My 4th marathon

On Thursday night, or I should say in the wee hours of Friday morning, I picked my family of travelers up from their vacation. As I went to bed at 3 AM, I dreaded the thought that I would be getting up in a little over 24 hours around the time I was going to bed that night to run my 4th marathon.

I didn’t get much sleep, but took Friday off to pack and get ready for camping. My husband went into work for a couple hours and was suffering from jet lag. We had to drive three hours to get to the campground.

We set up camp as a storm was blowing in. The torrential downpour started as soon as we had the tent set up. It rained two inches that night. When we went to pick up our race packets, one of the tents collapsed from the rain. We were going to go to my cousin’s camper for a spaghetti supper, but went out to eat instead. It was hot, humid, and stormed most of the night. But our tent stayed dry for the most part.

I woke up at 4:30 AM after a restless night of sleep. I was dead tired and had to scrape up some energy for a marathon. The marathon itself was brutal. My cousin said that it was the most challenging marathon he ever did. There were some very difficult steep inclines. We had to walk across slippery bridges and wet rocks. I didn’t fall, but I saw others fall and almost fell myself several times.

It was a very picturesque course with beautiful views at the top of the bluffs. It seemed surreal like I was on a movie set. I was waiting for the dinosaurs to come out at any minute. Even though it was a rather remote trail run, there were enough bathrooms and aid stations. I even drank some pickle juice which seems to be the new craze.

It was a tough race, but we finished it. Afterwards, we decided to head to the beach to cool our aching legs. I was only in the water for 10 minutes when someone took my beach towel. The beach was absolutely crowded on a hot Saturday afternoon.

Showering was another challenge. I showered in the handicap stall just because I thought that it would provide an area for me to sit. Undressing and dressing was a bit of a challenge. There was nowhere to sit and there was a lot of standing dirty water on the floor. So I decided to dress from the waist up and go into the dryer bathroom portion to get my shorts on.

I wrapped a towel around my waist for the short trip outside to the bathroom. When I walked into the bathroom, there was a man inside. He seemed to be checking on the cleanliness of the bathroom. He put his initials on the paper by the door and exited quickly. The bathroom and shower stalls were absolutely filthy. I struggled to get my pants on without having to take another shower.

That evening, my cousin and his wife made the spaghetti dinner that the storm prevented us from having the previous night. His dad and step-mother came over for a visit and wished me a happy birthday. They brought homemade strawberry shortcake. It was a nice evening.

After that, I spent another restless night trying to sleep in the tent. My body ached and I couldn’t get comfortable…Sunday morning we packed up for the long ride back home. I couldn’t relax. I found myself feeling agitated and depressed. Although my body ached, my mind couldn’t sit still. I took the dog for a walk when I got home and felt a little better…then had another restless night of sleep.

I think I had one good night of sleep in the last month. Staying up until 3 AM and then getting up very early to run a marathon probably pushed me over the edge. I hope I feel like my old self soon. Tomorrow I’m getting a massage. Maybe that will help.

May the fours be with me

I’m turning 44 this weekend. In celebration, I’m going to run my 4th marathon. Boy, that’s a lot of fours..I didn’t really notice that until now. I sure hope it’s my lucky number!

This is going to be one of the most challenging races to date. I am exhilarated and absolutely terrified at the same time.

The course is going to be breathtakingly beautiful and treacherous. I read the reviews of the race. The first three reviews said to expect to fall. After that I quit reading. I am going to be running a marathon through the bluffs. Predictably, there will be a lot of sharp inclines and steep descents. I can’t imagine why anyone would fall?

Supposedly, the rocky path is worse if it rains. So far, the whole weekend is predicted to be stormy. It is supposed to be hot, very humid, and chances of thunderstorms and rain are at 80% on Friday, 60% on Saturday, and 80% on Sunday. Break a leg then, hey? Not to mention being at the top of the bluffs during a thunderstorm. Or having screamingly sore legs already.

I also heard that there are only 2 bathrooms on the marathon route which is rather problematic for the likes of my old bladder. Do I head for the hills if nature is calling? Will I get lost trying to avoid the onlookers? Or maybe find myself some toilet paper in a patch of poison ivy?

I don’t feel ready for this. Kind of like last year when there were 5 foot waves when I was swimming for the Half Ironman. Seriously, how do you train adequately for that?? In a wave pool??

One of the hardest parts will be sleeping in a tent. I don’t sleep well in my sleep number bed in a dark quiet room with air conditioning. I wonder how I will sleep in a stifling hot tent through storms anxious about the early morning marathon?

The first thing I had to do was find our tent. I can’t remember the last time we slept in a tent. It was at least 5 years ago, back when the kids thought that it was wonderful to hang out with their parents camping for the weekend. We had some awesome adventures camping though. We weathered some pretty scary storms. We hiked, biked, swam, and explored most of the state parks within a three hour radius of our house.

We pretty much stopped camping when we got our sailboat. Now the perfect weekends in the summer month consist of sailing, racing, going up north to the family cabin, or just hanging out around home. Of course, this summer has been a little different with moving and going to Vegas.

I only signed up for one race and this is it! The big hurrah for my birthday weekend!

Folks, this just might be my last birthday.

What did I get myself into this time??!?

May the fours be with me!

 

Fortune cookie wisdom #7

You will travel far and wide, both for pleasure and business.

I really love this one!

I have a dream to see the world, near and far…

I’m never going to stop until I reach the end of the path.

As of right now, I visited 32 out of 50 states. Of these states, I visited California, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and Tennessee for business. Next month I am planning on crossing Nevada off of my list.

It isn’t on my bucket list to visit all of the United States, although it would be nice. My plans are far more grandiose than that. I want to visit all of the continents. So far, I’ve crossed off North America and Asia. I plan to cross off South America and Europe within the next 5 years. I even warmed up to the idea of visiting Antarctica.

A couple of days ago, I visited my friend Jen. She recently found out that she has an aggressive type of terminal cancer. The prognosis is not good. Next month will be Jen and her husband’s 25th anniversary. They booked a trip to Hawaii to celebrate. It doesn’t look like they will be going. They wanted to go to Alaska for their 20th anniversary, but never did. Now it is too late.

I don’t want to travel for special occasions anymore. I want to travel because I want to travel. I told myself that after we got back from visiting Thailand for our 20th anniversary. Time is too short.

We couldn’t travel far when we first started out. We didn’t have the extra money. We were tied down to the business. More importantly, we didn’t have anyone to help with the kids. We were lucky if we were able to get away alone one weekend a year for many years.

My husband was 40 before he stepped foot on a plane for the first time. But once he did, we both decided that we would like to travel more.

We never went anywhere as kids, but our kids went to many places already.

We took the kids to Disney World, their first time on a plane.

We showed them a world of wonder that we never got to see growing up.

I guess the moral of the story is not to wait until it is too late to cross things off your bucket list.

It doesn’t have to be a trip to Asia. When the kids were in their middle childhood years, we traveled extensively around the state. We went tent camping to over a dozen different places, mainly state parks. We braved a couple ferocious storms. We biked many trails, went to nature programs, swam in many lakes, picnicked on gorgeous beaches, hiked through the woods, fished, and watched sunsets while the crickets chirped.

After Paul got into sailing, we started similar adventures on water.

 

It doesn’t have to be expensive to be fun. Take what you have and work with it..

I have a dream to see the world, near and far…

I’m never going to stop until I reach the end of the path.

 

The travel diaries, hidden places

I want you to close your eyes for just a moment and think about the busiest place that you have ever been. I am thinking about New York City. Horns honking, tires squealing, brakes squeaking, street vendors selling loudly, all a jumbled mass of sounds echoing off of buildings. Now I want you to think of the most remote location that you have ever been to then multiply it by 100.

A few years ago, Paul and I wanted to get away for the weekend to escape from the noise of life. I reserved a remote camping site at the Northern Highlands State Forest in Wisconsin.The site I reserved was called Sunset Point. It was one of five camp sites. Three were located on the main lake, one was on the second lake, and the site I reserved was on the farthest end of the third lake.

Paul reserved remote camping sites before. He would get together with a group of guys and take his fishing boat filled with camping gear to the remote site. They would spend the weekend fishing and cooking up their catch. This time I wanted in on the adventure but with just the two of us.

There were a few very important things that I overlooked when I reserved this site. We had the truck loaded up with camping gear when Paul decided to take one last look at the site details before we left. He noticed that our camp site was not a boat in remote site like we thought. It was actually a canoe in remote site. We would have to carry our canoe and gear a couple of football fields between lakes to get there. Oh, and a storm was coming.

Thankfully we were able to drop off the kids at my in-laws and pick up a canoe that they had up in the rafters of their shed. That afternoon we were finally able to check into our camp site. The park ranger said that due to the bad weather expected almost all of the campers canceled their sites. We decided to keep our site on the furthest lake. He told us that in the event of a severe storm, we were on our own. He gave us a map and wished us luck.

We drove about 15 minutes down a one lane dusty dirt road. It was full of potholes. We were bouncing around so much that I thought our canoe would fall off. Vines and brush pressed against the truck on both sides. It was a great place to hide a body and we didn’t even get to our site yet. Once we got to the parking spot, we realized that we majorly over packed. We packed for a boat ride across the lake, not a canoe ride across three lakes. We took three trips back and forth across each lake to be able to fit our most essential gear. Then we carried the canoe across a couple of football fields down a little dirt path to get to the second and third lakes. We had to make multiple trips to get the rest of our gear. It took us several hours to finally get to our site. We arrived just before it got dark hurrying our exhausted muscles along more and more as dusk approached. We still had to set up camp, eat, and try to hunker down before the storm came.

We truly were out in the middle of nowhere on a small lake in a heavily wooded area. There weren’t any electrical hook ups here. A short distance from the camp was a pit toilet in the middle of the woods without a structure around it. We were completely in the dark once night hit. We settled into our tent early that night trying to sleep before the storm arrived. Paul tied our tent up to the trees surrounding it to give it more support. We heard a coyote howl in the night. Taking a hike to go to the bathroom would be a little scary. Not to mention feeling vulnerable out in the wide open.

We awoke that night to distant thunder then the roaring of a great wind. Rain knocked gently at first with a little tap, tap, tap. Then tree branched clapped and tapped along our tent. Everything seemed so loud. I grabbed the flashlight to shine on my face (like the actress from the Blair Witch Project) and jokingly said, “I’m so scared.” But I really was afraid. I was afraid that a big tree would come crashing down on us. I was afraid that I would have to swim across three lakes and run across a couple of football fields with broken legs. Oh heck, might as well just throw in a bear.

Despite my fears, we woke up that morning in paradise. Most of our wood got wet, other than that everything was perfect. We fished on that little lake. We had a great time in the miniature Garden of Eden (without snakes). I even checked skinny dipping off my bucket list. We didn’t see a single person all weekend. Well, except for when that small plane flew over while I was skinny dipping.

The next morning it was time to go home. Once again, we were in a bit of a hurry because another storm was going to hit that afternoon. We decided that we did have enough time to make a good breakfast. While Paul made bacon, we heard howling that came closer and closer to us. I sat in the canoe while he cooked just in case something came out at us. To this day I couldn’t tell you if it was coyotes, wolves, or hunting dogs. All I know was that it was pretty unnerving. It sure did motivate us to get out of there as fast as we could.

We finally were able to load up our bags and head out, but not before we put the weight of the world back on our shoulders. Things didn’t go that well with my mother-in-law and the kids. She couldn’t handle all three kids at once. She was swearing about them while we loaded them up into the truck and left. After that, I didn’t speak to my mother-in-law for about a year. Getting away did wonders for our marriage. Too bad it didn’t have the same effect on my mother-in-law.

We always expected to go back to our hiding spot. In fact, I even made reservations to go back the following summer. We loved the taste of serenity that solitude provided along with a little spice of being survivalists. We wanted to right our wrongs, like not over packing. When the weekend came around to go back, we didn’t have a sitter for the kids and it was going to be stormy the entire weekend. So we never did go back, but sometimes I want to.

 

 

The travel diaries, camping on Crystal Lake

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Crystal Lake is located in the beautiful northwoods of WI. It is part of the Northern Highlands State Park system. We had the opportunity to camp on this lake twice and several times at surrounding lakes at the same state park. The best thing about this vacation is that you only need a tent and some camping gear to do it. So it is very affordable (unless you need to fly across the country or internationally to get there). LOL. The worst thing about it is that you practically have to sacrifice your first born to get a site there. It is THAT popular. I remember sitting at the computer on dial up at midnight exactly 11 months before I wanted to reserve a site here. Before my modem could connect they were all gone. Now I think that it has to be 11 months in advance at 9AM instead of midnight, but it has been awhile since I reserved a site.

So it was a fluke thing both times that we got a site on the lake. The neighboring lakes are all very nice, but Crystal Lake is the best. One time we went to check in to a neighboring lake’s site when we were told that a site opened on Crystal Lake. Within 2 seconds we took it. We took my mom and kids to the site and pretended that it wasn’t ours. Surprise!

What isn’t to love about Crystal Lake? The lake is large with a sandy beach around it. It takes about an hour to walk around the beach at a leisurely pace. It is great for swimming. After wading in about 10 feet of shallow water, there is a drop off with water that is cool, crisp, and crystal clear over your head. The water is so clean that you can see down to the bottom at the middle of the lake. Once we decided to swim across the lake. The kids and I would play underwater tag. It was like a tropical location within my home state if you replaced the palm trees with pine trees. Plus surrounding the beach, there are miles of hiking and bike trails. 

We only had the very basic camping gear. We had a couple of tents. Paul would make all of our meals over the open fire. He was always up for the challenge, even during unexpected rainy weather. His food was always great, especially after being active all day. He was really the person that made this all happen for us.

On the picture below, we experienced the most fabulous sunset ever. It was after a time of struggle. That particular afternoon we experienced a couple of hours of intense (in tents) rain. Paul dug a trench so the water would flow away from our tents. We hunkered down reading books and playing games while fellow campers loaded up their gear and left. That night we were rewarded for our perseverance by seeing one of the best sunsets that I have ever seen over the water.

But isn’t that oftentimes how life is? After making it through life’s storms, we can appreciate the beauty of life more.

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