Hardrock 100 Ultra-Marathon

Two weeks ago I flew through Phoenix, AZ to Durango, CO on a Thursday afternoon. I’d never been to either airport before and I wasn’t even really sure where in the great state of Colorado I was landing. But when I stepped off the second plane, I was instantly surrounded by the gorgeous San Juan Mountains and I knew it was going to be an amazing weekend. My sister-in-law (Meggan), her father (Richard), and my two adorable nieces (Rachel and Ava) picked me up and drove us back to Silverton, CO. This would be our headquarters for the next four days.

Rachel and Ava waiting for the race to start!

Rachel and Ava waiting for the race to start!

Maybe I should pause to explain why the five of us, my brother (Jason), our cousin (Glen), and family friends (Eric, Randy, and Lori) were all converging on this small town in the mountains of Colorado. My brother ran the The Bear 100 last year as his first attempt to complete 100 miles of running in a single event. He was successful and I was present to help Meggan “crew” for his race. As a result of that finish, he earned one ticket in a lottery for entry into the Hardrock 100 this year. In the ultra-running world, Hardrock is an elite event and one that many experienced runners shy away from due to the extreme course topography. You can read about the exact odds on Jason’s blog, but suffice it to say that his name should not have been pulled last December.

Ava and I on the shuttle to the first aid station.

Ava and I on the shuttle to the first aid station.

But it was. Along with 151 other mildly insane runners who would toe the starting line with him in July 2015. And so, he started to train for the 33,992 feet of climb and 33,992 feet of descent that he would encounter along the course. Couple those drastic elevation changes with the fact that the LOWEST point on the course was at 7,680 ft above sea level while the peak was at 14,048 ft above sea level. Yes, you just read all of those statistics correctly. Yes, it helps that Brother’s family currently lives in Boulder, CO where he has fairly easy access to mountains. Yes, he ran A LOT in the months leading up to this race.

Cunningham Gulch aid station

Cunningham Gulch aid station

So where do I come into this whole equation? Well after crewing last year, I offered my organizational services again. Last year I was the second in command at aid stations, taking commands from Meggan and letting her do most of the communicating. This year, I was told that Meggan was going to primarily be wife/mom while I was going to be in charge of Jason. Oh goodness. I won’t lie, I was a bit nervous! I knew that Jason had much more experience and confidence going into this race than The Bear last year. I knew that I had more of a grasp on what was happening and what my role would be throughout the race. But I also knew that ultra-running, especially in the wild mountains of Colorado, is unpredictable and that I would be responsible for making sure Jason was safe and had everything he needed. Luckily, Jason spent the week leading up to the race in Silverton exploring the course and laying out his drop-bags for each of the aid stations his crew could access.

My crew-mates: Meggan, Ava, Glen, Rachel, and Richard.

My crew-mates: Meggan, Ava, Glen, Rachel, and Richard.

Thursday night, I shared a quiet room with Jason while the rest of the family slept upstairs. We wanted to ensure that J got good sleep and would wake rested for his 40 hours (or so) of running. At 5:30am we walked the few blocks to the high school gymnasium where he checked in and we waited for the start. At 6am the runners were off and the crew headed back to the hotel to eat breakfast and gather our gear. Our first aid station was Cunningham Gulch, which was 8.2 miles into the race. We had fun playing with the girls while waiting to see J come down the mountain and cross the creek. He was here only a short time to refuel and then he was off heading back up the other side of the mountain. We wouldn’t see him again until mile 42.1 at Grouse Gulch, sometime around 7pm that night.

Jason coming down into Grouse Gulch.

Jason coming down into Grouse Gulch.

While Brother was running up and over several mountains (no big deal), I went for a run of my own in town. My four-mile run felt short and difficult as I struggled to breathe at just over 7,000 ft above sea level. It rained off and on during the day and the adults all took turns entertaining the girls between meals and packing. In the early evening, I drove the girls and Richard up to Grouse Gulch to hook up with Eric, Meggan and Glen. They had gone up earlier to cheer on earlier runners and to make sure Eric was there and ready to go. He would be pacing J for miles 42-82, through the night and across the most technical terrain. They run together weekly in Boulder and Eric has completed Hardrock before, as well as a number of other 100-mile races.

Meggan and I chilling with Santa at Ouray aid station.

Meggan and I chilling with Santa at Ouray aid station.

We had specific instructions to make sure Jason ate a lot at Grouse Gulch and were also in charge of replacing SPOT tracker batteries, filling water bottles, restocking his pack with gels, swamping out sunglasses and short-sleeves for rain jackets and long-pants, adding in warm hats and headlamps, etc. I felt a little overwhelmed at some of these aid stations because it was my job to keep J focused on changing his socks, eating his quesadilla, and telling me if he needed more or less layers. All while Glen was videotaping and getting hot foods, Meggan was saying hello and accessing the condition of Jason’s body, Eric was asking about the course, Rachel was trying to show J her good luck drawings, and Ava just wanted to hug her Daddy.

Looking up the mountain for J while waiting at Chapman aid station.

Looking up the mountain for J while waiting at Chapman aid station.

Writing it all out makes it sound more chaotic than it really was, but there was certainly a lot happening at these stops! Once Jason and Eric headed off into the night, we had about 1.5 hours worth of driving to get to Ouray where we had a second hotel room for the night. Glen, Meggan and I dropped off Richard and the girls to sleep while we waiting to see J through the Christmas-themed aid station. He left around 1:30am with Eric after a fairly long stop (20 minutes) to change clothes and eat some real food. We headed back to the hotel to rest for a few hours and awoke to find that J and E had had a great night. They were already over their next mountain and were working their way down to Telluride, our next aid station. The only slight issue with that was that they had five miles to run and we had an hour to drive. Whoops? So Glen and I quickly showered and jumped in our car to “race” the SPOT dots to Telluride while Richard and Meggan got the girls up and joined us when they could.

Goofing off with my older niece, Rachel.

Goofing off with my older niece, Rachel.

This divide-and-conquer strategy paid off because Glen and I walked into the aid station to get set up a mere ten minutes before the boys arrived! At this point, they were 72.8 miles into the race but had made it through the night. Jason looked good, in spite of a slight complaint about his knees on the downhills. They had come through rain, snow, and a fairly chilly night but had not had any major mishaps, which was great news! Off they went while Glen and I drove to meet Meggan’s car for breakfast. The next section of driving was more off-road and exciting, and we had to park 0.25 miles from the aid station and walk in. The girls enjoyed the adventure and were fairly good with lunch at Chapman aid station. I took a turn entertaining Rachel here, so we explored the log bridge over the creek, used binoculars to scan the mountain-side for J, and played “sack-of-potato” countless times. It was fun to interact with my nieces throughout this race and they continue to amaze me with how quickly they grow up!

Jason coming through Chapman aid station... almost done!

Jason coming through Chapman aid station… almost done!

Chapman aid station was mile 82.2, and the last time we would see Jason before the finish that night. Eric finished his pacing duties and Randy picked up for the last sections of the trail. I continued to try to manage Jason’s needs but had to get a little creative here since we did not have all of his extra clothing and food options from the car. Fortunately, we did have Eric’s race bag so he lent Jason the rain pants he needed. Then the crew (and a tired Eric) hiked back out and drove just over two hours back around to Silverton. We opted not to take the 4WD-only option over the mountain pass, but instead retraced our steps through Telluride and Ouray. Back in town we unpacked, had dinner, and then went to the high school to wait Jason. He had been right in the middle of his timing goals up until Chapman, so we expected to see him between 8-10pm.

Rachel and Ava waiting for Daddy at the finish line.

Rachel and Ava waiting for Daddy at the finish line.

Their friend, Kari, who was also at The Bear 100 finished about an hour before Jason so we got to see her kiss the Hardrock. Then we spent the rest of the time playing with Rachel and Ava, who were quite tired at this point but excited to see their Daddy. We got the radio from Glen that Jason had crossed the river along the road and was heading in with only two miles to go! By this point it was dark again but J still had over an hour to accomplish his original goal of finishing in under 40 hours. We were all excited to see him finish, but cheered on several more runners while we waited. Finally, we made out the outline of three runners without headlamps (Eric, Jason, and Randy) and Rachel ran out to greet them. The whole family jogged the last hundred yards or so with Jason and then watched as he kissed the Hardrock at 9:22pm on Saturday night. This was 39 hours and 22 minutes after he started, which is almost exactly what he predicted! After resting for quite some time in the gym, we headed back to the hotel and put the girls to bed. Then J and I actually went back to the medical tent to confirm that his slight wheezing and coughs were “normal”. They assured us he would be fine after he got some sleep, so we did just that! Runner, pacers, and crew were all tired but happy and had no problem sleeping through the night. I even shared a room with the little girls and had no problem falling (or staying) asleep.

The infamous Hardrock that stands on the finish line.

The infamous Hardrock that stands on the finish line.

Sunday morning we went to the race breakfast and award ceremony and heard some of the incredible stories from the race. Like the runner who choked on a piece of watermelon in the first half of the race, but was rescued by an aid station medic who performed the heimlich maneuver. Or the runner from Boulder who had a tough race, but managed to sprint to the finish at kiss the rock with literally one second to spare. His official time was 47:59:59! All of the finishers, 123 officially, earned their respective awards and everyone ate well in that gymnasium.

The dream team: Eric, Randy, and Jason.

The dream team: Eric, Randy, and Jason.

Unfortunately, I had to hit the road back to Durango airport immediately after the award ceremony so I said my good-byes and hopped in the car with some other friends who were going my way. Shortly after checking in, my flight to Phoenix was canceled and after a lot of phone calls and waiting in line, I finally got rebooked to Denver much later Sunday night. Then I spent the night in whatever hotel US Airways put me up in, where I logged a nine mile run on the treadmill at 11pm before crashing into my king-sized bed. Monday morning I went back to the airport for my connection home, which left with no issues. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed being a part of Jason’s race weekend and while I don’t think I was as helpful or prepared as I could’ve been, I do hope that I pulled my weight on the team. It was great to see Jason/Meggan and the rest of their family and friends, as well as explore a new part of Colorado!

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My Crazy, Busy but Blessed Life

I got home from Mexico on June 3rd. That was 25 days ago. But it feels like months. Since that day, I have kept quite busy and thought that I would share snip-its of what I’ve been up to with a list and some pictures. So far in the month of June I have:

– attended birthday parties for two friends (both with amazingly delicious, home-cooked meat!)

IMG_2157– played in a pick-up kickball game and organized our team for this season

– driven through LA to Turlock, CA to spend time with my boyfriend’s family and explore the town where he grew up

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– gone on walks, seen movies, or grabbed meals with some of my favorite people

– taken care of a pair of adorable cats for a week

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– attended my first four Spanish classes (and take my first test!)

– gone on several incredibly fun local dates with Sean

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– flown to VA/NC for my friend Paige’s bachelorette weekend

DSCN1209The list could go on and on, but I don’t want to bore y’all. I think you get the point by now that I have been loving life… even if it’s been a bit crazy 🙂 On top of all of this fun stuff, I have been working 25-30 hours a week at Halstrom Academy. For those of you that don’t remember, it’s the same company I taught and wrote curriculum for before I moved. I’m loving my group of students this semester and am really enjoying being back in the classroom.

Going forward, I will try to update some more but I will be honest with y’all… I am going to be all over the United States this summer with another trip to NC/VA, a long weekend in CO, a drive up to SF, and a flight to Iowa. All before Labor Day. But you know I love it and I wouldn’t change my wanderer lifestyle for the world, especially since all of those trips involved celebrating special people doing incredible and wonderful things (race and weddings)! For now, I’m going to stretch my legs before boarding a flight from RDU to ORD on my way home from an amazing weekend at Wrightsville Beach… more on that soon!

Familia y Fiestas

A few weeks ago, I hopped on a plane in LA heading to Mexico with my aunt and two of my first-cousins. A second-cousin left at the same time on a different flight and met up with my aunt’s fiancé and his son. We landed in Guadalajara just before another first-cousin and his girlfriend and were greeted at the airport by her immediate family… Are you confused yet? This was just the beginning of my amazing week exploring new regions of Mexico in a slightly chaotic way that always seemed to work.

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The group that arrived at various times on Friday night!

So why were we all there? To celebrate, of course! My cousin Brett, the one I visited in Chile in 2012, just graduated from UC Berkeley in May and his girlfriend, Sofia, is Mexican. So our family seized the opportunity to visit and meet her extended family for two and a half weeks this summer. I jumped on the trip for my week off between spring and summer sessions at school. All I knew going in was my flights and what main cities we would be traveling to. The rest of the details had been graciously worked out by my aunt and Sofia’s mom.

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Street performers in Guadalajara

After all landing sometime late Friday (or early Saturday), we stayed in Guadalajara for the night. Saturday we got up and explored the central part of the city. I’m not a huge fan of cities, but it was nice to get a taste of the history and culture while we walked through the older squares. There were some dramatic dancers performing, which was entertaining to watch. In the afternoon, we piled into the cars and headed about 1.5 hours southwest to the town of Sayula. This is where Sofia grew up and where her family owns several houses, two ice cream shops and an avocado farm (on the outskirts of town). We were greeted by many of the extended family at a fiesta that night, complete with tons of grilled meat and guacamole!

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Sofia’s mother, myself, and Skylar getting ice cream

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The Graduate!! Proud of you, Brett!!

Sunday we went to a family-style restaurant on a ranch that is incredible and only open on weekends. I tried so many new food that I can’t even begin to list them here. Suffice it to say that my definition of good Mexican food has expanded! After eating, we explored the grounds and checked out the peacocks and horses. Sunday afternoon we drove up into the hills surrounding Sayula, where the avocado farm is located. The family has over 6,000 trees of various ages and it was really interesting to hear Sofia’s parents describe their process of planting, tending, and harvesting the two species of trees they have. For a late dinner that night, we went to Tacos Panchos in town. Not only were the street-style tacos out-of-this-world, but the men making them were like food ninjas! I was mesmerized watching how quickly and efficiently they worked.

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View from the avocado farm

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Street taco ninjas

Monday morning we wandered around Sayula checking out the local attractions. My favorites were the mini-tour we had of the knife factory and the samples of cajeta (a creamy, wood-fired treat similar to dulce de leche). In the afternoon, we piled back into the cars for the three-hour trip west to the coast of Mexico and the city of Manzanillo. We couldn’t leave Sayula without one more scoop of delicious ice cream (pistachio for me!) and then we were off! The drive was actually quite beautiful until we got into the city of Manzanillo. We entered through the shipyard, which was the more industrial side of town and not so pretty. But just north of the city we turned into our condo complex and were thrilled to see how close we were to the beach!

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“Our” cove, infinity pool, and water slide in Manzanillo

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Iguana basking in the sun.

Tuesday and Wednesday were spent soaking up the sun at the infinity pool with excursions down to swim in the cove of the Pacific Ocean. There were plenty of card games, lots of book reading, tons of sunshine and even some intense water-sliding! We even saw some fairly large iguanas both on the rocks by the beach and in the trees by the pool. Dinners were delicious each night and no one could say they went hungry. And to top all of that off, my family is hilarious so most night were spent laughing, dancing, singing, etc. Never a dull moment with the Oliver/Butler clan, lol.

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My extended family is pretty awesome!

Unfortunately, I had to head home Wednesday evening so I showered after the beach day and caught a ride to the Manzanillo airport. After a long(ish) layover at LAX, I landed back in San Diego late that night. This was an incredible trip with wonderful people and I am so grateful to have gotten to tag along on part of this adventure. It also got me excited to start my Spanish classes this week, but more on that later!

100 Days of Difference – Day 14

If you missed my post two weeks ago explaining my summer project, check it out here before you continue reading this post.

Now that you’ve done that, you should know that today (June 7th) is National Cancer Survivors Day. So if you know anyone that has beaten any of the numerous varieties of cancer that currently plague our world, take a minute before continuing to reach out and let them know you’re glad they won! Life after a cancer diagnosis and even after a remission or “all-clear” declaration is never the same as it was pre-cancer. I feel so thankful for each of my family and friends that doesn’t have to fight anymore, at least not right now. And as silly as most “holidays” are these days, I support this one because it recognizes those among us that have been to hell and back.

But this special day also brings up the question of what can I/we do for those still in the trenches, fighting for survivor status? The answer for me was in this #100daysofdifference challenge. I can RAISE MONEY for an amazing organization, Hope for Young Adults with Cancer, that helps 18-40 year olds across the nation that have been diagnosed with cancer. No donation is too big or too small and my goal is to raise at least $1,000 this summer, which would be enough to fully pay for a scholarship for one deserving cancer warrior. These scholarships allow recipients the opportunity to not only pay for their treatments, but also to continue living throughout their often long and difficult cancer journey. Check out my donation page on Crowdrise or contact me about other ways to donate financially.

As someone who has worked with charities for a long time, I am fully aware that not everyone is comfortable or able to give money. That’s 100% fine with me! You can share my blog link or my Crowdrise page and help me spread the word. I appreciate any efforts, no matter how big or small.

I also created an Amazon wish list this week to give potential donors even more ways to help support young adults with cancer. So one of my #100daysofdifference goals is to put together 100 “cancer care kits” to take to the North County Oncology Medical Clinic. The idea behind this is that chemotherapy and radiation and blood transfusion are all long, scary processes that cancer patients have to endure. While I can’t change that, I can provide bags of goodies to help entertain or increase the comfort level of patients. The medical center plans to give our bags to new patients during their first day of treatment, just to welcome them to the cancer family and let them know that there are people who care, even during this difficult time.

The way the Amazon wish list works, is kind of like a wedding or baby registry. You click the link I just gave you, decide which items you are willing to purchase, check out, and then they will be shipped directly to my house. I will collect items all summer and hope to distribute the 100 finished bags the last week of August. For those of you that live in San Diego and see me on a regular basis, please feel free to pick up any of the listed items on your own and give them to me when we see each other. Also, if anyone wishes to donate other items I am happy to accept those as well, just send me a message!

Thank you, thank you, thank you for supporting me in the huge summer project. I literally cannot do it without each and every one of you that reads this blog and please know that I appreciate every donation, every encouraging comment, and every spreading of the word. Below is a chart of my progress so far, I’m getting there!!

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Hanna Flats Camping

Last weekend, thirteen of us went to a campground near Big Bear Lake. We came from various parts of southern California and stayed varying amounts of time. Some spent four days and three nights while others stayed just one day and one night. We had two campsites at Hanna Flats Campground, a place with around 100 plots but no showers. Most of our neighbors had off-road vehicles or mountain bikes, but some were in RVs as well. Of my friends, some of us hike and camp frequently while others were borrowing equipment to car camp for the first time at least in a while. We even had two dogs with us for part of the weekend!

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Last Labor Day, a similar group went to Laguna Campground in Cleveland National Forest. We had such a good time that I decided to organize another trip. We learned last time that being in the mountains makes things cooler and increases the chances of lakes having water. So I looked into the San Bernardino Forest this time around. Unfortunately, many campgrounds do not take reservations and we never want to mess with first-come, first-serve. Especially when people are coming at different times from different places. So I picked Hanna Flats because of its proximity to Big Bear Lake and its availability (I booked the last two adjoining sites back in February).

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I was part of the first group up, arriving around 5pm. We set up several tents, unpacked our gear, and went into Big Bear City for dinner. The place we chose, Thelma’s Family Restaurant and Bakery, had home-cooked comfort food. It was decent food, but the pastries and pies looked amazing! We resisted, knowing our weekend would be full of food and snacks. Our group had decided to divide up meals, making each person responsible for one and a pair of us coordinating dinners. This kept supplies simple and divided the responsibility of shopping for and preparing the food. It seemed to work well and I enjoyed not knowing what we were having each day. It also saved me the hassle of guessing portions and items for everyone for the whole trip!

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Twelve of us trickled into camp that night and quickly put on every layer of clothes we brought. Temperatures dropped into the mid-30s and the firewood we had wasn’t burning very hot. That night was cold and restless for many of us, as our sleeping bags and blankets failed to protect us from the temperatures. But the sun came out Saturday morning and spirits rose with the temperature. A delicious and warm breakfast of eggs and bacon helped too! Our plan was to hike Castle Rock trail, a short but steep two-mile trek near the lake that promised amazing views and a rock scramble. Everyone made it up without a problem and we enjoyed running around on the rocks for a while, talking to fellow hikers and enjoying the scenery.

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After wandering back down along several different routes, we went back to camp for an easy lunch of chicken salad croissant sandwiches with sides of chips and fruit. Most of Saturday afternoon was spent relaxing around camp in various forms. Several people napped, a group of us played card and dice games, we gathered firewood for that evening, a group played bocce around the sites, some read books, and we were all serenaded by a guitar. The beauty of a group that large was that there always seemed to be someone else interested in what you wanted to do, and you didn’t have to feel bad for breaking off from the herd. As the sun dropped and the cold rolled in, we cranked up the fire for dinner. In true camping fashion, an assortment of sausages, hot dogs, buns, and beans was on the menu and they hit the spot! We played games and told stories by the campfire until it was time for bed.

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Sunday morning started with another big breakfast of pancakes and bacon before a group of us headed into Fawnskin, the town on our side of the lake, to explore their park and quaint shops. Then we broke into several groups, some hanging at camp and some exploring different areas right around camp. I went up into the hills to check out a rock fortress, inhabited by a few rogue middle-school boys. The views were impressive and we had fun climbing and scrambling about. Lunch on Sunday was a gourmet PB&J bar, with more types of jelly, jam, and peanut butter than you can imagine. Bananas, banana chips, regular chips, and honey were also seen making their way onto a variety of breads.

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Around 2:30pm, most of us hit the trails again to hike Cougar Crest Trail. Another 750+ feet of elevation gain, but this time spread over a four-mile round-trip trek. The summit of this trail met up with the Pacific Crest Trail and we paused to enjoy the scenery while several of us ate our packed PB&Js. We made it back down without any issues, as all of the trails were well marked and populated. After our hike, there were more games and bocce around camp until it was time for dinner. This time we were treated to beef and chicken kebabs, grilled over the fire. It’s no surprise that we devoured these along with the rest of the leftover food. After night fell and most of the group went to their tents, three of us hiked up to a group of large, flat rocks to watch the stars. The moon was almost too bright, but we were able to enjoy the peace and quiet while searching for constellations.

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Our last morning at camp started off like the rest, with pancakes and eggs to warm our bellies. The temperatures had risen throughout the course of the weekend but the highs never got out of the 50s. Several groups headed out to get back to reality while a small group hiked around camp for a bit before leaving. Sean and I decided that we wanted to get out on the lake while we were there, so we drove into Fawnskin and rented a canoe. I love being out on the water and it was good exercise to paddle against the windy and choppy conditions. We didn’t see much wildlife, but we could look up the hills at where we’d been hiking and enjoy the views along the lake. There were a number of pontoon and powerboats out, but the lake wasn’t overly crowded.

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Heading back down the mountain, we were fortunate to miss most of the holiday weekend traffic. Overall, it was a wonderful weekend away from the world and I appreciated the time spent “unplugged” with my friends. We are still trying to find the perfect camping spot that isn’t too hot or too cold and has enough water but not too much population. For now, I can just be grateful to have friends that enjoy escaping to nature like I do! Thanks to everyone that came out and for those that feel like they missed out, let’s all plan another trip soon 🙂

100 Days of Difference – Day 1 (The Challenge)

I’ve been brainstorming ideas about fundraising for an AMAZING organization, Hope for Young Adults with Cancer, since I finished the San Francisco Marathon last summer. As part of my training, I raised over $1,200 for Hope for Young Adults with Cancer. Instead of focusing on one race this year, I have decided to center my efforts around 100 Days of Difference by using the five love languages. I hope to complete one task (or set of tasks) for each of the categories of love between Memorial Day and Labor Day… which I know is 105 days, but it doesn’t sound as good 😉

So why focus on love when raising money for young adults fighting cancer? Because I witnessed the unconditional love my parents had for one another during the five years my father battled bone cancer. From his experiences, I know that love can be a powerful force for those facing a cancer diagnosis. As a family member I know the importance of love, from family, friends, and strangers alike, when dealing with the loss of a cancer patient. And as someone who teaches young adults, I see the effect love and compassion can have on even the most guarded individuals.

I tried to incorporate my passions into my goals and will post updates on my progress as summer continues. I would LOVE if you joined me in giving HOPE to young adults with cancer throughout the country. How can you do that? The best way would be to donate online on my fundraising page! However, I will also be collecting donations for my “survivor kits”, with more information to come ( but let me know if you want to help specifically with this part of the project!). If you can’t give financially, please consider sharing this post OR share the link directly to my fundraising page (https://www.crowdrise.com/100daysofdifference/fundraiser/karenoliver1) to help spread the word! Here are my five commitments for my summer 100 Days of Difference Challenge:

Words of Affirmation – Send 100 letters of encouragement

Acts of Service – Assemble 100 “survivor kits” for cancer patients

Physical (Touch) – Run 100 miles with Charity Miles app

Quality Time – Spend 100 hours traveling to see family/friends

Giving Gifts – Inspire 100 people to donate to Hope4YAWC

Please contact me directly if you have questions about my project or keep reading for more information about Hope4YAWC!

Who Is Hope For Young Adults With Cancer?
Hope For Young Adults With Cancer is a 501(c)(3) organization that is passionate about making the lives of young adults, ages 18 – 40, living with cancer a little bit easier. Our mission is to connect with our peers in the fight to provide direct financial support and a social network and outlet for those battling, surviving and living with cancer. Hope4YAWC is one of only a handful of non-profit organizations nationwide that focuses on providing direct financial support to young adults with cancer 18 – 40.

Over 72,000 young adults are diagnosed with cancer every year.
Survival rates for young adults have not risen since 1975.
This is due to unique factors such as lack of insurance, minimal participation in clinical trials and delayed diagnoses.

How Does Hope For Young Adults With Cancer Help?
Hope4YAWC raises funds through fundraisers and events organized by the charity and through partnerships with other organizations and businesses in the community, as well as through direct donations from businesses and individuals. We in turn provide direct financial support to young adults who currently are battling cancer as well as those who have been in remission for up to 5 years after their treatment. We provide this support to those who need it after a thorough examination and selection process through our “Giving Hope Fund” application.

Hope For Young Adults With Cancer’s “Giving Hope Fund”
The “Giving Hope Fund” allows young adults currently battling cancer, as well as those who have been in remission for up to 5 years after their treatment, the opportunity to help pay for necessities they encounter in everyday life as well as the opportunity to a “want” item that they have had their eye on, but couldn’t necessarily afford. This includes but is not limited to obligations, such as rent and mortgage payments, cell phone and credit card bills, clothing, work and educated related materials, department store and grocery gift cards, as well as laptops and electronic devices. We would of course be remiss if we didn’t include the opportunity to make payments on all forms of medical bills, healthcare premiums, doctor visits and prescription co-pays. The “Giving Hope Fund” is posted on our website and through our social media accounts twice a year, normally once in the spring and once in the fall.

Hope4YAWC Social Meetups & Fitness Programs
Social isolation is the number one concern in young adults with cancer. With this in mind, we organize quarterly meetups emphasizing a fun, stress-free environment where young adults with cancer can connect with other fighters and survivors their own age without feeling judged or embarrassed. We also offer yoga on weekends that is open to anyone, but mainly focus on building up physical strength and stress-relief for those young adults with cancer who are fatigued by the ramifications of their cancer treatment.

To learn more about Hope For Young Adults With Cancer, visit:

http://www.hope4yawc.org
http://www.facebook.com/Hope4yawc
http://twitter.com/Hope4yawc

Why Do I Give Blood?

I chose to attempt to donate blood today. I was successful for the ninth time in my life. If you’ve read my former posts on donating, you know it isn’t easy for me. But you also know why I do it. And why I will continue to attempt to give blood for the rest of my life. But this post isn’t about the procedure behind a blood donation, it’s about the heart or the reasons for the donor.

After donating today, I went to school to teach. One of my co-workers saw my bandage and quickly commented that he couldn’t give blood because he was too afraid of needles. Another one chimed in that she didn’t like how long the process took from start to finish. And a third remarked that they didn’t understand why I chose to give up my free time to be stabbed with a needle, when I could give to charity in other ways.

Those were all valid feelings and I didn’t want to start a ruckus in front of the students, so I just politely said that I had my reasons and that it wasn’t really that bad. Then I turned and walked away. So now, hours later, after a full day at work followed by our end-of-the-year student showcase, I will type what I really wanted to say to those co-workers. Excuse me while I climb up on my soap box for a hot second.

I wanted to say that you can look away or watch or hold someone’s hand or scream or cry when they stick you, but that it also only pinches for a minute (for most people). I wanted to say that one hour of your life every two months is NOTHING compared to how much time our generation spends idly scrolling through social media. I wanted to say that you can have your phone and you can text your friends while you donate, or read a book, or call your mom, or play trivia crack, or check emails. I wanted to say that I give to charity in a number of different ways and that blood donation actually works out to be one of the shortest commitments of time, not to mention the flexibility of finding a donation center or blood drive that fits for your exact schedule.

But most importantly, I wanted to tell my co-workers who didn’t seem to understand, that I donate blood because IT SAVES LIVES. And yes, I CHOOSE to donate in spite of the apparent drawbacks. Why? Because there are literally hundreds of thousands of people across our country and the world who don’t get to choose. They don’t get to pick whether or not they want a blood transfusion after a car accident. They don’t get to use the excuse that they are scared of needles every time they need a donation to boost blood cells before a chemotherapy treatment. They don’t get to complain about the number of hours they will sit in chairs and get a strangers blood pumped into them. They don’t get to decide if their blood is drawn to rule out yet another possible cause to the disease that is crippling them. Simply put, I choose because they can’t.

To be clear, I don’t think I’m better than my co-workers because I choose to give and they don’t. And I don’t blame them for being scared or disinterested, in fact I actually envy them. Because it tells me that they have never had a loved one need the blood of a stranger. And they haven’t seen first-hand the positive difference it makes in the energy, spirit, and health of a person struggling with disease. When I think about their naivety, I also think about the fact that one day I might not have the choice either. But if that day ever comes, I’m going to thank God for every person like me who does choose to donate because they might just save my life.

For now, I just think about the things I should have said today. And while I wish I’d said more to convince them to join me next time I donate blood, I’m not sure my words would ever be enough. Instead, I remind myself of the old saying that “actions speak louder than words”. So maybe if I keep giving, and I keep showing up to work with bandages, and I keep answering their questions, then they’ll start to see how important blood donation really is. But even if my co-workers never donate blood, they sparked a fire in me that encouraged this post. So maybe because of them, one of you will find a blood drive and sign up. If you do, share your blood donation stories in the comments below!

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