Saturday, June 30, 2012

Half Way There - 2012

So I just looked at my calendar and it says June 30.  This year has flown by so quickly.  I feel like I went to sleep in February and woke up in June.  It's hard to believe that the year is half over.  Anyone else feel that way?

Every June I like to check in and see the progress I've made on my goals for the year.  It serves two purposes: a sense of accomplishment for the things that have happened this year, and a wake up call for the things I haven't.  A change of focus is good!

Here's my list of goals for 2012, the progress, and the new focus for the remainder of the year.

And here's the original post.

Red = not done
Green = done or plans are made to be done

1. Get down to 210, then never get back above 220.  During half marathon training, I made it to 215.  Now I've put on some weight since I haven't been running lately.  I've been looking forward to July 1st for a while now because it's the first day of my new half marathon training program, so we'll see if I can check this one off before my race in September.

2. Run a race every month.  So far so good!  6 months down, 8 races completed.  I have signed up for races through September, so this one will be accomplished 2 years in a row!

3. Run a half marathon. If it goes well, run one in spring, summer, and fall.  Official goal was 1.  Check!  I signed up for #2 in September, and depending on how that goes, we'll see about #3 or 26.2

4. Climb 5 14ers. Because once you climb one, you just can't stop.  Ok, 5 was a ridiculous number, but I am looking forward to climbing my first 14er in July.  Seeing the view from the top of one last weekend got me really excited for it!

5. Ski Keystone, Breckenridge, A Basin, Vail, and Beaver Creek. I didn't take full advantage last winter like I was hoping, but I'm excited to cross off the other 3 this fall & early winter.  Not done, but definitely still doable.

6. Go to a Broncos, Avalanche, Rockies, Nuggets, and Rapids game. Rapids game is the only one left, and we have tickets coming up in July when they play a friendly against a team from the English Premier League.  Plus add on some indoor lacrosse and 2012 has been quite the sports year.

7. Join a sports league. It would still be fun to do this, but not sure if it will happen.  I haven't played as much volleyball this year as I would like, but I've gone to a running club a few times and we're starting to play some pick up basketball with coworkers this summer.

8. Present at a professional conference. I miss presenting, and I'm looking for chances to do so in the next year.  Anyone interested? I'm open!

9. Discover or rediscover a creative outlet. This is probably the one I want to focus on the most.  I want to find something I enjoy that taps into creativity.  Whether it's musical, artistic, taking an improv class, or going to toastmasters meetings, find SOMETHING to spend my time in creativity.

10. Read 50 Books. Almost on pace.  I'm done with 21 and currently on 22.  After reading 30 last year, I'm excited I am at least close enough to maybe make this happen.

11. Visit 5 new states/countries.  I am officially changing the goal to Visit 5 new places.  Specifically visiting 5 new states or countries is tough, but having new experiences is more important.  So far in 2012, some new places have included:
-Ski Resorts Keystone & Breckenridge for skiing, Beaver Creek for Tough Mudder
-Moab, Utah & Arches/Canyonlands National Parks
-Fort Collins for my half marathon
-Rocky Mountain National Park
-Trip booked to go to Phoenix, Sedona, and Grand Canyon the first week of August

Throw in a trip back to FL and a 4th of July in MN and this guy's a happy camper!  Yes, a lot of these are in CO, but when you move to a new place, it's so much fun to explore.  Especially a place as amazing as Colorado!

12. Smile and laugh. A lot.   These are the moments that make life worth living.

What a great start to 2012.  2nd half, you have a lot to live up to!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Weekend Warrior

Summertime in Denver.

There aren't a whole lot of things that can beat it.  As summer continues on, one of my biggest goals is to see a lot of what Colorado has to offer - as much as I can.  Last year when I moved here, I got here mid-way through the summer, and with adjusting to a new job and city, I didn't get to explore as much as I wanted.  So this summer, game on!

I wanted to share some of the adventures from the last few weekends.  Since work stays pretty busy throughout the summer, weekends are really the only time to get out and explore.  So explore I have!

June 9-10
Tough Mudder
I dedicated an entire post to Tough Mudder here, so I won't go into details.  But they just released their official video from our weekend, so watch and be jealous... or grateful you didn't do it...

June 16-17
Rocky Mountain National Park
Kristen and I made some plans to check out one of the national parks in Colorado.  What originally was going to be just a Sunday trip added a bonus day because she didn't have to work at her second job.  So we took off for Estes Park.  The first order of business was finding a hotel since this became a spur-of-the-moment trek.  This proved to be more difficult since it was their big marathon weekend, but we found one!  Then, we hopped in the car and drove Trail Ridge Road, where we saw several deer and elk, as well as amazing valleys and mountain peaks as far as the eyes could see.  After a nice dinner on a patio listening to live music and the flow of a stream, we planned the next day's adventure.

What complicated Sunday was the fact that the Bear Lake Road is closed during the day for construction, only allowing shuttle buses to transport people back and forth.  I wanted to go hiking, and we had afternoon plans to go horseback riding, so we were on too much of a time crunch to take the shuttles.  Since we had reservations at the ranch, they would allow us to drive to the ranch, but no further, and they weren't loving us showing up 4 hours before our reservation.  So I smooth-talked my way (I disobeyed the "honor system" request that the ranger gave me... shhhh!), and we spent a few hours hiking some amazing trails!  It was a super windy day, but the hike and the views were out of this world.  After our hike, we made our way to the Glacier Creek Stables and were given our horses for our 2-hour ride.  Kristen's horse, Gwendolyn, has a tendency to spin and turn whenever it wants, and also happened to have a hard time with crossing water.  My horse, Wendy, was absolutely humongous, but was skittish - of squirrels, wind, everything.  Our guide's horse happened to be scared of large boulders, so she would stay as far away from every rock as we passed.  This made for quite the ride and we had so many laughs.  But what an amazing experience.  We grabbed dinner after and hit the road for Denver, seeing a bear and coyote on the way.  What an incredible adventure!

June 22-24
The fam!
My parents and brother took a trip to see me, and it's the first time they've all been to Denver since I moved here.  My mom came for a quick conference in Boulder a month ago, but I was really looking forward to spending a couple days with them.  My mom landed first, so we got to grab some lunch and go to the zoo.  Then the other two landed, and we had a great dinner and wandered the 16th Street Mall.  We got up the next day and headed to Red Rocks Amphitheater, which always ends up on the tour for anyone who comes to visit me.  We then decided to drive up Lookout Mountain and check out the Buffalo Bill Museum, which was fun to see some of the history of the Wild West.  We grabbed lunch at Woody's in Golden and toured the Coors Brewery in the afternoon.  We had a noisy dinner at Lime in Larimer Square (they sat us across the room from a HUGE bachelorette party, and nothing says cozy dinner like a bunch of loud, yelling, and rowdy women).  Sunday, we had breakfast at my favorite Denver restaurant, Snooze.  After eating ourselves into a coma, we drove to Mount Evans, winding up the highest paved road in North America.  This was the highlight of the weekend as we got to see the summit of a 14er, catch some more incredible views, and watch families of mountain goats.  We grabbed dinner at Mellow Mushroom, I said "see you in a week" to them, and called it a weekend.

With their different schedules and me working, I won't see them again while they're here, but I'll be in Minnesota in a week, so I'll get some more family time!

These are the weekends that I live for, and I am so excited I got to share these amazing memories with my family and my girlfriend.  What an incredible last few weeks that it has been.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Tough Mudder


As I type this, I am probably the most sore I have ever been in my life.  Last night, after I completed Tough Mudder, I was hurting.  It hurt crawling into bed.  But when I woke up, it was so much worse.  I didn't want to move.  I had an awkward waddle the entire day today.  Every inch of my body is sore.  Every movement finds a way to be painful.

All for the glory of earning an orange headband.

In case you have been living under  a rock, Tough Mudder is an event that bills themself as "probably the toughest event on the planet."  Designed by British special forces, TM is generally a 10-12 mile challenge filled with several obstacles

Yesterday, my friend Emily and I woke up at the crack of dawn and drove to Beaver Creek resort, one of the most popular ski resorts in Colorado.  On the way, we chatted about upcoming races and all of the worries we had about the upcoming battle.  We parked, hopped on the bus, and made our way to the site of Tough Mudder.  We made some friends on the bus ride and found out that they were in the same wave as us.  After chatting it up for the ride, we parted ways as we exchanged some well wishes.

Them:  "See you on the course!"
Me:  "...or in the morgue."

After grabbing our packets, we could not help but notice how cold it was.  If we would have done the race on Saturday, we would have enjoyed temperatures in the 70's and 80's, but Sunday wasn't so nice to us.  At race start, low 40's and overcast skies greeted us.  We checked our bags and started at the starting area.  All we could see was the course in front of us winding up the mountain.  Straight up.

We made our way to the starting area, which to get to, we got our first dose of the obstacles that lay ahead:  a 12' wall used as part of the Berlin Wall obstacle.  Then we lined up on the mountainside to get ready for the start.  There was a man with a microphone getting the crowd pumped up.  We all took a knee to huddle with our team, focusing on the camaraderie.  We made a pledge that you see above.  The participants in the military stood for recognition.  We sang the national anthem.  Chills ran down my spine as we got closer to the moment.  It's finally here.


We made our way through the Beaver Creek lodging areas and to our first obstacle.  Trekking our way up the mountain.  We kept climbing.  And climbing.  Up a black diamond ski run for an entire mile.  We rounded a corner and it looked like it was easing up.  Then we kept going up.  Eventually, we reached a part where it flattened out and we ran to another section of the mountain.  We conquered a few obstacles, most notably army crawling through rocky, muddy water (freezing cold mountain water... reemphasizing temps in the 40's and 50's).  Oh yea, and there were hanging shock wires ready to zap you.  We then reached an obstacle called "Death March," which just so happened to be a path straight up a double black diamond ski run.  Some parts were ok to walk - some you had to go on all 4's for balance.  Up.  Up.  Up.  Then it flattened out a bit, but we kept going up.  More obstacles.  Climbing snow/ice mounds while being blasted with a freezing fire hose.  Cargo nets.  Giant Walls.  Hauling giant stumps.  Mud.  Cold Water.  Breathing became difficult because of the altitude.  Shivering because of the water and cool temps.  After over 7 miles of trekking up one of the most epic ski resorts in the country, we started the descent.  At just over the halfway point.

The way down featured more of the same.  Freezing water.  Crawling through tubes.  Climbing up and over cargo nets.  Balance beams.  Army crawling through barbed wire.  5 miles back down the mountain.  The heat of the sun was finally coming out, but the cold from the water never left you feeling comfortable.  Dirty.  Sore.  Aching.  Pain.  Mud.  Blood.

When we hit the mile 12 marker, I got really excited!  We came down the final hill toward the home stretch, only one obstacle stood in our way, but probably the most mentally daunting.  All that stood between us and the finish line was Electroshock Therapy.  Watch the video below for a preview.

I was one of those people that stood in front, trying to figure out the best way to go through.  After a few seconds of waiting, I knew there was only one option.  The group in front of me counted 1 - 2 - 3 and took off together.  I took a deep breath, put my arms in front of my face, and took off through the wires.  I got one pretty bad shock that froze me and I felt through my entire body, and maybe 1 or 2 smaller ones.  Then I made it through.  I was about 400 feet away from the finish line.  I turned around to see how Emily was doing with the wires.  Uh oh.  She had that look on her face and I knew it was going to be a struggle.  I waited for a little bit and then went back to offer some encouragement.  After a little more hesitation, I agreed to do it again, and one of the staff members working the obstacle offered to do it with her.  He grabbed her hand and they plowed through.  I went through a second time, right behind my partner.  If we're going to battle 12 miles up and down a mountain and go through all that together, we're going to finish together.

2nd time was the charm

As we crossed the finish line, it was an incredible feeling.  Although we didn't complete every obstacle (the water ones became unbearable because of the freezing temps and for the last couple I had a gash in my hand and they were very hand-heavy, so I figured nobody wanted my blood to get everywhere), it was an amazing accomplishment.  

We did it!

Although the pain will stick with me for a handful of days, what I will really remember about the day is the camaraderie that was shared between the people on the course.  If someone needed help with an obstacle, people would run to them to help them through, under, or over.  There was no thinking about it.  It was just what everyone did.  Nobody cared about themselves, they were looking out for each other.  Whatever it takes to get everyone to the finish line.  Also the feeling of constantly pushing myself was incredible.  Through the pain, we pushed.  And 12 miles later, we can say that we conquered one of the most difficult courses that Tough Mudder has ever assembled.

This picture was from Saturday's race of some guys helping their friend with an amputated leg through 
Electroshock Therapy, and to me it captures everything that Tough Mudder is about.  It is incredible.

Friday, June 8, 2012

On the Run

It has now been over a month since my half marathon, and I have been taking it easy since then.  I have ran two races since, setting a new 5K PR a week after the half and enjoying The Color Run.

Toward the end of my half training, I started having a little bit of trouble with my knees.  This has triggered the month long almost-lay-off so I can jump into training again in July.  But the handful of times I have gone out, there has been no progress, so although it's not hampering me enough to completely stop, I have decided that a trip to the doctor is in order, so that will be coming soon.

However, the true purpose of this post is to look to the future - I have a lot of great races coming up that I am really looking forward to, and barring any unforeseen circumstances, here is the next several months of my races.

Sunday, June 10
Tough Mudder - Beaver Creek, CO
What has been billed as probably the toughest event on the planet, we also just received an email with this headline just in time to get us pumped for the weekend:

Beaver Creek Welcomes One of the Most Challenging Tough Mudder Courses Ever!

10 miles up and down the mountain completing several tough challenges and obstacles along the way.   Bring it on!

Wednesday, July 4
Red, White, and Boom! TC Half Marathon Relay - Minneapolis, MN
For the last year and a halfish, my friend Katie has been one of the biggest supporters of my running journey.  She has been encouraging me to keep doing races and to keep pushing myself.  Several months ago, she told me how it was one of her goals to run a race with me.  Although her original intent was for it to be a marathon, this is a fun way to share something we both love together.  So I get to split a half marathon with one of my best friends in the world!

Friday, August 17
Firefly Run 5K - Denver, CO
What made the Color Run super special was doing it with a great group of friends! Some of the same friends are making a team for this race, which looks like a ton of fun - a night race with everyone wearing glow sticks.

Sunday, September 16
Fans on the Field 10K - Denver, CO
Depending if I decide to do another race in August, this might be the first race that I have ever repeated.  But after doing last year's, I know that I will be doing this race every year that I am living in Colorado.  Fans on the Field is a 10K with a course that winds through the Pepsi Center, Coors Field, and Sports Authority Field at Mile High, the stadiums of the Nuggets, Avalanche, Rockies, and Broncos.  It was a truly incredible experience (the race itself was so-so because of the bottlenecking entering each stadium and going through the tunnels) but was an incredible first 10K to run.  The sports fan in me can't get enough!

Saturday, September 22 
Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon - Denver, CO
Half marathon #2 has officially been registered for.  Training starts July 1.  Aww yeah!

I am possibly doing a couple more small races here and there in the mean time, but I am really looking forward to each of these races.  Hopefully my knee can keep up!  

Happy running, everyone!

I would love to hear what races YOU have coming up - let me know!  What races are you doing??

Friday, June 1, 2012

Magical May

I rarely take a look back after a month and say "whoa."  Usually, reflection occurs after 6 months, a year, etc. but occasionally, a few months every year stick out.  May was one of those "holy crap" months that has so many amazing things included.  Now that it's over, and as I sit with my planner, I am still in awe of some of the things that went on.  Lots of positives.  A few monumental moments.  Here are just a few of the biggies that I'll remember for a long, long time.

I ran my first half marathon

First off, I apologize for how I blew up everyone's facebook with updates.  But it really was an incredible experience for me.  When I look back at that day, I remember so many little moments - how I was feeling, what people were doing, the hills, the scenery, the nerves, the expo, the water, the pain, the anguish, and the joy.  But when I take a step back, LOVE is the word that sticks out the most.  I received an overwhelming amount of support, and some of the most amazing people came to surprise me and cheer me on during my big day.  They say you always remember your first races of each distance, and now I'm starting to get why.  It really was a life changing day.

Now, less than a month later, I have already signed up for #2 and
am eyeing opportunities for more.  And the "m" word keeps following me.  This coming from a person who never thought, expected, or believed he could ever do something like this.

I finished my first year as a professional in my field

There was a lot of frustration and stress down the stretch closing out the academic year, but there was also a lot of pride, accomplishment, and sheer bliss.  As the students left for the year, a lot of emotions were going through my head.  First, I am always blown away when I think about the path my life has taken - wrapping up grad school and moving from Florida to Denver, as well as finding a joy in the work that I do.  This year was a huge learning experience filled with several ups and downs, and although there is still a low of learning and growing left to do, I have gained many things through my experience at JWU.  I am really looking forward to seeing what year #2 has in store.

I got to show my mom my life here

My mom got to visit CO for the first time since I moved here in July.  Even though it wasn't really a social visit (she was in town for a workshop in Boulder), it was still great seeing her and showing her what I love about Colorado.  Which also included meeting my girlfriend, which was really fun.  Speaking of which, her mom came to visit the week before mine did, so May turned out to be meet-the-moms month (gasp!).  She definitely passed, and I hope I did too!  But seeing my mom really was great, and I can't wait until the whole family comes at the end of June.

I got a visit from a best friend

The Chocolate Thunder to my White Lightning came to visit, and it was a great few days!  It is unbelievable how far we've come since graduating from grad school a year ago, and being able to catch up and share some of this new chapter together.  And I can't wait to see where the next 90 years of friendship we're committed to take us.

I found a church I am happy with

For those of you who know this side of me, this is a HUGE statement...  I've only been to this church a few times, but there is something about it that feels so... right.  I'm still not entirely sure exactly what my beliefs are, but I have been spending a lot of time searching several different venues to see what sticks.  There are a lot of questions, but I'm glad I've found things that make me question, stretch me, and push me down a path that is helping me sort a few things out.

In general...

May had so many great moments with so many great people, old and new to my life.  So many challenges, so many opportunities, and so many firsts.  Like Bikram Yoga.  Yes, you read that right.  I've seen some friends accomplish some great things, and had so many memories that I will cherish for a long time.  From the little to the big, the mundane to the monumental, so much of May will be carried with me.

As I look back, I am filled with so much happiness.

As I look forward, I am filled with so much hope.

Here's to June, and the amazing things that lie ahead.