Sunday, July 27, 2014

#15 - Go Camping in the Mountains

The destination for this list item was the beautiful Lake City, Colorado.  We made our first trip there a couple weeks ago, and instantly we were amazed by the beauty of the area.

Kristen and I headed up Saturday morning to find a campsite - I was a little worried since all sites in the area are on a first come basis, but we lucked out and got a great site at Deer Lakes, an area known for having moose.  In between rain clouds, we set up our tent and gathered up a little wood for later.

We headed back out to town to spend the afternoon, when we had our first amazing encounter - a momma and baby moose!

In town, we waited out some of the passing clouds by visiting a few of the shops, driving to see some of the mountains, and our favorite - mini golf!  We decided dinner HAD to be at the Packer Saloon - a place named after Alferd Packer, "America's favorite cannibal," an explorer known for his cannibalistic endeavors during the late 1800s.  As the quote at the memorial marking the site of the attacks says, "You're a man eatin' son of a... There was seven Democrats in Hinsdale County and you ate five of them." Lake City has for whatever reason embraced the fame that came along with these events, and the decor was fitting for my favorite Packer fan.  You can't make this stuff up...

We headed back to our camp site and decided to check and see if any moose were out at the ponds nearby... and let's just say we got quite the show!

After a couple of hours of watching our new friends, we made our way back to our tent.  Because of rain throughout the day, all of the wood in the area was soaked.  Luckily we picked up a bundle of firewood and the people staying in the site next to us had some lighter fluid, because I had to cheat to get a good fire going.  Once I had the fire going, the obvious next step was making s'mores.  But again, because of the rain, all sticks in the area were soaked, so I had to get creative.  I MacGyver'ed a couple of roasting sticks out of a golf club and a coat hanger, and we made some delicious desserts while enjoying the calm crackling of the fire.

After a night of mediocre sleep, we woke up to a cold, wet morning.  We gathered up our things and made one last look down to see if our moose friends were still around.  Sure enough...

All in all, I guess you could say this was a successful camping trip!

Monday, July 21, 2014

#14 - Complete a Triathlon

4:30AM my alarm went off, and it was time to roll.

4:31AM I got out of bed and proceeded to stub my toe, ripping off most of my toenail.  Smooth.  I put a bandaid and tape on basically holding my nail in place.  Not the way I anticipated starting my day.

by 5 I was out the door and headed to Aurora Reservoir.

I got to the transition area, racked my bike, put out my water and food, got my number Sharpied on, and was ready for the race.  I had some time to kill and nerves were high, so I spent a little time hanging out by the water just waiting for the time to get here.

As the Olympic triathletes got in the water and started their races, I met up with my friend Jo who was racing today as well.  She and her boyfriend were a great way to kill the time and ease the nerves.  Female triathletes were up, and Jo had to start her race.  Then it was our turn.  Game on.

SWIM - 500m

We stepped in the water and... chilly!  I took a couple panicked gasps when I heard the countdown... 10. 9. 8. 7. 6. 5. 4. 3. 2. 1. GO!

I waited for the intense swimmers to clear out of the way and I started my 500m swim.  I was still adjusting to the temp so I couldn't get a good stroke going.  I just kept moving forward.  After about 75m, I was used to the water and was getting a decent stroke going.  During training, I only swam in a pool, so I wasn't used to the thrashing of the current.  I was moving slowly and was expending a ton of energy.  After 200m, I turned the corner and started swimming against the current.  I wasn't sure if I could make it.  After what seemed like an eternity I made it to 300m and rounded the corner and headed toward shore.  Just keep swimming had a whole new meaning to me...  I rotated a front crawl-ish stroke, back stroke, and side stroke.  Just keep swimming.  My breathing was getting rough.  Just keep swimming.  400m.  Just keep swimming.  I got closer and closer, worked harder and harder, and I finally was able to touch bottom.  I made it.  I headed up to the transition area in a dizzy, panting daze.

BIKE - 12 mi

I sat down to gain my balance, threw on some socks and shoes, grabbed a bite of my Clif Bar, pounded some water, and I headed out of transition and mounted my bike.  I knew the swim went a little slowly, so I was hoping the bike would feel a little better. the first couple miles were a breeze and I was happy to be flying through the course, passing a few bikers as I went.  Then I got to the hills.  I borrowed a bike for the summer to train and do the race, and it's old school and hard to adjust gears, so it was a challenge.  I was spent, but I kept pedaling.  I hit mile 5 and I was thrilled - just a mile to the turnaround.  Then I hit the hardest hill of the course.  It just kept going and going and going.  But I made it.  I hit the turnaround and flew back down the hill.  At around mile 8 my calf started to cramp, and I was petrified that it would get worse and mess with me the rest of the race.  Luckily, it cooperated enough and went away.  I hit mile 10 and headed to the final stretch of the bike leg.  A steady uphill to the transition area.  Awful.  I couldn't breathe.  My organs hurt.  I was sore.  But I made it.

RUN - 3.1 mi

I swapped shirts, pounded a little more water, and trudged toward the run course.  I was spent.  I wanted to be done.  My legs were heavy.  I kept trying to run, but I just couldn't sustain it.  I didn't care any more, I just had to finish.  I ran/walked the first mile, now feeling the heat.  I took the time to cheer on every runner that passed me on the way back toward the finish.  I trudged on.  I finally hit the turnaround and was on the home stretch.  So close!  Slowly, I crept closer and closer.  I kept dumping water over my head.  I rounded the final corner.  I saw the chute and the finish line.  An amazing feeling of euphoria came over me.  The announcer welcomed me in, I made it over to Kristen, who was cheering me on, I gave her a kiss, and then I crossed the finish line.

I made it!

Kristen found me and told me how proud she was of me - I met up with Jo and her boyfriend, and we shared in our excitement of being done.  A brutal race, but an enjoyable one and super memorable for me.  My results were slow to come in, and they headed out.

Way to go, Jo!
Kristen had to leave to take her mom to the airport, so I had an excuse to just hang out and relax.  I went back to get my results - it didn't go as well as I had hoped, and I had expected my times to be a little better, but there was one thing that gave me a double take.  It said Clydesdales: 3/10

For those of you who don't know, in addition to the regular age brackets, some triathlons add extra divisions for Athena (women) and Clydesdales (men) based on weight - in this case, Clydesdales are men over 225 lbs.  It said I got 3rd place.  It had to be a typo.

I waited around for the awards ceremony, and they made the announcement:  3rd place Clydesdales: Jeffrey Parker.  I was floored.  I made my way up and accepted my award, still in shock.  My only goal was to finish, and here I was, getting an award.

It was exhausting, exhilarating, draining, refreshing, demoralizing, and uplifting all at the same time.  And yes, I can't wait for the next one!

A special thanks to my biggest fan for coming to cheer me on along the way!

And yes, this is already on my car!

Monday, July 7, 2014

#13 - Visit Kristen's Parents in Idaho

Kristen and I finally made the trip together to visit her parents in beautiful Sandpoint, Idaho.

It was a wonderful trip, and there's no real way of doing it justice on a post, but here's a few highlights, and LOTS of pictures!

-Several outings on the boat, which included relaxing, games, grilling, 4th of July fireworks, tubing, and bald eagles EVERYWHERE!

-Visiting some of the local beauty including Schweitzer ski resort, and a few amazing places in Montana.  I got so reinforce my fear of heights on the swinging bridge...

-Spending the 4th of July in a new place - complete with parade and fireworks on the lake!

-Most importantly, spending some quality time with Kristen's parents, sister, and pets.  I won over the dog, but next up: one of the cats who is comically uncomfortable with everyone.  I got to see Kristen's baby pictures, and spent some quality bonding time getting to know them better and them getting to know me more!

Most trips are hard to come back from, but this one was especially hard, because of how special it was.