Mountain Love in Leogang

The very second we reached the top of the stairs on the train platform, and I scanned the horizon, my heart sang.

We’d arrived in Leogang, Austria. After two weeks in big cities, and years of time since we’d been in the European mountains, every molecule of my being felt right. There were mountains in front of me, behind me, and in every direction. The peace of a small town rose up from the valley below, filling every bit of space. The only sounds were of birds chirping and water trickling.

This space is one of the most amazing for my being.

It’s important that we all find the space that fills us with calm, gratitude, and love. A small town in the middle of the mountains is one of those spaces for me. The only thing that tops it is the feeling on top of the mountain. But, we’ll get to that.

We leisurely made the trek down a hill through lush forest beside a stream and into the heart of the town. With every step, my heart fell in love all over again. The feel of a small, European mountain village is like no other. It consumed me with every breath I took in synch with that of the forest and the surrounding mountains.

We spent a week nestled in this cozy town. We climbed by foot every day up to peaks and across ridges. On our first day of hiking, I was thrilled with how well my mind and my body responded. The second day I was a bit challenged as it went on longer than planned, but it was a good exercise in tapping into the positive space I am trying to train my mind to be in, no matter what. The third day, I felt a natural flow. The fourth day, we did a time trial up the same mountain we climbed on the first day of hiking, and I was surprised to shave off a good 20 minutes. That bionic Julie came out for a bit. On the fifth day, I felt the accumulation and had to accept a recovery day. We did the right things. We did a shorter, slower trek with a couple steep climbs to stretch the legs. We took some rest time. On the last day of hiking, we did a lovely climb straight up on the other side from where we’d been exploring. We found a really nice pace and both eased into a nautral flow. That good ‘ole physical, mental, spiritual flow came back, reminding me of my first ascents up mountains on a bike.

I was sad to leave Leogang, but I felt ready. We’d done all the major hikes. We’d been to several wonderful mountain huts for beer and lunch with a view. We’d both reconnected with our inner mountain beings, and I’d found a flow for writing about my journey that I hadn’t tapped into for a while.

Did I have moments of doubt? Of course. Did my mind slip into a negative space? Absolutely. But not for long. I’m human. I’ll never be perfect, not that I know what that means anyway. But, I’ve continued to build my toolbox of strategies and am capable of identifying when I am going to a place I don’t want to be in and correcting it.

We are all working on things. No matter what it is, persistence and practice does pay off.

No matter what it is…Yes. You. CAN.

Finding my Soul on the Mountainside

It’s been a whirlwind couple of weeks. After years of travel restrictions, I laced up my hiking boots and filled my backpack, ready for an adventure with my hubby.

In the first two weeks, we immersed ourselves in the culture of some familiar places and some new ones. We made new friends, we tried new food, and we sampled some very special beer.

We also hiked to the less travelled places, even in the big cities. My trail shoes took me along rivers and canals, through foresrs and gardens, and stops were made in outdoor beer gardens unlike anything we have at home.

My ability to keep a pace, get my blood pumping, and keep my mind in a positive space even when it got long, hot, and hard was quite good. Only a couple of glitches when things got tough and I had to reroute my mind to more positive pastures.

It’s taken me years to get to this space where I spend more time believing in myself than not. When it happens now, because I am human and am not nor will never be perfect, I handle it. I treat myself better than I used to.

Although two weeks of nonstop travel and trekking by foot were a bit of a challenge, this next part of the journey is where the real adventure begins.

The mountains. They were calling to us. So we listened.

Another day of travel landed us in the small town of Leogang, Austria. A ski village by winter and downhill biking and hiking spot in the summer, the over 400 km of trails with a massive gondola system is like a dream.

The access to mountains has never felt easier.

Our first day of hiking was nothing less than amazing. With only small hills over the last couple of weeks, and a bit of a break from training leading up to my last book launch, it had been a bit since I’d climbed, and a while since I took on a mountain.

Climbing a mountain is never easy. Some attempts are more graceful, and others are a mess. I used to get quite nervous, even anxious, the night before, and even more so the morning of. I’m finally here, in a place where I found a sense of peace before the big climb.

We had a leisurely afternoon watching the rain from a cozy lunch spot. I was excited for the potential of good weather and a long day on the side of a mountain.

The morning of the climb came. I was calm. The breakfast buffet was amazing. My body was ready.

The first section of the climb is what I call a fuck you up, go straight up section. The gradients are high. My heart thrumming against my chest, sweat drenched my hair and shirt, I focused on one step at a time and found a decent pace. The best approach for me is to find that flow and to avoid stopping.

When it eased, so did my being. I took some deep breaths, a long pull on my water tube, and realized how good I felt. That first real push is hard, but by embracing it, I put myself into an invigorated place.

The hike was about a good 10 km up. We climbed about 1200 m. There was a windy gravel section with some easier stretches, exposed and hot. When we reached the middle station, a gondola point, we took a little breather and strolled around a beautiful lake.

We soon reentered the forest. The fresh coolness was welcome. The trail alternates between steep sections and flatter ones. I got into a flow of pushing on the steep parts and recovering on the flatter ones. Recovery didn’t mean slowing down. It meant upping the pace to flush out my legs while breathing to calm my wild heart and drinking some much needed water.

The final stretch was crazy. Straight up, for what seemed like it would go on forever. One step at a time, I made it.

I was surprised by the calm I felt the entire time. I was thrilled by how well my body and my mind performed. I believed in my ability to complete the hike gracefully. It felt good. When days like this happen, my entire being is grateful for what I am able to do.

I was so elated that I decided we needed to do just a little bit more. We climbed to the next gondola stop, not far, but extremely steep. I wasn’t fast, but I wanted a few more meters under my belt for the day. I didn’t want to say good enough.

The reward was amazing. The view was the best part of it all, and I had earned it, one step at a time. We had a lovey charcuterie and beer at AlteSchmiede. Sitting on the patio, basking in the sun on the top of a mountain, I felt happier than ever.

After some rest, we descended on foot. We covered about 25 km and just over 1400 meters of ascent. This included the addition of the walk around the lake and the extra climb. A good day. The rest of the evening, I was in bliss, the mountain high clinging strong.

The map from my Strava is below. If you use Strava, you can follow me for the click able version. If not, don’t fret. I will be compiling a list of maps and details later.

This map shows both the way up and down.

Mountains and Boots – So Much Love

So…my hiking boots were stolen. I loved them. They were a gift from my hubbie, and they went with me to a lot of places. Together, my boots and I created a lot of memories. <SIGH>. However, they are gone, and I had to accept that.

It took me a while, but I finally settled on a new pair to purchase. It wasn’t easy, since I have tiny gidget feet. But, I find some really good ones at a good price. TODAY – they arrived! Yes. I put them on. I walked around the house. They are like PILLOWS on my feet. I might never take them off again. I am in love.

In case you are interested, these are KEEN, Targhee III. They have been highly rated for winter (waterproof), traction, comfort, long distance. My hubbie has KEEN and has been very impressed. The price point is good too. I want boots that will become part of me and last for a long time. So, I will let you know how this new *relationship* turns out.

On another high note, I had a week of physical body BLAH, which is not the norm for me. Then, I came through the other side, and it has been AWESOME. Yesterday, I hiked with a friend up to the very top of the teetering rocks of Nihahi Ridge (Kananaskis). Don’t have the route (hiking watch is also…stolen…don’t worry….I’ll get a new one so I can share routes again!). But, it was so much fun. Some good scrambling at the top. And a lunch time view to die for.

My love for my hiking boots and the mountains is deep. What about you? What do you love?

Big Mountains, Strong Mind, Full Heart

My life has been changed by the many mountains that I have climbed on my bicycle, chasing my husband up to the peak. Or, sometimes, simply survivingone painful pedal stroke at a time. A little over two years ago, my husband had a grand vision to hike the Tour du Mont Blanc. As things in life sometimes go, this dream did not come true. The recap of this adventure can be seen here. However, as you can always do, if you choose to, we turned the disappointment into an entirely unexpected adventure.

This year, life has brought us some very unexpected, and challenging, things. It hasn’t been easy, at times. But, as my husband always does, he lead us in a path of finding peace and happiness in even the most challenging and heart breaking times. As the year progressed, things were settling back into a new normal. I will admit, I was craving something really challenging. I think we both needed an adventure. So, when he presented the idea of returning to France for a second go at Tour du Mont Blanc, my heart soared with excitement.

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The Tour du Mont Blanc is a 170 km circular hiking route around Mont Blanc. My husband’s version ended up being 200 km with about 10,000 metres of ascent throughout. The route takes you through France, Italy and Switzerland. You can book spots in refuges to enable you to hike with only one day of food and water and no tent. The refuges aren’t glamorous, but, the mountains make you forget every cramped little dormitory you wedged yourself into or three minute cold shower you had.

Continue reading “Big Mountains, Strong Mind, Full Heart”

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.

Alpe d'Huez Book Snippet 2
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

fortress-vern

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”

My Book Release – The Story of How I Learned to Reach for the Peak

It is official.  ‘Just a Girl and a Bike’ the book is now available.  This has been a long project as I made my way through a brand new journey as an Indie Self-Publishing authorThere were many times when I felt like I didn’t know what I was doing.  But it didn’t matter.  It was a learning experience.

Most importantly, I connected with many people along the way.  My goal was to inspire even one person with my words.  Based on the feedback on my blog posts, I believe I have already done this.  If even one person picks up my book and feels inspired, more positive, like they can accomplish something and maybe even face their fears, then I have succeeded.

The cherry on top of this wonderfully delicious sundae is that the whole project is a fundraiser.  My bike changed my life.  Thus, all of the proceeds of my books sales will go to World Bicycle Relief.  This amazing organization provides bikes to children in Africa who need transportation to get to school.  Instead of walking miles each way everyday, they can now ride.  Their chances at an education are greatly increased due to these bikes.

Some of these bikes are also given to healthcare workers to increase the number of places they can reach in one day.

So, if you have enjoyed my posts, please consider helping me out to change lives.

Details:

Books are $20 (CAN).  Choice of two covers.

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Order green mountain cover

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Order snowy mountain top cover

Peace and love!!!

Failure: What is Your Definition?

Sometimes things do not go as planned.  Sometimes what you set out to do or to accomplish doesn’t happen.  Life brings us many surprises.  Things that we cannot possibly anticipate tend to happen.  Just because you did not do exactly what you set out to, it doesn’t mean you failed.  There was a time that I thought failure meant that you didn’t do it how you had it in your mind.  Now, I believe that if you went out there and gave it what you had, then you have succeeded.

I like to ride my bike.  I like to climb mountains.  On more than one occasion, a mountain has entered my life, only to re-enter years later.  There have been times when I attempted a mountain, and did not make it to the top.  There have also been times when I have been close to or heard about a mountain, but it didn’t enter my life at that time.  These beauties had a way of coming back into my life that could not have been anticipated, and in which offered such a sweet, sweet ending.  If you consider sweat, fear, and tears a road to a sweet ending.

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I present to you Croix de Fere, a magnificent mountain the French Alps.  It has made multiple appearances in the Tour de France.  The first time I met this mountain, I was an extremely green, very beginner, ‘cyclist’.  I had really just learned to ride a road bike, if you could call what I was doing ‘riding’.  And there I was, brute forcing my way up this crazy climb.  That day, I simply bit off bite sized pieces and kept on pedaling, one small section at a time.

That day wasn’t the day that I would summit.  However, that day was the day that I realized I can do this!!  If I put my mind to it, I can climb magnificent French mountains!!!  Years later, with much more experience under my belt, I was lucky enough to have another wonderful encounter with this beautiful climb.  There are many details to be told, and which present a story for another day.  The point is, summit or no summit, there I was – doing something that I didn’t even know I could do.  And both times, there was absolutely no denying the absolute beauty of my surroundings.  As challenging as it was, I was lost in the harmonious feeling of being one with the earth.  I felt like a tiny, insignificant dot on this breathtaking road, engulfed in mountainous magnificence.

Thus, as you go forth at the beginning of this New Year…how will you define failure?  And what will you set your heart on doing?

Croix de Fer Info Page

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