Sunday, October 12, 2014

A Bit of Magic

            It’s interesting on how my personal views about my parents have changed as I have grown up. As a kid, I just saw them in their roles of playing my mom or dad. Rarely did I think about the many other roles they played- husband, wife, sibling, friend, employee, daughter, son, dancer, family mechanic, etc. Now, I can see them more clearly as a whole. I can appreciate their own struggles and their own personal lives that made them who they are today, for better or for worse.

            Growing up, my dad took Rachel and I to all of the really big action and adventure films- Star Wars, Spiderman, Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, Harry Potter- you name it.  The movies were always filled with all kinds of heroes with super powers ranging from being able to climb up buildings to making fire with just a flick of a wand.

            All of the heroes had some type of power, but now, when I take a full look at my dad’s life (that I know about), I realize a hero doesn’t need any super powers. A hero can simply just be someone who’s kind, helps others when they need it, and just keeps on moving forward.

            Honestly, if I was given the obstacles my dad has been given; I don’t think I could handle it nearly as well. To give you an idea of what he has overcome, my dad has had a job since he was a little kid, often waking up early to deliver papers. He’s been an engineer at the same place since he graduated from college, waking up at 4:30am for 40 years, and should have been able to retire by now. Unfortunately, the original company went bankrupt, and when a new company took over he had to start building up those years to retirement all over again. My dad was younger than I am when his dad passed away, which left him to help raise some of his youngest siblings. His youngest brother, who was the beloved prankster and friend, died of leukemia in his early 30s. I remember my dad telling me at my uncle’s funeral that he felt like he lost part of his heart. My dad still managed to make my sisters and I laugh that day by telling us stories of my uncle’s jokes. When my parents’ were going through a really crappy divorce, he almost died (he was actually dead for a few seconds). He had to go through quadruple bypass surgery. He was in bed for months, being taken care of by my grandma. His health never came completely back, and he developed diabetes leaving my sisters and I always a little worried about him. It didn’t help when he gave us all a scare last summer when he almost had to have his chest torn open again. 

            I wouldn’t blame anyone being dealt those cards for feeling like life is a little unfair. My dad, however, is a super-hero, and super-heroes set good examples for others. My dad’s powers range from being the family’s car expert to magically getting the hard to find Christmas toys that every kid wants.  He’s helped a lot of people while using his powers, never asking for anything in return.

"We've all got light and dark inside of us. What matters is the part we choose to act on. That's who we really are." -Sirius Black from HP

            One of my favorite things about my dad, however, is a lesson he’s been teaching me since I was a kid. Ironically, that lesson is on how to always be a kid at heart. (He’s also been teaching me about cars since I was a kid, but he wasn’t as successful as making those lessons stick.) It’s an art I haven’t quite mastered just yet, but I plan on practicing it until I get it down. It helps that my dad also has the power of magically spreading his enthusiasm onto others.

            A couple months ago I was talking to my dad on the phone and he said that he wanted to go to Harry Potter World for his birthday.  Having stayed up way too late reading the Harry Potter books plenty of times, I immediately said I’d join.  A few weeks later my dad, Rachel, and I were excitedly boarding the Hogwarts Express to start our day off by having breakfast at the Three Broomsticks.
One very big cauldron at the Three Broomsticks.

            We did EVERYTHING! My older sister had told Rachel and I that my dad would have a hard time walking, but a little bit of magic must have happened because for 3 days we’d leave our hotel room around 7am and wouldn’t get back until it was bedtime. We explored Hogsmead, flew through Hogwarts (my dad and I didn’t feel really great after that), got a REAL magic wand to cast spells all around the park, went through walls, saw some of the dark arts in Diagon Alley, witnessed a dragon breathing real fire, escaped Gringots Bank, drank some butter beer, and more. This only touches the surface of what we did since we also did everything we could throughout all of Universal Studios which included turning into minions, though we unfortunately turned back into people. My dad totally wore me out! I was going to run UROC in a couple of days, but I didn’t care. I was having a great adventure with my dad and Rachel.


"I solemnly swear that I am up to no good"- HP
This picture shows exactly how we all felt flying through Hogwarts. I think I'd prefer a Nimbus 2000.
            At one point, Rachel and I snuck away to get a few more birthday presents for my dad. We stood in Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes debating if we should get him an extendable ear, a bomb, skiving snack boxes, and more for an unnecessarily long time. We finally ended up playing eenie, meenie, miney, mo.  The following day we realized that we had thought way too hard as my dad bought all the other toys we thought about and more. My cousin’s son fondly calls him the Toy Man for a reason. I smiled as my dad happily waited in line to buy his toys while I snuck out of the store to do a few more spells with my wand.
Weasley's Wizards Wheezes
Rachel made it rain with her wand. At least she provided an umbrella.
            My dad used his magic to give Rachel and I not only memories of an incredible adventure, but the gift of knowing that growing up doesn’t mean giving up our childish fun and enthusiasm. Growing up really means that we should be able to better spread our enthusiasm and joy, and that laughter and embracing our inner child can spread joy on good days as well as bad days.

My dad and I at Hogsmead.
As professor Dumbledore said, “Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, when one only remembers to turn on the light”.


Much love,

Sandi

            

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Run like a Dog (TNF Costa Rica Race Report)

Part 1:  A Pre-Race Lesson

For almost a year now, I’ve been changing my thinking.  I’ve poured over books learning about happiness from people I’ve never heard of before to books written by some of the best leaders of our time, such as the Dali Lama. Though said in many different ways, every single author believed that though life is meant for learning (and with that comes some growing pains), it’s meant to be happy. Furthermore, good things are meant to happen to us if we are open enough to let them come. This can seem like a crazy notion, but these writers and world leaders are leading happy lives and making a difference. It’s a thought I wanted to at least try believing in.

Of course this meant the Universe was going to give me an opportunity to learn this in the most beautiful of ways!

A few months ago Sage and I got an email from one of our awesome athletes saying he talked to the race directors of TNF Endurance Challenge Costa Rica and they wanted us to come to the race. Immediately my heart said yes and I was filled with excitement, but Sage had to make sure he could fit it in his busy schedule. Luckily he could fit in the 50k, and I excitedly but nervously signed up for the 80k. I knew my iron was super low when I signed up, and even though I decided to see a doctor who specialized in sports anemia, I knew it was unlikely I’d be feeling much better by the race. I couldn’t pass up a great adventure though!!!

Shortly after signing up for the race my ego got a hold of me and was clearly screaming “You don’t deserve to race in Costa Rica!!!”.  I guess my ego figured it got that initial message across and then proceeded to give me all the reasons on why I didn’t deserve to go.  With each reason (and there were plenty) I pretty much felt myself sink deeper into a pool of mud. Damn….My ego made some great points. I totally didn’t deserve to go!

Luckily, a few months earlier when I was having much higher thoughts, I wrote down an amazing quote by Marriane Williamson and hung it up in my room. It was a true life saver when I finally looked at it! Here it is:  

(Totally feel free to replace God with whatever word works with your beliefs!)

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, 'Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?' Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” 


“Well screw you ego! My happiness is meant to serve the world! “  With those thoughts, I felt a little lighter, a sure way to know that I was on my “right” path. Sure I still felt a little undeserving at times, but I could get out of it pretty quickly once I remembered the quote.


Part 2: Run like a Dog!


I’m an animal lover… especially a dog lover.  Every time I see a dog I can’t help but smile and get totally distracted. I also have a special place in my heart for Australian Cattle dogs and there, right in front of me, was an adorable blue healer! “Awwwww, she wants her tummy rubbed!” Around her were various running shoes (humans attached) and she was laying right on the starting line. “Oh yeah! The race is about to start!”  All nerves are gone though, and I keep my eye on the little dog to see if she’ll start the race.

The race starts and I watch the dog happily run with the crowd. She’s excited for the moment, doesn’t think about her pace, the rocks, or the steepness of the hills. She’s just happy to be running outside. “Dog’s know how to really run.” I thought. “Run like a dog” became my motto for the day.

Having no clue how I’d be feeling (knowing my iron levels probably weren’t up yet), my only race plan was to possibly take advantage of the cooler morning air (it was still already quite hot, humid, and sunny at 5:30 am) and stay smart about eating and hydrating.  I stayed behind two other women for the first 5k, letting my body warm up and enjoying the start. Right after 5k there was a slight downhill and I let gravity do the work as I ran past smoke coming from the hot pools of water. I moved into the lead and never knew how far back anyone was after that.

Photo Credit: Federación Costarricense de Deportes de Montaña
From there I began my climb to the highest point of the race. Holy Cow! I did not look at the elevation map or course profile very well!  I thought the whole course was pretty runable and there I was hands on knees hiking up a long, technical, and very steep grade.  It was a beautiful section of trail! “Run like a dog”- well hike like a dog. I went up and up through wet leaves, mossy rocks, and roots having a blast and having fond memories of Grindstone 100 (though I was super happy to be doing this in the light- Grindstone starts at 6pm so lots of night running!)) and rotated between a slow run and  a power hike.  There were also some steep down hills in and the mix and since everything was wet I spent every few steps saving myself from a slip or slight trip my clumsy feet caused me.  It probably didn’t help I was constantly distracted from the loud sound coming from the forest (howler monkeys, perhaps?), but it sure was entertaining!

After having popped out of the lush forest it was time to bring on the sun and heat!  For the next 20 or so miles (I’m really just throwing that number out there since I barely looked at my watch) I’d be in the desert or on dirt roads without any shade. It was fun to experience this side of Costa Rica I didn’t know about. I ran on beautiful white rocky ground and had some great views that allowed me to see for miles. I clicked off some miles at a decent “ultra” pace, and embraced the sun. Mentally, I could handle the high humidity and above 90 degree temps, but my stomach wasn’t a huge fan.  I tried to be really careful with my electrolyte intake, but it didn’t seem to be working. I was hot, my stomach was off, and my pace slowed considerably from miles 20-30. I did a lot of hiking up hills that I should have been running. I was sure I’d be passed at any moment.

I got to the 30 mile aid station feeling really crummy, yet I maintained my routine of stopping to put ice in my water bottle and my sports bra (I was thankful to be a woman and have a sports bra to put ice in that day!) and carried on. A couple minutes later my stomach hurt too much to run, but thankfully I started puking and after a couple of minutes my stomach was much happier. I could run again!!! Unfortunately I could barely eat and relied on two Hammer espresso gels and some ginger ale to give me the energy to make it the last 20 miles.

I may have puked right after this aid station.  
The main things that I can really remember the last 20 miles was running as much as I could and doing anything to keep myself cool.  I was hurting from the calorie deficit, but I kept on remembering my mantra of “run like a dog” and found as much joy from running as possible at that moment. The last few kilometers were all slightly uphill but I mentally felt good and was ready to run most of it. Less than a mile from the finish I stayed true to my clumsy ways and fell on the smoothest section of trail there was, covering most of my side in dirt and a few scratches. Honestly- I was kind of thankful for the bit of adrenaline that came with it!  So covered in dirt I made my way to the finishing chute and was greeted with the loudest cheer I have ever gotten during an ultra.  It was a blast and nice to come in first at such an awesome event.
Top 4 women. Photo Credit: Federación Costarricense de Deportes de Montaña

Part 3: Pura Vida!

Pura Vida simply translates to “Pure Life” in English, but it obvious through the people we met in Costa Rica that this country’s motto means much, much more. To me, it serves as a reminder to live in the present and make the most out of it. I think the world would be a better place if more cultures adopted this way of life.

I think one thing that made the trip and race so wonderful is that the race itself and the people who were part of it beautifully showed me what Pura Vida really meant.  The joy and enthusiasm for coming together to run on beautiful trails was contagious. 

From the rain forest to the desert to the beach, Costa Rica is a beautiful country and I can’t wait to go back!

Special thanks to the race directors Federico and Ligia. They’re great race directors and even better people. It was truly an honor to take part in their event. I also really appreciate that their business Ecogreen works to help the environment and reduce waste at their events- pretty cool!


Pura Vida!

 Sandi
                                           Thanks Sage for the following photos:
(Sage's beer of course!)

For the entire week I got to have every meal outside!

Zip Lining! (Conveniently done at the race hotel!)


Pool at Hotel Hacienda (race hotel)

Shake out run on the course.

Beach in Tamarindo





What I used for the race:








Sunday, May 11, 2014

Checking Off My #1 - New Zealand

This post is dedicated to those with adventurous hearts and Sage for helping me live this dream.

I’ve been back from New Zealand for quite a while now and have yet to write about most of the trip. Where does one even begin to starting writing about the adventure of their dreams? And honestly, I’m not sure if my words are better than pictures for this.

I first realized I wanted to go to New Zealand sometime in high school. Honestly, I never really thought about New Zealand until someone mentioned it to me.  At that age, exploring nature for hours at a time and travelling across the world to do so was a foreign concept to me. I knew I had an explorer’s heart, but I didn’t know what to do about it. It just wasn’t a common thing where I grew up. So when I first heard someone talk about New Zealand, an interest sparked. I researched more about it, and that was it. New Zealand was number one on my list of places I wanted to travel to. Going to see all the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies with my dad and Rachel only increased my longing to go!

After graduating college and having one crazy summer solo adventure, I completed one year of service through AmeriCorps at the Boys & Girls Club of Buena Vista. While living in Salida, I was exposed to many world travelers and they influenced me to get my working visa for New Zealand so I could spend a year living there. I was set on it. I had nothing holding me back… well except for the money to get there. Unfortunately a “year of service” doesn’t help you save a lot of money.

Here’s my lesson from the Universe: If something you want doesn’t work out the way you wanted, it’s only because the Universe has a MUCH better plan for you. However, you have to be open to it. If you’re sulking over things not working out the way you wanted, you’re probably going to miss the much better plan awaiting you… at least that’s the way it’s been constantly working out for me. It’s also been a common theme of other people’s stories that I have been reading recently.

So (as many of you know) I picked up a second job in exchange for a place to live and moved to Buena Vista. I really missed Salida, but thankfully, Buena Vista is on the way to the Grand Canyon from Boulder, and that’s how I met Sage. As he was making the drive to run the R2R2R, he wanted to stop to get a run in and contacted me to show him a good trail. I’m sure you know the story from there, but remember I originally wanted to be in New Zealand at that time, and I certainly would have missed that opportunity to meet Sage if I had gone.

In 2013 I learned more about New Zealand through Sage when he went to race Tarawera 100k and I knew then that I’d be joining him the next year. I had no idea how, but it was going to happen.

This past Christmas, my wish came true due to a very loving man and some other very wonderful people. My gratitude for this still sometimes feels like it may burst from my heart.

This is where my words leave me. I should have inspiration bursting out of my fingertips as I talk about the actual trip, yet all I can feel right now are my emotions from the trip, all words are lost.

Maybe pictures are better here, but I will share this thought. After years of suffering from depression and self-hate, New Zealand and that past few months have taught me that life is meant for us to be happy. Following our happiness is the best way to be of service to the world, despite the people telling us to be “realistic” and our dreams are to remain only dreams. Dreams can come true if you learn to believe that. It’s pretty damn hard to truly believe that, but fully worth the effort.


Hobbiton


Heading towards Roy's Glacier (Thanks Grant Guise for this picture and some of the pics following!)







Queenstown!

The stunning town of Wanaka- loved it here!


Gertrudes Saddle



I was very happy to find fresh veggie/fruit juice all over NZ



Milford Sound



Twin Rocks

Wine tasting in Northburn- I know nothing about wine but had a blast!

Milford Sound


Cathedral Cover- best beach I've been to so far! Awesome hike to get to it and fun things to explore!



Gertrudes Saddle





Rotorua Geyser







"Where you invest your love, you invest your life." -Mumford and Sons