Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Boise SPARTAN Sprint Race

Boise Spartan Sprint Race

Preface: As I'm getting around to posting this, it should be noted that we completed this race at the end of June 2019, and yet here I am sixty days later finding time to get it online. Ah, the life of a has-been blogger who is also a full-time military member, committee member, volunteer, part-time graduate student, traveler, wife, daughter of a mom with cancer, and avid Fantasy Football addict... we've had just a couple of things going on lately.

Now, I'd like to start by saying that this race was incredible for two reasons. First, it was Daniel's first race EVER (ever ever!) and I couldn't have been more proud of him for how well he did in it. Second, this race marks my first Spartan Trifecta earned, and I couldn't be happier to have ran a Super in April, Beast in May, and to finish it out with a Sprint in June! I am now part of the Trifecta Tribe--Aroo! 

This was also the first Spartan that I did not compete in. You know, I thought that I might be able to train for Elite Spartans and might have a chance at doing OK. And after doing both the Super and Beast as an Elite this year, I think with enhanced training and a different mindset, I just might be able to be alright at this sport as a competitive athlete. But where I'm at right now in LIFE is just not a place where this fits. I am just not "there" (and neither is my fitness level), so while that may have been a short-lived dream, for now I'm just embracing my fitness right where it's at. What am I training for? I'm training to be HEALTHY!

Daniel and I entered ourselves into the Age Group category, which is still technically "competitive," but we mostly did that so we could get a decent start time and hit the obstacles early enough before all the sunscreened hands and wet bodies mucked everything up. That decision was worth it! We started at 0800 and it was a perfect day for a race!

Boise Spartan Sprint Race

Now, I mentioned before that Daniel has never done a race before in his life. So this was REALLY cool to be able to share this experience with him. We stayed together the whole time and through the obstacles, and surprisingly I even had to tell him to slow it down a bit.

Boise Spartan Sprint Race

Clearly I'm having fun above, having just completed the rolling mud hills and completely soaking the lower half of my body. Spartans and BEING DIRTY is the MOST FUN!

Boise Spartan Sprint Race

The race course was laid out in a very cool way. It was set out at the Thomas Pence Ranch in Payette, Idaho, and while the first quarter mile of the course is on flat, low ground, shortly after the start you head up two significant hills and find yourself overlooking the entire Treasure Valley. Now that was cool! Most of the obstacles, minus the obstacle gauntlet along the last half mile of the course, were up on this huge plateau. It was scenic, serene, and so peaceful. Also, not trying to race for my life against other Elite athletes and just taking my time made a huge difference.

This course was very different than other Spartans I have been to. There were not many grip obstacles at all, and I was a little sad to not encounter Beater, the Stairway to Sparta (the new, hard one with the climbing pegs), Twister, Olympus, or some of the other ones that have the potential of either wrecking your hands or making you pay with 30 burpees if you can't complete them. To me, this course seemed significantly easier than both the Seattle Super and Montana Beast. But I guess that's what we get with a Sprint!

Boise Spartan Sprint Race

Not even an hour after we started, Daniel and I were jumping over the fire and crossing the finish. We had done it... together!

I loved this race for so many reasons, but mainly because it was the first time that I got to share something I absolutely LOVE (running & racing) with the person I love most! It was so fun walking him through the obstacles since he had never done any of them before, hearing him cheer for me as I followed behind him, and it was even fun doing burpees together after we both missed the spear throw. Truly, this race made me so happy and finally checked a bucket-list goal box that I've had to run a race with my husband ever since we met! Now I just need to convince him to do more! :)

Boise Spartan Sprint Race

The entire experience in Boise was wonderful. We saw so many friends, colleagues, and people we knew. And doing a Spartan in my home state in my home town was so fun--finally!

Boise Spartan Sprint Race

Earning my Trifecta this year has been a huge accomplishment. I display my Trifecta medal on my desk at work and it receives comments often. I cannot wait to try for more in the future (again, probably not competitively, just for fun). And the journey goes on...

My Trifecta Posts: Seattle SuperMontana Beast │ Boise Sprint

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Montana SPARTAN Beast Race

Montana Spartan Beast Race, Spartan Elite Racer

In early May, I completed the second wedge in my Spartan Trifecta with the Montana Beast! This race came just a few weeks after completing my first Spartan race, the Super in Seattle, in April. My love for running along with a newfound addiction for obstacle training has me pinging for more Spartan races in the future. They sure are expensive races, but I love that you get to travel to new places to run them since they can be found almost every weekend all over the world. This was only my second time to Montana, and the venue did not disappoint!

Before I get too far into the race recap, I want to discuss something different about this race that made it way more special for me that just going out and running a race. Just a few weeks before the Montana Beast, my mom was diagnosed with Stage IV ovarian cancer. It was a terrifying diagnosis and one that came totally out of the blue. To say that my life turned upside down was an understatement. All you think about when you hear "Stage IV" is death, and to think of losing my mom would be the saddest, most life-changing event ever. To those who have lost moms--you are truly inspirational and the support from some of you throughout this journey has been invaluable. Without diverting too much into my mom's cancer story, if you'd like to read about her journey or want to see what updates are currently happening, here's a link to her CaringBridge page where we post regularly with the ups and downs of her cancer treatment. So far, my mom has been kicking cancer's A$$ and has been nothing but positive, hopeful, and a WARRIOR. 

Going into this race, it had already been planned and paid for before finding out about my mom's diagnosis. She insisted I go run, and if anything, she wanted me to go have a super-strong race for her. So I decided that I would run the race "for Mom," which explains the hashtags you'll see Sharpie'd onto my body during the race. We hadn't shared her cancer news with anyone at that point, but if we had I'd totally have tattooed "F*CK CANCER!" on any visible portion of skin that could have been seen :-).

As it worked out, my mom's first emergency surgery to remove as much of her cancer as possible was scheduled for the same day of the race. She still urged me to go and run for her, so I listened to her and gutted it out as best as I could. At any moment during the race when I was struggling, failed an obstacle or was having a down-and-out moment while being mentally or physically fatigued, I kept reminding myself I was "running for Mom" and I'd keep on chugging to finish the race.

Montana Spartan Beast Race, Spartan Elite Racer

This race was a fun one to travel to because I knew several other folks who were running it, and they invited me to join them. One of my troops offered me a ride and to be able to share her hotel room, so that saved on costs and turned into a really fun trip for the both of us.

Montana Spartan Beast Race, Spartan Elite Racer

We got into Big Fork, Montana Friday evening and went right over to the Open House so we could explore the obstacles and check out the course. Below is a shot of our whole motley crew.

Montana Spartan Beast Race, Spartan Elite Racer

Saturday morning, I wasn't too nervous. I didn't know what to expect (except for hills), and I just knew I had 13-miles of rugged terrain ahead of me that needed to be conquered. At 7:45 am, the elite heat was off and running. No turning back now... I was running for Mom and I was ready!

Montana Spartan Beast Race, Spartan Elite Racer

Man, those elite racers are so fast. They took of like lightning bolts and soon I was alone and running along toward the middle-back of the elite heat. Heading up a hill during mile 2, I somehow lost track of where I was going and ended up taking a side road instead of following the arrows up another steep hill in the forest. I got totally turned around and by the time I found someone again, it was over a mile back and on part of the course I had already ran before. I ended up losing 1.5-miles of distance and in the end of the race, ran 14.6 miles instead of 13 like everyone else. That was so frustrating to me because I knew immediately that I was about 25-minutes slower than what my time would have been. While I didn't anticipate placing or anything like that, it was still frustrating to set myself back so early on in the race. Oh well, I had to keep going!

The course layout in Montana was rough. It was hill after hill after hill with a 3500 foot elevation gain. I would get to the top of a hill and face another hill. it's like they never stopped! The obstacles were almost always at the tops of the hills, so that added a fun challenge to the event. As you may recall, in Seattle I had to do 180 burpees and 2 penalty laps for failing eight (8!!) obstacles. In Montana, I only failed three (Twister, monkey bars (they were right after the dunk wall, ugh!), and Spearman). To only have to complete 90 burpees was a huge relief--maybe one of these days I'll have a clean race!

The photo below was halfway through Beater (a monkey bar system with rotating kitchen-beater-like bars). I was elated when I made it through Beater and other obstacles that I had previously failed in Seattle (like Z Wall, Olympus, and Multi-rig). Being able to ring the bell on those obstacles after having to burpee out of them in Seattle was the BEST feeling.

Montana Spartan Beast Race, Spartan Elite Racer

The race was long--it took me 4 hours and 4 minutes to complete. Had I not have gotten lost and been a little bit demotivated from that, I would have been closer to 3 hours, 35 minutes. Oh well, lesson learned... pay attention to the dang arrows! Spartan courses are challenging because there's not a trail marked out for you--you're simply running through (in this case) a forest and paving your own path as you go. Needless to say, my legs got destroyed while running through the downed trees and stray branches, and when I fell on a rock and cut my leg and slit my hand open during the "ball shrinker" water obstacle, it made it even that much more challenging. I literally ran through the race with blood streaking down my shin and a broken, open-wounded hand for over half the obstacles... sorry about that guys!

I also experienced something crazy during this event that I'd never had happen before--cramping! Oh my goodness, through all of my dozens of half and full marathons, I have never, ever cramped before. Right after the dunk wall in Montana and going into the monkey bars, my legs started to seize up. It was every part of my legs between my knees and hips. I couldn't move them--it was terrible! I tried doing the monkey bars, but I was so drenched and couldn't get a grip on the bars and my legs were cramping up so bad I couldn't move them, so burpees was the way to go. Unfortunately, my legs continued seizing during burpees, making them take absolutely forever, and then heading into the hill after burpees I was stopped to the point of having to sit and massage my legs until they would start working again. I had taken two Gu packs during the race and stopped for water at every aid station, but the cramps just wouldn't subside. A friendly gentleman offered me a Gu pack as he passed and he truly saved the day... my legs stopped cramping about 5-min later and I was able to carry on to the last three miles of the course.

As I came through the multi-rig a mile later, one of the volunteers yelled, "Don't you dare drop! You're doing this for you mom! You got this girl!!" She lit a new fire inside me that wasn't going out anytime soon!

When I got closer to the finish, I couldn't have been more happy. I was still frustrated at my time and that I'd gotten lost at the beginning, but so happy that I'd finished with less than half the burpees than I did in Seattle. I new my mom would be proud, no matter how long this stinkin' race took me. She knew I did it for her, and that was all that mattered.

Montana Spartan Beast Race, Spartan Elite Racer

To know that I completed this Mountain Series event as the second wedge in my Trifecta is a huge accomplishment. I hated being away from my mom during her surgery, but she wanted me to gut it out for her so you can bet I gave it my all.

Montana Spartan Beast Race, Spartan Elite Racer
Montana Spartan Beast Race, Spartan Elite Racer

The weekend with friends, laughs, and memories was so fun. All nine of us had good races, and spending time together during the event and afterward at dinner was priceless. To travel to Montana with friends and colleagues and enjoy and entire weekend dedicated to exploration and racing is truly my favorite thing.

Montana Spartan Beast Race, Spartan Elite Racer

Cheesin' hard for the cameras with our Fitaids and medals. For my colleague on the right, it was her first Spartan EVER... I was so proud of her! My friend and colleague in the middle of us is the guy who coaches me for Spartan racing. He's the best athlete I know!

Montana Spartan Beast Race, Spartan Elite Racer

With the second wedge in my Trifecta complete, next up is the Boise Spartan Sprint in the end of June. That race day recap will be coming soon!

Montana Spartan Beast Race, Spartan Elite Racer

I hope one day my mom will be able to get out and run with me again. I'd love for her to be able to do a Spartan with me and we can hashtag our bodies up with #Survivor! after she finishes kicking cancer's a$$!!!!!

Spartan Race Posts: Seattle SuperMontana Beast

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Race to Robie Creek 2019 Defender Team Ruck

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

Back in April, a team of nine of our Security Forces Defenders got together to hike the Race to Robie Creek Half Marathon here in Boise, Idaho. I hiked it last year with a fellow cop as a ruck, and this year I motivated (read: suckered) eight more to join me for the fun.

One of our Master Sergeants designed and ordered team shirts for us (thank you!). They were awesome! We all decided to go with wearing either our duty flak vest or a ruck for this event. Our rucks last year were pretty darn heavy so we didn't want to set ourselves up for that kind of pain again this year--we wanted to have FUN! I also didn't want to put any any crazy time or pressure expectations on us--we just wanted to get together for a hike and enjoy some time outside of work together.

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

The weather was almost perfect that day. It was sunny and warm at the start, and we knew we'd be gaining over 2000 feet of elevation so we were prepped for cooler, possibly rainy temps at the top (spoiler alert: it hailed and was crazy).

I saw one of my gung-ho running friends at the start. She and I have been running races together for years. She's fast as lighting these days--I can't keep up with her anymore!

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

At high noon, we started off up the hill. The first 8.5 miles of the course is solid uphill, and I have to be honest... if you're just hiking it and not carrying a 40-lb ruck like we did last year AND if you're not running it, it's really not so bad. After having a terrible experience running it several years ago and then gutting it out on the ruck last year, the standard weighted hike really was quite enjoyable. Our guys all did great and we mostly just kept a quick walking/hiking pace for the duration of the uphill portion.

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

We all stayed together the whole time. Team RWB Boise loaned us their flag, and we switched off who carried it each mile. I felt like that really brought us together and made it feel like a team effort.

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

These two girls below, V & L. They were CHAMPIONS. They set our pace the entire time and had they not been slowed down by the rest of us, they'd have dominated Robie with or without their vests on. What MOTIVATORS!

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

I literally love my job SO MUCH and to have the opportunity to combine my love of running and hiking together with my Security Forces colleagues was absolutely such a fun way to spend the day.

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

In the picture below, we're about to crest the top of the 8.5-mile uphill, the Temptation Station, and begin our descent downwards. I'm so proud of this group of people!

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

Coming over the top of the hill and heading down into the descent, we traveled up the foothills into the mountains and forest. It was like the weather totally changed on the backside. There was snow on the ground, it got cold, and we knew a storm was starting to roll in.

The downhill portion, as we all agreed, was much harder than the uphill. It's pretty steep, so walking is almost uncomfortable on your hips and knees--it's like you HAVE to jog. We all took an easy shuffle/jog to get down the hill in an attempt to beat 4 hours on the clock. Last year, my colleague and I finished in 4 hours, 40 minutes. I thought it would be pretty darn cool to come in under 4 hours!

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

As we crossed the line together, whooping with joy that it was over and a huge sense of pride for accomplishing the ruck together, we didn't even care about the time--we were just happy to be done! We ended up finishing the race in 4:06. Absolutely killer!

It was a lot of fun and it was something totally out of the comfort zone of most of the guys who did it. We feel like it brought us together, was something pretty badass that we could all say we did, and it was a heck-of-a-fun way to spend our Saturday afternoon.

The after party was great. We sipped on some cold brews and ate some food before getting absolutely hailed and stormed out. We all sheltered under a picnic area with about 60 other runners and attempted to wait the storm out. 45-long minutes later, it abated and by then we were freezing cold and wet! It wasn't the most fun way to end the day, but we laughed about it the entire bus ride home.

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

I'm very grateful for this team of guys & gals who gutted it out with me on the Robie Creek hill. They're a big bunch of warriors, and it was so cool to be able to capture this experience with all nine of us there, pushing out those 13 miles with Old Glory together. I'm looking forward to hopefully doubling our numbers and coming back again to hike it all over again next year!

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Seattle SPARTAN Super Race

Seattle Spartan Super Race, Spartan Elite Racer

On 13 April, I joined a whole new, rugged class of athletes--I became a Spartan Racer! I ran the Seattle Spartan Super race (8.5 miles, 30 obstacles, and so incredibly rainy and cold), finished in 2:07, and I earned my first wedge of my Spartan Trifecta. I realize I'm publishing this a month late, but life has been kind of "hung in the balance" with a bunch of stressors lately, so the least I could do is share some of the race fun despite the fact that I'm way late and several posts behind.

If you're wondering what made me take the leap from competitive distance running to competitive Spartan racing, it's all due to my friend & colleague, Mat, who has been trying to convince me for the past couple years that my speed, agility, and strength need to be utilized for something more "badass" than just half and full marathon running. He thought I'd like the challenge of the obstacles and running that Spartans offer, and why not test your body fully to the limits with a new sport? After years of his prodding (and a couple glasses of wine on Christmas Eve this past 2018 that dropped my willpower and stubbornness), I gave in and signed up for my first Spartan--the Seattle Super.

Now, choosing Seattle for my first Spartan race was either the wisest or dumbest thing I could have ever done. Wise because this year's course was literally the HARDEST race that most folks said they've ever encountered with how rainy, cold, and impossible the obstacles were so realistically I started my Spartan racing off with the hardest race I'll ever have to do and it "should" all be downhill from here. I mean, even the top athletes failed some of the obstacles and normally that doesn't happen. It may have been the dumbest decision ever because it was again--cold (40 degrees), terribly rainy, incredibly muddy (which was fun), but very, very challenging. A lot of folks either DNF'd (did not finish) the race due to hypothermia/sheer frustration or suffered extreme hypothermia upon finishing. Sounds like a good time, right? It actually was.

Seattle Spartan Super Race, Spartan Elite Racer, Spartan Open House

Mat (the buddy who convinced me to try Spartans in the first place and who coached me for the last four months) and I made a "man trip" out of the race and both signed up for it. We got into town Friday afternoon and went straight to the Open House to play/test out some of the obstacles since I'd never encountered many of them before. I knew the obstacles that would give me grief--pretty much anything that involved grip strength--but I'd been training since January so I felt mostly ready. The biggest unknowns for me were going to be monkey bars, beater, twister, and multi-rig, because my grip strength is really sub-par and I didn't have a place to train for those at home. Also, the spear throw was a big 50/50 shot because sometimes you get it and sometimes you don't.

We explored the Open House for two hours and met some of the Spartan Pro's I'd been following online for the past several months. We finished the evening at Subway and called it a night early to try to get some much-needed sleep (neither of us ended up sleeping much).

Seattle Spartan Super Race, Spartan Elite Racer, Spartan Open House

The next day started early. Mat and I were both racing in the Elite heats, so he had the first start time of the day at 7:30 and I was right behind him at 7:45. Despite the fact that I'd never run a Spartan before, he and I both agreed Elite would be a good fit for me because of my past running training and also I don't give two craps about placing in an age group, so I just wanted to be up there with the big guns. Mat shared the best quote with me, he said, "You can be a big fish in a small pond, but I'd rather know what kind of fish I really am." And with that, I decided to go Elite!

At 7:45 we "Aroo! Aroo! Aroo!"-ed our way across the start line and we were off. As you can see from the starting line photo below, it was a wet one. I was soaked BEFORE we even started running, and I was not eager for the dunk wall that awaited me two miles in.

Seattle Spartan Super Race, Spartan Elite Racer, Spartan Starting Line, Spartan Photography

The course started off fast and hard, with forest trails for the first 1.5-miles of the course. If you've never done a Spartan, it's not like there's a "trail" that you run. They mark off parts of a forest, field, river, landscape, etc., and YOU are the ones who are making the trail. It doesn't matter if there are trees, rocks, branches, thorns, water, mud, A RIVER, or whatever... if the arrows point in that direction, you just conquer it. I almost fell several times going up and through the un-groomed forest, but the forest was the least of my worries. It was a muddy, slick mess and I should have known the worst was yet to come.

Seattle Spartan Super Race, Spartan Elite Racer, Barbed Wire Obstacle

The first couple obstacles were great. Hurdles, barbed wire, bucket carry... all not a problem. I had been training buckets every single week, and that bucket felt about the same as what I'd been training with (about 65 lbs), so it didn't phase me much. I mean, I didn't love carrying it for 7+ minutes, but whatever.

Seattle Spartan Super Race, Spartan Elite Racer, Bucket Carry Obstacle

As I was getting to the buckets, the Elite leaders of the race were dropping their buckets, so that was cool--they weren't too far ahead and I was happy to see I wasn't too far behind or in last place or anything like that. None of that really matters, but mentally--I just didn't want to be last.

Seattle Spartan Super Race, Spartan Elite Racer, Spartan Women, Rolling Mud Obstacle

Coming over the rolling mud was where it got interesting. Rolling mud went right into the dunk wall. At this point, it was about 40 degrees with a 37-degree or so windchill, and the idea of jumping into the murky water to go under the dunk was something I was not prepared for. But jump-and-dunk I did and by that point, I was already soaking wet so the only factor it added was just more wet.

Now, about 2.5 miles in, what's when I got to the point of real SUCKY circumstances. I approached the Z-wall with confidence because I'd practiced on it the day before. But that darn Z-wall threw me a curve ball with the slick blocks and slippery shoes, and I slipped off that wall after only a few blocks. I was so frustrated! I jogged over to begin my first of many, many burpees.

Seattle Spartan Super Race, Spartan Elite Racer, Spartan Women, Spear Throw Obstacle

Now, the 30 burpees wasn't so bad. But the obstacle right after Z-wall was the spear throw, and wouldn't you know--I failed that one, too. My spear went far enough, and I thought it was going to go in, but it went just to the left of the foam block and man--that was soul-crushing. 60 burpees in a row was not ideal.

Seattle Spartan Super Race, Spartan Elite Racer, Spartan Women, Yokohama Tire Flip Obstacle

I cruised through the next several obstacles, picking up my pace between obstacles as my legs would allow. I was so grateful that besides for the first mile or so of hills, the Seattle course was mostly flat so that was one issue I didn't have to deal with. After failing those obstacles back-to-back, I knew I was really far behind in my heat, so I took the pace easy, thanked the volunteers, and just tried to have as much fun as possible during the race. I mean, it was kind of miserable out there. The only way to look at it was just HAVE AS MUCH FUN AS POSSIBLE!

Seattle Spartan Super Race, Spartan Elite Racer, Spartan Women, Atlas Carry Obstacle

As I made my way through the 8.5 miles of the course, I was right about one thing. Almost every single grip obstacle tested me. It wasn't because I was new to Spartan racing--trust me, my grip is sub-par but I trained it like crazy--it was the insane wetness of the course that threw me off. In addition to Z-wall and spear throw, I also failed olympus (after trying to get through on my knees because it was so slick and it took all the skin off my knees), twister, beater, monkey bars, the box, and multi-rig. Talk about a frustrating race! Failing those eight obstacles equated to 180 burpees (I did 192 because I did 2-extra at each failed obstacle just in case) and two penalty laps. UGH! By my last set of burpees at multi-rig I was so absolutely done with doing burpees.

Despite the cold of the windchill and the constant rain, I never felt cold on the course. Not even when we had to run through the snow-melt run-off river (literally... we had to run through a RIVER for almost half a mile!). The rain and the cold were two things that did not bother me at all (until after the race anyway), which was a huge relief.

Seattle Spartan Super Race, Spartan Elite Racer, Spartan Women, Rope Climb Obstacle

One of my greatest wins during the race was making it up the rope climb. Prior to training for this race, I had never learned to climb a rope EVER in my life. Mat taught me, and I practiced almost every week at a rope climb on base. I have taken the skin off my shin more times that I can count in the last couple months, and to make it up that rope in those conditions and to get to ring a bell (since I didn't get to ring many others due to all my failed obstacles) was so exciting!

Seattle Spartan Super Race, Spartan Elite Racer, Spartan Women, Fire Jump Obstacle

When I finished the race, I was RELIEVED, exhausted, overwhelmed with a feeling of accomplishment, and so proud to have finished my first Spartan. I finished in 2:07:45 (37th place elite) and had 180 burpees under my belt and a new, shiny Spartan Super medal around my neck. I felt like a BADASS! This was a Championship Series race, so I literally went against the best female Spartan athletes IN THE WORLD. To finish in that time and in that place with that caliber of athlete was pretty darn cool!

Shortly after finishing, the hypothermia began to set it, so I didn't wait around at the venue long. Mat, who had a great race and finished in 1:32 (yeah, Mat!), got me back to the hotel for a hot shower and SOME MUCH-DESERVED PIZZA!!! We drove back to Boise that evening, swapping race stories the whole way.

Seattle Spartan Super Race, Spartan Elite Racer, Spartan Women

When I finished the Super, I said, "You know, I don't think this whole Spartan racing thing is for me." Wouldn't you know that two days later I signed up for the Montana Spartan Beast which I'd run three weeks later? Of course I did. What can I say, I'm a glutton for punishment! Plus--gotta earn that TRIFECTA! That post is coming soon! Thanks for reading ;-)

If you want to follow along with my Spartan training, it's all documented on Instagram under my STORIES! (Spartan Training, Spartan Racing, + Workouts)

Monday, April 15, 2019

Palm Desert & Arizona Trip 2019


In March, Daniel and I were lucky enough to take 10 days off of work to head down to the warmer southwestern states of California and Arizona for a mega-family trip that was worth all the memories in the books. We spent 6 days with my dad and his wife in Palm Desert, California and then spent 4 days in the Phoenix, Arizona area to celebrate his cousin's wedding (and a couple family reunions as well!).

Most of the photos you'll see in this post were of our many hikes and eats along the way... I have been trying to be more present in the moment so I haven't been taking quite as many photos. I think these ones will do our trip justice. It's the memories that count, anyway, right?


On the first day, we flew into San Diego en route down to Palm Desert and our first stop on our way to PD was a quick bite in Old Town. We had just been to San Diego back in October, so when we landed we knew our favorite spot and headed straight for Casa de Reyes in Old Town. Their drinks, the atmosphere, the food--it's all too good to go anywhere else (though Coyote Café comes in close second for me because of their amazing service).


After getting our fill of chips & salsa, margaritas (just one!), and fajitas, we began the three-hour drive to Palm Desert. We always love our road trips.


On our first day in Palm Desert, we hit up one of our favorite trails, Henderson Trail, for a quick hour-long hike before an afternoon round of golf with my dad and his wife. We were excited to dust off the clubs at Desert Falls Country Club. It was our first 18-holes of the season. We have golf league now every Tuesday so that was a good season-opening warm-up.


The next day, we went for a long hike at Indian Canyons in Palm Springs. This photo was taken at the bottom of Palm Canyon trail, heading up to Coffman Trail. It was pretty windy in the desert that day, but Indian Canyons is a great place to go when it's windy in the valley because the canyon shields the wind and weather pretty well. We love Indian Canyons because it's a pretty steep admission to get into the park (if you want to go several times), but military has free admission so we try to take advantage of that. We LOVE all the trails there.


While there was plenty of pool time, eating out, and having fun in between the hikes, most of the photos I chose for this post were our fun hikes since we love them so much and Southern California offers such diverse, interesting trails! The photo above was taken while we were hiking Moon Country Trail at Coachella Valley Preserve. The superbloom was insane!


I was so excited to spot a horny toad sunning himself on a rock. Normally Daniel is the one who catches all the lizards, but this time I got to have a go at the little guy and I was able to catch him pretty easily. We took some photos and let the little guy go. It was hard not to want to take him home as a pet (we resisted, don't worry)! 


Another place we love to go because their chips & salsa are amazing is Casuelas Nuevas in Cathedral City. If you can't tell already, it's kind of our thing to go for really long hikes and then go out for Mexican food. Nothing really hits the spot like cali-Mex food after a day in the sun!


One of our favorite trail systems, Whitewater Preserve, was closed during this trip due to flooding. We were bummed to miss out on the superbloom out there, but we took advantage of the convenience of the Coachella Valley Preserve and hit up a couple different trails during our PD stay. The photo above was from a hike along Pushwalla Palms trail at Coachella Valley Preserve.


One of the new Mexican places we tried after a hike was Mamacita's. Now, I have to say, that place does not look like anything special from the outside and on the inside you almost feel like you've walked into a total hole-in-the-wall. But the food... the food! It was so good and so affordable! Pictured above are their naked shrimp/fish tacos and I'm already craving them and wanting to go back for more.


One of our very favorite hikes this trip was at the Living Desert Trail at the Living Desert in Palm Springs. It was the longest and most beautiful (and challenging!) trail we did this trip. We were a little apprehensive... you might not think there would be a 5+ mile trail within a zoo that could offer you anything of value but I tell you what--this trail was amazing. The views and being able to hike through a canyon, over mountains, and have a panoramic view of the entire Coachella Valley was truly spectacular. We will for sure be adding this one to our list of repeats (all the other trails we did were repeats).


Most of our evenings in Palm Desert ended in games or fire pits, including Gin rummy and homemade margaritas at Dad & Karen's!

After six days in Palm Desert, we made the journey to Phoenix, Arizona. Our original intention was to go for Daniel's cousin's wedding, but we added a lot of extras in to make the most of the trip. We stayed at the Vee Quiva hotel and casino in Phoenix and while it was a little bit out there and separated from the city, it gave us exactly what we needed. We had a cozy room, a pool, access to local trails, and a decent commute to anywhere we wanted to go in the Phoenix area.


The first morning in Phoenix, we hiked up Telegraph Pass & The National Trail around South Mountain. The trails in Phoenix were really different than those in Palm Desert. For the most part they offered more elevation and equally scenic views. That's why we love hikes so much... they're always different everywhere we go.

I don't have many other pics of the other hikes we did in Phoenix, but we also hiked (I ran) Holbert Trail. That one was perfect training for all the Spartan races I had/have coming up.


One of the best stops we made in Phoenix was McMahon's Ice Cream in Chandler, AZ. Oh my goodness, it is A MUST GO for all ice cream lovers in the Phoenix area. The birthday cake & cookie dough flavors were PHENOMENAL! I want to go back and try all the rest!


As I mentioned before, we were in Phoenix for a reason! Daniel's cousin was getting married, so we were elated to spend her special day celebrating her and her new husband. The best part was that day was basically a family reunion with Daniel's Dad's entire side of the family. The day before, we'd had a reunion with his mom's entire side of the family. It was a weekend filled to the brim of meeting family members I've only met on Facebook (or didn't know existed!) and I was so overjoyed to finally put names to faces. I think I have them all down like a pro now, and I'm pretty blessed to say I'm a part of a really fun and amazing family.


As you can see, we had some really good times at the wedding. Daniel's parents are so fun, and the entire weekend and meeting all of Daniel's family members was a huge highlight to the 10-day trip.


On our last day in the desert, we visited the Wildlife World Zoo in Phoenix, AZ. That place was insanely cool because you got to be so up close and personal with the animals. Of all the exhibits, the rhino was so cool--we were RIGHT by him. I also loved the baby animal exhibit and was so tempted to sneak a baby jackal home with me. I mean, I saw the older jackals and pretty much changed my mind right then... but the babies were so darn cute. I've never seen a baby animal exhibit like that (purely for newborn animals) and it was very heart-warming. I was so impressed with the entire zoo's amazing animal interaction and exhibit set-ups!


And the last photo of the post--my souvenirs! I truly love being a tourist. My friend Andi got me hooked on penny press souvenirs last May when we went to the Oregon Coast, and I have collected 15 pennies over the last 11-months. Can't wait to continue adding to my collection.

I wish I wasn't so busy lately--it's been hard to share these vacation photos on time (we were on this trip a month ago today), but it's so fun to look back on the memories that won't fade away anytime soon. Hope you guys enjoyed our CA/AZ trip recap. I have a LOT of things going on in April so this blog is about to liven up in the coming weeks!!

If you're interested in our past Palm Desert trips, you can see them here!

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