Sunday, April 29, 2018

Race to Robie Creek 2018

Race to Robie Creek Half Marathon, Ruck Race to Robie Creek, Ruck Half Marathon, Half Marathon Ruck

The sun was shining, the weather was warm, my ruck was loaded, and I was ready to embrace the challenge of the Race to Robie Creek half marathon yet again.

The last time I attempted to conquer Robie (and got brutally dominated) was in 2011 with my mom. It was one of those runs that I hadn't properly trained for--it was my third half marathon and I hadn't trained hills... and Robie is one BIG, LONG hill--so it was one of my worst races to date. I told myself I'd never run another Robie, so when my colleague asked me to ruck it with him, I got all "Defender hooah" on him and said, "Sure, why not?"

Now, in case you're not familiar with the Race to Robie Creek, which has been hailed as the "hardest half in the lower 48 states," it's essentially 8.5-miles and 2200 feet uphill and then 4.6 miles and 2000 feet downhill. It's rough, it's tough, and it makes your legs and feet beg for mercy the entire way. That's why, when it kicked my butt in 2011, I said I'd never run it again. Here's a course map of Robie to give you an idea of the challenging route up and over Aldape Summit.

Race to Robie Creek Half Marathon, Ruck Race to Robie Creek, Ruck Half Marathon, Half Marathon Ruck

Now, despite not wanting to run Robie again, rucking is a different story. I've trained for rucks before, since we had to run a 6-mile course with a 35-pound ruck to graduate the Security Forces Officer Course (of which I took second place out of 35 students) so I was looking forward to this training.

I began training 12-weeks out with a combination of Hal Higdon's Intermediate 2 half marathon plan as well as throwing on my 35-pound training ruck and rucking either through the hills of Palm Desert while we were on vacation, around base on flat ground, or on varied incline settings on the treadmill for anywhere from 30-120 minutes 3x per week. I documented all my training on my AunieFit Instagram account. My goal with the training was to train the full running distance without a ruck and then to train up to a little more than half the time with the ruck on. The thing about rucking is that it makes my hips really freakin' sore, so I didn't want to overdo it and injure myself before the race. In addition, I really liked the half marathon plan I chose and have used it before, so I knew it could help get me to the running distance I needed, while still helping me work on speed for my shorter runs. I was nervous that the ruck training I did wouldn't be enough for this race, but it turns out that setting the treadmill on "random" at 3.5 mph and rucking for 1-2 hours is a pretty darn good workout and totally set me up for success on this ruck.

OK--so race day. My teammate and I were the only people who signed up to ruck, though we thought we might have had a couple more people join us. Robie is tricky because they only let so many people run it, so we were glad that at least we had been able to get bibs in time. We wore matching "Honor the Fallen" Defender shirts that we got from the Security Forces schoolhouse down in Texas. We rucked with the names of 14-fallen Defenders and rucking in their memory was the most amazing, humbling, incredible thing we could have done. They gave us strength to get through it! Here's a pic of pre-race flat Lt Rowe.

Race to Robie Creek Half Marathon, Ruck Race to Robie Creek, Ruck Half Marathon, Half Marathon Ruck

We met up at Fort Boise to start the race right around 1100. We had an hour before the race started so we chatted, got our rucks ready, and began to dread the impending doom ahead.

Race to Robie Creek Half Marathon, Ruck Race to Robie Creek, Ruck Half Marathon, Half Marathon Ruck

My husband came to see us off at the start of the race. He was very supportive during this whole race since he knew how much it meant to me to ruck with my coworker and to proudly wear the uniform of the Idaho Air National Guard. It's not every day you get to do something so cool and honor your workplace by doing so!

Race to Robie Creek Half Marathon, Ruck Race to Robie Creek, Ruck Half Marathon, Half Marathon Ruck

Sisic's ruck was 50-pounds and mine was 35. I had mine loaded with armored vest plates, water, and a change of clothes. He had a 45-pound sandbag, water, and clothes in his. They were all strapped up and ready to go!

Race to Robie Creek Half Marathon, Ruck Race to Robie Creek, Ruck Half Marathon, Half Marathon Ruck

The theme for this year was a "Space Odyssey" so there were all sorts of people in fun space-themed outfits and even an astronaut who ran along with us. We took this photo right before we headed to the start line at 1200.

Race to Robie Creek Half Marathon, Ruck Race to Robie Creek, Ruck Half Marathon, Half Marathon Ruck

The race kicked off promptly at noon and we were moving! We went right by the Veteran's Home and shook hands with all the vets outside--that was a really neat part of the race. We had originally started in the very back since we knew we'd be walking the entire race, and the back was where we stayed for the duration of the race.  It was kind of funny--when we started out, I said, "I don't care about time! Let's just finish" and "Well, at least we know we won't get last!" It's funny because for a good hour or so during the race... we. were. last.

The thing about races is that you never know if you're going to have a good race or a bad race until you're out on the course. And it's always those days that are perfect weather, you have a buddy with you, and you feel just super-prepared that "bad race day" sneaks in and destroys the mojo. Well that's what happened to us that day.

We had anticipated to ruck at about a 16-18 min/mile pace and finish around 3:30. It was Sisic's fifth time rucking Robie, so he had a pretty good idea of what to expect. We were right on pace until mile 3 when cramps took over my poor colleague and ravaged him for the next 5-miles--all of which were uphill, of course. Needless to say, I felt pretty good (which is what always happens when one training partner has a bad race, the other one is like more fly than a kite), so I did my best to ensure we stopped for water and bananas at every aid station and then of course also made sure he downed some Gu's and my emergency stash of jelly beans. I knew I'd need them in some capacity when I packed them!

Race to Robie Creek Half Marathon, Ruck Race to Robie Creek, Ruck Half Marathon, Half Marathon Ruck

We trudged up the hill for 8-5 grueling miles (left photo is going up, right photo is coming down and you can thank those rucks for squeezing the crap out of our midsections in the pictures--ooh baby, so flattering). We stopped here and there for cramps and at all the aid stations, but kept moving slowly and steadily along. Most of the folks who run Robie actually RUN it, so it was no surprise that we ended up in last place for a while there. When cramps, rucks, and walking collide, you're bound to slow down and let the runners, joggers, and speed walkers pass. No biggie.

As we made it to the top of the hill, the Temptation Station called my name. I had waited all day for a stinkin' donut (I deserved that donut!) but they were fresh out... dangit! Instead, the gal at the top said, "We don't have donuts, but we do have shots of Fireball!" So I decided to compromise and indulged her shot of fireball instead of a donut. I think it even helped perk me up for the last 5-miles!

Heading down the hill really helped us out. We'd been going pretty slow on the uphill with paces of 16, 19, 21, 25, 29, and 39-minute miles (that last one was a KILLER, I tell you!), but as soon as we switched to the decline our pace quickened to 14-16 min/miles and we even managed to pass 15 or so people as we kicked it in to high gear. We were there, man. As we came to the finish, we began to shuffle our way toward the finish line and victory never felt so good. We didn't win any medals, but we finished and that was a win in our books.

Race to Robie Creek Half Marathon, Ruck Race to Robie Creek, Ruck Half Marathon, Half Marathon Ruck

While our original goal had been 3:30, we were happy when it was over and we crossed with a 4:40:74. Nope, it wasn't our goal time, but we did it nevertheless and were happy we didn't finish dead last!

Race to Robie Creek Half Marathon, Ruck Race to Robie Creek, Ruck Half Marathon, Half Marathon Ruck

The cool part about the finish was that since we finished so late, there was a HUGE line of 400-600 people waiting to get on the buses. They all clapped for us as we finished and said how neat it was that we had rucked the whole thing. We immediately dashed all feelings of being slow and felt like rockstars with rucks the size of small children on our backs. HOOAH.

We made it to the end and celebrated with a couple draft beers (two of their last!) and two dry deli meat sandwiches that the volunteers were nice enough to give us. The event normally has a really awesome catered array of food for finishers, but we kind of took too long and they had already cleaned it up. Whoops! So we sipped our drinks and ate two of the best ham and turkey sandwiches we'd ever had because after five hours of wearing our rucks and little to no food along the way--we were starving!

In the end, there was no "I'm never doing this again" that was uttered by either of us. We are both already planning to ruck Robie again next year, and hopefully with a few more Defenders by our sides. To ruck in honor of our past Defenders and to do it alongside each other encompassed a morale and espirit de corps that was too amazing. It was a humbling run, and one that I look forward to next year.

Race to Robie Creek Half Marathon, Ruck Race to Robie Creek, Ruck Half Marathon, Half Marathon Ruck

I'd like to give a huge shout-out to my teammate, TSgt Sisic, who was right  there alongside me and put one foot after another all the way to the end. You're a bad-A, Sisic and I couldn't have been more proud to be your teammate from start to finish at this race. Thanks for inviting me to share this event with you!

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Palm Desert Trip 2018

Last year was not complete without our annual trip to Palm Desert, California to visit my dad and his wife at their desert oasis home. So this year, it had to happen! In the end of March, we trekked 15-hours south to Cali for a week of hikes, pool time, margaritas and Mexican food, and quality time with family.

This year, unlike years prior, my brother and grandma were also down there for the first few days of our trip. That made it really fun because we spent a little bit of time in a hotel while my dad's house was full, but we also got to spend some great time with family. We even took my brother for a hike and he got to see a whole new side of the California desert that he had never seen before.

Like our usual trips, every single day consisted of getting a good sweat on at the gym at my dad's country club, hiking for 3-4 hours, delicious lunches out at our favorite Mexican restaurants, some pool time, nap time, or homework time (since we're both in school), and then dinner with the family. The week could not have been more fun, more relaxing, or more needed!

See photos from the trip below.

Hiking the Pushwalla Palms trail at the Coachella Valley Preserve. It was the coldest and windiest day out there, but once the sun finally came out it made for a really nice afternoon. The very top photo in this post is also from the Coachella Valley Preserve. It was my favorite photo that we took the whole trip.

Las Salsas Palm Springs, margaritas
Margaritas after our hike at Salsas. Their margaritas were really affordable and surprisingly strong!

The daily view from Dad & Karen's house.

Ducks at Desert Falls Country Club, Palm Desert
These ducklings were the cutest. They became so friendly and would waddle up to us when we were out on the patio, waiting for snacks!

Indian Canyon hiking Palm Springs, Palm Canyon Trail at Indian Springs, East Fork Trail
Hiking the Palm Canyon and East Fork Trail at Indian Canyons. Their trails are probably the most diverse of any of the areas we go to, so we love the variety of the landscape.

Indian Canyon hiking Palm Springs, Palm Canyon Trail at Indian Springs, East Fork Trail
East Fork trail at Indian Canyons in Palm Springs.

Indian Canyon hiking Palm Springs, Palm Canyon Trail at Indian Springs, East Fork Trail
We made it to the end! We got a little lost on our hike through Indian Canyons and gave my brother a longer hike than what he bargained for. We made up for it afterward with margaritas and nachos. Boom!

Learning to play tennis at the Palm Desert Country Club. I need some work!

Indian Canyon hiking Palm Springs, Murray Trail to Seven Sisters Waterfalls at Indian Springs
Hiking the Murray Trail to the Seven Sisters Waterfalls at Indian Canyons. We hadn't made it the entire way last time we did it, so this time was a success!

Indian Canyon hiking Palm Springs, Murray Trail to Seven Sisters Waterfalls at Indian Springs, Rosy Boa snake
We found a rosy boa on the Murray Trail at Indian Canyons. What a friendly snake. She was just hanging out on the walking path, so we stopped to take her off to a safer spot.

Indian Canyon hiking Palm Springs, Murray Trail to Seven Sisters Waterfalls at Indian Springs
Hiking the Henderson Loop trail in Palm Springs. We love that trail, it's very desert-like and hardly ever busy.

Enjoying the best Chiles Gueritos California has to offer. This was at our favorite Mexican spot, Armandos.

Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail South and Canyon Loop at Whitewater Preserve in Palm Springs. Their elevation changes and wildflowers are always the most difficult to hike but beautiful to look at.

Sitting on top of the Canyon Loop trail at Whitewater Preserve.

It's crazy to hike in 80+ degree weather at Whitewater Preserve and to see snow in the California mountains ahead.

Delicious veggie enchilada and chiles rellenos at Las Casuelas Nuevas. We love our Mexican Food!

Well that's the tip of the iceberg for this year's trip, but it's a little snapshot into all the fun we had. The photos and videos (video diary to come!) always help us to reminisce and look back on our trips with such fondness. They also make us crave a return trip as soon as possible!

Check out all our past Palm Desert & California trips here!

Tuesday, January 2, 2018


Aunie Sauce, a personal reflection of 2017

To say that I'm glad it's 2018 would be an understatement. 2017 was one of my most challenging, testing years I've had thus far. It was a wonderful year, don't get me wrong, but I experienced many things that I never anticipated ever happening to me and the promise of a new, fresh year is just the reassurance I need right now.

I haven't written a post like this in quite some time. This blog has been primarily travel and military related for the last couple years. However, sometimes I just need to vent, and this blog was my primary intended outlet for that.

The past couple years have seemed to be a whirlwind. When Daniel and I celebrated our fifth anniversary this past December, we couldn't believe how fast time had flown by. Spending almost half of 2017 away from him for training didn't help that either, but we were able to work through that just fine.

It's the moments in 2017 that I didn't blog about that made the biggest difference. I'm inclined to say that this last year tested my faith in God—though looking back, it actually only made it stronger. I would not have made it through 2017 without God's grace, his forgiveness, his protection, and his help to move forward after some disheartening and paralyzing points in time.

I could have chosen to not journal about this, to pretend like none of it happened and to go on with a smile on my face, exhibiting the upbeat, fun-loving personality most people know to expect from me. But this—the last year—it just held some times that while painful, I don't want to forget. I experienced some of my happiest moments of my life in 2017. I also experienced some of the most crushing. Times like this help make me who I am, and while I'm not going into detail, 2017 changed my life.

It's easy to move past the things that are hard to talk about, the things that make you cry when you least expect it, the things that only you and a handful of people know. Those things, like secrets, can be so easily forgotten if you allow yourself to erase them from your life's pages. But though some of those memories bring tears to my eyes and make me want to just sit on the couch and cry in desperation, they're now part of me, and forgetting them doesn't help. Rejoicing in God's good grace and the blessings he has provided does.

In 2017, I moved past something that has had a suffocating grasp on me for years. I achieved a full-time job with the Idaho Air National Guard, my current dream job. I dedicated myself to being a better, more supportive wife than I'd ever been. I took a trip to Hawai'i that I'd been dreaming about for five years. I finished my first graduate class in pursuit of a Masters in Management with an emphasis in Organizational Leadership. All that to say... I also made poor decisions. I had to give up (temporarily, I hope) my favorite hobby—running—due to injuries that won't heal and require extensive surgery to repair. I experienced a heartache that I never even knew was possible. And now, looking back, I am just so grateful that I am where I am today, and that I'm able to face each new day with a positive outlook and hopes for the future.

Yes, this is vague. It's supposed to be. This post is for me, a placeholder, to remind myself that I'm stronger than the world around me because God and the love from those closest to me makes me brave, fierce, and a fighter. If I crumbled under the pressure and sadness I experienced, I would not be able to be where I am today, or be able to pursue the purpose for why I'm here in the first place—to which I'm still attempting to learn along the way.

Monday, December 25, 2017


Walgreens custom Christmas cards, Rowe Christmas 2017

Love ♥ The Rowes and all our blessings over the past year & dreams for the future

P.S. Thank you so much for visiting this page to read my blog. I can't put into words how much it means to me.

Past Christmas cards: 2011 │ 20122013201420152016

Monday, December 18, 2017

Maui Dreamin'

Hamoa Beach, Maui

What's a better way to celebrate a five-year anniversary than on the sandy shores of Maui? After taking this vacation, I don't think anything could have beat it.

Daniel and I have talked about this vacation since we first met in 2011. We have both been to Maui separately, and we always talk about how it's our favorite place to go. It was time we vacationed there together! We booked our tickets the week of Thanksgiving and spent the first two weeks of December basking in the Hawaiian sun.

Knowing us, of course we made use of every spare minute of our vacation. We were up before the sun rose each day, walking or jogging along the coastline, then filling our bellies at our hotel's breakfast buffet (the Ka'anapali Beach Hotel), and heading off every morning to enjoy a new beach or "must-do" on the island.

We ended up visiting ten different beaches, snorkeling eight beaches, eating all the fresh fish we could find, scouting the best happy hours on the island, and spending absolutely as much time soaking up the Hawaiian life we dream about so often.

See some of the photos and stories of our trip below!

Black Sand Beach, Makena Landing, Maui

We rented snorkel gear, chairs, and a boogie board from The Snorkel Store. Their staff was absolutely awesome, and they gave us an easy-to-read map with all their best spots for snorkeling detailed and specified to what we were looking for. Their map often lead us south to Kihei or Wailea, which had the best conditions during the weeks we were there.

The photo above was from one of the eight beaches we snorkeled--the Black Sand Beach, which is just north of Makena State Park and south of Wailea. The current was heavy the day we were there, but we saw plenty of their reef life, including a huge moray eel.

Hawaiian Ocean Project Lanai Trip, Lanai Snorkel Trip, Maui

On our third day in Maui, we took to the seas with the Hawaii Ocean Project and cruised on a day trip to Lanai. Daniel and I had both snorkeled Molokini during our past trips to Hawaii, so this time we opted for something new. Our crew was a seasoned group of guides and they were fantastic, and we also lucked out with a smaller tour group that day with about 20 people who were all middle-aged. It was very different than most of the other boats we saw setting sail that had 100+ people and 50+ kids in their groups.

We set out for Lanai early in the morning, the trip lasting just a little over an hour. Along the way, we spotted humpback whales in the distance, a bottlenose dolphin that came to check out our boat, and a pod of over 50 spinner dolphins that were hungry for some camera time. They ended up circling our boat for a good ten minutes, and I scored some fantastic videos and live photos of the action. The shot above was one of the stills, and I still think it's the best thing I saw the entire trip.

When we arrived at Lanai, we snorkeled at Manele Bay for an hour and then also snorkeled at a remote location called "The Club" for another hour. The coral reefs at The Club were immaculate and the water was so clear. The tour guides said they don't often get to go to that spot due to the weather, so we were so grateful for a beautiful, clear day. The tour also served us breakfast, lunch, and a complimentary cocktail. We both agreed that the Lanai snorkel trip was the best investment we made while on the trip and it was our favorite day overall.

5 Caves Beach, Snorkel 5 Caves, Maui
5 Caves Beach, Snorkel 5 Caves, Maui

The two photos above were taken at 5 Caves in Wailea, just north of Makena Landing and Turtle Town. We first were going to snorkel at Poolenalena Beach, but it was pretty busy so we ventured down the road and ended up at 5 Caves. We had to scale down the rocky beach to get into the water, and we were the only ones in sight. We weren't quite sure if we were even in an actual snorkel spot until we hit the ocean. And let me tell you--it was our favorite spot to snorkel. Within 20 feet of the water's edge, we were greeted by four turtles who were catching their morning reef breakfast. We took a corner and were greeted by five more. The water was absolutely pristine and the conditions could not have been better.

Once we finished snorkeling, we dried off and climbed the rocks around 5 Caves to check out the turtles. They were just hanging out, surfing the waves and enjoying their breakfast. We snagged some very cool photos and hung out for 30 minutes or so before heading off to enjoy margaritas at Fred's Mexican Café. It was the perfect ending to our best day of snorkeling.

Road to Hana, Maui

On our second-to-last day, we did the legendary Road to Hana, taking the winding roads on the northern coast to the remote beaches that Hana is famous for. Along the way, we stopped at viewpoints, waterfalls, and at any location that struck our fancy. It was a really fun day, and very different than all the other days we had spent snorkeling.

Road to Hana, 3 Bears Waterfall, Maui

These were the 3 Bears waterfalls along the Road to Hana. We had to climb down a steep pathway to get up close and personal to these falls, but it was so worth it. Speaking of "falls," I took a pretty good one while trying to climb out of the waterfall area. I totally ate it off of a rock and slid my way down a huge boulder, taking all the skin off of my shin with it. And as a side-story, I also got stung by a black sea urchin in the hand while snorkeling at Ulua Beach in Kihei the day before. I was an accident-prone tourist on this trip!

Road to Hana, Maui

This was on the rocks at Hana Bay Beach Park on the Road to Hana.

Road to Hana, Red Sand Beach, Maui
Road to Hana, Red Sand Beach, Maui

If we did the Black Sand Beach in Wailea, we had to visit the Red Sand Beach at Kaihalulu Beach in Hana. The hike down to it wasn't quite as bad as everyone had let on, but the aquamarine blue water and rich red sand at the end were so worth the trip. We didn't stay at the beach for too long, there were quite a few people there and we'd heard about another amazing beach along the coastline, so we enjoyed the cool water and pebble-filled sand for a bit before heading down the road.

Road to Hana, Hamoa Beach, Maui

Our last stop in Hana was Hamoa Beach, and it was the perfect, picturesque beach we had been hoping for. Many of the beaches in Kihei and Wailea were good for snorkeling but were often busy and not quite as breathtaking as Hamoa. This beach was pretty much deserted and we felt like we had the whole thing to ourselves. The water was sky-blue, the sand was soft and light, and we sat in the sun for a couple hours, just soaking it all in. We are grateful one of the locals we'd met along the Road to Hana told us to visit Hamoa Beach. It was our favorite lounging beach of the trip.

While I didn't share any of the photos of any of our spectacular meals, we sure did dine like kings on the trip. The Ka'anapali Beach Hotel (which we loved by the way for it's affordable prices, friendly staff, easy-going rooms, and prime location on Ka'anapali Beach), had a great breakfast buffet each morning that was more than just your typical Continental Breakfast. It boasted tables filled with all the breakfast food you could imagine, plus local Hawaiian foods and delicacies. We pretty much ate a big breakfast and then a lunch/dinner combo each day, saving room for scoops of ice cream in a waffle cone from Banyan Treat in Lahaina (ice cream is always a staple on our trips). We had the BEST EVER fish tacos at Paia Fish Market in Lahaina, loved the food and atmosphere combo (plus the Lava Lava Shrimp) at Down the Hatch in Lahaina, sipped on the most delicious strawberry margaritas at Fred's Mexican Café in Kihei, and ate the best sushi of our lives at Miso Phat Sushi in Kahana. What's best about all that food was that those places were our top spots, but only about half of what we actually got to enjoy. Let's just say we live with absolutely no food regrets while on vacation. Diet is not a word we even talk about!

Well, after six years of talking about it, we finally did it... we did Maui. And it was the vacation we had dreamed about (and then some). Talk about celebrating our anniversary... we fell even more in love with each other on the trip and we both fell back in love with Maui. We're already talking about wanting to go back, in addition to all the other fun places we'd like to explore, but for now, Maui is at the top of our "favorites" list.

So I'll leave this post with a "See you later, Maui," or as the Hawaiians say, "A hui hou koke iā ʻoe!"