100-Mile Week Challenge

 

I set out on a personal mission to see if I could run a 100 mile training week.

One week. All outside. All solo runs.  

On Sunday I mapped out the week. As a mother of three, writing the plan ahead of time was critical to execution. 

In order to hit this sort of mileage, you need to average 14 miles per day. I knew this would require a few double days in order to break up the distance. I planned out new and different routes, but also creative ways to work in family time. I called in backup (read: babysitter) to allow for two mid-day runs and to save two evenings together. But, I also knew to expect the unexpected to occur and problem solve accordingly (see key takeaway #1).

Here is how the week shook out:

Monday – 4 Stroller Miles AM, 8 Miles PM

Tuesday – 10 Miles AM

Wednesday – 13 Miles AM, 4.5 Miles PM

Thursday – 11 Miles AM, 10.5 Miles PM – gaining   m o m e n t u m

Friday – 6 Stroller Miles AM, 4.5 Miles PM

Saturday- 20 miles

Sunday- 11 miles

Total: 102 Miles

 I listened to a podcast  on Trail Runner Nation with Andy Jones-Wilkins that detailed his 100 Mile Training Week.  I heard him say something that made me very curious to explore. He said that he experienced a sort of accumulative impact on both ability and motivation as the week went on with his running. 

There is a lot of great information out there on how to plan your weekly mileage; I am so grateful for the books and online articles we have available to us from coaches across the globe.  I read about different models of structuring an 80, 90 and 100 mile week.  I wanted to see which types best fit our schedule as my husband and I both work full-time and our 3 kids are at home right now. I love a good long run, but double days were going to be my best friend in breaking up the mileage. 

Here are the key takeaways from my experience:

Adaptability. Have a plan, but be willing to adapt when things don’t go according to plan. And dare I say, even better experiences come out of these situations!

    • Our babysitter cancelled before one of my sessions so I rerouted, took them to a park and ran circles around the park, followed by a bike ride/stroller run. This is something we had a blast doing, and now I can insert into our weeks (until it snows).

Timing. Get used to running, at all sorts of new times of day.

  • I am no longer just a morning runner. I LOVED some of my afternoon and especially evening runs! I could process my day from a whole new perspective.
  • untraditional time windows for running can offer the most memorable runs
  • the longer you spend doing an activity, the more you can expose yourself to a special moment.
  • miles go by faster in the dark.
  • You don’t necessarily need to start a high mileage week following a rest day.
  • The second run on a double day feels easier than you would expect.

Prioritize. When you prioritize something, you will always find the time for it.

  • After a full day at home with the kids, heading out the door for dinnertime can allow for a fully re-energized bedtime routine. I would never normally consider running during this time of day, but preparing their dinners ahead of time, and leaving when Fargo got home, I discovered this to be a really nice break in the day.
  • 4 Miles in the evening can wipe an entire work day stress slate CLEAN.

Accumulative Impact. Indeed, it was true. I had my best feeling run on my final day: Sunday. In fact I unknowingly ran 2.5 extra miles. On paper one would expect this one to feel the hardest physically and even mentally. But I jumped out of bed ready to run. 

  • I say this following every ultra run but it remains true. If you can allow yourself to stomach the pain for just a little, you will get stronger. This can translate into Mile 21 of a 50K or the Tuesday afternoon run of a long mileage running week. 

I spent the first half of 2020 attached to a training plan that prescribed specific types of runs, specific days off and specific paces. When you run with a coach, obedience translates to respect and running “additional miles” does not earn you extra credit. I was grateful to my coach for bringing me to the start line uninjured and well prepared with trail experience. Following the Superior 100 run, I have enjoyed a season of “intuitive running”. A sort of rogue, off the radar run by feel, day-to-day.  We all have different seasons of running we find ourselves in.  It was no surprise that this season delivered me adequate mental rest and brought me back full circle to seek personal challenge once again.  It never fades. Always regrows. 

So, how do we keep challenging ourselves in this longer off season? How can we stay competitive outside of organized races and games? A question on the minds of so many athletes, coaches and the like. There are a lot of people going after some pretty awesome adventures. Here is a short list on how to capture a personal challenge this week or season:

  • mile, 5K, 10K personal records (alot of timed trials out there)
  • FKT’s on trail
  • Personal stage race (4 days of running  – to accumulate XX miles)
  • Fastest run time on your local route 
  • First over 60 minute trail run
  • Linking multiple favorite routes
  • Brick workouts (these are especially fun with friends!)
  • Relays (also fun with friends!)
  • smaller, COVID courteous races – sponsored by personal running groups

No matter, I hope that this meets you in one that allows you to get outside daily to witness the wonderful shift, whether slight and subtle or real and raw as summer frays to fall. 

a late summer wildflower

A Library of Seeds

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Between a global pandemic, a much-overdue national conversation about race, and an upcoming election—many of us are feeling desperate to catch our breath, to quiet our lives, to re-examine our own priorities during this time. As many of you read, our landing hear was hard and fast. But we have clicked into gear and are enjoying the ride. We are in the green zone.

This has been a time of relishing in the simple pleasures that can be found in all of our everyday lives. Travel is great for the way it causes us to be vulnerable. It humbles us to be a new face, in a new space. Discovering the new corners of this town and meeting the people that have lived their whole lives. There are very few distractions, which leads to a deeper focus and more intentionality.

We celebrated Parker’s 6th birthday yesterday. We’ve thrown a friend party every year since she turned 2. I asked her what she wanted to do for her special day and she made this rather simple list.

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It is important to any mother to honor the hope in a child’s heart. We all know their birthday’s are a BIG deal to them. In anticipation of her day I was most looking forward to watching her unwrap THE toy she wanted the most.

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Wheelchair Barbie. She hasn’t stopped asking about, talking about, walking down the aisle to look at wheelchair Barbie.

But instead, the highlight of the day for me came long before ice cream cake with that wickedly rich deep blue frosting.  It was when we were at the beach along the shoreline of Lake Michigan. Parker discovered she can walk way out into the lake because it stays shallow for so long. There was a gentle wind that was causing a current of little waves to curl across the surface.   I watched from the shore as she would jump UP and OVER each wave, trying to keep the splashes of water from hitting her face. UP and OVER. She was throwing her arms in the air, spinning around in circles.  I was instantly taken back to my childhood recalling the same exact joy. In that moment I felt a part of her, even though I was yards away.

Every now and again, she would look back to see if I was watching, and when I would wave, she would wave and return her focus back to the waves. Back to the horizon. She was free, in her own element. She felt safe, while also free, and big and happy. It’s a memory I will always remember.

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So here we are going about our new normal. I am using my navigation less to drive which means I can notice more. Last Monday, I received my state park sticker and a library card, in the same day, and that felt like I had really arrived.

The following are a few key observations I have learned in the twenty days we have been here. 

I noticed that the town is small enough where you can make your tax payment right next to where you drop your library book off. Your utility payment too.

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I noticed that small town libraries have the secret sauce to a fair book loan system. Right when you enter the library, they have a cart called “lucky me”.  These are the newest books to the library and offer only a 14 day loan. You can’t place a hold on them. And you can’t renew them. Brilliant.  I’m still in position 56 at Woodbury Central for Running with Sherman.

I noticed that the countryside is deeply rooted with dairy farms and each farm contains their signature barn quilt. I can wrap my arms around the barber, fire house, pat’s tap and pizza parlor of our tiny town.

Sheboygan is “world famous” for their brats by backyard chefs (fried on the grill – that part is important) so it’s no surprise the multiple of BRAT BARNS you can find. They invite the space for high school and non profit groups to raise the funds they need using the products that are in high demand.

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And boy, do they love their Packers. The team spirit is everywhere here. On every lawn, on every car. On every shirt. So many hats. What makes the fan base so loyal here? I learned that they are the only team in NFL that is non-profit, community owned. The team is actually owned by the people.  I noticed that they have a Green Bay gear section in the Goodwill store. Green Bay license plates are about as common as the state license plates, and the grocers send every customer home with team pride, too.

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Door County, WI

Door County is just north of Green Bay in Wisconsin. It has 300 miles of shoreline with Green Bay on one side and Lake Michigan on the other. It’s landscape is rich with cherry orchards, community gardens and grape vines. It’s coastline filled with ships and over 15 lighthouses.

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We drove up the peninsula and discovered a multitude of rich shoreline towns from Egg Harbor to Fish Creek. When you are up in door County, you can’t help but notice the overflowing gardens in front of homes and retail spaces. Rich with produce and flowers. I learned that their communities have a seed loan program, much like we borrow books from the library. Residents drive up and borrow seeds, plant them and grow their carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, kale etc. They just ask in return you share your bounty with your neighbors and return some seeds when you are through. It’s an excellent way to boost healthy living in their communities as well as ensure food is provided to those who may need it.

A variety of creameries, bakeries, pottery shacks, cherry orchards, farm markets, cheese chops and brew pubs fill this county. Live goats roam this restaurant rooftop.

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We passed a sled dog discovery center right next to a tea parlor. Each store has a unique name like the boats that fill their harbors: Kick Start Coffee. The Bread Basket Bakery. Absolutely a destination meant for a week, and not a passing hour. We will be back. Here is a glimpse of the same area in the fall:

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photo credit: Chicago Tribune.

I have a feeling we will always experience the yin and the yang. We want to get away while we long for the comfort of our home. You get caught up in busy-ness and then run right into intense seasons of pause and simplicity. However, the more I let go, the more I am exposed to what I didn’t know existed. Nature is bountiful.  I am loving this adventure and feel very grateful we can be together right now.

Here are a few more shots of our growing family and spots around town. Love you guys.

 

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The Not-So Ultimate Guide to Moving Temporarily

I said it on social media. That I would have some great how-to’s for packing and planning for a short-term move. My goal was to pack less, so we can experience more. To find out what we can live without. And we did pack less. But when you have a pair of girls, there is no stopping the things. All the things, that they NEED, and you feel they need to feel, to feel comfortable. Need. Feel. Things. That’s little girls in a nutshell. 

So we moved Barbie World. 

 

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Let me back up. I was on a trip to California visiting my family with the kids when Fargo called and asked if I would consider him accepting a short term position to assist a plant in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. The plant was getting set up to run the high-speed track for  the production of respirators. It was horrible timing to make a family decision – being 2,100 miles apart. And in hindsight a freaky glimpse to what my next 3-4 months of life would look like. He told me to think about it. I hung up and looked around me. I took a picture of where I was right when I got the call, because I knew it was an important moment. It was also hard to picture life in Wisconsin. 

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I pulled up the town on my iphone. I double tapped on Wikipedia and saw an image of sail boats and the description “Malibu of the Midwest”. I gave it the night and told myself if he brought it up again the next day, I would say yes. It wasn’t until Sunday afternoon but he brought up again, so I said yes.  It was as simple as that. As I sit here in our Air BnB with no friends, twenty five percent of our personal belongings and three kids without a babysitter to call, I think. 

WHAT THE F WAS I THINKING. 

Move fantasies – they can happen fast or can involve long term planning. When they happen fast like this one, it can make for a pretty rough landing. What I mean is, you literally feel like you have been launched out of orbit. Our minds and bodies love our daily routines. So when Monday morning I woke up in someone else’s bed to make coffee in someone else’s coffee pot that required something other than a K Cup (which is pretty fun actually), I felt jumbled up. Chewed up and spit out. I’m opening four different drawers in search for a spoon and still can’t keep it straight – what is where.

What’s worse, is I had to pick up my dad who was staying at the nearby Fairfield Inn to take him to the airport. He had flown in a week prior to help me with the kids and do the drive out.  Fargo was already all hands on deck at the plant. 

 

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I put in “Milwaukee” to my navigation and headed toward the airport. We were pretty quiet in the car. Looking back, I think he felt sorry for me. He pointed out a few things out the window. I did too. Trader Joe’s for example, a mere 45 minute drive away (gasp!). I gave him a big hug at the airport, he put on his mask and I pulled out of the terminal watching the only other adult I knew in town take his roller board toward American Airlines. I came home left with rubber totes and suitcases and wow – I was getting dropped off at college all over again only this time I had a box of diapers and a couple of kids. 

There is no doubt about it – I love adventure. I love the figuring it out. I love the exploration. I love the feeling of discovering somewhere “new”. And given the uncertain times we are living in we literally have nothing to lose. Only memories to build. Plus, his mission is an important one and I 100% trust the decisions he makes. 

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Given Covid, it’s been a slightly perfect (everything is cancelled anyhow) slightly odd (nothing is open in the new town) time to move somewhere new, even if it is temporary. On the one hand it is good timing as far as education – with school districts sending emails that emphasize “we encourage you have alternate plans in place for your family”. Which I read as: Grab an RV and some flash cards and hit the road sister. But on the other hand, you drive through towns and into towns that have many businesses, closed up. And what few ones are left open – have limited hours. Right here in Sheboygan Falls, we went to the YMCA only to learn there is no child care open right now, no pool open right now, no camps available (space is limited and therefore, full). Oh! and here’s the workout area – carry this tub of wipes around though and wear a mask the whole time. This is the reality of where we are and the times in which we find ourselves. No matter where you go, you can’t escape it. 

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A good friend whispered the right words in my ear, “Change is always hard! Always! Even when you are excited and up for the adventure!” 

The first thing I needed to do, with my three best friends in tow, was restart routines because our bodies and our spirits love our routine. I got good coffee beans for the coffee pot because it’s been a minute since I haven’t used a K Cup. Like 3 years to be exact. I went to Target to get white bread, Skippy and Smuckers and knew if we could have a PB&J on the beach that day, all would be right in the world. Just baby steps. 

What I found at the beach was a bit of connection. I am familiar with the beach, and it helps me feel at home, anywhere. 

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This small line of connection lit a spark in my heart and the rest of the day was smooth sailing. I started to see more of how I could be connected to this place than not. Perspective is everything. I even got to see a little piece of my family in our living room when parker turned on the TV to catch some Pinkalicious and whammo. Uncle Stephen, hi buddy! 

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I set an alarm early to get a run in outside and chased the full moon down a golf course. That was another Sheboygan-Win. The golf courses here and in Kohler are extraordinary and I have never used the cart paths before to run. 

Fortunately, kids just love to play. They don’t care where they are. They can play for hours in our new rental, discovering all the new cabinets and drawers. And we have spent ample time exploring all the neighborhood parks. This new swing, that new monkey bar and those new see-saws. They are loving it. 

I found a little learning center for the girls to go to 2 days a week. Some social interaction for them and some sanity for me. I dropped them off yesterday and it went about as expected. Be brave, I said. 

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I spent the time doing what I think most moms find themselves doing when they finally get a little alone time. Spending the first hour worrying about them. The next hour prioritizing what needs to get done and the third hour watching the clock because you don’t want to be late and the last 15 minutes getting it ALL done.  

That’s how it goes. Tough moments. Awesome moments. Tough moments. Awesome moments. And when you are a mother of three you chase and crave those simple moments. Watching your children play, and have fun, is my greatest enjoyment. 

We hope to get out on Lake Michigan while being here. Kayak the Sheboygan River. Visit Green Bay and Door County. And play. 

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I could tell you our bedroom is smaller, the closet space is smaller, the bathroom is smaller and the stairs creak. But I can also say I have a TV in my office now, a front porch that overlooks a Main Street and a backyard on a river. There are always tradeoffs. 

We miss Blaze. Big time. I handed him off to our amazing in-laws to live on the farm for a couple months. That was another big tradeoff. 

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I am so proud of Fargo and look forward to exploring more of this town. Just thankful to be together. 

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Spirit Mountain

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Over the weekend we got to witness another crazy display of athletic creativity. Three of our friends set a goal of Everesting the Spirit Mountain in Duluth.

What is Everesting? I asked the same question myself. It’s a concept where runners pick a hill (or mountain) and go up and down the same hill enough times to accumulate the climb of Mt. Everest which is 29,029 ft.

They would start at 8 PM on Friday night run/hike through the night hoping to finish in 17-20 hours. On Saturday morning we loaded up the car and headed for the North Shore, our favorite backyard for adventure.  We reached them 17 hours into the effort, where the sun was peaking at 86 degrees, with no cloud cover and no shade. When we walked up, there was just an EZ Up canopy,  an easel with the climb tally and a couple of coolers – a humble set up for such a worthy undertaking. 

There were two men remaining, the other had noticed a quad issue right away and  opted to crew the team instead. When I joined them for a few laps on the hill I was met with another pacer who had joined them. A psychotherapist from the Duluth area who is studying sports psychology and wanting to learn more about how to train atheltes for the mental strength required for longer events. 

I hiked alongside Sam and Joe and offered any stories I could to get their mind off the monotony of the hike. I discovered very quickly the unique challenge to this undertaking was the lack of change in scenery or even terrain. It was the same 1/2 mile up, same 1/2 mile down. And repeat.  But I knew fresh conversation, and fresh legs were all that was needed.  They were 46 summits in, needing 64 to get their 29,000 ft. “This is ridiculous” they said “Why, why did I sign myself up for this?” one pondered.

It’s a typical question that arises in your mind when tackling something big. There is almost always a little mental resistance. You miss that “dark matter” when away from competition at that level for awhile, only to return and stare it straight in the face wishing it would disappear. Giving anything, to be anywhere else.  The friend added, “Because we can”. That is the beauty of doing an effort side-by-side. You get to help each other through the highs and lows.

Optimism is at the center of mental strength. The fundamental belief that you will finish, it’s just a matter of when, is a powerful variable in the equation.  Listening to these two go back and forth on their way up and down, and the added encouragement from their third musketeer, now crewing their every potato chip, every sock change and water bottle refill was very inspiring. It was teamwork on display at its finest. Friends that train together constantly know the intimacy of what can draw them out of a pit. 

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We were there to witness the final lap, of which I took video and still love playing over and over and over. It was the fastest I had seen their legs turn over all day – their trekking poles flying behind them like ski poles. They came barreling down the mountain to the tune of Queen’s “We Will Rock You” and broke through the paper thin yellow streamer their wives and kids were holding from end to end. You see it over and over in sports. The will to continue, and the strong unpredictable speed at the very finish.  Like the energy comes, out of nowhere. 

And, then, they were done.  24 hours later. 64 Hill Repeats. 70 miles total. And with the elevation of 29,416 ft. No medal. Just one reporter with her microphone attached to her own video camera. And, their families. They raised $1500 for the Superior Hiking Trail. 

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We left them around 9:30pm on Saturday night following their finish, just in time for a Mcdonalds McFlurry and to lay our heads down at the AmericInn. The following day we explored Pebble Beach at Split Rock with the kids as well as the pools at Gooseberry Falls. There was this jaw-dropping field of stone towers, so many, too many to count. Fargo noticed these had to have been put together only in the last 2 months given the winter snowfall. Someone had to start it, but visitors have added to it over time –  building their own tower before leaving. I took out my camera to document and knocked one over in the process. I felt like an idiot. Fortunately, Fargo and the girls built one before we left. But photos don’t do it justice. If you are reading this from Wisconsin or Minnesota – go to Gooseberry Falls and check it out. 

I am loving these outdoor adventures people are getting after. The longer events inevitably carry the challenge of fueling, lack of sleep and need to withstand discomfort.  I enjoy seeing the fight, and especially witnessing what allows them to push through that inevitable “pain cave”. And always, to learn their “why”. 

Here are a few extra photos from the trip! The girls made a 1/4 mile trip up the mountain themselves.  And another BIG CONGRATS to Sam, Joe and Brandon for tackling a biggie. 

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Superior 100 – The Run to Rebuild

I was outside on our front porch scrolling through my Facebook News Feed when I saw the post. A video message from the race director. I clicked the link, swallowed hard and prepared myself for what would be another casualty from Covid-19. A big part of me expected it. But a tiny part of me had been collecting kernels of hope as the days passed. Maybe they are figuring it out. Maybe we would be spread enough apart. Then I heard it.

“It is with heavy hearts that we must cancel the 2020 Bighorn Mountain Trail 100 Mile run in June…”

I opened up my calendar and officially scratched out the weekend. I scanned the boxes of April, May and June and all of the marked out, crossed out events. I began to think about what I would do in it’s place. This replacement sort of thinking – it’s an avoidance of pain for sure. Or perhaps, just an urge to repair. But I always have to have a Plan B. I had put in all the training and I needed a marker to define the end of training and the beginning of a season of rest.

I got right to work. I already knew the when, and actually, I already knew the where. My friend Bev and I had begun running sections of the Superior Hiking Trail last June. 20 miles a day, bits and pieces of the full 310 mile trail at a time.

By the time Fargo came home I was already feeling anticipation and deep rooted excitement. The recreating of your destiny. I am grateful we have the ability to do that. That Covid-19 couldn’t cancel our own dream detective work. I had the beginning of my plan. But I knew I could count on my man to fill in the rest.

“We need Karlie” he said. “We can’t do it without Karlie.” I met Karlie when we lived in Alabama and we have stayed close friends ever since. She and her husband Ryan crewed me for my first 100 mile race. More on that can be found here.

We called her on speaker and made the pitch. Her response, “DUH, yes!” Do you have a duh-yes friend? The one you know you can count on, no matter what? And the very next night, I received this image from her through text.

I got the same exact feeling you get when you hit submit on that race registration button. This made it official. I wouldn’t pick up or wear a bib for this race. There wouldn’t be a start line banner, or a pre-race briefing email. No expo or bag of coupons and chapsticks. But this for me meant it was happening. I took a picture of it that night because I knew the moment was important. I wanted to remember how it made me feel seeing it.

I continued the training and one particular Friday morning I was up at 3:30 AM reading the news while waiting for my friend Bev to pick me up. I read that our 3rd precinct police station had been burned by protestors. A true marker of the explosive steam the rioters, looters and protestors had been gaining over our city. We drove straight north on I-35 and for about an hour straight we passed police vehicles flashing their reds and blues charging toward Minneapolis. We spent the whole day on the trail feeling far enough away from all the devastation. I began to get text messages from friends in California. In Alabama. In Tennessee. In Massachusetts. “Are you guys okay? Your city…”

The events that followed George Floyd’s death were horrific. Most of the businesses burnt on Lake Street were owned by men and women of minorities, their families working together to keep doors open, and now gone. It was so backwards. I read about We Love Lake Street, a non-profit set up toward the rebuilding of Lake Street and put together for the first time ever, a Go Fund Me page. I would run 100 miles to fundraise toward their recovery efforts. I lodged the link on to my social media threads, hit post and was immediately met with a text from Jess.

“Girl friend. What’s the link?” There it was again, the duh-yes friends. People are amazing. From that minute on I began to receive the emails one by one in my inbox.

_____ has donated.

_____has donated.

_____has donated.

Quite possibly the greatest feeling, ever. In fact at a certain time Go Fund Me turns OFF the email notifications because they don’t want to flood your inbox but I turned them back ON. The emails were reoccurring surges throughout the days and week leading up to the run. With each notification, a renewed faith in humanity. Love of our community. Best feelings ever. To hear from people I hadn’t from in….years. The generosity. The call to contribute. Amazing. I had started with a goal of $1,000. But you people gave $4,500. I can’t even.

The week arrived. Karlie & Ryan landed. And on the morning of Friday June 11th I handed the 5 page typed written notes to our babysitter Mady and gave the girls one last hug. They were already deep in Dad’s drawers resurrecting his old blackberries, iphones and ipods… their own form of amusement to play family when Mom and Dad are away.

We used the official Superior Fall 100 race course as well as planned aid station stops. Storkamp if you are reading this, thank you. A million times, thank you. It’s no easy task navigating a trail run solo. For the crew or the runner. 103 miles of trail, forest, woods, and back roads. The trail markers and the ability to follow other runners are one of the many attributes you gain from doing a hosted event. That and aid stations, music, comradery, spectator support, conversations with other runners, hot food at aid stations, medical I could go on and on.

Saturday morning we were met with a picture perfect day giving way to unforgettable scenery for the course. The great thing about a “non-essential” self proposed race experience is you get to determine the start time and the starting gun. I began the first mile quite promptly after we parked the car at Gooseberry Falls. They walked me up to the Visitor Center and we clicked “start” on my Garmin. About 1/2 mile in I came up to this sign.

It was early enough on in the day that my brain was sharp, I took a photo of the sign and ran with it memorizing the directions and putting together the pieces in my brain collecting evidence from road signs to confirm the route. One wrong step and you were adding additional mileage to an already long day.

We set it up so I would run the first marathon by myself. In this initial section there was a bridge out across the river at mile 7. When I found an opportunity to cross the knee deep ice cold water, it lead me right up to the tents of some sleeping campers and I tried to be as quiet as possible. Totally normal to wake up to a girl coming out of the river wearing her running shoes. NBD. It was early enough to feel the chill of the forest, but the morning was giving way to a bluebird day.

At high noon with the sun on our cheeks and across our upper backs, I met Karlie to run the next 20 miles with her. Silver Bay through to Tettegouche on to County Road 6.

We spent the 4 hours of interrupted girl time allowing our words to chase our tails on the trail. There is a certain intimacy you gain in talking beneath those tall pines. Their branches reaching far down, deep into your heart lifting your words up and out giving you the courage to share. Where the gentle breeze rustles the leaves whispering “go on”. It is where the rest of the world and its realities trickle away. Where you go to get tiny again.

I began to think about the next section and being reunited with the BBK – Bev, Brie and Katherine. It is having the company of others, especially pacers that can break up a 100 in a colorful and fantastic way. Much like a rainbow, each color a distinct contribution to the overall beauty of the picture. At Mile 42 Karlie and I ran right into them on the trail and we all screamed.

The party had just begun. It would be Brie and Katherine’s first time on the trail and I couldn’t wait to share our paradise with them. That feeling alone would take any exhaustion I was feeling right away. Karlie would take a break starting back in after the sunset to run through the night with me.

Brie and I ran for 15 miles together. She was my first running friend in Woodbury. She strung together these routes for me all around our town that exposed me to where we live and the strong running community we share it with. She had me take the lead, set the pace and kept the conversation going. I remember what we talked about and I remember having to stop and tell her you are one of the most unique women I have ever met, never quit your intensity, your love of sport, your loyalty to others.

We met the crew at Mile 58, here my husband, crew chief, partner in crime would join me for the first time all day. “Ready for our date?!” I said.

We continued down the trail and it was with him that my tough shell would slowly crack. As it always has. The first point in the race I would admit my exhaustion. I’m tired. I can’t anymore. We have a long way to go.

I want to hold Riley.

He has always been a source of comfort for me and being in his company I let myself relax. He listened. He encouraged. We continued. He reminded me of the 40% rule. “Remember David Goggins? He would say when your mind is telling you your done, your body is only 40% of the way done! You got this!!”

Following this section Ryan had made a cup of instant noodles over a backpacking “stove” that was quite possibly the most delicious sodium I have ever had in my life. Forever named, Ryan’s Ramen.

From this point, Mile 58 and nearing 9:00 pm, I put on my pants, grabbed our headlamps and hit the woods. Karlie, already 20 miles deep seemed fresh as a daisy. I cannot tell you the challenge of following trail markers on the trees, by headlamp while also watching your footing. This was the rootiest section of the course – leaving Crosby Manitou. It’s insanely challenging. But what we were also met with was the beauty of the night time. I will never forget standing on the bridge with her with the river only visible by it’s noise, rushing right under our feet. We looked up and saw, stars for miles. We both clicked off our headlamps and took a gasp of aw.

Stars galore.

Running beneath a starry night is magic. It’s peace. It’s serenity. This section had it’s share of challenges, but we did it. We ran up to the boys who had made a campfire right off the trail and had been keeping the coffee warm in a pot.

These guys had now been in the car together for 19 hours as we reached 1 o’clock in the morning. To be a part of a crew takes a special person. they have the toughest job of all. It is the most demanding role, taxing on the body, little rest and all serving. A regular chef out of the back of a pick up. And when you are at your least rest, you have to give of yourself the most.

One of my favorite parts of the run was ticking through Miles 83-85 down Cross River with Karlie. Karlie is a ridiculous optimist. She finds what’s good and what’s possible, always. Just the two of us, loaded legs, a pack of Gushers, slamming Hi Chews and blasting music during an entirely inappropriate hour. The day was just breaking, it was 4:15 AM, there was something that just tickled us about having conquered the night. The night has always presented a challenge for us.

We got to the truck and it was here that I crawled inside and sat. Mile 85. Here would be the bottom of my pit. I spent 24 minutes in that backseat as the clock ran past 24 hours straight of being awake and non-stop running. I heard my crew talking about me and honestly, I felt sorry for me. I felt sorry for them. And I felt sorry for me.

“Nah, she’s got this” they said. “Even if she walks.” I had 18 miles left. Walk? There was no way I thought. And the toughest section left. Hills followed by climbs followed by hills.

What I want to tell you is that I never wanted to quit. What I have to tell you is that I very much wanted to. Fargo handed me my hiking poles, scooped me out of the car and we began on the trail. Elective suffering. This is the “dark matter” of the race. The part you cannot reach on a training run. You can train for it in other ways – like your double days or bad weather still-get-out-the-door days, but not this point. You can’t prepare for this point.

Karlie said she would call in the troops – the BBK. Down the trail we went going from a walk jog walk. I stood on the banks of Temperance River. We were at Mile 86. Fargo was a paragraph into his pep talk and nothing was working. Until. “If nothing else babe, do it for what you will learn about yourself by pushing through the pain.” I remember the words hanging in the air. I stared into his eyes and the early morning light made them a perfect hazel. I will never forget the look on his face in that moment.

And he was right. It reminded me of the quote from Born to Run:

“Beyond the very extreme fatigue and distress, we may find amounts of ease and power we never dreamed ourselves to own, sources of strength never taxed at all because we never push through the obstruction.”

And from that moment on I gained the momentum I needed to not only continue, but to finish.

At the end of this section I was met with team BBK – Brie, Bev and Katherine and I fell into the comfort of Bev’s loving embrace and cried. She more than anyone, understood what this trail involved, for hours upon hours. I turned to Katherine and gave myself a minute to rest right in the cup of her hands. I hate this picture and I love this picture because it reflects the emotion, perfectly.

That is one of the many great pleasures of an ultra marathon. You can hurt more than you EVER thought possible then continue until you discover that hurting isn’t a big deal. You climb in and out of so many pits in the same race, that after a certain point you get numb to those pits. You can just take the hits. We ticked off the miles through the 90’s one by one by one under the canopy of greenery. Absolute paradise.

The time was edging toward noon and Fargo and Karlie wanted to get me in under 30 hours. I trusted them with everything and for the final 45 minutes they counted down the minutes by mile to allow me to hit it.

I arrived at Caribou Highlands, the official course finish line. I couldn’t wait to just, stop. WE finished. A hundred miler is not a solo race. And the complete mileage rounded out at 105 miles in total. I set out to do this wanting to explore my limits – to become reacquainted with my true fatigue in running. This run, which raised the $4,500 for Lake Street, marked my third 100 mile run.

The hardest part of running this kind of distance is the nutrition. You have to consume more calories than you consume in a given week, in a single day. You have to separate your mind from body as you simply can’t imagine consuming another iota of protein or carb and here’s your best friend making you slam another Gu, another sandwich, packing your pockets full of pretzels and stuffing a red vine in your vest.

The finish line of an unofficial race is real arbitrary. BBK presented me with a finisher swag bag fit for a queen. Then, I think we took 5-6 minutes to change our shoes before we jumped in the truck to drive home and get reunited with our kids.

Every race I learn a new section about myself. This one had to be that I am capable of finishing a cup of noodles in 3 swigs and 4 fingers. And that we are capable of so much more than our mind tells us we are.

Diversify your Portfolio

Everything I write is something I need to remind myself.

A typical day working from home with three kids is absolutely hilarious. I work in 7 minute, maaaaybe 15 minute max time blocks, but it’s sun up until stars out straight.

The first week being at home I was less shocked about managing the distance learning education as I was about how much our children eat in a day. Mine eat upon waking at 6AM then 7:30, 9, 10:30, 12, 3, 4:30 followed by dinner at 5 and dessert at 6, milk, then bed, then water, then back to bed.

I mean for real.

A person can’t be expected to manage that many snacks. So we tackled that first. I would feed them more. I could close the kitchen.

Then there is the master planning of activities to distract them just long enough to participate, or God forbid, lead a conference call in between pressing mute on my device. And the trick is to have a back up plan in case the activity runs out early. So I rotated where I took these calls so they couldn’t find me.  I’ve taken calls in our home office and I have taken calls from my husband’s nightstand. Goodbye lamp, I need your outlet. I need space.

I have lead calls from the floor of our master closet and behind the guest bathroom shower curtain. I have sent them on their bikes and I have lead them to green pastures to pick flowers…safely in sight but far enough where I could run in the opposite direction to complete the call.

But this has all been possible, and oddly fun. The work gets done.

This past Sunday I found myself standing on the bank of the St. Croix River.  The water was so clear and the current so strong that I could feel it press against my heart.  I closed my eyes to listen to the little waves slap the sand.  For a moment it felt as though I was back at the beach.

It is these pockets of time, with nowhere to be, and nothing to do that I will  miss the most from this season. With so much of the future out of control, we are hardly in the position to be making plans these days. The moments born out of stillness, this is what I want to hold on to.

It’s as if we are all in different boats, but in the same storm. What happened right away as a result of the global pandemic was an outburst of humanity. A collective rally. People cleared more space at their dinner tables, became more creative in the kitchen, and learned how to communicate in new and interesting ways. A reflection of how important connection is for us. This was an everlasting reminder of how joy can be found in crises.

Beyond those who have fell ill with the coronavirus are those whose medical matters have been sidelined as a result of the virus. People who typically could bring support to their chemotherapy treatments are now doing that, alone. Men and women are finding out major test results from the hospital parking lot, from their phone in their car, rather than face-to-face with their doctor. Brides surrendering their save the dates to the past, cancelling plans, trips and vendors and sending it on to 2021, waiting. Graduates are crossing this already uncertain and odd major mile marker with a quick shuffle, an unsteady feeling as they bypass the yearbooks, the finals, the ceremony and social celebrations. When asked what they have learned during this time one senior class graduate said, “What I have learned from being in quarantine is that life is full of crazy twists.”

Isn’t that the truth?

I sit here a little unsure when I consider the rest of this year. I am afraid we will have to wear masks in public all the time now. I am also afraid for the feeling when we go without them. I am afraid we will start to see individually wrapped apples.  I am afraid our community pool won’t open for the summer.  Which seems minor but when you live in Minnesota it’s important. I am wondering when we will feel comfortable to high five and to hug. I don’t want to recoil every time I shake someone’s hand or stand “too close”.

Here is what I know for sure.

Wildlife has benefited. We know our neighbors better. Our community has spirit. And we have all gained a deep appreciation for our nurses, doctors and grocery clerks. It is a time ripe for opportunity. The opportunity to love hard, to reach out. To create. To prioritize. To celebrate in new and interesting ways: I am looking at you birthday drive by’s and doorstep drops. And I am certain these will be celebrations for the memory books. Firefighter drive by’s, birthday parades, a sign of these times and what we can endure.

I even celebrated one fella’s birthday by headlamp headed toward the sunrise on a dusty dirty trail. HAPPY BIRTHDAY we shouted where only the moon could hear.

During this time we have all diversified our portfolio. Home projects. New recipes and with that, new grocery aisles. Jigsaw Puzzles. Workout challenges and virtual everything’s.

I continue to research and explore the many ways individuals, families and companies are reinventing themselves in response to this time. To uncover, what beautiful things and customs and relationships will be unearthed right now. What we will seek to leave behind and what we will hold firm to bringing with us on the other side. I will miss this brief window when we all experienced collective grief together. We were all dealt the same hand and we all watched each other rise to the occasion and diversify our personal portfolios recognizing the beauty in doing the same things, a little differently.

Fertilization

If you have experienced pregnancy loss, or miscarriage and then found out you were pregnant, it’s totally normal to feel a little, resistant with the news. It was so strange to see the positive test in front of me, and feel not joy, but shock and a whole lot of concern.  Rather than, YES. It was,

Oh no.

If you have gone through a similar experience, maybe you can relate. Allow me to give you perspective into this slightly odd, yet slightly beautiful time. What follows is a progression of my thoughts.

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Week One: I get the confirmation email from the Superior Fall 100 mile race. I am not only in, but I am seeded FIRST. I grab an experienced coach. I register for a 50 miler, a 50K, and a 100K. I begin training immediately and all the excitement swirls in me with what the spring and summer contain. I have direction. And I am exploding with excitement.

Week Two: I sign up for a running retreat that breaks the 100 mile course down into sections. We purchase flights to hike the Grand Canyon R2R2R in a day, a 42 mile self supported journey.

Week Three: I lay in bed at night envisioning how many of my training runs look. They should involve dirt, and much elevation. I can’t wait to slip on that hydration vest that screams adventure for me. I feel this pulsating ball of electricity in my belly, so much so it interrupts my stream of thought. How strange, I thought.

Week Four: I take a sip of coffee and within seconds notice I do not have the stomach for it. My thoughts darted to THE thought: am I pregnant? I jumped to my own defense, determined to nip the hopeful thinking in the bud before it ran any further down the line. Stop the thought in her tracks. I drive my car straight to Walgreens.   I take the test, and vacuum for an hour and then go pick up the girls from school. I didn’t forget to look at the results. I was avoiding it. When we get home,  I decide I will run upstairs and look at the test but only because I am on my way up there to do laundry. It’s funny how we ashamed we can be to have a thought. To be in pursuit of our desire, even if just for a few moments.

I pick up the test. Two blue lines. I compare the image to the box and it confirms, pregnant. Fargo comes home and I say nothing. I spend the evening in the in between, not knowing what to make of the results and still doubting what I saw. I elect to take another test 24 hours later. Seems like it makes the most sense. The following evening the same order of events followed with the same confirming result. I am unwilling and unable to seek out a creative way of “announcing” this new piece of information, in complete fear of what may come. We lay in bed later that evening and my words float out into our bedroom air. He is overjoyed.

Week Five: Confirmation of pregnancy received via ultrasound, but without heartbeat. It’s either too early, or not a good sign. Heavy bleeding just three days later brings us to another ultrasound with no change in growth and still no heartbeat. We agree to wait 2 weeks until next ultrasound. I am devastated we are having to go through this again. A true challenge of motherhood is composure through trial. All the while, I have two girls that I need to be strong and show up daily for. It doesn’t happen often but when life interrupts your cadence it can be so hard not to fall through the cracks.

Week Six: I have 100% convinced myself this is another failed pregnancy. My fears take over and like a magnet attract only thoughts that feed and further confirm my greatest fear. This has happened twice before. There is no heartbeat. We haven’t been sent home with an ultrasound photo. That previous sentence right there was devastating and signified more concern to me than anything.

Week Seven: Our entire family piles into the dark, quiet ultrasound room. All that can be heard is the beating of my own heart and the beeps of the monitors. We give it a few seconds as she waves the wand from left, to right and then slowly turns the screen to us. “I want to show you what I am seeing” she says “We have a heartbeat”. I cry immediately.

Week Eight: A continuance of the activities that typically fill up my day, but I am different. I am slower, I am tired, less motivated and incredibly worn out. My grip is still holding fast to the goals I set out with, while it flips as though it is slipping through my fingers. I am scared to loosen my grip. To give in. I recognize that my thoughts have been focused on all the things I can’t do, rather than what I can.

Week Nine: A heaping tablespoon of peace and contentment. A giving in to the tighter waistband, the slower pace miles and the elevated heart rate after climbing so much as a set of stairs.

What followed is a completely healthy pregnancy, magical birth and the non-stop  willy-willy pace of motherhood with three kids.

Today, Riley is 7 months old. It took the entire pregnancy to feel safe enough to write these thoughts. Even so, I needed to have her in my arms. To see her angel face to believe and to know.  I never felt we were “in the clear”… Not after losing a baby at 12 weeks.

Here’s what I want to say to you now. They are a miracle. To those trying, to those who have been trying. To those who have lost and wonder if they should give it another go.

Go.

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From Bikinis to Beanies

 

Just 4 days separate these photos. We flew home from our vacation in 85 degree Palm Springs to 31 degrees Minnesota, unpacking straight from bikinis to beanies. This is the type of adventure life is for us…and a reminder of how the journey of life is not meant to be planned, but enjoyed moment by moment.

Just yesterday we saw the lips of our tulips bursting through the dirt and today they and everything else is covered in a foot of snow. So close! spring, I feel ya! Don’t be shy!

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We took a little vacation to an oasis in the desert, staying at the Westin Mission Hills Golf Resort & Spa in Palm Springs, CA.  But you already know that. When you post over 15 pictures on your social media across three days you know you are on family cloud nine. For me, the pleasure actually started before we left. Much of the delight I draw from experiences is in the preparation. The gathering, the collecting, the anticipating, the unknown. As I write this many of my friends are packing their favorite running staples into a mini suitcase headed for the worlds greatest marathon, the Boston Marathon. I am tickled by the excitement as I see them pack their running shoes after the one final workout. The jeans for post marathon celebration. The backpack for expo pleasures.

For this trip, I experienced sheer joy as I resurrected their itty bitty flip flops, our sunscreen and their teeny weeny bikinis from totes hidden for months upon months. Dust had collected on their lids and many items didn’t fit their growing bodies of course, already two seasons removed.  But that’s what Target is for – to see what new they got in since yesterday and delight in the endless options of polka dot tiny’s. Sandals. Sundresses. Spaghetti Straps. Sunglasses. All of it.

In taking two toddlers cross country – 4 hour airplane ride followed by 2 hour car ride – not our longest mission, but a respectable jaunt, I thought I’d share some insights in regards to our family travel:

  • Kindles. We flew Delta, and these days in flight entertainment is almost part of the norm. Every seat gets a monitor filled with tv series, movies, etc. The kids preferred the Paw Patrol and Duck Tales features in flight to their kindles, so next time we will leave the screens at home.
  • Backpacks. The kids are super excited about packing before our trips. They love putting together their own backpack. They pack their bedrooms into one tiny backpack because of course she needs the backup chapstick to her backup chapstick, that keychain and her snow globe. Pack rats. HOWEVER, the same thing always happens. We walk from airport parking into the terminal and said backpacks are already wrapped around whatever forearm space Fargo and I have left after two suit cases, two car seats and a stroller. New family rule: You pack it in, you pack it out. 
  • The Man Seat. Paying for four seats as a family now means one thing: A set of three seats, and then one. Who gets the one? I’m looking at you Fargo. Hows the movie? Oh nice. That’s nice. I’ll be over here, in the middle. In between Thing 1 and Thing 2. You seem so refreshed after the flight. That’s so nice.
  • Crayola Mess Free Markers. An awesome discovery for in flight art – eliminate the fear of an ink war across the window seat wall, on her jacket, her hands, or my pants. However, five markers. five markers is all you need for art in travel. Twenty five was much to many caps to be chasing down row 33 and up and across to 22A.

We landed in LAX and wouldn’t you believe it National Rent-A-Car had my old truck available. The Nissan Frontier, with crew cab. The one I posted on Craig’s List to sell and received responses ONLY from gardeners, carpet cleaners and painters.  This truck was my baby. And this one was a little shinier and not white not red, but it was her.   YES…. I put my foot down on this one….. GET IN FAMILY. Having this car for the trip… with my kids in the backseat where my duffle bags or book bags or beach bags would normally go, it just brought me much joy. Amazing how our cars become, well, a vehicle for all of our memories. And can transport us through time instantly.  Crazy to see my kids piled in the back seat of it.

So, we hit the road, and first things first California,

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I ate my #1 with onions at an unhealthy rate. We are talking one second it was there, the next it wasn’t. I took half of his fries too. That wasn’t fair of me. But I did it. Poor guy he was driving he didn’t even notice.

And it was right here in the In-N-Out drive thru that the girls saw their first palm tree of the trip.

 

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Isn’t she beautiful? This is a big moment when living in Minnesota. These are very special!

We hit the pool immediately and from there it was 4 days of bliss and relaxation. When asked when planning the trip,  what do I want from the bottom of my heart? The answer was simple. The sun. I have come to know that sunlight is the most precious Gold found on this Earth. I forgot how enlivening it could feel to sit in a lounge chair wrapped in nothing but a bikini and experience complete warmth and contentment enveloped in the sun’s rays. And later that night, to fall asleep in the cool sheets with sun-kissed skin.

But I also learned a critical component that made this trip as relaxing as it was. One property. Multiple options. It was the gift that just kept on giving.  It’s easier to succeed when you know what works for you.

Golf? Sure. Pool? Of course. Paved paths that criss cross green grass with mountain vistas? Uh-huh. Gym? Yep. Room Service? No, not feeling it? How about the Oasis Den or Kids Club or Italian fine dining?  They property even hosts a tortoise named Scooter. Many many ducks and chicks and even a puppy for adoption. I can’t make this up. We love the Westin properties and this gem didn’t disappoint. To add to the environment the pool has awesome music playing all day long, I liken it to the music you hear on a cruise ship or at a bar near the beach. Jimmy Buffet, Kenny Chesney and The Beach Boys.

Don’t get me wrong, we love to travel and adventure and explore. But sometimes, life calls for relaxation, holding steady, warmth and simplicity. All we wanted, all we needed was the hot sun on our faces. The green green grass and blue blue skies and palm trees and ducks and flowers were an added bonus.

 

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Day 4 of Vacation

 

The beauty of vacations is the power of yes. There is something about being on vacation that causes me to say yes to everything, while at home I feel more inclined to stick within  my limitations, our structure, our routine etc. Popsicle at 10 AM? Yes. $12 keychain with your name on it? Yes. Dippin dots at 3PM? Yes. Yes. Yes. And there is so much fun in that.

My Mom and Dad came out which was a cherry on top of the trip. To see them. Living far apart means we get permission to celebrate anything early, or late and be 100% fine with it. So we did Easter. Time has a different meaning for me living far away. Events seem more monumental in the moment because they do not happen often.

 

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John & Stephen hid the eggs around the green green grass of my parents condo, in the trees, near the sprinklers of course and in impossible places for time lapse video to capture a true hunt.

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My two single and available (send me your numbers) brothers amaze me every time they are with our girls. It’s the peeps without kids of their own that just have this special way with kids. A unique zing, a refreshed energy and spirit. John and Stephen each have a way with Parker and Averee that is so special to me.

 

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I love it how when they are here with us, they are 100% with us. And something about them being boys, and they being girls, but they find their rhythm. Kinda like how they did with me growing up.

 

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Presence is a gift these days. People’s presence is such a gift.  An added bonus was the joining of one of my lifelong friends, Christina and her family for an afternoon at the pool. God has a way of bringing people together with a tenderness they didn’t know they needed. My brothers grew up with her coming along our family vacations and here we all were back together, this time with her kids and mine. I mean, come on.

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Cheers

 

Parker and Averee continue to grow into their own unique souls. The waterslide is a perfect example of their personality on display. Within 12 minutes of being at the resort pool Averee went down the water slide with Fargo. It took less than half the amount of time for my Dad to enter the pool and want to do the same thing. “There’s a slide? Let’s Go!” 

 

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My Dad, like two minutes after walking into the pool.

 

And all the while, Parker the older of the two, clenched my hand, watched and observed but was absolutely not ready no matter how many times someone offered.

Until the last day. And the following reflects Fargo’s favorite moment of the trip and a Dad memory I think he will hold forever. It was the last round. The final song. We had our pool bags packed and we were taking our final dip. Fargo asked Parker once more. “Are you sure you don’t want to come with me?” 

“I’m sure” and she followed him to watch him from the bottom of the slide. She watched her Dad walk up to the slide and join the line. And wait. And just before it was his turn he hears.

“Dad! Wait!” Parker exclaimed. “I want to go!”

Parker came running up the stairs into his lap, and shot down the slide with him. And had the time of her life. So she went again with John. and again with Stephen. And isn’t that how the last day of vacation goes? Or the final minute in the big game? All human heart on display. All fears willing to be faced.

While the guys were golfing on our last day I had the room to ourselves, just me and my two babies. They were napping and so I slapped on the food network to let my sunburn settle. A knock on the door brought a bell man that hollered “Package for the Mitchell’s!”. I opened the door and right into my arms he placed a spa basket. A pillow for my eyes. Lotion for my legs. Bath Salts for the bath, I presume. My imagination took me on a train straight down the thought track : ‘How sweet, Fargo must have sent this from the golf course!’. Come to find out the hotel had just been super appreciative of our 4 night stay and pool tab. But still. Another cherry on top.

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Today April 11th in Minnesota, schools are closed due to an epic little spring blizzard. I am still unpacking our things and opportunities like this have me pausing to look back and realize our life really is like a crazy spider web.  I don’t want my line to get tangled in distractions. I want it to continue to weave without my hands or plans. While on the trip my Mom gave me the most excellent book, its by Oprah, a collection of her Super Soul Conversations, entitled The Path Made Clear. In it, I found this quote which I love and adore.

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May you find yourself in your lane today, following the natural rhythm of your life.

XO

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Bread Bags

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Winter sure has a firm grasp on this part of the continent.  It arrived in early November with the first snowfall and I haven’t felt the sensation of temperatures higher than 30 degrees across my cheeks in four straight months. All of November. All of December. All of January. All of February. And, well, half of March already. So 4 and 1/2 I suppose. Temps during these months hung around the teens and twenties but yes, below zero not only happens, it’s common in January/February. There were a few nights in January I missed the sea breeze and fresh air so much, that I slept with the ceiling fan on to get the sensation of a summer breeze circling the room.

I’ve experienced nature in her most passive form. The lakes and streams are frozen still, the walking paths are icy and treacherous, the air is deep and silent, the tall, wiry trees are bare and the animals are absent.

My soul is fed by salt water, a sweaty sports bra and bare shoulders beneath a backpack on a long hike. So how do I live completely content and true to myself through a season where those are absent? Rest assured, we are created with the tools it takes to master our own happiness – to find and embrace our interior “summer”.

First, I had to figure out how to comfortably run outside. It became clear if I was going to let scary cold temperatures, falling snow, or lack of asphalt stop me, I would be missing many opportunities to run outside.

It took more weeks than I care to admit to learn ankle high socks are a minimum. Say No to “no show” socks. Not enough. I needed wool, they needed to be tall, there needed to be two on each foot and I needed NO exposure between my shoe and my pant. Because, brr.

Now, I have fully adapted to running outdoors in all conditions given no skin is exposed.

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Second, I had to go for it, no matter. If I had a run planned, I was out the door, without regard to the weather app. The beauty of running down the middle of the street in a snowstorm is something I will forever file away under “favorite adventures”.  The snow has this way of reflecting nature, taking back a city.  There are no cars out. The roads that wind through the quiet neighborhoods are entirely still – and all of the tracks become covered up. When I loop back I can only see my footprints along the way. It is so quiet, so still I can literally hear the falling snow.

A fresh alternative to frost laden skin or the thought provoking treadmill is a place we call “the dome”. Nevermind that the dome is actually a square… it has soft, fresh, green “grass” that provides that awesome sensation of running shoulder to shoulder with your best girls, sports bra y sports bra.

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Third, I had to explore in the pockets of time I had. It helped to have not just a morning and evening outdoor adventure, but something midday too. I swapped lunchtime for a 45 minute show shoe. And, I have fallen in love with snowshoeing.  It’s an excellent way to carve trail in the woods and being in the trees, I am just tickled by the pines. You just can’t walk in the woods with snow boots, it’s much too deep.  I found a girl friend, a forever forester, that I adore and who is willing to go on weekly adventures with me. She’s that one-step-ahead of you kinda friend, always ready, always willing. She reminds me a lot of my 4 am friend. Or my goggle friend.

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There was one night in February where the stars aligned and the full moon fell on the evening we had planned a date night. Or maybe I planned the date night because there was going to be a full moon. You see, winter sports up here are common to run both day and night, such as skiing, snowboarding, tubing and a candlelit snowshoes or cross country ski. The days are made short with the dark arriving early, so northerners have definitely adapted to sporting at both ends of the day, no matter.

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For our date night, we ditched the dinner part, dropped the kids, grabbed our snowshoes and headed for the state park. We hiked the long windy trail through the quiet woods – walking the same trail I sprang from turn to turn wearing my hydration vest, a trucker hat and a pair of braids just a few months earlier. Seasons have a way of taking over our places.

We went so far and so long we actually got ourselves a little lost. So this was one of those hikes that went on….a little too long – just like the old days. In toddler parenting I feel like moments between us aren’t long enough, but here under the bright full moon, a little over two hours in inches of snow and quiet conversation, I was ready for some Leanne Chin (that’s Minnesota for PF Changs). But right at the crest of the trail, with the lights of the visitor center in view, we were stopped in our tracks. Two deer stood still as cereal milk standing in the field. We waited for them to spring away but they didn’t. They stood entirely still. It felt weird, but we began to walk on.  Usually, the deer move first, then you continue on your way. But, after awhile we continued on and it was only until we were a few feet away they leaped up and over the hill – two long white bushy tails waving goodbye to us. Magic.

Lastly, I have a group of women I met and hang on tight too. No mater where your geography has you, woman sisters are everything.  Many were born and raised in these parts and you can pick up some pretty fancy tricks of the trade with people who are no stranger to the great outdoors. One told me she grew up wrapping her feet in bread bags underneath her socks and snow boots. What it actually does, I learned, is raise the relative humidity of your skin (by causing you to sweat a little) so your body thinks it’s warm. I had to try it – pictured here, a good ‘ol Thomas English muffin on one and Wonder on there. Throw a pair of smartwool socks on and a pair of boots over and you are good to go.

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Other activities that have my heart are snowmobiling and sledding, even better when they are attached, but more on those next winter.

 

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Saving for next winter as well: cross country skiing and ice fishing as those are two activities I missed this season and have top of to do for next year.

And so here we are, mid March.

With spring an arms reach away I signed Parker up for swimming lessons and we felt well, like a fish out of water slipping a swimsuit on in twenty nine degrees. Much like putting on a beanie in July. Have you ever watched your child overcome a fear right before your eyes? It’s enchanting. Ever since her first bath Parker has had a major aversion for getting her eyeballs wet. So much so, when I give her baths it’s an art form to wash all that hair without a drop on the face. But learning how to swim, without her swim vest on, well – it’s time.

So this week we went for her first lesson. This is her suited up before:

 

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I got to have one of our first “real talks”. Where I intentionally sat her down, looked her right in the eyes and proclaimed, “You can do this. I know you can. I also know you are scared. And guess what? That is totally normal.” I will never forget deriving her to this lesson. Our car is usually filled with conversation but she sat in her car seat, staring out the window, as pensive as ever.

And during the lesson my eyeballs filled with tears as I watched the progression of her slowly approaching the pool deck, to floating, kicking, and using her “shovels” to scoop the water. Ok, just LOOK at this picture. After all the snow. All the ice. All the white and all the bare. To see the bright blue splash of water, cheery pink of her swimsuit and the glow on her face. It’s everything.

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I was so proud, watching courage unfold before my very eyes. I have heard that motherhood is often an exercise of delayed gratification. You train and coach and preach and lead and get a moment like this and it makes every bit of the holy struggle worthwhile.   I also enjoy watching people doing something that they are genuinely passionate about. It could be anything – from watching an experienced chef cook, an artist paint, a teacher teach – but this swim coach, I could tell, wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else. I love that.

If you are able to live comfortably within uncertainty you will uncover infinite possibilities, because you are disarming fear. The season of winter may not be an uncertain time up here, but there is a similar effect. Just as the darkness must come before the break of a new day, so it is true: what the intensity of any season brings is the falling into the arms of the one that follows.

And  living in a climate that hosts such a rigorous winter makes me recognize the subtle introduction of the season that follows: spring.

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On our walk this morning I heard a woodpecker again for the first time. It caused my heart to race a little. I noticed the sun hit the trees in a brighter, lighter way with a warm welcoming to spring on the way. I can hear birds in the morning again. Chef’s are writing Easter brunch menu, ramps and fiddlehead ferns are making their way.

In two point five weeks we are flying ourselves to Palm Springs, to feel the blades of grass. The sensation of a light sun burn and the sight of palm trees, blowing in the wind. I want to hear all the birds, see all the blue sky and soak up all the tulips. I can smell chlorine water of the pool, hear the trickle of the fountains across the resort and the silent whisper of men on the golf course.

We cannot wait to hit the skyway taking our somethings special up in the air.

To our friends in California – north and south, Washington and Indiana, Alabama and Tennessee, Massachusetts and New Hampshire,  Colorado and Arizona, Texas and South Carolina, Florida and Utah, and of course New Zealand,

Love to you all!

 

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Uff Da

 

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If you have been watching the news you are no stranger to the idea that we are currently in a polar vortex. It’s a historic event with temperatures at 28 below zero, and wind chill reaching 50 below. This was the outside temp on my drive to the gym this AM.

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Also, why can’t I remember to dust the inside of my car?

I couldn’t run outside because if you breathe too deeply, your lungs may get frostbite. As well as any exposed extremities.

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The above was taken from earlier in the week, after a beautiful 6 inches of snow were dumped outside. It was glorious to lay the first footprints down on the roads, before the plows were out right alongside my buds. So much peace and serenity to that.

Every day is truly an adventure in what they call the “bold North”. It’s 100 percent not an easy climate with two toddlers – the temperatures are piercing and the days are short. Fargo will come home from work and ask how my day was and it seems like a lifetime since he left in the wee hours of the AM. “We had the best of times, and the worst of times” I think. Days like today, with schools cancelled require more than I am physically and emotionally capable of handling while requiring nothing of my brain. This winter season, I am sick of wearing socks and washing ALL THE socks. I haven’t seen my kids feet since the first week of October, I can tell you this because I noticed Parker’s toenails looked like talons.

HOWEVER, we are committed to enjoy this season of our lives , pause as much as possible and just observe it.  There is much to learn how to live in it so you are comfortable.  There is always an opportunity to allow our optimism to blossom and we are certainly learning a lot about living life in the MidWest. Below is a snapshot of the wild encounters we have had as outsiders to this deep season.

I noticed this time of year people run on 3 things: salt, washer fluid anti freeze and coffee. You can’t have regular washer fluid in your car because when you go to wash your windshield it will freeze immediately on the glass. When I go to walk inside any store it feels like I am walking on the tide pools again – salt covers EVERYTHING this time of year to prevent from slipping on ice. With spring will not only come green green grass, but baby butt smooth sidewalks and I am already eager for it.

My kids finally see a “puddle” and don’t run towards it, but walk around it. They know – it may not be water. It only took one time of running to jump in the puddle to find out, it was black ice. Their butt met the concrete and that was the end of puddle jumping.

There are many things like this when the temperature drops to be THIS cold. Blaze’s whiskers freeze on our walks and if you throw a bucket of hot water up into the air, it won’t hit the ground, it evaporates right before your eyes. We tried it before Fargo left for work this morning and it was pretty awe inspiring. My car door froze shut. If you blow soap bubbles into the air you can watch them freeze right before your eyes. And I left a rose outside to be able to discover it crumble into pieces in my hand.

 

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There are also many challenges – I can’t help but think of the homeless this week – these temperatures are brutal to be outside – I think about their fragile bodies and lonely hearts. And, the animals. And the firefighters are already struggling to put out house fires as their equipment doesn’t do well in this weather. Truck drivers – the trucks hate this weather. Our produce drivers have had a long week.

I had my favorite sidekick and energizer bunny buddy, Karlie come to town last weekend. We joined hundreds of runners from the Metro area on a -2 morning to run a half marathon in falling snow. We saw a spectator with a sign that read “It’s cold, but you’re hot”. It is truly not difficult to run outside in cold temps….with the right gear. It’s completely mental just getting out the door. And getting us both out the door to run in the race meant an extra duffel bag each to bring to the start line (pair of mittens AND a pair of snowboard gloves, goggles, hand warmers, beanie, extra 3/4 zip, jacket and our fuel).

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When people can drop into this climate, this environment totally unaccustomed to it – take it, and run with it – I am astounded. This girl amazed me this weekend.

We ran shoulder to shoulder checking in “you ok?” barely able to see each other through our goggles. It was an out and back course so when we caught the leaders coming back to the finish I laughed as each gentleman ran speeding by with a beard full of ice.   I saw a long icicle hanging down the side of one man’s sunglasses. These runners are, tough.

 

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I had her experience the sensation of “walking on water” as it is still crazy to me to walk out on a lake.

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I’ve deepened my mercy about winter. I don’t mind the loads of extra socks packing the laundry – I taught Parker how to match the socks.

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I can do without the double pairs of leggings on a run, but if it sends me through a wooded forest with fresh packed snow, I’m good with it.

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A guilty pleasure of mine are hand warmers.

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These scream adventure to me. I have only really used them for hiking, snowboarding, or snowshoeing. So I can’t justify using a pack for a regular work day – even if it has me in and out of kitchens and coolers. BUT I love using the pair I have used on an early morning run to take around in my pockets for the rest of the work day – a tiny luxury.

We are in the middle of what they say will be 80 consecutive hours of below ZERO temperatures. What I mean is, on Monday at 11 PM the temp dropped below zero, and it will stay below zero all day Tuesday, all day Wednesday, all day Thursday until Friday when the temperature will finally get back to single digit temps.

We are headed into Super Bowl weekend. We will also be participating in this event downtown called the Luminary Loppett – a candlelight snowshoe. Temps are said to be warm on Saturday – the thirties! I’ll take it.

If you are reading this near the Pacific – enjoy that ocean for me today. If you are reading this from the South –  enjoy a plate of BBQ for me. And if you are reading this from the Atlantic, stay warm out there. But, enjoy it!!