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!)

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– 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!

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 🙂

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!

Lovely Ladies in my Life

I should start this post by saying that I grew up with TONS of guy friends. I have never been a “girly girl” or a “princess” or stayed up late braiding hair and painting nails… okay, maybe once or twice in college. In college, my friend circle shifted from 80% male to 50/50 male/female. Since college, I have found myself surrounded by amazing ladies and I love it! My core contacts from the east coast are women that I’ve known for 10+ years and I find myself constantly calling, texting and snapchatting them. They are the council members of my life and I couldn’t make it without them. That being said, I have been developing a growing network of girls here in California that I love SO much. Most of us are in a book club together and all of them are amazingly beautiful women, inside and out. Some I’ve actually known from back in Virginia while others became friends through church, kickball, or other friends.

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This past weekend, I was fortunate enough to spend a lot of time with them! A while back, we bought a Groupon to go wine tasting at Miramonte Winery in Temecula. This is wine country for southern California and I’ve only been to one vineyard once, for a wedding last year. We were excited to taste some delicious wines, get a tour of the grounds, and learn a bit about wine identification. But really just tasting the delicious wines. Our tour director was pretty good, used his canned jokes while he explained the history of the place, and stuck to his automatic pourer for portions. Boo. Luckily most of us had preferences on which wines we liked so we shared the extras around our circle. It was an absolutely gorgeous day and the scenery could not have been prettier! We also got to peek into the wine cellar where wine was being aged in $5,000 barrels. Insane!

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After our walking tour with the white wines, we moved inside the tasting room for a lesson on pairings and identification. It was interesting to learn about color circles and legs and clarity in red wines, even though they aren’t my favorite to drink. In theory, I can now tell you how old and from which part of the world they come from! In theory… But we also got hummus and chocolate and cheese plates to go with our wines. I’ll be totally honest though, I never tasted much difference in the wine when paired with the food. But I was glad for the snacks! I enjoyed this tour and mini-lesson, as well as the wines, but to be honest I didn’t think it was anything exceptional. Maybe I’ve just been spoiled by wine tastings when I know the barista, but I’d rather just buy a bottle and relax on the patio while drinking it.

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After wine tasting we all went our separate ways for a few hours, before four of us reconvened down in Mission Valley at In Cahoots, a country line-dancing bar. We picked up a few friends and some of the boys along the way, but it still all about the girls and the fun we were having out on the dance floor. I enjoy organized dancing, but it’s so hard to pick up the moves in just one short song! I’ll have to keep practicing and see if I can get any better, lol. All in all though, it was just fun to hang out with some of the girls and catch up on our hectic lives. We all have tons of plans in May, luckily some of them are together, and one of us is moving back to the east coast soon, so I don’t know when the next time we will all be together. I definitely went to bed Saturday night feeling blessed to have such a great group of friends and thankful for the time we got this past weekend!

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P.S. Sunday afternoon saw three of us girls dressing up for Cinco de Mayo while playing in our last regular season kickball game with the guys. So I guess some things will never really change 😉

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Living Life in Leucadia

It has been SO long since I last posted about settling into California, oops? I’m excited to get back to posts about crazy adventures on the “Best Coast”. Jury is still out there, but for right now I’m leaning West. Anyway, so I told you that I bought a new car (SUV) and it’s still amazing. I have not picked out a name yet, but I’m sure that will come. For now, I’m just excited that I’ve driven over 1,000 miles so the engine is broken in and I can use cruise control. Work at Halstrom is going well, my hours are continuing to build and for right now it looks like I’ll be teaching a lot of AP World History and Algebra II, both of which are fine by me! I’m getting to know the new staff members and students and everyone seems really nice so far, so that’s great!

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After a lot of searching that really began back in North Carolina, I finally found an apartment and have moved in. I wanted to be in the Encinitas area again, since living this close to the beach is amazing and I like to walk to restaurants and stores when I can. My top priorities were two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a dishwasher, and parking of some sort… and obviously proximity to the Pacific Ocean. Several places fell through or changed at the last-minute or I was the second applicant and it was starting to look like April 1st was my new move-in goal. But then I found a posting 23 minutes after it went live that looked great! I called the property manager, went over the next morning at 9am, applied on the spot, and signed the lease the next day. It was a bit crazy but it was the first place I’d seen with everything I wanted. And it was the cheapest place I’d looked at too! It’s a two-story “townhouse-style apartment” with the bedrooms and bathrooms upstairs and the living, dining, and kitchen downstairs. There’s a great under-the-stairs closet for all of my athletic and camping equipment and I have an assigned parking space. There are only ten units in the complex and we have an adorable courtyard with a make-shift fire pit, ping-pong table, and outdoor shower. I’m still getting to know my neighbors but they seem really chill without being obnoxious. Yay!

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Enough about the business side of life, now onto the fun side of things. I can’t believe that I haven’t even been back a month because (in true Karen fashion) I’ve hit the ground running! I’ve already taken a weekend trip to La Quinta in the desert with an incredible group of new and old friends (pictured above). Less than 24 hours after landing, kickball started back up for the season and I have a fantastic team this time around! We may not be at the top of the leader board, but I’d argue that we have the most fun. In addition to playing together on Sundays, a bunch of us have fallen into trivia on Tuesday nights. We won the first week, which got us hooked, and were third this week. Our prize for winning was a bar tab and we got an Easter basket of candy this week for third (even better!). Last night nine of us stayed out after midnight to see Furious 7 on opening night. For those of you on the fence, it’s 100% worth going to see. The Paul Walker tribute at the end was a bit drawn out for me, but the movie itself was just what you expect, lots of fast cars and hot girls with some street fighting mixed in.

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I’ve also spent a good bit of time reconnecting with my core group of girls out here. I hit up a Dan + Shay concert downtown one night (pictured below), I hiked Cowles Mountain in Mission Valley one day (picture at top of post), I went on a training run along the coast, and I celebrated the first birthday of a very special little girl another night. It’s so good to be back with my support network and catch up on what’s been going on in their lives the last four months. Don’t get me wrong, I love my guys and I miss my East Coast people… but my girlfriends here are pretty incredible. We are starting our book club back up too, so I look forward to reading some new novels and having crazy discussions once a month going forward.

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I also like to check in on my fitness/nutrition in these type of posts too. I have been struggling with workouts these last few weeks because I dropped a DVD player on my toe, which prohibited me from wearing shoes for a while. I also cracked a big toe while jumping on a trampoline with my favorite fifth graders. And my left upper-calf/knee are giving me some struggles. But I’ve registered for the La Jolla Half Marathon on April 26th in addition to the Tinkerbell Half in LA on May 10th, so we shall see. I am just excited to get back into racing and finish these two events with my friends that are running with me. Time won’t be so much of a factor this time around, but I do plan to have both of my contacts in for LJ 😉 Oh! And I ran the Wellness 5k with Sean a few weekends ago. It was a smaller race, which was nice for a change. Sean ran his personal best 5k time and I won my age group, so we were both pleased with that! Immediately after the race, SK donated platelets and two days later I donated whole blood. It makes my heart happy to think about the lives we helped to save with those donations and I encourage all of you to sign up to donate blood this month, if you can!

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I’ve gotten some new Beachbody DVD’s to mix things up and they seem to be keeping me interested for now, but I’m craving getting back on the bike and in the pool. My road bike is being put back together on Monday and I need to figure out my plan for pool access so I can start triathlon training. Nutrition right now is taking a back burner just with the chaos of life. I’m re-adjusting to packing lunches and getting workouts/smoothies done before work, but it takes time and I’m trying to set realistic goals for myself. Finally, I have gotten actively involved in Girls on the Run again this season. My teaching schedule doesn’t allow me to coach, but I am a shoe fairy and am on the 5k planning committee. As a shoe fairy, I size girls on our scholarship teams for brand new shoes and then get to deliver them the following week. It’s like Christmas in April for these girls! If anyone in SD wants to help me cheer on our amazing girls at the 5k on May 17th, let me know! I’m in charge of coordinating the cheer stations, so any/all help that morning would be amazing… you get to dress up and be as crazy as you want… just saying.

Alright, that’s all for now but I promise not to wait another three weeks to post and happy Easter!!

East to West: STAT

My last update was posted from Virginia, where I was spending the week after moving out of North Carolina. I told y’all that I sold my car, Funshine, with no major issues. But that was last Friday morning, so what have I been up to since then? Maybe it’s better to ask what I haven’t been up to, lol. I’ll try to give you the quick overview below… but you’ll have to hustle to keep up 😉

Friday after delivering Funshine to Carmax, Mom and I worked on a few projects at her house before she drove me to Dulles Airport to pick up my rental car. I took advantage of the (free) airport lanes on the toll road to cruise into Arlington to see my east coast girls. We met up at MexiCali Blue… in Clarendon?… to grab dinner and drinks. I absolutely love the three girls that met me (shown below: Katie, Katie, and Claire). We spent a few hours talking about life, work, boys, family, etc. It was very relaxing and fun, in spite of the cold weather and snow everywhere. Then I spent the night with little sister Katie in Arlington before heading down to Richmond on Saturday.

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Why was I driving to Richmond on Saturday (leaving at 8am)? Because the fourth of my lovely east coast girlfriends, Paige, is getting married this summer and has asked me to be a bridesmaid in her wedding! I feel so honored and excited, but Saturday was the day she’d picked (after learning that I was moving again) to have all of us bridesmaids get together to go dress shopping. We had a great time and settled on both a color and a style of dress fairly quickly before enjoying a nice lunch with the two mothers. I won’t post pictures from that group as I don’t want to leak any wedding details 😉 After lunch I drove myself to Richmond Airport, returned my rental car and started my journey west!

So Saturday night at 6pm EST I boarded a plane to Dallas, TX. After a 1.5 hour layover (barely enough time to find my gate and grab a quick dinner), I left there at 10pm Central time to fly into San Diego. I landed at SAN about 11:30pm Pacific time, which was the equivalent of 2:30am EST except that it was also daylight savings time so really like 3:30am. Woof. Luckily both of my flights were on schedule and I avoided any weather concerns. Sean picked me up and helped me lug my 100+ pounds of luggage to his car… don’t judge me, it’s the only stuff I have access to for the next 2-3 weeks.

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Sunday morning started with a walk to a cafe for breakfast burritos before getting in a 5.5 mile run. It was definitely warmer than I’ve been used to, but it felt great to see the ocean and not have to wear a hat and gloves! Then I headed up to Carlsbad for the first week of our spring kickball season 🙂 I’m on a new team this year, because our old team decided to disperse. Although most of us are still playing in the league which means I have friends on all the teams. I was a bit nervous on Sunday because I hadn’t played since the last season ended in… September? I had also been asked to help line ref the game before ours. Luckily it was week one and everyone was still learning the rules and working out the kinks. I pitched half of the innings in our game and didn’t allow any runs to score, so I felt good about that!

After spending a few hours catching up with friends at the bar (Erica, Christy and Sean are pictured above), I called it a day. Monday I rented a car in Encinitas and drove out to Temecula to look at Subaru Foresters. I had found from my internet searching that they had the model and accessories that I wanted, and the price was the cheapest. After less than two hours, I had test-driven the SUV, gotten insurance, processed the paperwork, returned my rental car out there, and was driving away in my brand new vehicle! It was a whirlwind, but I knew what I wanted so I went for it. So far I LOVE it, but the first real test will be this weekend when I take four adults with our stuff on a mini-roadtrip. I’ll keep you posted how it holds up but I’m also taking any suggestions for names of this vehicle… even though I probably won’t get vanity plates since they are so expensive in Cali.

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On another note, I do also have a job lined up (yay!)… really two. I’ll be teaching at Halstrom Academy again, but only teaching this time around, not working with corporate as a lead teacher. And I will dominantly be teaching math (Algebra/Geometry) instead of social studies, although I already know I’ll have some ACT/SAT test prep courses and an AP World History. Since it is mid-semester, my hours will build as the weeks go on which will give me time to move into a place when I find it and just adjust to living in SoCal again. I’m really excited to get back to working with kids and helping them in an area where so many seem to struggle.

My second job will start in April and is working with Pearson Learning, Inc. who publishes a ton of textbooks across content in the USA. I will be acting as an online test scorer for their end-of-course Geometry testing this spring. The project lasts April-June and I am allowed to log as few as 20 or as many as 40 hours a week grading test. This will help fill my time until summer semester starts at Halstrom and I have full hours there. It’s completely flexible as far as when I grade in a day, which will be perfect for my Halstrom schedule, and it will give me more experience in the testing/grading world.

Other things I’ve done this week include: getting a TB test, completing a LiveScan fingerprinting test, run with my good friend Dahlia, toured 3-5 potential apartments, gotten groceries, gone to a farmer’s market, and just enjoyed being back in SoCal! For now, my biggest focus is finding a place to live and enjoying being back in the place I truly feel I belong. Thanks for reading and I’ll talk to y’all soon!

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