It’s the little things.

Last night during Tanner and I watching the season premiers of Parenthood and the Amazing Race (#yayfornewseasons #noonewatchesthesameshowsasme)  I walked to the freezer and feigned surprise as I pulled out a gallon sized bucket of cookies ‘n cream ice cream that Tanner hadn’t known was there.  And people, the man was so happy he cried!  Real tears.  And then I laughed until I cried because I couldn’t believe he was actually crying. Gotta love the little things that make you so happy.

Watch this space because I’m working on getting our Disneyland trip photos up (uh, 2 months later) and we may or may not have gotten a toddler backpack leash for Camryn that is really dang cute.

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be careful

When I was about 10 years old, I hiked Angel’s Landing for the first time with my dad and brother Andrew (2 years older than me).  If you’re not familiar with this hike in Zions National Park, there is quite a ways where you are hiking on a path as narrow as a few feet wide with sheer drop off cliffs on either side.  There are chains provided for you to hold on to, and things can get sketchy, especially if there are lots of people. Tragically, from time to time, someone falls to their death while hiking Angels Landing.  The first time I did this hike, I remember my dad sitting my brother and I down right before we reached the dangerous section and telling us a story about when he was a young kid on a scouting trip.  Their group was on a hike to some waterfalls, and one of the scouts in their group fell down one of the waterfalls and died.  He told us this not to scare us out of our wits, but to make us understand that we needed to be so careful.  Terrible accidents really do happen, even if you think they will never happen to you.

So why am I telling you this story?  Because I almost watched a little girl fall to her death on Saturday while hiking the Y.  And it was scary.

I woke up Saturday morning without any plans and Tanner was working at the hospital until 3.  I decided to break my no exercise streak and take Camryn for a short hike up to the Y.

This is the only picture I got, I kind of forgot about my camera.

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That hike is short but it is steep and hiking it alone is a whole different story than hiking it with 25 pounds of toddler on my back.  I kept thinking “man, I’m out of shape”  and then I’d remember, “No.  Wait, I’m not out of shape.  I’m actually in the best shape of my entire life.  I biked 160 miles 2 weeks ago, why is this killing me?”  You’d be (and I continually am) so surprised how little biking “in shape” translates to other things.  A month ago I ran about 3 miles (while we were on vacation without our bikes) and was sore for almost a week–longer and more sore than I was after even the day of Lotoja.

Anyway, I made it to the Y and there were tons of people there, it being a beautiful September Saturday morning.  The Y painted on the mountain is a steep concrete slab 380 feet high (I googled it)  and Camryn and I were at about the midpoint, standing not on the Y (where a lot of people were sitting), but off to the side, where Camryn was throwing rocks (her #1 favorite pastime)  I’m not really sure why I was looking up the Y, but there was a big group at the very top and this girl about 10 years old started walking away from it straight down the Y.  Her walking quickly turned into running.  She was gaining momentum fast and obviously unable to stop herself.  I could tell she was going to crash into the back of someone and tried to yell to warn them, but she hit them anyway and tumbled.  There were a few people about 5 feet down from there (right about the midpoint where I was) and then no one and nothing but concrete for 200 more very steep feet.  She was going so fast that I was sure I was about to watch her tumble all the way down that Y and I was too far away to do anything about it.  I screamed and she landed on her head hard and right about then a man grabbed her and was able to stop her.  She had a cut on her head that was bleeding pretty bad and some scrapped up legs, but she was okay.  Thank Heavens!  I was so confused as I watched her dad slowly (seriously, zero urgency!) walk down to where she was.  I’m sure he hadn’t seen what I saw because that girl honestly could have died if she hadn’t been caught.  With how fast she was falling and so far to go with nothing to slow her down, she’d have. . . . well.  It gets gory in my head.  I’ll stop there.

The dad carried her piggyback back down the mountain, certainly on their way to an emergency room.  There was a doctor there (an eye doctor, but still, they know things) who said she’d probably need some staples in her head and she was screaming “I don’t want to get staples again!”

I was really shaken up and I’m fairly certain it has something to do with my motherhood status.  I’m not a particularly emotional person, but when you are a mother, the thought of any mother losing a child just hits something in your heart.  It awakens your absolute worst fears, starts your imagination rolling, and taps into a reservoir of grief that you hope will never be your cross to bear.  It’s in the voice of every mother yelling “be careful!”

As I walked down the mountain, my mind flashed forward to the many years I hope to take my many children hiking, camping, biking, skiing.  It’s one of the things I look forward to most about motherhood:  teaching my children to love, appreciate, and experience the outdoors.  But I pray to God that I will never lose a child in such an accident.  I’m sure I will get many a grey hair watching my children navigate mountains and warning “BE CAREFUL!”

Park moms

Good afternoon.  I’ve just been over here basking in stationary inactive bliss, mostly concentrating on keeping myself as still and immobile as possible.  I’m only kind of kidding.  But there has certainly been no exercise to be had over here for almost 2 solid weeks.  The other day I thought about doing some crunches.  But then I didn’t and that was that.   Today I looked at my bike and didn’t have a negative physiological reaction, so that was progress.  (*note-I only hated biking during the ending weeks of training–the actual day of Lotoja was amazing and reminded me why I love it, but the memory of those last few weeks of hard training rides has proved strong and was mostly unpleasant)

I haven’t written much because I’ve been working on/helping with tons of essay questions for Tanner’s secondary medical school applications (because one application isn’t enough.  stupid.) and I get sick of sitting in front of the computer typing, but someday soon I’ll probably jump back on the regular blogging bandwagon.

For right now, I have a good story!  I was at the park with Camryn last night and started talking with this girl there (woman?  I’m 24 years old and I still feel awkward referring to females my age as women) that I’ve seen around quite a few times but hadn’t talked to much.  We started chatting like us park moms do, and quickly realized we had quite a bit in common.  Her husband is also currently applying to medical schools and is at almost the exact same point in the process as we are.  We are also both a year behind anticipated schedule because of things like our husbands retaking certain classes trying to get more research experience in.  They are also applying to a few of the same schools  and our top choices are similar.

Mallory:  No way, that’s crazy!  This is so funny, it’s like meant to be.  What if we end up at the same medical school and it was like we were meant to be friends?

Me:  ya, this is almost weird how the same we are!

It was like every single thing either one of us said, the other would say, me too!  Then we start talking about interviews.

Mallory:  I think I’m going to fly out with him to the next couple of interviews.

Me:  Oh really?  What would you do with your kids?

Mallory:  We have family close, so I’d leave them with family.

Me:  Oh that’s nice, I have family close too.  Where are you from?

Mallory:  Kaysville.

Me:  You’re from Kaysville?  I’m from Kaysville!  (what the wierd)  Did you go to Davis High?

Mallory:  Class of 2007

No freaking way.  We were in the same graduating class.  And didn’t even know or recognize each other.  And had been talking to each other for almost an hour without realizing this.  I guess that can happen in a class of 800 people, but still.  There was a lot of laughing and “seriously???”‘s going on.  And then:

Mallory:  Wait, what is your name?

Me:  It was Dana Bramhall

Mallory:  I don’t even know that name

Me:  I actually married a guy who is also from our graduating class

Mallory:  really!? me too!  Dallin Wright, do you know him?

Me:  nope.  I married Tanner Staples, do you know him?

Mallory: You’re married to TANNER STAPLES?!?!?!?

Apparently Mallory and Tanner were really good friends in High School and she went on about how he is the coolest and I married the best guy (yep, i did).  Tanner laughed really hard when I told him this story and wishes he could have witnessed the whole conversation.  We live exactly 1 block away from each other and I walk past her house 8 times a day to go to the park, and apparently our entire life stories, past present and future are the same so. . . . we’re friends now.  And the next time we’re together we’re going to do a lot of name dropping I think because we know a lot of the same people.   I realized I had recognized her name partly from hearing it from Tanner, but also because Facebook has been suggesting her as a friend to me forever because we are friends with all of the same people.

For lack of a better ending: that’s all, the end, and goodnight.

LoToJa

Well, it’s probably about time I told you how the story ends right??

Short Version: I made it to Alpine–mile 160 of the ride.   I did not make it the full 206 miles.  I felt great most of the day, I simply ran out of time and daylight.  There was a nasty game changing headwind from mile 110 on that slowed us down a lot. The ride was a blast, so beautiful, an awesome experience, and I’m so happy with and proud of how far I made it!  Tanner had mechanical and stomach issues and made it to Afton, mile 125 and I’m so proud of him too!

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And now the long version, leg by leg:

Logan to Preston–33 miles

I was so nervous.  During the first 2 miles I thought I was going to die.  We started out much faster than I was expecting and I literally could not catch my dad to save my life.   Did I ever mention we were riding this with my dad?  He does it every year-I think this was #9.  There was a mix-up with our start-times and his riding buddy Dave ended up starting 1/2 an hour earlier than us and we were supposed to catch up and meet up with him at one of the stops.  Anyway– I couldn’t catch up with my dad and my heart rate was completely out of control.  A lot of training and rides like this is watching your heart rate monitor and staying in certain zones to make sure that you’re not working too hard early on and zapping all your energy.  So I was very conscious of where my heart rate was and where it should be and it was already ballparks beyond numbers that they had told me “don’t ever ever hit your red zone or you will not finish”  So that freaked me out and right off the bat I was thinking OH NO this is going to be bad.  But it got better fast.  We slowed down, my heart rate got semi under control, and I got over my nerves and started having fun.

When we got to the first feed zone we found out our support crew (my mom and little brother Ryan)  had run out of gas and weren’t there.   Ha.  There are support crew feed zones and neutral feed zones (meaning no support crew vehicles, only event-run tables/drinks/food) and the next support crew feed zone wasn’t until Afton, another 100 miles, which is stupid, don’t ask me why, but that means I didn’t even see them or all the food and bottles I had carefully and stressfully packed until about mile 120

Preston to Strawberry

Lots of hills.  I was feeling completely awesome because I was with a couple of men who weigh significantly more than me and have a lot more work to do climbing those hills.  So I’m basically taking a break climbing what is supposed to be the hardest part of the course, thinking very positive thoughts like I am totally making it all the way.  Tanner is having the opposite experience.  BYU outdoors unlimited had tuned-up our bikes and is going to get a not very nice visit from me tomorrow because they messed up something on Tanner’s bike and it wouldn’t stay in the very lowest gear, making it ridiculously hard for him to make it up those hills.  He also developed a stomach cramp that he couldn’t get rid of.

Strawberry to Montpelier

Almost all steep downhill.  I’m expecting a break and instead–I was working twice as hard as I had been on the hills to try and keep up with the men.  For parts of it, they were literally coasting or barely working while I was pedaling as hard as I possibly could to keep the same speed.  All the while my dad is yelling for me to stay as close as I can to draft behind him.  Weight gives you a ton of momentum on the downhill and flat and I just didn’t have it!

In Montpelier we expected to find a mechanic to look at Tanner bike, but the guy wasn’t there!  It was so frustrating.  There was a station set up with all the tools and everything, and all the volunteers said he’s been there all day and they didn’t know where he was.  We waited a while but had to keep going without getting his problem fixed.

Montpelier to Salt River (mile 110)

We had to leave Tanner behind at mile 98.  His stomach cramp wouldn’t go away and he couldn’t keep up, and we knew we were cutting it close on time and had to book it in order to make it in time.  It was so hard to leave him!  He threw up a lot, couldn’t keep anything down, but still made it up all of the mountains because he is amazing, but didn’t think it would be safe to go on after Afton.

My dad left me behind shortly after Salt River (also know as King/Queen of the mountain,  mile 110 the highest point on the course) because again, I couldn’t keep up on the downhill and he wanted to make sure he got a finishing time.  At this point I was still super confident I could make it all the way. . . .but then I hit the headwind.  First of all, after King/Queen of the Mountain, there is supposedly 50 miles of downhill–NOT SO.  The map and what my dad had told me was insanely deceptive on that point.  It may trend downhill, but it’s mostly flat, and there are quite a few uphill parts (it’s rolling).  So with the headwind,  instead of the 50 miles of coasting and rest I was expecting, it was work, work, work.

Somewhere along the way, this kind of old guy comes up behind me and says “ya know,  someone once told me the way to finish this ride is to find a fat lady and draft behind her the whole way.  You’re just too damn skinny!!” Ha.

It was so nice to see my mom and Ryan in Afton.  It really gave me a boost and I knew I had to keep the pace up but I was feeling great!  This is me in Afton

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Well, ok, great + halfway exhausted + my back hurt.  After that though I really started getting tired and the wind started getting to me.  (that.  freaking. wind.  why, why, why??)  And I really started slowing down.    (long side explanation:  another big downer was our late start time of 7:12.  My dad has always started @ 6:00 a.m. or earlier, so that is what I had been expecting.  This not only gives you more time, but the big advantage of having a lot more riders around to so you can join pace lines and draft.  Drafting makes a huge difference, and in previous years, my dad always has had tons of strong groups passing them that they can join onto the back of and draft with.  This year they changed how they did start times and we were one of the last starting times meaning all the strong riders were way ahead of us and we never had any pace lines to join.  It was also pretty discouraging to hardly ever see many other riders and have them be pretty much taking down the feed stations by the time we got there.  ok done.)

So I’m out there all alone on my way to Alpine, haven’t seen a single other rider in a while, and along comes this complete angel to save my day.  Her name was Maddy, she’s only 18 years old, and she passes me and asks if I want to hop on and draft behind her.  UMM, YES.  yes, yes, yes.  She was so happy and so nice and maybe the only reason I completed that leg of the race.  She was on a relay team, so she was well rested, had tons of energy and was keeping a pretty fast pace.  Not only did drafting behind her help with the wind situation, but she gave me someone that I needed to keep up with instead of slowing down, and she kept my morale up and my mind busy.  Her relay partner had ended up in the ER and Maddy was trying to finish for them.   She carried me for 25 miles, almost all the way to Alpine, and I am so grateful!

When I was a couple miles short of Alpine, I saw my dad riding towards me–not a good sign.  He had hung back with us for too long, not counting on the wind, and hadn’t given himself enough time to finish.  When we rolled into Alpine it was almost 7:00 and we had 47 miles to go–not possible in the hour & 15 (maybe 30) minutes left before sunset.  Tanner (who had gotten picked up by this point), my mom, Ryan, my dad’s buddy Dave (he didn’t finish either) & his wife and son were all there cheering to meet me.  I was seriously so happy and so proud that I had made it so far.  160 miles!  I still had some strength left (not a ton, but some)  and wanted to keep going, but my options weren’t good.  I could try and pound out 10 or 20 more miles before it got dark, or I could try and finish the entire 47, but that would mean several hours of riding in the dark and even then, everything would already be taken down and I wouldn’t get an official finish.  I wasn’t sure I could even make it that far, but in the dark it wasn’t safe.  Busy unfamiliar road with narrow shoulders–yikes.  I’m still not entirely sure what it was that made me quit, and part of me wishes I had kept going, but I was pretty dang exhausted and a few more hours alone in the dark wasn’t happening.  And if I wasn’t going to make it the whole way, was there a difference between 160 and 175?

What’s done is done!  No regrets.  I really thought I would be a lot more disappointed if I didn’t finish, and I won’t lie and say I wish this post ended with I’m awesome I did it! I did it, I did it!!!!  But there’s no way I could do myself the disservice of being disappointed in myself after participating in Lotoja and getting so far.

IMG_4524 IMG_4525 prepping our bikes

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IMG_4528 Tanner posing for pictures while I way-to-nervously-to-be-funny-right-now stuff pretzels into my food pouch
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IMG_4534Lame photo gallery, I know.  My camera was almost dead and I had 18,000 things to worry about more than pictures.  Hopefully I can get some from my parents, I don’t even have one of the whole group at the end!

And as if this post isn’t already long enough, I feel like I have so many people to thank.  (like, you know, the academy) So so so many people have babysat for us over the past few months so we could train–more than I’d like to admit–my family, tanners family, awesome friends and neighbors THANK YOU.  People who lent or gave me equipment, everyone who encouraged me either in person or through texts, calls or online, wished me luck and told me I could do it–thank you!  And thanks to my dad who pulled me most of the way, I definitely couldn’t have gotten as far as I did without him.  Not to mention his countless calls, training advice, equipment, buying me the bike, and inspiring me to do this crazy thing in the first place.   And the love of my life (who I will be married to for 3 years this week!) he is the best and this is just one more thing we got to experience together, for better or worse!

Botulism and other fascinating tidbits

ahh!  anxiety!  race anxiety!

And I write to relieve anxiety and I have this story/thought on my mind and since multitasking X6 isn’t enough right now, I don’t think it will go away and stop taking up critical brain-space until I write it down.  So.  Once upon a time during my senior year of high school, I took a cooking class where I was in a group with Courtney Jones, Joey Hill, and Ethan Swenson.  We nick-named our teacher Mama Beaut (probably Joey’s idea, I don’t even actually know what her name was?  Mrs.  Beatler?) We all always made fun of our teacher for being obsessed with warning us that dented cans will give us botulism.  Sometimes the weirdest of information sticks, and for the rest of my life, whenever I buy canned food, I will check for dents.  I haven’t the slightest clue what botulism is–but it sounds bad and I don’t want it.  So, after our vacation with Tanner’s family, we ended up with some leftover group-groceries, and one of them was a dented can of olives.  And I ate them this week.  The entire time fearing, thinking, and stressing that I was going to get botulism.

(This story has a point, I promise.  Actually, on second thought, this might not all come together at the end so if you are looking for sense to be made/edification/upliftment, stop reading)

The one other piece of Mama Beat knowledge that stuck with me pertains to Salmonella (what can I say, her foodborne disease unit was powerful and life changing).  It was in her class that I learned that 1 in every 20,000 eggs will give you Salmonella if you eat it raw.  I also learned and that Salmonella is not life-threatening, but rather a few days of miserable illness.  Which knowledge was undoubtedly intended to dissuade me from eating unsafe raw-egg containing food (i.e cookie dough.  Does anyone ever eat anything with raw eggs besides cookie dough?) but actually had the opposite effect.  I had previously been warned so vehemently against cookie-dough that I was of the impression that eating it would lead almost always to Salmonella which in turn meant imminent death.  But now I knew how slim the chances were!  1 in 20,000?  What are the chances that out of 20,000 eggs, the one you put in your cookie dough instead of cooking it is going to be the rogue one?  And then even if I do get it,  it’s only a few days of vomiting?  I decided that for a lifetime of cookie-dough enjoyment, this was a risk worth taking.

Which brings me to tonight, when I am cooking some peanut butter cookies and am so so so wanting to down half a bowl of the dough, but would never get over it if I gave myself salmonella right before the big race.  And since I’m on a rambling roll, I’ll tell you that I contemplated all of this as I was trying to roll the dough in sugar and it was abnormally sticky and I couldn’t figure out why even after 4 double checks of the recipe.  I concluded that I must not have put in enough flour, even though I was sure I did, and put a little more in, but still super sticky (which means mega sticking to my fingers, making eating it even more tempting to lick/eat)  So I put a batch in the oven, and 4 minutes later realized–peanut butter!  I forgot the peanut butter.  In my peanut butter cookies.

At which point I contemplated my options, scooped off all of the half-cooked-sans-peanut-butter-non-cookies, dumped them back in the bowl with a little bit of remaining cookie dough, added the peanut butter,  mixed it all up, re-rolled them in sugar,  cooked them again.  And. . . they still turned out amazing because God loves me.

Ending statements:

1) Mama Beaut would be horrified

2) Apparently I was too enthralled over diseases in her class to actually learn anything about cooking  (though in my defense they never make anything in those classes more complicated than orange julius and rice crispy treats)

3)  I’m a stress case.  There are so many last minute things to remember–food, sunscreen, so many water bottles, chapstick, clothing layers, heart rate monitors, photo ID, registration packet, bikes, helmets, pumps, spare tires, tools, shoes, odometers–every single one of them being critical and X2 because my husband is at work and I have to pack all of his too.  Pray I don’t forget anything!

Jackson or bust

The big day is this weekend!  5 days away!  Lotoja, you just might be the death of me.  I couldn’t be more nervous.  Actually, I probably will be more nervous because it seems to be building steadily.  We had our last long ride last Wednesday (which turned out to be more of a medium ride because. . . well, because there might have been one or more emotional breakdowns that occurred along the way) and from then until the actual race is all recovery which my dad says means 2 or 3 really short, really slow rides, but mostly rest, rest, REST! so that your legs and body are totally recovered and not at all sore or tired for the big day.  He said the absolute worst thing we could do right now is ride too much.  Well!  if anybody has ever sad anything to me that they didn’t have to say twice.   Rest? No riding?  Done and done.

Most of you know I’m preeeety sick of riding my bike at this point, but looking at this pictures reminds me that this training has taken us so many amazing places.  I’ve been so astounded at how beautiful our canyons and mountains are (they never get old, do they?) and how close we live to so many breathtaking sights.

Here are some pictures from some of our latest rides

The Nebo Loop:  my dear, this one was a BEAST.  The ascent is 20 straight miles of unrelenting uphill.  And we are dumb and didn’t bring enough water.

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This is me smiling because I think I’m at the top.  Because surely that’s what this elevation sign is here to indicate.

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But I WASN’T at the top.    The top is here:

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So much of endurance riding is mental and man, that 9,000/9,345 ft trick really hit our morale on that ride.  (Tanner isn’t pictured, but he made it too!) And did I mention we were out of water?  And also, even after you hit the summit, the descent is rolling, i.e. you keep going down short steep downhill sections only to be faced by another uphill section over and over and over.  It was all kinds of cruel and unusual, but dang that mountain is beautiful.  There are, however, tons of cows and guess what I have been learning more and more about myself lately?  How truly scared of animals I am.  We had to pass by so many cows so close to us and I am so scared of cows!  I got a flat tire at mile 80 right in front of the Mona lavender farms, and then at mile 95 hit a windstorm.  At mile 100 it started raining rain drops big enough to hurt, and at mile 110, I crawled into my apartment, curled up in the fetal position and stayed there for a good hour.

Eureka via Tintic Mountain:

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Green Mountain/pineview, from Ogden:

This is the ride that broke us.

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And this is the hill that killed me.

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This is my (goooood-looking, right?)  husband, riding buddy, and moral support.  We’re a good biking pair I think.  Which boils down to: he tends to have his meltdowns early on in our rides when he knows we have far to go, and I tend to have mine near the end of our rides when I’m exhausted, so one of us is always carrying the other emotionally.

IMG_4522And just for proof that I biked the infamous Alpine Loop (twice!) here is a picture of my bike at the sign (at the TOP, were elevation signs belong)

IMG_4355I’ve been feeling like I’m in an abusive relationship with my bike–i get hurt and abused, completely thrashed by a long mountainous ride.   I decide that I’m done and threaten to leave.  And then I go on one of those good rides like the one up South Fork where the fall colors were turning up high and it had just rained but the sun was peeking through and it was stunningly gorgeous.  (did I say I’m sick of biking?  I LOOOVE biking!!)  On rides like that, my bike is begging me back.  Apologizing and making promises to never do me wrong again.  And I believe her and come crawling back, time after time.

I knew this would be the hardest thing I’ve ever done physically, but I don’t think I was prepared for how hard it’s been mentally and emotionally.  Scheduling between Tanner’s work and school schedules and babysitters has been a total juggling act.  Now it’s here and I just want to finish so bad and say that I did it!  But at the same time I want to be realistic, admit that not finishing is a real possibility (I only have one day and the finish line closes at dark.  a lot can happen in 206 miles.  lots of people don’t finish this thing) and be happy with what I’ve accomplished.  I’ve logged Twenty-one hundred and three miles total this summer–2103!  And whether or not I actually make it to Jackson on Saturday, that’s something to be proud of.