Sunday, March 30, 2014

#22 - Ski a Bowl

Item #3 crossed off the 30 before 30 list!

And to be honest, this is the one that scared me the most.

My brother and I headed to Crested Butte for a day of skiing.  This is my first ski day in a little over a year, and my brother's first time ever skiing in Colorado.  After a run that included a couple solid blues, we hopped on the lift for our second run - straight for the double black diamonds.

"You ready for it?" I asked.
"Yea. Let's do it!" my brother replied.

We made our way over to the North Face lift where nothing but double blacks between us and the bottom.  Before this run, I would have told you that I'm a pretty solid skier, and Michael would have said he's really good, but that attitude changed over the next half hour.

We had to make our way through some trees to get to the run we wanted, which included some hiking.  Even before we got to the end, we were regretting this decision a little.

The trees finally waned and we made it to the top.  Our legs were already tired and we were exhausted from the hike, so we just sat and chilled for a bit before we would take on the run.  We watched a handful of people come and head down the slope - so we came up with a game plan, mostly trying to avoid the rocks and cliffs.

Spellbound Bowl

We started down the steepest ski run I have ever seen.  We slowly... and I mean SLOWLY meandered back and forth as the run turned into small moguls.  The powder made it impossible for us to maneuver, and we quickly realized we got in over our heads.  The highlight of this run came about halfway through.  Michael led the way, and as he turned, he had a little bit of a spill.  As he was getting back on his feet, it was my turn - I made my way around a mogul, and my ski stuck in the powder.  My body turned so I was facing backwards and instantly my skis stopped.  But my body kept going.  I wish I could describe how huge this wipeout was.  I literally launched about 15 feet straight down the mountain... backwards... and landed square on my back/neck.  As Joe Dirt would say, "luckily, my neck broke my fall."  The powder made for a soft landing, and after I brushed off my jacket and my ego, and I continued down.  We made our way to the bottom, where Michael let me lead the way, where I proceeded to ski into (and get stuck in) a giant dip in between a few of the runs.  As I saw the banks around me crawl way over my head, I yelled back to Michael to make sure he didn't follow me into this trench.  So after I got super warn out from the first bowl, I had to march 150' in thigh-high powder.  With every step I was getting more and more tired... and we were only half way done.

Phoenix Bowl

Now we knew what we were in for, but it didn't get much easier.  More of the hardest skiing we have ever done.  We slowly but surely made our way down, taking a few spills along the way, and the REAL expert skiers bounding by us, putting us to shame.  The last part of Phoenix turns into the steepest part of the entire run, and by this point, our legs were gone.  Finally, Michael finished the final stretch and waited for me at the bottom.  I made my move to make the final descent.  But this journey would not be complete without one last graceful wipeout.  As I headed down, my ski caught an edge and just popped off.  Sweet.  With only one ski on, the inevitable happened - I fell to the ground.  My body turned sideways and I thought I was going to stop.  But I didn't.  I kept turning and the steep incline pulled me down.  So I slid on my back head first.  And slid.  And slid.  Not very quickly, but I kept going.  It was like I was moving in slow motion but I couldn't do anything to stop it.  I finished the last 100-150 feet of the run slowly sliding backwards on my back.  I even had enough time to look around and yell to my brother (and some other guy who was waiting at the bottom) when I was about 3/4 of the way done sliding "Well... I guess THAT'S one way to get down..."

If I can't ski it well, the least I can do is provide a little entertainment.


But after a grueling ordeal, we made it.  Michael actually did a decent job, considering this was his second run ever in Colorado, and he was able to keep his street cred.  But me... not so much.  Not one of my finest showings, but I'm glad we did it, and I'm glad I put it on the list.

Because now I know to never do that again!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

#20 - Bring Kristen to Disney World

My girlfriend Kristen has finally been to Disney World.

Last week we spent an unforgettable week in the Sunshine State, and after we took an obligatory visit to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter to appease my favorite HP fan, we spent two wonderful days at the happiest place on earth.

Day 1 was EPCOT.  We started the morning off with a bang with some of the rides and attractions on the front end of the park.  After we spent a little bit figuring out how the new FastPass system works, we were off to explore!  After lunch, we headed to the countries around World Showcase.  After a jam packed but wonderful day, we were able to make it to everything we wanted to, lines were short, and it was an awesome day.  

K's Highlights:  Attractions:  Test Track & Soarin'.  Countries:  The American Adventure, Mexico, & Japan

Day 2 was Magic Kingdom.  No first trip to Disney is complete without a visit here.  It was slated to be our first theme part stop, but because of the weather not cooperating with us for a day and a half, we decided to make it our grand finale to our Florida trip.  And what a wonderful decision it was.

When we walked into the park, the instant smile on Kristen's face became bigger as she stared up at the castle.  Everyone else on the planet must have been waiting for the amazing weather, because this was one of the busiest Disney days I have ever experienced, but we found out that the park would be open until 1AM, so that became a relief that we wouldn't have to rush through everything with the wait times not working in our favor (despite the fact this old man can't really make it til 1AM any more...).  So I had to be strategic, do a few things we really could have skipped (I'm looking at you, Country Bear Jamboree), and do things like grab some Dole Whip to brave the hour long Jungle Cruise line.  But it ended up being great, because it forced us to take our time and really enjoy the experience, and because of the late closing, we waited until after the fireworks to crank out things we couldn't hit during the day like It's a Small World, Pirates of the Caribbean, Haunted Mansion, and the new Belle attraction.  It really was a magical day!

K's Highlights:  Big Thunder Mountain, Space Mountain, the Electric Parade, and the Celebrate the Magic/Wishes Night Show

It's no secret that I have a deep love for Disney (maybe to a slightly unhealthy level), and I have since my first trip when I was 4 years old. A long time ago, I drank the Disney kool aid.  My two years spent living in Florida helped build an even deeper appreciation for it.  So needless to say, I was a little nervous about how much K would like it.  But as we came out of every ride and attraction (minus a small handful), her eyes gleamed and she talked about how much she liked it.  She said she had to consciously dig deep to let her little kid out, but once she was able to do that, she really fell into the magic.  And that's what Disney does to all of us- it makes the kid inside all of us shine for the day.  She even kept bringing up the "next time we come," and talked about her excitement to bring kids there once they're old enough to remember and appreciate Disney.  So although she may not have completely drank the Disney kool aid like her boyfriend, she definitely took a sip.  And as I watched her take in the experience and walked alongside her first Disney adventure, it was amazing to me to be able to watch her feel the magic.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Gasparilla Half Marathon

I traveled to sunny, beautiful Florida to conquer 13.1 miles with a friend of mine from grad school, Alyssa.

I have named this race "Proud Disappointment."

In the weeks leading up to the race, my training was struggling.  Not hitting all the runs I needed to with snow, slush, cold, and laziness.  I went into the race unprepared, but knowing that I would take this race easy.

I made it to Florida, headed to the expo, and got ready for the race.  The next morning, the alarm sounded at 4:15AM.  Alyssa and I headed to downtown Tampa and made our way to the starting line.  With bag checks a couple blocks away at the convention center, and with just a few minutes to go before race start, we had to hurry up and get ready.  Even at 6AM, the humidity was awful - I was sweating before the race even started, as we hit the starting line almost 10 minutes after the race started.  Because of the huge race size, there was still a steady flow getting started when we did.

The race course was beautiful - a five mile loop of Davis Island before the sun rose, and a four mile out-and-back stretch along Bayshore, a road that follows along the Tampa Bay.

Alyssa and I made it to the halfway point with relative ease, but then I started getting overheated.  The switch from zero humidity in Colorado to sauna was getting to be too much, and with every step, I was fading more and more.  At about mile 9, I had to stop to take a walk break.  At about 9.5, I started to feel the beginnings of some cramps.  The rest of the race was just that.  Run for a bit, walk for a bit, legs tighten up for a bit, repeat.  Lots of time to think about how much torture it was.  When we rounded the final corner, saw the finish line, and trudged our way toward the end, I don't think I've ever been more excited to see a finish line.  When it ended, it became one of the worst races for me, being my slowest half marathon by about 20 minutes.

My friend Alyssa and I are smiling because it's over!

But the race was more important to me for a different reason.  Three years ago when I started running, it was on that same route in Tampa.  So as I was running, I was thinking about the journey I have been on since then.  Down 60+ pounds, running almost 1000 miles, 47 races- including 5 half marathons, a Tough Mudder, and a marathon.  I have found a love for running, and it all started across the bay in St. Petersburg and along the exact route on Bayshore.  I kept thinking about the dozens of runs I had along the route when I couldn't even run two miles.  For me, this was my full circle run.  To return to the place it all started with how far I have come meant the world to me.  And as I crossed the finish line, I said a quick prayer of gratitude, not only for surviving the humid torture run, but for the journey I have been on these last 3+ years.  I am the person I am today because of the sweat that was poured on that concrete.  I am stronger.  I am faster.  I am more resilient.  I am better.  And because of everything I am because of it,

I am proud.