kinds of different accessories on this hike to see what worked. My bike computer for elevation gain and GPS access for distance, my running watch, 4.5L of water with the hope of drinking most of it to lighten my load, wool socks, trail shoes, hiking shoes, and trek poles. Phew. My pack being heavy was the goal.

Two other goals: avoid dehydration and play with avoiding the hypoglycemic bonk that I know very well from my running days. Every 50-75 min I stopped to eat something, a few chews, a couple nuts, bulgar wheat with tuna, an apple. And take a couple extra swigs from my camelback. I admit, my body was tired….so I was willing to stop more often than my normal “eyes on the prize” anti-pacing strategy :).

I bought new hiking shoes at the beginning of the summer and I’ve been hesitant to use them. My history with hiking boots and shoes is not too pleasant. My feet are used to cushiony running shoes and seem to protest when anything else envelopes them; i.e. high heels and hiking boots. I bought Oboz Luna Low’s after trying on 15+ pairs with a very patient REI shoe guy. Prior to this hike I wore them for about 2 hours hiking around El Moro Canyon; with some descent short up and down sections. 2 hours into Friday’s hike I was ready to take them off. I tried wearing SmartWool socks instead of my usual wicking running socks and my feet feel a little warmer and more snug. At 3 hours, I sat down, dressed my blistered heels with love, and switched into my Northface trail shoes. Thank goodness for 2 pairs of shoes, not minding the extra weight on my pack one bit. My Northface trail shoes were purchased at the same time as my Oboz’s, but have had more trail time. 3 hours and 45 minutes in I’m eager for lunch, still feeling a bit away from the top, and a bit frustrated that I’m not moving faster. If the internet says 4.5 hours, I should be able to do it faster! Humbling moment….I may do this one slower.  As I’m sitting next to the trail a gentleman comes down; he greets me and me him.

“Are you going up or down”

“Up, how much longer do you anticipate I have?”

He walks me through the terrain from my sitting spot to the top and accounts for 37 minutes of downward walking

I look at my watch…I gotta push it. I have plans Friday night in a normal single girl fashion and squeezing every minute of the day is how I roll. Back on my feet, wash down my lunch with more water. I hit Washington Monument (not DC) and am happy to be in the final portion of the trail. I’m looking for the side trail and give myself a time of 25 minutes; if I don’t see it in 25, I’m turning around and heading back down. The internet said 17 minutes, my friendly hiker friend who picked up my spirits said 21 minutes. At 22 minutes, when I’m starting to have doubt again, I see the fork of a small side trail up to the right. Ahhhhhh!!!!! Steepest portion, highest point on the mountain, go go go! I get to the top, write in the journal in the metal box, sit and have an apple, practice my outdoor pit-stops, and look out and around.

IMG_3604 IMG_3607 IMG_3609 IMG_3613

My head is swimming. I push out the heat, I push out the length of trail ahead. I sit in the moment and breathe. Collect my intent and square up to head down.

In the last 4.5 hours I have seen 7 people. I have spoken to myself more than someone else. I hear a russel in the brush, 2 more people and they are later than me!

The man asks what time I started, “9:18”

“Oh wow, you are fast, we started at 8:00” Wait, but I didn’t pass you on the trail….

“Oh, we took a sleep somewhere along the trail”

haha, that sounded delicious to me at that moment.

So feeling like I figured out the trekking poles going uphill, time to see what they feel like going downhill. And let’s see how fast I can go! Descending was a bit more variable with the trek poles. I elongated them a smidge to catch the downhill grade and played with pushing back against myself with my arms letting my legs turn over with less breaking momentum. At parts, I could run! It was kind of cool. I played the same games going down: looking out, finding a rhythm between feet and poles, stopping and eating, and counting the switch backs. Fast forward 3 hours: I spotted the fire station I passed driving when getting near the trailhead and now it was time to let myself believe “I’m almost there”.  20 minutes later and after 6 switch backs on the final portion, I spotted my car and excitement bubbled. (sad that the excitement was at the end, but my feet were screaming)

I’ve said it beforIMG_3385e and I’ll say it again, I love my car (shameless plug: Ford Escape XLT) because I literally can just hop into the trunk and sit and relax after hiking, running, snowboarding, any sport that my feet are asking for pressure relief.  I climbed into my trunk, texted my friends that I’m alive and succeeded, and enjoyed another bottle of water and some snacks. All in all I finished the hike with 3.5L of water down the hatch, and eating something small frequently to avoid the hypoglycemia that zaps my mental and physical drive. I’d say it was a success! 16.5 miles in 9 hours of trail time,
8 hours of movement and reached the peak at 10,649 feet.

Recapping my accessories:

My bike computer: not effective on the trail; only captured 3 miles of movement over the whole hike.

My running watch from Targ-et: kept time effectively as long as I remembered to push stop/start.

Trekking poles: LOVE them! Made uphill about hashing and made downhill more fluid. I think my abs worked harder and my legs got a break. (Confirmed 2IMG_35904-48 hours later with moderate muscle soreness of abs and minor of calves and TFL’s…darn those TFL’s, I’m trying to not use them as much, as identified a few weeks ago…whole different story that I’ll maybe get back to another time)
Camelback bladder and 2-32oz Nalgene’s…good water quantity for time and weather on trail

Ozob Hiking Shoes: My feet hate you, therefore I do too.

Northface Trail Shoes: Thank goodness for them!

Solo hike: mental perseverance and serenity

Two peaks left in the 6-pack Peak series: San Gorgonio Sept 25th with Christine and San Jacinto TBD with TBD, ha.

Issues to address: socks and shoes

Hike on!

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Setting out on a different path

Here I sit, with lots of ideas and words and wishes to share about what is running through my head.

I am happy that I said yes.

I feel like I laid my heart open for this one. How can making a decision for yourself, about yourself, make you feel so vulnerable?

What is it?  A trip of a lifetime. I dive into a different world. I new mental challenge. A different type of physical challenge. Opening my eyes wider to the beauty that surrounds us. Trekking in the Himalayas for 23 days. Yes. I said yes. Oct 18th-Nov 11th…this year…like around the corner!

Who do I blame? Ha, gotta pass the torch to good friends Denise and Paul. Ever since I started chatting with Denise over workouts and hearing snip-its of the adventurous spirits that drive her and Paul, I kept letting my spirit jump with her stories and my imagination color the pictures.

“So, we are going to Nepal, we would love it if you came too”


It is a possibility. It always is, but it practically just got placed in my lap.

Pondering the things that don’t matter: HOW many PTO days do I have saved? WILL work let me off?, HOW much money does this cost?, WHAT will my family think?, WHEN do I have to make this decision by? HOW am I going to make this decision?

Most big decisions in my life I’ve solved by going for a run. As you all know, this is not a successful option for me anymore. Ouch…we’ll just say for now.  So, I actually reached out to a few friends.

“You have to go” “This has your name all over it” “This is so you” “Is there even a question?”

One of my favorites: my private client hurries to get out of his chair, goes into his closet, reaches to the top into a wicker basket and pulls out a emergency warming blanket in a small ziplock. He hands it over to me and says, take it on your trip. I told him I hope when I’m 86 I can pass it on to someone who decides to take a trip of a lifetime. (see picture below)

Alright, alright. Thank goodness for friends who supported my excitement instead of letting me crutch on my sometimes too practical/rationale/conservative mind.

So I said yes.

Now what?

Continue what I started this summer: Hiking the 6 top SoCal Peaks. (see pictures below) Getting to some altitude regularly will remind me of snowboarding season…err will get my body ready for 10,000 feet (SoCal peaks)….hoping it will respond at 18,000ft. Time on my feet, breaking in my two pairs of shoes and practicing with my equipment. I have not hiked with trekking poles and I haven’t figured out my nutrition to minimize the insulin lows….so I’ve got a playground of mountains in the Eastern Sierras and even closer San Gabriels to trial and error before game time.

Clean eating: or not so much. So the diet on the trip consists of lots of pasta, white bread, and potatoes…the simple carbs with high glycemic indexes that I’ve worked to cut out over the past 2+ years. My stomach is iffy when in Mammoth…so I anticipate it being a little finicky at higher altitudes. Or maybe a lot. Preparing by getting my diet in line with the diet I’ll be eating on the trip and hoping to keep the added weight at bay. Coincidence in timing: at the gym the August challenge is to track your body fat percentage. On Aug 1st, I took a body composition assessment…started eating simple carbs same week. We’ll see what my August 31st reading is :)  Every one else is getting cleaner with their eating and sticking to strict diets….as I lax and let in the simple carbs. Not worried about it, grateful that food will be cooked and supplied for me on the Nepal trek…no complaints.  Body fat percentage: 21%….Goal: 17%….goal on hold…realistic goal with simple carbs: maintain 21%.

Dedicating more mindfulness to my workouts: We all know I workout a lot. It is how my body feels purposeful and alive. I am not doing any major changes to my workouts, just staying consistent and putting the mental game into it. When I want to back off, when I want to skip it or cut it short….mental game takes over and kicks back into gear. Stay strong, be strong, mental perseverance will keep the trek more enjoyable and satisfying. I may not have a race I am training for that keeps me on track, but this is a trip where the more conditioned your cardiovascular system the more enjoyable the trip should be. And I’m not quite at an altitude where genetics dominate. Motivation for sure!

Most importantly: jump on the bandwagon of excitement, enjoy shopping, researching, and buying hiking gear that will stand-up to 23 days, enjoy eating good food to fuel the journey, get a camera to document the journey, SHARE the excitement with friends, family, patients, my heart to the experience, rebuild the fire, and let it go.  (oh man, Frozen just made it into my blog)

I hope you enjoy the words flowing fast and jump into the excitement with me. Although this trip will take me to a more solitude center, my yearning-to-relate spirit still wants to share it with whomever is interested.

IMG_3502 IMG_3483 IMG_3451 IMG_3202 IMG_3509

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When a runner runs.

I ran
I woke up for the first time and wanted to go for a run since April 15th.
Looking at the dates and realizing this is less than 6 weeks ago; but feeling as though it was 6 months.
A quick recap: I started feeling R hip pain March 2013 while running on a treadmill training for June’s San Diego marathon. It turned into a nagging injury that I patch-worked with my running schedule. I ran the marathon, ran two more half marathons, and the good ole Turkey Trot in Detroit before going for a casual run on April 15th this year and hurting my left knee. At this point…I decided it is time to stop. Stop and rest…
Rest: what does that mean? To some people it is what they do every day after work, lay on the couch, restore energy expended from the day. My definition of rest was running an easy 3-6 miles to clear my head and “relax” after a day at work. So as people kept telling me, “you need to rest”. I kept feeling as though I was. I went from running every day to every other day. To not running if I felt pain. To not running at all.
This sounds like a practical and normal progression. But to me this was an identity crisis. Dramatic you think? Think it, but I felt it. I have been running since the winter of 2000. I went for a run at night, in the middle of Michigan winter, around icy snow filled streets…and fell in love. I identified with my breath, my heart beat, my own two legs taking me somewhere and feeling good about it. It was my time to think, let my mind wander and wonder. To make decisions, to make a plan.
So 13 years later when I started feeling a pain, unlike any normal aches and pains of training and conditioning, I started feeling alarmed. But like any endurance athlete thought that if I keep running and pay attention to my mechanics a little it will go away. For the better part of the next year I battled my body. I was relentless.
It didn’t take one injury to make me stop running. That one I rationalized. I was training for a marathon, my mileage was picking up, my hip pain was the result of repetitive use and poor mechanics finally catching up to me. It was 13 months later, after putting a concerted effort into physical therapy (let me tell you, eye opening to see how a physical therapy “mill” works…or rather, doesn’t work…especially for a detail oriented physical therapist. I’m a tough patient, I acknowledge); that I went out for a relaxed 5 mile run after work; that I have done 100s of time before; that left me unable to walk up the stairs to get to my car at the end…..that is when I stopped.
I was still playing with the idea of running the Orange County half in May….that day that thought went flying out of my head. I stopped playing. I just stopped.
Over the last 6 weeks I’ve gotten on my bike more consistently and built my mileage up towards 50 miles without pain. I’ve jumped back into the pool and swam 3600m (2 mi) in the pool, pain free. And I have not woken up wanting to run. It has shocked me. But today….I felt a want. So I made an agreement between my physical want and my mental will…..I gave myself 1 mile. Not enough to expend my energy or to get sloppy in my mechanics. A dip into the pond to feel my legs turn over and enjoy my breath being labored. So 1 mile later, I stopped. Walked over to the gym and did my weight lifting routine to start strengthening my hip again.
When I stopped April 15th…I stopped my PT weight lifting routine in disgust. Not a smart decision, but what I did at the time.
So what’s next. No plan. I am happy swimming in the pool, biking on the trails, and hey if I can put a mile in here or there pain-free running….I’ll enjoy it. No races scheduled for 2014. No training plans in place. No expectations for my physical body to hold up with a designated training plan for the masses.
But I’m happy to run. Maybe I’ve mentally healed?

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I am still here!
Long story short….
1) Sciatica didn’t magically disappear after marathon training stopped (& I’m a PT, oy. Denial runs deep)
2) ran long beach half….was running my usual….coworkers came by in the race and ruffled my feathers…I.e. motivated me to run uncomfortable…..felt like I was racing instead of running…forgot that feeling. Nice to feel it.
3) no running after half to try to heal less irritable but irritatingly still present sciatica….sports massage guy works on my back and legs, lots of yoga oohhhhhmmmm, swimming occasionally, biking, lifting weights for legs, abs, back, and arms, custom orthotic fitting and running analysis (made me feel less broken than I thought, phew), eating too much
4) ran turkey trot in Detroit…22 degrees, 10k, killer leg pain :/ too cold to stop running, just ran faster. No pain next day
5) accepted the December challenge: 1 mile run/day. Pain-free promise
6) kept the commitment until….the stomach bug. Not going into details….just wish it on NO ONE!
7) running 5-6 miles, pain free
8) half marathon in less than 1 month
9) pain free running promise
10) pain free running
11) pain free running (if I keep saying it, it’ll happen right?!?)
12) 2014: a year to heal and stay healthy physically, keep developing emotionally, and a bunch of other philosophical statements. Keeping them to myself.

Happy New Year! Hold on tight, here we go!!!!!!!

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Speedwork Treadmill Style

I just finished a track workout on a treadmill. Err, a speed workout on a treadmill.
Mark it as a first. And I have to say it is WAY easier running fast on a treadmill than around a track.
1) no corners to try and push around
2) you don’t have to push yourself forward, just up
3) the wind isn’t pushing you backwards at some point along the treadmill
4) different mental game to get to the “finish” line.

6 x 800s at 7:30 min/mile pace (1:30 RI). Warm up for 18 minutes (I couldn’t bother any longer…treadmill running is boring). Cool down for 10 minutes. Just set the speed and GO!
Besides most people starring at me because I am not the softest runner, sending sweat spiraling in all radii around me, and dramatically changing from a run to a walk; I felt like it went pretty well. I don’t like drawing attention to myself….but in an apartment complex gym…there weren’t many people doing a cardio workout. Most were watching TV while they happened to be on a piece of cardio equipment…but eh, I’m glad they are there :)

I’ve been keeping up with the 3 day a week half marathon training plan…for the most part. Missed my speed workout last week out of sheer laziness. But honestly, I feel like I’m packing on the pounds and getting more out of shape each week. I haven’t been keeping up with my stretching, cross training, or normal crazy “after school activities”. I’ve been laying low. Or is that just the disillusion of an addict…a running addict that is. Snap out of it….ok.

So let’s recap a bit. Last weekend despite promoting shortened hip flexors all weekend at a conference, I had a good distractor during my 10 miler…Kristina toured the Peninsula Beach Path with me chatting and keeping the run breezing by. Thank goodness for friends who make a run a little sweeter. Last week i ran my first “tougher” tempo run: 1 mile easy, 2 miles at medium tempo (MT) pace (whatever that means), 1 mile easy, 2 miles at MT, and 1 mile easy. These types of runs are hard for me because the step up and step back of the speed just wills me to keep stepped back. But I was able to hold pretty close to 8:40 pace, which I believe is about where I should be.
I optimistically (surprise surprise) guesstimated my 10K pace to be 8:15. I haven’t run a 10K in who knows how long…and mistakened my last 10K for really a 5K. And the 5K I believe was at 8:20 pace…so, I’m going to rework my “split” times for speed and tempo runs to reflect a 10K pace of 8:30, putting my “predicted half marathon pace| at 10K + 20 sec….8:50. Which would sit me at a pretty PR. I want to go faster. But I don’t think this training plan is going to take me there. The mileage is super low, and I haven’t put in the discipline with my cross training. Planning for a small PR, then I’ll move on.

Week before I was in LA for a conference. LOVED being back in LA. LOVED a change in pace. LOVED staying with my Aunt and Uncle….loneliness disappeared for 6 days! I ran with Claire for an attempted 3 x 1600m; which the USC track closed down 3/4 of the way into the first mile. Got in a warm-up and 1 mile at 7:40 pace. Then moved on to two laps around the perimeter of main campus for some mileage, but not speed. 6 miles at long tempo pace awaited me on Thursday….ended up doing 1.25 miles on the track at 9:15 pace and then 4.5 miles around campus (2 laps around the perimeter); slower speed than “long temp pace” but just happy to be running after sitting in class all week and surviving LA traffic along the 10W and 405N every evening….what a drag, and quite possibly why I don’t live in LA anymore! I finished out the week in LA with a run along Venice, Santa Monica, and Will Rogers Beaches before heading back to OC…11 miles at 9:20 pace; finished out at 9:31 average pace and chatted with a few crazies doing a super small marathon out and back from Santa Monica along the bike path. That is quite possibly the hardest/densest cement I’ve run on…not knee friendly. The runs before that I either don’t remember or think I may have blogged about already.

This week looking forward to some more foam rolling, glute and hamstring strengthening, quadriceps, piriformis stretching, yogaing, 5 mile tempo run tomorrow, and a 12 mile run this weekend…hopefully with Kristina. She is learning to run slow….it is a great combination! ha! Nah, Kristina’s one pace of fast has caught up to her…so she is learning how to take some runs in the week at a slower pace. Her slow pace is my goal pace :) Coincidentally we have similar running ailments…thinking of checking out this sports massage therapist she is swearing by who is making her sciatica go away. Mine is just staying annoyingly THERE. More to come on that later.

On a more somber note. I lost a friend this week. I met him just shy of 2 years ago. We shared a cabin in Mammoth on my second trip up with the Disabled Sports OC crew. Gordon, Raquel, and I were sharing the loft with bunk beds. I felt like a voyeur as I observed how Gordon and Raquel navigated, learned, and lead their lives in an unfamiliar place for a weekend. Gordon and Raquel are blind. Between their cell phones talking to them and Raquel asking Gordon “where the light is, I can’t see it”; I was observing a different way of life. One through touch, hearing, and temporal awareness. The next trip Gordon and I were chatting and someone in the group asked Gordon what he thinks I look like. He responded, “Blonde hair, blue eyes, fair skin, 5’4″” What!??!! Not sure if he was pulling a fast one on me and someone had described me to him, or if he was some how that tuned in. I guess what does it really matter what I look like?
Gordon lost his sight in adulthood. He knew Mammoth mountain visually and somatosensorally (not a word, but I made it up). He went down runs that took my breath away and I called chicken on. Gordon and I sat at many trips just enjoying a beer, chatting about life. He was a mentor and an inspiration to me. Gordon had a quick (well in my eyes, I don’t know what it felt like to him) battle with cancer. It was the end of snow season when Gordon made light that there may be something he was going to begin battling. Before I knew it the prognosis was poor. And Sunday night he announced no more visitors. Monday evening he passed. I hate having the feeling….but while in Yoga class Monday night my mind drifted to Gordon a few times. I found out when I left Yoga at 9:00 that he had passed around 8:30. Maybe I felt him as he escaped to heaven. This world is a beautiful, but cruel place.
Gordon reflected on his Mammoth adrenaline high, if you want to read his words, I can pass it along to you. He signed it, “On Edge, Gordon Chan”. Fitting.

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Water is warm!

I used to wake up at the crack of dawn to run. June gloom extending to July, makes me feel like I can run whenever I wake up, hydrate, and feel ready to go. But…..the sun inevitably comes out, it warms up, and I start wishing I was home out of the sun.
Thursday July 4th I didn’t celebrate with my tempo run. I worked, then biked to BBQs. It was a better celebration than last year! Last year I showed up at the BBQ where my friends said to be, and the door was locked…no one was home….ha. This year the party was in full swing and I got to relax, meet some new people, and enjoy fireworks from seemingly Laguna to Ranchos Palos Verde…the marine layer was lifted at the beach, you could see for miles.
Yesterday I woke up, ate a banana, drank a seemingly gallon of water, ha, and then set out for 9 miles at 9 min mile pace. Marine layer covered the sun for 3/4 of the run, but then it parted and the sun started beaming. I started feeling VERY hungry. I can’t say I’ve felt like that before, like I could have stopped and immediately started consuming whatever was offered along Brookhurst and Adams, ha. Usually I don’t care to look at food for an hour after running. So I gave in and cut the run 1 mile short. Ended up at 8:52 average pace x 8 miles. I guess I was really hungry.
Today after not enough sleep, a delicious breakfast after a night of drinking in LA, I came back, felt a weird motivation to run…..drank 16 oz of water and headed to Crystal Cove for a run along the beach, hopefully with the marine layer….it was 11:30…late start. I thought I’d try and make up for my missed tempo run on Thursday. 5 miles at 8:30 pace. Considering the mixers and alcohol I consumed last night, the out of the ordinary breakfast, and inevitably a tired body I wasn’t set on hitting the goal pace, but thought I’d see how I felt pushing a little. Crystal Cove is beautiful; some rolling hills, nothing but beach views for days. I started out…it was warm…Eh, I’m not feeling great to push it….hit the 2.5 mi mark, running at 8:58 pace….alright, I’ll just keep it. Ended with a 9:00 mi pace, came back into the wind and a small grade uphill. The biggest treat, I walked down to small Corona Beach at the end and waded in the water…..not as chilly as my thought for an ice bath was……today would be a tolerable in the ocean in a bathing suit day! No wet suit required. (Currently I’m writing this pool side, too wimpy for ocean swim)
SoCal running is the phrase I think of with my running this weekend. Running with a goal, but not over critical of it, and enjoying the beach and ocean while I’m at it.
Looking towards the week ahead….Yoga tomorrow..much needed after wearing high heels last night. Ha, I realized that I only ever wear tennis shoes and flipflops….deconditioned to the social acceptability of high heels… eh no biggie. Tuesday speed work, Thursday tempo, and long run saturday before rollerblading in North County with Erika. Yep, you heard that right….rollerblading :)

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Hot weather = sweatier workouts

It has warmed up in SoCal….and I’m feeling the humidity! Yuck. Extra sweaty, and constantly dehydrated due to the former.
I’ve hopped back on my bike, week-end rides have been casual, no added intensity. I called up the local bike shop for their Tuesday Women’s only ride. I inquired via email to the leader…40-50 mile ride….eh, not ready for that saddle soreness yet. We chose to ride along the beach path two of the rides….casual and people watching…but unfortunately it makes you have a slight feeling of disappointment in society. Granted this is a “activity” path, not just a bike path. But the number of people who walked out straight in front of my bike without even looking was astonishing. Maybe the gene pool needs some work. Little little kids…like maybe 3-5 are running around with no parents in site….on a very heavy traffic paved path….. Steve heard me say probably more than 2 hands worth, “H-eeelloooo” in a Cosmo-Kramer kind of way. People jumped, looked up deer in the headlights…some chose to continue their beeline across the path, some were clueless to the human beings around them. Remember, the universe revolves around them only. So I had good use of my brakes and balancing on my bike while clipped in at slow speeds…super slow speeds. I am happy to report…I DID NOT fall over and clipped out preemptively only a handfold of anxiety filled times. ha.
I had today and last tuesday off due to working last weekend. Hence the novel of a post last Tuesday. And then actually posting this tuesday! Last week I ran my first speed workout, which had no resemblance to speed. But it felt interesting being back on the track. I like the spongey feeling under your legs and the way you can kind of lean as you go around the turns, it’s almost as if the track is pulling you forward around the bend. Last week was 6 x 800s, which all fell off speed very quickly and welcomed me back to the track the only way I know…with dry-heaving and gagging. Today I headed over to the track with the same 10K goal pace paving my split times for all the legs. First problem: last time I ran a 10K was a good long time ago……like I don’t remember when. Was the St. Patty’s day 2012…yes 2012 race a 10K or 5K? hmm, I don’t remember. So, I don’t really have a 10K pace. You say, why not go run one…, simple solutions seem like so much sometimes. So I ran 8 miles at 8:30 pace right before my marathon. So I thought 8:20 sounded good. ha.
Last night I did some real math….man have I gotten math dumb…to figure out my splits. Here’s what the docket said:
20 min warm up
1200m at 7:35 pace, which meant 5:41 finish
1000m at 7:33 pace, which meant 4:43 finish
800m at 7:30 pace, which meant 3:45 finish
600m at 7:25 pace, which meant 2:47 finish
400m at 7:20 pace, which meant 1:50 finish
200m at 7:15 pace, which meant :54 finish
200m RI between each

Here’s what my memory serves me:
1) Not looking at my watch during the splits….it won’t mean anything to me in that moment and most likely will be disappointing; instead focusing on staying way uncomfortable and practicing breathing deeper to not bring on my dry-heaving

1200m: 5:55 finish
1000m: 4:51 finish
800m: 3:50 finish
600m: 2:47 finish (yea baby…dry heaving at the end but kept my marbles)
400m: 1:51 finish
200m: 0.51 finish

What I take from this:
a) I’m slow
b) I can gut check for only about 600m
c) my legs can turn over quicker than 8:30..hehe.
d) I got some work to do
e) thank goodness I’m not back on the track for an ENTIRE week

I tried to stick to this insanely long half marathon plan last week. Thursday I ran 2 miles easy, followed by 3 miles at some pace I can’t recall, then 1 mile cool down. I ended up being all over the board.
Of the 3 pace (I think 8:30 was the goal) miles:
1: 8:41
2: 8:52
3: 8:34
My easy miles at the start and end: 9:21, 9:32, 9:27.

Saturday after work I attempted a 10 miler. Program said “nice and easy, conversation pace” It was steamy….I took some electrolyte replacement before even setting out. I was tired from work, on day 4 of 6 (not complaining, just stating). So I did the first 3.5 miles, then sat down under a tree to cool down. My ears were popping, I was sweating and it was just sitting on my skin it was so humid. I felt so foggy in my head. I took more electrolyte replacement and kept drinking out of my handheld bottle. I decided at 3.5 miles that this was not smart to push on. If I had a hat and there was a breeze I may have pushed on. But I’m learning to listen to the “warning” signs…and heat stroke was not on my to-do list. I knew I still had a bike ride home to follow the run .So I turned back around and plodded my way back to Hoag. It was ugly, it didn’t feel good, but I just kept telling myself to run slow and steady and just focus on not over-exerting in the heat. So next week’s long run I’ll try to attack in the morning and without a workday.

This week’s thursday run is a 5 mile short-pace tempo run….still have to figure out what that means. This program has tables to figure out your pace, etc….it’s studying charts and tables, ha. I think I’m expected to be at an 8:20 or 8:30 for all 5…, I’ll go for it.

Other than that, still going strong with Yoga weekly, 100 lunges and 100 single leg roman dead lifts after each run and with planks, planks 1 min forward, side R, side L x 3-4 every other day, and my hamstrings curls and stretches. Honestly: my sciatica is still there; it’s not getting worse, just low grade annoying. But I do notice I’m stronger. I have better balance and can stand on one leg without a trunk dance party…so I’ve made progress. It really is amazing to me how active you can be and yet how weak you can be. I was casually participating in 3 sports/activities (yoga, biking, swimming) outside of running and still had glute muscles resembling an 80 year old. My body doesn’t learn how to make muscle instead of pound on my passive structures; i.e. joints, capsules, ligaments…… protein shakes and focused form and strengthening drills to continue.

So on my day off what else did I do:
Laundry, had a pancake breakfast…very non Paleo and anti anti-inflammatory but exactly what I wanted, ran errands, and cooked, baked! Green lemonade! Mashed cauliflower! Banana, coconut, and pineapple cake! Tennis and tacos to top it off.


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RnRSD, 23 days later


It’s been 23 days since Marathon #4. WOW, it feels like its been months. How quickly you can feel like a blob!
Race weekend was exhilirating! Spending the weekend with Erika, her family and friends felt like a nice hug of support was blanketing me.
Saturday, we ran along the Encinitas coast for our last training run, 2 miles. It felt like we weren’t even starting when the 2 mile marker ticked. We chatted about race morning, the enjoyments of training with a training buddy, and our race plan. The race expo was packed, but we snaked our way through picking up fliers to fill the 2013 race calendar. We grabbed lunch downtown before heading back to Erika’s house for a relaxing evening. At lunch we met a pacer for the 4:15 pace group….hoping we’d end up in front of him.
At the race expo they were showing the video of the course, I knew that’s what I needed to settle my nerves and get ready for the race. After a pre-race dinner of BBQ chicken, broccoli salad, and lots of watermelon, we watched the course. It looked flat, the one long hill didn’t look too long. Ha.

3:15..alarm goes off. OMG. Race morning. I felt that second of dread. But had laid out all my clothes, pre-race stuff, post-race stuff, during race stuff. Got out of bed, prepped my one and only blister of the training cycle…yup, week of race, love it, slipped on my race clothes, sunscreened up the wazoo, and then walked out to the night to wind towards the race start. Erika picked out the Coaster to ride up to downtown, and then shuttle buses to the start. IT WAS EASY AND PERFECT! Erika drove us to the Coaster stop, we sat nervously on the bench getting excited about the race, laughing about the ungodly hour that we were awake, and sharing how we felt. On the train ride down, it filled with runners, and we were happy for the distraction of a young-20 all-about-me girl who was sharing her times for every race in the past 2 years and dressed in purple everything: shoes, track shirt, tips of her bleach blonde hair, nail polish…who knows what else. But her excitement over her running successes was fun to watch, and I needed some distractions to not get too afraid about what was about to come down the chute for the next 4+ hours. Yea, 4+….bubble burst.
Port-A-Potty line, gear check with England and York being a warm-up walk away from each other :), and finding Corral 5. National Anthem played..did it’s usual well-up fight back tears, and goosebumps all over. It was time. It was time. Here goes…..face and fight the demons.
1st mile…Erika said we’re sailing too fast….slowed down, came through the 1st mile at 9:20…too slow. The masses of digital/GPS watches may have been throwing off accuracy of signals..who knows. I didn’t want to be stuck to a time, I wanted to run how I feel…and not feel like I’m not doing good enough if I’m slower than “the” time. I commented about just ignoring the watch for a while, but we both had a time goal, and Erika was trying to stick to it early to push through it later. So I decided to hang in there. Let Erika keep track of our pace, and me to keep getting out of my head and focus on keeping my shoulders relaxed, knees pulling forward, not winging out to the sides wasting energy, and relax my neck…and breathe.
We hit the narrow path along the park around mile 12(I have no idea where we were, ha), anyways, Erika surged forward, I kind of started facing the demons knowing I couldn’t hold this pace. Erika is strong at pushing through the middle miles, I tend to sit back during the middle miles. So Erika stayed no greater than 100 feet in front of me, I enjoyed running alongside and past new faces and listening to the cheers of veteran marathoners as we hit the halfways point. 1:57 according to Erika’s watch. 2:00 according to official time. Not sure what thats about. But I sat there going, WOW….I just PR’ed my half marathon during a marathon. Trying not to let the demons rush in: SLOW DOWN YOU CRAZY FOOL! My previous PR is 1:59:40ish. Can you see how I pay attention less to time, but rather how it felt? Emotional runner. RIGHT HERE.
So at that point I pulled back up to Erika; called out to her not in hopes she would let up, but rather to let her know I’m still here. We ran together through mile 15…..then I was comfortable with the idea of losing my running partner. I knew this would happen. I hoped it wouldn’t. But, a race is each individual’s run. And no part of me wanted Erika’s race to compromise because of my energy.
I was ok with the idea. I didn’t love it. I knew the hill wasn’t until 20..I was hoping I’d have Erika to push/pull me up it, but I was thrilled with the race so far. So at mile 15, I slowed my roll a little. Erika was wearing an abnoxiously orange/pink shirt that was luckily slightly different in shade than EVERY OTHER RUNNER on the course, so I could keep her in my sight forever, well almost forever, ha. So for miles 15-18 I ran my race. I enjoyed looking around at the scenery, I felt my legs, lungs, repeated my seemingly new mantra: “Get out of your head, get into your legs” I hit 18 and knew that my wall was coming. I was thrilled I hadn’t hit it yet.
My last two marathons I hit walls insanely early….heart-breakingly early. Santa Clarita I hit my wall at mile 14…it was horrible and I trained harder than I ever had….too many miles in my legs. Chicago the second round I hit the wall at I don’t even remember. That was a foggy head race….I think I was spent around mile 18. So…this is great! I’m running, I’m still feeling like my head is normal. My legs are feeling tired, but hey I’m 18 miles in. That’s expected. Here comes the hill.
Mile 20-21.5 or so my head remembers….is this MONSTROUS hill. It is steep. Not as bad as the hill we trained on in Carlsbad…longer than what we trained on, man it was taking what was left in me. I kept Erika in my line of vision…until the top of the hill. When I made it to the top there was a quick turn off the freeway, then the course wrapped back on itself a few times…no more crazy orange/pink shirt. I was spent…mentally and physically tired. I think more mental than physical. And then each small hill felt like a giant. There were a few short climbs over the next 4 miles…and they were more than I could imagine. I saw my only familiar faces at mile 22: Erika’s mom was jumping up and down, blowing through a fog horn, ripping her hand-made posters off the fence and shaking them up and down, yelling my name. So much support, it made me smile and excited. She started running alongside me. All I could do was smile and say “thank you”. I ran past with my knees and spirit picked up a little higher. Thank goodness for spectators, especially family and friends!
As I ran up one, I started feeling myself catching my balance…was I passing out? Alright….I focused on my breath, which had shallowed. I was holding my breath bracing the aches I felt with each step. So I tried relaxing my stomach muscles, letting my shoulders pull down away from my ears, straighten my posture back up…but then I couldn’t, I felt like I needed to keep my upper body folded forward. My muscles were fatigued. I saw a medic running towards a guy who had collapsed on the side. I kept my eyes diverted far away…..I empathize with people…so seeing and recognizing someone in pain can send me into a mental whirl.
So then I caught myself losing my balance forward again. My head was off. I was scared. I stopped. collected myself….I didn’t want to draw any attention to myself. I HAD to finish what I started. Self destructive? Stubborn? Determined? You can weigh it on either side of the spectrum. So at this point I’m at mile 22 and some. I am walking, wondering if I can finish this race.
I’ve looked at runners in races who are walking during the last 4-5 miles..thinking, “why are they walking? They are almost there…they’ve run this distance in training over and over and over again”. Now I felt what it feels like to not be sure you can do it..and less than 4 miles from the finish. I couldn’t believe it. So my bladder had been talking to me since the start of the race. At mile 24 I let myself sit down for a recollecting moment in the Port-A-Potty…again thinking, wow I’m that runner who can’t keep it together to finish this race. FEeling defeated, low, disappointed…but trying to smash those demons and look at what has been so far this morning, what I have left to do, and how dignified I am going to complete this. Getting off my feet for those 1-2 minutes felt amazing. My body was fatigued from stomping on the ground, holding my chest up. But guess what, I had to hold it up for the last 2.2 miles.
I rationalized with myself; there was a hill…I will let myself walk to the top of this MONSTROUS hill…that is probably a soft climb. YES WALK…I’m still a RUNNER. At the top, I started shuffling my feet. Some gentle spectator said, “Rebecca, you can do this”. I looked at him, flashed a smile…and agreed. Writing this is bringing tears. It sucks to feel like you couldn’t push through the distance you were “supposed” to. And yes, I’m ridiculously hard on myself. And that’s probably my biggest barrier to getting out of this mental barrier that holds me back in my physical races. I need to relax and not over think it. Just feel it and go with it. Let me repeat again: my head/mind is my barrier to physical races.
So, I shuffled myself to mile 26.2. I was spent. I didn’t feel excited or accomplished to finish. I was spent and scared.
I found a spot in the runner chute to sit. I wrapped into a ball: this is my thing…bend my knees up to my chest, hug tight, let all those pounding joints open. I drank an entire gatorade and chocolate milk. Ok..yes I was dehydrated and electrolyte OFF…but let me say I did the best I’ve done hydrating, eating, and electrolyting during this race compared to any other training run or race before.
I texted Michael to let him and Erika know that I crossed the finish and I’d meet them at the family meeting area soon. I hobbled my way over and just wanted to hug my training buddy. Of course I burst into tears when I saw her. I was feeling horrible, but I was feeling excited to see us both on the other side of the finish line! We did it! Her friends and family were there, as I sat down on the pavement I felt like I had to explain why I was crying…reassuring that I was ok, just needing to sit. The world circled above me…I was still battling with my passing out below. So maybe 30 minutes later I was ready to stand, thank goodness Erika’s friends went and picked up our checked bags, warmed up with my sweatshirt…and then got to share in the swirling socializing with Erika, Michael, Erika’s parents, and friends. Erika’s mom was ready to run a half marathon. Don’t you love how races are so motivating?!
Alright, fast-forward to trying to eat a normal breakfast, but feeling full after a few fork fulls; Erika, Michael and I sat down on the floor (well Michael on the couch putting up with Erika and I on the floor stretching our muscles and runner-high gabbing) of their house like we had multiple times at the end of training runs and just got to stretch and rehash the training and race. I hydrated and was ready to make the ride back to OC. By the time I left Erika’s house I was feeling calm and not disappointed. I had run my 2nd best marathon at 4:29 (on par for a 4:07 until the hill :/), pushed through strong to mile 15, and pushed to mile 20; make it up the hill…then lost my marbles. ha. The training was very rewarding, the race was rewarding…the last 4 miles were miserable. But the first 15 were exhilirating. This is what is addictive of marathons and endurance running…the ups and downs and the constant things to keep pushing and improving. ugh, it’s an addicts world.
So now time has passed. I am very proud of miles 1-18. I am proud of my ability to push up the hill. I am frustrated that my endurance wasn’t enough to push through 26. But I am glad I was able to listen to my body when I was seemingly crashing and pull myself together to finish. I battle with was it just mental and could I have pushed through? But I’m trying not to rip myself up for that…what if. Rather be proud of what I did do and say…it was enough :)
So today I returned to the track. Long Beach Half is 16 weeks away…and I can’t say I can imagine training 16 weeks for a half. But guess what, my two coworkers are following an 18 week training plan and I’m going to go with it. Run 3 days each week. 1 speed work, 1 tempo workout, and 1 long run with pace times. So…here goes. My goal: to PR. What time, don’t know. Going to take the 1st two weeks of this plan and then see realistically what speed my legs are turning over.
Since the marathon I’ve enjoyed yoga, getting back on my bike, running when I want to, visited Michigan, worked my butt off at work, and had a great weekend out with the girls! Man, How i miss that! I’m ready to regain my balance….friends, half marathon training, work, family, reading, relaxing, volunteering, dating…. ha. The order I wrote all that in explains so much.
So, enjoy the novel of my race recap. I am proud of the race. I am thrilled to have been a part of Erika’s goal race and introducing her to the marathoner club.
Now, goodnight to the marathon distance…I can’t forsee that beast beckoning me again. Back to the more rewarding distance FOR ME…half-marathon.





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RnRSD Sunday, training trials

So I went MIA from blogging for my entire marathon training. Why?

‘Cus I was afraid to post and not follow through.
‘Cus I was afraid to share a failure
‘Cus I didn’t find time to “reflect” and draft/write.
‘Cus I am an introvert and have a hard time being vulnerable. Blogging is vulnerability to me.
But, I have a good feeling to share and so here I am blogging. ha. Nobodies perfect.

Sunday, June 2nd….Rock N Roll San Diego Marathon. It’s been on my calendar since soon after Erika and I went to Mammoth. I think that is where she shared her crazy idea to run a marathon to celebrate her 30th year. Why she told me….exactly, she knew I was a sucker who can’t say no.

So we’ve driven back and forth from Costa Mesa to Carlsbad for our weekend runs. She introduced me to some real rolling hills, which I love to hate. And my local terrain boosts her confidence on running long at a faster pace. We were a healthy balance.
I looked forward to text messages in our early weeks of training sharing our running pace to hold each other accountable. Erika is a soccer player….interpreted: speedy. She has run half marathons at dream times for me. Starting training I had just come off a great half marathon, so I started with a solid endurance base. Erika started with soccer speed. I knew I better start training at faster paces than my crawl out of bed, eyes still closed, waking up around mile 2 normal running. I pushed the first several weeks to keep all weekday runs below 9 min/mile pace. Erika would comment on my “speediness”, ha. I reminded her that as her endurance built I would be struggling to keep up with her, so I had to work on speedy in my endurance.
Warning: long drawn out explanation ahead…skip to last paragraph if you don’t want to hear it
In the past when I’ve increased mileage steadily I have had a nagging right lateral hamstring. I’ve always been able to run with it and just ice, stretch, strengthen and able to keep going. I ran with Erika in hilly Carlsbad and felt my nagging hamstring, early on in training; I think our first 12 miler. Didn’t mind it too much, knew it was inevitable as training kicked up. My short runs during the following week days were slow and I was feeling heavy legs, not recovering like normal. Not normal, not necessarily a good sign.
Thursday I was trying to get a quick run in after work; decided to drill out the hill on Superior just above PCH. Any OC runner knows this hill; you avoid it. It’s about 400m long, it’s steep….so I thought perfect for a glute kicker in a 4 miler…so I did repetitions, I believe 5 of these hills. This day I won’t forget. I’m not always the smartest when my body is aching or crying out….I ignore it and tell it to press on, prove you are strong. Tough love. So, going up the hill, I felt my hamstring “tear”, that’s all I can explain it as. In the past it usually gets me when I’m running down hill or on flat, in the end phase of my swing with the right leg my hamstring behind the outside of my knee (I had to try really hard to not write a bunch of anatomical reference words), it will will feel like a piece of dental floss or guitar string at it’s tautest position and like it rolls over 720 degrees causing a sharp pain…sharp enough that I feel like I float in space and don’t move a single muscle or bone for a half a second while I let out a scream. Yes, it’s bad. And I ignore it. I know, I’m not nice to myself.
So anyways, this happened going UP hill…this is a first in my 14 year running career. So I started offloading my right leg and ran myself back to my car (there was no option to walk). Since my weekend run my back and my right hip had been getting stiffer and achier…..compensating for changing my stride due to my hamstring pain. So thursday night after getting home, I knew I was in trouble. My back was spasming, my hamstring was super tight, painful, and I was getting a zinging down my leg to the outside of my foot. I know this……I treat this all the time. Sciatica.
I finally opened up at work, I told my coworker what was going on. He said, “uh, you gotta stop running” At this point, I knew running was not “running”, I couldn’t run my stride and I was trying to offload my right leg constantly. My hamstring always zings worse while walking than running….so walking around work was needless to say not making me feel any happier about my situation. I reached out to Erika….training buddy, I’m in a bind. Call me dense: I am a physical therapist and runner, and I didn’t give in to that I had an injury until I reached over to place my bath mat on the ground and I noticed I had lifted my right heel off the ground, bent my knee, and put all my weight on my left leg. Ugh…Houston, we have a problem, DUH. My body is compensating and I JUST realized it.
So I iced, I stopped running, swam 2 days/week, and I slowly started stretching my back, then hip, and a week later my hamstring. My sciatica centralized. I thought…ok, let’s try a short run. My body was still not trusting pushing with my right leg, my back got angry again. I rolled, iced, sticked, stretched. So after 2 weeks of trying to run and having to bail….I reached back out to my coworker. “I Need Help” So he graciously evaluated me and gave me some simple exercises and recommendations for getting back to running. All I have to say is “THANK YOU for not saying, you need to stop running” Smart guy, he said…”you need to run smart” I knew what that meant (even though I hadn’t been acting like it), and I respected that comment…way more than someone telling a runner to “stop running”.
I have been doing my stretches, strengthening exercises, and foam rolling DAILY since this day. After skipping the 3 GIANT weeks of marathon training I started back with a slow and steady 17 miler on Boston Monday. I knew I’d feel my hamstring, but my motto is, if it doesn’t escalate and stays “low grade annoying” I can keep attention on form and keep going. This is how I ran for the rest of training. I ran 19 miles 5 days later, and mentally felt “ok” getting back into training. Was my 19 miler pretty? No, it felt horrible, but that’s what happens when you “rest” for 3 weeks.
What lingered? I had a fear of running 2 days in a row. What? Sounds ridiculous right. Fear 1) pushing off my right leg. Got over that. Fear 2) Running on a fatigued right leg. So after the 19 miler I decided to try my week day runs…..did them, but man did I lose all speed…still not comfy pushing off the right leg.
So over the course of the next 4 weeks I found my courage and strength to keep my right leg healthy. Ran a much better 20 miler, pushed 2 faster paced 12/13 milers on Carlsbad’s hills, and rounded out the long runs with an 8 miler at 8:40 pace. I was shocked. But I’ll tell you what rested my mind and got me oober excited for Sunday. 8:40 was the pace I used to self-select when training for my first marathon. I ran with a 20 dollar watch from Target (I still do) and only knew rough running distances from mapping my courses on prior to runs. And consistently I would always be running 8:40. So the fact that I am back at this “self-selected” pace makes me feel ready. My 1st marathon in college was the most amazing day of my life. How can that not get me excited for what Sunday might have in store :)
So why didn’t I write before? When my hamstring was bothering me I felt sad, defeated, unworthy. Twisted that running can affect my emotions so much…sure, but running is one of the biggest consistent parts to my life. As friendships, boyfriends, jobs, schools have rolled, changed, come and gone…I’ve always had my running. To NOT have my running outlet was scary. Luckily I know it is not the ONLY outlet I have. I get satisfaction from playing piano, reading books, connecting with friends and family, and yoga. I’ve appreciated these outlets more over this training cycle…it pulled me through. I was almost in tears each day I couldn’t run, ‘cus I felt lost and like I had nothing to share/connect with people. It’s hard to be vulnerable and talk, especially on a public space/blog with these emotions. Most of my friends didn’t even know I was struggling, I internalized and ignored.
Now I can share, because I’m far from that feeling. My dark places are still sugar coated, frilly pink, and sparkling compared to the world and real problems. Luckily, it is the worst problem in my book. I’ll keep it that way. None the less, it felt heavy and daunting.
Pulling past that point took reaching out to my coworker, hearing encouragement from Erika, and turning inward to say, “I’m worth simmering down and spending time on myself”. It takes caring for yourself to foam roll, stick, stretch, ice, TLC stuff…I’m usually not good at giving myself the time to do these things.
So what did I learn… training plan is just a guide…it’s not steadfast and a must. Flexibility within a regimen. Listening to what my body needs and adapting to it. Give and take…it allowed me to push harder and have successful workouts later. Some patience with myself, maybe?
So this past weekend and week during my last few training runs, my legs want to go….they feel like they want to push hard and keep my lungs pushing. I am ready to be uncomfortable over the 26.2 miles. I say that right now, sitting on the couch with ice on my left pain now, unlike mile 18-26, ha. (oh yea, my compensation for my right hamstring has led to a bit of an overuse of my L calf…big surprise right?) I’m anticipating the pain, but I’m ok with it. Twisted runner mind.
I am excited, even more so for Erika and this being her first marathon. Her training has gone great…she has been dedicated and working hard on the full package among Cross-fit, running, and cross training with yoga and biking. This girl is ready; on our 20 miler she dropped her last 2 miles to 30 seconds faster than the rest. So I may say bye to Erika as she pulls ahead on Sunday…but I am going to keep a positive head and hope to push through to the finish WITH Erika. At the end of the day: we will each run our own race, best case scenario it will be together.
Wish Erika and me good luck as we count down to race morning! I’m carb loading tomorrow with pizza. Heading down to Carlsbad saturday morning for our last 2 miler, then expo-ing and settling in with Erika until our who knows what time alarm Sunday morning.
What’s after the marathon? I’m stopping and rehabing my hamstring :) Exercising patience. I’ve patched it up well enough (I hope) to be able to finish the distance without worsening my injury….but I know I need to take time to “fix” the problem, not patch it. So here’s to race day. Long anticipated. I’m in a good spot mentally and physically, will keep the combo going during the race as long as I can!
Happy running. And vulnerable blogging ;)

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