Finding Joy in the Long, Arduous Fail

Just after 30 miles into the race and feeling great!

Just after 30 miles into the race and feeling great!

“Everyone will reach a summit today. Maybe not the mountain’s summit, but their personal one. Enjoy the view wherever that is.”
-
Brett Okida, 2005, my mountaineering guide

 It is cold and clear at the 6:30am start of the Leadville 100 mountain bike race. At 10,200 feet above sea level, I roll up to the start line with unwavering confidence that I will cross the finish line. Afterall, I enjoy suffer-fests and have completed numerous endurance events even longer in duration. There’s a chance I will earn the coveted sub-nine-hour finisher’s buckle, I think. Leadville, however, is renowned for breaking bodies, spirits, and equipment. With a shotgun blast from the race’s enigmatic founder, the pack begins the fast and cold sprint out of town.

 Road transitions to trail and the pace grinds to a halt as riders squeeze through choke points. The energy is palpable whenever the pack can disperse as riders mash their pedals, only to run into the next traffic jam proceeding the next climb or trail narrowing. The dust is relentless and it feels like riding through a nightclub complete with smoke machine and strobe light as the rising sun pierces the thin pine forest from my left. I alternate between sun blindness and glimpses of upcoming obstacles. Fellow riders are six inches off my front and rear tires an I’m rubbing elbows with the guy next to me. I’m loving it!

2nd visit with the family…exhaustion is setting in.

2nd visit with the family…exhaustion is setting in.

Rolling into the first aid station, I check my pace against the timetable taped to my handlebar: 9:30 hour pace. Awesome! Considering the traffic I contended with earlier, sub-9hr is within reach!

Several hours of smooth riding at a good pace and a quick stop at the Twin Lakes Aid Station staffed with my family and friends, the course begins the steep and relentless Columbine Climb: 3,000 ft of elevation gain over the next 10 miles, topping out at 12,600ft above sea level.

I’m normally a strong, determined, consistent climber. However, today, in the Tortoise and the Hare saga it seems I became a hare, albeit a very slow one. I stop multiple times to dismount, stretch my back, and catch my breath. Numerous riders pass, but I reel a few back in once remounting. I’ve never played this rookie-ish role before. I can’t figure out what my body needs. I leave the aid station refreshed and on schedule with my planned food and drink consumption. I focus on smoothly turning my pedals over. Again. And again. And again…

Fueling up at Root camp.

Fueling up at Root camp.

Following the arduous ascent and a terrifying fast descent I roll back into the aid station several hours later. I feel tired, but good considering I’ve mountain biked 60 miles over the last 6 ½ hours and I am confident I’ll finish, though sub-9 hours is off the table.

Several hours of relentless grinding and I arrive at the last significant climb of the race. Not long after I downshift to my granny gears and steady myself for the climb ahead, a minor knee discomfort that arose during the last few training rides returns with a vengeance. I simply cannot apply sufficient pressure with my left leg to ascend without gasping in pain. Nine out of ten riders are still pedaling but the climb is steep enough that I don’t mind walking. I remount with every flattening of the road. With each pedal stroke, the amount of force I can apply decreases until I am struggling on the mildest of hills. So, I walk. For miles I walk uphill in bike shoes to the click clacking of my cleats. I closely watch the time and compare it to my course profile. It hits me: I am not going to make the official 12-hour finisher’s cutoff.

Leaders of the race flying through.

Leaders of the race flying through.

At no point prior to today did I consider not making the 12-hour cutoff. It was a given that no matter how bad my day went I would still finish in time. I accept the situation surprisingly quickly but am still certain that I will cross the finish line, even if the race staff have gone home and I cross the line in the dark. I text my wife who is waiting anxiously at the finish, “Knee hurts bad. Am walking. No buckle.” Typing those words brings tears to my eyes.

I reach the top of the road climb and push my bike into St. Kevin’s aid station. This would be an acceptable place to stop. I’ve already pushed my bike for miles. I’ve been on my bike for 12 hours. But, I also know that with another thirty minutes of pushing my bike uphill I will reach the rolling descent back into town. I ask the staff for Ibuprofen. They respond, “No, it will cause your liver to fail.” Much appreciated advice in my delirious state.

Endurance racing is a team effort. I’m so lucky to have the support of my family!

Endurance racing is a team effort. I’m so lucky to have the support of my family!

 I remount and peddle 100 feet before having to dismount and push. And push. Ride a little, dismount at the slightest incline, push the bike uphill, ride and repeat. Fortunately, I reach the summit, accelerate with the descent and avoid pedaling unless absolutely necessary. Twelve hours earlier on this same section of trail I never imagined my day would go like this.

 I reach the valley floor and the rolling road followed by what I heard was a deceivingly tough climb back into town. My knee is getting worse with each pedal stroke. The bare minimum pressure, just enough to maintain forward momentum on flat ground is too much. I try unclipping my left leg and letting it hang while my right leg keeps spinning. That hurts worse. I am only miles from the finish, but the elevation profile won’t let me forget the remaining climb. Less than 10 miles to go, if I walk that’ll take 2.5 hrs in bike cleats? Ouch. I literally can’t pedal. Is this worth it? What am I doing to my knee?

My last smile of the race?!

My last smile of the race?!

At mile 96, with just 7ish miles to go (yes, it’s 103 miles total), with tears swelling in my eyes and my voice cracking, I call my wife and tell her I’m done. Other racers and course marshals encourage me to continue. I am so f*cking close. I just can’t. I have walked so far already, in bike shoes, nonetheless.

 As I wait on the side of the road for my friend’s truck, I recall the advice from my veteran mountaineering guide many years ago, “Everyone will reach a summit today. Maybe not the mountain’s summit, but their personal one. Enjoy the view wherever that is.” With that thought, I unclip my helmet, enjoy the last few sips of water, sit down to enjoy the setting sun and relish in what I accomplished.

My first DNF (did not finish). The finisher medal and the belt buckle would be gratifying. But the point of these events isn’t a piece of hardware, it’s to test one’s body, mind and spirit through the doubts and pain that accumulate over 13 hours of exertion. I don’t feel like I failed. Rather, this DNF feels more special than the races I did complete or the mountains I did summit. Those “victories” were amazing but getting slapped down and coming up short despite giving everything I had is unforgettable.

The Leadville 100 got the best of me that day, but I will return. And next time crossing that finish line will be that much sweeter.

My summit…

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Solo Backpacking with a Toddler: You can do it!

Those lake views tho!!  Also the moment right before he soaked his diaper, adding a lead weight to my pack for the way out. #leavenotrace

Those lake views tho!!

Also the moment right before he soaked his diaper, adding a lead weight to my pack for the way out. #leavenotrace

I was scared sh*tless at the idea of solo backpacking with a 3yo and my pup, but was dying to be in nature. It took an hour to go 1 mile in 86 degree heat, but it ended up being the best memory making weekend in my life as a mother. Feeling like a BADASS and more in love with my kid than ever!

If you’re questioning whether or not to do the hard thing...this is your sign!

A few things I learned (of course this list isn’t comprehensive, so PLEASE know your skills and consider what you’re getting into!):

1) COMMIT! I know this one goes without saying, but I gotta tell you, it makes ALL the difference. Wednesday afternoon, I decided I wanted to go backpacking on Friday. As I packed on Thursday, I told myself repeatedly that “I could bail. Just bail!” On Friday, I loaded the car and said, “you can still bail!” As I was driving to the mountains I reminded myself, “it’s not too late to bail!” I loaded up my bag on my shoulders at the trailhead and again said, “you really don’t have to do this!” I started walking and my son was NOT in the mood (it was 86 degrees and sunny!) and I again told myself, “you can just turn around.” Somehow despite my best efforts, I made it to the lake, set up camp and had the time of my life! I only wish I would have just committed to the adventure from moment one! Think of all the stress I could have eliminated had I just committed!

Quesadillas! Is there a more efficient food out there?! And they’re delicious. And a shoutout to Stasher bags for helping me limit my single-use plastics!

Quesadillas! Is there a more efficient food out there?! And they’re delicious. And a shoutout to Stasher bags for helping me limit my single-use plastics!

2) Pack foods you know your kid loves. When I backpacked pre-kid, I remember meal time was my favorite part! Nothing is quite as delicious as a hard-earned backcountry meal! Things are different now! As is with all meals, our kid is SUPER picky - and that doesn’t change in the backcountry. I was sure to bring his faves: peanut butter, bars, raisins, and popcorn (what’s more fun than cooking popcorn over the campfire, aka nature’s tv?!). Sure I brought more substantial food like soup and quesadillas. NO ONE wants a hangry toddler in the backcountry, so I’ll let you guess what won out!

3) Include them in the planning. Toddlers (or at least mine) are like most adults, they are more apt to get onboard if they know what they are getting into. From the moment I decided we were going backpacking, my kid was a part of every step: packing, gathering food, talking about the hike, discussing sleeping in the tent, etc. By the time we reached the trailhead, he was STOKED! Did it stay that way…of course not, but we sure enjoyed those first 3 minutes of the hike!

This morning view made all the work worth it!

This morning view made all the work worth it!

4) Pack twice the water you think you will need or at least a water filter. And ensure you’ll be near a water source! Spills are inevitable and even more frequent when there isn’t a flat surface. Plus, spilling the water your mom carried all the way up the mountain out of a camelbak is just OH SO FUN!

5) Travel a trail you know well and DON’T be too ambitious! If this is your first time backpacking solo with a kid, I highly recommend knowing what you are getting into! Our trail was less than a mile each way, but it felt MUCH longer. I had a 50lb bag and a kid who wavered between “super excited” and “I’m going to sit here and dig in the dirt.” It took an hour to go less than a mile. Carrying a bag for 2 people for one mile isn’t so bad, but carrying that same bag for a toddler mile is a whole different story! Fortunately, I had done the trail before, so even though I was sure we had been hiking for miles, my knowledge of the trail ensured I knew we were in the right spot (and hadn’t overshot our destination by two miles, which my legs were trying to insist was the case!)

“[…]best memory making weekend in my life as a mother. Feeling like a BADASS and more in love with my kid than ever!”

“[…]best memory making weekend in my life as a mother. Feeling like a BADASS and more in love with my kid than ever!”

6) Include them in everything at camp! We have been camping with our kid several times and find camping to be the easiest place to parent. If you haven’t camped with a toddler before, you may see everything around you as a hazard, but truly, everything around you is a toy or a new discovery. Kids, by nature, love to help and contribute. And camping makes that trait even more apparent. Whether I am making dinner, filtering water, setting up the tent, feeding the dog or simply cleaning up, he wanted to help with EVERYTHING! And wanted to learn about everything. I am never concerned with his safety in the outdoors because he is too preoccupied with learning.

Our backpacking packing list:

Fire starter
Whistle
Map/Compass
Headlamps
Knife/tool/repair kit
First aid kit
Sunscreen/chapstick
Tent
Sleeping pads
Sleeping bags
Water filter
Stove
Cookware
Flatware
Dishes
Dog food
Camera
Sunglasses
toiletries
Toilet paper
face wipes
water bowl
bear bag rope

Toddler specific items:

diapers
acetaminophen
boots
toys
Sippy cup/water bottle
Utensils
Sleep sack
Sunglasses
Sun hat
Warm hat
Glovesr
ain jacket
pjs
Plenty of extra clothes (accidents happen)

TRIGGER WARNING: Two Years Ago, Our Founder Contemplated Suicide

“On the day this photo was taken, I contemplated killing myself.”  - Breanne, Root Founder

“On the day this photo was taken, I contemplated killing myself.” - Breanne, Root Founder

Two and a half years ago, the idea of Root Adventures wasn’t even on my radar. I was in the depths of a deep, dark bought of postpartum depression; flailing at my job, and doing the bare minimum as a mom. Sharing my struggle through Scary Mommy empowered me. It allowed me to not only understand that my sickness wasn’t a weakness, but more importantly accept that sharing my story gave me and others strength and a stronger foundation to build upon. We must strip away the facade and embrace our vulnerability.

From Scary Mommy:

On the day this photo was taken, I contemplated killing myself.

I recently posted my depression story on social media:

I’ve been struggling to find the words. I suffer from PTSD, anxiety, and postpartum depression. Having just come out of the darkest 2 years of my life, all I can feel is grateful. Grateful I finally get to LOVE being a mom. Grateful I get to cherish my incredible husband once again. Grateful I’m passionate about travel, the outdoors, great conversation, exercise, music, and most importantly being alive once more.

I’m so thankful I found an amazing team of doctors/healers. It took years of hard work, counseling, and antidepressants. David showed me so much kindness and patience and gave me the strength to find help. Without him, I wouldn’t be on this side of the darkness. (To all the spouses out there, it takes a toll on you, too. I encourage you to find someone to talk to. Your frustrations won’t disappear and your depressed partner won’t have the strength to listen to your complaints.)

I have talked openly about my postpartum depression to anyone willing to listen and I will continue to do so. I’m so appreciative to everyone who leant an ear and to my fellow sufferers who commiserate(d) with me. Depression is a terrible disease. Please do everything you can to REMOVE THE STIGMA! Finding the right people to talk to can be exhausting. They are out there! I’ve met many of them, so please reach out if you want some recommendations.

Feeling okay is NOT good enough. Life is wonderful and beautiful and if it doesn’t feel like it, find someone, something or some medicine that can help you to see the beauty. YOU ARE WORTH IT! 

P.S. Please never tell a depressed person to get outside or try changing their diet. I promise they’re doing the BEST they can. Also, those steps won’t get the job done. Trust me, I tried.

I received an outpouring of love and support. One friend wrote me a private message almost immediately. She is a mother of two and had spent the past seven months feeling as though she was just floating through life. My post inspired her to call a doctor and seek help. She also told me that my social media life looked so perfect and that she thought she was alone in her depression. Sharing my story reminded her that our social media personas aren’t a true reflection of reality.

After I responded to her, it hit me: I am part of the problem. Posting falsities perpetuates the idea that we are all happy all the time, and if you aren’t happy, something is wrong with you. I spent my first eight months of motherhood going through the motions. I knew the things I used to like, so continued to do those things. I went hiking, I went to happy hour with friends, I went to the park, I went to concerts, I went on bike rides, I went skiing and I smiled for pictures. I did all the things you are supposed to do to stay healthy in mind and body. I laughed with my child and husband. I snuggled my dog.

All the while, I was slowly suffocating. Seven months after giving birth, I stopped breastfeeding. Almost immediately my depression hit incredible depths. I couldn’t get out of bed. I couldn’t feed my child. I couldn’t change his diaper. I couldn’t shower. Going outside was painful. I went to the doctor assuming something was wrong with my thyroid. They did blood tests, and my general practitioner suggested I might have postpartum depression. I argued.

As I walked out of the doctor’s office, the depths of my depression hit me like a brick wall. I couldn’t breathe properly. I went home and laid on the couch and didn’t move for what felt like years. My husband was distraught. He didn’t know how to handle it. We had plans to do a backcountry hut trip with our son. I told him I couldn’t handle it. However, he thought it was good for me to get outside. I protested. I didn’t have the energy. But ultimately, I complied.

There I was in the passenger seat with my adoring husband driving me to the mountains on an immaculate blue-sky day. My happy-go-lucky son in the back seat. I had EVERYTHING going for me, and all I could think about was jumping out of the car and into the path of an oncoming semi. Just two hours later, as we made our way to our hut my husband took a picture of me and my son with ear-to-ear smiles.

When I returned from the trip, I made it my Facebook profile picture and it stayed there for over a year. I love that picture. It shows me in what should be my element: hiking in the beautiful snowy mountains with my joyful baby on my back.

But that photo is a farce. I have since allowed myself to reflect on that day. It is the day that I nearly ruined the lives of all the wonderful people in my life. They say a picture tells 1,000 words, but in the age of social media, we, the subject, control the message those pictures express. That photo told my friends and family that I was living life to the fullest, that I had my crap together, that I was one lucky lady.

But the truth behind the photo is that I am very good at hiding my pain. I have never posted a photo with the intention of lying to my friends and family. I just didn’t want to believe my reality. I was lying to myself as much as anyone else.

I was fortunate to find my way out of the darkest time of my life. I feel an obligation to own my missteps. Sure, I was doing everything I could to survive and I don’t necessarily feel I owed anyone my honesty, but there is healing in sharing your truth. I owe it to myself to help #removethestigma. You aren’t alone, I’m not alone. We  deserve more.

It can be easy to look at your friends’ social media lives and assume they are doing better than you. But please remember, we are all doing the best we can and our Facebook smiles are just a fraction of the emotions we feel from day to day.

I encourage you to share your sadness and ask for help. The moment I asked for help, my life turned around — not right away, but every day got a little better, and I can honestly say, I feel better today than I have ever felt. I love being a mom, business owner, and friend to so many wonderfully supportive women.

The Adventure Time Dilation

What physics teaches us about travel’s indelible memories

Surfing in Florianopolis, Brazil.

Surfing in Florianopolis, Brazil.

Einstein’s theory of relativity states that time passes differently for different observers, based on the particular observer’s velocity. The best hypothetical example of this theory in practice is for two watches to be set to the exact same time, then one is sent aboard the International Space Station orbiting at 17,150 mph and the other remains on Earth. Before long, the watch on Earth will noticeably lag behind the other watch speeding around the Earth!

While a genius, Einstein wasn’t an adventure traveler and missed a second component of the theory of relativity: the adventure time dilation effect! When traveling, every moment is an experience that leaves an indelible impression on the traveler. The greater the adventure, the deeper and more numerous the memories.

Street artist in the historic neighborhood of San Telmo in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Street artist in the historic neighborhood of San Telmo in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

This creates a challenge when returning home and reintegrating with “normal” society. Whether gone a weekend, a week, or a year, our friends’ and families’ lives have continued at steady-state with barely a blurb worth mentioning out of the normal routine. When we ask them “What’s new?” and “How was life was while we were away?,” we receive puzzled looks in return. It’s always the same response, “Um, not much, I don’t really remember.”

Meanwhile, we’re eager to regale our loved ones with an endless list of stories and memorable experiences. They will listen kindly, but, despite their best intentions, will never fully relate. What is the returning adventurer to do? It can feel like a fighter jet landing on an aircraft carrier. The deceleration of accumulating new experiences is so great that we need an arresting wire to return to pace of everyday life.

Judgmental monkey in Bali, Indonesia.

Judgmental monkey in Bali, Indonesia.

One consequence of this effect is that while it can be more difficult to form bonds with people who aren’t adventure travelers, the bonds we do create with our fellow travelers are greater and more meaningful. In fact, many studies have shown that the deepest and most solid relationships form through shared experiences. And, those inevitable instances that occur during international travel—those difficult, exhausting, and stressful instances— help us form the strongest relationship bonds of all.

The opportunity to “expand” time and fill your life with incredible memories and deep relationships is right around the corner with a click of a button. So, start dreaming about your next authentic adventure and contact us to start planning today!

“If you don’t do it this year, you’ll be one year older when you do.” - Warren Miller

Courtesy warrenmiller.org

Courtesy warrenmiller.org

Last year, the world lost the great Warren Miller, a perennial inspiration to ski-bums, entrepreneurs, and dreamers everywhere who envisioned a life beyond the 9-to-5 cubicle existence. Warren celebrated the journey, the successes and failures of anyone willing to step into a pair of skis, from the icy beginner slopes of Vermont to the riddled spines of Alaska, all shared with an unforgettable grandpa-like storytelling voice.

After leaving the Navy in 1946, Warren bought his first 8mm camera and teardrop trailer, which he promptly drove to Sun Valley, Idaho. Working as a ski instructor, his friends would film each other to improve their technique. He quickly became both a proficient skier and filmmaker. But his true talent shined when he would show his previous winter’s films to small audiences, narrating the film live each night. It was this narration that would change the action sports and adventure film industries forever.

The ski-porn industry has come a long way since the mid-80’s Warren Miller movies I remember watching as a child in preparation for the coming season, but I will always pick Warren’s voice over an insane 100ft cliff drop to stoke the anticipation for the season’s first snowflakes to fall.

Breanne and I saw him speak many years ago at Seattle’s Benaroya Hall. The voice, the storytelling, his ability to make everyone in the sold out, 2,000-person auditorium feel as if they’re having an intimate fireside chat only him; the experience still gives me chills and brings tears to my eyes writing this years later.

He represented the best of adventure. It wasn’t about how hard you charged, only that you were in the mountains. And his story telling instantly turned a full theater of strangers with a shared passion into whooping and hollering gang of best friends.

Life is short, so go ahead and embrace your dreams. Take that trip of a lifetime, or quit your job and move to the mountains because “if you don’t do it this year, you’ll be one year older when you do.”

Baja, Mexico: Glamping, bioluminescence, star-studded skies, swimming with sea lions, SUP boarding, and clear blue seas!

The star-studded sky put up a decent fight, but paddle boarding among the bioluminescence ultimately won the prize for most memorable moment in Espíritu Santo. I am humbled by the perfection of our experience glamping in the Sea of Cortez - we were gifted the most incredible sunsets, tremendous food, new best friends, swimming with sea lions, Moana-like bioluminescence and more stars than I see even camping in the mountains.