Reflections from the Mountains

I’m back from a very full two days in the mountains. After a solid two days of non-stop adventure, my heart is full of gratitude. Living so close to some of the most beautiful mountains is absolutely amazing. Every time I make the trip out, I come back feeling renewed and alive. My being feels open. My soul is infused with a energy and a sense of peace and calm.

The trip was oriented around a fitness expo, paired with the Banff Marathon. The expo itself is a beautifully run little event. People from all over the world come to run through the mountains, participating in the full marathon, half marathon, or 10 km run. The expo is set up such that participants come through to pick up their race packages, and have an opportunity to peruse the vendors. I have been fortunate to be able to be part of this as Just A Girl and a Bike for several years now.

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It’s always exciting to sell a book, of course. But, the conversations I end up having and the connections I end up making are what really stick in my mind. All sorts of people with a wide range of experience show up to run. I find myself relating whole heartedly to those who have never done this beforeor have nervous energy all over their face. I love that I can relate, talk to them, and perhaps even help them to focus their minds and their energy.

This year, after talking to a lady who was quite worried about the run, she said to me, “Thank you. I really needed that.” She walked away with a smile. Now, that made my heart sing.

So, not only did I sell some books, and selling books means more money raised for World Bicycle Relief, but I talked to many amazing people. And, I made a connection that could turn into a wonderful opportunity to encourage girls to be confident, seek the activities they love, and find their whole selves. Yes. I’m excited.

Now, of course, being in the mountains, I wasn’t going to pass up an opportunity to get in some activities. I LOVE activities. I went up early the first morning and snuck in a bit of cycling. I was able to do a short, sweet loop up to Lake Minnewanka, with enough climbing to get my heart pumping.

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On the way up, I saw about eight or so mountain sheep, with babies! On the way down, I rolled right by two moose munching away at the gras on the side of the road. What an experience. These animals are truly magnificent, majestic, and have an aura of calm about them. I was even able to sneak in a side trip to Johnson Lake, adding on a couple more km and a wee bit more climbing.

I just felt SO good to be on my bike, surrounded by mountains, the fresh air kissing my face, and the essence of nature infusing my soul.

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After a long second day of talking, interacting, and being ‘on’, I unplugged by hiking aggressively up a series of switchbacks to the top of Sulfur Mountain. The peace and quiet of nature, the smell of the trail, the fresh air, and the earth, and the general calm that clings to the air on such a trail, absolutely refreshed me after expelling so much energy.

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Of course, I was happy to be home, in my own bed, back in my sanctuary. And now here I sit, writing, reflecting, and feeling happy and full of life. What an amazing place to live, so close to such mountains. And what a wonderful path I have been taking on by sharing my own story of facing my fears.

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Climb Like a Spider to Angel’s Landing

Angels Landing, a plateau at the peak of a red rock face, perched in the heart of Zion National Park.

2.5 miles of strenuous hiking up multiple series of switchbacks, including Walter’s Wiggles, takes you to the landing point where some will stay while others scramble to the final landing. Two long series of chains bolted into the rock with steel poles provide a safety net from the 1000 foot drop offs.

I wasn’t sure what the trail would really be like. I knew the distances. I knew the height gain. I know what it feels like to hike up long, steep descents. I have done some scrambling. But I wasn’t sure what these chained sections would be like.

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My first attempt at reaching the summit of Angel’s Landing, I had taken the first shuttle of the day from the town beside Zion park. I darted across the park entrance to catch the next shuttle up the canyon. I disembarked at the Grotto stop, along with dozens of other eager hikers. The herd quickly thinned as the climbing grew strenuous. At the top, many other hikers already milled about. The first series of chains wasn’t nearly as challenging as I thought it would be. I stood on the flat section before the second series, looking up at a daunting rocky climb. I wanted to do it. But, all I could think about was the growing number of people, of various hiking abilities, streaming both up and down sections only wide enough for one. The communication was minimal. The chaos was growing. I didn’t feel this was something I should do. Or that I wanted to do under these conditions.

Continue reading “Climb Like a Spider to Angel’s Landing”

Chasing Dreams on a Mountainside

Mer Glace Peak 10

A couple of years ago, my husband and I travelled to Chamonix, France. The dream was to hike the Tour du Mont Blanc. A 180 km hiking route covering about 10,000 metres of climbing. When we showed up, our excitement was crushed. The snow levels had been high, and the melting process was taking longer than usual. Sections of the trail were closed. Not even guided tour groups were passing through. The Tour de Mont Blanc wasn’t going to happen for us.

Dreams don’t always come true when we expect them to. It doesn’t mean that we should give up on them.

Continue reading “Chasing Dreams on a Mountainside”

Reflection: Where Have I Been and Where Am I Going?

 

Italy - Mortirolo - me with mountain background

This morning, this memory from about six years ago today popped up into my world.  This was the day that I biked to the top of Mortirolo, a very famous mountain in Italy.  This mountain belongs to the professional cycling race known as the Giro d’Italia.  Mortirolo is one of the the most talked about mountains in the road cycling world.   Some of the pro cyclists themselves have claimed it to be the most challenging climb they have done.  Yet, little ‘ole me somehow made it up there, one pedal stroke at at time, pigtails in tow.  It’s true.

Sometimes I still can’t believe that I did make it to that summit.  The picture of me was taken right at the point where I doubted that I could do it, and wondered what I was doing there.  My husband, who has played the role of my coach numerous times over the years, convinced me that I was choosing to talk myself out of it.  He was right.  He told me to do one switchback at a time.  He told me not to stop during a steep incline as it would be really hard, if not impossible, to get going again.  He told me to take a break at the flatter part of each turn.  He told me breatheand to regroup during each break.

Putting the pieces of advice he gave me into action, I made my way up some of the steepest sections of road that I have ever encountered.

Continue reading “Reflection: Where Have I Been and Where Am I Going?”

Orcas Island

We left Friday Harbour on a ferry and headed to Orcas Island.  We didn’t have confirmation of a place to stay that night.  We had contacted one of the few places that may have some vacancy, so we took a chance.  When we arrived, we drove the peaceful, quiet road, easily sinking into the slow pace of everything and everyone around us.  We found the one small ‘main town’ and a lovely breakfast.  How delightful!! The food was tremendous, the view was spectacular, and who knew what the day held?  After our adventures in escaping from the blazing fires in Oregon (Burning Eyes of Fire) we were definitely ready to turn over a new page on our road trip!

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Continue reading “Orcas Island”

Choosing to Face the Impossible

Henry Ford Quote

Henry nailed it on the head.  You can, literally, talk yourself into or out of anything.  It is up to you.  I could not have had any more of a lesson on this than the day that I found myself at the bottom of a famous mountain, broken, terrified, and in tears.

Alpe d’Huez is a very famous mountain that has made many appearances in the Tour de France.  Composed of a series of 21 switchbacks winding their way up from the valley to the peak, this mountain is not something to take lightly.Alpe d'Huez switchbacks

When I showed up at Alpe d’Huez, I was not an experienced cyclist, I was not an athlete, I was not in the type of physical condition that one should be to ascend such a monstrous beast.

I had a choice.  I could not even try.  I could simply give up and declare that I needed to find a way to get back up to the top of the mountain without using my own two feet.  Or, I could try.  I had travelled all that way.  I was at the base of a very famous mountain.  I did not know if I would ever be back there.  Crying is great – it relieves a lot of tension.  Allowing myself to completely break down, be honest about my fear, and to fully take stock of my situation, took me to the conclusion that there was only one option.  I had to try.  By choosing to face my fear, I found a mental resilience that I didn’t know was there.

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Snippet from Just a Girl and a Bike – The Book

I was willing my body up the side of the of mountain, one stretch at a time.  Any progress I made was a result of mind over matter.  Logically, I should not have been able to ascend.  There is nothing logical about will power…it allows you to will yourself to do what seems impossible.  When you completely decide to do something, when you choose to believe that you will, is when you really put things into motion.

Alpe d'Huez Book Snippet 3
Snippet from Just a Girl and a Bike – The Book

My journey was nothing as smooth or graceful as the one shown here, by the famous Pantani who holds the record.  My journey was one of struggle, brute force, and putting one foot in front of the other.  I made my own valiant attempt, in my own way.  It wasn’t pretty, but it was one that I will never forget, and one that changed me forever.  The day that I chose to climb a mountain, I chose pain, I chose to suffer, and I chose to find my inner strength.

Check out my Alpe d’Huez climb page for more details about the cycling route, where to stay, and my personal experience with this amazing mountain.

Want to read the full story? Find it here: Just a Girl and a Bike – The Book

Mountain Man

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I met Vern in an office environment.  We were both in the same role, sat close together, and had the habit of arriving early.  Thus, we quickly got to know a little about each other.

Vern was immediately a very interesting person to me.  It quickly became apparent that he was a ‘no nonsense’, get the job done, kind of guy.  I soon learned that Vern had some very interesting life passions.  One of them being to summit mountains on a regular basis. When I first learned of this, I was instantly fascinated.

I have had the amazing opportunity to summit a variety of peaks on my bike.  Vern was a man who summited monstrous beasts by climbing with his hands and feet.  Continue reading “Mountain Man”

A Smooth Riding Companion: Dehnis B DelaCruz

{My feature series on those who have inspired me on my journey continues and stays strong.  Today I introduce you to an amazing rider who supported me and helped my confidence to grow.  If you are curious, be sure to check out this Slowburn post.}

The alarm starting beeping way too early, but out of bed I leaped.  I was pumped.  I had been waiting all week for this.  This morning, I would be joining my beloved Slowburn group once again after many years.

The feat would not be easy.  We would be doing the famous Great Western Loop – A.K.A. GWL.  This ride would see us climb almost 1200 metres and cover nearly 70 km.  The climbing starts almost immediately, and most of it is accomplished in the first 2/3 of the ride.  So,  you literally feel like you are climbing, climbing, climbing…

As the group began to gather, a felt a twinge of excitement edged with a bit of nervousness.  No matter how many rides I completed, I just never knew exactly how I would feel until I started pedaling.  So many things can happen in cycling, so you just never really know what a ride is going to be like.  It seemed like it wasn’t that long ago that I couldn’t even fathom riding a road bike, never mind take on the ride that I was about to embark on.

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Me, Matt Tabaya to my right, Dennis Caco and James Hiner up front.  Dehnis was behind us, and took this beautiful photo.

 

Continue reading “A Smooth Riding Companion: Dehnis B DelaCruz”

A New Adventure: Chamonix Part II

Chamonix Town 15

One day, my husband declared that he had read about a hiking trail called the ‘Tour de Mont Blanc’ which starts in France and passes through Italy and Switzerland.  According to National Geographic it was one of best hikes in the world.  He showed me videos of picturesque trails and breathtaking mountain views.  Thus, the seedlings had been planted for our first hiking trip.  Our usual forte was cycling, so this would be a brand new adventure for us. Continue reading “A New Adventure: Chamonix Part II”

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